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, 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

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Whoppers About Luther from Eric Metaxas

I was driving to a gig today listening to Focus on the Family interview Eric Metaxas who has a best-selling book about Luther and the Reformation. Eric said that before Luther, there was no congregational singing in the Catholic Church:

Eric: "Everything we take for granted in the church today started with Luther. I mean, imagine, he pulls away from the Catholic church. There was no congregational singing. Imagine there’s congregational singing in Catholic churches today, okay. There was no congregational singing. It was just the monks doing the Gregorian chants and so on and so forth. So, if you came to a service, you’re not singing.
Jim: You’re not participating.
Eric: Luther changed everything. He said, the people must sing. Their faith will be deepened by the lyrics of these Psalms and things. We’ve gotta make … we’ve gotta take these beautiful lyrics and we’ve gotta make hymns and we have to have the people sing hymns.
So, Luther very quickly said we’ve gotta invent our own services if we’re breaking away. Well, what will we do? He didn’t want to change too much from the Catholic church. He just wanted to improve these different things.
But one of the things, he made the sermon central and he incorporated congregational singing. So, today any time anybody in the church sings a song, by the way, it started with Martin Luther."

Whoa! I was really taken aback by this considering that Mr. Metaxas is a well-respected author and I would have to assume did good research before writing his book. Why would he say stuff like this? 

Let's look at the facts:
Three hundred years before the Reformation, the pope comissioned Saint Thomas Aquinas to compose a mass for the Feast of Corpus Christi. This included the sung responses (known as propers) as well as three beloved hymns that are still sung today: Tantum Ergo, Pange Lingua and O Salutaris Hostia.

This alone should dispel the myth that Luther began congregational singing. But if not, consider what a Reformed Protestant theologian  Dr. Peter Leithart wrote :

"Beginning in the early thirteenth century there are many references to vernacular songs sung before and after the sermon. The vernacular Christ ist erstanden was interpolated into the Easter sequence Victimae paschali and sung by the entire congregation, this practice being widespread. Other vernacular hymns were later interpolated between the lines of the Christmas and Pentecost sequences as well, and the Lutherans retained what was to them an ancient tradition of singing these sequences with their interpolations on the appropriate days” 
Here's the full article.

Why would Eric Metaxas make such a huge historical error?  I have not read the new book but I question if there aren't other historical inaccuracies placed to put Luther in a more favorable light and make the Catholic Church appear dour and its congregants disengaged from the service (Mass).    

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Celebration of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation

This month , Protestants of many stripes will celebrate the beginning of the reformation, when an Augustinian monk named Martin Luther nailed his thesis to a church door in Germany. Sadly, he originally protested the selling of indulgences, but ultimately he divided the Church Jesus started. The fruit of this was thousands upon thousands of Protestant denominations, each one claiming to have the correct interpretation of the bible, and basing their novel new theologies on these disparate interpretations.
  As Jesus' earthly ministry came to its end, he prayed specifically that the Church would remain one.
In all the celebrating this month, I can only hope in a more sober moment of reflection, that the celebrants will think of how Luther's actions led to a splintering and division of the Church  Jesus prayed would always remain united in their faith.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Happy Feast Of Saint Pio!

Today marks the feast day for Saint Padre Pio, a beloved almost-contemporary saint. He died in 1968 and was canonized by Saint Pope John Paul 2 in 2002.

My wife and I went down to the National Centre for Padre Pio, in Barto, PA today to celebrate and ask his intercession.
They were having a procession with his relics, (sadly no exposition of the Eucharist, a long story)
and there were a few hundred faithful there to celebrate his feast.

In his life, he manifested the stigmata, he could bi-locate( be in two places at once) and could read the minds and hearts of those in the confessional. When he celebrated Holy Mass, it would sometimes take upwards of two hours due to his slow and attentive approach to the liturgy.

He also wrote many tips for living a good spiritual life, which I enjoy learning about.

Here's a list of five:

1. Weekly Confession
"A room needs to be dusted once a week, even if nobody is in there." - Padre Pio to Maria Campanile (a spiritual daughter).
2. Daily Communion
"Unless you are positive that you are in mortal sin, you ought to take Communion every day." - Padre Pio to some of the ladies who were afraid they were unworthy of taking communion every day. 
3. Spiritual Reading
Pio urged them to study Scripture and suggested spiritual books from the friary library.  
4. Meditation
"Meditation," Padre told Maria, "is the key to progress in the knowledge of self as well as the knowledge of God, and through it we achieve the goal of the spiritual life, which is the transformation of the soul in Christ."
5. Examination of Conscience
Padre Pio urged two periods of meditation daily, as well as two periods of self-examination: in the morning, "to prepare for battle," and in the evening, "to purify your soul from every earthly affection that might have been attach itself to you during the day."  Each of these periods of reflection and recollection was to last at least a half hour.  
Source: Padre Pio: The True Story, by C. Bernard Ruffin

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Rich Mullins Died 20 years Ago Today

Contemporary Christian music lost one of its greatest writers and musicians twenty years ago. Rich was loved by the evangelical community despite the fact he was quietly making plans to become Catholic.
    We contacted his priest friend to finally clarify whether it was true regarding Rich's pending conversion. This is what Father Matt wrote to us:

http://richmullinspirituality.blogspot.com/p/letter-from-father-matt.html

Rich, pray for us.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Why Doesn't the Eucharist Change Everyone's Life?

About 10 years ago, I was sharing with a former evangelical church member the life-changing properties I had discovered in the Eucharist. I had just come into the Church and was so excited to experience the grace God has for us in this Blessed Sacrament. He then asked me, "If the Eucharist is so life-changing as you say, why then are there many Catholics who go up for Communion once a week not changed?"


I didn't really know how to answer him at the time but have thought about that question many times over the past few years. Particularly in my own life. How could I have been a young long-haired Catholic kid playing guitar in the folk Mass on Sunday receiving the Eucharist, but smoking pot and breaking the law the night before? Why didn't the grace in the Eucharist I was receiving change me or wake me up to see the hypocrisy in my life? This scripture from the gospel of Mark recently gave me an inkling of an answer to this question.

"A large crowd followed and pressed around him. 25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak,28 because she thought, "If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed." 29Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed her suffering.
30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who touched my clothes?"
31 "You see the people crowding against you," his disciples answered, "and yet you can ask, 'Who touched me?' "
32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering."

Many were crowding around Jesus and even touching Him, yet he perceived that it was one particular woman's faith that lead to the release of His grace and her healing. The many other people crowding around him that day may have been just "going through the motions" following the crowd that day. Perhaps the grace received in the Eucharist is similar. When an individual receives Christ's body and blood but is indifferent, perhaps not even believing, they are not cooperating with God's grace, and hence will not receive the grace.
As St Paul said, it is so vitally important to properly discern the body of Christ at the Lord's Table. Christ works through His sacraments to the degree that we are open and docile to His work. The saints through the ages have written volumes on how to prepare one's heart to receive the Eucharist. So it comes down to our willingness to cooperate with grace of God. Many receive the Eucharist with no intention of cooperating with God. They may even be in mortal sin, God forbid, as I once was as a rebellious young adolescent. Perhaps they are just going through the motions, like some of the folks in the crowd that day who were carried along by the momentum of the crowd, but weren't sure who it was they were getting near nor understood what He was offering to them.

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