Ralph Martin’s Experience at the Synod on the New Evangelization

aulsyn12Ralph Martin is the President of Renewal and the host of the Choices We Face on EWTN.  This past October, Ralph was invited to attend and contribute at the International Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization.  During the Synod, Ralph was considered an “expert” which means he worked as a theologian on the the various documents and proposals that were produced.  Here’s a link to some reflections from Ralph on his experiences in Rome.

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Periodic Scripture Reflection: Philippians 4:4-7

St. Paul“Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, Rejoice. Let all men know your forbearance. The Lord is at hand.  Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

When I stumbled across this section in Paul’s letter to the Philippians, I stopped reading, looked out the window, and said, “That’s ridiculous.” My intention was not to offend St. Paul, but rather, I was struck with the incredibly high degree of difficulty this passage proclaims. Rejoice always? In the eyes of the world and often in my own life, I find this to be an unattainable reality. Paul, however, believed it so completely that he felt compelled to repeat himself: Rejoice! I immediately look at my life and the state of our country and world and think of all the reasons not to have joy. Abortion, crime, pornography, natural disasters, family illness, and many other things all represent reasons we can justify living without joy. It would be easy to question whether Paul was living in the same world as us. This would be a reasonable concern until you read his second letter to the Corinthians. In chapter 11:23-28, Paul lists his difficulties and sufferings while being a disciple of Christ. It’s impressive, in a terrifying sort of way. Here are some highlights:eight separate beating sessions, three shipwrecks, in danger everywhere he went, imprisonments, and the constant pressure of feeling spiritually responsible for all of the new churches.  Arguably the greatest evangelist suffered an incredible amount and yet he teaches us to always rejoice, which makes him either a hypocrite or truly the saint that he is.

The rest of the passage deals with Paul’s reasoning for always being able to rejoice. He teaches that we must have forbearance or in a modern way, we must persevere. Being an expert at pushing through pain and suffering, Paul says that it is possible to overcome these obstacles because, quite simply, “the Lord is at hand.” Paul was acutely aware of Christ’s presence with him and the power of the Holy Spirit operating in his life. As a result of this reality, Paul’s external circumstances could never affect the internal joy he experienced by living each day with the Lord. Paul gives us another clue to rejecting the temptation to worry or despair when he tells us “but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God.” It seems relatively obvious that we should pray and supplicate to the Lord. What is more striking is Paul’s encouragement to pray with thanksgiving. I think there’s a saying that goes: “a thankful heart is a joyful heart”, or at least my mom used to say that to me. It’s actually true; when we pray with gratitude, we are able to see the tremendous gifts in our lives and focus on the ways that God has blessed us.

While He already knows the desires of our hearts, God wants us to tell him what we need and want. He wants us to approach Him with humility and gratitude. When we recognize and embrace God’s constant presence in our life and choose to focus on His providence, our inner joy can not be robbed by the circumstances of the world. I realize that it is a lofty goal to always rejoice, and it will be a lifetime of praying and perseverance.  Paul never gave up and he remains a witness to what a joyful life in Christ can accomplish. This section from Philippians leaves us with an equally ridiculous promise and yet one that we all want to attain, “and the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Mission Report: Our Lady of Czestochowa

Our Lady of Czestochowa iconOn January 26th, a group of young adults took a short drive from Ann Arbor to Sterling Heights, MI to lead a two hour event for a group of young people from Our Lady of Czestochowa Catholic Parish. As the name implies, all of the teenagers had strong ties to their Polish descent and heritage. Blessed John Paul II, St. Faustina Kowalski, St. Maximillian Kolbe, and other Polish saints played a prominent role in the decoration of the Church and parish center. The purpose of the event was to present the young people with the person of Jesus Christ and His deep desire to have a relationship with each one of them. We wanted to share our love of the Lord, and facilitate an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to work in their hearts and draw them into a deeper personal conversion.

It took a little while for the kids to feel comfortable with ‘outsiders’ speaking to them about faith. We began the event with introductions, and the kids were stoic to say the least. A few of our team members attempted to make some jokes and these attempts were met with a few smiles and mostly solemn faces. After introductions, the girls went to a smaller cafe-like room and the boys stayed in the main parish hall. Instead of starting with an overly spiritual topic, the boys began by having a Rock/Paper/Scissors championship which helped break the ice and revive the boys’ energy. Joey McCoy then gave a testimony which focused on his journey to realize his identity in Jesus. He spoke about recognizing that he was made for greatness and this calling could only be accomplished through a personal relationship with Christ. After Joey, Pete Burak spoke on the reality of Christ’s love and how this reality can transform our lives. Through personal stories, Pete painted the picture of a life lived in Christ and how this calls for a daily submission of our will to His.  The talk culminated with an opportunity for the boys to publicly witness their faith by standing up out of their chairs. Every guy in the room stood up for Christ!

     The girls had a similarly successful session as four young women from i.d.916 gave various sharings and testimonies about the love of God, His plan for our lives, and their own experiences of Christ. Debbie Herbeck led the session and she was joined by Natalia Collins, Sarah Patton, Julianna Macarelli, and Jill Grabowski. Each speaker utilized a multi-media dimension including the music video from Taylor Swift’s Love Story. The deep love and respect that God has for His daughters was highlighted as well as the revelation of our true identity through a personal relationship with Christ.
     After the first session, we all entered the sanctuary and took some time for praise and worship as well as Eucharistic Adoration. Joey and Julianna led the music and they lifted the energy in the room and soon many of the kids were singing and entering into worship. After Adoration we said a closing prayer and ended the mini-event. We were pleasantly surprised by the overwhelmingly positive response to the two hours and the gratitude expressed by the parents of the kids. Additionally, many of the kids took the time to thank us and assure us that this was something they needed and wanted again sometime in the future! Let us continue to pray for these teens that they may grow in their relationship with Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit. Our Lady of Czestochowa, Pray for us!