Through the years, the annual Catholic Charismatic Convention in Santa Clara, California just keeps getting better and better. This year was the best ever! Due to a commitment at my parish, I was unable to attend the entire convention. As usual, I prayed to St. Anthony for a parking space outside the Hyatt Regency. Instead of one parking space, he provided three, two of which were in the disabled parking space and one, which we chose, was in the shade! All praise to God! The Lord graced us with an early check in and so we were able to eat our lunch in our spacious room wonderfully outfitted for the disabled. Thank you, Jesus.
Due to my upcoming Total Consecration to Our Lady on May 31st with preparation for 33 days prescribed by the teachings of St. Louis de Montfort, and the Official Act of Consecration to Mary written by St. Maximilian Kolbe on the day commemorating the Visitation, I needed to go to confession. The line was long, with a lengthy wait. Fr. Anthony from Nigeria heard my confession, and I entered the Exhibit Hall A late, while Bishop Mylo Vergara was already speaking. His talk was entitled “You Are Christ in the World”. It was beautifully illustrated with a power point presentation visible on two large screens. The Bishop has a wonderful sense of humor and the gift of teaching and preaching. He gave a very informative talk about the present day digital age. He included facts and statistics of the use of the Internet and social media of all of the various generations. One of the generations uses the Internet ten hours, on an average, each day! He showed photos of his very young niece using her tablet and smart phone where she learned her nursery rhymes. He demonstrated how Pope Francis uses his Twitter account and how “selfies” with the Bishop are part of the current First Communion and Confirmation! Although he spoke of the addictive nature of all of this, he also seemed to be saying that if we want to evangelize the younger generations, virtually all users of the Internet, we have to meet them where they are, in some cases, ten hours per day! Our job is to go out into the world bringing Christ to the Nations.
Fr. Dave Pivonka, the Franciscan priest who was just appointed president of The Franciscan University in Stuebenville, Ohio, was the next speaker. His talk was entitled “All Things Held Together in Love”. He had a plethora of stories to share based on his multiple pilgrimages and spiritual counseling jobs as a priest. He told the story of Franco, whom he met shortly after the end of the war in Bosnia. Both of his children had been captured. The soldiers captured him, beat him, sliced his throat, and left him for dead on the side of the road. The soldiers later saw him crawling across the road. They stopped their truck and threw him in the back of the truck. Fr. Dave visited him at a refugee camp in Bosnia. He had 2-4 cookies and one beer he had saved all this time, which he shared with the priest. Although there was a priest over a mile away, he had not come to the refugee camp to offer Communion. Franco kept repeating that he was so blessed!!!
Next, Fr. Dave shared his story about his family. He said that we cannot live without hope. When he was five, his mother was diagnosed with MS. Fr. Dave has prayed for her healing for 45-48 years. He quoted Romans 5:1, “Hope does not disappoint.” He said that perseverance produces character and hope. “Such hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured into hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Fr. Dave Pivonka created The Wild Goose Ministry, a 14-part video series which explores what it is to have a relationship with the Holy Spirit. He said that the Papal preacher has summarized the Bible in these words: God is love. Fr. Dave has 19 nieces and nephews, along with numerous grand nieces and nephews.
Fr. Dave then told the story of a woman whom he met while in Beijing, China, who wanted to be baptized. She was a student of art. She realized that art could not feed the poor, and many other things. During her whole life, she had been told that there was no God. After talking with Fr. Dave, she thought, if that is possible, that God is love, that is the purpose of my life.
Fr. Dave said that it is a heresy if we qualify ‘God is love.’ “What is love?” Fr. Dave asked. Do we believe that we are lovable? We are created in the image of God. We are fundamentally good, broken, but fundamentally good. Our homework was to look into a mirror and say, “I was made in the image and likeness of God.” When we are able to love those who drive us crazy, that will make us holy. Fr. Dave began to send cards to his enemy. As a result, she became a person to him.
Saturday evening, Father Dave Pivonka celebrated Holy Mass, followed by the healing service. During the homily, Fr. Dave spoke of a Franciscan nun who had a DNA test which revealed that she was one per cent Jewish. Previously, she only knew that she was part German and part Italian, knowing nothing of a Jewish heritage. After the DNA test, she proclaimed, “I am one percent Jewish because I receive Jesus every day!”
Fr. Dave Pivonka gave his final talk at the convention at 9:00 a.m. on Sunday morning. He shared with us his experience on the Camino of St. James, the St. James de Compostella, the sacred 500 mile walking pilgrimage from France to Spain. They weighed his backpack and said it was too heavy. He began to obsess about his backpack. Each item seemed to be essential. What could he give up? Then, he turned to us and asked us, “What do I need to give up? “What do I need to renounce?”
Perhaps we have an image of God that is not true that we need to give up. For example, maybe we think of God as a kind of Santa Claus. Or, perhaps, we think of Him as a kind of slot machine. For example, put in so many coins of prayers and take out the answer to your prayers.
Fr. Dave began to think God was “mean at the age of eight. He had prayed to God to have something happen to his brother so that his brother would know that what he was doing was wrong. Soon after, his brother had his scull broken when a car fell on him as he was doing repairs on the car in a car repair shop.
Fr. Dave asked us to pray for Truth and pray for Light. He asked us not create God in our own image. He said that God is for you, [not against you.] Pray: “God, free us from the lies that get in the way between you and us.” We treat sin like braking a law. We go to confession to pay the fine. But, it is personal! We break the heart of God! After he heard confession and gave absolution, the penitent said, “Dave, it can’t be that easy!” Fr. Dave replied, “It was not easy!!! It took the suffering on the cross!”
We need to embrace being human by rooting out sin. The saint keeps getting up after she falls. Fr. Dave walked the Via Della Rosa in the Holy Land. Jesus was with him as he walked. He told Jesus all his sins. He asked Jesus, “Why do you keep on walking?” Jesus answered him by saying, “Because I love you.”
Bishop Mylo Vergara, D.D., of the Pasig Diocese in the Philippines gave the 11:00 a.m. talk. The title of the talk was “Exploring the Gifts of Pentecost”. He quoted Acts 2:2-4, “…and suddenly….tongues of fire… they began to speak in different tongues……” He quoted Pope Benedict XVI as he spoke at the World Youth Day in 2008, Acts 4:20. Then, he quoted Pope Francis as he spoke on Pentecost Sunday, May 20, 2018, all quotes beautifully displayed on the overhead screens.
Then the vibrant Bishop asked us if we have become bold men and women proclaiming the faith? He said that our second Pentecost is our Confirmation, which is the full out-pouring of the Holy Spirit as given originally to the Apostles at the first Pentecost in the upper room. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it [the Catechism], makes us proclaim, “Abba, Father!” It unites us more firmly to Christ. We call Christ our brother. Confirmation strengthens the gifts of the Holy Spirit. NEVER be ashamed of the cross!!! Confirmation perfects Baptismal grace.
Then, Bishop Mylo told a story about a church that had been invaded by bats. After complaints, the Bishop hired an exterminator. It had NO effect! However, the following day, the parish was totally free of bats. They had all left the church! The people came to the Bishop and asked him, “What did you do?” He said, “I baptized and confirmed the bats and they left the church!”
After a quote from Pope Francis to the Youth, he outlined the signs of confirmation: He said that a sign of confirmation is to give off the aroma of Christ. The Holy Charism used in the anointing has an aroma of Christ. Here are the signs of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit after Confirmation, as outlined by Bishop Mylo:
1. The Spirit of Wisdom to know God.
2. The Spirit of understanding, to penetrate the core of the spiritual life.
3. The Spirit of right judgment, to chose right from wrong.
4. The Spirit of courage and fortitude.
5. The Spirit of knowledge, to say things from God’s point of view.
6. The Spirit of reverence and internal piety, total reliance on God and
7. The Spirit of holy fear in God’s presence. Thus, it is a sense of awe and
wonder and a joyful awareness of God’s wonder. (Pope Benedict XVI) Recall
Moses in front of the Burning Bush with fear and trembling. The fear
fascinated him towards the Lord.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1633, the qualities of Christian witness include:
1. Personal awareness of Christ in daily life
3. Student of the Scriptures
4. Leadership qualities of honesty
5. Communication skills needed to share the Gospel via these skills
6. Suffer with the Kingdom of God
(May 20, 2018, Pentecost Prayer of Pope Francis.)
The Bishop asked us to ponder the following questions:
1. What qualities of the Holy Spirit do I appreciate in my life?
2. What qualities of Christian witness can I best live out as a Soldier of Christ?
The final talk before the closing Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was by Deacon Steve Greco, the very anointed deacon from the Diocese of Orange. Deacon Steve Greco has a weekly show on Relevant Radio called “Empowered by the Spirit”. The title of his talk was “God Has Something to Say; Can He Use You to Say It?” Deacon Steve owns twenty books by St. Mother Theresa of Calcutta and reads them continuously.
Deacon Steve quoted a series of scriptures:
1. Roman 8:14 – “…are children of God.”
2. Ephesians 1:3-5 – “….every spiritual blessing…”
3. John 15:15-16 – “…the vine and the branches…..I chose you!…”
4. Matthew 18 – “..make disciples of all nations….”
Every second of every day is important! God said to Deacon Bill Brennan before he began his talk: Roman 10. “The most important thing you can do is to open yourself up to God’s love.” We are love. Jer. 1:5 What is your purpose in life? “..to love and be loved.” Isiah: “…you are precious in my eyes…” (These were messages chosen at random on retreat.)
Deacon Steve was on an airplane, reading the Bible, Romans 6:4. God told the deacon to give it to the stewardess. (She had been having dreams to go back to the Church.)
Is Jesus REAL to you? Romans 20:28. You have responsibility to say the truth about Jesus Christ to your children and grandchildren in love. Your story is the fifth Gospel. Tell your story!
God wants to say to people, “…You are not alone…” Is. 34
Matt. 7:7 “…ask and it will be given to you….”
Heb. 4:16 – “…let us constantly go to the Throne of Grace….”
Heb. 10:36 – “…you need endurance to do the will of God…”
Then, Deacon Steve told us how to pray:
A = Adoration, praise Him. Read Litany of Praise often.
C = Contrition – often confess sins of omission.
C = Consolation – if you choose God
D = Desolation = if you do NOT choose God
E = Examination of conscience – do each evening, (C & D as taught by
T = Thanks to the Lord for everything! 1 Thes. 5:18; Romans 8:28
S = Supplication – prayers of petition
Discipline of Prayer is essential. Teach people to pray. Pray one hour each day, with one half hour just listening to God. Tell people that Our Father wants to make us whole and to heal us. Is. 3:55 “By His stripes, we were healed.”
God healed a woman using Deacon Steve who had just been in a car wreck. Deacon prayed over her and she was healed. She told him that the deacon was praying the Our Father in Aramaic, [when he prayed over her in tongues].
When was the last time you invited someone to church? When was the last time you reached out to newcomers? Invite people to your prayer meetings. Bloom where you are planted. Go to Church frequently and get involved. Invite people for coffee after Mass. God gives you the gift of the Holy Spirit, so teach the people about the Holy Spirit. Pray over people. Then, Deacon Steve said a VERY anointed prayer: “I ask you, God, to fill this person with the Holy Spirit!!! Tell the person that they are loved by God unconditionally. God wants us to know that we are not alone. God wants to love us and wants to heal us. Then, Deacon Steve commissioned us to go out and spread the Word and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The 32nd annual Catholic Charismatic Convention ended with a beautiful, grace-filled Holy Sacrifice of the Mass by Rev. Raymund Reyes, the Archbishop’s Liaison to the Catholic Charismatic Renewal of the Archdiocese of San Francisco and the Spiritual Director of NCRC, along with being the Vicar for Clergy for the Archdiocese of San Francisco and pastor of St. Augustine Church in South San Francisco. The closing mass included glorious music, singing, worship, preaching,homily, proclamation of The Word of God, and much thanksgiving for all the graces received.
Thanks go out in appreciation to the committee that organized the convention, the priests, deacons, Bishops, music ministries: Holy Spirit Music Ministry, Great Harvest, Good News Choir, Children of God, The Lord’s Flock, Siloam Music Ministry, and God Sent Music Ministry, along with the Prayer Ministry, the Children’s Ministry, the Youth Ministry, the Hispanic Ministry, and the Vietnamese Ministry.
As the glorious praise and worship event ended, a gentle sprinkle of rain graced the area outside the arena. May God bless all those who worked so hard to make the convention the best ever. May God in His bounty, fill the coffers to defray the expense of such a holy event held in the middle of Silicon Valley. Jesus, I trust in You. All praise to God. Amen.