Tag: Life in the Spirit Seminar

Surrendering to the Spirit

This article originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ February 2020 newsletter. Ralph Martin was introduced to  Fr. Paul Sciberras while speaking at a priests’ retreat in Malta. In this testimony, Fr. Paul, head of the Department of Sacred Scripture, Hebrew and Greek, at the University of Malta, shares how being baptized in the Holy Spirit at a Life in the Spirit Seminar brought his faith to life in a new way and transformed his understanding of the meaning of his priesthood and the Word of God.

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I have been a priest for thirty years. After my ordination, my superiors asked me to specialize in Scripture Sciences in Rome. I was formed to mentally dissect and filter every word in the Bible with the extra-fine toothcombs of biblical scientific-critical methods.

However, all of this analysing, re-analysing, and re-checking was not satisfying me. Something was missing!

Thankfully, I myself was soaked in the Spirit four years ago, through a Life in the Spirit Seminar, and now I can walk and move in the Spirit as a man and a priest. The breeze that sways the wheat field of my life is the Spirit’s breath in my heart, my actions, and indeed, my whole life.

Baptism in the Spirit is about being soaked (the basic meaning of the Greek verb from which “baptism” derives) like a sponge, not in water but in the Spirit. What comes out and overflows when one is “squeezed” is then the Spirit of holiness of the Father and of Jesus, the Son. Since the Spirit can in no way be separated from its constituents—a father cannot be a father if he doesn’t have a son, and a son is a son because he has been generated—the Spirit is the Spirit of wholeness, integrity, and holiness.

How has this affected the way I experience my faith? Bathing biblical ministry in the Spirit of the Church and for the Church has always meant the world to me. But now it comes more from the heart and makes much more sense. I feel it’s becoming more a question of wisdom and knowledge, than of information and scholarship. The Bible turns out to be always fresh, like living waters, even when I am teaching the simple basics of Hebrew and Greek!

Additionally, Bible scholarship is no longer mere academic prowess. Thanks to the soaking in the power of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God becomes a rhema, truly a Word addressed personally to me. Whilst paying attention to the technicalities of the Hebrew and Greek languages and the historical context of the Scriptures, I now know too well that my academia is not just about producing academics, but about being a source of nourishment for thirsty and seeking believers.

Personally, I feel that the one word that says it all about Baptism in the Spirit, and indeed about the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, is surrender. Surrender! At the beginning of the Life in the Spirit Seminars, I asked myself how could anyone even surrender was possible for me! And yet so it was, as Josef Ratzinger, then prefect of the Congregation of Faith, defined it, “This profound contact with God, becoming a friend of God: it is letting the Other work, the Only One who can really make the world both good and happy.”

After baptism in the Spirit, I began surrendering more and more to the Spirit. Mass has become a heavenly experience. The peace! The joy! After Consecration, I now kneel in adoration: “My Lord and my God; I surrender to You, Lord Jesus!” I make mine the prayer of surrender: “I open all the secret places of my heart to You and say: ‘Come on in.’ Jesus, You are Lord of my whole life. I believe in You and receive You as my Lord and my Saviour. I hold nothing back. Holy Spirit, bring me to a deeper conversion to the person of Jesus Christ. . . . I surrender my understanding of how things ought to be, my choices and my will.” Life in the Spirit is not about doing new things but about doing the old things in a new way: the Spirit’s way.

Yet another discovery is taking place in my heart: not only how the Holy Spirit inspires and breathes his power into the Bible, but how the Bible breathes God back to us—by making it more complete and by making the Bible much more personal!

And finally—because I consider it the filter of all that I am going through—with surrender comes joy; the deep-seated joy where I feel so much at peace!

Surrendering! Yes, it’s possible! It suits me perfectly! It’s the only way!

Reflections on Baptism in the Holy Spirit

The following article originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ April 2018 newsletter.

Since the beginning of the twentieth century, the grace of baptism in the Holy Spirit has been a significant, life-changing experience for millions of Christians around the world. Much has been written about this grace to help us understand it from a theological perspective. One of the main ways this grace has been spread is through a series of classes called Life in the Spirit Seminars. Since the early 1970s, I have been involved in Life in the Spirit Seminars in a wide variety of settings. What I want to do here is offer some reflections on what happens to people when they are prayed with to receive a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit, which happens during the seminars, but also can happen in other circumstances as well.

My initial reflection is that we need to be careful in setting expectations for people. I have both prayed with and overseen prayer for hundreds of people over the years, and in my experience, only a small percentage have a dramatic, overwhelming, or especially defining experience when they ask to be baptized in the Spirit. This contrasts with the experiences of some of the most recognized leaders in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal—since most, if not all, of them did have a “powerful” experience. This includes all of the speakers on Renewal Ministries’ own As By A New Pentecost DVD series.

Outlines in the Life in the Spirit Seminars’ team manuals caution seminar leaders to make sure people understand that experiences will vary when they are prayed with, and that people should not look for an “experience,” but simply offer their life to the Lord and ask for a new release of the Holy Spirit. Still, it is hard for people who hear about more powerful experiences to not feel some disappointment if they don’t have such an experience themselves.

This was the case in my own life. When I was prayed with for baptism in the Spirit decades ago, I didn’t have a dramatic experience. I did experience a kind of very light joy—nothing ecstatic or powerful—and the lifting of a feeling of condemnation. These certainly were things to appreciate, but nothing to make headlines. However, as a few months went by, I began to experience new gifts and changes in my life.

My initial attempts to yield to the gift of tongues sounded like nonsense or baby-talk. The recommendation—part of the standard advice in the team manuals—to not be overly concerned about that, but to continue “using what you’ve got,” was just right. As I “used what I had received” in my personal prayer and asked God to form it into the gift of tongues, He did just that. After a few months, I was clearly speaking a patterned language and sensing something in my spirit as I did so. Also, as months went by, I noticed other classic signs of being baptized in the Holy Spirit—a hunger for Scripture and a deepened understanding of it, a desire to share my faith, a renewed desire to pray and the grace to do it, and other new gifts (charisms) that began to manifest themselves. But all of this happened over a period of months.

Over the years, this has led me increasingly to tell people, after they’ve been prayed with, to focus more on what happens in the near future than on what happened as they were asking for the outpouring. I tell them to look for crocuses—those little flowers, so easily overlooked, that first appear as winter is ending—in their spiritual life. I think the big question, as far as whether you’ve truly been baptized in the Spirit, is:

Has your life changed?

Have you seen any changes in your life similar to the ones that I spoke about above? Have you seen any other changes, or movements toward God, in your life?

One woman I know experienced nothing at all when she asked to be baptized in the Spirit and received prayer. But shortly afterward, one of her kids asked, “Mom, how come you’re so much nicer now?” And over the ensuing months, she began noticing a new fervor in her faith and new gifts manifesting themselves.

This leads me to my final point. There has been a tendency within the Catholic Charismatic Renewal to tell people,

“If you were prayed with to be baptized in the Spirit, then you were.”

I think we need to reconsider that approach. I’ve talked to people—definitely the few but, still, some—who cannot discern any difference in their lives, even months after being prayed with. In those cases, I think we have to admit the possibility that they weren’t baptized in the Spirit. Again, the real question is: Has your life changed? If it hasn’t—and if it doesn’t—then I think we should acknowledge the possibility that there was some kind of obstacle, perhaps a serious unrepented sin; a lack of forgiveness for someone who hurt them, perhaps leading to bitterness and cynicism; a lack of desire; or a hardness of heart that kept faith from actually “catching.”

My point here is not that these things would necessarily prevent a person from receiving a release of the Holy Spirit (God is sovereign), but that these things could have blocked God’s action, if there is no evidence of any difference in a person’s life, post-prayer. In such cases, if the person still desires to be baptized in the Spirit, the obstacles can be addressed and another prayer session scheduled.

Also, perhaps there is just a mystery to it, and the person should not worry about an experience, but simply keep persevering in following Jesus. Perhaps it will come in the future; and if it doesn’t, that may be OK too! The important thing is obeying Jesus and His Word, and persevering until the end.

Draw Closer to the Holy Spirit

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This post originally appeared on the blog Catholic Strength. Renewal Ministries is mentioned in the fifth suggestion: Attend a Life in the Spirit Seminar.

By Tom Mulcahy

Introduction: To discover the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit is one of the greatest experiences a human being can undergo. Consequently, here are ten suggestions for drawing closer to the Holy Spirit. In The Holy Spirit, a great spiritual writer, Father Edward Leen, says that “Christians do not dwell as they ought on the immense advantages that they may derive from the intimate friendship which the Holy Spirit is eager to establish between them and himself, as God.” Father Leen continues: “The Holy Spirit has…an infinite capacity for friendship. . . . The Holy Spirit is laden with all the secrets of God—secrets not only of surpassing interest in themselves but of great import for the creature. These deep things of God the Holy Spirit is all eagerness to communicate to the soul, as in the tendency of friendship. Unfortunately, the creature, too often, is a listless and inattentive listener . . .” It is my hope that one or more of the following suggestions might increase your friendship with the Holy Spirit, who is the very source of the Divine friendship.

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Encountering Forgiveness in Uganda

Leaders meeting Uganda 2017 (9)
Offering praise at a leaders’ retreat in Uganda.

This article originally appeared in the August 2017 Renewal Ministries’ newsletter, which you can view here.

By Nancy Greenhaw, Country Coordinator

This trip was very powerful. We facilitated a discipleship school with 145 leaders from most of Uganda. Some of our most interesting conversations occurred during meals, as our Ugandan brothers and sisters shared their experiences. One example is this story from Robert Tumuhimbise, the National Coordinator of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR) in Uganda. It demonstrates the unique obstacles encountered in Uganda.

Robert’s team was doing a Life in the Spirit (LIS) seminar for young men who had been captured by and then rescued from the Kony Rebels. As they began the talk on God’s love, a young man jumped up and shouted, “SHUT UP!” In the shocked silence that followed, the young man screamed out, “I was taught by my mother to pray, and we daily prayed the rosary. My family and I were captured by the Kony Rebels, and my father, who was injured, couldn’t keep up, so they clubbed him to death. When my mother cried out, they gang raped her, and after all the soldiers had finished, they cut her throat, and she bled to death. Where was your God of love then?”

The young man and two of his friends left, and the team stopped for the day. They invited people to come by their quarters for tea and cookies. They were surprised when the three young men who had stormed out came by just to chat. They actually came back for cookies twice! One team member finally told them that she didn’t understand the ways of God and why He permitted such horrible things, but that the same God had also rescued them, and they shouldn’t forget that. That word was the bridge that helped them begin to dialogue. They eventually went through the LIS, forgave, and asked God into their hearts to heal the hurt and give them a new life. Only God can heal a wound that deep.

This mirrored an experience we had a couple of years ago. One young woman told us that the Kony rebels had come into her village and brutally murdered many people, including her mother and father. They also committed other unspeakable atrocities.

She asked if she must forgive. I still do not know of an adequate answer, but I told her that when she forgave, she did not give up her right to justice. She only gave up her right to judgment and gave that to Jesus, to whom it rightly belonged. I told her she would see justice with her own eyes at the Final Judgment, and that justice would be more terrible than anything she could ever imagine. We pray God’s truth will set her free.

Emmaus Center

This is our sixteenth year at the Emmaus Center. They always say, “Welcome home!”—and it is like coming home. The people are loving and welcoming—it’s a little piece of heaven. This major force for good has influenced not only Uganda, but countries all around Africa. Most of the CCR leaders we have encountered in Uganda were formed by Emmaus’ programs.

While we were there, we spoke with Frances Auno, who lost her young adult daughter last July. It is still a gaping wound. The healing is quiet and hidden, but God is lighting the path one long day and one excruciating step at a time. I am awed by the faith of Frances and her husband. It was a blessing to sit with her and to hear her story. It is always difficult for a community leader to share deeply with those around her, and she felt safe. Thank You, Jesus!

Praise and Thanksgiving

At the beginning of one of our presentations, it began to rain, and it got louder and louder, until it was almost deafening. The rain was a tremendous blessing, as there had been a severe drought for months. In some areas, the people were so hungry, they were boiling leaves from trees to stay alive.

Therefore, we decided to praise the Lord in thanksgiving until the rain stopped. The praises of God rose over the leaders. The dancing quickly exploded, with the line of people dancing all through the church. And the rain didn’t stop until the hour was over! Everyone was happy, and many said the praise of God and the much-needed rain was the testimony and the answer from God. We then went to Adoration and Mass.


One excellent talk came from Rose Keifer, a CCR interpreter, international speaker, and bestselling author who lives on faith. She is single, but adopted her late sister’s children and other orphans. She is a remarkable woman—an example of the fruit Renewal Ministries has borne in Uganda and throughout the world. She spoke on the universal call to holiness, reminding us that being in the CCR is not about conferences, missions, or saving souls; it is about holiness. She quoted often from Ralph Martin’s book The Fulfillment of all Desire: “Holiness is not an option!” “Seek first the Kingdom of God and his justice and all these things shall be added to you as well” (Mat 6:33).

Holiness does not come from saying rosaries or participating in Jericho marches. Holiness is aligning our will with God’s will and accepting the circumstances He chooses for us. When we focus on anything other than Christ, we become like Martha and start to complain. We try to become God by telling God what to do. We see this in Luke 10:40: “But Martha was distracted with much serving; and she went to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’” She was ordering God around! Too often, we do our will in God’s name, not God’s will for us.

I also spoke on practical steps to holiness: repentance, faith, and forgiveness. Repentance is a change in our minds that leads to a change in our actions, not just feeling sorry for something. Sin has two components, rebellion and deception. We can repent of the rebellion, but if we still believe the lie, we will repeat the sin. When we sin again and again and cannot control it, we tend to justify it.

Also, forgiveness is a decision, not a feeling. It is a gift we give ourselves; holding on to unforgiveness is like drinking poison while hoping the other person gets sick!

Touching Jesus’ Cloak

Before one of our healing services, Lloyd described when Bishop Sam Jacobs set the monstrance on a small table at the foot of the altar; put candles on the table; knelt behind the table, holding the monstrance; and invited the people to kneel before the Lord and tell Him their needs.

Just like the woman in Scripture who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment and was healed, he had people touch the cloth around base of the monstrance and then go to the side of the room for prayer. It was extremely powerful.

Fr. David Byaruhanga, the national CCR spiritual director and an exorcist, wanted to lead his people in prayer that way as well. Fr. David held the monstrance, and they were permitted to touch the cloth around it as they told Jesus their needs. He stood for over an hour, holding Jesus in front of the altar, and people came to speak to Jesus about their problems, touch the hem of His garment, and go to the sides of the church for prayer. Sometime during the service, Fr. David began to tremble, as power went out of him!

We are seeing an increase in healing and freedom in Uganda! Thanks for allowing us to serve.

Responding to the Call of Evangelization


Four women from St. John’s Church in Fenton, Michigan, discovered the New Evangelization is for all Catholics. Three of them are shown here at Renewal Ministries’ 2016 Gathering, where Peter Herbeck shared their story.

A group of women from St. John’s Church in Fenton, Michigan, recently discovered that the call of the New Evangelization truly is for all Catholics.

These women—Jeanie Frakes, Tammy Junker, Nora Francis, and Christine Champlin—had their faith activated when they attended a Renewal Ministries’ Gathering in 2015.

“We left on fire for the Lord,” said Jeanie. “We knew God had called us to bring Life in the Spirit to our parish.

Life in the Spirit Seminars help adults prepare their hearts to receive the Holy Spirit and make a commitment to make Jesus the Lord of their lives.

Peter Herbeck introduced the women at Renewal Ministries’ 2016 Gathering. He explained that they told him they normally “wouldn’t have thought they were the ones to do something like that; they would have thought somebody else more important or trained needed to do it.”

“These are mighty warriors of God, and they were typical of a lot of good Catholics,” Peter continued. “They’d been on retreats and parish missions, but in their mind, they thought they were not like the speakers they heard. But then the Lord activated their faith.”

When the group went home from the 2015 Gathering, it seemed they wouldn’t be able to bring the Life in the Spirit to their parish. They responded by praying.

Jeanie explained, “We were called to do it. We didn’t give up. We couldn’t forget how we felt when we left here—we knew we had to do it.”

For nearly a year, the group—along with “prayer warriors” who joined them—prayed to Mary, Undoer of Knots, that the Lord would open doors to bring a Life in the Spirit Seminar to their parish.

And then, unexpectedly, Debra Hawley, the director of the St. Francis Prayer Center in nearby Flint, Michigan, visited St. John’s pastor to tell him about the prayer center. While she was there, the priest mentioned that people in the parish wanted to do a Life in the Spirit Seminar—and she offered to help lead one.

“The Lord had a plan,” she explained.

Nevertheless, things still didn’t fall into place smoothly, and shortly before the seminar was scheduled to begin, “the only ones signed up were us and the prayer warriors,” said Jeanie. So they kept praying—“praying was our power,” she said.

Those prayers bore fruit—during the last week before the seminar, nearly 200 people registered. And almost 250 people attended the entire six-week seminar.

“We thank God, because He brought a beautiful seminar to our parish, and it went off like fireworks,” said Jeanie.

And the fruit doesn’t end there. According to Debra, ninety people who attended the seminar also attended follow-up courses.

Debra explained that the Fenton story relates to all of the faithful, in that “we have to be faithful to what we’ve been called for—but the momentum and the fruit have got to be God’s.”

“Grace cooperates with us doing our part,” she added. “Those women were faithful and persistent—like the faithful widow in Scripture.”

As Peter explained, “God was moving them. Pope Francis said the Church began on the move—when the Holy Spirit comes, God wants us to get moving, and get into what He wants us to do, even if we don’t have it all figured out. They did it, and they were activated, and they passed the current of grace on to others.”