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, July 16, 2008

Sacramental Thinking

I was visiting a blog, Path of Weis, and found a comment by Bryan that blew me away. In his comment he describes what I have been attempting to articulate for the past two years on this blog. I often talk about the "spirit good, body bad" paradigm I held to as a Protestant and how that predisposes one to being suspicious of "all things Catholic." As Catholics, we don't make that distinction and see that God can and does use all material things to His divine purpose. Water, wine, bread, etc. His grace comes to us through the physical since we are, after all, still physical beings.
So here is "sacramental thinking" from Bryan.

"Concerning ritual. We agree that Jesus commanded us to be baptized, and to celebrate the Eucharist. Those are not empty rituals. I can't explain it in a single paragraph; maybe I could just ask you (insofar as you trust me a little bit) to be aware that there is a *sacramental* way of thinking, and there is a non-sacramental way of thinking. If you have been in an Evangelical tradition (as I was), then you think in a non-sacramental way. No material thing is holy, in your view. Only God is holy. No physical action does anything to our soul. I mean, it doesn't matter whether you pray on your knees, or with folded hands, bowed head, etc. Body and soul are separate. But the sacramental way of thinking is very different. It treats body and soul as deeply interconnected and intertwined. When we kneel to pray, for example, we actually put our soul in a different disposition than when we sit. Some objects are holy. Some actions affect our souls, like making the sign of the cross while saying "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." Some matter is holy, like holy water. (You can find that in the Old Testament.) I can't explain it all in a combox comment, but just be patient with yourself, because it takes a lot of time to understand, let alone transition from a non-sacramental way of thinking to a sacramental way of thinking.

Another thing to keep in mind regarding your concern that you know no pious and devout Catholics is that true holiness does not flaunt itself. In fact, if you walked passed it on the street, you might just walk right past it, without noticing it. It is very much unlike the persona of various TV preachers, for whom it is all about them. I didn't know virtuous Catholics either before becoming Catholic. I just knew a few, and they were mostly authors, not people I could meet face-to-face. But then after meeting just a few orthodox Catholics, I saw that here was real holiness. I met a family with eight children, and the children were so amazing in their virtue and piety that I was amazed. If only I could raise my children to turn out that well, I thought. And after being received into the Church, I discovered many holy Catholics. I see them every day now at daily mass. These people are saints. They are quiet; they are in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel every day, praying and praying. They love Jesus intensely, and deeply. They have the "mere". They come early in the morning, just to pray. They fast on Fridays. Some stand in prayer outside the abortion clinic on Saturday mornings. Others serve the poor by working in the St. Vincent DePaul Society, and working with Catholic Charities. One of the ladies I see at daily mass has a bad leg, and she takes the bus to come to mass, and then she goes over to the hospital as a volunteer, and brings the sacrament to those who are sick in the hospital. Never complains, always greets me with a face full of joy and a hug. She has no money. She lives in a very poor apartment. She is a widow, and yet she gives herself all the time to others. But outside the Church looking in, you would never know such people exist. They are quiet, hidden, unknown. They don't blow a trumpet before they do good deeds. They are, in that respect, like Jesus Himself. Isaiah tells us, "He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face, He was despised, and we did not esteem Him." (Isaiah 53:2-3) The Church, which is the Body of Christ, imitates Christ in this very way. It is so human that you just walk right past it, not even recognizing it for what it is. "Oh, that is the Church Christ founded? I've been walking right past it all these years. You've got to be kidding me! Oh, that person was a saint? You've got to be kidding me. I had no idea that she was doing all these things behind the scenes. But now that you mention it, there was something about her; it was charity -- she exuded it in a way that drew no attention to herself. Wow. If only I had known, I would have talked to her more. Don't worry, there are many more just like her. The world does not notice them, because like their Lord, they have no stately form or majesty or appearance that we should be attracted to them. The Church is much bigger on the inside than on the outside, just as a person is much bigger on the inside than on the outside, and just as heaven is much bigger on the inside than on the outside."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are right; that is a wonderful comment and I could not have articulated it. I peeked in over there. I have admired George Weis's comments on God Fearin Forum, but had never checked his blog. I was somewhat surprised but not completely, and quite happy to see that he is looking into the Catholic Church. I will pray for him. He has such a strong love for the Lord. Julie

July 17, 2008 6:12 PM  
Blogger Joyful Catholics said...

I was so moved and touched to read this! It is one of the most profound things I've read (other than the readings at Mass) in some time, and I've read a lot of powerful things! I agree with you TJ, Bryan hits the nail on the head!

I had to stop and pray and ask forgiveness (before I finished reading it) for being so self-centered lately. I was kind of down today and wanting some recognition, to be "patted on the back" and replied to or acknowledged and it got me kind of 'bummed' this afternoon, because my eyes were on me. It's hard to fight that selfishness that creeps in so insidiously. But there's a place where I can go to be cleansed and washed and forgiven, that's reconciliation and THANK GOD for that sacrament!

I had an evangelical friend once tell me she went to a Catholic Church with her son-in-law, but she said "it was dead" because (I gathered from her story) there was no one who overtly 'greeted' them when they entered the building and the "worship" wasn't "alive." Well, perhaps we could be more overtly "visitor friendly" but personally, I think Catholics get a bad rap for not being "huggy wuggy" at the door.

You can't go to just ONE Catholic Church or go a "time or two" and expect it to be like the evangelical fellowship with 3 greeters in the parking lot, 2 more in the door and 2 more down the aisle. The Catholic Church IS quieter and the Catholic culture IS different. I like to call it a HOLY HUSH and to me, it's beautiful.

So it seems if you go to meet and greet Jesus, you will see Him in others and you'll be greeted. If you go to be met and greeted and noticed by might miss Him entirely. It's not about us anyway. It's about Him. It's not about the priest, it's about Christ. It's not about the homily, it's about the Eucharist. To be called by Jesus to come to the altar and there be altered by Him evermore toward holiness, that is the miracle of the Real Presence.

It wasn't a loud-mouth Catholic steeped in and quoting Scripture that brought me home to the Church, but a magnificent work of grace, and a more quiet, humble man of God, my husband. In his phlegmatic, quiet way, he gave me 3 books to read one weekend that turned my evangelical paradigm upside down. And after 26 years of "loud" I do believe I was ready to finally listen. No, it wasn't a flamboyant, impeccably dressed glib witness, but a strong, firm, reasoned, decisive, kind, humble way that drew me toward the Catholic Church... the way of Christ.

Thank you Bryan and thanks TJ for posting this poignant piece! I'm still in awe from reading this.

July 18, 2008 9:55 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

"It's not about us anyway. It's about Him. It's not about the priest, it's about Christ. It's not about the homily, it's about the Eucharist. To be called by Jesus to come to the altar and there be altered by Him evermore toward holiness, that is the miracle of the Real Presence."

Amen Susie!
The Mass is incomparable to our previous experience. we can't compare it because they are so different with different purposes.
We don't go to Mass to get our feelings.ego massaged. We go to have an encounter with the Living God among our brothers and sisters.
And it happens regardless of how warm or cold the parish is. I love that about Catholicism.

July 18, 2008 11:03 PM  
Blogger NanaR said...


I finally was able to read this all the way through (I have had it bookmarked since it went up). It was worth the wait!

The people I used to fellowship with worshiped a God (by their thinking) who never touched them physically. It was all "spiritual" and "symbolic". So sad to be in love with someone (the Lord!) and yet never feel their loving touch :-(

God was touching them without their knowledge. They didn't believe in an immortal soul, but the Lord gave each of their babies an immortal soul anyway. So every pregnant woman has been touched directly by God (whether she knows it or not). I believe, on some level, that I "knew" it (even though I did not understand it).

My first Mass left me in awe. All I could think was "All my life I've been going to meetings where all the talk is ABOUT God and even more ABOUT people. But Catholics go to Church to talk TO God!"

It may be hard to believe, but that was a radical thought to me.

So I don't care if any human talks to me at Mass. I'm there to talk to Jesus, and listen to him, and to receive Him in Holy Communion.

Everything else is gravy ;-)

Thanks TJ!!



July 21, 2008 4:11 PM  

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