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.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Year of St. Paul

Today on the feast of St. Peter and Paul, Pope Benedict has announced this to be the Year of St. Paul. This is the 2000th anniversary of St. Paul's estimated birth around 8 AD. The faithful are encouraged to read, study and pray about the life of St. Paul.
In Mass today, the priest encouraged us all to be "apostolic" in preaching the gospel. He made the point that our life needed to reflect the gospel even more than our words, if we are to be effective in the evangelization of those around us.
Saint Paul did both. He preached Christ crucified, and lived a life completely poured-out(as a libation) for the gospel and eventually was beheaded for his faith. His sarcophagus remains in Rome and can be seen by pilgrims.

Yet despite Saint Paul's tremendous conversion, spirit-filled anointing and ministry, he still knew he had to remain steadfast if he was to receive his prize of salvation at the end of his journey.
I want Paul’s prayer to be mine: “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, THAT IF POSSIBLE I MAY ATTAIN THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD. NOT THAT I HAVE ALREADY OBTAINED THIS OR AM PERFECT; but I press on to make it my own….” Phil 3:8-14.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

St. Irenaeus

Today the Church celebrates the feast day of St. Irenaeus of Lyons. He is one of the early Church Fathers and his writings were very helpful for me to see that the early Christians were Catholic in their beliefs and practices. Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp who was a disciple of the apostle John. He spoke on the Eucharist, apostolic tradition, and particularly against the heretical views of the gnostic movement that was gaining ground in the 2nd century.

Here's some of his writings:

"He took from among creation that which is bread, and gave thanks, saying, ‘This is my body.’ The cup likewise, which is from among the creation to which we belong, he confessed to be his blood. He taught the new sacrifice of the new covenant, of which Malachi, one of the twelve [minor] prophets, had signified beforehand: ‘You do not do my will, says the Lord Almighty, and I will not accept a sacrifice at your hands. For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is glorified among the Gentiles, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure sacrifice; for great is my name among the Gentiles, says the Lord Almighty’ [Mal. 1:10–11]. By these words he makes it plain that the former people will cease to make offerings to God; but that in every place sacrifice will be offered to him, and indeed, a pure one, for his name is glorified among the Gentiles" (Against Heresies 4:17:5 [A.D. 189]).

"If the Lord were from other than the Father, how could he rightly take bread, which is of the same creation as our own, and confess it to be his body and affirm that the mixture in the cup is his blood?" (
Against Heresies 4:33–32 [A.D. 189]).

"He has declared the cup, a part of creation, to be his own blood, from which he causes our blood to flow; and the bread, a part of creation, he has established as his own body, from which he gives increase unto our bodies. When, therefore, the mixed cup [wine and water] and the baked bread receives the Word of God and becomes the Eucharist, the body of Christ, and from these the substance of our flesh is increased and supported, how can they say that the flesh is not capable of receiving the gift of God, which is eternal life—flesh which is nourished by the body and blood of the Lord, and is in fact a member of him?" (ibid., 5:2). "In the Church God has placed apostles, prophets, teachers, and every other working of the Spirit, of whom none of those are sharers who do not conform to the Church, but who defraud themselves of life by an evil mind and even worse way of acting. Where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God; where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church and all grace" (Against Heresies 3:24:1 [A.D. 189]).

"[The spiritual man] shall also judge those who give rise to schisms, who are destitute of the love of God, and who look to their own special advantage rather than to the unity of the Church; and who for trifling reasons, or any kind of reason which occurs to them, cut in pieces and divide the great and glorious body of Christ, and so far as in them lies, destroy it—men who prate of peace while they give rise to war, and do in truth strain out a gnat, but swallow a camel. For they can bring about no reformation of enough importance to compensate for the evil arising from their schism. . . . True knowledge is that which consists in the doctrine of the apostles, and the ancient constitution of the Church throughout all the world, and the distinctive manifestation of the body of Christ according to the successions of the bishops, by which they have handed down that Church which exists in every place [i.e., the Catholic Church]" (ibid., 4:33:7–8).

"[I]t is incumbent to obey the presbyters who are in the Church—those who, as I have shown, possess the succession from the apostles; those who, together with the succession of the episcopate, have received the infallible charism of truth, according to the good pleasure of the Father. But [it is also incumbent] to hold in suspicion others who depart from the primitive succession, and assemble themselves together in any place whatsoever, either as heretics of perverse minds, or as schismatics puffed up and self-pleasing, or again as hypocrites, acting thus for the sake of lucre and vainglory. For all these have fallen from the truth" (ibid., 4:26:2).


Why Communion on the Tongue?

In this article the Holy Father is suggesting his preference that the Eucharist be given while people are kneeling and that it should be on the tongue and not in the hand. The fact that we receive in the hand is an indult that was made for Canada, Phillipines, Mexico and the US while the rest of the world still receives the Bread of Life on their tongue.

Is it really a big deal? Why does it matter? When the God of the universe humbles himself to come to us, I think it is only appropriate that we kneel before Him and receive Him on our tongue. Actions do speak louder than words. Think of the young child who doesn't understand transubstantiation and the sacrifice of the Mass. He/she isn't able to comprehend the mystery but I believe they can understand the body language they see when their parents go up to receive Christ.
The message that they get is "Something(someone) bigger and greater than all of us is here"

"It could also be noted that the (Pope's) preference for such form of distribution which, without taking anything away from the other one, better highlights the truth of the real presence in the Eucharist, helps the devotion of the faithful, and introduces more easily to the sense of mystery. Aspects which, in our times, pastorally speaking, it is urgent to highlight and recover."

In a time when many American Catholics don't believe or understand that Christ is truly really present in the Eucharist, perhaps a simple gesture of kneeling and receiving Christ on our tongue
will cause some to reflect on what the Mass is really all about.

After all, if you understood and believed that Jesus was truly present in your church, would there be anything that would ever make you leave? Personally, if I knew and believed that Jesus Christ was made present on the altar of the Catholic Church of my youth and I was allowed to receive Him physically, would I have left that Church? It is not likely.


Friday, June 27, 2008

USCCB Speaks Out On Embryonic Stem Cell Research

It is gratifying to see the Catholic Bishops coming together to make a statement regarding ESCR.

"The issue of stem cell research does not force us to choose between science and ethics,
much less between science and religion. It presents a choice as to how our society will pursue
scientific and medical progress. Will we ignore ethical norms and use some of the most
vulnerable human beings as objects, undermining the respect for human life that is at the
foundation of the healing arts? Such a course, even if it led to rapid technical progress, would be
a regress in our efforts to build a society that is fully human. Instead we must pursue progress in
ethically responsible ways that respect the dignity of each human being. Only this will produce
cures and treatments that everyone can live with."

See the full article here.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

What The Eucharist Is Not.

"The Eucharist is not a meal among friends. It is a mystery of covenant. "The prayers and the rites of the Eucharistic sacrifice make the whole history of salvation revive ceaselessly before the eyes of our soul, in the course of the liturgical cycle, and make us penetrate ever more its significance" (Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, [Edith Stein], Wege zur inneren Stille Aschaffenburg, 1987, p. 67). We are called to enter into this mystery of covenant by conforming our life increasingly every day to the gift received in the Eucharist. It has a sacred character, as Vatican Council II reminds: "Every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the priest and of His Body which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others; no other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title and to the same degree " (Sacrosanctum Concilium, No. 7). In a certain way, it is a "heavenly liturgy," anticipation of the banquet in the eternal Kingdom, proclaiming the death and resurrection of Christ, until he comes (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:26)."

From Pope Benedict's address to the Eucharistic Congress that just concluded in Quebec.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Handy Little Helps For Holiness from HLI

Father Euteneur's Human Life International is an international organization based in Virginia.
"The mission of HLI is to promote and defend the sanctity of life and family around the world according to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church through prayer, service and education."

As an aside, Father E. became "notorious" last year when he went head-to-head with Sean Hannity regarding Catholics in the public arena who claim to be Catholic but consistently deny Catholic teaching.

His ministry also provides excellent helps for us to live a godly life in Christ Jesus.
I recently ordered a bunch of these: "A Practical Guide for the Sacrament of Confession" for just 10 cents a piece! Despite being Catholic for over 4 years now and going to confession almost monthly (sometimes more, sometimes less), I still get a bit anxious over the prospect of revealing my sins to my priest. Yet, I have never left the confessional regretting receiving the sacrament of reconciliation. I always leave rejoicing knowing that I am as clean as a baby's bottom that has just been baptized (I probably mixed a few metaphors there) but you get the idea. I especially enjoy the moments after confession when I come before the Blessed Sacrament to pray and do penance.

So why do I get anxious? Silly things like:
* Do I remember the Act of Contrition? Even though I know I only need to have a prayer from a contrite heart, I still like to pray the Act of Contrition. But I don't have it memorized.
* Did I perform a good examination of conscience beforehand to prepare?
* Will the priests think less of me after I tell them the crazy stuff that I think about?
* Add your own here_____________________________________.

The practical guide contains everything I need to make a good confession including the procedure in the confessional, the act of contrition and an excellent outline for an examination of conscience. They are small enough to keep in my wallet and keep several around the house, so when Saturday afternoon rolls around I have no excuse to not walk over to Church and receive forgiveness of my sins from Jesus through his Church. Head over to Father Euteneur's site and check out his pamphlets, and send him a little extra quid for the ministry!
Finally, from an apologetics point of view, The God Fearin' Fiddler has an interesting post regarding the early Church and its practice of the sacrament of reconciliation.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Faithful Traveler

One of the most fun things about being a new Catholic is discovering all the treasures the Church has for us. Visiting shrines and Churches has been a great source of joy for Prodigal Daughter and I. Here's a site where you can learn the how to's and where to's of "shrine hopping." We live in eastern PA and there is an abundance of these sites that are fairly close. You could spend an entire day in Philadelphia and not even get to half of them! I was in Philadelphia for 4 years during my internal medicine residency in the late 80's and I had no idea. I honestly can't even remember seeing a Catholic Church in Philly during those years!?


Monday, June 23, 2008

Favorite Bands When I Was Young

Kim tagged me with this one.
5 of my favorite bands and their albums from when I was young. Hmm... This is gonna be tough since I smashed all my records a few years after I was born again. (In reality, I never had very many albums because I was financially-challenged growing up)
The new fellowship I joined was a bit extreme, and in retrospect, I think we were almost a cult! We were part of that discipleship movement in the early 70's that placed submission to leadership as a priority in your spiritual walk. We used to hear "you are out of submission" so often that we made a joke of it. Well if we are "out of submission", we better go buy some, but I digress.... One night we had an "Old Life Night" and we were supposed to bring all the stuff from our old life we hadn't yet parted with. The vinyl LP's didn't really smash, they kinda just bent when you tried to break them in half. This is what I remember throwing in the pile and bending up.

Jethro Tull: Aqualung (the imagery, the whistling into the flute as Ian played)
Black Sabbath: Master of Reality (absolute crap, but I loved the fuzzed out guitar riffs)
Creedence Clearwater Revival: Cosmos Factory (Now how could Creedence be satanic I ask you?)
Bob Dylan- Blood on the Tracks (one of his best albums in my opinion and I sincerely regret getting rid of this gem.)

Fav Albums I didn't smash because they were my older brother's
Iron Butterfly-Ina Gadda Da Vita
Led Zeppelin's first album.

It wasn't until I went to college in 1976, and met other real Christians who could appreciate contemporary music without guilt or reproach, that I loosened up a bit. I got into acoustic music and the rest is history.
I tag Susie from Recon and PA from Porter's Lodge (he saw me go through some of the above craziness)


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Holocaust Survivors to Honor Pope Pius XII

A group of Holocaust survivors are going to host a symposium to discuss Pope Pius XII and his role in saving Jews during WW2. I hope and pray this gets some MSM coverage but I suspect it won't. Sadly, the myth that Pope Pius aided and abetted the Nazi regime is accepted by almost everyone- except the Jews themselves who survived one of the darkest times in human history. Leading Rabbis have written books in support of the Pope's efforts to conceal Jews during the Nazi occupation of Italy but I still hear people bring this myth up when discussing the Catholic Church.

As early as 1929, when he was still nuncio to Germany, and four years before Hitler came to power, Sister Pascalina remembers how Archbishop Pacelli warned that Hitler was a "madman," capable of destroying everything that went before him; and she describes how the Nuncio criticized Germans who refused to recognize the evil Hitler represented. (See Pascalina's memoirs, Pio XII, il privilegio di servirlo [Milan: Rusconi, 1984]).

Ten years later, after Pacelli became Pope Pius XII, Sister Pascalina describes how the pontiff continued to fight Hitler with every fiber of his being, and how Pius went out of his way to assist the victims of the Third Reich. In her testimony before the Congregation (Session CLXIII, March 17, 1972), Sister Pascalina stated: "The Pope not only opened the doors of the Vatican to protect the persecuted, but he encouraged convents and monasteries to offer hospitality. The Vatican provided provisions for these people. The accusation that Pius XII was indifferent to the needs of the victims is without foundation. He ordered me to spend his inheritance and personal funds to provide for those who wished to leave Italy and go to Canada, Brazil, or elsewhere. Note that $800 was needed for each person who emigrated. Many times the Pope would ask me to deliver to Jewish families a sealed envelope containing $1,000 or more."


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Are Saints Divine?

In my last post PA asks if saints are divine because of the ability to hear millions of prayers.
Here's my response below:

From very early on, the early Christians believed in "the communion of saints." An interchange of "spiritual goods" merited through Christ. The concept of the intercession of the saints is found very early in the history of the Church as evidenced by the writings of many Church fathers, but I like what Augustine says here:

"A Christian people celebrates together in religious solemnity the memorials of the martyrs, both to encourage their being imitated and so that it can share in their merits and be aided by their prayers" (Against Faustus the Manichean [A.D. 400]).

"There is an ecclesiastical discipline, as the faithful know, when the names of the martyrs are read aloud in that place at the altar of God, where prayer is not offered for them. Prayer, however, is offered for the dead who are remembered. For it is wrong to pray for a martyr, to whose prayers we ought ourselves be commended" (Sermons 159:1 [A.D. 411]).

"At the Lord's table we do not commemorate martyrs in the same way that we do others who rest in peace so as to pray for them, but rather that they may pray for us that we may follow in their footsteps" (Homilies in the Gospel of John 84 [A.D. 417]).

"Neither are the souls of the pious dead separated from the Church which even now is the kingdom of Christ. Otherwise there would be no remembrance of them at the altar of God in the communication of the Body of Christ" (The City of God 20:9:2 [ca. A.D. 424]).

Saints are not divine, only the triune God is . Mary is the archetype for all the saints- heroic faith, obedience to God, but not divine. Sainthood cannot equal divinity, because only God is divine. That is the Church's position on the nature of saints. Humans just like you and me but who had shown heroic faith and lived exemplary lives by God's grace. (Now some saints did some pretty interesting things like levitation and bilocation, but that's another blog post)
Does the ability to hear multiple prayers simultaneously in heaven confer a divine status to a saint? I am not sure that it has to.

Now we see through a glass darkly, but then, we will see clearly, face to face. Perhaps that "clarity" includes the ability to listen to millions of conversations at once. We will be purified and completely sanctified in heaven. The shackles of earth no longer weighing us down and our glorified bodies with abilities that could never be manifest on this side of the veil. I don't think we can put limits on our capabilities once we have "crossed the threshold."
Lorraine Boettner who wrote a book that became a popular source used to refute Catholic beliefs discussed this issue here:(cf. Catholic Answers)

"How, then, can a human being such as Mary hear the prayers of millions of Roman Catholics, in many different countries, praying in many different languages, all at the same time?

"Let any priest or layman try to converse with only three people at the same time and see how impossible that is for a human being. . . . The objections against prayers to Mary apply equally against prayers to the saints. For they too are only creatures, infinitely less than God, able to be at only one place at a time and to do only one thing at a time.

"How, then, can they listen to and answer thousands upon thousands of petitions made simultaneously in many different lands and in many different languages? Many such petitions are expressed, not orally, but only mentally, silently. How can Mary and the saints, without being like God, be present everywhere and know the secrets of all hearts?" (Roman Catholicism, 142-143).

If being in heaven were like being in the next room, then of course these objections would be valid. A mortal, unglorified person in the next room would indeed suffer the restrictions imposed by the way space and time work in our universe. But the saints are not in the next room, and they are not subject to the time/space limitations of this life.

This does not imply that the saints in heaven therefore must be omniscient, as God is, for it is only through God’s willing it that they can communicate with others in heaven or with us. And Boettner’s argument about petitions arriving in different languages is even further off the mark. Does anyone really think that in heaven the saints are restricted to the King’s English? After all, it is God himself who gives the gift of tongues and the interpretation of tongues. Surely those saints in Revelation understand the prayers they are shown to be offering to God."

"There are one billion Catholics and 300 million Orthodox. If one in a hundred of these prayed a daily rosary, Mary would receive 689 million Hail Marys each day! So, even if she could hear the prayers, she’d have to be omniscient to comprehend them all. And where would she get the time?

Since Mary is in heaven, it is literally true that she does not have time to answer all the petitions—she has eternity! Time in the afterlife is not the same as it is here, and so this is not an insurmountable objection.

In regard to the number of petitions, if the number were infinite, then an omniscient mind would be required. So long as the number is finite, then the hearer requires a finite expansion of knowledge, which God could certainly grant to a glorified soul in heaven." (cf Catholic Answers)

To sum up:
Saints are created beings just like you and me, except better!
But they will never be divine.
There are some things that occur in heaven that are beyond our limited view of space and time.

For me, the communion of saints is one of God's many great gifts to his body and their ability to intercede for us is only through the merits of the Lord Jesus. We are to worship the Creator only and not his creation. Mary and the other saints deserve our honor and we have the ability to ask them to pray for us, but divinity is for the triune God alone.


Why I Need the Saints In My Life

Often Catholics are asked: why do you need saints when we have Jesus? I have blogged about this many times before and the simple answer is that we benefit from their intercession for us. God has provided members of His body to intercede for one another. Since we don't believe saints are dead, they can and do intercede for the other members of the body of Christ who have not yet crossed the veil.
But another reason for saints is to inspire us by their holy lives and heroic faith. When I read this prayer of St John Vianney, I hope and pray that God will grant me the grace to love Him in such a way as this:

"I love You, O my God, and my only desire is to love You until the last breath of my life. I love You, O my infinitely lovable God, and I would rather die loving You, than live without loving You. I love You, Lord and the only grace I ask is to love You eternally....My God, if my tongue cannot say in every moment that I love You, I want my heart to repeat it to You as often as I draw breath."

I have to honestly say that my heart doesn't always resonate with this prayer on a daily basis, but I do desire it to be so. Knowing that there are those who have gone before me that did indeed have a love for God like gives me hope that someday I too can attain a faith like this. This is yet another reason why I need the saints in my life.

St John Vianney, I ask you to pray for me today that I will love God more and more as you do.
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

My Sirius Satellite Conversion Story 6/12/08

This was from Gus Lloyd's "Seize the Day" program on The Catholic Channel of Sirius Radio

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

President Bush Converting?

In the midst of the his visit to the Vatican, the newspapers in Europe are speculating over a possible Tiber Crossing for the President. I always wondered whether he and Jeb discussed Catholicism since Jeb's conversion.

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Earliest Church Recently Found!

Archaeologists in Jordan have found the remains of what may be the the world's earliest church . It is estimated to be from the period between 33 and 70 AD. What I found most interesting is that three stone seats were found that archaeologists believe were intended for the clergy and the church contained a structure called an apse. {An apse is a dome-shaped architectural space that delineates the area reserved for the presiding elders (priests). Usually an altar is under the apse as well.}
This finding really challenges the notion that the early Christians were all meeting in houses having bible studies and that clergy, altars, apses and such were the later developments of that Catholic Church that went off the rails from the "True Church" after the time of Emperor Constantine. Of course, I'm poking fun at myself here, because as a young believer, that was what I actually had been taught and accepted . Just as archeology can support the truth of Scripture, so too can it help us understand how the early Christians worshiped. Why did these early churches appear to have altars if there was no sacrifice?

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Friday, June 13, 2008

Obama: The Abortion President

If elected president, Obama has promised to bring an end to the divisiveness that the abortion debate brings to America. How is he going to do that? By making abortion a right that cannot be restricted by individual states, even if their legislature votes against it. See this article.

"I have worked on these issues for decades now. I put Roe at the center of my lesson plan on reproductive freedom when I taught Constitutional Law. Not simply as a case about privacy but as part of the broader struggle for women’s equality. Steve and Pam will tell you that we fought together in the Illinois State Senate against restrictive choice legislation—laws just like the federal abortion laws, the federal abortion bans that are cropping up. I’ve stood up for the freedom of choice in the United States Senate and I stand by my votes against the confirmation of Judge Roberts and Samuel Alito "


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Thanks For The Prayer

The interview on Sirius went well and I hope it could touch some listeners. I will try to get the recording posted on the blog in the next week or so. Thank you for your prayers.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Tiber Jumper Gets Sirius

Next Thursday I am going to be interviewed on "Seize The Day." It is a daily program on the Catholic Channel 159 of Sirius Satellite Radio. Please pray that I can give a concise
and meaningful presentation of my conversion to Catholicism in just 15 minutes!

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Jesus Down The Street

We just found out that the Church that is only a 5 minute walk from our new house has Eucharistic Adoration from 9AM to 6PM daily Monday to Friday. We can literally have a little talk with Jesus and bask in His presence every day! Many parishes don't have exposition of the Blessed Sacrament so this is a great blessing. I hope and pray we take advantage of this opportunity as often as possible.

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Monday, June 02, 2008

Our Diocese Undergoes Restructuring

The Allentown Diocese presented the plan for restructuring to the congregations this past Sunday. Bishop Cullen's letter to the faithful was read from every pulpit from every Church in in the diocese. Sadly, a third of the 157 Churches will be closed or merged/consolidated into existing parishes. Anticipating the loss and sorrow many face from losing their Church "home", Bishop Cullen exhorted us to welcome and embrace the new members who are finding themselves in a new and different congregation. Over 75% of the priests will be re-assigned
to new parishes and this is a very difficult time for them as well. Our associate pastor will be re-assigned to be pastor over 6 Churches in the coal region that will be closed and merged.
This process has occurred nationally due to the decline in priestly vocations combined with the decline of parishioners and an over-abundance of properties that can no longer be maintained and supported.
Pope Benedict XVI said right before his election that the Catholic Church may have to become smaller. Lord willing, God will bring about a renewal among the faithful as a result of these difficult times of testing.

St John Vianney pray for our priests.
St Joseph, patron of the Church, pray for us.
Lord Jesus, let us accept your will and grant the grace to grow through these changes.
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen