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.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Liturgy and Lust

Wow! Could two subjects be ever more diametrically opposed? Sadly it is a subject that I reluctantly and shame-facedly bring to my blog today. With the advent of the summer season I find that attending the Divine Liturgy (AKA the Mass) can sometimes be a real battle for me.
Since becoming Catholic, I have received much grace in overcoming a lot of strongholds of sin in my life but the "lust of the eyes" is one that I, and most Christian men continue to struggle with.(though it has been much better through frequent confession and the reception of theEucharist)

When I attend Mass, I desire very much to unite myself with Christ, first in prayer and then in His body and blood in the Eucharist. Mass is an opportunity to be cleansed of our sins and once again receive Him and be "animated" by His soul, body, blood and divinity. But attending Mass shouldn't be an opportunity for near occasions of sin! These near occasions of sin are often caused by the inappropriate styles that are worn by our fellow parishioners particularly in the warmer months of the year. Do these folks know they are putting their fellow parishioners at risk for the near occasion of sin? I doubt it and if they were aware of the struggles we go through, I suspect they would be willing to dress more modestly. (By the way, this is not a strictly Catholic issue because in my evangelical Protestant days, it was still an issue on Sunday mornings.)

So how do we conquer lust during the Liturgy? We begin Mass by asking forgiveness for our sins and asking those around us and in heaven to pray for us. Then, I tend to keep my eyes focused on the altar and the crucifix. I don't look around the congregation , there's no need to. I close my eyes for most of Mass since a good portion(about 3/4ths) of the Mass is prayer directed to God and I get distracted if my eyes are opened anyway when I pray. Until I am more perfected and gain complete mastery over this temptation, these little steps do help me to approach the altar and receive Him more worthily.

The other approach I may try is asking that this letter be placed in the bulletin anonymously. What do you think?

Dear Women of St. _____Parish

I write this letter with the utmost respect for your dignity as women. From childhood, I have been assaulted by media messages that portray you as mere objects for sexual pleasure. Every day I see images of women on television, magazines, and billboards with little clothing and in provocative poses. Now with the Internet, it is even more of a struggle for me to avoid the temptation of viewing pornographic images which are merely a click away.

I know how harmful pornography is, destroying marriages and families by the thousands. Thankfully God has provided the grace for me to avoid this mortal sin by receiving the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist.

I find great strength in going to Mass on Sunday. However, the images and thoughts are never far from my mind causing a constant battle to maintain purity. When I see women in Mass dressed immodestly I lose focus on the things of God and instead am battling lustful thoughts. Our parish publishes announcements about dressing appropriately every summer and some of you have graciously tried to comply. For that I thank you tremendously because my desire to focus on the Holy Eucharist and see you not as an object but as one created in the image of God is definitely enhanced when I don’t have the distractions of seeing you in immodest clothing.

I have a great desire to continue to overcome these temptations and follow God with my whole heart. Please help me to do so by dressing modestly for Mass.

Sincerely your brother in Christ,

A male parishioner of St. ______.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

My Magnificent Catholic Obsession

I recently received a private message through facebook from someone who had been reading my posts. The person was worried that I have become "obsessed with Catholicism" and was writing out of concern regarding my frequent posting about Catholic- related topics. Indeed, in my practice of general medicine over the years I have seen a few cases of extreme religious zealotry turn out to be the new onset of bipolar disorder(manic depression) heralded by a new-found religiosity. I remember one of these sad cases was a gent who stayed awake for 7 days at a time and was pulled over by the police for driving 90 miles per hour down Route 95 attempting to get to the White House to share with the president a message he "needed to deliver from God." Unfortunately, once his mania was subdued, so was their faith!

I suppose it is true that I spend a fair amount of time thinking about my Catholic faith, much of it being a sense of gratitude to the Lord for allowing me to find the Church so late in my life- especially after I walked away and trashed it for so many years. It's that "I could've had a V8" feeling that I have written about before. Had I only known how rich and beautiful Catholicism is, I would have done this years ago! It's the constant sense of having found the Pearl of Great Price our Lord talks about in scripture.

Along with this sense of awe and gratitude, I am obsessed with this thought: "Since Catholicism has been such a blessing to me and it took 31 years to discover it, why should I keep it under a bushel and not share it with others?" Heck, if I, a relatively non-emotional Christian middle-aged guy, can be bowled over by the mercy and grace of God found in the sacraments of the Catholic Church, what would it be like for my brethren who were like me, in the dark about what Catholicism is really all about? How wonderful would it be for them to discover Jesus in the Breaking of the Bread as I did? Why wouldn't I want to share this treasure with them, if I truly love my brothers and sisters? If I truly believe that the fullness of Christian faith subsists in the Catholic Church, why would I not want to see others come home to the Church? Shouldn't I desire my Protestant brothers and sisters to experience Jesus as I have knowing it could be life-changing for them too?

So, with a limited amount of time left on this side of eternity, why not spend time in efforts to share the richness of the Catholic faith with those, who through no fault of their own, never had the opportunity to learn about this Church that I have been privileged to discover. So is this a bad obsession? I asked my wife after reading the e mail to her. My wife would tell you it's not. She likes the new "obsessive Catholic me" better than the old not so-obsessed me. I will trust her judgment better than my own.

History is full of men who became obsessed with Catholicism. Here's GK Chesterton:
"It is impossible to be just to the Catholic Church. The moment men cease to pull against it they feel a tug towards it. The moment they cease to shout it down they begin to listen to it with pleasure. The moment they try to be fair to it they begin to be fond of it. But when that affection has passed a certain point it begins to take on the tragic and menacing grandeur of a great love affair."

Monday, May 17, 2010

Recent Rainbow

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Bishop and Me

Tonight at the 6 PM Vigil Mass, our bishop, John Barres, came to our parish in Orefield to say Mass. He heard confessions both before and after Mass. His homily was about the link between St Stephen's martyrdom and St Paul's Damascus Road conversion. How we witness by our lives and actions can have major ramifications in other's life "down the road."
We are blessed to have such an awesome shepherd! I suspect we will see many more vocations in the upcoming years because of his priestly and fatherly example.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Vatican Names New Telescope "Lucifer"!

That title sure catches your attention doesn't it? It did mine. I found this information on facebook. The latest breeding ground for anti-Catholic hate speech. Lately I have been spending a fair amount of time in this dark world of fb attempting to dispel the myths and false accusations against the Church. One of the pages I frequented until they banned me was called "Catholics Are Not Christians" and "Catholicism is a Cult." That's where this title is from.

These two fb groups are created by a fundamentalist businessman from Alpharetta, Georgia and his two sons. He was unwise enough to use his full name on the page and a few clicks on Google revealed his "off-line" business and location. To say they are anti-Catholic would be a gross understatement. I have yet to see this degree of vitriol and vile spewed out against the bride of Christ. They uses images of the KKK and Nazi Germany in an attempt to foment hatred towards the Church. They also circulate 100 year old "stories" that have been published in this country in the 1800-1900's in many newspapers, that were fabrications aimed at demeaning the Church. The story of Maria Monk is one and Chalotte Heckler another. Both proven many times over as complete fabrications.

   One of the latest rumors that this businessman  is circulating is that the Vatican has constructed a brand new hi-tech telescope in Arizona that they named Lucifer. They claim that this telescope is operated by Jesuit priests (cue the mysterious eeeevil music here) and to top this off, it is all built on an ancient Indian burial ground.(Actually, most of Arizona is an Indian burial ground but I digress) Mr. Farris is trying to say that these evil Jesuits have purposely named the telescope after Satan because, well after all, everyone knows they are satanists, right? No!

     After a few more clicks with Google, turns out none of this is true. The Vatican Observatory Foundation has owned a telescope on Mount Graham in Arizona since the 1980's. It is one of the few places left on earth that doesn't have too much light pollution and perfectly low humidity to operate one of these fancy telescopes which detect infra-red frequencies. Their telescope is called VATT. Recently a consortium of astronomers from Germany, Italy and the US constructed a new and different telescope using a special hi-tech camera dubbed LUCIFER. It's name is an acronym for: Large Binocular Telescope Near-infrared Utility with Camera and Integral Field Unit for Extragalactic Research. These astronomers have no connection to the Vatican. The only possible connection is that they share the top of Mount Graham where many other groups have observatories located because of the desirable characteristics mentioned above. How about the Jesuit connection? They always seem to show up in the Jack Chick comic books and internet legends like these. The poor Jesuits! Turns out, that the director of the Vatican Observatory is a PhD astronomer who is on staff at the University of Arizona. No relationship to the LUCIFER Telescope. Darn!
Why did I even bother? Well, I hope and believe there is still some goodness left in these people and appealing to that goodness may reach them. By showing them the falsity of these stories, perhaps they will at least agree to not perpetuate lies. But then again, maybe I'm wrong.

Just to document to my readers, I didn't fabricate my story, I wrote to one of the scientist listed on the LUCIFER web page site and this is our correspondence.

From: russ rentler <>
Date: Wed, 12 May 2010 18:25:53 -0400
To: Daniel Stolte <>
Subject: LUCIFER TELESCOPE and Catholicism

Dear Mr. Stolte:
Sorry to take your time with this, but I have been reading across the internet that the Vatican has purchased and named the new telescope Lucifer. Of course they are trying to link Catholicism with the devil. My understanding is that the Vatican Observatory Organization has no financial or controlling interest whatsoever in the new LBT telescope. An article in Popular Science magazine made the spurious connection and an internet legend was born.
If you could just let me know if it is true that the Vatican has not named or purchased this telescope, that would be helpful to end these silly rumors.
Thanks so much

Russ Rentler, M.D.

Dear Dr. Rentler,

Thank you for your email and your interest. I can ease your concerns – the Vatican Observatory has nothing to do with the LUCIFER project. LUCIFER is merely an acronym given to the instrument to shorten its name ( Large Binocular Telescope Near-infrared Utility with Camera and Integral Field Unit for Extragalactic Research). The instrument and all of its components are run by a consortium of astronomy researchers based in Germany. It is a mere coincidence that the Large Binocular Telescope, which houses the LUCIFER instrument, happens to be on the same location as the Vatican Observatory’s telescope (Mount Graham in Southeastern Arizona), but that is a different device and there is no connection to the Large Binocular Telescope or the LUCIFER instrument.

Hoping to have helped end the rumors and Yours sincerely,

Daniel Stolte
Daniel Stolte, M.S.
Science Writer
University Communications
The University of Arizona
888 N Euclid Ave. Rm. 413
P.O. Box 210158
Tucson, AZ 85721-0158

Phone (520) 626-4402
Fax (520) 626-4121
UANews is available at:

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

Today I give you to "Prodigal Daughter", my wife, who became the mother here on earth for my two sons when their birth Mom left us for heaven so many years ago. We have had our share of sad and difficult Mother's Days in the past, particularly the first couple after my wife passed, but God has been very gracious to me and the boys by bringing this "angel in waiting" into our lives.

Thank you God for Mother's and especially for giving us your Mom from the cross. "John behold your son." The Church has always interpreted this to mean Christ was giving Mary, not just to John, but the whole Church.

To read my wife's post for today, click here.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Crossed The Tiber Blog is 4 Years Old!

"In order to get into Rome, the City of the 7 Hills, one needs to cross over the Tiber River. This has become a metaphor for converting to Catholicism. After thirty years as an evangelical Christian, I have recently Crossed the Tiber. It's been over two years now and not a moment of regret or wistful desire to cross back do I have. However, I do have a sadness over friendships lost and a smaller circle of immediate friends. But as compensation, I have the palpable sense of having joined a community with 1.5 billion souls on this planet as well as those who have gone before which seems to make up for the temporary losses!
I start this blog in order to explain my journey across the Tiber River as I have experienced it to be a most satisfying and authentic way to live. Becoming Catholic has not just been a changed address on Sunday morning for me, but a brand new (actually ancient) way of apprehending God and being apprehended by Him. I am saddened by the way in which many people (myself included until recently) dismiss Catholics and 2000 years of Christian history."

With those comments above I began my blog 4 years ago on April 27th. 1381 blog posts later I continue to desire to share with others the reality that Jesus is truly with us in the breaking of the Bread-the Eucharist. It has been a great experience for me and I hope and pray that it has had some benefit in helping others understand the Church in a new light. It has also been a great source of strength and fellowship. To meet so many other converts and reverts has made me realize how widespread the Tiber Crossing Phenomenon is (and actually always has been).

The greatest blessing for me is to still see comments on my conversion story show up every once and awhile and to see that others are inquiring about this thing called "The Catholic Faith."
More than anything else, what keeps me going with it, is knowing that on any given day a protestant or ex-Catholic may, with fear and trepidation, google "Catholic convert...."

God bless you all!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

"Apart From Me You Can Do Nothing"

Today's gospel reading in morning Mass got me thinking. Thinking about the absurdity of those who claim Catholics think they can earn their way to heaven and by the same folks who think you can never lose their salvation. Let's hear the word of the Lord:

Jesus said to his disciples:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.

He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit,

and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.

You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.

Remain in me, as I remain in you.

Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own

unless it remains on the vine,

so neither can you unless you remain in me.

I am the vine, you are the branches.

Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,

because without me you can do nothing.

Anyone who does not remain in me

will be thrown out like a branch and wither;

people will gather them and throw them into a fire

and they will be burned.

If you remain in me and my words remain in you,

ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.

By this is my Father glorified,

that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”

Without abiding in Christ, remaining in Him, we can do nothing. When a Catholic is accused of "doing good works to get to heaven" the accuser is missing a very big point here. The faithful Catholic knows that by His grace and our faith we remain in Him and He provides the grace (impetus/power/desire/motivation) to bear fruit. Only by grace can we abide in Him and only by His grace we can remain in Him and only by virtue of our "branchedness" do we produce the fruits that He expects of us.
If we choose to detach ourselves from the vine, walk away from Christ, he tells us we will wither and be burned. St Paul further re-enforces this idea by telling the Church(the Christians) they they are grafted in and should be even less presumptuous to believe they can't be cast out if they start bearing bad fruit. "Do not become proud, but stand in awe. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and severity of God: severity towards those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in His kindness: otherwise you too will be cut off." Rom. 11:20

Thank you Jesus for making me a part of your vine. Only by your grace Lord am I here. I pray that you keep me close to you and prune me so I bear much fruit for you and your Kingdom.
In Your name I pray Amen.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Medical Education in 1870

In 1870, a leading medical school in the US needed to re-evaluate the quality of education they were providing. This lead to a great debate among the faculty over whether a student applying to the medical school should be literate or not. With a majority vote of 5 out of 9 faculty, the medical school decided that literacy should not be made a requirement for admission. The name of this medical school was Harvard.
This gives us a little historical glimpse of how widespread literacy was in the US. (or wasn't)

FaceBook Evangelism

There are many anti-Catholic facebook pages I have discovered. One in particular is called "Catholics Are Not Christians." It is run by a small group of protestants who have learned everything they need to know about Catholicism from Jack Chick comic books (seriously)
As a little project last Saturday I started a new facebook group called "Catholics Are Christians." In just 4 days we have almost 1000 new members join the group and have had numerous discussions and opportunities to witness to our Catholic faith. Thank God for the many opportunities he gives us to witness through the new social media including Twitter.
I still think of St. Francis De Sales though. Even without a Blackberry or an iPhone, or broadband access, he won 60,000 Calvinists back to the Church in the 17th century. His method was preaching and hand writing tracts and slipping them under the door of ex-Catholics.
I like to think of these internet efforts as "slipping a little tract" under the proverbial "doors" of those who may be open to the Spirit in bringing them home to the Catholic Church. You can't know until you try.
St Francis Desales pray for us.

Monday, May 03, 2010

A Supreme Court Without Protestants?

Interesting article. Just sayin'.