He was born the oldest of four sisters and one brother in New York City on December 12, 1942 and grew up in northern New Jersey where the Sisters of Charity guided him through his Catholic grade school years in Teaneck, New Jersey at St. Anastasia parish and high school at Bergen Catholic High in Oradell, New Jersey. During his prep years he was taught by the Christian Brothers. At Bergen he excelled in tennis, track and cross country and is today in that school's Hall of Fame. Graduating in 1960, he matriculated to Notre Dame where he graduated four years later and followed that with a three year graduate program at Princeton University. But God had other plans in store for Ralph and Princeton wasn't in the plans. The Holy Spirit sent Bishop Joseph Green, then the Auxiliary Bishop of Lansing, who asked Ralph to work in the national headquarters of the Cursillo movement. This movement, founded in Spain in 1949 and established in the United States in 1957 with headquarters today in Dallas, Texas, has been an instrument of Christian renewal for forming and stimulating persons to engage in evangelization in their everyday environs. In 1965 the national office was in Lansing, Michigan and it was here that Ralph was called. It would change his life forever.
While in a leadership role teaching evangelization to student and lay groups at the parish church on the campus of Michigan State University, he met the person who would share the rest of his life with him. Anne was the young lady who won his heart and they were married at St. Thomas church in East Lansing on June 15, 1968. They settled down in Ann Arbor where Ralph was organizing cursillo movements at the University of Michigan and helping with one at his alma mater in South Bend, Indiana. His experience with the Cursillo Movement translated into a need to expand further in targeting the need for a renewal of the Faith. He could see many crises taking place in the Church among the faithful. He realized the charisms of the Holy Spirit were important and to communicate these and promulgate them he leaned toward the charismatic renewal movement. In 1970 he wrote his first book, "Unless the Lord Build the House" and followed that up with "Hungry for God" published by Doubleday in 1972. It wasn't long before Ralph had become a leader in the national and international development of the charismatic renewal movement in the Roman Catholic Church. In 1972 he began a newsletter for leaders of the movement which evolved into the excellent magazine New Covenant Magazine in 1975. Ralph was the founding editor. It is now published by Our Sunday Visitor.
The success of Ralph's efforts caught the attention of none other than the late Cardinal Leon Joseph Suens, the Primate of Belgium and the last living member of the only four moderators during Vatican II. He personally traveled to Michigan to visit with Ralph and Anne and convinced them to set up international headquarters for the movement in Belgium. He realized the charismatic renewal movement was important for the whole Church. By now the couple had two children John, 5 and Mary Sarah 2. The entire family relocated to Brussels where Ralph oversaw the international movement for four years out of Belgium. In 1982 the headquarters were moved to the Vatican, working closely with the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum" and the Pontifical Council for the Laity, now under the leadership of this weekend's recipient of the TOP 100 CATHOLICS OF THE CENTURY honor Cardinal James Francis Stafford.
The Martins returned home to the U.S. in 1980, settling down again in Ann Arbor and here he founded Renewal Ministries in order to proclaim Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life in the power of the Holy Spirit so that the faithful can serve the renewal of the Catholic Church and help be transmitters to informing others of Our Lord through a thorough knowledge of the charisms and teachings of the Church and Sacred Scripture in witnessing to God's graces. That same year he founded the charismatic ministry, he wrote the excellent best-seller "A Crisis of Truth" in which he took a look at the situation of the Church throughout the world from a different angle and offered a persuasive analysis of the spiritual factors at the heart of both the Church's difficulties and the hoped-for renewal within the Church. In his book he put the reader in touch with information that most did not have ready access to but was vital in understanding how the Spirit was communicating to the Church in our times. Father Michael Scanlan, T.O.R., President of Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio said of his work, "Ralph Martin has given us a timely, challenging, and provocative analysis of Catholic life. While the statistical and analytical evidence of the Catholic crisis is overwhelming, it is the penetrating power of the anwer or solution that dominates the book and equips the reader with hope. An impressive and prophetic work. I heartily endorse it."
One person who was impressed with the book was Mother Angelica of EWTN who, after reading it, contacted Ralph and invited him to produce a television show promoting this renewal. Thus began a long and fruitful relationship with EWTN in which Ralph soon became a household name with his popular "The Choices We Face" aired on television and radio weekly for the past seventeen years. As word spread and he began to travel more and more, bishops began contacting him in an effort to increase evangelization in their own dioceses. This was especially true early on throughout Africa where Renewal Ministries has established missions today that are producing solid Catholics who are evangelizing to others. Toward the end of the decade, as the iron curtain began to fall, more and more bishops from Eastern Europe beckoned Ralph to help them renew the Church in their countries. The result was Renewal Ministries Missions, dedicated to supporting the work of Catholic renewal and evangelism throughout the world with a threefold goal; to support local churches by engaging in the direct preaching of the gospel through rallies, conferences, Life in the Spirit seminars, and publications, to call lay Catholics to take their place in this new evangelization as the Holy Father has asked for, and to equip the faithful to carry out this call in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Throughout his life, Ralph has had his finger on the pulse of the Church, realizing the reality of the Holy Father's words at World Youth Day in Denver in 1993 that "this is no time to be ashamed of the Gospel. It is the time to preach it from the rooftops!" A quarter of a century after he had begun his graduate program, he completed it, this time at Sacred Heart School of Theology in the Archdiocese of Detroit, achieving his Masters in Theology in 1994. Since that time he has released more books including "John Paul II and the New Evangelization" as well as three more books published by Ignatius Press: "Called to Holiness", "Is Jesus Coming Soon? A Catholic Perspective on the Second Coming", and his latest work "The Catholic Church at the End of an Age: What is the Spirit Saying?"
Today Ralph remains busier than ever as the President of Renewal Ministries which is accountable in its work to a Board of Directors in the United States. This is chaired by Bishop Sam Jacobs, prelate in Alexandria, Louisiana, while in Canada a Board is chaired by Bishop Faber MacDonald from Grand Falls in Newfoundland. He and Anne today have six children ranging from the oldest John who is 29 and Mary Sarah who is married to Scott Sollom, a graduate of Franciscan University who is the Director of Music at a parish in College Station, Texas. Thanks to them Ralph and Anne now have a granddaughter - little Madelyn Ann. The Martin's four daughters are Elizabeth, who graduated this past May from Franciscan University; Catherine, currently a sophomore at the Steubenville campus and two still at home. They are Rachel, who graduates this year from high school, and the youngest Maureen, now fifteen. With the duties of motherhood Anne still has time to publish the newsletter and serve as webmaster of the ministry's web site which we recommend you check out at www.renewalministries.net.
Ralph has been called the most effective Catholic evangelist since Bishop Fulton J. Sheen in tirelessly proclaiming and defending the gospel for over thirty years. His work has been strongly endorsed by both Catholic and non-Catholic leaders internationally. He has had the privilege of meeting several times with His Holiness John Paul II who has encouraged him time and again, "Please continue the work you are doing. You must continue." And continue he will for his life is dedicated to calling others to a life of deeper union with God in showing the fulfillment of Christ's words in John 16: 7, "For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you." As we wait for the Second Coming, Ralph Martin is educating all that we have no need to worry for the Holy Spirit is truly with us if we only are open to the Spirit. Ralph has shown that these charisms are gifts, and, in using these charisms and sharing with others as Jesus asks, he is truly giving Heaven a gift that cannot be measured in finite terms.
NEW DELHI (FIDES/CWNews.com) -- Ecclesia in Asia, the post-synodal document that Pope John Paul II is presenting during this apostolic journey in these first days of November, is an important text. Contemplating the continent where Jesus was born and lived his earthly life, where the Catholic Church is a tiny minority, where problems are never ending and where the Church is even subject to persecution, the Holy Father perceives, nevertheless, new promising horizons, for a "harvest of souls which I see mature and abundant" for the Church 's mission in the Third Millennium (9)
Pope John Paul II, assimilating indications given by the Synod Fathers, elaborates them magisterially. In Chapter 2 and 3 of Ecclesia in Asia he shows why Jesus is the only Savior and why he is the Savior of all peoples (10). The Pope describes first of all the life of Jesus with its "Asian" traits: he was born poor and lived a life of poverty, he was a refugee, he was obedient to his parents, he prayed constantly. (11) Then the Pope indicates aspects of Jesus which are totally foreign to Asian cultures. His nearness to poor people, to sinners, the unclean, children, the dead. (11). He is judged by the dominating culture to be a blasphemer, a violator of the sacred Law, a public nuisance, a failure. It is, all told, the scandal of Christianity that grates on the cultures of Asia (and not only of Asia), dominated by caste, fear of death, harmony for peace of mind, success, public esteem. The "scandal" is even more radical: the Pope defines the identity of Jesus as a mystery of communion with the Father. (12) His reference to the Father is what distinguishes Jesus from many other "saviors" (who come on their own behalf) or avatars (of faceless and indefinite origin), and from any other religion which sees God distant from mankind and unreachable.
Jesus Christ, "true man," reveals man to himself: In him we discover "the
greatness and dignity of each person in the heart of God;" (13) a "new
communion between human beings" and "between heaven and earth." Jesus
Christ "alone accomplished the Father's universal plan of salvation," he is the
"definitive manifestation of the mystery of the Father's love" (14) and the
one and universal Mediator. This implies that:
a) "no individual, no nation, no culture is impervious to the appeal of Jesus;" (14)
b) "the authentic values of all religious and cultural traditions" find in Him origin "fullness and realization." This last statement is even more explicit in Chapter 3 dedicated to the Holy Spirit, where the Pope underlines that
The Holy Father devotes three paragraphs to inculturation (21-23) indicating the agents (first of all bishops and theologians and the entire People of God), and the areas (thought, study of philosophies, liturgy). With regard to inculturation of the liturgy the Pope says efforts should not only be archeological (using traditional ancient symbols-- but should also discern important signs for the present-day situation and specific needs of the Asian peoples. (2) He recalls that the Synod Fathers proposed new titles for Jesus, significant for the Asian mentality and in line with biblical tradition "Jesus as, Teacher of Wisdom, Healer, Liberator, Spiritual Guide, Enlightened One, the Compassionate Friend of the poor, the Good Shepherd, the Obedient One." (20)
"Christian life is however the most important ambit for inculturation. The Pope calls on all Asian Christians to bear witness to their new life in Jesus, through prayer and contemplation and charity. (23) Indeed the Pope asks that every form of missionary activity should have as support and form, contemplation and not activism. More than once in this Exhortation, the Pope asks bishops and priests to be not simply "economic administrators" or "humanitarian volunteers," but "primarily men of God." (43) In this way missionary activity will not be only social commitment. Moreover, to meet the spiritual needs of Asia, the Pope "strongly encourages" monastic and contemplative communities to open mission fields in Asia. (44) and also to establish relations with the other monastic traditions of that continent. (31) A special way of proclaiming the faith is that of silence and suffering persecution. Inculturation is done not only at the desk, through study, but also through daily martyrdom. (23) The Pope recalls the "many parts of Asia" where :religious freedom is systematically denied or restricted" (almost all Asian countries!) and calls on governments to recognize this "fundamental right."
Unity must be increased by giving more space to the laity in pastoral planning, particularly women and young people. But above all it must be expressed as solidarity among the churches. (26) The Pope calls for greater recognition of the ancient Oriental churches, rich in traditions and experience of dialogue with the Orthodox world and with Islam. He also asks for support for the very young churches in former Soviet Union territories, but above all he urges solidarity with the suffering and persecuted churches. (28) He mentions the Church in mainland China, with a touching message for Chinese Catholics ("never allow hardship and sorrow to diminish your devotion to Christ and your commitment to your great nation"), that of North Korea (for reconciliation between North and South), that of Jerusalem (for that city's "peace and integrity").
Efforts for ecumenical unity must be sustained above all through "ecumenical centers of prayer and consultation;" (39) dialogue with other religions through places of "Christian asceticism and mysticism." The Pope clearly states that dialogue with other religions is not irenicism, it is "an expression of mission ad gentes."
The empowerment of the laity-- young people in particular-- must focus above all on the family, the founding pillar of Asian society and of the Church in Asia. (46) As new means of evangelization the Pope stresses the media (radio, news agencies, publications) saying these should be used not only for proclaiming the Gospel but also for integrating the Gospel into the new culture of communication. (48)
But the most important tool for evangelization in Asia remains "the great host of heroes of the faith"-- the martyrs who are the "seed of new life for the Church in every corner of the continent." (49) To the martyrs of the past we must add present-day persecuted Christians; "they are hidden pillars of the Church," a part of this Asian Church, a minority but "full of hope and vitality." (50)
In the closing prayer to the Mother of Christ (51), Mary is proclaimed as the model of every missionary in Asia, who can "teach us never to fear to speak of the world to Jesus and of Jesus to the world."