Diocesan Day of Renewal
Reported By Linda Magnuson
Bishop Sample began the day with a challenge for the packed room to ponder the Year of Priests and what it means to us and to the universal church. He first spoke of the responsibility of priests. Be zealous and be busy with your spiritual lives and ministry, he advised them. Dig deep in this dedication as St. Paul advised St. Timothy, I remind you to fan into flame the gift that God bestowed on you when we laid hands upon you.
As a whole church we must once again appreciate the awesome gift God instituted on the eve of his Passion. At this God linked the Eucharist to the church forever. When a priest offers the Sacrament of the Eucharist it is the same sacrifice - but an un-bloody one - as at Calvary. As the priest offers it is the same victim and it is Christ in him that offers up the sacrifice. As we follow, he is in Persona Christi when in the celebration he says, This is my body which will be given up for you. The heart of our lives as Catholics comes from this Eucharist. Without the priest there is no Eucharistic sacrifice. We are dead. We must appreciate and love our priests because in them Christ loves us.
Our Holy Father called us to look at and appreciate priests this year. Priesthood is God's gift to the church in order that His presence would remain in His church. With the laying on of hands in the Sacrament of Holy Orders, a priest's soul is changed forever, configured so he is able to act in the body of Christ. Christ is present in the person of His priest, in Persona Christi. He reminded us of the Vatican council's statement that the main purpose of a priest's ordination is to make present the Body and Blood of Christ.
What can we do as charismatics for our priests? We must support and pray for them. For the last few decades the priesthood has been minimized in the church. Many laity misinterpreted the message of Vatican II to mean now is the time for laity to take over the church. Instead we were asked to be the salt and leaven and if we are participating in the internal structures of the church then we missed the message. Bishop Sample stated that it seems to be an American thing to be against authority and therefore we rebel against our priests.
What can we do as a renewal ministry people to support our priests? Bishop Sample gave us direction. Hold up the priesthood in spite of personalities. Say only the good things people need to hear. Become their spiritual warriors with your prayers. Share concerns with an open dialogue.
We are engaged in spiritual warfare today. This is a real battle for the church today and part of that attack is on the priesthood. We must acknowledge that we have been under spiritual attack since The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. The Bishop reminded us to just look around and we'll see this battle is growing more fierce. The more we standup for true morality in sexuality, justice, the sanctity of life and peace, the more we will be fair game. We must fight with prayer, mortification and sacrifices. We have spiritual weapons not worldly ones, Bishop Sample reminded us. Scripture tells us, I will strike the shepherd and the flock will scatter. When priests are ordained they get a big red target on their backs, he joked, That is why priests have two guardian angels.
Renewal must start with the priest, a profound spiritual renewal, for renewal to take place in our churches. As priests are not immune to temptations, scandal has come into the church through the work of the evil one. We must give our priests our prayers, love and support. We must pray deep down at a gut level for a profound renewal in the priesthood that they may know who they are in the body of the Church. Light a fire in them. Do penance for them. The war has already been won, the bishop reminded us, but the battle still rages. Satan stepped on the shepherd but the shepherd stepped on his head. Victory has been won. Be leaven, Bishop Sample said, ending with a call for us to the battle. I'm counting on you for your prayers and sacrifices for our priests.
John Hogan, from the Service Team drew from his many personal experiences, to give us several suggestions of how we might serve our pastors. He reminded us of the unreal pressures of today's priests working with good people all doing good works while all needing a priest's direction 24/7. Besides this, today's priest is celebrating all the sacraments plus burials in multiple churches, sitting on numerous committees, teaching classes and often celebrating multiple masses daily. What do we as Charismatics do best? John inquired. We pray. Prayer can make a profound difference to a priest if he knows we are praying for his guidance, direction and strength. He advised us to let our parish priests know that we are combining the Holy Spirit's guidance with these prayers. Involve the whole parish in your prayer. People will bring prayer requests to your prayer group when they know your group is willing to pray with expectant faith and is not afraid of the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. John shared how the prayer group he belongs to had engaged in spiritual warfare against evil spirits after a $100,000 embezzlement and how God had blessed his parish with a growth of enrollment in the parish school from 70 to 192 students in a time when school populations are falling. The prayer team from John's parish have made themselves available to their parish priest at a moments notice when he has requested prayers.
A prayer group, John advised, needs to devote more than prayer but become active in their church also using their charisms. Become involved, sacrifice your lives and ask your priest, What can we do for you?
If a request to start a new prayer group is refused, accept it, as our pastor's authority is delegated by the bishop. However, the Pastor will always have something the prayer group can do for him or the parish. You might want to ask if the matter could be revisited sometime in the future.
Fr. Mike Steber, speaking next, shared Acts 2:42 to show us how the early Christian community lived in response to the Holy Spirit. They devoted themselves to the Apostles' instruction, shared in the Eucharist, prayed with the stirrings of the Holy Spirit, were generous in their sharing of property and goods and were of one mind and heart. Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI has emphasized the aspect of unity in affirming the good fruit of the charismatic renewal.
Catholic means universal but with a Catholic identity. When we come under spiritual headship (our Bishop and Pastors) we will be protected and guided. Sacraments Ð especially the Eucharist and Confession Ð should be received frequently. We as a Church are the Bride of Christ.' As we realize our place in the renewal among other Ecclesial movements we can welcome other Christians without watering down Catholic teaching. Other Christians have nothing to lose in the Catholic faith but more to gain, Father Mike reminded us.
Being charismatic means we will recognize the truth. This movement was not begun by a human founder as all others, but came from the Holy Spirit. It appeared out of the Lord's intervention. This was a sovereign action to renew His Church. It is a call to be leaven' in our daily environments and in our parishes. With other ecclesial movements we are being called to be docile to the Spirit in order to bring a new springtime' to the Church.
Fr. Steber referred to Deacon Metzgar's article in the last Dov.Net, giving advice to new prayer groups forming and advising them on well ordered meeting procedures, how to develop good pastoral relationships, how to discern needs and direction, and offer services and ministry.
Bob Flynn spoke of the spiritual warfare that is raging today with 55,000,000 slaughtered by abortion, the sanctity of marriage challenged, cohabitating, the decline of Mass attendance showing loss of faith, the removal of Jesus from Christmas, suicides out of despair, and 10 Commandments being prohibited from being displayed in public places. He challenged us to be the light for this world. He reminded us that in our Christian renewal we have been given much and these gifts are for service and not for ourselves. We are being called to make a difference in our world and in our church. Bob reminded us with a quote from Pope John Paul, The Lord is counting on you. The church is counting on you. Using John 3:16 he reminded us that we were baptized in the Holy Spirit and fire. We need to be on fire for Jesus. Prayer groups give us light for our lamps. Don't let Satan separate the logs in the fire, allowing it to die out, but keep them together and lit for the world.
Ellen Flynn gave us some ideas for kindling the fire within. Pope Benedict XVI challenged us to rediscover being baptized in the Holy Spirit. Let's be like the river flowing out of the temple in Ezekiel 47. God is calling us for a full commitment. He is now challenging us to give more to Him and less to ourselves. We need to pray daily for the Holy Spirit to fall on us for all of our needs. Our flame will extinguish if we don't call upon him. Renewal means opening our hearts, eyes and minds. An acrostic poem was used to illustrate that through the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist we receive the Holy Spirit.
Ellen's challenge to us was to grow in gifts, use these gifts at home and work, learn more, pray, love, be teachable, humble, obedient, surrender and trust. Ellen reminded us that if we do these things the evil one will not steal our peace.
We are all picked, she reminded us. Trust Jesus and move forward. If we are willing to listen, we'll be Jesus to others. A personal challenge is not to look at others but trust the Holy Spirit to prepare the way for you. Call on your guardian angels in that Communion of saints. Ellen said they are often like the Maytag repairman just waiting to be called. Our prayer groups are like boot camps. General Jesus needs each one of us for the battle going on in our world today.
Bob ended by reminding us that a little yeast, leaven, affects all. Use the fruits of the Holy Spirit and remember love never fails. It will change people's hearts.