All About “Christ Life”

This past weekend we had our Stewardship Training — Ambassadors for Christ. We had 8 priests and Deacon Zane Pekron that were able to participate in the Friday workshop and 60 parish leaders that came from 19 parishes from across the Diocese and the Rapid City Catholic Schools for the Friday evening and Saturday workshop. One of the goals of the stewardship training was to help and encourage pastors and parish lay leaders to learn how to personally invite members from their parish community to the Stewardship Summit this coming September 21 and 22.

Tony Brandt and Chris Stewart, the presenters from Casting Nets Ministries, encouraged participants to consider their own circle of influence when inviting parishioners to the Stewardship Summit. This year’s Summit is an evangelistic event designed to help and foster an encounter with the living person of Jesus and the Holy Spirit in a new way in people’s lives. The Summit this year is being designed specifically for the parishioners who are at Mass on Sunday or at least several times a month, who aren’t necessarily involved in anything outside of Mass, and yet who are thirsting for more in a relationship with Christ.

How many of us are simply content in own relationship with Jesus?  I raised this question last Saturday at the Ambassadors training and not one person raised their hand, including myself. Aren’t we all searching and thirsting for more Christ in our lives?

The desire for Bishop Gruss is that everyone in our diocese would be personally invited to the Stewardship Summit. However, with over 23,000 Catholics in our diocese it is almost impossible for Bishop Gruss to personally invite every Catholic in our diocese to the Summit. That is where we come in, to extend a personal invitation on behalf of Bishop Gruss for people to come to the Summit knowing that it is an invitation to open our hearts to encounter Christ who is alive and to come ready to be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit in a new way.

It was interesting last weekend, Tony Brandt asked how me how many people fit into the Holy Cross Chapel at Terra Sancta.  I told him 525 is our maximum with folding chairs and with that said “Summit: Operation 525” was borne.

Our goal is to get 525 people to participate in this year’s Stewardship Summit for the parishes across the diocese. We need your help in reaching our goal of 525 to fill the Holy Cross Chapel to the full.

The only way I know this can happen is first by becoming a beggar in prayer before the Lord. And secondly is to personally invite those in our own circle of influences in our parishes to the Summit. I am encouraging and inviting you to pray a thousand Memorares with the intention of the Stewardship Summit — Operation 525. I have attached a card to help you to becoming a beggar before the Lord, asking our Lady to intercede for us in Operation 525.

If you are willing to participate in this and pray a thousand Memorares, please print out and fill in the boxes on the card below. When finished, please send this card to Shawna.

Interceding For Our Brothers and Sisters

In the gospel reading from January 10, from the Gospel of Mark, we hear how Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. We are told that the disciples immediately told Jesus about Simon’s mother-in-law, who was down and out with a fever. The fever was so severe that she was unable to offer them hospitality.  Jesus drew near to her, grasped her by the hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she waited on them, extending to them generous hospitality.

This gospel story reminds me of lively faith as we have come to know it in our diocese, through the lenses of prayer, study and formation. This gospel teaches us to be people of prayer, where we are called to intercede and to bring the needs and concerns of our brothers and sisters before the Lord.

It seems that one of the constant happenings in my life is people brining to me the prayer requests of a family member, a friend, a neighbor, who is struggling in some way with a physical or emotional illness or simply having a difficult time at the moment and could use some prayers.

In the past, I would ensure them of my prayers for them and then I would move onto the next thing, the next meeting, the next appointment. Keeping so busy that at times it would forget to pray for them. And then the inevitable would seem to happen and I would run into them and they would say thanks for the prayers, Fr. Mark they meant a lot to me and my family or friend.

When this would happen I’m sure I had a sheepish look on my face and I would think to myself, “Oh crap! I forgot to pray for them.” Has this ever happened to you?

The disciples teach us an important lesson about interceding for someone in need of our prayers. They immediately told Jesus about Simon Peter’s mother in-law and Jesus immediately approached her grasped her by the hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she extended hospitality to them by waiting on them.

Thanks be to God my practice has changed. Now when people approach me about praying for them or a loved one; I, like Jesus, try to immediately stop what I am doing and began to pray with the person, whether it’s in church, my office, Dunn Brothers, Safeway or the doctor’s office. I know this can be a little frightening or scary for some of us and yet it should be so much a part of us that it becomes a normative way of acting as disciples of the Lord, whose faith is alive in Christ Jesus.

I would like to share with you a simple method of praying with/and over people. There are just six steps and they build on one another. You and I, like Simon and Andrew, James and John, are called to bring those who are hurting to Jesus’ attention. He is the Divine Physician. We simply acknowledge God as the Merciful Father, we acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord, Savior Redeemer and friend.  We acknowledge the Holy Spirit as the Lord and giver of life. We ask the person what they are praying for; what is the desire of their hearts; what they are asking of the Lord. Then we simply speak of their need, their desire to the Lord. Afterward we pause; we enter the silence for a few moments to see if the Lord wants us to speak to them further, if so we speak what’s in our heart, if not we simply conclude with an Our Father, the Hail Mary or Glory be. We assure them of our prayers and we do all of this on the spot.

Let me know how this prayer practice works for you! Be not afraid!

Praying over and with People, Six Simple Steps

  1. Acknowledge God
  2. Acknowledge the person
  3. Invite Jesus to minister to the person at their point of need
  4. Pray for their intention
  5. Listen and share what else, if anything, the Lord is asking me to share or to pray with the person.
  6. Conclude the prayer by praying a prayer that you both know, e.g. Glory Be…

Seeking to save souls in His name

In the fall of 2015, when I was visiting with Msgr. Richter about the possibility of his coming to our diocese to speak on “Lively Faith” for Pastoral Ministry Days, he was very enthusiastic about our topic, and was very interested in speaking on it.  We had a wonderful conversation about what lively faith is, how one “catches” lively faith and then finally, how one lives lively faith.

            In the course of this conversation, Msgr. Richter asked me if I had ever read a book called I Believe in Love by Fr. Jean C.J. d’Elbee. I told him I had never even heard of the book. To which he replied, “Shame on you Fr. Mark!”  I am glad Msgr. Richter shamed me into buying this wonderful book. I am about three quarters of the way through it am really enjoying it. At the same time, though, I find the insights of Fr. d’Elbee very challenging. The book is based on the teachings of St. Therese of Lisieux.

            This past week, I finished reading the seventh chapter entitled, “The Apostolate”. It plunged me headlong into the season of Lent, in which we all seek a conversion and change of heart, in particular through the penitential practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  Fr. d’Elbee speaks of prayer as a great apostolic work. “Pray to obtain mercy for souls… Jesus could have saved man without us. He did not will to do it that way.” St. Therese writes, “The Creator of the Universe, listens to the prayer of a very little soul to save others who are ransomed, as she is, by the price of his blood.” Both remind us that the power of our prayer and intercession for others truly helps to set hearts held captive by the habit of sin be set free in Christ. 

As we continue to live this Lenten journey, let us be mindful that it is not only about our own change and conversion of heart, but the conversion of the hearts of others; our family, our friends, our parishioners and even the strangers and acquaintances which cross our path.

Fr. d’Elbee challenges us further when he says, “Do not ask only for the return of sinners, but that good people will become very good, and that the very good will become saints. Do not ask only for the conversion of souls, but for the perfection of souls, because Jesus not only thirsts to see sinners convert, but perhaps He thirsts even more to see the souls which He has chosen rise higher and grow in love, and unite themselves more intimately with Him. He needs loving souls, true hosts, truly transformed into Him by love. He needs such souls in order to save men.”

May our Lenten journey be a time for growing in “lively faith” and may we truly become saints in Christ seeking to save other souls in his name! What an incredible journey that lies ahead of us. Be not afraid to give your heart to Christ and to let Him in, not only for your own salvation, but also for the sake of your brothers and sisters.

Fr. Mark’s Musings