Tim Glemkowski came from Colorado to give two talks at the Dec. 5 Advent event in Rice Lake. With clear ideas and a motivational style, the speaker – who spent time discerning the priesthood during college – said everyone is called to become a saint, living Catholicism heroically. (Catholic Herald photo by Jenny Snarski)

Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald Staff

“Tonight can be a life-changing encounter with Christ if you let it.”

This was how Catholic speaker and evangelist Tim Glemkowski, after invoking the Holy Spirit, started the first of two talks at St. Joseph’s Church in Rice Lake. The Franciscan University of Steubenville graduate spoke as part of an Advent adoration event that also included a meal put on by the local Knights of Columbus and Council of Catholic Women.

Glemkowski is also founder and president of L’Alto Catholic Institute whose mission is to help parishes form disciples and inspire Catholics to respond to their call to holiness and mission. He lives in Colorado with his wife and daughter, holding positions as a theology teacher, catechist and director of evangelization, youth and young adult ministries.

Focusing on the salvation story during the first talk, Glemkowski shared the strong sense of identity he gained as he first held his newborn baby girl. Dad, something he hadn’t been before but would be from that moment on – a life-defining moment.

He retold the life-defining moment for Adam and Eve. How, after God told them they could eat of all the garden’s fruits – emphasizing their freedom – the serpent deceptively twisted God’s words – emphasizing the rules.

“Eve’s response demonstrates humanity’s fundamental struggle to trust God and his goodness,” Glemkowski suggested and proceeded to sum up both the Old and New Testaments.

Holding up the Bible, he said, “Divine Revelation tells us the story about a loving Father who, out of love, would do anything to bring you back into relationship with him,” and emphasized, “Brothers and sisters, the entire story of salvation history is about God trying to convince you that He loves you.”

He encapsulated the Old Testament in a few lines of the Christmas hymn “O Holy Night”: “Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.” Glemkowski said that “our struggles boil down to a disbelief that God is a good God and that all his intentions for us are good.”

Presenting the parable of the Prodigal Son as the New Testament in a nutshell, he said, “Your story, my story, is essentially about a Father who comes rushing toward us.”

He acknowledged our human relationships often do not prepare us to receive God’s unconditional love, but we should be confident of receiving that love and run to him. The speaker illustrated the point with an image of his 3-year-old daughter running into his arms, unconcerned with her misbehavior during the time her father was away.

Nearly 200 people attended the first talk; almost 320 were in the church for the second, which preceded an hour of Eucharistic adoration. Lynn Pottinger, cluster director of religious education, said their attendance goal was 250. She commended the “huge group effort” and hard work of many committee members.

Glemkowski started the second talk by sharing another life-defining moment during adoration at a Steubenville youth conference before his senior year of high school. He went from being primarily concerned with “being cool, not really standing for anything” to being convicted that he would only find happiness in Christ.

And yet he admitted, “I was afraid to give my life completely over, thinking I’d be miserable, and mostly, strange… (However), the more I applied myself to the habits of virtue, the easier it got and the happier I became.”

He quoted Pope Benedict XVI from the second paragraph of the introduction to Deus Caristas Est – the pope’s encyclical on Christian love: “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”

From C. S. Lewis’s “Weight of Glory,” Glemkowski restated, “Christianity, if true, is of infinite importance.”

He spoke with conviction of Jesus Christ in the Gospels as an utterly captivating person, still alive today.

He descriptively recounted the stories of the woman caught in adultery hovering at Jesus’ feet for mercy, the Samaritan woman at the well who experiences Christ and shares it with the townspeople she avoided, and Zaccheus, who went out of his way to encounter Christ and was then challenged to leave his entire way of life behind.

“There’s something about the person of Jesus Christ that’s so compelling, that’s so different that it reaches into them and just pulls out the response.

“These are incredibly sinful figures, but there’s something about him. They just want to be near him; they just want to be around him. They’re not thinking about their life, they just want to be close to him,” he emphasized.

Glemkowski iterated that Jesus is often seen as one of two opposing figures – either a radical and hard-lining judge, or some kind of peaceful hippie with a vague message about loving others. He said that while both are inaccurate, either way “we think he’s of moderate importance… But he asks for everything, because he wants to give us everything.”

Attendees were encouraged to reach out in deep faith to encounter the Lord, “this amazing person,” through the opportunities for Eucharistic adoration and reconciliation.

To those wrestling with feelings that their sins were too big to be forgiven, those who hadn’t been to confession in years or decades, Glemkowski reassured, “Go back and imagine those figures in the Gospel who encountered Christ, there was no fear in them. They realized that it didn’t matter what their sin was, this guy was worth it.

“Don’t be afraid to receive the mercy of Jesus Christ. Your sin is not bigger than the mercy of Jesus Christ. It is a pebble thrown into the ocean of God’s mercy. We just have to let go. We’re holding on (to our sin) and it’s killing us. Give it to him.”

He concluded with spontaneous prayer in preparation for exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.

Youth Minister Elise Burns affirmed for the crowd, “God is of infinite importance, and he elicits a response. Don’t be afraid to receive the mercy of Jesus Christ tonight.”

An hour of silent adoration followed, accompanied by meditative Gregorian chant. Confession lines filled up as soon as the three priests present were available after the start of the 7 p.m. holy hour. The doors of the church were finally closed at 9:20 p.m. after the last confession was heard.