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, April 30, 2014

Ten Years A Catholic


Today marks the ten year anniversary of our return to the Catholic faith after spending most of our adult life as devout evangelical Protestants.  I have been pondering what to write about for some time knowing this anniversary was approaching. I'm still scratching my head wondering how to summarize our experience of living our lives as Catholic Christians these past ten years.  I think it will be easiest to say that it was the best decision, by God's grace, we have ever made for our lives here and beyond. 
    The graces we have experienced through the sacraments, the intercessions of our new friends- the saints, and the beautiful devotions of Catholic life have truly been life-changing and wonderful.
We have both felt closer to the Lord and have had a desire to share Him with others in a way that we had never experienced as Protestant Christians. As our first pope exhorted the early Church, we too have been more empowered to  "sanctify the Lord Christ in our hearts, being ready always to satisfy every one that asketh us a reason of that hope which is in us."  
    Our growing devotion and love for the saints, especially  the one "who all generations will call blessed" has not diminished our love for God, but quite the contrary. Discovering the immeasurable congregation of righteous people interceding for us to run the race with virtue and holiness has been priceless. Studying the lives of those who loved God with all their heart, mind and soul has been such a great joy.
    We are so thankful for the recent opportunity to take a pilgrimage to Italy to pray at the tombs of Saint Peter, Saint Paul, Saint Catherine of Siena, Saint Pio, Saint Francis of Assisi and the newest saints- John the 23rd and Pope John Paul 2. Being in Rome and walking in the steps of so many saints and sinners was overwhelming and affirming at the same time. Seeing the physical and historical evidence of the Church started by Christ himself was truly amazing for us. Learning more about our salvation history by reading almost 2000 years of the writings of the Church fathers, saints, popes, theologians and mystics has helped us develop a profound respect and awe for this Church built upon the one who received the keys from the Lord himself.
   Yet, the journey over the past ten years has not been without its difficulties and disappointments. I still grieve over the loss of close friends who simply disappeared "off the radar" of our lives upon hearing of our return to the Church or those who stayed in touch  to condemn and criticize us.  I am saddened to discover those Catholics within the Church who are essentially still "protestant", criticizing the popes and magisterium sowing discord and distrust in this very Church who Christ promised to always lead in all truth. (This applies to "progressives" as well as to some, not all, of those who would call themselves "traditional Catholics.")
   Would I ever go back across the Tiber? No, I would not, I could not.  In the words of my much better half:  "I could not live without the Sacraments....because they bring me Jesus."

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Holocaust Remembrance Day and Two New Saints

There are no coincidences in the kingdom of God, both on earth and in heaven. Today we celebrate the canonization of two modern popes and this evening the world begins the annual observance of Holocaust Remembrance Day. Both Saint Pope John XXIII and Saint Pope John Paul II had a significant impact on the lives of countless Jewish people in modern times. During WW2, as ambassador to Turkey, Cardinal Roncali (John 23rd) helped thousands of Jews escape the Nazi purge.

”We are dealing with one of the great mysteries in the history of humanity,” Roncalli wrote about the Holocaust. ”Poor children of Israel. Daily I hear their groans around me. They are relatives and fellow countrymen of Jesus. May the Divine Savior come to their aid and enlighten them.”

Later on as the pope who called the second Vatican Council, Saint Pope John XXIII was responsible for the document Nostra Aetate (In Our Time) whose purpose was to repair the breach that existed for a hundreds of years between the Jews and the Catholic Church. Some excerpts below:

”Since the spiritual patrimony common to Christians and Jews is thus so great, this sacred synod wants to foster and recommend that mutual understanding and respect which is the fruit, above all, of biblical and theological studies as well as of fraternal dialogues.”

”Although the Church is the new people of God, the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures.”

”Furthermore, in her rejection of every persecution against any man, the Church, mindful of the patrimony she shares with the Jews and moved not by political reasons but by the Gospel’s spiritual love, decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone.”

Saint Pope John Paul II who was also present at the Vatican II council was also a strong advocate for the Jews during his pontificate and apologized for the Church's mistreatment and persecution of the Jews through the centuries. He too lived through WWII and saw the Holocaust unfold around him. He was the first pope since Peter to enter the Great Synagogue of Rome and pray with the Rabbis and the Jewish community.

"You are our beloved brothers ... you are our elder brothers" in the faith of Abraham."

"Who meets Jesus Christ meets Judaism." He described Jews as "the people of God of the Old Covenant never retracted by God."

Here is the prayer he left in the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem when he prayed there:
 "We are deeply saddened by the behaviour of those who in the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer, and asking your forgiveness we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the Covenant.”

We can see the wisdom of God in coinciding the canonization of these two great saints on Divine Mercy Sunday and the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day. May we, as Catholic Christians, always sense the paternity we have with the Jews and pray that such a holocaust will never happen again.

"Two New Heavenly Friends"

"Saints exist not for themselves, but for the Church. They are models and intercessors for the rest of us here below. We can only give thanks to God who has provided the world with these two new heavenly friends." (Fr. Barron)

 Today, on Divine Mercy Sunday, we celebrate the elevation of two holy priests and popes to sainthood. Glory be to God!

 Saints Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II pray for us.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Devin Rose's Conversion Story: Atheist to Baptist to Catholic

Devin Rose, husband , father, Catholic blogger, software engineer, farmer, author and apologist tells his story on the Journey Home this week. He first began to consider Catholicism when he thought about the canon of scripture and why Catholics had a different canon than Protestants. He started reading the Early Church Fathers and discovered that the faith of the early Christians was more Catholic than Protestant. How disturbing! Ultimately, it was his many discussions with a faithful Catholic friend that the Holy Spirit used to bring Devin home. Check out his great interview below:

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Reformed Christian Comes Home to the Catholic Church

I had blogged about Ryan's conversion before but here is the full story of his conversion. He was a charismatic evangelical who associated with Reformed churches and found his way to Rome. The life and death of soon to be canonized John Paul 2 is what started his interest in a Church he was taught to hate and malign. Once again, an unbiased look into history helped Ryan see that the early Church was indeed Catholic, holding to the very same beliefs she proclaims almost 2000 years later!
   Ryan is a proud husband and father of three as well as a mathematician and lawyer and blogs about his love for the faith  here.

"My church was Reformed and vehemently so. We had a lot to say about what was wrong with other Christians: Dispensationalists, Arminians, Pentecostals, mega-churches, mainstream Protestants...all sorts of groups were frequent targets of our derision. And of course, we trashed Catholics. "I mean, if those people ever picked up a Bible, they'd figure out how dumb what they believe is, right?" We had debates--and I mean serious debates--about whether the Pope was the Antichrist (not any one Pope in particular, mind you, more just the papacy in general... the alternative Apocalyptic role for the papacy in our hermeneutic was the "whore of Babylon"). In the worldview I shared with my friends, to be Roman was to be ridiculous."

" I had believed that Calvinism and Reformed theology were a better way of doing Christianity, and yet the (reformed) church had proven to be just as vicious, cruel, and shallow, if not far more so, than the denominations we spent so much time criticizing. I felt like "scorched earth": so much of what had grown in my life had burned to the ground."

"The deeper I read into the history of the Church, the more my beliefs grew Catholic. My enjoyment of the ancient Church Fathers led me to read more and more modern Catholic authors as well, especially Hans Urs von Balthasar and Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI). I was blown away by how these writers combined brilliant theological insight with an all-consuming love for God. In addition to my reading habits, I grew increasingly Catholic in my devotional practices as well."

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter!

"Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the scriptures; he was buried; and he was raised to life on the third day, in accordance with the scriptures. He appeared first to Cephas and secondly to the Twelve."

"Every time we celebrate the Eucharist in the Church, we recall the death of the Savior, we proclaim his Resurrection as we await his return. Thus no sacrament is greater or more precious than that of the Eucharist; and when we receive Communion, we are incorporated into Christ. Our life is transformed and taken up by the Lord."

"The Eucharistic mystery is in fact the "summit of evangelization" (Lumen gentium, n. 28), for it is the most eminent testimony to Christ's Resurrection. "

~ Blessed Pope John Paul II, May 28, 1996

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Two Popes, Two Saints, One Great Day!

Next weekend on Divine Mercy Sunday, the Universal Church will canonize* two recent popes on the same day. This has never happened in the 2000 year history of Christianity. The fact that two popes in our lifetime will become saints is truly amazing. How many of our Catholic ancestors could say that two popes in their life were deemed worthy of sainthood?  We live in very exciting times for the Church indeed! Here is a link to a nice article on these two great men of God, written by a Little Sister of the Poor.

                             Blessed Pope John 23rd and Blessed Pope John Paul 2nd, pray for us.

*When the Catholic Church canonizes a person, she is saying:
1) they are examples of heroic faith and models for the faithful to follow.
2) they are able to be intercessors in heaven for us.     
3) the ability to canonize was given to the first pope, Saint Peter, when Jesus handed him the keys to the kingdom giving him authority to bind and loosen both in heaven and on earth (Matt 16:19) . Once again, pointing out how God  invites us to cooperate with him in the work of the kingdom of God.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Denier, Betrayer, Faithful Follower: Holy Week People

As I sat in Mass of the Lord's Supper last night I thought about the different people surrounding Jesus in the last three days of his earthly life and who I would like to be like. Surely I'm not like Judas the betrayer-no I would never sell the Lord out. Nor Peter. How could I deny him three times the way the weak flawed apostle did? But there was one follower who I pray to be more like. The one follower who followed him to the cross and stood at his bruised and pierced feet who did not let fear of death rule her actions-Mary.
   On this Good Friday, as I meditate on the cross, Lord, let me be more like your mother. Give me the strength and grace to not deny you and betray you by my sinful, willful and weak choices. Give me the grace to take up my cross always, and follow you. Rather than avoid the weight of my cross, help me to lean into the wood of my cross, bearing all the weight that you have deemed beneficial for my sanctification.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Pray for the New Converts This Holy Week

As Holy Week brings Lent to a close, remember to pray for all the RCIA candidates who will be coming into full communion with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil. There is always a spiritual battle going on and our enemy will do anything to keep people from receiving all the grace of the sacraments this Easter Triduum.

Pray for those with doubts and fears and second thoughts.
Pray for those who will be losing friends and family as a result of joing the Catholic Church.
Pray for those who may be coming into the faith for convenience or necessity rather than conviction. Pray that the grace in baptism, confession, confirmation and most especially the Eucharist will kindle a fire of love for God in their hearts.

Dear Saint Peter, the fisher of men, pray for all those intending to join the Church this weekend. Amen

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

You Gotta Eat The Lamb!

    On this very Holy Week , I want to repost a blog I wrote way back in 2007, emphasizing how the Jewish roots of our faith in the Old Testament helps us to understand the New Testament.

Jesus said I have come not to abolish the Law but fulfill it. His incarnate entry into our salvation history was not intended to abrogate all of Judaism prior to His advent and re-invent a completely disparate religion called "New Testament Christianity." To be sure, Jesus instituted a New Covenant through His blood, shed once and for all, for sin. But did establishing a New Covenant mean that all of Jewish history and God's dealings with His people needed to be cast aside? Through the "retrospectacles" of history we tend to view Christianity as this completely innovative movement which is the anti-thesis of Judaism. However, when we cut the Jewish roots from Christianity, we lose a perspective and historical way of thinking that was intended to inform our theology and help us understand our faith.
The doctrines of Catholicism have become easier for me to understand when I look to the Jewish roots of this religion. Note John the Baptist's first words regarding Jesus:
"Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." 
This was such a vitally important statement to his Jewish followers because it distilled the concept of salvation from the past to the present and onto the future. His proclamation immediately connects all of Jewish history and the importance of the Passover to Jesus entry into our world. At the same time, John's announcement foreshadowed the Last Supper (and therefore the Mass) when Jesus gave us His body to eat.

Every Jew knew that to escape the angel of death they needed to "eat the lamb." It was a core belief of historical Judaism. The Passover was part of who they were as a people. It would follow then, that Jesus, when he commanded us to "take and eat for this is my body" was doing nothing less than continuing the pattern that God had instituted from the beginning of salvation history.
So I need to ask again, why is the sacrament of the Eucharist a human invention? Christ came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it. If you can accept the ancient Jewish paradigm that God required a spotless Lamb to be sacrificed for our sins, why not bring it to its logical completion? Bottom line: You Gotta Eat the Lamb!

ADDENDUM: This is what the Church historically has taught and practiced since 33 AD. The term "sacrifice of the altar" was used repeatedly by the early founders of Christianity to describe what transpired in the Mass. Just ask Emperor Diocletian why he slaughtered so many Christians in the early fourth century. He would tell you that the Christians were cannibals because they ate the flesh and drank the blood of the Son of Man.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Gig At the Little Sisters of the Poor

Mother Maureen, the Mother Superior of the Little Sisters of the Poor invited me to perform for the residents of their home for the poor and aged in Scranton. It was a beautiful experience to watch the sisters caring for the residents and my heart was in my throat as I thought what might happen if they lose their Supreme Court case. If President Obama forces them to pay the fines for not agreeing to violate their conscience, they will be out of business in no time. Is the government really ready to house, clothe, feed and care for all these frail elderly folks throughout the country?
   On a happier note, the residents and sisters loved the show and Mother Maureen described my show as "Sublime."  I played songs such as Scarecrow's Lament on an open-tuned guitar and Jesu Joy of Man's Desire on the autoharp. I also played ukulele, hammer dulcimer and dobro.  An elderly women came up to me at the end and thanked me profusely saying "it was the best show in my entire life." Given her age of at least 85, that's going in my press kit!  An added treat was my wife Deborah joining me on vocals for my new song "Story of My Soul."
   Continue to pray for the Little Sisters and if the Lord lays it on your heart, send them a few quid here.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Why Sacraments?

I just read these from the Daily YouCat and was taken aback by the sheer common sense. These answers to why we need the sacraments of the Church hinge on the incarnational reality that I missed as a Protestant. God uses the stuff of earth to work the grace from heaven in our lives. I like how Tertullian put it: "The flesh is the "hinge of salvation."  God came in flesh to redeem us and continues to use the things of earth to bring us grace.

Why do we need sacraments in the first place?
We need sacraments in order to outgrow our petty human life and to become like Jesus through Jesus: children of God in freedom and glory.
In Baptism the fallen children of men become cherished children of God; through Confirmation the weak become strong, committed Christians; through Penance the guilty are reconciled; through the Eucharist the hungry become bread for others; through Matrimony and Holy Orders individualists become servants of love; through the Anointing of the Sick the despairing become people of confidence. The sacrament in all the sacraments is Christ himself. In him we men, lost in selfishness, grow and mature into the true life that has no end.

Why is faith in Jesus Christ not enough? Why does God give us the sacraments, too?
We can and should come to God with all our senses, not just with the intellect. That is why God gives himself to us in earthly signs especially in bread and wine, the Body and Blood of Christ.
People saw Jesus, heard him, could touch him and thereby experience salvation and healing in body and soul. The sensible signs of the sacraments show this same signature of God, who desires to address the whole man, not just his head. (YOUCAT questions 172-174)

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Not Dying Fast Enough

In our fast food culture, we expect instant food, instant gratification, instant everything. Nothing can come quickly enough. Sadly, this has influenced the attitude among some families towards their elders when it comes to the issue of dying. In a nation that has done everything to avoid death and stay "forever young" even death must now be quick painless and with as little suffering as possible.
    As a geriatrician and internist working mostly in skilled nursing facilities, my daily job places me at the bedside of dying patients on a regular basis. Over the past few years I have been getting more requests by family members to "speed things up a bit." Today a nurse asked me to consider changing a morphine order to a "straight order" rather than "as needed." What that means is that a patient would get morphine around the clock every two hours, whether they needed it or not. In the patient who had not been on morphine or other narcotics before this, that order would cause respiratory supression and death likely in less than 24 hours.
   When I asked the nurse why she requested that she said the family had been asking for it. I examined the patient and they were completely pain free in no distress. They were beginning the process of leaving this world for the next. I talked with the family and explained that I would give as much morphine as needed to relieve pain or respiratory distress, but could not give the morphine with the express purpose of hastening death. They were not pleased with my answer but I explained that it was illegal in Pennsylvania to hasten the death of a patient by any means, medical or otherwise. I told them I truly understood the pain of watching their loved one in the last moments of their life but it wasn't up to me to purposefully bring it to a close by a morphine overdose.
     God have mercy on our society when nothing is fast enough, including dying. Consider joining the Pious Union of Saint Joseph to pray daily for the suffering and dying throughout our world, particularly in nursing homes and hospitals. It is free to join, and you just make a daily commitment to pray this prayer to Saint Joseph, patron saint of the dying:

   "O St. Joseph, foster father of Jesus Christ and true spouse of the Virgin Mary, pray for us and for the suffering and dying of today."