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.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Our Fifth Anniversary in the Church

Today marks the fifth year since my wife and I returned to the faith of our youth, the Catholic Church. Glory to God!
The time has gone by so quickly it is hard to believe. We are so grateful to God for leading us back home and pouring out so much grace on us.

Lord, we have been unworthy to receive you, but you have said the word and our souls have been healed!

We recorded a special podcast you can down load here discussing the highlights of our past 5 years. Thanks for all the prayers and support and encouragement along the way. God bless.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Nicean Blues For You

To celebrate the upcoming 5th anniversary of our return to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church on April 30th, I am offering a free download of the studio version of Nicean Blues for a limited time only. (Sorry free download option over as of 5/16)
Hope you enjoy. Watch for our special 5th anniversary blog post on Thursday. Prodigal Daughter and I may go down to St Joseph's Studio and fire up a new Catholic Basement Tape podcast. We will see.

The Power of the Eucharist and Sponges

Over at Path of Weis, there is a post which is a plea for Catholics to reverence the Eucharist if they do indeed believe that it is what we say it is. Many wonder why more Catholics aren't changed by it. I thought Gretchen's response was so well put, I had nothing to add in George's com box. I have written about this extensively in the past but found an article by the late Fr. John Hardon that ties in nicely with this discussion.

"Those who believe deeply in the Real Presence will benefit greatly from the Real Presence; those who believe weakly will also benefit accordingly. The Eucharist is capable of working miracles in our lives. So it can -- after all, the Eucharist is Jesus. He worked -- change the tense -- He works miracles, but as it depended then (remember, Christ could not work miracles in certain places for lack of faith), the same now. It depends on the depth and degree of our faith."

The Eucharist is indeed Jesus but many don't recognize Him in the breaking of the bread. Sadly a phenomenon which has occurred since the early days of the Church.
( Check out 1 Corinthians 11)
I like to imagine that the sacraments are like the "water" of God's grace pouring over us. His grace falls everywhere in the world but the sacraments are a concentrated delivery of this grace which Jesus instituted and designed to be the normative way in which we "interact with God."
We are sitting under the "spiritual funnel" where the downspout is directed down on us when we present ourselves for a sacrament, such as the Eucharist or Reconciliation. Then what happens is this: if our hearts are cold and stony, the water just washes off us like water flowing down on a smooth hard rock. If our hearts are pliable, soft and absorbent like a sponge, the water of grace gets in and goes deep to replenish the much-needed moisture.
I don't know about others, but when I go up to receive the Lord in the Eucharist, the prayer of the Church that we all just prayed in the Liturgy of the Eucharist is on my heart and lips.
"Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed." I keep my head down praying these words as intently as I can. I'm not sure what someone in front of me or behind me is doing, but I know what I need to do. As I approach the priest or extraordinary minister, I pray, "Jesus please let me be a sponge, not a rock. Let be be open to all the grace you have for me here ." Hopefully, I will have gone to confession in the recent past so there is no chance that I bring an unconfessed grave and serious sin to the altar. I then pray quietly in my pew, and sometimes pull a small copy of the Anima Christi prayer to pray.
Everyone one's experience may be different, but the saints have given us a long tried and true
way to obtain holiness in this life, and it always revolved around the reverent reception of Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith. Thanks be to God for this most ineffable gift to His Church!
But this same God of the universe who humbled himself to become one of us in a dirty animal stable, (where he was overlooked by many, because it was "business as usual") continues to allow himself to be presented on the altars throughout the world where He is overlooked by many, because it's still "business as usual." An unthinkable paradox indeed.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

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"Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread..." Luke 24

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Catholic Faith-Inquire Within

If you were baptized in the Catholic faith but left the Church at some later point in your life, there's a fair chance that one or more of these statements apply to you:
  • Your parents and/or close friends and relatives did not actively live their faith at home while you were growing up.
  • You didn't learn what the Catholic Church actually teaches.
  • You did not realize or believe that Jesus is physically made present in the mass.
  • You were a rebellious cuss like me and went against anything and everything that was part of the establishment, including the faith of your family.
If you find yourself in any of the above scenarios, it may be worth your while now to go back for a second look at the Catholic Church. Check out

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

More On Sacramentalism

A blogger made a comment about my post "We Don't Need Stinking Sacramentals" and has a very nice post on his blog about the same concept. Throughout the three years of blogging, I continue to come back to the this same concept of God using the things of earth to draw us to Him.

"Let's remember, a non-physical God made Adam from dirt, Eve from a rib. Yet the relationship of God & Man in the Garden was in some sense physical. God the Father has no body, yet Adam & Eve related to him through their physical natures as well as spiritual (e.g, Gen 3:8). This access was broken by the Fall, but the desire for humans to know God through both their natures remained. "

It is one of the main distinctions between Catholicism and Protestantism. It is actually the key to understanding Catholicism and the failure to grasp this often becomes the source of the rancor towards and maligning of our Catholic faith. From a personal perspective, the power and grace through the sacraments and the added assistance in our spiritual walk gained from sacramentals has filled a void that I had for over 30 years as a Protestant. I just didn't know what I was missing, but had a sense that there was more to this thing called Christianity than what I was experiencing. I heard it said that Catholicism has the fullness of faith and I believe that comes from a head-on embracing of the sacramental life available to us. The saints lived this out. We can too.
Please check out this post by kkolwitz, Let's Get Physical.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Happy Belated Quasimodo Sunday!

Yesterday was Divine Mercy Sunday where the Church throughout the world celebrates and reflects on the tremendous mercy of God shown to us through the Lord Jesus. This was initiated by John Paul 2 and based on the writings and revelations of Saint Faustina. I wrote about it here.
But it was also previously known as Quasimodo Sunday, the Sunday after Easter which completes the Octave of Easter. The scripture reading for the beginning of the Mass is from 1 Peter and encourages the new believers who entered the Church the week before on Easter: "Quasi modo geniti infantes, rationabile, sine dolo lac concupiscite ut in eo crescatis in salutem si gustastis quoniam dulcis Dominus"
"As newborn babes, desire the rational milk without guile, that thereby you may grow unto salvation: If so be you have tasted that the Lord is sweet."

Victor Hugo begins his novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, with the finding of a deformed infant left on the Church steps on Quasimodo Sunday, and hence his name. What has come to be thought of as a "monster's" name, is actually based on Catholic tradition. To this day, in France and other parts of what remains of Catholic Europe, the Sunday after Easter is referred to as Quasimodo Sunday remembering the new believers who entered the Church on the Easter Vigil, not the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Sacraments! We Don't Need These Stinkin'* Sacraments!

The Old Testament reading in Mass on March 16th during the third week of Lent was the story of Naaman the Leper and his healing. During the reading of the Scripture, this line jumped out at me where Naaman protests the instructions for how he should receive his healing from the prophet Elisha.

"I thought that he would surely come out and stand there to invoke the LORD his God, and would move his hand over the spot, and thus cure the leprosy."
In other words: "Why couldn't God just come down and heal me?"
Instead he was instructed by Elisha to go into a river in Israel, not his own "local" river. He was peeved that the rivers of Damascus were not good enough! "Are not the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be cleansed?"

This all sounded so familiar to me. Naaman's complaints struck me as reminiscent of what I call the spirit of de-sacramentalism. Which in a nutshell basically says: "Sacraments? We don't need no stinkin' sacraments!" Why can't God do His thing here and now with a wave of a hand or a prayer? Why do I need to submit to some embarrassing "man-made" ritual? Besides, I would have to go to your Church to receive these sacraments. Isn't my church good enough? Why should only a priest be allowed to consecrate the host? ( Even some confused Catholics ask this one) Here's a few other common ones I hear.
  • Why do you need to be baptized in water to be saved? You just ask Jesus into your heart?
  • Why do you think you need to receive Jesus in a piece of bread? He is with you anyway through his holy spirit?
  • Why do you need to confess your sins to a man? God hears you just fine without a priest.
  • Why do you have to receive oil for anointing for healing? Just claim the healing, it's yours right where you are!

Since ancient times, God worked through the material things of His creation. See my previous post about this here. He uses material means not just as a sign of his grace but to effectively convey that grace as well. When Jesus ratified the New Covenant with his blood, the paradigm for the sacraments was already foreshadowed in the Old Covenant. He didn't "invent" a new paradigm. But the difference is that Jesus became the archetype, so to speak, of all the sacraments. God becoming incarnate, using flesh to bring us grace and salvation. He didn't have to die on the cross. He could have just said "poof- your sins are forgiven!" But He didn't, instead he used his flesh and blood and the stuff of earth, bread and wine etc. This has since become the normative way for Him to convey His grace to us.

So yes, just like Naaman, we need to humble ourselves, tail between the legs and go to Israel(The Church) and wash in the Jordan (receive the sacraments) to be healed.
I do need these stinkin' sacraments. Tried it without them for a long time. Works better with them.

* cf The Treasure of Sierra Madre.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Wherever You Go, There Be the Church.

(photo courtesy of Bruce Kravetz)
One of the benefits of having a son in college in Philadelphia is that we get to visit him and the city a bit as well. When I was there during my medical training from 1985-89 I had precious little time to visit the city. Also, at that time I would not have been interested in visiting a Catholic Church. I recently discovered upon returning to the house in Philadelphia I lived in for four years, that a rather large Catholic parish was just a few blocks down from us, and I never took note of it. (What if I had just stopped in one day. Would I have sensed His presence in the tabernacle? These thoughts will continue to haunt me until glory, but I digress)
We took our son to Mass at Saint John the Baptist in Manayunk. It was a great joy to receive Christ in the Eucharist in this beautiful historic church (1860's). My son, who is not Catholic, remarked that he thought it was neat that there is always a Catholic Church to attend wherever you go. I said "Yeah, I think that's what Jesus had in mind when he started this Church!"

Thursday, April 16, 2009

He Got Mail

During Lent, President Obama got mail. A lot of it. Did you hear about it? No, probably not.
More than 2 million empty red envelopes were mailed to the White House, unfortunately while President Obama was in Europe. These empty envelopes represented the lives of those murdered before they were born.
Many parishes including ours had red envelopes available to sign and mail. Like the pro-life march in Washington, this did not make the evening news, but certainly let the President and White House staff know that not everyone in the country is happily supporting the policies of the most pro-abortion politician ever to get elected.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Another One Crosses The Tiber

My wife (Prodigal Daughter) and I had the pleasure and privilege of watching one of our best friends come into the Church at Easter Vigil. As a lifelong Baptist, M. started becoming interested in the Catholic faith as she observed our journey across the Tiber. We first became friends when we were both evangelical Christians in our old neighborhood where we met at the kid's bus stop.
About a year after we came home to the Church, Prodigal Daughter invited her to Eucharistic adoration and she took to it like a "fish to water." "Can't you feel God's presence here?" she asked Prodigal Daughter as they sat in the presence of our Lord. Over a period of 4 years she began to slowly appreciate the devotions of the Catholic Church and this September, Prodigal Daughter became her sponsor in RCIA at a nearby parish.
As the day approached, she couldn't wait to receive the Eucharist on Saturday night. We both watched with great joy as she received the gift of the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Confirmation followed by her reception of Holy Communion for the very first time. As my old charismatic friends use to say, "the Spirit was so thick in there you could cut it with a knife!"
Praise be to Jesus Christ for the way in which He continues to gather people into the Church! So much grace, so much grace......

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Easter Isn't Just for Sunday Anymore

One of the many advantages of the Catholic faith is the way in which it continues to emphasize the salvation story throughout the year. The 40 days of Lent , alms giving, fasting and concentrated prayer focus on repentance. But this is followed by the glorious events of Holy Week and the beautiful services of the Triduum. Then finally Easter comes and the resurrection is proclaimed and celebrated. On Easter day the reading of the gospel is a short one just telling the story of the disciples finding the empty tomb. But the Easter story continues and the Church in her wisdom continues to celebrate Easter for a whole week, called the Octave of Easter. (Actually the ancient Church celebrated the resurrection until Pentecost!)
Our priest in morning Mass said, the mystery of the resurrection is too deep for us to just spend one day on it. It helps to let the events of salvation history percolate through our minds and heart all week via the readings of the gospel in daily Mass. The gospel readings of the week continue to focus on the events of the resurrection and Jesus' many appearances to the disciples. Tomorrow's gospel is the Way to Emmaus story, (one of my favorites as you know by now.)

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Way To Emmaus

Check out the latest tune from the St. Joseph Studio

Sunday, April 12, 2009


Blessed Easter to All!
He IS Risen Indeed!

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Holy God We Praise Thy Name

This is going to be the last song on the new album( that I've been working on for over one year now.) I asked Rich Mullins to intercede for me as I was recording the hammer dulcimer parts. I think God heard his prayers. Let me know what you think. (Click on song 2 below)
I hope and pray your observance of Lent is bringing you all closer to Jesus.