What is missing from evangelization efforts?
(Editor’s note: The retreat on Dec. 9-10, “A Weekend with Dr. Mary Healy,” was co-sponsored by Terra Sancta Retreat Center, Rapid City, as part of its 10-year anniversary celebration and the diocesan Eucharistic Revival Committee. Her credentials are listed at the end of this article.)
“There have been 200 attacks on Catholic Churches since May 2000,” said Dr. Mary Healy in her opening address, “Walking in the Supernatural.” She was describing one side effect of a massively secular society. Dr. Healy continued using a report on the state of the U.S. Catholic Church with facts on evangelization. For every one person who joins, 6.5 leave the church. It is the fastest decline in the U.S. among religious groups.
She explained the New Evangelization is not a membership drive to get more bodies filling those empty pews. It is also not the work of a chosen few followers during biblical times. “We have missed something in Jesus’ instructions,” said Dr. Healy. She said we need to get back to healing and spread the good news.
She referred to the Great Commission Jesus gave prior to ascending into heaven:
“And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. … And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.’” — Mk 16:15-18 NRSV Catholic Edition.
In her second address, “Jesus Healer of Souls and Bodies,” she referenced Bible verses describing miracle after miracle performed by Jesus — raising the dead, restoring sight to the blind, healing crippled people, feeding the 5000 … According to Dr. Healy, every member of the church is given a supernatural spirit that empowers them for the mission God has prepared. She said, “Ordinary Catholics can pray for healing and other manifestations of God’s power for ourselves and others.” Throughout her talks she recalled modern miracles and healings — Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, double vision, deafness, breathing without a ventilator, cancer, getting out of a wheelchair and walking, etc.
Later in her talks, Dr. Healy pointed out a shortcoming of Mosaic law. Regarding law, when faced with leprosy, a deadly contagious disease, “the best the law could do was create a quarantine. Sound familiar?” Conversely, she talked about Jesus healing the leper in Luke, Chapter 5, “Jesus reached out his hand and touched the leper. Jesus’ cleanness is more powerful than our uncleanness. He cured the leper, then he said something surprising, ‘don’t tell anybody.’ You have to understand this in the context of the times. Jesus’ mission could have been drastically misunderstood as a political military mission to overthrow the Roman government,” she said.
Dr. Healy explained the cured leper disregarded Jesus’ instruction and told everybody. He was free to move around in society, while Jesus became the outcast — not being able to move around freely — they had traded places. Cathy Long, a participant from Piedmont, said, “When I heard Dr. Healy explain the role reversal with Jesus and leper, it made me do some deep thinking. I never thought of Jesus in that position.”
During breaks, more than 150 participants chattered about healings they had experienced, or knew of personally, or heard about through friends and relatives. Others crowded the book table, purchasing Dr. Healy’s writings, and waiting in line for her to sign their books.
In the presentations on “The Healing Power of God” and “The Evangelizing Power of the Eucharist,” Dr. Healy broke down the parts of the Mass and explained how each one brings us closer to that healing power of God. Quoting from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Dr. Healy reminded her audience the church teaches that the Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life. She cautioned against starting the evangelization process by inviting someone to Mass. “They have no idea what’s going on. It’s kind of like on the very first date saying, ‘will you marry me?’ It’s like too much, too soon,” she said. In the early church people heard somebody talking about Jesus. They got to know Jesus first. Then, the conversion process was usually about three years long, until finally on the holy night of Easter Vigil, they received their first holy Communion.
After the event, Joy Falkenburg, Custer, described what she enjoyed. “It was connectedness to those around me. Even though I went to the retreat alone, I found that the faith and community of Catholics around me, created a sense of peace and hope,” Falkenburg said. “It was inspiring and rejuvenating.”
To continue education on healing, the Eucharistic Revival Committee is offering a “Healing Retreat: An Encounter with Jesus’ Healing Power Today.” It will be directed by Dr. Clare Ten Eyck, a Catholic counselor and speaker. It is scheduled to be held at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Rapid City, on Friday-Saturday, February 24-25. Registration information will be sent out soon.
(Dr. Mary Healy is professor of Scripture at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit and a bestselling author and international speaker. She is a general editor of the “Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture” and author of two of its volumes, “The Gospel of Mark” and ‘“Hebrews.” Her other books include ‘“The Spiritual Gifts Handbook” and “Healing.” Dr. Healy serves the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian unity as a member of the Pentecostal-Catholic International Dialogue. She was appointed by Pope Francis as one of the first three women ever to serve on the Pontifical Biblical Commission.)