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.

Friday, June 15, 2018

"I've Been Everywhere, Man and So Is The Church"

I recently completed a 6700 mile long  solo motorcycle trip camping and traveling around the
country. I never cease to be amazed at the wisdom of God in creating a universal church so that his people can worship and receive the graces in the sacraments everywhere.
   On my journey, given that motorcycle riding is an inherently dangerous activity, I made special efforts to "keep accounts short with God"  Which essentially means, I wanted to remain without major or minor sins keeping me from Him. As CS Lewis said, I didn't want to show up in the courts of our king, dripping with slime and muck in ratty clothes in the event of a fatal mishap on the bike (which almost happened but that's a story for another day).
     So with the use of the free handy app "Masstimes" I was able to always find a nearby Church to worship in and receive the graces of confession and the Eucharist. Regardless, of whether in the deep south, the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico, to the shores of the Pacific, the plains of Kansas, the mountains of Colorado, I was always able to find a Catholic Church.  Doesn't it just make sense that our Lord desired us to be one, and intended for his people to always have access to a Church?  As a Protestant, we would rarely attempt to go to church on vacation or traveling because the likelihood of finding a fellowship with similar doctrines, worship style, format etc was almost nil.
     So like Johnny Cash sang," I've been everywhere man, Ive been everywhere" and I found a Catholic Church everywhere too!

Sunday, June 03, 2018

The Feast of Corpus Christi

Today the Universal Church celebrates a feast that is so important it is called a solemnity. The solemnity of Corpus Christi has been celebrated around the world since the 13th century. Since the Eucharist is "the source and summit of our faith", it is only fitting that a feast day is celebrated to honor Jesus in the Eucharist.  The fact that Jesus is physically present in the Church and has chosen to abide with us always in the Eucharist is what ultimately led me back to the Catholic faith after 31 years as a Protestant.  Here's a brief history of this wonderful feast day:
     Jesus lost many followers when he told the crowd that unless they eat (the actual word in greek means literally to gnaw) his body and blood they would have no life in them. One year later, the disciples celebrated their first Eucharist with the Lord himself presiding and saying to them, "Take and Eat, this is my body."  Since this first Holy Thursday, the believers celebrated "the breaking of bread" knowing they were partaking in the actual body and blood of Christ.
   Through the prayers of the priest (presbyters) invoking the Holy Spirit the elements are miraculously changed from wine and wheat bread, but still retaining the appearances of the same. This has not always been the easiest concept to accept. Saint Paul had to make it clear to the Corinthian believers that they were indeed partaking in the body and blood of Christ and a strict penalty was experienced for those who did not "discern it rightly."  If a mere symbol was in play, why would believers get sick and even die as a result of taking the communion meal improperly?
   The writings of the Church fathers are indisputable regarding the belief of the Real Presence and even Protestant Church historians admit that earliest Church belief was thoroughly "Eucharistic."
The apostle John, who leaned his head on Jesus' breast at the institution of the Eucharist, had a disciple under his tutelage named Ignatius. Ignatius of Antioch wrote in clear terms that the Eucharist was indeed the real body and blood of Christ, rebuking those who already began to distort its meaning.  Many other early Church fathers including Augustine wrote voluminously on the sacrifice of the mass and the fact that Christ's real body and blood was truly present on the altar.  Why call it an altar if there is no sacrifice?
     For the next 900 years, the Church continued to celebrate the Eucharist, partaking in the actual body and blood of Christ with almost unanimous agreement as to the theology of this sacrament. Then, a priest named Berengarius from Tours began to question this belief and preached against the Real Presence but was corrected by the Church and repented of his error before he died in 1088.
    In the 12th century a devout religious nun named St. Juliana from Liege, Belgium petitioned her bishop to designate a feast day to honor the most Blessed Sacrament and in 1264 the pope set a universal feast called Corpus Christi to honor Jesus in the Eucharist. Saint Thomas Aquinas was commissioned to write the office for the celebration/mass and his explanation of the change of substance from bread to Christ's body is still studied and marveled at today. No, the Church did not "invent" the concept of transubstantiation in the 13th century. The belief had always been there but was never so eloquently elucidated for the faithful as was accomplished by this brilliant and devout monk.
   Now,  fast forward to the Reformation. Luther has just opened his can of worms by declaring that one does not need the Church to tell one what to believe. Within 100 years of Luther's reformation, there was over 200 interpretations of the Lord's supper. To his credit, at least initially, Luther fought vehemently against the other reformers to insist that Jesus was truly present in the communion meal. When he realized his own flawed paradigm sola scriptura was being used against him by Zwingli and others to teach that the Eucharist was only symbolic, he resorted to Sacred Tradition to bolster his defense of the Eucharist. Sadly, his theology morphed further and he no longer held to transubstantiation at the end of his life. You know the rest of the story-only the Orthodox and Catholic Churches retain the original apostolic teaching of the Eucharist, that is, Christ is truly substantially present, body, blood soul and divinity in the Eucharist.
   On the Eve of the Feast of Corpus Christi, I say this to my readers - If you want to get close to Jesus, become Catholic and experience him in the way that the apostles taught and believed. Jesus is waiting. We'll leave the light on for you.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Holy Saturday - A Great Silence


If you listen very carefully, in the most quiet stillness of this day, you will hear the echoes of the clanking shackles falling off  and the ancient prison cell doors creaking open followed by the glad shouts of captives, now set free.  He continues to set prisoners free. We wait for His resurrection.....

"“What is happening? Today there is a great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the King sleeps; the earth was in terror and was still, because God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages. God has died in the flesh, and the underworld has trembled.” 
 (Author Unknown, Pontifical University, St. Thomas Aquinas)

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Pope Says "No Hell." I Say Hell No!

On the eve of the Triduum, an atheist journalist of Pope Francis writes that the pope says that souls don't go to hell when they die, they just disappear. The Church has taught for two thousand years that there is indeed a hell and a heaven and a process of purification(purgation) on the way to heaven. So the options for me are one of the two following thoughts:
1) Trust that the journalist accurately recorded the thoughts of the pope and that Pope Francis is contradicting a 2000 year old teaching or
2) The pope did not say "there is no hell" and the journalist didn't accurately convey the pope's actual words.

Given the track record of the press' reporting on Pope Francis, it's a reasonable assumption that the second option is most likely.

Read This for a more accurate reporting.

Friday, February 02, 2018

February Feasts

Candlemas and the Feast of Saint Blaise are consecutive feast days in the life of the Church.
I’d like to think that the Church provides us with these wonderful blessings and feasts, to help lighten the cold and dreary Midwinter season.
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.


From my blog 2013

Saturday, January 06, 2018

The Solemnity of the Epiphany.

Today the Universal Church celebrates the Epiphany-the story of the three wiseman seeking our Lord and finding him as a baby in Bethlehem. There is so much to meditate on in this gospel story. They bring gifts which reflect his divine royalty and foreshadow his death. Imagine bringing funeral spices to an infant's family as birthday gifts? What did Mary and Joseph think?
    What gifts in my life should I bring to the King?  What of my life can I give the Lord this year to worship him? God, give me the faith, hope and love of the Three Wise men so I too will seek Christ wherever He leads me this year.
 

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

True Worship vs Emotions

I just read an article by an evangelical Protestant convert to Catholicism . It reminded me so much of my own experiences that I wrote this in their com-box;

Great article! I identify with this so much! I was born Catholic but left the Church at 14 years of age and joined evangelical charismatic Protestant Christianity. I found Jesus personally which was good, but promptly lost His Church which was not good. I was a musician in the worship bands and bible studies and revival meetings for 31 years. The last charismatic church I was a member of put such a premium value on how we “looked and felt” as we worshipped that it pushed me to a calmer evangelical Methodist church for a few years till I was called to come Home. I used to have members of the community tap me on the shoulder and ask “Are you ok brother?” “Why aren’t you feeling His love” etc etc many times. I used to be prophesied over and called out because I wasn’t raising my arms and dancing around. Even despite my lack of emotion, I loved God and never doubted his presence with me despite not “feeling it.” However, in these type of Christian communities, the barometer of your relationship with God was entirely based on your feelings and emotive behavior expressed during a “worship" service.  I always knew something was wrong with this but unfortunately was so brain washed against Catholicism and liturgy that I wouldn't consider that maybe the Church was right and I was wrong! 
Catholic worship is beautiful and true, whether you “feel” it or not. Some of the greatest saints who ever lived never had the consolations of emotion that others did, but they persisted to trust and obey and become examples of great faith for the rest of us. Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta is my hero for this! 
I have been Catholic now for almost 14 years and not once in 14 years of Sunday (and almost daily Mass) have I heard someone say: "Russ isn’t worshipping today or is struggling etc.” Why? Catholics know it is judging to assess someone else’s spiritual life and won’t do it. We know that our relationship with God is not based on how we feel or look. Most importantly our worship is based on receiving the actual body and blood of our God, infusing our soul with His divinity, healing us, cleansing us, empowering us etc. This happens at every Mass, and is the closest I will ever get to God on this side of eternity, regardless of how I feel or look. Ironically, I have cried more tears of joy during the consecration and reception of the Eucharist than in 31 years of altar calls, jumping up and down, falling on the floor etc etc.

Monday, December 25, 2017

The Eucharist and Christmas





                                        This is a little play I wrote a few years ago and is reposted from a previous blog post


ACT I

The setting: A stable outside the forgotten little town of Bethlehem (House of Bread*). Shepherds and their families and kings from the east as well as a few other curious onlookers stare at a newborn wrapped in coarse linen in a feeding trough for animals. A bright star overhead illuminates the otherwise dark night.
Shepherd boy, while yawning, says to his father: “Just looks like a baby boy to me, can’t we go home now? I'm cold!”
Father to boy: “ Thomas, the angels in the field said something about a Savior. Let’s just stay awhile.”
Boy: How could a Savior and King look and.... yecch!… smell like a little baby? He looks just like any other baby to me!”
King from the Orient, kneeling before the makeshift crib says with a whisper: “Shhh, don’t you know the ancient prophecies? God would come to us, to live among us, through a virgin’s womb.
Balthasar looking at the Child then raising his eyes to heaven says: The God of Israel has chosen this night to redeem us. Our Savior and King has come to us as a little child.

ACT II

33 years later.

Setting: Jerusalem at Passover. The city is buzzing with the noise of pilgrims and bristling under the Roman occupation.
At the meal of the Passover, Jesus surrounded by his companions prays the blessing. As he breaks the bread he stretches out his hand holding the bread saying:
“Take this and eat. This is my body….”
One of the twelve disciples leans over to another and says under his breath;
“How can this be? It looks just like any other piece of bread to me? How can He give us His body to eat?
The disciple whom Jesus loved said to him: "Thomas, don't you remember last year when he told us He would give us his body to eat and His blood to drink?
Then as supper was ended, Jesus took the cup and gave it to his disciples saying:
"This is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many…"

THE END

Just as Christ came to us in the improbable form of a human baby, He continues to abide with us in the equally preposterous “breaking of the bread.” God chose the common things of this world to reveal Himself. First, a baby born in Bethlehem and then bread and common table wine. As we approach the Lord’s Table at Midnight Mass this Christmas Eve, our mind says, it just looks like a piece of bread but our heart says, "Jesus, bread of life, you have come to abide with me this night."

Merry Christmas!

The Eucharist and Christmas



This is a little play I wrote several years ago.


ACT I

The setting: A stable outside the forgotten little town of Bethlehem (House of Bread*). Shepherds and their families and kings from the east as well as a few other curious onlookers stare at a newborn wrapped in coarse linen in a feeding trough for animals. A bright star overhead illuminates the otherwise dark night.
Shepherd boy, while yawning, says to his father: “Just looks like a baby boy to me, can’t we go home now? I'm cold!”
Father to boy: “ Thomas, the angels in the field said something about a Savior. Let’s just stay awhile.”
Boy: How could a Savior and King look and.... yecch!… smell like a little baby? He looks just like any other baby to me!”
King from the Orient, kneeling before the makeshift crib says with a whisper: “Shhh, don’t you know the ancient prophecies? God would come to us, to live among us, through a virgin’s womb.
Balthasar looking at the Child then raising his eyes to heaven says: The God of Israel has chosen this night to redeem us. Our Savior and King has come to us as a little child.

ACT II

33 years later.

Setting: Jerusalem at Passover. The city is buzzing with the noise of pilgrims and bristling under the Roman occupation.
At the meal of the Passover, Jesus surrounded by his companions prays the blessing. As he breaks the bread he stretches out his hand holding the bread saying:
“Take this and eat. This is my body….”
One of the twelve disciples leans over to another and says under his breath;
“How can this be? It looks just like any other piece of bread to me? How can He give us His body to eat?
The disciple whom Jesus loved said to him: "Thomas, don't you remember last year when he told us He would give us his body to eat and His blood to drink?
Then as supper was ended, Jesus took the cup and gave it to his disciples saying:
"This is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many…"

THE END

Just as Christ came to us in the improbable form of a human baby, He continues to abide with us in the equally preposterous “breaking of the bread.” God chose the common things of this world to reveal Himself. First, a baby born in Bethlehem and then bread and common table wine. As we approach the Lord’s Table at Midnight Mass this Christmas Eve, our mind says, it just looks like a piece of bread but our heart says, "Jesus, bread of life, you have come to abide with me this night."

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


My new Christmas CD is available as digital download today from Bandcamp and will be available as a physical CD in about two weeks.

Still Yulin' Around is a collection of ten traditional carols which I arranged and recorded with hammered dulcimer, open-tuned guitars, mandolin, mandolas, bouzouki, fiddle and lots of other acoustic instruments.  I think you will like it!

Here's the link:

                         http://russrentler.bandcamp.com/album/still-yulin-around

Universalis