Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Do Catholics believe Faith is Necessary to "Be Saved?"

Many well-meaning but misinformed believers often say the Catholic Church states that "faith is not necessary for salvation." You can understand their righteous indignation when they incorrectly assume that Catholics think Jesus death wasn't necessary for our salvation. Let's actually see what Catholics say by going to their own source, The Catechism of the Catholic Church:

161. Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation. 42 "Since "without faith it is impossible to please [God]" and to attain to the fellowship of his sons, therefore without faith no one has ever attained justification, nor will anyone obtain eternal life 'But he who endures to the end.'"]

Straight from the horses mouth, so to speak. So maybe there is a misconception about what Catholics believe. I was a "warm the pew on Sunday Catholic" for 15 years and didn't know that the Church believed or taught. Therefore it was easy for me to except the information presented to me by well-meaning but misinformed Protestants who told me that Catholics don't believe in Christ's death on the Cross for our Salvation. I have since come to find out, that the whole Mass is a celebration and re-presenting of that eternal sacrifice for us. I love to look at the Crucifix and meditate on this great love God had for me to come and die for me . But my belief in that death better manifest itself in right living! After all, the Scriptures say "even the demons believe and tremble....." and they won't be in heaven.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

"He that adds to the words of this book......"


Martin Luther translated the Bible into German language of the common folks. He actually accomplished this feat in about 11 weeks while holed up in a friend's castle. (Things were starting to heat up in Germany as his theological protestations took on political overtones. The country was in turmoil so his friends suggested he keep a low profile)
Meanwhile back at the castle.... This was not the first translation of the Bible into German but has been the most well known. He was truly gifted with the ability to make the translation "sing" in the Germanic tongue. However, aside from changing the original Canon of Scripture, he also took liberties in translating scripture to accomodate his doctrinal bent. One of the most prominent translational issues was in Romans 3:28. Martin added the word "solus" or alone after the word "faith."
This became the rallying cry of the reformers, "Faith Alone"/Sola Fide! In actuality, the only time "Faith Alone" is used in the unadulterated scripture is back to Old Jimmy (James 2)
"Man is justified by works and not faith alone"
I can see Martin now, warming himself by the old stove in the cold German winter. The icy winds of reformation blowing through the cracks in the castle walls threatening to extinguish the candle light he was working by. Suddenly, an idea for a new hymn came to mind. He called it "Jimmy in the Stove". This hymn however never made it on the charts the way "A Mighty Fortress" did.
I have found the only extant copy of this hymn he started writing as he was translating the Bible into German (again).

Let's throw Jimmy in the stove
Let’s toss Jimmy  in the stove
This castles' getting colder and we're saved by "faith alone"
So let’s toss Jimmy in the stove
Let’s tear out the book of Maccabees
Let's get rid of the book of Maccabees
It was written by the Jews and it proves "pugatry"
So let's burn the books of Maccabees*

*Copyright 1534 Epistle of Straw Music

Friday, May 26, 2006

Did Catholics Add Books to the Bible?


I often was told they did and the "Apocrypha" was added by the Catholic Church at the Council of Trent to justify their false doctrines, particularly purgatory and praying for the dead (from the books of Maccabees).
Well, when the Bible was printed in 1451 by Gutenberg 50 years or more before the Reformation, and more than 100 years before the Council of Trent, it contained all the books in the Old and Testament that had been recognized since the fourth century when the Canon of Scripture was decided by the Council of Hippo in 391 AD.
Every Bible laboriously hand copied by monks for generations and generations had the same number of books in it, not adding or deleting anything. (I bet the monks wouldn't have minded 7 less books to have to copy!) Again, proving that Catholics couldn't hate the Bible for they spent so many years making sure it was accurately reproduced for generations to come.

So when did the Bible shrink? It was after the Reformation when Martin Luther went through it and removed the books that he felt by his "private interpretation" (2 Peter 1:20) should not be in the original Canon. Wow! I hope he wasn't just having a bad day that day when he removed the books. Did he not know that even St. Paul quoted from the books of the "Apocrypha" in his New Testament letters? Martin Luther basically adopted the canon that was promulgated by the first century Jews of the Pharisee sect who didn't want to accept these OT books because they were written in Greek, and feared the "Hellinization" of their culture. So he accepted a canon from a very anti-christian sect of Jews but rejected the canon determined by the Catholic Church and widely accepted for the past 1200 years.
Thankfully, Luther was overruled by his friend Melanchthon when he insisted the good doctor had gone too far when he sought to remove the Epistle of James from the Canon. "I'd like to throw little Jimmy in the stove" he said. I suspect it was that verse "we are not saved by faith alone" that got stuck in his craw. James 2:24
For a detailed discussion on the canon of Scripture and why Catholics include "the Apocrypha"
http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/2004/0409fea4.asp

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Eve of the Solemnity of the Ascension


Today is the Eve of the Solemnity of the Ascension of Jesus. The Catholic Church designates certain days of the year to remember and commemorate important events in the life of the Church as well as the people who lived exemplary lives of gospel faith. They call them feast or solemnity days. I don't eat more food on the feast days or less on the solemn days but I find them to be a spiritual feast! Tomorrow the Church focuses on the Ascension of our Lord into Heaven. The 3 readings from the Bible will tell us about this important event. I find it a neat way for me to focus of things that normally I wouldn't necessarily look at, think about or offer praise to God for.

Mk 16:15-20 Jesus said to his disciples: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.These signs will accompany those who believe:in my name they will drive out demons,they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover. So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God. But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs."

So one of the very last things Jesus told his disciples before he ascended into heaven was to proclaim the gospel. From this He tells us the key to salvation: Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved. So that's why the Catholic Church and many Protestant sects believe that Baptism is meant to be regenerative.
But getting back to the Ascension, it was so important that Christ ascended so he could send us His Holy Spirit to lead us in all truth. Thank God for the Ascension. What a great and solemn day!

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Bible and Catholics


At the funeral Mass of the late John Paul 2, there was a large thin book that was placed on his coffin as it was layed out in the morning Roman breeze. The wind opened the pages of the book as if an invisible hand was trying to find the right page. I wondered what the book was until the announcer explained that it was the Gospel of John. Later on during the Mass , the presiding priest carried another book, laden with gold, over his head and in front of him, up to the podium. He then bent over reverently kissing this book before he read it. Yes, it too was the Bible. So I started thinking to myself, why would this church that hates the Bible so much treat it with such reverence and have it placed so prominently in the funeral service of the leader of their church? In Mass yesterday morning, I estimated that about 25 percent of my time in Mass was spent listening to Scriptures from Acts, Psalms and the Gospel of John. If you attend Mass daily as many Catholics do, you will have read through the Bible in three years! I always thought the Catholics didn't read the Bible nor consider it important. I was wrong. An old Catholic guy from the 5th century said: "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ" St Jerome.
http://www.davidmacd.com/catholic/bible_catholics.htm
http://www.catholicapologetics.net/apolo_20.htm

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Conspiracy Theory?


I used to believe that the Catholic Church was an invention of the Roman Emperor Constantine in the mid-fourth century. I was told at 14 years of age by my 17 year old bible scholar friend that Constantine had made a deal with the devil to legalize Christianity and incorporate paganism into it and that was the start of the Catholic Church. The "real Christians" had to "go underground" to avoid persecution by this pagan Catholic church. Made sense to me and not having had a single lesson in the history of western civilization, I accepted what I was told as true. My anti-Catholic bias made it easy for me to accept "hook, line and sinker" anything that was against this church.
Funny thing though, there is no history of any church ever existing back then but the Catholic Church. However, in a recent on-line debate with a non-catholic, I was told that "the victors always get to write the history books." This actually was also quoted from a popular movie that opened this weekend that seeks to blaspheme and undermine our faith, but it was being used to convince me I was wrong because the Catholic church "has always suppressed the truth."
I later learned the term "Catholic" (universal) was applied and used by the church in 107 AD and probably earlier. A more cogent discussion can be found at : http://www.ewtn.com/faith/teachings/churb3.htm

Saturday, May 20, 2006

What Makes the Bible Different from the Koran? Part 2

Getting back to the original question. How and why do we believe that our Bible is God's words to us and why is it "authoritative"compared to the Koran or other "holy books"? The Koran as well as the Book of Mormon each say they are the "words of God". The difference is this: God came to earth as a man, Jesus. He died on the cross for our salvation and rose again. Before He left the earth physically, He established his church and gave his authority to Peter. Jesus's words to Peter actually mirrored the passages in Isaiah(22:22) when the king passed on his authority (represented by keys) to his prime minister giving him all authority. Peter was the spiritual "prime minister" given the power by Jesus to bind, loose, forgive sins etc. All things sufficient for establishing and growing His church. When Jesus "passed the torch" to Peter, the disciples would totally understand this transaction based on their knowledge of Jewish history, tradition and Old Testament writings.
Over 300 years later, the church then prayed and debated and with the power of the Holy Spirit decided which letters, gospels and books should be considered the inspired Word of God. How did they know that the Gospel of Thomas shouldn't be included? We have to trust that this church that God established had the authority to decide on which books the final canon of Scripture should contain. At the Council of Rome in 382, the Catholic Church "discerned" the 27 books of the New Testament to be inspired Scripture. In conclusion, Jesus established a church giving it His authority. This Church which had been called the Catholic (universal) church as early as 107 AD, decided under the power of the Holy Spirit which books should be Scripture in 382 AD. Our bible is different from the Koran because it's authority can be traced directly back to the Church that Christ established here on earth.
http://www.catholicapologetics.org/ap030700.htm

Thursday, May 18, 2006

What makes the Bible different from the Koran?


Why do we revere, respect and study Scripture? What makes our Scripture more authoritative than the writings of Joseph Smith, The Koran etc? Where in the Bible does it actually say that it should be our only rule of faith? Can a written document self-authenticate? Clearly the answer is no. Is there anywhere in our Bible that says that it is the only authority and source of truth? Some folks say 2 Tim 3:16 proves this. But when I read it it tells me that Paul was saying all scripture is profitable for training, teaching, correction and reproof so that the man of God would be equipped for every good work . (Paul said we should use the Scripture to train us to be equipped to do good works?) Hmmm...
Well anyway, Paul was talking about the Old Testament since the New Testament had not been put together and recognized as Scripture yet. So clearly this verse can't be the verse that tells us that our Bible (both New and Old Testaments ) is the sole rule of our faith. I'll keep looking for a verse that proves the that Bible is the sole rule of faith but I don't think I'll find it.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The First Printed Bible 1452


Speaking of the Bible, I have included a photo of one of the actual pages of Jeremiah from the first Bible ever printed by that that German entrepreneur, Johann Gutenberg.
I had been taught as a young believer that Catholics hated the Bible and tried to keep it from the common folk. I was therefore suprised to find that:
1) the first book ever printed was the Bible !
2) The gentleman who printed it was a Catholic! (Incidentally, this Bible contained the entire canon of Scripture that had been accepted since the 4th Century. One of his fellow countrymen later removed several books from this Bible) and almost succeeded in removing James. 3) Most folks in the 15th century were illiterate so they still relied on spoken word and oral tradition to tell the Gospel story.
4) The cost of this Bible was three year's wages. No wonder the Church kept them chained to the pulpits!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Why Didn't Jesus Give Us a Printing Press?


Sometimes I wonder why the Lord Jesus didn't clearly tell his disciples to write everything down that He wanted us to know and then give us the plans to disseminate this material throughout the world in written form. I find it even stranger that Jesus didn't tell his disciples that there would come a book and this book would be the definitive sole source of truth for their beliefs. Even more interesting to me, is why didn't God provide the New Testament miraculously in a tablet all laid out with the appropriate books chosen (kinda like He did for Moses) Would have made things a bit easier I think. Mormons would say he did do it for them!
And my final question is: How did this church grow and flourish throughout the ancient world when none of the New Testament books had even been written yet? Even if some "preview editions" of the New Testament were available to the early church most of the people were illiterate in the ancient world. The bible alone (without the Church to tell them what was in it) would have done them no good and would have gathered dust on their coffee tables!
So how did God ensure that His truth was taught, spread and kept incorrupted? Jesus didn't build us a printing press but did something better! He said he would build a church that the gates of hell would not prevail against and would give us His Spirit to guide us in all truth.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Get to Know the Facts Before Deciding


In my discussions with my Protestant brethren, I note that many dismiss the Catholic Church out-of-hand by stating oft-repeated misconceptions about Catholicism. Most of these can be traced back to a book published in 1962 by a fellow named Loraine Boettner. The statements in this book have been refuted many times over and have been refuted by anti-Catholic protestant theologians as well!
The sadness I feel is that these untruths about Catholicism continue to be circulated by well meaning but mis-informed folks who take what they heard passed on from others (an oral tradition) as incontrovertible fact. I never questioned my Bible teachers who told me about the "false doctrines" of Catholicism. I must admit, I never bothered to check on the veracity of these claims because my ire had been raised rather high against this Church. I am saddened when I see other well-meaning believers make the same mistake as I did. http://www.catholic.com/library/The_Anti_Catholic_Bible.asp

"There are not more than 100 people in the world who truly hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they perceive to be the Catholic Church." Archbishop Fulton Sheen

“I have been educated to enmity toward everything that is Catholic, and sometimes, in consequence of this, I find it much easier to discover Catholic faults than Catholic virtues.”
Mark Twain, “Innocents Abroad"


"There are only two kinds of people, those who accept dogmas and know it, and those who accept dogmas and don't know it."
GK. Chesterton

Sunday, May 14, 2006

AUDIO BLOG (what will they think of next)?

this is an audio post - click to play

Happy Mother's Day


As I knelt in prayer before Mass started this morning, I started thinking about Jesus and his mom Mary. Today is Mother's Day and the Church recognizes May as a month to honor His mom and our own earthly mothers.
I thought back to my 30 plus years as an evangelical Christian when I accused the Catholic Church of worshipping Mary and displacing devotion from Christ to her. It's been two years now as a convert (revert) to Catholicism and I have never felt more in love with Jesus and the incredible love He has shown me. I have also started to "warm up" to His Mom and have been thankful for the sense that I have she has been pointing me towards her Son! When I pray the rosary I am actually using the words of Scripture in the "Hail Mary" prayer and fulfilling Scripture "that all generations will call me blessed." Do I worship her? No, that would be evil and the Catholic Church has always made the distinction in honoring versus worship. But I do feel some remorse for the years that I disdained her due to my incorrect views of Catholicism. Bottom line here: Jesus truly is both God and Man. Mary is Jesus' mother, hence she is the Mother of God, and at the very least deserves our honor, not our disdain. We too can echo the words of Elizabeth in Luke 1: 43 "and why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" If, Jesus is our spiritual brother then Mary, therefore, is our spiritual Mother. Not blasphemy, "goddess worship", medieval inventions or the like, just truth from Scripture. Happy Mother's Day!

Our prayer should include the Mother of God . . . What the Hail Mary says is that all glory should be given to God, using these words: "Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus Christ. Amen!" You see that these words are not concerned with prayer but purely with giving praise and honor . . . We can use the Hail Mary as a meditation in which we recite what grace God has given her. Second, we should add a wish that everyone may know and respect her . . . He who has no faith is advised to refrain from saying the Hail Mary.
( Martin Luther Personal Prayer Book, 1522)

http://www.ourladyweb.com/mary-defended.html

Thursday, May 11, 2006

"I Believe in the Communion of Saints" What's that?

In the creed we all say we believe in the Communion of Saints. As a Protestant, that had many different meanings for me; the Lord's table, fellowship etc. But what did it mean to the apostles of the early church who are said to have written this creed? They believed that Christians continue to pray and intercede for one another even after they have gone to Glory. They believed that death did not separate the Church members from each other and that prayers could be offered for those who have died and vice-a-versa. Kind of makes sense. My late wife was very loving and known for her concern for others. She had a strong prayer life. When she got before the throne of God, do I think that her essential nature would change and that her love and concern and prayerfulness would end just because of death? We truly become more alive than we ever were when we die! I suspect, but won't know until Glory, that my late wife as well as me Mum prayed me back into the Catholic Church!

"The effectual prayers of a righteous man availeth much." (James) How much more effective will be our prayers when we reach heaven?

Yes, but the Bible says: "There is only one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus"

Well, then why do we ask each other to pray for one another if there is only one mediator? Why not go straight to Jesus? The mediation this verse pertains to is salvation, and doesn't negate praying for one another. Actually, the whole chapter is about intercession now that I look at it with my Reformation-colored glasses removed. (Re-read 1 Tim 2 again) Christ gave us a church of kindred souls here and in heaven to pray for one another.(They communicate one with the other) Paul commands us to pray for one another in this letter to Timothy. Nowhere in Scripture does it say that prayers and intercession and love for one another ceases after physical death. Rev 5:8 speaks of the prayers of the saints being poured out like "golden bowls full of incense."
So we know biblically, that prayers are being said in Heaven and that it doesn't stop once we get there.
Some saints in Heaven have been observed to have a particular "skill" at obtaining grace from our Lord for certain situations. For instance, St. Frances DeSales started a counter-reformation that is estimated to have won 60,000 Calvinists back to the Catholic Church. Therefore, even as I write this Blog, I am asking St. Frances DeSales to pray to Jesus for me for the hearts of those reading this. I am not worshipping him, calling him back from the dead (like I tried to do with Jimi Hendrix and a Ouija board as a kid) or honoring him above Jesus. I'm just saying: (in a Joysey accent) "Hey St. Frances, you knew how to talk to these Protestants about the Church, do me a fava and ask Jesus to help me talk to them about His Church" and that my friends, is the Communion of Saints.
http://www.catholicapologetics.org/ap070000.htm

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A Lull in the Blog

Haven't blogged for a few days since finishing the conversion story. Yeah, I know it's self-indulgent to put it out there, but I don't want to let anyone else go through life without knowing a bit more about the true history of the Church and the effect the truth can have on a person when they embrace the teachings of the Catholic Church. Jesus is alive and well in this Church and He has changed my life through participation in the Sacraments.(God's special way of reaching down and touching us through the "stuff of earth.")

Saturday, May 06, 2006

"Conversion Story" Chapter 6

We were attending the denominational church for a few years when my Mom died unexpectedly. My brother and I took the long drive down together to start to settle her estate. He was beginning his master's degree in preparation for becoming a pastor at my previous charismatic church. I asked him about the statement in the Nicene Creed regarding "baptism for the forgiveness of sins." What did we believe as charismatics? Which baptism did this refer to? Was it the baptism of the Holy Spirit as a second experience, was it water baptism? I had started to question my evangelical beliefs that I just took for granted for years without really thinking about them. Once a year we recited the Creed in our church but I realized that I didn't understand or hold to many of the statements in the Creed and was not aware of the fact that it was written by a group of Catholics at a Church Council 1600 years before.

As we went through my mother's personal effects, I found prayer books, rosary beads, Mass cards and all the paraphenalia that I used to think was pagan and idolatrous. I suddenly realized that despite my Mom's lifelong struggles with alcoholism and depression, she really loved God and had a relationship with Him. As my brother and I went through her things I said to him "Hey, what if Mom was right after all and Catholicism is true?" He said "nah." I have no idea where that question came from but I have since realized that my conversion process was beginning then. He was going to toss her rosary beads in the garbage and I said "No, I'll take them home for my wife, she's been leaning Catholic lately."

Even then, something started to stir in me as I carefully removed the beautiful wooden crucifix my parents always had on their wall above their bed and took it home. I realized that for all the contradiction and pain in their lives, their Catholic faith was more important to them than I had thought. That beautiful crucifix now hangs on the wall above our bed.


Even more strange to me was a fairly frequent and almost palpable sense that my Mom was now praying for me! I couldn't explain it, but I felt it and knew it was true. I knew she prayed for me before she died but I had this very strange feeling that her prayers were drawing me back to the Catholic Church. I told my brother about this and I suspect he thought I had totally gone off the rails at this point. I never understood the Communion of Saints nor agreed with it but now I was experiencing the actual application of this communion in my life.

The Methodist church we were attending bought an entire theatre of tickets to see the first screening of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ." In the middle of the movie as tears streamed down my face, I knew I had to come home to the church as I saw so graphically displayed His love for me. If He could do this for me, I could overcome my pride and reticence about the Catholic Church and return in obedience to Him. To this day I don't know why or how I came to this conclusion. As far as I know there were no subliminal messages in the movie saying: "Become a Papist" or "You must Cross the Tiber."

My wife continued to long for Mass and I agreed to let her go to Mass as long as she would come with me to the Methodist church on Sunday morning with our boys. She would often watch EWTN (a Catholic Network) and the "Journey Home Program." After seeing some of the conversion stories my interest was piqued. I was astonished to find there was so many former protestants with stories like mine converting to Catholicsm. I asked my wife to get me those Catholic conversion stories of Marcus Grodi, Scott Hahn and others that I had asked her to get rid of 4 years before. She had attempted to show me a Scott Hahn video a few years before this but I found it too dry and Catholic! This time it was as if the veil had been lifted from my eyes and I couldn't put these books down. I read Karl Keating's book "Catholicism and Fundamentalism" and Steve Ray's "Crossing the Tiber." When I read for the first time that it was the Catholic Church that decided on which books and letters should be in the the Bible, that did it for me! I was now very angry that I had been mis-informed for so long by anti-Catholic Protestants and I started to feel remorse for walking away from the Church without ever learning any of its true teachings. I also was angry that I had never met a Catholic in thirty years who could give me these basic true facts about the Catholic Church. I was embarrassed that as a relatively bright person with the ability to obtain a medical degree, I had never considered reading history and instead based my understanding of Church history from a 16-year-old "Bible Scholar" thirty years earlier. How could I be "so smart" and yet be so close-minded about something so important as my faith?

Suddenly, all the troublesome verses I didn't understand as a Protestant came alive with richness and meaning. I realized the Catholics take the Bible more literally than the evangelicals ever had. I always wondered how we got around John 6 when Jesus told us to "eat my body." Protestants insisted it was symbolic but the early church I found out believed that Christ truly became present at the Communion Table. Paul's description in Corinthians also made it clear to me that the Church believed in the real presence of Christ in the "breaking of the bread."

The paradox of Christians who said "the sinner's prayer" and continued to actively live sinful lives always bothered me, but Catholic theology made it clear that our earthly performance was important for salvation, but not the basis for it, as I had wrongly been taught they believed. This was further brought home to me when I now re-read Matthew 25 and realized that Christ himself said the only difference between the sheep (heaven- bound) and the goats (hell-bound) was what they did or didn't do! I now realized that after 30 years of Bible study, the sinner's prayer wasn't mentioned in the Scriptures as the "formula for salvation." The concept of venial and mortal sins made a lot of sense to me. How could a "white lie" really have the same temporal and eternal consequences as murder? That always bothered me. The concept of the Communion of Saints which is in the Creed of Catholic and Protestants alike also became meaningful to me for the first time in my life. As I mentioned earlier, I had this distinct impression that my Mom who had died a year earlier was interceding for me and praying me back to the Church. The Catholic Church has always taught that when a person dies they can continue to pray for those left behind, and since the "fervent effectual prayers of a righteous man availeth much" how much more now that they are in heaven beholding the face of God!

We started counseling with a local parish priest who led us back to the Catholic Church. At my first confession in over 35 years, tears started to fall as I heard those sweet words of absolution as if they were spoken from Christ himself. We then made our marriage vows before the Church and together we received Christ in the Eucharist. Jesus was saying to me "You have found what you have always been looking for and I am right here with you." As I knelt and prayed after receiving Him, I knew that I could never be closer to Him in this life than I was right then. The frustration of all those years of searching for Him and trying to find him outside of His church was over. I had finally come home.

Despite my lack of emotionalism, I have cried more tears of joy in the past two years than in most of my years of charismatic church life! I often choke up telling others about Christ in the Eucharist and often become teary-eyed thinking about how kind He is to have brought us back to His Church. My wife and I have experienced a spiritual oneness in our marriage that can only be described as supernatural. Before, we were always on opposite pages regarding spiritual issues and now not only are we on the same page; we can't stop turning the pages together! I often chastise myself for leaving the Church as a young person but I am thankful for those years away because they prepared me to appreciate the Church and the Sacraments all the more.

My heart aches for my ex-Catholic brothers and sisters who like me had left the truth of the Catholic Church without ever understanding it. I am grateful for the inspiration and encouragement to "follow hard after God" that I learned from my devout Protestant brothers. In particular, the charismatic Christians I have been privileged to know over the years have a devotion and love for God and one another that is truly amazing. I believe if they could only see the tremendous gift of His Real Presence in His Church they would fall on their face before Him in the Eucharist. Their insatiable hunger for the presence of Christ could finally be completely satisfied on a daily basis in receiving him in the Eucharist. Father Benedict Groeschel of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal has said that the many church ladies from Black Pentecostal churches in the Bronx come to Eucharistic Adoration because they know their "“sweet Lord Jesus" is there. I know my brethren would do the same once they discover He is truly present with us in the Eucharist.

Friday, May 05, 2006

"Conversion Story" Chapter 5

Trying to raise two small children alone as well as being in solo practice of medicine was very difficult, to say the least. God provided for me and my boys through support from my family and my church. Jesus showed His kindness and mercy to me through His people in a way that I can never forget.

About a year and a half later, I remarried. My new wife had been attending the same church I was attending and had been friends with my late wife and knew our boys from Sunday school.
She proved to be a wonderful mother and wife. Most couples argue about sex, money and children but we argued about religion and expressions of spirituality. I was moving away from charismatic theology and outward emotional manifestations ("holy" laughter, being "slain in the spirit") but she was pursuing "full- tilt" these doctrines and expressions of faith that I was shrinking back from. This was a time in the 1990's when the “Toronto Blessing” was sweeping through the charismatic churches in the US and abroad and our church was having frequent renewal meetings. People would be asked if they wanted “more of God” and would fall to the floor laughing or crying as evidence of having received God's blessing. People in the church must have concluded that I didn't want “more of God” because I never fell to the floor when I was prayed for. My wife attended all of these meetings and I chose not to participate since my perception was that people based the evidence of God's blessing on you as an emotional outpouring. I had not experienced God in an emotional sense for twenty years or more since my initial born again experience as a teenager and had never been emotive in my worship. This strained our marriage, as well- meaning folks in the church would question my wife as to my spiritual well being. Over the years, I had become a firm believer in not basing my relationship with God on my emotions. I had just been schooled in pain and suffering for the past 10 years of my previous marriage and never felt that God had abandoned me despite many dark feelings and times. I knew from personal experience that God was with me regardless of how I felt and I felt this was a gift of faith He had given me long ago. Unfortunately at the time, the prevailing teaching in our church was that if God didn't engage our emotions, then something was wrong with us spiritually. My wife was starting to wonder about my spirituality and suspected I didn't "want more of God" due to my failure to embrace this renewal. Once again, our personal application of theology had become a wedge between my wife and I.

The stresses of becoming a new mother and wife were difficult for her and the practice of "worship and praise" was no longer providing her peace. In the past, we were taught that we should just “forget about your cares and worship the Lord” as the answer to your problems. Instead, my wife started reading about suffering from Mother Theresa, Theresa Liseux, St. John of the Cross and other Catholic mystics. She was finding much solace in Catholic teaching and she was slowly being drawn away from our evangelical/charismatic faith. For the first time in her life, she started to understand the value of pain and suffering in the world and in the context of her own life. Catholic teachings brought her much comfort in these difficult times of our early marriage. As much as I was happy that she was leaving the emotionalism of the charismatic church, I was troubled that it took Catholicism to give her true peace. This was at the peak of the priest sex-abuse scandals and I wanted nothing to do with the Church. I thought that Christ "could not possibly be the head of a church with sex abusers and pedophiles." These were the days when the daily headlines of all the papers were tallying the millions of dollars being spent on settlements and lawsuits in Boston and elsewhere.

Realizing now that neither my wife nor I embraced our former theology we decided to leave the charismatic church we had been in for almost 10 years and joined a more main-line Evangelical church. I loved the more formal nature of it and didn't miss the spontaneous prophecies and emotionalism that was so much a part of our past experience. At times our old church had a carnival-like atmosphere and the degree of enthusiasm of the congregation during "praise and worship" time was the litmus test for whether or not God showed up. There were times when the worship leader would become visibly discouraged and frustrated if he could not stir the congregants into a religious fervor. I was thankful that this did not occur in this more mainline church. I enjoyed the preaching style of the pastor and the much more subdued worship services. I no longer worried that someone would tap me on the shoulder to give me a "Word from the Lord for you brother."

While we both attended this church on Sundays, my wife attended her first Catholic Mass in 25 years at a daily Mass. (She too had left the Catholic Church when she was 8 years old.) When the priest held up the consecrated Host and said "this is Jesus", she wept at the realization that this is the One she had been seeking all these years!
My wife started to attend Mass on her own ( she did not yet receive the Eucharist) and wanted to join the Catholic Church but I felt that it would be too confusing for our children. I couldn't argue however that it was slowly changing our marriage for the better as we both embraced trials in our life as a tool for good and not something to avoid and deny. I still was very reticent about Catholicism based on my past experiences and did not even consider joining the church. I asked her for the sake of unity in our marriage to stop pursuing Catholicism and she agreed to stop going to Mass. More to come.... The final journey home!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

"Conversion Story" Chapter 4

After college I went to medical school believing God wanted me to be a doctor and I married my high school sweetheart after my first year of medical school. We were going to church at the same place I had been discipled as a teenager when we left the Catholic Church.

I started to recognize problems in this church when the two pastors had a falling out and a power struggle ensued. It turned out that one of the pastors was involved in immorality but was using his spirituality as a smokescreen to defend himself. This led to a split in the church and as happens when each party claims the Holy Spirit is telling them they are right but are diametrically opposed to one another. After medical school we moved to a large city and joined another well-known independent charismatic church. Unfortunately, after a few years of close fellowship and innovative teachings, the pastor of this church had a falling out with the elders over a moral issue and a division ensued. We loved the people in the church and sided with the majority and stayed there for a time. There was a true sense of Christian community in this church that was genuine despite many cult-like features regarding membership requirements etc.

At this time my wife of three years was diagnosed with an extremely rare in-operable lung cancer. There were only thirty other recorded cases in the world's medical literature. She was told there was no cure but she may possibly remain without symptoms for an indeterminate amount of time before dying but it was uniformly fatal. We were bolstered by a loving group of folks who shared with us that "God can heal if you only have enough faith." We embraced this theology whole-heartedly and pursued her healing for the next 8 years. We attended healing meetings, exorcisms, fasting and prayer and I began fasting Tuesday evenings to Thursday mornings for several years to obtain her healing from God. We sought out nationally known charismatic preachers with healing ministries and had several exorcisms performed on our house and ourselves. My wife used to collect ceramic frogs and owls and one exorcist said he had cast out "the spirit of the frog" that was residing in our house. (I quietly wondered if he could've helped our little city cockroach problem we were experiencing at the time as well!)
Once on a vacation at the beach we visited a store front church on Sunday. The preacher called my wife up out of the crowded little room and said to her "God will give you that which you have been seeking!" He then asked her what she was seeking and she told him about the cancer. That gave us great hope and encouragement and helped to bolster our faith that Jesus was definitely going to heal her of this cancer.

We were blessed with two boys over the next four years. We coped with life by never talking about the possibility of her dying. We lived as if she would be healed. The problem with this was that it took an enormous amount of energy to muster this "faith talk" all the time and it was taking its toll on our marriage. Rather than confronting problems in our relationship, we would put them aside and continue to press for the healing. Seeking her healing became the focus of our lives and as a result we were in denial about all the other problems that occur in any marriage, cancer notwithstanding. For me, it felt like a constant "sword of Damocles" hanging over my head for 8 of the 11 years we were married, but I could not tell my wife my true feelings. Most of my close friends were believing that her healing was forthcoming and I could not open up to them about how I really felt. Once I tried to tell a close friend how absolutely terrified and sad I was and he kindly said, "Don't worry, she will be healed." I appreciated his vote of confidence but I needed someone to share my pain and fear with. This was one of the most intensely lonely and difficult periods in my life. I took solace in knowing that Christ would never leave me or forsake us despite the fact that we were truly walking in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. I could not share Scriptures with my wife or others about the valley of the shadow of death because it would be "doubting the healing."

I started to secretly take comfort in the Scriptures that said "Not my will but thine" and God gave me His reassurance that He would be with us, whether my wife lived or died. I could not share this with her and instead would read aloud to her the Scriptures that said "By His stripes we are healed." We would both lay awake night after night with her in agony and me holding back tears as I watched her die. I just wanted to hold her and say "I love you and hate to see you go through this but we will be okay because He will carry us through this." I longed to just be able to tell her how I felt about our life together but I couldn't because she would have interpreted that as "losing faith." Instead of having precious end of life discussions about our children, our families, our Lord and His love, we listened to faith preacher tapes over and over again throughout the night. This bad theology we embraced ended up hurting us terribly and denied us the ability to be honest with ourselves, our children and our God.
We were reading books and tracts about healing that was from an off-shoot of the charismatic movement called the Faith and Prosperity Preachers. Centered in Tulsa, Oklahoma, these teachers taught that Jesus heals everyone and if you don't get healed it must be your lack of faith. I realize now this actually was a twisted form of Christian Science and had its roots in one of the heresies dealt with by the early church.(Gnosticism) About 4 months before she died, I had a distinct impression that God was telling me that the time was very short and she would die soon. It may have just been my medical instincts seeing her become more irritable and short of breath. At this time she was taking huge amounts of over the counter ibuprofen to deal with the pain but would not admit that she was in pain. We long ago both agreed to not pursue any further diagnostic tests since they wouldn't "build our faith." The actual words I heard in my mind were "the time is short now." As strange as it sounds, this brought me some comfort since I felt that there was to be a conclusion to this torturous existence of denial we were living. I never shared this experience with her.

About 4 weeks before she died, she was becoming severely ill and short of breath. We heard of a missionary with a healing ministry that was flying in from Africa who had been known to raise people from the dead. Despite the worse ice and snow storm of that horrible winter of 93-94, I drove with her and my pastor and a friend in a van to Richmond Virginia to see if she could be healed through the ministry of this faith healer. The level of compassion that my church showed for us was beyond description and I will never forget the love and that was displayed for my wife and I at this time. The folks risked their lives to drive my wife over 250 miles on the eve of one of the worst storms of the season because they believed God would heal her. They also knew this is what she wanted as well. We saw many tractor trailers jack-knifed and cars that had skidded off the road on the way down. It turned out that the healer couldn't come in due to the weather and we sadly drove all the way back taking almost two days for a six hour trip. At one point we were stuck in traffic for about 10 hours due to the storm. She was in absolute agony in the jostling van as we ran over potholes and ice on the highway. We stopped intermittently so I could give her injections of a powerful narcotic to relief her screams of agony.

Shortly after this trip, my wife did pass away leaving me with a 4 and 7 year old who did not even realize she was sick since we never told them. I was devastated knowing that our faith did not give her the peace that was promised. Not because God didn't make it available, but we chose to mis-interpret the Scriptures. I knew even as she was dying, that this theology was wrong and it denied the ability for us to even have an honest conversation about her dying. If there was ever a reason to not believe in private interpretation of Scripture, this was it. The Word of God wrongly applied and twisted out of context can be a cruel taskmaster.
N.B. I want to make it clear to all the readers at this point, my wife and I willingly embraced and sought out this teaching and our charismatic church encouraged us in it, but we did not feel like this doctrine was forced on us. We chose it!
No one could give me an answer for why she died if she had such faith and many young people from our church were devastated. Two days after my wife died I received a phone call and a familiar voice that I hadn't heard for years was on the line. My Catholic friend from college, now an ordained priest heard that my wife died and tracked me down. I will never forget when I asked him why she had to suffer so much, and he said that "Jesus gives us the privilege of sharing his suffering." Father E. told me that Jesus stretched his arms out on the cross and said, "Lee, you come up with me and share my suffering." He then quoted St. Paul when he talked about completing in his body the suffering of Christ. (Colossians 1:23) I couldn't argue since it was Scripture and it was the only thing that gave me comfort in those difficult months after she died. I had never heard a Protestant talk about that verse and somehow missed it in all my years of intense personal Bible study. My theology didn't allow for suffering but this Scripture given to me by a Catholic priest made more sense than anything I had heard or experienced in the past 12 years. Since Christ our Redeemer had suffered should we too not be willing to take His yoke upon us and experience suffering? The Catholics call this "redemptive suffering' and if you really think about it, it resonates with all of human experience and follows Natural Law. I notice that the faith teachings aren't spreading like wildfire in Haiti where suffering permeates the daily lives of the believers there. There is certainly no lack of faith and I have seen incredibly heroic lives lived for God despite un-imaginable suffering.
If the concept of redemptive suffering is new to you as it was to me, I have enclosed a link to a traditional Catholic webpage that is helpful in providing key Scriptures that the Church used to illustrate this wonderful truth. It was always there in my Bible, I just never saw it. http://www.fisheaters.com/offeringitup.html
More to come.....

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

"Conversion Story" Chapter 3

During my college years I was involved in a Christian fellowship group that was attended by students from many denominations. One of the members of the group was a student I noticed was also in my New Testament Greek class. I also noted him to go to Mass so I knew he was Catholic. Over the ensuing two years he came to be a good friend and we had fellowship together despite the fact that he was a devout Catholic. He loved the Lord Jesus with same fervor as an evangelical Christian and to this point I had not met a Catholic like him. I was still under the assumption that you couldn't possibly "know the Lord" if you were Catholic. After college, he went to Harvard Divinity school to study theology. Other members of the fellowship went off to protestant seminaries and the mission field after college. We had a reunion one year and one of the evangelicals now with a few years of seminary under his belt began to engage our Catholic brother in a barbed and acrimonious manner. He was openly attacking the beliefs of this Catholic brother who he once fellowshipped with. The room became very quiet and the atmosphere was tense. My Catholic friend calmly stated, "I don't think this is really the time and place for this discussion but I would welcome continuing this discussion at another time." Despite my total disagreement with the theology of my Catholic friend, the way that he handled this awkward and malicious attack from a former friend was very impressive to me and I never forgot it. He never raised his voice, answered back sarcastically or pulled the "my seminary is better than yours" card.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

God's doing a New Thing (Actually an Ancient Thing)


****News Flash **** Just got word from a friend that he is putting on his goggles and flippers and is preparing to "Swim the Tiber" Wow! To resurrect a quote from my olden days, "God seems to be doing a new thing!" but alas, it's a very ancient thing, bringing people back into his Church. This new Tiber Crosser has a PhD in theology from a major east coast university and was heading to Latin America as a missionary to teach in an evangelical seminary. But along the way in his studies he became convinced that the Catholic Church was true and now is joyously re-routing his journey to Rome by crossing the Tiber. I believe he has been contemplating this for a very long time and the decision was not made lightly.
Glory be to God, as it was in the beginning , is now, and ever more shall be. Amen

"Conversion Story" Chapter 2

I became very active in evangelical fellowships in high school and college particularly the more charismatic ones. These were groups of young people who truly loved God more than anything in their lives. These were times of warm fellowship and deep friendships some of which have remained up to the present. I still went to the local Catholic Church when I was home to obey my parents but I just tuned out the entire Mass, sat in the pew and stopped receiving the Eucharist. (Thank God I didn't since I would have been violating Paul's admonition to not receive the Body of Christ unworthily. ) At this time I met a Catholic religious brother who was really encouraging about my conversion but I never saw him again after he taught a few CCD classes to us in high school and we lost touch. I figured he was one of the few remaining Christians in the Catholic Church. Actually in all those years, I never met a devout Catholic who could give me a reasoned defense of his faith based on Scripture and good historical arguments. Perhaps they did try to convince me of my error but I usually beat them up so bad with their own Bible they were left slack-jawed and wondering what hit them. I would have dismissed anything they told me anyway since I believed they were following the "whore of Babylon."
Once, I got into a heated debate with the Catholic priest at the college I attended and argued with him about how the Eucharist was only symbolic and not to be taken literally. I'll never forget the day he stomped out of my dorm room and slammed the door telling me how ignorant I was! I thought, "Boy is he a jerk!" Now with the wisdom of age and grace of conversion, I realize how justified he was for becoming enraged at me. There was a lot at stake in this argument, not just a non-essential doctrine to use my own "personal interpretation" on. For this priest it was the "source and summit" of his faith and I was basically rejecting everything he held to, and worse yet, I used to play folk guitar for the Masses he said. You have to be in awe of my amazing arrogance at 17 years of age. I had now been reading the Bible exclusively for the past three years and receiving my teachings from a radio Bible teacher who has since gone off into major heresy. (He predicted the Lord would return in 1994, and has recently stated that "we live in the post-church age and you don't need to go to church anymore.") It was from this anti-Catholic radio bible preacher that I learned my initial theology . I spent hours every night reading the Scriptures and listening to "Open Forum," a call-in radio show hosted by this self-proclaimed Bible authority. But in all my 17 years , I never once read the Catechism of the Catholic Church or any devotional Catholic literature or considered reading the history behind Christianity. So, here I am with my "radio bible theology degree" and three years of born again experience arguing with a Catholic priest who had spent 8 years studying theology and was pursuing a Ph.D at the time. I was thinking how great it was that I had been given The Truth and this poor ignorant priest was wasting his time committing himself and his celibacy to a false religion. As far as I was concerned, this was all I had to know about Christian history: Jesus came to earth, started a church which immediately went south and the Holy Spirit went on sabbatical for 1500 years . So for 1500 years, maybe the "Real Christian Church" went into hiding while the false Catholic church flourished and spread. (Incidentally changing the course of history of the civilized world along the way.) The only problem with this was that if I really believed that the early church apostasized, then the Gates of Hell did indeed prevail against it and Jesus didn't know what He was talking about. Unless of course you continue to believe that the "invisible church" persisted in the background, kind of like a program that keeps running undetected in the background on your computer. The only problem with this theory is that the Church was meant to be a visible physical entity, set on a hill where it would be a light to the world, not hidden in the shadows waiting for a German Augustinian monk 1500 years later to unlock the Truth of the Bible for the world. The other problem that didn't bother me at the time was that there was no historical record of a "remnant hidden church." To be sure, there are records of short-lived heretical sects, cults and heterodox preachers, but no proof that any of them had any connection to the historical church that Christ started. There is a little book called the "Trail of Blood" that claims the Catholic Church has systematically persecuted and supressed the history of the "True Believers" ever since John the Baptist founded his church of true baptist believers. It is this book that has fueled some of the "remnant" theories. http://www.shasta.com/sphaws/trail.html
More to come.....

Monday, May 01, 2006

"Conversion Story Chapter 1"

I am going to recount segments of my journey back to the Catholic Church one bit at a time on this blog. About 35 years ago, I started to stray from my Catholic faith and was looking into the occult, and the rock and roll culture for answers and peace. I had never heard a sermon saying that drugs were wrong and the Catholic church at the time had very wild New Year's Eve parties that even my Protestant friends' parents went to because "the Catholics know how to have a party." My parents had a horrendously difficult time getting along and alcohol abuse was a constant daily feature in my home. Catholicism meant little to me though I do remember praying the rosary at night to help me sleep when I was troubled by something. I was a troubled kid in the early 70's and would have not made it to middle age but for the grace of God in my life.
33 years ago I went to Bible study hosted by a friend of mine whose parents were ex-Catholics. There was tremendous joy and peace in the folks we met and I knew they had something I needed and wanted. That night I asked Jesus to forgive me and come into my life. I recited a prayer known as the Sinner's Prayer. God heard my prayers and I was set free from much sin and bad life choices in just one night. I had a very emotional experience and remember it as "better than any high that was out there." I was "born again" and my life took an abrupt and markedly different course. The local Catholic Church was very suspicious of what had happened and my parents reacted very negatively. The group of Christians we started to meet with were from a very anti-Catholic persuasion(School of JT Chick) and as I had mentioned in my earlier blog. I soon was told that Catholics worship Mary, pray to dead people, believe that they only need to "be good" to get to heaven and "just look at their crucifix!" "They think Jesus is still on the cross and didn't rise from the dead!" I had no real objections to this since I had no idea what Catholics really believed.
I had never opened a Bible in my life until the night of my "born again" experience. My "devout" Catholic grandma who was divorced and actually living on and off with her second husband (who was an ex-Catholic religious brother) used to come over to the house and tell me I would have a lifetime of bad luck based on my astrological. Thanks Grandma! but you were wrong though, God is bigger than the Zodiac, He created the Stars! (but I digress)

So you could see how easy it was for me to accept a view that Catholicism was not the True faith but "a form of godliness that denied the power thereof." That is what we would tell eachother to explain away 2000 years of Catholicism. I still had a nagging question of how could so many people be wrong for so many years and where were the "born againers" in the early times? My Bible study leader told me that the way is narrow that leads to life and wide that leads to destruction. It seemed to make sense. I knew nothing about the history of Christianity and was told that there had always been "a remnant" of true believers who operated outside the Catholic Church in an "invisible church" so to speak. I can still remember the day I was in a Christian bookstore in Northern NJ pondering this question when I read the "remnant" theory in some tract. So I figured ok, that makes sense, sort of....


A Response to My Return to Catholicism

This recent response to my conversion to Catholicism was thoughtful and fairly non- polemic. I interposed my comments in italics. The comments were used with permission from e mail and this does not represent an actual conversation which occurred in "real time."

Protestant:

I’ll admit, I usually see the reverse: former Catholics getting a zeal for God from being exposed to an evangelical church. Usually that’s because they never “felt” God before, found church boring/irrelevant, etc. Your situation, though not unique, you must admit is rare. (But not wrong in and of itself, either.)

TiberJumper:

No it actually isn't rare. There are many evangelical pastors and Christians converting to Catholicism in the US on a regular basis, so much so that a network/community of converts has formed to assist them in their conversion process as well as help financially as they all lose their livelihood as a result of their conversions. Also, conversion to Catholicism from other religions has been publicized in several famous stories. I have included a few on the following link.

http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ390.HTM

Since I met you at “Faith Charismatic Church,” I’ve noticed something in you that I can only describe as an “unsettled soul.”

I agree, I don’t think I have ever been completely comfortable there and I guess it was obvious. I would hope though in the spirit of Christian collegiality that you wouldn't totally write me off as an” unsettled soul” and at least consider the following thoughts. Because often unsettled souls are unsettled for a reason!

I saw you leave and go to a main-line Protestant church after you left us, reasons for which were unclear, though I can assume it might have been to escape the “hoopla” you described. That’s fine, charismatic stuff isn’t for everyone, I know that. But when you reverted to Catholicism just a few years after that, my first reaction was, “What are you running from?” Now, obviously I don’t know you that well but I couldn’t help think that. You see, all Catholics I’ve known (my entire family) like the comfort of the Catholic Church because very little is asked of them (they think so, anyway). Go to Mass when you can, pray only when you need help… that’s their walk with God.

It is not uncommon to base one’s view of any religion in light of past personal experiences with that religion and in particular family situations. I too was extremely anti-Catholic based on what I had seen from nominal church goers and my own family upbringing. However, there are 2000 years of godly Catholic folk who have lived heroic lives for God and some of whom have changed the course of human history through their writings and lives sacrificed for the Gospel.

Having seen your zeal, though, I can see you’re not looking to be just a nominal Catholic.

I have been looking for truth and it has led to quite a surprise that has been there all the time!

However, I still can’t help but continue to think about my first thought. I guess what I’m trying to say to you – what I would say to anyone, really – is that you need to make sure you’re always running towards God, and not running away from something else.

I hope and pray that I am running towards God with all my might. I attend Mass daily, pray more than I ever have, and spend a lot of time reading Catholic theology, devotional literature, etc. The Scriptures have come alive for me in way that I believe is supernatural. God has drawn me closer to Him than I have ever been in many years. My marriage is better than it ever has been and God has given me victory over areas of sin in my life that I haven't had victory over in 35 years through the Sacraments of the Catholic Church. Now that being said I hope I don’t fall into boasting, "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed...."

I say this because, in very short order, you have begun to believe some very hard-to-swallow doctrines that for 35 years you didn’t agree with.

It's not that I didn't agree with all of them. Quite frankly, as a young teenager, I didn’t give a lot of thought to them, much to my shame. My theological training was based on what I heard from very biased untrained "Bible experts” at 14 years of age. I studied in the school of Jack T. Chick, a well known ultra-fundamentalist who has now been shunned by the evangelical community for fabricating false and misleading material to malign the Catholic Church. My text book of theology was his cartoon tracts and the people teaching our Bible studies were ex-Catholics who had never lived out their Catholic faith (Just like me) Quite frankly, I didn't think much about doctrine because my spirituality was based on what felt good to me or “seemed” right. It wasn't about the pursuit of truth.

Now you’re shouting them (hard to swallow doctrines) from the rooftops! (that’s tongue in cheek, by the way.) I had an issue with your belief in purgatory now, especially since you said no doctrine from the Church would counter Scripture – but purgatory was a doctrine created to be used in the selling of indulgences! It wasn’t a long-standing belief then, it was a new one.

I am glad you mentioned Purgatory since it is fairly easy doctrine to prove historically as well as scripturally. Augustine from the fourth century wrote about it in his City of God. The catacombs of the believers from the 1st century made mention of them praying for the souls of those who had died. This was a practice that was very comfortable to the early predominantly Jewish Church since their scriptures talked about it. To be intellectually honest we have to at least acknowledge the fact that the early Christian Church prayed for "dead" people as well as believed in Purgatory (the early church fathers referred to it as Limbo). Check the original sources and decide for yourself. I have enclosed a fairly simplified look at the doctrine of purgatory with several scripture references. Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 3:4-5 is very difficult to understand without a belief in Purgatory. As a famous non-Catholic Christian once wrote:

Our souls demand Purgatory, don't they? Would it not break the heart if God said to us, 'It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy'? Should we not reply, 'With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I'd rather be cleaned first.' 'It may hurt, you know' - 'Even so, sir.' CS LEWIS in Letters to Malcolm.

http://www.davidmacd.com/catholic/purgatory.htm

One of the key references was from the book of Maccabees that was in the original Canon of Scripture up until 1500's when Luther chose to take it out because it didn't support his doctrines. Incidentally, he wanted to remove the Book of James as well as Hebrews because he didn’t think they were inspired either.

You can’t look back now and say, “Well, they were right; they just did it the wrong way.” Because here’s the problem: anyone can read the Bible and find exactly what they are looking for.

Exactly my point too! That's why we need a Church to help us understand the Bible. There are currently over 33,000 protestant sects and denominations and about 100 or more a year currently being formed due to "private interpretation of Scripture." The pillar and foundation of truth is the Church, (1 Tim 3:15) not our personal interpretation of the Bible.

An atheist will read the OT and see an angry God who authorizes slaughter of women and children. A Mormon reads that one line about another flock, and the Book of Mormon is validated. Obviously, I’m not comparing Catholics to atheists and Mormons,

(I hope not, I don't think St. Augustine, St Francis of Assisi, St. Thomas Aquinas, and GK. Chesterton, John Henry Cardinal Newman, Mother Theresa, and John Paul 2 would fit there)

but I hope you see the analogy. I won’t lie that I have theological problems with the Catholic Church, but I in no way invalidate the core belief: Jesus is the Savior of the world, and it is through His shed blood that a believer in Him is free of sin.

But, it is only through the Catholic Church that you and I have come to know these wonderful truths! There were no portable Bibles around for 1500 years, so the Church empowered by the Holy Spirit had to be the source of Truth. Most of the world was not literate.

That is why I can call you a brother, even if we disagree on other issues. And as such, that means we can share in communion because of a shared core belief. I know many Catholics who claim they cannot share in communion with other Christians because they don’t share the belief of transubstantiation. I hope you are not now one of them. The enemy seeks to divide, why help him? Christians who share the core beliefs (Divinity of Jesus, His death and resurrection, etc.) should in no way have any reasons why they cannot commune with one another. And I will have words with anyone who says otherwise, because it is a lie from the enemy. If you want to believe Jesus is actually the Bread while I don’t, what’s the difference?

The difference is that not believing in the Real Presence of Christ in the” breaking of the bread” is in opposition to Scripture as well as 1500 years of church history. Jesus lost a lot of followers that day when he told them to eat his body and drink his blood. This Scripture alone, John Chapter 6, almost single-handedly made me convert once I put off my pre-conceived notions of what communion was. The early church (Catholic Church) has never held any belief other than that Christ truly gives us his body and blood whenever the Mass is celebrated.

He said to do this in memory of Him.

The language in the original texts here is anamnesis, which meant to the hearers "to make present" When they heard this they (early Christians) believed Christ was again being made present under the appearance of Bread and Wine. The problem here may be in our definition of the word "communion". I have communion with you in a fellowship sense but receiving the Eucharist as the Church believes is very different. When the Church broke bread and celebrated Communion, the teaching of the apostles was that Christ was being made physically present but appearing as bread and wine. Paul talks about this in Corinthians. If the Eucharist was symbolic, why then did Paul warn that people would die or get sick if they did not discern it appropriately? "....This cup we bless is it not the cup of the Blood of Christ?" For 1500 years, there was never a question of what Communion was and how it should be taken. The same church that gave us the Bible is the same church that has always believed and continues to believe that Communion is actually the Real Presence of Christ.

It’s the only fear I have for you guys. I don’t care that you’re Catholic now, you still believe in Jesus, that’s all that matters to me. But in the attempt to draw closer to God, don’t run the risk of alienating the rest of the Body – for we are all one Body. Share in the commonalities, don’t emphasize the differences.

It is not my goal to emphasize the differences or cause divisions, but hope to share information that I have discovered regarding the Church, that many Protestant Christians have not been informed of. In all the years of studying the Bible and pursuing God as a Protestant, I never looked into the actual historical record of how the early church practiced their faith. There is a large volume of writing from the first few centuries of the church with some of the authors being 2nd generation apostles ie. They were taught by John. All of these writings, though not considered inspired by the Canon of the Catholic Church are still very valuable as they provide a historical snapshot of how the Early Christians worshipped and believed. Once I started reading segments from these “Church Fathers,” I was convinced that the early church was distinctly Catholic in doctrine and practice.

PS: Don’t take my word for all of the above. If you want to pursue this further, watch The Journey Home on EWTN at 8 PM EST on Mondays. They have been interviewing Catholic converts (many Evangelical and Charismatic Pastors) for the past 9 years.
http://www.chnetwork.org/

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