by Denis Grasska
SAN DIEGO (CNS) — Richard Lane has certainly come a long way since his youth, when he had to be taken “kicking and screaming” to Lutheran Sunday services.
Now at age 50, he is an internationally known, full-time Catholic lay evangelist who has appeared on such Catholic media outlets as the Eternal Word Television Network, Relevant Radio and CatholicTV.com.
The child once bored by church has grown into a man on fire for the faith.
“It’s just like Ezekiel said, the word of God is like a fire shut up in my bones,” Lane said, “and I cannot help but go out and want to set the world on fire and give the same love that God has given to me.”
It was in 1984, while serving in the U.S. Army, that Lane first encountered Catholicism. He felt that the military’s Protestant religious service wasn’t a good fit for him, but Mass had several elements that felt familiar thanks to his Lutheran upbringing.
Though Lane began attending Mass every Sunday and became actively involved in ministries at the parishes at which he worshipped, it was not until April 2003 that he received the sacraments of initiation and entered into full communion with the Catholic Church.
“No one ever told me that there was a process of becoming Catholic,” he told The Southern Cross, the San Diego’s diocesan newspaper. “I just continued to go to church every Sunday because I knew it was very important.”
But at St. Alphonsus Liguori “Rock” Church in St. Louis, he was informed for the first time that he would need to complete the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults process.
About two years after becoming Catholic, he was invited to take part in a parish ministry that involved passing out Bibles on the street.
“These are the street corners of St. Louis, Missouri, very hard street corners,” he recalled. “People had been killed on the same spot where I was preaching the night before, and I went out on those street corners and passed out Bibles to dope-dealers, gangsters, pimps, prostitutes — those that would be willing to receive the light, those that would be willing to receive the Word.”
By his second week on the street corners, Lane felt called to preach. Uncertain about what to say, he was encouraged to simply allow the Spirit to guide him. After praying the Our Father and the Hail Mary, he began sharing “how good the Lord has been in my life.”
From that moment on, Lane spent his Saturday nights “ministering to the least, lost and most abandoned” of St. Louis. He would pray for God’s protection and ask God to bless his words and speak through him. Then, he would “just let it fly.”
Word of his preaching began to spread, and soon he was being invited to deliver witness talks in local Protestant churches. He also received the encouragement and support of his archbishop, then-St. Louis Archbishop Raymond L. Burke, who was later made a cardinal.
Lane said he saw “the face of Christ” in the poor to whom he ministered, and Christ ministered to him through them.
In 2005, Lane and his wife, Donna, founded what it now known as Richard Lane Ministries. As an evangelist, his work is no longer limited to the street corners of St. Louis. He estimates that he travels nine months out of the year to preach parish missions, speak at men’s conferences, lead retreats and consult with dioceses interested in improving their evangelization efforts.
He is also co-founder of the annual Catholic Men for Christ Conference, which draws more than 10,000 men annually and is now in its eighth year.
Though he no longer preaches on the streets of St. Louis, Lane still has the opportunity to engage in that ministry from time to time. For example, during a recent visit to San Diego to deliver a parish mission, he led a group of local young adults who prepared meals, distributed them to the homeless and accompanied him as he preached the Gospel to those living on the streets.
Lane said he specializes in “applied theology,” or “how to apply the word of God to your daily lives.” With his parish missions, which are currently centered on the Year of Mercy, his hope is “that [attendees] are inspired, that they are encouraged, that their lives have been changed in a certain way.”
He recalled receiving a phone call last Holy Saturday from a man who identified himself as one who had “cursed … out” Lane two years earlier and whom Lane had challenged to really study the faith. The man revealed that he had accepted Lane’s challenge and was then about 45 minutes away from becoming Catholic at the Easter Vigil.
At a parish talk last November in Beaumont, Texas, Lane was approached by a 15-year-old girl who told him that she had felt so unloved that she had contemplated suicide. But, after receiving a hug from Lane at one of his previous parish visits, she had changed her mind about taking her own life.
“It’s up to us — those of us who have been empowered by the Holy Spirit, who have received the light — it’s up to us to go out and to share that light with everyone in the world,” Lane told The Southern Cross. “That’s the way that God is going to continue to reconcile this world to himself: through our witness.”