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, November 29, 2009

Today the Advent Season Begins

Today Advent begins. This is the beginning of a new Church year. The Church once again reminds its faithful to wait with joy and hope for the coming of the Savior. We are given the opportunity to reflect on what the Incarnation means to us personally, and to let that reflection change our lives. Like Lent, this has been a period marked by fasting and penitence and has been celebrated by the Church since the 4th century. Once again, the Holy Spirit, by way of the celebrations of the liturgical year, bids us to refocus our hearts on Him.

St Charles Borromeo in the 16th century said this about Advent:

Each year, as the Church recalls this mystery, she urges us to renew the memory of the great love God has shown us. This holy season teaches us that Christ’s coming was not only for the benefit of his contemporaries; his power has still to be communicated to us all. We shall share his power, if, through holy faith and the sacraments, we willingly accept the grace Christ earned for us, and live by that grace and in obedience to Christ.

Beloved, now is the acceptable time spoken of by the Spirit, the day of salvation, peace and reconciliation: the great season of Advent. This is the time eagerly awaited by the patriarchs and prophets, the time that holy Simeon rejoiced at last to see.

This is the season that the Church has always celebrated with special solemnity. We too should always observe it with faith and love, offering praise and thanksgiving to the Father for the mercy and love he has shown us in this mystery. In his infinite love for us, though we were sinners, he sent his only Son to free us from the tyranny of Satan, to summon us to heaven, to welcome us into its innermost recesses, to show us truth itself, to train us in right conduct, to plant within us the seeds of virtue, to enrich us with the treasures of his grace, and to make us children of God and heirs of eternal life.Anunciation by Fra Angelico

Each year, as the Church recalls this mystery, she urges us to renew the memory of the great love God has shown us. This holy season teaches us that Christ’s coming was not only for the benefit of his contemporaries; his power has still to be communicated to us all. We shall share his power, if, through holy faith and the sacraments, we willingly accept the grace Christ earned for us, and live by that grace and in obedience to Christ.

The Church asks us to understand that Christ, who came once in the flesh, is prepared to come again. When we remove all obstacles to his presence he will come, at any hour and moment, to dwell spiritually in our hearts, bringing with him the riches of his grace.

Elijah AscendsIn her concern for our salvation, our loving mother the Church uses this holy season to teach us through hymns, canticles and other forms of expression, of voice or ritual, used by the Holy Spirit. She shows us how grateful we should be for so great a blessing, and how to gain its benefit: our hearts should be as much prepared for the coming of Christ as if he were still to come into this world. The same lesson is given us for our imitation by the words and example of the holy men of the Old Testament.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Friday, November 27, 2009

22,000 Catholic Students in Kansas City

22,000 young people from all over the country gathered for a three day celebration of their faith in Kansas City. Imagine all these young Catholics then going back to their schools, youth groups and families with a fire in their hearts that has been fanned brighter!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Today, I direct you to Prodigal Daughter's blog The Journey of a Soul.
God bless you.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pics from Haiti

A group of men waiting to be seen in the clinic

2 young ladies "mugging" for the camera

A severe case of otitis externa (swimmer's ear)

Dispensing de-worming medication (this scene always spooks me a bit)

A young man just released from prison with congestive heart failure


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Way To Emmaus on ITUNES

Check it out here.
(Now there's no excuse to not download a few tunes :)

Four Brave Bishops

Just four bishops across the US did not allow their diocese to take up the annual Catholic Campaign for Human Development collection this past Sunday due to the discovery that the Catholic Campaign for Human Development was donating money to organizations directly opposing Church teaching.
Our newly ordained Bishop John Barres of the Allentown Diocese was one of the brave four. It tells me he is not worried about his popularity and/or upward mobility within the USCCB . Instead he is standing up for Truth. Thank God for men like these. Keep them in your prayers.
Full story here.

A Drive Through Port-Au-Prince

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Back From Haiti

Patients lining up to be seen outside the Church

We returned late Saturday night from our one week medical mission to the parish of St. Simon and Jude of Port-Au-Prince. Many prayers were answered and God's favor was upon us. In JFK at our departure, several of our bags were over the 50 lb limit. We were prepared to pay for the extra fee but the ticketing agent declined to charge us. She said she knew we were doing this as a mission and it was her way of supporting us. (The hundreds of dollars this saved was then given to Fr. Andrew at the end of our trip to help pay for ongoing medical issues in his parish.) After a 4 hour flight we landed in Port-Au-Prince and got all of the medicines and supplies through customs without a hitch. (or a bribe)

We brought 28 duffle bags and suitcases to the Church and set up our 'pharmacy' in the sacristy of the Church. Four medical doctors and one pediatric nurse-practitioner saw over 900 patients in 4 days. The patients suffered from many bacterial and parasitic infections, poor nutrition, anemia, diseases of the skin due to poor sanitation and severe uncontrolled hypertension and diabetes. A young girl in line to see us suffered one of several gran-mal seizures she has had since birth. We did not have any seizure medicines and left some money with Fr. Andrew in the hopes that he can connect with this family later to provide them with the funds to get further medical care at a local hospital. The local government-run hospitals in PAP are poorly equipped and usually turn away the poor non-paying patients.

One of the saddest cases of the week was a 19 year old boy who had just been released from prison after being held for three years with no charges against him and no trial ever conducted. He was randomly pulled out of a soccer game one day by the police for unclear reasons. He was the son of a baptist minister. He had been beaten daily in prison and was now critically ill. When I saw him he had a high fever and was filling up with fluid and appeared to be in severe congestive heart failure. If he was in the States, he would have been in an ICU. Father Andrew decided to pay for him to get treatment at a local hospital and gave his father money. We were later told that the hospital refused to admit him saying they were full.

The saddest but perhaps most gratifying part of the week was taking a trip down the road from our compound (less than a mile) to Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity orphanage and hospital. We had the opportunity to tour the hospital and spend time with the children. It has been a dream of ours ever since we became Catholic to visit this orphanage. As we walked through the very same halls that Mother Teresa once walked, the orphan children held up their arms to be picked up by us strangers.

We went to the hospital portion of the orphanage and were encouraged to lift the crying babies up from their cribs and hold them. When it was time for lunch, metal bowls of a nutritious rice and meat gruel were brought out and we helped the staff feed the children. Some children were able to take the spoon and feed themselves, others had to be coaxed and some refused to eat at all. I cannot describe the simultaneous feelings of pain and joy and grace that I experienced as these tiny sick children clung to us and buried their febrile heads in our chest. Deborah and I could not look at each other for fear of breaking down and sobbing. All I could do was whisper a few Haitian phrases to the babies I held and pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet- "For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world."

I thank you all for your prayers and support. The Lord heard your prayers and allowed us the privilege of being His hands to reach out to the body of Christ while we were in Haiti. Could you remember to offer a prayer for Fr. Andrew and our brothers and sisters of St. Simon and Jude parish from time to time? Thanks so much .

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Bishop's Concern for His Flock

In the following letter, Congressman Kennedy (son of the late Ted Kennedy) receives a public admonishment from his bishop. God bless this bishop and pray for all the Catholic politicians who, like Kennedy, don't truly understand what it means to be a Catholic.

Dear Congressman Kennedy

Since our recent correspondence has been rather public, I hope you don’t mind if I share a few reflections about your practice of the faith in this public forum. I usually wouldn’t do that – that is speak about someone’s faith in a public setting – but in our well-documented exchange of letters about health care and abortion, it has emerged as an issue. I also share these words publicly with the thought that they might be instructive to other Catholics, including those in prominent positions of leadership.

For the moment I’d like to set aside the discussion of health care reform, as important and relevant as it is, and focus on one statement contained in your letter of October 29, 2009, in which you write, “The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic.” That sentence certainly caught my attention and deserves a public response, lest it go unchallenged and lead others to believe it’s true. And it raises an important question: What does it mean to be a Catholic?

"The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic.”

Well, in fact, Congressman, in a way it does. Although I wouldn’t choose those particular words, when someone rejects the teachings of the Church, especially on a grave matter, a life-and-death issue like abortion, it certainly does diminish their ecclesial communion, their unity with the Church. This principle is based on the Sacred Scripture and Tradition of the Church and is made more explicit in recent documents.

For example, the “Code of Canon Law” says, “Lay persons are bound by an obligation and possess the right to acquire a knowledge of Christian doctrine adapted to their capacity and condition so that they can live in accord with that doctrine.” (Canon 229, #1)

The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” says this: “Mindful of Christ’s words to his apostles, ‘He who hears you, hears me,’ the faithful receive with docility the teaching and directives that their pastors give them in different forms.” (#87)

Or consider this statement of the Church: “It would be a mistake to confuse the proper autonomy exercised by Catholics in political life with the claim of a principle that prescinds from the moral and social teaching of the Church.” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 2002)

There’s lots of canonical and theological verbiage there, Congressman, but what it means is that if you don’t accept the teachings of the Church your communion with the Church is flawed, or in your own words, makes you “less of a Catholic.”

But let’s get down to a more practical question; let’s approach it this way: What does it mean, really, to be a Catholic? After all, being a Catholic has to mean something, right?

Well, in simple terms – and here I refer only to those more visible, structural elements of Church membership – being a Catholic means that you’re part of a faith community that possesses a clearly defined authority and doctrine, obligations and expectations. It means that you believe and accept the teachings of the Church, especially on essential matters of faith and morals; that you belong to a local Catholic community, a parish; that you attend Mass on Sundays and receive the sacraments regularly; that you support the Church, personally, publicly, spiritually and financially.

Congressman, I’m not sure whether or not you fulfill the basic requirements of being a Catholic, so let me ask: Do you accept the teachings of the Church on essential matters of faith and morals, including our stance on abortion? Do you belong to a local Catholic community, a parish? Do you attend Mass on Sundays and receive the sacraments regularly? Do you support the Church, personally, publicly, spiritually and financially?

In your letter you say that you “embrace your faith.” Terrific. But if you don’t fulfill the basic requirements of membership, what is it exactly that makes you a Catholic? Your baptism as an infant? Your family ties? Your cultural heritage?

Your letter also says that your faith “acknowledges the existence of an imperfect humanity.” Absolutely true. But in confronting your rejection of the Church’s teaching, we’re not dealing just with “an imperfect humanity” – as we do when we wrestle with sins such as anger, pride, greed, impurity or dishonesty. We all struggle with those things, and often fail.

Your rejection of the Church’s teaching on abortion falls into a different category – it’s a deliberate and obstinate act of the will; a conscious decision that you’ve re-affirmed on many occasions. Sorry, you can’t chalk it up to an “imperfect humanity.” Your position is unacceptable to the Church and scandalous to many of our members. It absolutely diminishes your communion with the Church.

Congressman Kennedy, I write these words not to embarrass you or to judge the state of your conscience or soul. That’s ultimately between you and God. But your description of your relationship with the Church is now a matter of public record, and it needs to be challenged. I invite you, as your bishop and brother in Christ, to enter into a sincere process of discernment, conversion and repentance.

It’s not too late for you to repair your relationship with the Church, redeem your public image, and emerge as an authentic “profile in courage,” especially by defending the sanctity of human life for all people, including unborn children. And if I can ever be of assistance as you travel the road of faith, I would be honored and happy to do so.

Sincerely yours,

Thomas J. Tobin, Bishop of Providence

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pope St Leo the Great

Yesterday the Church celebrated the feast for St. Leo the Great(400-461), the first in the history of the Church to be called "the great". He was first a deacon and later became pope in the fifth century and later declared "doctor of the Church." Upon hearing that Atilla the Hun was coming to sack Rome, he went out to meet him and convinced him to turn his armies away.
He called the Council of Chalcedon which denounced many heresies of the time including Pelagianism, which maintained that man has no original sin and does not need God's grace to merit heaven, but can attain heaven through his own goodness and good works. St. Augustine went after this heresy as well. Interestingly, the very heresy they fought is what Catholics are accused of believing. Catholics have never believed we can attain heaven by works alone, but not by faith alone either (James 2)!

"what [is] more iniquitous than to hold blasphemous opinions, and not to give way to those who are wiser and more learned than ourself. Now into this unwisdom fall they who, finding themselves hindered from knowing the truth by some obscurity, have recourse not to the prophets' utterances, not to the Apostles' letters, nor to the injunctions of the Gospel but to their own selves: and thus they stand out as masters of error because they were never disciples of truth."

Monday, November 09, 2009

Ordained Minister Abortionist

He prays for those he aborts. God have mercy!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Prayer Request for Haiti Medical Mission

Next Saturday, Prodigal Daughter and I will be leaving for our second medical mission to Sts. Simon and Jude Parish in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. Little more than a year ago, we were just establishing our first contact with Fr. Andrew, pastor of this Church. Now, there are will be three medical trips a year to his parish and possibly a fourth team as well! Our home parish, St Joseph the Worker, is planning a team in the late spring of 2010.

Over the past three months we have had a fund-raising concert, sold fresh-roasted Haitian coffee, sold CD's (Way to Emmaus is still available, hint hint) solicited donations and collected a huge amount of medications to bring with us. I estimate we will have more than half a ton of meds to bring down. That's 14 people each checking 2 fifty pound duffle bags full of meds and supplies. On this trip we will have three physicians and one pediatric nurse practitioner.

So once again, I ask my blogger friends to begin to pray for us as we make our final preparations.
These are our requests:
  • Pray for the Haitians that the ones who need to be seen will get into the clinic and God will grant us the wisdom to make correct diagnosis and treatments.
  • Pray for Fr. Andrew and his parish workers as they make preparations to house and feed 14 folks in his rectory.
  • Pray for health and safety and emotional strength for all of the team.
  • Pray that we can get all the meds through customs without incident or costly bribes.
We will be leaving November 14th and returning the 21st. Thanks so much.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Why Did You Return to the Church?

I recently was in an e mail discussion with a ex-Catholic Christian who asked me directly why I ever would want to return to the Catholic Church. This was my response:

I believe Jesus gave us a Church in order to lead us in all truth. I don't believe he left it up to our individual private interpretations of Scripture to sort out the truth on our own. For one thing, there was no Bible for the first 380 years of Christianity until the Catholic Church canonized the New Testament and gave us the list of books that were considered inspired by the Holy Spirit to be part of Scripture, including 7 books of the Old Testament which Luther removed 1500 years later. So the Church grew and flourished through the ancient world for amost 4 centuries without the Bible as we know it, and the majority of the population was illiterate. So the people heard the gospel and truth as it was passed down from the apostles and preached in the Church.

Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to lead us in all truth and I believe He does that through the Church that he started, the Catholic Church. Paul told Timothy that the pillar and foundation of Truth is the Church, not the Bible.(1 Timothy 3:15) Especially since the complete Bible was not canonized or available at the time Paul wrote those words to Timothy.(only the old testament was)
It is obvious since the Church did indeed canonize the Bible and discerned which books should be in it, she loves Scripture and believes it to be the infallible word of God.(St Jerome said in the fifth century: to be ignorant of Scripture is to be ignorant of Christ) But the Church has always held that the teachings of the apostles passed down from generation to generation of believers makes up a sacred deposit of faith called Sacred Tradition. Paul says that much Christian teaching is to be found in the tradition which is handed down by word of mouth (2 Tim. 2:2). He instructs us to "stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter" (2 Thess. 2:15). (Paul did not condemn tradition, and Jesus only condemned tradition when it was used wrongly by the pharisees to get them out of their responsibilities)
So we Catholics believe Scripture and the Sacred teachings passed down from the apostles comprise the Word of God, not just the Bible alone. Sacred Tradition never contradicts Scripture and Catholic teachings can all be supported by the Bible if one looks to the whole scripture.
So I don't suspect we will agree, but I appreciate your willingness to ask "why would you ever want to do that???" regarding my return to the Catholic Church.
The bottom line is that we are called to worship Him in Spirit and Truth.
I believe the Church is true and I can find no purer worship here on earth than in the Holy Mass where Jesus comes to us from heaven and allows us to eat his body and drink his blood.
May God bless you as you pursue Him and feel free to pass my thoughts along to others. It is my hope and prayer that more ex-Catholics will look back and re-consider the Church they left in their youth, not fully understanding what they were leaving.

In Him

Russ Rentler, M.D.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Director of Planned Parenthood Has a Conversion!

A woman who was a local director of Planned Parenthood (America's #1 for-profit abortion provider) quit her job after watching an abortion with an ultrasound. She has now joined Coalition For Life, the pro-life organization across the street and has had a conversion. She will be on
O Reilly Factor on Friday night. Pray for her.

"America won't stop abortion until it sees what abortion is" says Fr. Pavone.

Check out her story here

(H/t to Susie)

Monday, November 02, 2009

Happy All Souls Day!

Purgatory really freaked me out as a non-Catholic Christian. When my wife first started dabbling in Catholicism, she actually liked the doctrine and we had some pretty heated discussions about this. In my mind it conjured images of the sale of indulgences(always condemned by the Church) and called to mind the famous saying of the 16th century indulgence merchant, Johann Tetzel*: "A coin in the coffer rings and another soul from purgatory springs!"

(I must admit, I actually used this line as the chorus in an anti-Catholic blues rant I composed when I was 15 years old and a brand new born-again Christian)

When I first returned to the Church in April 2004, this was one of the last doctrines that I struggled with. Now I'm blogging about it and encouraging others to pray for the departed, and spend a portion of each day praying for my loved ones.

Prayers and "suffrages" on behalf of the departed believers have been prayed since the first century. The earliest liturgies of the Church contain prayers for the dead. From the Syriac liturgy of St James: "We commend into thy mercy all other thy servants, which are departed hence from us with the sign of faith and now do rest in the sleep of peace: grant unto them, we beseech thee, thy mercy and everlasting peace."

The catacombs from the first century contain inscriptions asking for prayers for the dead. The early Church fathers wrote about it.
St. Augustine: The universal Church observes this law, handed down from the Fathers, that prayers should be offered for those who have died in the communion of the Body and Blood of Christ when they are commemorated in their proper place at the Sacrifice(mass)"

16th century theologians:
"Dear God, if the departed souls be in a state that they yet may be helped then I pray that you would be gracious. When you have thus prayed once or twice, then let it be sufficient and commend them unto God." (Martin Luther)

"We commend into thy mercy all other thy servants, which are departed hence from us with the sign of faith and now do rest in the sleep of peace: grant unto them, we beseech thee, thy mercy and everlasting peace." (Church of England 1549)

  • The Jews before Christ prayed for the dead (Maccabees)
  • St. Paul prayed for the dead (Onesiphorus)
  • Early Christians prayed for the dead (catacomb inscriptions)
  • Church fathers wrote about prayers for the dead
  • The earliest reformers prayed for the dead including Luther and the Church of England
  • The Catholic Church continues this practice and has made a day to particularly honor the dead and keep them in our prayers.

I am no longer freaked out by it but am thankful to God for his grace and mercy towards us in that we have an opportunity to be purged of the last vestiges of sin that we are attached to before we step into His throne room.
So like CS Lewis once said, I now say : "Purgatory ? Our souls demand it, don't they!"

Check out this excellent article on First Things on the meaning of All Soul's Day

*Johann Tetzel was censured by the Catholic Church not for the teaching of indulgences but the practice of money being exchanged for them. The Church never apporoved the sale of indulgences.
To learn more about what the Church teaches on indulgences go here.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Catholics Are Never Alone - Happy All Saints Day

And neither are our non-Catholic brothers and sisters. Through the communion of saints as the early Christians proclaimed (Nicean Creed of 325 AD), we believe that the Church Triumphant (in heaven) is actively and effectively praying night and day for the believers here on earth. On a never-ending basis the saints cast their intercession for us before the throne of God and He hears their prayers to accomplish his purposes in our lives here on earth. Even if someone denies this intercession exists, it doesn't make our glorified brethren in heaven stop praying for them.

Some say we should just pray to Jesus alone but He has given us his mystical body to intercede to Him for us. Those same folks who say we should pray to Jesus alone have no problem asking other people to pray for them. That's what Catholics are doing as well, but we know that the ability of our holy brethren to pray for us doesn't end with their physical death. As a matter of fact we know their prayers are even more effective now that they are perfected in heaven.

So Happy All Saints to all my friends out there. You are never alone, take full advantage of the intercessions that are available to you. It's like a 24 hour prayer line that you can call with a 1-800 number, so there's no charge to you. You gain access to these wonderfully powerful prayer warriors based on faith. Through Him, with Him and In Him we can ask these things, AMEN.

"When in his frailty, a man invokes the saints, he invokes Christ, and without fail he will reach Christ whenever he calls upon their names, for wherever they are, they are in Christ and Christ is in them, and their name in Christ's name and Christ's name in their name." (Martin Luther)

Deer in the Backyard !