Have you ever met a real, live prophet? I did, just a little over a decade ago.
Of course, I didn’t realize it at the time. He seemed like just a guy to me. A generous guy, to be sure – the man who’d come from Texas to St. Louis, to lead the first-ever ACTS retreat at our parish (not to mention, the first such weekend in our archdiocese) in September 2002.
I remember Tom G. telling us that we wouldn’t believe what a difference ACTS would make in a few years’ time – how it would help renew our personal spirituality; how it would strengthen the bond of community within our parish; and how it would soon spread, throughout neighboring parishes and beyond.
‘Some day, you’re going to look back on this weekend and simply be amazed at how it all unfolds,’ he said (or words to that effect. Had I known then that Tom was a real, live prophet, I would have taken better notes!)
I was reminded of Tom and his bold prediction this week because I’m preparing to serve on an ACTS team myself over the next several days. And looking back, I can see now that every promise he and his fellow Texans made in 2002 had come true: ACTS has become a tremendous source of grace in my life; it has energized my parish, and filled it a deeper sense of love and fellowship than I would have considered possible a decade ago; and perhaps most remarkably, it has grown.
My, how it has grown! There were just two “ACTS parishes” kicking things off in the St. Louis area at the start of 2003. Today, there are more than two dozen…touching the lives of thousands of people each and every year. And since 2011, St. Louis-based teams have been bringing the retreat program to parishes in Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois.
After this weekend, you can add Ohio to the list. We’ll be welcoming a seed team from Toledo to our parish retreat, starting the organic growth process all over again.
So it turns out, Tom’s not just a guy after all. It might embarrass him for me to say it, but he’s actually a modern-day Barnabas or Saul: an ordinary Christian who set a pretty remarkable process in motion, just by being obedient to the call of the Holy Spirit.
I am deeply grateful to Tom – and all his San Antonio teammates – for taking that leap of faith a decade ago. And I am humbled and awestruck to think that the Holy Spirit continues to work in just this way today.
So let me ask again: Have you ever met a real, live prophet?
Perhaps at times in your life, it might simply be a matter of looking in the mirror, and finding the courage to say ‘yes.’