My Conversion Story

To read my conversion story, I have posted it in .pdf format available for download.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Debunking Christmas Myths

I received an email from Jimmy Akin of Catholic Answers today. In it he debunks 7 common myths that circulate around every year. I am only highlighting two of them. For the rest go to his secretinfoclub and subscribe!

This first one is one that especially irks me. I hear this still today form almost every Evangelical, Baptist and Fundamentalist (and a lot of Catholics too!) I meet. It is another case where instead of doing historical research, they just quote each other assuming that the guy at the top of the pyramid did his homework.

#6 Christmas Is Based on a Pagan Holiday

Sometimes Fundamentalists, secularists, and pagans argue that Christmas is just a pagan holiday that has been "baptized" by the Church. Accounts differ as to which one. Sometimes it is claimed that Christmas is based on Saturnalia or the birth of Sol Invictus ("the unconquerable sun").

But Saturnalia wasn't celebrated on December 25th. It ran from December 17th to the 23rd. It was over and done with before the 25th.

We do have records that suggest some pagans celebrated the birth of Sol Invictus on December 25th, but the first such record dates from the year A.D. 354 (on what is known as the Calendar of Filocalus or the Chronology of 354). The trouble is, even this source isn't fully explicit. It just says that December 25 was celebrated as the Natalis Invicti or the "Birthday of the Unconquerable One," without saying who that is.

We also know that some Christians had been identifying December 25th as Jesus' birthday at least a century and a half before this time. Around A.D. 206, St. Hippolytus of Rome wrote in his Commentary on Daniel that:

"The first coming of our Lord, that in the flesh, in which he was born at Bethlehem, took place eight days before the kalends of January."

In ancient Roman time reckoning, the kalends was the first day of the month, and if you count back eight days from January 1, you arrive at December 25.

It's true that we don't know for sure when Jesus was born, and early Christian writers proposed a variety of dates for his birth, including December 25th.  But what is remarkable, in light of modern claims, is that when they write about Christ's birth they never say things like, "Let's schedule his birthday here so that we can convert a bunch of pagans" or "Let's put it here so that we can subvert this pagan holiday."

When they propose dates for his birth, they use arguments to support their view, and they honestly believe that he was born on the dates they propose.

#7 It Would Matter If Christmas Were Connected with a Pagan Holiday
Even if early Christians had scheduled the commemoration of Christ's birth to subvert a pagan holiday, so what?

How does that taint the celebration of Christmas today--by people who have never even heard of these pagan holidays? Aren't they honestly celebrating Christ's birth, regardless of the precise day on which it happened?

Further, isn't subverting a pagan holiday a good thing? Don't many Protestant groups celebrate October 31 not as Halloween (which they wrongly perceive as pagan) but as "Reformation Day" or "Harvest Festival"?

Helping people wean themselves off of pagan practices by providing a wholesome, alternative celebration would seem to be a good thing rather than a bad thing.

Still, there's no evidence that this is what early Christians were doing with Christmas, and in fact the evidence is against it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

How to win converts by insulting them to their faces

I had an interesting conversation a little while ago. I was at work and a truck pulled in with a bunch of computer equipment. The truck driver and I right away knew that we knew each other, but we couldn’t remember where from. He asked me what church I go to and I said “St. John Vianney”.

“Nope,” he said. “I’ve never set foot in there. I go to Grandville Baptist.”

That’s where I remembered him from. I used to go to Grandville. I was a member there for 25 years. He told me his name. It sounded familiar, but we didn’t know each other well. I think he started to go there about the time I left, but he remembered my boys.

He asked how long it had been since I left, and I said about five years now. And right way, the next thing out of his mouth is, “I don’t want to get in a discussion about how my religion is better than yours…”

Not a way to win a convert.

Anyway—anytime—except at work. I know my faith and why it is biblically-based, instead of looking for individual Bible verses to justify my presuppositions as most Baptists do.

Creative Minority Report: Blob Of Tissue Gets Honors At College


Creative Minority Report: Blob Of Tissue Gets Honors At College

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Happy Immaculate Conception of Mary!

This is one of the happiest days in the Church calendar. The day our Spiritual Mother was conceived, protected from all stain of sin by God to prepare her, a fitting vessel to contain the Word of God. Immaculate, and unstained. This allowed her later to say "yes" to the Holy Spirit, receive God, and start us us all on the road to salvation.

Praise Him!!!

When I was in my youth, I did not understand why Catholics teach that Mary had to be sinless in order to bear God's son. After all, a goodly number Protestants do not believe it. But I did not have a proper understanding of the relationship between the Old Testament Ark of the Covenant and the Mary, the New Testament Ark of the Covenant.

Please see this post from my former blog site.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving Reflections

I originally posted this on my Facebook page as a note on the day before Thanksgiving 2011, but you only see Notes if you go looking for them. No one knew it was there. I'm giving it a shot here, but I know FB is messing around with the RSS feeds, so who knows?

I have the day off of work today. I’m cooking the family turkey early and bringing it over to my parent’s tomorrow. It’s in the oven, and my wife is out getting her hair done. I just finished saying the Rosary and am listing to Palestrina on Pandora radio (

So, suffice it to say, I have some time this afternoon to take stock of what is going on in my life since last Thanksgiving and to think on what I am truly thankful for.

During the past year, I got a new (to me) car, and new camera, a new bed (badly needed) and lots of other material things. But am I really thankful for everything that I have, or do I take them for granted? Should I be? Some were necessary and I thank God for them. But there are so many others that I did not need. I have wasted money on frivolous items that could have been better used elsewhere, and yet I have no money at the end of the month for giving to those who need it much worse than I. I am grateful that I do help where I can, but I know I could do so much more.

It is only just over four years now since I have rediscovered the Faith of our Fathers, the Holy Faith, the Catholic Church, begun by Christ himself. I have come so far in the last few years. There are so many people on the internet, EWTN TV and radio, Catholic Answers radio and the forums, Fr. Robert Barron, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, and of course, probably the best author of our day, Pope Benedict XVI.

I go to St. John Vianney in Wyoming. This is the parish where I was baptized as a baby. Fr. Mike Alber is literally a Godsend. He is kind, humble yet manly, cognizant of Church Law and proper Liturgy. We now have Fr. Luis Garcia, freshly ordained earlier this year. If you don’t think you need to go to confession, you will after you hear him. He can be hard to understand sometimes as his Columbian Spanish is thick. But God speaks through him and his message is clear. If you can get through one his homilies without laughing a bit (ay, yi, yi!,) you must be daydreaming.

I am thankful for so many members of the RCIA team at SJV. Barb Scott is one of the most godly women I have ever met in my life. And she knows her stuff! I always learn a lot from her at our training sessions and every member of the team, and ultimately, every person in the parish who is the recipient of some kind of Faith Formation there, learns a great deal because of her love for the Lord, and her dedication to furthering his Kingdom on earth and in Heaven. (Do I win a prize for such a long run-on sentence?)

I am thankful for the Catholic Information Center and the good instruction I have received from them, even if they can be a bit ‘liberal” for my liking.

And of course for my family.

I wish my wife, Mary, would join me in my faith journey and return to the Catholic Church of her childhood. She loves the Lord, but we are not on the same page on this. But we are still very much in love with each other and I wouldn’t trade her for anyone or anything. I would be so incomplete without her. I can be a hot-head at times and she keeps me even-keeled. Every day, I am always amazed at how much she reflects Christ in her actions, her conversation, her sensitivity to sin, her caring for people, her wisdom, and her insight. Even if I do or say something that hurts her, I know that when I see how much I have hurt her, I can see Christ’s face in hers convicting me of my sin and bringing me back to him and her, and his forgiveness covers all.

I am thankful that even though there have been some rocky financial times and employment issues, our kids and their wives are still together and love each other. Mike and Matt are still be the best of friends. They are both making choices that can scare a parent, but I trust that God is bringing them where they need to be and all will be well.

Very recently my big sister, Cathi, lost her husband to liver cancer. I am thankful that although he did not lead what many of us would call a “Christian” life, he was a baptized Catholic, and he did receive the Anointing of the Sick before his passing. I do hope that we will all be reunited again one day.

Which naturally brings me to God’s Mercy. What can I say? If God can have mercy on me, he can have mercy on anyone. There is no sin so powerful, or so heinous, that his Mercy cannot overcome it. Praise Him, our most excellent Redeemer!

My other sister Vicki, is recently employed after being laid-off from her former job. I am so thankful that she now has some money coming in. Although it is a physically demanding job, I hope she can find something different. I know that she would appreciate a prayer or two about her job situation, and for her husband and children who have also had a lot of trouble finding work.

I love my brother, Jeff, dearly. It’s hard to believe that as I was growing up, I found him so annoying. Six years his senior, led to a lot of teasing and I used to pick on him incessantly. That is until my dear Aunt Jitter, who lived with us in the last months of her too short life, asked me “Jim, why do you torture him so much?” Here was this sweet woman, literally on her deathbed, in terrible pain, correcting me for my behavior. After she passed, I was never able to pick on Jeff again. I still can picture her scolding me for that and I truly believe that God was speaking to me through her. There is a lot that Jeff and I have in common, and a lot that we don’t. I cannot go into details here, but I know that he would appreciate your prayers for him too. I can’t tell you the situation, but God knows, and He cares. He loves Jeff, and again his mercy and His grace abound for those who wish it.

During the past year, my mother was hurt badly in a fall while she and my dad were visiting a friend in Boston. She has survived another hip replacement and is on the road to recovery. And this is after almost two years since we almost lost her because of her heart. Praise the Lord that I still have my Mommy!

And my Dad too. He was in a car accident about a year ago and broke a rib. He has definitely slowed down since then and it’s just hard seeing you parents getting old. In so many ways, I still depend on him for so much.

I am thankful for my job. I am the Senior ITS Coordinator at the main campus of Davenport University. Right after the first of the year, I will have been in this position for 13 years. I really love my job,. I have worked at other IT jobs before DU, but there is something about working in Academia that is different than just working in a typical commercial environment. Those who know me, know that I like to read and learn. Just being surrounded by those in an academic environment is personally stimulating. But most importantly, I like doing my part to support people who are trying to fulfill their dreams and goals, to begin a career that may lead them to an exciting life, or for older students trying to change their life.

I don’t teach—I don’t have that kind of patience! But I know that I do my part my supporting them, helping where I can, and by providing an environment where they can achieve their dreams.

But enough of the DU commercial.

There is so much more I could write, but it’s already so long that most people are probably not going to read it.

God’s blessings to you all.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The problem of atheism

"How could anyone really know that there is no God?

To know that there is no God is to claim to know all levels and reaches of the universe and reality. But of course, only a being who is omniscient knows this. Therefore, the only being in a position to know that there is no God, is God."

From a PowerPoint presentation of Peter Kreeft's, mentioned on the same Catholic Answers radio episode as my last post.

"What's true for you is not necessarily true for me"

On a recent Catholic answers radio program, a caller, Ann, asked if modern philosophers believe that there is no objective reality and how does that affect the ethics of what's going on in our society today.

Guest, Chris Kaczor answered,”A lot of people, just regular folks are what you might call “relativists”. They think there is no truth. They say things like, “that may be true for you but it's not true for me”. Now among professional philosophers… very few… today hold that position…The reason that philosophers have rejected that view is that that's an example of a self-defeating view. It just cannot possibly be correct. It has to be wrong. And the reason is this. Let me give you another example of a self-defeating idea.

If I say to you “I am not speaking English right now”--well I said that in English right? So it can't be right. So if someone were to say there is no truth, they are asserting that something is true. Namely, that there is no truth. But if it’s true that there is no truth then that statement has to be false. The philosophers have recognized that there is a self-contradiction, a self-defeating nature in these sorts of denials truth.

The good news is that contemporary philosophy has turned away from that kind of relativism. The bad news is that that kind of relativism is still very common in people who haven't really studied the issue very deeply.

You can listen to the whole show here. It is titled, "God and the Problem of Evil".

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Religion v. relationship

Something that really chaps my saddlebags: When people start pitting "religion" vs. "relationship". An example can be found on this website. Mute your speakers. A song starts playing with no visible means of shutting it off!

Typically the argument goes like this:

"Christianity is not a religion. A 'religion' is man trying to reach God by his own effort. Christianity is a 'relationship' because it is God reaching out to man."

The problem with this is that that is NOT the definition of the word "religion." Evangelicals simply made it up in the 1970s so they could make a sermon point and it stuck. It's is nothing more than a meaningless, trite phrase.

According to Peter Kreeft in Catholic Christianity, "The word religion comes from religare in Latin and means 'relationship'—-relationship with God."

So while it is true that God reaches out to man, and that man would never reach out to God without Him first enabling Man through grace, the phrase just makes Christians sound unitelligent by creating definitions out of thin air.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A spiritual anniversary

Four years ago today, on the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, I received the Our Lord's Eucharist for the first time on almost 30 years. During the previous 27 years I had been a Plymouth Brethren (2 years) and a Regular Baptist (25 years), and a staunch anti-Catholic for most of that time.

Then the Lord called me home to the one Church that he himself instituted. All others are in violation of Jesus' prayer for the unity of all believers as set forth in John 17. One Lord, one faith, one baptism. Only one.

You can read my reversion story at And read my blog at The Cathoholic.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Four years and counting

Today is the four-year anniversary of my first confession to a Catholic priest in over 27 years. I am truly blessed. God be praised!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What Is The Catholic Church ?

"There are not over a hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions, however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church—which is, of course, quite a different thing. These millions can hardly be blamed for hating Catholics because Catholics “adore statues;” because they “put the Blessed Mother on the same level with God;” because they “say indulgence is a permission to commit sin;” because the Pope “is a Fascist;” because the Church “is the defender of Capitalism.” If the Church taught or believed any one of these things, it should be hated, but the fact is that the Church does not believe nor teach any one of them. It follows then that the hatred of the millions is directed against error and not against truth. As a matter of fact, if we Catholics believed all of the untruths and lies which were said against the Church, we probably would hate the Church a thousand times more than they do.

If I were not a Catholic, and were looking for the true Church in the world today, I would look for the one Church which did not get along well with the world; in other words, I would look for the Church which the world hates. My reason for doing this would be, that if Christ is in any one of the churches of the world today, He must still be hated as He was when He was on earth in the flesh. If you would find Christ today, then find the Church that does not get along with the world. Look for the Church that is hated by the world, as Christ was hated by the world. Look for the Church which is accused of being behind the times, as Our Lord was accused of being ignorant and never having learned. Look for the Church which men sneer at as socially inferior, as they sneered at Our Lord because He came from Nazareth. Look for the Church which is accused of having a devil, as Our Lord was accused of being possessed by Beelzebub, the Prince of Devils. Look for the Church which the world rejects because it claims it is infallible, as Pilate rejected Christ because he called Himself the Truth. Look for the Church which amid the confusion of conflicting opinions, its members love as they love Christ, and respect its voice as the very voice of its Founder, and the suspicion will grow, that if the Church is unpopular with the spirit of the world, then it is unworldly, and if it is unworldly, it is other-worldly. Since it is other-worldly, it is infinitely loved and infinitely hated as was Christ Himself. ... the Catholic Church is the only Church existing today which goes back to the time of Christ. History is so very clear on this point, it is curious how many miss its obviousness..."

Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, as quoted at:

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

In remembering Father's Day tomorrow, let us not forget our Heavenly Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Camping, Sola Scriptura, and Authority

Can you stand one more article about Harold Camping? I hope so, because there is something I need to get off my chest, and this is going to branch out into other subjects too.

As we all know, Camping’s predictions for the rapture occurring on 6/21/2011 was completely wrong and he’s made himself a laughing stock. But should we be laughing at him and his followers, or should we be praying for them? I have been guilty of the former and I have not thought to pray for this man until this morning. I’ve been so busy ridiculing him that I have neglected to pray for him. He is a creation of God who has been deluded by his belief in sola scriptura—that the Bible and the Bible alone is the single authority of God’s truth and direction.

The problem with that belief is that it is impossible to truly believe it, put it into practice, and make it work. If all men are free to interpret Scripture however we please, then anything goes. How could anyone ever say to anyone else whether or not any Bible passage means this or that? If my interpretation is just as valid as your interpretation, then who is right? They can’t both be if they come up with diametrically opposing positions.

Before I reverted back to Catholicism, I remember talking to a friend (now my daughter’s –in-law father) at my Baptist church. Maybe this was me starting to begin my journey back to the Catholic faith. I remember commenting to him that if all Christians have the Holy Spirit in them, and all churches have Christ as the head, then doesn’t it seem logical that over time, the churches should begin to coalesce into one? But that is not what we have. Instead we have over 33,000 different Protestant denominations since the “Reformation/Revolution”, and every single one of them says that they are following the real intent of the Scripture.

But that is what happens with sola scriptura. But then is sola scriptura the problem, or a symptom of a deeper problem? Sola scriptura is a natural result of a rejection of the Church’s sole authority granted by Christ. Every one of us has to interpret the Bible in order to determine its meaning. But who makes that determination? If there is no single authority, outside of the Bible itself, which can interpret the Bible, then each person becomes his own authority. This means that the Bible is not your sole authority, YOU are. You determine what the Bible means. But we don’t like putting ourselves on that pedestal, so we have something called “sola scriptura” to take away our responsibility for our rebellion and place the blame for it on God. And because each person believes that he has the correct interpretation, the result is infighting and church splits.

This is why we as Catholics should pity Mr. Camping. He is truly puzzled. He is sure that he was right, so much so that he had to reinterpret last week’s failed rapture, into a Spiritual Judgment of sorts. He cannot accept that he was wrong because that would mean that not only was his interpretation wrong, but his authority (himself—perceived as the Bible-alone) is wrong. HE is wrong, not just his interpretation. The fact that he is even trying to determine this date is not only wrong because the Bible says so, but because the Church which interprets the Bible says so.

We as Catholics should not be surprised by this. And Protestants don’t really have a leg to stand on when judging Camping at all as their own interpretation of Scripture is based on their own foundation of sand. The news keeps reporting how most Christians believe that Christ will be coming back one day, but that “no man knows that day or that hour.”  They themselves may not set the date, but they that’s not the only thing that they disagree with him on. Most Evangelical/Fundamentalists in the USA believe in a particular timeline of events that does not exist in the Bible and is not at all similar to Camping's view. Both views, Camping’s and many Protestants, are constructed verse-by-verse from hundreds of different locations in the Bible, almost always out of context in order to make it fit their timeline.

The usual pre-tribulational, pre-millennial view was only created a short time ago in Christian history. The Rapture and dispensationalism  as concepts were basically created in about 1830 by John Nelson Darby. Charles Scofield later created a timeline chart based on Darby, plus a few modifications (he made some new stuff up) and was popularized by being included in the Scofield Reference Bible which was promoted by D. L. Moody during the first quarter of the 20th century (yes, fewer than 100 years!). This view of eschatology is almost exclusively American. The Scofield Reference Bible was not translated into other languages until much later, and Moody did not offer his sermons in anything but English, so it never really caught on outside the U.S. Where it does exist outside of America, it is because American missionaries brought it to them (along with Capitalism and a whole host of other Americanisms in our quest for world domination, but that’s a subject for another post).

But we as Catholics also fall into this trap. In today’s increasingly post-Christian era, Catholics are also beginning to reinterpret Scripture in order to make it fit our personal beliefs, virtually always selfish. This is why we have so many cafeteria Catholics who fly in violation of their Church regarding abortion, artificial birth-control, embryonic stem-cell research, human cloning, etc. And the more that people separate their beliefs from that of the Church, the more they believe that they don’t really need to go to Mass. Then they don’t need their parish. Then they don’t need the Church at all. Then they start believing that all religions are spokes on one wheel and put a “coexist” bumper-sticker on their car.

So before judging Camping, we should look at ourselves first. Look at yourself honestly. Do you put yourself over the Church? Christ put the Church over you. By rejecting it, you place your own self and your interpretation of Scripture over Him and reject Him. I’d rather not be in that “Camp”.

© 2011 The Cathoholic - All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The end of all this Saturday?

I don't believe for a second that Harold Camping has reduced God to an equation. He is certain that the Lord will return on Saturday, May 21 at 6pm EST.

But the Lord can come back at any time He chooses. At my church we get out of Mass at 6. If He should decide to come back then, wouldn't it be great to partake of His Body with the communion of all the Saints and then be taken to his presence?

But I'm content to wait for His timing and not have my faith dashed because my math was wrong.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Observations on the Road to Emmaus

Just a few thoughts on Sunday's Gospel reading at Mass about the two men on the road to Emmaus in John 24.

Note: these are just thoughts that popped into my head during the reading. I have not yet had time really delve into these, so they may not reflect correct Catholic doctrine.

Notice that these two disciples had been with the apostles earlier in the day (this is still Easter Sunday) as they already know that the women had seen the empty tomb, told the apostles, and Peter and John (at least) had gone to the tomb to see for themselves.

Emmaus was 7 miles from Jerusalem. When they arrived it was getting dark. That would have been about 4:30 or 5pm. That would be about a 3 ½ hour walk so they would have left Jerusalem probably no later than 1pm.
Jesus meets them on the way, but they don’t recognize him. Why? Is his physical appearance different? Is his face veiled? Can they not see the wounds in his hands?

Who is Cleopas? Is he the same as Cleophas in John 19:25? If so, he may be the father of James the Less. His father was Alphaeus, a possible translation of Cleophas.

Who is the other disciple?

This is the first and only recorded time (I think) that Jesus broke bread with any of his disciples outside of his Last Supper, which was only 3 days before (by our modern conventions of reckoning time).

Were these disciples in the upper room with Jesus at the Last Supper? Likely not. It appears that only the apostles, and possibly Mary (not mentioned) were there.

They recognized Jesus only in the breaking of the bread. How can this be if the Eucharist is a symbol only? If it is only a piece of bread, how could it have made Jesus real to them if they were not in the Upper room with him and to recognize the action and correlate it with what happened only a couple of days ago? How likely is it in on Saturday or early Sunday, that the Apostles told these men about how the Lord changed the Passover rite into the Rite of the Eucharist? The Apostles themselves still had not yet made the connection.

Or did they recognize him because receiving his flesh and blood made them one with him—true communion, just as woman receives her husband and becomes one with him?

© 2011 The Cathoholic - All Rights Reserved.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday meditation

We’re about to finish up another Lent and Easter celebration. The stores are busy selling Easter baskets while they and beer distributors are wishing everyone a “Hoppy” Easter. The families are preparing for Easter dinner, setting up schedules, buying up food ($60 of kielbasa? Is this family Polish or what?), and preparing meals. This is the happiest time of the year for us Christians (or is it “we” Christians? I can never remember).

I just finished with a wonderful Good Friday Mass. It is so moving to enter into the presence of the Lord and imagine what it must have been like watching his passion. As sorrowful as this can be, and should be, it is tempered by the fact that we know that this day our sins are forgiven. This day our Lord gave his all for us, and that in a couple of days we will celebrate his rising, showing us that we too will rise to new life.

But that is because we know what happened. We have the benefit of history and the Scriptures which tell us what happened during that most solemn of weeks. The Apostles did not have this benefit.

What must have it been like for the Apostles and disciples? Jesus told them over and over again that he would rise, yet the Gospels tell us plainly that they did not understand. These were all very devout men before Jesus came into their lives. They gave up their livelihood, their families, their security. They had boldly stated that they were following this man because he was touched by God. Simon said he was the Christ, the Son of the living God What an amazing statement, and how blasphemous if it were untrue.  Simon told him that they would die with him. He and 58 others had gone out two-by-two preaching the good news to other villages and towns and healing people in Jesus’ name.

Then came Thursday night.

In the space of under 24 hours, their hopes were dashed. Their Lord, dead. Their future of ushering in a new Kingdom, over. They could not believe what was happening. Not only had they not gone to Jerusalem to “die with him”, as Thomas said—they could not pray with him for an hour when he was clearly distressed. They left him, when only a couple of hours before they swore they would not. Judas betrayed him, but they all forsook him. Peter followed from afar and denied knowing him. John also followed, but did not come to the Lord’s defense at his trial. The people who had hailed him as the Son of David only five days earlier were now calling for his execution. No, not execution—out-and-out murder.

John, Mary, and some other Marys were at the cross that Friday afternoon. Doubtless they were wondering when he would step away from the wood nails and claim his rightful place as King and Master. But he did not. He forgave them! All of them. He gave his dear mother over to John to care for. And he died. The heavens and the earth shook. But he had died. What could be done now?

They took his body down, lovingly wrapped it in a makeshift burial cloth as there was not much time before sundown to prepare him properly. They would finish wrapping him properly on Sunday morning after the Sabbath. 

The disciples scattered. Most of the remaining Apostles huddled together for the next couple of days, hiding and commiserating.  By now they had heard of Judas’ suicide. Although condemning him for betraying Jesus, they had to be pondering their own part in these events. What would become of them now? Was it all a lie? Were they duped by a con-man? How could they face their families, the crowds, and their synagogues? Thomas was not with them. Where was he? Was he so distraught that he could not even face the other Apostles?

Sunday morning came and the women went to finish preparing the Lord’s body. The Apostles did not even go with them to move the stone for them! Then Mary Magdalene returned. “He is risen!” And everything changed.

Oh my Jesus!

Were you there when he rose up from the grave?
Were you there when he rose up from the grave?
Oh, sometimes it causes be to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when he rose up from the grave?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Eternal "Security"

Before I came back to the Catholic Church, one of the things that was keeping me away was knowing that I would have to go to confession. There were certain sins that had become habitual. I knew they were sins. I knew they were terrible and hurt God, but I did them anyway. The way I had dealt with the guilt of them was to rely on what Baptists call Eternal Security, and the Assurance of Salvation. It's commonly called "once saved, always saved." At first this sounds like it should be comforting--believing that no matter what sin I may commit after accepting Christ as my Savior, I could rest secure that I would still go to Heaven.

Catholics look at this this and see a license to sin. I'm sure it is to some, but most dedicated Baptists I have known do not use it as a license, but as a comfort. They do not believe in the Confessional, so they need the assurance that comes with this teaching.

I believed in Eternal Security, but I struggled with the Assurance of Salvation for a long time. I no longer believe in either. The problem with eternal security is that it can lead to a trivial attitude toward sin. Or it can do what it did to me for a long time.

As I mentioned before, there were certain sins that I had as habits that I just could not seem to kick. Some of them were so bad that I wondered how could a Christian ever commit these kinds of sins and not lose salvation? Haven't I just betrayed Christ, and did he not say “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments?" Can a Christian really commit murder, or rape someone and still be saved? I once knew a Christian who did both. Was he still saved? Of course he will be forgiven if he really repents, but what if he never does? Will he be rewarded by going to heaven? There is no way that I could bring myself to believe that any so-called Christian who committed sins and crimes like these, can truly be a believer.

But if that was the case, then it must mean that he was never saved in the first place...that I was never saved in the first place either. I must have just gone through an emotional experience and never really accepted Christ. I went a lot of years questioning my salvation, and whether my salvation experience really "took." This is partly why in so many ways I struggled in my duties as a father. How could I bring up my sons in the Lord if I was not following him as fully as I wanted?

Since rejoining the Church in the last couple of years I  now believe that one really can be a believing Christian one minute, and unbelieving the next, Ephesians 2:8-9 notwithstanding. This verse is taken out of context by those who use it for eternal security, and there are hundreds of verses that are contrary to it.

I know that sounds like it should be frightening. If that's the case, then how can I ever be sure that I am going to heaven? Well, you can't. Even Paul believed that he could lose his salvation when he said in 1 Corinthians, "No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize."

The assurance comes from the confessional when we can hear from the priest that we have been forgiven. For the in-between times, God is not an ogre just waiting for the opportunity to catch us then strike us dead so that we can go to hell before we have a chance to rectify it.

For me this has been so comforting hearing from God's chosen representative on earth that I have been forgiven. Not only forgiven for being a sinner, but for specific, individual sins. And you can experience this forgiveness often. After confession, my heart soars in worship to God knowing that I am on the path of righteousness, and a desire to be one with Him.

And the former sinful habits that I struggled with for so long, are now gone.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Tale of Three Rosaries

Rosary #3

The third rosary was given to me by my son Matthew. Much of Matthew's story is the same as Michael's. I've already recounted some of it in my last entry. But there are significant differences. I really don't remember why, but although I loved Matthew very much, we often would get along like oil and water. Or rather like gas and a lighted match.

The only thing that I can figure is that I worked in a job that I absolutely detested, and I would bring my frustration home with me. Also, for much of that time, I worked second shift and didn't see much of my kids except on weekends. When I was home, Sundays were for Sunday school, then church, lunch, then a nap that often lasted till dinnertime, then church again, then bed.

There was a lot of yelling in those days, much of it from me. Matt mentioned to me about a year or so ago that he remembers me once about to choke him. I honestly do not recall this at all. But I do remember once when he was about 12 or 13, I pulled my fist back as I was about to sock him a good one, but I was able to hold it back.

Whether he or I are remembering correctly or incorrectly doesn't matter. What made me so mad doesn't matter. But I do know one thing. I was wrong. I felt terrible for what I did. Yes, what I did, not what I almost did. No, I didn't hit him, but the damage had been done just the same. Is it any wonder that he was afraid of me?

This really woke me up as to how I was treating the kids. Strife didn't end overnight. But threats of violence were over, and I have never repeated them. It did not end the yelling however. What finally did? Something significant happened in Matt's life that convicted and challenged me. I think it was when Matt was in the 10th grade, that he began to become very interested, almost fanatical, about Jesus.

Matthew started to become more involved with the youth group at church. Several of the girls all went to the same public school, Rogers High School, and became associated with a group called “TEC” Teens Encounter Christ. I remembered this group from when I was 17. It was a primarily Catholic outreach, and I was surprised to find out that it no longer was considered such, but it had branched out into other denominations.

As Matt became more involved with this group (he even went on a missions trip to Russia) we started to refer to it as Matt and his groupie Rogers' girls. I remember cautioning him that although he was not the only guy in the group, he was one of the only regular ones. I was afraid that some of the other girls may not be quite as spiritual as some of them, or him. It's not so much that I was afraid of that something sexual might happen, as I was afraid that they would all start fighting over him.

I was right. I don't think that Matt was seriously interested in any of them at the time, but it was clear that two or three, were interested in him. “Just you watch,” I said to my wife. “He's going to end up married to one of them.” Well, he and Amy just celebrated their sixth wedding anniversary. I may have been right about him marrying one of them, but I was wrong about which one. Amy seemed the least likely, but after high school was over, they started going out, and after a very short engagement, they married.

And I'm so glad they did. My wife and I are truly blessed by having two daughters-in-law that we love so much. There are like the daughters that we never had.

Matthew has always had a thing about lists, and collecting flags of all the countries of the world, and charts, etc. He even had a candy wrapper collection when he was young. He has also always loved languages.

Some of this he gets from me. I remembered that I had all the US states and their capitols memorized in about third grade. I love time-lines, Bible charts, and genealogies. I love looking at word origins and similar words in different languages and making connections between them.

But in these areas, I think Matthew is on mental steroids. Language comes naturally to him. When he traveled to Russia, Brazil, Niger, and China he picked up on the languages easily, with near perfect pronunciation. For a time I thought his love of languages and desire to travel would lead to missions work.

About three years ago Matthew surprised us all by saying that he was no longer a Christian and that he was tired of trying to live up to everyone's expectations. In 2009 he and Amy left to go to China for a year to teach English as a second language to primary age kids at school in Fuyang. They loved it there and Matt was planning on staying on another year but there were problems with this contract and he had to return.

While in China, Matthew bought me a rosary from the Immaculate Conception Cathedral of Hangzhou (go to the website and you should see pictures that Matt took while there), one of a handful of Chinese monasteries, and brought it home with him. They returned to Grand Rapids. Both are now going to school, but they are still unsure of what to do with their lives job-wise.

Matt and I do not fight anymore. I love him dearly, and he has forgiven me for the way that I used to treat him. Much of that is because I know that as I have become closer to Christ and his Church, he has changed me. I know it. I can feel it. And both of the boys have noticed it and commented on it.

We have finally put aside our differences and we enjoy each other's company now. Matt is funny, and smart, and cares deeply for people. I pray and trust that he will find his way back to God and hopefully to the Catholic Church.

This is why Matthew's rosary is so special to me. It represents a long road of struggle, strife, regret, reconciliation, healing, and a deep and abiding love for my son.

Mike's rosary is easy to carry around as it is smaller than Matt's. I still use it for saying the rosary that is for a dedicated purpose. But for general and everyday use I carry Matt's rosary around the most. Why? Is it because I prefer it to Mike's? No. Is because when I use it, I am praying for Matt and I pray for Matt every day. He is still the prodigal in a foreign country. When the Lord has made him ready, he will call him home. Of this, I am certain.

© 2010 The Cathoholic - All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Tale of Three Rosaries

Rosary #2

My first Christmas as a Catholic was special to me. As I was growing up, I never heard of an Advent season, or an Octave of Christmas. It was the first time I was exposed to Christmas being more than one day and the previous evening. It was wonderful to learn of the entire Christmas season and to celebrate it more fully than I ever had.

My son, Mike, has always been a good artist and likes working with crafts. That year he had taken up beading. I kind of had a feeling that another rosary was in my future. I didn't say anything though. I didn't want to spoil the surprise, or be disappointed if it didn't happen, or make him feel pressured to make me one if I was wrong and he hadn't planned on making one.

Well I didn't have to worry. He did make me one as a Christmas present.

Mike was always a little bit of a manipulator while he was growing up. He still is in ways; but it's not always a bad thing. Mike is a natural leader. He's highly intelligent, much more than I. He and Matthew always beat me in IQ tests, so I stopped trying.

We brought our boys up as good Baptist kids. They both were baptized young, around age six for Mike, four for Matt. Later as they grew older, they realized that they had been too young to really know what baptism was and were rebaptized. I don't remember how old they were that time. (Unfortunately, the older I get, the less I remember. I swear my entire childhood was like it was two grades at school, and two summers long. I have no idea of when anything happened until the summer before high school. And a lot of that is beginning to fade too. That's part of the reason for my blogs---so I don't forget everything.)

When Mike graduated high school, he was planning on becoming an architect. As he was getting ready to go off to college in Dearborn, he announced to me that he was not a Christian, and never had been. When he told me this, I was devastated. I felt that he had been playing us for years just to placate us.

He went off to Lawrence Tech, and I let everyone at church know what had happened and asked for prayer for him. We pray for him communally, and he was added to our weekly prayer list, and I know someone was praying for him every day.

Mike became very lonely at school. Although he had renounced Christ, he was still a very moral young man. As such, he didn't go to the parties. He didn't have a car so he couldn't go anywhere. If he wanted to go anywhere on foot or on his bike, he was very close to some very dangerous territory. Mary and I visited him a few times, once right after that horrible day in 2001, but we couldn't go as often as we have liked. Mike tends to become a little depressed when he's alone, and the isolation at school got to him.

One night, after almost one semester of school, Mike called. He had just gotten off the phone with the associate pastor at our church. After only a few months of intense prayer, Michael had finally accepted the Lord as his savior, and shortly after that told us that he wanted to come back home.

After Mike became a Christian, he had already been equipped with a good Christian education at home and in church, and he went at it whole whole hog. He started reading the Bible which he already knew pretty well, and reading and famous preachers like Jonathan Edwards, and listening to popular speakers like John Piper. He quickly took over leadership roles at church, and he became a challenge to me as I can tend to become complacent.

I found myself actually looking up to both of my sons as they were both on fire for the Lord. Plus at the time I was beginning to question not so much Baptist teaching, but other things that I had felt were sacrosanct, like six literal days of creation vs. long ages of time divided into periods of time called, “days.".

Around 2006 our church decided to rewrite its Constitution and Statement of Faith. This was partly to update things which had to change because of changes in the ways that some missionary agencies work, and to fix spelling, punctuation, and some grammatical errors.

Neither Mike nor I were on this committee, but we both went over it just the same. I had found some things that I had major problems with. Serious enough that if I had to accept this Constitution, I would in all conscience have to resign my membership at the church.

Mike went over the Statement of Faith in more detail than I. He noticed a punctuation error so he went into more detail and looked up every Bible verse listed to make sure that it correctly supported the statement to which it referred.

That was when he first discovered, and showed me for the first time that many of the verses used to support statements, in fact did not support them at all. I began looking at other Baptist statements of faith in print, and online, and found exactly the same thing, using exactly the same verses.

Thus began my journey back to the Catholic Church as further detailed in my testimony available at the link at the top of my blog.

Eventually this also led Mike to leave the church and he drifted for some time.  It was hard for him, as he grew up at Grandville Baptist. He met his future wife, Katie, there as kids, and they were married there less than two years ago. For a while I was hoping he would also become a Catholic as it seemed that we were on the same road. However, being a former Catholic, it was easier for me to find my way back after reconciling the things that I had thought were heretical, but I found to be true. Mike went the way of Orthodoxy. I pray that Mike will become Catholic, but if he's not Catholic, Orthodoxy is fine with me.

That was a long way of saying why the rosary that Mike gave me is so special. It represents a very long road of struggle and recovery. Of two prodigals who finally made it home to their Father's welcoming embrace.

© 2010 The Cathoholic - All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Tale of Three Rosaries

I am going to post this in three parts over a few days so it's not too much to read at once...

While reflecting on our Blessed Mother, and looking back on my life since my return to Catholicism almost 4 years ago, I am holding in my hand a rosary given to me by my son, Matthew.

I remember receiving a rosary at my first Communion as a child. Never really taking my faith seriously for many years, I don't remember what ever became of it. I don't know if I lost it somewhere along the way, or if after leaving the church for Protestant churches, I threw it away as I would pagan amulet. I don't remember ever saying the rosary while growing up, so I may have just lost it through neglect.

Either way, how tragic! If only I had understood what blessing and power there is in those 59 beads. Since coming back to the Church, I now own three rosaries. All were gifts of love given to me by my nephew, Mike; my son, Mike; and my son, Matthew. I list them in the order in which I received them, not necessarily in order of preference.

Rosary #1

Shortly after I announced my reversion, my nephew, Mike S., gave me a rosary that he had made. I'm glad he did. It saved me from having to ask him. A few years ago he started making rosaries out of parachute cord. He would tie knots into it to form the beads and the cross. He started doing this while he was in the Army, deployed in Fallujah, Iraq shortly after the fall of Saddam Hussein. He made quite a few while he was there. By the time of my conversion he was already back home but still making them and selling them on the Internet. You can order the from

© 2010 The Cathoholic - All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My weekend at St. Lazare's Retreat House

As I sit here at St. Lazare's Retreat House I can't help but be struck by the artwork and statuary. There is a stained-glass portrait of St. Joseph, photographs of mother Theresa, a drawing of several head shots of Pope John II (soon to be “Saint”), a photograph of Pope Benedict XVI, a photo of each of the past directors at the retreat house, a huge painting of St. Vincent DePaul, a painting of Jesus in the garden, several crucifixes, stained-glass that looks like it came from the 1970s or 1980s, and more.

But today I'm really struck by the statues and the stained-glass portrait of the Blessed Virgin, our mother, Mary. I've seen the same depictions of her before many times. But I've never really been so moved by their beauty. The artists wonderfully portrayed her beauty, grace, and expressions of love and invitation.

Certainly the real Miriam, mother of Yeshua, spouse of Yusef, did not look like this. This is an idealized, very Germanic or Scandinavian Mary—beautiful, but not Jewish. As Christianity began its trek westward, Mary took on a decidedly Western look. When Mary appeared at Guadalupe to Juan Diego, she appeared as a young Mexican girl. In one of my favorite movies, Guadalupe a Spanish-language film, Sandra Espil, chosen to portray Mary is a lovely young woman with a sweet disposition. Her voice is loving and tender, wonderful to behold and delivered in lyrical Nahuatl.

People of African descent often will depict Mary as a dark-skinned woman, usually in the artistic style indicative of the culture of the artist. This beautiful Madonna was painted by Donna Rathert found at

In China, there is Our Lady of Sheshan.

Then there is Our Lady of Akita, Japan who actually weeps.

There are so many others I could mention. Every artist portrays Mary to the best of his/her ability. If it is a stylized work, or an abstract, they attempt to make the entire work beautiful at least in the artists’ eyes.

The race or ethnicity of Mary as depicted in art is not important. The important thing is, who she is to the artist? And how does this work move me? If it does not move me, why doesn't it? Does Mary have to look European or Jewish or African otherwise she has no meaning for me? This may speak to our own prejudices more than anything else.

The most important thing is not, was Mary beautiful? The artwork is not intended to show us what she looked like, but to draw us into her bosom, to be presented to her son. So does the work do that? I am certainly drawn to the traditional Nordic Mary. I have also have a tender spot for the Mexican people, probably my favorite non-USA ethnic group.  Our Lady of Guadalupe is especially important to me.

Mary is the mother of the Church regardless if the person is Catholic, Orthodox, Baptist, Presbyterian, or Methodist... so if she is the mother of a European, she's European. If the person happens to be Filipino, she is Filipino. As she is our mother, so we are her children, like it or not.

Whether she is presented as beautiful or homely, Germanic, Jewish, African, or Mexican, Chinese Japanese or Philipino— none of it compares to the inner beauty of this holy young woman. When given a choice between accepting God and his Word and facing likely ridicule and judgment by her husband, family, friends, synagogue, and community. She put it all aside and said, “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” All generations have called her blessed, and she remains blessed forever.

© 2010 The Cathoholic - All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Evangelicals who journey East

A good article for the most part. I don't agree with his assessment though that Gilchrist's conversion to Orthodoxy appears to have been easy and without much struggle.

Some people just write in an abbreviated fashion. I'm sure the story of my conversion to Catholicism seems short and easy to some too. I'm just not a good writer. From the time I started reading and studying up, it was only about four months until I converted, but I was on the fence of leaving my Baptist church for well over a year.

The fact that I was brought up Catholic made my journey back easier than for someone like Scott Hahn, because I was already familiar with many of the doctrines and dogmas. I just needed someone to explain them more fully, and be at a time in my life where I was receptive.

For a similar page on the same subject that is better written and parallels the reasons I did not become Orthodox, see Jimmy Akin's article, Why I am Not Eastern Orthodox at

© 2010 The Cathoholic - All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A prayer for Haiti

Today marks one year since the devastating earthquake in Haiti. Please continue to pray for them:

Lord, at times such as this,
                when we realize that the ground beneath our feet is not as solid as we had imagined,
                we plead for your mercy.

Comport the people of Haiti, Lord.
                Be their rock when the earth refuses to stand still,
and shelter them under your wings.

Pierce too, our hearts with compassion, we who watch from afar,
                as the poorest on this side of the earth find only misery upon misery.
                Move us to act swiftly this day, to give generously every day,
                to work for justice always, and to pray unceasingly for those without hope.

And once the shaking has ceased,
                the images of destruction have stopped filling the news,
                and our thoughts have returned to life’s daily rumblings,
                let us not forget that we are all your children and they, our brothers and sisters.
                We are the work of your hands.

For though the mountains leave their place and the hills be tossed to the ground,
                your love shall never leave us, and your promise of peace will never be shaken.

Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
                Blessed be the name of the Lord, now and forever.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Our Blessed Mother foretold

Micah 5 2-3: "But you, Bethlehem-Ephrathah too small to be among the clans of Judah, From you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; Whose origin is from of old, from ancient times. (Therefore the Lord will give them up, until the time when she who is to give birth has borne, And the rest of his brethren shall return to the children of Israel.) He shall stand firm and shepherd his flock by the strength of the LORD, in the majestic name of the LORD, his God; And they shall remain, for now his greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth;"

How many times have I read this and not seen our Blessed Mother and the inauguration of the Church?