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, December 31, 2009

A New Year Is Upon Us

As the year comes to a close, we thank the Lord for his blessings in our lives but we also recall the pain and suffering that the Church endured in 2009. 37 priests and religious and laymen were killed this past year. The pope himself came under attack as he began the procession for the Christmas Mass. The outright persecution and subtle and sometimes not so subtle anti-Catholicism we have seen this year should reassure the faithful. The Church that Christ started will remain counter-culture and continue to stand against the changing mores of society, provoking ridicule, slander and persecution.

“The Church everywhere proclaims the Gospel of Christ, despite persecutions, discriminations, attacks and at times hostile indifference. These, in fact, enable her to share the lot of her Master and Lord.”

(Pope Benedict XVI, Christmas Message, December 25, 2009)

Therefore, like St Paul, let us look to the New Year with the goal of becoming more and more like Christ with the hope of reaching heaven.

10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me." Phil 3:10

Happy New Year to All ! God bless you.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Continues

For Catholic and Orthodox Christians, Christmas starts on the vigil mass of Dec 24th and continues until the feast of Candelmas, the presentation of Jesus in the Temple, 40 days after December 25th. So as the rest of the world pulls down their Christmas decorations and takes down the tree, we are just starting up! Here's a little snippet from GK Chesterton on Christmas:

It is in the old Christmas carols, the carols which date from the Middle Ages, that we find not only what makes Christmas poetic and soothing and stately, but first and foremost what makes Christmas exciting. The exciting quality of Christmas rests, as do all the other examples I have mentioned, on an ancient and admitted paradox. It rests upon the great paradox that the power and centre of the whole universe may be found in some seemingly small matter that the stars in their courses may move like a moving wheel round the neglected outhouse of an inn. And it is extraordinary to notice how completely this feeling of the paradox of the manger was lost by the brilliant and ingenious theologians, and how completely it was kept in the Christmas carols. They, at least, never forgot that the main business of the story they had to tell was that the absolute once ruled the universe from a cattle stall.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Feast of the Holy Innocents

"A Voice Was Heard in Ramah....."

Today the Church celebrates the lives of those young children in Bethlehem who were slaughtered by order of Herod as he attempted to thwart the will of God and kill the King of Kings. I blogged on this before and encourage you to check it out, but on this feast day, let us continue to pray and act to end the slaughter of the innocents that continues in our day through abortion.

Please check out this website

“A voice was heard in Ramah,/sobbing and loud lamentation;/Rachel weeping for her children...” (Matthew 2:18).

On this feast day Lord Jesus, let us be the the new voice heard in "Ramah", and make our hearts weep for the those children lost to the holocaust of abortion. Make our weeping turn into prayer and action to end this modern day slaughter of the innocents.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Feast of the Holy Family

Today the Church celebrates the feast of the Holy Family, acknowledging the importance of the human family and in particular, the virgin Mary and St Joseph's role in raising Jesus. The Church in her wisdom felt that the family unit was coming under attack in the early part of the 20th century and pope Benedict the 15th established the Sunday after Christmas to be this feast day. How much more now do we need the family strengthened since this feast day was first inaugurated!

Let us pray
[as the family of God who share in his life]
Father in heaven, creator of all,
you ordered the earth to bring forth life,
and crowned its goodness by creating the family of man.
In history's moment when all was ready
You sent your Son to dwell in time,
obedient to the laws of life in our world.
Teach us the sanctity of human love,
show us the value of family life,
and help us to live in peace with all men
that we may share in your life forever.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen
New Saint Joseph Sunday Missal

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

St Leo the great (461 AD) Christmas homily

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. [Amen]

Our Savior, dearly-beloved, is born today: let us be glad. For there is no proper place for sadness when we are keeping the birthday of Life, which destroys the fear of mortality and brings to us the joy of promised eternity. No one is kept from sharing in this happiness. There is for all one common measure of joy, because as our Lord, the Destroyer of sin and death, finds no one free of blame so does He come to free us all. Let the saint exult in that he draws near to victory. Let the sinner be glad in that he is invited to pardon. Let the gentile take courage in that he is called to life.

For the Son of God in the fulness of time, as the good and gracious Will of God determined, has taken for Himself the nature of man, thereby to reconcile man to his Creator: in order that the inventor of death, that is, the devil, might be conquered by means of that very nature which he had conquered. And in this conflict, which the Lord has undertaken for us, the fight is fought on great and wondrous principles of fairness; for the Almighty Lord engages the battle with His savage foe, not in His own majesty, but in our humility, opposing him with the same form and the same nature with which He shares our mortality, though He is free from all sin. For truly foreign to His Holy Nativity is that guilt and shame and sin which otherwise stains our human conception and birth.

Nothing therefore of the lust of the flesh has passed into His spotless and peerless Nativity; nothing of the law of sin has entered. A royal Virgin of the stem of David is chosen, to be impregnated with the sacred Seed of the Word, and to conceive the Divinely-human Offspring--in her ears first, in heart and mind, and also in body. And lest, in her ignorance of the heavenly counsel, she should tremble at such a great and mighty wonder, she learns from converse with the angel that what is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.

Nor does St. Mary believe it a loss of honor that she thus becomes the Mother of God. For why should she be in despair over the novelty of such conception, to whom the power of the most High has promised to effect it. Her faith is also confirmed by the demonstration of an earlier miracle, that barren Elizabeth has received unexpected fertility (in conceiving St. John the Baptist): so there may be no doubt, that He who has given conception to the barren, has also given it even to the Virgin.

Therefore the Word of God, Who is God Himself, the very Son of God, Who was "in the beginning with God," through Whom "all things were made," and "without" Whom "was nothing made," with the purpose of delivering man from eternal death, became Man. Lowering Himself to assume our humility, yet without decreasing in His own majesty, He remained Who and What He was, while He also assumed what He was not. So did He unite within Himself the true form of a slave to that form in which He is equal to God the Father, and He joined both natures together in such a way that the lower should not be swallowed up in its exaltation nor the higher impaired by its new association.

Thus, without destroying His Divinity, nor shattering our humanity (which He took for His own), these came together in one Person: majesty took on humility, strength weakness, eternity mortality.

And for the paying of the debt belonging to our sinful human condition, His impervious nature was united with our perishable nature; the one true God became true man in the Person of our one Lord, the Son of God born of Mary; so that, as suited the needs of our case, one and the same Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, could both die in our stead and raise us with Himself.

Rightly, therefore, did the birth of our Salvation impart no corruption to the Virgin's purity, because the bearing of the Truth was the keeping of honor. Such then, beloved, was the Nativity that was fitting to the Power of God and the Wisdom of God, even Christ, whereby He might be one with us in manhood and surpass us in Godhead. For unless He were true God, He would not bring us a remedy: but unless He were true Man, He would not have been the Savior of men.

Therefore the exulting angels' song when the Lord was born is this, "Glory to God in the Highest," and their message, "peace on earth to men of good will." For they see that the heavenly Jerusalem is being built up out of all the nations of the world. And over that indescribable work of the Divine love, how ought the children of men rejoice, when the joy of the lofty angels is so great?

Let us, therefore, dearly beloved, give thanks to God the Father, through His Son, in the Holy Spirit; Who "for His great mercy, wherewith He has loved us," has had pity on us: and "when we were dead in our sins, He has quickened us together in Christ," that we might be in Him a new creation and live a new life in Christ, in righteousness and purity before Him. Let us put off the old man with his deeds: and having obtained a share in the birth of Christ, let us renounce the works of the flesh.

Dear Christian, acknowledge your dignity in Christ, and, becoming a partner in His Divine nature, refuse to go back to vile baseness of your old, degenerate conduct. Remember the Head and the Body of which you are a member. Recall that you were rescued from the power of darkness and brought into God's light and kingdom. By the Mystery of Holy Baptism, you were made the temple of the Holy Spirit: do not put such a guest to flight by continuing in sin, whereby you would subject yourself once more to the devil's power:

Because your ransom money is the very Blood of Christ; because He shall judge you in truth, Who ransomed you in mercy; Who with the Father and the Holy Spirit reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Letter From Haiti

Today I received this e mail from Father Andrew, pastor of St. Simon Jude parish in Port-Au-Prince from where we just returned in November.

Dear Friends,

I was trying to put few words this Christmas when my phone rung. It was Nadine (some of you know her), she told me that Jean (an 19 year old guy who was innocently put in prison for 3 years, severely beaten while in prison) passed away last night. Through your generosity, we had tried our best to give him a medical attention so he may live. My heart goes to his family, especially to his older brother Junior, who throughout this ordeal showed me faith and hope that his beloved brother will survive. His father, who is a Baptist pastor, swallowed his pride yesterday, asking for some money so he could visit his son and be with him during the Christmas Eve. He is on his way to the hospital without knowing his son had already died. I couldn’t imagine what Christmas could be to this family. They are just one of the many poor families here who will celebrate Christmas in silence, some maybe in tears. But Christmas is a time to renew hope in our hearts. I hold on to the unbroken belief that amidst misery, Christ was born and will be born again in the hearts of those who care. It is time to rejoice for the gift of friends like you who join me in work of mercy to the least. As I join the poor people of the parish tonight to celebrate Christ birth, we will bring your needs and petitions to the altar of the Lord. May it warms your hearts and fill you with peace and joy He can only give. Thank you for being like bread, broken and shared so that others may live. But thank you more because you have shown me your love… because of that love, life as God wants it to be, is becoming a reality to so many. WISHING YOU ALL A BLESSED AND A MERRY CHRISTMAS… AND YEAR FULL OF HOPES AND PROSPERITIES…
Father Andrew

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Our Bishop's Christmas Message: Come Home to the Church

Keeping Mass in Christmas Keeps Christ in Christmass

Once again as advent winds down we approach Christmass, waiting in anticipation. We have hopefully spent a little more time in prayer, gave a little more of ourselves and our resources, and perhaps received the sacrament of penance more often. The ultimate purpose of advent being to "prepare Him room" in our hearts and once again with joy celebrate the coming of the God of the universe into our world, taking human flesh from Mary and showing us the way back to heaven. It all started in Bethlehem, the House of Bread and continues today through His coming to us in the Breaking of the Bread, the Eucharist.

For my non-Catholic brothers and sisters:
To fully keep Christ in Christmass, why not celebrate the mass of Christ this year? The liturgy of the Eucharist is designed with the whole purpose of bringing us to Christ, uniting us to his sacrifice for us. What better way to keep Him in Christmass than celebrating with the Mass of Christ? There are plenty of masses on the vigil of Christmass as well as Christmass day. Go to Mass Times here, find a nearby Catholic Church (they are everywhere, be assured) and quietly give homage to the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings. Though you are not Catholic, or have left the Church, you can still benefit from a spiritual communion without partaking of the Eucharist.
Perhaps this will be the year that you will come home for Christmas.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sola Scriptura Leads to Sola Worldura

Check out this article.(h/t to Bedlam or Parnassus)
We have seen how the deterioration of morality in society has slowly changed the morality of Christianity in American. First the main-line denominations, now the evangelicals, my former church home. The Anglicans 20 years or more ago embraced homosexuality, then the Methodists, then the ELCA Lutherans, and most recently the independent evangelicals. This is no surprise but certainly a sad reality. How has it come to this? Pastor Tidd of Highlands Church says:

"We reach an understanding of the Bible not just by studying God's word, but by studying his world," Tidd said. "If you think he's the author of both, they both inform each other."

If evangelicals can disagree about end-times theology and baptism methods and still be considered authentic Christians, he thought, why can't the same tent hold disagreements about homosexuality?

There you go. It seems to me that the principle of sola scriptura, has lead to sola worldura! We study God's world and come up with our own interpretation to guide us in establishing moral guidelines. Ouch!

Without a final authority outside of themselves that speaks to faith and morals some pastors believe they have the freedom to disagree on moral issues in much the same way they do with theological issues.

The Catholic Catechism tells us to love christians with same sex attraction recognizing they have a heavier cross to carry than most of us. The Catholic Church condemns the homosexual act but affirms the dignity of the homosexual. Catholic moral theology does not change with the times, but will remain unchanged as long as time exists.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Incarnation and the Eucharist.

I wrote this little play two years ago after meditating on the Incarnation and its relationship to the Eucharist. God comes to us in the most unlikely of ways.


The setting: A stable outside the forgotten little backwater town of Bethlehem (House of Bread). Shepherds and their families and kings from the East as well as a few curious onlookers stare at a newborn wrapped in coarse linen in a feeding trough meant for animals. A bright star overhead strangely illuminates the otherwise dark night.

Shepherd boy, while yawning, says to his father: “Just looks like a new born baby to me. Can’t we go home now?”

Father to boy: “ Thomas, the angels in the field said something about a savior and king coming to us tonight. Let’s just stay awhile.”

Boy: How could a Savior and King look and.... yecch!… smell like a little baby? He looks just like any other baby to me!”

King from the Orient, kneeling before the makeshift crib says in a whisper: “Shhh, don’t you know the ancient prophecies? God would come to us through a virgin’s womb?

Balthasar looking at the Child then raising his eyes to heaven says: The God of Israel has chosen this night to redeem us. Our Savior and King has come to us as a little child.


Fast forward 33 years.

Setting: Jerusalem at Passover. The city is buzzing with the noise of pilgrims and bristling under the Roman occupation.

At the Seder Meal of the Passover, Jesus surrounded by his companions prays the blessing. As he breaks the bread he stretches out his hand holding the bread saying:

“Take this and eat. This is my body….”

One of the twelve disciples leans over to another and says under his breath;

“How can this be? It looks just like any other piece of bread to me? How can He give us His body to eat?

The disciple whom Jesus loved said to him: "Thomas, don't you remember last year when he told us He would give us his body to eat and His blood to drink?

Then as supper was ended, Jesus took the cup and gave it to his disciples saying:

"This is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many…"

Curtain closes .


Just as Christ came to us in the improbable form of a human baby, He continues to abide with us in the equally preposterous “breaking of the bread.” God chose the common things of this world to reveal Himself. First a baby born in Bethlehem and then bread and common table wine. As we approach the Lord’s Table at Midnight Mass this Christmas Eve, our mind says: "it just looks like a piece of bread" but our heart says: "Jesus, bread of life, you have come to abide with me this night."

Advent Is All About Hope

Check out Prodigal Daughter's post about Hope.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Coffee and Catholicism or Java Papa

The other day I posted about an example of the "loosing and binding" authority of the Church, given to Peter and his successors by Christ himself. Without that authority of Peter, we would have a mish-mash of multitudinous contradictory creeds. We Catholics worship the triune God in exactly the same way the early Christians did believing the very doctrines they did with no modifications because of this authority given by God to lead us into all truth.

But a lesser known benefit of this papal authority is the gift of coffee that the western world now enjoys. Yes! Without the actions of Pope Clement VIII in the 16th century, we would probably not be drinking coffee. Read this story below:

"A Tribute to Pope Clement VIII

Ippolito Aldobrandini (1536-1605), better remembered in history as Clement VIII, was the son of an Italian lawyer who rose to the position of Pope in 1592. Clement VIII gained a reputation as a man of high character, a remarkable testimony considering that his recent predecessors, Julius II, Leo X and Clement VII, all proved to be incompetent rascals.

Clement was known as the first of a series of “restorer” popes and he had an impressive list of achievements to his credit. Among these was the preparing of the Treaty of Vervins, bringing peace between France and Spain. Just three years later he negotiated the Treaty of Lyons, brokering peace between France and Savoy. Other achievements included a revision of the Vulgate that contained some three thousand corrections. He also ordered the revision of several other service books of the Roman Catholic church. He built a monumental altar within St. Peter's Basilica over what is believed to be the burial site containing the Apostle Peter's body. Only the pope can celebrate mass at this altar.

Clement VIII initiated many other reforms and was incredibly popular. His popularity is demonstrated by the fact that in the year 1600 he was acclaimed by three million pilgrims to Rome.

Among these achievements one papal act set Clement VIII apart from all other popes. The benefits of this act continue to filter through history to bless all Christendom. During this time, Christianity had denounced coffee as “the hellish black brew” and, even worse, as a “Satanic threat to the soul”. However, this peace loving, clear thinking man of high character found coffee to be so delicious that he baptized it and declared it a Christian beverage, saying, “Why, this Satan's drink is so delicious. It would be a pity to let the infidels have exclusive use of it. We shall fool Satan by baptizing it and making it a truly Christian beverage.” Obviously, the Christian world has grounds to honour Pope Clement VIII."
(from Pacific Bible College's Clement Cafe)

Now go brew yourself up a fresh roasted cup and thank the Lord for his Church and that "Java Papa" And don't forget to support the Mystic Monks Coffee or Jewel of the Caribbean Coffee.

Finally a Note Bene:
The next time you are in Starbucks sipping on your cappucino(which you shouldn't because they support Planned Parenthood), you can thank the Catholic Church again! Cappuccino is named for its resemblance to the color of the robes of the monks of the Capucchin order. What's not to love here?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

My Catholic Roots and Saint Therese

My mom who passed away 6 years ago this November was born into a Catholic family with a long history of Catholicism from French Canada. On their honeymoon, my parents went to the Shrine of St. Anne de Beaupre in Quebec City . At least early on in their lives, their faith was important enough to include a shrine hop on their honeymoon. How many of us evangelicals spent our honeymoons in church or places of devotion? (Well, we didn't believe in shrines and stuff, but frankly, I wasn't trying to find the most on-fire churches during my honeymoon, nor do I recall even attempting to go to church during my honeymoon, but I digress)

In trying to find out more about my Catholic heritage, I recently re-connected to my mom's youngest sister. It turns out she has been a devout Catholic her whole life and was excited to hear about our return to the Church. She told me that my step-grandfather, who once was a religious brother had a devotion to St. Therese and gave her an old statue of St Therese of Lisieux. She asked me if I wanted it and I was thrilled to say yes, since Prodigal Daughter is particularly devoted to The Little Way of St. Therese of Lisieux. As a matter of fact, some of PD's first toe dippings in the Tiber 10 years ago were through the writings of St. Therese of the Child Jesus. Yesterday I received a package from my aunt and, lo and behold, there was the statue. What a great surprise since we talked about it a year ago and I thought she had forgot!
So I have a 1924 vintage statue of St Therese that has been a part of my spiritual heritage for all these years and we didn't know it. God is kind and merciful to give us these little blessings in our life. Thanks too St. Therese for your intercession, and Mom and Dad and all those unnamed saints who continue to intercede for us.

PS. The statue is now displayed on our hearth, but we don't worship it or pray to it. When we look at it, we think of St. Therese and her "little way" and we ask her intercession that we too would live a life clinging to Jesus. It also reminds me of my Catholic roots and I am thankful to have been once again reconnected to my spiritual heritage.

The Venerable John Paul 2- Yes!

Today the Vatican announced that John Paul 2 has been declared "venerable." What that means is that after extensive study since his death, the leadership of the Church has declared that Pope John Paul 2 has lived a life of heroic virtue, which is the first step to being declared a saint.
How can mere men make these outrageous claims?
Is it arrogant for mere humans to declare someone a saint*?

The answer to these questions is found in Holy Scripture (Matt 16:19; 18:18). Jesus told his apostles, his successors, that what they bind on earth will be bound in heaven. The process of beatification and canonization is just one practical example of this promise being carried out here and now, 2000 years later by the successors of Peter.

*(meaning the Church makes a binding statement that an individual is in heaven and a model of heroic virtue for the faithful to emulate and request intercession)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I Gotta Get One Of These!

Why do Catholics get so excited about the pope? (regardless of who he is at the time)

Why do they post blogs about papal Christmas ornaments? (Check this out.)

Because the office of the papacy represents the unity of the Church Jesus started and points us to the reality of apostolic succession and ultimately is a sign to the world that Jesus word's to Peter are still being fulfilled 2000 years later! "Thou art Cephas (rock) and upon this rock..."

Here's what Karl Adams said about this in his Spirit of Catholicism:

In the light of this faith our Lord's words to Peter: "Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church," become at once promise and fulfillment. Has not history taught us, and are we not seeing every day, that it was, and is, and will be this one rock which supports the Church of Christ, and with that Church a living faith in the Incarnation of the Son of God? There is a sacred and profound significance in the fact that Simon's appointment to be the rock of the Church was preceded by his confession: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God." For faith in Christ, the Church and Peter: these three things belong together. Where there is no Peter, where men have broken faith with him, there the fellowship of the faith perishes and along with it belief in Jesus Christ. Where there is no rock, there there is no Church, there there is no Christ.

And where Peter is, there of a truth the gates of hell rage against the fellowship of the faith. There Marcion comes, and Arius, and the renaissance and rationalism, and the gospel of worldly culture. But still we abide in the Upper Room, gathered round our Lord and Master. Where Peter is, there is Christ.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Positively Judgement Street

Dr. Francis Beckwith, philosophy professor at Baylor University, author, speaker and former president of the Evangelical Theological Society came back to the Catholic Church after spending most of his life as a devout Protestant. Despite the fact that this was two years ago, he still continues to be the subject of intense debate and discussion among our separated brethren bloggers. The latest discussion is regarding whether he is really saved or not.
Well I came upon a little parody on u tube that attempts to respond to this sad state of affairs regarding the analysis of Dr. Beckwith's soul in a Dylanesque fashion. Let's keep Dr. Beckwith and all other convert/reverts in our prayers and pray that God uses their testimony to change the hearts of those so opposed to the Catholic faith.

Gaudete Sunday

Rejoice, the Lord is Nigh! This is the Church's message to the faithful today on Gaudete Sunday. We are commanded to rejoice because we are half-way through Advent and the coming of the Christ Child is almost at hand. Also, we are to rejoice in the hope of his second coming as well.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Pope Benedict on the Immaculate Conception

VATICAN CITY, 8 DEC 2009 (VIS) - At midday today, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Benedict XVI appeared at the window of his study to pray the Angelus with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square below.

The Holy Father commented on the title of "Immaculate" by referring to the book of Genesis (the protoevangelium*) and the account of the Annunciation in the Gospel of St. Luke. "It is through woman that God Himself will triumph", he said. "That woman is the Virgin Mary from whom was born Jesus Christ Who, with His sacrifice, defeated the ancient tempter once and for all. For this reason, in so many paintings and statues of the Immaculate, she is shown in the act of crushing a serpent under her foot.

"For his part", he added "the Evangelist Luke shows us the Virgin Mary receiving the announcement from the heavenly messenger. She appears as the humble and authentic daughter of Israel, the true Zion in which God wishes to establish His dwelling. She is the branch from which the Messiah, the just and merciful King, will grow. ... Unlike Adam and Eve, Mary remains obedient to the Lord's will. With all of herself she pronounces her 'yes' and fully places herself at the disposal of the divine plan. She is the new Eve, the true 'mother of all creatures'; that is, of everyone who, through faith in Christ, receives eternal life".

"What an immense joy it is", Pope Benedict exclaimed, "to have Mary Immaculate as our mother! Whenever we experience our own fragility and the lure of evil, we can turn to her and our hearts receive light and comfort. Even in the trials of life, in the storms that unsettle our faith and hope, we know that we are her children and that the roots of our life lie deep in the infinite grace of God. In her the Church, though exposed to the negative influences of the world, always finds a star by which to guide herself and to follow the route Christ shows her. Mary is, in fact, the Mother of the Church, as solemnly proclaimed by Pope Paul VI and Vatican Council II".

The Pope concluded by rendering thanks unto God "for this marvellous sign of His goodness", and by entrusting to the Virgin Immaculate "each one of us, our families and communities, the whole Church and the world entire".

The Early Christians Thoughts on Mary:

*Justin Martyr (125-165)

"For Eve, being a virgin and undefiled, conceiving the word that was from the serpent, brought forth disobedience and death; but the Virgin Mary, taking faith and joy, when the Angel told her the good tidings, that the Spirit of the Lord should ... overshadow her, and therefore the Holy One that was born of her was Son of God, answered, "Be it done to me according to Thy word."

The concept of Genesis 3:15 being the Proto-evangel, or "First Gospel" is attributed to St. Irenaeus of Lyons (135-202) "For this end did He put enmity between the serpent and the woman and her seed, they keeping it up mutually: He, the sole of whose foot should be bitten, having power also to tread upon the enemy's head; but the other biting, killing, and impeding the steps of man, until the seed did come appointed to tread down his head, - which was born of Mary, of whom the prophet speaks: 'Thou shalt tread upon the asp and the basilisk; thou shalt trample down the lion and the dragon (Psalm 91:13).'"
- Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Chapter 23, Number 7 21

Pray For Us Servant of God Archbishop Fulton Sheen

Today we mark the 30th anniversary of Archbishop Fulton Sheen's death in 1979. His cause for canonization is currently being put forth. His ministry spanned 60 years and he was a prolific writer, apologist, defender of Catholicism, philosopher, theologian, preacher, Emmy Award-winning televangelist and icon of religious programming in America. And not one scandal!
He was instrumental in the conversion of many famous people including Henry Ford II and Claire Booth Luce.

Archbishop Sheen, pray for us
that we too would be faithful in proclaiming the gospel
and defending the faith regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Thoughts on the Immaculate Conception

After 5 years of being Catholic, I can't imagine now how or why I questioned why God would "make Mary" without sin. Now it seems so obvious and intuitive that the person who bore God should her self be preserved from sin at the time of her conception.
So on this solemnity of the Blessed Mother's Immaculate Conception I thank God for the way he ordered his universe for the ultimate glory of himself using one of us humans to be a part of the whole divine plan. Not just a random human, but a woman full of grace, from the time of her conception.

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

Mary gave to the world the Life that renews all things, and she was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role.

It is no wonder, then, that the usage prevailed among the holy Fathers whereby they called the mother of God entirely holy and free from all stain of sin, fashioned by the Holy Spirit into a kind of new substance and new creature. Adorned from the first instant of her conception with the splendors of an entirely unique holiness, the Virgin of Nazareth is, on God's command, greeted by an angel messenger as "full of grace" (cf. Luke 1:28). To the heavenly messenger she replies: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word" (Luke 1:38)

(Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 56).

Monday, December 07, 2009

St Ambrose and The Water and the Wood and the Dove

Today the Church honors the man who lead St. Augustine to Jesus in the waters of baptism. Once again we see that for a person to become a Christian he needed to be born-again by way of the waters of baptism. If the early Church in the fifth century believed this and there was no evidence of an altar call or recitation of the sinner's prayer, you can be assured that this was and still is the normative way of salvation that God intended for His people. Why pre-figure all of this business about water in the Old Testament if baptism is not necessary and only a symbolic option as our Protestant brothers maintain over the past 400 years?

Here's what St Ambrose said about Baptism:

What did you see in the baptistry? Water, certainly, but not water alone; you saw the deacons (like the Levites of old) exercizing their ministry and the bishop (like the chief priest of old) asking questions and bestowing sanctification.

The Apostle Paul taught you to look not at what is visible but at what is invisible; for visible things will pass away but the invisible things are eternal. As you read elsewhere: Since the creation of the world, the invisible attributes of God, his eternal power and his divinity are understood through the things that he has done. The Lord himself says: If you do not believe in me, believe in my works. So here, at baptism, believe that the Godhead is present. Can you believe that God is at work and yet deny that he is present? How can any work happen unless the one who performs it is already there?

Consider how ancient this mystery is; for it is prefigured even in the origin of the world itself. In the very beginning, when God made the heaven and the earth, it is said: The Spirit moved upon the waters. He who was moving over the waters, was he not acting on them as well? You can recognize that he was working in that moment of creation, when you see how the prophet says: By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all their strength by the spirit of his mouth. There is as much support from the prophets for one thing as for the other. Moses says that the spirit of God was moving and David the psalmist testifies that he was working.

Here is another piece of evidence. By its own iniquities all flesh was corrupted. And God says: My Spirit shall not remain among men, because they are flesh. This goes to show that carnal impurity and the pollution of grave sin turn away the grace of the Spirit. Since that had happened, God sought to repair his disfigured creation. He sent the flood and commanded Noah, the just man, to go up into the ark. As the waters of the flood were receding Noah sent first a raven (which did not return) and then a dove, which came back with an olive branch, as we read in the scriptures. And now you see the water, you see the wood, you see the dove, and you still doubt the mystery?

The water is the water into which the flesh is dipped, to wash away all the sins of the flesh. And so is all sin buried.

The wood is the wood on which the Lord Jesus was fastened when he suffered for us.

The dove symbolizes the Holy Spirit’s taking on the form of a dove, as you have learnt from the New Testament: the Spirit who brings peace to your soul and calm to your troubled mind.

So we have the water, the wood and the dove.
Baptism is not symbolic but efficacious in transmitting grace to the receiver. Why doubt the mystery?

Saturday, December 05, 2009

The Votes Are In: Being Catholic Improves Your Relationship With Jesus!

After several weeks of polling, the official results are in. The majority of Christians (86%) who have converted to Catholicism believe that this step has brought them closer to and enhanced their relationship with Jesus. A very small percentage (11 %) believe that being Catholic has been a detriment to their relationship with Jesus. One voter regretted their decision to convert. Most interesting is that becoming Catholic never makes one's relationship with Jesus stay the same!
Though this poll was not scientific I think it illustrates that most converts have benefited from their conversion. Personally speaking, I think this is because when one becomes Catholic, the "head" becomes reattached to the body, so to speak. To believe in Jesus alone , separate from His body, the Church, is unnatural and was not destined to be the normative way of Christianity.

The catechism sums up this relationship between faith, God and the Church:

Salvation comes from God alone; but because we receive the life of faith through the Church, she is our mother: "We believe the Church as the mother of our new birth, and not in the Church as if she were the author of our salvation." Because she is our mother, she is also our teacher in the faith. "
Believing" is an ecclesial act. The Church's faith precedes, engenders, supports and nourishes our faith. The Church is the mother of all believers. "No one can have God as Father who does not have the Church as Mother" (St. Cyprian, De unit. 6: PL 4, 519)

Pope Benedict's Advent Vesper Homily

From last week's homily:

Dear brothers and sisters,

With this evening celebration we enter the liturgical time of Advent. In the biblical reading we just heard, taken from the First Letter to the Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul invites us to prepare for the "coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (5:23), keeping ourselves irreproachable, with the grace of God. Paul uses, in fact, the word "coming," in Latin adventus, from whence comes the term Advent.

Let us reflect briefly on the meaning of this word, which can be translated as "presence," "arrival," "coming." In the language of the ancient world it was a technical term used to indicate the arrival of a functionary or the visit of a king or emperor to a province. But it could also indicate the coming of the divinity, which goes out of concealment to manifest itself with power, or which is celebrated as present in worship. Christians adopted the word "advent" to express their relationship with Jesus Christ: Jesus is King, who has entered into this poor "province" called earth to visit everyone; he brings to participate in his advent those who believe in him, all those who believe in his presence in the liturgical assembly. With the word adventus an attempt was made essentially to say: God is here, he has not withdrawn from the world, he has not left us alone. Although we cannot see or touch him, as is the case with tangible realities, he is here and comes to visit us in multiple ways.

The meaning of the expression "advent" includes therefore also that of visitatio, which means simply and properly "visit"; in this case it is a visit of God: He enters my life and wants to address me. We all experience in daily life having little time for the Lord and little time for ourselves. We end up by being absorbed in "doing." Is it not true that often activity possesses us, that society with its many interests monopolizes our attention? Is it not true that we dedicate much time to amusements and leisure of different kinds? Sometimes things "trap" us.

Advent, this intense liturgical time that we are beginning, invites us to pause in silence to grasp a presence. It is an invitation to understand that every event of the day is a gesture that God directs to us, sign of the care he has for each one of us. How many times God makes us perceive something of his love! To have, so to speak, an "interior diary" of this love would be a beautiful and salutary task for our life! Advent invites and stimulates us to contemplate the Lord who is present. Should not the certainty of his presence help us to see the world with different eyes? Should it not help us to see our whole existence as a "visit," as a way in which he can come to us and be close to us, in each situation?

Another essential element of Advent is expectation, expectation that at the same time is hope. Advent drives us to understand the meaning of time and history as "kairos," as a favorable occasion for our salvation. Jesus illustrated this mysterious reality in many parables: in the account of the servants invited to await the return of their master; in the parable of the virgins who await the bridegroom; or in those of the sowing and harvesting. Man, in his life, is in constant waiting: When he is a child he wants to grow, as an adult he tends to his realization and success, growing in age, he aspires to his deserved rest. However the time comes in which he discovers that he has waited too little if, beyond his profession or social position, he has no choice but to wait. Hope marks the path of humanity, but for Christians it is animated by a certainty: The Lord is present in the course of our life, he accompanies us and one day he will also dry our tears. In a not too distant day, everything will find its fulfillment in the Kingdom of God, Kingdom of justice and peace.

However, there are very different ways of waiting. If time is not filled by a present gifted with meaning, the waiting runs the risk of becoming unbearable; if something is expected, but at this moment there is nothing, namely, if the present is empty, every instant that passes seems exaggeratedly long, and the waiting is transformed into a weight that is too heavy because the future is totally uncertain. When, instead, time is gifted with meaning and we perceive in every instant something specific and valuable, then the joy of waiting makes the present more precious.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us live the present intensely, when we already have the gifts of the Lord, let us live it projected to the future, a future full of hope. The Christian Advent thus becomes an occasion to reawaken in ourselves the true meaning of waiting, returning to the heart of our faith which is the mystery of Christ, the Messiah awaited for long centuries and born in the poverty of Bethlehem. Coming among us, he has brought us and continues to offer us the gift of his love and of his salvation. Present among us, he speaks to us in many ways: in sacred Scripture, in the liturgical year, in the saints, in the events of daily life, in the whole of creation, which changes in aspect if he is behind it or if it is obfuscated by the mist of an uncertain origin and an uncertain future. In turn, we can speak to him, present to him the sufferings that afflict us, impatience, the questions that spring from the heart. We are certain that he always hears us! And if Jesus is present, there is no time deprived of meaning and void. If he is present, we can continue to wait also when others can no longer give us their support, even when the present is exhausting.

Dear friends, Advent is the time of the presence and the expectation of the eternal. Precisely for this reason it is, in a particular way, the time of joy, of an internalized joy, that no suffering can erase. Joy because of the fact that God became a child. This joy, invisibly present in us, encourages us to walk with confidence. Model and support of this profound joy is the Virgin Mary, through whom the Child Jesus has been given to us. May she, faithful disciple of her Son, obtain for us the grace to live this liturgical time vigilant and diligent in waiting. Amen.

Friday, December 04, 2009

The Best Things in Life...

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

"I will go peaceably and firmly to the Catholic Church: for if Faith is so important to our salvation, I will seek it where true Faith first began, seek it among those who received it from God Himself."

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton; wife, mother, foundress, educator, and convert.