Tag: New Evangelization

Casting Nets: The Penny Talk

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The following article is the first in a series called “Casting Nets” that will run over the coming weeks. They are written by “John,” a student in one of Ralph Martin’s New Evangelization classes, and document several evangelization opportunities he has performed in his various ministries. He writes, “Each ministry is unique with various situations, circumstances, and needs; but the one constant is broken and injured people. It is my experience that there is no greater potential for miracles to occur than when desperate people meet Jesus. I have been blessed to have seen many people come to Jesus—often in surprising or unexpected ways—and quite often, it is I who is the most surprised.”

The names of the individuals involved have been changed to protect privacy, and the author has been kept anonymous because he would like Jesus to have the credit for this work.

By John

I was looking for a new idea for a presentation at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center I volunteer for ministry. I decided to do a talk on self-esteem because if there is anything these people need more of, it is self-esteem. Society has labeled these people as losers, deadbeats, scum, useless (or worse) and they need to know that it is what God thinks about them that matters, not what society thinks. I had recently watched a video from Fr. Dave Pivonka and in the video, he compared pennies to souls. I decided to integrate the teaching into my talk.

The talk involved giving out a “lucky penny” to all attendees as they entered the place where I gave the talk. (After all, who doesn’t want a lucky penny?) I began with how God’s love is universal and available for all. I then talked about the parable of the lost sheep (Mt 18:12–14) and drew a comparison between their scatted lives and disordered priorities to lost sheep. Next, I broke open the parable of the lost coin (Lk 15:8-10). I compared the woman in the parable to the Lord, who will not leave a corner unswept or a room unchecked in order to find every lost soul. Finally, I asked them to take out their pennies. I pointed out how different they were, yet all were of the same essence. I pointed out that some are old and worn while other are bright and shiny—just like each of us. I then reflected on the fact that some are scraped, nicked, or even bent, indicating a hard life (just like us). Some are foreign (because many of the residents are not from the immediate area), and some are not, but the most important thing is that all have worth. Just as the US Mint purposefully makes every single penny and then sends them out to every corner of the world, so too God with our souls. Just as no penny is unplanned or worthless and all are accounted for—so too are we. Finally, after circulating all around the world, and their job is done, the mint collects every single penny and takes them back in (no matter what shape or condition they are they are in), and just as when they were made, every penny is again accounted for. Most importantly, none are worthless—there is no such thing as a worthless penny. I then related this to our souls and how, upon our death, God carefully gathers every soul back and accounts for it. The talk lasted for forty-five minutes and (I thought) went well. Afterwards, I asked if anyone wanted prayer. A tall, thin, man with an addiction problem approached. He asked if he could tell me a story before I prayed over him. I said “absolutely.”

His said, “I’ve never been religious and haven’t been to church in a long time. I didn’t think that God even knew who I was, but your talk really spoke to me today.” I said, “That’s great! I’m glad to hear it.”

He then looked downcast and began tearing up. He said, “I’m so tired of the drugs. They have ruined my life and every relationship I’ve ever had. I’ve lost cars, money, friends, and family. All I have left in the world is my two boys.” He continued, “My wife called me earlier today and we argued. She said that she wanted to leave and take the kids. I can’t really blame her, but they are all I have left to live for.”

He continued, “After we talked for an hour, she said that for some reason, she wouldn’t leave me just now and was going to give me one more chance. I thanked her for that and promised that it would be different. I know now for sure that it will be different, because God gave me a sign during your talk.”

I said, “That is awesome brother!” I encouraged him and added, “Now remember, you need to hold God to His promise. Just tell Him, ‘Lord, I can’t do this without You, and You gave me a sign—whatever that sign was—so I’m counting on You to help me pull through this.” I then reminded him that the best place to do this was in church.

He said, “Yeah, I’m going to do that. Thanks.” Then he looked at me and asked, “Do you know what my wife’s name is?” Well, I’d never met this man before, so quizzically, I said, “No, I have no idea.”

“Penny,” he replied.

NOTE: As a follow-up, my wife and I met Penny by chance eight months later. She was in rehab herself and said that her husband had been clean and sober since I had last seen him, and that he still carried the penny in his wallet. Praise God!

A New Pentecost: Why Now?

Pope John XXIII implored the whole Church to pray in preparation for the Council, asking God to send us a “new Pentecost,” and Benedict XVI called for the whole Church to pray for a renewal of Baptism and confirmation and be “baptized in the Spirit.” For more than 40 years there has been a strong and continuing emphasis coming from the Popes on the need of the Church, and each of us as individuals, to experience today the work of the Spirit as we see it described in the accounts of Pentecost in the Acts of the Apostles. As one surveys the persistent calls for a rediscovery or reappropriation of the work of the Holy Spirit as first experienced at Pentecost one is struck by the fervor and depth of conviction in these repeated pleas. Sometimes even a note of desperation.(1)

…The continuing papal calls for a New Pentecost seem to be based on two main perceptions. One perception is of the weakness of the Church and the “collapse of Christendom” or as John Paul II put it, the end of Christian society as we once knew it. This is related to the growth of an international, secular culture characterized by a “dictatorship of relativism” which is increasingly hostile to claims of truth, and most especially the claims of Christ and the Church. A situation has now developed that is more similar to the situation the early Church faced than anything we’ve known in many centuries.

The second perception is that what is most needed is a renewal of a personal relationship with God himself, a relationship that “comes alive” in the reality of Pentecost, in both its contemplative and charismatic dimensions. Quite bluntly, it appears that the Popes are crying out:

We need God! We need a new Pentecost!

This is in turn opening us to the perception that indeed, God is hearing our prayers and that we are beginning to see the unfolding of a new Pentecost, most notably in various renewal movements, but hopefully extending in an ever-widening circle to the entire Church. Pentecost and the gifts of the Spirit are not the property of any one movement or all the movements together, but the heritage of the entire Church. The movements perhaps can be seen as a “vanguard” of the renewal the Lord has in mind for the whole Church. The values and realities we see embodied in the movements and new communities are intended to stimulate the renewal of such values and realities throughout the Church, beyond the bounds of the particular movements or communities.

This seems to be clearly the view of the recent Popes. The first signs of “springtime” or “renewal” or “new Pentecost” or a “Pentecostal season”—characterized by “passion,” “ardor,” “fervor,” “enthusiasm”—while most intense in the “new movements” are seen to be the harbingers of a wider springtime that encompasses the entire Church. The Popes clearly see the universal need for a “new Pentecost” and the universal possibility of it, since the Pentecostal graces, both contemplative and charismatic, are constitutive of the Church. The charismatic dimension of the Church’s constitution is seen to be “co-essential” with the institutional dimension, and the whole Church is invited to cry out for the gifts of the Spirit, receive them gratefully, and use them for the good of the Church.

(Gifts of the Holy Spirit: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, & Fear of the Lord)*


NOTES

1. Edward D. O’Connor, C.S.C., The Pentecostal Movement in the Catholic Church (Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 1971) cites several instances in which John XXIII links the meaning of Vatican II to a “new Pentecost.” 287–289.


This article is an excerpt from Ralph Martin’s booklet A New Pentecost. In this booklet Ralph describes the insistent calls of the recent Popes for a “new Pentecost.” Using quotes from these Popes and the scriptures, he explores this “new Pentecost” and how we can personally appropriate it.

Order booklet»

*The list of the gifts of the Holy Spirit was an addition to this article and not contained in the original booklet text.

“Fearless”: Proclaim Good News with Power

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A new documentary airs online Divine Mercy weekend that features Ralph Martin, Dr. Mary Healy, Fr. Mathias Thelen, and a hunger to see more of God’s power at work in evangelization.

Fearless is a compelling journey of discovery to find the missing piece of the New Evangelization—the Divine Power.

Early-bird pricing for the movie—which is only available for viewing online—ends April 15. The movie airs April 22-24, and online tickets likely will not be available after those dates. Please purchase tickets by clicking on the link here, or through Renewal Ministries’ homepage here. These are affiliate links that enable your purchase to support the work of Renewal Ministries.

The premier ticket option early-bird price is $19.97 and includes lifetime access to the film, an opportunity to connect with other people viewing the film, bonus clips, expert commentaries, and testimony interviews.

Fr. Mike Schmitz said, “Fearless is a powerful video that demonstrates that we can trust the Father . . . it demonstrates the living and active power of God that continues to be working in the Church and in the world now. Fearless is a great witness to the fact that Jesus continues to move today. Our faith does not rest on human wisdom, but on the Holy Spirit of power. Fearless is a testimony to this reality.”

Fr. Dave Pivonka said, “Fearless sheds light on what the Christian life can look like for the Catholic who is freed from fear and allows the Holy Spirit to be more active in his or her life. By the sharing of personal experiences Fearless chronicles what God can do in and through men and women who allow the Spirit of God to lead them.  Anyone who is interested in releasing the power of God in their life should make a point of watching Fearless.”

You can listen to audience reactions to the movie here.

One woman responded, “I didn’t realize how important the message of forgiveness is to healing. And the fact that Jesus is alive with us today, ever present, just like He was 2000 years ago, healing people. He’s working through us now to do the same.”

Another said, “You need to see it to open to your heart to the Holy Spirit. I’m so excited to see what He’s going to do in people’s lives. It just lights a fire in our hearts.”

 

 

Lansing Diocese Strives to Reach Lost Sheep

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Peter Herbeck recently interviewed Bishop Earl Boyea, from the Diocese of Lansing, Michigan, on Fire on the Earth. The two discussed the diocese’s plan to host three assemblies over six years, in order to reach out to people in the pews, people who have left the Church, and people outside of the Church. The second of the three assemblies took place just two weeks ago.

Peter Herbeck (PH): There’s a lot happening in the Lansing Diocese in the whole area of the New Evangelization. I want to talk about your vision for the diocese and the New Evangelization.

Bishop Boyea (BB): When I arrived in the diocese in 2008, I was asked about my vision for the diocese. I think I stared with a blank look at everybody and said, “Well, I want to get everybody to heaven!” What more is there than that? Of course, then it’s, “OK, how do you do this?”

The diocese and staff encouraged me to do something, and so I formed a committee, which encouraged me to write a pastoral letter. About a week later, Pope Benedict urged every bishop to write a pastoral letter, and I said, “Oh my goodness, God is sending me a message.”

I basically put together a lot of thoughts about how do we get people to heaven. The pastoral letter came out in 2012, Go and Announce the Gospel of the Lord, which really called for a Year of Prayer—prayer to the Holy Spirit to guide us into what we should do. It was a powerful year—it really was! All of our parishes prayed this prayer to the Holy Spirit, asked for the Holy Spirit to come upon us and to guide us to where God wanted to lead us. And then as a result of all of that, we came up the inspiration to have three assemblies, one every two years.

The first one was, “How Do We Build up the Household of Faith?” We had that assembly in 2014. This October, we had “How Do We Try to Bring Back Some of the Lost Sheep?” In 2018, we’ll have our third assembly on “How Do We Change the Culture? How Do We Affect the Culture, Which is so Toxic?”

PH: I was able to be there for the first assembly, and it was dynamic. It was very well attended, and it had a dynamism, an energy, and a presence of the Lord. What was your experience?

BB: From the first moment, I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit. I thought, “This is incredible!”

There were about 850 people there representing all but one of our parishes, and they were all enthused. There was a snowstorm after the first day, and they all came back the next day! God wanted them there, and they knew God wanted them there.

PH: I thought, “The Lord is here—the Lord’s helping us! There’s something really happening in this room!” What were highlights from that year for you?

BB: The big thing was the incredible amount of activities that emerged afterward in all of our parishes. I never mandated anything. I wanted them to maybe start prayer groups, start small faith-sharing groups, have Encounter sessions so people can meet Christ, those kinds of things, but there was never anything specific. I said, “Let a thousand flowers bloom”—and believe me, a thousand flowers have bloomed!

I’m constantly astounded! The great thing is, everyone’s doing something.

PH: The Holy Spirit was doing all of it, but when a bishop says, “My heart’s in it, I’m going to lead this: I’m going to help people open up. I’m going to let a thousand flowers bloom, and I’m going to beg the Lord to let a thousand flowers bloom,”—something happens, and it’s really wonderful to see.

What were your main takeaways from that assembly?

BB: The presence of God. It was just so overwhelming. It just caused me to be so grateful, and I thanked God for that, because it was an answer to the prayer that I didn’t know how was going to be answered. Craig Pohl was in charge of it, and I wondered, “How on earth is he going to pull this thing off?” But the Holy Spirit really plowed through, and got him going, and it was powerful!

PH: With the Holy Spirit present and leading us, all things are possible. The picture can be discouraging sometimes, to see where the Church is at in the West, but when the Holy Spirit comes, it just changes everything. Hope arises and creativity flows from that.

Let’s talk more about phase two, the lost sheep.

BB: We do October counts to learn how many people are attending Mass every year. Over the past number of years, we’ve lost a lot of folks. I was discouraged when I saw that, since the assembly, we’ve still lost folks. It really got me down. But then Craig said—“Bishop, the core is stronger than it’s ever been!”

This second phase is meant to help all of us reach out to friends and family members who have left the Church for whatever reason. Because I care for their souls, I want them to get to heaven. Not only that—we need them! It’s not just they need us—we need them! They’re called by name; we’re called by name. We’re all sons and daughters of the heavenly Father. The Father wants us together.

PH: What were you hoping to accomplish in the second assembly?

BB: I used the phrase in the pastoral letter, “Jesus went out after the one lost sheep.” Which I think is kind of foolish—you should take care of those ninety-nine. But the danger is—is it one leaves, then one leaves, and then one leaves? Pretty soon, you won’t have anybody left. So, you’ve got to always go after that one sheep. We all have to be as Jesus was in that story.

PH: We do have some bishops who listen to the program on occasion, and a lot of priests. Being sort of in the trenches as a bishop leading the charge, is there anything you’d like to say by way of encouragement?

BB: I couldn’t have done this without very Spirit-filled people urging me, and there’s no way it would have been accomplished without those very Spirit-filled and prayerful people following through and doing it. Just invite the Holy Spirit in to do these things, and then step out of the way.

PH: That’s a Godly way of leading—call the Holy Spirit and then step out of the way. You’ve cast a vision, there was a call there, your team worked hard to till the soil, and it created a pathway for people to move together. So many things are emerging, because the Holy Spirit is leading us and the leadership from you and your team is really helpful. You have all communicated a sense of urgency.

Please say a little bit more about the third assembly, which will take place in two years.

BB: Our culture’s pretty toxic and it’s not very conducive to living a good Christian life. How can we affect the culture? We should be out there in the arts, entertainment, and politics. We should be out there changing the world, as happened after the time of Constantine, when culture was changed by Christians. We need to do the same thing in this day and age.

Evangelization: Let God Lead the Way

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I have been particularly struck over the last two to three years about one expression of God’s work on our behalf for the New Evangelization and, in particular, for the Year of Mercy.

As our parish works on becoming a community of believers who both pray and reach out to newcomers, I have been very inspired to see God’s part in this work. It is so easy to think that the New Evangelization is up to us; that WE need to make “it” happen. It is so easy to focus on what we—each of us—needs to contribute, that we forget God Himself is working very hard to open our minds and hearts to His role. Once we have found how God is moving “ahead” of us to make a way, to break open hard hearts, to soften angry ones, to bring strength to the timid and fearful, and to bring hope to the sorrowful, then we can more clearly see our part in God’s plan to bring people to Him or back to Him. There are many good books out there and many good speakers who can teach us and motivate us to open our own hearts as to how God wants to use us—yes, each of us.

If I am a priest and a pastor, I need to recognize that God has a plan for me and for my parish, if I will but listen. I need to spend time with God in prayer for my parish, asking God, Who knows my parishioners better than I do, to show me a way to bring the Gospel to my people in a way that not only inspires and encourages them, but gives them the faith, in turn, to reach out to their neighbors, coworkers, and friends with the Good News.

Programs and new ideas for evangelizing our parishes are valuable, but nothing can take the place of spending time daily with the Shepherd to see His plan for me—as pastor—as well as His plan for my sheep.

In turn, we, as the Lord’s sheep, need to be in His presence, to rest, to feed, and to hear His voice—daily—so we can personally cooperate with God and our pastor in the plan for parish evangelization and then to be able to give the Good News to others.

A couple of years ago, I was asking the Lord how I could best cooperate with the New Evangelization. How did He want me to reach out to people in my own geographical area? The following Sunday, I was at Mass in our parish church. This question was in my mind as I looked at the faces around me. Many I knew; some I did not. I prayed, “Help me, Lord. Show me how to do this.”

As Mass ended, a woman in the pew behind me, whom I did not know, said that she thought I should speak to the young man who had been at the end of her pew. He had already genuflected and was going toward an exit. I sensed that I should listen to her suggestion, so I followed the young man, who was in his early thirties, to the main door. As I reached out to tap him on the shoulder, I thought, “Oh dear, what do I say?” At that moment, he turned and looked at me. It was evident that he had been crying. So, I gulped and said, “I think the Lord wanted me to talk to you.” He said, “I just lost my wife from cancer. I think I am supposed to become a Catholic but I don’t know who to talk to.”

What if I hadn’t tapped him on the shoulder—even more, what if I hadn’t been praying and asking God to show me what to do? And now, here was God making it “easy” for me to evangelize. What if there are people in your parish in similar circumstances, who don’t know anyone? Who will reach them, if not you?

I have also had similar experiences on planes. Because I travel with some frequency, I have made it a habit to tell the Lord when I am settled on a plane, “Use me, as You wish, for Your honor, for their salvation.”

As a result of that prayer—as a result of a conscious willingness to listen to God before I take things into my own hands and perhaps say something that is not helpful—I’ve learned to “wait upon the Lord.” On almost every trip, after a simple hello or an exchange of names and destinations, the person next to me will ask some question which opens the door. Recently, a young Jewish man, seeing my crucifix, asked if I would pray with him. For about five minutes, the plane had been experiencing immense turbulence, and our plane seemed to be tossed to and fro. He was a bit shaken by it all, and so we prayed together. Peace came to both of us. He promised to stay in touch. (I almost put that in the miracle category!)

On another flight, a beautiful couple struck up a conversation with me; he was the principal of a school, and she was a teacher, so we talked about all our shared experiences in the classroom. As the conversation continued, I listened to the heart-breaking story of their young son, around the age of fifteen, who had died some years ago of pneumonia—no antibiotic could overcome it! That sharing led to a conversation about God and His love for them and their children. That led to a conversation about faith, the Church, and the need each of us has for God’s mercy. I was able to listen and, I think, help them to reach out for the unfathomable riches of His grace—especially available to us when we are in great pain or sorrow.

Each time I ask God to lead me, to show me what to say and who to speak to, and even just when to listen, God answers. He is more eager than we are to see people find His grace and mercy.

In this time of the New Evangelization, let us expect God to use us. Let us open our hearts and minds to rely more on His initiative, for the mercy of God has no bounds. May the lost be saved, and may the hopeless find the Shepherd of mercy through us!