Catholic Educators

Picture of Mark Link

Father Mark Link, S.J. (b. 1924). After more than half a century of penning textbooks and other inspirational and educational material Jesuit Father Mark Link has undertaken a task which many octogenarians would find more than challenging. This intrepid Christian educator, having previously avoided even email, much less the Internet, has begun a website, www.staygreat.com to convey to this generation the Christian message and the mysterious ways in which God is present to us today.

Biography

“What a pleasure it was to interview Fr. Link!” commented Marion Coppe who gathered the preliminary material for this entry. Father Mark Link is a member of the Society of Jesus. His liveliness, ambition and energy far exceed that of most other eighty-nine year old men

Life began for Mark Link on April 24, 1924 in the small town of Coldwater, Ohio. He joined older brother, Tony in the family household which eventually included four other siblings. Parents, Caroline and Aloysius, were by Mark Link’s own testimony, the greatest parents anyone could ever wish for. As noted by faith developmentalists, the significance of a father image is critical to one’s later image of God, a key component of an individual’s faith.

The life choices each sibling made in adult life reflected the values instilled by their parents. Rosemary and Gertrude entered the nursing profession. Dorothy became a Precious Blood sister. Paul found his life work among the priests of the Precious Blood and Mark, with the Jesuits. Tony joined the military and served in World War II, as Mark did previous to entering the Society of Jesus.

The depression years were hard on the large Link family. As with many wage earners Mr. Link experienced the effects of the plunging job market. Challenged by this reality the Link parents found creative ways to provide the necessities of life. Their home was located at the edge of town. Here they made good use of the space available and raised their own food. Mr. Link began a grass mowing business. Mark recalls that his father was paid ten cents per lawn for his service.

The family observed two faithful rituals, the dinner meal and night prayer. Mr. Link made it a point to be home to gather with his wife and children every evening to share food and conversation.

Mark attended Holy Trinity grade school and Coldwater High School. Learning was a pleasant experience for Mark and today he recalls that he really “liked school”. An interest in drama and sports was played out during his high school years. Even then writing came easily and was enjoyable. Mark covered a number of high school sports for the local paper. He also participated in sports, was on the school baseball team and competed in a state tournament. Today he continues his interest in baseball as an avid fan of the Cincinnati Reds.

In 1943, two years after the U.S. became engaged in World War II Mark joined the U.S. Army Air Force and served for three years in the Pacific theatre. He trained as a meteorologist at Washington University in St. Louis and at Wright field in Dayton, Ohio and was subsequently was assigned to the 30th Army Air Force Weather Squadron stationed in Guam and in Saipan. He advanced quickly to the rank of corporal. When Mark completed his military service he left with two commendable citations: the American theater ribbon and the Asiatic-Pacific Theater Ribbon with three bronze stars.

With the GI Bill Mark enrolled in the University of Cincinnati’s architectural program. This period of his life opened up a pathway that can only be explained by God’s grace and Mark’s generous response. Classroom theory and co-op experience in an architectural firm together were part of the curriculum at the University. The latter brought Mark to Cleveland where he met Len Schostek. In a gesture of friendship Len invited Mark to his home. It was here that Mark first heard the story of Edmund Champion SJ from Len’s son, a senior at St. Ignatius Jesuit School in Cleveland. The conversation peaked Mark’s interest in the Jesuits but not enough to prompt immediate action.

Mark graduated from college in 1950 with his degree in architecture and in the following September sought admission to the Jesuits. What intervened between the evening at the Schostek home and this decision? In Fr. Link’s own words, “The real clarity came later. I was at Benediction and there was a 15-20 minute meditation. That’s when it really hit. I was looking for something significant in my life. There was a hunger. And then it was clear I should become a Jesuit. It’s hard to explain, really what I felt. I just knew I should become a Jesuit.” [Quoted in Kearney, George. Something to Say, Partners (2004 )]

From the time he entered the Jesuits in 1950 until his ordination in 1960, Mark had obtained a licentiate in philosophy from Loyola University of Chicago and written his first book, Prayer for Millions. The comment by one of his professors to whom Mark had confided his intent, “what makes you think you have so much to say?” did not dissuade him in the least. Indeed, his conviction about writing was fortuitous for the many who would later find his writings an inspiration in their spiritual development and on their journey with God.

Post ordination years found Fr. Link again as a student; in 1961 he received a licentiate in theology from Loyola of Chicago and the next year a diploma form Lumen Vitae, a theological institute in Brussels, Belgium.


Contributions to Christian Education

Although Fr. Link was deeply committed to writing, his communication venues were multiple: the classroom from St. Ignatius and Loyola academies to Loyola U niversity and Mundelein Seminary for twenty-six years, television where he scripted and was feature d in twenty some shows, retreats and lectures in every major U.S. city , including Hawaii and Alaska, in Australia, England, Ireland and Canada. In addition he has penned seventy-five books. Some have appeared in twenty-five different; languages including Chinese and Russian. In the past eighteen years his books have found a home in 800 prisons. The non-profit, Victory 2000, recently distributed some 700,000 copies of his books. Photography is another medium Fr. Link has used; many of his published books include pictures he has taken. Unpublished and less known is the poetry he has written. This quiet unassuming Jesuit is responsible for book sales in excess of ten million copies. (Ignatian Spirituality Communication)

How many ways can the Word be disseminated? Certainly Fr. Link kept finding more and more ways. At a meeting of Jesuits in Rome in 2003 in which Fr. Link had been invited, the attendees were encouraged to utilize technology and reach out and evangelize post modern society. It took him less than a year to enflesh his response to that challenge. With some help from his nephew in 2004 he launched his website, www.staygreat.com for “seekers, drifters, and believers.” The content is based on the scriptural readings of the day. It is short but deeply engaging. The human interest stories grab one’s attention so quickly that it is impossible not to read through. The statistics alone indicate its popularity; staygreat.com averages 5000 hits daily from thirty nations and on occasion as many as one hundred forty nations. Fr. Link once said that his life was defined by symbols: a baseball, a Pacific Island, a T square, a pen and a plane ticket. To that might be added a computer and air waves.

What keeps Fr. Link motivated? His response to that question is a message to every Christian educator , “When you really believe something you have to tell others about it.” He then adds, “Writing is something I felt compelled to do. It is one of the greatest ministries. You see things aren’t the way you think they ought to be and you want to change them. …As Christians we’ve got one heck of a story to tell. That’s what I am trying to do.” (http:// Think Jesuit accessed 10/8/11.)

Xavier University in Cincinnati recognized the contributions of Fr. Link to the life of the church and in 2001 awarded him an honorary doctorate.

For a whole century Catholics have been advised that the catechesis or religious education of adults should be at the center not at the periphery of the catechetical endeavors. While many persons in the field have struggled and continue to struggle to realize that goal, this quiet, very humble elderly Jesuit has made it happen in his ministry in a mode that has wide appeal for the present generation.

Jesuit Provincial, Father Edward Schmidt, says of Father Link “Mark Link is like the Energizer Bunny; he just keeps going and going. It is impossible to overstate the significance of his many years of work. He has made theology and Ignatian spirituality accessible to millions of people.”

In the many pieces that Fr. Link has written one may easily pick out three recurring elements: his very clear appreciation of the life situations in society today, his love of literature and his use of that literature as a means to elucidating the spiritual life, his ability to see in ordinary events the revelation of God and finally, the inclusion of very pointed material for personal reflection.

Sister Janet Schaeffler, former director of Adult Faith Formation for the Archdiocese of Detroit, teacher, catechist, consultant and mentor finds Fr. Link’s contributions to the field of Christian Education ageless. She comments:

In the vibrant years immediately after the Second Vatican Council, it was invigorating to be involved in ministry within the Catholic Church. People were seeking to soak up all they could about their faith, their on-going journey of spirituality and discipleship.
Resources began to abound to assist people in their quest. For years and years and years, Mark Link, SJ could be counted on to provide people with various and multiple resources. And they weren’t just resources which touched the intellect. They were that, but so much more. Through reflection, prayer, photography, real-life experiences, as well as deeply-grounded theology, they touched people’s hearts, souls, beliefs, dreams and living, the core of people’s lives.
Mark never disappoints. In today’s technological world he continues to gift us every single day. His website, www.greatsmart.com , is phenomenal, practical, prayerful and perfect for all ages, “for seekers, drifters and believers” – all of us. I go to it for my personal growth and reflection and for thoughts, meditations and practices to share with others. I continually recommend the site to others. After just a few days, people comment, with much gratitude, on how the time spent on the site influences their everyday growth, awareness and living.

Fr. Mark Link joins that cadre of the tried and true religious educators whose contributions span decades and whose authentic measure of influence is known only in the hearts and minds of the thousands of persons he has lead to a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.


Bibliography

Books by Fr. Mark Link, S.J.

  • (1958). Prayer for Millions. Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame Press.
  • (1964). Christ teaches us today +Manual . Chicago: Loyola University Press.
  • (1965). We live with Christ + Manual. Chicago: Loyola University Press.
  • (1966/1976). Easter to Pentecost (Year B). Allen, TX: Tabor Publishing Co.
  • (1966/1976). Easter to Pentecost (Year C). Allen, TX: Tabor Publishing Co.
  • (1967). Man and the modern world + Manual. Chicago: Loyola University Press.
  • (1967). We are God’s people + Manual. Chicago: Loyola University Press.
  • (1969). Youth in the modern World. Allen, TX: Argus Publications.
  • (1972). He is the stillpoint of the turning world. Allen, TX: Argus Publications.
  • (1972). Take off your shoes . Allen, TX: Thomas More Publications.
  • (1974). In the stillness is the dancing. Allen, TX: Argus Publications.
  • (1974). The merriest Christmas book. Allen, TX: Tabor Publishing Co.
  • (1975). The mustard seed . Allen, TX: Tabor Publishing Co.
  • (1975) These stones will shout + manual. Allen, TX: Argus Publications.
  • (1976). Prayer for beginners and those who … . Allen, TX: Thomas More Publications.
  • (1978). The seventh trumpet. Allen, TX: Tabor Publishing Co.
  • (1980). These stones will shout (rev.). Allen, TX: Tabor Publishing Co.
  • (1980). Breakaway + Manual + Student booklet. Allen, TX: Argus Publications.
  • (1980). These stones wills shout (rev.) + Manual. Allen, TX: Argus Publications.
  • (1982). Lord, who are you?+ Manual. Allen, TX: Argus Publications.
  • (1984). Experiencing Jesus. Allen, TX: Tabor Publications.
  • (1984). Experiencing prayer. Allen, TX: Tabor Publications.
  • (1987). Illustrated daily homilies year one (Gospels). Allen, TX: Tabor Publishing Co.
  • (1987). Path through scripture + manual. Allen, TX: Resources for Christian Living.
  • (1988). Challenge: a meditation program. Allen, TX: Tabor Publishing Co..
  • (1988). Illustrated Sunday homilies (Year 1 B). Allen, TX: Resources for Christian Living.
  • (1988). Illustrated Sunday homilies (Year 1 A). Allen, TX: Resources for Christian Living.
  • (1988). Journey. Allen, TX: Resources for Christian Living.
  • (1988). The psalms for today. Allen, TX: Tabor Publications.
  • (1989). Illustrated Sunday homilies (Year 1 C). Allen, TX: Resources for Christian Living.
  • (1989 ). Psalms for today . Allen, TX: Resources for Christian Living.
  • (1990). Illustrated Sunday homilies (Year 2 A). Allen, TX: Resources for Christian Living.
  • (1990). Prayer paths: praying the way Jesus prayed. Allen, TX: Resources for Christian Living.
  • (1990). The Catholic vision + manual. Allen, TX: Tabor Publishing Co.
  • (1991). Illustrated homilies (Year 2B). Allen, TX: Resources for Christian Living.
  • (1991). Illustrated homilies (Year 2C). Allen, TX: Resources for Christian Living.
  • (1991). Path through Catholicism + manual). Allen, TX: Thomas More Publications.
  • (1992). Vision 2000. Allen, TX: Resources for Christian Living.
  • (1993). Vision ( Years A, B, C ). Allen, TX: Thomas More Publications.
  • (1993). Challenge: a daily meditation. Allen, TX. Resources for Christian Living, Benziger.
  • (1993/2006). Cuaresma 2000. Cincinnati: Resources for Christian Living, Benziger.
  • (1993/2006). Desafio. Chicago: Loyola University Press.
  • (1993). Illustrated daily homilies Year 2. Allen, TX: Resources for Christian Living, Benziger.
  • (1993). Lent Year B . Allen, TX: Resources for Christian Living.
  • (1993). Lent Year C . Allen, TX: Resources for Christian Living.
  • (1993). Mission 2000 Year B. Allen, TX: Resources for Christian Living.
  • (1993). Vision Year A. Allen, TX : Thomas More Publications.
  • (1994). Lent Year A. Allen, TX:Thomas More Publications.
  • (1994). Mission Year B. Allen, TX: Thomas More Publications.
  • (1994). Spirit. Allen, TX: Resources for Christian Living, Benziger.
  • (1994). Bible 2000. Allen, TX: Tabor Publishing Co.
  • (1995). Bible; Genesis to Revelation. Allen, TX:Thomas More Publications.
  • (1996). New Catholic Vision + manual. Allen, TX: Resources for Christian Living.
  • (1996). Psalms. Allen, TX: Thomas More Publications.
  • (1996). Psalms beyond 2000 (Journal). Allen, TX: Thomas More Publications.
  • (1996). Action Year C. Allen, TX: Thomas More Publications.
  • (1996). Advent, Christmas, Year A. Allen, TX: Resources for Christian Living, Benziger.
  • (1996). Advent, Christmas, Year B. Allen, TX: Resources for Christian Living, Benziger.
  • (1996). Advent, Christmas, Year C. Allen, TX: Resources for Christian Living, Benziger.
  • (1998). God, the Father, meditations for the millennium. Allen, TX: Thomas More Publications.
  • (1998). Holy Spirit, m editations for the millennium. Allen, TX: Thomas More Publications.
  • (1998). Jesus: a contemporary walk with Jesus. Allen, TX: Resources for Christian Living.
  • (1998). Jesus, meditations for the millennium. Allen, TX: Resources for Christian Living.
  • (1999). Celebration of Hope: reflections for Jubilee Year. Publication information unavailable.
  • (2000). Path through Catholicism (interactive edition). Allen, TX: Resources for Christian Living.
  • (2000). Path through scripture + Resources. Cincinnati: Resources for Christian Living, Benziger.
  • (2002). New Catholic vision + Manual. Publication information unavailable..
  • (2002). Affirmation. Publication information unavailable.
  • (2003). Illustrated Sunday homilies (3A). Allen, TX: Resources for Christian Living.
  • (2003). Ilustrated Sunday homilies (3B). Allen, TX: Resources for Christian Living.
  • (2003). Illustrated Sunday homilies (3C). Allen, TX: Resources for Christian Living.
  • (2009). Path through Catholicism ( pocket version). Allen, TX: Resources for Christian Living.
  • (2009). Path through scripture (pocket version). Allen, TX: Resources for Christian Living.
  • (2009). Pray the way Jesus prayed. Chicago: Loyola University Press.

Books Edited by Fr. Mark Link, S.J.

  • (Ed.). (1964). Faith and commitment. Chicago: Loyola University Press.
  • (Ed.). (1965). Teaching the sacraments and morality. Chicago: Loyola University Press.

Weekly Columns

  • (1997-2004) Faith Connections. Minute meditation. Allen, TX: Resources for Christian Living.

Audio Visual Materials

  • (1977). Teaching Youth to Pray. Allen, TX: Argus Publications.
  • (1984). Experiencing Jesus: His story . (20 tapes)
  • (1984). Experiencing prayer. (6 tapes)
  • (1998). Walks with Jesus. (9 tapes)

Website

Book Reviews

  • Savitskas, M. Pa ths through Scripture. Catechist 21(3), October 1987, 10.
  • Mulvanety, E. Paths through Scripture. St. Anthony Messenger, January 21, 1989, 44.
  • Paths through scripture. Columbia, August 1987, p. 21.

Other Resources


Excerpts from Publications

(1993) Lent. Allen, TX: Thomas More Publications, 16.

A college girl asked her mother “How can you be sure Jesus’ teachings are true?” … You can be convinced in only one way”, her mother said, “by living them. If you live Jesus’ teachings they will speak to your heart and tell your heart that they are true.” Give us your love, Lord. For sometimes people reject us and we are tempted to hate. Give us your strength, Lord. For sometimes things get tough and we are ready to quit. Give us your courage, Lord. For sometimes we’re put under pressure and it is hard to do what is right. (2002). Affirmation. No publication information available, 23.

(1999). Celebration of Hope. Allen, TX: Thomas More Publications, n. 19.

In To kill a mockingbird, Atticus Finch says to his children, “The only way to understand people is to crawl inside their skins, see what they see, hear what they hear, feel what they feel.” The same is true of God’s inspired word, Scripture. Studying it and discussing it is not enough. We must break open God’s inspired word, crawl inside it, press it to our heart, savor its sweetness, relate it to our everyday life and share it with others

(1993) Challenge. Allen, TX: RCL Benziger, 176.

Two brothers, Clarence and Robert committed their lives to Jesus in their youth. Clarence grew up to be a political activist. … Robert grew up and became a lawyer. One day Clarence asked Robert for legal help in a civil rights matter. Robert refused, saying it could hurt his political future. When Clarence asked him about his commitment to Jesus, Robert said, “I do follow Jesus but I am not going to get crucified like he was. Clarence said, “Robert, you are not a follower of Jesus; you are only a fan.”

In what way might I be more of a fan of Jesus than a follower?

Kearney, G. (2004, Spring). Something to say. Partners, 18.

Link’s less known poetry also gives insight to the spiritual depths of his writing.

In Flights of Wild Fantasty

In flights of wild fantasy,
I’ve streaked across the sky,
Tunneled the clouds and touched the stars.
In daring flights of ecstasy
I’ve fled my craft, danced on the wind,
And painted rainbows in the sky.
I’ve stowed away on meteors,
Explored the Milky Way,
And planted my own flag on the moon.
I’ve talked with eagles
And followed flights of birds
To worlds you’ve never dreamed of.
Laughing in symphony with thunder,
And skipping rope with lightning bolts,
I’ve kicked off my shoes and gone unshod,
I’ve shed my skin and walked with God.


Recommended Readings

For those wishing to have greater access to Fr. Mark Link’s contemporary message and ministry, www.staygreat.com will provide that information . Challenge, a daily meditation program based on the exercises of Ignatius Loyola gives the reader insight into the general style of Fr. Link’s writing and the way in which he applies the content to daily Christian life.


Author Information

Marion Coppe

Marion Coppe, OP has taught on all grade levels; the last twenty years of teaching were spent in adult education in the Port Huron School System in Michigan from which she has retired. She received both a B.A. and M.A from Siena Heights University in Adrian, Michigan. She continued studies for various areas of certification at the University of Chicago, Furman, Michigan State, Oakland and Marquette Universities.

Mary L. Putrow

Mary L. Putrow, OP is on the faculty at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Michigan. She holds a B.A. and M.A. from Siena Heights University, an M.A. from the Catholic University of America and a Ph.D. from Michigan State University.

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