The first teaching I would like to focus on was from the fourth conference on the spiritual life, delivered by Fr. Ignatius Manfredonia, F.I. This talk hammered home to me how much of a beginner I am in the spiritual life, how imperfect is my love of God and neighbor, and how long and arduous is the narrow path that leads to life and how much divine help is needed in the cooperation with grace.
The soul disposed of toward God relies not on it's subjective nature of "I want to do this" or "I like that", but is simple and objective in its character. It depends on God's grace, as well as our participation. Giving up on prayer leads to spiritual disaster.
Fr. Ignatius laid out a fairly common outline of the stages of ascent in the life of prayer and communion with God used by many of the saints to describe what to expect as a slave of Jesus Christ:
[Night of the Senses]
[Night of the Spirit]
As I studied the path laid out from my table, feeling like the mountain was too lofty, too out of reach, I remembered the words of St. Therese of Lisieux:
"I leave to great souls and lofty minds the beautiful books I cannot understand, much less put into practice and I rejoice that I am little because children alone and those who resemble them will be admitted to the heavenly banquet. I am glad that there are many mansions in the Kingdom of God, because if there were only those whose description and whose road seem to me incomprehensible, I could never enter there."
I needed help if there were any hope for me. That is when Fr. Ignatius mentioned the spirituality of St. Louis de Montfort and St. Maximilian Kolbe, and the tender devotion of those who are fervent souls, to Mary as a way to Jesus. "Write Mary a blank check," he said, "by totally consecrating yourself to her, and she will lead you to Jesus."
Now this is a tough sell for many people, even devout Catholics, and total blasphemy to Protestants. But I was open to listening. I knew there is no human who was closer to Jesus than His very mother, his first disciple, flesh of his flesh. To give her liberty, to turn my life over to her, to write her a blank check was indeed a daunting prospect because, of course, it meant my life was not really my own anymore. Was she trustworthy? Yes, I had faith in that. So what was holding me back?
It became clear that attachment to my sin and "loving my live" (Jn 12:25) was a hindrance. It was scary too, since Fr. Ignatius made clear that "the blessings our Lady sends....are crosses." What would become of my life, the life of my family, should we consecrate ourselves to the mother of the Lord, totally dispose ourselves to her aid, to lead us to Jesus? Would we lose it all? Would we suffer?
It was as if I had been playing pretend Christian all these years, keeping one foot in the door and one foot out. A blank check. Do you know what Jesus writes in the 'Amount' line when you give him a blank check?
All of it. Empties the account. Net zero. Doesn't leave a cent.
Which leads me to the second teaching--You Will Receive Power: Ministry for Healing given by Fr. Mathias Thelen, Diocese of Lansing.
Fr. Mathias opened his talk by warning us to be careful. "This is not for the feint of heart," he told us, "You have to be radically dependent on the Holy Spirit" to engage in this kind of ministry, "since you only have power BY the Holy Spirit." Fr. Mathias encouraged us to pay for boldness to preach the word, "That you may never be silent," as it is written, "It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:20).
He noted that all throughout the New Testament, signs and the Church's mission to preach the Gospel go hand in hand. That is, healings are signs that point us to Heaven. It is for the benefit of belief that God heals, not just physical relief from suffering. "It is an exciting time to be Catholic," he noted, since Jesus makes this power available by the Holy Spirit not just two thousand years ago, not just in the book of Acts, but now, today. And the need is greater than ever.
Fr. Mathias laid out three models for healing.
The first is Petition. "Please heal this person,"
The second is Command. "Jesus did not say pray for the sick, he said heal the sick," Fr. Matthias noted. And Jesus gave us the authority in His Name to do just that. This can manifest itself in commanding a body part to do what it is not doing (sickness, such a liver not functioning properly)
The third is Prophetic Word. That is, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal what He is doing.
There are four steps to healing ministry that Fr. Mathias laid out.
Ask the person in need of healing how long have they had this malady; on a scale of 1 to 10, what pain level are you; get a history and more information. Look for trauma, unforgiveness, a lack of repentance. "Jesus healed people before they followed," he told us. Prepare the person for the prayer. Encourage them to have faith, but that it isn't dependent on them, but on the power of God. Explain what might happen (tingling, warmth, shaking). Encourage them to just put themselves in a disposition to receive. There is no pressure. God is at work. "There is no harm in praying for someone," Fr. Mathias said, "even if they aren't healed; that is up to God. STEP OUT in faith, and be BOLD."
2) The Prayer Itself
Ask the Holy Spirit to come. Then you WAIT. "Whatever you do, keep it short," he said. And he drove home that EVERYTHING IS DONE IN THE NAME OF JESUS. Ask what is happening to the person.
Sometimes there are demons present. Don't freak out; you have authority, in the name of Jesus. "Once you spot them, you got them." He mentioned that one person being healed was resisting. He received a prophetic word. "Name yourself," Fr. Mathias commanded, in the name of Jesus. REIKI, said the person. They had been practicing reiki and had incurred a demon as a result.
Ask doctor of confirm. It is critical to step out in faith, you have to 'activate' their faith.
4) If nothing happens...
Accept it, but gently ask if there is unforgiveness, or sin that needs to be confessed.
Finally, encourage them to thank God for what He has done and is doing. "If you loved them," Fr. Mathias told us, "you were successful."
Signs are not magic. It is simply the power of God, activated by faith. It happened in Jesus time at the hands of the apostles and other disciples, and it happens today.
In fact, while we were all present, Fr. Mathias called out "I am getting a word...does anyone have a hand with pain?" Sounds very Pentecostal, doesn't it? I probably wouldn't have believed it if I didn't see it: a man approached him later, and I caught the healing out of the corner of my eye. I saw his hand shaking, and he was healed. Steve, a layman who had been trained in healing by Fr. Mathias, also received a word that there was someone in the crowd with pain in the foot, and hand. A woman with a cyst in her left hand came forward, and was healed--it simply disappeared. The woman with the pain in her left foot was also healed.
These people had no reason to "fake it." They were all in their right mind as well, and Fr. Mathias was hardly a charlatan. Sometimes the Holy Spirit just works in ordinary but powerful and everyday ways, and this was a testament to His work.
There is much more I can write, but it is late and I need to go to sleep. I am reminded, though, of the end of John's Gospel is written, "Now Jesus did many other sings in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name" (Jn 20: 30-31).
As our healing priest noted at the end of his teaching: "It's an exciting time to be Catholic."