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, September 30, 2006

Humane Vitae and Evangelium Vitae

In these two papal encyclical letters there are ancient truths that the Church has taught and promulgated from antiquity. Marriage is designed by God to "image" our relationship to Him and therefore is by definition unitive and creative. When we artificially separate the unitive from the creative in the conjugal act, we violate the intention of our marriage vows to give all to our spouse, and the design that God has set in place is thwarted. It would behoove all of us to go back and read both these documents and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us as we absorb the wisdom from them.

Recently, I have been reading some of the writings of our late Holy Father John Paul 2. He wrote extensively on health care ethics and morality and his teachings are of much interest and utility for me as a physician and a Christian. His comments regarding the relationship of abortion to contraception makes a lot of sense to me. "They are closely connected, the fruits from the same tree." See what you think when you read his comments later on in this blog.

I have known a few rare folks when I was an evangelical who were opposed to contraception but the majority of Protestants and most Catholics these days feel it is an "outdated teaching" of the Catholic Church. Yet before 1930, every Protestant denomination along with the Catholics considered artifical contraception to be sinful. In 1930, the Anglican church at their council of Lambeth approved it for certain circumstances but this opened the floodgates (actually closed the flood gates when you think about it) and every Protestant denomination soon capitulated and changed their view regarding contraception. What was once a sin no longer is by a committee vote ! Pope Paul in his Humane Vitae Encyclical in the 1960's predicted that the widespread use of artificial birth control in the form of "the Pill" would lead to dissolution of marriage, promiscuity, increased abuse towards women as well as abortion. He made these statements before abortion was even legal in the US.
"It is also to be feared that the man, growing used to the employment of anti-conceptive practices, may finally lose respect for the woman and, no longer caring for her physical and psychological equilibrium, may come to the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and beloved companion. "

Pope Paul also warned of the dangers of contraception or sterilization being applied from a political ruling authority( As we see in China today) "Who will stop rulers from favoring, from even imposing upon their peoples, if they were to consider it necessary, the method of contraception which they judge to be most efficacious? In such a way men, wishing to avoid individual, family, or social difficulties encountered in the observance of the divine law, would reach the point of placing at the mercy of the intervention of public authorities the most personal and most reserved sector of conjugal intimacy."

Now we get to an excerpt from John Paul II's Encyclical Letter "The Gospel of Life"
Chapter 1 para 13.

"In order to facilitate the spread of abortion, enormous sums of money have been invested and continue to be invested in the production of pharmaceutical products which make it possible to kill the fetus in the mother's womb without recourse to medical assistance. On this point, scientific research itself seems to be almost exclusively preoccupied with developing products which are ever more simple and effective in suppressing life and which at the same time are capable of removing abortion from any kind of control or social responsibility.
It is frequently asserted that contraception, if made safe and available to all, is the most effective remedy against abortion. The Catholic Church is then accused of actually promoting abortion, because she obstinately continues to teach the moral unlawfulness of contraception. When looked at carefully, this objection is clearly unfounded. It may be that many people use contraception with a view to excluding the subsequent temptation of abortion. But the negative values inherent in the "contraceptive mentality"-which is very different from responsible parenthood, lived in respect for the full truth of the conjugal act-are such that they in fact strengthen this temptation when an unwanted life is conceived. Indeed, the pro- abortion culture is especially strong precisely where the Church's teaching on contraception is rejected. Certainly, from the moral point of view contraception and abortion are specifically different evils: the former contradicts the full truth of the sexual act as the proper expression of conjugal love, while the latter destroys the life of a human being; the former is opposed to the virtue of chastity in marriage, the latter is opposed to the virtue of justice and directly violates the divine commandment "You shall not kill".
But despite their differences of nature and moral gravity, contraception and abortion are often closely connected, as fruits of the same tree. It is true that in many cases contraception and even abortion are practised under the pressure of real- life difficulties, which nonetheless can never exonerate from striving to observe God's law fully. Still, in very many other instances such practices are rooted in a hedonistic mentality unwilling to accept responsibility in matters of sexuality, and they imply a self-centered concept of freedom, which regards procreation as an obstacle to personal fulfilment. The life which could result from a sexual encounter thus becomes an enemy to be avoided at all costs, and abortion becomes the only possible decisive response to failed contraception.
The close connection which exists, in mentality, between the practice of contraception and that of abortion is becoming increasingly obvious. It is being demonstrated in an alarming way by the development of chemical products, intrauterine devices and vaccines which, distributed with the same ease as contraceptives, really act as abortifacients in the very early stages of the development of the life of the new human being."

John Paul didn't live to see the day in America where women can now buy a medication "Plan B" (without a prescription in some states) to abort their baby at even the earliest stages but his foresight matches that of his predecessor Pope Paul.

To read a concise review of birth control from a Catholic perspective see :
Catholic Answers.


Thursday, September 28, 2006

Bioethics and Catholics

I attended a bioethics conference today hosted by a local group of evangelical Christian physicians who are keenly aware of the need for a pro-life stand in their practices and medicine in general. The guest speaker was a Christian physician and ethicist who provided a history of the eugenics movement in the US and then presented the latest information regarding pre-implantation genetic determinations. At one point she presented a quote from Evangelium Vitae (JP 2's Encyclical Letter on the Value and Inviolability of Human Life). It said life begins at conception. She put up a quote that some scientists draw a different line and "different lines exist regarding where life begins."

During the Q + A time, a physician bemoaned the fact that the "Christian medical establishment" doesn't do more to attempt to effect legislation regarding attempts at genetic manipulation, embryonic experimentation etc. The speaker politely agreed that there needed to be more organization and ability to affect change in this arena.
For me, the "elephant in the room" was the Catholic Church! For centuries the Church has established the "lines in the sand" regarding issues of life and in the past forty years produced some of the most important and weighty documents regarding bioethics particularly from JP2 with specific guidelines for pre-born life, in-vitro fertiliation and other infertility treatment, embryonic stem cell research, genetic manipulation, end of life issues etc. The Church has been at the forefront of the lobbying for pro-life legislation in the US as well as leading the March for Life and abortion mill protests throughout the country. There is a large body of Christian bioethics in the teachings of the Catholic Church that remains an unopened treasure of truth.

"all human life—from the moment of conception and through all subsequent stages—is created in the image and likeness of God. Nothing surpasses the greatness or dignity of a human person. Human life is not just an idea or an abstraction; human life is the concrete reality of a being that lives, that acts, that grows and develops; human life is the concrete reality of a being that is capable of love and of service to humanity." John Paul II

National Catholic Bioethics
Canadian Catholic Biothics Institute
Linacre Institute
Culture of Life Foundation
Catholic Medical Association
The Vatican Charter for Healthcare Workers

I encourage my colleagues to brave the waters and dip into this river of truth .

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Make My Heart Like Yours

"My Jesus, make my heart like unto your merciful heart. Jesus, help me to go through life doing good to everyone."

St. Faustina

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A Catholic Understanding of Grace

The writer of Evangelical Catholicism has posted a concise Scriptural discussion of grace, faith and salvation. His last paragraph sums it up but I encourage you to read the whole posting on his blog. It will help to dispel another of the mythic false representations of Catholic doctrine.

"Salvation is only by Jesus the Lord, only through a commitment to faith by means of grace, and only through suffering in conformity with He who conquers death and desires to exult humanity within himself. To imitate Christ is to believe in the plan of God, to obey the plan of God and to act out the plan of God. To reject any aspect of this imitation as necessary for salvation is to reject the very Word that saves."

Monday, September 25, 2006

New Revert. Welcome Home!

The following is an excerpt from an e-mail I just received from a friend who reverted to his childhood faith after spending the past 12 years in active ministry in an evangelical church. He obtained a PhD in theology and was headed overseas for the mission field when God turned his rudder to cross the Tiber River to Rome instead. His decision was made over a long period of time counting the cost of discipleship, loss of income, lost opportunities for ministry etc. I know God will restore to him a hundred-fold for his choice to seek Him above all else.

"Well I've gone to Confession and am now, once again, a fully communicant member of the Catholic Church. Our son has been going to CCD in order to receive his First Holy Communion at the end of the school year, and my wife will be starting RCIA in August. We are all fully convinced about our decision to be Catholic, and I personally have not have had as much peace: intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally in a very long time. I would count the greatest blessing, even over and above my job, as God's giving us the gift of Divine Faith in the Holy Catholic Church. For this, we are eternally grateful. "

Thanks be to God for bringing another family home!

I Forgive, I Forgive

"I Forgive, I Forgive..." Sister Leonella 9/2006
These were the last dying words of an elderly religious sister who was shot 3-4 times in the back as she left a missionary hospital in Somalia where she had worked for the past thirty years.

"What we talked about will have to remain a secret between him and me. I spoke to him as a brother whom I have pardoned and who has my complete trust." Pope John Paul II's comments about his prison visit with his attempted assassin.

"Forgive them , they know not what they do."

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Sunday, September 24, 2006

"Oh Those Catholic Bible Burners!"

"Yes, Virginia, Catholics did burn bibles and forbid the common folk from reading them by decree of the Eeeeeevil Councils of the Catholic Church."
Have you heard that legend? I have, and as a matter of fact it is not legend but absolutely true. At the time these decrees of the Church were made, there were many heretics and cults as there still are today. The Albigensians, in particular, were taking Scripture and twisting it to justify fornication and deny the sacrament of marriage. (This incidentally, is one of the heretical cults that some sects use as evidence that "Bible Christians" always existed hidden but persecuted by the Catholic Church) The Church restricted the reading of the Bible until this heresy was rooted out. For as Peter says "the unstable and ignorant distort Scripture to their own destruction."
The Catholic Church burned Bibles. Which Bible is the question? Did they burn all Bibles? You have to wonder if they hated Scripture so much, why is almost 25% of the time spent in Mass Scripture reading? The Church initiated the collection and burning of Bibles that contained anti-Catholic commentary and changes of translation to favor a heretical viewpoint.
Tyndale and Wycliff wrote their own commentary along the pages of Holy Scripture and it was decidely anti-Catholic. They weren't the first to have translated the Bible into English either , there had been portions of translations going back to the 7th Century. Venerable Bede translated the gospel of John (Caedmon's translation was a paraphrase of selected stories of the Bible in Anglo-Saxon, early english))
The Church burned the Bibles that contained error and heretical commentary against the papacy and clerics. After the Council of Trent, the Church again decreeeeed that Bibles needed to be handed over to the authorities. This has such a Farenheit 451 feel to it! Remember though, the historical context at the time. Martin Luther had just ignited a revolution that led to the death of thousands of people throughout Germany. He himself removed 7 books from the Old Testament and actually added the word "alone" to Romans after the word 'faith" in his translation. Doesn't that mean he violated the scripture admonition that warns us "that whoever adds to the words or takes away from the words of this book...." in Revelation?
So it is very appropriate for the Catholic Church, guardian of Truth, to confiscate and burn faulty and heretical translations to preserve the faithful from error. No dark medieval conspiracies here, just setting the story straight in the context of history.

As an afterthought: If you were to find a "New World Translation"(Translation of the Jehovah Witnesses sect) that changes the Gospel of John's words to deny Trinitarian doctrine, would you give it to your kids to read? I doubt it, and in the same spirit of maternal love and concern for her children, the Catholic Church removed heretical versions of the Bible from general circulation. This was another example of one of the "Key" operations of the Church. Using the authority given to Peter to bind, loose and.......forgive me if I use the Tiber Jumper Amplified Version here; Burn Bad Bibles!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Phone Books, Bibles and Monks

Before the printing press made the Scriptures more widely available in the mid 15th century, Bibles had to be laboriously copied by hand word for word, page for page, day after day, year after year. The person copying it was none other than a Catholic monk who felt it was his sacred task of making more Scriptures available to the Church. He had to use velum or sheepskin to write on and the estimated cost of the completed work was over three year's wages. In my county the median yearly income is 60,000 dollars so that would make one of these Bibles worth the equivalent of 180,000 dollars! So that's certainly not going to be able to gather dust on just anybody's coffee table.
These Bibles were very precious and the Church intended this precious book to be available to anyone who wanted to read it. Therefore, it was chained to the desk in the teaching centers of Europe and the pulpits to insure that it would not be stolen and would remain available to all.
If this is hard to understand, think about the phone booth and a dark rainy night when your car breaks down(before the days of cellphones). You see a phone booth in the distance and you pray that it has one of those dogeared phone books chained to the booth. Why did the phone company chain it to the booth? So it would still be there for you on a dark rainy night in your time of need and importunity. How your heart leapt for joy when you found the phone book and yellow pages were still intact hanging from that "golden chain."

Well, the Catholic Church is wiser than Bell Atlantic and the Bible is much more precious than a phone book. The Church chained Bibles to preserve them for all and not to keep the faithful from reading it as suggested by certain anti-catholic cults . Another anti-catholic internet legend bites the dust. More legends to come.

Saint Padre Pio

Today the Church celebrates the modern saint Padre Pio. (1887-1968)
He joined the Capuchin Franciscan monks and became a priest in the early 1900's.
He received the stigmata in his hands feet and side after seeing a vision of Jesus after Mass.
Padre Pio said Mass at 5 AM daily and spent the rest of the day hearing confessions and blessing the sick. He had the gift of discernment and often had insight in the confessional that was regarded as supernatural. His popularity grew to the point that busloads of people came to his Masses and confessional and items of his clothing were often torn off him as happened to St. Frances of Assisi.
The Church curtailed his public ministry for almost ten years until they were convinced of the authenticity of his stigmata. (I love the way our Church has the most stringent and cautious approach to apparitions, miracles etc. It may be seen as stern and controlling by outsiders, but I see it as the divine way Christ guards his children from getting into error)

In 1962 An archbishop, Karol Wojtyla, from Poland wrote him a letter asking him to pray for a friend's wife who had throat cancer. Two weeks later she was healed.

In 2002, Pope John Paul 2 through the authority of the Catholic Church canonized Padre Pio.
He said at his Mass:

"The life and mission of Padre Pio testify that difficulties and sorrows, if accepted with love, transform themselves into a privileged journey of holiness, which opens the person toward a greater good, known only to the Lord.”

I live about 17 miles from one of the largest shrines to Padre Pio in the US. It is nestled in the rolling hills of eastern Pennsylvania. It is a beautiful place to pray, worship and thank Jesus for the work he has done in His body, the Church, through the life of this Saint. When I go there, I ask Padre Pio to pray for me for some of my gravest concerns knowing that the "effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." You may argue and say that folks in heaven can't hear you but follow this logic: If the angels in heaven rejoice over one sinner that repents, clearly the lines of communication are open between heaven and earth. Since Scripture teaches that we will judge angels, I don't think it's a stretch to believe that those in heaven can hear the prayers of those on earth. The Church has always taught this and the writings of the Fathers bear this out.
Just to make one point clear though: I don't worship him or prostrate myself before his statue or picture. I don't say "Oh praise you Padre Pio" for that would be breaking one of the first commandments! Instead, I honor this fellow christian who radically followed the call of Christ in his life and was obedient. He followed Jesus on His terms, not his own.
I know that my devotion to Padre Pio will only increase my love for Jesus more and more. That's the whole purpose of the Communion of Saints and I am thankful for such a great cloud of witnesses that have gone before me. What did I do before I had you guys? Oh, that's right, you were praying for me, I just didn't believe it!

St. Padre Pio, continue to pray for us so our hearts will burn with the love of Christ .

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Friday, September 22, 2006

Lutheran Bishop becomes Catholic Priest

Joseph Jacobson, a Lutheran bishop in Western Canada has Crossed the Tiber in 2000 and will be ordained as a Catholic priest this fall 2006. He is married and the father of two children and five grandchildren. His wife has also converted and his adult children are in the process. He has joined the ranks of a growing number of denominational ministers who are coming home to Rome. What made this sincere devout Lutheran convert after 4o years in Lutheran ministry?

"There was a long process leading up to it and a long process that followed after it. But the key moment was in Ireland in 1997 when I realized that the teaching authority of the Church is something Jesus gave to Peter and the bishops and no other Church really can duplicate what Jesus gave," he explained in a recent interview in Camrose.

"You can't substitute for it. You can't find something better. You can't do without it. The Church needs a rock and the rock is the one Jesus gave us and it's the holy father with the bishops and without that there is no rock.

"Any Church that tries to live without that is subject to the shifting sands. Most churches function by a majority vote of members and that means they are very vulnerable to the popular culture. In fact they are exposed to all kinds of extremes with the result that there is no safeguards that we are going to stay on the rock, stay on the foundation of Christ."

"Oh, good Lord! I have been trying to reinvent something Jesus made right the first time."

Let's keep Rev. Jacobson in our prayers as he will soon be called Father Jacobson!

Catholics and the Bible or "It depends on what the meaning of Is is."

Early in my evangelical days, I was taught by my pastor and Bible study leaders (my magisterium at the time) that Catholics don't take the Bible literally. One of the examples brought up was the creation story in Genesis. They maintained that all real believers must accept that the world was made in 6 days and couldn't possibily be more than 6,000 years old. They said all Catholics believe in evolution and therefore don't take the Bible literally. This was rather simplistic thinking but I accepted it at the time. It was a little tougher for me to accept 6 day creation when I was studying comparative anatomy and genetics in undergrad and then embryology and human anatomy in medical school. But I stuck to my guns and ignored the science right there in front of me. (The presence of gill slits and a tail in the developing human is a tough one to ignore!)

Catholics believe that faith and science are not in oppostion, and good science should always support faith and vicea versa. Yesterday, the fossilized skeleton of a baby over 3 million years old was discovered in Ethiopia. That would make a 6000 year old earth unlikely. As a Catholic, I don't shut off my intellect and just ignore the findings and claim that "carbon dating is satanic and used to deceive people." Instead, I believe what God intended to convey to us in Genesis: that God created man and intended for us to walk with Him, but our rebellion separated us from Him, foreshadowing our need for a Savior. The Church doesn't mandate that you believe this occurred in 6 days or 6 million years. As an astute Carmelite friar said during the Galileo saga in the 16th Century, "the Scriptures aren't written to tell us how the heavens go, but how to tell us how to go to Heaven!"

Upon returning to the Catholic Church after a 30 year hiatus in protestantism, I have since learned that Catholics take the Bible literally in many areas that non-Catholics don't.
For instance, when the Scriptures say "Be baptized for the forgiveness of sins," the Church has always taken that literally and taught that baptism is a sacrament conveying Christ's redemption through the waters sprinkled/(immersed) on a new believer. As a protestant, I was taught that baptism is just symbolic and they don't take the Bible literally here.
Another example is that Christ told us to eat his body and drink His blood (John 6). The word he uses for "eat" means to literally chew or gnaw! At the Last Supper, He gave his disciples a piece of unleavened bread and said "take and eat, this is my body." Notice He didn't say "this is like my body" or "this is a symbol of my body." So the Church has always believed and taught that He literally asks us to continue to eat His body and drink His blood. To argue against Jesus' words here is to take the reasoning of a former president who in a court of law stated "It depends on what the meaning of is, is."

I could go on here with many other examples, but I still can't get over how wrong I was about Catholics and the Bible. I was told that protestants take the Bible literally yet in some of the most key scriptures that pertain to our salvation, they symbolized them! Before the Reformation, baptism and the Eucharist were never symbolic! Did God suddenly change His mind regarding important doctrines of Salvation? Did the reformers uncover truths that the Catholic Church was successful in keeping under wraps for 1500 years? I don't think so, for if you believe that, then you must therefore conclude that the gates of Hell did indeed prevail, making Jesus a liar.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

E Mail the Pope

You can send your message of encouragement to Pope Benedict XVI.
It's so good to know I don't have to be my own Pope anymore.

"I Want To Go To a New Testament Church" (Part 2)

After reading the writings of the Early Church Fathers, I learned that the primitive New Testament Church was heirarchical, led by bishops and presbyters (priests), liturgical and sacramental (externally visible signs that confer God's invisible grace). The Church had people in authority, there was a liturgy in the worship service, and the Christians believed in the baptism for the forgiveness of sins and Jesus Christ being truly present in the sacrifice of the Mass.
This put a damper on my view of what I thought the early church was. I had imagined the early christians gathered in homes singing "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" and searching the scriptures on their own to find the truth God had for them. I imagined that they had raucously loud "praise and worship" meetings and altar calls etc. The hardest thing for me was to die to my pride and my view of what I wanted Church to look like. I finally said "Ok God, I will accept the Truth, regardless of whether it fits my personal view." Strangely enough, it was during my viewing of "The Passion of the Christ" in 2004 that I said to Jesus, "if you Lord could endure such suffering for me, I will accept your Church and become .....gulp...... Catholic!" I gave up my pride and self-sufficiency and self-proclaimed authority and decided to submit to the authority of a Church that I became convinced was true, regardless of how I "felt" about it. When Jesus calls us to follow Him, it must be on His terms , not ours.

For many of us, we decide on where we should attend church based on "how it feels."
Were we greeted kindly? Was the singing spirit-filled and genuine? Did the pastor's message focus soundly on the Word of God (read as: did it agree with my personal interpretation of Scripture?) Perhaps, if we truly want to worship as a New Testament church we should return to "our roots" and study what the early church believed, taught and lived. The result may be that we find something that we don't personally like the feel of, but let's face it, sometimes the Truth hurts.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

"I Want to Go To A NEW TESTAMENT Church" (Part 1) Be Careful What You Wish For!

Early in my born-again years, I desired to go to a church that "preached the Word" and resembled the church of the New Testament. Even then, I knew that the water closest to the head of the stream would be the purest. Most of the books of the New Testament were written between 50 and 145 A.D., and provided many details of that early church, but were not written as the "Official Handbook and History of the Early Church. "

So how do I know for sure that my church is worshipping like a "New Testament Church?" Well, we know something of the early church behavior in that they met together for the "breaking of the bread" in Acts and had a meal together that Paul describes as the body and blood of Christ in
1 Corinthians and Christ himself in John told us to eat His body and drink his blood. Granted, I am "cherry picking" the scriptures to prove my point here, but unfortunately, the New Testament wasn't written with a complete order of service such as a church bulletin we have nowadays to know what is going to happen in the service.
So we turn to recorded history to get a better picture of the early church. It turns out the church was organized into bishops and presbyters (priests) who possessed the succession from the apostles. So apostolic succession wasn't a Catholic myth, but was actually an important criteria for the early church in discerning what was a legitimate church. Already, heretical sects were springing up and the ability of a bishop to trace his roots to Peter and the apostles was key for determining orthodoxy.

Ignatius of Antioch (110 AD)

"Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God. . . . They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes" (Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2–7:1 )

St. Irenaeus said in his Treatise Against Heresies in the 2nd Century:

"Therefore it is necessary to obey the presbyters who are in the Church, those who I have shown, possess the succession from the apostles; those who, together with the succession of the episcopate, have received the certain gift of truth, according to the good pleasure of the Father. But, to hold in suspicion others who depart from the primitive succession, and assemble together in any place whatsoever."

St Cyril of Jerusalem (4th Century) said:

"and if ever you are sojourning in cities, inquire not simply where the Lord's House is (for the other sects of the profane also attempt to call their dens houses of the Lord), nor merely where the church is, but where is the Catholic Church. For this is the peculiar name of this Holy Church, the mother of us all."

So the early church didn't just meet "wherever two or more were gathered" and flipped open a Bible for a Bible study? I guess not, since there were no Bibles floating around but the early Christians did assemble in a place called the Catholic Church that had received the gift of God's truth through "primitive succession." The notion of just meeting together on one's own initiative and authority and calling it church was not acceptable or legitimate in the early church as St. Cyril clearly tells us.

St. Augustine (Late 4th Century) said:

"[T]here are many other things which most properly can keep me in [the Catholic Church’s] bosom. The unanimity of peoples and nations keeps me here. Her authority, inaugurated in miracles, nourished by hope, augmented by love, and confirmed by her age, keeps me here. The succession of priests, from the very see of the apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after his resurrection, gave the charge of feeding his sheep [John 21:15–17], up to the present episcopate, keeps me here. And last, the very name Catholic, which, not without reason, belongs to this Church alone, in the face of so many heretics, so much so that, although all heretics want to be called ‘Catholic,’ when a stranger inquires where the Catholic Church meets, none of the heretics would dare to point out his own basilica or house" (Against the Letter of Manicheus Called "The Foundation" 4:5 [A.D. 397]).

These are just a few samples from the massive volumes of writings of this early Church that describe its organization, its succession from Peter and gives us a "snapshot" of what it "looked like." So when I was 14 years old and went looking for a "New Testament Church" I didn't need to look further than Our Lady of Notre Dame (my childhood parish). Because, this is the same Church that could trace its roots to the "primitive church" and still carries forth the "gift of truth."
After all, the Bible tells us that the Church is the pillar and foundation of Truth. 1 Tim 3:15

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

This is the Call of the Emerging Church

Recently I came upon this which was recently published in Christianity Today. I find this interesting because it sounds like this Emerging Church is hearkening back to the creeds, practices and sacraments of the ancient church. What I appreciate the most about these folks is their honest look back to the ancient church and ability to re-examine the Creeds and Councils of the Catholic Church that many reformers jettisoned. Once you stop shouting down Rome, you are slowly drawn to her as Chesterton said. I colored the phrases I thought were particularly interesting to my Catholic perspective. Here is the "Call of the Emerging Church":

1. On the Primacy of the Biblical Narrative

We call for a return to the priority of the divinely authorized canonical story of the Triune God. This story-Creation, Incarnation, and Re-creation-was effected by Christ's recapitulation of human history and summarized by the early Church in its Rules of Faith. The gospel-formed content of these Rules served as the key to the interpretation of Scripture and its critique of contemporary culture, and thus shaped the church's pastoral ministry. Today, we call Evangelicals to turn away from modern theological methods that reduce the gospel to mere propositions, and from contemporary pastoral ministries so compatible with culture that they camouflage God's story or empty it of its cosmic and redemptive meaning. In a world of competing stories, we call Evangelicals to recover the truth of God's word as the story of the world, and to make it the centerpiece of Evangelical life.

2. On the Church, the Continuation of God's Narrative

We call Evangelicals to take seriously the visible character of the Church. We call for a commitment to its mission in the world in fidelity to God's mission (Missio Dei), and for an exploration of the ecumenical implications this has for the unity, holiness catholicity, and apostolicity of the Church. Thus, we call Evangelicals to turn away from an individualism that makes the Church a mere addendum to God's redemptive plan. Individualistic Evangelicalism has contributed to the current problems of churchless Christianity, redefinitions of the Church according to business models, separatist ecclesiologies and judgmental attitudes toward the Church. Therefore, we call Evangelicals to recover their place in the community of the Church catholic.

3. On the Church's Theological Reflection on God's Narrative

We call for the Church's reflection to remain anchored in the Scriptures in continuity with the theological interpretation learned from the early Fathers. Thus, we call Evangelicals to turn away from methods that separate theological reflection from the common traditions of the Church. These modern methods compartmentalize God's story by analyzing its separate parts, while ignoring God's entire redemptive work as recapitulated in Christ. Anti-historical attitudes also disregard the common biblical and theological legacy of the ancient Church.

Such disregard ignores the hermeneutical value of the Church's ecumenical creeds. This reduces God's story of the world to one of many competing theologies and impairs the unified witness of the Church to God's plan for the history of the world. Therefore, we call Evangelicals to unity in "the tradition that has been believed everywhere, always and by all," as well as to humility and charity in their various Protestant traditions.

4. On Church's Worship as Telling and Enacting God's Narrative

We call for public worship that sings, preaches and enacts God's story. We call for a renewed consideration of how God ministers to us in baptism, eucharist, confession, the laying on of hands, marriage, healing and through the charisms of the Spirit, for these actions shape our lives and signify the meaning of the world. Thus, we call Evangelicals to turn away from forms of worship that focus on God as a mere object of the intellect, or that assert the self as the source of worship. Such worship has resulted in lecture-oriented, music-driven, performance-centered and program-controlled models that do not adequately proclaim God's cosmic redemption. Therefore, we call Evangelicals to recover the historic substance of

worship of Word and Table and to attend to the Christian year, which marks time according to God's saving acts.

5. On Spiritual Formation in the Church as Embodiment of God's Narrative

We call for a catechetical spiritual formation of the people of God that is based firmly on a Trinitarian biblical narrative. We are concerned when spirituality is separated from the story of God and baptism into the life of Christ and his Body. Spirituality, made independent from God's story, is often characterized by legalism, mere intellectual knowledge, an overly therapeutic culture, New Age Gnosticism, a dualistic rejection of this world and a narcissistic preoccupation with one's own experience. These false spiritualities are inadequate for the challenges we face in today's world. Therefore, we call Evangelicals to return to a historic

spirituality like that taught and practiced in the ancient catechumenate.

6. On the Church's Embodied Life in the World

We call for a cruciform holiness and commitment to God's mission in the world. This embodied holiness affirms life, biblical morality and appropriate self-denial. It calls us to be faithful stewards of the created order and bold prophets to our contemporary culture. Thus, we call Evangelicals to intensify their prophetic voice against forms of indifference to God's gift of life, economic and political injustice, ecological insensitivity and the failure to champion the poor and marginalized. Too often we have failed to stand prophetically against the culture's captivity to racism, consumerism, political correctness, civil religion, sexism,

ethical relativism, violence and the culture of death. These failures have muted the voice of Christ to the world through his Church and detract from God's story of the world, which the Church is collectively to embody. Therefore, we call the Church to recover its counter-cultural mission to the world.


In sum, we call Evangelicals to recover the conviction that God's story shapes the mission of the Church to bear witness to God's Kingdom and to inform the spiritual foundations of civilization. We set forth this Call as an ongoing, open-ended conversation. We are aware that we have our blind spots and weaknesses. Therefore, we encourage Evangelicals to engage this Call within educational centers, denominations and local churches through publications and conferences.

We pray that we can move with intention to proclaim a loving, transcendent, triune God who has become involved in our history. In line with Scripture, creed and tradition, it is our deepest desire to embody God's purposes in the mission of the Church through our theological reflection, our worship, our spirituality and our life in the world, all the while proclaiming that Jesus is Lord over all creation.

© Northern Seminary 2006 Robert Webber and Phil Kenyon

Permission is granted to reproduce the Call in unaltered form with proper citation.

As an Addendum:

This is also a request for prayer. Robert Webber, one of the authors has been diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer which usually has an extremely poor prognosis even in the best clinical scenario. Lift him before the Lord after you read this blog. Thanks.

St Peregrine, Patron Saint of Cancer victims, pray for Robert.

“Emerging Church Is Leading Protestants Back Home to Rome”

I found the above headline on a "independent evangelical" website that was warning people of the dangers of the “Emerging Church” movement. There have recently been some “cyber-rumblings” from folks who are concerned over the increasing number of Protestants returning Home to Rome,
“a reversal of the Reformation” as it was phrased.
The website stated:

“The experiential attractions which are being promoted by the Emerging Church include: statues, prayer stations, incense, liturgy, candles, icons, the sacraments and calling communion the Eucharist.”

That doesn’t sound so sinister to me, and as a matter of fact, I have been encouraged by the Emerging church movement because it tells me that many evangelicals are sensing the void left by the de-sacramentalization of their churches and the iconoclastic revisions of the Reformation. I admire the Emerging church folks because of their willingness to pursue truth, even if it smells and looks like the "practice of the papists." I have blogged on this before but my interest was piqued again when I found that some protestants are fearing this will lead to wholesale Mass conversions. (pun intended) So let's look at this list of “experiential attractions” the Emergents are starting to embrace, one by one:

1.Statues/Icons - I better look up the definition of that just to be sure we are all talking about the same issues here. Definition of Icon : “a sign or representation that stands for its object by virtue of a resemblance or analogy to it.” What could be wrong with icons?
So a statue of Jesus in the early church or a mosaic symbol of the cross was used to bring the worshippers hearts to God, not to worship the object since that is clearly a breaking of God’s commandment. Icons used in the early church and current Catholic and Orthodox Churches are used as a means to draw our hearts heavenwards. The Jews had many icons in their temple worship including seraphim and cherubim decorating the ark of the covenant. Did the Jews worship these images? No for heavensakes! They were used to draw the worshippers hearts heavenward by using their senses of sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch.

2.Prayer Stations - I don’t know about you but any place set aside for us to quiet our hearts and come to the Lord can’t be bad. In the Old Testament, the Jews made “ebenezers”, a pile of rocks to commemorate an event that God performed for them at a certain place of time and history. I suspect that when they came upon an ebenezer, they prayed, kind of like a “prayer station.” Some fundamentalist churches have people come up to the altar and pray in a ritual called an “altar call.” Maybe that's similar to a prayer station, but since non-Catholic churches don't believe in the sacrifice of the Mass, I suspect this is a holdover term not fully rooted out after the Reformation. We Catholics have prayer stations going back many centuries to a practice called the Stations of the Cross. During Lent, all Catholics retrace the steps of Jesus as he was accused,beaten and died for us on the Cross for our redemption. It is a beautiful meditation and prayer as we draw close to Him with repentant hearts. Sometimes my wife and I pray the stations at other times of the year as well because we always come away with a deeper sense of gratitude to our Lord for what He endured for our salvation.

3. Incense- My reading of early church history tells me that plenty of incense was used in early times and its use can probably be traced as early as the fourth century. I suspect, that before then, most of the time Christianity was outlawed so their use of incense would not have been a good idea if they were meeting in secret to celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass (and not get caught!)

The Jewish people in the Old Testament used incense to represent the prayers of the people before God and the Revelations of John in the New Testament makes mention of its use in the context of heavenly worship several times. So clearly its use on both heaven and earth found in Scripture would make one realize it’s ok to use it as a part of a worship service, particularly if we take a “Bible Only” approach to these things.

4. Liturgy- The early church used a liturgy very much based on the Jewish temple’s order of service including scripture readings with a homily. The difference of course is that the New Testament service culminated in the sacrifice of the Mass, the Eucharist, the “breaking of the bread” as the early church called it. If you want to read an early liturgy, see how Justin Martyr from the 2nd Century described a gathering of believers. He described a sacrifice, and he wasn’t referring to the blood of bulls or goats! St. Paul's description in 1 Corinthians is also very telling when he describes the Lord's Supper and the dire consequences of wrongly "discerning the Body of Christ."

5.Candles- Yes, there were candles in the early church too! The most likely reason was that there was no electricity for about 1900 years and I suspect quite a few Lutherans and Calvinists used them too! (until Thomas A. Edison had his way.) But truthfully, the fact is Catholics still use candles to help us remember that Jesus is the Light of the World! Not scary, spooky or even Satanic, just using the stuff of earth to remind us of the things of Heaven.

6. The Sacraments and calling communion the Eucharist. As mentioned repeatedly in my blogs and the historical writings of the Church, Christians have always believed in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and the Baptism for the forgiveness of sins as stated in the Nicene Creed (325 AD) . The “symbolization” of communion and baptism was unknown before the Reformation, except for a few short-lived heretical cults.

If these "experiential attractions," as our independent evangelical brother calls them, can bring the “Emerging church” folks closer to Jesus, God bless them and I encourage them to "stay the course." Since the use of candles, incense, icons, and a liturgy have been used for 2000 years continuously in Christ's Church, the "Emergents" are not in bad company when they start using them again. Catholics have been using the “stuff of earth” such as water, wine, and wheat given to them in the Sacraments of the Church to bring them to a fuller and more complete knowledge and experience of Jesus Christ. Actually, the Emerging church folks are not pioneers of a new phenomenon nor inventors and practitioners of new age philosophies. They are re-discovering the ancient practices that God has always used to bring His people closer to Him. We humans need to relate to God the way Jesus showed us: water of life (baptism) and bread from heaven (The Eucharist) I am sorry if it offends the sensibilities, but it’s the ancient way of the Creator who knows what’s best for His creation.

Now if only they could see the need for a Magisterium......

"Molder of Dreams" Guy Doud Comes Home to The Catholic Church!

Last night on the Journey Home program, Guy Doud presented his testimony of conversion to Catholicism. He was received into the Church this past Easter. He is a nationally known motivational speaker, 1986 National Teacher of the Year and former Evangelical Free pastor. His tape/CD "Molder of Dreams" has been the most listened to and requested material ever offered by Focus on the Family.
Just this past Sept 12 and 13th "Molder of Dreams" was replayed again on Dr. Dobson's program.
Why did he turn to the Church after being a lifelong evangelical believer? You can hear him tell the story if you to go to the audio archives or you can watch the re-broadcast program this Saturday. But, in a nutshell, it was his desire to see how the early Church worshipped which led to his discovery of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. This led to an insatiable desire to receive Christ as He was received by the early church and continues to be present to this day in the Catholic Church. Guy found the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Confession to be a great aid to his walk with God as I and other converts have found.
Welcome Home Guy! Our prayers are with you as well as the prayers of an unimaginably large and invisible cloud of witnesses!
(If the truth be told, they have been praying for us to come back for a long time now, thanks Mom!)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Everybody Submits to a Magisterium

Some more thoughts on the Magisterium.
I wanted to explain a bit more how we all have a “teaching authority” in our lives even if we don’t realize it. Using my own example may be the best way to illustrate the point I am trying to make.. For many years of my life away from the Church, we attended an independent charismatic community of christians. The music there was professionally performed, lively and heartfelt and there was a very strong sense of community and commitment among the members. Usually after about 45 minutes of singing, there would be a 45-50 minute sermon. The pastor was an excellent communicator and prepared diligently for his sermons. He loved Jesus very much and did not take his responsibilities lightly. He gave insightful and usually very thoughtful and nuanced ways of looking at a concept from scripture such as “faith.” His method of presenting gave me clarity and understanding to a passage of scripture he was preaching on that I had never seen. But if the truth be told, I accepted what he said as Truth and never questioned the source and inspiration for his teaching. I knew that it was from the Bible, but in reality it was his interpretation of the Bible. In theological discussions which occurred during the course of the week, folks would often “quote” from Pastor or say “But didn’t Pastor Eddie say…..” Week after week, month after month and year after year, I accepted the interpretation of Scripture from my pastor and eventually owned it for myself.
Now, when a Catholic says they subscribe to the teaching authority of the Catholic Church called the Magisterium, the non-catholic says, “I get my teaching from the Word of God and need no authority to tell me how to interpret God’s Word.” Yet in every Independent Bible-Only Church every Sunday, the faithful accept the "Teaching Magisterium" of “Pastor Jim” or “Pastor Mike” or in my case “Pastor Eddie.”
So I don’t think it is unreasonable for all of us (Catholics and non-Catholics) to admit we have our own magisterium, whose authority we follow. Catholics believe theirs is the Bishop of Rome (the Pope) and the bishops in union with him.

Jesus, My Ocean of Mercy

During Holy Mass, I offered myself completely to the heavenly Father through the sweetest heart of Jesus; let Him do as He pleases with me. Of myself I am nothing, and in my misery I have nothing of worth; so I abandon myself into the ocean of Your mercy, O Lord .

St. Faustina

Saturday, September 16, 2006

"I Have Made a Pact With My Tongue"

"Some say it is unreasonable to be courteous and gentle with a reckless person who insults you for no reason at all. I have made a pact with my tongue; not to speak when my heart is disturbed. "

St. Francis de Sales

A Great Love Affair

There has recently been a flurry of activity in the "blogosphere" concerning the Catholic conversion of a well-known evangelical children's minister which I have posted about recently. Some of the non-Catholic sites posted comments such as:

"Very disappointing! I am going to try to watch his interview on EWTN next week. I am very curious about his change of thinking"

"This blows me away. My aunt, the first one in our family, did the same thing. I don't get it."

"Has anyone else heard this? What are your thoughts? I find it very interesting, and yet the 'Gospel' is still mentioned, that's good! I'm not suggesting anything negative about Catholics - I'm only commenting that this is a very surprising switch for me."

"This really blows me away! I would love to talk to him and find out what is going on. I have booked him in the past, but would not book him in the future until I got some clarity."

"Perhaps if the Donut Man had a pastor that could have explained the Biblical faith to him clearly, he would have understood what he was rejecting."

"As a former Catholic, I find this intriguing . . . "

"I used to recommend the Donut Man videos to people. They're great teaching tools for children. He makes the Bible stories so exciting for kids. I'm saddened to learn that he's now a Catholic! I ran across this article: He used to be rock-solid. I don't get why these people are doing this (eg. Cathy Duffy.) Am I missing something?"

I would say to the person above that they are not necessarily missing something, but rather, others are finding something: the Truth in this Ancient Church that they did not see or could/would not recognize. Up until 4 years ago, I would not read, review or consider anything Catholic merely based on my prejudice against a Church I did not understand, rejecting 2000 years of history out of hand. I was also rejecting the beauty of the writings of theologians, scholars and godly people (we call them Saints) who had a great love affair with Jesus Christ through the Catholic Church.

“It is impossible to be just to the Catholic Church. The moment men cease to pull against it they feel a tug towards it. The moment they cease to shout it down they begin to listen to it with pleasure. The moment they try to be fair to it they begin to be fond of it. But when that affection has passed a certain point it begins to take on the tragic and menacing grandeur of a great love affair.”

G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)

Chesterton was a convert to Catholicism who wrote 100's of books and one called called
"The Everlasting Man" led a young atheist named C.S. Lewis to convert to Christianity.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Stained Glass Windows

As a young convert from Catholic to "Born Again" I attempted to run as far as I could away from the Church I was born into and assumed was keeping me away from Jesus. I never attempted to understand or significantly pursue my faith in this Church but took the words of an anti-Catholic tract as "gospel" and assumed I had been saved from the @#%$ of Babylon. Upon returning to the Catholic Church 31 years later, God has allowed me to see the beauty and Truth in this ancient Church. He has forgiven me for choosing to reject His Church after
"I found Jesus" as a young teen. (Actually, I always believed He found me, as only by His grace do we ever turn toward Him)

I used to mock the stained glass, incense and holy water I had left and wanted a church that was four blank walls, no religious pictures or symbols except perhaps an empty cross. The emptier the better I thought. Well, with the wisdom of age plus some basic history lessons and my anti-Catholic colored glasses removed, I have a different perspective towards the Church of my youth.
I think my feelings can be best summed up with this song I wrote shortly after receiving Christ in the Eucharist for the first time in 31 years:

Stained Glass Windows

In the stained glass windows
There’s a story of love
Told by ancient poets
Whispered from above

The fragrance of the incense
Brings me back to long ago
When it was not so hard to trust
In the things that I’d been told


You come to me veiled as Bread
You’re hidden in the wine
Now the Veil’s been lifted
And you’ve been there all the time

It’s been so long since I have knelt
And longer since I prayed
The prayers of my childhood
Come back so easily

I dip my hands in water
And trace the ancient sign
Symbols from this earth
Point to the Divine


You come to me veiled as Bread
You’re hidden in the wine
Now the Veil’s been lifted
And you’ve been there all the time

As I speak the timeless creed
Passed on to us by saints
Together with all of heaven
I say, “yes Lord,” I believe .

Through the stained glass windows
I see the mystery
God made flesh, the Lamb of God
Bread of Life for me


Feast of the Triumph of the Cross

Today the Church celebrates the anniversary of the finding of the True Cross of Christ by Constantine's elderly mother Helena, who was a Christian. She set out on a pilgrimage to the Holy Lands in the 4th Century and found the site of the Holy Sepulchre where the body of the Lord was buried for three days before the resurrection. Unfortunately, a pagan temple had been built upon it after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD. St. Helena as she is known, began excavations at the site and the legend has it that three crosses were found near the site and she had a Basilica built there to honor the Lord and the True Cross.

In Mass today, the focus of the readings was on the Cross of Christ and his death and suffering for our salvation. Starting from the Old Testament , we heard how Moses raised the brazen serpent on a pole ( foreshadowing Christ being lifted up on the Cross) to the New Testament epistle to the Phillipians which describes so beautifully how Christ humbled himself and was obedient to death on the Cross. The final reading was from the Gospel of John where Jesus summarizes God's plan of salvation for Nicodemus (and us).

Jesus said to Nicodemus: "No one has gone up to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man.And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him."

Our priest's homily reminded us how important it is to focus daily on the Cross of Christ as our source of power and strength to live our lives for Him.
So today's Mass was for me a wonderful reminder of His suffering and death for me and a celebration of the sacrifice He offered for my salvation. I am so thankful to God for these lovely feasts that are part of the rhythm of the devotional life of the Church and its people. What's not to love about this?

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Magisterium

When I first heard the term I thought this was just another one of those confusing Catholic terms. Magisterium is the english equivalent of the latin word for teacher= magister. The Magisterium is the living, teaching office of the Catholic Church. Simply put, the Magisterium has the task and responsibility of interpreting the Word of God.

Non-Catholics bristle at this notion, as I once did too, and insist that each one of us has the ability to interpret Scripture for themselves based on their membership in the body of Christ. The problem that arises is when private interpretation of Scripture leads to divergent and oftentimes opposing views. Ultimately divisions and branches are formed when each party holds to their own particular interpretation of Scripture. I struggle with the notion of “private interpretation” because it implies that Jesus, who gave us the Holy Spirit to guide us in all Truth, is allowing certain bits of Truth to be "up for grabs." These areas of divergent opinion are sometimes termed the “non–essentials” but often they are about salvation/eternal security/meaning of Baptism, and are indeed very essential truths.

In my discussion with brethren who hold to the idea of Sola Scriptura (That all truth must be contained in the Bible alone), they insist we need no magisterium to tell us what to believe because the Bible doesn't mention it explicitly. They say that their own interpretation of Scripture is the correct one since “it comes directly from the Word of God” and they just let "scripture interpret scripture." I wish it was that easy! Even Luther at some point bemoaned "private interpretation" when he said "Every man that has a head has become his own pope!"
(Refer to my earlier post regarding Sola Scriptura here)

I submit that “No Man is An Island” particularly when it comes to developing a theology /belief system and in actuality, every man does subscribe and submit to his own "magisterium." You do and I do. It may be the magisterium of their favorite pastor or bible teacher, or the magisterium of their personal friends who they are in agreement with regarding areas of faith and morals. It could be the magisterium of “Radio Bible Class” or it can be the Chinese Restaurant Magisterium (I’ll take one of those from Column A and two of those from Column B) Which is what I did for many years! In other words, none of us, if we are completely honest, study the Bible with a totally blank and open mind (skull full of mush so to speak) and let the Holy Spirit give us the correct interpretation of Scripture. We rely on our past religious education, denominational affiliations, memories, and moral inclinations and experiences. It would be impossible to do otherwise.
Catholics and Non- Catholics both have a magisterium. It's just that we believe our Magisterium is the teaching authority Christ entrusted to his apostles when he established the Church on Peter. We believe this has continued in apostolic succession through the ages even despite some popes who were real scoundrels. However, when it came to issues of faith and morals, even the stinkers didn't pervert or twist truth. That was the Holy Spirit's divine protection and the "charism of infallibility."

Jesus did not leave us alone, but in his kindness and mercy left us with the Paraclete who will lead us in all truth. Catholics believe this process occurs via the Magisterium of the Church. The way I see it, the things our Lord wants us to know about Him are too precious to be left to chance and our own admittedly fallible private interpretation. So Jesus gave us His Church through which the Holy Spirit continues to guide us infallibly through fallible men. We believe scripture supports this view in Timothy, when Paul tells the people that the household of God, the Church, is the pillar and foundation of truth. (II Timothy 3:16)

This is what the Catechism says about it:

"The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living, teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.”
CCC 86 “Yet this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication, and expounds it faithfully. All that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is drawn from this single deposit of faith.”
CCC 890 “The mission of the Magisterium is linked to the definitive nature of the covenant established by God with his people in Christ. It is this Magisterium’s task to preserve God’s people from deviations and defections and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error. Thus, the pastoral duty of the Magisterium is aimed at seeing to it that the People of God abides in the truth that liberates. To fulfill this service, Christ endowed the Church’s shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals. The exercise of this charism has several forms.”

Late For Supper!

Rob Evans, The Donut Man, gave his testimony of conversion on EWTN's Journey Home Program last nite. It was complete with a box of donuts and his trademark hat and tortoise rim glasses! Keep Rob and his family in prayer as they seek the Lord for direction with his ministry.
His new website will give details of his testimony with downloadable audio files chapter by chapter.
Check out the article in Catholic Standard and Times/newspaper for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Welcome Home Donut Man!
Hear his downloadable story from 9/11/2006 from EWTN's website.

(I was late for Supper too for about 3o years as well, and I am making up for lost time)

"Remember O Lord, What has Befallen Us" 911

Pray for those who died on 9/11/2001 as well as the loved ones whose wounds are not healed.

Christ in the Rubble

O Christ, beneath the fallen stones,
nailed fast to twisted bars of steel,
And slain in flesh and blood and bones,
Pierced by the fear all mortals feel
Arise from ash and dust and death,
And breathe into crushed hearts new Breath.

O Christ, among the wreckage shorn
Of hope for those who lie there dead,
Yet bathed in sweat of labors borne
To free the grieving from their dread,
Arise from our despair’s long night,
And pour upon us living Light

O Christ, within a world at war,
Where love and hate fight for the soul,
And all sights trained on death see far,
But only Love can see the whole:
Arise from unforgiving pain,
And teach us how to love again.

From Magnificat 9/11/2006

Sunday, September 10, 2006

"This Is My Body Broken For You"

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Why Am I Catholic?

I recently came across an online video produced by Catholic bloggers Michael and Katerina that beautifully and succinctly tells the story of why they are Catholic.
I was so impressed with it , quite frankly, tears ran down my face as I watched. I can't tell whether they were tears of joy or tears of regret for maligning this church Christ gave us, or maybe both!
A picture is worth a thousand words and this is no exception. The video was produced and written by Katerina Marie Cabello.

Please check out their Blog: Evangelical Catholic

Sign of the Cross and Dr. Martin Luther

Futher evidence that a "non-biblical" devotional practice can still be used by Protestant and Catholic alike comes from the father of the reformation, Dr. Luther himself:

"Such external things as confession, bowing our knees, making the sign of the cross mark no distinction between Protestants and Roman Catholics
Luther himself went often to confession, he bended his knees both at home and in the church, and in his little catechism he suggests that a Christian should make the sign of the cross both morning and evening."

"Just because something is done in the Roman Catholic Church doesn't mean it should be cast aside by evangelicals"

From Confessing Evangelicals Blog

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Sign of the Cross

Earlier this year a soccer player in Scotland was given a cautionary warning by police for instigating strife during a soccer game. What was his offense? Did he flip the other team the bird? No, he made the Sign of the Cross to the opposing team, who happened to be non- Catholics! I suspect this was probably not done in a complete spirit of innocence given the previous crowd strife and riots that have occurred between these two rival soccer teams, the Rangers and the Celtics.

The Apostle Paul said the Cross of Christ was a stumbling block for many (1 Cor 1:23) and even just the sign of the cross continues to be almost 2000 years later. If you get on the internet and peruse anti-catholic websites, they often bring up the sign of the cross as an example of a "man-made" invention and a "tradition of Rome." This led me to look into the origin of the sign of the cross and why it engenders so much disdain among certain groups of our Protestant brethren.

Historically, the use of the sign of the cross can be traced to the second century and it's use in the early church has been documented by several of the early church Fathers.
"In all our travels and movements", says Tertullian (De cor. Mil., iii), "in all our coming in and going out, in putting of our shoes, at the bath, at the table, in lighting our candles, in lying down, in sitting down, whatever employment occupieth us, we mark our foreheads with the sign of the cross". On the other hand this must soon have passed into a gesture of benediction, as many quotations from the Fathers in the fourth century would show. Thus St. Cyril of Jerusalem in his "Catecheses" (xiii, 36) remarks: "let us then not be ashamed to confess the Crucified. Be the cross our seal, made with boldness by our fingers on our brow and in every thing; over the bread we eat and the cups we drink, in our comings and in goings; before our sleep, when we lie down and when we awake; when we are travelling, and when we are at rest".

It appears that Catholic Christians have been using the sign of the cross for at least 1800 years and is now shared by Anglicans, some Lutherans and the Orthodox faith.
What does the sign of the cross do when we make it with our hand? Is it a magic incantation, or superstitious spell casting? No, quite the contrary. When a Christian makes the sign of the cross, they are reminding themselves and others of the precious cross of Christ and His matchless sacrifice for them and the victory over sin and death. Before Catholics pray, we start our prayer by praying "in the name of the Father , the Son and the Holy Spirit" echoing the words of Christ in the gospel and simultaneously using our hands to trace the image of the Cross.
When I enter the Sanctuary at Mass, I dip my hands in the water reminding me of my baptismal vows and make the sign of the cross again reminding me of what Mass is all about and who and why I am there to worship. What a beautiful way to engage my heart towards Christ Jesus!
The Catholic faith is an incarnate faith. God came into the world in the flesh to redeem us and he continues to use the things of earth; water, incense, sign of the cross etc. as a means of bringing us close to Him. (Incense calls to mind the "prayers of the saints" from the writings of John the Revelator as well as Old Testament worship practices, all of which are used to draw our physical senses to worship) Nothing spooky or evil about this. Just another example of how God uses the "stuff of earth" to bring our hearts towards heaven.

When I was a Protestant, we often would be asked to bow our heads and close our eyes in prayer. This is not in the Bible but is a standard and well known way that Protestants draw their hearts to God. I venture to say that it is a "man-made invention" and not found in the Bible, but is a routine way for us to get ready to pray. In the same way, the sign of the cross is a physical gesture that is used to not only engage our hearts, but our bodies as well
reminding us of the one who died for us.

In a Catholic Mass, before the Gospel is read, the entire congregation rises to their feet and each of us traces the sign of the cross with our thumb on our forehead our lips and our hearts. As we trace the sign , we say to ourselves, "May the Word of God be in my mind and on my lips and in my heart. " What a precious prayer to ask the Holy Spirit to touch us with His Word!
This brought home another truth to me early in my conversion and that was how much Catholics honor the Word of God.
So in conclusion, yes the sign of the cross is a man-made invention that draws our hearts and minds and bodies to the greatest event in human history, God coming to earth and suffering on the cross for me. No wonder St. Cyril, from the early fifth century, suggested that this be the seal "over all our comings and goings" and every aspect of our lives. And by the way, you don't need to be Catholic to use the sign of the cross, try it before you pray, or to start your day, it can bring you closer to Him! God bless you.

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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Cost of Conversion

When an individual comes to the realization that they need to "come home to Rome," there often results a loss of friends, family, and livelihood. The process of coming into the Catholic Church is not an "on the spot" decision made in haste under pressure and regretted in leisure. The Church has wisely made the process occur over an 8 month period of time in the Rite of Christian Initation of Adults. Usually the period of learning and initiation occurs from September to April when the Catechumen finally is brought into the Church receiving the sacrament of Baptism if not previously baptized, and the sacrament of Confirmation, and the Most Blessed Sacrament, the Eucharist. That is a tremendous amount of God's grace poured out on one individual in just one day. It's like experiencing the Last Supper and Pentecost all in the same day, whoa! Some will argue that Saul did not sign up for RCIA when he was converted and rightly so, but the early church developed this method of bringing converts in. The first three centuries of the early church used an apprenticeship model where the catechumen would live in a christian community and learn the faith for a period of time before he was finally brought in. This is what the present day RCIA classes seek to reproduce and the candidate is invited to share in the community of faithful believers until that final Easter Vigil Mass when he can personally share the Body and Blood of Christ with the local faith community as well as with the 1.5 billion Catholics worldwide.
In the early church, the process of conversion often led to ostracization as well as martyrdom. In the first 300 years of the Church, the individual catechumen knew that conversion was often a death sentence. Despite this, the Church grew and actually flourished throughout the ancient world. The "blood of martyrs was (truly) the seed of the Early Church."
Nowadays, the cost of conversion sometimes leads to the loss of lifelong friendships, the straining of family ties as well as financial hardship but not usually martyrdom in the Western world. The Journey Home program on EWTN has been documenting the conversion stories of many pastors, lay ministers and others who have literally "given all" to follow Christ in the Catholic Church. Many of these folks were theology professors and pastors with large congregations who lost everything to pursue truth. I am humbled and awed by the decisions they have made to forsake all to follow Christ where He leads them. Pray for the converts and their families, they are traveling through the "narrow gate." (Matt 7:13)

I encourage folks to tune into EWTN's Journey Home Program
this Monday 9/11/2006 to hear the story of a nationally known evangelical believer who has recently counted the costs and chose to convert to Catholicism, despite the harship it will no undoubtedly engender.