October 28, 2022

‘Blessing is meant to be shared,’ Franciscan priest says at conference

Franciscan Friars of the Renewal Father Agustino Torres prays in a pew before delivering a keynote address at the National Black Catholic Men’s Conference at St. Rita Church in Indianapolis on Oct. 13. (Photo by Mike Krokos)

Franciscan Friars of the Renewal Father Agustino Torres prays in a pew before delivering a keynote address at the National Black Catholic Men’s Conference at St. Rita Church in Indianapolis on Oct. 13. (Photo by Mike Krokos)

By Mike Krokos

It was a time of Scripture, prayer, music and fellowship. 

It was also a night to honor the late co-founder of the National Black Catholic Men’s Conference (NBCMC).

(Related story : National Black Catholic Men’s Conference renamed in founding priest’s honor)

But for those teenagers and adults from across the United States in attendance, Franciscan Friars of the Renewal Father Agustino Torres’ message on Oct. 13 was simple, yet powerful: “The Lord has sent me to bless you.” 

Father Agustino, who ministers for his order in Brooklyn, N.Y., and is founder of the Hispanic youth ministry Corazon Puro, was the keynote speaker on the first night of NBCMC at St. Rita Church in Indianapolis.

The four-day gathering—from Oct. 13-16—drew an estimated 300 people to the JW Marriott and St. Rita for NBCMC’s first in-person gathering since 2019 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The theme of Father Agustino’s talk was “Dare to be a man of justice and peace.” 

Father Agustino shared how on his drive from Brooklyn to the Newark (N.J.) International Airport for his flight to Indianapolis earlier that day, his usual route led him into gridlock. But instead of fretting about the unforeseen challenge, the priest said he travelled a different way to the airport, trusting that the Lord had a plan for him. 

While on the unplanned route, Father Agustino took the time to roll down his window and bless the people he encountered. 

“I blessed them all. I blessed them all,” Father Agustino said. “When you share the Lord’s blessings, the Lord blesses you tenfold in return.” 

The result? Father Agustino said when he arrived at the airport, he was notified his ticket was upgraded, which led to laughter and applause from the congregation. 

The priest said he ministers to people in the inner city, and at the heart of his mission is trying to bring them hope. And with that hope he also delivers his blessing, much like the blessing he offered that evening to those attending NBCMC.

“This blessing is meant to be shared, this blessing is meant to be given, this blessing brings joy,” he said. “This blessing brings life, this blessing heals. … And I love sharing the blessing because someone has shared the blessing with me.”

Father Agustino reflected on a verse from the prophet Jeremiah—“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope” (Jer 29:11).

Despite the fact God has plans for each of us, Father Agustino continued, some have not shared his blessings. And he encouraged people of faith to seek those gifts now. “Lord forgive me for the times I knew not what to do with the blessing you gave me,” he asked those in attendance to pray. “Father, may I receive these blessings now.”

The priest also noted how, in all of creation, “we are the ones who were made for more.”

If we have failed or let people down, “the Lord is still calling you,” Father Agustino noted.

Like many of the prophets in Scripture, we, too, must be faithful to the Lord and trust in his plans for us, the priest said.

“You are here because someone spoke life into your soul. You are here because someone woke you up when you were lost and brought you back to life when you were dead,” he noted. “We give thanks to God for those people. What would be without those people?”

Father Agustino also prayed a blessing over the congregation, noting, “The Lord wants us to be anointed men to bring peace in our streets, in our homes, and in our hearts” to share his message of hope.

As he brings Jesus to the streets of his neighborhood, the priest said he, at times, must offer peace and prayers when he encounters evil. “Sometimes, it takes courage to stand up to evil, but the man who is blessed, the man who has been anointed, is equipped to face evil.”

During a recent domestic dispute between a man and woman in his neighborhood, Father Agustino intervened despite the man’s insistence that he shouldn’t. “This is my business!” the priest said to the man with his voice raised. “This neighborhood belongs to God!”

When reflecting on his reaction, Father Agustino said, “Anger is the power given to us by God to confront evil. The Lord wants us to be angry to confront the evil that is there. …

“My brothers, a man who is blessed, a man who is anointed, puts his anger” into his response to those situations, he added.

As the man approached the priest, Father Agustino said, “I’m gonna pray for you!”

As we face life’s challenges, we must remember, a man who is blessed and anointed “does the right thing because it is the right thing,” he added.

In living our vocations, we at times will face evil within ourselves, Father Agustino noted. But when we fall, we must remember “the Lord promises, we do have the strength, we do have the intelligence, we do have the fortitude, we do have the commitment, and these are the truths that need to inform those lies that they no more have a place within us.”

If we are blessed and anointed, we will be filled with joy, and “your life will never be the same,” Father Agustino noted.

“And you will not know for what you are living, unless you know that you are living for God.” †

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