Father John Riccardo is the host of Ave Maria radio’s “Christ is the Answer.” He lives in Michigan and is the youngest of five children. Father Riccardo credits his parents for making a relationship with God and everyday faith a “normal” part of living. According to Father, his parents not only taught by their words but by their actions as well.
Father Riccardo graduated from University of Michigan and spent some time working in the secular world before pursuing his vocation as a priest. He was ordained in the Archdiocese of Detroit in 1996. Father studied philosophy at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit and theology at the Gregorian University in Rome. He received a Sacred License in Theology (STL) from The Pope John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family. The radio program Father hosts, “Christ is the Answer” is a catechetical program and one of the most informative I listen to on Catholic radio. For more information on Father, visit www.AveMariaRadio.net where you can listen live to his show any weekday at 11 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (these shows are previously aired) or 8 p.m. on Wednesday evenings (new shows).
Most recently Father was a guest on Catholic radio’s pledge drive and spoke of the need for fasting and praying in the time leading up to this November’s presidential election. I asked Father if he would answer a few questions and he graciously agreed.
Father, you’ve mentioned fasting and praying, on Fridays, for the election. Could you give us a bit of direction on this and how we can join others in this cause?
Fr. Riccardo: The sense of a need to fast for this election came some months ago now when our readings at daily Mass dealt with the history of the people of Israel during the reign of the various kings, and in particular with the reality that the life of the king effected the people as a whole. This is a concept we don’t keep in mind much in the US. We tend to think a person’s private life is entirely their own. Now, there’s some truth to that, but the idea that the life of a leader has no impact on the life of the nation he or she leads is entirely in contrast to the revealed Word of God. It was during that time that I felt the Lord put on my heart a deep conviction to not only fast myself but to invite others to do the same for God’s mercy and blessing upon our land until and specifically for the men and women running for public office. Perhaps many of us forgot, or are unaware, of how often some of our Founding Fathers would call the nation to pray and fast during certain times.
As for the nuts and bolts of the fast, I myself just drink liquids on Fridays until dinner, and then break the fast at that time, trying to call to mind throughout the day the intention that I have. Some people, I know, can’t fast from foods for various reasons, but something else could easily be substituted in its place.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the Catholic Church today?
Fr. Riccardo: The Lord says in His Word, “My people perish for lack of knowledge.” I think that might be how I would answer that question. It’s a question with many possible answers, but this comes to mind right now anyway. That lack of knowledge would be manifold: about God, about His personal love, about the basics of our faith, about what it means to be a Catholic, and so forth.
What do you suggest Catholics do to live their faith more fully?
Fr. Riccardo: This, too, is a topic that could fill a book, but certainly some basics come to mind. First of all would be to put in place a game plan for how to live this life well. We have strategies for almost everything we do with regards to various parts of life, but seldom do we take the time to come up with one for all of life. I think it works best by starting with the desired end: heaven and hearing the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” That end, sobering as this is, is not a given. It’s a gift, to be sure, and so not something that we can earn, but it must still be received by each of us.
Each of us needs to prayerfully determine how we should respond to the gift of life entrusted to us by God, and how to live in such a way so as to try to honor Him in all we do and build up the civilization of love here and now. Fundamentally, I think, it starts by making a commitment to pray, to “waste time with God,” as I put it. This isn’t to imply that prayer is a waste of time; not at all! It’s meant to convey that we need to be in the daily habit of wasting time in a positive way with Him, of listening to His voice in silence and in Scripture, of praising Him, thanking Him, saying we’re sorry, asking for help, asking for vision, and so much more.
Finally, could you give us a little insight into your thoughts about the upcoming election?
Fr. Riccardo: We obviously have many pressing issues and needs in our country at present, and each day only seems to raise even more concerns, with economic concerns currently dominating the headlines. I think I’m sobered, quite frankly, by how much hostility seems to be out there, on all “sides,” and how little humility there seems to be.
Author’s note: If you’ve not yet read a Catholic voter’s guide or would like to understand, more fully, what it means to be a Catholic voter, here are a few helpful links… http://www.ewtn.com/vote/brief_catechism.htm, http://www.catholic.com/, http://westcoastcatholic.blogspot.com/2008/08/archbishop-chaput-vote-for-real-change.html, and http://www.stlouisreview.com/abpcolumn.php?abpid=7051