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.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Feast of Corpus Christi

This Sunday we will celebrate the wonder and mystery that is the very source and summit of the Catholic faith. Christ Jesus abiding with us under the appearances of common wheat bread and wine. In some parishes, they have Eucharistic Processions and take Jesus to the streets to solemnly process through the town. Conversions have occurred as a result of these processions at times. How can God come looking like a piece of bread and wine? I'll answer aquestion with a question. How did God come do us looking like a smelly little infant wrapped in swaddling clothes placed in a feed trough?
    In honor of the feast of Corpus Christi, I am offering a free download of my instrumental version of the Eucharistic hymn, Adoro Te Devote, composed by none other than Saint Thomas Aquinas, a 13th century monk who became a Doctor of the Church for his brilliant writings and his profound love and devotion to Jesus in the Eucharist.  (To download, click on the hyperlink "free download." This will download a zip file. Then after it is done downloading, Click on the zip file to unzip and play! You can import the file into iTunes or other player. It is mp3 format.)

  I devoutly adore you, O hidden Deity, Truly hidden beneath these appearances. My whole heart submits to you, And in contemplating you, It surrenders itself completely. 

 Sight, touch, taste are all deceived In their judgment of you, But hearing suffices firmly to believe. I believe all that the Son of God has spoken; There is nothing truer than this word of truth. 

 On the cross only the divinity was hidden, But here the humanity is also hidden. I believe and confess both, And ask for what the repentant thief asked.

 I do not see the wounds as Thomas did, But I confess that you are my God. Make me believe more and more in you, Hope in you, and love you. 

 O memorial of our Lord's death! Living bread that gives life to man, Grant my soul to live on you, And always to savor your sweetness. 

 Lord Jesus, 
Good Pelican, wash me clean with your blood, One drop of which can free the entire world of all its sins.
 Jesus, whom now I see hidden, I ask you to fulfill what I so desire: That the sight of your face being unveiled I may have the happiness of seeing your glory. Amen

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Brief History of the Feast of Corpus Christi

Tomorrow the Universal Church celebrates a feast that is so important it is called a solemnity. The solemnity of Corpus Christi has been celebrated around the world since the 13th century. Since the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith, it is only fitting that a feast day is celebrated to honor Jesus in the Eucharist.  Here's a brief history:
     Jesus lost many followers when he told the crowd that unless they eat (the actual word in greek means literally to gnaw) his body and blood they would have no life in them. One year later, the disciples celebrated their first Eucharist with the Lord himself presiding and saying to them, "Take and Eat, this is my body."  Since this first Holy Thursday, the believers celebrated "the breaking of bread" knowing they were partaking in the actual body and blood of Christ.
   Through the prayers of the priest (presbyters) invoking the Holy Spirit the elements are miraculously changed from wine and wheat bread, but still retaining the appearances of the same. This has not always been the easiest concept to accept. Saint Paul had to make it clear to the Corinthian believers that they were indeed partaking in the body and blood of Christ and a strict penalty was experienced for those who did not "discern it rightly."  If a mere symbol was in play, why would believers get sick and even die as a result of taking the communion meal improperly?
   The writings of the Church fathers are indisputable regarding the belief of the Real Presence and even Protestant Church historians admit that earliest Church belief was thoroughly "Eucharistic."
The apostle John, who leaned his head on Jesus' breast at the institution of the Eucharist, had a disciple under his tutelage named Ignatius. Ignatius of Antioch wrote in clear terms that the Eucharist was indeed the real body and blood of Christ, rebuking those who already began to distort its meaning.  Many other early Church fathers including Augustine wrote voluminously on the sacrifice of the mass and the fact that Christ's real body and blood was truly present on the altar.  Why call it an altar if there is no sacrifice?
     For the next 900 years, the Church continued to celebrate the Eucharist, partaking in the actual body and blood of Christ with almost unanimous agreement as to the theology of this sacrament. Then, a priest named Berengarius from Tours began to question this belief and preached against the Real Presence but was corrected by the Church and repented of his error before he died in 1088.
    In the 12th century a devout religious nun named St. Juliana from Liege, Belgium petitioned her bishop to designate a feast day to honor the most Blessed Sacrament and in 1264 the pope set a universal feast called Corpus Christi to honor Jesus in the Eucharist. Saint Thomas Aquinas was commissioned to write the office for the celebration/mass and his explanation of the change of substance from bread to Christ's body is still studied and marveled at today. No, the Church did not "invent" the concept of transubstantiation in the 13th century. The belief had always been there but was never so eloquently elucidated for the faithful as was accomplished by this brilliant and devout monk.
    Fast forward to the Reformation. Luther has just opened his can of worms by declaring that one does not need the Church to tell one what to believe. Within 100 years of Luther's reformation, there was over 200 interpretations of the Lord's supper. To his credit, at least initially, Luther fought vehemently against the other reformers to insist that Jesus was truly present in the communion meal. When he realized his own flawed paradigm sola scriptura was being used against him by Zwingli and others to teach that the Eucharist was only symbolic, he resorted to Sacred Tradition to bolster his defense of the Eucharist. Sadly, his theology morphed further and he no longer held to transubstantiation at the end of his life. You know the rest of the story-only the Orthodox and Catholic Churches retain the original apostolic teaching of the Eucharist, that is, Christ is truly substantially present, body, blood soul and divinity in the Eucharist.
   On the Eve of the Feast of Corpus Christi, I say this to my readers - If you want to get close to Jesus, become Catholic and experience him in the way that the apostles taught and believed. Jesus is waiting. We'll leave the light on for you.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Doctrine of the Trinity Proves the Inadequacy of Sola Scriptura

Yesterday the Universal Church celebrated the feast of the Trinity. It always falls on the first Sunday after Pentecost and reminds the faithful of the importance of this doctrine. What I always reflect on however, is how the Church could have come up with this doctrine without using the bible alone as its source of information and revelation?  A couple of quick historical facts will illustrate my point.

1) The bible as we know it today was not even fully collected and canonized in 325 AD when the Catholic Church met in Nicea to write the "white paper" on the nature of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. (Also known as Christology) The books that later came to be included in the New Testament were circulating and being read at mass but a formal list of what should be considered inspired and worthy of reading in the liturgy was not yet formulated until the Council of Rome in 382 AD. So if sola scriptura is a valid paradigm, how could the doctrine of the Trinity be enunciated at that council if the bible, which sola scripturists believe is the only source of truth, was not even available?

2) If you disagree with the above point and claim (falsely I might add), "like, but the bible was around dude, like, it's just that your church hadn't like put it's official gnarly imprimatur on it yet"
then I may ask, why then did they need the council in the first place? The Council of Nicea was held because of the fact that many Christians were believing and promulgating the wrong concept of who Christ was. The bishop Arius was preaching that Christ was not truly God, but sort of  like God. This was so rampant, that the Arian heresy threatened to destabilize, politically, the entire Roman world.
SO, if the bible alone (even if it had been canonized at that point) was adequate in clearly formulating Christology, why did the Council of Nicea need to even meet?

3) Non-trinitarians always use the bible to disprove the doctrine of the trinity, thereby illustrating the failure of sola scriptura to be useful in resolving doctrinal disputes. Here's one of their sites using 100 verses to "disprove" the trinity.

The point of this exercise is not to disregard the bible (for we as Catholics revere it as the written Word of God), but to show that Christ Jesus gave the keys of the kingdom to His Church as a way to lead us in all truth. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say about the dogma of the Holy Trinity:

"From the beginning, the revealed truth of the Holy Trinity has been at the very root of the Church's living faith, principally by means of Baptism. It finds its expression in the rule of baptismal faith, formulated in the preaching, catechesis, and prayer of the Church. Such formulations are already found in the apostolic writings, such as this salutation taken up in the Eucharistic liturgy: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all."

During the first centuries the Church sought to clarify its Trinitarian faith, both to deepen its own understanding of the faith and to defend it against the errors that were deforming it. This clarification was the work of the early councils, aided by the theological work of the Church Fathers and sustained by the Christian people's sense of the faith."

Friday, May 24, 2013

Chick Tracts and the Godfather Movie-Primers of the Catholic Faith?

"What more did I need to know about Catholicism? I'd read the Chick tracts, seen the Godfather."
Many folks who eschew Catholicism have little knowledge of what they are criticizing. Their decision to reject the Church and faith that Christ founded and still inhabits is often based on misconceptions fomented in an anti-Catholic upbringing. However, this convert went beyond his own prejudice after discovering that CS Lewis scholar and professor Peter Kreeft had converted to Catholicism.  How could a man this smart be a Catholic?”

Find out how an encounter with "a man this smart," Peter Kreeft, led a baptist to the Catholic faith. Read it here.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Viewing Mankind With "Dung-Colored Glasses"

The USA Today newspaper today tells us that Pope Francis "defends atheists." Another headline declares that the pope says "atheists are redeemed." Others are saying that that the pope says that "one doesn't require belief  to be redeemed."  From what I can tell, the pope didn't say or imply any of the above no one, yet has been privy to all of his homily comments in their context.
    That being said, from my perspective Pope Francis was simply ennuciating the Catholic view of man. We are made in God's image. Yes, even non-believers. We are not piles of dung merely covered with a layer of  pure white snow (reformer's view of man*) One of the ways that we "image God" is by doing good works in our life. Even those who don't acknowledge God know that it is good to do good and the pope was saying this could be a place where we could "meet in the middle."

The Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil.All of us. “But, Father, this is not Catholic! He cannot do good.” Yes, he can… The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone!.. We must meet one another doing good. “But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!” But do good: we will meet one another there.

But, will all be saved at the final judgment? No. Did Christ die for all men ? Yes! Once again we see the beauty of Catholic theology in practical terms here. The pope makes it clear that Christ's redeeming death was for all men, yet we know that not all men are not going to avail themselves of that grace-by their choice, not His. "God is not willing that any should perish but all come to repentance" - even atheists!

From the Catechism: The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: The Church, following the apostles, teaches that Christ died for all men without exception: “There is not, never has been, and never will be a single human being for whom Christ did not suffer(605).

So in Pope Francis statements, we see the heart of God towards all men, even those who reject him. They are not piles of dung, but people made in His image, still capable of doing good and making the right choices, in spite of their lack of belief, regardless of their ultimate eternal destination. As a Protestant, I developed a somewhat distorted view of humankind, which unfortunately at times colored the way in which I viewed individuals. If I saw folks who were "not saved" in my estimation, I somehow was justified in thinking them less than me in some way. I did not (in my mind and attitude) accord them the dignity they were deserving of. But the Church teaches us that they too were made in the image of a God who suffered and died for them. It was only by His grace that I came to belief in Him. Being Catholic has totally changed my paradigm of how I view people especially "unbelievers."  I now want to see people with the eyes of Jesus, having removed my "dung-colored glasses." The founder of the reformation didn't view man as kindly.

*I said before that our righteousness is dung in the sight of God. Now if God chooses to adorn dung, he can do so (Luther's Works, Vol. 34, page 184).

All the justified could glory in their works, if they would attribute glory to God with respect to themselves. In this manner they would not be dung, but ornaments (Luther's Works, Vol. 34, page 178).

 "I am the ripe sh_t; so also is the world a wide a__hole; then shall we soon part."  Luther
(H/t Dave Armstrong)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Pray for Oklahoma and Open Your Wallets

Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma traveled to Moore Oklahoma to offer his assistance and prayers to the victims.

“I feel, as the archbishop, as a shepherd, I need to be there,” Archbishop Coakley told Catholic News Agency while on his way to the suburb of Oklahoma City on May 21.

“I'm not sure …there's anything very practical I can do when I arrive, other than to show my pastoral concern and support and give the assurance of my prayers to those who are indeed suffering.”

He added, “People are in such shock right now, we just want to accompany them in their suffering at this point.”

What we can do in addition to our prayers is open our wallets for those suffering.
Here's a link to Catholic Relief Services who will be there long after the storm is over.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Sex Abuse Scandal in Non-Catholic Non-Celibate Churches

Well, now,  that's a blog headline you don't see too often!
After the horrific sex abuse scandal of the past decade in the Catholic Church, involving less than 4 percent of the priesthood, the conventional wisdom was that sex abuse is the direct result of forced celibacy.  What doesn't get breathlessly reported by the media is the pedophile scandal and cover-ups that are occurring in the non-Catholic ecclesial bodies that do not hold to celibacy.
    How many of you know of the lawsuit against Sovereign Grace Ministries? SGM is a large reformed Christian denomination that has been been supported by Dr. Albert Mohler, the un-official "pope" of the neo-reformed movement in America. The lawsuit was just dismissed because of a statue of limitations clause but the lawyers for the victims of pedophile abuse are still pursuing an appeal and criminal suit.  The reason this story peaked my interest is that the SGM denomination was started by two former Catholics, CJ Mahaney and Larry Tomczak .
    In 1975, I went to a "christian woodstock" called Jesus 75*. It was a huge Jesus festival of music and preaching and charismatic worship with rock bands that was held on a muddy farm in the middle of Pennsylvania.  I sat transfixed listening to the testimony and preaching of CJ Mahaney and Larry Tomczak. Both were still twenty-something Catholics at the time and had not yet left the Church and were popular speakers in the charismatic movement of the early 70's. Larry Tomczak was the author of Clap Your Hands, a testimony of his conversion which carried the imprimatur of his local bishop on the inside foreword! Sadly, by 1982, both had distanced themselves from Catholicism and founded a new church which came to be known as Covenant Life, a flagship church of the Sovereign Grace Ministry which grew to over 100 churches. CJ Mahaney adopted calvinism and the denomination became reformed. Larry Tomczak later had a falling out with CJ over doctrine and leadership styles and started his own church in a sadly not-uncommon scenario.
    In the lawsuit against CJ Mahaney and Larry Tomzcak and many other leaders in the SGM, there is revealed a consistent pattern of abuse and cover-up by the leadership. The majority of those accused of pedophile acts are married laymen in the Church, as well as married leaders in ministry! While the mainstream media essentially ignores this story, it is my hope that the leaders of the reformed movement in the US who supported SGM will now stand up and speak out against these abuses and cover ups. They certainly were not silent regarding the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church.

*The early 70's saw the start of many Christian music festivals featuring contemporary Christian artists and popular preachers and teachers. I saw Phil Keaggy perform Lion of Judah with Ted Sanquist for the very first time at Jesus 78 festival sitting in a muddy field.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Happy Pentecost!

Today the Universal Church celebrates the feast of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church! The novena of the apostles and the Blessed Mother was completed and the Holy Spirit filled them with power from on high. Without the empowerment from the third person of the Trinity, the Church would not have grown but instead, have been still born. The Holy Spirit took an upper room of quaking, shaking downtrodden men and women and started a fire that has continued to burn for 2000 years. May we all continue to daily pray for the Holy Spirit's power to come upon us as He first did with the apostles.

Breathe into me, Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Move in me, Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy. Attract my heart, Holy Spirit, that I may love only what is holy. Strengthen me, Holy Spirit, that I may defend all that is holy. Protect me, Holy Spirit, that I may always be holy. 
(Saint Augustine)

Saturday, May 18, 2013

First Smart Phone App Launched By Pope!

The Holy See has truly embraced the digital age to carry on the mission of the Church which is to evangelize in order to bring souls to heaven. Pope Benedict tweeted and now Pope Francis has an app for iOS and Android platforms that will communicate his messages, news, videos and information to encourage the faithful.
Here is a link to Missio, the free app. On Friday, Pope Francis using an iPad activated the app and around the world a push notification went out that the app was now live and active.
  Be the first one on your block to get the news direct from the Vatican! Jack Chick and the fundamentalists will have a field day with this one. Cue the scary music-   Imagine, that the pope (who is a Jesuit by the way,) can now send secret missives to his foot soldiers (Catholic automatons) to carry out his orders, assuming these foot soldiers have a Droid or iPhone!
   But seriously, I am so thankful that the Church is embracing the new digital technology to communicate the gospel to as many as possible and to provide catechesis (teaching) to the faithful. This app is just one more way to do just that. Non-Catholics are encouraged to download the app as well. He's everyone's pope, not all realize that yet.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Catholic Church Growing in the South

Here's an interesting article on the growth of the Catholic faith in the Protestant Southeastern US. (h/t NCR) There are many more priests in training in their seminaries proportionately than the size of their diocese compared with those in the north.  Religious orders are flourishing there as well.  One reason is that in the south, the Catholics are a minority and cannot take their faith for granted. Persecution and opposition historically has made the Church grow, not stagnate. In the Northern cities of the US, the majority of people were of the Catholic faith and there was no challenge or resistance to the faith. Therefore, it was easy to not have to share the faith or defend it .
  "In a region where churches sit on seemingly every street corner and billboards belt out Bible verses and calls for repentance, local Catholics say they have found fertile ground for the renewal of the Church.
“Our Protestant brothers and sisters have done us a great favor. Talking about faith here in the South is like eating, breathing, and sleeping,” said Randy Hain, a managing partner at Bell Oaks Executive Search in Atlanta and co-founder of The Integrated Catholic Life, an online magazine. “There’s an openness about faith here which makes it easier to be open about your faith if you’re Catholic.”

Let's pray that this growth will spread to the North. In my diocese, the bishop had to close 1/3 of the parishes because of  lack of priests and declining numbers of Catholics.We could use more priests and especially Catholics who are open to life.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Reason # 999 To Be Catholic: Novenas

Today, the day after the feast of the Ascension of our Lord we begin the nine days of waiting and prayer to the Holy Spirit. We do this because we remember the apostles and Mary tarrying in the Upper Room. This nine day period of prayer is called a novena, which is from the Latin meaning "nine." For the apostles, a period of prayer and waiting was nothing new for them. They were Jews and the Jews had a tradition of praying for seven days after someone had died, now called "sitting shiva."  Since the early Church was Jewish as was our Lord, the disciples and the Blessed Mother likely did not find it unusual to be asked to spend a period of time in prayer, in this case 9 days, until the Holy Spirit descended upon them.

     Why do we still pray novenas?  Because Catholicism is incarnational. We "bring to life" in our lives the events that occurred in salvation history. No, the priest doesn't re-crucify Jesus during the Mass. Jesus' once and for all sacrificial death on the cross is re-presented during the Mass and is offered to the Father. Catholicism is also rhythmical and follows the events of salvation history through the year.
-We celebrate advent in hopeful expectation of the birth of the savior.
-We repent and do penance for 40 days during Lent to prepare for the glorious resurrection.
-We celebrate Easter for a full 50 days until Pentecost.
-We pray expectantly for 9 days before Pentecost for the Holy Spirit to descend upon us and renew us.

Some may say:  "why do I need the Catholic Church to remind me to pray for more of the Holy Spirit in my life?"  Let me answer a question with a question. When was the last time you prayed for a full nine days for the Holy Spirit to fill you with more of  Him?  Sometimes, we need the Holy Spirit through the Church to nudge us a bit towards the goal - attaining heaven and bringing as many with us as possible!

So start your Novena to the Holy Spirit today and pray along with millions of souls across the earth who are spending the next nine days asking for renewal, refreshment and empowerment from on-high. Here's a link to a great novena to the Holy Spirit. Though I think novenas are a great reason to be Catholic, you actually don't need to be Catholic to pray one.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

The Eucharist Brought This Evangelical Into the Church

This young lady grew up in an evangelical home, lost her way, then found it in the Catholic Church.
It was in the middle of the mass during the moment of consecration.

"I knew who Jesus was, I knew he died for our sins but I did not know He came down to be present in every Eucharist! I had no idea Catholic beliefs were different, that they believed they ate the real flesh and blood of Jesus Christ according to what He taught in John chapter 6. It didn’t disgust me, in fact it moved me in awe of His love.
When I saw that priest lift the wafer and say “hoc est corpus meum” I felt something special was going on. There was “shininess” to the air. That was the first time I felt…Him!"

Once again, the Eucharist leads someone home to the Church. Why do so many converts and reverts attribute their conversion to the discovery of the Eucharist? Because it is Jesus.  As Flannery O'Connor has said so eloquently, "If it's just a symbol, then the hell with it."

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Take the Catholic IQ Test !

Christian LeBlanc, Catholic author and catechist recently sent me to a link on FB that has a test called the Catholic IQ test. It tests your knowledge of the history of the faith, the bible, the liturgy and the saints. Once you complete it, you are eligible to receive a free book called "Where We Got the Bible" by Right Reverend Henry G. Graham. This book is a classic gem of Catholic apologetics and every Catholic needs to read it and gain an understanding of where the Bible came from to share with our non-Catholic brethren.
   Check out the quiz, it does take awhile to complete but is worth the time and effort, then you receive a free book in the mail!  Enjoy