June 8, 2002
"The Lord Laughs" (see Psalm 2:4)
Anecdotes on My Ministry of Evangelization
"Rejoice in the Lord always! I say it again. Rejoice!" Philippians 4:4
I, Father Al Lauer, have had the privilege of preaching the good news of Jesus throughout the USA and Canada for several years. I have found the Lord to be always faithful and often funny. The following anecdotes indicate this.
"For to His angels He had given command about you, that they guard you in all your ways." Psalms 91:11
Why do fan belts choose to wear out at 2:30 a.m. on the expressway near Cleveland, Tennessee in the rain? Fan belts could give out a block from home, on the driveway, at the gas station, but that would be no fun. So they wear out in the dark of the night, in a torrential downpour, and in parts of the country that have just barely discovered electricity. Even if your fan belt makes a mistake and goes out near a gas station, it still has you beat. Nowadays most people at gas stations sell coke, beer and cigarettes and wouldn't know a fan-belt if they saw one. However, there is one Hope for you when your fan belt belts you. His name is Jesus. Jesus found for us (after we backed up the entrance to the expressway) an actual mechanic in the middle of the night in Cleveland, Tennessee. He even had on a little uniform, as if he were waiting for us or about to do a commercial. He put a new fan belt on the van we were borrowing and didn't even charge us much. To this day we wonder if that guy was an angel.
Prayer: Father, thank You for giving me a guardian angel.
"For Your creation, serving You, its Maker, grows tense for punishment against the wicked, but is relaxed in benefit for those who trust in You." Wisdom 16:24
The Lord likes to get our attention through the weather. A snowstorm in Estavan, Saskatchewan provided the opportunity for one of the most wild rides ever to the airport in Minot, North Dakota. And when you miss a plane in Minot, the next one may be scheduled for leap year.
In Powerview, Manitoba, lightening struck near the parish church and knocked out the lights as I was giving an altar call. I've rarely seen so many people give their lives to Jesus so fast.
Pentecost is often a time when the Lord does some theatrics using the weather. While tornadoes were being sighted in the area, I celebrated a Pentecost Eve Mass on the 6th and top floor of a dormitory at Xavier University in Cincinnati. The security personnel told us if we continued to celebrate Mass, it would be at our own risk. We continued to praise the Lord and had a glorious Pentecost. In our area, no one was hurt when the tornadoes touched down.
In Crary, North Dakota, I found out just how strong the winds of the Spirit can blow. I was sitting in a pick-up truck in the church parking lot before the opening Mass of the parish mission and the truck was shaking like a leaf in the wind. It was hard to get the door open, but when I did, we had a fantastic parish mission. The wind blows where it wills (see Jn 3:8).
I also had to fight my way through ice storms in South Dakota and Northern Ohio. This prefigured the melting of many cold hearts through the power of God's word.
Prayer: Father, may I praise You in all weather.
"By His wounds you were healed." 1 Peter 2:24
The Lord has given me the privilege of seeing thousands of people healed. Some of the healings are:
- The Lord healed Terri of MS (Multiple Sclerosis) at our first Bible Institute.
- A man was healed of cancer in Oklahoma. This sparked the renewal of the parish.
- A Canadian Indian woman was immediately healed of gangrene in her foot. Her family was amazed at the Lord's love.
- Jesus healed a young girl of cancer of the tongue.
- A woman from Manitoba was healed of a rare disease after her doctors told her there was no hope for her recovery.
- In our ministry, The Lord seems to heal many people of breast cancer.
- He also repeatedly brings people out of comas after we pray for them and their families.
- The Lord often heals people's hands and backs when we minister to them.
- I've been blessed to see the Lord reconcile divorced couples, even after years of separation.
- One of the many ways the Lord heals people in our ministries is through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and by telling them to forgive their enemies. Especially during the Mass, I have seen the Lord heal hundreds of people. Praise Jesus, our Healer!
Prayer: Father, extend Your hands in cures, signs and wonders to be worked in the name of Jesus (see Acts 4:30).
(For more teaching on healing, request our booklet Healing: The Imitation of Christ.)
ON THE WAY TO THE HEALING SERVICE
"You will doubtless quote me the proverb, 'Physician, heal yourself.' " Luke 4:23
Did you ever hear of people who were too sick to come to a healing service? Yet these people aren't too sick to go to the doctor or the hospital. On a couple occasions in my life, I felt too sick or hurt to lead a healing service. I went through with it anyway and became one of the first people healed.
I was about to lead a Mass of healing in Seffner, Florida. I had arrived about three hours before the service. I put my bag in the guest room of the rectory and then proceeded to walk into a plate-glass door. (This is one reason for not washing your windows and glass doors.) I hit and bruised my lip, and cracked my forehead. I thought I might have to lead the healing service while covered with bandages and blood. I decided to have an immediate, personal healing service. It was the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, and someone had given me some Lourdes water. I put water on my head, mouth, and wrist. I went to the bathroom and was happy to see in the mirror that there was no bleeding. I still had some bruises and pain but that lessened during the healing service and soon disappeared.
Prayer: Jesus, "people who are healthy do not need a doctor; sick people do" (Mk 2:17). I need and love You.
"Then He summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority to expel unclean spirits and to cure sickness and disease of every kind." Matthew 10:1
Sometimes parish missions and days of renewal can get kind of rough. The devil is a sore loser. I remember a car being stolen while we brought down the strongholds of the evil one in San Antonio, Texas (see 2 Cor 10:4). During the closing Mass of a parish mission in Connecticut, the car windows of two parishioners were knocked out and some things were stolen. On another occasion, the pastor got very upset with me for restoring to his parish the practice of Confession. Thank God the mission ended that night, and I could get out of town.
"The accuser of our brothers is cast out, who night and day accused them before our God. They defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; love for life did not deter them from death. So rejoice, you heavens, and you that dwell therein! But woe to you, earth and sea, for the devil has come down upon you! His fury knows no limits, for he knows his time is short" (Rv 12:10-12).
Prayer: Father, may I resist the devil and see him flee from me (see Jas 4:7).
"Learn a lesson from the way the wild flowers grow." Matthew 6:28
I don't know much about flowers, but I know the main thing, that is, that they're created by God and are therefore beautiful. In my ministry, the Lord has privileged me to see fields of millions of blooming wild flowers in Eagle Lake, Texas. You can see the sides of the expressways in Georgia, Florida and a few other states seemingly carpeted with millions of purple, pink, yellow and red wild flowers. The Lord also took me to Wilmington, North Carolina to lead a Life in the Spirit Seminar. I would have normally been there too early for the full blooming of the azaleas, but the Lord gave North Carolina a mild winter. This resulted in my seeing a whole city filled with glorious blooming trees and bushes. Glory to God!
Switching from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast, I found San Diego, California to be one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. Mile after mile, street after street, the city was ablaze with colorful flowers and blooming bushes. How great is our God! Alleluia!
Prayer: Father, Lord of creation, I worship You; I give my life to You.
THE POWER OF EUCHARISTIC LOVE
"This is My body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of Me." 1 Corinthians 11:24
I am repeatedly amazed at the Lord's power as manifested at Mass. I saw the Lord heal scores of people in Albuquerque, New Mexico during the various parts of the Mass. About a dozen people were healed during the opening song and praises. Several more people were healed during the penitential rite. More than a dozen others were healed during the reading and preaching of God's word. More were healed at the Consecration, the praying of the "Our Father", and the giving of the sign of peace. The greatest number of people were healed at Communion time.
Once I felt exhausted after finishing a Bible Seminar in Oklahoma. I had to begin a series of services in Hancock, Michigan. I had a three-hour layover in Chicago's O'Hare Airport. I stumbled around the airport, finally found the chapel, and there was Jesus present in the Eucharist. I spent a couple of hours with the Lord in the Eucharist and felt greatly renewed. That may explain why I believe the greatest parishes in the world are those who have perpetual or daily adoration.
Prayer: Jesus, may I want to and try to receive You in Holy Communion every day of my life.
(For more teaching on the Eucharist, order our teachings on the daily eucharistic readings, One Bread, One Body. Also for more teaching on eucharistic adoration, request our booklet, This Is My Body; or our leaflet, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.)
"Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive men's sins, they are forgiven them." John 20:22-23
I find Confession (the Sacrament of Reconciliation) to be the opportunity where literally thousands of people give their lives to Jesus, are freed from sin, receive healing, and are delivered from the evil one. I'm convinced that, if Catholics celebrated the Sacrament of Reconciliation at least monthly, the world would be evangelized, and the Church renewed. Jesus would return in glory in the near future. When Pope John Paul II preached in San Antonio, he stated: "The potential for an authentic and vibrant renewal of the whole Catholic Church through the more faithful use of the Sacrament of Penance is immeasurable" (Sept 13, 1987).
Go to Confession at least monthly and let the Lord change the world, including yourself.
Prayer: Father, may I let myself be cleansed by Jesus' blood in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
A NEW PENTECOST
"All were filled with the Holy Spirit. They began to express themselves in foreign tongues and make bold proclamation as the Spirit prompted them." Acts 2:4
I was privileged to preach and teach at Most Pure Heart of Mary Church in Topeka, Kansas. The rectory of the church is on an historic location. On the first day of the twentieth century, the Holy Spirit came in power to students of a small Bible school located at this spot. The Holy Spirit is still moving there and throughout the world. In the third millennium of Christianity, may we receive the Holy Spirit in a lavish (Ti 3:6), unrationed way (Jn 3:34). Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit!
Prayer: Father, may I accept Your grace to be docile and thereby receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit.
(To help in praying for the coming of The Spirit, order our booklet, Praying for a New Pentecost.)
LET THE FIRE FALL
"The rejoicing in that town rose to fever pitch." Acts 8:8
As many of you know, the best food in the world is Mexican food. My favorite city in the USA is San Antonio, Texas. I love this city mostly because of its people but partly because of its food. These home-made flour tortillas are worth the trip. But I do want to issue one warning. There is a restaurant in Albuquerque, New Mexico which serves green chili soup. Taco Bell gringos, beware! This is the real thing! After eating that green chili in Albuquerque, I drank rivers of living water, that is, at least two pitchers of water. Now I understand Jesus' words: "I have come to light a fire on the earth" (Lk 12:49).
Prayer: Father, give me fire-tried faith (see 1 Pt 1:7).
"When they landed, they saw a charcoal fire there with a fish laid on it and some bread." John 21:9
The best fish I've ever tasted has not been on the coasts or near the gulf, but in Kansas. I went to a fish-fry outside of Topeka, Kansas that re-defined the meaning of fish-fry for me. These fish didn't come from the store but from the lake. I can still taste them. In another city in Kansas, Paola, I had one of my greatest breakfasts of all-time. The pastor, Father Earl, made us a breakfast of catfish (he caught them himself), okra, and home-made bread. Talk about eating! In my book, the rectory in Paola, Kansas is a 5-star restaurant!
Prayer: Father, thank You for fish, food, and Christian hospitality.
THAT'S WHAT FRIENDS ARE FOR
"Ice and snow, bless the Lord; praise and exalt Him above all forever." Daniel 3:70
Once a friend of mine gave me a one-way ticket to fly out of the country to Toronto, Canada and, as it happened, into a blizzard. My friend said it was "unintentional". But was the one-way ticket unintentional or my survival? Nevertheless, ever since then I check my plane tickets more closely.
As we landed in Toronto in a blizzard I presumed they had cleared the runway in Toronto. However, after we landed, I noticed they didn't. This made me think, pray, and thank. Then I got on a bus and spent the next several hours participating in the gridlock of Toronto's traffic due to the blizzard.
Later, I got off at the wrong place, and the driver wouldn't let me back on the bus. So then I had to take a train and next the subway. Only some Japanese kids and a Jamaican woman would talk to me when I asked directions. God bless my Toronto friends.
Prayer: Jesus, call me Your "friend" (Jn 15:15).
THE FRIENDLY SKIES
"Your kindness towers to the heavens, and Your faithfulness to the skies." Psalm 57:11
When I fly somewhere to preach the gospel, I sometimes have opportunities to evangelize on the plane. I wear a cross around my neck, and this seems to let people know they can talk to me about the Lord. At an altitude of 30,000 feet, flying over the USA, I've seen the Lord give a flight attendant and some passengers His gifts of salvation, repentance, forgiveness for sin, and forgiveness of enemies. The psalmist proclaimed: "If I go up to the heavens, you are there" (Ps 139:8).
Prayer: (The following prayer I carry in my pocket. I share it on airplanes, in churches, on the street. You are free to make copies of this prayer for your own use.)
"Lord Jesus, I believe You died for me and that You are alive and listening to me now. I repent of my sins and ask Your forgiveness. Come and take control of my life. From this moment on, I decide to live for You and no longer for myself, to do Your will and not mine. Make me the kind of person You want me to be. Show me the way to the Father. Now fill me with Your Holy Spirit, Who will teach me how to live for You and tell the world You are my Savior and Lord. I love You, Father, Son and Holy Spirit."
CONVERTING THE PASTOR
"When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him home and explained to him God's new way in greater detail." Acts 18:26
I have been blessed to see many pastors and priests give their lives to the Lord. One evening in Evansville, Indiana I witnessed several pastors from various denominations come forward to give their lives to Christ. Most of them had become luke-warm (Rv 3:16) and had fallen away from their first love (Rv 2:4). They came forward in repentance and some even had tears in their eyes. Thank You, Jesus!
The pastors and priests I've seen transformed have been opened to the Lord primarily by faithful members of their churches. Love your priests, pray for them, forgive them, share supper with them, help them in their work, and be open about your faith. The Lord may use you to open your pastor to the Spirit.
Prayer: Father, give me Jesus' heart for His priests.
"With all your soul, fear God, revere His priests." Sirach 7:29
As I preach the gospel throughout the country, I meet many priests. Being a priest myself, I may be somewhat prejudiced, but I find most priests to be dedicated men of God who love the Lord and His people. I only wish priests would be more open to the Holy Spirit. This would save them from burn-out, as they face prodigious tasks.
In addition to being dedicated, some priests are eccentric. An 85-year-old Polish Monsignor in Texas has a 35-year-old car with over 500,000 miles on it. He also is a national champion in growing pecans. He continues as the pastor and only priest at his parish.
A pastor in Michigan is an artist. The walls of the rectory are decorated with pictures of nude women. These aren't pornographic but in the style of the classical art. But I've never seen a rectory like that one.
A 300 pound deacon in Illinois greeted me for the first time by picking me up off the floor and hugging me like his teddy-bear. He finally let me down, and as breath returned to my body, he said: "Praise the Lord!"
I met a priest who chewed tobacco in the rectory. There were cans of tobacco juice in various corners of the rectory. I was not amused.
Prayer: Father, may priests love You with all their hearts, all their souls, all their minds, and all their strength (see Lk 10:27).
WE ARE ONE IN THE SPIRIT
"There does not exist among you Jew or Greek, slave or freeman, male or female. All are one in Christ Jesus." Galatians 3:28
I was giving a parish mission at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Atlanta, Georgia. This church is right across the street from Martin Luther King, Jr.'s burial site. Our Lady of Lourdes is one block from King's birthplace and his church, Ebenezer Baptist. During the mission, we sang the eucharistic acclamation to the melody of the song, "We Shall Overcome". I started to cry as I realized how precious a gift our black brothers and sisters are to the Church.
I've had similar experiences in relation to Hispanics, who will in the not too distant future be the majority of the Catholic Church in the USA. I also thank God for my Filipino, Vietnamese, and Korean bothers and sisters. These people are Catholic and Christian in a most profound way. I thank the Lord for each member of His body.
Prayer: Father, may I obey You by making disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19).
NEW KIDS ON THE ROCK
"But the Lord answered me, Say not "I am too young." To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak." Jeremiah 1:7
The Lord has given me the privilege to share the gospel with people of all ages. I especially appreciate the dramatic work of the Lord with our young people. I remember a rally of Filipino, Hispanic, and Anglo young people outside Chicago. After the rock band and the rappers finished, I was asked to preach the gospel. I didn't feel as if I fitted in. However, I just lifted up Jesus. As He promised, He drew hundreds of these young people to Himself (see Jn 12:32).
After a terrible ice storm in South Dakota, I had the opportunity to preach the gospel for twenty minutes to the young people in the parish religious education program. These kids were ushered into the gym where they seemed to be paralyzed by peer pressure. The boys were staring at the girls and vice versa. The kids looked "cooler" than the ice storm. I told the kids to deny themselves, take up the cross daily and follow Jesus (Lk 9:23). By grace and only by grace, they did! The teachers of these kids were flabbergasted. Amazing grace!
I once presented the gospel to a room of teenagers in Pennsylvania. Not one kid accepted Jesus. I didn't take it personally, but I told Jesus He had a problem. Three days later I preached the gospel to another group of teenagers in the same city. This group was very rowdy. At least the first group had the courtesy not to be disruptive. But amazingly almost every one of those rowdy teenagers gave their lives to Christ.
I preached Jesus to a group of teens in Oklahoma. They stared at me as if they were dead, or I was from outer space, or both. But Jesus' love broke through and all gave their lives to Jesus.
Prayer: Father, may we respect and love young people enough to boldly and clearly present Jesus and His gospel to them.
"Then we, the living, the survivors, will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air." 1 Thessalonians 4:17
I sometimes fly to the places in which I preach when they are too far to drive. I prefer flying to driving because it's safer. For example, I slid off a wet country road in Indiana late one night. I got a scar on my finger to prove it, but other than that there was no damage. Incidentally, that was the day on which Archbishop Pilarczyk officially accepted Presentation Ministries as an association of the laity under canon law. Maybe the devil was venting his frustrations when he helped us off the road, but the Lord protected us.
Another time I almost drove a car into a four-foot deep pit in Juarez, Mexico. On another occasion, our luggage slipped off the luggage rack on the top of our car. Thank God no one was behind us. We eventually retrieved our luggage and continued on our merry way. Thank God we pray the rosary when we travel.
In my experience, cars are more scary than planes. However, once my plane clipped the wing of another plane as it began to move away from the terminal. The planes were moving about 2 m.p.h. so there was no damage except to the passengers' confidence. If planes hit at 2 m.p.h. what will happen when they increase speeds?
In the so-called "friendly skies" above Austin, Texas and Albuquerque, New Mexico, my ears and sinuses started a civil war against the rest of my body as my plane changed altitudes. The worst problem I ever had on a plane was when my stomach seemed to drop out of the bottom of me as we took off from Marquette, Michigan. My stomach may still be floating in Lake Superior for all I know. But flying is still safer than driving, and nothing is safe but for the Lord.
Prayer: Father, thank You for saving my life so many times.
"O LORD, MY STRENGTH" (Ps 18:2)
"For rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength." Nehemiah 8:10
I left Cincinnati at 5:00 a.m. to do a day of renewal in Evansville, Indiana. After the day, I flew out of Evansville to go to Orlando, Florida with a stop-over in Memphis, Tennessee. My destination was about a 1-1/2 hour drive from Orlando. The parishioner who met me at the airport had business accounts in various parts of the world, so he was very familiar with going home from the airport. However, he got very lost going home. This was very embarrassing for him. How could he get lost after travelling this route for years! We finally got to the church about 1:00 a.m. I had five Masses to preach the next morning before beginning the parish mission that night. I asked God for supernatural strength. He gave it to me. After three or four hours sleep, I got up and preached five Masses. I'll never forget the nap I took that afternoon. It was wonderful! In Jesus, we have strength for everything (Phil 4:13).
Prayer: Father, increase in me the spiritual gift of strength (see Is 11:2).
"All you beasts, wild and tame, bless the Lord; praise and exalt Him above all forever." Daniel 3:81
I love animals. I believe every animal should be free and not locked up in a house. Many people don't agree with me. Therefore, in rectories and homes throughout the country, I've shared quarters with cats and dogs. The cats didn't bother me, although they acted as if they were God, as cats normally do. The dogs were usually a lot nicer, with a few exceptions. I'll never forget the dogs in a rectory in New Mexico. They definitely proved to me that we have guardian angels. Only an angel of God could have helped me survive such hostile animals. I also remember an old crippled dog in Michigan who seemed to perversely enjoy growling at me. I also shared quarters with some nasty mosquitoes in Florida. They took me out for lunch their lunch. When one of these little critters was smashed, I saw an amazingly large spurt of my blood come out of him. I saw an 8-foot alligator in East Texas. But he never got into the rectory only because he couldn't fit. Also, I was giving a retreat to an order of nuns in the Texas panhandle. I looked out the window and saw two nuns in full habits running through the desert, one with a shovel and other with a hoe. They were killing a rattlesnake. I hope they got them all.
Prayer: Father, thank You for creating billions of animals.
"Now the night was cold." John 18:18
When you preach and teach in many different churches, you sleep in many different beds soft and hard beds, clean and dirty beds, broken and good beds, bed-beds and water-beds. The Lord has given me the grace to sleep on almost any bed in any circumstance, even on water-beds. I don't get sea-sick on a water-bed as most normal people do. However, one thing I learned is that a water-bed must be heated, or it's like sleeping on an igloo. In a certain city in Florida, I stayed at someone's house who was on vacation. Unhappily, the heater element to the water bed had been turned off while they were away, and I did not know how to turn it back on. So I slept for a little while on this rolling ice-cube called a water-bed. After a few minutes, I got up and slept on the floor. With this experience indelibly etched in my memory, you can understand my apprehension when I encountered another water-bed years later in Roscoe, Illinois. Once again there was no one there to show me how to turn it on. I touched the water-bed and felt heat. I enjoyed sleeping on this bed. I didn't get sea-sick or cold. Remember the wise man's proverb: "If God meant people to sleep on water, He would have given them webbed feet." Think about it.
Prayer: Jesus, may I not be cold or lukewarm, but hot in my love for you (see Rev 3:16).
LOCKED IN THE BATHROOM
"Before faith came we were under the constraint of the law, locked in until the faith that was coming should be revealed." Galatians 3:23
For anyone who doesn't know, Beaver Falls, Pennsylvanian is the birthplace of Joe Namath, the former NFL quarterback. In Beaver Falls, I encountered one of the most unusual beginnings to a parish mission.
A few minutes before the opening Mass, I was visiting with the couple who had helped organize the mission. I went to the bathroom and locked the door. When I was ready to leave, I found the lock broken, so I couldn't get out. I yelled a couple of times, but no one heard me since the bathroom was away from the main part of the house. I was trapped, Mass was to begin shortly, and no one seemed to have sent out a search-party for me.
I prayed and spotted a very little window above my head. I decided to give it a try, and amazingly I got out through the window. My back was strained as I had to jump from the window onto the porch. I was one of the first to be healed at the parish mission. The Lord "makes all things work together for the good of those who love Him" (Rm 8:28).
Prayer: Father, by faith in Jesus, may I walk through the open door into heaven (see Rv 4:1).
"If they had been thinking back to the place from which they had come, they would have had the opportunity of returning there. But they were searching for a better, a heavenly home." Hebrews 11:15-16
As I go throughout the USA and Canada preaching and teaching, I try to avoid staying in hotels and motels. These places reek of secular humanism with its lust and greed. Consequently, I usually stay at the parish rectory. Some of these are very holy places, but others are very trying. Sometimes I'll stay at the homes of parishioners. This is really a gamble. I've stayed with people who were living saints, while on other occasions I had a preview of purgatory. I've stayed in palaces and in some absolutely filthy places.
One time the teenage daughter of the family hosting me gave up her room for me. The room was filled with countless stuffed animals. There was even a ten-foot long stuffed snake "gracing" the canopy of the bed. I felt I was sleeping in Noah's Ark.
I also stayed at a retirement home for priests. Some of these priests were healthy enough to function normally, but others were senile. Some were so disturbed they would scream. I have often seen this when I had visited people in nursing homes. But there's a big difference between visiting a nursing home and living in one for a few days. This experience helped me appreciate the suffering of the elderly and our own mortality. Lord, have mercy!
Prayer: Father, take me home to heaven as soon as possible.
CLOSETS, COLD SHOWERS, NO SHOWERS, AND CATS
"Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, Who inspires and perfects our faith." Hebrews 12:2
I've stayed at some very luxurious rectories and also at very simple quarters. Among the more simple accommodations was an 8 X 4 ft. nook in a rectory in Texas. Sleeping in this nook was like sleeping in a closet and it seemed not to have been cleaned for a very long time.
Moreover, there was no heat in the nook. This wouldn't be a problem most of the time, for the temperatures are usually hot in south Texas. However, when I arrived, the temperature dropped 40 degrees to 35° F. This was one of the coldest days of the year. This turned my dirty closet-room into a refrigerator. I had a hard time sleeping, even with a couple of blankets.
Furthermore, there were no showers available to me. I did have access to a bathroom where I could throw a little water on myself. After a couple days, I was looking forward to leaving and getting a shower.
At the next city on this preaching tour, I stayed at the home of one of the families in the parish. When I want to the bathroom, I discovered the cat litter box right next the shower. There was also some cat manure on the floor. I guess he missed the litter box. I took my shower hesitantly and prayed to return home.
Prayer: Father, I will proclaim the Gospel "whether convenient or inconvenient" (2 Tm 4:2).
HOME, SWEET HOME
"They showed that they were seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking back to the place from which they had come, they would have had the opportunity of returning there. But they were searching for a better, a heavenly home." Hebrews 11:14-16
The worst plane ride I have ever had was without question a ride on a private plane meant to fly from Birmingham, Alabama to Cincinnati, Ohio with a short detour to Baton Rouge, Louisianna. In Birmingham, Alabama, I led a group in praying Philippians 3:10 from the Bible. We prayed to share in Christ's sufferings. I'm not sure whether or not this horrendous plane trip was the answer to my prayers.
We could not go directly from Baton Rouge home to Cincinnati, because of ice on the runway in Cincinnati. So we landed at Nashville instead and sat there for half the night. Next, we found that Louisville's airport was open, so we flew and landed there. Still Cincinnati's airport was iced in. Finally, I rented a car and drove to Cincinnati. It was good to be home.
Prayer: Father, may I go home to heaven as soon as possible.
"All that matters is that in any and every way...Christ is being proclaimed." Philippians 1:18
In whatever part of the country I am preaching I still can share the gospel with people anywhere in the world through the telephone. Someone has given Presentation Ministries the gift of a telephone voice mailbox. Every day, via the telephone, I teach on the eucharistic readings. In this way, I have preached the gospel at phone booths, in airports, restaurants, gas stations, and rest areas throughout the country. I have been in more phone booths than Clark Kent. Outdoor phones in winter present the most difficult challenge to teaching God's word on the phone. Sometimes it seems that my fingers are about to freeze to the phone.
When I teach at a public phone, I occasionally have a "captive congregation" who is "stuck" listening while waiting to use the phone. For example, I was preaching on the phone in a Chinese restaurant at Bradenton, Florida. The Chinese manager of the restaurant stood three feet in front of me and got an earful. He heard that there is no other name in the whole world by which we can be saved than the name of Jesus (see Acts 4:12).
Prayer: Father, may I preach the gospel whether convenient or inconvenient (see 2 Tm 4:2).
P.S. To get in on the fun and on the phone, the number to call 24 hours a day is: (859) 291-7000. Pray about starting a Bible Telephone line in your city.
"Yes, we know that all creation groans and is in agony even until now. Not only that, but we ourselves, although we have the Spirit as first fruits, groan inwardly while we await the redemption of our bodies." Romans 8:22-23
In preaching God's word, we often see God punctuate the preaching with lightning, thunder, ice, snow, rain, droughts, hail, floods, etc. I remember ice storms in Minnesota, South Dakota, and Iowa; a blizzard in Saskatchewan; droughts in Texas and Ohio; and floods in Kentucky and Belize. For example, in Belize it rained for several days, the roads turned to mud, and it was difficult for the people to come to the services. I was transported in a car to the churches hosting the services. It was a very exciting ride, to say the least. The ambience of the occasion was added to by the fact that the car in which I was riding had a few inches of water on the floor. Every time we braked, the tide came into the front of the car and gave me a repeated footwashing. I literally had "cold feet" (and wet feet) when preaching.
As uncomfortable as it was to drive in a waterlogged car, I prefer this to traveling by boat. I was once transported to an island in the Caribbean in an open motor boat. It was raining. There were no life jackets; the sea was rough; and I couldn't swim. When we got to the island, I was shown a twelve-foot shark that had been caught that day. The people on the island said he wouldn't have bitten any people, but I didn't mind seeing him dead.
Prayer: Father, thank You for good and bad weather. Thank You for protecting Your children, "for You have furnished even in the sea a road, and through the waves a steady path, showing that You can save from any danger, so that even one without skill may embark" (Wis 14:3-4).
COURAGE IN DISCOURAGEMENT
"We should not absent ourselves from the assembly, as some do, but encourage one another; and this all the more because you see that the Day draws near." Hebrews 10:25
One of the major weapons of the evil one is discouragement. He piles discouragement on discouragement to soften us up and manipulate us to quit proclaiming God's truth in its fullness. For example, a particular ministry which had invited me to preach and teach a seminar botched up my plane reservations. This resulted in my flying into an airport two hours away from the location of their ministry. In addition to that, I had to have a long layover at Chicago's O'Hare Airport. Of course, the flight out of O'Hare was delayed because of bad weather. I walked into the seminar exhausted and discouraged.
Things got worse as the seminar was poorly organized and poorly attended. I thanked God when it was over. Then the two hour trip to the airport. The plane was late getting to O'Hare. I had only fifteen minutes to catch my connecting flight in another terminal. I ran close to a mile and got to the gate with one minute to spare. However, I wouldn't have had to sprint because the plane's departure was delayed again due to bad weather. We took off an hour late. Then we had to circle the airport in Cincinnati for forty-five minutes because of more bad weather. Then I waited in line for an hour to put in my claim for lost baggage.
The next day I received the news that a principal leader in Presentation Ministries was going to move and had no one to replace him. Then a network of radio stations threatened to drop our radio program if we persisted in proclaiming the gospel in a practical and prophetic way. It was no accident that all these inconveniences and discouragements happened in rapid-fire succession. The good news is that we did not give in to discouragement. We are still proclaiming the gospel of Jesus.
Prayer: Father, by Your grace may discouragement not slow me down but make me more determined to live for You alone.
"When I arrived in Macedonia I was restless and exhausted." 2 Corinthians 7:5
I usually arrive at the city where I will preach or teach God's word shortly before the opening Mass or service. Consequently, I am often exhausted from traveling, but I have learned from experience that I would have been exhausted from something else even if I had arrived early. Therefore, I come at the last minute. I believe the Lord puts me in situations where I am more conscious of depending on Him for example, when I am so exhausted that I have little inclination to rely on myself.
Once I was proclaiming God's word in Belize, Central America. Although I'm not much of a tourist, my hostess arranged for me to go to the Mayan Indian ruins. It had been raining for five days. So getting to the ruins on mud roads was treacherous, slow, and exhausting. However, I did appreciate seeing the ruins, although we were drenched by the rain. (But what do you expect in a rain forest!) Although the man driving us through the mud in his four-wheel drive vehicle was a Belizean, he got lost on the way home. We drove through many more miles of mud. Finally we returned just in time for the service. I was wet and exhausted from riding a bucking bronco over miles of mud and thousands of potholes. However, the Lord wonderfully anointed the evening Mass and service and led many people to Himself. Praise Jesus, our Strength!
Prayer: Father, I offer my fatigue as redemptive suffering for the conversion of sinners and the building up of the Church (see Col 1:24).
"They will be able to drink deadly poison without harm, and the sick upon whom they lay their hands will recover." Mark 16:18
In proclaiming God's word throughout the country, I have lived briefly in hundreds of rectories. Most rectories are embarrassingly affluent. Even the few poor rectories are usually neat and clear. But there are exceptions. I remember entering one rectory where much of the hallway was lined with pecans. The pastor was drying his pecans in order to enter them in a national pecan contest. Although I wasn't used to a floor of pecans, I didn't mind it. On another occasion, I entered a rectory filled with junk. The entrance was clutter plus. My room was stacked with boxes, baskets, and miscellaneous trash. I tried to push everything into the closet but that had its share of junk. However, I did clear the room somewhat. When I eventually made it to the refrigerator, I found a similar situation. The pastor had the refrigerator bulging with antique food. I closed the door and refrained from exploring the various glowing colors of the food, in case I would find out more than I wanted to know. Later, one of the parishioners said that he had also opened the rectory's refrigerator. He said it reminded him of a sign he saw on a truck: "toxic waste."
Prayer: Holy Spirit, You are the God of peace, not confusion (1 Cor 14:33). Have mercy on us.
"In the midst of severe trial their overflowing joy and deep poverty have produced an abundant generosity. According to their means indeed I can testify even beyond their means and voluntarily, they begged us insistently for the favor of sharing in this service to members of the church." 2 Corinthians 8:2-4
As I share God's word throughout the USA and Canada, I receive much more than I could ever give. The Lord promised: "In the measure you give you shall receive, and more besides" (Mk 4:24). Many of you have been so generous in blessing me spiritually and materially. You have given from your hearts and even given all that you "had to live on" (Lk 21:4).
One of the most touching gifts I have ever received came from a family whom I had never met personally. In the midst of preaching a mini-mission in a small, rural Texas town, I was praying early in the morning at the parish church. I was surprised to see an Hispanic teenage girl enter the side door of the church. She did not come into the main part of the church but only left something wrapped in a plastic bag at the door. She quickly looked at me across the church, simply said "for you," and left. I walked over to the side door of the church and opened the plastic bag. Wrapped in paper towels were two sweet potatoes. I got the impression that this gift came from the poorest of the poor from a family that had almost nothing materially. I will remember this gift forever.
Prayer: Father, free me to give sacrificially not only from my surplus but from my need (see Lk 21:4).
THE LAST WORDS
"More than this we need not add; let the last word be, He is all in all! Let us praise Him the more, since we cannot fathom Him, for greater is He than all His works." Sirach 43:28-29
After preaching and teaching the gospel of Jesus for several years throughout the USA and Canada, I would simply say:
- "The harvest is good but laborers are scarce" (Mt 9:37).
- "We, the Church, exist to evangelize" (On Evangelization, Pope Paul VI, 14).
- "Repent! The kingdom of God is at hand" (Mk 1:15, our transl).
- Love the Church as Christ loved her (Eph 5:25).
- If you're not already married or definitely called to be a lay single person, seriously consider being a priest, brother or sister.
- The Lord is merciful, and His grace is always sufficient (2 Cor 12:9).
- Jesus said: "I tell you all this that in me you may find peace. You will suffer in the world. But take courage! I have overcome the world" (Jn 16:33).
Prayer: Father, may I love for You totally and forever. Amen.