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.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Catholic Church's Exhibit on the Bible

A new exhibit will be opened in the Vatican to highlight the history of the Bible. Pope Benedict has wanted to show the world the importance of the bible. It is entitled, Verbum Domini, the Word of God. Interestingly, it will show how the Catholic Church contributed to the 1611 Protestant King James Bible, which incidentally did contain the 7 books Luther relegated to the apocrypha in his version.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Visit To Heaven: Deborah's Reflections On Our Haiti Mission

A Visit to Heaven
“People say Haiti is hell on earth, but I feel like I’ve just been to heaven”  Tom Gunkel, a team member said after returning from Cap Haitien.
Did you ever feel that your entire life was a preparation for one moment in time?  I felt like that on my wedding day and again on my Confirmation in the Catholic Church. 
This past week on our trip to Cap Haiten and our visit to the Missionaries of the Poor, I felt it again.   At the end of the week, the priest blessed the Crucifixes purchased on our visit to the Citadel.  He sent us off with a blessing as the brothers raised their hands and sang a song that I haven’t heard for 20 years. 
O let the Son of God enfold You
With His Spirit and His love
Let Him fill your heart and satisfy your soul
O let Him have those things that hold You
And His Spirit like a dove
Will descend upon your life
And make you whole

Jesus, O Jesus, come and fill Your Lambs
Jesus, O Jesus, come and fill Your Lambs

O come and sing this song with gladness
As your hearts are filled with joy
Lift your hands in sweet surrender
To His name
O give Him all your tears and sadness
Give Him all your years of pain
And you'll enter into life
In Jesus' name

As tears of thanksgiving flowed from my eyes I had a profound sense that every moment in my life, all the joys and sorrows, all the skills and education, and my whole spiritual journey,  prepared me for this time, this trip to Cap Haitien. 
I thought of a broken hearted little girl who spent years craving and searching for a father’s love, a love that could only be fully realized in union with God, her heavenly Father.  I thought of the time when I realized that God had been with me from the moment of conception showering me with His love and waiting for me to surrender to Him.  I thought of my years of wandering and searching for a home, never truly settled in any one church and discovering the all along Jesus was waiting for me in the tabernacle, beckoning me to “taste and see…”
I thought of my dear husband, a gifted, compassionate physician, inspiring me with his stories of Haiti to make a visit myself and see Jesus in the “least of these.”  I thought of my time in nursing school being chastised by instructors and studying for hours on end in library basements and locked away in my room.
I thought of my first trip to Haiti as a nurse, taking my first blood pressure and dressing my first wound.  I remembered all the Haiti fundraising concerts for Sts. Simon and Jude, and all the planning, organizing, and coordination. 
I remembered the earthquake and how devastated we were, watching the Haitian’s cry out for help to remove their loved ones from the rubble and not being able to do anything for them.  I remembered our visit to Sts. Simon and Jude after the earthquake and our first encounter with the Missionaries of the Poor.
Their beautiful smiles and gentle spirits drew me in immediately.  They prayed and worked and listened to our stories of discovering the Catholic Church.  I knew after meeting them that we must make a visit to their home in Cap Haitien, that somehow, I had to plan a trip.
So we sent out an e-mail and received a response.  A date was set and the planning began.  And as we stood there in front of the priest on our last day with the Missionaries of the Poor this past week, I thought of all the preparations that brought us to this moment.  I remembered the hours of looking for airfares and calculating costs, of changing reservations and cancelling tickets.  I thought of the trips to the store to purchase medicine and supplies.  I remembered the e-mails back and forth to Brothers Johnson and Sagash, and ordering the medicine and packing it up.
I thought about flying to Miami and spending the night at the airport.  I remembered meeting Brother Sagash for the first time at the Cap Haitien airport standing there in his white robe with a big welcoming smile.  I thought of our drive through the city up to the huge blue gates opening at the sound of a car horn to a lush garden, an oasis of prayer and service to the poorest of the poor.
I thought of the tour of the grounds, of the homes for the elderly and disabled, of people mangled and disfigured who would otherwise have been left to die in their own excrement.  We were so touched and amazed by the brothers’ gentle care for the lives entrusted to them. 
Our first two days were spent washing and providing medical care.  All we could say was “wow” as we watched each patient treated with dignity and respect.  The rooms were odor free and the wounds freshly dressed.   Our visit to the disabled children’s home was overwhelming.  One of the brothers would lift up the children and place them before the doctor as if they were their own.  Since many of the children could not speak because of profound neurologic damage, the brothers would speak for them, explaining their ailments with a gentle fatherly compassion.  The children call them “Papa” because they are like fathers to them and you could just feel the love and joy in the midst of their suffering. 
As we stood there in the chapel on that last day of our trip, I thought of all the grace filled moments where each one of us had a profound sense of God’s loving care, not only for the Haitans, not only for the brothers but for each one of us in our own circumstance, on our own journey of faith in our own little way.  God had brought us together, just the right group, with just the right skills, and spoke to us with just the right words, leaving each of us with a sense that after this visit with the Missionaries of the Poor, we would never be the same.

Ethicists Argue For the Killing Of Newborns

Here's a link to an article that should make even pro-aborts shudder.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Back from Haiti

On Saturday night we returned from Cap Haitien after spending a week with the Missionaries of the Poor. Words can hardly describe the experience and I came away with an incredible sense of God's love, mercy and presence among the poor. The MOP brothers have a home for the frail elderly, mentally challenged, and children's home for disabled and those with birth defects, hydrocephalus, cerebral palsy, severe autism, mental retardation etc. As we worked with the brothers in caring for these people, I had never seen such love and joy as manifested by the brothers and reflected by the joy on the faces of even the most horribly disfigured and disabled.
   I saw over 200 patients in 3 days and my wife and others on the team performed dressing changes on multiple patients, changed foley catheters and helped bathe the elderly, demented and infirm. On the third day we were there, the brothers opened the doors of the Asile Community to allow the people of the town of St. Philomene to come in and receive medical care. That day, I saw 139 patients and I was just praying I wouldn't hurt anyone!

The brothers of the Missionaries of the Poor live out this verse every single day:

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, [and] to keep himself unspotted from the world.

Their daily work is punctuated by prayer, the celebration of the Eucharist, adoration and praying the rosary. The brothers say they could not do what they do without spending time with the Lord in prayer and  receiving Christ in the Eucharist. 

I had the opportunity to glimpse for a week what the Church has been doing for 2000 years in caring for "the least of these."  In the past 17 trips to Haiti I always thought I had worked with the "least of these" but the Haitian people of Asile Community are the "Least of the Least of these." The brothers truly recognized that each of these persons is created in the image of God and treat them with such amazing dignity and respect. Many of them were abandoned by their parents on the Church steps and the brothers took them in and clothed them, fed them and loved them with a love that could only come from God. 

People say that Haiti is hell on earth, but like one of the team members said "I feel like I have just been in heaven." 

Please continue to pray for Haiti and for the Missionaries of the Poor as they daily do the work of God. Thank you all for your prayers, we had a safe and productive mission. All Glory to God!


The Lies Behind Contraception

I posted a link to this article by Janet Smith almost 2 years ago, and it is even more vital now with the HHS mandate that Catholics and non-Catholic Christians understand the risks of contraception. It turns out that the 2000 year Catholic tradition of  forbidding contraception is not only good for the soul, but good for the body too! Sadly our government is attempting to mandate a law that will ultimately harm not just the soul but the bodies of the women in our nation.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Role of Church History in Conversion by Fr. McCloskey

Father John McCloskey has been involved in many "high-profile" and "low-file" conversions as well. As a result he has researched and written extensively on the topic of conversion to Catholicism.  He has an excellent piece here regarding the role of Church History in conversion. In my own life, the realization that the early Christians believed what the modern Catholic Christians still believe and practice was chilling for me. The reading of  Church history for the first time from an unbiased source was revelatory. For most of my life, I had been seeking a closer walk with Jesus, but He had been here all the time, physically, substantially present in the Eucharist for 2000 years in the Catholic Church down the street in every town I had ever lived in.  Here's Fr. McCloskey:

"No doubt, the historical argument was powerful in these conversions. Some of the better known converts have already told their story in print or tape, others will, I trust, do the same in the future. I always required that they read several books on the history of the Church because I do believe the argument, at least rationally, is unassailable—the Catholic Church is true, and no other has ever made a credible claim to be the one that was founded by Him. Either the Lord of History established a church with a visible structure on this earth until He comes again or there is simply no authority that guides and must be obeyed. From the time of the great Schism and the Protestant revolution, the principle of private judgment has given rise to thousands of Christian sects and denominations. That is hardly what was intended when He asked His Father "that all may be one."

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Haiti Bound Again

My wife and I and a small group from our parish are leaving for Cap-Haitien tomorrow. We will be working with the Missionaries of the Poor in Northern Haiti. This is the first time we have worked outside of Port Au Prince and we are looking forward to this new experience. The brothers there run a home for disabled children as well as a home/hospice for the elderly and a food distribution ministry. We are not sure yet where they will have us work us but we look forward to spending a week  participating in their spiritual life, daily Mass, praying the Liturgy of the Hours with them and especially serving Jesus in the poor.
   A bonus is that Lent begins this upcoming week and we are thankful to the Lord to be able to spend the first week in Haiti.  As always, I ask my faithful readers to keep us and the people of Haiti in your prayers, and perhaps offer up your fast on Ash Wednesday for us. Thanks so much!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Taking a Stand on the Scriptures Against the Traditions of Men

Taking a Stand on the Scriptures Against the Traditions of Men

Abortion, Contraception and the Church Fathers-Fr. Pacwa

One of the positive outcomes of the recent HHS Contraception/sterilization/abortion mandate is that it brings the Church teachings front and center. This will ultimate educate Catholics and non-Catholics into rethinking their "contraception mentality."  Even as a young 23 year old husband-to-be, I was shocked that the first question for my fiance and I at our pre-marital counseling session was "what kind of contraception are you going to use?" As surprised as I was that my pastor and his wife would start off the session with that, I still had no understanding why contraception was morally wrong and probably thought it was just another restriction the Church of Rome was placing on its members to enslave them.  After coming back to the Catholic faith, I learned that contraception has always been forbidden by the Church. Non-Catholic Christians agreed and followed the ancient teaching as well, until 1930 when the Anglicans took a vote and decided contraception would be permissible in certain circumstances.  Fr. Mitch Pacwa presents an excellent historic review of the teachings of the Church through the ages starting at the very beginning.

 "Despite what some commentators and politicians think, Church teaching on abortion and contraception has remained unchanged."

The recent indignity by which the Obama administration wants to mandate everyone, including all Catholic institutions or their insurers, to pay for contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, has raised the issue of Catholic teaching on these issues.
Some commentators have mistakenly asserted that the Catholic ban on these practices only goes back to Humanae Vitae (On the Regulation of Birth), by Pope Paul VI in 1968, or as far back as Casti Connubii (Of Chaste Wedlock), by Pope Pius XI in 1931.
The latter encyclical was written in response to the change of moral doctrine by the Anglican Church, which undermined centuries of Protestant condemnation of contraception by permitting it at the Aug. 15, 1930 Lambeth Conference.
Paul VI wrote Humanae Vitae in response to the then newly invented birth control pill, rejecting it as a legitimate means of contraception for Catholics. However, these encyclicals, along with the 20th century’s nearly 100 other Vatican statements condemning artificial birth control, were simply restating the continuous history of moral theology on this topic.
Catholics do well to know this history of moral teaching on contraception and abortion to back up our position against the mandate, as well as to know better how to live the Catholic faith. Therefore, we will present some of the texts from the patristic (early Christian) sources to demonstrate how early was the Christian rejection of these practices, known widely in the Greco-Roman world.
The earliest reference to contraception and abortion is in the Didache, a document from the second half of the first century or early second century. Didache reads: “You shall not practice birth control, you shall not murder a child by abortion, nor kill what is begotten” (2).
Many translations read “practice sorcery” because the Greek word sometimes has that meaning (see Wisdom 12:4, Galatians 5:20, Revelation 18:23). However, it also means practice medicine or use poison, and the term may refer to contraceptive measures, as is the case in a number of the following texts.
Another early text is the Epistle of Barnabas: “You shall not slay the child by procuring abortion, nor shall you destroy it after it is born” (19). This also shows that the earliest Christians forbade abortion.
In the second century, St. Clement of Alexandria wrote in the Paedagogus (2.10.96): “Women who resort to some sort of deadly abortion drug kill not only the embryo, but along with it, all human kindness.” This passage supports our translation of the Didache by mentioning the use of drugs to induce abortion.
In 177, Athenagoras of Athens wrote in the Supplication for the Christians: “And when we say that those women who use drugs to bring on abortion commit murder, and will have to give an account to God for the abortion, on what principle should we commit murder?”
This is the first of many patristic texts identifying abortion with murder, thereby indicating a high value to the personhood of the fetus. Tertullian’s Apology in 197, while he was still in union with the Church, says, “In our case, murder being once for all forbidden, we may not destroy even the fetus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from other parts of the body for its sustenance. To hinder a birth is merely a speedier man-killing; nor does it matter whether you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to the birth.”
Tertullian was himself a married man and understood the dignity of the fetus in the womb.
In the third century, Minucius Felix (226) wrote in Octavius: “There are some women who, by drinking medical preparations, extinguish the source of the future man in their very bowels, and thus commit a parricide before they bring forth” (30).
Around 228, St. Hippolytus wrote about unmarried women, including some reputed to be Christians, who became pregnant from illicit relationships. In his Refutation of All Heresies, he says, “Whence women, reputed believers, began to resort to drugs for producing sterility and to gird themselves round, so to expel what was being conceived on account of their not wishing to have a child either by a slave or by any paltry fellow, for the sake of their family and excessive wealth. Behold, into how great impiety that lawless one has proceeded by inculcating adultery and murder at the same time! And withal, after such audacious acts, they, lost to all shame, attempt to call themselves a Catholic Church” (9.7).
He considers their behavior an effectual refutation of their status as Christians. A document known as the Constitutions of the Holy Apostles reads “You shall not slay thy child by causing abortion, nor kill that which is begotten; for ‘everything that is shaped and has received a soul from God, if it be slain, shall be avenged, as being unjustly destroyed’” (7.1).
This states the belief that the fetus has a soul and its life must be protected from conception forward.
In the fourth century, the Latin and Greek authors addressed these issues. St. Augustine wrote On Marriage and Concupiscence (419). Though he was already the bishop of Hippo when he wrote it, he is equally famous for having lived with a concubine for 14 years and had a son with her. Therefore, he had an experience of living in a sort of family and he learned from his mistakes. He wrote: “I am supposing, then, although you are not lying [with your wife] for the sake of procreating offspring, you are not for the sake of lust obstructing their procreation by an evil prayer or an evil deed. Those who do this, although they are called husband and wife, are not; nor do they retain any reality of marriage, but with a respectable name cover a shame” (1.15.17).
St. Basil the Great wrote in his First Canonical Letter, Canon 2: “The woman who purposely destroys her unborn child is guilty of murder. With us there is no nice enquiry as to its being formed or unformed. In this case it is not only the being about to be born who is vindicated, but the woman in her attack upon herself; because in most cases women who make such attempts die. The destruction of the embryo is an additional crime, a second murder, at all events, if we regard it as done with intent” (374).
The reason he mentioned the “nice enquiry as to its being formed or unformed” is that some theologians thought that the rational soul did not develop in the fetus until the third month or even later. St. Basil simply notes that this is not an issue because at any stage the destruction of the embryo is a “crime” and a “murder.” Pace Nancy Pelosi, who had claimed that since St. Augustine had thought that the rational soul began late in the pregnancy, therefore abortion would be acceptable in the early stages. St. Basil shows that such false reasoning was unfounded.
St. Jerome, Letter 22 to Eustochium (396), said: “Some, when they find themselves with child through their sin, use drugs to procure abortion, and when (as often happens) they die with their offspring, they enter the lower world, laden with the guilt not only of adultery against Christ, but also of suicide and child murder. Yet it is these who say: ‘Unto the pure all things are pure; my conscience is sufficient guide for me.’ A pure heart is what God looks for” (13).
Here St. Jerome denies that the conscience of the abortion is a sufficient guide. As will be clarified in later centuries, the conscience must be correctly formed so that the Lord can truly find a pure heart in the individual.
Not only did many of the great theologians address abortion and contraception, but so did some councils. The Council of Elvira in Spain (305) decreed two canons forbidding the sacraments to women who committed abortion: “If a woman becomes pregnant by committing adultery, while her husband is absent, and after the act she destroys (the child), it is proper to keep her from Communion until death, because she has doubled her crime” (63). Canon 68 reads: “If a catechumen should conceive by an adulterer, and should procure the death of the child, she can be baptized only at the end of her life.”
A similar decision was reached at the Council of Ancyra (314): “Concerning women who commit fornication, and destroy that which they have conceived, or who are employed in making drugs for abortion, a former decree excluded them [from Communion] until the hour of death” (29)
None of the Fathers or councils offer contradictory opinions on contraception or abortion. Popes Pius XI, Paul VI and Blessed John Paul II were simply presenting the teaching of the Church in the same line of thought that began in the earliest generations, continued through the Middle Ages, and was taught by the Protestant reformers. (Martin Luther called people who use contraception “logs,” “stock” and “swine.” John Calvin said contraception was “condemned and “doubly monstrous,” while abortion was “a crime incapable of expiation.”)
The popes have called the Church to a moral and holy approach to marriage and the conception of children. We form our conscience in the light of this constant tradition, and we teach and live it by the graces God gives us.
On this basis we insist that the government allow us complete freedom to practice our religion and its precepts.
Jesuit Father Mitch Pacwa is the host of EWTN Live and Threshold of Hope on EWTN. He is president of Ignatius Productions.

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Jedi Knight School of Biblical Exegesis

Some of my readers may not be familiar with the Jedi mind tricks made famous by the Star Wars movies so I will explain. The Jedi Mind Trick is illustrated when a Jedi Knight with mind control powers waves his hand deftly and states something he wishes you to believe, you then believe it, (which is the actual opposite of your present reality.) When Obi Wan Kenobi and  R2D2 and C-3P0 were stopped by the stormtroopers at a check point he made great use of the ancient skill:

Stormtrooper: Let me see your identification.
Obi-Wan: [with a small wave of his hand] You don't need to see his identification.
Stormtrooper: We don't need to see his identification.
Obi-Wan: These aren't the droids you're looking for.
Stormtrooper: These aren't the droids we're looking for.
Obi-Wan: He can go about his business.
Stormtrooper: You can go about your business.
Obi-Wan: Move along.
Stormtrooper: Move along... move along.

Regarding the 2nd chapter of James in the New Testament, there is a verse that basically puts the nail in the coffin for Luther's new theology of salvation by faith alone.   "You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone." ESV  Unfortunately, this was a bit of a problem for the reformers. They had three choices:

1) Accept the Scripture at face value and repent realizing "faith alone" was a false doctrine not found in Holy Scripture.
2) Label the epistle of James as "an epistle of Straw" to be thrown into the fire and not worthy to be included in the canon (Martin Luther)
3) Use the Jedi Mind Trick to exegete the verse in such a way that the reader comes away believing the verses mean the opposite of what the Church believed for 1500 years.

14What shall it profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath faith, but hath not works? Shall faith be able to save him?
    15And if a brother or sister be naked, and want daily food:
    16And one of you say to them: Go in peace, be ye warmed and filled; yet give them not those things that are necessary for the body, what shall it profit?
    17So faith also, if it have not works, is dead in itself.
    18But some man will say: Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without works; and I will shew thee, by works, my faith.
    19Thou believest that there is one God. Thou dost well: the devils also believe and tremble.
    20But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
    21Was not Abraham our father justified by works, offering up Isaac his son upon the altar?
    22Seest thou, that faith did co-operate with his works; and by works faith was made perfect?
    23And the scripture was fulfilled, saying: Abraham believed God, and it was reputed to him to justice, and he was called the friend of God.
    24Do you see that by works a man is justified; and not by faith only?
    25And in like manner also Rahab the harlot, was not she justified by works, receiving the messengers, and sending them out another way?
    26For even as the body without the spirit is dead; so also faith without works is dead.

But many of our Protestant brothers read these verses differently and actually conclude this: 
"When James says: “Can faith save him?” his meaning is “Can the faith which he says he has save him?” that is, faith which is dead and produces no works; for that is the faith clearly* intended here, as it appears from what follows. To make the meaning more evident, Macknight renders the sentence thus, — “Can this faith save him?”
that is, the faith that has not works." (Commentary on the Epistle of James by John Calvin)
So according to some of our Protestant friends when Saint James says that faith with out works is dead, he really means "the kinda faith that has not works" without works can't save you. Does this give anybody else a headache? Wouldn't it just be easier to accept what is written by Saint James at face value that faith (not the dead kind as Calvinists claim) without works is dead, instead of John Calvin and others waving their fingers deftly so the reader comes away believing the opposite of what Scripture actually states? 
*Using the word "clearly"  is always a warning that the Jedi Mind Trick is about to occur because usually it is quite clear to the reader that the upcoming statement is not clear at all.
On a final note, Alec Guiness who played Obi Wan in Star Wars was a Catholic Convert coming to the faith while filming Bridge Over the River Kwai.

One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. What About the Holy?

This is an excellent response to those who claim the Church is not valid because of 2000 years of sinners who have claimed the Church as their own and called themselves Catholic (like me for instance)
 "the human corruption that has always existed within the Church since Judas, has never been able to overcome the holiness of the Church, which is due solely to Christ." Doug Lawrence

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Canon of the Old Testament

Here is an excellent discussion on the formation of the canon of the Old Testament sans the inter-faith polemics.

An Excerpt:

 While the New Testament does not provide a list of canonical books, it does make clear that Our Lord authorized the Apostles to make authoritative judgments about religious law. The most pointed example is to be found in Matthew 16:

"And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

Leaving aside for the moment the significance of the "keys of the kingdom of heaven," let us focus on the concept of "binding" and "loosing." In first-century Palestinian Judaism, the terms "bind" and "loose" referred to authoritative decisions about religious law. Religious law was (and is) called halakhah, from the verb halakh, "to walk." Halakhah is then, the way one "walks," that is, how one behaves. To "bind" meant to prohibit a behavior, to "loose" meant to permit it. In practice, the Pharisaic scribes generally bound and loosed for the common people of Israel: Jesus refers to their exercise of religious authority (and even partially endorses it!) in Matthew 23:

"The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice. They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger."

The point of Matthew 16:18-19 is, then, that Jesus is investing Peter—and later, the apostles with him (Matt 18:18)—with the authority to make binding decisions concerning religious law for the people of God. One such question of religious law was the correct list of inspired books, i.e. the canon.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius

Today the Church celebrates these two ninth century brothers who left their homeland to preach the gospel to the Slavic nations. They were committed to the concept that the liturgy should be in the vernacular so they had to create what became known as the Cyrillic alphabet, which was the root of the Russian alphabet.
It is once again instructive to realize that they first didn't first translate the bible into the new language. They translated the liturgy, meaning the Mass. Why didn't they just start with Scripture? The likely answer is that the best way in the 9th century as in every century is to present the gospel in the context of the Church. In all likelihood, the literacy rate in the 9th century Slavic nations was very low, and the best way to preach the gospel was in the liturgy which is literally filled with scripture. In the end of his life, one of the brothers indeed did translate the entire bible as well as many writings of the Church Fathers.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Another OPC Pastor Converts

Fred Noltie gives the reasons for his move from reformed pastor to Catholic here in Called To Communion

Sunday, February 12, 2012

New Song "Vertigo"

This song has been banging around in my head since 1978, but I never finished it or even played it! It's a song about unrequited love, the most painful and yet sometimes bittersweet. Just thought I would finish it today and put down a few tracks. I needed something to distract me from the recent HHS Mandate debacle.
Instruments used are open tuned guitar, banjo, fretless bass, vocals and harmony. Heard best I think with headphones to appreciate the stereo separation of all the instruments.
Vertigo by Russ Rentler

Saturday, February 11, 2012

"All Along the Watchtower"

Friday, February 10, 2012

USCCB Responds to the HHS "Compromise" Yeah Bishops!!!

Basically the USCCB says that the HHS Mandate has to be rescinded, and the compromise is not a solution. EWTN , by the way, is suing the Administration over this.  Unfortunately liberals are cheering this solution including Sister Carol Keehan who spearheaded the approval of Obamacare while earning the ire of the USCCB blaming her for the passage of Obamacare!

 "But stepping away from the particulars, we note that today's proposal continues to involve needless government intrusion in the internal governance of religious institutions, and to threaten government coercion of religious people and groups to violate their most deeply held convictions. In a nation dedicated to religious liberty as its first and founding principle, we should not be limited to negotiating within these parameters. The only complete solution to this religious liberty problem is for HHS to rescind the mandate of these objectionable services."

President Obama's Contraceptive Compromise - A Shell Game

The President has supposedly resolved the HHS religious conscience issues with his compromise proposal today. Did he once work as a carney in a circus or boardwalk? The sleight of hand he used is nothing more than a shell game which does nothing but cover the fact that people of faith will still be forced to violate their consciences. Here's Dr. Donohue, president of the Catholic League's comments.

First They Came For the Catholics...

Evangelicals Timothy George and Church Colson posted an open letter to the evangelical community  in Christianity Today on 2/8. They use German pastor Martin Niemoller's famous poem which castigated the apathy in Hitler's Germany among the intellectual and religious communities.  Thankfully, our Protestant brothers have now joined the fray seeing that this is not a "Catholic only" issue as I mentioned here.
     Aside from the obvious infringement of people of faith's constitutional rights, it is my  hope and prayer this also will create dialog between Catholics and Protestants regarding the issue of  contraception and why Catholics believe that the marital act is both unative and procreative and can't be separated.  Also I hope that the Protestant community will be more open to the scientific reality that oral contraception can and does cause abortion as well as breast cancer.
   I hope also that all of this media attention to the HHS Mandate will cause contracepting Catholics to re-visit this issue in their own lives.  This is a "teachable moment" for the Catholic Church for those both inside and outside the Church. 
                            What Obama meant for evil, God will use for good, ultimately.

Thursday, February 09, 2012


Atlanta (Roswell), GA, February 9, 2012—During the recent Christmas season, most Americans witnessed a first in television and Church history: the national, prime-time network debut of empowering Catholic evangelization messages, from Catholics Come Home®.
These inspiring evangomercials™ were broadcast 546 times from December 12, 2011 to January 13, 2012, reaching viewers across the entire United States and airing in every diocese.  Nielsen data indicates that as many as 125 million Americans were exposed to the ads an average of 9.7 times.  The cost to reach 125 million souls ten times…just 2¾ cents per person.  In comparison, the Super Bowl reached only 111.3 million viewers just one time.
The most popular networks of CBS, NBC, Univision, TBS, USA, TNT, CNN and many other top cable networks broadcast the Catholics’ welcoming invitation on their most popular programs. The NBC Nightly News, 60 Minutes, Law and Order, The Today Show, Letterman, The O’Reilly Factor, Kennedy Center Honors, NCIS, all major college football bowl games on Dish Network, and other top shows carried the 30 and 60 second Catholic messages.  “TV is still king of the media world,” said Mark Gray of CARA.
Filled with the history, beauty, spirituality and accomplishments of the Catholic Church, this initiative of the New Evangelization evokes common responses from three main groups of viewers:
  • Current Catholics say:  “When I saw the ads, I felt proud to be Catholic!“ 
  • Inactive Catholics say:  “I feel like God was personally inviting me back
    to church.”
  • Non-Catholics say:  “I didn’t know that about the Catholic faith.  I want to know more.”
“The Catholics Come Home campaign has been very successful.  I believe that it is one of the most powerful evangelization moments that we have had in several decades, shared Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond, Archdiocese of New Orleans.
The national Catholics Come Home campaign is a great example of using modern media to serve the New Evangelization; both to reach out to those inactive in their faith, and to animate active Catholics to share their faith.  The beauty of the images and the compelling narrative of the commercials remind fallen away Catholics of God’s immense love for them and of their home in the Catholic Church,” said Bishop Thomas Olmsted, Diocese of Phoenix.
When parishes ask returnees, “why did you come home?,” the overwhelming answer has consistently been, “because you invited me”.  With the support of many individual donors, Catholics Come Home is taking the initiative to invite these “missing” family members back home.  “When we invite them home, the Holy Spirit opens the door,” said Catholics Come Home® president and founder, Tom Peterson.
These beautifully done invitations to return to the practice of the Catholic faith are outstanding examples of the New Evangelization.  Thanks for helping us bishops and priests to reach out to so many of our brothers and sisters in the faith,” commented Bishop Michael Sheridan, Diocese of Colorado Springs.
Catholics Come Home® has launched successful evangelization initiatives in 33 US dioceses and archdioceses helping to increase Mass attendance, often significantly.  Catholics Come Home® continues to work in partnership with dioceses airing local TV evangelization media campaigns during the seasons of Advent/Christmas and Lent.  Future plans for the apostolate include developing and airing new commercials.

A Question for the Enemies of Rome

Dr. Mohler President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary said in his daily podcast,  

"You at least have to admire the courage of the Roman Catholic bishops in saying they are willing to go to jail rather than to comply with this. How many evangelical presidents and pastors and leaders would be willing to do the same?"  

 Why would the followers of the @#$% of Babylon be so adamant about a moral issue? If Catholicism is the church of Satan and is a deceived cult, why are they so willing to risk so much? Why is the Catholic Church leading this battle against the egregious assault on our constitutional rights especially since satan loves bondage and oppression? 

I pray that the Lord will open the eyes of the enemies of Rome and at the very least cause themselves to ask similar questions.

The New Anti-Catholicism

Dr. Beckwith writes an excellent column here in the Catholic Thing.

Hawaii Compromise Is No Compromise

There are rumors that Obama may bring out a compromise to the HHS mandate. Rather than force Catholic and other religious institutions to provide insurance coverage for conscience-violating services , they would only be forced to direct their employees to where the services could be obtained in a "expeditious manner," such as Planned Parenthood, largest abortion provider in the world.
This apparently is a statewide compromise in Hawaii. Dr. Richard Doerflinger of the USCCB explains it here.
   This would be akin to the government forcing the NAACP, (which protects the rights of African Americans) to direct their employees to the services of the KKK (which seeks to remove the rights of African Americans)

Richard Doerflinger said:

"Like the federal rule, he said, the Hawaii bill “covers all FDA-approved ‘contraceptives’ (including drugs that can cause an abortion); and the religious exemption is very narrow (though it does not include the requirement that the religious organization serve only people of its own faith to be eligible).
“It adds an extra feature — the requirement that any religious organization that is exempt must still tell all enrollees how they may directly access contraceptive services and supplies in an expeditious manner.”
In other words, the Catholic Church must directly send women to drugs and devices that are morally wrong and can do harm to them.
Doerflinger also raised an additional concern about the federal rule that has received little attention: Catholic institutions will be required to make referrals for services the Church deems morally illicit."

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

I Love Flying But I Hate Aviation

Here's an excellent response to those who advocate a relationship with Jesus without His Church.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Some Positive Aspects of the Egregious HHS Mandate

Despite the horrendous implications of President Obama's wholesale attack on the Catholic Church, I have been thinking of some possible good things that can come of it.

1) The issue of Catholics who use birth control has come to the fore. All the news media are breathlessly quoting: "98 % of Catholics use artificial contraception." Whether this is true or not, it certainly brings up the issue. The positive thing is that it may remind Catholics that  "Yes Virginia, it is still a mortal sin to contracept." There have been some Catholics under the mistaken notion that the ban on artificial contraception was revoked with Vatican 2. I actually heard someone say this at RCIA once!   It is unclear to me why the beautiful teachings on life, procreation and the marital relationship  aren't taught more often but perhaps this will start a new phase in the life of the Church. There is nothing like persecution to purify the faithful and I believe God will use this HHS mandate to help Catholics decide if they are going to stand with the Church or side with secular mores.
   Perhaps we are at a turning point for the Catholic Church in America. As Pope Benedict predicted, the Catholic Church may indeed get smaller, but it wouldn't be the first time and the end result will be a positive one. My hope is that many Catholics will start to question their use of artificial contraception.  The issue can't be hidden and Catholics cannot claim ignorance since most parishes have read the USCCB's statement to their congregations this past Sunday. If the Church is stating that it cannot and will not capitulate to this mandate, Lord willing, the congregants will look into their hearts and reconsider why the Church is so adamant against contraception. 

2) The second positive aspect is that everyone is talking about the Catholic Church and its teachings. not a bad thing!  All the talk radio guys are talking about the Church, mostly as an axe to grind against Obama, but many of their listeners will want to know why the Church is so adamant about contraception, sterilization and abortifacient morning after pills. Lord willing they will look into it.  There are many conversion stories based on people who became Catholic because of the Church's moral teachings.

3) This may cause a restoration of unity of sorts between Catholics and Protestants as they realize they have more that unites than divides them, and in the face of this egregious attack on religion, there is certainly strength in numbers.

To learn more about  the Catholic Church teach that the marital embrace must remain open to life as God's design, check this link .
Additional information here as well.

Pope Paul VI Predicted the HHS Mandates in 1968!

I was re-reading Humanae Vitae today and came across a section where Pope Paul the 6th basically predicted what we are now seeing with the new Health and Human Services Mandate regarding employer- paid contraception. Basically, he warned that governments may eventually dictate the use of contraceptives. Currently we are not forced to use them (yet), but we are now forced to pay for them! China by the way, forces contraception on its people and this is exactly what Pope Paul envisioned occurring as a by product of a society that takes on the contraceptive mentality.

"Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife."

Pope Paul, God rest his soul, knew what he was talking about. Methinks he had quite a bit of help from the third person of the Trinity when he wrote Humane Vitae in 1968. I would encourage everyone to read HV just to get a sense of the mind of the Church on contraception. Keep in mind that as he wrote this, some American Catholics were wrongly predicting the Pope would soon change his mind about the prohibition of contraception. Because of the wide availability of hormonal contraception in the 1960's many thought the Church would have to cave to the culture. Thankfully, for the charism of infallibility, the Popes cannot and will not reverse an issue of faith or morals.

Another Orthodox Presyterian Pastor Crosses the Tiber. The Fathers Strike Again!

Jason Stewart and his wife Cindy came into full communion with the Catholic Church in January 2011.
He was an ordained pastor in the OPC . Once again it was the testimony of the Early Church Fathers as well as his own  readings of the Catechism and interactions with Catholics that brought him home.

The full story is here but in the meantime, here's a few quotes:

"I knew the reformers had explicitly rejected much of what I was finding in the Church Fathers.
Page after page revealed a common faith during that early period in which bishops succeeded Apostles, baptismal waters regenerated, bread and wine transformed, penance was necessary and salutary, purgatorial fire cleansed, the Blessed Virgin was an active Mother to the faithful, departed saints prayed, Peter held the Keys, and the Eucharist was a sacrifice for the living and the dead. There appeared in their minds no awareness of or concern for the cardinal doctrines of the Reformation so painstakingly spelled out as essential to the gospel. Actually…the Fathers sounded Catholic.
This was unexpectedly unsettling for me because no external argument(s) in favor of a Catholic reading of the Fathers had been made in conjunction with my reading of them. The writings themselves served to give voice to the arguments. The words on the page became the witness or opponent (depending on one’s perspective). I began to ponder whether a person would naturally pick up the trail of the Catholic Church if one started with the writings of the early Church? The answer increasingly seemed to be yes."

Sometimes You Just Gotta' Wonder.....

Michael McCleary is making these available on Catholics Are Christians! fb group.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Online Rosary

Sunday, February 05, 2012

The Why Of Suffering

Mark Pickup, Canadian evangelical to Catholic convert and sufferer from Multiple Sclerosis has a great article on the redemptive value of suffering as he and his wife have experienced and continue to live out daily. Check it out here.

Health and Human Services Mandate IS NOT A Catholic-Only Issue

More than 25% of the population of the United States will be stripped of their religious liberties in 2013 when the US Health and Human Services mandates all employers to pay for contraception, sterilization and abortion via the "morning after pill."  Though President Obama is now relishing the thought that he "stuck it to the Catholic Church" his ideological war against the Catholic faith just got a whole lot bigger. Like the shot heard round the world, with the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand starting WWI, this "shot"   against American Catholics will ultimately pull people of all faith into the fray.

This is not just a "Catholic contraception" issue. This HHS mandate will also effect employers of any faith who would violate their conscience by paying for their employees to obtain and take RU-486, the abortion pill used to prevent "morning after" conceptions. For you fans of Dr. Dobson's ministry in the evangelical world, this means that Focus on the Family, which has often relied on Catholicism for the source of its moral teachings, will now be forced to pay for the morning-after pill for it's employees, contraception and sterilizations. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary,  (a source of magisterial teaching for many conservative protestants) will now be forced to pay for RU-486 for employees. Once again, this is an institution that often allies itself with the Catholic Church when it comes to morals and ethics. (See the president of that university's blog here)
   Protestant colleges, employers and charities will all be forced to comply with this. The Catholic bishops have already begun to orchestrate a legal challenge to this and hopefully will be joined by our protestant brothers and sisters.  Christians of all faiths need to contact their legislators to make their outrage known.

"We cannot-we will not- comply with this unjust law. People of faith cannot be made second class citizens. We are already joined by our brothers and sisters of all faiths and many others of good will in this important effort to regain religious freedom. Our parents and grandparents did not come to these shores to help build America's cities and towns, its infrastructure and institutions, its enterprise and culture only to have their posterity stripped of their God-given rights."

The Catholic Bishops of the United States.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Assurance of Salvation From Catholic Perspective

This is a repost from last November.

Snow at Saint Peter's!

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Returning to Our Senses (5 CDs) -   Saint Joseph Communications, Inc.

Returning to Our Senses (5 CDs) - Saint Joseph Communications, Inc.

"How should we interpret the Word of God? Many of our evangelical brothers believe that the Bible does not require an interpretative framework, that is, the Bible is self-interpreting and does not need anyone to explain its meaning. As Catholics we believe that Scripture cannot be wrenched from the Church who gave it to us. In order to read the Bible for all its worth, then we must read it in light of the Church’s teachings.
Dr. Scott Hahn, as a former Protestant, knows what it is like to try to read the Bible in the way God never intended—alone! The principle of sola Scriptura (“the Bible alone”) has caused a host of problems within Christianity, and has moved us further away from Our Lord Jesus’ prayer in St. John’s Gospel: “That they may be one” (John 17:21). 

This is the definitive audio set on the interpretation of Scripture (also known as “hermeneutics”) which every Catholic must have and every Protestant should have. Make sure to grab two copies, one for you and the other for your evangelical neighbor. 

The following titles in this set are:
- How to Interpret The Bible In Light of Catholic Teaching”
-Principles of Biblical Interpretation
- Scripture and the Canon or Sola Scriptura
- The Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments
- Literary Forms and Genres"

The Power of Organized Religion

With Jeff Bethke's recent "I hate religion" new religion sweeping the evangelical world, Eve Mercer from Catholics Are Christians makes an excellent point about the benefits of an "organized religion":

"Not to re-hash the whole "I Hate Religion" issue, but just a late night thought after watching a day of news. America is about to see what organized religion in this country can do. No denomination has the kind of clout or cohesion to do what the USCCB (Organization of Catholic Bishops) is going to do in standing up to this administration on the HHS Mandate. It is the organization and authority of the Catholic Church that will be taking a stand for the religious freedoms and liberty of all Americans. I pray that all of America will see this, and hearts and minds will be more open to what the Catholic Church truly stands for. And thank you to people of all faiths who are standing behind us Catholics during this time of persecution."

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Gnostic Myths and Protestantism

Here's a link to a blog post that illustrates how the ancient heresy of gnosticism has crept into some of  the protestant sects.  It surprised me to see that a protestant recognized and wrote about it .

The Importance of Relics

Jeremy Tate over at Called To Communion has an excellent story of his discovery of a fragment of the True cross . Initially he was skeptical,  but his daughter's reaction to seeing this changed his heart in a beautiful way. Relics are important because they put us in material touch with a true historic event and can bolster our faith. Are there phony relics? Sure! Are there phony religions? Sure! But as Jeremy points out, a fake relic doesn't negate the reality that there are true ones just as much heretical religions don't negate the truth of the real Church.

 "This is because every relic is connected to Christ, the divine made physical. Every relic lifts the fog of unbelief because every relic offers its own concrete testimony to Christ’s redemptive work in this world."

"Sentire cum Ecclesia" To Think With The Church. Sisters Re-Unite With Rome.

A group of schismatic nuns 40 years ago formed in the Pacific Northwest believing that the past three popes were not valid and the Church was without a pope. In 2008 , 15 of 32 sisters returned home to the Church through the prayers and intercession of Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta. A priest and his congregation in 2002 started praying for them to return and invited the Missionarys of charity to come to Spokane and evangelize these sisters. Then, in 2005 they were allowed to watch  the funeral of Blessed JP2 on the news. This led to them secretly listening to Catholic Radio and going to EWTN's website. The rest is history as they say.    Check out Set DeMoor's One Billion Stories Interview with two of these vibrant sisters.

Just reading the description of the design of their orders new crest symbol was a lesson in humility and love for Jesus and His Church. As one who has spent most of his adult life away from the Catholic Church and "in schism"  as a protestant,  this story really resonated with me.  See the description below:

"Our crest represents the Marian and Petrine aspects of the Catholic Church. We honor the Virgin Mother of the Church and the successor of Peter upon whom the Church is built.

At the center of the crest is the heart which beats at the center of the Church: the Immaculate Heart of Mary, aflame with love for God and for us, the children bequeathed to her from the cross. As virgin and mother, Mary is the image, model and mother of the Church.  We claim her as our model, in our efforts to live "in the heart of the Church."

The keys of Peter symbolize the Church's apostolic authority received from Christ, the authority to which we pledge our lives. "Ubi Petrus, ibi Ecclesia."  (“Where Peter is, there is the Church.”)
The Holy Spirit in the form of a dove overshadows the heart and the keys, just as the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary at the Annunciation, and again when she was gathered with the apostles in the cenacle at Pentecost

Seven rays emanate from the Holy Spirit, symbolizing His seven gifts as well as the seven Sacraments, channels of sanctifying grace for the whole Church.  The combined rays symbolize the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit:  charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control and chastity. The twelve rays also signify the twelve Apostles.

The top banner with the words,  "Sentire cum Ecclesia" ("to think with the Church," an expression used by St. Ignatius in his Spiritual Exercises) is the motto of our Community.
The lower banner is the title of Our Lady, patroness of our community: "Mater Ecclesiae" (Mother of the Church).

The crest is enclosed in the shape of the colonnade at St. Peter's in Rome, the center of Catholic teaching, worship and unity in the world. The four pillars represent the foundational pillars of our religious life:
The vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience together with our total consecration to Jesus through Mary. 

The dome of St. Peter’s reminds us of the FAITH we profess in all that is taught and maintained through the ages by Christ’s holy Church.

The cross atop the dome draws our gaze heavenward, filling us with HOPE in Christ crucified and risen, in Whom we seek eternal fulfillment.

The colonnade resembles the open arms of a mother welcoming all into her embrace, reminding us of the CHARITY that emanates from the heart of the Church and inflames the hearts of her children, filling us with supernatural love for God and neighbor."