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.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Why Doesn't the Eucharist Change Everyone's Life?

About 3 years ago, I was sharing with my former evangelical pastor the life-changing properties I had discovered in the Eucharist. I had just come into the Church and was so excited to experience the grace God has for us in this Blessed Sacrament. He then asked me, "If the Eucharist is so life-changing as you say, why then are there many Catholics who go up for Communion once a week not changed?"
I didn't really know how to answer him at the time but have thought about that question many times over the past few years. Particularly in my own life. How could I have been a young long-haired Catholic kid playing guitar in the folk Mass on Sunday receiving the Eucharist, but smoking pot and breaking the law the night before? Why didn't the grace in the Eucharist I was receiving change me or wake me up to see the hypocrisy in my life? This scripture from the gospel of Mark recently gave me an inkling of an answer to this question.

"A large crowd followed and pressed around him. 25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, "If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed." 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who touched my clothes?"

31 "You see the people crowding against you," his disciples answered, "and yet you can ask, 'Who touched me?' "

32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering."

Many were crowding around Jesus and even touching Him, yet he perceived that it was one particular woman's faith that lead to the release of His grace and her healing. The many other people crowding around him that day may have been just "going through the motions" following the crowd that day. Perhaps the grace received in the Eucharist is similar. When an individual receives Christ's body and blood but is indifferent, perhaps not even believing, they are not cooperating with God's grace, and hence will not receive the grace.

As St Paul said, it is so vitally important to properly discern the body of Christ at the Lord's Table. Christ works through His sacraments to the degree that we are open and docile to His work. The saints through the ages have written volumes on how to prepare one's heart to receive the Eucharist. So it comes down to our willingness to cooperate with grace of God. Many receive the Eucharist with no intention of cooperating with God. They may even be in mortal sin, God forbid, as I once was as a rebellious young adolescent. Perhaps they are just going through the motions, like some of the folks in the crowd that day who were carried along by the momentum of the crowd, but weren't sure who it was they were getting near nor understood what He was offering to them.


Blogger ~Joseph the Worker said...

OH my.... that's one of the most beautiful things I've ever read. What a wonderful commentary. I think you are exactly right but I never saw that in scripture. Thank you so much.

August 05, 2008 9:07 PM  
Anonymous Potamiaena said...

Another thought provoking post. Thank you! I have thought of just that question. . . why aren't all Catholics great?

It does come down to our individual decision to cooperate with God's grace freely given.

I am sending out this post (and blog address) to my Catholic study group.

August 06, 2008 12:18 AM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Thanks JTW and Potamiaena for the kind comments.

The more I think about this, I guess it really does come down to free will and our willingness to say "yes" to God and "no" to ourselves, which as you know was what Mary has modeled for all Christians through the ages.
I will do some reading on Mary and the Eucharist and see what the Church has said about that. Thanks!

August 06, 2008 12:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


August 07, 2008 1:32 AM  
Blogger Owen said...

There are many questions we might sincerly ask of evangelicals in like manner. Here I think of the particular background I come from and so could ask, if being filled with the Holy Spirit is so empowering for the gospel why aren't more and more people being saved? And if it's so life changing why are more Christians super Christians rather than those who seem to need to get saved every Sunday night at the altar?

The answer is the same as you and others in the comments have given.

May we humbly seek to align with his grace at work in us.

August 07, 2008 10:15 AM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

I too came from a tradition where we heard on a regular basis "God was doing a new thing" and the power of the Holy Spirit was "all over the service." The evidence of such was people falling on the floor, laughing, tongues, prophecies etc. Yet marriages still broke up, people struggled with substance abuse and same sex attraction did not get healed.
So as you rightly said, it comes down to our cooperation with His grace, in our case, via the Blessed Sacrament. Just "going through the motions" regardless of what faith tradition you are in will not bear the fruit of a changed life.
Thanks for the comment

August 07, 2008 2:31 PM  
Blogger Owen said...

And of course while I wrote: "And if it's so life changing why are more Christians super Christians rather than..." I meant "aren't" but you seemed to have figured that out. :)

August 07, 2008 5:55 PM  
Blogger George Weis said...

Tiber (what's your real name anyway brother?),

Interesting post my friend! I wonder this question alot. It is one of several things that has kept me quite skeptical. I think you at least have a strong case for the "why not" issue.

I have known many a Catholic, who seems not very "filled" they partake... not to sound like the big bad judge... it's simply obvious.

Now, this is also true of Christians who claim the Spirit resides in them (even me more times than I would like to number). However, the claim of the Eucharist is a large one, and a very unique one... so it does make one curious about behaviors.

I have asked this question many times, but I feel that this is the best answer I have seen. It is almost a "Duh" kind of moment.

Many blessings to you my friend!


August 08, 2008 11:57 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Hey George, the real name is Russ Rentler.
Thanks for giving thought to this issue!
Scandal has been with the Church since the beginning. The Church is definitely filled with wheat and tares and only at the end does the Judge come and separate them. Jesus offers himself to us in the most powerful ways through the Eucharist and the sacrament of reconciliation(going to confession) but sadly not every Catholic allows themselves to be changed by Him.
It is an act of our will to be docile and open to Him.
At the close of the Mass after we have all partaken of the Bread of Life, the priest prays something like this:
"Lord, may the power of this Eucharist give us the strength to continue our journey to eternal life" So even in that prayer, the Church recognizes that it's not a magic bullet, but a channel of His grace that we ask to change us. For those, who have no desire to change or be transformed, there is no transformation. But there's a written history of 2000 yrs of saints who attest to the transforming power found in the their Eucharistic Lord.
That's probably more than you needed to hear but it is something I am so passionate about knowing that I had the opportunity to receive Him all these years, but "walked away from the table" at 14 years of age in 1973.
To all the non-Catholics I would like to say: Don't let your preconceived notions of Catholicism prevent you from missing the greatest thing Jesus gave His Church.

August 09, 2008 9:04 AM  
Blogger George Weis said...

So Russ,

Do you still believe something key happened when you were "born again"?

Also, do you still believe the Holy Spirit has taken up residence in you?

If you still find that event to be important, why do you think that people seem to miss that so often in the Catholic Church as lay folk?

Many thanks to you!


August 09, 2008 10:54 AM  
Blogger Bernadette said...

this question has puzzled me *so* much, even, like you, when i consider my own life, pre- and post-conversion (and continuing conversion :-)

i really appreciate the Scripture you brought up, and your thoughts on the passage. much to ponder-- thank you for sharing!


August 09, 2008 5:20 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Hey George, to answer your questions here goes:(Hope you can sit down and grab a coffee, this is going to take awhile)
"Do you still believe something key happened when you were "born again"?
Yes absolutely! I believe that was definitely a conversion experience. But I believe my "born again" experience occurred at my baptism. For the first 1500 years of Christianity, the concept of being "born again" was directly linked to baptism and the early church interpreted Jesus words in John 3:3 to represent the waters of baptism. "Unless a man is born of water and the spirit, he cannot see the kingdom of God." The idea that one could be born again outside of the sacrament of baptism is a novel concept occurring after the reformation.
So what did I do with my infant born again experience? God made me new then, removed my original sin, poured His Spirit into me, but as I got older , probably around 7th grade, I decided to live for the devil(was into Black Sabbath), started making bad choices. Also stopped going to confession I might add, which is interesting, cuz I didn't want the priest to know what bad stuff I was up to :)
Anyway, in 1973, I had a profound conversion where I chose to follow Jesus, chose to repent of the bad stuff and His Holy Spirit poured out on me. In one night I stopped doing all kinds of bad stuff! So this was definitely a conversion. The sad part in retrospect, this occurred in context outside of the Church and the group that I was with were Jack T Chick type anti- Catholics.
I firmly believe this experience could have occurred in a Catholic setting, at a retreat, renewal weekend etc. But sadly I was already primed against Catholicism because of the troubled life my parents lived, despite being nominal Catholics. Please read my conversion story on the sidebar of my blog, for more details.
So I then spent 31 years loving Jesus, raising my kids in a bible believing way, losing a wife to cancer, getting remarried and continued to follow Jesus. Some days more fervently than others.
4 years ago, I returned to the Catholic Church (again, check out my conversion story for the details) I experienced a profound conversion again starting in the confessional as I made my first confession in over 35 years. God again poured out His grace anew on me, giving me a desire to love Him and serve Him like I hadn't "felt" in a long time. Not that feelings have anything to do with it.
Soon, I noticed that a particularly stubborn sin of the flesh which I struggled with since adolescence left me and has not returned in 4 years since returning. There are many other areas where I have seen God move in my life and I have a renewed desire to share the gospel, pray more and read more Scripture and devotional materials.
So which was my Damascus Road experience? I don't know. The Church has always maintained that our life is a series of on-going conversion and not a once and done thing. "From glory to glory He is changing us, His likeness and image to perfect in me..." The concept that getting "saved" or being born again after a "salvation prayer" is historically a fairly new concept. Does God still use it? Yep for sure, but it is not the normative way for us to encounter Christ. His instructions were to go into all the world preaching the gospel and baptizing them in the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit. So Jesus considered baptism essential part of the salvation process, as did all believers for over 1500 years.
When a Catholic is asked "are you born again" his/her answer should be, why yes when I was baptized. Are you saved they are asked? The answer should be I hope I will be. Not a teeth gritting , nail biting,sweating it out kinda hope. Much the same way Paul stated that he hoped that at the end of his life he would have attained the crown of salvation "not that I already attained" he said. So even Paul knew that conversion was a process. George, Check out this blog post for some further thoughts.

Also, do you still believe the Holy Spirit has taken up residence in you?
Yes I believe He took up residence in me at my baptism, but I chose to push Him away through mortal sins, sins that blocked His sanctifying grace. We believe that we are not saved once and always. We can lose our salvation for sure, as I was on my way to doing, but by His grace he keeps me following Him. Now if tomorrow I decide to get back into drugs start having an affair with someone and die of a heart attack at some seedy motel, will I be saved? I sincerely doubt it! Because I pushed Him out of my life, quenched the Spirit and purposely chose to "go back to the vomit" as Scripture says.

If you still find that event to be important, why do you think that people seem to miss that so often in the Catholic Church as lay folk?

I meet Catholics all the time that have had a conversion experience in their life. They just don't call it "born again." (because that means baptism to a Catholic) Many of these folks can indeed point to a specific time in their life when they can say "I was lost, now I am found." Often this has occurred in the confessional or in Mass, but not exclusively. On the other hand, there are many non-Catholic Christians I am sure you know them too, who can't pin-point a specific dramatic conversion point, but it has occurred over time.

The question of why there are nominal Catholics not experiencing conversion can be applied to all denominations actually, not just Catholics. There are nominal Christians in any and all churches even "on-fire, Holy Ghost revival" type churches of which I was a part. The Catholic Church with a membership that is larger than any single denomination by odds alone may have more nominal members, but ultimately it is up to God to discern between a wheat or a tare.
Finally, I have to share a little story which helped me realize that there are wheat and tares in all churches. Indulge me for a few more minutes.... I was a physician for many years in my local community and gathered a large percentage of "believers" in my practice because Christians often wish to go to a Christian doctor. Without going into specifics I will tell you that a born again Christian's behavior was no better, and sometimes worse, than nominal church-going folk. Sadly, my office staff viewed anyone who announced they were coming to me because "I was a Christian" with much suspicion. These folks not infrequently had no qualms about not paying their bills, using deception to get "emergent" appointments, and being very rude to office staff, etc.
My conclusion, even before my Catholic conversion was that being "born again" wasn't always a predictor of the godly behavior of people. We are all still on a journey of conversion whether Catholic or Protestant, and I don't think we can assume that one denomination has more converted folks than another.
I personally believe however, that Catholicism offers the tools to live a life of heroic faith and godliness as evidenced by the myriad of saints over the years. But not everyone takes advantage of that grace and on that final day, we will all give account for the things we did in this life. A Catholic may actually have more to account for because of the sacramental grace that was made available to him/her through the Church. "To whom much is given, much will be required."

God bless and thanks for the questions.
More on baptism and salvation from my blog here
Some more thoughts from an old post on the Holy Spirit here

August 10, 2008 5:24 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Hey Bernadette!
Very nice MySpace.
I just had a gig playing at Musikfest.(I saw you were from Bethlehem)
Thanks for visiting my blog.

August 10, 2008 5:28 PM  
Blogger Owen said...

Wonderful answer Russ. I read George's sincere questions the other day and was champing at the bit to relate my own experience to get at the same answers as you have addressed so well. I didn't because after all, it's your blog :)

August 10, 2008 7:32 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Owen, any time you chomp, feel free to write! Your experience as a former evangelical pastor is invaluable in these situations. Thanks so much
God bless

August 10, 2008 8:51 PM  
Blogger St. Jimbob of the Apokalypse said...

Your analysis is as good an argument for Free Will as many out there. It's great to read an informative and uplifting spiritual blog. God Bless you.

August 12, 2008 11:56 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Hey JimBob!
Welcome back to the blogosphere and congrats on the little one!!!

Yes, it really is all about His grace and the willingness to cooperate with His grace. Many around Jesus chose not to, some even walked away.

August 13, 2008 8:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Confession will truly help my children grow in holiness. Penance, sacrifice and being truly sorry for your sins is what pleases God. Do not abuse this time. Cleanse your soul often and work on those areas that are causing you to fall. Be truthful and examine your conscience and then do your part so you grow in holiness.

Those churches who have Perpetual Adoration will be truly blessed. Many will come to know Jesus and they will turn to Him with a repentant heart.

Jesus is the cure for all mankind, so be wise and spend time with Him. Be wise and adore my Son, for He is truly present in the Holy Eucharist. This is the time to come to know Jesus, so please, please spend time adoring my Son. Accept His love and mercy by truly devoting more time to be with Him.

Jesus waits for each child to come, so bring your family and visit Him often. Much strength will be given to those who believe that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist. Through prayer and true devotion to my Son, you will come to know Him in a very intimate way. The Eucharist is God’s great gift to you, so be grateful and receive my Son as often as you can.

August 16, 2008 8:52 AM  
Blogger Adoro te Devote said...

A couple years ago in Confession, the priest said to me, "It only takes ONE Holy Communion to make you a Saint...what's stopping you?"

This was a thought that never went away. We take God into ourselves, we sit in His isn't because of Him that we aren't's our own failings.

August 16, 2008 11:10 PM  
Anonymous Jason said...


Good insight. I've been asked this question. This is the best reply I've seen for it.

August 16, 2008 11:37 PM  
Blogger George Weis said...

Hi Russ!

I want you to know I did read that answer when you responded. Things have been crazy in my household with our new little one arriving wed the 13th. So I have been scarcely hitting the blogosphere.

Good to be back, and I see you just got back! I'm glad all went well for you on your trip.

I am still milling over the answer. Many thanks for your kindness! Bless you my friend!


August 23, 2008 9:44 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Hey George, Congrats on the new blessing from God!
No pressure to respond, feel free to just mill about. This is a guilt free blog :)

August 23, 2008 10:50 PM  

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