History Made Her Do It
I have received the issues, and they exceeded even my most optimistic expectations. I have read and reread them. I cannot wait for the next issue! The magazine contains exactly what I have been looking for.
Thirty years ago I converted to Catholicism because of a study of history. I was, in my younger days (okay, I'm a senior citizen, grandmother of one, widowed, and my age is nobody's business), a lukewarm Lutheran and a vehement anti-Catholic.
Everything the anti-Catholics use as weapons is familiar to me because I used it too. Then, after studying history for many years, it became unavoidable to me to acknowledge that the Catholic Church was the one established by Jesus and the only one entrusted by him to continue his work.
I fought it for a long time, but could not resist. And when I converted (much to the surprise and distress of my family) I jumped in head first with an intense love of the Catholic Church that has never diminished. I keep telling my Protestant friends who tell me that I should never have converted that all the other "churches" are merely fuzzy carbon copies of the original. Until I read This Rock, I couldn't really answer them effectively.
Anna Lee Brendza
New Philadelphia, Ohio
Adios, Catholic Church?
Being Hispanic, I am concerned about Hispanics leaving the Church in increasing numbers. I read somewhere that 18 percent of Hispanics in this country are now Protestant. I would like to know if there is anything (other than prayers) concrete or constructive we Hispanics can do to keep our brothers and sisters in the Church and inform the ones that left to return to the "faith of their fathers."
We Hispanics are proud of our culture, and I believe that somehow we should remind those who left that they are losing part of their heritage when they embrace any of the Protestant churches. I believe we should have a pamphlet about this.
Oak Hill, West Virginia
A Very Intelligent Woman
I am renewing my subscription and also sending one for my friend. This is the greatest magazine in the world.
Yes, It's Worth the Bother
In the June issue you raised the question, Is apologetics worth the bother?
The answer is not merely "yes," but that apologetics is a crucial weapon in the struggle against neo-modernists who hold positions of power in the Church.
Using the Parish Bulletin
We had the privilege to be a part of the audience for a debate and seminar with Patrick Madrid and Gerry Matatics of your staff. What a wonderful experience! We praise you for your work, pray for your apostolate, and support you financially with donations.
We heard Karl Keating speak at the University of Steubenville, and we have since subscribed to This Rock. Our Church is much in need of the evangelization and defense that you are inspiring. Patrick and Gerry represented your group well. Not only are they knowledgeable and enthusiastic, but also courteous and considerate of our separated brethren. The depth and conviction of your speakers is transmitted to the audience. We felt comfortable with the generous doses of good humor which they injected into their talks.
We have tried in our own small way to alert people to this wonderful movement, and we personally have become voracious readers.
I asked and received permission from our priest to submit articles for our church bulletin regarding discussion, explanation, clarification, and defense of the teachings and observances of the Catholic Church.
I write and Father edits and fine tunes the articles. So far we have discussed differences between Catholic and Protestant Bibles, the origin and defense of the Hail Mary and devotions to Mary, and "Are you saved?"
I enjoy the research and deeper education I obtain, and I love trying to bring others with me into a deeper understanding and appreciation of our faith.
Jacobstown, New Jersey
Our RCIA: Insomnia Cure
I am a convert to Catholicism (1966). I was Episcopalian, although I attended a Congregational church most of the time since our small town didn't have an Episcopal church.
I am constantly appalled at how poorly instructed most Catholics are, even those who went to Catholic schools, including the two of my kids who went. One of them had a teacher who went to jail for refusing to pay taxes which supported the military.
How can Catholics defend a faith they don't know? No wonder they fall prey to Fundamentalists who at least seem sure about some things.
A few years ago I decided to go to our parish RCIA for a review. The class was taught by a nun who works in our parish. She's a very nice lady, but the class was so boring I never went back.
She couldn't answer anybody's questions, and I thought, "You'd have to be absolutely convinced you wanted to be Catholic before you got here, or you never would stay." No one would decide to become Catholic based on her presentation. I think I could have done a better job than she did.
To me the most convincing thing about Catholicism is its unbroken line right back to the apostles. The Fundamentalists' "Bible only" theory is clearly not workable. That would be comparable to the founding of the United States with just a Constitution--no President, no Congress, no judiciary.
In talking with Protestants, I feel they form their own theology at home and then look for a church that doesn't disagree with them on too many issues. They become their own popes in a sense, deciding what is true and what is not, although none of them has any authority to do this. I can't understand why the fallacy is not clearly evident to them.
The article by Fr. Mitchell Pacwa about praying to saints [This Rock, July 1990] was an excellent piece of writing, but as a journalist he is either naive or a good dissembler.
The question is not whether we are authorized to pray to the saints. It's whether the use of statues leads to superstition. The author wrote about the golden cherubim on the Ark and the brazen serpent in the wilderness but ignored evidence that the ancient Hebrews repeatedly fell into idolatry.
Since my conversion 49 years ago, I have never heard any part of any homily devoted to the danger of slipping from prayer to saints into superstition and idolatry. Nor did I ever hear any official criticism of the nice old ladies who fractured the serenity of the Mass by clacking rosary beads against the pews.
Neither I nor my wife, who is also a convert, ever felt comfortable about the number of Catholics whose faith does not extend beyond rituals, statues, pictures, amulets, whatever will purchase good luck now and a pass into heaven. We have never hated such people, and many live exemplary lives, but to pretend that superstition has not been widely tolerated is to be less than honest.
It is not that the clergy knowingly tolerate; they simply do not understand. A strongly superstitious Catholic is likely to be a loyal and generous member of the parish and diocese. And if thorough understanding of the faith were the norm, there would be no need for your organization. Part of your task should be to evangelize within the Church.
Taw for Two and Two for Taw
I enjoyed the July issue, but I noticed that Bryant Burroughs' "The Sign of the Cross" left out chapter and verse. His essay is true as far as it goes, but I think that Fundamentalists would probably be interested in the biblical citations that support the idea of making the sign of the cross.
The first of these is Ezekiel 9:4, where an angel is instructed (according to the New American Bible) to "mark an X on the foreheads" of the righteous, so that they might be spared punishment. The "X" in Hebrew is a taw, which looks like an upside-down "U" presently, but, in its primitive form, as the "North Semitic taw ," which is the common ancestor of both the Hebrew letter and our own "T," it looked like a plus sign.
Ezekiel probably didn't attach any meaning to the letter taw; in fact, "mark an X" could be translated "taw-out a taw," and it's not even clear if Ezekiel had any particular mark in mind--the ancient Hebrews used the taw (apparently in its primitive form) the way we use an "X."
And I suppose that someone might want to make something out of the fact that the way the doorposts and lintels were marked in Exodus 12:7 would resemble a modern taw and would insist that the biblical sign to make would be a modern taw. Or someone else might point out that in Revelation 22:4 it is "his name" that is on the foreheads of the faithful (see also Rev. 7:3).
But the fact remains that in the book of Revelation the mark on the forehead of the faithful is seen as an anti-type of the mark of the Beast. I think that it's curious that many Fundamentalists feel the mark of the Beast will be an actual physical mark, not just a figure of speech, and even speculate about what it will look like, yet don't think about its anti-type, the mark of Christ. Once again it is the Catholics who are more "literal" about the Bible when it comes to their personal lives.
Why, I don't know. But this is why I didn't become an Evangelical: because I wanted to take what the Bible has to say about the Church and the sacraments literally.
While the Church has always said that the sign of the cross isn't a "biblical teaching," just an action that is useful, it's also true that the sign arose out of a reading of the Bible.
Mom Says Thanks, Sister
Trying to work as a pastoral assistant and DRE in a small Southern parish (greatly outnumbered and totally surrounded by Fundamentalist churches which attack in subtle and not-so-subtle ways), I find your new magazine wise and witty and a wonderful antidote for occasional bouts of exasperation and dismay.
Keep up the great work. I write you this congratulatory note because I have been truly touched and inspired by those recent letters from your Mom!
Keystone Heights, Florida
The Mess Is Inside the Church
Since my early days in the seminary, where apologetics was on the menu, faith was defined and easy to profess. I felt a personal calling to minister to alienated and ex-Catholics and also to Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons leaving their faiths. Fundamentalists have pretty standard arguments that, with a little practice, can be refuted.
Over the years I've been able to bring back people to the Church, comfort and educate former JW's and Mormons, debate with their elders, and succeed in getting Fundamentalist anti-Catholics to back off. With all the problems an apologist faces, the biggest danger to our faith is from within our ranks, and I have to admit I'm sometimes baffled dealing with the new mindset in our clergy and laity.
For modern scholars, the papacy, the Church, even the sacraments are not necessarily of divine origin. The Eucharist is a symbol, and laws don't matter as long as we have love and Christ loves us. I believe many people leave our Church because it is so watered down.
I find it extremely difficult to bring people into our Church to enter RCIA when the people who would teach them do not believe what I do. For the first time in my life I have to defend the Catholic faith with Catholics, and it hurts.