Visiting priest draws 1,000 to Charlotte for two-day seminar

CHARLOTTE — Terri de Luca’s friend in Pennsylvania gave such a colorful description of a speaker who came to her church, that it lit a fire under her. De Luca was determined to bring this no nonsense priest, named Father John Corapi of the Society of Our Lady, from California to North Carolina.

Now as she looks back, she gives God all the credit for making it so easy to arrange for this nationally known Catholic evangelizer (whose programs are aired on Eternal Word Television Network) to come to St. Gabriel Church in Charlotte and to speak to more than 1,000 people from all corners of the Carolinas on Feb. 14 and 15.

“I have bought almost every book and video he has done, and it is wonderful to be able to see him in person,” said Joan Pomnitz, parishioner of Immaculate Conception in Wilmington, N.C.

Christine and Tom Caudle from St. Mary Church in Greenville, S.C., did not mind the long drive. They first saw Father Corapi in a school gym in Wyoming several years ago and will never forget the powerful impact of that experience.

“Back then the only thing that was holding me back from converting to Catholicism was the Blessed Mother. After hearing Father Corapi’s explanation of Marian devotion, it was no longer an obstacle,” said Tom Caudle who converted soon afterward.

Father Corapi’s unexpected and tedious 14-hour flight that started at 1 a.m., ended just in time for him to jump off the plane into the church. Defying exhaustion that night, he delivered the first of what would be five passionate talks only to awake the next day at 7 a.m. for Mass and to resume speaking at several sessions that day.

The best way to describe the two-day gathering was intense as Father Corapi skillfully condensed the major points of the Catholic Catechism and breathed relevance and meaning to the teachings through personal experience and humorous analogy. His direct style often accompanied with a youthful grin, caused spontaneous applause and occasional laughter, but always an attentive audience, especially when he courageously defended teachings that were not statistically popular with Catholics.

In one session he shared his less than conventional past that lead him to a “late in life” ordination to the priesthood on May 26, 1991. He graduated with honors from both Holy Apostle Seminary in Connecticut where he received his masters in Sacred Scripture and later from the University of Navarre in Spain where he received a bachelor, licentiate, and doctorate in Sacred Theology with an ecclesiastic concentration in Doctrinal Theology.

Before the priesthood his diverse occupations included a short run with the Green Berets, auditor for Las Vegas hotels and casinos, and millionaire real estate broker for the rich and famous in Hollywood, Calif., a fast-paced lifestyle that eventually led him to drugs and homelessness.

At his lowest point he remembered reaching out to a God he was not sure existed. As a result, he was given enough hope to lead him back home. He eventually returned to his Catholic faith attributing Mary and the rosary for leading him directly to Christ.

His devotion to Mary made it easy for him to spend an entire session on her. Jokingly, he subtitled the talk, “Your Mama Wears Combat Boots,” because of her central role in the spiritual war that started with the fall of Adam and Eve and is more dangerous than any of the historical wars, even the one brewing in Iraq.

“Genesis Chapter 3 is a war story, good versus evil,” Father Corapi said. “God gave an order not to eat of the fruit or they would die. The devil called God a liar. Adam and Eve were seduced by pride, and pride leads to disobedience, and disobedience leads to death.”

The priest said that God declared war on the serpent when he said he put enmity between his offspring and the offspring of Mary.

“We live in catastrophic times with lots of suffering,” he said. “Look at the suffering in the church, there has never been anything like it.”

The priest warned that unless people begin to look at the underlying cause, which is spiritual, the physical battle would have more casualties. One of the ways to win that spiritual battle and breathe life into the home, the church and the world is through the rosary.

“The rosary is pure power, a prayer of the Gospel, with a body and a soul like us,” he said.

He said that St. Padre Pio, whom he described as “one of the greatest warriors in the spiritual battle,” called the rosary his weapon.

Father Corapi also spent some time discussing the current scandals in the priesthood calling them horrific and explaining the rippling effect it has had on all the clergy. But after saying all that, he reminded the people to love their priests, even if they are not always lovable and to pray for them because without a good shepherd the flock will scatter.

“The priesthood is under attack from inside and outside of the church,” the priest said.

He blamed the devil for trying to get rid of the priests so there would be no Eucharist “and without Eucharist there is no life.”

“The Eucharist is not something; it is somebody,” Father Corapi said. “The Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith, the essence of our faith that gives meaning to our lives.”

The priest is often advised not to preach about the negatives in the world, but he has refused to do so, because not unlike electrical current, if just the positive is accentuated then power is lost and the light goes out. This said by a priest who describes himself as “an equal opportunity offender” and who receives criticism from both sides of the fence for boldly proclaiming what he knows to be the truth.

Father Corapi’s unwavering trust in Scripture and church teaching makes him a convincing advocate for Catholicism.

When asked how he feels about a teaching, he answered, “It does not matter how I feel but what my faith says is truth.”

“Father Corapi tells it like it is and that is rare these days,” said Tony Weis, a young adult and parishioner at St. Gabriel Church. He said he thoroughly enjoyed the talks.

In his concluding remarks Father Corapi gave encouragement, much like a coach before a big game.

“In these troubled and strange times of terror and terrorists remember that fear is useless,” he said. “What we need is trust. So go and fight the good fight, and one day we will make it to the finish line, and God will say welcome good and faithful servant.”