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.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

What If Luther Was Wrong?

Think of the implications ......

(T shirt courtesy of Michael McCleary)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Swedish Mega Church Pastor Converts to Catholicism

Ulf Ekman gives this reason for why he decided to leave his ministry as the leading charismatic pastor in Sweden:  The truth.

"For us, truth was the very thing that mattered. We have always believed in the Word of God and that there is an absolute truth, revealed by God. Now, more and more, we had come to see that there is a concrete historic Church founded by Christ, and a treasure, a deposit of both objective and living faith. This attracted and drew us into the Catholic Church. If we believed that the fullness of truth is embedded in and upheld by the Catholic Church, then we did not have any choice but to fully unite with this Church."

"The sacraments have become a tangible reality in our lives and they sustain us in a concrete way. Something – grace, I am sure – is here in a way that it was not before. A fresh breeze is blowing through our lives. We look forward to exploring and fully identifying with all that we now are a part of. It is very exciting to live fully for Jesus Christ – in the Catholic Church."

Read the whole article here.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Review of "Ragamuffin: The True Story of Rich Mullins"

 As many long term readers of this blog know, I am a huge Rich Mullins fan. I have listened to his music since the 1980's. When I discovered him, I was in medical school and had just recorded my first song with my hammer dulcimer. I thought I was doing something new and revolutionary, adding HD to contemporary Christian music lyrics.  After I heard Rich, I quietly decided that I would "hand my pinball crown to him" realizing he was already doing what I dreamed of doing.
    Years later, Rich's pursuit of simple living and Franciscan spirituality started me on a journey that would eventually lead to my reversion to the Catholic faith.  I later discovered that Rich was pursuing becoming Catholic and was a week away from entry into the Church before his untimely death.  After his death I kept his photo on the top of my hammer dulcimer and would ask him to pray for me before every concert as I opened with an original dulcimer tune in the style of Rich.
   Now fast forward to this spring when Rich's brother and a movie producer released "Ragamuffin: The True Story of Rich Mullins."  I was initially excited to see the movie though I was concerned that there would be little to no mention of his desire for Catholic conversion.I ( I had written to his brother David after I became Catholic and he told me "Rich had no intention of ever becoming Catholic.")  As a matter of fact, his journey to the Catholic Church was surgically removed from the story and one would never know that Rich spent his last days going to daily Mass on the reservation.
    Unfortunately, as I watched the movie, I saw a side of Rich that was carefully hidden from his record buying public all these years.  The Nashville CCM industry did a wonderful job making sure know one knew the double life Rich was leading. One can only wonder why is brother now felt the need to tell the true story. Was he always jealous of Rich? Is it that the record royalties are all dried up now?
     I was devastated by the time I walked out of the little storefront church showing the film. What I learned about Rich is that he had a lifelong struggle with alcohol and possibility other substances and was prone to fits of rage and often alienated those closest to him. As a physician, I recognize that Rich probably suffered from chronic depression worsened by his unresolved conflict with an abusive father. He self -medicated by chain-smoking and binge drinking. However, in between his episodes of debauchery, he would be onstage making young people believe that he was pursuing God with all his might. He often criticized folks in his concerts for relying on comfort and believing in the American "prosperity gospel. "  Yes, he presented himself as a flawed individual, yet he continued to preach from the stage and "minister" to those who attended his concerts.  He is now being held up as a great example of how God loves and uses a flawed and "complex" individual. Many are reviewing the film saying it gave them hope.
    The problem is the "True Story" never presented the real story. Rich was an alcoholic with undiagnosed and untreated mental illness who was a gifted songwriter and became a celebrity among the contemporary evangelical culture. The Real Story is that at some level Rich knew his way of practicing  Christianity was not providing him the grace and strength to overcome his addictions.  He knew he was living a double life.  This ultimately led to his pursuit of Catholicism and his desire to go to confession and receive the Eucharist as outlined in this letter from his friend Father Matt McGuiness.  Rich knew there was something more to Christianity and thankfully started to pursue it through learning about the Catholic faith.  Sadly he never got there on this side of the veil.  The movie never even touched on Rich's pursuit of Catholicism and thus the "True Story" ended up as a sad and sordid tale of a gifted Christian artist trapped in mortal sin, desperately trying to change, but not knowing how.  It was not redemptive in any sense of the word.
    My biggest criticism of the movie and the Ragamuffin Gospel in general is that those who follow it will do just as the movie showed- never getting past their sin, never repenting, just accepting that "Jesus loves me the way I am."  Of course, "while we were yet sinners Christ died for us" and He loves us as the Father loved the Prodigal son covered with mud and pig excrement. But, He then asks us to come to his house to be forgiven and change the way we live.  The movie never showed that Rich was trying, through his pursuit of the Franciscan lifestyle (ie Catholicism), to get his life together.  I believe his desire to leave the Nashville music/ party scene and ultimately end up attending daily mass on the Reservation was proof of this trajectory. It is extremely sad and disturbing that his brother would make a movie showing the darkness and duplicity of Rich's troubled life ignoring the very truth that would have made all the difference in the world for him.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Matthew 25 and the Immigrants

In a community in California, a bishop has asked his diocese to assist the immigrants with temporary housing, food and clothing.  This has created an uproar and Rush Limbaugh has interviewed parishioners from this parish who are opposed to this plan.
    If this was a ghetto in Jerusalem in 30 AD, and a group of Samaritans (women and children) migrated into Jerusalem because of a plague in Samaria, what would Jesus and his disciples do?  Would he tell the disciples to contact the Roman authorities to take care of this problem? I suspect Jesus would kneel at their feet and bind their wounds and give them cool water to drink and bread to eat, despite the risk of contracting infectious diseases that they brought with them. He would tell his disciples that whatsoever you do for them, you have done it unto me, even if they had "lice crawling down their faces."  Putting politics aside, I would expect nothing less from the Catholic Church to offer this assistance. They are following Matthew 25.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Happy Independence Day!

This post is lifted from last year's July 4th post.

 All religions were free to be practiced in the New World except for Catholics and Quakers. Of all the signers of the Declaration of Independence, only one was Catholic, Charles Carroll of Maryland. It was amazing that he ended up getting his name on it at all. Though Maryland was originally founded to be a Catholic haven in the colonies in 1634, by 1689, the British anti-Catholic repression had been imported to the colonies and freedom for Catholics to worship was very short-lived.

Until the Revolutionary War, Catholics in Maryland were considered dissenters in their own country, and were forced to live at times under a state of siege. At the time of the signing of the Declaration, it was illegal for a Catholic in the colonies to hold office or vote or educate their children in the Catholic faith. The Declaration of Independence fortunately ended that. It would have been a little awkward to have the wealthiest member/contributor of the Continental Congress and aide and friend to George Washington excluded from the democratic process because of his religious affiliation. So politically incorrect! How, I wonder, did it get resolved? I concocted a little Independence Day Play to suggest how it may have gone down.
I can just see them there now in the humid sweaty chambers down in Philadelphia on a hot weekend in the end of June with Thomas Jefferson at the helm. (I have lived in Philly for four hot summers and can assure you it gets very hot!)

"What Are We Going to Do About Charles?

Flash back/dream sequence of the signers of the Declaration in Philadelphia at Independence Hall. (Before the barricades went up after 911) The curtain rises on three middle-aged men seated together at a desk flushed with the heat, perspiring heavily.

John Adams {pointing to Carrol}:
Psst. Thomas! Thomas! Did'ya know that chap across the room is a Papist? He's from MARY-land {Hissing through his teeth saying Mary in a sing-song voice}
Thomas Jefferson {holding his forefinger across his lips}: Shush old man! Don't you know who he is?
James Madison {swatting a fly from his arm}: Some say he's the wealthiest guy in here. Owns 100,000 acres down in Maryland. The area is even named after him! Carrolburg or Carrolville they call it, for crying out loud! {Looks out the window with disgust then empties his mouth loudly into the spittoon}
George Taylor: I heard he is friends with George himself as well as Ben.
John Adams: {with a stage whisper} I don't care if he has more money than the pope and is St. Peter's long lost relative! How are we gonna' let him sign the darn Declaration if we don't allow him to vote ? (He hikes up his britches and cautiously looks around the room) And besides, Do you realize he worships idols?
Thomas Jefferson: C'mon boys! {he lights his clay pipe and takes a long puff} You know I'm not big on that religion stuff myself, but, the way I see it every one, even papists, are created equal and given, by whoever they believe their creator is, certain.... privileges. Or, should I say rights... Yes! Now, let me think for a minute. {He takes his spectacles off and wipes the sweat from his brow} Alien rights? No that's not right! Inalienable rights? No, that's doesn't sound right to me either. Damn! {He loosens the tie on his long red pony-tail}
{He motions with his quill pen for Charles Carrol to join them}
Charles Carrol carefully places his rosary beads back in his vest pocket and slowly walks across the floor towards Jefferson.
Charles Carrol: Hey TJ! what's up? I was just chatting with my Lady asking her to intercede for our proceedings here today. Sorry, I got a bit distracted. What can I do for you boys?
Thomas Jefferson: {looking sheepishly at the ground} We know you have the ear of General George and have been very supportive of the efforts for freedom. What are we going to do about this little problem we have with you and the voting issue?
Charles Carrol: {Draws closer to the table speaking nervously } "Well, the way I see it, we are all created in the image of God and therefore need to respect the rights and dignity of all men which includes voting. {He gets a little quieter} Yeah, I know what you are all thinking: 'Who am I to lecture you on religious rights?' I know we got a little out of hand during the Inquisition but you know as well as I it wasn't as bad as the history books made it out to be! Just let me vote and sign this thing and we'll all get home to our families before the summer's over. I have a nice little spread on the Chesapeake and you're all invited for the weekend if we can just get this signed. Besides, I'm really having a hard time offering up all this sufferin' with the heat! St. Blases it is hot! {He makes the sign of the cross and wipes his forehead simultaneously}
{Looks down at Jefferson's notes} Oh, by the way Thom, I was the spelling bee champion at Saint Ann's School and the word inalienable is spelled U-N-A-L-I-E-N-A-B-L-E."
Thomas Jefferson: 
Why thank you Charles!
 {rolling his eyes} I'll take that under advisement.....

A Church bell tolls off-stage as the curtain closes.
The End

To Read the Real Story of Charles Carroll, the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence Go Here.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Reason # 646 To Be Catholic: Morality and Doctrine Are Not Determined by Vote

Sadly, a branch of the Presbyterian Church has just decided to change the definition of marriage to accomodate the whims of this modern culture. It was decided by a vote.

  " The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted at its General Assembly on Thursday to change its constitution’s definition of marriage from “a man and a woman” to “two people,” and to allow its ministers to perform same-sex marriages where it is legal."

In Catholicism, issues of faith and morals remain without change protected by the magisterium (teaching authority of the Church) overseen by the pope and are not subject to change based on outside pressure from the culture.  Even if every denomination in the world decides to re-define marriage allowing for same sex unions, and the government demands it, the Catholic Church will not change, it cannot.  As GK Chesterton has said, I want a church that changes the culture, not a church that changes with the culture, and that is Reason # 646 to be Catholic.

Full Circle

My wife and I had the opportunity to give a witness talk and concert tonight at the Catholic Church I was baptized in. I also attended first grade in their Catholic school in 1964.  Just like Phil Keaggy has said: " Full Circle I have come!"
I am so thankful for the grace poured out on me in baptism in 1959 that has left its indelible mark on my soul, keeping me headed towards Him despite some long and painful detours due to my own stubbornness and hard-heart.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Feast of the Trinity and Sola Scriptura

Tomorrow the Universal Church celebrates the Holy Trinity, God in three persons, yet one substance. In 325 AD, almost half the Catholic bishops in the world were starting to believe that Jesus was not truly God, known as the Arian heresy, following the teachings of the heretic bishop Arius. The conflict was threatening the political stability of the Roman empire at the time. Constantine demanded the Catholic Church convene a council and decide once and for all the nature of Christ. The result was the Nicean Council of 325 AD and the Church that Christ established put down the heresy and clearly ennunciated the doctrine of the Trinity.
   What does this have to do with Sola Scriptura?  Interestingly, there was no cohesive canon of scripture and the bible as we now know it was not yet on the scene until 393 AD. So one can't use sola scriptura to derive the doctrine of the Trinity, when it was not yet know which gospels and epistles would make up the New Testament.  It was only the magisterium guided by the Holy Spirit that was able to correctly ennunciate the doctrine of the Trinity and squash this heresy. This is not to say that the gospels were not available, I am sure they were and were read from the pulpits each Sunday, however, the scripture alone did not sort out this controversy. A Church with the authority given to Peter and his successors was necessary.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Pray for the Christians in Iraq

Please read this post from a Dominican priest in Mosul under attack by the Sunni militants. God please have mercy.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Happy Feast of Pentecost!

Today the Universal Church celebrates the Feast of Pentecost (from the Greek for 50th). The Feast of Pentecost has its roots in the Jewish feast of Shavout, the Festival of Weeks. The parallels between the Catholic faith and Judaism are amazing and the more one learns of Judaism the more one can see the foreshadowing of the Church that Jesus established. To think that Catholicism and Judaism are opposites is to miss out on a perspective that can truly enhance our understanding of our own faith. As our popes have told us, the Jews are our "elder brothers" in the faith and we will appreciate our faith all the more when we realize that Catholic Christianity is the tree sprung from the root of Judaism. Jewish converts to the faith often remark how much the Mass mirrors their services.   From a Jewish website on Pentecost we learn that:

"Shavu'ot, the Festival of Weeks, is the second of the three major festivals with both historical and agricultural significance (the other two are Passover and Sukkot)....Historically, it celebrates the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, and is also known as Hag Matan Torateinu (the Festival of the Giving of Our Torah). The period from Passover to Shavu'ot is a time of great anticipation. We count each of the days from the second day of Passover to the day before Shavu'ot, 49 days or 7 full weeks, hence the name of the festival. See The Counting of the Omer. The counting reminds us of the important connection between Passover and Shavu'ot: Passover freed us physically from bondage, but the giving of the Torah on Shavu'ot redeemed us spiritually from our bondage to idolatry and immorality. Shavu'ot is also known as Pentecost, because it falls on the 50th day."

As Catholics, we celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit, fifty days after the Passion and Resurrection of the Lord. Theologically it is said the Church was birthed at the moment Christ was pierced on the cross, but traditionally Pentecost is celebrated as the birth of the Church because of the empowerment that came upon Mary and the disciples to preach the gospel while praying the first novena.

BTW, I have discovered that a novena is not a "Catholic invention" but represents the nine day period of prayer that Christ instructed his disciples to commence in anticipation of the coming of the Holy Spirit. As a protestant, I thought a novena was some scary superstitious repetitous prayer but now I know that, once again, the Catholic Church was following scripture "to the T", as it always has!


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