If you ask most people why there was a Protestant Reformation they answer, “Because of corruption in the Church.” That’s the common view. They might blame the indulgence controversy or Papal involvement in politics. If they’re Protestants, they probably claim the Church was doctrinally corrupt. Even Catholics give this answer. (I know. I just polled a roomful of Catholics on the question.) For centuries, in fact, this was the standard line for Catholic historians: if only the Church had done a better job, there would have been no Protestant Reformation. (Continue Reading…)
To Enter the Sanctuary by the Blood of Jesus: A Literal Account of Becoming Catholic
What follows is the story of how I became a Catholic, as best as I can remember it. I have called this a “literal account” in order to distinguish it from a more ambiguous and allusive telling of the tale that was offered here several years ago as “The Last Road.” In neither version do I say anything about many of the specific practices and doctrines that Protestants tend to find particularly objectionable. Instead, I have focused on describing landscape. This reflects the nature of the development of my own theological convictions, which was less a matter of piecemeal deduction than of an entire picture slowly coming into resolution, in which process the various objects became distinctly intelligible. Most of this narrative, therefore, is devoted to describing the contours of the biblical, theological, liturgical, ecclesiological, and soteriological considerations that would lead me to Catholicism. I will also briefly recount the final steps that I took towards and then into the Catholic Church, including the process of navigating through some of the confusing and troubling aspects of her recent history. Continue Reading…
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October 1, 2014
September 11, 2014
The Called to Communion Podcast is now available at EWTN.com
Itunes podcast here:
In addition, you can listen to or watch the live stream here.
I appreciate your calls and your interest.
August 31, 2014
Our very own Tom Brown and his wife Jessica recently were interviewed on Rebecca Cherico’s program on Radio Maria, Conversion Keeps Happening. They discuss aspects of their conversion from the PCA to the Catholic Church. The interview is available here. (Continue Reading…)
August 9, 2014
We are possibly witnessing the eradication of Christianity across large swathes of northern Iraq. Although Called to Communion seeks to avoid writing that might be viewed as alamarist or propagandist, we believe the tragic situation unfolding in Iraq deserves our immediate attention, our immediate prayers, and our immediate assistance. This is truly an ecumenical cause, as the forces that threaten Catholic communities in the Middle East also threaten Orthodox and Protestant communions as well. Through our spiritual and material union in this dire situation, we have the capacity to help our brothers and sisters in Christ who are in desperate need of help from all who are able. Without our aid, hundreds of thousands of Christians currently under threat will all the more face poverty, homelessness, and possibly death. (Continue Reading…)
August 2, 2014
In 2005, D. Stephen Long, professor of Systematic Theology at Marquette University, wrote an article titled “In need of a pope?,” in which he considered reasons why Protestantism might need a pope. Subsequently he was asked repeatedly why he did not become Catholic. So last week he wrote an article in The Christian Century titled “My church loyalties,” explaining why he is not, or at least not yet, Catholic. Stephen’s article is gracious and honest. He is a Methodist who writes with obvious affection and respect for Catholics and the Catholic Church, even while noting and explaining his differences.
July 25, 2014
In the most recent edition of Nova et Vetera, the Dominicans of the Eastern Province have published an extremely well-written and well-researched reflection on the Catholic doctrine on marriage, divorce, “remarriage,” annulment, and communion. (Please read it here.) In anticipation of the upcoming Synod on the Family, these Catholic theologians – faithful to the Church’s Magisterium – respond to some recent suggestions for changes in Catholic pastoral practice on divorce, remarriage, and communion. (Continue Reading…)
July 19, 2014
Over the Fourth of July weekend, a number of Called to Communion contributors came together in Steubenville, OH, for a retreat partim spiritual renewal, partim business meeting, partim face-to-face fellowship. (Continue Reading…)
June 21, 2014
In theologically conversant Evangelical circles, it is (or used to be) common knowledge that one of the most basic conflicts between Dispensational theologians and Covenant theologians is that they give different answers to the question, “What is the most fundamental purpose of God’s dealings with the world, as revealed in Scripture?” The classical Dispensationalist answer is “God manifesting his own glory,” whereas the Covenant theologian is likely to answer, “God’s saving work on behalf of man.” The Dispensationalist answer focuses on the various stages of biblical history in vertical relation to God, while the Covenant theologian’s answer focuses on the horizontal aspect of this same history, i.e., the various events or stages of biblical history considered in relation to one another.
May 26, 2014
Most Americans probably think of Christianity as either Protestant or Latin Rite Roman Catholic. They may have a vague understanding of “Orthodoxy,” which they identify with the Greeks, Russians, or other Eastern Europeans. But, by and large, “Christianity” means the Latin West or, to a lesser extent, the Greek (and Cyrillic) East. As generalizations go, this one is not terribly far from the mark. Out of the estimated 2.2 billion Christians in the world, the vast majority are Roman Catholic (1.1 billion), Protestant (800 million) or Orthodox (200 million). Most of the Orthodox are Russian (150 million) or Greek (25 million.) (Continue Reading…)
May 13, 2014
Whoever tells you that theology does not play a role in Bible translation is selling you something. It is probably a “very accurate” translation, or maybe a “very literal” one. There are lots of problems with being too literal when translating, though there is at least one potential benefit: there may be less injection of theological bias into the translation (note that I do not say no injection of bias). The problems arguably make literalistic translations more dangerous in some ways for the average layman. Why? Because the layman is almost certainly not a Greek or Hebrew or Aramaic or Latin scholar, and is hence unqualified to make decisions about interpreting literal translations. There are plenty of cans of worms that can be opened when an unskilled individual—no matter how bright he may be—starts making guesses about what literal translation ABC really means. Does it mean DEF, or maybe JKLMN? How does one decide? Generally, the layman decides by interpreting it (if he can) in accord with whatever theological tradition of which he is already part. If he finds himself unable to do that, he will turn to his pastor or some other person he reckons to be a reliable source and find out what that person says. If the answer makes sense, he may adopt that person’s opinion as his own, but please note: that does not make him right, and it does not make his trusted authority correct, and it certainly does not make his theological tradition correct either. So all this theological baggage gets tossed into the mix and is rarely noticed (and even more rarely discussed). (Continue Reading…)
For older posts, visit the archives.
June 8, 2014
On March 24 of this year we posted a guest article by Brandon Addison titled “The Quest for the Historical Church: A Protestant Assessment.” We had invited Brandon some months earlier to write an essay for Called To Communion on the topic of his choice, and we are very grateful for his generosity, trust, and yeoman work in putting together such a thorough essay. Brandon’s essay is one of the first posts we have published written from a Protestant perspective, and we hope it leads to further, ever-more fruitful exchanges of this sort. (Continue Reading…)
August 11, 2013
This is a guest post by Michael Rennier. Michael received a BA in New Testament Literature from Oral Roberts University in 2002 and a Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School in 2006. He served the Anglican Church in North America as the Rector of two parishes on Cape Cod, Massachusetts for five years. After discerning a call to conversion, Michael and his family moved to St. Louis. On October 16th, 2011, he and his wife were received into full communion with the Catholic Church by the Most Rev. Robert Carlson, Archbishop of St. Louis. Michael tells the story of his conversion in “Into the Half-Way House: The Story of an Episcopal Priest.” In May of 2012 he wrote another guest post for CTC titled “Immortal Diamond: The Search of Gerard Manley Hopkins for Beauty. He currently works for the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
January 27, 2013
This is a guest article by Casey Chalk. Casey was born and raised in a Virginia suburb of Washington D.C. Casey was baptized into the Catholic Church and received the sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Communion before leaving the Church with his parents for evangelicalism at the age of eight. Casey attended the University of Virginia, where he was introduced to Reformed theology. Upon graduation in 2007 (B.A. History, Religious Studies; Masters in Teaching), Casey became a member of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) and enrolled in Reformed Theological Seminary. However, an intensive period of study of the “Catholic question” ultimately resulted in Casey’s reunion with the Catholic Church in October 2010. He was confirmed at St. Timothy’s Catholic Church in Chantilly, Virginia at the Easter Vigil in 2011. Casey works for the federal government, and joyfully also received the sacrament of marriage in August 2012 with his wife Claire. (Continue Reading…)
December 12, 2012
This is a guest article by Dr. Kenneth J. Howell. Dr. Howell earned an M.Div. from Westminster Theological Seminary, an M.A. in Linguistics and Philosophy from the University of South Florida, a Ph.D. from Indiana University in Linguistics and the Philosophy of Science, and a second Ph.D. from Lancaster University (U.K.) in the History of Christianity and Science. He was a Presbyterian minister for eighteen years and a professor at Reformed Theological Seminary for seven years. He was received into the Catholic Church in 1996. He taught in several universities until 2012, the last of which was a decade at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) where he also was the Director of the Institute of Catholic Thought. He now serves as the Resident Theologian and Director of Pastoral Care of the Coming Home Network International. He continues his work of translating and commenting on the early Church Fathers, having already authored Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp of Smyrna: A New Translation and Theological Commentary and Clement of Rome and the Didache: A New Translation and Theological Commentary. In June of 2010 we posted the video of his talk titled “The Issue of Authority in Early Christianity,” which he delivered at the Deep in History conference in 2009. (Continue Reading…)
September 23, 2012
This is a guest post by Jason Stellman. Jason was born and raised in Orange County, CA, and served as a missionary with Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa in Uganda (’91-’92) and in Hungary (’94-’00). After becoming Reformed and being subsequently “dismissed” from ministry with Calvary, he went to Westminster Seminary California where he received an M.Div. in 2004. After graduation he was ordained by the Pacific Northwest Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America and called to plant Exile Presbyterian Church in the Seattle area, where he served from 2004 until resigning in the Spring of 2012. He is the author of Dual Citizens: Worship and Life Between the Already and the Not Yet (Reformation Trust, 2009), and The Destiny of the Species (forthcoming from Wipf and Stock Publications). In 2011 he served as the prosecutor in the trial of Peter Leithart in the Pacific Northwest Presbytery of the PCA. He currently resides in the Seattle area with his wife and three children. He was received into full communion with the Catholic Church on September 23, 2012. (Continue Reading…)
August 6, 2012
May 27, 2012
This a guest post by Joshua Lim. Joshua graduated this Spring from Westminster Seminary California, where he earned his MA in historical theology. He was born and raised in the PCUSA. He spent a few years in college as a Baptist before moving back to a confessional Reformed denomination (URCNA) prior to entering seminary. He was received into full communion with the Catholic Church this year on April 21st, the feast day of St. Anselm. He plans on continuing his studies in systematic theology.
March 14, 2012
“Have you been Born Again? Catholic Reflections on a Protestant Doctrine, or How Calvin’s view of Salvation destroyed his Doctrine of the Church”
When I first began to study Calvin in earnest, I was puzzled by what seemed a glaring omission in his writings and sermons. He never counseled his readers and listeners to be “Born Again.” This struck me as odd because I knew our denomination (PCA) considered Calvin to be our true founder. I also knew that the evangelical doctrine of “New Birth” (regeneration), understood as the moment of personal, conscious conversion, was the linchpin, the central dogma of our congregation. As an Evangelical Presbyterian, I had grown up constantly hearing these exhortations to be “Born Again.” My pastors and teachers revered evangelistic luminaries like Billy Graham and Bill Bright right along with the great Lion of Geneva. (Continue Reading…)
March 5, 2012
On Monday, March 26, ACT 3 and Wheaton College will be hosting “A Conversation on Unity in Christ’s Mission,” involving a dialogue in Edman Chapel between John Armstrong and Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago. The event will be streamed live from the Wheaton.edu website. In light of that forthcoming event, we invited Devin Rose to review Armstrong’s most recent book. Devin is well known to CTC readers. In July of 2010 he wrote a guest post for us titled “Faith and Reason in the Context of Conversion,” in which he recounted his conversion twelve years ago from atheism to faith in Christ. Devin is also the author of the recently published book If Protestantism is True: The Reformation Meets Rome (2011). He blogs at St. Joseph’s Vanguard. We’re grateful to Devin for his thoughtful review of Armstrong’s book. – Eds.
February 13, 2012
Readers of Called To Communion will recognize the name Fred Noltie, since in July of last year he wrote a guest post for us titled “The Accidental Catholic.” Recently we invited Fred to join the CTC team, and we’re delighted that he has agreed. Fred was in the Presbyterian Church in America for twenty years, attending both Covenant College and Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. On the Easter Vigil of 2005 he, his wife Sabryna, and their son were together received into full communion with the Catholic Church at St. Lawrence parish in Monett, Missouri, where they are presently members. In this article Fred tells the story how he and his family became Catholic. Fred, welcome to CTC! -Eds.
In The Accidental Catholic I described how I realized that Protestantism’s proposed means for discerning revealed truth in the Bible do not afford us any basis for certainty about what that truth actually is. This fact, which struck me like a bolt out of the blue, forced me to realize that I could not remain a Protestant. But on the day that I decided that I was no longer Protestant I was equally certain that I would never become Catholic. I was just not interested in that at all, because – after all – it was the Catholic Church, and I just “knew” it was wrong! Why did I change my mind? (Continue Reading…)
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August 31, 2014
Our very own Tom Brown and his wife Jessica recently were interviewed on Rebecca Cherico’s program on Radio Maria, Conversion Keeps Happening. They discuss aspects of their conversion from the PCA to the Catholic Church. The interview is available here. (more…)
April 16, 2014
Protestant criticisms of the Catholic Church frequently target the medieval Catholic Church as a prime example of the Church’s problematic relationship with politics and the secular order. These critics often claim that the medieval Church was ruled by a greedy hierarchy bent on increasing its power in Europe and abroad, eager to silence or even eliminate its detractors or opponents, and rocked by internal scandals, corruption, and ultimately confusion. The seeds of the Reformation, so many Protestants believe, were sown during this tumultuous period where attempts at reform, like conciliarism, were destroyed underfoot by power-hungry popes. (more…)
November 11, 2012
In July of this year, Jason Stellman wrote a Called To Communion guest post titled “I Fought the Church and the Church Won,” in which he explained briefly why he was becoming Catholic. Last week I had an opportunity to talk with Jason about this paradigm change, and the four years of internal wrestling that preceded it. (more…)
June 17, 2012
In this episode, Tom Riello, a former PCA pastor, interviews Jason Stewart, a former pastor in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and his wife Cindy on the topic of their conversion to the Catholic faith in 2011. Jason earned his Master of Divinity from Mid-America Reformed Seminary (Dyer, IN) in 2005, and subsequently served for five and a half years as pastor of Trinity OPC in eastern Pennsylvania. Jason and Cindy currently live in Rockford, IL, and have four children. He is completing a two year course of study with the Diocese of Rockford’s Diaconal Program.
February 17, 2012
August 2, 2011
Stephen Beck was raised Evangelical, but read his way into the Reformed world. He became a member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and then the Presbyterian Church in America. Stephen and his family were received into the Catholic Church on the Easter Vigil of 2011 at St. Andrew’s by the Bay Catholic Church in Annapolis, Maryland. He has a Master’s degree from St. John’s College in Annapolis and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Greek and Latin at the Catholic University of America. Stephen is a brilliant thinker with a deep love for Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church. In this episode, Stephen’s personal friend and regular CTC contributor, Jeremy Tate, interviews him to find out the reasons behind his conversion.
Right click here to save the MP3 file.
July 16, 2011
On Friday, July 8, I was the guest on the Catholic Answers Live radio program, taking calls and questions from non-Catholics. The one-hour broadcast featured the following questions and discussions:
7′ A discussion of John Calvin’s view of his relation to the Catholic Church, the Catholic positions he affirmed, and his rejection of denominationalism.
15′ A discussion of the Catholic doctrine of communion of the saints, and whether the saints can hear our prayers.
22′ A discussion of legalism and scrupulosity among Catholics.
28′ Why is it difficult for Protestant leaders who recognize the truth of the Catholic Church to become Catholic? Wouldn’t remaining Protestant, in order to hold on to reputation, livelihood, etc. be contrary to Protestant theology?
33′ What are some resources for non-Catholics who want to understand the differences between Calvinism and Catholicism?
36′ What is the Catholic understanding of the relation between divine sovereignty and human freedom?
41′ How does the Catholic understanding of justification address the Reformed claim that the scriptural evidence supports the Protestant notion of justification by the imputation of the alien righteousness of Christ to the believer?
51′ What is the Catholic position on eternal security and the possibility of apostasy, and what is the support for that position?
Listen to the program:
Or download it by right-clicking here.
November 24, 2010
In this episode, Tom Riello, former PCA minister, interviews Annie Witz, a convert from the OPC (Orthodox Presbyterian Church). Annie’s father is an elder in the OPC church and serves on the board of Westminster Seminary California. Annie shares her personal conversion story from being a devout OPC member to a Catholic in the Melkite Greek Catholic Church (an Eastern Catholic Church). Of particular interest is the role that the women saints, especially the Blessed Virgin Mary, played in her conversion. We are thrilled to have our first female guest on the show!
To download the mp3, click here.
August 25, 2010
May 30, 2010For older posts, visit the archives.
Called to Communion Radio
September 25, 2014
Listeners to CTC Radio often ask about the Catholic teaching on marriage, divorce, and communion in the Catholic Church. With them in mind, I have attached a brief article I wrote for One Voice, the newspaper for the diocese of Birmingham.
To listen to CTC Radio, tune in to EWTN at 2:00 PM Eastern Tuesday through Thursday.
Podcasts are available here
Here is the Article:
There will be an extraordinary session of the Synod of Bishops in October to discuss “pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization.” No doubt the synod will discuss many issues, but none has garnered more media attention than the status of civilly divorced and remarried Catholics. In particular, the media have focused on the question of their eligibility to receive communion. Cardinal Walter Kasper encouraged speculation about a change in the Church’s discipline by asking a consistory of cardinals in February whether or not the Church should continue to refuse communion to civilly divorced and remarried Catholics. As the synod approaches, it seems appropriate to reflect on what the Church can and cannot change about her doctrine and discipline.
What is the rationale for barring the civilly divorced and remarried from Holy Communion? The answer to this requires an understanding of Christian marriage. According to the teaching of Christ and the Catholic faith, Christian marriage is by definition a lifelong union, effected by a promise of fidelity and the intent to raise a family, elevated by Christ to the dignity of a sacrament. It is always indissoluble under any and all circumstances.
To understand the current discussion, the key point to emphasize is the indissolubility of a valid Christian marriage. The Catechism states:
Thus the marriage bond has been established by God himself in such a way that a marriage concluded and consummated between baptized persons can never be dissolved. This bond, which results from the free human act of the spouses and their consummation of the marriage, is a reality, henceforth irrevocable, and gives rise to a covenant guaranteed by God’s fidelity. The Church does not have the power to contravene this disposition of divine wisdom. (CCC 1640)
The Church has no power to change this teaching, because it is the teaching of Christ. (Matthew 19:11-12) This is something the non-Catholic media often misunderstand. The Church’s dogma on marriage is not a “policy” that can be changed, any more than the Nicene Creed is a “policy.” In this regard, the Church’s Magisterium is a servant of the truth, not its master. The Catechism says, “Yet this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it.” (CCC 86)
Because marriage is indissoluble, a validly married Catholic who obtains a civil divorce from a judge and then contracts another civil marriage is objectively in the state of ongoing adultery. Jesus said, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10:11-12) Again, following the teaching of Christ and the words of Sacred Scripture, the Church has no choice but to withhold communion from those deemed to be in grave sin. (1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 Corinthians 11:27-29; Matthew 18: 17)
Some have asked whether or not a person could “repent” for a failed first marriage, receive the sacraments of reconciliation, and then be admitted to communion while remaining in an invalid second marriage (i.e., a relationship the Church deems adulterous). This proposal fails to take into account the doctrine on Christian marriage and the doctrine on reconciliation and penance. By definition, there is no forgiveness of sins and no reconciliation as long as one intends to persist in grave sin. St. John Paul II explains, “Without a sincere and firm purpose of amendment, sins remain ‘unforgiven,’ in the words of Jesus, and with him in the Tradition of the Old and New Covenants.” (Dominum et Vivificantem) If a valid marriage exists, all subsequent unions are adulterous by definition. “Repentance,” in this context, must mean repentance for the subsequent union, whatever else may be involved.
The Church does recognize some situations in which reconciliation with a spouse is impossible and in which subsequent civil unions have resulted in children being born. In these cases, the Church sometimes permits the parents in these unions to remain together for the sake of the children, provided they agree to live as brother and sister. This is not a tacit recognition of the subsequent marriage, but rather an unusual and, quite frankly, difficult concession that Catholics must make for the sake of children.
What then could the Church change? Theoretically, some change is possible to the process by which Catholics obtain annulments. It is highly unlikely, however, that such changes could dispense with canonical expertise or judicial process, since the declaration of nullity is a finding of juridical fact and requires moral certainty on the part of the judge. The most likely outcome to the Synod is a deepening pastoral emphasis on the means and the virtue of chastity, and a renewed catechesis on the meaning of Christian marriage. A good deal of ink has been spilled on this topic and I fear that many people may have unfulfilled expectations for what the Church can and will do. Let us remember the Bishops and the Holy Father in our prayers, and ask that they have wisdom and grace to communicate the Church’s teaching with compassion and clarity.
September 11, 2014
My television interview on Women of Grace is now available here.
We discuss the new radio show, Called to Communion, as well as my path to the Catholic Church.
September 9, 2014
Catholics and some non-Catholic Christians disagree about the nature of the sacraments. Are they merely signs? Do they really conform us to Christ? (more…)
September 4, 2014
How do we know the will of God for the Church? On CTC Radio today, I hope we can generate discussion about Scripture and Tradition.
I welcome your emails at email@example.com
There is also live video feed from the Radio Studios at http://www.ewtn.com/radio/radiolive.asp
Here, finally, is a short text I prepared for One Voice, the Diocesan paper for the Diocese of Birmingham. (more…)
September 2, 2014
Today at 2:00 PM Eastern, we launch the new EWTN Radio Show Called to Communion.
We hope to encourage collaboration across media (internet and radio) as we continue to discuss what divides us as Christians and as human beings. (more…)
May 8, 2014
Several weeks ago, I spoke to the RCIA class at St Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic Church (Charlotte, NC) on the topic of prayer as presented in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. My focus was on the prayers of Sacred Scripture, and how these form the bedrock of the traditional prayer life of the Church. This seems like a good topic for our “Catholic Life and Devotion” series at Called to Communion, so here is the audio recording of that talk (the written outline is included below):
I was particularly pleased to participate in the RCIA class at St Thomas Aquinas because this parish has extended great hospitality to my own home church, St Basil the Great Ukrainian Greek Catholic Mission, allowing us to use their chapel for our Sunday liturgies and other feast days, and to arrange the chapel for the particular needs of the Byzantine liturgy. This is truly a case of the one Church “breathing with both lungs” (Eastern and Western), and it has been one of the great joys of my own “Catholic life and devotion” to be a part of this mutual action at first hand, on the local level. (more…)
April 19, 2014
Christians have been venerating the Blessed Virgin Mary for a long time. A really, really long time. Nevertheless I think one may be excused from wondering whether its antiquity doesn’t tell us something about its validity as a form of Christian piety. For now though I will simply appeal to what Jason Kettinger has designated the “Noltie Conundrum,” which you may read here, because I would like this post to be short. (more…)
April 9, 2014
Reformed Christians have a special relationship with beer. I discovered this my junior year in college after spending my first two years at LSU exploring nearly every other Christian faith tradition on campus. The combination of rich fellowship, deep theological discussion, and high quality beer, while sitting outside on a Louisiana front porch on a humid night, always seemed like a taste of heaven. Reformed Christians understand that beer is good. Like any other inherent good it can and has been abused, but Reformed Christians are right to point out that the real problem is not beer, but the human heart. Catholics share this appreciation for good beer consumed in moderation. (more…)
April 1, 2014
On the Index page of Called to Communion, there is a section entitled “Catholic Life and Devotion.” This section features reflections on life in the Catholic Church based upon CTC contributors’ growing experiences as members of the Church in full communion.
There are three reasons for calling attention to this section of our website: First, as time goes by, converts naturally come to focus less on the process of becoming Catholic and more on simply being Catholic. We want this refocusing to be expressed on our website without in any way displacing or diminishing the purpose of this site, which is to facilitate dialogue between Catholic and Protestants who desire unity in truth. Secondly, non-Catholic onlookers, both critics and inquirers, are often curious about daily life and devotion in the Catholic Church. “Catholic Life and Devotion” provides us with a distinct forum in which to discuss being Catholic in addition to our many discussions of the reasons for and against becoming Catholic. Finally, although we have already written several blog posts along this line, in the near future we intend to write more of these posts (without writing less of the other kinds of posts) by way of sharing with you some of what we are discovering as members of the Catholic Church. (more…)
March 27, 2014
St. Thomas writes the following about attaining true happiness:
[M]an cannot attain his end of Perfect Happiness by his own powers, but only by God’s grace. [ST I-II q.5 a.5]
Why? Because for man, perfect happiness comes only through seeing God Himself. Aquinas refers to what St. Paul writes in 1 Cor. 2:9: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love Him.” The vision of God is beyond our natural powers, both of sense and of mind. He addresses the point that seeing God’s Essence is our true happiness in ST I-II q.3 a.8, quoting St. John 1:32: “When He shall appear, we shall be like to Him; and because we shall see Him as He is.
Aquinas makes this same point repeatedly in the Summa Theologiae and Summa contra Gentiles: There is no possible way that our natural powers are sufficient for us to get to heaven—to see God—on our own. There is no question of deeds we might do nor of any natural merit that we can ever do or ever attain that can achieve this. To the contrary, Aquinas insists (and so has the Catholic Church throughout the ages) that we can only ever see God – we can only attain to heaven – by the grace of God. There is nothing in us whatsoever that can change this fact, even if we had never sinned. But we have sinned, and that additional problem makes things all the more impossible.
Aquinas is not presenting some fancy idea of his own. He is merely explaining what the Church has always taught. Those who say that the Catholic Church teaches we can reach heaven on our own are simply mistaken.
December 9, 2013
For non-Catholics, one of the strangest aspects of Catholic faith is its doctrine of suffering. It is not strange that Catholics should concern themselves with suffering. Suffering is a universal human problem. Some religious traditions (like Buddhism) are almost wholly concerned with the problem of suffering: how to eliminate it, endure it, or even deny it. But Catholics seem strange because, at times, they embrace it. “I rejoice in my sufferings,” says St. Paul. (Colossians 1:24)
To be clear, Catholics really have a two-fold view of suffering. On the one hand, the Catholic Church has done more to eliminate suffering than any organization in history. In her hospitals, schools, and charitable works, the Catholic Church literally invented the modern institutions of benevolence. And at the interpersonal level, Catholics see Christ in the suffering of the other. Their faith compels them to show empathy and compassion. “Religion that is pure and faultless, says St. James, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction.” (James 1:27)
But the really mysterious aspect of Catholic faith comes in confrontation with one’s own suffering. Every human being faces a choice: we can view suffering as a meaningless evil, something to be avoided at all costs, or we can accept – on faith – that it just might be part of a rich and meaningful existence. That there is a good to be found in suffering that we would not have found otherwise. And here, the Catholic faith is clear: “I rejoice in my sufferings.” Even the fall of man plays into God’s mysterious design. “Oh, happy fault!” we pray at Easter Vigil.
In Catholic faith, these two aspects of suffering are bound together in a marvelous way. The greatest act of love, the greatest compassion we can perform, is to willingly embrace suffering for the good of another, freely to give up something of value – to incur some personal loss – for the sake of another. In the religious sphere, when this suffering is ordered to God, this is what we mean by sacrifice. We accept loss or hurt for the sake of God, in thanksgiving or in reparation.
This aspect of Catholic faith offers a way to turn every act of suffering into sacrifice, to make that which seems senseless and absurd into something that is meaningful. Our model here is Christ himself:
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him. (Philippians 2:5-6)
Some non-Catholic Christians have a different view of Christ’s death. For them, Christ suffered so that we don’t have to. (One often finds this view among Pentecostal Christians.) But they fail to see that this denudes Christ’s death of its greatest value: to transform us into his very image and likeness, to make us into vessels of love who would willingly embrace suffering for the good of another. Indeed, for St. Paul, salvation consists precisely in this – that we might share in the sufferings of Christ:
I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10-11)
For Catholics, the Eucharist is “the source and summit” of the Catholic faith. This is because the Eucharist is at the heart of this transformation through suffering. The Eucharist is the Sacrifice of Christ, re-presented to God in thanksgiving and reparation. But we share in that offering of Christ. We bring all our “prayers, works, joys, and sufferings” to the Mass. Through the Mass, the most seemingly meaningless toil can become an act of religious beauty.
Everyone has to confront the problem of suffering. The great question is whether we find meaning in it or not. Dag Hammarskjöld, the former Secretary General of the U.N., beautifully described his own confrontation with this mystery:
I don’t know Who — or what — put the question, I don’t know when it was put. I don’t even remember answering. But at some moment I did answer Yes to Someone — or Something — and from that hour I was certain that existence is meaningful and that, therefore, my life, in self-surrender, had a goal.
I don’t know much about Hammarskjöld’s Christian faith. I am puzzled by his ignorance of “The Questioner,” though I am moved by how clearly he grasped “The question.” Do we embrace life as given, replete with suffering and toil, as meaningful? I think St. Paul would say to Hammarskjöld: “What you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.” (Acts 17:23) The Questioner has a name, and He has given us the answer: “Lord, be it done to me, according to Thy Word!”
November 1, 2013
Today, November 1st, the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of all Saints. The roots of this feast are found as far back as the time of the Emperor Constantine when the Catholic faith first became legal in the Roman Empire. The legalization of the faith ended the threat of Roman persecution and allowed for the public recognition of those who had given their lives for Jesus Christ. From the 4th to the 7th century various towns held different feasts in honor of various saints that took on local importance. Then, on May 13th, 1609 Pope Boniface the IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome to the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the Martyrs. In the 8th century Pope Gregory III moved the date to November 1st to commemorate the dedication of an oratory in the original St. Peter’s Basilica to the relics of the apostles, saints, martyrs, and confessors.
From the Blog
If you ask most people why there was a Protestant Reformation they answer, "Because of corruption in the Church." That's the common view. They might blame the indulgence controversy or Papal involvement in politics. If they're Protestants, they probably claim the Church was doctrinally corrupt. Even Catholics give this answer. ...
The Called to Communion Podcast is now available at EWTN.com Itunes podcast here: In addition, you can listen to or watch the live stream here. I appreciate your calls and your interest. -David
Our very own Tom Brown and his wife Jessica recently were interviewed on Rebecca Cherico's program on Radio Maria, Conversion Keeps Happening. They discuss aspects of their conversion from the PCA to the Catholic Church. The interview is available here.
Listeners to CTC Radio often ask about the Catholic teaching on marriage, divorce, and communion in the Catholic Church. With them in mind, I have attached a brief article I ...
Our very own Tom Brown and his wife Jessica recently were interviewed on Rebecca Cherico's program on Radio Maria, Conversion Keeps Happening. They discuss aspects of their conversion from the ...
On March 24 of this year we posted a guest article by Brandon Addison titled "The Quest for the Historical Church: A Protestant Assessment." We had invited Brandon some months earlier to write an essay for Called To Communion on the topic of his choice, and we are very grateful for his generosity, trust, and yeoman work in putting together such a thorough essay. Brandon's essay is one of the first posts we have published written from a Protestant perspective, and we hope it leads to further, ever-more fruitful exchanges of this sort.
This is a guest post by Michael Rennier. Michael received a BA in New Testament Literature from Oral Roberts University in 2002 and a Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School in 2006. He served the Anglican Church in North America as the Rector of two parishes on Cape Cod, Massachusetts for five years. After discerning a call to conversion, Michael and his family moved to St. Louis. On October 16th, 2011, he and his wife were received into full communion with the Catholic Church by the Most Rev. Robert Carlson, Archbishop of St. Louis. Michael tells the story of his conversion in "Into the Half-Way House: The Story of an Episcopal Priest." In May of 2012 he wrote another ...
Catholic Life and Devotion
Several weeks ago, I spoke to the RCIA class at St Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic Church (Charlotte, NC) on the topic of prayer as presented in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. My focus was on the prayers of Sacred ...
Christian Unity in the News
“After Five Centuries of Division, Catholics and Lutherans Consider Their Common Heritage”
Pope Francis on Unity in the Body of Christ
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to Attend Pope Francis’s Inaugural Mass
Catholic Church and Four Reformed Denominations Agree to Recognize the Validity of Each Other’s Baptisms