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 29, 2010

Our 6th Anniversary In The Catholic Church

Tomorrow we will celebrate the 6th anniversary of our return to the Catholic Church. What started as an un-expected moment of surrender to God in a darkened theater has led to my re-establishment of communion with the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church.

In the early spring of 2004, while watching the Passion of the Christ, for the first time I saw how much Christ had suffered for me. It was as if my eyes were opened anew despite years of having read the gospels. I had always believed it but not until I saw his suffering displayed so graphically did I finally say: "Ok God, since you did that for me, I will do anything for you." "Anything?" He asked me in the quiet darkness. "Yes, Jesus" I said back to him with hot tears running down my cheeks trying to contain my sobs. "I will do anything you ask of me." My next thought was "I'd even become Catholic!" One of the most contrary things I could think of at the time.
  • I would even surrender MY IDEA of what a church should look like.
  • I would even surrender My RIGHT to understand the Bible my way.
  • I would even surrender MY PREFERENCE of worship styles and practices.
  • I would even surrender MY BITTERNESS against the Church of my youth and my parent's religion.
I left the theater that night quiet and shaking inside. Shaken because I never realized how much He suffered for me and how much I had held back from him despite claiming to have a personal relationship with him for 31 years. For whatever reason, the movie brought me to the point where I could say to Him finally, I will surrender everything to you regardless of how it makes me feel. Regardless of my level of comfort.

I hated the thought of returning to the Church, and with my old pride rising up within me, I decided not to tell my wife that I had this "moment of surrender." Instead, I started to quietly listen in when she had EWTN on the TV. I then asked her if she could buy back some of the books I asked her to dispose of years before. I started reading Steve Ray's Crossing the Tiber, and discovered the writings of the early Church fathers for the first time in my life. I couldn't put it down. That was it.

I knew I had to return to this Church that always believed that Jesus was truly physically present in the Eucharist as the Early Christians practiced and wrote about. Here I was for 31 years trying to get close to Jesus and he had been there all the time! I was so angry because no one had told me and yet so happy at the same time! This was that "crazy missing part" that Keith Green sung about in Love Broke Through so many years ago in my teen years.

In a few short weeks, Deborah and I were sitting in front of a young Catholic priest spilling our guts and a week or so after that I was on my knees in a chapel one evening having just received Jesus, soul, body and divinity for the first time since I was a kid. The one I had been searching for my whole life was now closer than I could ever come to Him on this earth. He had been there all the time, waiting for me.

It all started with His grace leading me to a moment of surrender.
In a little eastern Pennsylvania town called Emmaus, I recognised Him in the breaking of the bread. Thank you Jesus for not giving up on me.
And thank you Deborah for your patience and love.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Jewish Professor at Amherst Crosses the Tiber

Hadley Arkes, a professor of jurisprudence at Amherst College came into the Catholic Church on Sunday. You can read his story here. He wrote the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act of 2002 that was passed unanimously by the house and senate.

Welcome Home Dr. Arkes!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Bit of Nostalgia

I am in the process of selling some old recording equipment. Because recording technology changes so quickly, you can accumulate a lot of stuff in a few years that quickly becomes obsolete. When going through some old recordings on digital Hi8 format, I found a song that I wrote in 2000. As I listened to it again for the first time in 10 years it brought back a lot of memories.
We had just left a charismatic church and made the bold move of joining a denominational church, the United Methodists (a conservative one). At the time, this was a major deal and my wife and I felt we were leaving the mother-ship for uncharted waters. Having had a conversion experience in 1973 in a charismatic non-denominational bible study, I thought that non-denominational churches were the way to go and our pastor spoke disparagingly about any churches that were not like us. Well, as we got older my wife and I both felt that the "wild, no holes barred, free-form, anything-can-happen" Sunday service was not our thing anymore. Actually I had felt this for many years but inertia has a way of keeping you from moving.
I wrote about this in my conversion story.(Chapter 5)
At any rate, as I wrote this song, I was trying to articulate that I believed that God was present with us in the midst of the congregation, even in silence and regardless of whether we felt like jumping up and down or just standing still. I knew and believed in my heart that there had to be something more than loud hyper-energized "praise and worship" as a way to reach God and be reached by Him. I didn't believe that an emotional experience was the goal of worship nor the sign that God had touched you. I guess this song was my thoughts on what I thought worship was supposed to be. Little did I know I was about 4 years away from experiencing worship the way the New Testament believers worshiped in the sacrifice of the Mass. I think God was already preparing me to make the jump and the Methodist church was a "stop-over" on the journey to Rome. Here's the song I found tonight. I "digitally" re-mastered it with my newer software.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Universality of Catholicism

"Although the present-day concepts of literacy have much to do with the 15th century invention of the movable type printing press, it was not until the Industrial Revolution of the mid-19th century that paper and books became financially affordable to all classes of industrialized society. Until then, only a small percentage of the population were literate as only wealthy individuals and institutions could afford the prohibitively expensive materials. Even today, the dearth of cheap paper and books is a barrier to universal literacy in some less-industrialized nations." (cf wikipedia search on "history of literacy")

This got me thinking about the Catholic faith and how it is so, so.... universal. The word universal means "including or covering all or a whole collectively or distributively without limit or exception; especially : available equitably to all members of a society. " One size fits all, if you will. Catholicism is literally universal because it is a faith that can fit any culture, with any rate of literacy or lack thereof. The ability of the Catholic Church to share the gospel has not been based (and is still not) on the availability of Bibles for individuals or a target audience that has acquired the skill to read and understand and interpret the scripture. As a matter of fact, 75% of the current time line of Christianity has already transpired without the availability of personal portable bibles (Printing press not being invented until the 1472)

Jesus is not willing that any should perish. His sacrifice on the cross and shedding of blood is way too precious to be reserved only for the literate or those of an average or above average intellect that could rationally understand all the tenets of salvation. Or even those who own a Bible*.

Therefore, it makes sense to me that God would start a religion that would be readily accessible to all regardless of intellect, culture, literacy etc or bible ownership. A "simpleton" can be washed clean of original sin through the sacrament of baptism, experience His grace through confession and the Eucharist and be received into heaven at the end of his/her life without ever actually cracking open a Bible. That is the way it was for almost 1500 years. Would God have waited 1500 years to unfold his manifold mysteries of salvation just to the generations that had ready access to the Bible and the ability to read and interpret it for themselves? No, He provided us a way back to the Father that was designed for all men, for all time, for every generation. Catholicism-truly a universal way.

*Does this mean that we should denigrate scripture and not study it? Far be it from me to imply that. St Jerome said in the 5th century, ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ. But Jesus gave us a Church in which the scripture would be an integral part of it. The Mass not only includes large portions of scripture read out loud, but the entire liturgy is like a fine tapestry woven together with Scripture.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Contraception: A String of Lies

This article by Dr. Janet Smith needs to be shared with Catholics and non-Catholics as well.

An Acceptable Prejudice

An article in the Catholic Thing makes an excellent point regarding the media's recent coverage of the Church and the papacy. Check it out.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Happy 5th Anniversary To Our Holy Father

5 years ago today, the Holy Spirit worked through the college of cardinals to select our next pope. Just having come into the Catholic Church one year before, I sat fixed to the television watching the proceedings of Pope John Paul's funeral and the subsequent election of Pope Benedict XVI. I loved watching the ancient process unfold as Christ's promise to guide and lead His Church was fulfilled, in complete color on CNN!

I was especially moved by Joseph Ratzinger's humility and his willingness to obey God by accepting the Fisherman's Ring when he really just wished to retire and read and play his beloved Mozart on the piano. This election was very special to me and "Room of Tears" resulted from this. Once again I post the video of my first version of Room of Tears. Also, in honor of Pope Benedict's special day today, I am offering a free download of Room of Tears here. It is the new version with bass guitar added and re-mastered on my new CD. Please keep him in your prayers as you listen to the song or watch the video.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Benefit Concert for Haiti-Success!

Last night we had a successful benefit concert for our Haitian medical mission in Port-Au-Prince.
We had over 175 guests including three of our parish priests! Over 4000 dollars was collected as a result of CD sales and donations. Thanks be to the Lord for moving in the hearts of so many parishioners to donate to the brothers and sisters in Haiti. My brother joined me for the second set and below is a clip of an autoharp version of Sing of Mary. Bob played the fretless bass.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Holy Smokes! Bad Popes! What's Next?

The news media continues its full frontal assault on Catholicism and in particular the papacy.
Newsweek has a "nice" on-line feature highlighting the deeds of the worse popes. They even re-iterate the damning secret that Pope Benedict was part of Hitler's Youth! (as was the majority of young people during Hitler's reign)
What they don't seem to mention is that in almost 2000 years there were less than 10 really really bad popes. Furthermore, despite these really bad popes making bad political/economic decisions, not one of them re-wrote the creed, contradicted the apostles teaching or made changes in the faith and morals of Christianity.

For example, even the worse pope, Alexander, didn't suddenly declare that it was ok to have mistresses(despite his having several), or that the Eucharist wasn't really the body and blood of Christ. There was something that prevented the worst of the worst from changing Christ's teachings to the Church on faith and morals. That little something is called papal infallibility.
I believe that these reminders by the secular press of the "baaaaad" popes further manifests this divine principle. Jesus promised the Church he would send His spirit to lead it in all truth, but he chose a bunch of sinful men to do it. Despite the worst despotic, lecherous popes, none of them changed foundational principles of Christianity as some of the reformers did in just a few short years. (For example, Zwingli denying the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist saying "it's only a symbol.")
Come to think of it, why didn't God just appoint angels to be bishops and popes and avoid this whole scandalous mess? Oh yeah, I forgot. There was that one pesky angel called Lucifer.....

Monday, April 12, 2010

Benefit Concert for Haiti April 17th

This Saturday at 7 PM I will be doing a concert at my home parish of St. Joseph the Worker in Orefield, PA.
We are hoping to raise money to purchase medicine and supplies to bring to Sts. Simon and Jude Parish in Port-Au-Prince this upcoming September. I will be highlighting songs from the new CD Way to Emmaus as well as some tunes from my last 2 CDs.
There will be an opportunity to give a free will offering or purchase my music CD's, and perhaps get some fresh roasted Haitian coffee if I get the time to roast some before the end of the week. Please pray for a nice turnout and that we will be able to safely navigate through the rest of the preparations still to be worked out this week. Prodigal Daughter is the main promoter and organizer but the folks of St. Joe's have been wonderful in volunteering to help this effort.
Hopefully, pics will be posted and perhaps some live video Lord, willing.

Also, there is a rumor afoot that my brother will join me on stage for a few tunes, which will be very cool if that works out. He plays bass, penny whistle, guitar and bagpipes and it will be the first time the Rentler Brothers have played in a Catholic Church together for many moons.

So any of you folks who read the blog and are in eastern PA or Jersey, C'mon out. Those in Canada and the Midwest and down south are exempted :)

Friday, April 09, 2010

Another Perspective On Clergy Abuse You Won't Hear About

Dr. Thomas Plante:(Professor of Psychology at Santa Clara University)

"First, the available research (which is quite good now) suggests that approximately 4% of priests during the past half century (and mostly in the 1960s and 1970s) have had a sexual experience with a minor (i.e., anyone under the age of 18). There are approximately 60,000 active and inactive priests and brothers in the United States and thus we estimate that between 1,000 and 3,000 priests have sexually engaged with minors. That's a lot. In fact, that is 3,000 people too many. Any sexual abuse of minors whether perpetrated by priests, other clergy, parents, school teachers, boy-scout leaders or anyone else in whom we entrust our children is horrific. However, although good data is hard to acquire, it appears that this 4% figure is consistent with male clergy from other religious traditions and is significantly lower than the general adult male population that is best estimated to be closer to 8%. Therefore, the odds that any random Catholic priest would sexually abuse a minor are not likely to be significantly higher than other males in or out of the clergy."

Read the whole article here

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Clergy Sex Abuse is Cross Denominational

Check out this article by a Baptist pastor discussing the sex abuse scandals among baptists.

"The Baptist situation may be no better than the Catholic, only shielded more deeply from view. This situation demands reform, immediately, for the sake of the vulnerable and abused children among us -- not to mention for the sake of the gospel witness, so desecrated by the abuse behind our stained glass windows."

Can someone share this with the New York Times and the anti-Catholic blogosphere that loves to label all priests as pedophiles? Not likely to happen any time soon.

The Politicization of Social Justice

The recent scrap over Glenn Beck's comments about social justice and now more recently Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, bring to light this commonly used term "social justice." Beck wants people to equate social justice with marxism. He claimed that Dorothy Day was a marxist.
(After her conversion to Catholicism, she remained loyal to the teachings of the Church and magisterium and her cause is currently being put forth for possible canonization. Just to set the record straight, she was pro-life is all respects. Marxism is not. She went to Mass daily and made use of the confessional weekly.)

The left-leaning contingent in the Catholic Church want to claim that social justice is about freeing the poor from "oppressive effects of capitalism." (unfortunately they aren't particularly interested in oppression of the unborn) They have had a significant influence on the USCCB in the past as Michael Voris has pointed out on Catholic TV videos.

As much as I appreciate the conservatives' efforts to uncover the marxist/communist influences
that are currently threatening our country, I bristle at the lumping together of Catholic teaching on social justice and leftist politics by recent conservative commentators. But, I also reject those who use their interpretation of Catholic social justice as a weapon to further their political objectives. (many of which are not compatible with Christianity)

Social justice isn't marxism or communism.
It is not owned by a political party, movement or philosophy.
It is applying gospel principles to the world we live in, as taught by our Lord.
It is practicing what we preach.
It is attempting to see the poor and needy from God's perspective, not our own.

Here's Official Catholic Teaching on Social Justice from the Vatican: Check it out.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Support The Pope

Here's a simple way of encouraging the Holy Father.
Click on this link to sign an on-line statement of support.
Along with this, let's keep him in our daily prayers.


Monday, April 05, 2010

The Easter Season and Born-Again Christians

On the Sunday after Easter, St Augustine (5th century) encouraged the new born-again Christians with this homily below. Do note that the earliest Christians were taught that water baptism was the way in which a person was "reborn," consistent with scripture as well as the early creeds that state we "believe in one baptism for the forgiveness of sins." If Augustine's writings in the 5th century define being born-again as through the sacrament of baptism, how and why did the definition change 1500 years later? Let's read what Old St. Augustine has to say to the new born-again Christians who came into the faith just the week before on the Easter Vigil Mass.

"I speak to you who have just been reborn in baptism, my little children in Christ, you who are the new offspring of the Church, gift of the Father, proof of Mother Church’s fruitfulness. All of you who stand fast in the Lord are a holy seed, a new colony of bees, the very flower of our ministry and fruit of our toil, my joy and my crown. It is the words of the Apostle that I address to you: Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh and its desires, so that you may be clothed with the life of him whom you have put on in this sacrament. You have all been clothed with Christ by your baptism in him. There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor freeman; there is neither male nor female; you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Such is the power of this sacrament: it is a sacrament of new life which begins here and now with the forgiveness of all past sins, and will be brought to completion in the resurrection of the dead. You have been buried with Christ by baptism into death in order that, as Christ has risen from the dead, you also may walk in newness of life.

You are walking now by faith, still on pilgrimage in a mortal body away from the Lord; but he to whom your steps are directed is himself the sure and certain way for you: Jesus Christ, who for our sake became man. For all who fear him he has stored up abundant happiness, which he will reveal to those who hope in him, bringing it to completion when we have attained the reality which even now we possess in hope.

This is the octave day of your new birth. Today is fulfilled in you the sign of faith that was prefigured in the Old Testament by the circumcision of the flesh on the eighth day after birth. When the Lord rose from the dead, he put off the mortality of the flesh; his risen body was still the same body, but it was no longer subject to death. By his resurrection he consecrated Sunday, or the Lord’s day. Though the third after his passion, this day is the eighth after the Sabbath, and thus also the first day of the week.

And so your own hope of resurrection, though not yet realised, is sure and certain, because you have received the sacrament or sign of this reality, and have been given the pledge of the Spirit. If, then, you have risen with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your hearts on heavenly things, not the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, your life, appears, then you too will appear with him in glory."

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Happy Easter

Rejoice heavenly powers! Sing choirs of angels!
Exult, all creation around God's throne!
Jesus Christ, our King is risen!
Sound the trumpet of salvation!

Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendor,
radiant in the brightness of your King!
Christ has conquered! Glory fills you!
Darkness vanishes forever!

Rejoice, O Mother Church! Exult in glory!
The risen Savior shines upon you!
Let this place resound with joy,
echoing the mighty song of all God's people!

It is truly right
that with full hearts and minds and voices
we should praise the unseen God,
the all powerful Father,
and his only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

For Christ has ransomed us with his blood,
and paid for us the price of Adam's sin
to our eternal Father!

This is our Passover feast,
when Christ, the true Lamb, is slain,
whose blood consecrates the homes of all believers.

This is the night
when first you saved our fathers:
you freed the people of Israel from their slavery
and led them dry-shod through the sea.

This is the night
when the pillar of fire
destroyed the darkness of sin!

This is the night
when Christians everywhere,
washed clean of sin
and freed from all defilement,
are restored to grace
and grow together in holiness.

This is the night
when Jesus Christ broke the chains of death
and rose triumphant from the grave.
What good would life have been to us,
had Christ not come as our Redeemer?

Father, how wonderful your care for us!
How boundless your merciful love!
To ransom a slave you gave away your Son.
O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam,
which gained for us so great a Redeemer!

Most blessed of all nights,
chosen by God to see Christ rising from the dead!
Of this night scripture says:
"The night will be clear as day:
it will become my light, my joy."

The power of this holy night
dispels all evil, washes guilt away,
restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy;
it casts out hatred, brings us peace,
and humbles earthly pride.

Night truly blessed
when heaven is wedded to earth
and man is reconciled with God!

Therefore, heavenly Father,
in the joy of this night
receive our evening sacrifice of praise,
your Church's solemn offering.

Accept this Easter candle,
a flame divided but undimmed,
a pillar of fire that glows to the honor of God.
Let it mingle with the lights of heaven
and continue bravely burning
to dispel the darkness of this night!

May the Morning Star which never sets
find this flame still burning:
Christ, that Morning Star,
who came back from the dead,
and shed his peaceful light on all mankind, your Son who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen

This beautiful proclamation begins the Easter Vigil after the lighting and procession of the Paschal candle, representing Jesus, the Light of the World. This has been proclaimed every Easter Vigil Mass since the 7th century in the Latin Rite.