Secular philosopher discovers the Catholic Church: Annunciation, Part 3 of 5


-by KRISTEN ANNA-MARIA HAUCK, Obl. OSB has a MA degree in Humanities from the University of Texas at Dallas. She is a Benedictine Oblate of the Monastery of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Westfield, Vermont and lives in a tiny hermitage in Maine.

The Annunciation

“I was a bit of an odd child from a very young age. My parents still tell how I didn’t have just one imaginary friend, but seven — one of which was a doctor! Indeed, I had a vivid imagination, which had the pesky habit of making me too curious. I often wandered on my own, like the time I caused a panic when I did not return home from school. I was simply still riding the school bus because I wanted to see where it went after it dropped me off. I was blunt in my questioning, to the point of rudeness, for I would quickly grow impatient with adults who attempted to pacify me with false answers. I wasn’t just curious; I was seeking after something — someone. The truth.

During my early teens, a few years after my family had settled in Maine, this yearning was expressed through an unquenchable thirst for books combined with the impetus to try everything. I remember discovering Mother Teresa. I didn’t understand exactly what she was — that she was a Catholic nun — but I knew I wanted to be like her.

Then there was Malcolm X. I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which began two lifelong events for me: 1. the pursuit of learning and of understanding language, which began with my own reading of The Loom of Language, a technical linguistic treatise by Frederick Bodmer published in 1944; and 2. the search for the True Religion, which began with my own declaration of being Muslim. In his autobiography, Malcolm X discusses reading The Loom of Language and its effect on his own linguistic sensibilities. As for the Muslim declaration, the impetus was primarily Malcolm X’s accounts of his trip to Mecca where he encountered hundreds of people from every walk of life and nationality, brought together in the communion of prayer to God. The moment I read that description, I desired it.

I had a proclivity to dye my hair green or shave it completely. I listened to punk rock and concluded that almost nobody had a clue what was going on in the world. I was disillusioned, desperately seeking after a truth that no one seemed comfortable to admit, let alone discuss. At best I was highly imaginative, and at worst I was crazy. Between the culture of my youth and my own weakness, I concluded in favor of the latter. I tried running away, I did drugs, I attempted suicide.

Then one night, when I was seventeen, I had a dream. I was in a beautiful countryside. The sky was vibrant blue, and the grass was green and soft. In the distance there was a hill, and upon it stood this beautiful lady with a white tunic and a blue veil. It was as if I knew her. I hastened up the hill to the lady, happy to meet her. When I reached her, she smiled and announced, “I have something to tell you; you are going to be a nun.”

“OK!” I answered, “But not a Catholic nun — how about a Buddhist nun? I’ll be a Buddhist nun!” Then I turned and ran back down the hill before the lady could answer me. I have no idea why I was against being a Catholic nun. At that time I knew nothing of Catholicism. Yet somehow, in my ignorance, I was firmly against it.

The next morning I woke up with determination. I had a task before me: I was supposed to be a nun — a Buddhist nun. So I set out to become Buddhist and find out how to be a Buddhist nun.

I went into my high school and sought out my literature teacher, who was a very kind and worldly woman. I proceeded to tell her how I needed to become Buddhist so I could become a nun. Hesitant, she gave me the contact of a meditation space in the next town over. I went, bought several books by Chogyam Trungpa, and enrolled myself in several Buddhist meditation classes.

While becoming Buddhist was easy, becoming a Buddhist nun was not. As it turns out, there really isn’t such a thing. The most I could ever achieve was a regular, humdrum life, punctuated by lots of meditation and retreats. But I didn’t want merely week- ends of meditation; I wanted meditation all day, every day. Actually, I didn’t want meditation at all. It quickly became evident to me that Buddhist meditation was really nothing other than a speaking to oneself. I was struck by the absurdity of a self telling itself that it’s not really a self. The very act of telling demonstrates there is a self that is doing the telling — for there could be no telling without a subject to tell.

Though I found meditation helpful for calming anxiety and ordering my own thoughts, after a couple of years I abandoned Buddhism altogether and turned instead to paganism. I could not get over the absurdity of self-annihilation, and, more importantly, my imagination rejected wholesale the nonexistence of God. For me, the question was never whether God did or did not exist. Rather, I was trying to determine who God is; that is, which god was the God of gods?”

Love,
Matthew

Saints on salvation

Mt 7:13-14
Phil 2:12

“Lord, what will become of sinners?”
St Dominic

“Beyond a doubt the elect are few.”
“Not all, nor even a majority, are saved. . . They are indeed many, if regarded by themselves, but they are few in comparison with the far larger number of those who shall be punished with the devil.”
“As a man lives, so shall he die.”
“The Lord called the world a “field” and all the faithful who draw near to him “wheat.” All through the field, and around the threshing-floor, there is both wheat and chaff. But the greater part is chaff; the lesser part is wheat, for which is prepared a barn not a fire. . . The good also are many, but in comparison with the wicked the good are few. Many are the grains of wheat, but compared with the chaff, the grains are few.”
“The Apostle commands us to rejoice, but in the Lord, not in the world. For, you see, as Scripture says, whoever wishes to be a friend of this world will be counted as God’s enemy. Just as a man cannot serve two masters, so too no-one can rejoice both in the world and in the Lord.”
‘If you wish to imitate the multitude, then you shall not be among the few who shall enter in by the narrow gate.’
St. Augustine, Doctor and Father of the Church

“The number of the saved is as few as the number of grapes left after the vine pickers have passed.”
“But I tremble when I see so many souls lost these days. See, they fall into Hell as leaves fall from the trees at the approach of winter.”
“Nothing afflicts the heart of Jesus so much as to see all His sufferings of no avail to so many.”
“Shall we all be saved? Shall we go to Heaven? Alas, my children, we do not know at all! But I tremble when I see so many souls lost these days. See, they fall into Hell as leaves fall from the trees at the approach of winter.”
“Alas, my friend. We cannot be together in Heaven unless we have begun to live so in this world. Death makes no change in that. As the tree falls, so shall it lie. . . Jesus Christ said . . . “He that does not hear the Church, let him be to thee as a heathen and a publican.” And he also said, “There shall be one fold and one shepherd,” and He made St. Peter the chief shepherd of His flock. My dear friend, there are not two ways of serving Jesus Christ. There is only one good way, and that is to serve Him as He Himself desires to be served.”
St. Jean Vianney

“Meditate on the horrors of Hell which will last for eternity because of one easily committed mortal sin. Try hard to be among the few who are chosen. Think of the eternal flames of Hell, and how few there are that are saved.”
‘Yes, indeed, many will be damned; few will be saved.’
“I was watching souls going down into the abyss as thick and fast as snowflakes falling in the winter mist.”
St. Benedict Joseph Labre

“The greater part of men choose to be damned rather than to love Almighty God.”
“He who abuses too much the mercy of God will be abandoned by Him.”
“The saved are few, but we must live with the few if we would be saved with the few. O God, too few indeed they are: yet amongst those few I wish to be!”
“All persons desire to be saved, but the greater part, because they will not adopt the means of being saved, fall into sin and are lost. … In fact, the Elect are much fewer than the damned, for the reprobate are much more numerous than the Elect.”
“Everyone desires to be saved but the greater part is lost.”
“All would wish to be saved and to enjoy the glory of paradise; but to gain heaven, it is necessary to walk in the straight road that leads to eternal bliss. This road is the observance of the divine commandments. Hence, in his preaching, the Baptist exclaimed: Make straight the way of the Lord.”
“We owe God a deep regret of gratitude for the purely gratuitous gift of the true faith with which he has favored us. How many are the infidels, heretics and schismatic who do not enjoy comparable happiness? The earth is full of them and they are all lost!”
“The greater part of men choose to be damned rather than to love Almighty God.”
“God, observes a certain author, wishes to be served by his priests with the fervor with which the seraphim serve him in heaven; otherwise he will withdraw his graces and permit them to sleep in tepidity, and thence to fall, first into the precipice of sin and afterwards into hell.”
‘To obtain salvation we must tremble at the thought of being lost, and tremble not so much at the thought of hell, as of sin, which alone can send us thither. He who dreads sin avoids dangerous occasions, frequently recommends himself to God, and has recourse to the means of keeping himself in the state of grace. He who acts thus will be saved; but for him who lives not in this manner it is morally impossible to be saved.’
‘In the Great Deluge in the days of Noah, nearly all mankind perished, eight persons alone being saved in the Ark. In our days a deluge, not of water but of sins, continually inundates the earth, and out of this deluge very few escape. Scarcely anyone is saved.’
“‘Some will say, It is enough for me to be saved. “No,” says St. Augustine, “it is not enough; if you say that it is enough, you will be lost.'”
“. . . let us bear in mind that unless we are humble we shall not only do no good, but we shall not be saved. “Unless you . . . become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” In order, then, to enter into the kingdom of heaven, we must become children, not in age, but in humility. St. Gregory says that as pride is a sign of reprobation, so humility is a mark of predestination.”
“What is the number of those who love Thee, O God? How few they are! The Elect are much fewer than the damned! Alas! The greater portion of mankind lives in sin unto the devil, and not unto Jesus Christ. O Savior of the world, I thank Thee for having called and permitted us to live in the true faith which the Holy Roman Catholic Church teaches. . . But alas, O my Jesus! How small is the number of those who live in this holy faith! Oh, God! The greater number of men he buried in the darkness of infidelity and heresy. Thou hast humbled Thyself to death, to the death of the cross, for the salvation of men, and these ungrateful men are unwilling even to know Thee. Ah, I pray Thee, O omnipotent God, O sovereign and infinite Good, make all men know and love Thee!”
“It is certainly a great happiness for some sinners who after a bad life are converted at their death, and are saved; but these cases are very rare: ordinarily he that leads a bad life dies a bad death.”
“It is certain that we absolutely require the divine assistance, in order to overcome temptations. . . Whoever prays obtains this grace; but whoever prays not, obtains it not, and is lost. And this is more especially the case with regard to the grace of final perseverance, of dying in the grace of God, which is the grace absolutely necessary for our salvation, and without which we should be lost forever. St. Augustine says of this grace, that God only bestows it on those who pray. And this is the reason why so few are saved, because few indeed are mindful to beg of God this grace of perseverance.”
“We were so fortunate to be born in the bosom of the Roman Church, in Christian and Catholic kingdoms, a grace that has not been granted to the greater part of men, who are born among idolaters, Mohammedans, or heretics. . . How thankful we ought to be, then, to Jesus Christ for the gift of faith! What would have become of us if we had been born in Asia, in Africa, in America, or in the midst of heretics and schismatic? He who does not believe is lost. He who does not believe shall be condemned. And thus, probably, we also would have been lost.”
“The great deluge at the time of Noah was the cause why all mankind perished, with the exception of eight persons who were saved in the Ark. In our time a deluge, not of water, but of sins, continually inundates the earth, and few persons escape it, especially among seculars. . .”
“All infidels and heretics are surely on the way to being lost. What an obligation we owe God! for causing us to be born not only after the coming of Jesus Christ, but also in countries where the true faith reigns! I thank Thee, O Lord, for this. Woe to me if, after so many transgressions, it had been my fate to live in the midst of infidels or heretics!”
“The greater number of men still say to God: Lord we will not serve Thee; we would rather be slaves of the devil, and condemned to Hell, than be Thy servants. Alas! The greatest number, my Jesus – we may say nearly all – not only do not love Thee, but offend Thee and despise Thee. How many countries there are in which there are scarcely any Catholics, and all the rest either infidels or heretics! And all of them are certainly on the way to being lost.”
St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, Doctor of the Church

“A multitude of souls fall into the depths of Hell, and it is of the faith that all who die in mortal sin are condemned for ever and ever. According to statistics, approximately 80,000 persons die every day. How many of these will die in mortal sin, and how many will be condemned! For, as their lives have been, so also will be their end.”
St. Anthony Mary Claret

“Behold how many there are who are called, and how few who are chosen! And behold, if you have no care for yourself, your perdition is more certain than your amendment, especially since the way that leads to eternal life is so narrow.”
‘Only a small number of souls achieve perfect love.’
St. John of the Cross, Doctor of the Church

“Many begin well, but there are few who persevere.”
“Out of one hundred thousand sinners who continue in sin until death, scarcely one will be saved.”
“So that you will better appreciate the meaning of Our Lord’s words, and perceive more clearly how few the Elect are, note that Christ did not say that those who walked in the path to Heaven are few in number, but that there were few who found that narrow way. It is as though the Saviour intended to say: The path leading to Heaven is so narrow and so rough, so overgrown, so dark and difficult to discern, that there are many who never find it their whole life long. And those who do find it are constantly exposed to the danger of deviating from it, of mistaking their way, and unwittingly wandering away from it, because it is so irregular and overgrown.’
St. Jerome, Doctor and Father of the Church

“The number of the elect is so small, so small, that were we to know how small it is, we should faint away with grief. The number of the elect is so small that were God to assemble them together, He would cry to them, as He did of old, by the mouth of His prophet, ‘Gather yourselves together, one by one’ — one from this province, one from that kingdom.”
‘Do not be deceived; there are only two roads: one that leads to life and is narrow; the other that leads to death and is wide. There is no middle way.’
-St. Louis Marie de Montfort

“I do not speak rashly, but as I feel and think. I do not think that many bishops are saved, but that those who perish are far more numerous.”
“What I am about to tell you is very terrible, yet I will not conceal it from you. Out of this thickly populated city with its thousands of inhabitants not one hundred people will be saved. I even doubt whether there will be as many as that!”
“What do you think? How many of the inhabitants of this city may perhaps be saved? What I am about to tell you is very terrible, yet I will not conceal it from you. Out of this thickly populated city with its thousands of inhabitants not one hundred people will be saved. I even doubt whether there will be as many as that!”
“Do you not perceive how many qualities a priest must have that he may be strong in his teaching, patient, and hold fast to the faithful word which is according to doctrine? What care and pains does this require! Moreover, he is answerable for the sins of others. To pass over everything else: If but one soul dies without Baptism, does it not entirely endanger his own salvation? For the loss of one soul is so great an evil that it is impossible to express it in words. For if the salvation of that soul was of such value that the Son of God became man and suffered so much, think of how great a punishment must the losing of it bring.”
St. John Chrysostom, Doctor and Father of the Church

“If you would be quite sure of your salvation, strive to be among the fewest of the few. Do not follow the majority of mankind, but follow those who renounce the world and never relax their efforts day or night so that they may attain everlasting blessedness.”
‘It is impossible to be saved if we turn away from thee, O Mary.’
St. Anselm, Doctor of the Church

“With the exception of those who die in childhood, most men will be damned.”
-St. Regimius of Rheims

“Ah, how many souls lose Heaven and are cast into Hell!”
-St. Francis Xavier

“Christ’s flock is called ‘little’ in comparison with the greater number of the reprobates.”
‘Nor should we think that it is enough for salvation that we are no worse off than the mass of the careless and indifferent, or that in our faith we are, like so many others, uninstructed.’
St. Bede the Venerable, Doctor and Father of the Church

“How many among these uncivilized peoples do not yet know God, and are sunk in the darkest idolatry, superstition and ignorance! … Poor souls! These are they in whom Christ saw, in all the horror of His imminent Passion, the uselessness of His agony for so many souls!”
-St. Francesca Saverio Cabrini

“It must necessarily happen that, on account of this certainly culpable ignorance in which most men live, an enormous number will come to be damned, because no sin is pardoned which is not detested, and it is impossible to detest sin properly if it is not known as such.”
St. Joseph Cafasso

‘The more the wicked abound, so much the more must we suffer with them in patience; for on the threshing floor few are the grains carried into the barns, but high are the piles of chaff burned with fire.’
“The Ark, which in the midst of the Flood was a symbol of the Church, was wide below and narrow above; and, at the summit, measured only a single cubit. . . It was wide where the animals were, narrow where men lived: for the Holy Church is indeed wide in the number of those who are carnal minded, narrow in the number of those who are spiritual.”
‘There are many who arrive at the faith, but few who are led into the heavenly kingdom. Behold how many are gathered here for today’s Feast-Day: we fill the church from wall to wall. Yet who knows how few they are who shall be numbered in that chosen company of the Elect?’
“They who are to be saved as Saints, and wish to be saved as imperfect souls, shall not be saved.”
-Pope St. Gregory the Great, Doctor and Father of the Church

“How few the Elect are may be understood from the multitude being cast out.”
St. Hilary of Poitiers, Doctor and Father of the Church

“The greater part of men will set no value on the blood of Christ, and will go on offending Him.”
St. Isidore of Seville, Doctor and Father of the Church

“Many religious go strait to Hell because they do not keep their vows!”
St. Vincent Ferrer, OP

“So many people are going to die, and almost all of them are going to Hell! So many people falling into Hell!”
-Bd. Jacinta of Fatima

“Notwithstanding assurances that God did not create any man for Hell, and that He wishes all men to be saved, it remains equally true that only few will be saved; that only few will go to Heaven; and that the greater part of mankind will be lost forever.”
-St. John Neumann

“There was a synod being held in Paris, and a great number of prelates and pastors who had the charge of souls were in attendance; the king and princes also came to add luster to that assembly by their presence. A famous preacher was invited to preach. While he was preparing his sermon, a horrible demon appeared to him and said, ‘Lay your books aside. If you want to give a sermon that will be useful to these princes and prelates, content yourself with telling them on our part, ‘We the princes of darkness thank you, princes, prelates, and pastors of souls, that due to your negligence, the greater number of the faithful are damned; also, we are saving a reward for you for this favor, when you shall be with us in Hell.'”
“Our chronicles relate an even more dreadful happening. One of our brothers, well-known for his doctrine and holiness, was preaching in Germany. He represented the ugliness of the sin of impurity so forceful that a woman fell dead of sorrow in front of everyone. Then, coming back to life, she said, “When I was presented before the Tribunal of God, sixty thousand people arrived at the same time from all parts of the world; out of that number, three were saved by going to Purgatory, and all the rest were damned.”
“A great number of Christians are lost.”
-St. Leonard of Port Maurice

‘That those who walk in the way of salvation are the smaller number is due to the vice and depraved habits imbibed in youth and nourished in childhood. By these means Lucifer has hurled into Hell so great a number of souls, and continues thus to hurl them into Hell every day, casting so many nations from abyss to abyss of darkness and errors, such as are contained in the heresies and false sects of the infidels.’
-Ven. Mary of Agreda

‘I exhort you, therefore, not to faint in your afflictions, but to be revived by God’s love, and to add daily to your zeal, knowing that in you ought to be preserved that remnant of true religion which the Lord will find when He comes on the earth. Even if bishops are driven from their Churches, be not dismayed. If traitors have arisen from among the very clergy themselves, let not this undermine your confidence in God. We are saved not by names, but by mind and purpose, and genuine love toward our Creator. Bethink you how in the attack against our Lord, high priests and scribes and elders devised the plot, and how few of the people were found really receiving the word. Remember that it is not the multitude who are being saved, but the elect of God. Be not then affrighted at the great multitude of the people who are carried hither and thither by winds like the waters of the sea. If but one be saved, like Lot at Sodom, he ought to abide in right judgment, keeping his hope in Christ unshaken, for the Lord will not forsake His holy ones. Salute all the brethren in Christ from me. Pray earnestly for my miserable soul.’
-St. Basil the Great, Doctor and Father of the Church

‘O Jesus! . . . Remember the sadness that Thou didst experience when, contemplating in the light of Thy divinity the predestination of those who would be saved by the merits of Thy sacred passion, thou didst see at the same time the great multitude of reprobates who would be damned for their sins, and Thou didst complain bitterly of those hopeless, lost, and unfortunate sinners.’
-St. Bridget of Sweden

‘With the exception of those who die in childhood, most men will be damned.’
-St. Regimius of Rheims

‘Ah, how many souls lose Heaven and are cast into Hell!’
-St. Francis Xavier

‘How many among these uncivilized peoples do not yet know God, and are sunk in the darkest idolatry, superstition and ignorance! . . . Poor souls! These are they in whom Christ saw, in all the horror of His imminent Passion, the uselessness of His agony for so many souls!’
-St. Francesca Saverio Cabrini

‘Cast a look round the world, just observe the manner of living, of speaking, and you will see immediately whether the evil of sin is known in the world or whether any attention is paid to it. Not to speak of those who live decidedly irreligious and wicked lives, how few are those who pass for good and who approach the sacraments are aware of the great evil that sin is, and the great ruin it brings with it. It must necessarily happen that, on account of this certainly culpable ignorance in which most men live, an enormous number will come to be damned, because no sin is pardoned which is not detested, and it is impossible to detest sin properly if it is not known as such.’
-St. Joseph Cafasso

‘It is as though Jesus said: “O My Father, I am indeed going to clothe myself with human flesh, but the greater part of the world will set no value on my blood!”‘
‘The greater part of men will set no value on the blood of Christ, and will go on offending Him.’
-St. Isidore of Seville, Doctor and Father of the Church

‘How few the Elect are may be understood from the multitude being cast out.’
-St. Hilary of Poitiers, Doctor and Father of the Church

‘So many people are going to die, and almost all of them are going to Hell! So many people falling into hell!’
-Bl. Jacinta of Fatima

‘Live with the few if you want to reign with the few.’
-St. John Climacus, Father of the Church

“Get out of the filth of the horrible torrent of this world, the torrent of thorns that is whirling you into the abyss of eternal perdition. . . This torrent is the world, which resembles an impetuous torrent, full of garbage and evil odours, making a lot of noise but flowing swiftly passed, dragging the majority of men into the pit of perdition.”
“The greatest evil existing today is heresy, an infernal rage which hurls countless souls into eternal damnation.”
“In order to understand more clearly this fundamental truth of Christian life, and to establish it more solidly in your soul, bear in mind that Our Lord Jesus Christ does not have simply one body and one life, but two. First, there is His own personal body which He received from the Blessed Virgin and the personal life which He lived in human form in this world. There is also His Mystical Body, namely the Church, which St. Paul calls “the body of Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 12: 27). And His second life is the life by which He dwells in this Mystical Body: in all true Christians who are members of the Church.”
“O Jesus … keep me safe in Thy Church, as in the bosom of a mother, apart from whom there is no life or salvation.”
“We must … offer ourselves to Jesus to die and shed our blood a thousand times if it were possible … in preference to the slightest deviation from the faith of His Church.”
“O my Lord Jesus, should there arise an occasion on which I would either have to die or renounce Thy holy faith, I do vow and promise Thee as firmly and constant as possible to confess and acknowledge Thee in the presence of everyone at the price of my blood, my life, and all the martyrdoms and torments imaginable, and to suffer a thousand deaths with all the tortures of earth and Hell rather than deny Thee. Oh, let me die in the faith of all Thy holy Martyrs!”
St. John Eudes

‘Take care not to resemble the multitude whose knowledge of God’s will only condemns them to more severe punishment.’
St. John of Avila

‘Notwithstanding assurances that God did not create any man for Hell, and that He wishes all men to be saved, it remains equally true that only few will be saved; that only few will go to Heaven; and that the greater part of mankind will be lost forever.’
-St. John Neumann

‘The majority of men shall not see God, excepting those who live justly, purified by righteousness and by every other virtue.’
St. Justin Martyr, Father of the Church

‘Woe to you who command others! If so many are damned by your fault, what will happen to you? If few out of those who are first in the Church of God are saved, what will happen to you? Take all states, both sexes, every condition: husbands, wives, widows, young women, young men, soldiers, merchants, craftsmen, rich and poor, noble and plebian. What are we to say about all these people who are living so badly? The following narrative from Saint Vincent Ferrer will show you what you may think about it. He relates that an archdeacon in Lyons gave up his charge and retreated into a desert place to do penance, and that he died the same day and hour as Saint Bernard. After his death, he appeared to his bishop and said to him, “Know, Monsignor, that at the very hour I passed away, thirty-three thousand people also died. Out of this number, Bernard and myself went up to heaven without delay, three went to purgatory, and all the others fell into Hell.”‘
‘Look higher still, and see the prelates of the Holy Church, pastors who have the charge of souls. Is the number of those who are saved among them greater than the number of those who are damned? Listen to Cantimpre; he will relate an event to you, and you may draw the conclusions. There was a synod being held in Paris, and a great number of prelates and pastors who had the charge of souls were in attendance; the king and princes also came to add luster to that assembly by their presence. A famous preacher was invited to preach. While he was preparing his sermon, a horrible demon appeared to him and said, “Lay your books aside. If you want to give a sermon that will be useful to these princes and prelates, content yourself with telling them on our part, ‘We the princes of darkness thank you, princes, prelates, and pastors of souls, that due to your negligence, the greater number of the faithful are damned; also, we are saving a reward for you for this favor, when you shall be with us in Hell.”‘
-St. Leonard of Port Maurice

‘I see around me a multitude of those who, blindly persevering in error, despise the true God; but I am a Christian nevertheless, and I follow the instruction of the Apostles. If this deserves chastisement, reward it; for I am determined to suffer every torture rather then become the slave of the devil. Others may do as they please since they are. . . reckless of the future life which is to be obtained only by sufferings. Scripture tells us that “narrow is the way that leads to life” . . . because it is one of affliction and of persecutions suffered for the sake of justice; but it is wide enough for those who walk upon it, because their faith and the hope of an eternal reward make it so for them. . . On the contrary, the road of vice is in reality narrow, and it leads to an eternal precipice.’
-St. Leo of Patara

‘. . . a greater number is lost through false confidence than through excessive fear.’
-Ven. Louis de Granada

‘Taking into account the behavior of mankind, only a small part of the human race will be saved.’
-St Lucy of Fatima

‘The majority of souls appear before the Judgment empty-handed. They did nothing good for eternity.’
-Ven. Mary of Agreda

‘So vast a number of miserable souls perish, and so comparatively few are saved!’
St. Philip Neri

‘Oh, Jesus, Divine Redeemer of souls, behold how great is the multitude of those who still sleep in the darkness of error! Reckon up the number of those who stray to the edge of the precipice. Consider the throngs of the poor, the hungry, the ignorant, and the feeble who groan in their abandoned condition. Oh Lord, our sins darken our understanding, and hide from us the blessing of loving Thee as Thou dost merit. Enlighten our minds with a ray of Thy divine light. Thou art the Friend, the Redeemer, and the Father of the one who turns penitent to Thy Sacred Heart. Amen.’
-Pope St. Pius X

‘Among adults there are few saved because of sins of the flesh.’
-St. Regimius of Rheims

‘It is granted to few to recognize the true Church amid the darkness of so many schisms and heresies, and to fewer still so to love the truth which they have seen as to fly to its embrace.’
St. Robert Bellarmine, Doctor of the Church

‘The path to Heaven is narrow, rough and full of wearisome and trying ascents, nor can it be trodden without great toil; and therefore wrong is their way, gross their error, and assured their ruin who, after the testimony of so many thousands of saints, will not learn where to settle their footing.’
“Oh how much are the worldlings deceived that rejoice in the time of weeping, and make their place of imprisonment a palace of pleasure; that consider the examples of the saints as follies, and their end as dishonorable; that think to go to Heaven by the wide way that leadeth only to perdition!”
St. Robert Southwell

‘I fear that Last Day, that day of tribulation and anguish, of calamity and misery, of mist and darkness, that Day on which, if the just have reason to fear, how much more should I, an impious, wretched, and ungrateful sinner!’
-Bl. Sebastian Valfre

‘The number of the damned is incalculable.’
St. Veronica Giuliani

‘Many religious go strait to Hell because they do not keep their vows!’
St. Vincent Ferrer

‘Ah! A great many persons live constantly in the state of damnation!’
-St. Vincent de Paul

“Since their eternal happiness, consisting in the vision of God, exceeds the common state of nature, and especially in so far as this is deprived of grace through the corruption of original sin, those who are saved are in the minority. In this especially, however, appears the mercy of God, that He has chosen some for that salvation, from which very many in accordance with the common course and tendency of nature fall short.”
St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church

“Jesus Christ is given to us through the Church, just as He was given to the Church through Mary … The Church alone has received the deposit of faith in Jesus Christ … and it is through the Holy Catholic Church alone that men can become true children of the faith … Unfortunate are the nations that do not live in the Church of Jesus Christ. They are like men outside the Ark at the time of the Flood. Out- side the Church, these poor travelers wander without a guide in the desert. They are like a sailor on a boat without either rudder or pilot. Alas, unfortunate children, abandoned on the road, without a mother to nourish and love them; they will soon die of cold and hunger! The gift of the Church as our mother and teacher in the Faith is therefore the greatest grace Jesus Christ could bestow upon us. And the greatest charity we can do to a man is to lead him to the true Church, outside which there is no salvation.”
“And how very small is the kingdom of Jesus Christ! So many nations have never had the faith!”
St. Peter Julian Eymard

“Outside the unity of faith and love which makes us sons and members of the Church … no one can be saved.”
St. Bonaventure

“Outside this communion, as outside the Ark of Noah, there is absolutely no salvation for mortals: not for Jews or pagans who never received the faith of the Church; not for heretics who, having received it, forsook or corrupted it; not for schismatics who left the peace and unity of the Church; and finally, neither for excommunicated persons who for any other serious cause deserved to be put away and separated from the body of the Church like pernicious members. For the rule of Cyprian and Augustine is certain: that man will not have God for his Father who would not have the Church for his Mother.”
St. Peter Canisius

“If you die as an unbeliever, you will be damned and lost forever.”
St. John Bosco

“To the damned the voluntary loss of Paradise is a greater loss than the very pains of Hell.”
St. Peter Chrysologus

Love & salvation!
Matthew

Secular Philosopher discovers the Catholic Church: Eucharist, Part 2 of 5


-The Isenheim Altarpiece, circa 1512-1515, Matthias Grunewald, please click on the image for greater detail


-by KRISTEN ANNA-MARIA HAUCK, Obl. OSB has a MA degree in Humanities from the University of Texas at Dallas. She is a Benedictine Oblate of the Monastery of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Westfield, Vermont and lives in a tiny hermitage in Maine.

The Institution of the Eucharist

“I grew up a “Navy brat,” the youngest of six children. (Years later, I discovered that there was another brother whom my destitute mother had given up for adoption. So we were really seven siblings.) My father was from Minnesota. He married my mother after a previous failed marriage, that had produced two daughters. My mother was from Maine and, similarly, had been married twice before, with three children. I was born unexpectedly in 1975. As a result, while most children attended school with their siblings, I attended with my nephews.

My family was not religious. Though I was taught to identify as Christian, I never really knew what that meant. The few experiences I had with Christianity taught me nothing.

The most memorable of these experiences occurred after my father retired from the Navy, around 1984, when we moved back to his home in Minnesota. At this time, my Grandpa Hauck and Mabel (Grandpa’s fourth or fifth wife) insisted I learn “my” Lutheran faith. They decided they would start bringing me along with them to church.

The first Sunday came; they picked me up, and we drove over to a Lutheran church in Minneapolis. The service was long, and the minister seemed to talk an awful lot about very boring things. Then, all of a sudden, my grandparents dragged me up to the front of the church with them where everyone was taking a place along a rail and kneeling. I kept looking past Mabel to see what was happening and saw the minister with an assistant. The assistant had a tray with little cups and crackers, and the minister would take one of each and give it to each person kneeling. I was excited about the prospects of a snack — until they came close enough for me to hear what they were saying.

A few people away, I heard the minister as he picked up the host first, then the little cup, saying, “The body of Christ; the blood of Christ.” Then I got scared.

I tugged at Mabel and kept asking, “We’re eating somebody!?Who are we eating?! Grandma Mabel, Grandma Mabel!”

Mabel kept hushing me all the way until the minister came to me, at which point, confused and scared and certainly not interested in cannibalism, I screamed and threw a fit, refusing communion.

We left quickly that day, with my grandpa dragging me, crying hysterically, out of the church while Mabel followed, chastising me for embarrassing them. They never took me to church again.”

Love,
Matthew

Secular Philosopher discovers the Catholic Church: Epiphany, Part 1 of 5


-“Christ at the Cross” by Carl Heinrich Bloch, 1870, please click on the image for greater detail


-by KRISTEN ANNA-MARIA HAUCK, Obl. OSB has a MA degree in Humanities from the University of Texas at Dallas. She is a Benedictine Oblate of the Monastery of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Westfield, Vermont and lives in a tiny hermitage in Maine.

“Easter 2018 marked my eleventh year as a Catholic. Since that Vigil eleven years ago, I have been asked many times, particularly by those who knew me previously, what on earth happened to cause such a conversion? I’m still trying to make sense of it myself. I find myself asking not so much how it happened, but rather how on earth did it not happen sooner? Surely I share in the lineage of Jonah, having preferred the storms of life and the stomach of a whale to the will of God.

Each time I consider my experience, I only become more aware of the ever wider circles emanating from a point in my history that, although one point, traces a life only God could draw. But then, isn’t this so with every conversion? Are we not all called to be formed in such a manner and likeness, to be Christ-like? So have I been formed through my continual conversion.

The Epiphany

My first epiphany of Jesus Christ occurred very unexpectedly during a casual sushi lunch with a member of my dissertation committee in the fall of 2005.

Though I was a year and a half into my dissertation, I had only just begun its writing. My dissertation topic was the influence and significance of the Dionysian in the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche. Six months into my dissertation, I threw everything out. After my own exegesis and research into both the cult of Dionysus and Nietzsche’s work, I found myself struggling with what I argued was Nietzsche’s own conclusion: in order to reveal the wisdom of the Dionysian, which is to say, the wisdom of suffering, one must adopt poetic language. This was problematic since there is nothing more unpoetic than the dry prose of a research dissertation. So I went back to my dissertation committee and presented a new proposal, outlining the production of a tragedy that would demonstrate what I believed Nietzsche had been trying to express about the Dionysian.

Did I have experience in theater? Of course not. Did I know how to format a play? Nope. Did I even have the vaguest idea of what that tragedy would be? Not until that sunny afternoon in the fall, eating lunch with Frederick Turner, poet, professor, and member of my dissertation committee. One might consider it pure luck that I was permitted to depart so radically from traditional scholarship. But I had long grown suspect of such “luck,” having already experienced the impossible so many times in my life.

By the time I met with Professor Turner for this lunch, I had done independent studies in theater, researched Greek tragedy, and turned my attention to a study of the Christian faith. I reasoned that if I were to produce a tragedy with the same cultural and pedagogical impact of the ancient Greek tragedies (this impact being precisely what Nietzsche was trying to express, I argued), then I would have to use a contemporary “myth,” or set of religious beliefs, within which to work. Living in the United States in 2005, I saw Christianity as the obvious milieu. Constructing the specific story out of the Christian archetypes, however, did not prove such an easy task. It was this lack of a specific story that led to the lunch meeting. I was intending to show what I had produced thus far as well as discuss my difficulties in coming up with anything novel. I told the professor all about the success of the “Greek Festival” I had presented the previous weekend and was stumbling through the number of pithy story ideas I had. There was a very long pause. Then Professor Frederick Turner spoke:

“You know what I think the story is? I think the story is about a God …. a God who became man …. and He loved this girl. And, though this girl loved Him very much, too, she did not know Him. And when He came and knocked at her door, she did not recognize Him….”

Honestly, I do not even remember the rest of the conversation. I only remember wanting to flee the emotion welling up inside me as quickly as possible. Indeed, even now, the same emotion bleeds tears in my eyes. Riding home with a fellow scholar who had joined us, I broke down sobbing. When my friend inquired, I could not hold back my emotion as I cried out, “How did he know? It’s me! I’m that girl!”

The fact was I had lived my whole life searching for truth. It was the reason I had decided at the age of 16 that I would study philosophy. Yet this scholarly pursuit itself became a mask. By the time of my dissertation, it had become a well-rehearsed performance disguising the true reality — the wild imagination of a little girl who clung desperately to a fairy tale. And in this fairy tale, the girl was a princess destined for a soulmate, a Prince who is “faithful and true,” who would come riding upon a white horse to save her (Revelation 19:11). But who was He? Where was He? Was He even real? I had spent the previous 30 years convincing myself it was pure imagination.

Yet, suddenly, over a casual lunch of sushi, the mask was torn off, and the fairy tale I sought desperately to ignore lay open before me. I went home and tried to continue work on my dissertation, at the same time resorting to any means at hand to blot out the truth revealed to me that day.”

Love,
Matthew

Methodist keeps discovering the Catholic Church: Part 2 of 2


-please click on the image for greater detail


-by Kim Coulter, Kim Coulter and her husband, Dan, have nine children. She has been Catholic for 42 years. Kim and Dan are members of the Holy Family Institute, which is a secular institute for the consecration of married life, to advance the Gospel through social media, for the conversion of the world. The institute was established by Blessed James Alberione, who is also the founder of the Society of Saint Paul.

“The Lord still honored me with a great man, my husband, Dan. We were married in 1977. Just a few months before that, I had become Catholic. At the time, there was no such thing as the RCIA program (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults). I just met with a priest friend, skimmed through a book, and came on board. Dan was my sponsor. I was confirmed, had a first confession, and entered the Church in just a few months. The priest told me that I was more Catholic than many souls sitting in the pews. How wrong he was!

When Dan and I married, four priests attended the wedding. We only let two concelebrate the Mass because I thought my Protestant family would be overwhelmed. I was Catholic; I did not believe in the Real Presence; I did not have a relationship with Mary; I wasn’t even sure if I believed in the devil; my husband and I were practicing birth control. But … outwardly we looked like the ideal couple.

But God’s grace is amazing! After our first daughter’s birth, I had a pregnancy that ended in a miscarriage at 20 weeks. I had suffered lots of bleeding. I delivered that little stillborn boy, then had an infection that landed me in the hospital for a week with antibiotics. If they hadn’t caught the infection in time, I would have died. The nurse on duty noticed that we were Catholic and baptized our little one. I was so out of it that I didn’t even ask for the body of our son, to have him buried. But through little Nathan, God saved my life, allowing me time to make the journey all the way home to Him.

Dan became involved with a Christian businessmen’s group. They met for breakfast once a month. He would tell me that he was most interested in how these men made money! Gradually, however, they influenced Dan’s prayer and faith life.

The businessmen’s group connections also included the men reaching out to our family. We were invited as a couple to charismatic meetings. That is where the Holy Spirit is invited to take an active role with the participants. Dan loved it; he liked to pray in new ways. But I hated it. I can remember yelling at him that he could pray as he wanted on his own time, but if we were alone in our home, I forbade it.

I was both attracted and repelled by our Catholic friends who were involved in charismatic prayer. I would ask them questions like: Can you turn that prayer off and on? Do you know what you are praying? How did this start?

You see, I was truly afraid of this charismatic stuff. I had never faced or confessed a certain serious sin. I didn’t use confession to totally reveal myself and come clean with God. Even though priests are forbidden to treat anyone differently because of the sins he or she confesses, I was convinced that the priest would hate me and know too much about me. Growing up Methodist, you could decide for yourself what parts of the official faith you would believe. No one challenged you. I took this attitude into my Catholic life. The Holy Spirit seemed too powerful and pervasive to let into my life. Still, I was aching inside to find total love.

Dan and I were invited to make a Life in the Spirit retreat over a weekend. I am still not sure why we went. The couple who had invited us insisted on driving. They told me later that they were afraid I would back out. Most of the retreat was just like the Search program. I even thought that I could have given the talks. But I wasn’t used to thinking about the divine power of the Holy Spirit. Remember my fear; I really was just a sinner who appeared good on the outside.

At the end of the retreat, a deacon prayed over each of us individually. (He read my name tag wrong and called me Karen. I thought I was safe — wrong name!) Something very strange happened. I started to cry and could not stop. It was as if the emotions were not mine; I had no control over them. I remember wondering if God could somehow be crying over me. The next morning, I prayed and read my Bible. The Scripture came alive for me and I had spiritual songs in my heart. Everything seemed new and fresh.

But I am not a quick learner! So the dear Holy Spirit had to work with me over a lengthy period of time. I spent about two years on a very private retreat with Him. Finally, I began to see my sins and really repent. I began to seek forgiveness and change my ways. My husband and I found NFP (Natural Family Planning) and stopped all our contraception. Now, the Holy Spirit was always with me.

Following this preliminary conversion, two pivotal spiritual events occurred. The young daughter of a church friend gave me a book on Eucharistic miracles. I didn’t even get through the foreword before I was deeply convicted of receiving the Eucharist unworthily. I called up our parish priest and asked him to hear my confession immediately. I sobbed through that confession, and I walked out a new creation. I believed! Suddenly, I was going to Mass as often as I could. I just wanted to receive Jesus. I had been given that greatest of gifts — faith — and knew Jesus was present, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, in the form of that small Eucharistic host. I needed Him!

The second event that happened was that, one day during prayer, the Holy Spirit introduced me to Mary. I fell in love with her. I badly needed a motherly role model. I did not want to be like my earthly mother, because of my terrible high school years and the devastating divorce. I did not want any member of my immediate family to experience that anguish. Mary became my stability, my anchor. She showed me how to love my children. I needed to learn from her so that they would not be wounded as I had been.

Those two really pivotal events occurred, aimed at how I was supposed to live my life. One day early on, the Holy Spirit showed me a brick wall during my prayer time. I was on one side of the wall, and my mother was on the other side. I told the Lord, “You know, Lord, she put those bricks up over many years and hurt me very much.” The Holy Spirit asked me if I had fingerprints on any of those bricks. “Well, yes, Lord, you know I put up just a couple of those bricks.”

I had spent my time trying to distance myself from my mother, protecting myself, as I supposed. I knew, without God telling me directly, that I had to repent of any bricks I had put up. So I invited my mom to lunch. I couldn’t even get through the whole lunch. I just felt prompted to start talking. I told my mom about the wall that was between us. I said my fingerprints were on some of the bricks. I asked her forgiveness. I wish I could say that she softened and owned up to her sins against me. That did not happen then, nor any day afterwards. She just said that she didn’t know how to love me. But I was again new and fresh. I could love her! I still work hard at my relationship with her and pray for her ongoing conversion.

My final little story was the most important one for how I was to be a wife to my husband. My parents’ divorce had left me deeply wounded. I wanted to make sure that my marriage did not end up like theirs. Consequently, I became highly manipulative of my husband. I demanded flowers and gifts, I demanded the he talk a certain way to me. I did not see this as manipulation, but more like an insurance policy. I needed to feel that I was unconditionally loved. But instead of bringing peace to our marriage, these “teaching moments” of mine usually brought fights. I started to talk to the Lord about it. In my prayer, I saw a tree. And there I was, screaming at the tree: “GROW! GROW!” It was the most ridiculous scene. The Holy Spirit eventually showed me that I was screaming at the tree, and the tree was my husband, Dan. I couldn’t make the tree grow by yelling at it. God took care of that growth. My job was to add fertilizer every once in a while. You know, like kind words of love. That was it! I learned over time to stop manipulating Dan. When his acts of love were free and unexpected, they became much more valuable to me than when I had demanded them. Doesn’t that sound more like unconditional love?

I had repeated “conversion moments”; they happened over and over! Conversion never stops. We can always go deeper and further into the heart of Jesus. Dan and I both read books on the saints and apologetics. We got involved in all kinds of service and Christian groups over the years. At last, our Catholic faith and worship became the very heart and soul of our marriage and family.

Dan and I have had such an exciting adventure with God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We have nine children, and all of them are practicing Catholics. Our son Zachary is an ordained priest for the Youngstown diocese. He just had his first year anniversary. Our daughter Eva is entering her second year of Novitiate with the Oblate Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. God willing, she will receive her habit and make her first vows next August. Four of our children are married, and grandbabies 14 and 15 are due next year.

Dan and I are members of the Holy Family Institute, a secular institute approved by Rome. Through the Society of Saint Paul, we were consecrated by becoming postulants, novices, and taking temporary and finally perpetual vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience for our married state in life. Our lives have been offered up for the salvation of the world through all forms of the media and as reparation for the harm the media have had on human souls everywhere in the world.

My story is about ongoing conversion. Our God never gives up. He keeps going after His lost sheep, even when they are sitting in the pews every Sunday right beside us. He didn’t give up on me, and He won’t give up on you! Just open the door and He will transform your life.”

Love,
Matthew

Methodist keeps discovering the Catholic Church: Part 1 of 2


-by Kim Coulter, Kim Coulter and her husband, Dan, have nine children. She has been Catholic for 42 years. Kim and Dan are members of the Holy Family Institute, which is a secular institute for the consecration of married life, to advance the Gospel through social media, for the conversion of the world. The institute was established by Blessed James Alberione, who is also the founder of the Society of Saint Paul.

“I can hardly believe that I have been Catholic for 42 years! It is easy for me to remember when I became Catholic, because I did it just months before I was married. But to be more specific, I have become more and more Catholic through gradual and ongoing conversion.

I have always wondered if there aren’t more folks like me, who needed a continual touch of grace in their lives over a longer period of time in order to become truly Catholic. My story is a journey that I am still on today. God willing, I will continue on it until the day I die and meet my Jesus face to face.

I was the second child of four, born into a strongly religious United Methodist family. At one time, my father had considered becoming a minister. Instead, he skipped college for marriage and family life. My father was a telephone repairman, and my mother was a stay-at-home mom. I had a good childhood until my high school years. Then my world fell apart.

My mom went to work part time at a department store. She became very disconnected with family life, even missing one of my birthdays completely — no cake or presents, not even a remembrance. We came to learn that she was interested in life outside of her marriage. My parents experienced extreme marital problems that ended in their divorce when I was a senior in high school. It wasn’t an amicable divorce; it was bitter and divisive. I can remember police knocking on our door during one of my parents’ fights. I also remember my father following my mom to see where she went after work. This seemed to me to be outside of all that was normal. Where was God? Hadn’t we gone to church every Sunday? Didn’t He love us?

I had always believed in God; I loved Jesus. I even escaped from the chaos of those years by becoming a camp counselor at a Methodist summer camp. But I could not escape the feeling of being abandoned by my parents and the deep pain of wondering why God didn’t intervene. I prayed constantly for God to fix my parents, especially my mom. It never happened. As a teen, I just couldn’t grasp that the Lord’s intervention has to be welcomed by the soul for His grace to be effective.

Growing up as a Methodist meant kind of picking and choosing what you could believe. Sounds kind of crazy, doesn’t it? I didn’t want to think about the devil when my parents were feuding. I even told someone at our church that I didn’t believe in the devil at all; the reply I received was that it was no problem if I didn’t believe. Even today, you can go to a Methodist church that is highly pro-life, while a second one down the street teaches that abortion can be OK in some circumstances. That wasn’t the way that John Wesley had outlined things from the beginning. Our perverse culture has influenced many churches in this manner.

One day, during my freshman year of college, a high school friend invited me to attend a Catholic retreat called Search. It was a weekend retreat that introduced Jesus as a friend to the participants, sort of Jesus 101. I attended that weekend retreat and loved it!

Later, I worked on a Search weekend as a team member. Eventually, I was asked as a non-Catholic to join the commission that ran the program. There were many non-Catholics making the retreat, and I was supposed to be their eyes and ears, looking out for their interests. I even met my future husband there. It was a wonderful two years of serving the Lord in a new way and avoiding what was happening to my parents and siblings.

I must mention that, as good as the Search program was, the secular culture had its malicious influence there, too. It was the 1970s, after all. Drugs, open sexual activity and relativism were all on the menu at my college campus. We assimilated “Jesus as our best friend” right into our sinful life. Here I was, a non-Catholic, attending many Catholic Masses. I had lots of priest friends, and I received Jesus in the Eucharist sacrilegiously many, many times. No, I didn’t believe in the Real Presence. It was the seventies, and they just gave Jesus to me anyway.”

Love,
Matthew

Mary & the Rosary lead Non-denominational pastor: Part 4 of 4


-by Anne Barber, Anne was born in Haddonfield, NJ. From age seven, she began traveling the world with her parents, as her father’s jobs with the US government took them to live in Germany, Iran, and Brazil. Later, she received a BS from San Diego State University with a double major: Zoology and Spanish, and received her Juris Doctorate from the University of Miami School of Law. She still holds an active law license in Florida. The same year she entered law school, Anne completed her studies for ordination through the Evangelical Church Alliance. She began leading mission trips to Cuba twice a year for 8 years beginning in 2003, completing a total of 16 trips. In 2004, Anne was one of the founders of My Father’s House, a nondenominational church in Ellenton, FL, and pastored for 12 years. During this time, she was a regular contributor to the clergy column, Faith & Values, in the Bradenton Herald. Her journey into the Catholic Church began in 2016.

Disappointing News

I completed my RCIA classes. I had finally procured a new pastor for My Father’s House. But when the Easter Vigil was a week away, I was still waiting for an annulment of the marriage to my first husband, whom I had divorced 40 years prior. I received on Monday the call saying that it was granted, and I fully expected to enter the church that Saturday night. However, Father Jim (who was serving in his first pastorate), didn’t quite know what to do with me, since he was waiting for the bishop’s instruction. There was an unresolved question of whether, as the former pastor of an Evangelical church, I needed to completely disassociate myself from that congregation — whose church building is located on the small farm where I live. Since no answer was forthcoming, I was sorely disappointed not to be permitted to enter the Catholic Church at the 2017 Easter Vigil.

It was then that I contacted the Coming Home Network, asking for assistance. Jim Anderson, a pastoral care coordinator, reviewed my situation and said he believed that, as long as the congregation knew I was no longer the pastor, and I refrained from participating in the communion there, he knew of no rule against a former pastor continuing to attend his or her prior church, especially if the ex-pastor’s spouse still attended there. I then wrote a letter to the bishop, stating my cause, and asking him to please allow Father Jim to bring me into the Church. But there was no response.

Time passed, and I grew despondent, feeling rejected and crushed. Never had I wanted anything more in my life, and I felt the blessing was torn from me at the last minute. I stopped attending Mass. After two months, I contacted Jim Anderson again, and he suggested that I see another priest for a second opinion.

Finally I am Catholic!

At the end of August, I met with Father Bernie at Holy Cross Catholic parish in Palmetto, FL. He was a seasoned priest and agreed with Jim Anderson’s assessment. He was happy to baptize me (as I had no certificates, photos, or other first-hand proof of my baptism as a baby), and on October 6, 2017, at the Mass of Our Lady of the Rosary, I was baptized into the Catholic Church and received the Eucharist for the first time. I was content to wait for the 2018 Easter Vigil to be confirmed. I regard both events as the two most important days of my life. Unfortunately, my husband, by now quite upset that I continued to be serious about entering the Catholic Church, refused to be present at either event.

I spent a year at Holy Cross, where I joined the Legion of Mary and played the flute at the Saturday Mass. Additionally, since the first statue I painted had turned out beautifully, I continued to paint concrete statues of Mary, and gave them away to different people in both parishes. (To date, I have painted 13 statues of Mary and eight statues of different saints.)

On October 6, 2018, again on the day of Our Lady of the Rosary, I returned to my initial Catholic parish, St. Frances Cabrini in Parrish, FL, and the first priest I had ever met, Father Jim. That is where I currently attend.

My journey is ongoing, and not without heartache, family upheaval, and occasionally wavering faith. But my Catholic family continually upholds me in prayer. Some of my sisters in the Legion of Mary have been my strongest lifeline in the face of unexpected and emotionally painful trials, which threatened to derail me from following my new Catholic Faith.

But there is absolutely no turning back. When Jesus calls — or sends Mary to bring someone to where He wants that person to be — truly, how can we refuse to go?

Peter began to say to him, “We have given up everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come. But many that are first will be last and the last will be first.” – Mark 10:29-31 NAB

Love,
Matthew

Mary & the Rosary lead Non-denominational pastor: Part 3 of 4


-by Anne Barber, Anne was born in Haddonfield, NJ. From age seven, she began traveling the world with her parents, as her father’s jobs with the US government took them to live in Germany, Iran, and Brazil. Later, she received a BS from San Diego State University with a double major: Zoology and Spanish, and received her Juris Doctorate from the University of Miami School of Law. She still holds an active law license in Florida. The same year she entered law school, Anne completed her studies for ordination through the Evangelical Church Alliance. She began leading mission trips to Cuba twice a year for 8 years beginning in 2003, completing a total of 16 trips. In 2004, Anne was one of the founders of My Father’s House, a nondenominational church in Ellenton, FL, and pastored for 12 years. During this time, she was a regular contributor to the clergy column, Faith & Values, in the Bradenton Herald. Her journey into the Catholic Church began in 2016.

The Honeymoon’s Over!

“On Christmas day 2016, after the morning service, our worship leader pulled me aside to let me know that he was very unhappy with the new statue of Mary. I already had angel statues surrounding the chapel, but Mary was just too much for him.

He asked, “What kind of church are we?” “We’re non-denominational evangelical,” I replied. “But are we Catholic now? If I thought this was a Catholic church, I never would have come here. I’ll give you two weeks’ notice to find another music leader if we leave.” Wow! I never saw this coming.

His wife was waiting in their car, and I went to speak to her. She was fuming. I’d never seen her angry before. Through the open car window, she went into a full-on rant: “I was Catholic for many years, but I never prayed the Rosary! Then I got saved and took off all my jewelry, and I’m free! I’m free!” (She was yelling now.) “That’s why I don’t let any of my children wear jewelry!”

“You’re not free,” I replied, “You’re in Pentecostal legalism.” The meaning was completely lost on her, but her husband smiled and nodded. What shocked me most was that this lady was one of the parents who had provided permission to give her children rosaries. And she had asked me for an NAB Bible for herself when I handed them out to the youth. Now, suddenly, rosaries were evil and the statue of Mary a forbidden idol.

After they drove off, I went into the house, called my prior worship leader, and he was available and happy to come back and take over. The following Sunday was New Year’s day 2017, and our prior worship leader was leading the music. And just like that, five people who had been with the church for nine years (the parents and three kids) were gone. My youth leader was devastated, as she was very attached to all of the children.

Shortly after that confrontation, I spoke with another long-term faithful parishioner on the pathway by the Mary statue. “So, do you like the Mary statue,” I asked. “No, Pastor Anne, I don’t,” she replied emphatically. “But that was my two-month art project,” I smiled. “Why don’t you like it?”

“I was Catholic as a child, and even wanted to become a nun. But my priest said I should go to college.” “But what happened to you that caused you to leave the Catholic Church?” I asked. “It’s a long story,” she said. But I never got to hear it; within months, she, her husband and their three children left the church. Between these two families, a fifth of our tiny congregation was gone — over my beautiful Mary statue.

Several people suggested I move it, or hide it on Sunday morning under a bag. But I reasoned, “It’s in front of the house, not the chapel. If the parishioners use the walkway that goes directly to the chapel, they wouldn’t even see her.” Yet the suggestions continued, and the youth leader (also an ex-Catholic) admonished that I should have submitted the rosaries, NAB Bibles and statue of Mary to the church council for a vote before implementing them.

Finally I asked Father Jim to come and bless the Mary statue so the negativity would stop. And it eventually did. After pretty much all the congregation left.”

Love,
Matthew

Mary & the Rosary lead Non-denominational pastor: Part 2 of 4


-by Anne Barber, Anne was born in Haddonfield, NJ. From age seven, she began traveling the world with her parents, as her father’s jobs with the US government took them to live in Germany, Iran, and Brazil. Later, she received a BS from San Diego State University with a double major: Zoology and Spanish, and received her Juris Doctorate from the University of Miami School of Law. She still holds an active law license in Florida. The same year she entered law school, Anne completed her studies for ordination through the Evangelical Church Alliance. She began leading mission trips to Cuba twice a year for 8 years beginning in 2003, completing a total of 16 trips. In 2004, Anne was one of the founders of My Father’s House, a nondenominational church in Ellenton, FL, and pastored for 12 years. During this time, she was a regular contributor to the clergy column, Faith & Values, in the Bradenton Herald. Her journey into the Catholic Church began in 2016.

The Honeymoon

For the next eight and a half months, I attended two morning Masses each week, followed by my RCIA classes, as well as the Saturday afternoon Mass. I joined the parish, received my own envelopes, and began contributing weekly.

I read the Catechism of the Catholic Church in the first month of my journey, then numerous books on Mary, the Fathers of the Church, and testimonies of other Protestants who had found the truth of the Catholic Church — all this while still pastoring my little flock at My Father’s House. I had asked the Lord early on, “Do you want me to leave my church?” to which He replied, “I don’t want you to leave, I want you to lead.”

So I began teaching many of the principles I was learning in RCIA to my church, even transcribing some of the homilies (sermons) that I heard on EWTN and preaching them to my congregation. At St. Frances’ thrift store, I purchased rosaries, and with their parents’ permission, gave them out to the youth group in My Father’s House. The church pew Bibles were replaced with NAB Catholic Bibles, and each child was presented with an NAB Youth Bible to keep. I now wore a crucifix around my neck, together with a hidden Miraculous Medal of Mary. I wrote my last article as the Rev. Anne Barber for the Bradenton Herald, published on September 17, 2016, entitled “Protestants Should Try Reading Missing Old Testament Books.”

Meantime, at the Catholic church, I experienced profound joy, love, and the same wonder and excitement I had experienced when I met Christ for the first time 40 years prior. Now I was meeting Him anew through Mary. What happiness I felt! No one on the outside could discourage me. The more I attended Mass, and the more people I met, at some point I lost my fear of being recognized as a local pastor, and just let myself become a member of the St. Frances congregation. Within months I knew 25 people by their names.

Then, in November of 2016, tragedy struck at St. Frances, with the accidental death of Father David. I had been in his office the Thursday before, then attended his last Mass on the Saturday prior to his death. We had talked for an hour, during which I shared with him my experience of Mary. He agreed to come and preach at My Father’s House in January of 2017. I felt a real kinship with this elderly priest.

In his Saturday homily, two days after that conversation, Father David spoke of Christ being crucified between two thieves. He walked back and forth across the sanctuary (altar area) as he spoke, and as I watched him intently, I saw a pink-rimmed aura appear all around him. As he walked, the aura remained with him. The last words of his homily were, “Today you shall be with Me in paradise!” And he gestured broadly to the large crucifix on the wall behind him. When Father David consecrated the Eucharist, I remarked to Georgia, seated next to me, that I felt there was something extremely holy about him that afternoon. When he held up the host, still surrounded by a pink aura, I wished I could take a photograph so that I could try painting it later. Four days after that Mass, our beloved Father David died in a freak accident.

I attended his viewing, the vigil, the funeral, and the interment of his ashes. This was now my church, my priest, my sorrowing church family, and I cried with the rest of them. The funeral was unlike any I had ever attended: The Knights of Columbus led the casket down the aisle, and every priest in the diocese who could come was dressed in white, standing in the sanctuary. The bishop looked entirely regal, walking down the center aisle with his crosier (shepherd’s staff) in hand. The shared testimonies from the priests and family members brought both laughter and tears. Finally, it was time to go forward for the Eucharist. I was in the line for the Bishop and was thrilled to receive his blessing.

The memory of that funeral stayed with me for weeks. I had never experienced anything like it. There really is nothing quite like the beauty and kindred spirit of the Catholic family. I truly felt that I belonged. I was eagerly looking forward to the evening of the Saturday before Easter, when new converts are received into the Church, and I too could experience my Savior in the Eucharist.

Meanwhile, back at My Father’s House, I was busily trying to put things in order so that I could step back from the pulpit. With the church located in a chapel on our farm, it wasn’t easy to find a replacement who would be content to preach in a semi-hidden location down a semi-paved road. Additionally, I was bringing a new perspective to my sermons that I knew the next pastor probably wouldn’t bring.

Around this same time, I bought a concrete statue of Mary as a Christmas present for my friend Gloria, bemoaning the fact that I couldn’t have one for myself, as my congregation probably wouldn’t tolerate it. But at the statue store that day I encountered a four-foot stone statue of Mary, Our Lady of Grace, at a greatly reduced price. My husband encouraged me to go ahead and get her. After she was delivered, I put her in the back of the carport so I could paint her without anyone seeing her. I had never painted on concrete before, and it was quite a challenge. But after two months, she was perfect: the snake was an awesome rattlesnake with a nasty green eye, and Mary was painted in gold, brown, and white, with a crown of 12 stars on her head and a rosary in her hand.

Even my husband liked the statue and built a concrete platform to install her in the garden area in front of our home, just to the left of the chapel. In December, three of us struggled to move the 500 pound Mary statue to her new home. I put a solar light in front to illuminate her at night. I was so pleased with how she looked. But my happiness was short-lived.”

Love,
Matthew

Mary & the Rosary lead Non-denominational pastor: Part 1 of 4


-for greater detail, please click on the image


-by Anne Barber, Anne was born in Haddonfield, NJ. From age seven, she began traveling the world with her parents, as her father’s jobs with the US government took them to live in Germany, Iran, and Brazil. Later, she received a BS from San Diego State University with a double major: Zoology and Spanish, and received her Juris Doctorate from the University of Miami School of Law. She still holds an active law license in Florida. The same year she entered law school, Anne completed her studies for ordination through the Evangelical Church Alliance. She began leading mission trips to Cuba twice a year for 8 years beginning in 2003, completing a total of 16 trips. In 2004, Anne was one of the founders of My Father’s House, a nondenominational church in Ellenton, FL, and pastored for 12 years. During this time, she was a regular contributor to the clergy column, Faith & Values, in the Bradenton Herald. Her journey into the Catholic Church began in 2016.

How It Began

In early August 2016, my life suddenly changed — irrevocably and forever. It began on the night I picked up a rosary and a “How to Pray the Rosary” pamphlet, sat in the candlelight on my front porch, and prayed it for the first time. From the first prayer, tears began to roll down my cheeks. As I stumbled over — then embraced — the sentence, “Holy Mary, Mother of God,” I felt a distinct motherly presence next to me. Unseen, yet comforting, consoling, inviting. I remember saying, “Mary, if you’re there, I could sure use a mother.” And a response came, “I chose you.”

Since 2004, I had pastored My Father’s House, an Evangelical church in Ellenton, and later Parrish, Florida. I am also an attorney and a licensed member of the Florida Bar. I had never given Catholicism even a passing thought. But I had a number of rosaries in my house, thanks to my dear friend, Gloria Martinez, who had worked for me for 10 years. Gloria was a devoted Catholic woman who truly lived her faith. Over the years, she obligingly provided me with rosaries. First I asked her for a red rosary to hang in my red car. Then a blue one to hang on a blue stained glass mirror. Then rosaries for friends who saw mine and wanted one. Of course, they were only for decoration, since I absolutely did not believe Mary was anything more than Jesus’ earthly mother.

Like most evangelicals, I believed Mary was a virgin when she conceived Jesus through the Holy Spirit. But I also believed Mary had at least seven other children with Joseph after Jesus was born (Matthew 13:55–56). I felt the title “Mother of God” bordered on blasphemy.

Now, sitting on my porch, speaking to the warm presence I felt near me, I was immediately able to put all my prior concepts about Mary aside. They simply didn’t matter any more. What mattered was that she had apparently entered my life, and I decided to let her show me who she was.

I had discovered the EWTN Catholic television network, and had begun watching the programs. Soon I ordered a painting from their Catalogue, one of Mary holding the infant Jesus and a lamb in her arms, entitled Innocence. I also ordered two books by Mother Angelica. I put the painting on my bedroom wall, where any parishioners entering my home would not see it.

One night, as I sat on the bed, reading one of Mother Angelica’s books, I looked up at the painting, and it seemed as if I saw one of Mary’s hands move. I kept watching, and it did move! So did her head, as she bent down toward the baby. Then her mouth opened as if she were speaking to the child. (However, I heard no sounds.) Following this, it seemed His head turned up to look at her. Finally, she appeared to sway back and forth as if rocking the baby and the lamb, with her dress clearly blowing in the wind!

What?! I was so startled that I took off my glasses and put them on again. Surely this was some sort of optical illusion. But no, the painting began to move again. Now I was frightened! Was there something evil about this painting? Was this woman about to step out of the painting into my bedroom? Was God displeased that I had been talking to Mary? That I had hung the painting? I prayed to God that it would stop moving. It sort of did, but I felt there was still an entity in my room, and it scared me.

The next day, I tried to contact Gloria, to ask her about it, but I couldn’t get in touch with her. That night, the painting moved again. This time, the lamb also opened its mouth, as if it were bleating, and the baby’s face turned red, as if he had been awakened and was about to cry. The third night, too, the painting moved as if it were a living scene, and rays of light shone out from the painting into the room. Absolutely shocking!

I decided, then and there, that I either needed a psychiatrist or a priest! The following day, I visited a local Catholic church, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini in Parrish, FL. My husband, Bob, and I had been there before to visit their thrift store. Afterwards, on one or two occasions, we entered the empty sanctuary to see the artwork and statuary. I’d even given a donation to light a candle for prayer requests. 

On the day after the third evening of seeing the painting of Mary come alive, Bob accompanied me to St. Frances’ thrift store, and I asked one of the workers how I could learn more about the Catholic Church. The thrift store lady kindly informed me that RCIA classes were beginning the following week, and if I was interested, I should visit the office. She explained these were classes for adults inquiring about the Roman Catholic Faith, and that taking the classes did not mean I had to become Catholic.

We went to the church office. Bob is a retired Lutheran Pastor, now pastoring a Community Church part time. He loves to “talk shop” with other clergy, and asked to see the priest. The retired priest in residence, Father David, graciously made time for him, and the two of them went to a conference room. I spoke with the secretary, meanwhile, asking her about the RCIA classes. She immediately recognized me from my photo in the Bradenton Herald, for which I wrote an occasional article for the Pastors’ “Faith Matters” section. “You want to know about the classes for yourself?” she asked incredulously.

Next, I spoke with the woman in charge of parish education, and cried when I related my experience with the Rosary. When I told her of the moving picture of Mary, she didn’t react adversely, but explained what an “apparition of Mary” was. It was if I were being propelled quickly in this new direction. I didn’t know it then, but Mary had taken me firmly by the hand and was leading me step by step to her Son in the Eucharist.

I was assigned a wonderful RCIA teacher, Georgia, who agreed to teach me privately, so as to not expose me to folk in the community who might know who I was. (“To prevent scandal,” she said.) My husband was nonplussed, having decided I was going through some sort of “phase” that would pass. He even agreed to attend a morning Mass or two with me.

Georgia suggested she attend daily Mass twice a week with me, to answer any questions, and afterwards, we could meet for class. The second Mass Bob and I attended was on a Tuesday. For the Eucharist, Georgia explained that I could go forward, cross my arms when I got to the priest, and receive a blessing. I happily did so. After Father spoke the blessing over me, I felt like an anointing had been poured on me. I could physically feel a warm, weighty substance on the top of my head. When I got back to my seat, I said to Georgia, “I felt something. I can’t move.” She replied, “God is pouring out His graces on you.” I knew right then that there had to be something profoundly different about the Catholic Communion and began intensely desiring to receive Our Lord in the Eucharist.

The Mass ended with a novena to the Virgin Mary. Bob could barely tolerate listening to it and later reiterated the Protestant view on what he termed “Catholic heresies.” I didn’t care. Something had happened to me, and I wasn’t going to fight it. I knew that God was sending me in this direction and that I would become Catholic. Not because of the Church’s great theology, or because the Fathers of the Church were convincing, or because I had thoroughly analyzed my experiences in light of scientific evidence, or because I understood anything intellectually. Simply put, I had met Mary. She had made herself known to me, crept into my heart, and I was already prepared to follow her anywhere she led me.”

Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."- Bl John Henry Newman, Cong. Orat., "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, “You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress.” -St Athanasius, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP. 1 saint ruins ALL the cynicism in Hell & on Earth. “When we pray we talk to God; when we read God talks to us…All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.” -St Isidore of Seville, “Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions that they might do me no harm through the enmity or imprudence of any man or my own; that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as He should see fit. And this I believe is heard.” -GM Hopkins, SJ, "Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book." — St. John Bosco, "Why don't you try explaining it to them?" – cf St Peter Canisius, SJ, Doctor of the Church, Doctor of the Catechism, "Already I was coming to appreciate that often apologetics consists of offering theological eye glasses of varying prescriptions to an inquirer. Only one prescription will give him clear sight; all the others will give him at best indistinct sight. What you want him to see—some particular truth of the Faith—will remain fuzzy to him until you come across theological eye glasses that precisely compensate for his particular defect of vision." -Karl Keating, "The more perfectly we know God, the more perfectly we love Him." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP, ST, I-II,67,6 ad 3, “But always when I was without a book, my soul would at once become disturbed, and my thoughts wandered." —St. Teresa of Avila, "Let those who think I have said too little and those who think I have said too much, forgive me; and let those who think I have said just enough thank God with me." –St. Augustine