Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Southern Baptist Seminarian Comes Home

Devin Rose posts a letter from a friend who has just converted to the Catholic faith. It is an excellent read.

"Ultimately it was questions about church history and the Bible that caused me to withdraw from the seminary three weeks later. As I read my Church History I textbooks and Martin Luther biography, I was struck by how novel many of my Baptist beliefs were. Throughout the early church and even during the Reformation I learned that issues like baptism and communion were extremely important. Yet for me they had always been “open-handed” issues. After all, communion was simply eating bread and grape juice every now and then to remember Christ.  Strictly speaking, baptism was not necessary for salvation and was simply a symbol demonstrated after someone had gotten “saved.” Not only did these views contradict church history but, increasingly, they did not match with uncomfortable Bible passages I had always shrugged off (cf  John 6, Rom 6)."

8th Anniversary Celebration of Our Return to Rome!

Today marks the 8th year since we returned to the faith of our youth in Emmaus, PA. Just like the two disciples on the Way to Emmaus, my eyes were opened to Jesus in the "breaking of the bread" while living in this small eastern Pennsylvanian town. Eight years ago today, I sat in front of my local parish priest and confessed 31 years of sins. It was no small task and I had a lot of anxiety and fear going into it. Face-to-face confession had not yet become in-vogue when I left the Church in 1973, so having to face the priest without a screen was difficulty for me. Thankfully, the priest was kind and humble and guided me through the process gently. When I was done he absolved me of my sins through the authority given to him through the Church by Christ himself (John 20:23). Though I am not a very emotive person, my eyes welled up with tears during the absolution and I had a very deep peace and comfort wash over me that I can't recall ever experiencing.
    I then walked into the chapel and we had our marriage con-validated (officially sacramentalized by the Church). We then both received the Eucharist for the first time in over 30 years and I heard a still small voice  saying: "You have found what you have always been looking for and I am right here with you." I couldn't contain myself at this point and began to quietly sob. Fortunately, the chapel was empty except for my wife, the priest and two witnesses.
    As I knelt and prayed after receiving Him, I knew that I could never be closer to Him in this life than I was right then. The frustration of all those years of searching for Him and trying to find him outside of His Church was over. I had finally come home.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

An Invitation to Former Catholics

On this 8th anniversary of our return to the Catholic faith, Deborah and I went into my studio to create a podcast as we have done the last several years on the anniversary of our "reversion day." The focus of this podcast is to invite our former Catholic friends to re-consider the faith they left, perhaps not fully knowing what they were leaving. It is 7.5 minutes long and download-able. 8th Anniv. Return To The Catholic Church by Russ Rentler

Friday, April 27, 2012

Dr. Francis Beckwith's 5th Anniversary of Coming Home

 Dr. Beckwith, formerly-reformed Christian and former president of the Evangelical Theological Society reverted to the faith of his childhood and shares the highlights of his return home to the Catholic faith.
"Then I confessed, I could do no other."

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Eunuch Disproves the Perpiscuity* of Scripture

Normally I am pretty tired in morning mass and don't always perceive wondrous insights from the readings of Holy Scripture but today the reading from Acts really spoke to me. The first reading was from from Acts 8:26-40. It was the story about Philip and his encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch. The eunuch, after visiting Jerusalem to worship, was heading home and reading from Isaiah. He was trying to understand the bible on his own but he couldn't.
29 And the Spirit said to Philip, "Go up and join this chariot."
30 So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and asked, "Do you understand what you are reading?"
31 And he said, "How can I, unless some one guides me?" And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
 Philip then enlightens him with Spirit-led catechesis (teaching), with the result that the eunuch wishes to be baptized. The word had stirred his heart and caused him to desire conversion.
35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this scripture he told him the good news of Jesus.
36 And as they went along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, "See, here is water! What is to prevent my being baptized?"
38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.
39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught up Philip; and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.

My conclusions from this plain reading of scripture today are:
1) A person alone can't always understand the bible alone. The perpiscuity of scripture is a dubious notion at best. Clearly the bible is best interpreted through an authority and who but the apostles of Christ and their successors would have the "best" interpretation?   
An interesting aside from this little story is that it shows us the normative method of conversion for the early post-resurrection Church was baptism in water. There was no mention of a sinner's prayer. If baptism is just symbolic and a "add on" why didn't Phillip simply get the eunuch to recite the sinner's prayer and let him go at that. After all, there was no one around to witness the baptism, so the idea of baptism being for the purpose of a public testimony was pretty useless here. Baptism was the way in which this new believer was made a member of the body of Christ.
*Perpiscuity of Scripture: a belief begun in the reformation that the bible is clear, self-interpretive and easy to understand, therefore requiring no teaching authority. Many modern day fundamentalists and evangelical Christians hold to this. The reality is that they really don't because they read the bible through the interpretive lens of their own magisterium, their pastor, their denomination's confession etc. They just won't admit it. The reality is that everyone has a magisterium!   Catholics just admit it  and are thankful for it.

Monday, April 23, 2012

"She's Drawing Me"

6 years ago I was still going to Haiti with my evangelical Protestant church even though I had been Catholic for a couple of years. I had a few interesting conversations with my mission team mates regarding my return to the Catholic faith. For many of them, they had never heard of such a thing ever happening. On our day-off we went to the beach in Jacmel and one of the members of my former church came up to me and said;  "Russ, she's drawing me." I asked him what he meant, and he said that he was being drawn to the Catholic faith. I really was surprised to hear that and we chatted a little about issues of conversion and he again surprised me by saying, "I don't believe in sola scriptura because it doesn't make sense!" I was further taken aback by that and wondered "why isn't this guy Catholic?" On the flight home I gave him  Dr. Thomas Howard's book, Lead Kindly  Light. He was the former editor of Christianity Today and Elizabeth Elliot's brother and converted to Catholicism a long time ago.
   Once we arrived back in the states, my friend handed me the book and said, "I finished it on the plane."
We said our goodbyes and I have prayed for him from time to time. We haven't kept in touch and he moved away but I notice his facebook page a few weeks ago. It said " ____changed his religion to Catholic." I look forward to hearing his story and if he allows I may share it here.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

It's Either The Church Jesus Started-Warts and All - Or It Isn't

I wonder what would happen if those who are critical of their local Catholic parishes just spent one year in some of the non-Catholic ecclesial communities I have belonged to over the years. After a year without the sacraments, they'd be begging to receive Jesus in the Eucharist, even at a "liturgically incorrect" Mass.

The worst "liturgical abuse," IMHO, is knowingly being in schism with the Church Jesus started.
It's either the Church Jesus started, warts and all, or it isn't, with all its imperfections brought about by our human condition. If one claims to be Catholic, he or she has given up the "right" to decide what's the best form and style of worship--so long as everything is done in accordance with the Church's liturgical norms. Those who insist that one rite is better than another (even though the Vatican has approved all rites) come perilously close to making the same mistake that the reformers made. They "knew" better than the Magisterium of the Church, essentially putting themselves on a par with the Holy Spirit. I have spent 31 years of my life as a Protestant, believing all manner of heterodoxy and participating in many forms and styles of un-orthodox worship. If I now experience a Mass that is "less than orthodox," or has some degree of liturgical abuse in it, as long as the Eucharist is validly consecrated with proper form and matter, Jesus is there, and I can offer my sacrifice in union with Him to the Father. This the true sacrifice of worship, and it happens regardless of bad homilies, mediocre music, banners from the 70's etc. I am so thankful to be Catholic and have had the opportunity to receive Him in Catholic churches all over the world in which I have worshiped, from Galway, Ireland to Port-Au-Prince, Haiti to Los Angeles, California to Orefield, Pennsylvania.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Bread of Heaven

About a year ago I was asked to play music as a meditation after Holy Communion for a parish in Lancaster County, PA. I often feel that the time after receiving the Eucharist is the best part of Mass for me, but I find that sometimes, the music can be distracting. I composed this song with the hopes that it can help the worshiper focus on what has just transpired on the altar and not distract or take away from the worship. My wife Deborah made the video for it.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Room of Tears Video: The Election of Pope Benedict 16th

Happy Birthday Pope Benedict!

On the happy day of our Holy Father's 85th birthday, I offer a free download of my song Room of Tears. This song describing the election of this reluctant but wonderful Pontiff. He originally wished to retire to write, study and play piano, but God had a different plan for Him. He obeyed.
Here's a link to Room of Tears MP3. Available free for the next few days.
Say a prayer for Papa Benedict as you listen and down load. "You are Peter..."

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Reconciliation From A Former Pastor's Perspective

                                                           Original art by Owen Swain

Owen Swain, Canadian artist, blogger, catechist, writer and former evangelical pastor writes about the gift of forgiveness which Christ gave to His Church. As a pastor he had the nagging sense that he could not completely provide all that his parishioner was asking regarding forgiveness. In his own life, he sensed there was more to forgiveness than what he was experiencing. In the linked article he gives a very interesting perspective to the sacrament of penance/reconciliation based on his pastoral experience.

Divine Mercy Sunday

Today on the Octave of Easter as it was called, we celebrate the feast of Divine Mercy. On this day we reflect on the tremendous mercy of God  showed to us in His passion death and resurrection. That mercy is available to all sinners at all times but today especially, we ask God today to pour out his mercy on us and through us so that we can be vessels of that mercy to others. Most parishes across the world will have Divine Mercy services at 2-3PM today where the image of the Divine Mercy will be displayed and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy will be prayed at 3 PM, the very hour of divine mercy when our Lord gave his life for us.

The ABC's of Divine Mercy from the Marian Fathers who promote the Divine Mercy Devotion:


God wants us to approach Him in prayer constantly, asking Him to pour out His mercy upon us and
upon the whole world.
God, who created us free, will not force anything on us, not even His mercy. He waits for us to ask: Ask and
it will be given to you… for everyone who asks, receives. (Matt.7: 7-8) The Scriptures are filled with examples
as of how to trust in God and ask for His mercy. Examples:
- The psalms
- The faith of Abraham and Moses who pleaded with God
- The man who persuaded his friends to get up in the middle of the night to lend him some bread
- The Canaanite woman’s plea for His mercy.

Pope John Paul II reinforces this Biblical message in his encyclical RICH IN MERCY when he says: “At no time… especially at a moment as critical as our own – can the Church forget the prayer that is a cry for the mercy of God… The Church has the right and the duty to appeal to the God of mercy with loud cries…”
To Sister Faustina of the Divine Mercy, Jesus said: “Souls that make an appeal to My Mercy delight Me.
To such souls I grant even more than they ask… Beg for mercy for the whole world… No soul that has
called upon My Mercy has ever been disappointed.”


God wants us to receive His Mercy and let it flow to others.
Mercy is love that seeks to relieve the misery of others. It is an active love, poured out upon others to heal,
to comfort, to console, to forgive, to remove pain. It is the love that God offers us, and it is the love He demands
from us for each other. “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6: 36)
Jesus said to St. Faustina: “I demand from you deeds of mercy which are to arise out of love for Me.
You are to show mercy to your neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to
excuse yourself from it… Even the strongest faith is of no avail without works…
“If a soul does not exercise mercy in some way, it will not obtain My Mercy on the Day of
How can we exercise mercy? Through our actions, words, prayers, and an attitude of mercy in our daily
lives, and by doing these:

The Corporal Works of Mercy
1) Feed the hungry. Never turn away anyone who is hungry, especially the poor, elderly or disabled. Those
in authority should try to prevent unemployment. Give work to the unemployed.
2) Give drink to the thirsty. A cup of water given in Christ’s name shall not lose its reward.
3) Clothe the naked. Give away your used or superfluous clothing. Help with drives for used clothing.
4) Shelter the homeless. Give shelter, hospitality or financial aid in cases of fires and natural disasters.
5) Comfort the imprisoned. Visit prisoners in jail, console and help their families, provide assistance for
legal cases of poor families.
6) Visit the sick. Visit, console and give relief to the sick or elderly - at home or in the hospital. Provide
medical assistance, medicines and proper food.
7) Bury the dead. Attend a wake or funeral; visit a home in mourning and aid the bereaved family.
The Spiritual Works of Mercy
1) Admonish sinners. Whenever we think our words may have a good effect, we should not hesitate to
admonish those in error - prudently, gently and with charity. Show your good example.
2) Instruct the uninformed. By teaching religion or other useful knowledge we are doing an important
work of mercy.
3) Counsel the doubtful. We should be eager to help (prudently and gently) those whose faith is weak.
4) Comfort the sorrowful. Show sincere sympathy by speaking of God’s providence, of His love and of
the happiness He reserves for us in heaven.
5) Be patient with those in error. With this, we benefit both others and ourselves. Our patience can help
others realize their error.
6) Forgive offenses. Be merciful; never hold a grudge or seek revenge when offended. Forgive and always
seek reconciliation.
7) Pray for the living and dead. Pray for peace in the world, unity in the Church, family problems, the
sick, the souls in purgatory.


God wants us to know that the graces of His mercy are dependent upon our trust.
Trust in God is the essence of the message of mercy. Our Divine Savior made this clear to St. Faustina
several times:
“I have opened My Heart as a living fountain of mercy. Let all souls draw from it. Let them approach
this sea of mercy with trust… On the cross, the fountain of My Mercy was opened by the lance for all souls
- no one have I excluded! … The graces of My Mercy are drawn by means of one vessel only, and that is
trust. The more a soul trusts, the more it will receive…”

The ABCs are inter-related, and TRUST is the vital ingredient.
We ask with complete trust, and Our Lord fills us with grace so that we can be merciful as our Heavenly
Father is merciful. Jesus said to Saint Faustina:
“I am Love and Mercy Itself. When a soul approaches Me with trust, I fill it with such an abundance of graces that it cannot contain them within itself, but radiates them to other souls.”

Source: MIRACLES OF THE DIVINE MERCY by Mercy Lotilla-Asencio

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Reason # 737 To Be Catholic: Gas Prices!

I happened upon a Protestant blogger recently who was concerned about the distance he had to drive his family to worship  in a church that met the muster of his doctrinal preferences. From reading his other blog posts, it was clear that he was in a sect of Protestantism that many local "bible -believing" churches weren't able to meet his criteria for doctrinal orthodoxy. So this gentleman and family drove two hours each way to have fellowship and worship each Sunday.

"The major problem with the decision I had made was that the church was literally over 2 hours away. With the price of gas, this has made going to church on a regular and consistent basis a major hardship. Another difficulty is that I have always believed that if it possible, one ought to attend a church in one’s community." *  

I feel for this gent as I myself traveled with my family twice a week for over 20 miles each way to church for many years, despite passing literally dozens of protestant evangelical churches within a short distance from my home.(Not to mention at least 10 Catholic Churches) However, none met my doctrinal criteria or "worship style." The fact that I and many others would drive excessive distances to find "the right church" should have been a red flag that perhaps this isn't what Jesus had intended when he established his Church on Peter.

So Reason #737 to be Catholic is you will save a whole lot of money on gas! Wouldn't it make sense since Jesus started His Church and intended it to be universal for all peoples of all times, he would make this Church accessible as possible for the majority of the worldIn all likelihood, if you live in the United States as most of my readers do, you will find a local Catholic Church to worship in that is closer than 2 hours! The beliefs will be the same, the liturgy will be identical everywhere, and most importantly Christ the Lord will be made present on the altar under the appearances of bread and wine and you will receive Him. Then, take the money you save on gas and donate it to the Coming Home Network or Catholics Come Home to help others see the beauty and many reasons to be Catholic, even beyond gas prices.

*(I just checked and there are 11 Catholic Churches within a short driving distance of this protestant blogger's hometown!)

The "Titanic" Faith of Father Thomas Byles

As the great RMS Titanic was going down, Father Thomas Byles, a convert from Anglicanism, was last seen praying the rosary with Catholics and giving general absolution to Catholics, Jews and Protestants as the waters rose. Twice he was offered a place in the lifeboats but chose to continue to minster to those who would surely be entering eternity.

Father Byles and his brother William grew up Anglican, but later had such a profound realization of the truth of Catholicism, they both pursued the priesthood. Brother William eventually realized this was not his vocation  and left England for the US where he started a business and planned to marry. Father Byles was coming over on the Titanic to say the wedding mass for his brother and his bride in New York City.  Check out the story here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

During Easter Vigil, Thousands Enter the Church

See this link to an article about the conversions on Easter Vigil. Keep all those in your prayers since the journey has really just begun!

Way To Emmaus

Today the Gospel reading in Mass is the Way to Emmaus story. It is one of my favorites because it really is a  outline of the celebration of the mass. There is a gathering and penitential rite followed by the liturgy of the Word and then the liturgy of the Eucharist.  It is also one of my favorite gospel stories because it mirrors my life so closely. I was living in the town of Emmaus, PA when I too discovered Jesus in the "breaking of the bread" which inspired my last CD, Way to Emmaus. Here's the title track which tells the story.  

"Then our eyes were opened, in the breaking of the bread,
              Our hearts burned within us, with every word he said...."

Monday, April 09, 2012

Must I Go To Mystagogy?

For the Catholic faithful, Easter is not celebrated for just one day, but continues to be celebrated for 50 days until the feast of Pentecost. In the Early Church, after Easter vigil, the neophytes or newly baptized would enter into a period of learning and immersion into the sacraments. This period is called mystagogy, which means to "go deeper into the mysteries."
     Not only is Mystagogy a time of reflection and further immersion into the sacraments of the Church for the neophyte, it is also a time that can be used by the veteran Catholic to re-affirm his or her faith. To slow down after all the liturgical happenings of Holy Week and spend time in prayer and in the Word and in the frequent reception of the Eucharist, daily if possible.
     Most RCIA programs will have Mystagogy to help the new believers to become better acquainted with the Church and the faith.  It is so important that we encourage these folks to continue on in their conversion by attending mystagogy sessions if possible. What marks Catholicism as distinct from much of Protestantism is that we believe that conversion is an on-going process and that one needs to continue their pursuit of holiness and relationship with God. Once we have completed RCIA, we have not "arrived."  Just like Saint Paul, we must continue to  "press on to make it my own….” (Phil 3.) The individual who goes through RCIA to just "get into the Church" but stops there, will find Catholicism much like other religions and sadly may even laspe from the practice of the faith. But for those who are docile to the grace available to them in the sacraments and continue to press on, they will find a continuous unfolding and never-ending treasure of joy and discovery. Mystagogy helps the new believer and "not-so-new" believer go deeper and press on further to know the Lord.  Like the two disciples on their way to Emmaus after the crucifixion, they found that immersion in the Word and participating in the "Breaking of the Bread" opened their eyes and revealed the Lord to them.  May Mystagogy bring us to the place the Lord wants us to be, where we will joyfully and eagerly recognize Him in the Eucharist (breaking of bread) finding our nourishment for the journey here.
   Let us pray for all the new converts that  by God's grace their faith will deepen in this time of Mystagogy and like Saint Paul, "press on to make it their own."

Sunday, April 08, 2012

He Is Risen!

Pope Benedict's Easter Message

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Rome and throughout the world!

"Surrexit Christus, spes mea" – "Christ, my hope, has risen" (Easter Sequence).

May the jubilant voice of the Church reach all of you with the words which the ancient hymn puts on the lips of Mary Magdalene, the first to encounter the risen Jesus on Easter morning. She ran to the other disciples and breathlessly announced: "I have seen the Lord!" (Jn 20:18). We too, who have journeyed through the desert of Lent and the sorrowful days of the Passion, today raise the cry of victory: "He has risen! He has truly risen!"

Every Christian relives the experience of Mary Magdalene. It involves an encounter which changes our lives: the encounter with a unique Man who lets us experience all God’s goodness and truth, who frees us from evil not in a superficial and fleeting way, but sets us free radically, heals us completely and restores our dignity. This is why Mary Magdalene calls Jesus "my hope": he was the one who allowed her to be reborn, who gave her a new future, a life of goodness and freedom from evil. "Christ my hope" means that all my yearnings for goodness find in him a real possibility of fulfilment: with him I can hope for a life that is good, full and eternal, for God himself has drawn near to us, even sharing our humanity.

But Mary Magdalene, like the other disciples, was to see Jesus rejected by the leaders of the people, arrested, scourged, condemned to death and crucified. It must have been unbearable to see Goodness in person subjected to human malice, truth derided by falsehood, mercy abused by vengeance. With Jesus’ death, the hope of all those who had put their trust in him seemed doomed. But that faith never completely failed: especially in the heart of the Virgin Mary, Jesus’ Mother, its flame burned even in the dark of night. In this world, hope can not avoid confronting the harshness of evil. It is not thwarted by the wall of death alone, but even more by the barbs of envy and pride, falsehood and violence. Jesus passed through this mortal mesh in order to open a path to the kingdom of life. For a moment Jesus seemed vanquished: darkness had invaded the land, the silence of God was complete, hope a seemingly empty word.

And lo, on the dawn of the day after the Sabbath, the tomb is found empty. Jesus then shows himself to Mary Magdalene, to the other women, to his disciples. Faith is born anew, more alive and strong than ever, now invincible since it is based on a decisive experience: "Death with life contended: combat strangely ended! Life’s own champion, slain, now lives to reign". The signs of the resurrection testify to the victory of life over death, love over hatred, mercy over vengeance: "The tomb the living did enclose, I saw Christ’s glory as he rose! The angels there attesting, shroud with grave-clothes resting".

Dear brothers and sisters! If Jesus is risen, then – and only then – has something truly new happened, something that changes the state of humanity and the world. Then he, Jesus, is someone in whom we can put absolute trust; we can put our trust not only in his message but in Jesus himself, for the Risen One does not belong to the past, but is present today, alive. Christ is hope and comfort in a particular way for those Christian communities suffering most for their faith on account of discrimination and persecution. And he is present as a force of hope through his Church, which is close to all human situations of suffering and injustice.

May the risen Christ grant hope to the Middle East and enable all the ethnic, cultural and religious groups in that region to work together to advance the common good and respect for human rights. Particularly in Syria, may there be an end to bloodshed and an immediate commitment to the path of respect, dialogue and reconciliation, as called for by the international community. May the many refugees from that country who are in need of humanitarian assistance find the acceptance and solidarity capable of relieving their dreadful sufferings. May the paschal victory encourage the Iraqi people to spare no effort in pursuing the path of stability and development. In the Holy Land, may Israelis and Palestinians courageously take up anew the peace process.

May the Lord, the victor over evil and death, sustain the Christian communities of the African continent; may he grant them hope in facing their difficulties, and make them peacemakers and agents of development in the societies to which they belong.

May the risen Jesus comfort the suffering populations of the Horn of Africa and favour their reconciliation; may he help the Great Lakes Region, Sudan and South Sudan, and grant their inhabitants the power of forgiveness. In Mali, now experiencing delicate political developments, may the glorious Christ grant peace and stability. To Nigeria, which in recent times has experienced savage terrorist attacks, may the joy of Easter grant the strength needed to take up anew the building of a society which is peaceful and respectful of the religious freedom of its citizens.

Happy Easter to all!

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Easter Vigil

"This is night, when Christians everywhere, washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement, are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.
This is the night, when Jesus broke the chains of death and rose triumphant from the grave."

Friday, April 06, 2012

The Passion

The Power of Christ's Blood

"If we wish to understand the power of Christ’s blood, we should go back to the ancient account of its prefiguration in Egypt. Sacrifice a lamb without blemish, commanded Moses, and sprinkle its blood on your doors. If we were to ask him what he meant, and how the blood of an irrational beast could possibly save men endowed with reason, his answer would be that the saving power lies not in the blood itself, but in the fact that it is a sign of the Lord’s blood. In those days, when the destroying angel saw the blood on the doors he did not dare to enter, so how much less will the devil approach now when he sees, not that figurative blood on the doors, but the true blood on the lips of believers, the doors of the temple of Christ.
If you desire further proof of the power of this blood, remember where it came from, how it ran down from the cross, flowing from the Master’s side. The gospel records that when Christ was dead, but still hung on the cross, a soldier came and pierced his side with a lance and immediately there poured out water and blood. Now the water was a symbol of baptism and the blood, of the holy eucharist. The soldier pierced the Lord’s side, he breached the wall of the sacred temple, and I have found the treasure and made it my own. So also with the lamb: the Jews sacrificed the victim and I have been saved by it.
There flowed from his side water and blood.Beloved, do not pass over this mystery without thought; it has yet another hidden meaning, which I will explain to you. I said that water and blood symbolized baptism and the holy eucharist. From these two sacraments the Church is born: from baptism, the cleansing water that gives rebirth and renewal through the Holy Spirit, and from the holy eucharist. Since the symbols of baptism and the eucharist flowed from his side, it was from his side that Christ fashioned the Church, as he had fashioned Eve from the side of Adam. Moses gives a hint of this when he tells the story of the first man and makes him exclaim: Bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh! As God then took a rib from Adam’s side to fashion a woman, so Christ has given us blood and water from his side to fashion the Church. God took the rib when Adam was in a deep sleep, and in the same way Christ gave us the blood and the water after his own death.
Do you understand, then, how Christ has united his bride to himself and what food he gives us all to eat? By one and the same food we are both brought into being and nourished. As a woman nourishes her child with her own blood and milk, so does Christ unceasingly nourish with his own blood those to whom he himself has given life." Saint John Chrysostom (Early 5th Century )
Clearly the writings of this early Church Christian illustrates that the Eucharist and baptismal regeneration were well-established beliefs of the Christian Community. We also see that the Church considered its birth to occur at the cross when the sword pierced his side and blood and water flowed out, not at Pentecost, which is traditionally considered as the "birthday of the Church."

Behold the Cross

"The cross alone is a wonderful Christian symbol, but leaves no challenge to the beholder. Crosses are worn by people of all walks of life and all conditions of life. It has become an item of adornment as well as a Christian symbol. The scandal begins when Salvation is hung upon it.

The crucifix calls people to a decision… a decision about the Lord Jesus Christ, who hung upon the Cross, becoming the salvation of the world. People must choose what to do about Him, whether to accept His death and, with it, the fullness of all that He revealed, or to reject Him." 
(Randy Sly)

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Reason #736 To Be Catholic; Holy Thursday!

           A worshiper spends some time with Jesus in the altar of repose

Tonight, at the Mass of the Lord's supper, the Universal Church celebrates the institution of the Eucharist and the sacerdotal priesthood. For almost 2000 years now, the Church re-enacts this special Lord's supper during Holy Week "doing this in remembrance of Him." This night is especially meaningful to all priests as well as the laity because we thank God for his precious gift of Himself that continues to abide with us through the Blessed Sacrament,consecrated through the hands of his priests.

It is a very special night of Holy Week because it commemorates the apostles given their mission and mandate (Maundy). "A new command (mandate) I give to you, love one another as I have loved you."
The one who created the stars and the planets then took off his clothes, knelt down at the feet of his disciples and washed their feet. The Catholic Church still celebrates this with the main priest washing the feet of 12 individuals who come up to the altar after the homily.

After the mass is over, the Eucharist is placed in a ciborum and with a solemn procession complete with incensing of the Blessed Sacrament, the priest places the Eucharist in the altar of repose. The main altar is then stripped of all altar cloths and the main tabernacle is left with the doors open and the lights in the sanctuary are dimmed. This symbolizes Christ leaving the cenacle with his disciples and going into the Garden of Gethsemane to begin his passion. The Churches are all left open for adoration this night and the faithful are invited to return to worship Christ in the altar of repose and to "spend one hour with him" as the disciples were asked to do that Holy Thursday night almost 2000 years ago.

It is one of the most moving experiences I have encountered since becoming Catholic and I marvel at the wisdom of God and how he uses his Church and its beautiful ancient rituals to encourage us to enter into Christ's Pasch. One of the prayers of intercession tonight was to ask God to let us receive the Eucharist with the same heart that the apostles did at the first mass. As I went up to receive Christ, I prayed that prayer over and over and I believe He answered my prayer. The graces that are available to us through the re-living of salvation history during Holy Week is reason alone to be Catholic!

Is Easter Pagan?

At this time of year, a friend of mine likes to remind me that I am celebrating a pagan holiday. Even though there is no basis for this claim and on Easter I go to Mass and worship the God of the Universe who wrote the Scripture and started the Catholic Church, he still maintains it is pagan to celebrate Easter! In this video below, Jimmy Akin points out the origins of this claim and helps to dispel the mythology.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The Sacrament of Confession and Tips to Make a Good One

As we travel with our Lord through Holy Week, there is still time to be reconciled with God through his gift to us in the Sacrament of Confession. Many Catholics who have fallen away from the faith did not go to confession regularly, which is quite sad because there is so much healing as well as forgiveness

available. As I left Church tonight, with the words of forgiveness from Jesus himself still ringing in my ears, I was so thankful that I have returned to the Catholic faith. How did I ever live without this precious sacrament, given by Jesus to the Church? If you get nervous about going, as I do, here's some great tips from Father Z:

We should…

1) …examine our consciences regularly and thoroughly;
2) …wait our turn in line patiently;
3) …come at the time confessions are scheduled, not a few minutes before they are to end;
4) …speak distinctly but never so loudly that we might be overheard;
5) …state our sins clearly and briefly without rambling;
6) …confess all mortal sins in number and kind;
7) …listen carefully to the advice the priest gives;
8) …confess our own sins and not someone else’s;
9) …carefully listen to and remember the penance and be sure to understand it;
10) …use a regular formula for confession so that it is familiar and comfortable;
11) …never be afraid to say something “embarrassing”… just say it;
12) …never worry that the priest thinks we are jerks…. he is usually impressed by our courage;
13) …never fear that the priest will not keep our confession secret… he is bound by the Seal;
14) …never confess “tendencies” or “struggles”… just sins;
15) …never leave the confessional before the priest has finished giving absolution;
16) …memorize an Act of Contrition;
17) …answer the priest’s questions briefly if he asks for a clarification;
18) …ask questions if we can’t understand what he means when he tells us something;
19) …keep in mind that sometimes priests can have bad days just like we do;
20) …remember that priests must go to confession too … they know what we are going through.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Springtime Is The Time For Conversion

Though God's spirit can move any heart at any time by grace to seek Him, the majority of that those who return to or join the Catholic faith do it in the Springtime. The most obvious reason is that the teaching and preparation program called the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults begins in September in each parish and concludes in the spring at the Easter Vigil. At the Vigil mass, the catechumen is baptized, confirmed, and received into the Church, and receives the Eucharist for the very first time. For those who are already baptized with a valid trinitarian baptism in a protestant faith, they will receive the sacraments of confirmation and the Eucharist on the Easter Vigil.

People can be received into the Church even without RCIA and at times other than the Easter Vigil if there are pressing circumstances, however the normative course of events is for an individual to be received in the Spring at the vigil mass of Easter.  My wife and I returned to the Church on April 30th in 2004. It was three weeks after Easter which was on April 11th. We did not need RCIA because we were both born Catholic and received our sacraments earlier in life. Actually, Deborah was never confirmed so about a year later Deborah was confirmed by the bishop at Pentecost Sunday 2005. We both did attend RCIA the following year just because we wanted to understand the process more fully and truly felt like converts, though we were born Catholic.

So it seems that God moved in such a way that it was in the Spring that we returned. My journey probably started a few years before this in little ways that I could not even perceive but it was the viewing of the Passion of the Christ in the beginning of Lent 2004 that culminated in my return on April 30th of that same year. The Creator of the Universe who makes the weather warm in spring and causes the flowers to bloom once again also pours out His grace in a special way at this time of year. Yes, springtime is the time for conversion.

This Side of Eden

Holy Week Casserole

My wife Deborah made this tonight for supper. Holy Week Casserole!  It was tasty too!

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Why We Veil The Crucifix and Statues During Passiontide

                                                           Apse of Saint Joseph the Worker, Orefield, PA

The two weeks before Easter Sunday are known as the Passiontide, beginning after mass on the fifth Sunday of Lent. There is a tradition in the Church dating back to the 9th century where the crucifixes and statues are veiled in somber purple cloth. In some parishes, this practice fell away after the 2nd Vatican Council, but still continues  in many parishes throughout the world. 

Why does the Church veil statues and the crucifix? 
Because the Church is always trying to direct the faithful into deeper participation and understanding of the sacred mysteries of faith. In this case, the passion and death and resurrection of our Lord.  During these two weeks before the celebration of the resurrection, we experience the humiliation of our Lord and are reminded of it by the veiled crucifixes.  "When the Jews picked up stones to throw at Jesus, he hid from them." (John 8:59) But why the statues also?  "The statues of the saints, too, are covered; for it is but just that, if the glory of the Master be eclipsed, the servant should not appear." (Abbot Gueranger)

So once again, the Church invites us during Lent to deeply experience the suffering, humiliation and ultimate passion of our Lord.  But why all this suffering and humiliation? Didn't Jesus suffer and die so I don't have to?  Yes and no. Yes he died so we may have eternal life being freed from our sins by His cross and resurrection.  But no, we must also suffer because he asks us to also take up our crosses and follow him.  "That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death."  (Phil 3:10) 

Finally, after the passiontide is over, the Resurrection of our Lord is experienced with even greater joy during the Easter  Triduum when the veils are removed. "And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom." (Matt 27:51)

So you can see these Lenten practices of the Catholic faith are not "man-made inventions and meaningless rituals." They are based on Scripture and promoted by the Church to nourish and enhance our love for the savior who suffered and died for us.  Once again, the Church uses the "stuff of earth" to bring us grace from Heaven!