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Giving a Reason for Our Hope

Interview With Father Larry Richards

ERIE, Pennsylvania, NOV. 11, 2006 (Zenit) - Are you ready to give a reason for your hope?

Father Larry Richards began A Reason for Our Hope Foundation to help Catholics to do just that, and offer them the resources to spread their faith to others.

Ordained a priest in 1989, Father Richards is a diocesan priest at St. Joseph's Parish in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Speaking from his experience as a pastor of an inner city parish, a high school chaplain, a counselor and evangelist, the priest also hosts "Changed Forever with Father Larry Richards" on Relevant Radio, a Wisconsin-based talk radio network.

In this interview with us, Father Richards explains why he launched the new foundation, and how he hopes this initiative will help to spread the Gospel message through various multimedia resources.

Q: What is the aim of A Reason for Our Hope Foundation?

Father Richards: The aim of the foundation is to bring people into a relationship with Jesus Christ -- who is the reason for our hope.

We are based on 1 Peter 13:15: "Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope." We exist to evangelize the world and bring them the hope that is Jesus Christ.

Q: What is the core of the message that you try to get across to people?

Father Richards: That there is hope in Jesus Christ. This means that even though the world may be in darkness and fear so often with the constant threats of terrorism and war, there is always hope in Jesus.

No matter how dark a room is, if you just light one little candle the darkness never can overcome the light -- the light overcomes the darkness. Jesus is the light and the foundation is here to hold him up to the world.

Q: What are some of your more successful techniques to drive the message home?

Father Richards: Humor. I have often said that my style of preaching is to "make a person laugh, and then punch them in the stomach."

As the old song goes: "A spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down." When we are giving people the truth that can sometimes be hard, humor allows the person to embrace it easier.

Also, I make it practical. Too often people make the truth of Christ other-worldly instead of something that everyone can live every day. For instance I don't just tell people to love others, I tell them how to love others.

Q: Why the foundation? How did it come about?

Father Richards: I was involved with The Mary Foundation for a number of years and I saw what an impact recorded media could have on people lives. I wanted to expand this idea.

One way in which we are expanding it is by making resources widely available to those who are already working to spread the faith. We don't exist just to make Father Larry's CDs available, we are in the process of launching new dynamic speakers, and developing workshops that would help priests and deacons with their weekly homilies.

On our Web site, tools are available for everyone who is interested in bringing others to Christ. I have found that the "Truth Talk," which is available for free, is a great instrument of helping people come to know Jesus.

Additionally, we are a community of support to those who are trying to live the Gospel. This is where the Web site comes in.

The site is a vehicle to support people in living their faith. There is a prayer page so that we can pray for each other. We take this very seriously. We pray for these intentions every day in front of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

We want people to come back to the Web site each day to know that they are not alone, that we are all members of Christ's body and together we can change the world and bring the world hope.

Q: In your preaching, what are the toughest questions that you get from young people? What are their biggest challenges?

Father Richards: Once I was giving a retreat in a high school and one of the boys raised his hand and said: "Christianity is all irrelevant to us."

I think that the biggest challenge is to make faith relevant. Young people are looking for Jesus and his Church to speak to their daily lives.

Too often we just preach to the choir. I believe that God calls us first to preach to those who are searching. Young people ask me: "What does this have to do with my life?" I respond: "Everything."

But that's not all, I tell them the truth: That Jesus is the only one that will answer their deepest questions with meaning, and that Jesus is the only one that can give them true peace today and forever.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta used to say that people starving in India sometimes were so hungry that they would pick ...

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