St. Mary of Pine Bluff’s Amazing Faith Journey

St. Mary of Pine Bluff’s Amazing Faith Journey

The Challenge of Remaining True to the Gospel Today

I was reflecting, recently, just how “intense” the spiritual battles have been, especially the years since 2012. Some believe 2012 – 2017 were the five last years of the 100-year (1917-2017) reign of Satan. The Latin phrase, motus in fine velocior, is commonly used to indicate the faster passing of the time at the end of an historical period. I’ve heard it said that it means, “Things accelerate toward the end.” Things were very escalated, and people were “choosing sides.” But remember, we were choosing only to “stay home” … to remain with Christ and His Church. Others were choosing to follow the way of the world, and this new extremely radical secular dogma.

Since 2017, one can’t help but believe that Satan and his new radical secular dogma were being threatened and, it seems, everything was being thrown at us to censor, cancel and denigrate anyone who remained true to the Gospel. Truly a “Tyranny of Terror.” This has been our “stormy” journey. The level of escalation of evil has been truly historic. Yes, how challenging it has become to resist the temptation to “go along to get along” and, instead, to remain strong in faith and true to the Gospel.

I’m thinking, now, about the Gospel reading (Mark 6:1-16) which sees Jesus is rejected by his own home town. And, how those who rejected Jesus would “look to find anything they could” to accuse him. The primary teaching here is that rejection of the truth does not warrant remaining silent or compromising (watering down) the truths of our faith. I, along with most strong Christians, have friends and family who reject us because of our dedication to “all” of what Sacred Scripture and our Church teaches, as they have fallen prey to the intoxication of joining ranks with those who adhere to the new radical secular dogma.

This was Bishop Robert Barron’s reflection on this Gospel (Mark 6:1-16) …

Friends, today’s Gospel develops a theme that is uncomfortable. It tells how the people of Nazareth rejected Jesus. Authentically religious people, authentically spiritual people, will almost always be opposed. The logic behind this is simple and unanswerable: we live in a world gone wrong, a world turned upside down; therefore, when someone comes speaking the truth to us, we will think that they are crazy and dangerous.

 

Think for just a moment what would happen to you if you consistently and publicly spoke the word of God to our culture. If you spoke out against abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, human trafficking, rampant materialism, and ideological secularism, what would happen to you? If you presented, in a full-throated way, the full range of Catholic social and moral and spiritual teaching, what would they do to you? Today’s Gospel offers a clue.

St. Mary of Pine Bluff realized early on that the time was “NOW” to work at becoming strong and united. “We maintain the peace through our strength, weakness only invites aggression.” – Ronald Reagan.

The following is recap of the heroic efforts St. Mary’s parishioners have made, over our years together, to “be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power” (Eph. 6:10) as we faced these challenging times …

 

Challenge Accepted

2012The intrusions on religious freedom began to become evident in Obamacare, which is the real goal of government control of anything.

Hobby Lobby stood its ground and dropped its coverage which allowed the abortafacient drugs, Plan-B and Ella.

As the lawsuit garnered national attention, and other threats to religious liberty became more real, the USCCB called for a “Fortnight for Freedom” in 2012, June 26-July 4. But, we actually took it a step further and decided to gather every Thursday night that Summer and pray 15 decades of the rosary on the steps of our State Capitol. We averaged 200 people every Thursday night for these “Capitol Rosary Rallies” (these continued for the next two Summers).

We were on the verge of Obama’s “nothing to lose” second term. We would end up punch drunk by the end of this term, having every horror unto God forced upon us. Knowing we were facing an historic level of spiritual warfare – I knew “something was coming” – I was inspired to write on the very best practices for growing strong in the Lord and living out our Catholic faith. On June 9, 2012, my book was published, “Church Militant Field Manual: Special Forces Training in the Life of Christ.

With the support, and even encouragement, of Bishop Morlino, this was the year we moved, dauntless, into every effort to “purify the Novus Ordo” beginning with offering all Masses ad orientem. Soon after this, we restored the Communion rails, after offering clear teaching on receiving Communion on the tongue while kneeling.

We doubled-down on strongly encouraging the Sacrament of Confession, and the state of grace. We ceased offering “Communal Penance” services, which we discovered had actually “trained” Catholics to utilize the Sacrament only once or twice a year and, instead, I built a 24/7 Confessional in my rectory foyer that allows people to recover their state of grace at any time of any day. Bishop Morlino came over to see it, right after I completed it. He stood in my foyer howling in laughter … for pure joy. I’ll never forget that day.

 

2013Hollywood idolizes satanism in Super Bowl half time shows, award events, holiday parades, etc.

We repeated our Thursday night “Capitol Rosary Rallies” this Summer. Thousands of people journeyed together in the 33 day preparation for Marian Consecration. We did several of these. I designed and produced the WWI inspired “Combat Rosary,” which was, primarily, motivated by my desire to inspire men to recover the use of this powerful devotion.

Satan appears emboldened and moving unabated, as Hollywood idolizes satanism in Super Bowl half time shows, award events, holiday parades, etc. Satanism and witchcraft explodes in popularity across the nation, especially among the youth. Exorcists would become overwhelmed with an explosion of calls for expelling demons.

Just as evil was breaking out everywhere, a reawakening of Marian Consecration erupts like a volcano across the nation. On June 5, 2013, Fr. Michael Gaitley published his book, 33 Days to Morning Glory. Hundreds of thousands of people across the nation journeyed together in the 33 day preparation for Marian Consecration.

I asked Fr. Gaitley to come to our diocese. I was told that the turnout for his talk was the largest single gathering at the diocese in history. People knew the time had come for what Fr. Gaitley was promoting.

Fr. Gaitley’s talk was riveting, as he warned that “something is coming” …

“While St. Maximilian Kolbe’s push for consecration was the largest,” according to Father Michael Gaitley, “the one going on right now is the second-largest ever, and the largest since St. Maximilian Kolbe’s.” Father Gaitley went on to say “now is the perfect time” to consecrate ourselves to Jesus through Mary. He said the “culture of death is strangling our country right now.” He added that Our Lady is trying to “bring Christ back there,” saying she comes when things look hopeless. There’s a “historical reason” for the new push to consecration. Fr. Gaitley said. “there’s something happening, something moving, something ahead,” while no one knows specifically what is coming. “Our Lady wants to be embracing all of us,” he added.

Romancatholicman.com – my teaching website – was launched (I had, for many years, teaching websites before this one, but Roman Catholic Man really took off).

 

2014Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby. This was the year we knew a Supreme Court decision was pending that could redefine marriage for the first time in civilization.

On October 4, the Bishops Synod on the Family is convened. With the appointment of many liberal bishops, there is great trepidation among many. In the lead up to the synod, Cardinal Burke asks the world to pray the Chaplet of the Holy Face.

This was the year we knew a Supreme Court decision was pending that could redefine marriage for the first time in civilization.

Beyond promoting the Chaplet of the Holy Face, this was also the year we strongly encouraged a restoration of the enrollment in the Brown Scapular as a way to be covered and protected under the mantle of Mary.

 

2015Supreme Court redefines marriage for the first time in civilization. Terrorist attacks in America escalate.

We were told we were bad people if we expressed concern that men are allowed to go into little girl’s bathrooms. Children were told they could “choose” their gender. The primaries begin for President of the United States, and they were brutal. We launched the “Ladies of Divine Mercy.”

Holy League is launched: Inspired by an apostolate we launched in 2007 – the Knights of Divine Mercy – on March 7, we launched the “Holy League“ which called men to gather once a month for an evening of Adoration, Confession, Rosary, Inspiring Talk, and a Social. Cardinal Burke happily agreed to be the Spiritual Head of the Holy League, as he stated, “This is exactly what is needed at this time in history.”

On October 4, the final (part two) – very contentious – Bishops Synod on the Family is convened. It was this synod, along with the rise of evil throughout the world, that compelled me to launch, through social media, the very first worldwide 54-Day Rosary Novena. I built this into a 54-Day Basic Training in Holiness book. The daily reflections are this basic training in holiness. Drawing from the truths found in the Holy Scriptures, the saints, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the first 27 days focus upon the qualities of excellence toward which we are all called to strive. The second 27 days contain excerpts from the Church Militant Field Manual: Special Forces Training for the Life in Christ.

 

2016We move into the “General Election” for President in, what most say, was the most contentious election in the history of the United States.

On May 13 – exactly one year, to the day, prior to the 100th anniversary of Fatima – President Obama decreed that all American schools must make all bathrooms transgender or face lawsuits and potentially lose federal funding. That’s right, grown men should be allowed to share a bathroom with little girls.

Also, in 2016, we move into the “General Election” for President in, what most say, was the most contentious election in the history of the United States. Much of the left’s corruption and collusion is exposed. On November 8, Donald Trump astonishes the nation by defying the vast majority of polls, and wins the election.

On August 15, Novena for Our Nation is launched. Nearly 40,000 people from around the United States participate in the Novena for Our Nation from August 15 (Feast of the Assumption) – October 7 (Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary).

 

Be Strong in the Lord to Face Today’s Challenges

Throughout my days as the spiritual father of this amazing family of faith, we have worked diligently to lead people to “Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power” (Ephesians 6:10), primarily as we worked very hard on our own spiritual lives.

Our journey together began as a strip club was opened across the street just as our first Lent together was about to begin. We began our journey by “fighting,” but fighting with the supernatural weapons God gave us. You can read about this “fight” HERE.

From that point on, this is how our journey played out …

2007 – 2008

  • Launched Knights of Divine Mercy. First Friday Evenings with Father Rick – Adoration, Confession, Talk on Faith, Social with Father
  • Articles (1-5 per week) on faith by Father Rick on his teaching website
  • St. Mary’s becomes center for Holy Family Homeschoolers
  • Dead Theologians Society for teens
  • Basic Catholic Catechism Course – October 16, 2007 through June 17, 2008
  • Lord Teach Me to Pray
  • Parish Mission “Conversion of Heart, Healing of the Past, Holiness of Life” by Fr. Christopher Crotty of the Fathers of Mercy – Feb. 9 – 14, 2008
  • Life in the Spirit Seminar
  • For Christmas, all parishioners received Scott Hahn’s book, “Rome Sweet Home.”

 

2008 – 2009

  • First Friday Evenings with Father Rick – Adoration, Confession, Talk on Faith, Social with Father
  • Articles (1-5 per week) on faith by Father Rick on his teaching website.
  • Dead Theologians Society for teens
  • Build Your Binder  – Weekly handouts on the faith in the bulletin
  • Monastic Habits
  • Basic Catholic Catechism Course
  • Advanced Catholic Catechism Course
  • Silent Night: Advent Evenings of Presence and Prayer – December 12, 2008
  • Paul Contending for the Faith by Steve Ray – January 25 – February 15, 2009
  • Walk to Jerusalem – Lent 2009
  • Silent Nights: Lenten Evenings of Presence and Prayer
  • March 12, 2010 Walk with Jesus In the Holy Land by Marie Lins
  • March 19, 2010 an Appalachian Walk for Life by Mark Kimble

2009 – 2010

  • First Friday Evenings with Father Rick – Adoration, Confession, Talk on Faith, Social with Father
  • Articles (1-5 per week) on faith by Father Rick on his teaching website.
  • Dead Theologians Society for teens
  • Build Your Binder – Year 2 – Weekly handouts on the faith in the bulletin
  • UW Clinics Stations and Rosary Rallies
  • Lord Teach Me to Pray
  • Apostolic Fathers: Handing on the Faith –  Nov. 8 – December 11, 2009
  • Silent Night Holy Night Advent Evenings  – December 1 and Dec. 8, 2009
  • ENDOW Letter to Women, Jan. 24 6:30 – 8:30pm
  • 2010 Silent Nights: Lenten Evenings of Presence and Prayer
    • March 13 – (St. John of the Cross)
    • March 20 – (Therese of Liseux)
    • March 27 – (St. Francis de Sales)
    • April 3 – (St. Teresa of Avila)

2010 – 2011

  • First Friday Evenings with Father Rick – Adoration, Confession, Talk on Faith, Social with Father
  • Articles (1-5 per week) on faith by Father Rick on his teaching website.
  • Dead Theologians Society for teens
  • Started a Men’s Schola
  • Dedication of the new “Miracle of Life Rosary Garden” (Cemetery for miscarried babies)
  • EPIC: A Journey Through Church History
  • Mary: The Mother of God 4-week study
  • Untold Blessing: Three Paths to Holiness – November 7, 14, and 21, 2010
  • Theology of the Body Study
  • Fr. Isaac Relyea Parish Mission

2011 – 2012

  • First Friday Evenings with Father Rick – Adoration, Confession, Talk on Faith, Social with Father
  • Articles (1-5 per week) on faith by Father Rick on his teaching website.
  • Dead Theologians Society for teens
  • Wrote Book – Church Militant Field Manual – and two others in the series for Training in Holiness
  • Dedication of new “24/7 Confessional” in foyer of rectory
  • A Biblical Walk Through the Mass – Oct. 30 through November 27, 2011
  • Six Dates for Catholic Couples – Feb. 25, March 10 and March 31, 2012
  • May 5, 2012 Pilgrimage to Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, WI
  • May 19, 2012 Pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse
  • Pilgrimage to St. Anne’s Shrine and Our Lady of the Fields Chapel near Plain, WI
  • 24/7 Confessional

2012 – 2013

  • First Friday Evenings with Father Rick – Adoration, Confession, Talk on Faith, Social with Father
  • Articles (1-5 per week) on faith by Father Rick on his teaching website.
  • Dead Theologians Society for teens
  • Thursday Night State Capitol Religious Freedom Rosary Rallies
  • Designed “Combat Rosary” to encourage this devotion (especially men). Swiss Guard carries my Combat Rosary.
  • Six Dates for Catholic Couples – Oct. 20, Nov. 10 and Nov. 17
  • “God Strong: Church Militant Boot Camp” – January 7 – March 31, 2013
  • Light Weigh – January, 2012
  • Parent Café Faith Formation on Sunday mornings
  • 24/7 Confessional

2013 – 2014

  • First Friday Evenings with Father Rick – Adoration, Confession, Talk on Faith, Social with Father
  • Articles (1-5 per week) on faith by Father Rick on his teaching website.
  • Added the Traditional Latin Mass
  • Dead Theologians Society for teens
  • Launched Squires of Divine Mercy for young boys
  • Thursday Night State Capitol Religious Freedom Rosary Rallies
  • 33 Days to Morning Glory (Fall 2013) both parishes (Groups & Conf. Calls)
  • Sponsored Fr. Gaitley talk (record attendance at the BOC)
  • Consoling the Heart of Jesus (Spring 2014) both parishes
  • Science Tests Faith presentations at both parishes
  • Parent Café Faith Formation on Sunday mornings
  • 24/7 Confessional

2014 – 2015

  • First Friday Evenings with Father Rick – Adoration, Confession, Talk on Faith, Social with Father
  • Articles (1-5 per week) on faith by Father Rick on his teaching website.
  • Dead Theologians Society for teens
  • Squires of Divine Mercy for young boys
  • I wrote the Combat Prayer Book
  • Tuesday Evening Adoration and Confession
  • A Biblical Walk with the Blessed Mother (Fall 2014)
  • Priest, Prophet, King (Spring 2015)
  • Parent Café Faith Formation on Sunday mornings
  • For Christmas, all parishioners received a Basic Training in Holiness book.
  • 24/7 Confessional

2015 – 2016

  • First Friday Evenings with Father Rick – Adoration, Confession, Talk on Faith, Social with Father
  • Articles (1-5 per week) on faith by Father Rick on his teaching website.
  • Dead Theologians Society for teens
  • Squires of Divine Mercy for young boys
  • Launched Ladies of Divine Mercy
  • Launched the 54-Day Novena for Our Nation
  • Launched First Saturday all-day Eucharistic Adoration
  • Wednesday Evening Adoration and Confession
  • Unlocking the Mystery of the Bible
  • 54 Day Basic Training in Holiness for Lent
  • You Did It to Me: Putting Mercy into Action Study
  • First Saturday all-day Eucharistic Adoration
  • Parent Café Faith Formation on Sunday mornings
  • Evening of Reflection and Prayer with International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Fatima
  • Evening of Reflection and Prayer with Fr. Carlos Martins with 160+ First Class Relics
  • FORMED.ORG – All parishioners receive “The Best Catholic Content. All in One Place.”
  • 24/7 Confessional

2017 – 2019

  • First Friday Evenings with Father Rick – Adoration, Confession, Talk on Faith, Social with Father
  • Articles (1-5 per week) on faith by Father Rick on his teaching website.
  • Dead Theologians Society for teens
  • Squires of Divine Mercy for young boys
  • Ladies of Divine Mercy
  • Launched United States Grace Force (76,000+ enlisted)
  • Launched the Grace Force Podcast
  • Summer Family Picnics
  • 54-Day Basic Training in Holiness
  • First Saturday all-day Eucharistic Adoration
  • Parent Café Faith Formation on Sunday mornings
  • Sunday Vespers for Families
  • Pontifical High Mass with Cardinal Burke
  • Evening of Reflection with Bishop Morlino
  • Evening of Reflection with Fr. Chad Ripperger
  • Evening of Reflection with Fr. Donald Calloway
  • Evening of Reflection with Matt Walsh
  • Evening of Reflection with Doug Barry
  • Evenings of Reflection with Many Other Spiritual Giants
  • 24/7 Confessional

2020 – 2021 (Global Pandemic)

I am so proud of our faithful family here at St. Mary of Pine Bluff who, throughout the pandemic, sought every spiritual morsel they could collect, including church visits, frequent use of sacramentals and devotions … literally, anything they could find to remain strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. And, we actually increased our parish giving when we were restricted from attending … amazing! When attendance was allowed, we were filled to capacity. Many parishioners were in tears as they returned to receiving Jesus in the Holy Eucharist once again.

While this derailed many of our normal faith formation activities during this pandemic, we are all anxious to return to everything we can to grow in holiness.

I am especially proud of all those in our family of faith who joined so many souls for our May 13 – October 7, 2021 Heal Our Land Holy Hours every Thursday evening.  What an amazing time of passionate prayer together!

Also, all those who joined us in public places, including our State Capitol, to pray that God would Heal our Land.

Throughout all of these years we have opened the treasure chest of the Catholic faith and pulled out every bobble of prayers, devotions and sacramentals of our Catholic faith to learn about them and to pray with them. Together, we have discovered the rich treasury of our Catholic faith.

 

St. Mary of Pine Bluff – A Catholic Disneyland

While the above encapsulates the faith formation piece of our journey, we have also taken a wonderful journey together as we, under the encouragement of Pope Benedict XVI and Bishop Morlino, sought to “enrich” our worship, day by day. In Ben Yanke’s youthful exuberance (he was a teen when he wrote this), he lays out everything we have done, primarily with liturgy. Ben humorously calls it a “Catholic Disneyland.” You can read what Ben wrote HERE. You can read what I wrote HERE.

 

The Narrow Gate

Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

Two shifts were occurring during this time in which we moved to a more serious and intimate relationship with God. I saw very many young families finding St. Mary’s and, in essence, saying, “Where has this been? This is just what I have been looking for!” They were choosing to get as close as they could to God, and so I watched a great influx of many young families choosing to drive 10, 20, 30 miles or more to join us in this “serious” and intimate faith journey we were taking in our faith formation and in our worship. At the same time, there were those who rejected this “strong Catholicism,” as they had grown accustomed to a more watered-down version of Catholicism.

You could see that, for many, this “heated time in our culture” was a watershed moment, and they needed to go in one direction or the other … it was hard for them to remain in a “punch the clock, face in the crowd” kind of faith any longer as the rising forces of the radical secular liberal world were forcing them to choose. These young families were joyfully embracing devotions, seeking reverent Masses and drawing very close to the saints and Our Lady. Their level of enthusiasm for all of the beautiful treasures of our Catholic faith and their deeper relationship with God was joy-filled and contagious.

 

This was my recent homily on what we mean by the “Narrow Gate.”

 

Willing to Be Lions’ Lunch is Attractive

In conclusion, I just want to reiterate that, like any parish seeking this kind of “strong Catholicism,” there will always be those who will recoil, preferring the common parish model of a more modern, casual, entertaining, “don’t speak about the difficult stuff” kind of worship and spiritual path. So, our temptation is to compromise the truth and retreat into a faith without the cross; into an easy-going, lukewarm faith in order to placate those addicted to their own lukewarmness and “comfort zone” (“Safe Space,” as they say).

Our parishioners are very happy as they have accepted invitations, joined events, participated in some or all that has been offered and would be devastated to lose this rich and meaningful journey. The recent (past 50 years) pervasive strategy of being lukewarm in order to attract the lukewarm has been an abysmal failure in our Catholic Church. It is the primary reason many have left the faith and do not believe in the Real Presence.

Let’s never forget that Christianity exploded in number in the early days of the Church, not because lukewarm was somehow attractive, but because these joy-filled, “on fire” Christians were willing to be “lions’ lunch” before any thoughts of compromising the truths of their faith. It was their uncompromising love for God and their heroism in defense of the truth that was so attractive to onlookers.

May God continue to pour out His richest blessings on everyone in our amazing parish.

 

 

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