This week Pope Francis will be on the world's center stage. More important is his purpose: God's design for marriage and family. As Catholics, we are very conceptual. We run the risk of merely spectating. Cheering from the sidelines. Yet our affirmation of the truth is not the same as living it. As someone said, even Satan knows the truth. No concepts ever changed the world. No cheering changed the world. The testimony of life-changing, real belief in Jesus Christ is evidenced by commitment. Our priorities. What really matters. Our calendars say far more about what we really believe than do our words. Our world needs to see our commitments. Can you and your family or group accept Bishop Daniel Thomas' Live IT Challenge?
I recall when all this connected with a young man. Justin was a tough, Italian rich kid who hadn't really prayed a day in his life. He had it all, and nothing. In fact, one day his theology teacher, Fr. Larry Richards, walked in and found Justin with his feet kicked up on the desk. In reply to Fr. Larry's order to remove his feet, Justin replied, "You... say... please!" That wasn't something you said to an equally passionate son of two police officers. A beautiful relationship ensued, resulting in Justin encountering Jesus Christ at a TEC program.
This is where God's beautiful web is weaved.
A number of years earlier my parents, Bernie and Judy Schlueter, brought TEC from Green Bay to Cleveland. This Cleveland TEC became a powerful, formative movement shared by my six siblings and literally hundreds of friends.Diane Gallagher, Fr. Larry Richards, and this other woman I did not yet know, Stephanie Wagner, brought this TEC to Erie.
In any event, back in 1997, Justin had powerfully encountered Jesus Christ at Erie's very first TEC. The Door was wide open. Justin was running through it and literally dragging others with him (morning Mass at Cathedral Prep).
Many things were new for me also. I was new to Erie and leading Heart and Soul Evangelization Teams, a movement I had begun before entering seminary. This capped off four wonderful years of discernment with Fr. Benedict Groeschel and studying at Mount Saint Mary's Seminary (Emmitsburg, Md). Stephanie Wagner may well be the only person on the planet who wrote a grant for her husband. Yes, it gave Heart and Soul legs, but more importantly, a new last name. A year later she became Stephanie Schlueter.
Needless to say, fresh into his conversion, Justin joined the first Heart and Soul Evangelization Team of Erie. At a time when many in the Catholic Church viewed "relationship with Jesus Christ" and anything remotely dynamic with suspicion, we witnessed a multitude come to committed relationships with Jesus Christ. In fact, a good number of priests, religious and multitude of Godly marriages were forged through these endeavors.
Fast forward. Justin was featured in an HBO movie named after his ministry,"Hard As Nails." He and his Catholic evangelization team reaches thousands throughout the country. He's appeared on ABC, NBC, CBS and many cable programs. He's written books and is now being featured on the EWTN series, "You're Amazing: With Justin Fatica."
So, it all comes full circle. A few days ago we hosted Justin and team. You can get a glimpse in our latest Live IT Video.
We need you. Please join our daily prayer that Catholics be moved by the Holy Spirit beyond momentary conviction to all in commitment. Our world needs us. Our Pope and Bishop are inviting us. Accept the Live IT Challenge. We're looking for 500 "Mass Impact Founders" .... Be one. Thank you.