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.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

How Old Are the Sacraments of the Church?

Catholics believe that Christ instituted the Sacraments during his ministry here on earth. I have attempted to show how Catholics view the sacraments in my last post quoting from Karl Adams. We don't see the sacraments as arduous rituals but joyful opportunities to receive grace from Jesus himself. We don't view them as powerless rituals of man, but God-breathed mechanisms for obtaining his graces in this life to prepare us for eternity. Why does God choose to use the things of earth? I have blogged on this before and won't elaborate again today, but we being physical beings relate to spiritual things via our flesh. As Tertullian said, "the flesh is the hinge of salvation."

An argument is often proposed that Catholics invented the sacraments to cause men to cling to a man-made hierarchy. My question is this? If the sacraments are not instituted by Christ, when did they come about? When did Catholicism invent them? If they are mere "inventions of man," why did the early Church believe in them and practice a faith that was fully sacramental? Why did the Creed in 325 AD state that "we believe in one baptism for the forgiveness of sins?"
See what the Early Church said about sacraments at the end of Monday's post.

A final thought.....Most Christians believe that God divinely reveals himself through what has come to be known as the Bible. Is it an impossible stretch to believe that the same God who speaks to our mind, will and emotions though ink and papyrus (material things) does also reveal himself through the breaking of the Bread? Historically, the Church believed He was revealing himself in the sacrifice of the Altar at least 360 years before the Bible as we now know it was compiled. At some point, our flesh has to interact with material things. God doesn't reveal Himself just in our thoughts, as the early gnostics believed.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Treadmill of Sacramentalism: Divine Intrusion

On a recent post around Christmas, I was commenting on the joy of being able to receive Christ in the Eucharist twice in less than 24 hours because of the proximity of Christmas to Sunday. My purpose was to express my appreciation and new found joy in the Sacrament of the Altar. My post was picked up by a well-known Christian apologist who commented on how sad it was that Catholics are tied to a "treadmill of sacramentalism." I wish he could read what I am posting today.
I had forgotten about that post until recently. When reading The Spirit of Catholicism by Karl Adams (German priest and theologian from the early 1900's) today, I was again struck by the beauty and importance of the Sacramental nature of our Catholic faith. The underlying principle is that God uses material things to transmit His grace. The Incarnation creates the template for understanding this divine intrusion of God in our lives through physical/material means. Jesus could have just descended from heaven or showed up one day on the way to Emmaus, but no! He chose human flesh to manifest His glory to us. In an analogous manner, Jesus continued to show us how He would use the things of earth to transmit His grace and grow our relationship to Him. Mud, blood, spittle, bread and wine.
I don't know how to get across the idea that Catholics don't substitute sacraments as a "work of man" instead of Jesus. We believe Jesus instituted the sacraments (in keeping with the incarnational theme) to transmit His grace. We believe the blood of Jesus forgives us of our sins through the waters of Baptism as 1 Peter states. We believe we abide in Christ by eating His flesh and drinking his blood. Catholics don't trust in the sacraments! We trust in Christ who gives us His grace by way of the sacraments.
Without further ado, I present Karl Adams. Perhaps he "fleshes out" this concept so much better than I could.

"The sacraments are nought else than a visible guarantee, authenticated by the word of Jesus and the usage of the apostles, that Jesus is working in the midst of us. At all the important stages of our little life, in its heights and in its depths, at the marriage-altar and the cradle, at the sick-bed, in all the crises and shocks that may befall us, Jesus stands by us under the veils of the grace-giving sacrament as our Friend and Consoler, as the Physician of soul and body, as our Savior. St. Thomas Aquinas has described this intimate permeation of the Christian's whole life by faith in the sacraments and in his Savior with luminous power."

"Nay, more, the worship of the Church is not merely a filial remembrance of Christ, but a continual participation by visible mysterious signs in Jesus and His redemptive might, a refreshing touching of the hem of His garment, a liberating handling of His sacred Wounds. That is the deepest purpose of the liturgy, namely, to make the redeeming grace of Christ present, visible and fruitful as a sacred and potent reality that fills the whole life of the Christian. In the sacrament of Baptism—so the believer holds—the sacrificial blood of Christ flows into the soul, purifies it from all the infirmity of original sin and permeates it with its own sacred strength, in order that a new man may be born thereof, the re-born man, the man who is an adopted son of God. In the sacrament of Confirmation, Jesus sends His "Comforter," the Spirit of constancy and divine faith, to the awakening religious consciousness, in order to form the child of God into a soldier of God. In the sacrament of Penance, Jesus as the merciful Savior consoles the afflicted soul with the word of peace: Go thy way, thy sins are forgiven thee. In the sacrament of the Last Anointing the compassionate Samaritan approaches the sick-bed and pours new courage and resignation into the sore heart. In the sacrament of Marriage He engrafts the love of man and wife on His own profound love for His people, for the community, for the Church, on His own faithfulness unto death. And in the priestly consecration by the imposition of hands, He transmits His messianic might, the power of His mission, to the disciples whom He calls, in order that He may by their means pursue without interruption His work of raising the new men, the children of God, out of the kingdom of death."

"But the sacraments which we have enumerated are not the deepest and holiest fact of all. For so completely does Jesus disclose Himself to His disciples, so profound is the action of His grace, that He gives Himself to them and enters into them as a personal source of grace. Jesus shares with His disciples His most intimate possession, the most precious thing that He has, His own self, His personality as the God-man. We eat His Flesh and drink His Blood. So greatly does Jesus love His community, that He permeates it, not merely with His blessing and His might, but with his real Self, God and Man; He enters into a real union of flesh and blood with it, and binds it to His being even as the branch is bound to the vine. We are not left orphans in this world. Under the forms of bread and wine the Master lives amid His disciples, the Bridegroom with His bride, the Lord in the midst of His community, until that day when He shall return in visible majesty on the clouds of heaven. The Sacrament of the Altar is the strongest, profoundest, most intimate memorial of the Lord, until He come again. And therefore we can never forget Jesus, though centuries and millennia pass, and though nations and civilizations are ever perishing and rising anew. And therefore there is no heart in the world, not even the heart of father or mother, that is so loved by millions and millions, so truly and loyally, so practically and devotedly, as is the Heart of Jesus. "

The Sacraments of the Church are not new and Catholics believe each of the 7 sacraments was instituted by Christ himself. A small sampling of the writings of the very early Church provide ample evidence that early Christians were sacramental in their beliefs and practices. If sacramental theology is a 'man-made work" than you must assume the Church was "off the rails" even as early as the 2nd century and Christ's promise that the Gates of Hell won't prevail did not prove true.

St. John Chrysostom

"When you see the Lord immolated and lying upon the altar, and the priest bent over that sacrifice praying, and all the people empurpled by that precious blood, can you think that you are still among men and on earth? Or are you not lifted up to heaven?" (The Priesthood 3:4:177 [A.D. 387]).

St. Augustine on the Sacrament of Baptism and the Eucharist

"It is an excellent thing that the Punic [North African] Christians call baptism salvation and the sacrament of Christ’s body nothing else than life. Whence does this derive, except from an ancient and, as I suppose, apostolic tradition, by which the churches of Christ hold inherently that without baptism and participation at the table of the Lord it is impossible for any man to attain either to the kingdom of God or to salvation and life eternal? This is the witness of Scripture too" (Forgiveness and the Just Deserts of Sin, and the Baptism of Infants 1:24:34 [A.D. 412]).

Tertullian on the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist

"No soul whatever is able to obtain salvation unless it has believed while it was in the flesh. Indeed, the flesh is the hinge of salvation. . . . The flesh, then, is washed [baptism] so that the soul may be made clean. The flesh is anointed so that the soul may be dedicated to holiness. The flesh is signed so that the soul may be fortified. The flesh is shaded by the imposition of hands [confirmation] so that the soul may be illuminated by the Spirit. The flesh feeds on the body and blood of Christ [the Eucharist] so that the soul too may feed on God. They cannot, then, be separated in their reward, when they are united in their works" (The Resurrection of the Dead 8:2–3 [A.D. 210]).

Council of Carthage on Confirmation and Baptism [I]n the Gospel our Lord Jesus Christ spoke with his divine voice, saying, ‘Except a man be born again of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God’ [John 3:5]. This is the Spirit which from the beginning was borne over the waters; for neither can the Spirit operate without the water, nor the water without the Spirit. Certain people therefore interpret [this passage] for themselves wrongly, when they say that by imposition of the hand they receive the Holy Ghost, and are thus received, when it is manifest that they ought to be born again [initiated] in the Catholic Church by both sacraments" (Seventh Carthage [A.D. 256]).

Didache (Teachings of the Apostles) on the Eucharist

"Assemble on the Lord’s day, and break bread and offer the Eucharist; but first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one. Anyone who has a difference with his fellow is not to take part with you until he has been reconciled, so as to avoid any profanation of your sacrifice [Matt. 5:23–24]. For this is the offering of which the Lord has said, ‘Everywhere and always bring me a sacrifice that is undefiled, for I am a great king, says the Lord, and my name is the wonder of nations’ [Mal. 1:11, 14]" (Didache 14 [A.D. 70])

Tertullian on The Sacrament of Penance (Confession)
"[Regarding confession, some] flee from this work as being an exposure of themselves, or they put it off from day to day. I presume they are more mindful of modesty than of salvation, like those who contract a disease in the more shameful parts of the body and shun making themselves known to the physicians; and thus they perish along with their own bashfulness" (Repentance 10:1 [A.D. 203]).

Hippolytus on The Sacrament of Penance (Confession)

"[The bishop conducting the ordination of the new bishop shall pray:] God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . Pour forth now that power which comes from you, from your royal Spirit, which you gave to your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, and which he bestowed upon his holy apostles . . . and grant this your servant, whom you have chosen for the episcopate, [the power] to feed your holy flock and to serve without blame as your high priest, ministering night and day to propitiate unceasingly before your face and to offer to you the gifts of your holy Church, and by the Spirit of the high priesthood to have the authority to forgive sins, in accord with your command" (Apostolic Tradition 3 [A.D. 215]).

Augustine on The Sacrament of Penance (Confession)
"When you shall have been baptized, keep to a good life in the commandments of God so that you may preserve your baptism to the very end. I do not tell you that you will live here without sin, but they are venial sins which this life is never without. Baptism was instituted for all sins. For light sins, without which we cannot live, prayer was instituted. . . . But do not commit those sins on account of which you would have to be separated from the body of Christ. Perish the thought! For those whom you see doing penance have committed crimes, either adultery or some other enormities. That is why they are doing penance. If their sins were light, daily prayer would suffice to blot them out. . . . In the Church, therefore, there are three ways in which sins are forgiven: in baptisms, in prayer, and in the greater humility of penance" (Sermon to Catechumens on the Creed 7:15, 8:16 [A.D. 395]).

Ignatius of Antioch on the Sacrament of Holy Orders

"Indeed, when you submit to the bishop as you would to Jesus Christ, it is clear to me that you are living not in the manner of men but as Jesus Christ, who died for us, that through faith in his death you might escape dying. It is necessary, therefore—and such is your practice that you do nothing without the bishop, and that you be subject also to the presbytery, as to the apostles of Jesus Christ our hope, in whom we shall be found, if we live in him. It is necessary also that the deacons, the dispensers of the mysteries [sacraments] of Jesus Christ, be in every way pleasing to all men. For they are not the deacons of food and drink, but servants of the Church of God. They must therefore guard against blame as against fire" (Letter to the Trallians 2:1–3 [A.D. 110]).

Caesar of Arles (ca. A.D. 470-542) on the Sacrament of the Sick

"As often as some infirmity overtakes a man, let him who is ill receive the body and blood of Christ; let him humbly and in faith ask the presbyters for blessed oil, to anoint his body, so that what was written may be fulfilled in him: ‘Is anyone among you sick? Let him bring in the presbyters, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he be in sins, they will be forgiven him. . . . See to it, brethren, that whoever is ill hasten to the church, both that he may receive health of body and will merit to obtain the forgiveness of his sins" (Sermons 13[325]:3).

Lord Jesus, You who made the world and all things in it, who humbled yourself to come as a baby in the flesh , Thank you for continuing to use the "stuff of earth" to draw us closer to you. Bread, Water, Wine, Oil, Marriage, Priesthood, Confession.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Feast Of St. Thomas Aquinas

Today the Church celebrates the life of St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), a Doctor of the Church.
His writings are studied in both Catholic and Protestant seminaries particularly for his philosophy on faith and reason. Aquinas argued that the truth in Aristotle’s philosophy is complemented and completed by the truth revealed in the Christian tradition. He is considered by many to be the greatest theologian in Catholicism and his Summa Theologica perhaps one of the most influential writings in the Church. Yet, at the end of his life he left the Summa unfinished saying: "I cannot go on . . . All that I have written seems to me like so much straw compared to what I have seen and what has been revealed to me."

He was a hymn writer as well as theologian, monk and mystic. It had been reported that he once levitated when he prayed! One of his hymns, Pange Lingua, is used during Eucharistic Adoration and his devotion to the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is made evident in the lyrics and was helpful to me to better understand Christ in the Eucharist.

SING, my tongue, the Savior's glory,
of His flesh the mystery sing;
of the Blood, all price exceeding,
shed by our immortal King,
destined, for the world's redemption,
from a noble womb to spring.

Of a pure and spotless Virgin
born for us on earth below,
He, as Man, with man conversing,
stayed, the seeds of truth to sow;
then He closed in solemn order
wondrously His life of woe.

On the night of that Last Supper,
seated with His chosen band,
He the Pascal victim eating,
first fulfills the Law's command;
then as Food to His Apostles
gives Himself with His own hand.

Word-made-Flesh, the bread of nature
by His word to Flesh He turns;
wine into His Blood He changes;
what though sense no change discerns?
Only be the heart in earnest,
faith her lesson quickly learns.

Down in adoration falling,
Lo! the sacred Host we hail;
Lo! o'er ancient forms departing,
newer rites of grace prevail;
faith for all defects supplying,
where the feeble sense fail.

To the everlasting Father,
and the Son who reigns on high,
with the Holy Ghost proceeding
forth from Each eternally,
be salvation, honor, blessing,
might and endless majesty.
Amen. Alleluia.

Lord Jesus, grant me but a tincture of that vision that St. Thomas had!

St. Thomas, On your feast day I ask that you would pray for me to see Jesus the way you saw Him in the Eucharist. Amen

Hear the Hymn in Latin

Saturday, January 27, 2007

In Case Of Hospitalization, Contact a Priest

In the United Kingdom, some Catholics have started to carry cards in their wallets stating that they request fluids to be administered, at the end of life. They hope that a Catholic priest will be able to guide the medical decisions in keeping with the Catholic theology of protecting life from conception to natural death. The Association of Catholic Women of the UK have a great website with lots of good links to check out.

When we clamor for socialized medicine in this country, realize that there will be a tremendous financial incentive to truncate care for the elderly and those who can't speak for themselves. Food and water are not "extraordinary means" of caring for someone, but are the basic sustenance of life and should not be withheld at the end of life to hasten a patient's death. That would not be natural but will be the order of the day as it is becoming in Europe.,,1990019,00.html

Thank Your Mom!

If you were born after 1973, you may want to remember thank your Mom for choosing to let you live. There is an entire generation of souls we won't meet until the other side who didn't get the opportunity to live beyond the womb. Will they be inquisitive like the angels who long to understand the salvific work of Christ? This is mere speculation, but I suspect they spend a good part of their eternity in prayer interceding for their mothers who didn't give them the opportunity to live. We too should pray for the moms and dads as well here and now, and support the Rachel Vineyard/Abortion Recovery ministries that are out there for them.

"Being unwanted is the worst disease that a human being can ever experience." Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion."
{Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta}

Friday, January 26, 2007

EWTN's Marcus Grodi at the March for Life

While at the March, EWTN had their media tent set up on the side of the Mall as usual. This year we had the chance to meet Marcus Grodi and his wife Marilyn. We thanked him for the great blessing his program has been to us. It was through his program, The Journey Home, three years ago that I first heard that anyone would make the highly improbable journey to Rome from across the Tiber. My wife had been telling me about evangelicals converting but I dismissed it without much thought until I heard their stories for myself. Pastors with families giving up their livelihood after years of seminary training and leadership positions. I have always been impressed and humbled by these souls who sacrifice so much for their pursuit of Truth, regardless of where it leads them.

Many conversions to Catholicism over the years has resulted from contacts with Catholics via the pro-life movement. One such convert spent a night in a prison cell with devout Catholics after being arrested at a protest at an abortion clinic. This ultimately led to his conversion after the realization that these Catholic folks were Christians too! On one of my earlier posts, I asked how some Christians assume that the Church is in major error yet can follow the gospel to the letter by taking care of the least of these, the unborn, the frail, the poor and the elderly that no one else speaks up for. When I posed this question recently to a Protestant pastor his answer was "They got one thing right." Oh well, it's a start I suppose.

"Self-Genocide of the Human Race"

Vatican official condemns “self-genocide” of human race
Bishop says continued attacks on human life will lead to self-destruction

.- The president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Bishop Elio Sgreccia, denounced this week the different attacks on human life in all its stages, saying mankind is “marching towards a self-genocide of the human race.”

“The weakness of the Christian community and the strength of secular society could spell disaster,” Bishop Sgreccia warned, and he urged all European citizens to work at reversing the trend. “Up to now the culture of death has been accepted and this path leads to self-destruction.”

He also noted the “widespread mentality that trusts in bio-technological power.” Such powers, Sgreccia said aim “to change the order of the human species” and to create “men in the image and likeness of other men who have power.”

Society is embracing this mentality and, “it now defends the selecting of children so that each one is perfect, without defect, and the eliminating of those that do not fulfill these conditions,” he explained during a meeting with local journalists at the University of Saint Paul.

Bishop Sgreccia called this nothing more than “a craving for power” that stems from “a false perception of the origins of man,” since “no human being can state that he was born of his own choice, nor that he made himself.”

“This is the great lie upon which some seek to build this bio-technological omnipotence that aims to transform the very structure of human nature and in this way liberate it from all cultural precedent,” he stressed.

Regarding euthanasia, Bishop Sgreccia warned that “due to the profound secularization” man no longer has “the spiritual energy to confront suffering,” and he has lost “the sense of the transcendent.”

The bishop also recalled the case of Terri Schiavo, emphasizing that the notion of “extraordinary treatment” for patients should never include the fundamental needs of food, hydration and hygiene.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Future Doctors of America -The Making of an Abortionist

From Yale Daily News:

"On Thursday, the Yale Medical Students for Choice will host workshop on manual vacuum aspiration for medical students, using a papaya as a uterine model. Manual vacuum aspiration is a surgical abortion method that uses a syringe to remove the fetus from a woman’s uterus. Merritt Evans MED ’09 said she thought it was important to have the workshop because the procedure can be used for a variety of different purposes — including miscarriage management and the treatment of a failed medical abortion or ectopic pregnancy — and is inconsistently taught in medical school.

While the workshop is targeted towards medical students, undergraduates are also invited to attend.

“The reason I wanted to include other people is that it is such a simple procedure, but the media attention around it … makes this an emotionally traumatic and a complicated thing,” Evans said. “It’s just to be like, ‘Here is what actually happens, here is what the medical procedure is like, this is what an aborted yolk sac looks like.’ It looks like a piece of cotton.”

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus and murder is emotionally traumatic and tends to be very complicated! Perhaps Yale Medical School should allow the students to watch Silent Scream along with these papaya sucking workshops! What part of the Hippocratic Oath allows us to murder the unborn? In reality, the original oath states we should never give a women something that would cause an abortion. Hippocrates may have been a pagan who lived centuries before Christ came to earth , but he knew right from wrong and he knew more than this sad group of young medical students!

These doctors of the future will be caring for you and I when we are elderly and infirm. Remember, if it's easy for them to snuff out life at the beginning, it will be no harder to do the same at the end. God have Mercy.

Little Sisters of The Poor

While on the March for Life on Monday, we ran into a group of nuns called the Little Sisters of the Poor. Their vocation is to care for the poor elderly. Their motto is "We beg for the poor so they won't have to." They love Jesus and as they care for the poor, they are "doing unto Him." They take in and care for elderly people of all faiths who have no place to live. They are not government funded and the sisters trust God for all their needs. Each day, they go out to different merchants and vendors and beg for bread, meat and donations to feed the residents in their facility. Their homes are now in 31 countries and their mission goes back to France in 1839 with their founder Jeanne Jugan taking a poor blind elderly woman into her home.
Pray for the Sisters and if you are so led, send them a few quid to continue their ministry. Supporting folks like these is a tangible way of spreading the Gospel of Life.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Catechism on Euthanasia

The wisdom of the Church on Euthanasia:

Those whose lives are diminished or weakened deserve special respect. Sick or handicapped persons should be helped to lead lives as normal as possible.

Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable.

Thus an act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death in order to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator. The error of judgment into which one can fall in good faith does not change the nature of this murderous act, which must always be forbidden and excluded.

Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of "over-zealous" treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one's inability to impede it is merely accepted. The decisions should be made by the patient if he is competent and able or, if not, by those legally entitled to act for the patient, whose reasonable will and legitimate interests must always be respected.

Even if death is thought imminent, the ordinary care owed to a sick person cannot be legitimately interrupted. The use of painkillers to alleviate the sufferings of the dying, even at the risk of shortening their days, can be morally in conformity with human dignity if death is not willed as either an end or a means, but only foreseen and tolerated as inevitable. Palliative care is a special form of disinterested charity. As such it should be encouraged.
I wish now that I had read the Catechism when I went into practice. For most of us doctors, we adhered to the "quality of life" paradigm for making ethical decisions and pretty much "flew by the seat of our pants." I never intentionally gave medication to hasten a patient's death but I believe that I didn't truly understand that Life is A Good, and itself is of utmost value regardless of what our society views as "Quality."
60 years ago in Germany, a man felt that Jews, gypsies, homosexuals , mentally retarded, and Catholic priests didn't have a very good "quality of Life" and for the sake of the "good of the society" and attempted a solution known as the Holocaust. God have mercy on us!

Franciscan Brothers of Peace

One of the added benefits to attending the March for Life is the joy of meeting new friends and seeing the body of Christ at work in pro-life ministry. I met a group of Franciscan Friars from St. Paul whose mission is to promote the Gospel of Life and speak out on behalf of the least of these in our society: The unborn, the elderly, the frail and the disabled. Jesus said "whatsoever you do to the least of these that you do unto me." These brothers have taken that message to heart and to the road as well. They now travel nationally to promote the cause of the frail, the unborn and the elderly. They joined with Terry Schiavo's family in Florida and you may recall the friar that was the spokesman for them on network news, Brother Paul O' Donnell.
Their mission gained its inspiration from the catastrophic illness of their founder, who suffered severe brain injury after a pneumonia. In the efforts to support and care for him, they were faced with much opposition from the health care community, continually trying to get the brothers to not persist in their efforts to keep their founder alive. After experiencing this firsthand, they have been inspired to protect the life of the those who are unable to speak for themselves.

"We recognize the inestimable value of each and every human life from fertilization to natural death, and we commit ourselves to love and defend the most vulnerable among us, the weak and poor in body and spirit.

We pray for God’s grace and strength as we strive to give witness to the sanctity of human life and to foster growth in holiness and spiritual life among all people. And we pray that all we do, both in word and in action, will be holy, true, and according to His most perfect will.

May Father, Son and Holy Spirit — the GOD of LIFE reign in our hearts forever! Amen."

From the Franciscan Brothers of Peace


Being Pro-life as a Christian includes protecting life as the Catechism says "from the moment of conception to natural death." In our country we are poised on the brink of the next great battle of the Pro Life movement, euthanasia. In Oregon, it has become legal for physicians to ignore their hippocratic oath and be complicit in taking the lives of any patients who desire to end their life. IF we don't become pro- active, this legislation will soon be sitting in front of our elected representatives and they will be deciding whether it should be legal for me as a physician to kill my patients.
As a physician in long term care, I deal with the frail elderly and the dying. I often see families request to have loved ones transferred out of my facility to an in-patient hospice for "end of life care." In some cases this has become a euphemism for "Let's end Grandpa's suffering." I appreciate the care given by hospice to improve symptoms and help the dying patient's family through a very difficult time, but to hasten the death process out of a sense of "mercy" is murder. Plain and simple. I have been asked by families if I could give their loved one "something to make it go quicker." I usually answer like this. "In the state of PA, there is a law that says I can't do that, and I could go to jail for murder. Also, there is a commandment that I will be breaking and I would prefer not to face the consequences of breaking one of the big Ten as well!" Sadly though, in hospices and hospitals throughout the country, patients at the end of life are being given inappropriate doses of narcotics to hasten the process of death. It has become an acceptable practice almost universally and now we are at the point where many physicians when polled, will state they have no problems with terminating the life of a suffering patient!
In my nursing homes, I am daily confronted with the issue of an elderly patient with dementia or a stroke who no longer eats enough to keep themselves from dehydrating and losing weight. There is nothing that is imminently going to take their life except for starvation and dehydration.
When I suggest having a feeding tube placed, there is always a chorus from the nurses about "quality of life." "Doctor, they have such a poor quality of life, why do you want to prolong it?"
The Church teaches that God created life and therefore Life is a good. Not the quality is a good, but life itself. So if life is from God and life is a good, how can it be by my hand that I prematurely end life? More on this later....

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

More Pics From March for Life 2007

Most of the time we spent marching, our hearts were in our throat and we were on the edge of tears as we saw posters like this one above. There were also the more graphic and gruesome photos of the "products of conception."(Dismembered humans) Either way, the sanctity of life and reason for our march was reinforced by images as these. Perhaps most moving for me was the large group of men and women gathered at the steps of the Supreme Court from Silent No More. These men and women bravely came to say that they regretted their decision to abort their children. I viewed them as brave penitents who are now helping to prevent others from making the same tragic mistake

"The moral gravity of procured abortion is apparent in all its truth if we recognize that we are dealing with murder and, in particular, when we consider the specific elements involved. The one eliminated is a human being at the very beginning of life. No one more absolutely innocent could be imagined. In no way could this human being ever be considered an aggressor, much less an unjust aggressor! He or she is weak, defenceless, even to the point of lacking that minimal form of defence consisting in the poignant power of a newborn baby's cries and tears. The unborn child is totally entrusted to the protection and care of the woman carrying him or her in the womb."
{Pope John Paul II ~ Evangelium Vitae}

"Being unwanted is the worst disease that a human being can ever experience." ~ "Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion."
{Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta}

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No Such Thing As A Small Murder

"The duty to respect the dignity of each human being, in whose nature the image of the Creator is reflected, means in consequence that the person can not be disposed of at will. As far as the right to life is concerned, we must denounce its widespread violation in our society: alongside the victims of armed
conflicts, terrorism and the different forms of violence, there are the silent deaths caused by hunger, abortion, experimentation on human embryos and euthanasia.
How can we fail to see in all this an attack on peace? Abortion and embryonic experimentation constitute a direct denial of that attitude of acceptance of others which is indispensable for establishing lasting relationships of peace." Pope Benedict 16

March For Life 2007

Here is some news and pics regarding yesterday's March in Washington. From my perspective, the crowd seemed even larger than previous years but there was scant reporting in the media.
The speeches on the Mall were encouraging and to be in a sea of people all committed to the same goal was amazing.

Over the next day or so, I will put together some thoughts on the March but I continue to be impressed with the unity of Christians that is exhibited there. Even non-Christians have united and during one speech we were exhorted by Rabbi Levin, an orthodox Jew, to support Pope Benedict because he is a man with moral courage and a leader in the culture of life. I was blown away by that! This was a thoroughly ecumenical event and the speakers were from Orthodox, Catholic, Jewish and Protestant denominations.

An African American pastor exhorted African Americans to stand up against abortion because it was the leading cause of death in African Americans, but goes unnoticed by the Congressional Black Caucus. He made the point that if Martin Luther King's parents had aborted him, the landscape of civil rights for African Americans would be vastly different today.

I had the opportunity to meet Marcus Grodi of EWTN's Journey Home as well as Terry Schiavo's brother Michael. I met a community of Franciscan brothers who spend their days speaking out for the care of the frail elderly and the disabled. They are speaking out against euthanasia and care rationing and supported the Schiavo family during the time of her murder.

Thanks for all the prayers. More to come.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Bride of Christ : The Church

Sacred Scripture tell us that the Church is the Bride of Christ.
Eph. 5:27 "…Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for it that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish."

When we are invited to a wedding by our best friend the groom, we bring gifts and good wishes to the bride as well. Often we don't know the bride if we had been friends with the groom alone. So regardless of how comely she is (or isn't as the case may be) we rejoice in his good fortune for finding the love of his life. I wouldn't dare say to my good friend, "Your wife is certainly pleasant, old chap, but perhaps she could lose a bit of weight, or perhaps she should consider a nose job, or elocution lessons." I wouldn't be surprised if the bridegroom gave me a nose-job without anesthesia for speaking so boldly regarding his precious bride that he has given all to wed.

When I came to the Catholic Church, I felt that I had known the groom very well but had never come to know his bride at all. As a matter of truth, when I accepted Christ as Savior in my 2nd conversion experience (my first was my infant baptism) , I had found Jesus in a new way, but alas, I lost his bride, the Church. Now after re-discovering the Catholic Church, I need to get to know her better and accept her, not in part, but in whole, because she is the Bride that He gave His life for and continues to be manifested in via the Mass, the Sacred Scripture, the Magisterium and the faithful.
Does she always smell good to me? Does she always meet my expectations for what I think she should be? Should I make suggestions to the Bridegroom regarding how to "dress her up" a bit? Can I just take the parts of her I like and benefit from and criticize the aspects that I don't?
Like it or not, when I reverted to Catholicism, I said to Jesus, "Ok, ok, I give up my rights to decide what your Church should look like and who should belong in it, as well as who should lead it." I agreed to accept His bride and get to know her and submit to her , or my will to Him, through her, if that makes better sense.

Now, with that being said, it doesn't mean that I should not attempt to participate in reform of the Church and cleaning up of the parts that have gotten kinda' stinky. I can't look at the bride with "rose-colored" glasses believing all is perfect and already without wrinkle or spot. But perhaps, I can ask Jesus to help me see His bride from His perspective. Perhaps I can ask him to help me love the Church the way He truly does. Now, when I get discouraged regarding the state of the Church or the latest scandal or shenanigan, I must remember, this is the self-same Church that He gave His life for. He doesn't pick and choose which Mass and which Church He will become truly present in, regardless of the heterodoxy. If the Eucharist is validly consecrated, then He is there, body, soul and Divinity, regardless of the situation that surrounds Him. If He is willing to still humble Himself and present himself for His bride, who am I to cast aspersions on her?

St. Catherine of Sienna; you were willing to submit yourself to Christ's bride in a difficult time in her history. I ask that you intercede for me to the Lord that I may see her as He wants me to. That He will give me a heart to know and love her as He does.
St. Pio; You experienced much pain and sorrow from the decisions made by the Church, yet never spoke against her. Intercede for me, that I may have the same mind as you towards the Bride of Christ.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

I Want To Live

"Wake Up America"

Fr. Corapi

Discovery, Immense and Late.

Catholic convert Rob Evans (Donut Man) calls his "conversion" to Catholicism more of a "discovery" of Catholicism. His blog called Late For Supper reflects that. Other converts too have described their conversion as a sense of joyful, immense and late discovery. It may be unfair of us convert/reverts to use the term "conversion" only because it denigrates our previous life experience as if they were invalid. Perhaps, the idea of discovering Catholicism may be more accurate as The D-Man says:

"I didn’t convert to Catholicism, I discovered Catholicism. The word “converted” I wear reluctantly only because it communicates, and it’s an accepted part of Catholic culture."

Malcolm Muggeridge (British writer/social commentator and late-life convert at 79 years of age)

"Our entry into the Church is settled, which gives me, not so much exhilaration as a deep peace; to quote my own words: A sense of homecoming, of picking up the threads of a lost life, of responding to a bell that had long been ringing, of taking a place at a table that had long been vacant."

St. Augustine

"Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you."

Lastly, an unknown late life discoverer/convert:

"If all this is really true (Real Presence, Apostolic succession etc.) I am going to be so PO'd ."

Tiber Jumper April of 2004
(After Reading Steve Ray's Crossing the Tiber)

The Cross of Christ; An Eternal Paradox

An older gentleman in our pro-life group gave me The Medal Crucifix of St. Benedict pictured above. It's a fairly large crucifix being 3 " X 1.75". He said, "you don't have to wear it like I do but I would like you to have it, I got it in Rome." When I first accepted Jesus as my Savior as a 14 year old, I wore a large wooden crucifix all summer long. It had been in my family for years and no one ever wore it because of its size. Once I learned why Christians shouldn't wear the crucifix (Because, I was told that Jesus rose from the dead) , I took it off, never to wear one again.

Thirty four summers have come and gone since that young teenager took off the crucifix but now I long to have the crucifix as close to me as possible. I keep this little St. Benedict crucifix on my bedside table and it's the first thing I see as I fumble for my glasses in the morning and the last thing I see as I turn out the light at night.
This morning as I once again pondered the crucifix at my bedside I was struck with this thought:
The eternal, omnipotent creator God who can never be limited by time and space or our own finite intellect, allowed himself to be subjected to the ultimate limitation of being bound by nails to a wooden cross at a fixed point in time in the history of man.
The crucifix reminds me of this eternal paradox.

Friday, January 19, 2007

March For Life

On Monday, we head to Washington DC for the 34th annual March for Life . This will be my 3rd year but my wife had gone before her conversion as well. She had always been a pro-life organizer in our other churches. I too was always "pro-life" but have been more impressed with the need to be more "pro-active" since returning to the Catholic Church.
The March for Life is a time to see the Church Universal(all who proclaim Christ) in all its colors, flavors and expressions. As we march towards the Supreme Court in prayer, both silent and vocal, we are arm-in-arm with a "cloud of witnesses" the likes of which we won't see again until the other side of this veil. There are Sisters, and Friars wearing sandals and robes in sub-freezing temperatures! There are Catholic and Orthodox priests, Protestant pastors, Catholic and Evangelical college students and high school students marching together. It is not an angry, seething mob, but a mass of believers with one mind and purpose. There is a palpable sense of grace in the air and the unity of all Christians is displayed. For a brief moment one day a year, we join together, regardless of doctrinal differences, to combat the greatest evil of our age, the killing of the unborn.
If you can't make it to DC on Monday, please spend some time in prayer for an end to the holocaust. You can watch the March all day on EWTN.

These Life Principles express the ideals motivating pro-life Americans and indicate the purpose of the MARCH FOR LIFE:

  • We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all human beings are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among which is the right to life, and
  • Application:
    Realizing that no sound action can grow out of a vacuum of purpose, in 1974 the MARCH FOR LIFE formulated and included in its charter of incorporation, the Life Principles, as shown above. Purposefully, the Life Principles are not framed in the negative tone of "thou shalt not," and are framed in the positive tone of duty and responsibility of each human being and of society. The Life Principles are set in the context of our Declaration of Independence—that the right to life is inalienable and endowed by our Creator. If this basic right is weakened, all other rights are meaningless, as disparagement of the value and dignity of human beings will then permeate our society's mentality and the Laws of our Land—contrary to our common good.
  • The right to life of each human being shall be presented and protected by every human being in the society and by the society as a whole, and
  • Application:
    It is the duty of each individual and of society operating through its laws to provide protection for each member of the society. This follows the basic homicide laws of the common law that society protects a member from assault and death.
  • The life of each human being shall be preserved and protected from that human being's biological beginning when the Father's sperm fertilizes the Mother's ovum, and
  • Application:
    The protection shall extend from the beginning of each human being's life—acknowledged to be when the father's sperm fertilizes the mother's ovum—and throughout the natural continuum of that human being's life.
  • The life of each human being shall be preserved and protected from the biological beginning throughout the natural continuum of the human being's life by all available ordinary means and reasonable efforts, and
  • Application:
    All available ordinary means and reasonable efforts shall be used to preserve and protect human life. This would be determined on a case-by-case basis; it is ordinary in our practice of law to consider the facts of each case.
  • The life of each human being shall be preserved and protected at each stage of the life continuum to the same extent as at each and every other stage regardless of state of health or condition of dependency, and
  • Application:
    No value distinction may be made in determining the worth and dignity of any human being. Thus, the life of an individual as a preborn child shall be preserved and protected to the same extent as at any other stage of that individual's life, whether infant, teenager, or aged.
  • The life of each human being shall be preserved and protected to the same extent as the life of each and every other human being regardless of state of health or condition of dependency, and
  • Application:
    Similarly, no value distinction shall be made between the value of the life of one individual and of another; the life of a preborn child shall be preserved and protected to the same extent as the life of, e.g., an infant, a young adult or a middle-aged prominent national figure. In summary, each human being's life shall be preserved and protected, using all available ordinary means and reasonable efforts, without regard to whose life it is "better" to presence and protect. There can be no exceptions.
  • When there is any doubt that there exists a human being's life to preserve and protect, such doubt shall be resolved In favor of the existence of a human being, and
  • Application:
    If there is any doubt whether or not a human being exists, then society and any individual resolves that doubt in favor of action which will preserve and protect a human life. A woman unsure of whether she is pregnant, for instance, would not use an abortifacient, which could kill her preborn child who may be in her womb. This follows the simple practice that one does not shoot a bullet into a blind area which may be occupied by a human being.
  • When two or more human beings are in a situation in which their lives are mutually endangered, all available ordinary means and reasonable efforts shall be used to preserve and to protect the life of each and every human being so endangered.
  • Application:
    If the lives of two human beings are mutually endangered, use all available ordinary means and reasonable efforts to preserve and protect the life of each and every human being so endangered. Even with these efforts and means, one human being's life may be lost, or all may be lost. But, the guiding principles are that no innocent human may be intentionally killed in an effort to save another human, and that it shall not be predetermined by law that one human life may be sacrificed to save the life of another human. Any decision about who may be saved must be made on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration the total circumstances, and trying to save as many humans as possible. With respect to a difficult pregnancy, the principle of "equal care for both the pregnant mother and her preborn child" is well established. Although a pregnant mother and/or her preborn child may die, there is no justification in the law of God or man for the intentional killing of even one innocent born or preborn human in existence at fertilization. NO EXCEPTION! NO COMPROMISE!
  • WHEREFORE, Pursuant To These Principles, we recommend and urge the adoption of a Mandatory HUMAN LIFE AMENDMENT to the Constitution of the United States of America.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

St. Anthony of Egypt, A Real Radical

Today, the Church celebrates the life of St. Anthony of Egypt (251-356, also known as St. Anthony the Abbot), who was never afraid to accept the radical challenges of the Gospel message. When Anthony heard Matthew 19:21 proclaimed in church ("If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me"), he did exactly that, giving everything away to live in solitude as a Christian hermit. Until his death at the age of 105, he continued to challenge himself to go one step further to grow in his faith.

In the words of St. Athanasius, who wrote St. Anthony's biography, "Anthony was not known for his writings nor for his worldly wisdom, nor for any art, but simply for his reverence toward God."

St. Anthony, pray that I may have the courage to be radical in my faith .

From Our Sunday Visitor

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Shroud of Turning

Thanks so much for this photo RECON

The Angelus and The Rhythm of Life

Last Sunday evening I had an opportunity to have dinner with a new convert and his wife. We talked about the blessing of daily Mass, and all agreed how becoming Catholic has provided a new rhythm to our lives. Receiving Our Daily Bread has become a focal point of the day and for me is also a quiet time to pray, reflect, confess and receive.

God has made us to be rhythmic creatures and medical science has recognized the circadian rhythm that is programmed into our physiology. Therefore, it is no surprise that cyclic daily devotions are a part of all religions, not just the Judeo-Christian faiths. The Church has always had specific times of the day set aside for devotions since the early days. This is based on the Jewish devotional practices of praying morning, noon and evening prayers. The apostles met together in the Book of Acts to continue to carry out these prayer times at the third sixth and ninth hour. (Acts 10:3, 9, 16:25)

Later on in the life of the Church the monastic communities developed the Liturgy of the Hours and to this day priests and deacons and religious continue to observe the Divine Office of prayer. This usually consists of a reading from Psalms, with a responsorial, a reflection on the feast day of the saint as well as the gospel reading for the day along with specific prayer intentions.

The Angelus prayer pictured above can be traced back to the 14th century. It was prayed three times a day at the ringing of the Church bells reminding the faithful to stop everything for morning, noon and night prayers. Would that we all had some reminder during the day to take a few moments three times daily to turn our hearts towards Christ. I don't view it as legalistic but a beautiful way the Church takes advantage of the circadian nature of His creation.

When I first went into medical practice and was decorating the waiting room of my office, I bought the Angelus painting above at an art store. I loved the simple beauty of devotion this young couple displayed as they paused in the field to pray. It wasn’t until years later and after my conversion that I found out the young couple was praying the Angelus devotion and this was an ancient Catholic devotion.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Life Without Jesus is Like a Donut ,Catholic-Style!

Today my wife and I had the joy of going to a Donut Man concert at a nearby parish. ( I have blogged on his conversion before) Years ago, our young children spent hours listening to Donut Man's cassette tapes and he was the equivalent of an evangelical Christian "Raffi." His CD's and videos have sold millions world-wide and he has been a fixture in the evangelical kid's ministry for the past 20 years. This past Easter, he and his wife crossed the Tiber and were received into the Catholic Church. Quite a jump in hyperspace for an independent evangelical I would say! When I asked him how and why he converted, he mentioned reading Thomas Aquinas which he found in a bookstore as well as a devotional by John Paul 2. He mentioned John 6 and Jesus' teaching on the Eucharist. He said he no longer had to play "twister with Scripture" when he read the Bible.

His message was beautiful and captivating and he had the entire sanctuary jumping up and down singing Hosannah! For a second I thought I was in my old charismatic church except this was St. Isidore's complete with a large crucifix at the center and wonderful statuary and fonts full of holy water. To be sure, the priest did take Jesus out of the tabernacle so Donut Man would not punctuate his performance with genuflections each time he crossed in front of the tabernacle!

Rob Evan's (Donut Man) message was clear: "I love the Church, I love Jesus and I love the Bible. This past Easter my wife and I had our first Eucharist!"

He presented the sacraments for the children in a very appealing and understandable way.
He explained the sacrament of confession as Jesus taking the "trash of sin" out of the Donut hole. He explained that we can fill that Donut Hole in our hearts with Jesus in the Eucharist when we feast on Him at Mass.
He explained to the children how Jesus died on the Cross for us and He washes away our sins in baptism.
The fonts of holy water are there to remind us of our baptismal vows:

"When I take a bath, I think about the Lord
And how he washed away my sins, let me tell you more,
"Holy water on my face,
Reminds me of God's love and grace."

God bless you Donut Man as God uses you to energize the young people and help them to see the beauty in the Sacraments!

Bob Jones to Rome

"Our reception (into the Catholic Church) took place in a quiet service one February evening in the crypt of Quarr Abbey church. That night all was harvest. There as the monks sang and we were finally received into full communion, the simple faith of my Mennonite forebears, the Bible Christians' love of the Scriptures and the ancient beauties of Anglicanism were all gathered together and fulfilled in a new and dynamic way."

The full story of Dwight Longenecker's conversion from Independent Bible believer to Anglicanism and finally to Catholicism is here at Holy Spirit Interactive. Many of you have already heard his story in the "Suprised By Truth" series, but this is a nice summary.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

St. Paul's Epistles Support Catholic Doctrines?

The God Fearin Fiddler is on a roll! His latest installment on St. Paul was a very interesting discussion on howSt. Paul's writings on justification are totally compatible with Catholic doctrine. As he points out in his latest treatise, it was the Catholic Church that decided that St. Paul's writings had the "Evangelium" on them. Therefore, why wouldn't they be compatible? Moot point, I suppose, that goes without saying, but we have become so accustomed to having St. Paul's letters used to attack the doctrines of Catholicism that we forget that it was a bunch of Catholic guys (bishops) who included Paul's letters in the canon in the first place!

Let's make the assumption that St. Paul's writings to the Romans were in direct contradiction to Catholic teaching on faith and works. Why then did the Church Fathers in the fourth century include them? Why didn't they declare in their discussions that St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans was contradictory to their dogma and label it as a epistle of straw, worthy only to be thrown into the stove for burning? They at least should have relegated his writings to the back of the Bible, so the reader would be given the unspoken impression that it was just an addendum to Holy Scripture and not meant to be a part of the original canon.
Going one step further with this entirely illogical construct, one could wonder why the Counter-Reformation Council of Trent didn't take Romans right the heck out of the Canon, infallibly stating "it was a mistake to have included it earlier and shouldn't be in there."
Enough of the silliness, my point is to echo what the Fiddler states in his blog, St. Paul's writings are God's word to us and help us to understand Catholic teaching when "rightly divided."

"And so Paul, Christ and the Catholic Church all teach in unison, obedience is necessary. You will be held responsible for every sin you commit. Only by Christ can you be freed from these sins. That is the doctrine of the Church. This is what Paul preached and that is what the Church shall continue to preach until Christ returns. Amen" God Fearin' Forum

Friday, January 12, 2007

Smells, Bells and the Book of Kells

Recently, there has been an interest in Celtic Culture spurred on by the Titanic and Braveheart movies and we have the influence of Celts in popular music and the Christian church too. There are numerous "Celtic worship" CD's available (I have several) and for a time, the sure way to score a hit on top 40 radio was to include the plaintive wail of the penny whistle with much reverb added, or the bleating sound of warm air being squeezed from a sheep's bladder under the armpit of a Scotsman. There have even been recent popular Christian books written describing early Celtic Christianity as innovative and vibrant and thoroughly distinct from the Roman Church.

My question is this? Was Celtic Christianity as spread to Ireland by St. Patrick (under authority of Pope Celestine who sent him) truly similar to American evangelical Christianity?
Meaning non-sacramental, independent , and with the Blessed Virgin relegated to a reading in Luke 1 around Christmas time?

The Book of Kells is one of the most famous books in the history of the world and was completed in about 800 AD but may have been started 1-200 hundred years before. It was written in Latin, not to confuse the Celts, but because Latin was the language of scholars in all cultures and therefore was truly a universal way of communicating the written word. The Mass in Latin has been derided as a way of keeping the common man from understanding the gospels, but the reality is it is the language of Roman Culture which at one time ruled the entire ancient world.

The manuscript contains transcriptions of the four Gospels, lavishly illustrated and ornamented. It is the most elaborate manuscript of its kind to survive from the early Middle Ages and most Celtic iconography derives its inspiration from its pages.

The scribes and artists who created the Book were Columban monks who lived in a monastery on the remote island of Iona, off the west coast of Scotland. The monastery was founded late in the sixth century by an Irish monk, St Colm Cille.

At the time the book was produced, Irish monks were renowned throughout the rest of Europe for their work as scribes and illustrators. These Irish monks practiced a monastic life but participated in the sacraments of the Church including the Blessed Sacrament as well as the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Interestingly, when missionaries from the continent came to Ireland, private confession was taken back to the rest of the Catholic Church and was instituted by Rome as the way to receive the sacrament. Prior to this confession and reconciliation was a public affair and the penitents had to confess their sins in front of the entire Church and the penance given often tooks months to perform! (Ouch!) Remembering of course, doing penance is not for the forgiveness of sins, only Jesus can forgive sins through the priest. Penance is making restitution for the temporal consequences of your sin, but I digress.

My main point was that Celtic Christianity was thoroughly Catholic in doctrine though there were definitely some variances which the Church corrected (See my last post)
The photo above is from the Book of Kells. Needless to say, they understood the role of Mary in salvation history. So the next time you hear the plaintive wail of the Northumbrian pipes and your heart waxes warm towards those good old days of Celtic Christianity, remember it was always smells (incense), bells (rung during the Consecration), and the Book of Kells (Gospels)!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Synod of Whitby and Authority of Peter

When missionaries came to the British Isles from the continent under the authority of Rome 200 years after St Patrick died, they found deviations in the way Catholicism was practiced. This was partly due to the shear geographic isolation of the Isles from the Continent and difficulties in maintaining communication with the bishops of Rome. According to some sources, divorce was allowed by the Church and priests were marrying, cutting their hair funny (tonsure), and setting the date for Easter by a different method than had been decided by the Council of Nicea some 300 years before. This lead to a meeting being called between the Northumbrian Church officials and the missionaries from Rome. In 664, the Synod of Whitby was held and the squabbling was ended. The details of this Council were recorded by the Venerable Bede and basically the Celtic Churches agreed to do things the way of Rome.
Why did they back down so easily ? It went back to Jesus giving Peter the "Keys of the Kingdom," the power to bind and loose etc. Is this oppressive and imperialistic? No, this is the way Catholicism promotes unity with unchanging doctrines on faith and morals. Christ established a Church, which Rome happens to be the center of, and the authority He passed on is held by His suucessors there. Did it really matter how they cut their hair or when Easter was celebrated? I don't know, but I post this to show that Christianity in Ireland did not get snuffed out but grew and remained in communion with the Universal Church centered in Rome. These Celtic Christians had devotion to the Virgin Mary, practiced infant baptism and the sacrament of confession. It would be historically incorrect to infer that the Christians in Ireland were practicing a form of Christianity that had not surfaced until after the reformation. The actual synod debate is recorded below:

"You certainly sin if, having heard the decree of the apostolic see, and of the universal Church, and that the same is confirmed by Holy Writ, you refuse to follow them; for, though your fathers were holy, do you think that their small number, in a corner of the remotest island, is to be preferred before the universal Church of Christ throughout the world ? And though that Columba of yours (and, I may say, ours also, if he was Christ's servant) was a holy man and powerful in miracles, yet should he be preferred before the most blessed prince of the apostles, to whom our Lord said, 'Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give up to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven'?"

"When Wilfrid had spoken thus, the king said, "Is it true, Colman, that these words were spoken to Peter by our Lord?" He answered, "It is true, O king!" Then said he, "Can you show any such power given to your Columba?" Colman answered, " None." Then added the king, " Do both of you agree that these words were principally directed to Peter, and that the keys of heaven were given to him by our Lord?' They both answered, , We do." , Then the king concluded "And I also say unto you, that he (Peter) is the doorkeeper, whorl I will not contradict, but will, as far as I know and am able in all things obey his decrees, lest when I come to the gate of the kingdom of heaven there should be none to open them he being my adversary who is proved to have the keys." The king having said this, all present, both great and small gave their assent and, renouncing the more imperfect institution, resolved to conform to that which they found to be better. From Brittannia's British History Department.

Did Christianity then end in Ireland? No, monasteries continued to flourish and the study of Latin which St. Patrick brought himself to Ireland preserved learning and culture for the rest of the European world when Europe was ravaged by the nordic barbarians. To be sure, there is a small extant Celtic Apostolic Church which claims to trace its roots to the original apostles but is not in communion with Rome . History tells us that the Christian Church (AKA Catholic) started by St. Patrick submitted to the authority of Rome and continues there to this day, though sadly has been weakened over the past 30 years due to the clergy sex abuse scandals and increasing secularization of European culture.

When I Survey The Wondrous Crucifix

I posted about sacramentals recently and got to thinking again about the crucifix and how at times it becomes a point of contention between us and non-Catholic believers. Some folks have even said that Catholics have Christ on the crucifix because we think He is still there and didn't rise from the dead! Yet, if that were so we wouldn't celebrate the Resurrection so gloriously on Easter! After all, as St. Paul said, if there was no resurrection, why baptize people on behalf of the dead? (Did St. Paul really say that?)
Needless to say, Catholics believe very much in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and it was the Council of Nicea of the early Catholic Church in 325 AD that decreed "On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven...."
So we have established that Catholics believe Christ rose from the dead and as a Church made sure it was in this fourth century theological "white paper" we call the Creed.
Why the insistence on using a crucifix instead of an empty cross as a symbol of veneration?
The answers hearken back to Scripture and the theology that we derive from Scripture.

I Corinthians 1:23-24 "But we preach Christ crucified: unto the Jews indeed a stumbling block, and unto the Gentiles foolishness: But unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God."

1 Cor 2:2, "For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified."

Rom 6:8 "But if we have died with Christ, we believe we shall also live with him."

Gal 3:1, "O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?"

When I survey the wondrous Crucifix, I not only see the power of God as Paul says, but the love of God as well. His bruised and beaten body hanging on that rough wooden torture stake reminds me of the immense suffering He endured for me. It also is a reminder that on this side of the veil, we will have suffering in our own lives and can add our suffering to His as Paul says in Col 1:24. If my Master and Lord suffered, far be it from me to think that I, His servant, should partake any less in suffering particularly since He asks me to take up my cross and follow Him.

The crucifix reminds me that not only did He redeem me with His suffering but as John Paul 2 says, He redeemed suffering for us. No human suffering we endure is ever in vein, but is used by God for His purposes in our life and the life of others.
So as a Catholic believer, I now have a crucifix within site in almost every room at home, one at my desk at work, one at my bedside and the beautiful one above my bed that I blogged about before. I close with the words of Archbishop Fulton Sheen pointed out to me by This Catholic Journey blogger recently.

Keep your eyes on the crucifix,
for Jesus without the cross
is a man without a mission,
and the cross without Jesus
is a burden without a reliever.

I encourage all believers to keep a crucifix nearby them as a daily physical reminder of what Christ did for us.

A Prayer at Eucharistic Adoration

I adore You, Lord and Creator, hidden in the Most Blessed Sacrament. I adore You for all the works of Your hands, that reveal to me so much wisdom, goodness and mercy, O Lord. You have spread so much beauty over the earth and it tells me about Your beauty, even though these beautiful things are but a faint reflection of You, incomprehensible Beauty. And although You have hidden Yourself and concealed Your beauty, my eye, enlightened by faith, reaches You and my soul recognizes its Creator, its Highest Good, and my heart is completely immersed in prayer of adoration.

My Lord and Creator, Your goodness encourages me to converse with You. Your mercy abolishes the chasm which separates the Creator from the creature. To converse with You, O Lord, is the delight of my heart. In You I find everything that my heart could desire. Here, Your light illumines my mind, enabling it to know You more and more deeply. Here streams of graces flow down upon my heart. Here my soul draws eternal life. O my Lord and Creator, You alone, beyond all these gifts, give Your own self to me and unite Yourself intimately with Your miserable creature.

O Christ, let my greatest delight be to see You loved and Your praise and glory proclaimed, especially the honor of Your mercy. O Christ, let me glorify Your goodness and mercy to the last moment of my life, with every drop of my blood and every beat of my heart. Would that I be transformed into a hymn of adoration of You. When I find myself on my deathbed, may the last beat of my heart be a loving hymn glorifying Your unfathomable mercy. Amen.

By St. Faustina.