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.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

St. Vincent of Lerins (5th century) and Bible Interpretation

"I have often then inquired earnestly and attentively of very many men eminent for sanctity and learning, how and by what sure and so to speak universal rule I may be able to distinguish the truth of Catholic faith from the falsehood of heretical pravity; and I have always, and in almost every instance, received an answer to this effect: That whether I or any one else should wish to detect the frauds and avoid the snares of heretics as they rise, and to continue sound and complete in the Catholic faith, we must, the Lord helping, fortify our own belief in two ways; first, by the authority of the Divine Law, and then, by the Tradition of the Catholic Church.

[5.] But here some one perhaps will ask, Since the canon of Scripture is complete, and sufficient of itself for everything, and more than sufficient, what need is there to join with it the authority of the Church’s interpretation? For this reason,—because, owing to the depth of Holy Scripture, all do not accept it in one and the same sense, but one understands its words in one way, another in another; so that it seems to be capable of as many interpretations as there are interpreters. For Novatian expounds it one way, Sabellius another, Donatus another, Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, another, Photinus, Apollinaris, Priscillian, another, Iovinian, Pelagius, Celestius, another, lastly, Nestorius another. Therefore, it is very necessary, on account of so great intricacies of such various error, that the rule for the right understanding of the prophets and apostles should be framed in accordance with the standard of Ecclesiastical and Catholic interpretation.

[6.] Moreover, in the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense “Catholic,” which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity, consent. We shall follow universality if we confess that one faith to be true, which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity, if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is manifest were notoriously held by our holy ancestors and fathers; consent, in like manner, if in antiquity itself we adhere to the consentient definitions and determinations of all, or at the least of almost all priests and doctors."

I have read a fair amount of the ECF but never came across this until tonight when I was reading "The Fathers Know Best" by Jimmy Akin. So even before the reformation, there were those whom were espousing heterodoxy based on their interpretation of scripture. These particular doctrines were heresies and the Church used the early ecumenical(world wide) councils to condemn them in order to preserve the faith and keep it pure and without error.

St. Lerins says in the5th century:  "there are as many interpretations as there are intepreters."
Luther said in the 16th century responding to Melancthon's concern over the direction the reformation was going, "Every plowboy has become his own pope."

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Do Catholics Know the Gospel? Part 2

In my last blog I began to respond to the misconception that Catholics don't know or are not exposed to the gospel message. What is the gospel message?  St. Paul defines it quite nicely and I assume every Christian reading this would agree that this is the gospel. A commenter in the last post gave me this verse from 1 Corinthians:

"Now I make known unto you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you have received, and wherein you stand; By which also you are saved, if you hold fast after what manner I preached unto you, unless you have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all, which I also received: how that Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures: And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day, according to the scriptures: And that he was seen by Cephas; and after that by the eleven."

So let's ask ourselves, does the liturgy of the Catholic Mass present the gospel as above?
The mass begins (after we humble ourselves by genuflecting toward the tabernacle and acknowledging Christ's presence in the tabernacle) with the Penitential Rite. It is our prayer of acceptance and acknowledgement before God that we are indeed sinners in need of  His salvation.

I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault. In my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do.
and I ask Blessed Mary, ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and to you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.

The priest reaffirms this confession of sin by praying,

May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life.
And the whole congregation says Amen, which translated means, "I believe or agree." The priest continues.

Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy,

and we conclude with this prayer:

Lord show us your mercy and love. And grant us your salvation.

We then pray the Gloria.   How I never saw the gospel in this is a mystery to me:

Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth. Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father, we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory. Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us; you are seated at the right hand of the Father, receive our prayer. For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father.

The Profession of Faith reads,

For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate.

In the Eucharistic Prayer 1, the priest prays:

Remember [Lord] all of us gather here before you. You know how firmly we believe in you and dedicate ourselves to you. . . We pray to you, our living and true God, for our well-being and redemption . . . Grant us your peace in this life, save us from final damnation, and count us among those you have chosen.

The prayer ends with an appeal to God for salvation through Jesus Christ:

May, these and all who sleep in Christ, find in your presence light, happiness and peace. For ourselves, too, we ask some share in the fellowship of your apostles and martyrs . . . Though we are sinners, we trust in your mercy and love. Do not consider what we truly deserve, but grant us your forgiveness. Through Christ our Lord you give us all these gifts. You fill them with life and goodness, you bless them and make them holy.

Similarly the second Eucharistic Prayer proclaims,

Dying you [Jesus] destroyed our death, rising you restored our life. Lord Jesus, come in glory. . . Have mercy on us all; make us worthy to share eternal life with Mary, the virgin Mother of God, with the apostles and with all the saints who have done your will throughout the ages.
Likewise, Eucharistic Prayer 3 reads,

All life, all holiness comes from you through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, by the working of the Holy Spirit . . .Father, calling to mind the death your Son endured for our salvation, his glorious resurrection and ascension into heaven, and ready to greet him when he comes again, we offer you in thanksgiving this holy and living sacrifice. Look with favor on our your Church’s offering, and see the Victim [Christ] who death has reconciled us to yourself . . .

May he make us an everlasting gift for you and enable us to share in the inheritance of your saints . .

Lastly, the fourth Eucharistic Prayer reads,

Father, you so loved the world that in the fullness of time you sent your only Son to be our Savior...

In fulfillment of your will he gave himself up to death; but by rising from the dead, he destroyed death and restored life.

In this prayer, the congregation proclaims the mystery of faith:

Lord, by your cross and resurrection, you have set us free. You are the Savior of the world.

Finally the Mass culminates in "the altar call.' After we have prayed and proclaimed the liturgy as above we get ready to physically receive our Lord and Savior
This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper.

And the congregation responds,

Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.

The Catholic Christian then goes forward towards the altar and receives in his/her own body the body blood soul and divinity of Jesus Christ our Lord.

With this infusion of grace we then are dismissed to go out into the world to share Jesus with others.

Clearly, the gospel is presented in the Mass.  If our Protestant brethren want to "witness" the gospel to us, the most effective way would be for them to show the "sleepy" Catholic where the gospel is in their own liturgy. Perhaps if someone had sat down with me in 1973 after my "born again" experience and told me to re-read the liturgy section by section,  perhaps I never would have left.  Instead, I was given handfuls of Jack T. Chick tracts  which effectively poisoned me to my own poorly understood Catholic faith. This quickly caused me to  reject Catholicism.  But He had still been there all this time and His message of salvation was proclaimed to me each Sunday. I chose to ignore it.

(Thanks to Lindsay for her link to Gary Michuta's story on "How A Catholic Hears the Gospel" from which this material was borrowed)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Do Catholics Know the Gospel? Part 1

I was recently on a blog written by an ex-Catholic who has a ministry that attempts to share the gospel with Catholics. He is giving a series of lectures entitled "Relating to Roman Catholics With the Gospel."  Perhaps I could be misunderstanding him but I think he is suggesting that Catholics don't know the gospel. If that is the case, I would like to give objective evidence to the contrary. The gospel is presented to the Catholic in every Mass. If you go to daily Mass, you are confronted with the claims of the gospel perhaps 7 days a week X 365 days a year X 50 years= 127,750 times. That's a whole lotta' hearing the gospel if you ask me.
If you are unfortunate and don't have the opportunity to go to Mass more than once a week, you will have heard the gospel taught, preached and prayed a mere 52 X 50 years = 2600 times. 
   Based on this evidence here, it would be very disingenuous to convey the idea that Catholics need to hear the gospel, or that they don't have the gospel presented to them in Mass.  Do Catholics need to respond to what they hear? Absolutely and I hope and pray more will, and I hope and pray the same for the many protestants who hear the gospel but don't respond to it, or live it out. Jesus told us that the difference between the sheep and the goats is what they did and didn't do.  Sheer complacency with a clear understanding of the gospel just isn't going to get you into heaven, but I digress.
     I will finish with Part 2 on  "Do Catholics Know the Gospel?"

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Evangelical Sociology Professor at Notre Dame Converts to Catholicism

Dr. Christian Smith the William R. Kenan, Jr  Professor of Sociology and Director, Center for the Study of Religion & Society and Director, Center for Social Research at University of Notre Dame has crossed the Tiber recently and wrote a book detailing the how's and why's.  Once again, an evangelical in the academic world who knows his faith very well decides to come home to Rome.  This is a gentleman who cannot be accused of never understanding his Protestant faith compared to the many Catholics who have left the Church with no clue as to what Catholicism is about (like me and many of the folks I knew in evangelical circles).

When a Catholic leaves the Church for evangelicalism, they usually didn't accept the teachings of the Church (regarding no contraception, no divorce etc) and did not believe or know that Jesus is truly present at every mass, ie they were not devout. It seems that when an evangelical leaves for Catholicism,  it was after a period of intense study, prayer and reflection. Some of the most recent converts held positions at Baylor and Wheaton and the Evangelical Theological Society so these conversions cannot be easily dismissed as evangelicals who are simply "abandoning the gospel for the false pretenses of Rome." (Dr. James White on Dr. Francis Beckwith's conversion 2007)  More often than not, the Catholic convert from evangelicalism finds a richness in his spiritual life that was not there before which often manifests itself in a new desire as well as an empowerment to follow Christ and avoid the pitfalls of sin and temptation.  I have seen this personally in my own life and have heard other converts describe a similar experience.

On a more humorous note: 
See my 2007 post written in response to the many evangelical professors and theologians converting to the Catholic faith.  The good news for Dr. Smith, converting to Catholicism at a Catholic University won't affect his ability to obtain tenure! 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Father Corapi

This is a post that :
  • is not going to continue to rehash the questions and suspicions surrounding the recent news of Father John Corapi as is currently being done by prominent Catholic bloggers, deacons, priests, etc.
  • will not give our brothers and sisters the opportunity to fall into the sin of detraction.
  • will encourage us all to examine our own hearts in case we "thinketh we stand, lest we fall."

There, I said it, I'm done.  If we all spent more time praying for our priests and religious, perhaps we would be able to eventually spend less time doing "post-mortems" of an individual's soul when they fall and/or are accused.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How Far Will You Go to Follow Jesus? (the video)

Why I'm Catholic

This new blog is carrying conversion/reversion stories  to help spread the fire of truth about the Catholic faith.
Why not contact them to publish your story. It was hard for me to keep it under 4000 words but with some painstaking editing, I think I did it! I hope God can use my story to bring others along or back to the Catholic faith they left never knowing what it was (or who) they left.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My Home-made Prie Dieu (Kneeler) Plans

Here's some rough plans for the Prie-Dieu. I used pine that was about 1/2" thickness which is what you would buy for homemade shelving. It was 9" wide.

The kneeler pillow board itself is 9" by 20" with a 2" thick foam piece I then covered with a rugged fabric material. I used a staple gun to staple the fabric material around the foam to the underside of the kneeler, kind of like re-upholstering a chair.   

  The top piece where you place your arms (along with a bible or prayer book or rosary) is 24" by 10". So it's oversized and is glued onto the top piece of pine.  I used a different type of wood, I had some nice pieces of cedar/redwood, but you could skip this step and leave the top piece as the pine board 9" by 20". It will glue flush between the side vertical pieces. This is the top piece that connects the two vertical  side boards.
    To give the slant to the top of the kneeler, make the vertical side piece 32 " long on one side and 30 inches on the other. Then when you cut  them, the slant will be made.  I dont know if this makes any sense. I kinda was flying by the seat of my pants when I made this.

The two little feet pieces that glue to the inside of the kneeler are 17" long and 3 3/4" wide. They stabilize the kneeler and give you a surface to place the actual knee board on.  I used another piece of pine 18 3/8" by 3 3/4" to glue between the pine footers to further stabilize the feet and support the kneel board. Especially if you're a heavy pray-er.(LOL)

I used cheap pipe clamps and furniture clamps and titebond glue to put it together. The hardest part was getting the initial glue joint set up for the top piece and the side vertical pieces. As Mr. Sweat used to say in shop class in 7th grade: " measure twice, and cut once" and always do a dry run of clamping before you actually apply glue and clamp.

I cut some little notches out of the sides of the vertical supports to give it a bit of character but if you are good with a roto zip you could probably do all sorts of cool things on these side pieces.

I attached the actual kneeler pillow board to the kneeler with velcro .

Note, I am 6'2 and you may need to shorten the vertical dimensions for the kneeler a bit if you are quite a bit shorter.

If you have any questions, just comment or e mail. Have fun and may the Lord Bless you in Zion and hear your prayers and answer them according to all his riches in Christ Jesus!

How Far Will You Go to Follow Jesus?

1) Is it your goal to know Jesus and love him more and more each day?
2) Do you wish to discover the best and most intimate way to touch God and commune with him?
3) Do you desire to worship as the early church did knowing that  they had the teachings of the original apostles still fresh, ringing in their ears, so to speak?
4) Would you be willing to surrender your pre-conceived idea of what true worship is, even if it "felt" foreign to you and was not in your "comfort zone?" 
5) Would you spend the time to discover just how the early Christians practiced their faith even if it turned out that their doctrines and beliefs were vastly different from those you hold to currently? 
6) How far are you willing to go to surrender to God? Would you be willing to accept that it is within the realm of possibility that you could be wrong about what you have always believed? 
7) Is it worth giving up all to follow Christ wherever He leads you? Are you willing to take a leap of faith and go where your flesh doesn't want to go?   

If you can answer yes to the above questions,  then why not consider learning about the Church that traces its unbroken succession of leaders/pastors/teachers/saints/followers to Jesus Christ himself? 

How far will you go to follow Jesus? Will you go as far as 2000 years through space and time to discover the Truths he gave to His Church? 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

My Home-Made Prie Dieu (Kneeler)

Here's a shot of my recording studio (and hopefully  prayer room) in the basement. I found the picture of The Sacred Heart of Jesus in a junk shop in Titusville, PA this past winter for 7 dollars. The kneeler is a project I was working on for months and finally finished. 
      I have found that many Catholics have an area set aside for prayer and they call them their "family altars" or "home altars." Kneeling during prayer is a way to get our body in correct alignment with our soul in order to pray more effectively. It's all about ultimately being in the right frame of mind. Since our flesh is intimately tied to the soul and spirit, we have these gestures in Catholicism, genuflection, bowing, kneeling etc. to  improve our ability to commune with God. These are not dead rituals, but beautiful expressions of our desire to place our bodies along with our hearts and mind in position to worship, intercede and give thanks.
   Now back to a "family altar." Just to clarify, we don't actually sacrifice anything of course other than offering up our sacrifice of praise and sufferings as well, but  it's a sacred place we can set apart to pray. I find it less distracting to be able to get away a bit. Some folks have candles they light in front of icons or statues they use as touch points of prayer and the image of the sacred heart is one of those for me. I don't worship this image (since that would be breaking one of the big ten) but I use it to direct my thoughts to Him when I get distracted in prayer, which is not an uncommon phenomenon in our overstimulated society.*
    Do you have a favorite place to pray when you can't be in Church before the Blessed Sacrament?

*The top of the prie-dieu  is cedar that I had left over from my last hammer dulcimer and the sides are scrap pine I had laying around in the garage. So when I am praying the smell of a yellow #2 pencil comes wafting up to my nostrils and I think of elementary school and hammer dulcimers...ooops there I go getting distracted again!

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Saint Anne and My Return to the Catholic Faith.

My wife and I just returned from a whirlwind 6 day vacation with 3 days spent in the province of Quebec. My primary  goal was to make a pilgrimage to the Basilica Shrine of Saint Anne-de-Beaupre, just north of Quebec City.
     Why Saint Anne de-Beaupre?  About three years ago I heard of the shrine of Saint Anne de-Beaupre for what I thought was the first time and it intrigued me. The name was strangely familiar and I didn't initially realize why. Well about 60 years ago, my mom and dad took their honeymoon in Canada and stopped at the shrine of St. Anne de-Beaupre.  I had long forgotten this but it all came back to me recently including the stories of my dad drinking one cup of coffee after another at the famed Chateau Frontenac because it was so good- until he discovered he was being charged about 7 dollars per refill!  Well, it all the memories did come back to me and the stories my mom told me about the eye patches and crutches and canes left at the shrine as people had received physical healing through the intercession of St. Anne.  Sadly, I couldn't ask my parents about it because they have been long passed away and never lived to see me come back to the Catholic faith, though I am  convinced they are well aware, and  have played a part in it by their prayers from heaven directly to the Father.
    So I toyed with the idea of getting up there but have never made it, until this past week. I had extra vacation time to use so Deborah got on the internet, and planned our pilgrimage to St. Anne de-Beaupre.
As we approached the little town of Beaupre on the Saint Lawrence, I suddenly saw the two great spires reaching up towards the sky. As we got closer I could make out the golden statue of St. Anne holding her daughter, Mary. I never saw a structure so beautiful and huge. I felt a little like Dorothy and the Scarecrow as they approached the Castle in the Wizard of Oz! (Except we weren't scared, but were filled with joy and expectation)
     My heart was in my throat as we walked inside the basilica and I suddenly felt my parents with me. I was walking in the same footsteps they trod 60 years before. As I stared at the crutches, canes and prosthetics  each representing a touch from God, I remembered my mom's stories and  could barely keep from weeping. Then it all came together for me:  I suddenly realized, I came back to the Catholic Church at the parish of St. Anne's in Emmaus, Pennsylvania 7 years ago. I believe that 60 years ago with a hearts full of faith, hope and love, my newlywed parents asked St. Anne to intercede for them that they would raise a faithful Christian family. Though sadly, things unraveled quickly in my parent's life due to alcohol and mental illness, God still heard their prayers and the prayers of Saint Anne as I stood in the same spot, as an answer to their prayers, 60 years later!

Prayer to St. Anne
(To Obtain Some Special Favor)
Glorious St. Anne, filled with compassion for those who invoke you and with love for those who suffer, heavily laden with the weight of my troubles, I cast myself at your feet and humbly beg of you to take the present affair which I recommend to you under your special protection.
Vouchsafe to recommend it to your daughter, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and lay it before the throne of Jesus, so that He may bring it to a happy issue.
Cease not to intercede for me until my request is granted. (Here ask for favor you wish to obtain.)
Above all, obtain for me the grace of one day beholding my God face to face, and with You and Mary and all the saints, praising and blessing Him through all eternity. Amen.
Good St. Anne, mother of her who is our life, our sweetness and our hope, pray to her for us and obtain our request. (Three times).