Tag: Ralph Martin

The Fatima Children’s Wholehearted ‘Yes’

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Today, on the one-hundredth anniversary of the final Fatima apparition, I want to share with you about my recent time in Fatima, where I spoke to a capacity audience of 2,300 people. Thankfully, Anne was able to join me, as the organizers invited her and paid her way, which is quite rare. I think Mary wanted us both there and inspired them to do so. It was good to share this special grace together. The conference celebrated fifty years of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal and the one-hundredth anniversary of Mary’s messages there.

Like many of you, I have been familiar with the events and message of Fatima for many years. I was even there, many years ago. I wasn’t expecting anything special to happen during this visit, but something did. Once again, a surprise of the Holy Spirit! Before I share that story, let me recount what happened at Fatima a century ago, for the sake of those who haven’t heard or have forgotten.

In 1917, an angel appeared three different times to three small children—ages seven, nine, and ten—who lived in a small rural village. There was a brother and sister, Francisco and Jacinta, and their slightly older cousin, Lucia. The angel, which identified itself as the Angel of Portugal and the Angel of Peace, taught the children two prayers. The angel prayed with his forehead touching the ground and taught the children the profound reverence owed to God. They forever after often prayed like that themselves.

Mary then appeared to the children once a month for six consecutive months. She revealed to them three secrets, which they could only reveal at a later time. During her last appearance in October of 1917, she manifested the “miracle of the sun,” which was viewed by perhaps 70,000 people and reported on in Portugal’s secular newspapers. A very important part of what she communicated to them was the reality and horror of hell, where “many sinners go.” She very briefly gave them a vision of hell, where they saw the suffering of the lost souls and the horror of the demons. Mary told them that many souls go there, because there is no one to pray and offer sacrifices for them, and she asked the children to do so. She also asked them to pray the rosary every day for peace.

This vision and Mary’s words both deeply impacted their souls, and they fervently responded to her request. Little Jacinta would often ask her brother and cousin: “Have you sacrificed for the conversion of sinners today?” They would often give their lunches to poor children, go without drinking water for long periods of time, and do other sacrifices. Mary also asked the children to offer the suffering that would come their way, as well as their voluntary prayers and sacrifices, for reparation for the sins that are so offending God and Mary. She told them that the present war, World War I, would end soon, but unless there was repentance from sin, there would come a greater and worse war, and that war was a punishment for sin.

Mary said a sign would be given before the beginning of the next war, if there was not sufficient repentance. Indeed, that sign was given in 1938—one month before Hitler annexed Austria—and was seen throughout Europe as an aurora borealis. She also warned that if there wasn’t repentance, Russia would spread its errors throughout the world, whole nations would be annihilated, and the Church would suffer much.

Mary also told the children that she would take Jacinta and Francisco to heaven soon, but that Lucia would need to learn to read and write, as she needed to stay on earth longer, in order to witness to this message. Lucia died in 2005, at the age of 97, in a Carmelite monastery. Francisco died in 1919, not yet ten, of the flu epidemic that swept the world at that time, and Jacinta in 1920, at the age of ten. Mary told Jacinta that if she was willing, she would suffer much and die alone in a hospital, but Mary would be with her. In a brutal operation, the doctors removed two of her ribs. Jacinta was so weak, she couldn’t have general anesthesia, the local anesthesia was ineffective, and she died alone in a Lisbon hospital.

Jacinta and Francisco were officially proclaimed saints this year, by Pope Francis at Fatima, and the cause for Lucia has begun.

So what struck me so deeply? The children—their totally fervent, wholehearted focus on the salvation of souls, and how they focused their whole way of life and each and every day on prayer and sacrifice for the conversion of sinners. It would take me more space than we have to tell you all about this, but suffice it to say I was deeply inspired and challenged to do more myself. As I visited each of their graves in the Basilica of Fatima, as as I read Lucia’s Memoirs, I felt like I was being given new friends, new models, by the Lord, to help me in my own spiritual journey and our work for souls.

Pray, fast, and offer sacrifices for the conversion of sinners, for peace in the world, and for mercy. As Jesus said as He began preaching: Repent! For the kingdom of God is at hand.

……

These prayers were taught by the angel to the children:

“Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I offer You the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifference with which He Himself is offended. And, through the infinite merits of His most Sacred Heart, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of You the conversion of poor sinners.”

“My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love You! I ask pardon of You for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love You.”

These prayers were taught by Mary to the children:

“O my Jesus! Forgive us, save us from the fire of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those who are most in need.”

“Oh my Jesus, I offer this for love of Thee, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”

The children were moved by an interior impulse to pray this prayer:

“Most Holy Trinity, I adore Thee! My God, my God, I love Thee in the Most Blessed Sacrament.”

Reflections on Belgium’s Decline of Faith

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Dear Friends,

Last month, I shared about the great inspiration of being at the fiftieth anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR) in Rome, where Pope Francis again strongly encouraged us to keep sharing the gift that God is continuing to give us in this “current of grace” that is still flowing strongly. After our time in Rome, Anne and I went on to Belgium, where we had lived for four years and where two of our children were born (our little Brussels Sprouts we called them). We had been invited to give several talks to celebrate the Belgian celebration of the anniversary of the Renewal. We love Belgium. It is a neat and tidy little country with a noble history of faith and great missionary outflowing. Fr. Damian, who went to Hawaii to work with the lepers, is but one of the many Belgian missionaries and saints.

But how far this noble country has fallen! A great apostasy from the faith is shockingly apparent. As one priest said to us: “We have a beautiful seminary with only one problem, hardly any seminarians!” Church attendance is shockingly low, and hardly any young people are to be found at Mass. The country itself seems to delight in being on the cutting edge of abortion, euthanasia, and the explicit rejection of their Catholic heritage. Catholics are hardly having any children, and the flood of Moslem immigrants in some cities now comprise thirty-three percent of the population, and they are continuing to have many children. God bless the Moslems! God help the Catholics! May Our Lady of Fatima—the name of Mohammed’s beloved daughter—come to our assistance! May we pay attention to her continuing pleas to say the rosary and help her mission with our prayer and fasting!

Sadly, it seems that the Church leadership in Belgium has been intimidated by the aggressive secular culture and is almost accommodating itself to the situation, rather than challenging it with a vigorous proclamation of the Gospel. We went to the most dynamic parish in a large city where we were staying, and sure enough, it had an excellent choir that was in the center of the sanctuary, but the priest almost seemed to be a bit player in the performance. And it sure looked like a woman standing next to the priest on the altar was concelebrating. She said all the prayers with him, except for the exact words of the consecration, and she raised up the chalice as the deacon normally does at the appropriate time, etc. When our host remarked that this probably seemed a little unusual to us, he told us it was actually authorized by the bishop as a way to prepare the remaining Mass attendees for a church without priests! Oh, this is painful.

Lord have mercy on us. Truly.

In the meantime, we continue to preach the Gospel in season and out of season, when it’s convenient and when it’s not. I just returned from Fatima, where I was inspired as never before by the lives and examples of those three young children, and the sacrifices they were willing to make for souls after meeting our Blessed Mother. Perhaps in their example of loving souls and in their willingness to make sacrifices—and of “meeting” our Mother Mary and drawing close to her, and therefore, to our Lord—we can begin to help turn the tide that is overwhelming Belgium and so many other beautiful countries.

Alleluia! Jesus is Lord! And He’s coming again in glory to judge the living and the dead! May He find us busy with the Father’s work—according to each of our vocations.

Sincerely yours,

Ralph

‘Be Still and Know He is God’

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Ralph Martin gave the following prophetic reflection in Rome for the Golden Jubilee of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. His talk followed ones by Patti Mansfield and Dave Mangan.

Be still and know that He is God.

God is here. The God that Patti and Dave are speaking about is here, now.

He’s right next to you, right in you. It doesn’t matter where you are sitting. It doesn’t matter whether you’re thirsty. It doesn’t matter whether you’re hot and sweaty.

He is here.

God is here.

He wants to do in our souls, and He wants to do in our hearts, what He most loves to do.

He loves to invite us to repentance. He wants to give more of Himself to us. He is asking us to let go of things we may be holding on to that are blocking His love in our life.

We should be asking ourselves, “What should we do?” Because we’re not just celebrating something from the past. We are telling the story of One who is still present.

God is here now, wanting to do what He did in the Upper Room on the Day of Pentecost and the Ark and the Dove (the retreat house in Pennsylvania where the Catholic Charismatic Renewal began). Ask the same question they asked of Peter on the day of Pentecost: “What shall we do?”

Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus.

We know from the Acts of the Apostles, the gift of the Holy Spirit isn’t just a one-time gift. When the apostles were facing persecution, they prayed for more of the Holy Spirit. We are facing difficulty and persecution all over the world. We need more of the Holy Spirit.

When Timothy got lukewarm in his ministry, Paul said, “Stir up the fire I gave you through the laying on of my hands” (2 Tm 1:6). That gift is meant to be stirred up. For some of us, maybe it’s gotten lukewarm. Some of us here maybe don’t even know why we’re here tonight. We heard of big things happening, and we’re curious.

What’s happening here tonight is the action of God being made visible in this most amazing gathering of people from 127 different countries, who have sacrificed to be here as witnesses, out of love for God.

Everybody here is a witness!

Everybody here is a witness to the action of God.

In a few minutes, we’re going to pray for more of the Holy Spirit. We need to prepare ourselves to do what Peter asked us to do on the day of Pentecost.

There’s lots of distraction. There’s lots of very wonderful excitement. There’s lots of wonderful celebration.

But God is here. The God that Patti and Dave were speaking about is here. Now.

He’s right next to you. He’s in you. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to convict us of ways in which we can have courage to be witnesses. It’s only because of the Holy Spirit that anybody can say that Jesus Christ is Lord. Every knee will bend and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

To anyone here who hasn’t surrendered their life to Jesus Christ, Jesus Himself is here, and He is speaking to you. He’s loving you, and He’s urging you, and He’s hungry for you to accept His love.

I’m going to close with something that Jesus said through the Holy Spirit to one of the first Christian communities: “I am the first and the last. I was dead, but now I’m alive. Behold, I am alive for ever and ever” (Rev 1: 17-18).

Jesus is alive forever and ever! He’s here tonight. He’s ready to heal. He’s ready to pour out the Holy Spirit. He’s ready to forgive sin. He’s ready to pour out His heart!

Let’s open our hearts to God!

Reflections on the Person of the Holy Spirit

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This letter originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ July 2017 newsletter.

I think our whole life is a journey to discover more and more the wonder of being created IN THE IMAGE OF GOD!! And the even greater wonder of being re-created—the image restored through the grime of sin and the wounds of the world—through union with the death and resurrection of Jesus in faith and baptism through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Even though we celebrated the feast of Pentecost last month, along with the fiftieth anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal with special events in Rome, I still find myself thinking a lot about the amazing role of the Holy Spirit in each of our lives.

It began with re-reading The Confession of St. Patrick—a short account that he himself wrote of his conversion and mission in Ireland—where I found a strange formulation that puzzled me for a long time. Patrick wrote:

“On yet another occasion I saw a person praying within me. I was as it seemed inside my body and I heard him over me, that is, over the inner man. There he was, praying with great emotion. All the time I was puzzled as I wondered greatly who could possibly be praying inside me. He spoke, however, at the end of the prayer, saying that he was the Spirit. In this way I learned by experience and I recalled the words of the Apostle: the Spirit helps the weaknesses of our prayer; for we do not know how to pray as we ought; but the Spirit himself pleads for us with signs unutterable that cannot be put into words. Again: The Lord our Advocate pleads for us.”

At first, I thought Patrick must be mistaken, and it was certainly Jesus who was praying within him, but then I eventually realized that Patrick was given a vivid experience of the Holy Spirit as a PERSON and not just an impersonal force or energy that we can sometimes imagine Him to be. A PERSON PRAYING WITHIN US WITH GREAT EMOTION! How wonderful, how amazing, how helpful, how encouraging! So let us join our prayer with the prayer of the person of the Holy Spirit, crying out for the will of God to be done in us and in all men and women!

The second insight I received into the Holy Spirit occurred during Holy Week, when Anne and I were watching one of those videos about the life and death of Jesus. It wasn’t one of the famous ones, but one that was free on our video service. I don’t know if the actors who played the apostles were simply not the greatest actors, but I got such a strong sense of how amazing it was that the Lord entrusted His mission to these very human men who seemed quite ill equipped for such a mission.

We know from the Scriptures that they were “uneducated,” which made the Pharisees wonder where they got their right to teach. And then I thought: “Wow, where would we be, where would the Church be, where would one billion Christians alive today be, if the Holy Spirit hadn’t fallen on the apostles and given them such a vivid experience of the risen Jesus and such an infusion of supernatural courage, clarity, certainty, boldness, and fortitude that they actually were to carry out the mission, even to the giving of their lives in martyrdom?”

Thanks be to God for the gift of the Holy Spirit! Jesus was really speaking the truth when He told the apostles it was better that He left them and returned to the Father, so the Holy Spirit could be given to them and to “all those whom God is calling to Himself.”

Let us thank God for the gift of the Holy Spirit to each of us personally, for the gift of the indwelling PERSON of the Holy Spirit!

 

Understanding Mother Teresa’s ‘Dark Night’

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Ralph Martin recently spoke at Ave Maria University in Florida about Mother Teresa and John of the Cross: The Truth about Dark Nights. Since this is a topic of concern for many people, we are sharing condensed version of his talk below. We pray it is a blessing to you!

Even though the main lines of Mother Teresa’s experience of “darkness” had been known for several years, the full publication of her private letters drew world-wide media coverage.

Some secularists interpreted her talk of darkness as a sign of hypocrisy and even accused her of not really believing in God—but this signifies a very superficial and partial reading of her letters. Some believers were disturbed and confused to hear of her prolonged experience of aridity or emptiness in her relationship with God. Some thought the letters were so disturbing it was a mistake to publish them. This last concern, while understandable, is unfounded, since the letters in question are part of the official record compiled in the process of canonization and are generally made public. And by now we must know that efforts to “edit” the life or writings of a saint (as the sisters of Therese of Lisieux tried to do), only detract from the awesome witness to holiness that is found, albeit in sometimes unexpected and disturbing ways. In the long run, I think these letters will bear great fruit.

The book left me awe-struck at the depth of Mother Teresa’s holiness. Her faith and her heroic service were more profound than I ever imagined

While Mother Teresa received remarkable communications from the Lord and significant consolation at the beginning of her mission, for almost fifty years, she was left almost totally bereft of such consolation. She carried out her mission with almost no affective experience of God’s love and presence. She saw the fruit her work was producing. She saw that when she spoke to people, they came alive and grew in the experience of God’s love, but she herself for the most part felt only emptiness.

During the first ten years of this “darkness,” she was deeply troubled by it and sought to understand what was happening by consulting a few trusted priests. She wondered if this prolonged darkness was a sign of her great sinfulness and imperfection. It wasn’t until she met Fr. Neuner, a Jesuit working in India, that she came to grasp some her suffering’s special meaning. He explained this wasn’t the typical “dark night” St. John of the Cross describes; it wasn’t just for her own purification, but was a special gift from God to participate in Christ’s sufferings, particularly in His sense of abandonment in the garden of Gethsemane before His crucifixion. She was forever grateful:

For the first time in these eleven years I have come to love the darkness. For I believe now that it is a part, a very, very small part of Jesus’ darkness and pain on earth. You have taught me to accept it as a “spiritual side of ‘your work’” as you wrote. Today really I felt a deep joy; that Jesus can’t go anymore through the agony but that He wants to go through it in me. More than ever I surrender myself to Him. Yes, more than ever I will be at His disposal.” (241)

In fact, Mother Teresa had prayed for just such a participation in Christ’s agony years previously!

As a young woman, she had resolved “to drink the chalice to the last drop.” After founding the Missionaries of Charity, she again resolved “to drink only from His chalice of pain and to give Mother Church real saints” (141).

Fr. Neuner’s explanation gave her a measure of peace and even joy, but didn’t take away the pain of not being able to experience the sensible/spiritual consolation of God’s love and favor, which often seemed on the verge of being unbearable.

Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa summed up well the reasons why God led Mother Teresa by this unusual path, and the publication of the full text of the letters and the commentary of Fr. Kolodiejchuk confirms this interpretation. I actually discuss Mother Teresa’s unique experience of her “dark night” and its relationship to the “ordinary dark nights” as taught by John of the Cross in chapter seventeen of The Fulfillment of All Desire.

Because the Lord knew Mother Teresa’s remarkable mission would be greatly blessed and that the whole world would come to admire it, the special gift of acute “spiritual poverty” was given to Mother Teresa as a protection against pride. God gave her the experience of “nothingness” and “emptiness” as a gift to protect her from the adulation she would receive, including the reception of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Also, because of the specific nature of the mission He called her to, He gave her the gift of knowing what it was like for those she was serving—those abandoned by their families, rejected, unwanted, left alone to die on the streets of Calcutta, or children abandoned by their parents. She could understand and feel deep compassion for these abandoned ones, in part because of her own experience of “darkness” and abandonment.

And finally, she was given to a remarkable degree the gift of being one with Jesus in His Passion, out of which comes so much redemptive power—a gift she had asked for on more than one occasion.

Yes, she experienced temptations to give up, to despair, even temptations to blasphemy and unbelief, but to be tempted is not to sin. Her heroic perseverance in the face of such interior suffering is truly awe-inspiring. What an example to us in our need to persevere no matter what the difficulties, no matter what we experience or don’t experience!

On the other hand, there are dangers in misunderstanding Mother Teresa’s unusually sustained experience of darkness. This darkness accompanied her for so long because of her very special vocation. It is not the normal, purifying “dark nights” John of the Cross discusses. Nor is every experience of aridity, emptiness, or darkness a purifying or redemptive “dark night.” It is very helpful to avail ourselves of the wisdom of our spiritual tradition to understand this better.

In brief, John of the Cross teaches there are three reasons why someone may experience deep aridity, emptiness, or darkness in their prayer or relationship with God. (See Chapter 14 of The Fulfillment of All Desire.) One reason is because of “lukewarmness” or infidelity in “doing our part” in sustaining our relationship with God. We may become careless about regular prayer and spiritual reading, we may not frequent the Eucharist and Reconciliation, we may fill our minds and hearts with worldly entertainment, we may not be diligent in rejecting temptation, we may not develop relationships with others who desire to follow the Lord. This carelessness and infidelity lessens our hunger for God and desire to be with Him, and produces lukewarmness and repugnance for things of the spirit. This is not a purifying darkness, but rather the result of laxity, and the only solution is to repent and take up the spiritual practices that dispose us for union with God.

A second reason why such aridity may be experienced is because of physical or emotional illness. The saints advise us to try to get better, pray for healing, go to the doctor, but keep on as best one can in living a fervent Christian life. And if one is not healed, it’s an invitation to join our suffering with the suffering of Jesus and offer it as reparation for our own sins and as intercessory prayer for others.

A third reason why such darkness or aridity may be present is that we are ready to move to a deeper level of faith, hope, and love, and that God purposely removes the experience of His love, presence, or favor—but not their reality—in order to give us a chance to believe, hope, and love more deeply and purely. This true “dark night” may be quite intense and last for a long period of time, or it may happen intermittently, interspersed with times of sensible consolation. A true dark night is accompanied by deep, painful longing for God. This is acutely present in Mother Teresa. One sign that it is an authentic dark night is that we don’t in our aridity try to fill the emptiness with worldly or fleshly consolations, but remain faithful in seeking God even in the pain of His apparent absence. The authentic dark night isn’t an end in itself, but is intended to prepare us for an even greater union with and experience of God.

Mother Teresa, pray for us!