By Deacon Kyle Eller
The Northern Cross
The promotional materials for the Women of Faith conference called keynote speaker Sonja Corbitt a “Southern belle with a warrior’s heart and poet’s pen.”
However one describes the charismatic “Bible Study Evangelista” from Tennessee, she found a welcoming northern Minnesota audience with a record crowd at Marshall School in Duluth March 23.
|Sonja Corbitt, so wowed a record crowd at the annual women’s conference March 23 that all her books were sold out before lunch. (Deacon Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross)|
“We were thrilled with the turnout,” said Gretchen Landherr, one of the event organizers, in an interview after the conference. “It was the largest number of women we’ve had attend the conference, which was great.”
Corbitt, a former Baptist convert to the Catholic faith and the creator of the “LOVE the Word” Bible study method, has also authored several books, has a weekly radio show, and provides other Bible study resources at her website biblestudyevangelista.com.
Corbitt sprinkled her talks with personal stories and with Scripture passages that God had used in her prayer life. If it’s any indication what the estimated 550 women in attendance thought of her, she was sold out of books after the first talk.
“She really just didn’t miss a beat,” Landherr said. “She was kind of flawless in her performance.”
In her first talk, Corbitt spoke of how God worked to help heal her rage, noting that she struggled with anger so much that at one point she put her head through drywall. As a Baptist at the time, she was praying with Scripture and came across a passage in the book of Proverbs that God used to begin healing her: “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool returns to his folly.”
She learned that she had a “father wound,” she said, and was afraid she was worthless and unlovable.
She urged those in attendance to receive the power both of the sacraments and the Word of God daily, alluding to the “table” of God’s word and his body in the Mass.
“If we’re not getting the power of his word on a daily basis, we’re missing half the table,” she said.
“We all get a word from God every single day,” she said, advising everyone to begin spending even just five minutes a day praying with Gospel from the daily Mass readings.
In her second talk, she delved more deeply into how to pray with Scripture, relying on the acronym “LOVE,” which stands for Listen, Observe, Verbalize, and Entrust.
Listening refers to hearing the word of God in Scripture. “On a daily basis, we love the word of God like Mary,” she said.
Observing means “Look at your life,” she said, including the relationships, circumstances, and events that are taking place and what God may be saying about them.
“And then you’ll get to practice,” she said, referring to what she called “pop quizzes,” the often difficult opportunities that arise to begin practicing what the Lord has told us to do.
“This is the work of purgatory,” she said. “This is sanctification.”
Then Corbitt said those praying should verbalize their feelings to God. “We must get the emotion out,” she said.
Finally, she said, we must entrust it to God who takes care of our needs. “Just ask! Because he is the provider,” she said.
In her third and final talk, Corbitt spoke more of her conversion, of how church splits had caused her family to leave its Baptist church for a megachurch and how she slowly came to believe the Catholic faith.
But she said in the meantime, God was teaching her to rest and trust. She and her husband had been in leadership roles at their old church and went “to hide” where ministry positions were already filled. But she began to get “antsy,” she said, while she was hearing in prayer that she needed to learn to rest.
As she became Catholic, it became clear why. Conflict arose in her marriage, and even her new Catholic parish, where she was made director of religious education, proved difficult.
“The whole parish hated my guts,” she said, and a seminarian at the parish began stalking her.
Through the challenges, she said she learned to trust, and God took care of the problems. Her husband ended up taking the RCIA class she taught.
At a practical level Corbitt urged those in attendance to honor Sundays as day of rest.
She said when she began to do it, “the laundry screamed at me, … the dishes screamed at me from the sink.” But she said it’s necessary for body and soul.
“If you didn’t need it, God would not command it.”
The conference, as usual, included opportunities for Mass, confession, and adoration, as well as a host of vendors.
But it also featured something new, a panel of religious sisters called “Spiritual Caffeine.” Representing the Congregation for Divine Providence, the Benedictine Sisters of St. Scholastica Monastery, and the Handmaids of the Heart of Jesus, three sisters answered questions from the audience.
Landherr said the first-time aspect of the day was well received too.
“I thought it was a really nice way to end the afternoon,” she said.