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, February 28, 2013

The Seat of Peter Is Vacated Today

Today is a historic moment for the Church. At 8 PM, Roman time, Peter's seat goes empty. Only a few times in 2000 years has a pope willingly abdicated the seat of Peter. This period is known as sede vacante, the vacant seat. (Not to be confused with the sedevacantists who are a schismatic group of ex-Catholics who believe that the Catholic Church no longer has valid popes.)  It's a strange and unsettling feeling knowing that the papacy is empty, yet in reality we can be assured that Christ is the head of the Church and would not forsake his bride that he has loved and given all for.  The promise of Jesus to Peter that he would build his Church on him (not his confession, which even Protestant theologians now agree) still stands today. The gates of hell have not prevailed, despite corruption, sin and the "smoke of Satan" at times entering the Church. The Church continues to proclaim the same gospel as preached by Jesus almost 2000 years ago and will continue until this present age is over.
   The world has been buzzing with what this is going to mean for the Church. Some hope for a new pope that will ordain women and bless homosexual unions and change the Church to better fit the "modern times." Regardless of who next occupies the seat of Peter (liberal or conservative), we know by Christ's promise that the Church will continue to be guided by the Holy Spirit and will not change its position on issues of faith and morals.
    We will miss our Pope Benedict but rest in the assurance of Christ's hand steadying the barque of Peter, even in the most turbulent seas.  Pray for Pope Emeritus Benedict  and the cardinals who choose the next successor of Saint Peter.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Song For Benedict

I was interviewed by the National Catholic Register last Thursday regarding my song, Room of Tears.
Here is the link to Joe Pronechen's article. Now back to Lent. ;)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Lent : A Season for "Finishing" Your Faith.

I can't believe it's Lent again! I really need Lent. I have a love/hate relationship with Lent. I hate the sacrifices but love what they do for my life with the Lord. It's not just about giving up stuff, but Lent is also about doing more. Doing more for others, giving a little more of our time and talents and resources and spending a little more time in prayer, spiritual reading etc. What's not to love?
   The practice of observing Lent hearkens back to the early Church when they prepared for Easter with 40 days of prayer, fasting and alms-giving.  Our Lord fasted for 40 days, and thus it sets a precedent for his followers. All the well known (and less well-known) saints spent periods of fasting and prayer in order to nourish their spiritual lives and grow closer to the Lord. Who am I that I should do less?  Saint Paul tell us: Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  

So, by His grace, I am going to try to lay aside some weights and sins which ensnare me and try to endure my crosses and look to Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith. Lent, therefore, is a time of "finishing" that the Church gives us as a great gift, which we all need.

I hope and pray this Lenten season will be used by the Holy Spirit to draw you closer to him.

Please pray for Pope Benedict as he resigns and the conclave to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit in choosing our next pope.

I'll be back after Easter. We will be in Haiti  for part of Lent so we could use your prayers as always.
God bless!

Monday, February 11, 2013

An Evangelical Bids the Pope Goodbye

My friend Magister has written a stirring account of his fondness for  Pope Benedict.
Please read his whole blog post here.

"And yet tonight there is a sadness in this Evangelical's heart, for I have respected and loved this pope, even being tempted in his early days to purchase one of the many products proclaiming, "I Love My German Shepherd." I can only pray that God will bless us with a man of such faith and intelligence, one who truly saw only Christ and strove to achieve, regardless of any other opinion, what was best for His Church."

The Resignation of a Pope

We had a good pope. I am sad to see him go but I am not surprised by today's news. I could see it coming in the way he walked, and the way he talked in 2010 in his interview when he said a pope should step down when he could no longer physically, mentally and spiritually carry out his role as
successor to Peter.
   I still remember the beautiful warm spring afternoon when he was elected. I had just returned to the Church the year before after 31 years as an evangelical Protestant. I marveled at the process of electing a pope and was in awe of seeing the naming of Peter's successor. My wife came in the door and I shouted " Habemus papum!"  We were so excited to watch this ancient process for the first time as engaged Catholics.
      I had grown very fond of Blessed Pope John Paul 2 in the short time that I had gotten to know him and study his writings and I wept when he died. I wondered if I could grow fond of this elderly timid man who really just desired to retire and read and pray and play his beloved Mozart. Yet when called upon by God to lead Christ's flock on earth, he said yes, and I felt myself quickly warming up to him.
  Here is the song I wrote for Pope Benedict's election to the papacy a few months after the conclave.
May God bless him mightily and I trust very much in the Lord's hand in leading his Church through this next election.  "You are Peter, and upon this Rock, I will build my Church."


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Scriptures for Evangelization


Saturday, February 09, 2013

Abortionist Kills Woman And Child in Maryland


Leroy Carhart, famed late-term abortionist has just killed another woman and her 33 week old unborn child in Maryland. See the details here. Please pray for her and her family and an end to the liberal abortion laws in the state of Maryland.  There will be a prayer vigil on Monday. If you are in the Maryland/VA/DC area check out the details here.
    People of all faiths need now more than ever to unite to end the holocaust of abortion in our nation. Groups such as "Abolish Human Abortion" seek to drive a wedge in the pro-life movement and weaken the credibility of the cause for the unborn. The fight to save the unborn is difficult enough as it is and it is the Catholic Church has spear-headed the movement for 40 years now. It's unconscionable that there are people in the world who identify themselves as "Christian" whose goal is to attack and defame the Catholic Church in its fight for the unborn. Spread the word on social media to avoid AHA.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

The Power of Social Media for Good


Recently, there has been a concerted effort by faithful Catholics to reveal the intentions of the
anti-Catholic group Abolish Human Abortion. Using social media like blogs and facebook, the virulent anti-Catholic stance of this faux "pro-life" group has been brought to light.
   When you google Abolish Human Abortion under web pages one third of the first 6 sites are Catholic sites pointing out the deception of this group. When you google specifically under blogs,
more than half of the first several entries point to Catholic sources discussing the tactics of this group.
Keep up the work until this divisive group of anti-Catholics are marginalized to the point where no Protestant of good will would be interested in associating with this group.(especially when they see their comment above that "in LARGE part Western Protestantism is dead.") You can't claim to be pro-life but preach hate and prejudice at the same time.  Calling the largest pro-life religion in the world a satanic system and it adherents "idolaters" and "apostates" will never lead to success in saving babies. Like the Westboro Baptists, and Jack Chicks of the world, this group will fade over time and eventually be forgotten. God have mercy on them and please continue to share this information across your social media portals.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Conversion and the Pro-life Movement

Lila Rose, convert to the Catholic faith and leader of the young pro-life movement talks about having an intimate relationship with Christ and how her prayer life is what sustains her. It is hard for me to fathom how the Abolish Human Abortion cult could say Catholics are not Christians. Judge for yourself. There are many converts to the faith as a result of their involvement in the pro-life movement associating with Catholics. Dave Armstrong, Bryan Kemper and Norma McCorvey(She was the Roe of Roe v Wade) are all converts to the Catholic faith due to pro-life Catholics's witness. Do you think the witness of the hate-filled vitriol of Abolish Human Abortion will bring anyone closer to God or save the unborn? I suspect their success rate will be on par with the number of people who join Phelp's Westboro Baptist cult after observing their "witness" at a serviceman's funeral.

Monday, February 04, 2013

"Abolish Human Abortion" is an Anti-Catholic Group

               ( Toby Harmon is a founder of AHA)




There's a group of Christians on facebook who call themselves Abolish Human Abortion. They sell tee-shirts and posters, buttons and bumper stickers and go to pro-life marches to verbally attack Catholic abortion protesters saying things like this:

“Abortion is legal in America because the Catholic Church and the Protestants are not standing up and fighting against it. Marching does not help end abortion… One sermon a year is not enough. Marching is not enough.” – Todd Bullis (AHA)

Their founding members are from a fringe group of Calvinism known as hyper-Calvinism and believe that only those who share their extremely narrow view of Calvin's writings will be saved. It is unclear to me if they are really pro-life or just using a pro-life front to market their anti-Catholic rhetoric. They address those who don't agree with their version of the gospel as apostate and have made negative comments against several prominent pro-life patriots. The founders of AHA call former evangelicals to Catholic converts by the loving and non-divisive appelation "apostate."

"We do not consider Catholics brothers in Christ or Christians at all. We will not seek unity with a Satanic religious system. The only unity that can come is for Catholics to repent of their false religion and idolatry and repent and put their faith in Christ alone (not rituals, not Mary, nor the Church of Rome or any mere man.)" Toby Harmon,  AHA

These folks are the Jack Chicks of the pro-life movement and have tactics very much like the Westboro Baptist cult. When Catholics are standing up for life at Marches for Life, they are cowering with bull horns in the shadows shouting things like the above and trying to make money selling merch. Supposed pro-lifers like this will only add to the chaos and confusion and will cause much harm to the real pro-life movement, which is made up largely of Catholics.
   Avoid AHA group like the plague they are and spread the word through social media that these folks are cultish charlatans trying to make a name for themselves to attack the Catholic faith, using the pro-life movement as their "Trojan Horse."  Use your twitter account, blogs and fb to get the word out about these sad folks so they don't confuse more people and detract from our efforts to protect the unborn and those at the end of their lives. God have mercy, it's hard enough to stand up for life in this secular culture but now having to be attacked by a cult that believes they are the only Christians and we are satanic.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Candlemas Day, Saint Blaise, Candles and Throats.


Candlemas, Candles, throat blessings and the Feast of Saint Blaise.  All these wonderful blessings and feasts, the Church gives to us in these two consecutive cold dark days in the dreary month of February.
As a convert it has been hard to keep these similar sounding events straight in my mind and every year since my conversion, I still need to refresh the distinctions between Candlemas, and the Feast of Saint Blaises. Through Divine Providence, both of these celebrations have candles associated with them, but they are two very separate events. So here is a little primer for Candlemas Day and the Feast of Saint Blaises.

Candlemas Day is actually the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord  when the Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph bring Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem. Following the precepts of the Law, they brought an offering to the priest and Mary was ceremonially purified.  At this momentous occasion, the devout Simeon rejoices that God fulfilled his promise to him that he would not see death until the coming of Messiah.  The feast has also been called the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
      How do candles fit in here? Where does the name Candlemas come from? Since Jesus is the Light of the World, candles, the only source of light back in the day, were used to symbolically represent this light. The early Church celebrated this feast day with candlelit processions to remember the momentous occasion of the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, the Messiah, light of this world coming to us. Even now, the Church blesses candles for anyone who wishes to bring them to the priest on this day, making those candles sacramentals to be used at home.
   This feast day is so important to the life of the Church that the Canticle of Simeon (Lk 2) is recited by every priest and religious, as well as many lay people throughout the world daily when we pray the Liturgy of the Hours.

Lord, now you let your servant go in peace;
Your word has been fulfilled.
My eyes have seen the salvation
You have prepared in the sight of every people,
A light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people, Israel.

Okay I get Candlemas day now, but how does the Blessing of Throats and Saint Blaise fit in here?  The following day after the Feast of the Presentation happens to be the Feast of Saint Blaise, an early fourth century physician and bishop from Armenia who was martyred for the faith. Tradition has it that he healed a child who had a fish bone stuck in his throat.  In the Middle Ages in Europe, devotion to Saint Blaise became very strong and healings were attributed to his intercession. The Church still celebrates his feast day by offering a blessing of throats to all who wish to come forward after mass. The priest or deacon holds two candles that had been blessed on Candlemas day (the day before) in a cross pattern on the throat of the parishioner and prays this blessing : 
"Through the intercession of Saint Blase, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from every disease of the throat and from every other illness."

An added benefit to this blessing is that we can also receive grace from God to control the words that come out of our blessed throats too! As I waited in line (I was last in line for the blessing) I marveled and thanked God for all the rich blessings he has given us through His Church.

There is so much more to say about these two great feast days of the Church, but I hope I have cleared up any confusion about Candlemas Day, Candles, Saint Blaises and Throat Blessings.


video

 A priest at Saint Francis of Assisi in Nesquehoning, PA blesses throats after vigil mass last evening. vigil.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Catholic vs Protestant View of Works-Doing vs Manifesting


I recently was discussing the role of works in our salvation in a combox on Devin Rose's blog.

Me:
"The Protestant strawman is that “Catholics work their way to heaven” No, only Jesus can open the gates of heaven for us by his redeeming death on the cross. But He allows us to cooperate (reformed folks hate that word) with him in our salvation. It’s like this: “DO the Works I command, and ye shall live. Act like a schmuck , thinking you are saved and you better get used to hanging with the goats."

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35
"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." 

These are all good works, that were done (by the grace and power of God we as Catholic believe, not on our own) that determined whether these folks would be apportioned to the sheep or to the goats. It was all about what we did or didn't do. I know that only by God’s grace can I do the works he asks of me, but if I choose to ignore the poor, the needy, and live selfishly ignoring Christ’s commands, then I have essentially rejected his salvation and will end up in Hell."

Bob (the Protestant):
"Russ,
We don’t earn salvation by works. Matthew 25 is not about our works helping us to gain heaven but are the manifestations of salvation. Works are the fruit of genuine salvation. One thing to look at in this passage is how does one become a sheep? A sheep is referred to in Scripture as a believer. A sheep is one who believes in Christ for salvation.

Me:
thanks for your response. I don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but I don’t think you are getting what I am saying. I wrote that it is a Protestant straw-man argument to say that “Catholics work their way to heaven” but you then responded by saying as if we believe this. “We don’t earn salvation by works.” That is not a Catholic belief. Please go back and re-read my post. We don’t believe we can earn salvation alone without Christ. That is truly a terrible thought! God forbid.

You say:  “Matthew 25 is not about our works helping us to gain heaven but are the manifestations of salvation.”  No offense Bob, but isn't that a bit of eisegesis?(reading into). I don’t want to be uncharitable, but couldn't you possibly be influenced by your pre-existing belief that good works have no place in our salvation? Let’s consider the good scriptural study practice of looking at the context of the passage we are discussing. As they say; “Context is everything.” Start in Matt 24 – Jesus is talking about the eschaton, the final days, the stuff that happens right before the end before eternity. So in that context, we then go to Matt 25, where he talks about heaven and who will get there and who won’t. Using parables, Jesus talks about the ten virgins, and makes it crystal clear that those 5 who wisely and diligently prepare beforehand are the ones who get invited in. Those foolish virgins who DON’T DO the things necessary to prepare (gathering oil for their lamps = doing stuff) miss their opportunity. “The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. ” I imagine you would say this readiness just means they were simply manifesting the salvation they already had, though I don’t see how the context would support that view. Jesus then immediately follows this parable with the parable of the servants and the talents. Those who did “stuff ” (works) with the gifts the Master gave them, got in, those who DID nothing, were left out in the gnashing and weeping place. So again, the emphasis is on DOING stuff, which we as Catholics call good works, which are actually good! Finally Jesus discusses the sheep and the goats and what they DID and DIDN'T DO which determined their “sheepishness” (going to heaven) or their “goatliness” (going to hell). I don’t see any reference to “manifestation of their salvation” here.

    It was all about what they DID or DID NOT DO. So from the context of Matt 24 followed by Matt 25 and all those parables about DOING “stuff” and that corresponding with entrance to heaven, why did Jesus make so much effort to reinforce DOING, if he really intended to teach his disciples that these virgins were just manifesting the fact that they were going to go to heaven, the wise servant was just manifesting that he was going to be included in the feast, the folks who obeyed Christ by serving the least of these were just manifesting their pre-existing state of salvation? If you ask me, that is a confusing and rather not straight forward way to interpret the actions of all these folks. Why did our Lord waste all that time and just say, “listen folks, sheep and wise virgins and wise servants are all going to heaven regardless of their behavior, those other foolish virgins, lazy servants ,etc are just manifesting the reality that they are not going to see the kingdom of God? (again realizing the context of the end of time , Matt 24)

My plain reading of these scriptures is that Jesus is talking about doing stuff, (which equals works) and immediate follows how it leads to gaining access to heaven. I can’t see the context supports the concept that Jesus is just talking about the attributes/manifestations of those who gain access to heaven.

If anything is gained at all from this exercise at the very least, I hope I have illustrated that “Scripture alone” cannot help us to prove that “faith alone” is a true doctrine. If Scripture was perspicuous, you and I would have only one interpretation of Matt 25 regarding the role of works in our salvation.
 The Catholic view is that Matt 25 is about the importance our Lord placed on works as part of attaining heaven.
 The Protestant view is that Matt 25 is about how you manifest your salvation already attained.






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