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, February 25, 2009

Why Lent?

Why not Lent? may be the better question. The Church for 2000 years has observed a forty day period of fasting, prayer and giving to the poor which is concluded by the celebration of the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord. Jesus himself fasted and prayed and called on us to die to ourselves and carry our cross. Lent is a time we focus on how our sins caused his wounds. We take time to review how we have been living our Christian lives. We pray more, we give more, we allow ourselves to be taken out of our comfort zone for 40 days. We ask the Holy Spirit to speak to us through our fasts and prayer. We remember our own mortality and our need for ongoing conversion .

During Mass today, the priest applied ashes on our foreheads and intoned "Remember, O Man, that you are from dust and to dust you shall return." It puts it all in perspective for us. Where we came from and where we are going and how we need Him to get there.

I think of how I spent most of my Christian life oblivious to Lent, bemused by my in-laws (good Lutherans) giving up sweets etc. I thought Christ had freed me from such religious practices, but I was enslaved by my own inability to give up anything or practice any self-mortification. Check out Prodigal Daughter's most excellent post on Lent here.

Like many Catholic bloggers, I'm going to back- off the internet and post less frequently during Lent. God be with all of you during these next 40 days.

For some tips on making this Lent the best ever, check out Catholicity's Lenten message.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Feast of St Polycarp

Today the Church celebrates the bishop and martyr of the early Church, St. Polycarp. He was a disciple of St. John and bishop of Smyrna. He was martyred by fire and a detailed description of his martyrdom can be read here.
After he was killed, the Faithful gathered up his bones to be venerated. As early as 155 AD, we have documentation that relics of the saints were being carefully collected and kept.

From the martyrdom of St. Polycarp:

"The centurion then, seeing the strife excited by the Jews, placed the body in the midst of the fire, and consumed it. Accordingly, we afterwards took up his bones, as being more precious than the most exquisite jewels, and more purified than gold, and deposited them in a fitting place, whither, being gathered together, as opportunity is allowed us, with joy and rejoicing, the Lord shall grant us to celebrate the anniversary of his martyrdom, both in memory of those who have already finished their course, and for the exercising and preparation of those yet to walk in their steps."

St. Polycarp, intercede for us that we will be courageous to proclaim the gospel during our life and faithful to Christ in our death as you were.

Friday, February 20, 2009

North Dakota's Dr. Seuss Bill Passes

(Note the little person on the end of Horton's trunk)

In North Dakota yesterday, the state house of representatives passed a bill that reiterates Dr. Seuss's famous statement.
"A Person is a Person no matter how small."
The new bill declares that from the moment of conception, a human is a person.

"For purposes of interpretation of the constitution and laws of North Dakota, it is the intent of the legislative assembly that an individual, a person, when the context indicates that a reference to an individual is intended, or a human being includes any organism with the genome of homo sapiens."

"On Monday the state House of Representatives also approved an informed consent law requiring any woman seeking an abortion to be informed that the procedure kills a "whole, separate, unique, living human being." HR 1445 passed in a 61-31 vote. From Lifesite News

So it doesn't outlaw abortion, but it will make it illegal for the last abortion mill in N. Dakota to tell the clients they are just removing a "blob of tissue."

Pray that other states will follow suit and heed the words of Dr. Seuss.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

News Flash! Men Who View Porno Objectify Women!

Today in the news, there is a story about a scientific study at Princeton that revealed that men who view images of bikini-clad women tend to view them as objects. Hey, now that's a news flash! They are even suggesting that men shouldn't view pornography at work because it may cause them to be more insensitive and aggressive to the woman they work with. (Not to mention how it must affect their marriage and their eternal soul)
In a related article, Inside Catholic reprints an article that is 10 years old yet still incredibly timely called the Politics of Pornography. It's a bit long but worth the time and I encourage everyone to read it.

The problem of porn is only going to get worse in the US as President Obama's appointment for Deputy Attorney General, David Ogden, has been an ardent legal defender of the porn industry. Read more about him here. God have mercy. Anyone who supports the dignity and rights of women in this country should be up in arms about this pick. But there is silence from those who should be the most appalled.

From the Catechism:
2354 Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Frequent Confession

The pope recently stressed the importance of frequent confession and once again emphasized the importance of it for healing the soul and restoring the breach that sin makes in the Christian community. I used to think my sins were between me and God only and not affecting anyone else. But, because we are members one with another as St. Paul says in 1 Cor 12 , our actions affect others in some unseen yet real way. When we sin we do damage to our relationship to God and to others. The sacrament of confession applies the blood of Jesus and restores us to fellowship with Him as well as the mystical body of Christ.
Once we confess our sins to the priest and God washes us clean, we then need to make reparation for the temporal consequences of our sin. Often, it is difficult to come up with a penance that "fits the crime" so to speak, so my priest will often ask me to pray before the blessed sacrament. Sometimes it is a few set prayers, other times it is a request to pray for someone in the parish who is suffering. I am not earning forgiveness! That was earned for me at Calvary 2000 years ago and applied through the authority he gave his Church.(John 20:23) But my penance after confession is done to repay/restore/restitute the damage my sin has done. Jesus told the man in the gospel that he would go to prison until the last penny of his debt was paid up! He didn't just say, "Go free, don't worry about ripping someone off, you're forgiven."

Here's what Pope Benedict said yesterday about the Sacrament of Penance(Confession)
from Catholic World News:

At his midday public audience on Sunday, February 15, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged Catholics to make more regular use of the sacrament of Penance.

Speaking on the day's Gospel reading from St. Mark, which recounted how Jesus healed a leper, the Holy Father remarked that in the Hebrew tradition leprosy was regarded not merely as a disease but as "the most serious form of impurity." The priests of Israel, from the time of Aaron, were given the job of identifying lepers, who were then set apart from the community unless the priests subsequently certified them as having been cleansed. "Leprosy, then, constituted a kind of religious and civil death, and its cure a sort of resurrection," the Pope said.

Leprosy can easily be seen, then, as a symbol of sin, the Pope continued. "The sins we commit distance us from God and, if not humbly confessed with trust in divine mercy, they go so far as to produce the death of the soul." But Jesus restores sinners just as he restored the leper. By his Sacrifice on the Cross, the Pope explained, Jesus took on the burden of human sin, becoming in effect a leper himself-- someone despised by the community, an outcast-- and brought the healing power of redemption to all of us who are stained by impurity.

Through sacramental Confession, Pope Benedict said, the sinner is cleansed of impurity and restored to the community, in a sort of resurrection that is foreshadowed by Christ's healing of the leper. Therefore, the Pope concluded, the faithful should "make frequent use of the sacrament of Confession, the sacrament of forgiveness." He urged Catholics to "rediscover" the importance of the sacrament.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Lent is Almost Here

Christians as far back as the early third century practiced some form of fasting and prayer in preparation for the celebration of Easter. More than 1,800 seasons of lent have come and gone and once again we repeat this ancient form of devotion preparing us, cleansing us, drawing us back to what truly matters in life.
We are now just one week away from our Lenten journey. There is much grace to be had in this season. I hope that by prayer and fasting we are able to draw nearer to Him and to fully understand the meaning of the Cross in our lives. Here's a prayer from the back of the holy card pictured above:

Dear Lord,
As I make my Lenten Journey
with You, send me Your
Spirit, help me to give of
myself, help me to turn away
from sin, and help me to fast
and pray, so that I may know
You better and serve You
better. Let me journey to share
Your grace with the world.

I ask this in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy St. Valentines Day

"Nowadays Christianity of the past is often criticized as having been opposed to the body; and it is quite true that tendencies of this sort have always existed. Yet the contemporary way of exalting the body is deceptive. Eros, reduced to pure “sex”, has become a commodity, a mere “thing” to be bought and sold, or rather, man himself becomes a commodity. This is hardly man's great “yes” to the body. On the contrary, he now considers his body and his sexuality as the purely material part of himself, to be used and exploited at will. Nor does he see it as an arena for the exercise of his freedom, but as a mere object that he attempts, as he pleases, to make both enjoyable and harmless. Here we are actually dealing with a debasement of the human body: no longer is it integrated into our overall existential freedom; no longer is it a vital expression of our whole being, but it is more or less relegated to the purely biological sphere. The apparent exaltation of the body can quickly turn into a hatred of bodiliness. Christian faith, on the other hand, has always considered man a unity in duality, a reality in which spirit and matter compenetrate, and in which each is brought to a new nobility. True, eros tends to rise “in ecstasy” towards the Divine, to lead us beyond ourselves; yet for this very reason it calls for a path of ascent, renunciation, purification and healing."
Pope Benedict 16th from his first encyclical Deus Caritas

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

25th Anniversary of Salvifici Doloris

What a day of feasts and celebrations for the Church!
Nancy a faithful reader and com boxer reminds us that today is the 25th anniversary of John Paul 2's letter on redemptive suffering, Salvifici Doloris. This is a letter that should be read by Christians of all denominations. It provides the biblical meaning to suffering that has been life-changing for us.

Three days after my first wife lost her protracted and grueling battle with cancer, an old college friend, now a priest, reminded me of 1 Col 1:24, the basis for redemptive suffering. This sowed the seeds in me that I believe were responsible for my conversion to Catholicism ten years later. This doctrine also brought my new wife Prodigal Daughter into the Church. The power of truth to open hearts and minds is amazing, along with a healthy dose of grace.

Here's my earlier post about Redemptive Suffering

Our Lady Of Lourdes

Today the Church celebrates the appearance of Mary to Bernadette Soubirous in the 19th century. The fruit of this appearance was a massive renewal among the faithful that spread worldwide and continues to this day.
When I was a non-Catholic Christian, I assumed these must have been satanic in origin or fraudulent because I refused to believe that God would or could allow these things. Yet, at the same time, I gave creedence to those in my fellowship who claimed to have dreams, visions and prophetic utterances directly from God*. (including those who claimed that God told them when the Lord would return)
Why did I find it so easy to accept these "apparitions" or visions that individuals had as valid, and yet completely refuse to accept apparitions of Mary that often changed the course of history in a positive way? (ie Our Lady of Guadaulpe which ended infant sacrifice among the Indians of Mexico and 9 million conversions to Christianity from paganism)
These Church- approved apparitions of Mary have always had the effect of increasing piety and devotion to Christ, since the nature of the apparitions was to focus on Jesus and
"Do whatever He tells you to do." (John 2:5)

*I must admit, the first time I heard a prophecy in our little prayer group, the prophet started by saying "I am the Lord Your God..." I was immediately "creeped out" and stuck my fingers in my ears so I wouldn't hear it because I thought it blasphemous. I felt it was terribly wrong and had no sense of peace about these prophecies.
I think that was the Lord telling me then: "Get thee to back to the Catholic Church"
Of course the gift of prophecy exists in the Catholic Church where all the gifts continue to reside, but they must be "vetted" and in the appropriate setting, and not for the self-interests of the one manifesting the gift.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

President Obama Could Have Saved This Doctor's License

A Florida abortionist had his license suspended for allowing his staff and clinic to deliver a 23 week- old live baby as a result of a failed abortion and then disposing of the live child in a red bag for medical waste. (A child has the potential to be born viable as early as 21 weeks gestation)
Just think, if President Obama had his way, (in the past he voted 3x against Born Alive Infant Protection ) this abortionist would still be able to make a living. God have mercy on us.

Feast of St Colette

In keeping with yesterday's theme of a divine Church instituted by Christ filled with imperfect and sinful men, we celebrate the feast of St. Colette. She started a reform movement in the Church 600 years ago that continues to this day in several countries around the world as the Colettines Poor Clares .
Look at the conditions of her time: three men were vying to be the rightful pope and the gates of Hell were trying desperately to prevail against the Church. The religious orders of her day were falling apart as the hierarchy of the Church was trying to retain its influence in the politics of western Europe.

St. Colette's options were to focus on the disordered state of affairs and decide to leave the Church or even her faith. Another option could have been to start a new church claiming that the current one was un-salvageable. But she stayed and prayed and fasted and remained obedient. Her advice along with that of St. Vincent Ferrer helped to heal the great schism and bring about the rightful election of pope Martin. St Francis of Assisi had done the same thing a few hundred years before her. Sadly, we have seen the results when individuals take it upon themselves to declare that the gates of hell have indeed prevailed.

Here's a letter from St. Colette written in 1442.

Dear Lady and especially loved in Our Lord Jesus Christ, as much and as humbly as I can and may, I recommend myself always to your good grace and in your devout prayers and supplications before Our Lord Jesus Christ.

I beg you to strive ceaselessly to go from strength to strength in his most perfect love, remaining continually, strong and virtuous in his most holy and worthy service; for the kingdom is promised to those who set out on this way, but it is to those who persevere loyally that the crown will be given. And as long as we are alive there will be many perils, especially from our enemies, the world and the flesh,and the devil, who day and night wage war on us in numberless ways. Against these we must arm and defend ourselves, for it is needful for us to conquer them if we do not want to be overcome ourselves, and, as Saint Paul says, we cannot have the victory without a battle, nor a crown without a victory.

We can do nothing by ourselves without the aid and grace of God. We can neither do good nor resist our enemies. We need to turn to our good and true Master, Our Lord Jesus Christ and to beg him to equip us with his weapons so that we can the more surely overcome. These weapons, among others with which he was armed in this poor world, while bringing about and fulfilling the mystery of our redemption in the face of these three adversaries were: against the world, true and holy poverty from his birth until his death stripped naked on the cross: against the flesh, pure, holy and perfect chastity of heart and body, born and conceived of a pure, virgin mother: against the Adversary, perfect humility and true obedience right up to his death and all in perfect charity.

And whoever is thus armed can go forward into battle with sure heart. In short, these are the weapons with which he has wished to equip those men and women whom by means of his grace he has wished to call into his service, and who have wanted to follow him in the life of the Gospel and the way of the Apostles.

And I beseech him in his infinite goodness always to watch over and guard you completely, and so to enlighten you with his grace, that you may serve him always and endlessly, and love Him in the way of life which is most pleasing to him, and fight for him loyally under the banner of his Church. Thus you will be able to love him everlastingly and reign in his glorious, heavenly palace, for ever and ever.

Amen.Your unworthy handmaid who prays for you,

Sister Colette. (Letter to Marie de Boen of Ghent c. 1442)

Friday, February 06, 2009

The Church Needs No Defense

I regularly get e mail's from a non-Catholic (actually ex-Catholic) friend of mine who wants to make sure I am aware that every scandal in the Catholic Church does not go unnoticed by him. Maybe he feels it's his duty to inform me of the latest "chink in the Church armor."(Just in case I was thinking that Catholics never mess up)
I used to think, "Oh nooo... how am I going to defend this one now?" The good news for me is that I have come to the realization that it is not my job to defend the sometimes indefensible actions of flawed and occasionally boneheaded Catholics, sometimes even those in leadership positions. For awhile, I thought it was my job because I want so badly for my non-Catholic and particularly ex-Catholic friends to "taste and see that the Lord is good" in the Catholic Church. Every time I got one of these e-mails or read the latest scandal, I would think: "Now they will never come back to the Church." But, that's between them and God, and I suspect that these scandals provide a justification for them to not be Catholic. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit has a way of bringing people into the Church despite the scandal that surrounds it and the promise of Jesus to Peter to build a Church that will never be prevailed upon still stands. For example, despite 12 cowardly disciples of Jesus scattering after the crucifixion, the Church now has 1.5 billion members throughout the world and continues 2000 years later.

The past two weeks of news media have provided a fertile source of information for those seeking to convince themselves and others that Catholicism is not true, based on the lives of those who don't live it. Scandal has been with the Church from the beginning and will be with it to the end. The mystery of the Church is that it is divine yet made up of human beings who are sinners. Sometimes I just gotta keep reminding myself of this.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Monday, February 02, 2009

The Mass in Haiti

Some folks criticize the Catholic Mass because "it's so dull" or "there's no praise and worship."
The whole Mass is praise and worship from the start to finish. When I was a kid, I just didn't see it, and it has taken the grace of God(and the wisdom that comes with age) to help me see this now. During the Mass, heaven is opened to us and we worship along with the saints and angels in heaven as Jesus becomes present in the sacrifice of the altar* as St. Augustine called the liturgy.
Being in Haiti to worship with my Haitian brothers and sisters made me realize the Catholic Church may be getting a "bum rap" based on what some may have experienced in North American liturgies growing up. The short video above is just the processional of the Mass
and though its hard to judge from the audio quality, the singing was loud and exuberant!
Eucharistic adoration later in the week was also very moving as worshipers fell to their knees and lifted their hands when Jesus was exposed in the monstrance. The Church is large and universal. It is unfortunate that opinions are formed against the Church based on such limited experiences of it. Go to a third world country and you will experience Catholic Christians worshiping, unencumbered by materialism. This phenomenon crosses denominational borders as I have worshiped with non-Catholic Christians as well in Haiti and experienced the same.

*This is the sacrifice of Christians: we, being many, are one body in Christ. And this also is the sacrifice which the Church continually celebrates in the sacrament of the altar, known to the faithful, in which she teaches that she herself is offered in the offering she makes to God.(Augustine, City of God)

Happy Candlemas Day! Jesus the Light of The World

Today marks the official end of the Christmas season of the Church with the feast celebrating the presentation of Jesus to the Temple. Celebrated since the fourth century on this feast day we recall Jesus being presented to the Temple and the words of Simeon:
"Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word. For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
In the 8th Century, Pope Sergius brought candles into the liturgical celebration to signify Jesus being the Light of the World. A simple but effective object lesson that even the unlearned and illiterate could appreciate and take home with them.
In our morning Mass today, our priest started the Mass by blessing candles then processing in with them as is done throughout the world. His homily was about how we now can present Jesus to the world by Him living in us as the new temple of the Holy Spirit. Through us we can let his let shine out to the world.
Once again, I see how valuable it is to our Christian growth to celebrate the feasts of the Church. God gave us the liturgical calendar to continuously reinforce the actions of grace he has done and continues to do in our lives.
Go tell someone today(by your words or your deeds) that Jesus is the Light of the World.
Happy Candlemas Day