Christian culture is collapsing, warns Dr. Ralph Martin Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Written by Kevin Wondrash, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Apr. 28, 2016 -- 12:00 AM
ralph martin
Dr. Ralph Martin gives a talk on “Mercy and Mission: Living as a Catholic in Challenging Times” on April 20 at the Bishop O’Connor Catholic Center in Madison — part of the semi-annual St. Thérèse of Lisieux Lecture Series. (Catholic Herald photo/Kevin Wondrash)

MADISON -- “Seventeen hundred years of Christian culture is collapsing before our eyes,” Dr. Ralph Martin warned in his talk, “Mercy and Mission: Living as a Catholic in Challenging Times.”

Dr. Martin was the guest speaker for the semi-annual St. Thérèse of Lisieux Lecture at the Bishop O’Connor Catholic Center in Madison on April 20.

He is president of Renewal Ministries and an associate professor of theology and director of Graduate Programs in the New Evangelization at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit.

He is the author of a number of books, the most recent of which are The Urgency of the New Evangelization: Answering the Call; The Fulfillment of All Desire: A Guidebook for the Journey to God Based on the Wisdom of the Saints; and ed? What Vatican II Actually Teaches Will Many Be Saved? What Vatican II Actually Teaches and Its Implications for the New Evangelization.

Living with challenges

“We’re living in something like a big apostasy, whether it’s the [Great] apostasy or not, I don’t know,” he added. He cited the decreasing numbers in Mass attendance, vocations to the priesthood and Religious Life, and Baptisms and other sacramental practices.

The “Great Apostasy” Dr. Martin referenced is one of the events St. Paul said has to happen before Christ comes again -- a “a turning away of the faith on the part of those who once had faith.”

Another event is a time of unrestrained evil and lawlessness.

Again saying he can’t say if we are in a time of Great Apostasy, Dr. Martin mentioned the laws legalizing same-sex marriage and abortion, along with less emphasis on practicing chastity.

“There used to be restraints,” Dr. Martin said, “The culture at large had a respect for God.”

“In a time of confusion,” he added, “it’s really important to know what’s true . . . We’re blessed in the Catholic Church to have Scripture, Tradition, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the Magisterium . . . When the confusion happens, we need to interpret what is happening in light of Scripture, Tradition, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.”

In this time of “confusion,” Dr. Martin said, “The mission that we’re called to and that we’re working our way toward [is] mercy.”

He added, “We need to take a responsibility for the people that we love and the people we encounter for their salvation.”

Salvation and evangelization

Dr. Martin said the way to care for the salvation of those close to us is through evangelization.

He said the basic concept of evangelization -- getting more people to attend Mass -- is a “challenge” because “it’s possible to go to Mass and not be converted . . . It’s possible to be a church-going Catholic and not be a disciple of Jesus Christ.”

He stated the goal of evangelization is conversion and “Jesus wants people to be converted . . . [and] become members of his body in the Church.”

He reiterated the collapsing Christian culture and said, “It’s being replaced by an aggressive pagan culture that’s very hostile to Christ and the Church.”

“The electronic culture is separating people and brainwashing them,” Dr. Martin said, adding, “Unless we’re a Catholic today by virtue of conscience personal decision, it’s going to be very hard to resist the pressure of the culture . . . It’s going to be almost impossible to keep our mind clear.”

Mission of the New Evangelization

Dr. Martin said the culture could be restored in the New Evangelization.

“The first thing that’s new about the New Evangelization is who it’s directed to,” he said. “It’s directed to people all around us . . . people that have been baptized and aren’t living as disciples of Christ . . . [and have been] swept away by the secular culture.”

He said people closest to us need conversion -- “You don’t have to go to Papua New Guinea to find people who need conversion,” Dr. Martin said.

He also remarked another thing “new” about the New Evangelization is the involvement of lay people in helping with these conversions.

“One of the major themes the Holy Spirit is bringing forth in the Church today since Vatican II is for Catholic laypeople to discover who they really are in Christ,” Dr. Martin said, adding that we were given this mission at our Baptism, a “sacrament that brings us into living relationship with God.”

He outlined four elements of the mission of Catholic laypeople. One is the witness of our lives, saying, “just simply living the Catholic life is a huge witness,” such as having a strong marriage and strong family life.

Another is performing Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy as emphasized by Pope Francis in the Year of Mercy.

Another he called “renewing the temporal order” or being a concerned citizen, participating in the political process for good, and being concerned for the environment.

Dr. Martin said none of the first three can be effective without the fourth -- that the lay Catholic is willing to talk about Jesus in words as well as in witness. He encouraged everyone to share with others when they take their faith more seriously and when it changes them for the better.

Don’t worry about rejection

He added lay people cannot worry about being rejected after speaking openly about their faith. “We have to be willing to take that pain,” he said.

He added, tongue-in-cheek, the worst thing that can happen is being martyred, which he called the “best possible outcome” because a martyr could go straight to heaven.

He added it’s ok not to know everything if someone asks a question about the faith, and the answer isn’t known. Dr. Martin said it’s ok to say, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out for you and get back to you.”

“Our primary loyalty has to be to Jesus Christ and his word and that’s the best way of loving people,” Dr. Martin said.

Following his talk, Dr. Martin answered questions from the audience and then signed his books and met those who attended a reception.

For more information on the St. Thérèse of Lisieux Lecture Series, go to

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