By Debbie Oglenski
The Catholic Weekly
HARBOR BEACH — To become holier today, according to Ralph Martin, we need to bring what we can to the table and let God do the rest.
The theologian talked about holiness and mission during “The Challenges of Being Catholic Today,” offered Saturday, Feb. 25, at Our Lady of Lake Huron Parish.
Martin, who also hosted the “The Choices We Face” on the Eternal Word Television Network, broke his talk into two sessions, “The Call to Holiness” and “The Call to Mission.”
In the first session Martin said we need to follow the examples of St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Catherine of Siena and St. Theresa of Lisieux. He said we all are called to holiness, not just tomorrow, or when the kids are grown, or after retirement but now. Since we have no idea how long we will live, the time is now to respond to that call.
The journey to holiness, Martin said, is spiritual trip totally dependent on the grace of God. Our own effort is necessary, but there are painful dimensions to transformation. Even so, there is no journey worth more in taking because we become more a blessing to others.
He said the call to holiness frees us from fear and moves us to happiness as we put God first. One way we can put God first, he said, is through prayer, reconciliation, reflection on the Word of God, etc. Busy laypeople, he added, should pray at least an hour a day to help them deal with the temptations that present themselves in the course of their daily lives. Giving in to temptation, he said, means giving in to sin. Even venial sins erode the soul just as mortal sins do. We want to cultivate a love relationship with God and if we sin, even in a small manner, it erodes the relationship. He said the surest way to defeat sin is to immediately identify it and reject it immediately. We shouldn’t shoot for purgatory, he said, but for heaven. We need to rest in God.
In his second session, Martin said as Catholic Christians we are ambassadors for Christ. Martin referred to the Vatican II document, “The Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People” and our mission is to be a Christian witness, to do works of mercy and charity, to restore and renew temporal good and to announce Christ by word to both unbelievers and those within the Church.
Martin said most Catholics are uncomfortable with the fourth principle, but the Church says we need to incorporate all four dimensions into our lives because baptized Catholics are leaving the Church. Martin said the most important reason to say “yes” to Jesus — the “deepest truth” — is that we are all created for union with God. Martin said many want to believe that the vast majority of people will go to Heaven, but he cited Matt. 7:13-14: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and road broad that leads to destruction and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.”
Martin emphasized the importance of detaching oneself from busyness, constant noise, news and music throughout the day. We need to ask ourselves how much media is useful to us? He said we also need to remember, “Be still and know I am God.” Solitude can have a positive presence in our lives.
Martin also read excerpts from his latest book, “The Fulfillment of All Desire,” during the afternoon session, quoting the saints. Martin said we will experience times of spiritual dryness and external difficulties but during those times we need to give into the work of prayer. He said to remember that “just showing up for prayer is a prayer.”
“Jesus has a fierce love of human beings,” Martin said. “He laid down His life for His enemies.” So, he added, never give up on anyone. Keep praying for direction and for those individuals.
Martin said it behooves Catholics to remember we are all temples of the Holy Spirit and “we are a walking tabernacle.”
Many of those who participated in the day purchased Martin’s latest book and his other books and CDs. One woman said he talked about points she hadn’t heard mentioned in years. Others asked when he would be returning to speak at Our Lady of Lake Huron and some simply said it was a great way to spend a Saturday.