Tag: St. Paul

‘Walk by the Spirit’ in the Year Ahead

This letter originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ January 2020 newsletter.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Ralph has asked me to share a few thoughts about a resolution we can make that has the potential to yield abundant fruit in the year ahead!

This is the time of year that many people make new resolutions, most of which are attempts to break old, less-healthy habits, and to begin to build positive ones. Often the resolutions are focused on getting healthy, developing the right eating habits, exercising more consistently, living a more balanced life, and in some cases, attempting to align behavior and thought-life with higher values and goals.

I’d like to challenge all of us to make a life-changing resolution: to embrace St. Paul’s exhortation to “walk by the Spirit” (Gal 5:25). To “walk by the Spirit” means to have fellowship with the Holy Spirit, and in its simplest expression, fellowship with the Spirit means to talk to the Holy Spirit.

That all may seem obvious, but let me ask you a few questions. When was the last time you spoke to the Holy Spirit? Can you recognize His voice? Do you live with a vivid realization that God the Holy Spirit dwells in you, “that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, which you have from God?” (1 Cor 6:19).

I’m not asking the question of whether you believe the dogmatic truth that the Holy Spirit dwells in you; I’m asking if you have a growing, maturing relationship with Him? A simple way to answer that question is to ask yourself whether you talk to the Holy Spirit on a regular, daily basis? I’m not asking the question to judge or criticize but to help us honestly take stock of whether or not we are walking in the full relationship with the Holy Spirit.

That’s important because it is the key to a healthy, vital Christian life. That relationship is what enables us to walk in virtue, to come into the promises of God, and to begin to experience the “full joy” and “full life” that Jesus promised. These graces and promises come to life in us through our relationship with the Holy Spirit.

This kind of relationship with the Holy Spirit, one that is personal and deeply rewarding, is possible because He is a person! Think about it: God the Holy Spirit dwells in you—the third person of the Trinity! For what purpose? To reveal the Father and the Son to you, personally.  St. Paul reminds us so beautifully that the “Spirit himself witnesses to our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom 8:16).

Stop to consider what’s being said here: God himself lives in you—within the deepest part of you, in your spirit. The Holy Spirit, who raised Jesus from the dead, is at work in you! He comes to bear witness to your inner man, to bring convincing power to your spirit, to help you see, and to give you experiential knowledge and unshakable conviction that you are a child of God.

The Holy Spirit brings so much to us: He advocates for us, He counsels us, He literally makes us “born again,” a new creation. He is the power that makes us children of God, the one who leads us to all truth and who anoints us to carry on Jesus’ mission. Above all, He is the down payment, the first installment, the “guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it” (Eph 1:14)—of “an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled and unfading” (1 Pt 1:4). He enables us to “become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pt 1:4).

Let’s resolve to set our minds on the One who dwells within. Jesus said, “the kingdom of God is within you” (Lk 17:21). It’s so easy to fall into the habit of thinking that God is “out their somewhere,” distant. And we try, through our prayers, to get Him interested, hoping that He will hear us, that He will draw near. Too often, we forget the fact that He couldn’t be closer to us, and that all we need to do is to turn to Him in the quiet of our hearts. That is where He is, always, every day, around the clock. He longs to meet you there, to talk with you.

To walk by the Spirit, we must talk to the Spirit. That’s how we grow. Even more, however—we must listen to the Holy Spirit. He doesn’t speak audibly—at least not very often–but He does make Himself known in ways we can understand: through subtle impressions; inspired thoughts; and encouragements, perhaps even the words or actions of others, all of which release new life and power within. To hear Him, we need to seek Him, to listen quietly for his “still, small voice” in the silence of our hearts. If we seek to engage Him, we will find Him; if we listen attentively, we will begin to hear and recognize his voice. The power He releases is often small, but real, and it produces the fruit of genuine transformation.

To talk with Him isn’t complicated; it’s simple. It may be difficult at first because we’re not used to it. Begin with small steps. Make a point to set aside a few minutes four or five times a day, just to speak with Him. Engage Him with simple words: “Holy Spirit, I love you.” “Please help me hear and understand You.” “Thank You for the way You love me.” “Help me understand what You think and what You feel about me, my life, and my family.”  “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” Let the words flow from your heart, not in formal, lengthy prayers, but with childlike simplicity. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

If we resolve to go deeper in the Spirit—to engage Him from the heart on a daily basis, developing a more consistent and simple habit of prayer, He will change us. This is the place of healing and transformation, the place of freedom and life, the place where we begin to touch the full joy Jesus promised.

This is the only kind of resolution that ultimately will bring the personal transformation we long for, a transformation that is strong enough to bring healing to a deeply divided, confused, and lost world.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful ones, and enkindle the fire of your love!

The Significance of Pilgrimage

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We are happy to announce that Fr. Graham Keep will be the priest for Renewal Ministries’ fortieth anniversary pilgrimage to Greece “In the Footsteps of St. Paul,” in May of 2020! You can learn more and register here.

By Fr. Graham Keep

Some twenty-five years ago, as a newly ordained priest, a couple invited me to come with them on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It was hosted by a familiar organization called “Renewal Ministries.”  This pilgrimage changed my life, particularly as a young priest. I walked in the footsteps of Jesus. I was with a group of people who loved the Lord. We celebrated Holy Mass and prayed devotions at amazing holy sites. Sacred Scripture came more alive for me. I met a number of people, many of whom I am still friends with to this day, having shared the experience together. I encountered Jesus on pilgrimage.

Since then, I have had the privilege to guide various themed pilgrimages to many different holy sites across the world. I can say without hesitation that every time I have led a pilgrimage, there have been miracles, signs, and wonders. A pilgrimage is both an exterior and an interior journey. The exterior journey is to experience the sights, smells, and tastes of the places where saints walked, prayed, and grew in their faith. The interior journey helps us to go deeper into our own faith. As a priest, celebrating Holy Mass with a congregation of believers in these holy places is always inspiring. There are always moments of intense encounter with Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit, revealing the mercy of the Father.

The question is, why should I go on pilgrimage? Can’t I just stay home and encounter Jesus? Of course you can, but there is something extraordinary about traveling to a foreign place, open to the movement of the Holy Spirit and expecting an encounter with Christ. A pilgrimage is not simply a touring vacation in which we see some historical sites. A pilgrimage is a powerful retreat. On retreat, we contemplate the face of Christ, encounter Christ, confront what needs conversion, give God permission to do what He needs to do, and return with a new zeal for the Lord and His mission. In Sacred Scripture, we see how the crowds went out to listen to Jesus in the wilderness. They took a pilgrimage away from their homes and their villages, to go meet Jesus. It was in those moments that Jesus healed the sick, delivered people from the power of the enemy, and multiplied loaves and fishes (see John 6:1-14).  Who wouldn’t want to do that?

Why attend Renewal Ministries’ Fortieth Anniversary Pilgrimage following the footsteps of St. Paul? St. Paul was well-traveled and preached the Gospel with great zeal. We all know that there is a need for renewal in the Holy Spirit for the mission of the Church. Traveling in “some” of the footsteps of St. Paul, we can see and experience the terrain traversed by one of the Church’s greatest evangelists. We will hear profound biblical and theological teachings by Dr. Peter Williamson. The letters of Paul will come alive in your heart. You will never read them the same way again. We will be encouraged by the words of the Renewal Ministries’ team. We will pray for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit for the mission of the Church. The island of Patmos, which is part of the extension portion of the pilgrimage, is the island where the apostle John was inspired to write the Book of Revelation. Come hear the invitation of Jesus, “the Spirit and the Bride say come” (Rv 22:17). Consider coming on the pilgrimage and discover a new depth to the richness of our faith.

Fr. Graham Keep, STL, serves in the diocese of London, Ontario, and is currently pastor of a family of five churches. He has served the Renewal Ministries’ staff through monthly visits for twenty-five years and has participated in missions to Slovakia, Ukraine, Ghana, Tanzania, Hungry, Czech Republic, Romania, and more.

Embrace ‘St. Paul’s Spirit’ on Renewal Ministries’ Pilgrimage

Dr. Peter Williamson is joining Renewal Ministries on its Footsteps of St. Paul pilgrimage in May 2020. He teaches the “Letters of St. Paul” at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in the Archdiocese of Detroit, and he will share expert insight into the places we visit and their deep significance for the spread of the Gospel. He is an expert in St. Paul, a dynamic disciple of Jesus, and a great preacher! You can get more details about the pilgrimage here. Ralph Martin, Peter and Debbie Herbeck, and a bishop or priest (who will be named soon) also will be part of the pilgrimage.

By Dr. Peter Williamson

Five reasons why following the footsteps of St. Paul is worthwhile:

1. Except for Jesus, there is no person that the New Testament tells us as much about as St. Paul.

2. On numerous occasions, the Bible tells readers to imitate St. Paul! (See 1 Cor 4:16, 11:1; Phil 3:17; 1 Thess 2:7-12). Paul is especially a model for pastoral leaders.

3. Paul’s mission provides the biblical paradigm for evangelization then and now.

4. The normative biblical vision of what the Church is meant to be is revealed in Acts and the letters of Paul.

5. Visiting these places, and praying and reflecting on them with good brothers and sisters, is a great way for us to assimilate these truths and St. Paul’s spirit!

A brief summary of Paul’s missionary activity in Greece:

Paul’s first missionary journey took place entirely in what is the eastern half of modern-day Turkey. But on his second journey, after he first attempted to go south to Asia Minor (probably Ephesus) and then tried to go north to Bithynia—both times being stopped by the Holy Spirit!—he journeyed west to the coastal town of Troas (Acts 16:6-10). There he had a dream in which a man from Macedonia (northern Greece) said, “Come and help us.” Paul and his companions, Silas, Luke, and Timothy, decided that God was guiding them to go evangelize in Macedonia. So they sailed across the Aegean Sea to Neapolis, and the first Christian mission to Europe began!  During that mission, Paul evangelized Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea in Macedonia, and then Athens and Corinth in the south of Greece (Achaia), where Paul remained for one-and-a-half years. It was from Corinth that Paul wrote his letters to the Thessalonians and perhaps also to the Galatians. Our pilgrimage will visit all those important stops on Paul’s second missionary journey. (You can read all this in Act 16:6 to 18:18.)

On his third mission trip, the Holy Spirit finally allowed Paul to reside in Ephesus in Asia Minor, where he preached the Gospel for nearly three years. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians and Romans from Ephesus. Then Paul revisited the cities he had evangelized in Greece, starting again in the north (Macedonia, where he wrote 2 Corinthians), returned to Corinth, and then turned back to Macedonia, before heading to Jerusalem (Acts 20:1-6).

I hope you are able to join us on this pilgrimage! You can register and find more details here. If you have questions, you also can contact Kathleen Kittle, at 734-662-1730, ext. 132.


Dr. Peter S. Williamson occupies the Adam Cardinal Maida Chair in Sacred Scripture at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Michigan. He received his M.A. in Theology from Sacred Heart in 1995 and his S.T.D. in Biblical Theology from the Gregorian University in 2001. Dr. Williamson, a convert to the Catholic Church in 1972, is a married layman who has been involved for over 40 years in evangelization and pastoral ministry in the United States and abroad. He is the author of Revelation (2015) and Ephesians (2009) in the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture and co-editor of the series along with Dr. Mary Healy and Kevin Perrotta. He is also author of Catholic Principles for Interpreting Scripture: A Study of the Pontifical Biblical Commission’s “The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church” (Loyola Press, 2002) and co-editor with Ralph Martin of John Paul II and the New Evangelization (revised edition, St. Anthony Messenger, 2006).

Run the Race: Grow and Go

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This article originally appeared in the July/August 2019 issue of Faith Magazine.

Anyone who’s played sports, pursued music or developed a new personal skill or trait has probably heard it said, “If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse!” While overly simplistic, this motivational quote speaks to a human truth; stagnation or lethargy does not produce things that are new, better, and transformed. Not surprisingly, this also applies to our lives as disciples of Jesus Christ.

In 1 Corinthians 9:24, St. Paul compares our journey to heaven to a foot race, “Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win.” The takeaway here is not that only one of us is getting into heaven, but the same mentality and disciplines of training hard, moving quickly and crossing the finish line apply to our Christian journey. We then are faced with the question, “How do we run?” The Church provides 2,000 years of insights, inspiration and teachings on what it looks like for us to “run,” but I want to boil it down to the two fundamental invitations given to all baptized Catholics: the universal call to holiness and the universal call to mission. Just as a healthy runner utilizes both legs, holiness and mission must be utilized in tandem to achieve maximum speed and ensure finishing the course.

Continue reading here.

‘Keeping Our Heads in All Situations’


The following letter from Peter Herbeck originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ February 2019 newsletter, which you can view here.

Dear Friends,

I’ve been thinking and praying for all of you—all of us—who are living through these unprecedented times for the Church. These are chaotic and destabilizing times, filled with sorrow, anger, confusion, and fear for many people. It is without a doubt a time of great testing for all of us.

One of the constant questions I get from people is, “How do I respond to this? What should I do?” A great deal of helpful practical advice has been given on how to help the leaders of the Church, bishops, and priests to cooperate with this time of purification. But more needs to be said about how we can, as St. Paul puts it, “keep our heads in all situations” (2 Tm 4:5), especially in times of hardship and great testing. The teaching of Jesus and the apostles is a great help in times like these.

Keeping the big picture in mind is key to helping us live above the circumstances and to see in the trials great opportunity to grow in maturity as a disciple. St. Peter exhorts us to “not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you” (2 Pt 4:12). All of us are being proved, tested by the crisis in the Church. This “fiery ordeal” is a self-inflicted wound, the result of serious failures and scandalous behavior of leadership.

The scandalous behavior is a shock to the system, but it shouldn’t ultimately be a surprise or too strange for us to understand. Jesus told us that we would have great tribulations in this world and that we would see and experience scandal, the kind witnessed even among the twelve apostles. Among Jesus’ closest friends, those He knew best, the ones He trusted the most: one betrayed Him and another denied even knowing Him, at the moment Jesus needed them most. Sin, failure, and betrayal among leaders is scandalous, but it shouldn’t ultimately take us by surprise.

As disciples, we know, or should know, human weakness. We also know that we’re living in an “evil age,” in a fallen world that is “in the power of the evil one” (1 Jn 5:19). The world is a battle field; the Church is at war, every single day, against powerful principalities and powers deployed against us. What we are seeing writ large is the same struggle we all face, the daily temptations and seductions of the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Jesus is showing mercy in this severe discipline and judgment that has come upon the Church. He is at work, shining light into the darkness, removing the chains and breaking the strongholds that are binding the Church. He’s revealing the consequences of sin, the depth to which even clergymen, religious leaders, can fall. We’re seeing the face of sin, and this, friends, is a great and severe mercy.

This is a moment for all of us to take stock, to examine our lives in the light of Jesus. He is disciplining His Church, and in that He is testing each one of us. Where are we in relationship to His call in our lives? Are we giving Him everything? Are we putting Him first? Are we fulfilling the assignment He has given to each one of us? Are we passionately, completely dedicated to bringing the kingdom and the will of the Father into every area He has given us responsibility for? Are we living in the wisdom of the eternal perspective, knowing with confidence and certainty that we, each one us, will soon be standing before the judgment seat of Christ, giving an account for what we have done with what He has given to us?

St. Paul gives us a beautiful perspective to live by, especially in these days:

“So we are always of good courage . . . whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body” (2 Cor 5:6, 9-10).

Despite the many trials, persecutions, punishments, disappointments, and failures in the Church, St. Paul has his eye on the climax of his life, the ultimate moment that he knows with certainty lies before him: his appearing before the judgment seat of Christ. This certainty fills Paul with what he himself describes as “the fear of the Lord,” which gives him clarity and wisdom on how to live in the moment, not matter what circumstances he is facing. The only thing that matters is to live in a way that pleases the Lord. It simplifies his life in the midst of constant complexity. It gives him wisdom, the ability to know how to live well, to live an authentically fulfilling life, to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, to do the will of the Father. Nothing else matters. Period.

This is where Jesus is leading the Church. He wants to awaken the fear of the Lord in all of us so that we can have wisdom. He has brought us to a point of decision: are we going to live in the fear of men, which necessarily leads to foolishness and slavery, or are we going to fear God and live in the freedom of the sons and daughters of God?

Let’s not let this trial pass without harvesting everything Jesus has for us personally and corporately. I believe in my bones that the Renewal Ministries’ family was made for this moment! He is here, ready to strengthen us, to empower us to give a wholehearted and radical “yes” to Him and to do all we can to lead those He brings to us out of bondage, foolishness, and fear, into the wisdom of God.

Lord, we love You! Help us to make the most of the time and to use the resources You have given us to serve Your purpose in this hour!

Friends, we will all be dead soon. Life is short, it’s a passing shadow, let’s help each other make the most of the time for the glory of the Lord and for the salvation of souls.

In Christ,