Sunday, April 29, 2012

Jeffry Hendrix's Testimony

United Methodist Church Pastor joins the Catholic Church.

Jeffry Hendrix was a Protestant pastor for twenty years before he realized that life's most difficult questions found their answers within the teachings of the Catholic Church. His conversion and subsequent life and writings were influenced by the likes of J. R. R. Tolkien, Walker Percy, G. K. Chesterton, and Joseph Pearce, to name a few. Mr. Hendrix's book "A Little Guide for Your Last Days" is written from an unabashedly Catholic convert, proclaiming the truths of the Catholic faith.

Watch his video testimony here:

Related posts:

Joshua Johnson's Testimony

Joshua Johnson, United Methodist Church Pastor, joins the Catholic Church.

This is Joshua Jonson's spiritual journey which eventually let him to the Catholic Church:

Introduced to Jesus

Tenderly, yet with all the seriousness of eternity in view, my mother asked: “Josh, do you want to ask Jesus to come into your heart?” I pondered shortly and answered “five more days.” “Sure,” I thought, “Asking Jesus into my heart would get me into heaven and save me from hell, but why rush it?” After all, I was only five years old, (thus my fascination with the number five) and felt no urgency in the matter. Eventually, after a few cycles of “five more days,” I entered my parent’s bedroom and told them I was ready to ask Jesus to come into my heart. About a year later, I found myself in a room telling the deacons what my Sunday School teachers and parents had taught me: “I am saved because I asked Jesus to forgive me of my sins and come into my heart.” Apparently, I was rather convincing, because just a few weeks later I stood in front of a hundred or so faith filled people, told them what I had done with my parents about a year earlier, and was baptized in the “In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” I even have the pictures to prove it! I was told that by being baptized I was obeying Christ. This was true, but it was not for nearly a decade and a half later I realized my Baptism was so much more: it was the sealing of my conversion, the re-birth by “water and the Spirit” that Jesus told Nicodemus about in the Gospel of John. What ensued in the years in between was a profound struggle with what St. Augustine called “concupiscence.” My sins were washed and I received the Holy Spirit, but eventually I responded less and less to that Spirit. Inevitably, the fire within my heart slowly dissipated. It was not that I wanted Jesus out of my heart, I wanted him in, but I also wanted to have fun like my friends were.

Good Intentions without the Will and Sacramental Grace

As I entered my teen years, I prayed the “prayer of salvation” hundreds of times and “rededicated” my life at least a dozen times. I can recall one such time when I was so moved that I prostrated myself on the ground and re-dedicated my life to God. A revival preacher had come into town to preach at my high school. I had attended this Christian school for most of my life, but as I neared high school, I felt lonely. I wanted to be liked and discovered acceptance with my peers in our mutual rebellion. I got into a lot of trouble and constantly pushed the edges. But that week I decided to change my ways, and at the end of the week, I found myself standing with a microphone in front of the entire high school. I had volunteered to share my decision with my friends in a chapel service and I did so with much fervor. I remember saying: “Let’s imagine that the space of this gymnasium represents the time of eternity. If all these thousands of cubic feet represent eternity, then the tip of the point of this pen, which is less than a square millimeter, would still be too small to represent the time of our lives here on earth. You see, in view of eternity, it makes no sense for us to live for ourselves; that is why I am dedicating my life to Christ.” This was to be my first experience in preaching, and I delivered this message with every ounce of my being. My friends mockingly predicted it was “just a phase.” Sadly, they were right. In spite of my intentions, I lacked the will and sacramental grace to truly practice what I had preached. As I edged closer to adulthood, success in the political world inflated my ego and helped me erect a façade of who I was to the world. I began to see people as objects that could be used for an end and became rather talented at getting what I wanted. In the back of my mind, I thought, “Well it’s once saved, always saved, so why not just do what I want?” Yet there was something in my heart that told me this philosophy was lacking in truth.

Becoming Methodists

I went off to college at Liberty University and, in my second semester I began dating a beautiful girl named Katie. Two and half years later, she would become my wife. The school attempted to enforce sexual purity, but my inquisitive mind was unimpressed by the “because the Bible says so” approach that failed to delve deeper into the transformative biblical truths that we would later discover in Pope John Paul’s Theology of the Body. We were to discover this gold mine of truth later, but at the time we sought answers in a more progressive and intellectual Christianity. Through a friend, we were introduced into a local United Methodist Church. It was there we began to experience a love we had never felt in church. The people “took us in” as their own children and before long we discovered God’s love in something they called the “sacraments.” Here it was not just “Communion,” it was “Holy Communion.” This was something we never experienced growing up, but here it was something to be treasured: all came forth to kneel and receive the bread and juice. I was instantly hooked and wanted more. We didn’t completely understand it, but we believed Christ was somehow present in this “means of grace.”

Catholics Really are Christians

After two years of college, I ambitiously accepted an offer to work for an upstart political fundraising firm in Washington, DC. Through the firm’s work in the pro-life movement, I met several faithful Catholics. Through their witness, I began to develop an interest in the Catholic faith and soon found myself entering a Catholic Church for the first time: it was surreal; with art depicting the Christian story as far as the eye could see. I looked above me and saw the words painted on the dome: “I am the way the Truth and the Life.” It finally hit me: “These people really do believe. They really are Christians!” After this visit I discovered Catholic churches to be shelters of peace where I could find relief from my own sin and the sin that pervaded the political world in which I was so entrenched.

Called to Ministry

After Katie finished her degree at Liberty, we were married and set out on our new life together. I soon became dissatisfied with my Washington career and resolved to find another career. One night I felt a voice asking me: “What about ministry?” After much tossing, turning and internal arguing I said “yes” and spent the next few months trying to figure out what that would mean for our future. I soon decided that my gifts where well suited to pastoral ministry, and began to pursue this new goal with much eagerness, an eagerness my new bride did not share. Despite this, she was graciously supportive and at the age of 22, I became a “student pastor,” serving two rural churches while attending Duke Divinity School.

Discovering the big “C” Catholic Church

When I entered seminary at Duke, I was immersed in scripture and Church History. I discovered the early Church from the letters of St. Ignatius (early 2nd century), St. Justin Martyr (mid 2nd century) and St. Irenaeus (late 2nd century). I discovered that this early Church staunchly believed in a big “C” Catholic Church, that is, one with a visible and tangible unity with the Apostles and their successors, and especially with the Successor of Peter. I discovered that the sacraments were the center point of life for this early Church. From its earliest times they believed that the bread and wine of the Eucharist were truly Christ’s body and blood that brought life to those who partook. They understood the consecrated bread and wine to be the once offered flesh and blood of the resurrected Lord that was perpetually re-presented in the Eucharist. From a very early time, it was understood as a Holy Sacrifice that was offered for the whole Church. I was so excited about my discoveries that I wanted to bring Christ’s Eucharistic life to my own parishes.

Trouble on the Home-Front

I served two parishes; one quickly embraced my enthusiasm, but the other parish quietly suspected I was trying to bring Roman Catholicism into their small country church. One evening, a lady asked me, “How can the bread and juice be Jesus’ body and blood?” I replied adapting an example our professor had given: “When I get older, my hair will turn grey. My hair is an “appearance” and as I get older, my appearances will change but I will still be Josh Johnson: that is, who I really am will be the same even though my appearance has changed. But just the opposite happens in the Eucharist, the bread and juice retain their appearances, still tasting and smelling like bread and juice, but what they really are has been changed into the body and blood of Christ.”

In my brief pastorate, I had taught and preached that Jesus meant it when he said: “this is my body, given for you” (Luke 22:19, NRSV) and that “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53). As I studied Church history that fall, I was amazed to discover that through the first millennium of Christianity, no Trinitarian Christian ever questioned Christ’s sacrificial presence in the Eucharist. So why were these good people rejecting such a vital part of the Christian faith? One dear lady told me: “Preacher, we’ve always believed it’s just symbolic.” Strangely, I later discovered she was right. While the Holy Spirit’s presence was certainly in that church, I was not a priest, and no matter how much I desired, I was not able to give them the heavenly gifts of Christ’s body and blood.

The Music Drew Me…

While the theology of my parish was turning out to be rocky, our marriage was even rockier. I was failing miserably to love my wife as Christ loved the Church. In the midst of our struggles, I found comfort in the deep wisdom of the Church and its scriptures. I spent countless hours reading all writings of the Church Fathers we were assigned and then some. One night, as I was studying in the basement of Duke Chapel, I heard the most beautiful music coming from above. It sounded like heaven. As I climbed the stairs, it was indeed heaven on earth: it was Holy Mass! That evening, the time tested truth of scripture and tradition unfolded beautifully right before my eyes. This evening was the Rite of Acceptance and as the candidates went forward with their sponsors, I found myself thinking, “I want to be up there, I want to be Catholic!”

Yet soon after I discounted this feeling; I saw no reason for abandoning the truth that was handed down by the apostles, but I thought that I might find something in my Reformation era Church History class that would show me where the truth had become corrupted. Think again! I spent long nights comparing the Catholic beliefs to the beliefs of the Reformers and found that it was the Catholics whose doctrine was grounded soundly in the teachings of the early Church and their interpretation of Scripture, while the Reformers relegated the wisdom of early Church to second place, insisting on this new idea that salvation is by faith alone and the Bible alone is the sole rule of authority, despite the fact that these two tenants were contradicted by the scriptures themselves. My heart grew heavier, but I put off seriously considering becoming Catholic because I knew it would cost me dearly.

Can We Really Do This?

Shortly after my second semester, my dear grandfather’s impending death brought me to Texas several times. In the midst of sorrowful circumstances, I got the opportunity to visit with some of my extended family, a few of whom were Catholic. During dinner one night, I became deeply immersed in a conversation on the seven sacraments with my second cousin. At the end of the evening she gave me Scott and Kimberly Hahn’s Rome Sweet Home to read. Although I told her I was going to put off reading it until “I read some other books,” I had scarcely left Texas before I gave in. I was deeply touched by the Hahns’ story. As I was driving back from the airport, I felt an immense conviction to become Catholic. When I got home, I gave the book to my wife, who also read it in a day. It was then we began to ask the question, “If the Roman Catholic Church is the fullness of that one Church Jesus founded, why are we not a part of it?”

The Healing Power of Christ’s Presence

We soon began attending Saturday evening Mass together and it was there we discovered the love and presence of Jesus in a way we had never felt before. Together, we desired to receive Christ’s flesh and blood into our own bodies. We wanted Jesus to become a part of us and our marriage. When the Host was elevated, we stood in awe at the presence of our Lord. Here was the Holy Sacrifice, right in front of our eyes! Here was the victim and the eternal high priest! Here was the “Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” Our eyes welled up with tears as goose bumps appeared on our arms. Deep inside, we felt something we had scarcely felt before. Deep inside, we knew this was where God wanted us. Deep inside, there was a peace that passes all understanding. We experienced this together holding hands, as husband and wife. We had never been so spiritually bonded together.

Receiving Christ in His Fullness

The more we attended Mass, the more my heart ached. I didn’t want to leave the congregations I loved, and knew I’d lose my job, the parsonage and my Methodist scholarships to Duke. Yet every day God’s call grew stronger and so finally, I obeyed. A week later, Katie made the same decision. Although we faced opposition from some beloved family members, we were blessed with the loving pastoral guidance of our new spiritual father, Fr. Charles Breindel, the support of many friends and even a response of love and understanding from the congregations I served. On December 9, 2007, I preached my last sermon as a Methodist and on December 15, 2007, the 3rd Sunday in Advent, our joy was made complete as we proclaimed our faith and received the sacred flesh and precious blood of our Lord at Sacred Heart Church in Danville, Virginia. Since deciding to enter the fullness of Christ’s Church, the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Eucharist has given us the power to melt away the concupiscence that so plagued our lives. Our lives together have become truly sacramental, for what we were missing we are now receiving in abundance: the self giving love of the bridegroom which is perpetually offered in Christ’s “one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.”

Source: EWTN's Journey Home Program

Watch his video testimony here:

Related posts:

Dr. Scott Hahn's Testimony

Please post your comments.

Michael Cumbie's Testimony

Southern Baptist Church Pastor joins the Catholic Church.

From the heart of the Deep South, steeped in Southern Baptist tradition Michael Cumbie's call from God to preach the Gospel came at age 14. At age 19, while attending college and working on a degree in Music Education Michael experienced a life changing charismatic encounter with the Holy Spirit. Increasingly dissatisfied with fundamentalist, evangelical preaching of the Gospel, he began to understand just exactly how the early church had worshiped with its signs and symbols - and its focus on the Eucharist.

Although a Protestant Pastor for 23 years, Michael ultimately realized that to be truly in one accord with "ancient historic" Christian practice, means to be in union with Rome, where the chair of the successor of St. Peter is located, he continued his studies and research. Michael was even ordained to the sacred priesthood (see picture gallery 2) with an "old catholic" group in 1993. Eventually he realized that his denomination and the Roman Catholic Church would not become one any time soon, and he discovered that this quest for the fullness of Faith could only be realized in the Roman Catholic Church. In 2001, Michael and his three children were received into the Catholic Church. Michael's wife Sherry came back to the Catholic Church that day as well, after a 28-year absence. Michael Cumbie's conversion story is entitled "No Bread on the Table, No Crumbs on the Floor" because of his great love of, and respect for the Most Holy Eucharist.

Michael Cumbie is an experienced speaker, musician and worship leader and will inspire any audience with his knowledge, wit and incredible sense of humor.

Source: Mike Cumbie

Watch his video testimony here:

Related posts:

The Rite For The Blessing Of A Child In The Womb

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (CDWDS) Confirms Rite for the Blessing of a Child in the Womb.


I read in the monthly newsletter of the USCCB’s Committee on Divine Worship (Vol. 48, April 2012) the following:

CDWDS Confirms Rite for the Blessing of a Child in the Womb

The text of the Rite for the Blessing of a Child in the Womb, approved in English and Spanish by the USCCB in November 2008, has been confirmed by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments; the English text was confirmed on December 8, 2011 (Prot. n. 1422/08/L), and the Spanish text followed on March 1, 2012 (Prot. n. 125/12/L). Timothy Cardinal Dolan, USCCB President, authorized its use in the liturgy as of March 26, 2012, the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord.

This new blessing was originally developed in March 2008 by the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities for inclusion in the Book of Blessings and Bendicional, and further refined by the Committee on Divine Worship and the body of Bishops. The introduction to the rite observes that the blessing of an unborn child “sustains the parents by imparting grace and comfort in time of concern and need, unites the parish in prayer for the unborn child, and fosters respect for human life within society.”

Within Mass, the blessing of a child in the womb takes place after the Prayer of the Faithful; an additional solemn blessing at the end of Mass is also provided, drawn from number 272 of the Book of Blessings. The blessing may also take place within a celebration of the Word of God, celebrated by a priest or deacon either in a church or at another suitable location (such as a hospital, the home of the parents, etc.).

In sending the recognitio for the Rite for the Blessing of a Child in the Womb, the Congregation also offered the following suggestion: “Supplementary materials for the faithful based on the themes of the ritual or even the text itself, such as a prayer card that could be prayed privately by an expectant mother, could certainly be created and distributed.” While there are no immediate plans to create such resources at a national level, diocesan efforts or even local efforts at the parish level could be undertaken at any time.

The text of the new Rite for the Blessing of a Child in the Womb/Rito de bendición de una criatura en el vientre materno will be made available on the USCCB website during the week before Mother’s Day (May 13, 2012), with a printed booklet to follow, published by USCCB Communications. (The two U.S. publishers of the Book of Blessings, Catholic Book Publishing Corp. and Liturgical Press, are also expected to publish editions of the rite.)

This is the text:

(click to enlarge)

Source: Fr. Z's Blog

 Please post your comments.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Fr. Dwight Longenecker's Testimony

From Anglican Priest to Catholic Priest.
Fr. Dwight Longenecker is an American who has spent most of his life living and working in England. Fr. Longenecker was brought up in an Evangelical home in Pennsylvania.
After graduating from the fundamentalist Bob Jones University with a degree in Speech and English, he went to study theology at Oxford University. He was eventually ordained as an Anglican priest and served as a curate, a school chaplain in Cambridge and a country parson on the Isle of Wight.
Realizing that he and the Anglican Church were on divergent paths, in 1995 Fr. Dwight and his family were received into the Catholic Church.
He spent the next ten years working as a freelance Catholic writer, contributing to over twenty-five magazines, papers and journals in Britain, Ireland and the USA.
Fr. Dwight is the editor of a best-selling book of English conversion stories called The Path to Rome-- Modern Journeys to the Catholic Faith.
He has written Listen My Son—a daily Benedictine devotional book which applies the Rule of St Benedict to the task of modern parenting. St Benedict and St Thérèse is a study of the lives and thought of two of the most popular saints. In the field of Catholic apologetics, Fr. Dwight wrote Challenging Catholics with John Martin, the former editor of the Church of England Newspaper.
More Christianity is a straightforward and popular explanation of the Catholic faith for Evangelical Christians. Friendly and non-confrontational, it invites the reader to move from 'Mere Christianity' to 'More Christianity'.
Mary-A Catholic Evangelical Debate is a debate with an old Bob Jones friend David Gustafson who is now an Evangelical Episcopalian.
Fr. Dwight’s Adventures in Orthodoxy is described as ‘a Chestertonian romp through the Apostles’ Creed.’ He wrote Christianity Pure & Simple which was published by the Catholic Truth Society in England and Sophia Institute Press in the USA. He has also published How to Be an Ordinary Hero and his book Praying the Rosary for Inner Healing was published by Our Sunday Visitor in May 2008.
His latest books are, The Gargoyle Code --a book in the tradition of Screwtape Letters anda book of poems called A Sudden Certainty. His book The Romance of Religion will be published shortly as well as another Lent book and the sequel to The Gargoyle Code--Slubgrip Instructs.

From Bob Jones University to the Catholic Church 
By Fr. Dwight Longenecker

Taking dramatic steps of faith runs in the family. In the eighteenth century my Mennonite ancestors left Switzerland for the new colony of Pennsylvania to find religious freedom. Seven generations later my part of the family were still in Pennsylvania, but they had left the Mennonites, and I was brought up in an Bible church which was part of a loose-knit confederation of churches called the Independent Fundamental Churches of America.

The independent Bible church movement was an offshoot of that conservative group of Christians who were disenchanted with the liberal drift of the main Protestant denominations in the post-war period. The same independent movement saw the foundation of a fundamentalist college in the deep South by the Methodist evangelist Bob Jones. After World War II my parents and aunts and uncles went to study there and it was natural for my parents to send me and my brothers and sisters there in the 1970s.

The religion in our own home was simple, Bible-based and balanced. I will always be thankful for the sincere and deep faith of my parents, and will always regard with pride the great Christian heritage which I was given. Like our Mennonite forebears there was a quiet simplicity and tolerance at the heart of our family's faith. We believed Catholics were in error, but we didn't nurture hatred towards them. At Bob Jones the tone was different. There the Catholic Church was clearly the 'whore of Babylon' and the Pope was the Anti-Christ.

Ironically it was at Bob Jones that I discovered the Anglican Church. We were allowed to go to a little Episcopalian breakaway named 'Holy Trinity Anglican Orthodox Church.' The church was founded by a 'bishop' whose orders were 'valid, but irregular'. He had been made a bishop by a renegade Eastern Orthodox bishop as well as a breakaway Catholic. Despite the bizarre background, the little Anglican Church connected us with a faith that felt more ancient than the local independent Bible Church. So along with some other disenchanted Baptists I went to the little stone church in the bad part of town and discovered the glories of the Book of Common Prayer, lighting candles and kneeling to pray. We learned to chant the psalms, discovered Lent and Advent and felt we were in touch with the religion of C.S.Lewis, the Inklings and the great English writers.

While at Bob Jones I had visited England a couple of times, and feeling the call to the ministry I wondered if I might be ordained as an Anglican priest in England and maybe look after one of the beautiful medieval churches in the English countryside. Naturally for any lover of C.S.Lewis, Oxford was a kind of mecca, so when the opportunity to study at Oxford came my way I jumped at the chance and came to England for good. After theological studies the door opened for me to be ordained, and a life of ministry in the Anglican church opened up.

This whole period was a time of great growth and learning. Often it is the little bit of wisdom which makes the most impression, and I will never forget a little quotation from the great Anglican socialist F.D. Maurice while I was studying theology. He wrote, "A man is most often right in what he affirms and wrong in what he denies." After the negative attitude of American fundamentalism and the cynical religious doubt that prevailed at Oxford, Maurice's statement was like a breath of fresh air. It was sometimes tempting to feel guilty about leaving the religion of my family and upbringing, but with Maurice's viewpoint I increasingly felt the Anglican riches I was discovering were not so much a denial of my family faith, but an addition to it. So I took Maurice's dictum as my motto, and whenever I came across something new, asked if I was denying or affirming. If I wasn't able to affirm the new doctrine or religious practice I wouldn't deny it--I would simply let it be.

During my time as a student a Catholic friend in American named June suggested I might like to visit a Benedictine monastery. I made my first visit and found myself drawn to the quiet life of prayer and study that the monks followed. After finishing my theological studies I was ordained as a curate (assistant minister) in the Anglican Church. When my curacy was finished I had three months free and decided to hitch-hike to Jerusalem. So with backpack and a pair of sturdy shoes I headed across France and Italy staying in various monasteries and convents along the route. I found my journey went best when I fit in with the monastic routine. So I would begin a day's journey with Mass and morning offices in one monastery, say my Anglican office whilst travelling, then arrive at the next monastery in time for Vespers, the evening meal and Night Prayer.

The pilgrimage to the Holy Lands also took me further into Christian history. Part of the appeal of being ordained into the Church of England was to leave the modern 'do as you please 'church of Protestant America and find deeper routes in the history and faith of Europe. I wanted to be part of the 'ancient church in England.' Suddenly travelling through France, Italy and Greece to Israel I was immersed in a religion obviously older and deeper still than Anglicanism. The Benedictine monasteries put me in touch with roots of faith which were deeper and more concrete than I imagined could exist. Although I realised my views were becoming 'more Catholic' I didn't fight it. I wanted to 'be right in what I affirmed."

I had been ordained for about six years when my dream came true and I went to be the parish priest of two beautiful old churches on the Isle of Wight, just off the South coast of England. By this time I had come to regard my ministry in a very Catholic way. I knew we were separated from Rome, but I considered my ministry to be part of the whole Catholic Church. Despite the formal separation I thought of Anglicanism as a branch of the Catholic Church, and prayed for the time of our eventual re-union. My pilgrimage thus far had been mostly intuitive. I simply adopted the Catholic practices that seemed suitable, and when it came time to question certain doctrines I looked at them and made every effort to affirm and not deny. This mindset brought me almost unconsciously to the very doorstep of the Catholic Church. What I said to some friends who were considering conversion was true of me as well -- I was more Catholic than I myself realised.

As a result of this gradual process my thinking remained fuzzy for some time. It was the Church of England's decision to ordain women as priests that helped clear my vision. For me, women ministers were not the problem. Instead it was what the General Synod's decision-making process revealed about the true nature of the Church of England. The key question was--"Is the Anglican Church a Protestant church or a part of the Catholic Church? If she wishes to be considered Catholic then she does not have the authority to ordain women as priests. But if the Anglican Church was a Protestant Church, then like all Protestant groups, I guessed she could do whatever she wanted.

So when the General Synod took the decision I was in a quandary. Everything within me said a church that claimed to be Catholic could not make such a decision on her own. Yet I hated taking a negative position about anything. According to my motto I was denying women priests and I was wrong to do so. Then a Catholic friend gently pointed out that greater affirmations often include smaller denials. In other words you can't have everything. Choices need to be made. Denying women priests was merely the negative side of affirming something greater--the apostolic ministry; and affirming Catholicism had to include the denial of those things contrary to Catholicism.

Once I began to look again at the different churches and the claims of the Catholic Church I realised how very strange it was to have so many different Christian denominations. How could Jesus command and prophesy for there to be 'one flock and one shepherd.' (John 10:16) then we quite happily make thousands of different flocks with thousands of different shepherds?

I began to study the writings of the early Church fathers and got a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. In our parish Bible study I took our people through a study of the New Testament Church. We considered the role Jesus gave the apostles. We considered what St Paul had to say about the Church. We considered the New Testament's clear teaching that Church unity must be maintained at all costs. We confronted the verses which taught that the Church was built of the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Eph. 2:20) and that it was the Church through which God has made manifest his wisdom. (Eph. 3:10) and that the Church is the 'pillar and foundation of truth' (I Tim. 3:15) I was stunned when one lady in the Bible study said, 'If what you are saying is right vicar, all of us ought to become Roman Catholics!' She had drawn the very conclusions that I was trying to run away from.

When I began to express my own increasing convictions about the strong claims of the Catholic Church the people were shocked and upset. Some had listened closely to my preaching and had seen the whole crisis coming. Others were angry and accusatory. I was being disloyal to my own troubled church. Even worse, I was calling their Christian life into question by leaving. Still others were confused and frustrated. Their feelings were summed up by a good Methodist lady who came to our church with her Anglican husband, "Surely the only thing that matters is how much we love Jesus!" she cried.

Her question was difficult to answer, not because there was no answer, but because there were too many. In a letter to an enquirer Cardinal Newman said, 'Catholicism is a matter, it cannot be taken in a teacup.' But that he meant that Catholicism was so vast and the reasons for conversion so overwhelming and complex, that it was impossible to sum up the whole thing in a neat and pithy formula.

In a sense my Methodist friend was right, "The only thing that matters is how much we love Jesus". Hers is the right answer, but it is also the right question. How much do we love Jesus, and how can we be sure that we love Jesus and not just our idea of Jesus? I had seen so many Jesuses amongst different Christians, and each one was strangely like that particular Christian. Charismatics saw a Spirit-filled prophet of God, people concerned with justice and peace saw a radical revolutionary who spoke for the poor, Intellectuals saw a Jesus who was cleverer than anybody else and suffered for it. Tasteful Christians saw a Jesus who was a kind of persecuted poet. Snobs saw a lofty Jesus who was head and shoulders above everyone else while working class people saw Jesus the carpenter. The list could go on and on. More importantly, I began to see that my Jesus was also a reflection of myself. I'm inclined to be intellectual, contemplative and intuitive by nature. I followed a Jesus who pondered problems, went out to the wilderness to pray and found crowds of people difficult. My Jesus was one who walked a lonely path to a distant cross because that's how I was walking through life myself.

But to follow Christ means to lose yourself, not to worship yourself. More and more I wanted an objective Jesus-- one who was not my own reflection. I wanted a Christ who was cosmic, not a Christ who was comfy. Where was this Jesus to be found? In the incarnation. In other words, in his body. Where was his body to be found? The Scriptures were clear. The body of Christ was the church. Saint Paul was inspired to use this image for the Church. I had been taught that the church was the body of Christ in a symbolic way, that all of us in a particular congregation should work together like members of a body. But the emphasis in that teaching was on only one half of the image: it stressed 'body'-not Christ. When I put the two together and saw the church as the body of Christ a window opened.

As an Evangelical I was taught that the different churches were all man-made organizations which were useful, but essentially un-necessary. Suddenly I saw the Church as the mystical body of Christ-a living, dynamic organism empowered by the Holy Spirit to continue the work of the risen Lord in the world. The Church was suddenly a sacrament of Christ. In my brothers and sisters I could find Jesus. In my service to the Church I could find Jesus. In our worship I could find Christ. In obedience to the teaching of the church I could find Jesus. By immersing myself in the Church I was immersing myself into Jesus himself and transcending the limitations of my personal walk with the Lord. But if my church was simply a gathering of people like myself, and Jesus was a reflection of ourselves, then we were only serving ourselves not him.

As an Anglican with increasingly Catholic sensibilities I began to feel that my experience of Christ within the Anglican Church was simply a larger version of the individualistic Christ I had experienced within Evangelicalism. In other words, if the Evangelical Christian was inclined to find a 'Jesus' who was rather like himself, then the same problem could be seen on a denominational level as well. I began to see that Anglicans worshipped a very Anglican Jesus. He was a refined, softly spoken gentleman. He was tolerant, tasteful and forgiving. He was eventually persecuted by the barbaric, bigoted religious people. There was much that was good and true in the Anglican portrait of Jesus, but there was also a fair bit missing. If individual Christians made Jesus in their own image, so did the various denominations.

The problem with a Jesus who is only personal is that he becomes private property. There were only two ways around this problem of the merely personal Jesus. One way is the Anglican way in which every opinion is tolerated and encouraged. By allowing every personal Jesus-even heretical ones-the Anglican hopes to obtain a comprehensive Jesus.

The other option is to break away into a little Christian group where everyone shares the same vision of Jesus, and that one becomes the only one. The first way is called latitudinarianism- or indifferentism. The second way is called sectarianism. In the first option every type of personal Christ is tolerated. In the second only one type of personal Christ is tolerated.

But surely both ways had an element of truth? All the different personal Jesuses reflected a dimension of Jesus Christ, but it was also true that there had to be one which was the fullest, and most complete experience of Christ. Somewhere there had to be a Church which embraced all the varied portraits of Jesus while still holding up an objective Christ who transcended and completed all the partial portraits. If Jesus promise to be with us always was true, and if the Church was the mystical body of Christ, then there had to be a Church which presented an objective Christ to the world in a personal way.

To offer a universal Christ in a personal way the Church had to speak with an authority that was bigger than any one individual. That authority had to have certain traits to offer a Christ who was both personal and universal. I began to draw up a little list to outline what traits such an authority ought to have. First such an authority would need to be historical. In order to give me a Jesus which was bigger than me this church's teaching and experience had to be rooted in history. Through her roots in history I could share in a Christian experience which transcended my own personal feelings and background.

Secondly, this authority had to be objective. In other words, it couldn't be subject to my personal whims, the whims of my local pastor or any local prophet or teacher. The authority had to operate above the interests and concerns of the church itself. To prove its objectivity, this authority had to be spread out over a large number of people over a long period of time while remaining consistent in its themes and purpose.

Connected with the criterion of objectivity is that this authority should be universal. It cannot be the voice of just one person, one nationality, one theological grouping or one pressure group. This authority has to transcend geographical, cultural and intellectual boundaries. Not only does this authority have to be universal in geographical terms, but it has to transcend time as well. It has to be universal down through the ages-connecting authentically with every age.

But if this authority is universal it must also be particular. This fourth trait means the authority must be specified in a particular place and through a particular person. It cannot be just a vague 'body of teaching' or some kind of 'consensus of the faithful'. To speak to me personally it must speak with a clear, particular and authentic voice. If it is particular, then it also has to be able to speak to particular problems and circumstances. A particular authority will apply the universal truths of the gospel to particular problems with confidence.

Fifth, this authority should be intellectually satisfying. While it must be simple enough for every person to understand and obey, it must also be challenging enough for the world's greatest philosophers. As Jerome said of Scripture, 'it must be shallow enough for a lamb to wade and deep enough for an elephant to swim.'This authority must be intellectually coherent within itself, and it must be able to engage confidently with all other intellectual religions and philosophical systems. Furthermore, if it is intellectually satisfying it must offer a world view which is complete without being completely closed. In other words, there must be both answers and questions which still remain.

Sixth, this authority needs to be Scriptural. Since Scripture is a primary witness to the revelation, this authority should be both rooted in Scripture, and founded by Scripture. If it is Scriptural it will also look to Scripture continually as a source of inspiration and guidance. While this authority will flow from Scripture it will also confirm Scripture and offer the right interpretation of Scripture with confidence-never contradicting Scripture, but always working to further illuminate Scripture.

If an authority can be shown to fulfil all six of these traits, then these are a good confirmation that the authority is not ephemeral and merely human but is of divine origin. If this authority can be found then it would be able to give my personal experience of Jesus Christ the universal depth and breadth which lifts me out of that worship of that Jesus in my own image, which is essentially the worship of myself.

I now accepted that my faith had to be Catholic if it was to be universal, however, I still felt that I could be a good Catholic while remaining an Anglican. According to my Evangelical viewpoint, since denominations didn't matter one could subscribe to Catholic views while remaining in another denomination.

But something still niggled. How could I claim to be 'Catholic' while I was rejecting one of the basic principles of Catholicism-that being Catholic means being in full communion with the head of the family of the Catholic Church, the Bishop of Rome? How could I be Catholic while rejecting the rock on which the Catholic Church was built?

I then came across Cardinal Newman's famous Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine. In a logically clear, but dense passage he says, "If Christianity is both social and dogmatic, and intended for all ages, it must, humanly speaking, have an infallible expounder, else you will secure unity of form at the loss of unity of doctrine, or unity of doctrine at the loss of unity of form; you will have to choose between a comprehension of opinions and a resolution into parties; between latitudinarian and sectarian error... You must accept the whole or reject the is trifling to receive all but something which is as integral as any other portion. Thus it would be trifling indeed to accept everything Catholic except the head of the body of Christ on earth."

In other words, if I wanted that Catholic fullness of the faith I couldn't pick and choose. How can you have fullness when you are still the one who is choosing what is 'full' and what isn't? To accept the body of Christ in its fullness one has to accept it all. That's what fullness implies. Not wanting to give up my ministry and my beautiful home, churches and congregations, I agreed to 'accept the Pope' but remain in the Anglican Church. Before long it became clear that I could not accept the Pope without submitting to his teaching, and that his teaching said to enjoy the fullness of the faith I had to be in full communion with the faith.

St Paul's word's haunted me. There is one bread and one body. We who are one body share in the one bread.' Eventually I accepted that the only way for my personal vision of Jesus to be enlarged to a universal experience of the risen Lord was to be received into full communion and personal union with his Body on earth--the universal Church.

The next few months were terrible time of indecision. By now I was married and we had two young children. I hadn't trained for any other career and if we left the Anglican church there seemed nothing but an uncertain future. Then one Sunday evening I went to Quarr Abbey for Vespers and Benediction. As the monks chanted I agonized over the decision to leave the Church of England.

"But I only wanted to serve you in the ancient church in England!" I cried out to the Lord.

As the incense wafted heavenward and the monstrance was lifted, the still small voice replied, "But THIS is the ancient church in England." Then the struggles ended. My mind was made up, and in the Autumn of 1994 my wife and I began our course of instruction at Quarr.

Once we were received the St. Barnabas Society continued to be there with practical advice and financial assistance. As we went through our instruction I not only read the documents of Vatican II, but did further reading in the apostolic fathers. Day by day I discovered that all the things I had come to affirm intuitively were part of the great unity of the Catholic faith.

When I became an Anglican I felt my Bible Christian background was being completed, and as we prepared to be received into the Catholic church I realized that I could still affirm everything my non-Catholic friends and family affirmed, I simply could no longer deny what they denied. F.D. Maurice's little snippet of wisdom had brought me across the Tiber, and in becoming a Catholic I was affirming all things and denying nothing that was true.

Our reception took place in a quiet service one February evening in the crypt of Quarr Abbey church. That night all was harvest. There as the monks sang and we were finally received into full communion, the simple faith of my Mennonite forebears, the Bible Christians' love of the Scriptures and the ancient beauties of Anglicanism were all gathered together and fulfilled in a new and dynamic way.
This is Fr. Dwight Longenecker’s account of seeing the sun spin at Medjugorje.

I was an Anglican priest living in England, in 1985 when I was invited by a group of Anglicans and Catholics to visit Medjugorje. I didn’t want to go. Being a former Evangelical-fundamentalist I wasn’t too keen on apparitions of the Blessed Virgin. I opted out. They insisted. I dug in my heels. They said someone else would pay for it. I didn’t want to go. They cajoled and twisted my arm until I said ‘yes’.
So off I went and this was in Medjugorje’s hey day. All I can do is report my memories of that visit: People were everywhere making confessions. Mass was non stop in the church of St James in the village square. Crowds lined up to see the visionaries who were still living there and still teenagers and still having daily apparitions.The Franciscans preached mightily. There was a strong charismatic element–praise and worship music and fervent preaching.
If my memory serves me, at six o’clock in the evening the visionaries would go to the side room off the sanctuary of the church where the visions occurred. The whole town would begin praying the rosary. All the visitors prayed too. At 6:20 the visions would start. Around 6:40 they would stop and the people would pray the last set of mysteries.
On our second day there I sat on the balcony of our guesthouse with a large woman named Eleanor. As we began the rosary I looked up and the sun was a blaze of light in the sky. I looked down to the car parked below and the sun was reflected in the hood of the car as a blaze of light. Eleanor and I prayed the rosary together. I had my eyes closed. At 6:20 Eleanor gave me an elbow in the ribs and pointed. The sun was now a disc of white light in the sky like a Eucharistic host. Then as I watched it began to spin, first clockwise then anti clockwise. Sparks spit out from the rim of the sun like a firework. I looked down and the sun was a white spinning disc on the hood of the car. I don’t think this would have happened if it was just my eyes playing tricks on me. Plus, Eleanor saw it too. That’s why she gave me an elbow in the ribs. I am not sure how long this lasted, but when we spoke about it to our fellow pilgrims they said many people in the town square had reported the same phenomenon.
A few other strange things: the days we spent there were ones of incredible fellowship. We seemed to be on a higher plane of consciousness. We seemed to love one another and we laughed joyously almost constantly. Think of being on vacation with really good family and friends and being high the whole time on the love and joy you were sharing. We also met pilgrims from around the world and established an instant family like rapport, and oh yes, the new rosary I bought there was a pewter color, but when I got it home–still in its package–it had turned a gold color.
So now what do I make of all this? Well, the same as I make of the other supernatural experiences I have had. It was inexplicable. That’s why it was supernatural. I cannot rule on the authenticity and I am not much interested in the controversy. I know the experience I had bolstered my faith. It was one of the things that drew me to Catholicism ’cause let’s face it, the Protestants don’t really have stuff like that! Also I was drawn closer to the Blessed Mother. Somehow I understood her role and the blockage I had as a Protestant was further eroded.
Does this mean I am a die hard Medjugorje devotee? No. I’ve followed the story a bit over the years. I wish them well and I hope it will one day all be sorted out. If the church says the whole thing is authentic I don’t have a problem. If it is ruled inauthentic I don’t have a problem.
My own opinion is that something authentic happened there at some point, but that it has been infected with human ego, greed and probably a concerted attack by Satan. The waters have been muddied. Bad stuff has now happened to discredit the events. Whatever transpires, I will accept the church’s decision and don’t really mind one way or another.
I thank God for what I experienced at Medjugorje, but the truths of the Catholic faith and the authority of the Catholic Church are what are most important, and I am sure the Blessed Virgin would approve of that.
I tell this story, by the way, because I have been asked to–not because I wish to cause controversy or upset people on either side of the controversy. As it happens, I’ve had some pretty wonderful supernatural experiences along my way with Christ, and I take them all with a sense of wonder and a pinch of salt and try to keep my eyes on Jesus.
Mark Shea bounces back about this story here.
More thoughts on this particular event and what supernatural events in the church mean can be read at my article Weird Things Happen.
If you haven’t heard it already you’ll have to ask me sometime about my unusual experience meeting St Bernadette…

Related post on Medjugorje:

Medjugorje Miracles

Related conversion stories:

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Prayer Enables Us To See Things In A Different Way

In our own daily lives and decisions, may we always draw fresh spiritual breath from the two lungs of prayer and the word of God; in this way, we will respond to every challenge and situation with wisdom, understanding and fidelity to God’s will", said the Pope during the general audience on April 25th.

"In our catechesis on Christian prayer, we now consider the decision of the early Church to set aside seven men to provide for the practical demands of charity (cf. Acts 6:1-4). This decision, made after prayer and discernment, provided for the needs of the poor while freeing the Apostles to devote themselves primarily to the word of God.

It is significant that the Apostles acknowledge the importance of both prayer and works of charity, yet clearly give priority to prayer and the proclamation of the Gospel. In every age the saints have stressed the deep vital unity between contemplation and activity.

Prayer, nourished by faith and enlightened by God’s word, enables us to see things in a new way and to respond to new situations with the wisdom and insight bestowed by the Holy Spirit. In our own daily lives and decisions, may we always draw fresh spiritual breath from the two lungs of prayer and the word of God; in this way, we will respond to every challenge and situation with wisdom, understanding and fidelity to God’s will.

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience, including those from England, Finland, Sweden, Nigeria, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and the United States of America. Upon you and your families I cordially invoke the joy and peace of the Risen Lord. Thank you!" Pope Benedict XVI

Please post your comments.

Manhood: A Natural Remedy for Tolerance, Niceness, and Self-Esteem

What are the most important virtues to acquire in life? Perusing children’s and adolescents’ television programming gives the impression that in the top tier are tolerance, niceness, and self-esteem. I know these affected me. Perhaps they affected you, too.

I’m not a psychologist, so I won’t be getting into the history of psychology on the development of this trending prioritization of children’s virtues. I am qualified to critique them, however, as a parent and as an armchair theologian. As a parent, I can tell you that these terms and their prevalence in modern society drive me a little nuts. The “virtues” of tolerance, niceness, and self-esteem are not comparable to the virtues of prudence, temperance, courage, and justice. As a Catholic parent, the kind who reads Catholic blogs, imagine your delight if Dora the Explorer told Swiper not to swipe because it violates commutative justice (perhaps in simpler terms) or if, instead of telling them to believe in themselves, today’s superhero cartoon characters were role models in courage who thought prudently before acting. The world would be a better place.

I can also tell you that these three so-called virtues bother me on a different level. I doubt that any of the producers of these children’s shows could tell you what the word virtue means, in light of its origins. Do you know what it means? Manhood. Vir is Latin for man. In its genitive (possessive) form, the Latin virtus becomes virtutis. The -tut- in the word evolved through German into the suffix -hood. Man-hood. So, having reinvigorated virtue with the concept of manhood, let’s look at these three alleged virtues to judge their manliness and look at some ways to fix the problems and suggest some changes.

Tolerance – Tolerance, we are told, is manly because it is gentlemanly. The gentleman respects the differences he has with others and most importantly does not bring them up if that would bother the person he’d be in disagreement with. In reality, tolerance isn’t really about avoiding uncomfortable topics or trying not to offend. Tolerance is about resisting. We say that certain materials are heat tolerant. We don’t mean that they try to make excuses for heat or ignore heat. We mean that they can put up with the heat, they can stand it, they can tolerate it. Here’s another illustration: in a high wind, a mountain is more tolerant than a reed. In this sense, tolerance is the opposite of what our society believes it is. The mountain doesn’t bend with the wind. The wind bends around the mountain.

Until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ, so that we may no longer be infants, tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery, from their cunning in the interests of deceitful scheming.
-Ephesians 4:13-14

Manly virtues to foster instead: Humility, Justice, Courage, and Compassion
Objective: Learn how to consider and critically evaluate the reasons for another person’s position, to find common ground, and to disagree with charity. Be commanding, but not domineering. Be dynamic, but not forceful. Be like a mountain, neither submitting to the wind, nor moving to attack it.

Niceness – You can’t go more than a few minutes today in a typical conversation without hearing the word nice. Ambivalent people throw the word around without distinction, although to me it seems the best use of the word would be to describe Barney the Dinosaur. Do you know what nice means? In Middle English, it meant “stupid” or “foolish,” deriving from the Latin word for “ignorant.” (There have been many and widely varied connotations of the word nice in its development, all of them negative until a couple centuries ago.) A nice man was a simpleton or a silly person. To some, it still betrays a sense of folly – if the best people can do is call you “a nice man,” perhaps it’s because you don’t strike them as worthy of being called “a kind man.” At the very least, we have a common sense that it is not a serious word, for good or bad. The Online Etymology Dictionary cites one etymologist as saying the word niceis “too great a favorite with the ladies, who have charmed out of it all its individuality and converted it into a mere diffuser of vague and mild agreeableness.” That seems fitting. I typically use the word in conversation when I’m not really paying attention. It seems that today, the word nice has settled on “vaguely pleasant.” Why are we teaching our children to be nice again?

Manly virtues to foster instead: Wisdom, Practicality, Temperance, Flavor (see Matthew 5:13)
Objective: Develop a character imbued with the proper balance of humorous wit and sage advice. Be the kind of steady man people trust and admire. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Give the people around you the full attention they deserve. Never in the process settle on the blandness of being “nice” – move boldly beyond it.

Self-Esteem – In a society as egocentric as ours, it’s no surprise that self-esteem ranks high among the virtues taught to our children. Personally, I prefer to teach my kids confidence. Why? Self-esteem smacks of finding value in myself. Here’s a secret for you non-parents out there: kids don’t need to find value in themselves. They already know they’re awesome. Confidence is a much greater virtue to teach the young, and a more manly one, too. What’s the difference between self-esteem and confidence? Self-esteem roots a sense of dignity in the self, and then promotes action based on that dignity. It’s not all bad, but it isn’t enough. Confidence, from the Latin for with faith, is directly action-oriented and roots those actions in God, the object of faith. It’s manly to act. It’s even more manly to have faith in God. Self-esteem tells kids, “You’re special! You can do anything!” Confidence tells kids, “God made you and has a plan for you!” Those may not seem all that different, but consider the difference in light of life’s struggles. Self-esteem tells kids, “You can do it! If you can’t, then it must be a failure in your value as a person!” Confidence tells kids, “God has a plan. Stick it out and you’ll make it to heaven. What more could you want?” You see, self-esteem is a psychological creeping Pelagianism. Confidence is rooted in our faith in God to save us.

Manly virtue to foster instead: Confidence

Objective: Go. Move. Don’t delay. Follow St. Padre Pio’s advice: “Pray, hope, don’t worry.” Carry yourself – and your cross – with the dignity of a Christian. Don’t just talk about how to make the world a better place. Be a man of action.

Source: Truth & Charity

Please post your comments.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

How To Find God

By Jennifer Fulwiler

I regularly get emails from people who say that they've been seeking God, but haven't found him. They often express disappointment and frustration at the fact that once-promising spiritual journeys have now led to a dead end, and they want to know: "Is there anything else I can do?"

I'm not a spiritual director or a theologian, but I do have plenty of experience with spiritual dry spells and difficulties in the process of conversion, and I've spent a lot of time talking with wise people about common struggles in this department. While it's important to understand that any kind of powerful experiences of God are a gift, that there’s not some magic formula we can follow that will guarantee that we’ll receive a flood of consolation, there are certain things we can do to make more room in our hearts for God’s presence.

1. Seek humility first

If you feel stuck in your spiritual search, set aside the search for God per se and seek humility instead. The importance of this step cannot be overstated. Pride is one of the most effective ways to block God out of our lives. Throw all your efforts into becoming a more humble person. For inspiration, read up on people throughout history who were known for their humility. If you’re not exactly sure what true humility involves, here's a great article that explains that humility is not the same thing as low self esteem or thinking that you’re bad.

2. Go on a cynicism fast

Commit to a period of time during which you’ll fast from all sources of cynicism: Give up watching TV shows and reading websites that make jokes at other people’s expense (even if it’s about celebrities or politicians); try to change the subject or say something positive if such conversations come up in person; avoid making cynical jokes or comments yourself. You might be surprised at how much this fast will transform your heart.

3. Read the great Christian authors

While a transformation of heart, a turning of the soul toward God, is the most critical step in opening ourselves to God, it’s also important to realize that seeking God does not mean setting aside logic and reason; quite the contrary is true. Asking tough questions and hearing what the great Christian thinkers have said on the matter will only bring you closer to God. Some authors I recommend are C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Thomas Aquinas and Augustine of Hippo.

4. Do the experiment

I believe that God’s existence can be “proven” in a certain sense, as long as you understand that God is Love, and what you’re trying to prove is Love itself. This is not something you can know about from analyzing data or reading books alone. To get the “proof” that you seek, you must enter the laboratory of your heart, and actually conduct the experiment: live, for a while, as if God did exist. Pray. Follow the Ten Commandments. Show love and kindness to everyone, even your enemies. Read the Bible. Give God the thanks and honor and respect you would show him if he did exist. As Pascal suggested, just try it for a while, and see what happens.

5. Pray frequently

This is by far the most important step. I know, you feel like you’re talking to yourself. You don’t see the point of it. I was there for a long, long time. But there is no substitution for humbly, regularly turning toward God with an open mind and an open heart. If you’re stuck for words, consider reciting something like the Prayer of St. Francis, or just pray, “God, I want to find you. Show me how. I’m listening.”

6. Be willing to lose it all

When I originally posted a version of this list at my personal blog a few years ago, it stopped at number five. Then I got an email from a wise reader, who suggested that I missed a sixth step. He wrote:

There was one thing that was essential to my reversion that you do not mention. One must be willing to give up everything for God…I believe that the biggest problem people have with finding God is that they are not willing to give up earthly desires to find Him. People want the best of both worlds. They want a relationship with God and be able to hang on to worldly desires. I think this is all to often overlooked.

One of the things that’s different about seeking the truth about God as opposed to, say, seeking the truth about a mathematical equation, is that the truth about God is personal and transformative. If you’re seeking the truth about mass-energy equivalence and you discover that e=mc², it doesn’t mean anything for you personally. You don’t need to live your life any differently just because you now know that the mass of a body is a measure of its energy content. But not so with God. Because God is the source of all that is good, to know what God is is to know what Good is. And if you're not open to a new understanding of what is Good, then you're not really open to God.

. . .

The bottom line is this: seek, and you shall find. If you understand what it really means to seek (using both your mind and your heart); and if you understand that the finding part doesn’t necessarily happen immediately, that you’re beginning the long process of building a relationship that will continue to grow and change for the rest of your life, you will find God.

Source: National Catholic Register

Please post your comments.

Why Do We Suffer? The Theological Answer Of St. Paul

…I have been crucified with Christ...
Galatians 2:20

…I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions
for the sake of His body, that is, the Church…
Colossians 1:24

The Problem of Pain

Nearly every religion seeks to make sense of the problem of pain. If God is both omnibenificent {all-loving} and omnipotent {all-powerful}, why then does He allow us to suffer? The Eastern traditions such as Buddhism dismiss pain and suffering as “unreal.” This solution is difficult to explain to a child with cancer. Other religious traditions attempt to accrue “good karma” in order to ensure that good times will come with a future reincarnated life. For these traditions, the origin of suffering is past sins, even sins committed in previous lives. Still other religions, such as Islam, seem to place the origin of suffering in the capricious “will of Allah.”

Knowing Christ Crucified

The Catholic Faith offers an entirely different account of suffering, because the Church holds up the crucified Christ as the archetype for Christian living. No doubt, the Church is obsessed with the crucifix, and that for good reason. The crucified Christ provides the meaning of life and the meaning of death, even the meaning of the life to come! The suffering of Christ does not prevent our suffering on earth, but it does allow us to suffer with dignity and meaning. Saint Paul indicates that every authentic Christian will suffer in this world:

For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake (Phil 1:29).

It was for this reason that the Apostle Paul focused the attention of his spiritual life on the crucifixion of Christ:

For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor 2:2).

This “crucifixion mentality” is one that Paul sought to instill in his disciples. When the Apostle perceived heresy in the Church in Galatia, he realized that they had forgotten their identity as followers of the crucified Christ:

Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? (Gal 3:1)

The glib Protestant adage, “But we worship the resurrected Christ, not the crucified Christ” finds no traction in the writings of Paul. One cannot divide Christ. There is not a “resurrected Jesus” and a “crucified Jesus.” There is one Lord Jesus Christ and His resurrection possesses meaning for us only in so far as we appreciate His crucifixion. Moreover, Saint Paul indicates that if we wish to attain the resurrected glory of Christ we must first enter into the sufferings of His death:

That I may know him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead (Phil 3:10-11).

Paul also states that we are “fellow heirs with Christ, provided that we suffer with Him” (Rom 8:17). Moreover, Saint Luke also preserved the words of Christ to this effect: “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple” (Lk 14:27).

A person will carry the cross only if the cross carries meaning. The cross swallows every sin and every pain. When Adam and Eve sinned, they brought mankind into the state of original sin, as we observed in an earlier chapter. “Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men” (Rom 5:12). God permits the suffering of mankind on account of sin. Yet, God did not choose to remain outside of our sufferings. Instead, He entered into our sufferings. Jesus Christ experienced the hardships of humanity. He experienced poverty, hunger, thirst, false accusations, persecutions, and even a bloody death. Christ our Lord has experienced pain and death, and so when we unite our own sufferings to those of Christ, our personal sufferings take on redemptive power. Saint Paul explains how through Christ he transformed physical hardships into spiritual strength:

I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Cor 12:9-10).

Many well-meaning Christians are repulsed by the crucifix, because it displays the weakness of Christ. However, the cross teaches us that Christ transformed His greatest moment of physical weakness into the most potent act of redemptive suffering. Christ’s death is our salvation. The Catholic Church guards as a precious jewel the paradox that states, “when I am weak, then I am strong,” or alternatively: “death brings forth life.” Because of this, Saint Paul perceived his own vocation as a ministry of redemptive suffering:

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh (2 Cor 4:8-11).

Saint Paul explains that he always carries in his body “the death of Jesus.” When Paul is crushed, persecuted, struck down, he remains mindful that he bears within himself the “death of Jesus.” The union between Paul’s sufferings and Christ’s sufferings results in the manifestation of Christ’s life in the person of Paul.

Saint Paul articulates his doctrine of redemptive suffering in a shocking statement to the Christians in Colossae:

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body, that is, the Church (Col 1:24).

On the surface, it seems that Saint Paul is uttering blasphemy. How can Paul complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions? Can we possibly speak of there being any lack in the sufferings of Christ? We know that Paul did not wish to diminish the sufferings of Christ, or else he would not have said:

But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world (Gal 6:14).

We might best understand what Paul means by “that which is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” as those sufferings that we must experience in this life. Christ’s sufferings are complete and efficacious in their own right. We can add nothing to the redemptive suffering of Christ. However, we can unite our sufferings to Christ. This is the element that is “lacking.” When we offer our sufferings to Christ, Christ makes them His own in a mysterious way. To this end, Saint Paul even speaks of himself as nailed upon the cross with Christ:

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal 2:20).

Ultimately, this is where Saint Paul’s doctrine of participation reaches its highest expression. At this point, our book turns full circle. We began with Saint Paul’s miraculous experience on the Road to Damascus where he heard those significant words of Christ in Acts 9:4: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Unbeknownst to Paul, Saint Stephen and the other persecuted Christians had united their sufferings to the sufferings of Christ. One might even place the words of Paul in the heart of Stephen as he died a martyr’s death: “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake…for the sake of Saul.” Perhaps it was the prayerful suffering of Stephen, in union with Christ, that initiated the grace of God toward Saul who stood by holding the coats of those who cast their stones at Stephen, the Church’s first martyr.

Source: Canterbury Tales

Please post your comments.


John Fraysier's Testimony

Business owner and former Evangelical Free Church fellowship leader joins the Catholic Church.

By Lisa Spellman

John Fraysier is a local business owner and former Christian fellowship leader. He converted to Catholicism after studying Church history for several years.

Growing up, John attended American Baptist Church with his family. He describes his Christian faith as lukewarm until he reached young adulthood. “I didn’t have a strong faith growing up, but it increased as I started to get older…in high school, I got a little more interested”. After graduation, John attended Oswego State. At the time, he had a girlfriend who had gone on to a different college.

College represented a key turning point in John’s spiritual life. During freshman year, his girlfriend became involved with a group called InterVarsity at her school. InterVarsity is an interdenominational, evangelical Christian fellowship with chapters on many college campuses nationwide. His girlfriend was enthusiastic about participating. In talking with her on the phone, John noticed her new religious fervency and was initially suspicious. The social revolution of the times was the root cause of his wariness, “This was 1974, a time when a lot of hippies were turning to Jesus in large numbers, particular in California, but all over, too. When I listened to my girlfriend talk, she sounded like one of the ‘Jesus people’, but I didn’t want to lose her. So I figured I better do something too!”

Thus, that year, John joined the InterVarsity chapter at Oswego State. Like his girlfriend, he also enjoyed participating. John remembers it as a “large, very lively, and charismatic group”. InterVarsity helped him develop a more serious approach to religion and strengthen his relationship with God. “Through InterVarsity, I made my first real commitment to Christ and my spiritual life really began.” His relationship with his girlfriend eventually fell by the wayside, but he continued to participate in InterVarsity throughout his college years.

InterVarsity was to become much more than an extracurricular activity for John. He transferred to Plattsburg State as a sophomore and got involved with the InterVarsity chapter there. He became a student leader. Upon graduating from college, John went on staff with InterVarsity and spent the next five years working on various college campuses throughout the Hudson Valley. “I basically functioned like a college chaplain…it was like being a missionary, you have to raise all your own support.” His primary focus was to develop student leadership, and he spent much of his time coaching fellowship groups. He also taught students how to study the Bible. During this time, he developed a love for public speaking. After five years, John was promoted to Area Director, a position he held for the next five years. During this time, he managed other InterVarsity staff throughout the eastern half of New York.

In addition to his promotion, another significant event began unfolding in his life. He became acquainted with a large Catholic family. The children of the family matriculated through a community college within his jurisdiction, and they were active in their InterVarsity chapter. John became good friends with this family. “They would invite me to their home; I loved to go up there. They had a very joyful faith and loving home. I got to see faith from the side of what it’s like to be Catholic. I was very impressed with the parents’ faith and the courage they had in raising 11 children.” John eventually became engaged to one of the daughters, Peggy, and looked forward to becoming a member of the family.

John and Peggy planned their wedding in the Catholic Church. Many non-Catholic friends would be in attendance, and John’s family was very supportive. “My parents had always been very open…I didn’t grow up in an anti-Catholic family”. However, planning a Catholic wedding still raised some anxieties for John.

For one, John held a visible position with InterVarsity. Most of his financial supporters came from the Hudson Valley. As a group, his supporters were primarily Fundamentalist, and not necessarily Catholic sympathizers. He was concerned about their reaction to his Catholic wedding: “I was worried, ‘Will I lose my support base, my job?”‘

Secondly, there was the wedding promise to bring up children in the Catholic Church. Both John and Peggy were hesitant to make such a commitment. They knew their children would be raised knowing Jesus, but were initially uncomfortable about making such a promise. John remembers, “We had to work through that…I wasn’t sure. I do remember we talked to a local priest and told him our dilemma about committing to raise our kids as Catholics. We thought we might, but also thought we should have the right to do what we felt was best when the time came.” They even appealed to the bishop asking for a dispensation, explaining that their children would certainly be raised as Christians, if not necessarily Catholic. After a month or so, John and Peggy received the bishop’s reply, which they both found disappointing. The bishop explained he could not give such dispensation. John, says, “Inwardly I was really struggling…but slowly I could see a little bit of the wisdom in it.” In the end, John agreed to support his wife in raising their children Catholic, but thought, “Who can see the future? We will do the best we can”.

Finally, the night before the wedding, a woman from John’s church called and said she thought he was making a big mistake. “I worried that this signified a landslide of my ministry falling to pieces.” However, the wedding went on as planned. “I did get a few letters from people,” John said, “Some were concerned, some were supportive….but InterVarsity stood by me; they could see the bigger picture”.

As newlyweds in 1985, John and Peggy went to separate churches: Peggy to Catholic Mass and John to a Protestant service. John recalls, “I knew it wouldn’t stay like that, Peggy would probably convert.” They knew that having children would soon press the issue of religious homogeneity. Furthermore, John entertained thought that he might someday become a Protestant minister; in which case, his family would need to attend the same church.

Whether coincidence or providence, around this same time John came across an article in the periodical Christianity Today that captivated his attention. (”Why Did Thomas Howard Become a Roman Catholic?”, Christianity Today, 15 May 1985). It was an interview with Tom Howard, a Catholic convert. While John didn’t know Tom personally, the Howard family was quite well known in Evangelical groups. Tom’s brother was a leader in InterVarsity, and his sister Elizabeth was both a missionary and author. “I had never seen someone from the Evangelical world become Catholic….I was really impressed with Tom Howard’s answers to the questions.” John wanted to learn more, so he read the books noted in the article’s footnotes.

It was thus that he became familiar with the works of John Henry Cardinal Newman, a well-known Roman Catholic priest who converted from the Anglican Church in the nineteenth century. Reading Cardinal Newman began a three year period of studying Church history. He studied history from the perspectives of both Catholic and non-Catholic authors. He read about the early church, the Middle Ages, and the Reformation. “I was amazed at what I didn’t know, “he said. John was intrigued to learn about the Catholic Church’s belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, as well as the development of Papal authority, heroic faith of the martyrs, the reasons behind the Church’s reverence for the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the importance of sacred tradition in the passing on of the faith. “Martin Luther stood against the abuses of the Church, but he also stood against 1500 years of church teaching.”

He brought his interests to work at InterVarsity, and asked his staff members read some of the same literature. He recalls, “I don’t know how meaningful it was for others, but it was for me.” He and his staff would dialogue about these reading assignments. During one such discussion, a staff member said lightheartedly, “Why don’t we all become Catholic?” This was already much on John’s mind: Church history was opening his eyes.

Developing a greater appreciation and understanding of Holy Eucharist was a key factor in John’s eventual decision to convert to Catholicism. Through his self-directed study, John began to appreciate the centrality of the Eucharist throughout Church history. He learned about God’s true Presence in the form of bread and wine. “I thought, ‘Wow, how long have I been missing this?’”

Another influencing factor in his decision was Catholic Church’s position on the Saints. “Protestants tend to react against the idea that Saints in heaven can pray for those on Earth. But I was drawn to intercession of the Saints…it made so much sense to me.” John began to appreciate saintly intercession as a natural part of the faith from Scripture.

Finally, John was drawn to the authority of the Catholic Church to teach religious truth. “The Catholic Church has so much consistency in its call to holiness, spelled out clearly.” Key examples of this include the Church’s teaching on human sexuality and contraception, including abortion. John found no other churches consistently speaking out with clear guidance on these subjects.

Through study and inquisition, John opened his mind and heart to the one true Church. His parents and siblings were supportive in regard to his decision to convert, even though they were surprised at this radical turn in John’s faith. “They were a little disappointed that I didn’t stick with Protestant ministry.” Many saw this as John’s calling in life.

John was received into the Catholic Church in 1992. Alongside John, Peggy had also undergone a reawakening and strengthening of her Catholic faith by reading Catholic books and participating in prayer groups.

John eventually got in touch with Tom Howard and they exchanged emails. “[Tom] was both pleased and surprised that his article had such a big effect on my path to conversion.” He stays in contact with Tom to this day. John is now a businessman and faithful Catholic. He finds other outlets for his public speaking talents and enjoys doing most of his “public speaking” using paper, including poetry. Today, almost seventeen years after his conversion, John reflects, “Becoming Catholic for me has truly meant coming home. Coming home to St. Francis, St. Joseph, and GK Chesterton – to name a few!”

Watch his video testimony:

Related posts:

Dr. Scott Hahn's Testimony

Dr. Thomas Howard's Testimony

Alex Jones' Testimony

Kevin Lowry's Testimony

Please post your comments.