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.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

"The Catholic Church-shaped Hole"



As I reflected on this past Monday's Journey Home interview, I have been thinking about PD's response to "Bill" who asked a question about our past experience as non-Catholic Christians.
She said: "Honestly Bill, I wish I had never left the Church." I have felt the same, but many faithful "cradle"-Catholics have told us that re-verts can appreciate the sacraments so much more than folks who never left. That maybe so, but we have been so touched by the beneficial effects of the sacraments that it now makes us both wonder what it would have been like to spend a lifetime receiving the Eucharist, sacramental reconciliation and following the moral teachings of the Church. Many saints provide examples for us of such lives.

Furthermore, we have met many godly Catholics who have walked with Jesus their whole life and did not need a 30 year journey outside the Church to appreciate the "Beulah Land." There's probably no point in conjecturing but I do wonder if any other converts or reverts out there wished that you would have converted earlier in your life? PD and I have often talked about the Catholic church-shaped hole in our hearts that we tried to fill with other faith expressions and spiritual experiences. Has anyone else experienced this sense of wistfulness that PD expressed?

15 Comments:

Blogger UltraCrepidarian said...

As a convert from protestantism I wish deeply that the Reformation never happened, or that when it did, that somehow it could have worked out differently. I wish that I was not separated from my family, who have been taught to hate the Church, taught to distrust everything, taught an attitude of scepticism, taught to hunker down and endure with individual stoicism, rather than embracing all the Grace that is there in the Sacraments, and the fellowship and community and continuity from the time of the Apostles that God has placed there for their benefit, for their salvation. Just like me, they were taught a lot of lies. When you shared on the show about the Jack Chick tracts, I remember how omnipresent those lying hateful things were throughout my childhood. Jack Chick and his alter egos, people like Fred Phelps, represent the most fervid, hateful and fearful element among the ultra-protestant religious groups I grew up in. For them, it is beyond imagination that any of them should become Catholic. And yet, by the grace of God, some do. Who can fathom this?

In my view the "emergent church" is a collective expurgation of the errors of 20th century evangelical protestantism, replacing them with a carefully worked out repetition of the very same principles that lead to the modern liberal mainline protestantism in the early 20th century, that in fact kicked off the evangelical counter movement within protestantism. Like all these folds and buckles and forks in the protestant road, they all run their course then fizzle and die.

It was beautiful what your wife shared about wishing she never left. It is the sign that she will never leave again, a marvellous testimony to the work of Grace within her. I just about cried at that point, and as well, when you were getting kind of emotional. It was beautiful. You struck so many chords in my heart with your sharing, and it was a great blessing to me.

God bless you both!

Warren

December 15, 2007 10:24 AM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Thanks UC for your thoughts.
We are so grateful to God that he was able to use us to encourage others in their Catholic faith.
I am sorry for the losses of family you have experienced(I have read some of your story before). My prayers are with you today.
God bless you and thanks again for your prayers and support.

December 15, 2007 10:50 AM  
Blogger onionboy said...

TJ, I resonate with what you've said here, on the show and oh, man, Warren could not more clearly express how I feel about each point he noted.

I toyed with the "emergent" idea but quickly saw that what I was really looking for lay beyond what it presented which I saw as good but not nearly enough and bound to either formalize into yet another protestant aberration that yet another subsequent generation of protestants would work to correct or that it would, as Warren notes, just fizzle out.

It is by grace that I have been saved and it is by grace that Jesus brought me home to the very Church he instituted. I have no pride but only deeply humble gratitude.


O onionboy.ca {arts & fath} luminousmiseries.ca {faith & art}

December 15, 2007 1:47 PM  
Blogger Ian said...

Hello,

I just finished watching your appearance on the Journey Home. Can I ask what church you spent the majority of your time in while you were an evangelical?

December 16, 2007 12:08 AM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Dear Ian:
Thanks so much for watching! Here's the breakdown of my journey. It may appear that I was a "church hopper", but many of the moves were the result of relocations during my medical training.
1958-1973 Catholic Church
1973-1985 independent charismatic church loosely affiliated with Elim bible institute. This church was heavily into the "discipleship movement" of the 70's.
Church eventually split and dissolved over leadership issues and waning attendance.
1985-1989 Large City independent charismatic church. Strong influence from Tulsa teachers. Discipleship, cell groups, mercy ministries etc. Church split over leader's issues.
1985-1991 Small rural independent charismatic church, with a pastor trained in a well known reformed seminary. We left when leadership issues became unbearable.
1991-2000 Mid-size independent charismatic church heavily focused on personal prophecy,lively emotive worship. Cell groups, commitment to living out the gospel through missions outreach etc. Pastor seminary trained, great sermons. Influenced by the Toronto, Brownsville movements. This church continues to grow to this day because of solid, devout leadership. They are not "fuzzy" when it comes to morality issues.
2000-2004 United Methodist , but still biblically conservative.
2004-till death - The One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
A large Church with branches found through the world, each maintaining the same doctrines and teaching as passed on from Jesus to the apostles. Against this Church, the gates of Hell have not and will not prevail. And I'm not ever leaving!
God bless.

December 16, 2007 9:58 AM  
Blogger Ian said...

Tiber,

Thank you for your response. Were any of the churches Assembly of God? also, in your testimony you claim to have experienced what I consider a "born again" experience. Do you agree? Finally, do you claim to have reentered the Catholic church already saved? Or did you find salvation in your return to Catholic church?

December 16, 2007 11:38 AM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Dear Ian:
None of the churches were AOG though many of the teachings regarding the gifts of the Holy Spirit were similar to AOG teachings.
In 1973, I would have described the experience as being "born again." However, the term "born again" historically is a fairly recent term theologically . The Church has described the baptismal regeneration as being "born again."
Therefore, anyone who has received the grace of God through the valid sacrament of Baptism as taught by Jesus, Paul and the apostles, they are born again. A mere verbal assent to accepting Jesus was never the way in which Christians were initiated into the body of Christ. It always required baptism along with faith. The early Church father's writings prove this to be so.
A more biblical definition of being born again is receiving the grace of God through baptism and assenting to faith in Christ. (Born of water and the Spirit as Jesus alludes to baptism in John 3.)
I would now have to say, that my infant baptism was the start of my conversion and truly in the waters of baptism Christ washed me clean of original sin. That was my initial "born again experience." My 1973 conversion was truly another conversion and my 2004 acceptance of Catholicism and return to the Church was yet another conversion. I hope to continue to be converted as I follow and obey Christ for the rest of the time I have remaining here on this side of eternity.
Scripture tells us that our life in Christ is a series of conversions, from "glory to glory," and the Catholic Church since the days of the apostles has taught that baptism is absolutely essential for salvation. "Teaching all nations and baptizing them in the name of the Father etc."
The protestant view of baptism varied depending on what church I went to. The final incorrect conclusion I came to as a protestant christian was that baptism was required but not necessary! That was inconsistent with the teaching of the Church since the early days.
I was surprised to learn that the early Church writings never described an altar call, or accepting Jesus into your heart with a prayer and then you were "born again." That is a concept that is about 150 years old.
Did I claim to have entered the Catholic Church already saved?
Well, yes I entered the Church believing with all my heart that Jesus died on the cross for my sins and I had been baptized (twice) so , yes I would say I was "saved."
However, just like Paul, I continue to work out my salvation with fear and trembling and hope to run the race and finish it gloriously by His grace. Catholics have never believed in OSAS and again, that is a rather late development theologically, promoted by some, not all of the reformers. As you know, they fought like cats and dogs over baptism, the eucharist, salvation etc once private personal interpretation of Scripture became the reformers modus operandus after 1517.
Did I find salvation on my return to the Church? No I didn't, but my return to the Church has given me tremendous grace to live my life for him. It may be likened to what some charismatics call a "baptism in the Holy Spirit." Since becoming Catholic and receiving Christ in the Eucharist and confession regularly, God has given me a great victory over many stubborn area of sin I struggled with for 35 years.
Since being Catholic, I have had a fervor for the faith, increased devotion, increased desire for Scripture that I had not experienced heretofore.
Would I have gone to heaven if I died before becoming Catholic?
Yes, making the assumption that I was continuing to actively love and obey him. Does being Catholic help me in my journey to heaven, the goal of all our lives? Unequivocally, yes.
I hope this helps.
I have included a link here which may answer so questions regarding being born again.
The Lord bless you!

December 16, 2007 4:36 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Dear Ian:
I just remembered I have posted about this before. Check this link to the archives. Hope it clarifies this for you.
God bless

December 16, 2007 4:49 PM  
Blogger Scott Lyons said...

Tiber Jumper, I thought PD's answer excellent. I've often heard people being thankful for their years as an evangelical - and so am I. But the question baits us, doesn't it? It says, you are a better Catholic because of your time as a Protestant - therefore there is value in Protestantism that is not inherent in the Catholic faith.

God draws each of us to Himself. And if He draws us through evangelicalism, so be it. But we have still objectively lost years - decades even - of uniting ourselves to Christ in the holy Eucharist. Of being separated from the Church, the sacrament of salvation, and all the graces we receive through her. Of being motherless.

"What If" questions are at best poor, since we can only wonder at their answers (and I am reminded of Lewis's portrayal of Aslan growling at such questions in the Narnian Chronicles). But let's be brutally honest, God has used even my own sin to draw me nearer Him. Does that mean that it is better that I sin? May it never be.

I do appreciate the grace of God's nearness that I experienced as a Protestant. I appreciate that I grew in my love for the Scriptures as a Protestant. But that love for God and for His word was not because of "Protestantism," but rather was due to God's exceeding grace toward me and His continual drawing of me ever nearer Himself.

O how I wish I had come home earlier! But even so, I am glad to be home now. I longed for Christ's presence in a way that Protestantism could never give Him to me. And when I re-discovered Him in the Church - and all the corresponding riches of our faith - it blew my world apart. Or, rather, put it back together again.

December 16, 2007 5:43 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

O Boy:
as always, thanks for your comments.
God's blessings to you.

December 16, 2007 7:01 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Scott said:
"I do appreciate the grace of God's nearness that I experienced as a Protestant. I appreciate that I grew in my love for the Scriptures as a Protestant. But that love for God and for His word was not because of "Protestantism," but rather was due to God's exceeding grace toward me and His continual drawing of me ever nearer Himself."
Yes, Scott, excellent thoughts. I think His desire is for us to grow as close to him as possible and He has therefore given Himself in the Eucharist, so we can always abide with Him here, and eternally as well.

It's not that you can't be close to God as a Protestant. That would be as unkind and judgmental as those who say Catholics aren't Christians! But the reality is, as all of us converts attest to, we "feel" that our conversion to Catholicism has brought us closer than we had ever been before via the sacraments of the Church.
So the sadness PD expressed sums up that sense of "look what I could have had, for so many years."

December 16, 2007 7:10 PM  
Blogger tara said...

Good post tiber--how cool to see you on the Journey Home--and so happy you filled the hole in your hearts. But God has a plan, and all those years of your searching--God can bring merit from them.

December 16, 2007 10:36 PM  
Blogger Joyful Catholics said...

Hi TJ,
As you know from reading my blog on your appearance on TJH, I concur with Deborah about the 26 years I COULD have been receiving Jesus in the Eucharist, the grace in the sacrament of confession and reconciliation makes me so sad to have left.

However, in the throes of the sloppy theology abounding in the fairly liberal diocese we were in, it sure made it hard for me to stay. My catechism from a priest was very "loosey goosey" and bland. Memorization of the Hail Mary and a couple other things and voila, I was Catholic! I'd been receiving the Eucharist as a non Catholic and that was never discouraged! I NEVER saw a rosary in any of my friends' hands - only in the hands of my mother in law or other older ladies in church mostly at funerals. There was no Catholic radio, EWTN, "Scott Hahns" or a Catholic bookstore in our town. When we left, the Catholics we knew were all pretty much "Protestant-like" anyway, in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal so no one expressed any thoughts, one way or the other about our staying or leaving.

I can't help but feel sadness about that whole mess of a time in the Church in so many diocese. The infamous "Spirit of Vatican II" and felt banners, guitars, and all the protestantizing of the liturgy made it way too easy to drift from the CC and go where they at least had a drum set and electric guitars! No one was telling us of the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist! I guess I'm forced to think they themselves didn't know or believe? How tragic!

Too bad my inlaws weren't able to lay it out like a Scott or Mike Aquilina for me. My husband tried, but I was already enchanted by Keith Green's misinformed anti-Catholic tracts. (No Jack Chick for me, Keith was much more my style. He wrote beautiful songs and his artwork was superior!) If they had been, maybe I would have pursued the faith to learn more, but they were just dear folks, living their Catholic faith out in their own sweet way. Always loving us, but heartbroken, I'm sure! I know my dear mother in law prayed her guts out for us, and we FINALLY returned from the mess out there in the fray of independent Christian thought.

It's by such tender mercy and glorious grace that we returned at all, for where I was once again heading with my disillusionment at the Inter-denom 'church' we were attending scares the crap outta me.
Now that 'mega church' is going through major turmoil and splits.

The RC is the biggest mega Church on the planet. So big we need parishes! No other Christian fellowship can claim that status and they know it! It is just so sad that there's so much hatred among those that call themselves followers of Christ. I never hear the vitriol coming from Catholics, and never have. It's from Protestants toward Catholics that I hear the most awful things due to ignorance and lies. I'm not saying Catholics are always right, but in my circle, never a harsh word have I heard directed toward our separated brethren. My own mother in law never attacked anyone of other faiths, or their faith, nothing was ever personal toward them like I've witnessed coming from misguided Protestants- many of them being bitter ex-Catholics.

As Our Lady in Medugorjie says, PRAY PRAY PRAY...there is chastisement on the way! Judgment starts in the House of God and his House is the RC! We're not to be afraid, but how sobering to ponder!

How prayerful and watchful we must be, and how grateful I am to be back in His House to be watchful. It's going to shake rattle and roll big time. It began right off the bat when the Church was founded, and the rumblings are getting louder. I pray to persevere to the end. But there's no better place than to be in the ONE holy apostolic Church. It's hard enough to persevere with the fullness and 7 sacraments, I can't imagine being in a independent little home church where there's no authority and everyone's a Lone Ranger Christian. How that makes me tremble to think we could very well have ended up even FARTHER away from the CC!

Bless you TJ. Sorry I rambled on so long here.

PAX,
susie

December 17, 2007 7:45 AM  
Blogger Joyful Catholics said...

And another thing...since I've rambled this long, I quote Scott:

"God draws each of us to Himself. And if He draws us through evangelicalism, so be it. But we have still objectively lost years - decades even - of uniting ourselves to Christ in the holy Eucharist. Of being separated from the Church, the sacrament of salvation, and all the graces we receive through her. Of being motherless."

Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child. Eric Clapton's rendition came to mind reading Scott's comment. I wonder if it's on You Tube? Anyway, we weren't exactly motherless, for Holy Mother Church and Mary were calling us all the time, but yet we lived in such ignorance of our Blessed Mother. I'm just so glad her loving arm is so long, and her mantle so broad and her love so tender, for it is her Sorrowful Immaculate Heart that beats for her children and her eyes that weep for them, the further they wander. Amazing Grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me! Mary, our Lady of Peace, pray for us!

There, I'm off my soap box and off to work. "Hi" to Onion Boy! : )

December 17, 2007 10:01 AM  
Anonymous theo said...

TJ, PD and all:

As most of us know, there is an old Christian adage that we each have a Christ-shaped hole in our heart. I was contemplating how this truism relates to the Church-shaped hole you describe, when it occurred to me that there is a scriptural basis by which those who nevertheless are Christian but out of full fellowship might still feel a void in the heart--and in recognizing it, I also found some concern for my non-Catholic Christian friends that I'd not had before. To wit: It occurs to me that when Jesus appeared on the road to Damascus to Saul who was persecuting the Church, our Lord said, "Why do you persecute me?" The implication is astounding.

Although it ought to be obvious, it hadn't hit me that there is a sense in which the Church, being the mystical body of Christ, stands in its entirety as a vicar of Christ. To embrace her is to embrace Christ in yet another meaningful way. There is indeed a Church-shaped void in every human heart, because by definition it is part of the Christ-shaped void.

This is why it is such horrible scandal when anyone should lead "even the least of these" astray. It is also why it is a scandal that so many of our fellow Christians attack the Church.

Those who actively seek to defame the Church while ignoring truth (which would otherwise merely be seeking to correct her), risk offending God.

Pray for them that their eyes may be opened as were Saul's. For their sake, may we all be even more vigilant in our imitations of Christ, so we do not scandalize His mystical body.

Speaking as an expert of sorts: as one who has so often been a poor example, I ask forgiveness of all of you whether or not you are in full fellowship. That which I have done to the least of His brothers, I have done unto Him. May the Holy Spirit mend whatever harm I've ever done.

Your servant and brother in Christ,
--Theo

December 17, 2007 2:42 PM  

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