Fr. Franco's Letters

The Flame: March/April 2023

Dear Readers of the Flame,

I experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit when I was 19 years old. It was an event thatchanged me and the course of my life. Prayer became a dialogue of love. The words of scripture leapt off the page. I sought out friendships with people who were on fire with the Lord. I wanted to serve others and proclaim the name of Jesus Christ.

Baptism in the Spirit came to me while attending a Life in the Spirit Retreat. On my way back to Ohio State after the retreat, I visited a couple who were interested in the charismatic renewal but had not yet jumped in. Of course, they asked me about the retreat. The first phrase that poured off my tongue was simply this: It’s true!

The weekend had been filled with joy. People had experienced healing. The praise was exuberant. The love among the retreatants was palpable. Yet, the words that burst forth from my tongue that described my experience was: It’s true!

Not too long after baptism in the Spirit I would read these words from the gospel of John:
But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes he will convict the world in regard to sin, and righteousness, and condemnation…But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. (John 16:7-8, 13a)
The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of truth. He convinces the soul of truth. And, as Jesus said, “…you shall know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

My experience of baptism in the Holy Spirit convinced me of the truth of our faith. I did not come to believe anything really new. However, I was gripped by how real those things that I believed really were. This reality moved me to embrace a different mindset. Years later someone gave me this quote by an Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius IVof Antioch (1920-2012). Though I quoted this Patriarch before, he bears repeating.
Without the Holy Spirit, God is distant. Christ remains in the past. The gospel is a dead letter. The Church is just an organization, authority a domination, mission is propaganda, worship a ceremonial and the Christian way of life, a servitude.
But in Him, the cosmos is uplifted and groans in giving birth to the kingdom, the Risen Christ is here, the gospel throbs with life, the Church is a communion of the Trinity, authority is a liberating service, mission a Pentecost, the liturgy is both memorial and anticipation and human life is deified.
The Holy Spirit convinces us of the truth of our faith.

And we need this conviction in our day. Much of our current culture has pushed God out of public discussion. Without God, the modern ethos is without an anchor. Morality has become the product of those who control the media. Religious truth is simply reduced to a group opinion.

It is here that the Holy Spirit assists us. Thank God for grace-filled moments when the Spirit lifts us above the thick atmosphere that often clouds our minds. In these moments of consolation,the truth of our faith becomes clear to us. We know that what we know is true. However, just as Peter, James and John had to come down the Mount of Transfiguration, so we too leave our peak experiences and embrace the tasks of daily life. And again, down in the valleys of life, what seems to be true can become muddled.

This is why we need to incorporate into our daily lives spiritual practices that continually feed the soul and renew the mind. The Holy Spirit uses these simple practices to keep us convinced of the truth of our faith. There are two special books that the Holy Spirit uses to highlight the truth of our faith: the Bible and The Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The Bible is the basis for the revealed truth of our Catholic faith. And though there are passages that are difficult to interpret, reading Sacred Scripture can become the basis of a dialogue with the Lord that feeds our soul and deepens our relationship with Him.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is the authoritative synthesis of Catholic teaching that has been handed on to us from Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture. There are four parts to the CCC. Part one focuses on what we believe and takes as its outline the Nicene and Apostles Creeds. The second part focuses on the Seven Sacraments. Part three illuminates the moral life of a Christian and follows the Ten Commandments. The final part focuses on prayer. Part of this section looks at the Our Father in depth.

Daily reading of these sacred sources renews our mind and strengthens ourconvictions regarding the truth of our faith.

When St. Paul writes about the lawless one in 2 Thessalonians 2, he teaches that this one will deceive those who have not accepted the love of the truth so that they may be saved. (2 Thessalonians 2:10) The Holy Spirit is the source of this the love of the truth. When I pray for people who need God in their lives I pray that they come to know the truth of His love as well as the love of His truth.

In times of confusion, let us cling to Jesus Christ and the faith of our Church. May the Holy Spirit not only give us a love for the truth, but also the boldness to live and proclaim it without shame.

In Christ,
Fr. Bob Franco
Bishop’s Delegate to Catholic Renewal Ministries
PS: I hope to see you at the Barbara Heil day of renewal on March 25. Also, need a spiritual boost? Our Lady of the Angels is sponsoring a Life in the Spirit Seminar on Friday and Saturday, April 21-22. Details for these events and a charismatic Mass are inside this edition of the Flame.