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.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Brother Lawrence and the Eucharist and Other Thoughts

I had a question in my com box from a Christian lawyer who read my testimony. I chose to answer it here so everyone could benefit. Thanks Anette for your patience, sorry it took so long.

Annette's comments in brown, mine in blue.

"Just a couple of questions (and these are just honest question--I'm not trying to challenge you): First, you mention that the Eucharist is very important to Catholics because it's the actual presence of Christ in the bread and the wine. But Brother Lawrence (whose book you mention as one of your favorites) talks about practicing God's presence all the time. He says nothing about the Eucharist or any other sacrament. Nothing distinguishes Brother Lawrence from a Protestant, because his book is all about an intimate walk with God in faith and obedience. Isn't that what it's all about, regardless of our denomination?

Yes absolutely! Our goal in this life is to become intimate with Christ through faith and obedience. I like how you include both. That is what I believe as well. But, Brother Lawrence was a daily communicant based on his belonging to a Carmelite order so the Eucharist was a daily part of his worship. I can't comment on why he did not emphasize it more.
Outside of receiving Christ in the Eucharist, we are all encouraged to spiritually commune with God all day as Brother Lawrence did. He perfected that ability to be with God in the present moment of everyday. I don't think that negates the value or importance of the Eucharist and the majority of saints and Catholic mystics do put a lot of emphasis on the Eucharist. Thomas a Kempis, not a saint, but a well loved mystic by both Protestant and Catholics devotes an entire of section of his book, Imitation of Christ to the Eucharist. Honestly, I think that if Brother Lawrence mentioned that he received the Eucharist daily, his Christian classic would probably not have crossed denominational lines.
In my experience as a Catholic over 5 years , I can tell you that indeed the Eucharist has become the most important part of my spiritual life. Daily receiving Christ in the Eucharist gives me the grace to continue that spiritual communion throughout the day. I have found my personal walk with Jesus to be enhanced by Catholicism, not detracted by. That being said, some days are better than others, (we are still in these flesh suits!) but if you ask my wife, she likes the Catholic me better!
If Christians of any stripe really believed that Jesus was just around the corner from them in their local Catholic Church, they would be regularly taking Him in physically through communion and adoring Him in Eucharistic adoration. Who doesn't want to get closer to Jesus? Why more Catholics don't take advantage of this is the heartache of the Church, in my opinion.
But the failure of Catholics to appreciate their Lord in the Eucharist does not negate nor prove that the Real Presence isn't true. Every denomination has those members who fail to realize the treasure of truth that they have access to.

Oh, btw, Catholic belief is that the bread and the wine actually are changed into his body and blood but retain the appearance of bread and wine. God is merciful to us not asking us to chew flesh and drink blood which would be repulsive to our natural senses. (That's why so many walked away from him in John 6:66)


And, in your mind, wouldn't a Protestant who does this be better off than a Catholic who just takes the Eucharist faithfully?
Do you mean a Catholic who just takes the Eucharist in a rote fashion, not truly discerning the body of Christ? Yes!
I would certainly say that a Catholic who lives like Brother Lawrence is FAR better off than an evangelical who has just said the Sinner's Prayer.
Again I say Yes!

Second, when you were first born again as a teenager, you "were set free from much sin and bad life choices in just one night." I understand that to mean that you stopped sinning in those ways, and not just that you felt forgiven. You also say that your parents "didn't allow their faith to help them with their personal problems. They had a troubled marriage and alcohol abuse was a chronic unspoken demon in their lives." Later, you came to believe that you were misguided as a teenager. Why? Didn't Jesus come to take away our sins? Again, this is just an honest question, and I may have missed your explanation in the text.
Yes I believe that God did a powerful work in my life the night I surrendered to Him by praying and asking to receive Him. It was more than a feeling and lasted for 30 years give or take some definite dark periods. I say that I was misguided because the group of Christians were strong anti-Catholics exposing me to the most virulent anti-Catholic propaganda(Chick Tracks).
What if I came home that night, told some devout Catholics what had happened and they sat down with me to explain how Jesus really did touch me and then showed me how I could keep this flame alive via the grace available to me in the sacraments as a young Catholic teenager? What if I had a conversion experience during a Catholic teen retreat as sometimes occurs? I would not have thought Catholicism was evil but would have been overjoyed to know I could get even closer to Him by now understanding the grace of the sacraments. But I was misguided because these sincere Christian people had also been mis-informed about what Catholicism truly was and thought they were doing me a favor by pulling me out of it. I came home with Chick tracts stuffing my pockets and my parents were so troubled it was easy to just write off my version of Catholicism. But you can't judge a religion based on the lives of those who don't practice and live it!
So , yes I believe my sins were forgiven that night and that I definitely had a conversion experience, but I believe now that our lives are a series of conversions and transformations that begin with baptism. From glory to glory he's changing me, as we used to sing.


BTW, I totally agree with you that the Bible says nothing about the Sinner's Prayer (but it does talk about being born again), and we will be judged by our sins (including our sins of omission). But of course a living faith in Christ is the means to obedience, as Brother Lawrence demonstrates so well.

Yes we agree again, and Catholics talk about being born again as well but we base it on John 3:3 referring to born by water and the spirit which the Christians for the first 1600 years believed referred to baptism, not the reciting of a prayer.

I'm glad that your spiritual journey has led you to a place you feel home!

Thank you, yes it's truly God's kindness and mercy to us!

Blessings!

God bless you and thanks so much for spending the time reading my story.

10 Comments:

Blogger Anette Acker said...

TJ,

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions so thoroughly! I understand now why you feel you were misguided as a teenager. Clearly your new evangelical friends were wrong to turn you against Catholicism, and I can see why you regret not have taken the time to learn more.

But moving on to the subject of the Eucharist and Brother Lawrence. One of the reasons I like Brother Lawrence is because he epitomized a walk of faith. Faith is the substance ("reality" or "essence") of things hoped for. (Hebrews 11:1) Another way of saying it is that the objective reality of Christ and everything he accomplished on the cross is really present in our faith. That is why faith is so powerful.

You say that Christ is present in the Eucharist. I fully agree with you, if you take it in faith. That's the key, because through faith we have Christ. Brother Lawrence not only didn't mention the Eucharist, he downplayed spiritual "exercises," and preferred to go straight to God.

By no means am I saying that the Eucharist is irrelevant--it is ordained by God, and we take communion regularly in Protestant churches as well. My point is that it should not be a divisive issue. Many Protestants experience the same grace throughout the day when they start out with a quiet time with God. The end goal for all believers is the presence of Christ through faith.

Regarding the bread and the wine really becoming flesh and blood. Why is this important? Isn't the presence of Christ what matters? I believe people turned away from Jesus when he said that for the same reason that the disciples thought Jesus said "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees" when they had forgotten to bring bread. They took literally what was intended to be symbolic, and Jesus responded by saying they lacked faith.

As I mentioned before, I disagree with the modern evangelical church's reliance on the Sinner's Prayer. However, a true rebirth is necessary, and it cannot be forced through infant baptism. (Brother Lawrence and Augustine were both born again of the Spirit.)

However, I agree with you that our lives are a series of conversions and transformations. In fact, I think we often reach a point where our worldview or religion is insufficient for the crisis we're going through. Form has replaced substance, and we may be better off switching denominations to see the reality of the Gospel in a fresh light. That's been true in my life.

I wonder if you experienced the same thing when your late wife was dying. Your church refused to validate your grief, and instead gave you empty platitudes and assurances. How excruciating! I can see why you would have checked out of the charismatic church at that point, and looked for the true presence of Christ somewhere else. But when you were fourteen, you found God's life-changing power in the charismatic church.

I believe the Reformation was necessary because the Catholic church was corrupt at that time and had lost sight of important truths. But there are mini-reformations happening all the time. It used to be that the evangelical churches were a vibrant alternative to the old-fashioned, spiritually dead mainline denominations. But right now the evangelical church is shallow and political, with most members being indistinguishable from unbelievers. So a number of people are turning to the Catholic church, trying to recapture what all true believers seek: Christ.

The members of the True Church are those whose names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life, and they come from every Christian denomination. What counts is faith expressing itself through love, and whatever helps us toward that goal differs from person to person.

I really appreciate your taking my questions so seriously, and again it sounds like the Catholic church is great fit for you and your wife. Blessings to you both!

August 14, 2009 3:02 PM  
Blogger Jeff Pinyan (japhy) said...

Anette, I'm curious what edition/translation of Br. Lawrence's "The Practice of the Presence of God" is. I compared a rather barren version (Whitaker) with a faithful one (Spire) on my blog.

Br. Lawrence does mention kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament.

August 14, 2009 9:49 PM  
Blogger Anette Acker said...

Jeff,

My version is Peter Pauper Press, 1963. Since I enjoy reading Brother Lawrence, I'd be very interested to see your expanded version on your blog.

My point was not that Brother Lawrence was against the sacraments, nor that I am against them. My point was merely that they were the means, not the end. Br. Lawrence did participate in the sacraments, but he didn't focus on them.

Br. Lawrence says: "Many do not advance in the Christian progress because they stick in penances and particular exercises, while they neglect the love of God, which is the end." I'm not saying that the Eucharist falls into that category, but Br. Lawrence is clearly saying that what counts is faith expressing itself through love. His focus was very simple, and crossed denominational boundaries.

But if receiving the Eucharist brings you closer to God, I'm all for that! Please do not interpret anything I said as an attack on the sacraments. All I'm saying is that they are the means rather than the end. And there are other means that are at least as effective, as Br. Lawrence's book demonstrates.

August 14, 2009 11:07 PM  
Blogger Anette Acker said...

Jeff,

You're right, Brother Lawrence mentions the Eucharist at the end of Conversation 4. I had forgotten about that, but it doesn't undermine my point. He says the following: "In the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament."

The point he makes is that God is present to him all the time, not just when he's kneeling before the blessed sacrament.

It looks like I have the translation you are recommending. I wonder why that other translation took out the Catholic references. I'm not against Catholicism (I went to Notre Dame); I just don't believe it's the One True Church (obviously, since I'm evangelical).

August 15, 2009 12:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(BTW, the Chick of Chick Tracts is the same sort of rabid "rapture" promoter exposed in the following item I just saw on the web!)

Anti-Catholic "Rapture" Doctrine

While recently looking at the "Opinionated Catholic" blog I was drawn to its lead story entitled "Tim LaHaye Does Most Silly Anti Catholic Charge Ever." Then my eye caught the first "Comments" which listed several web articles which expose the popular Evangelical and Fundamentalist belief in an "any-moment pre-tribulational rapture." You can't believe the huge amount of deliberate dishonesty and cover-up in the same "fly-away rapture" view since its strange birth in Scotland in 1830! To see what I mean, Google "Pretrib Rapture Diehards," "X-Raying Margaret," "Deceiving and Being Deceived," "Pretrib Hypocrisy," and especially "Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty" - all written by author and historian Dave MacPherson who has spent 40 years locating long forgotten (and covered up) early "rapture" documents in libraries in Britain etc. The same "Comments" urged Catholics to read MacPherson's highly endorsed and massively documented book "The Rapture Plot" (see online stores including Armageddon Books), and I got the impression that his findings could finally silence all anti-Catholic "rapture" traffickers such as Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye. Don't forget that these two have been THE bestselling authors worldwide since the 1970s simply because they have discovered how to thoroughly brainwash tens of millions of deceived Protestant Evangelicals and Fundamentalists with the unscriptural "rapture escape" - no little achievement! Catholic leaders and writers apparently now have the ammunition and documentation to finally demolish the same anti-Catholic publishing craze! ----J. Edwards

August 16, 2009 2:11 AM  
Blogger George Weis said...

This was a wonderful dialogue to read. Empty of any biting and scratching that can sometimes (all to frequent) take place.

I applaud both of you! The grace and peace of Christ presided over your discussion and Charity was clearly present from both parties!

May God Bless you both!

-g-

August 16, 2009 11:49 AM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Yeah a doctor and a lawyer having a congenial discussion! How about that?

August 16, 2009 12:37 PM  
Blogger Anette Acker said...

Hey now, I know a lot of lawyers sue doctors, but an equal number defends them. :)

August 16, 2009 1:29 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Amen!

August 16, 2009 2:18 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Anette;
I posted my thoughts on the eucharist as a separate post. sorry its so long, take care
russ

August 17, 2009 9:09 PM  

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