By Diane Freeby
NOTRE DAME — “People say there is a crisis of faith today, but that’s not the problem. The foundational problem is, there is not enough love.”
Father John Paul Joyce kicked off the Intercessors of the Lamb Conference, held the first weekend of December at the University of Notre Dame, by challenging those in attendance to call upon the Holy Spirit and Our Lady to overcome that crisis.
The two-day conference entitled “The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Me” drew about 75 people and featured music, prayer and five energetic talks by Father Joyce. The Long Island native, who has been a member of the Intercessors since 1998, was ordained a priest in 2001. Since then, he has been living and sharing with others the charism of communal intercession (prayer for others).
During his first talk, “The New Dawn,” Father Joyce drew on Advent themes. Calling himself an “Advent Advocate,” he said the Incarnation is all about the impossible becoming possible and said that having the heart of Mary allows Jesus to enter into our hearts. Father Joyce illustrated why this is difficult in today’s culture as technology advances at a breakneck pace and we focus on being more analytical and intellectual.
“But God is calling his people, as Pope Benedict XVI has said in one of his interviews, calling the church back from her head to her heart,” said Father Joyce. “Imagine that! This man, who’s our Holy Father … (who’s) brilliant, who’s written so many books. And yet asked one time early in his pontificate what he hoped would be the ultimate achievement of his pontificate, he says, ‘to call the church back from her head to her heart.’”
Father Joyce went on to explain that our heart is called to have five spiritual senses: hands to feel and experience God, eyes to gaze upon the loveliness of the Lord, nose to smell the sweet fragrance of God, mouth to “taste and see the goodness of the Lord!,” and ears to hear the word of Christ.
“Many hearts today, my friends, are starving,” said Father Joyce. “Many hearts are famished, because they’re living up here and are stuck. You name the addiction … from Internet pornography to whatever it is … I’m famished! And I can’t get here. Well, that’s what Intercessors are for. Contemplative Intercessors who are experiencing God at the level of the five senses of the heart, and then God uses Intercessors as his conduits, as his sacramental bridges, to get the very graces into other hearts of a famished and starving people.”
Father Joyce admitted that we live “on an angry and restless planet because we’re not resting in peace,” but he also said these are days of hope.
“If I find myself discouraged or demoralized, maybe that’s where my prayer needs to begin today,” suggested Father Joyce. “Lord, give me your Spirit that gives hope.”
Throughout his talks, Father Joyce drew on Our Lady as the perfect example, pointing to the trilogy of events in the first chapter of Luke: the Annunciation, the Visitation and the Magnificat.
“Mary teaches us how to receive,” said Father Joyce. “She teaches us how to listen. Receptivity in the interior life is not just one thing among others. It is, in many ways, the key.”
Receiving, explained Father Joyce, means having a heart that is open and willing to surrender to God and accept his will for us. He said we live by our interior attitudes.
“Many people are very much in control of their lives,” said Father Joyce. “In face, white-knuckled control of their lives. The total opposite of Mary. She gave herself completely to God, and she did not care about her life or even the consequences. Even the consequences of being found pregnant out of wedlock. She could have been stoned to death … she risks martyrdom in favor of God. Am I willing to risk martyrdom in favor of God? God invites us to enter into the lifestyle of Mary. To live every day … let it be done to me according to Your Word. Living a surrendered lifestyle, which is in the heart.”
A men’s retreat is scheduled for Jan. 15-17 in Tipton. A women’s retreat is the following weekend. For more information, contact Dave Torma at (574) 291-3381. For more information on the Intercessors of the Lamb, visit www.bellwetheromaha.org.
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