June 27, 2003
The Presentation Story
Fr. Al Lauer shares his personal testimony
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; therefore He has anointed me. He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and release to prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord." Luke 4:18-19
Brothers and Sisters in Jesus,
I have seen the glory of God on many occasions, but possibly the greatest movement of the Spirit I have ever witnessed began at Our Lady of Presentation Church, Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1977 and continues to the present day. I share these personal experiences in this book so as not to keep these wondrous deeds under a bushel basket but put them on the lampstand to give light to all in the house (Lk 11:33). Let the Spirit motivate, teach, convict, heal, and love you through the sharing of these testimonies. I thank God for the wonderful brothers and sisters He has given me. I thank Him for you. I thank God especially for my loving, faith-filled, and faithful parents, and I dedicate this book to them. May these sharings lead us to prayer and intercession. May all who read this book give their lives totally to Jesus and be filled with the Holy Spirit. Immaculate Mary, pray for us.
In Jesus' name,
Fr. Al Lauer
"You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek." Psalm 110:4
I should have been ordained a priest when in grade school. By God's grace I had great faith and fervor at that time. At 7 years old, I gave my life to Jesus. I loved Jesus in the Mass and went to Communion every day. People told me that I wasn't old enough to know what I was doing, but time proved my sincerity. Even in high school, the Holy Spirit was active, although I did not understand Him. In college and graduate school, I began to sin by treasuring the pleasures of the world, and where my treasure was, there my heart was (Lk 12:34). I lost my first love (Rv 2:4). My heart began to move away from God. The secular humanism of the seminary pushed me farther from God, so that I was spiritually at my lowest, when ordained to the priesthood.
On May 25, 1974, I was ordained a priest of the diocese of Cincinnati, Ohio. I had waited and prepared almost twenty years for ordination day. Bishop Bernardin, several other bishops, and over 200 priests laid hands on me. However, I did not receive God's power because the Spirit was stifled in my life.
I began teaching at Kettering Alter High School and serving at St. Luke parish in Beavercreek, Ohio (a suburb of Dayton). This was probably the most miserable year of my life. Although the people of the parish and the school were very gracious, my house was no longer on the solid Rock of Jesus but on the sands of selfishness (Mt 7:24-27). I was depressed for the first time in my life. I was going through the "living death" (1 Jn 3:14) which those who don't personally know Jesus must endure. My life was becoming meaningless.
Prayer: Thank You Jesus for having mercy on me by taking me back.
BAPTIZED IN THE SPIRIT (Mk 1:8)
"If anyone thirsts let him come to Me; let him drink who believes in Me. Scripture has it: 'From within him rivers of living water shall flow.' Here He was referring to the Spirit." John 7:37-39
Almost a year after my ordination, one week before Pentecost, I preached on the Scripture: "Together they devoted themselves to constant prayer" (Acts 1:14). In the homily, I challenged the parishioners to apply this teaching by coming to church for prayer throughout the week. I didn't expect anyone to come, but about a dozen people met Sunday evening for prayer. They expected me to lead them, but I hadn't the slightest idea what to do. Without knowing how we did it, we prayed for an hour. Within four nights, we were praying three or four hours and returning to church for 6:15 AM Mass. For the first time in our lives we were snatched up to worship at the throne of God. No one laid hands on anyone or prayed for the gifts of the Spirit. We knew nothing about spiritual gifts and the movement of the Holy Spirit. But we knew the Spirit had done a miracle because we had never before prayed spontaneously for more than a minute or two, and now we were praying for hours. It was a sovereign act of God, like the baptism in the Spirit Cornelius and his household received (Acts 10:44-47).
We started to read the Bible to find out what had happened to us. The words almost jumped off the page. We would read four or five chapters without a pause. We continued to pray nightly, daily, constantly, until Pentecost. We were so happy we decided to pray in thanksgiving during the week following Pentecost. After that, we prayed for another day, then another. This continued for over a year, for 500 nightly prayer meetings. No one realized what God was doing until much later.
Prayer: "Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on us."
MARY, MY MOM
"The angel answered her: 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; hence, the Holy Offspring to be born will be called Son of God.'" Luke 1:35
Presentation Ministries has always had a special devotion to Mary. We are named after Our Lady of Presentation Church. I first prayed in tongues while praying Mary's rosary. I also saw the Lord use the rosary as the catalyst for a powerful evangelistic outreach. One of our sisters was even rescued from a rapist by saying the "Hail Mary." From the time that I received a new outpouring of the Spirit, I connected Mary with the Spirit. Just as she interceded in the upper room at the first Pentecost, she prays now for a new Pentecost.
I had grown up praying the rosary every day. In retrospect I see that our daily family rosary was one of the highlights of my childhood. Even through high school and college, Mary's prayers for me through the rosary were a source of life and light. But in graduate school, I finally got too sophisticated for the rosary, and I put Mary into the background of my life. My life with the Lord continued to deteriorate until finally I called on the Lord and received the Holy Spirit in a new way. Almost immediately, the Spirit led me to return to my mother and the praying of the rosary. These Spirit-filled rosaries were a means of renewal for me and many others.
Thank you Mary for mothering me. I dedicate myself to your immaculate heart. Lead me to pour out my life for Jesus as you did.
Prayer: Father, with Mary, in this Marian Year, I intercede for a new Pentecost.
PRAYING IN TONGUES
"All were filled with the Holy Spirit. They began to express themselves in foreign tongues and make bold proclamations as the Spirit prompted them." Acts 2:4
When we received the outpouring of the Spirit, we received amazing gifts of prayer, understanding the word, and Christian community. But we were not aware of the gifts of the Spirit mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12. Gradually we heard about these gifts, read about them in the Bible, and received them. By God's power, we were able to heal, counsel, discern, teach, and serve.
However, I had a difficult time yielding to the gift of praising God in another language. A woman from our parish would periodically announce to me that I could speak in tongues. But she walked away before I had a chance to argue with her. After two years I still had not spoken in tongues. One morning we were praying the rosary in front of an abortion chamber. At that time, I was a hospital chaplain and had been called to an emergency during the night. I knew the Bible said that we built ourselves up when we prayed in tongues (1 Cor 14:4). I certainly needed to be built up. But I was hesitant to say words that didn't make sense to me. I asked God about this, and He indicated to me that for years I had said things in English that didn't make sense and I shouldn't be overly concerned about this. The Lord showed me I had a "double standard" for tongues and English. I expected God to force the words out of my mouth in tongues while in English I open my mouth in obedience to the Lord. The Lord showed me obedience was the issue, not understanding.
Prayer: Jesus, may all who read this speak in another tongue to praise You.
STEPS OF FAITH
"Go sell what you have." Mark 10:21
After we had prayed daily for a few months, two sisters in the Lord took a step in faith by leaving everything and devoting themselves to pastoral ministry. In the spirit of Jesus and Francis, they went forth without "walking staff or traveling bag" (Lk 10:4). They were joined later by two brothers in the Lord. They formed two households. The men lived in their house in return for painting it. The women were to pay a low rent to live in a run-down apartment. The landlord was supposed to come for the rent each month. He never came, even after a year. God provided in a miraculous way.
Later this community stepped out in faith by starting a soup kitchen to minister to the poor. We had nothingno place, funds, food, dishes, or utensils. We found a little hall to rent, begged some food, and opened the soup kitchen at the time of the devastating winter of 1976. This ministry was a clear witness to the Lord's miracle-power and love for the poor.
The community also ministered by visiting and praying for the sick at home, in hospitals, and in nursing homes. We were largely unaware of God's healing power, but He had patience with us and honored our faith. Eventually we began to see several inner healings. The Lord was preparing our hearts to see great physical healings.
The faith of these early community members inspires us to this very day. Since then courageous brothers and sisters have stepped out in faith to change a farm into a renewal center, start a Christian newspaper, home-school their children, and staff a Christian radio station. By faith we have claimed God's promises and He has done the impossible.
Prayer: Jesus, by faith in You may we conquer the world (1 Jn 5:5).
FUNERAL HOME FAITH
"Cure the sick, raise the dead, heal the leprous, expel demons. Matthew 10:8
A woman familiar with our community asked me to pray for her friend who was in intensive care. No one in recorded medical history had ever recovered from the combination of diseases she had. Her husband was told by the doctors that his wife was probably dead, although the machines made it appear she was still functioning. The doctors told him they would pronounce his wife dead that afternoon. When I met him, he was looking through the yellow pages under "funeral directors".
I introduced myself and mentioned that I had been asked to pray for his wife. I gave her the Anointing of the Sick and came back later that afternoon. She was not pronounced dead, and the doctors said they would wait till morning. She was not pronounced dead then either. She came out of the coma a couple days later, out of intensive care in two weeks, and out of the hospital in a month. Not only was she changed from death to life but her husband moved from skepticism to faith. From looking through the yellow pages for an undertaker, he came to looking through the Bible to meet Jesus, the Resurrection and Life, the miraculous Healer of his wife. This healing caused a stir even in the medical field, as doctors from Ohio State investigated this unprecedented event.
This dramatic healing prepared me for a sudden transfer from Springfield to Cincinnati. An emergency situation in priest personnel arose required my experience in hospital chaplaincy. The Lord wanted to continue teaching me about His healing power. In a year at Jewish, Children's, and Holmes' hospitals, I saw both quiet and dramatic healings. I realized that God answers every prayer with a great outpouring of His love not always the way we expect, but always in love, and giving us what we ask for or better.
Prayer: "Lord, I do believe! Help my lack of trust!" (Mk 9:24).
"Our battle is not against human forces but against the principalities and powers, the rulers of this world of darkness, the evil spirits in regions above. You must put on the armor of God if you are to resist on the evil day. Ephesians 6:12-13
One day I received a call from the bishop's office informing me that he had received several letters denouncing me. When my enemies names were divulged, I did not even recognize many of those attacking me. This puzzled me, since I had never experienced anything like it. How could people I hardly knew hate me so much? I asked several people about this, but no one had a satisfactory explanation. I had almost given up, when I read Ephesians 6:12 (see above). The bright shining light of God's word overcame my darkness.
Throughout my seminary training, I had been highly secularized. For all practical purposes I had come to deny any significance to the devil. But now I was facing a situation for which the only reasonable explanation was the evil one. I began to fight the devil and not the people. I used the spiritual weapon of prayer and received the Lord's victory, when previously I didn't even know there was a war. All these insults and attacks eventually came to a head. My pastor and I were asked to meet with Bishop Bernardin, who gave me full support and an encouraging vote of confidence. Serious spiritual warfare has broken out regularly in my service to the Lord and His people. This is to be expected (2 Tm 3:12) but nonetheless painful. Thank God that the One in us is greater than the one in the world (1 Jn 4:4).
Prayer: Father, in Jesus' name, I bring down the strongholds of the evil one, demolish his sophistries, destroy his proud pretensions, and make every thought captive to Jesus (2 Cor 10:4-6).
"DRY BONES" (Ez 37)
"In days to come, the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills. All nations shall stream toward it." Isaiah 2:2
Our Lady of Presentation Church was "the highest mountain" of the Lord's work in my life. When I had been sent there as a seminarian to teach CCD several years before, I was appalled at an all-white congregation in the midst of a predominantly black neighborhood. The poison of racial bigotry was openly and aggressively expressed in parish meetings. Furthermore, the church had almost no young people or families.
Despite this, I felt a strange and strong call to Presentation, which I brought to the diocesan personnel director. He recommended that I be assigned there, but the bishop stopped the move. Three months later, however, he changed his mind, and I went to Presentation.
We began interceding daily for renewal in Presentation Church. An elderly lady from the parish suggested that we have a daily Lenten prayer service. On Easter Monday we began a prayer group with five people participating. Nine days before Pentecost, we began a novena to the Holy Spirit. Twelve people received the renewal of their Confirmations. These people caught the fire of the Holy Spirit, spoke in tongues, and prophesied. In one year, 93 people returned to the Lord and His church. This was over 30% of the church. Within five years, the majority of the parishioners were baptized in the Holy Spirit. The barriers between black and white, rich and poor, and educated and illiterate were broken down. The dry bones had heard the word of the Lord (see Ez 37:5).
Prayer: Jesus, by Your power, may we raise dead churches to life.
BLACK AND WHITE
"I pray that they may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me." John 17:21
"Because the loaf of bread is one, we, many though we are, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf. 1 Corinthians 10:17
The Holy Spirit taught us at Presentation that Christian community is not merely sharing with people we are comfortable with, but repenting of division and stepping out in faith to the whole body of Christ. One Sunday, I made an act of faith by not merely stating that racial prejudice was wrong but announcing that I would personally ask anyone who persisted in bigoted words, behavior, or attitudes to leave the church. A few parishioners left after that sermon.
This struggle to overcome our racial prejudices bore great fruit. As God formed our Christian community, it became a family of black and white, rich and poor, young and old, high-tech and illiterate. I have never seen such a diverse community. Many experienced for the first time the reality and the power of the body of Christ. We realized that a white person must not say to a black brother or sister "I don't need you", or vice versa (1 Cor 12:21).
Since many had rarely shared with people different from themselves, we started a soup kitchen, not only to feed the poor but also to give us an opportunity to spend time with each other. This led to sharing with other churches in the area, and denominational barriers were also removed by our unity in the Spirit. For example, we joined together with the Church of Christ in a home schooling support group. Also, we saw the wife of the Presbyterian minister healed, as the various ministers and priests laid hands on her. Jesus was making the two into one (Eph 2:14).
Prayer: Jesus, may there not be all-white churches or all-black churches. Give us catholic churches. Break denominational barriers too.
"NO CHAINING THE WORD OF GOD" (2 Timothy 2:9)
"A third time Jesus asked him, 'Simon, son of John, do you love Me? Peter was hurt because He had asked a third time. 'Do you love Me?' So he said to Him: 'Lord, You know everything. You know well that I love You.' Jesus said to him, 'Feed My sheep.'" John 21:17
I was in the seminary eleven years, and for most of those years we were assigned to read the Bible daily. But I could never get interested in the Bible. Although I had excelled academically in all my Bible classes, had three graduate degrees, could read the original Greek of the New Testament, and began my priesthood teaching the Bible several hours a day at Alter High School and St. Luke parish; the Bible was a closed book to me. I almost never read it unless I had to prepare a teaching or homily.
After receiving a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit, I read the Bible constantly and found myself reading a verse or two at stop lights while driving. I was devouring the word of God (Jer 15:16). I started teaching the Bible at prayer meetings and setting up adult Bible studies. I eventually doubled, then tripled, the length of my homilies. I started teaching Bible teachers and thereby set up dozens of Bible studies in Southwestern Ohio and Northern Kentucky.
In this ministry of the word, the Lord gave me a vision of the spiritual condition of His body. I saw His people in intensive care, suffering from severe spiritual malnutrition and bound by heavy chains. Aware of being at the death-bed of a terminally ill world, I was led by the Spirit to preach and teach the gospel to feed and free His people. The word of God became my daily bread and the sword of the Spirit (see Eph 6:17).
Prayer: Jesus, may Your word burn in our hearts within 24 hours (Lk 24:32).
"So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, but shall do My will, achieving the end for which I sent it." Isaiah 55:11
We grew to love God and His word, as we saw lives change. We proliferated Bible studies and taught teachers to lead Bible groups, but we felt God wanted something more. On retreat at the Trappist monastery in Gethsemani, Kentucky, during the Holy Year of 1983, I sensed God calling us to spread the gospel through radio broadcasting.
At first, I had a negative reaction to this calling, since I knew nothing about radio. This made me think God might be calling me, since it wasn't my idea. But I knew that the radio ministry would be impossible without a team of dedicated workers. So I announced it at Mass and scheduled a meeting for anyone interested. If no one came, I would tell God He made a mistake. A half dozen people came to the first meeting. All were eager to spread God's word, but no one had any experience in radio. We didn't even have a suitable tape recorder and had no idea how much radio time cost. When we found that a radio broadcast was generally $2 a minute ($30 for a 15-minute program) we thought a 15-minute weekend program was all we could afford. A few people surprisingly offered us enough support to have a Monday-Friday weekday program.
The Lord miraculously blessed our programs. They are now heard in several states. By God's grace, we have endured technical difficulties, program changes, price hikes, and station closings. Every broadcast is a miracle in itself. "All that matters is that in any and every way...Christ is being proclaimed!" (Phil 1:18)
Prayer: Father, may Your word resound through all the earth and to the ends of the world Your message (see Ps 19:5).
"ONE BREAD, ONE BODY"
"Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to His disciples. 'Take this and eat it,' He said, 'this is My body.' Then He took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them. 'All of you must drink from it.' He said, 'For this is My blood'" Matthew 26:26-28
The demands of these ministries could have turned us all into Marthas, busy and upset about many things (Lk 10:41). We could have fallen into the trap of salvation by works rather than faith. But the Lord kept calling us to sit at His feet in eucharistic adoration.
After we experienced Pentecost, we devoted ourselves to the breaking of the bread (Acts 2:42). Daily Mass became the center of our lives. Every Mass was truly a celebration. Masses kept getting longer as we enjoyed the Lord's presence in an intimate, eucharistic way. We added an evening Mass, Monday through Friday, to maximize the opportunity for daily Mass. To proclaim the good news of daily Mass and Communion we called our radio program "Daily Bread" and taught on the daily eucharistic readings.
Desiring more, we took advantage of the opportunity to extend communion with Him by adoring Jesus through exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. We began with a few hours of prayer a week. Eventually we took turns sitting at the feet of Jesus every day, almost all day, and even into the night. It is inestimable what God did for us and through us in these years of eucharistic adoration. Most of this book, as with all our books and teachings, was given by the Lord at the time of eucharistic adoration. "All of us, gazing on the Lord's glory with unveiled faces, are being transformed from glory to glory into His very image by the Lord Who is the Spirit" (2 Cor 3:18).
Prayer: "Sweet Sacrament, we Thee adore, O make us love Thee more and more." "O Sacrament most holy, O Sacrament divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine."
CONFESSION (THE SACRAMENT OF RECONCILIATION)
"With that he set off for his father's house. While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him and was deeply moved. He ran out to meet him, threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. " Luke 15:20
When I first came to Presentation there was hardly anyone going to Confession. I "heard Confessions" an hour a week, and most of that time I sat idle. As we studied God's word and listened to prophecy, the Lord made it increasingly clear that the church would never be renewed until large numbers regularly confessed their sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This was brought about by two people interceding at church during the time Confessions were scheduled. At first, one or two people came in for Confession during the hour. After a couple weeks, there was still no increase. Then one of the sisters realized she was called to answer her own prayer and go to Confession. Gradually, more people started coming. In two years, the time for Confessions had to be extended, and people also made appointments. Time for Confessions increased from a few minutes to 5-10 hours per week.
Some began to throw "Confession parties", in imitation of our heavenly Father (Lk 15:32). They invited friends over, arranged with me for a Confession-time, and went to Confession individually as all prayed. For the first time, many realized what it meant to "celebrate" the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We also had Confessions with healing services. Hundreds made life-changing Confessions. We confessed our sins, and were forgiven, freed from guilt, and made holy. Jesus' blood washed us clean.
Prayer: Father, may I go to Confession at least monthly.
"What I say to you is this: 'Make friends for yourselves through your use of this world's goods, so that when they fail you, a lasting reception will be yours.'" Luke 16:9
Since our treasures determine our hearts (Lk 12:34), any movement of the Spirit will live or die, depending on our response to God's economic calls. When I began working at Presentation, the bingo folded. I hoped that the festival would fold too, which it did after one last gasp. Many were predicting the bankruptcy of the church. We were an inner-city parish, with collections amounting to $200-$300 per week. We began to pray for money, and God did miracles. We never had an unpaid bill. Eventually, we taught our people about tithing. Many people gave not just money but their very selves (1 Thes 2:8). Like the early church, we "shared all things in common" (Acts 2:44), and everyone's needs were provided for.
The Lord continued to teach us His financial ways. For example, at the beginning of my ministry at Presentation, my car breathed its last. Since I was serving as a hospital chaplain and was called for emergencies, I intended to buy a used car within a week. Since God took good care of my transportation needs that week, I postponed getting a car for another week and then another month. I was hitchhiking each day back and forth from the hospital. People were shocked to pick up a hitchhiking priest, dressed in black. One person who gave me a ride even entered the seminary. Throughout my "carelessness", not one patient at the hospital was delayed pastoral care. God seemed to be calling me not to have a car. I have gone without a car ten years and God has greatly blessed me and others. Both the parish and myself began to realize what Jesus meant when He said: "Blest are the poor in spirit; the reign of God is theirs" (Mt 5:3).
Prayer: Father, thank You for helping us, when we realize we can't help ourselves.
THE DAY GOD STOLE MY STEREO
"The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!" Job 1:21
The time was autumn and everyone was astir with preparations for Thanksgiving. I had celebrated Mass for one of the prayer groups of the city and challenged people to simplify their lives and appreciate the bounty of material possessions the Lord had given them. As I returned to the rectory, I was surprised that a light was on. When I opened the door, I saw that the office and rectory were ransacked, and I heard the shuffling of the burglar as he escaped out the back door. The thief did not have time to rob the office, but he did get away with a thousand dollars of stereo equipment and my violin.
I had always loved music, been a part-time disc jockey, and devoted much time and money to music. Even though I had little talent, I had learned to play the guitar and was now torturing the world as I made a vain attempt to learn the violin. At first, I blamed this robbery on the burglar and the devil. As time went on, it seemed that the Lord was turning this burglary to the good by setting me free from material possessions which dominated my life (Rm 8:28). He also put me and the rest of the world out of our misery by preventing me from screeching through another fiddle-tune.
Prayer: Jesus, thank You for taking things away. Free me from "spiritual anorexia" caused by indulging my carnal desires (see Gal 5:17, Prv 13:19).
"Those who believed shared all things in common; they would sell their property and goods, dividing everything on the basis of each one's need. Acts 2:44-45 (see also Acts 4:32)
A few of the brothers and sisters believed they were called to serve the Lord full-time in non-salaried jobs. We confirmed their calling, and then we sought God's will about providing for their livelihood. We sensed the Lord leading us to pool our resources. Each month 6-10 brothers and sisters "put into the pot" whatever they believed the Lord wanted. They also listed any basic needs they had to meet. The money was redistributed accordingly, and several brothers and sisters were given the freedom to work for the kingdom in unsalaried jobs.
The Lord called everyone in this group to live simply. Few had cars or TVs, but all had what they needed and were free to follow the Spirit's lead. Although very few people were making any money, several were being funded, and no one ever missed a meal or had an unpaid bill. One family even came off welfare, as God provided through this financial sharing group. Another family moved to Cincinnati from Virginia and eventually joined this group. All worked hard for the Lord, as Jesus led them, rather than as monetary needs dictated. This very book and much of our ministry is dependent on this New Testament structure of financial sharing.
Prayer: Father, may I trust You enough so as to live the new life of the gospel.
LIFE WITHOUT SEX
"Some men are incapable of sexual activity from birth; some have been deliberately made so; and some there are who have freely renounced sex for the sake of God's reign. Let him accept this teaching who can." Matthew 19:12
Jesus calls celibacy a gift (Mt 19:11). Before I became a priest, I saw celibacy as a practical need. With the demands of the ministry, a married and family life would be very difficult. But eventually I began to see that celibacy is more than practical. It is God's way of freeing people for world evangelism, beginning locally and extending even to the ends of the earth (Acts 8:26ff). It puts God's soldiers on the front lines in spiritual warfare. Celibacy is a living prophecy that challenges believers to serious Christian commitment (Lk 20:34-36). It is a precious calling for building up the body of Christ.
Others eventually caught the vision and accepted the call of the single life for the Lord. At Presentation Church we had as many as eight full-time pastoral workersall were celibate. God's word teaches: "The unmarried man (woman) is busy with the Lord's affairs, concerned with pleasing the Lord" (1 Cor 7:32). "I am going into this with you for your own good. I have no desire to place restrictions on you, but I do want to promote what is good, what will help you to devote yourselves entirely to the Lord" (1 Cor 7:35).
Prayer: Father, may those reading this, who are called to be celibate for Your kingdom, accept their call. Speak to the heart of each one.
"Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations. " Matthew 28:19
Like the Ethiopian eunuch, our single people used their freedom and availability to spread the gospel. Our evangelists went as servants. We spoke simply, openly, and directly about Jesus and prayed for each person's practical needs. On holidays, many people in our neighborhood would be home because they could not afford to go anywhere. We shared Jesus with at least 100 people each Memorial Day, July 4, and Labor Day. In one week, almost 1000 doors were knocked on and hundreds heard about Jesus, even several Jehovah Witnesses. They seemed surprised that "the shoe was on the other foot".
We prayed for the Lord to show us how to make an even greater impact. One sister received a prophecy calling for a procession through the neighborhood while praying the rosary and sprinkling everyone and everything with holy water. Since most of our neighbors were black Baptists or Appalachians, I felt our actions would not be understood and therefore did not accept the prophecy. But later Jesus changed my mind, and we marched. God blessed this act of faith. Several people accepted Jesus and joined the church. These marches led to weekly outdoor prayer meetings every summer, which touched the lives of hundreds.
On several occasions we gathered together some of our men to boldly proclaim Jesus in front of our neighborhood grocery store. Alcoholics, junkies, and deranged people were usually hanging around in front of the store. Our men began by forming a circle on the sidewalk and prayed publicly as people rushed in and out of the store. As we shared God's word on the street, the Lord set captives free and confirmed the message with cures, signs, and wonders (Mk 16:20).
Prayer: Lord, may our lives allow You to add to our number daily, as You have promised (Acts 2:47).
SAUL TO PAUL
"You can depend on this as worthy of full acceptance: that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these I myself am the worst." 1 Timothy 1:15
One of the most dramatic examples of the Lord's saving grace was Tom (not his real name). I came upon Tom while he was about to rape one of the neighborhood girls. I just stood there and waited for Tom to notice me. When he saw me, he stopped his violence toward the girl. He began to yell, threaten me, and wave around his wadded up T-shirt. (Later, I found out he had a gun in the shirt.) I continued to stand there and said the name "Jesus" under my breath. I hoped Tom would leave, but instead he shocked me by saying he wanted to go to church.
We walked four blocks to church. I didn't have enough presence of mind to know what to do. Finally, I asked Tom if he wanted to know Jesus. He said "No." Then I asked if he would pray. He said "No." Next, I asked him to repeat a prayer after me. He said "No." I made the sign of the cross and asked if he would make that motion. He said "No." I asked if he would do it by himself where no one could see him. He said "Yes." He made a left-handed sign of the cross and went home.
A couple weeks later I met Tom again. He ran toward me and told me Jesus had come to him and freed him. Tom had three vices. He was a professional thief, bound by sexual lust, and preoccupied with guns. Tom said Jesus freed him from two out of three vices. (He didn't tell me which two.) Later, Tom joined a store-front church and was delivered from the third bondage.
Prayer: Jesus, thank You for changing Sauls to Pauls. Do it again today.
JESUS ON THE FRONT PAGE
"I am not ashamed of the gospel. It is the power of God leading everyone who believes in it to salvation." Romans 1:16.
When we fell in love with Jesus, we wanted everyone to know about Him. It saddened us to see Jesus ignored in the newspapers. He belongs on the front-page since He is the Lord of all history. Jesus either initiates historical events or is willing to redeem situations we have caused on our own. He is limited only by our refusal to repent. The big news is always what Jesus is doing in world events, but newspapers are bent on ignoring the main Person in every news story. Thus the modern newspaper disqualifies itself from objective reporting.
Because of this conspiracy to ignore Jesus, we were called to start a Christian newspaper. This paper does not primarily report "religious" news but secular news without ignoring Jesus. When God put this in our hearts, we prayed for three years. One brother in the Lord left home and job to move to Cincinnati and serve in this ministry. As usual, we had no money or personnel, but we were willing to work for free. More "workers for the harvest" were necessary so we prayed and announced our need (Mt 9:38). Three people who had newspaper experience responded. We made the leap of faith, and a Christian newspaper was born after a three-year gestation period.
Prayer: Father, we repent of handing over the mass media to the devil.
We reclaim it for Your kingdom in Jesus' name.
"Whoever acknowledges Me before men I will acknowledge before My Father in heaven." Matthew 10:32
The Lord commands us not to work for perishable food but for food that remains unto life eternal (Jn 6:27). This means that making money is not as important as making Christians. No matter what the business, the main jobs are evangelism, intercession, and ministry. We must be able to work for Jesus at our place of employment. Otherwise, we can't maintain we're living a Christian life.
We have been teaching, interceding, and pastoring for years to get our community members working for the Lord. A few work for our ministry or in church, but most work secular jobs. These brothers and sisters have been courageous in proclaiming Jesus. They have led individuals to accept Jesus as Lord, receive the Holy Spirit, and be forgiven, healed, and reconciled. They have begun Bible studies and prayer groups at work, despite persecution.
One of the greatest examples of working for the Lord took place at a job interview. One of our brothers was trying to get a construction job. During the interview, he started witnessing to the owner of the company. If the owner reacted unfavorably, our brother would not be hired. But the owner of the company opened up and gave his life to Jesus. When our brother later became involved in the farm ministry (see page 24 ) and needed a trailer to house his family, the employer bought a $20,000 trailer for our brother's family. By risking his job, our brother was blessed abundantly.
Prayer: Father, may our workers have the boldness and fearlessness of St. Joseph in witnessing for Jesus.
THE DEATH OF A JUST MAN
"Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of His faithful ones." Psalm 116:15
One of our most faithful workers had a heart attack and died. The night before his death he shared at our men's Bible study and joined in the outdoor prayer meeting. Often, in the Bible, the death of a good person results in a new outpouring of divine life. After this man's death there was a ministry explosion.
For years we had given teaching after teaching on the responsibility of the lay person to minister, but we had little effect. Our people seemed paralyzed, and they refused to be set free. As in most churches, the same few souls were doing most of the parish work and getting more and more tired. After our brother's death more ministries developed in three months than in three years previously. Evangelization blossomed, renewal took a quantum leap. Ministries to children, teens, and retarded adults began. Later, this man's farm became a renewal center, where hundreds of people, especially teens, have met the Lord. From very meager beginnings, we saw a ministry explosion which was the catalyst for expanded evangelization and many miracles. At our brother's funeral Mass, we proclaimed God's word: "You can depend on this: If we have died with Him we shall also live with Him; if we hold out to the end we shall also reign with Him" (2 Tm 2:11-12).
Prayer: Jesus, may we continually carry about in our bodies Your death so that Your life may be revealed through us (2 Cor 4:10).
DOWN ON THE FARM
"He sold a farm that he owned and made a donation of the money, laying it at the apostles' feet." Acts 4:37
A sister in our community owned a 120 acre farm. After the death of her husband, she realized she had to make a decision about the farm. She offered it to the community for a retreat center, but we encouraged her to sell the farm to provide for her family. How could we start a retreat center when established retreat centers were going out of business? In two years, she thought she sold the farm on two occasions. Each time the deal fell through. Finally, we accepted the fact that God wanted to use the farm for renewal. Then once again it looked as if the farm would be sold. But once again the Lord changed all that and it was back in our hands.
The farm had been unoccupied for over a year. Someone had broken in and taken some of the furnishings. There was no heat in the house. At this point, a handful of us celebrated the eucharist in that cold, barren farm house. We received God's word that He would use this farm for renewal and the building of His kingdom. With God's word as our strength, we proceeded to develop the farm into a renewal center. We had no money, no personnel, and little facilities. Most of the land was not tillable, but over the years God has done the impossible. He has raised up workers for this ministry. The payments on the farm have been miraculously paid, and the Lord has raised up the people and money to build a discipleship center.
Prayer: Jesus, nothing is impossible for You. Do in my life more than I can ever ask or imagine (Eph 3:20).
HEALING THE LAY PERSON
"Observing the self-assurance of Peter and John, and realizing that the speakers were uneducated men of no standing, the questioners were amazed. Then they recognized these men as having been with Jesus. Acts 4:13
It seems that we always are desperately in need of workers for the harvest. Obviously, most of these workers must be lay people. But the mentality of most lay people is that they may only "pray, pay, and obey" and that it's up to the priests and religious to do the "spiritual" ministering. Although this attitude may have been practical for an American immigrant-church, it is suicidal for the church of today. If lay people do not lead the way in world evangelism and renewal, we are doomed.
The Lord is raising up lay people to turn the Church right side-up. For example, a couple from our community was powerfully anointed for a healing ministry. At that time the husband was a highway patrolman. He went to a conference at Notre Dame and was asked to pray for a sick person. That person rested in the Spirit on the street outside the convention center. Seeing this, one person after another asked for prayers and rested in the Spirit. It was like Jesus walking through the streets of Galilee. Our brother's wife soon joined him in the healing ministry. And thousands have received the Lord's healing touch through the ministry of this couple. The Lord is freeing and healing the lay person to free and heal in His name.
Prayer: Jesus, may all reading this find their places and ministries in Your body.
"The sick upon whom they lay their hands will recover." Mark 16:18
Our first healing services led many to the Lord. Expectant faith began to grow in our community. Healing became part of everyday life. We would spontaneously gather around those who were hurting and pray for them, not only in church but at parish meetings, the bus stop, the grocery store, and on the street.
Among the most dramatic healings we received, were remarkable cures of babies in the womb, who were supposedly deformed. For example, one mother, who had been mistakenly exposed to fluoroscopy treatments, was told by the doctors to abort because her baby would probably have monstrous deformities. She refused and gave birth to a perfectly healthy baby boy.
These healings of infants in the womb encouraged us in our prayers and witness for life and against abortion. Some of us have been praying publicly for several years before an abortion chamber. We have seen with our own eyes babies saved as we prayed.
To further complement our healing ministry, I have taken a stand for peace. For over 10 years I have been a conscientious objector to the payment of federal income taxes, since these fund the system of war. Furthermore, our tax dollars fund Planned Parenthood, the perpetrator of millions of abortions.
Because of the establishment of Satan's stronghold in our society, healing ministries have trouble integrating healing into life. Many Christians pray for peace and life, and pay for war and death. They pray for the symptoms but ignore the causes. At Presentation, God has blessed us in bringing together healing, pro-life work, and peacemaking.
Prayer: Father, may we choose life, even for our enemies (Dt 20:19).
HOME, SWEET HOME
"Give my greetings to Prisca and Aquila; they were my fellow workers in the service of Christ Jesus and even risked their lives for the sake of mine. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. Remember me also to the congregation that meets in their house." Romans 16:3-5
For the first 300 years of Christianity, the believers met in homes. Even to the present day, the majority of Christians throughout the world gather for communal worship in homes. Only in America and Europe do believers assemble primarily in church buildings.
In Presentation Communities, we came to a point where there was meeting upon meeting. Christian community, rather than supporting the family, seemed to be conflicting with it. We also experienced dwindling evangelistic power and pastoral problems that defied resolution. We sensed the Lord calling us to return to the structure of the early church: a family-based community, with the larger body being a community of communities.
We are in the midst of raising up leaders to form home-based communities. We find new people coming to these family gatherings who would have never participated in the whole community. In addition to evangelization, we see breakthroughs in people's lives, accelerated growth in Christian maturity, strengthened marriages and families, inner healing, and practical application of the Bible to everyday life. The home-based community is the missing link for renewing our parishes.
Prayer: Father, may our homes be places where several Christian brothers and sisters share daily life in Christ.
"Bring them up with the training and instruction befitting the Lord." Ephesians 6:4
Most of the children in our community turn their lives over to Jesus and receive the Holy Spirit years earlier than other kids do. Why should these kids be educated with and by those who do not acknowledge Jesus as Lord? Why shouldn't our children have the best education possible? This happens when the parents have the primary responsibility for their children's education, because they alone have a special anointing to disciple their children for Jesus.
I remember a Church of Christ minister, who, even though he was the principal, decided to home-school his children rather than send them to his own Christian school. This helped me realize that home-schooling was to be preferred to even the best Christian school because in God's perfect plan a school can never take the place of the parents but can only assist them.
Our home-schooled kids are freer and more open to Jesus than most of their peers. They spend several hours a week with other kids but they spend more time with their parents than with their peers. Our kids are able to witness to Jesus and take leadership several years earlier than their peers. They are able to see their bodies as temples of the Spirit. They experience victory over sexual temptations and see God's power in their lives. In addition to being advanced spiritually, they excel academically. Our kids are not perfect, but they're "the best," our future, our present, and our pride and joy. We thank the Lord for showing us how to disciple them by relying on their parents' anointing.
Prayer: Father, may You raise up our teenagers to be great leaders in the near future. Further accelerate their growth for the sake of Your kingdom.
"THE STONE REJECTED"
"The Stone which the builders rejected has become the Cornerstone." Psalm 118:22
When you read about all God's wondrous works at Presentation, you may conclude it was heaven on earth. It was the closest thing to heaven I have ever seen, but still the devil raged furiously against what the Lord was doing in this community. In 1984 I was transferred. This made matters more difficult, but the brothers and sisters continued to reach out to the Lord and to one another. God kept on saving the lost, feeding the poor, and healing the sick. But, despite all this life, the church was surprisingly closed by the diocese and sold to a Baptist congregation. Presentation was an inner-city church growing in numbers, paying all its bills, free from debt, and expanding in ministries, and yet it was closed. The parishioners were broken-hearted, but God promised that when the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it bears much fruit (Jn 12:24).
In the last few years, Presentation Ministries has expanded. In addition to radio, we have been able to teach God's word to thousands through our books, audio/video recordings, TV programs, and newspaper. We are discipling children through home schooling and equipping adults for ministry. Our farm and renewal center, retreats, and healing Masses have been used by God, more than we could ever ask for or imagine (Eph 3:20). As prophesied, the word is going forth from Presentation Mountain: "All nations shall stream toward it; many peoples shall come and say: 'Come, let us climb the Lord's mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob. That He may instruct us in His ways, and we may walk in His paths.' For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem" (Is 2:2-3).
Prayer: Father, thank You for turning everything to the good for those who love You (Rm 8:28).
"Not by might, not by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord." Zechariah 4:6 (our translation)
The story has not come to an end. In fact, we are still writing it by lives of love and service to the Savior. To those who are working, interceding, or contributing in any way to His work through Presentation Ministries, God's promises are:
"I know your deeds; that is why I have left an open door before you which no one can close. I know that your strength is limited; yet you have held fast to My word and have not denied My name" (Rv 3:8). "Because you have kept My plea to stand fast, I will keep you safe in the time of trial which is coming on the whole world, to test all men on earth. I am coming soon. Hold fast to what you have lest someone rob you of your crown" (Rv 3:10-11).
"One moment yet, a little while, and I will shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all the nations, and the treasures of all the nations will come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts. Mine is the silver and mine the gold, says the Lord of hosts. Greater will be the future glory of this house than the former, says the Lord of hosts" (Hg 2:6-9).
Pray about these prophetic scriptures. They speak to us personally as we move toward the third millennium of Christianity and Jesus' final coming.
Prayer: Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!
Presentation Ministries has grown and developed for many years. It is now a Lay Association of the Faithful under the authority of the Archbishop of Cincinnati. PM has focused on establishing ministries and home-based communities in order to disciple Catholics more deeply for Christ. They do this by teaching the word of God and equipping the laity for Christian ministry using the gifts of the Holy Spirit.