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.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Spontaneous Versus Written Prayers

Since my last post, I have been thinking about how my prayer life has changed since returning to the Catholic Church. When Magister tagged me for a meme regarding what are my favorite prayers, I started thinking about the way I pray in the past 6 years as a Catholic believer vs my life before as a Protestant believer.
Since the time I was 14 years old, I was exposed to extemporaneous prayers exclusively and in my charismatic circles, there was no such thing as written prayers. Gone were the Hail Marys and the rosary (obviously) and the Our Father would be recited and prayed together only on rare, special occasions.
We became suspicious of those brethren who were not comfortable spontaneously praying in a group and those who were able to pray with authority and conviction were deemed to be "more spiritual." If I did happen to go to a more liturgical church, the pastor may have prayed a written prayer he had prepared before the event. I immediately had him pegged as someone who didn't really have a vibrant relationship with God because he wasn't being spontaneous. Yes, I really started to think like this! (Some of you reading this may admit the same thoughts)
This strange view of prayer created an environment where, as a young re-born Christian, you hoped the bible study leader would call on you to "open" or "close" in prayer. This would be your opportunity to "pray your heart out" and storm heaven with conviction and power. I realize now that we were really praying to the crowd and shaping our prayers for the listener instead of focusing on God. I do remember how some of my friends and Christian acquaintances would switch into their "prayer voice" and suddenly a 17 year old kid from Northern NJ is praying in perfect 1611 King James English! Technically, that's not speaking in tongues but speaking in "accents," but I digress.
Now as a Catholic I have found a treasure of 2000 years of wonderful prayers for all occasions and needs, re-discovering the Our Father, which Jesus himself taught us to pray. Is it less spiritual to pray a written/memorized prayer? It all comes down to the attitude of the heart. Does God not hear you because you pray a written prayer? Absolutely not. As a matter of fact, during 31 years as a "spontaneous" Christian, I found myself praying the same prayers over and over again using exactly the same words. Perhaps they were prayers I had made up myself, but basically I used these same phrases over and over again.
For instance, whenever I read scripture, I had a prayer I prayed to open my heart and mind to his word. Whenever I went to church I prayed the same prayer that I would be touched by God and touch Him as well. Whenever I fell into the same repetitive sin, I had the same prayer that I prayed over and over again asking for forgiveness. Whenever I rebuked the devil and "plead the blood", I had the same prayers. So, looking back, there may have been no difference to the way I prayed then and the way I do now! It's just now I have found prayers that have been written by saints and those who have gone before me facing the same situations in life that I have. As Thomas Howard has said in "If Your Mind Wanders At Mass", our human natures crave repetition and constancy and ritual. It is not vain, or un-spiritual to use written prayers. But it is vain and un-spiritual to pray spontaneously in a way that is meant to impress the hearers below and not God above. He remains unimpressed with 1611 KingJamesSpeak. Dost thou undertandeth wherewithal I speaketh?
Do I still pray spontaneously? Yes, of course, who doesn't? But I have added to my prayer arsenal a large collection of wonderful intercessions that captures my heart's desires and brings them before His throne. Written prayers prayed in public take the potential for pride and one's own agenda out of the equation and the prayer can then fulfill what it is intended to accomplish.

"So many confess their weakness, in denying to confess it, who, refusing to be beholden to a set form of prayer, prefer to say nonsense, rather than nothing, in their extempore expressions. More modesty, and no less piety, it had been for such men to have prayed longer with set forms that they might pray better without them." Thomas Fuller- protestant churchman/historian

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Favorite Prayers

Magister tagged me for this. What are your three favorite prayers?
For sure the two that I say frequently are the Fatima prayer, and the Anima Christi, which I keep a copy in my wallet to pray after each reception of the Holy Eucharist. Maybe a third might be the Morning Offering which I pray when I am walking into work each day.

"O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy. Amen."

Soul of Christ, sanctify me
Body of Christ, save me
Blood of Christ, inebriate me
Water from Christ's side, wash me
Passion of Christ, strengthen me
O good Jesus, hear me
Within Thy wounds hide me
Suffer me not to be separated from Thee
From the malicious enemy defend me
In the hour of my death call me
And bid me come unto Thee
That I may praise Thee with Thy saints

and with Thy angels
Forever and ever

O Jesus,
through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
I offer You my prayers, works,
joys and sufferings
of this day for all the intentions
of Your Sacred Heart,
in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
throughout the world,
in reparation for my sins,
for the intentions of all my relatives and friends,
and in particular
for the intentions of the Holy Father.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Assembly of God Pastor to Catholic!

Praise God! I just received an e-mail from a former AOG pastor and wife who have just completed their journey across the Tiber River this past April Easter vigil. He wanted to thank me and tell me that my blog was helpful in his conversion. (Just when you think you want to give up blogging and facebooking!) As usual, you can blame it on the Church Fathers, the Eucharist, the dis-unity he found inherent in Protestantism. Go on over to the Silent Orange and read his story and offer him a hearty Catholic Blogger's Welcome Home! I look forward to hearing more details of his story.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Prayer Request For A New Convert

I know of a new convert to the Catholic Church who needs a lot of prayer support. Without going in to details, suffice it to say this person has experienced much loss in terms of friends, fellowship, respect etc. Would you lift them up in prayer ? Thanks so much.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

"Why Would You Ever Want to Return to The Catholic Church?"

A conversation started with this question above posited to me on my fb page. I then answered with the statement below. When I reposted this question and my answer months later, it led to a very interesting discussion which I will post at a later time.

Dear _____:
Thanks for your e mail. Do I know you from ( evangelical church) days? I don't recognize your
e-mail name.I would be happy to share with you my reasons for returning to the Catholic Church if you care to listen. My greatest desire is to share this treasure that has been closed to many of us Catholics who didn't understand our faith and just went ... See Morethrough the motions.(at least that was the case with me)
There's a long answer and a short answer to your question. The short answer is that I believe the Catholic Church of today is the one Jesus started. He told Peter that he would build His Church upon the rock (Peter=Kepha) and the gates of hell would never prevail against this Church. I have spent my life desiring to be close to Him and it is through the Catholic Church and receiving Christ in the Eucharist that has brought me closer than I have ever been in 35 years of seeking and wanting to live for Jesus.
When I realized that the early Christians believed Jesus became truly present whenever the bread was broken, I knew I had to return. The Catholic Church still believes that when the priest consecrates the host, Jesus becomes physically present on the altar! Not a symbol, but his flesh and blood for us to worship and consume.(read John 6:) This is a hard concept and he lost many disciples the day he taught them this.But he did not tell them to come back because it was a parable. One year later at the last supper he gave them bread and said "Take and eat, this is my body" Catholics are accused of not taking the Bible literally but they accept this more literally than any other denomination. Later on the road to Emmaus, the disciples finally had their eyes opened to Him in the breaking of the bread(the Eucharist)
For 2000 years Christians have continued to believe Jesus comes to us in the form of simple bread and wine. The Catholic Church has never wavered in this doctrine and it can be easily proven from the writings of the early Church fathers (Augustine, Ignatius, Irenaeus etc)
I wanted so much to be close to Him, and there is no other way this side of heaven to be that close. He allows us to consume Him! This belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist was universally held until the reformation. Even Luther, initially believed in Christ's real presence in the Eucharist but the further they got away from the Church, the more they changed the original doctrines held for 1500 years.
So the reason I returned was because Jesus is in this Church in a way that is infinitely more real than anything I had ever experienced before.
If you have time, my story of conversion is here :

God bless you and thanks for your kindness in asking,

In Christ Alone Our Saviour

Russ Rentler, M.D.

Friday, July 09, 2010

An Ex-Evangelical Reviews"Holy Ground" by Ex-Catholic Chris Castaldo Part 4

In Chapter 4, Mr. Castaldo describes ex-Catholics as feeling that an "array of rules" was imposed on them when asked about how they previously related to God. This again makes my point that he was interviewing nominal Catholics who did not access the grace available to them. These folks obviously did not have a personal relationship with Christ and thus it seemed like an authoritarian structure was imposed on them. This phenomenon can be found in all major religions and described by those who are not devout adherents of that particular religion. I am not sure what this proves regarding how Catholics relate to God. Should the reader make the assumption that this is how most, some, not all, or few Catholics relate to God? He makes it sound like these folks ran screaming from the Church looking for a breath of fresh air asking Jesus to free them from the bondage the Church had laid on them. No. It is more probable that these ex-Catholics, though baptized, did not have a living faith and were in need of conversion(as we all are). When they did have a conversion experience, thanks be to God, they unfortunately looked back at their nominal Catholic faith which was miserable to them and made the conclusion that Catholicism is a bunch of rules, not a relationship.
The author then goes on to describe a bad experience a person had in the confessional with a crabby priest and how that person vowed never to go back again. He says he heard this same story over and over again and it starts to form a "composite picture."
Would Mr. Castaldo have formed a different "composite picture" if he interviewed Catholics who go to confession on a regular basis? From personal experience and the Catholics I know, there is a great desire to make use of this sacrament and we all eventually find a confessor that we are comfortable with and who understands us. This is not "rules oriented experience" but the practical working out of Christ's power given to his disciples to forgive sins. When we go to confession, we believe we are "whispering in the ear of God," not man, and thus confession becomes a very intimate and personal encounter with our savior and healer.

As an aside, I would like to point out that Catholics are not the only ones accused of having "an array of rules." As a former devout evangelical protestant teenager, I used to go to a week-long seminar called Bill Gothard's Institute of Basic Youth Conflicts in the mid 1970's. This was an extremely cult-like teaching series by a fundamentalist who created more rules (Gothard called them 'principles') than one would ever encounter in Catholicism. The end result of attending several BYC's was the creation of a small band of legalistic "automaton" Christians who were guilt-ridden, judgmental and lacking the joy and freedom promised in the gospel. The leader of our fellowship used the "principles" of Basic Youth Conflicts to control and manipulate the young people under his charge. Would it be fair to use this example and draw the conclusion that evangelical Protestantism is full of legalism, control, rules and not relationship? Of course not.

An Ex-Evangelical Reviews"Holy Ground" by Ex-Catholic Chris Castaldo Part 3

In the 4th Chapter, Mr. Castaldo tells of his experience while working for a fundraising company that was utilized by a Catholic diocese in Florida. He was at a black-tie affair on a Friday during Lent when it was realized too late that the menu was steak. The presiding bishop gave a dispensation to the faithful so that that could eat meat without violating the Friday abstinence . Mr. Castaldo then says that he thinks the old guy next to him thought "if he had choked on his steak and died apart from the bishop's blessing, he would have been roasted."
Mr. Castaldo concludes with this: "From a Evangelical point of view, clerical authority of this kind stretches incredulity to the breaking point. Because salvation is understood to be by grace alone, our jaws drop and we look with wonder at our Catholic friends."
Why does he wonder at Catholic friends? We too believe in salvation by grace alone. After all, it is in the scripture, "For by grace are you saved through faith, it is the gift of God not of works.."
There has never been a dispute that we are saved by grace. The Council of Trent reinforced this over and over. The dispute lies in the fact that Catholics do not believe we are saved by faith alone. (We believe in the obedience of faith, meaning not just a mental assent, but an active faith. Please read this on Catholic justification.)
To his credit he ends the section with a correct conclusion that church authority "is the fulcrum" which separates Catholics from Evangelicals. Yes, we believe Christ started the Catholic Church and gave the apostles and successors the authority to bind and loose and forgive sins and yes, even give a dispensation to allow meat on Friday during Lent, when an un-planned for snafu occurs. The reality is that, if they did eat the meat, it would not have been a mortal sin since there was not full knowledge. The participants didn't go to this meal thinking they were purposely going to eat steak and contradict Church teaching. I suspect they went knowing they would have dinner with their beloved bishop and promise to donate significant amounts of money to the bishop's appeal. Most of which is used to feed and house the poor, and support seminarians. When they saw the steak, perhaps they were very dismayed because they realized they didn't want to disobey the Church and ultimately Christ. Why can't we think the best of them instead of assuming the worst?
Earlier Mr. Castaldo said "many Catholics eat meat on Friday during Lent, but they don't usually do it when dining with the bishop and clergy." Hoping this is not a cheap shot by our author I will assume it is an innocent mis-characterization of Catholic practice based on his personal observations of nominal Catholics. The circle of friends my wife and I associate with in the Catholic Church don't eat meat on Fridays during Lent and usually other Fridays as well. We take our faith as seriously as we can and wish to please Jesus by giving up a simple pleasure on one day week we remember the one who gave up everything for us. The Church encourages us to view each Friday, Saturday and Sunday as "mini" commemorations of his passion/death and resurrection every week. I remember as an evangelical I focused on the passion once a year only. Because the Church asks this of me and sets in place a "rule" regarding abstinence does not prove that we have a "works vs grace" mentality. The goal of the Church is to remind the faithful of Christ's sacrifice for them once a week (by abstaining from meat). I think that's a good thing and this anecdote of a bishop's dispensation over a Lenten Friday meal doesn't support Mr. Castaldo conclusion that Catholicism doesn't hold to salvation by grace.

An Ex-Evangelical Reviews"Holy Ground" by Ex-Catholic Chris Castaldo Part 2

At 19 years of age, Mr. Castaldo was afflicted by a serious illness (meningitis?) which required a hospitalization. During his time of convalescence he began to question life's meaning. "Why was I alive? Is there a God and if so does he to be care to be involved in my life?" This led to a spiritual quest which explored transcendental meditation, the writings of M. Scott Peck and Deepak Chopra and Buddhism. This spiritual search makes me seriously question his claim to be a devout Catholic. How does one go to Mass only twice a year since confirmation, then pursue new age philosophies questioning the existence of God, all at the same time considering oneself a devout Catholic?
My readers may think I am being too critical at this point but it is very important to challenge Mr. Castaldo here. It changes the entire way in which one approaches the reading of this book.
As I stated above, the testimony of a devout Catholic who fully understands and embraces his faith and walks away from it to become a devout evangelical Protestant carries a lot more weight than the nominal young Catholic, poorly catechized(taught) and not sure if God was even real or interested in his life. This is basically my story and, I strongly suspect, the story of many of those he interviewed.
I think the reader would be better served if Mr. Castaldo said his book is about a nominal non-practicing Catholic, unsure of who God is, who has a conversion experience and accepts Christ as his Savior, after he left the Catholic Church, not an uncommon occurrence. But a de-conversion story about a fellow such as Mike Aquilina, Patrick Madrid or Karl Keating (all devout cradle Catholics) who became evangelical Protestant.... now that's a story that would cause more than a ripple on both sides of the Tiber River.

Church of Christ to Calvinist to Catholic!

Check out the blog of reformed convert here.
The concept of the sovereignty of God that is emphasized in the reformed denomination made her become Catholic. Very cool. Stop by and offer her a Catholic Blogger's Welcome home !

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

An Ex-Evangelical Reviews"Holy Ground" by Ex-Catholic Chris Castaldo Part 1

I am reading a book by Chris Castaldo called "Holy Ground -Walking With Jesus as a Former Catholic."
I originally heard of Mr. Castaldo when he moderated an annual debate between Dr. Timothy George and Dr. Francis Beckwith after Dr. Beckwith returned to the Church.
He is currently pastor of College Church in Wheaton, Illinois and a self-described former "devout Catholic who worked with bishops and priests before eventually becoming an Evangelical pastor." I thought it would be interesting to read this book by a former Catholic, who appeared to be more conciliatory towards Catholics.

The purpose of his book is to charitably portray the differences between Catholics and Protestants and then explain how Evangelicals can relate to their families who are still Catholic.
He gathered information for this book from his own experiences as well as interviewing many former Catholics who left the Church in focus groups and internet surveys.
By reading the comments by reviewers, the majority of whom are protestant professors and pastors, initially I thought this was going to be a fair-minded treatment of Catholicism. Unfortunately, I found that this was not the case as soon as I began reading.

In Mr. Castaldo's early Catholic days, he went to Mass only on Christmas and Easter after his confirmation. What that means is he attended Mass for a total of about 150 minutes once a year since he was a young teenager until he officially left the Church as a young adult. From this information, I struggle to understand how he calls himself a devout Catholic.

A devout Catholic finds their faith nourished and strengthened through regular and frequent reception of the sacraments of the Eucharist where we encounter Jesus personally and through the sacrament of Reconciliation where we receive his forgiveness and grace to avoid future occasions of sin. A devout Catholic says things like: "the Eucharist is the source and summit of my faith" and manifests a rich devotional life expressed by regular daily prayer, frequent reception of the Holy Eucharist, oftentimes daily. A devout Catholic understands and believes that Jesus is present on the altar and in the tabernacle of every Catholic Church and will often find time to make visits with Jesus, even during their hectic work week. A devout Catholic believes that the marital relationship mirrors God's love which is all-giving and as a result refuses to use artificial contraception to prevent the possibility of a new life resulting from the marital embrace. A devout Catholic gives of their time and resources to aid the poor and less fortunate. A devout Catholic believes that the Catholic Church was instituted by Christ and despite bad homilies, crabby priests, less than inspiring music will not leave the Church to look for a new, more invigorating worship experience. The devout Catholic understands that the Mass is the prayer of the Church and there exists no worship greater in spirit and truth than can be found in the sacrifice of the Mass.
A devout Catholic doesn't attend mass only twice a year, for that would be mortal sin and they would know that.

I will give Mr. Castaldo the benefit of the doubt and assume he didn't understand what a devout Catholic really is. The reason this distinction is so important is because of the authority and credence it gives to his comments regarding Catholicism. The non-Catholic reader may assume the things Mr. Castaldo is stating about the Church are true because, after all, he was a "devout Catholic." However, shortly into the book, it becomes evident that his representations of Catholicism are based on his years of evangelicalism and looking back in time at his own Catholic life through "evangelical-colored" glasses.

One of the major issues I have with his research methodology is that it consisted of interviews with ex-Catholics who left the Church. In reality, a Catholic who leaves the Church for protestant denomination has not embraced the fullness of the Catholic faith. Chris Castaldo states that authority is a major reason why people leave. These are Catholics who do not wish to submit to the authority of the Church which we believe is ultimately submitting to Christ. If a Catholic leaves the Church because he doesn't accept that the Church should dictate to him norms of morality and behavior, than they are a Catholic who has not fully understood their faith.

With the authority issue in mind, Mr Castaldo gives 5 reasons why Catholics eventually departed from their faith. Each one of these is based in the issue of authority.

1) Every believer is called to full-time ministry.

What does this mean? Does this mean Catholics left the Church because they wanted to work full-time in a Christian ministry and the Church didn't allow it? Most of the evangelicals I know are involved in ministries but still have the "day job" because the ministry is just that- a ministry and not a source of income.
Comment: The Catholic Church encourages every believer to be a partaker in Christ's mission. It is the Catholic Church that teaches us that we can be like Christ to the world, his hands his feet etc. The Church calls every member to be involved in evangelization. There are ample opportunities provided through men's groups, bible studies, retreats, prayer groups in most parishes to get involved. One can become a 3rd order Carmelite, Franciscan or Dominican and share the charism of those orders even within the vocation of marriage.
If these ex-Catholics Mr. Castaldo interviewed didn't find opportunity for ministry in their parish, did they look down the street to the next parish and check in with the office of evangelization at their diocese? The Church is very large, as a matter of fact, it's universal. Did they get on the net and look for the nearest Catholic parish that was more active with outreach ministries? If a Catholic doesn't find an established ministry to become a part of, they have the freedom to establish an apostolate, which is the Catholic way of describing a personal ministry. My wife and I have an apostolate called Crossed The Tiber, whose focus is to show others the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith. It is online in blogging and facebooking as well as through music performances, talks, etc. The diocese gives me free reign to minister this way and I am not prevented from being involved by anyone.

2)Relationship with Christ takes precedence over rules-keeping.

Comment: This is the favorite straw-man argument against the Church. I have been Catholic now for over 6 years and have not been overcome by "the rules." As a matter of fact, I have been so touched by grace through the sacraments, I don't think about rules too much. Before confession, I do use an examination of conscience to help the Holy Spirit reveal any areas of sin that I need to confess, but I do it with the sense of wanting to get closer to Christ, not being hit over the head with rules. When I read of the lives of Catholics such as St. Therese of Lisieux and Mother Theresa(not a saint yet), I don't read much about rules at all, but a burning desire to love and follow God and obey Him regardless of the cost or emotional payback, or lack thereof. Thomas a Kempis, though not a saint, wrote about his love for Christ in such a way that even protestants have made his writings a must read.(I think they skip the chapter when he details his love for Jesus in his devotion to the Eucharist)
Nominal Catholics complain about the rules because they don't avail themselves of the graces that are poured out through the Church to give them the power to live holy lives. Yes there are definite, non-negotiable rules in the Church. Rules like: You must go to church on Sunday(one of the big Ten), You must not get divorced, you are not allowed to have sex with people of the same sex, you must not abort children etc. These are often the rules people have issues with who leave the Church. They don't leave the Church because the Church asks them out of devotion to Christ and his death on the cross, to abstain from meat on Fridays or participate in a sacrificial activity that day.

3)We enjoy direct access to God in Christ

Comment: So do Catholics! There is no closer access to God than through reception of the Eucharist! Not only do we believe that we can have a personal relationship with our Lord and Savior through prayer, fellowship, worship etc, WE PHYSICALLY CONSUME GOD when we receive Him in the Eucharist! You can't get closer access than that. We receive his soul, body, blood and divinity with each reception of Holy Communion !
A devout Catholic who receives Christ in the Eucharist and spends time adoring Him in adoration can also pray the rosary daily and have a deep devotion to the Mother of Jesus. They go hand in hand. This does not mean he is missing out on a direct line to God. Praying to the saints doesn't block access to God in Christ. It actually enhances it because the saints only draw us closer to Christ, not divert us from him. Mary still says to all of us: "Do whatever He tells you." Again, don't take my word for it but read the lives of the saints.
We believe in the Communion of saints, a creedal statement from 325 AD. The Church has always taught and believed that we can have those in heaven pray for us just as we have those on earth do the same. Am I not accessing God by asking you to pray for me instead of going straight to God?

4)There is only one proper object of devotion-Jesus the Savior

Comment: Catholics believe that only God alone(including Jesus and the Holy Spirit) should be worshiped for only He is divine. Mary and the saints are not divine, but simply humans who have lived heroic lives of faith. We do not worship them but honor them as role models. A Catholic who worships Mary or a saint is in mortal sin and danger of hellfire. I have been asking Catholics for 6 years if any of them worship Mary. Not one has said yes. It is a false characterization to say that Catholics worship anyone but God alone. I can guarantee that in all of Mr. Castaldo's experiences with priests and bishops, none ever said that Mary or other saint worship was acceptable Catholic devotional practice.

5)God's children should be motivated by grace and not guilt.

Comment: This is what I have been saying all along. True Catholic faith is walking in the spirit and experiencing His grace as poured out freely in the sacramental life of the Catholic believer. There is a godly sorrow for sin that we as Catholics recognize when we have purposely sinned against him, but guilt isn't a part of that. We should feel bad for offending God and if you call that guilt, I'll take it!
In 6 years of being Catholic, I have been blessed beyond measure and don't see the guilt part playing into my faith at all. I have received more grace to overcome sin than I have experienced as an evangelical for over 30 years and this has not been motivated by guilt. (See this post here)
I think every organized religion that sets a high moral standard of behavior will be accused of inducing guilt because non-devout adherents will struggle when they wish to deviate from the faith. To follow any religion out of guilt or habit and not for love of God will always lead to death. This can be said for any protestant denomination as well. As a matter of fact, some protestants struggled so much with guilt that a popular Christian writer, Hal Lindsey made another small fortune on his not quite best seller, The Guilt Trip! Written for evangelicals not Catholics! I remember how, as a young evangelical Christian, we were lectured about the sins of impurity(masturbation in particular) and forced to stand up an come forward for prayer to be cleansed and freed. Then we were told if we didn't come forward, God knew who in the room was holding back. So Catholics don't own "the guilt trip" and I find this accusation made by ex-Catholics unfair.

More to Follow.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Happy Fourth of July! My Annual Post

This post is lifted from last year's July 4th post.

So how is TJ going to forcibly drag Catholicism into a blog post today? Can't he give it a rest for one day? I mean this is America, a country founded with the express purpose of religious freedom for all and he's gonna make a stink about Catholicism on the Fourth of Juuuuuuly. Give me a break!
Yeah, I am! No rest for the weary. It turns out all religions were free to be practiced in the New World except for Catholics and Quakers. Of all the signers of the Declaration of Independence, only one was Catholic, Charles Carroll of Maryland. It was amazing that he ended up getting his name on it at all. Though Maryland was originally founded to be a Catholic haven in the colonies in 1634, by 1689, the British anti-Catholic repression had been imported to the colonies and freedom for Catholics to worship was very short-lived.

Until the Revolutionary War, Catholics in Maryland were considered dissenters in their own country, and were forced to live at times under a state of siege. At the time of the signing of the Declaration, it was illegal for a Catholic in the colonies to hold office or vote or educate their children in the Catholic faith. The Declaration of Independence fortunately ended that. It would have been a little awkward to have the wealthiest member/contributor of the Continental Congress and aide and friend to George Washington excluded from the democratic process because of his religious affiliation. So politically incorrect! How, I wonder, did it get resolved? I concocted a little Independence Day Play to suggest how it may have gone down.

I can just see them there now in the humid sweaty chambers down in Philadelphia on a hot weekend in the end of June with Thomas Jefferson at the helm. (I have lived in Philly for four hot summers and can assure you it gets very hot!)


"What Are We Going to Do About Charles?

Flash back/dream sequence of the signers of the Declaration in Philadelphia at Independence Hall. (Before the barricades went up after 911) The curtain rises on three middle-aged men seated together at a desk flushed with the heat, perspiring heavily.

John Adams {pointing to Carrol}:
Psst. Thomas! Thomas! Did'ya know that chap across the room is a Papist? He's from MARY-land {Hissing through his teeth saying Mary in a sing-song voice}
Thomas Jefferson {holding his forefinger across his lips}: Shush old man! Don't you know who he is?
James Madison {swatting a fly from his arm}: Some say he's the wealthiest guy in here. Owns 100,000 acres down in Maryland. The area is even named after him! Carrolburg or Carrolville they call it, for crying out loud! {Looks out the window with disgust then empties his mouth loudly into the spittoon}
George Taylor: I heard he is friends with George himself as well as Ben.
John Adams: {with a stage whisper} I don't care if he has more money than the pope and is St. Peter's long lost relative! How are we gonna' let him sign the darn Declaration if we don't allow him to vote ? (He hikes up his britches and cautiously looks around the room) And besides, Do you realize he worships idols?
Thomas Jefferson: C'mon boys! {he lights his clay pipe and takes a long puff} You know I'm not big on that religion stuff myself, but, the way I see it every one, even papists, are created equal and given, by whoever they believe their creator is, certain.... privileges. Or, should I say rights... Yes! Now, let me think for a minute. {He takes his spectacles off and wipes the sweat from his brow} Alien rights? No that's not right! Inalienable rights? No, that's doesn't sound right to me either. Damn! {He loosens the tie on his long red pony-tail}
{He motions with his quill pen for Charles Carrol to join them}
Charles Carrol carefully places his rosary beads back in his vest pocket and slowly walks across the floor towards Jefferson.
Charles Carrol: Hey TJ! what's up? I was just chatting with my Lady asking her to intercede for our proceedings here today. Sorry, I got a bit distracted. What can I do for you boys?
Thomas Jefferson: {looking sheepishly at the ground} We know you have the ear of General George and have been very supportive of the efforts for freedom. What are we going to do about this little problem we have with you and the voting issue?
Charles Carrol: {Draws closer to the table speaking nervously } "Well, the way I see it, we are all created in the image of God and therefore need to respect the rights and dignity of all men which includes voting. {He gets a little quieter} Yeah, I know what you are all thinking: 'Who am I to lecture you on religious rights?' I know we got a little out of hand during the Inquisition but you know as well as I it wasn't as bad as the history books made it out to be! Just let me vote and sign this thing and we'll all get home to our families before the summer's over. I have a nice little spread on the Chesapeake and you're all invited for the weekend if we can just get this signed. Besides, I'm really having a hard time offering up all this sufferin' with the heat! St. Blases it is hot! {He makes the sign of the cross and wipes his forehead simultaneously}
{Looks down at Jefferson's notes} Oh, by the way Thom, I was the spelling bee champion at Saint Ann's School and the word inalienable is spelled U-N-A-L-I-E-N-A-B-L-E."
Thomas Jefferson:
Why thank you Charles!
{rolling his eyes} I'll take that under advisement.....

A Church bell tolls off-stage as the curtain closes.

The End

To Read the Real Story of Charles Carroll, the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence Go Here.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Another Rentlorian Chant on Matt 16:18

I recently was told by a Protestant friend that Jesus' words to Peter regarding building a Church on "this rock", are actually referring to his confession that Jesus is the Messiah. Despite the rules of grammar one would have to suspend in order for this to be true, it inspired me to write this little chant. Hope you enjoy.