Fr. Luedtke: Mass unites Church in heaven, on earth and in purgatory

Fr. Ben Luedtke speaks during a Lenten parish retreat March 5 at St. Regis Parish in Bloomfield Hills on the ever-presence of God in Catholic thought. (Dan Meloy | The Michigan Catholic)

Message of Fatima, ever-present God focus of Lenten parish retreat

BLOOMFIELD HILLS — The parishioners of St. Regis in Bloomfield Hills are getting back to the basics this Lent, with the help from a dynamic speaker.

The parish, on the corner of Lincoln and Lasher roads, hosted “Experience Jesus this Lent,” a parish retreat with Fr. Ben Luedtke, who for five nights discussed important tenants of the Catholic faith with St. Regis parishioners.

“What I’m about to give you now, is what I should have given to a cardinal who was lecturing a class about the Eucharist many years ago,” Fr. Luedtke said, before presenting the retreat’s attendees on the Catholic concept of an ever-present God who is active throughout all of history.

“In Christianity outside the Roman Catholic Church, there is a chasm outside of heaven and earth,” Fr. Luedtke said. “There is no overlap. Here is heaven; here is earth. In the Catholic version, there is this vertical moving up and down. When there’s an offering of the bread and Body of Christ, it’s being offered up.”

Fr. Luedtke explained the Catholic view of salvation history, in which God is always at the center, always present in every act of history.

“In Catholic thought, God is in the center,” Fr. Luedtke said, drawing a circle graphic on a projector to get across the idea. “God refers to Himself as ‘I Am.’ He reveals Himself in the present. There is no yesterday, no tomorrow for God. He is present to all points of history.”

Since God is ever-present, and all points of salvation history are happening at the same time from God’s perspective, Catholics celebrate the death of Jesus on the cross in the present tense, believing that every celebration of the Eucharist is one and the same of Christ’s Passion on Good Friday.

“In the Scriptures, Jesus is hanging on the cross and says, ‘Woman, behold your son,’” Fr. Luedtke, an extern priest serving in the Archdiocese of Detroit,  said. “Jesus looked down to his disciple and said, ‘Behold your mother.’ He never said John. What does this mean? That every moment of the Passion, we own it, personally. Jesus wasn’t just looking down to John, He was looking down to all of us. All of us now, all of us who have already died, all of us who have yet to be born.”

The ever-presence of the God is why the Catholic Church’s three branches: The Church Triumphant (those in heaven), the Church Militant (those on earth) and the Church Penitent (those in purgatory) are celebrating Mass together.

“At every Mass, all of heaven, purgatory are present at Mass,” Fr. Luedtke said. “We’re united in Mass. The saints engaging in intercessory prayer.”

Fr. Luedtke shifted his talk to what this means for Catholics living in today’s world, and how Catholics should be proud of their faith and being in Christ’s Church on earth, saying it is a call to love everyone.

“People ask, what should we do with people who are not in the Church, who oppose the Church? Love them,” Fr. Luedtke said. “If you come across a woman who had an abortion, love them. We’re the Catholic Church, we’re called to love.”

Fr. Luedtke spoke March 4 about the miracle at Fatima, and the following four nights included talks about faith, forgiveness, the Eucharist and Mary at the foot of the cross.

Before the talk, the Immaculate Heart of Mary statue was at the parish from March 3-6. St. Regis Deacon Francis King said the statue’s visit and the parish retreat are part of the parish’s Lenten program its newly appointed pastor, Fr. David Buersmeyer, wants established regularly at St. Regis.

“Two years ago, the Legion of Mary, inspired by the Holy Spirit, brought the Fatima statue to the parish,” Deacon King said. “We also wanted to host a retreat for some time, so when the statue was making the rounds in Detroit again, we decided instead of fighting for the Fatima statue in October, let’s do it for Lent.”

Deacon King said the parish is trying to make retreats like this a staple on St. Regis’ Lenten program.

“The crowd tonight (Sunday night) surprised all of us,” Deacon King said. “The spiritual hunger is there, always present in every person. We’re coming together in the Holy Spirit this Lent to bring us forward. And we’re amazed with the results we’re seeing.”