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, March 31, 2007

A Christian's Recent Confrontation with Near Death

I am posting this very personal account of my intermittent commenter, Theo, who I asked for prayer for in February due to a "massive" heart attack. Thank the Lord Jesus for hearing our prayers and for the Sacrament of Extreme Unction he received at the hospital. He is home now thankfully (this side of the veil) and wrote this to me to describe the episode.

"Dear Tiber,

I’ve attempted beginning writing this half a dozen times thus far, only to wipe it out and begin again. Every thought I set to paper (OK, “virtual” paper) falls leagues behind the recollection of the actual events. I suppose any retelling (no matter how prosaic) of any great life event pales in comparison to the event itself, or even to its recollection.

As you know, I suffered a heart attack in mid February. My wife got me to the hospital in time (obviously); however, it was a near thing: I was whisked into the ER, where a team of wonderful doctors, nurses and other medical technicians briskly set about saving my life. As a small whirlwind of activity spun around me, I found myself suddenly surprised to realize a few things:

1. Heart attacks hurt! Seriously, I’d not known one could endure such pain and remain conscious. Now, you might think it odd that this surprised me; however, you must keep in mind that I’ve had to endure very little extreme physical suffering through out my life.

2. Suffering and peace are not mutually exclusive experiences. One can experience phenomenal peace even while enduring phenomenal suffering.

It is the latter surprise that I wish to talk about today. I suppose I need to start by describing more of the ordeal.

In the ER. my heart was on track to ripping itself apart, racing at over 180 beats per minute. The pain in my chest radiated over my entire body. Imagine that you somehow managed to swallow a live badger whole and the furious creature was trying to claw its way back out through your midsection, then you sort of get the idea.

As my wife was escorted to the waiting area I was barely aware of the medical staff removing my clothes.

I think it was around this time that I noticed that I’d not experienced fear or anxiety throughout the whole ordeal thus far. It was not that I was confident in my recovery. In fact, things looked bleak. I’d recently heard that about 70% of all heart-attack victims do not survive their first event. Yes, it could be that endorphins had kicked in: that my body was shielding my mind through God-ordained natural chemistry and shock; or it could have been a peace that “passes all understanding.” Whatever the cause (and I believe it was the latter), I realized with amazing clarity that regardless of whether I lived or died, all was well (or at least, all would be well).

At the same time I also felt deep sorrow at the prospect of my children growing up fatherless; however, I also realized that many children grow up and flourish in spite of such losses, especially when they’ve already set out upon the right path.

Even as these thoughts pooled into a genuine oasis of peace in a parched land of suffering, a man leaned over me, speaking quietly.

“I’m Father C---, a Catholic Priest,” he said. “Do you have anything to confess?” I focused on his calm face. He smiled as if we had all the time in the world.

“Yes, Father,” I answered. Then after a pause of less than a full second, I began, “Bless me Father for I have sinned. It’s been five weeks since my last confession…” I was unable to make the sign of the cross. I was weak as an infant.

Above, I mentioned the slight pause because something extraordinary happened within that gap of mere milliseconds. Usually I must dig deeply to disabuse myself of my own self deceits. Yet in this instance I saw my condition with (I believe) remarkable clarity. Within an instant, I felt my heart laid bare. The choice was mine to heed or ignore God’s call to ongoing repentance.

Father C--- then heard my confession which poured from my mouth with a concision that even the most casual observer will note I usually lack. He conferred absolution, then administered the sacraments of the Holy Eucharist and the Anointing of the Sick--Some readers might know the latter as “Extreme Unction” or “Last Rights.”

My entire time with the priest likely totaled less than three minutes. Yet, if I had peace before, I now also had something more akin to joy in knowing that I might soon and very soon be heading to my true home.

As the priest left my side, the pain continued building and I lost consciousness.

To the best of my recollection, I experienced nothing until waking up in the intensive cardiac unit many hours later. I soon learned that the extreme pain I now was feeling in my chest was not because I was still having a heart attack, but a side effect of the two electrical shocks delivered to revive me. I had stopped breathing and my heart stopped after the first shock; however, the second did the trick.

It wasn’t long until I realized that I’d been surprised to discover I’d realized a third truth (Remember: 1: Heart attacks hurt. 2: Suffering and peace are not mutually exclusive experiences.), to wit: 3: God is good.

Most Christians (I hope) will deem this a “given,” yet for me, I had not previously realized that I didn’t get it. You see, I’ve always struggled with the philosophical question of the problem of pain in Christianity.

One tends to ask how an infinitely powerful and infinitely good God can allow innocent suffering, knowing that many of us finite beings would do whatever we could to eliminate it. Though I’d never admitted it, this question (whose answer still remains beyond me) was for me a statement of no confidence in God Himself. In my heart I questioned God’s goodness; yet now, having suffered and been close to death, I realize that suffering does not preclude God’s goodness. Then again, how could it when He Himself chose to use His own Son’s suffering for our redemption?

That’s all for now.

March 29, 2007 6:43 PM"

God bless Theo for sharing his story(please keep him in your prayers). We serve a great God who promises to never leave us or forsake us despite the suffering we endure and gives us His peace that "passes all understanding." I hope I have the same experience when my time comes to look into the face of eternity.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Room of Tears

This song was on my most recent album, Scarecrow's Lament. I wrote it right after Pope Benedict was elected. I was impressed by his reluctance to be pope yet his obedience to God's call. The room off of the Sistine Chapel where the popes try on their robes before their announcement is called the Room of Tears. There are three different sizes of shoes and cassocks ready for whoever will be the next pope. It is said that each pope breaks into tears when the enormity of the responsibility of apostolic succession hits him.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

JRR Tolkien's Cure for Sagging Faith

"It takes a fantastic will to unbelief to suppose that Jesus never really 'happened', and more to suppose that he did not say the things recorded of him - so incapable of being 'invented' by anyone in the world at that time: such as 'before Abraham came to be I AM', 'He that hath seen me hath seen the Father', or the promulgation of the Blessed Sacrament in John V: "He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life." We must therefore either believe in him and what he said and take the consequences; or reject him and take the consequences. I find it for myself difficult to believe that anyone who has ever been to Communion, even once, with at least right intention, can ever again reject Him without grave blame. (However, he alone knows each unique soul and its circumstances.)

The only cure for sagging faith is Communion. Though always Itself, perfect and complete and inviolate, the Blessed Sacrament does not operate completely and for once in any of us. Like the act of faith it must be continuous and grow by exercise. Frequency is of the highest effect. Seven times a week is more nourishing than seven times at intervals.
I myself am convinced by the Petrine claims, nor looking around the world does there seem to be much doubt which (if Christianity is true) is the True Church, the temple of the Spirit dying but living, corrupt but holy, self-reforming and rearising. But for me that Church of which the Pope is the acknowledged head on earth has as chief claim that it is the one that has (and still does) ever defended the Blessed Sacrament, and given it most honour, and put it (as Christ plainly intended) in the prime place. "Feed my sheep" was His last charge to St. Peter; and since His words are always first to be understood literally, I suppose them to refer primarily to the Bread of Life."

Thanks to Ma Beck for this post.

Why The Stations of The Cross?

After the events of the Crucifixion and Resurrection were accomplished, pilgrims from throughout the ancient world started to stream into Jerusalem to walk the actual steps of our Lord to commemorate His love and passion for our salvation. There is a tradition that Mary daily walked His path to Calvary with tears as she contemplated the suffering of her son.

In the Middle Ages, Jerusalem was under the control of the Saracens and pilgrimages stopped. Therefore, churches began to erect their own replicas of the Stations of the Cross to commemorate His passion. This devotion spread throughout Europe and to this day most, if not all , Catholic Churches have the stations of the cross displayed in the sanctuary for the faithful to pray them. During Lent, many Churches pray the stations of the cross each Friday. I have come to love this beautiful spiritual practice and it has really helped me to appreciate all that Christ has suffered for me. There are 14 stations and each has a prayer and meditation. I have a copy of these that I read at home and keep on my Palm Pilot so I can pray the stations at other times throughout the year.

In addition to this Lenten practice, I never realized that the Catholic Church has always held every Friday(Not just Good Friday) as a day to remember his death and suffering on the Cross. Hence, I have developed the habit of either avoiding meat and/or spending more time in prayer on a Friday as a way of honoring Jesus and drawing closer to Him through small acts of self denial.

Do we pray the stations of the Cross to gain access to heaven or perform a work to make ourselves worthy of His passion and death? God forbid, we could never gain heaven without the redeeming passion of Christ! But why not remember this amazing event of salvation history more than once a year on Good Friday? Why not let the events of the passion seep into our soul and transform us on a regular basis. As a protestant, I gave thought to the passion particularly around Easter, but now as a Catholic I am daily brought to the passion of Christ in Mass and each Friday remember His death and each Sunday, His resurrection! (One more time, if you are new to this blog, Catholics don't believe Christ is recrucified in each Mass, but his sacrifice is re-presented as the early church practiced )

So why the stations?

"The purpose of the stations of the cross is to remind us of the effects of sin and the salvation won for us through the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus. As we meditate on the Stations, we are moved to renounce sin and to accept Jesus as our Savior. "

Here is the Second Station:

Jesus Carries His Heavy Cross

V. We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee.
R. Because by Thy Holy Cross, Thou hast redeemed the world.

Consider how Jesus, in making this journey with the Cross on His shoulders thought of us, and for us offered to His Father the death that He was about to undergo.


My most beloved Jesus, I embrace all the tribulations You have destined for me until death. I beseech You, by the merits of the pain You did suffer in carrying Your Cross, to give me the necessary help to carry mine with perfect patience and resignation. I love You, Jesus my love; I repent of having offended You. Never permit me to separate myself from You again. Grant the I may love You always; and then do with me what You will.

Thank you Jesus for giving us the stations as a way to grow closer to you by walking with you through your passion and death.

Check out the stations here.

Check out Mystery of Suffering Blog for her Stations

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Is There Wiggle Room for Head Coverings and Baptism?

I recently spent 10 days with a group of evangelical missionaries on my medical mission to Haiti. One day, the topic of baptism came up. There was at least 6 differing opinions regarding the significance and meaning of baptism from the different folks who contributed to the conversation. Even more interesting, yet sad, was that these folks were from the same church and yet did not hold to the the same uniform doctrine regarding baptism.

At one point I asked if anyone thought that baptism was necessary for salvation? Interesting that now they were all in agreement that baptism had nothing to do with salvation! So despite the disparate views of baptism, an act of obedience, a sign of an inward work, etc, all agreed that it had no bearing on salvation. The discussion then lead to comments about Catholics baptizing dead babies and weird rituals that someone's Catholic grandma had told them about. I declined to put my two cents in at this point seeing the "cath bash" commence.

Christ promised to send us the Holy Spirit to lead us in all truth. Did He really grant that we could/should develop our own disparate views of important Christian doctrines? Particularly something as important as baptism? Did Jesus really truly think it would be acceptable to hold complete opposite views regarding key theological constructs? The first 1500 years of Christianity held essentially one view of the meaning and purpose of baptism. Not until the casting off of sacramental theology did we see baptism become symbolic. Or, did the early Church fathers get this doctrine wrong as it was passed on from the apostles? It then took over 1500 years for the Holy Spirit to finally crack the hard heart of man to be open to God's truth and return us to the correct interpretation?

I once asked a pastor how I should decide what to believe regarding essential doctrines. He instructed me to get 3 or 4 good Scripture commentaries and prayerfully pick one that I agree with the most. I am sorry, but I can't see that as being what Christ intended as a method of finding Truth regarding an essential doctrine. What if Christ really intended us to be born again through the waters of baptism but we insisted that it was just a symbolic act of obedience? Wouldn't that be an awfully big mistake to make? What if when Peter said "the waters of baptism doth save you," he really meant it literally and not just symbolically?

This is not a non-essential concept that we can just pray about and choose what we believe! We are talking about salvation here and I don't think there should be a particularly large amount of wiggle room, as if we were discussing whether women should wear head coverings in Church.(no offense ladies) If the Bible was intended to be our "go to" book to solve all doctrinal disagreements, why doesn't it seem to work out that way in practice?

Jesus, By your Holy Spirit, lead us in All Truth.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

12 Myths Every Catholic Should Be Able To Answer

Deal Hudson, former baptist minister has a nice piece on the 12 "Myths."
Check this out if you haven't seen them yet.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

"Stained Glass Windows" FREE MP3

Here's the first song I wrote after returning to the Church in the Spring of 2004. I finally realized just how beautiful this Church was that I left before I ever understood it. It has literally been as if a veil has been lifted from the "eyes of my heart." I am ever grateful to God for continuing to pour out His grace on me and draw me closer to Him, in ways that I never would have suspected.

Please feel free to download, rip and burn it.

Here's the link; TiberJumper Musik

Saturday, March 17, 2007

"What Evangelicals Owe Catholics: An Appreciation"

by Joe Carter ( Evangelical Outpost Blog)

"As a child I had almost no direct contact with Catholicism. My family attended a small backwoods fundamentalist congregation -- The First Church of Hellfire and Damnation, or something to that effect -- and the preacher would often mention the Pope and Catholicism in one of his “Identifying the Antichrist" sermons. The Antichrist was hard to pin down and his identity invariably rotated between one of the select “heathen" groups: Chinese communists, the Russians, secular humanists, New England Senators. The Pope, though, was the favored candidate for ushering in the End of Days. And the “Whore of Babylon” was indisputably the Catholic Church.

This Jack Chick-style anti-Catholic bias was regrettably prevalent in rural Texas during my childhood. Fortunately, it never took root and as I grew up, I became more intrigued by both John Paul II and the Catholic Church. Over the years I’ve engaged more directly with Catholics and the teachings of the RC Church and my admiration and appreciation continues to grow.

Indeed, I’m often amazed when I consider how my thinking is shaped by Catholic social thought, the Just War tradition, and Natural Law theory. Although I do not always find myself in complete agreement, the Catholic perspective often causes me to rethink my views on such matters as contraception, IVF, just wages, and the death penalty.

As attached as I am to my own theological traditions (Reformed, Baptist, evangelical) there are many issues where they have historically come up short. In fact, I would argue that there are dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of areas in which we evangelicals should acknowledge a debt owed to our Catholic brothers and sisters.

Consider, for instance, three areas in which our fellow Christians within the Catholic faith have led the way:

On Mary, the mother of God -- Many evangelicals suffer from a mild case of Maryphobia - the fear that any appreciation of Mary will be viewed as a sign that we’re closet Catholics. Oddly, while we are quick to defend the virgin birth, we are often hesitant to praise the virgin mother. Even during Christmas we often pay more attention to the magi than we do to the woman who gave birth to our Savior.

Our complete renunciation of Marian theology, however, often causes me to downplay the importance of Mary herself, indisputably one of the most incredible humans who every lived. How can we not be in awe of this woman when we realize she held God in her womb? Our Catholic friends remind us that Jesus wasn’t just the son of God; He was Mary’s son too.

On the Sanctity of Life -- In a 1971 resolution on abortion, the Southern Baptist Convention resolved that “society has a responsibility to affirm through the laws of the state a high view of the sanctity of human life, including fetal life.” The largest Protestant denomination in America had a peculiar definition of “sanctity of human life”, however, for the very next sentence called upon Southern Baptists to “work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion” under such conditions as “fetal deformity” and damage to the “emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.” Three years later—and two years after Roe codified this position—the SBC reaffirmed the resolution. It wasn’t until 1980 that the SBC finally condemned abortion as a grave evil, a position that has always been maintained by the Catholic Church.

For nearly thirty years, evangelicals have been working to catch up to our Catholic brothers and sisters on issues of the sanctity of life. Even today, the Catholic Church is more consistent in its application. Sadly, many evangelicals are willing to turn a blind eye to embryo destruction when it occurs for purposes of in vitro fertilization or for biomedical research. We still have much to learn from the Catholics about how to respect the life that God has created.

Ecclesiology -- One of the first principles of Reformed ecclesiology is that there is but one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. Because this principle is difficult to square with the existence 10,000+ different Protestant denominations, we claim that this refers only to the invisible church. But what about the church that is visible? After all, it is Jesus desire to “gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.” (John 11:51-52)

Although the split with the Catholic Church was tragically necessary, the reconciliation into one visible body should be an ecclesiological goal. In this area Catholics have often taken the lead in imparting a spirit of ecumenism. Documents such as Ut unum sint reflect the seriousness which Catholics approach the “call for Christian unity.”

Such unity, of course, must be predicated on acceptance of Biblical truths. Evangelicals can never abandon our commitment to such doctrines as sola fide (salvation by faith alone) in order to achieve consensus. We should, however, be constantly praying that the Spirit will reconcile the invisible church into one holy, catholic, apostolic, and visible Body of Christ.

Unlike Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, Sen. Sam Brownback, and Professor Steve Bainbridge, I won’t be crossing the Tiber. Because the theological differences I have with Catholicism are deep-rooted and currently* irresolvable, I’ll remain an unabashedly Reformed evangelical. Yet I, like many evangelicals, have a deep love, respect, and admiration for my fellow believers in the Catholic Church. However much we might disagree, we evangelicals owe them a debt of gratitude for being co-belligerents, fellow servants, and exemplars of the faith."

*Tiber's Comment here: Thanks Mr. Carter for the kind words towards the Church! I am glad you used the word "currently". Things can and do change. The waters of the Tiber are warmer and more comfortable than one thinks. My advice is stay away from the banks of the river because you are liable to fall in! Traipsing along the river and looking kindly towards Rome has caused many others lesser and greater than yourself to end up crossing over before they realized what was happening.

"It is impossible to be just to the Catholic Church. The moment a man ceases to pull against it he feels a tug towards it. The moment he ceases to shout it down he begins to listen to it with pleasure. The moment he tries to be fair to it he begins to be fond of it." GK Chesterton 1926

Friday, March 16, 2007

A Child's Catechism and The Sacrament of Baptism

"1) My child, are you a Christian in fact as well as in name?

Yes, my father.

2) How is this known to you?

Because I am baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

3) How did you come into this communion of the church?

Through baptism.

4) What is this baptism?

It is the washing of regeneration and cleansing from sin."*

God uses the “stuff of earth” in which to apply His grace. As I have emphasized before, Christ applies his death for the forgiveness of our sins through the waters of baptism. For those of my readers who insist that sacraments are "useless inventions of man" (or a treadmill of sacramentalism) maybe this quote will be helpful to bring understanding:

“God uses means and instruments which he himself sees to be expedient, that all things may serve his glory, since he is Lord and Judge of all. He feeds our bodies through bread and other foods, he illumines the world through the sun, and he warms it through heat; yet neither bread, nor sun, nor fire, is anything save in so far as he distributes his blessings to us by these instruments. In like manner, he nourishes faith spiritually through the sacraments...”

There you have it! Sacramental theology in a nutshell. I couldn’t have said it better myself. Thanks Mr. Calvin for your Catechism for Children* and your most excellent view of the sacraments. Sometimes I think he never really left the Catholic Church! It must have been the grace of God working through that Romish infant baptism of his. Like my dear Catholic Mom used to say to me after I left the Church “Once a Catholic, always a Catholic!” It turns out she was right.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

When historians and students of ancient history wish to learn about the beliefs and practices of a particular culture or people group, where do they turn? The best method of research is to go back and let the ancient voices speak for themselves through the writings that have been left for us. How do we know what ancient Romans believed? How have we come to understand so much about their politics, beliefs and cultural mores? Through studying the writings of their politicians, philosophers and historians.

In a similar way, students of ancient Christianity learn about the beliefs and practices of the early Christians by reading materials written by the original historians, church leaders and theologians who lived during those New Testament times. The New Testament Scriptures were not given for the express purpose of being the only source of historical data for that time period. Therefore it is intellectually imperative to seek sources outside of Scripture to gain a better appreciation for how these early believers practiced the new culture of Christianity. Just because a historical source was not included in the canon by the Church in the fourth century does not rule out its usefulness in learning more about the practices of these first and second generation disciples. An example is the Creed written in 325 AD. Is it unimportant and not to be studied because it is not canonical? To get an idea of what the early Church believed would it really be appropriate to skip over the Creed in our research?

Regardless of our personnel 21st century theological beliefs, wouldn't we want to know if the new Church baptized infants? Did they use full immersion or sprinkle? What did the first generation of disciples believe was necessary to become a member of the first church? How did they celebrate the Lord's supper in 70 AD? The New Testament alone would not provide historical researchers everything they needed to know about the practices of this early group of believers since the New Testament was not given to us by God to be the sole source of early church history. As a matter of fact, most of the letters included in the New Testament were written with the intention to exhort, encourage or correct an abuse or budding heresy. So there exists the very real possibility that the writers of the New Testament did not set out to create an "Official Handbook of the First Christians."
To be sure these letters are recognized by the Church as the Word of God, but the writers didn't intend to spell out all that there was to know about the new church.

Analogous to Christianity, theologians of ancient Judaism do not limit their research to the books of the Old Testament alone to learn about Jewish religious and cultural practices. Would it therefore be academically honest for modern day researchers, theologians and Christian laymen (like myself) to limit their study of the early church to the New Testament alone?

Oftentimes, history is the best defense for Catholicism. Despite the attacks on sacramental theology, the writings of the early Church Fathers remain with us, and for some, pose An Inconvenient Truth. Though they are not canonical, they provide a snapshot of the early Christians' belief and practices which were unequivocally sacramental.

To quote myself :
"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. You must conclude therefore that Christ's promise that the Gates of Hell would not prevail only held true for the first generation of apostles before 70 AD.

Here are just a few of these "Inconvenient Truths"

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])

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]).

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]).

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]).

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).

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Father Groeschel Returns to the Lehigh Valley

Father Benedict Groeschel, founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, renowned clinical psychologist, author and speaker will be coming to Bethlehem, PA March 20th at 7 PM at St. Anne's Church on East Washington Street. Trained in clinical psychology with a PhD from Columbia University he will be speaking on Christian Psychology. I have heard him speak in the past both live and on EWTN and he is always a blessing. If you are near eastern PA, it will be worth the trip. (I have a sneaking suspicion he will be a Saint someday!)

Monday, March 12, 2007

Photos From Port Au Prince, Haiti

Bougainvillea blossoms
Shiloh Baptist in Delmas, Port-Au -Prince where the clinics were held. Open air worship year round.
The marketplace
Little boys looking through the window of the clinic hoping for some attention.
My "exam room" in the "clinic."
The Mother of God is honored in Haiti in a "Mary Garden". (I didn't catch anyone worshiping her!) Maybe the camera scared'm off.
Open Sewers In Close Proximity to Houses
Walking back from the clinic you can see the mountains of Haiti. They have a proverb: "In Haiti, there are mountains beyond mountains." Which means, beyond one obstacle, there is just another one.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Jewel of the Caribbean FREE MP3 Download

This is a song I wrote to honor the brothers and sisters of Haiti. You can see why Haiti was once considered the "Jewel of The Caribbean." Feel free to download the song and each time you listen to it, you can offer up a prayer for the "least of these."

Desperate for You

On my trip to Haiti, I went with the team from my former evangelical church that I had attended before my conversion/reversion to Catholicism. As a result, I knew I wouldn't be going to Mass daily nor on the Lord's Day, though there were two Catholic Churches a few miles from our compound. I had "scouted them out" before I left the states, in the hopes of going but due to the ongoing security issues, kidnappings, etc., it would not be safe for myself and the only other Catholic on the team to attend Mass.

So, I spent ten days without the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Talk about fasting during Lent! I couldn't wait to go to Mass when I got back. I absorbed every aspect of the Mass this morning relishing every word, gesture and grace flowing through the Liturgy of the Word and Eucharist. Even just to dip my hand in the Holy Water at the entrance and make the sign of the Cross with a quick prayer was so precious to me. I silently wept after I went up to receive the Body and Precious Blood of my Lord and God. I didn't realize how much I missed Jesus in the Bread of Life.

Yes, Jesus was with us at every step on our trip, in His word that I read daily, the other Christians I was gathered with, and especially in the "least of these" we cared for, but it was not quite the same as receiving Him in the precious Blessed Sacrament. I wondered how I lived so long without His Real Presence, His Holy Presence abiding in me via the Eucharist. Yet, I know that if I never receive Him in the Eucharist again before I die, I would be satisfied having had the chance to partake in the divine nature of God through his Eucharistic presence on this side of the veil. There is a saint who received the Eucharist just twice in her entire life of over 47 years!

During the mission, I lead the singing for the nightly meeting after the clinic. There was only one other Catholic with me so the songs were chosen from the non-denominational church back in the states. One night as we sang "Breathe", I was so desperately longing for Jesus in the Eucharist. I couldn't help but change the words in my mind as we sang. Truly, for Catholics, Jesus is the "air we breathe", the source and summit of our faith as John Paul 2 said. (My apologies to Michael W. Smith who wrote the original beautiful song.)

This is the air I breathe
This is the air I breathe
Your holy presence living in me

This is my daily bread
This is my daily bread
Your very word spoken to me (Your very body given to me)*

And I I'm desperate for you
And I I'm I'm lost without you

This is the air I breathe
This is the air I breathe
Your holy presence living in me

This is my daily bread
this is my daily bread
your very word spoken to me (Your precious blood given to me)*

And I'm, I'm desperate for you
And I'm, I'm lost without you

And I'm desperate for you
And I'm, I'm lost without you.

I'm lost without you.

I'm lost without you.

I'm desperate for you.

*My version of the words

Whatsoever You Do...

"Anvan m' di nou lòt bagay, kite m' di Bondye mèsi pou nou gremesi Jezikri."
"First, I give thanks to my God through Jesus Christ for all of you" ... (Rom 1:8)

Firstly, I want to thank you all so much for your prayers for my recent medical mission in Haiti. We passed through customs in Port Au Prince without having to pay a stiff customs tax (read: bribe) and got all the medicines in safely, by the grace and mercy of Jesus! Despite a bout of dysentery that afflicted most of the team, myself included, we saw over 450 patients in our makeshift clinic. Other than a brief exchange of gunfire we heard one night, we felt safe and ran into absolutely no problems walking the mile to the clinic daily. I will blog more on it over the next few weeks but will continue to keep my posts limited during Lent as I promised.
My wife, Prodigal Daughter, accompanied me on a previous trip to Port -Au -Prince and wrote this poem based on our experience. I would like to share it with you.

"I Saw the Face of Jesus"
Today I saw the face of Jesus in a woman with abdominal pain who didn't understand why the pain disappeared when she ate. As the doctor prescribed antacids and gave her money for some food, I remembered the Scripture "I was hungry and you gave me something to eat."
In her, I saw the face of Jesus and prayed.

I saw the face of Jesus in a young woman with malaria who could not afford the medicine so she came to us. As one missionary gave her some of his water to take the first life-saving dose I thought, "I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink."
In that young lady I saw the face of Jesus and gave thanks.

I saw the face of Jesus in the smiles of the women who wore the skirts brought down by the missionaries year after year. "I was naked and you clothed me."
In those beautiful women I saw the face of Jesus and rejoiced.

I saw the face of Jesus in the little children who crowded outside the clinic windows with outstretched hands reaching through the iron bars yelling "Hey You!" just waiting for a touch or some kind of response. As I looked into their eyes I thought, "I was a stranger and you invited me in."
In those little ones I saw the face of Jesus and I smiled.

I saw the face of Jesus in a young widow who sat on the crowded bench after she had seen the doctor. There was peace in her eyes as she waited patiently for her medicine and a prayer. I saw the smile on her face as she was given her bag of prescriptions and the humility in her heart as the missionary knelt before her and prayed. "I was sick and you cared for me."
In that young lady I saw the face of Jesus and I worshiped.

I saw the face of Jesus in a frightened little orphan who sat on the bench waiting to be seen by the doctor. When I said "hello" to her she did not smile. She had no Mommy to cling to, no one to reassure her that we were not going to hurt her. She was alone. All I wanted to do was hold her in my arms as I thought "Whosoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me."
In that little girl I saw the face of Jesus and wept.

When the day was over, I heard Jesus say, "It was wonderful to spend the day so close to you. When you touched each one of my children we became as one."
"How can that be Lord?" I asked. He replied, "I tell you the truth. Whatsoever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine you did for me."

May Lent be for every Christian a renewed experience of God's love given to us in Christ, a love that each day we, in turn, must "re-give" to our neighbour, especially to the one who suffers most and is in need.
Pope Benedict XVI

Thank you for your prayers.