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.

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:


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:

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.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Is The Eucharist Really Jesus?

I have blogged about this for years, but here's an excellent summary of the doctrine of Transubstantiation. Catholics have held that when communion is celebrated, we are indeed "partaking in the body and blood of Christ" as St Paul wrote to the Corinthians.
  Here's the article

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Another Protestant Pastor Converts to Catholicism

Check out this link. Another Pentacostal one jumps the Tiber River!

"“When I read the Church Fathers, that’s when the sacraments began to open up to me, and I began to see how central the Eucharist was to the early Church,” he said. He realized that “if the Eucharist was commanded by Christ, I want to receive the Lord.”

Once again, by looking at how the early Church practiced their faith, it is seen that it was Eucharist-centric with the believers gathering to receive the body and blood of Christ, not a symbol as the reformers later claimed.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Bible Answer Man Crosses the Bosporous

Hank Hannegraff , the "Bible Answer Man"  discovered that the Bible alone was not enough and has become an Orthodox Christian. Here's the details:
Hey, it's not Rome but it's getting closer!
His wife had been reading the Church Fathers.  To be deep in history is to realize that Protestantism is a fundamentally flawed and truncated form of  true Christianity. Once an individual discovers the well-kept secret that the early Christians were Eucharist-centered, members of a Church called "the Catholic Church, they cease to continue protesting.

I am hoping that the Orthodox and the Catholic Church one day soon re-unite. The last two popes as well as Pope Francis have been attempting more and more dialogue with the Orthodox with each pontificate.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Encounter with an Evangelical

On Saturday , my wife and I participated in the street protest to defund Planned Parenthood in front of the PP abortuary in Allentown. It was of course, peaceful and prayerful and some of the women entering actually engaged with one of our protesters who also happened to be a sidewalk counselor at local abortion clinics.
   About twenty minutes into it, a woman approached us who asked us if we were "russ and debbie" from the old evangelical church we used to attend. We responded "yes" and she introduced herself and we did remember her and her family attending services there twenty or more years ago. She had moved to another church ( a common migratory pattern among evangelicals) and asked where we were fellowshipping. We told them Saint Joseph the Worker Parish. She asked if we were going there to "minister" to the people there. We said no, we go there because we believe the Catholic Church is true and have come top realize we were essentially given a false bill of goods about Catholicism.
  This led to a good-natured discussion and thankfully I was able to explain the Eucharist, the Early Church worship format (the mass) and dispel misconceptions about praying to saints, etc.  She asked if we believed in Jesus' death on the cross as our only way to heaven to which we positively affirmed. We chatted for about twenty more minutes as I explained what "born again" really meant up until the reformation (water baptism) and explained the concept of the sacraments.  Finally, she said let me ask you a question: " If you died and went to heaven and Jesus asked why should you get in, what would you say?" (This was a common question I used to ask others when I was a young teenage street evangelist in Morristown NJ , circa 1974.)
   Behind the question is the incorrect assumption that Catholics "work their way" into heaven. What I was able to tell her was that only His death on the cross would allow me to enter his kingdom and that he took the place on the cross for me (Yes, even Catholic theology recognizes that penal substitution atonement is part of His redemptive act)  But I explained that we need to cooperate with his grace and continue to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling." Saint Paul didn't believe in "greasy grace" and neither do Catholics. If most evangelicals are honest with themselves, they will recognize that to enter heaven one must DO more than SAY "Lord Lord. "
Even Christ who founded the Catholic Church commented that the key difference between the sheep and the goats is "what you did and didn't do."   He didn't mention the "sinner's prayer," oddly enough.
   So hopefully, we gave her something to think about, but even more positively we were able to labor together to attempt to stand for the unborn, despite our theological differences.