Charismatic Renewal Conference: trust Jesus in era of deception
By Tom Dermody
With bluntness and urgency, speakers at the Charismatic Renewal Conference last Saturday called Catholics to grow closer to Christ in order to recognize and live his truth among the deceptions and temptations rampant in today’s society.
“There’s a tremendously brutal confrontation going on right now between Christ and the anti-Christ, and 1,700 years of Christian civilization is being shredded to pieces,” said Ralph Martin, who has led renewal movements in the church for decades.
Speaking to the 260 who attended the daylong conference sponsored July 25 by the Diocese of Peoria at the Embassy Suites in East Peoria, Martin predicted there are “difficult days ahead for all Catholics” and that their choices for Christ and the church will “cost a price.”
“A hostile, aggressive, dominant, bullying secular culture is pulling out all stops to silence the Gospel, to intimidate Christians, to force them to say what’s evil is good and what’s good is evil,” said Martin, president of Renewal Ministries and host of the weekly Catholic television and radio program “The Choices We Face.”
He called the annual conference — which blends spirited praise and worship with teaching and draws participants from throughout the Midwest — an opportunity “to get really clear about who Jesus is and what his truth is.”
“LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE”
Martin and the day’s second major speaker, Sister Ann Shields, SGL, urged Catholics to repent from serious sin, return to frequent reception of the sacraments, including reconciliation and the Eucharist, and read at least a few sentences of Scripture daily.
“This word is living, this word is a beating heart,” said Sister Ann, holding up her Bible. A member of the The Servants of God’s Love, a charismatic religious community established in the Diocese of Lansing, Michigan, she is an author and host of the daily radio program “Food for the Journey.”
“Please, please, please, please take your call as a baptized Catholic very, very seriously,” urged Sister Ann. “I’ve never pleaded like this, but I’m starting to now. Every power is starting to work against who we are and what we stand for. The darkness is getting deeper and deeper. Let your light shine.”
She particularly recommended spending time before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, which St. John Paul II likened to “radiation therapy.”
While charismatic Catholics specially embrace the gifts of the Holy Spirit, Sister Ann spent the majority of her talks describing the love of God the Father. Recognizing that we are sons and daughters of God is key to understanding our dignity and worth, she said, even when we make mistakes.
“Lean on God, your Father, no matter your age” said Sister Ann. “He cares. He wants the best for you. If you remember one thing, know this: You are infinitely loved, uniquely.”
CALLS TO HOLINESS, SERVICE
Martin, meanwhile, debunked several reasons Catholics give for avoiding their call to holiness, including:
— “I’m just a layperson.” Martin reminded Catholics they are created in the image of God, are baptized, and have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them.
— “There are so many problems in my life right now.” Perhaps the Lord permitting those problems as an invitation to “let go and let God,” said Martin.
— “Tomorrow.” We always think there is a better time in the future to put Jesus first in our lives, but “we don’t know how long we have,” he said.
The day also included calls to evangelize and serve others. The New Evangelization called for by the church asks all Catholics to first share the Gospel with friends and family members who are “not living as disciples of Christ,” said Martin. It can be especially challenging to engage loved ones who are in serious sin, but because of love it is necessary at times to say “because I do love you, I can’t agree with you. I’d rather bear pain than deny Christ.”
At the conference’s Mass, Father Tom Mizeur used the day’s Gospel story of Jesus multiplying the loaves and fishes to feed 5,000 to ask Catholics to take risks in order to serve others in need.
“The key for us as followers of Christ is not only to raise sensitivity to those less fortunate, but to do something about it,” said Father Mizeur, pastor of St. John XXIII Parish in Henry and Immaculate Conception, Lacon. Instead of fearing what the Holy Spirit might be asking of us, Father Mizeur said Catholics should “trust the Spirit” and be strengthened by the Eucharist.
About a dozen permanent deacons of the diocese took part in the conference, including Deacon Greg Serangeli and Deacon Kevin Zeeb, who served as co-emcees. Deacon Bob Sondag, vice chancellor, represented Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, in welcoming attendees.
Noting this was the 29th annual Charismatic Renewal Conference, Deacon Sondag said that when people are open to the Holy Spirit, “something happens.”
“You get involved, and use your gifts,” he said, noting that Spirit-filled Catholics volunteer in parish ministries or in renewal programs such as Cursillo and TEC that “contribute to the health and well-being of the local church. Our bishop thanks you for that.”
Praise and worship music throughout the day was led by Dan Duet, founder of the Texas-based Two-Twelve Ministries. The conference included a resource room of books and other inspirational materials. The event — on the theme “In His Will is Our Peace” — ended with adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and an evening healing service.