By Rachel Noel / Freelance Writer, OND
On March 21, St. Bernard, Thief River Falls, once again hosted Chris Stefanick, a renowned author, motivational speaker, founder and president of Real Life Catholic. The father of six also stars in the TV show, “Real Life Catholic” on EWTN. Stefanick spoke at the parish in April 2018, and after hearing endless praise from attendees, Margaret Rasmussen, St. Bernard’s Director of Religious Education was excited to welcome him back.
“St. Bernard’s is the pilot parish for Chris Stefanick to give a presentation on his new book, ‘I Am’, meaning that we are the first large parish to hear this message,” she explained.
"Why are you all here? You are here because you want joy,” Stefanick began. “Our joy is constantly under attack. The devil does not want the people of God to be joyful because he wants them to be weak. God is calling you for more than just a natural life; he is calling you for an eternal life."
Stefanick explained that small changes in everyday life can cause profound and meaningful change in the world.
"We have to stop believing that only big things matter,” he said. “Jan Tyranowski, who was in Poland when the Nazis took over, was thinking, ‘I am going to organize a small group of young people and we will talk about our faith and pray the rosary to help keep the faith throughout all of this hopelessness.’ He didn't think he was making a big impact on the world, yet one of the men in his group became Pope John Paul II. You have no idea what one small thing can do for the world. God wants you to be the blessing someone else is praying for."
Stefanick discussed the war of words in everyone’s minds and explained that the voices in people’s head directly impact their destinies.
“The most important conversation you will ever have in your life is the one you have with yourself. The words you choose to speak to yourself form how see yourself. How you see yourself forms how you act. How you act shapes your entire life,” he said.
He stressed that people’s consciences tend to consume them in a cynical way.
“Jesus said to love others as you love yourself. So, he was presuming that we love ourselves. He wants us to believe that we are lovable. What stops you from believing that you are loveable? Lies about who we are and what we are worth tend to slip into our lives in a million ways,” said Stefanick.
Laughter and applause filled the church throughout the evening as Stefanick seamlessly wove humor between the Gospel and the trials of life. He compared modern daily difficulties to the severe struggles of saints and laypeople throughout history and how, in correlation, most people do not have anything to complain about.
"Anne Frank said: 'Think of all the beauty that surrounds you and be happy'. What excuse do you have to be unhappy? Gratitude might not change your circumstances, but it changes you,” Stefanick said. “Most of the time, when you are stressed out, it is because you are so busy trying to juggle all of your blessings. In order to be grateful for anything in life, we first have to notice our blessings."
The crowd fell silent as he challenged those present to think of the hurtful words they tell themselves about their identity, and to replace those lies with the truth of how God sees them.
“The self-abuse of sin tells us that we are no better than the worst mistake we ever made. But that is a lie. Your life isn't a story written by a divorce. That's a page, there's a bigger story – it's the story of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Your life is not a story written by a disease you are suffering through; that is only a page. Even death is not a period, it's a comma. There is a bigger story that redeems every page, even the trying ones," Stefanick said.
Sheila Curtis of Sacred Heart, Roseau, witnessed Stefanick speak for the first time.
"I teach confirmation and we use Chris' ‘Chosen’ program for our 11th graders,” she said. “I hear his voice when I read his books and I could not wait to see him.”
Ray Kramer and his wife, Barbara, of St. Peter the Apostle, Park Rapids, also saw Stefanick for the first time.
“I was not familiar with Chris Stefanick, but my brother-in-law teaches confirmation in the Cities and told us about Chris’ ‘Chosen’ program,” Ray said. “What a great speaker.”
Rasmussen hoped people would be encouraged by Stefanick’s presentation.
“What I would like for people to take away from the event this year is just a reminder that we are all made in the image of God. This message is so important, and I hope that Chris’ speech will give everyone in attendance a renewed hope,” she explained.
In closing, Stefanick reminded the audience that we are all destined for eternal glory.
"We are created in God's image. This is the best news ever and it should color how we see the events of our everyday life and the blessings that surround us," he said.
For more information about Stefanick’s ministry, visit www.reallifecatholic.com.