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Friday, January 31, 2014

Traveling with a Novice

 
 Ten years ago I would have never dreamed where God was taking me, my husband and daughter.


A son’s a son till he takes a wife, a daughter’s a daughter for the rest of her life.

Unless she becomes a Nun?

It has been 2 years and 6 months since our daughter decided to follow her heart to Jonesboro, AR., at Holy Angel Convent to discern the life of a Nun. It seems like she has been at Holy Angels longer, guess the week-end visits and a few weeks here and there, before she actually left permanently, makes it seem longer. Strange as this seems to our world today, we embraced her journey. Even stranger was the fact that Jeanine and I had only been Catholic for two years and her dad was still studying the faith with a fine-tooth comb. 

This Christmas 2013 we had our daughter home for two weeks during the holidays. We traveled to Ft. Worth to visit family and then boarded a plane to visit our son and his family in Tampa.

As we traveled by car and by plane, the reality of it all seemed to hit us more than it had in the past. You see, we knew after she returned to the Convent she and the Sisters would be discerning a major BIG step, concerning the process which one must go through before becoming a Nun, with the help of our Lord guiding all their steps.  

Becoming a Nun is not a quick decision and becoming a Nun and the discernment process is not a single decision of the one discerning. It is a process of prayer, learning the life of a monastic, and the reality that the “Community” you desire to enter are praying and discerning for the discerner too. Each step is bathed in prayer and seeking guidance from the Holy Spirit, if this is truly a calling from above. It becomes a decision of “all” in the Community and the Community of Sisters in the end will make the final decision, if you stay or go.

Each step was a process of discernment for Jeanine and the Sisters at Holy Angels.

The week-end visits, the weeks Jeanine took off to visit before she entered were times of discernment for Jeanine and the Sisters. Each time she went, they always invited her back. When Jeanine made the decision to enter, it was not only her decision, but the Community.

Jeanine entered as a Postulant and began the journey of following her heart. She was a Postulant for one year and we had continued contact with her. She got to come home for 2 weeks after the year was over. We had a wonderful visit with her and she informed us that when she returned, she would be discerning if she wanted to continue and enter into her time as a Novice. She was excited and her heart wanted to continue, but she had to wait and see if her desires were the same as the Sisters. They all needed to be in “One” accord in the discerning process, and they were. Jeanine started her Novice year. A Novice spends their time studying, praying and helping with the daily routine of a monastic, living in a Community of many Sisters.

Her time entering into the Novice year would require her to stay off the computer, Facebook, emailing and limited contact with her parents. A true challenge in today’s world for anyone and it did not seem to faze her at all. She took this time serious and used this time to focus on following her heart.

Nobody will ever understand, except a mother, to see a daughter wrestle with this vocation in which a woman is following her heart to answer the call in the life of a religious.

Her first visit at Holy Angels she left with tears flowing; already missing being there. Her tears then turned to doubt, “I can’t do this, what about my Nana who is aging and Grandma? I can’t leave them now!” I reassured her that she could not build her future around her grandmothers’ health and circumstances. She needed not put anyone in the equation, only herself and the direction she felt a tug.

She would visit several times before she made her final decision and her last visit to the Convent, many steps and a few months would pass before she actually knew if she was accepted. She would be so excited with the thought of following her heart, and then the next day I would see her in her room crying. “What’s wrong?” her reply; “I will miss so many things, like make-up and my jewelry and my clothes and I’m just realizing all these little things that have been a part of me.” As a mom, I wanted to say, “Okay, then let’s stop right here and go no further.” But, for reasons I still don’t understand today, I would always remind her to take one day at a time, don’t look at the whole picture, if this is of God, He will show you. You can’t let your emotions of “STUFF” determine something that could be a “BIG” blessing in your life.

It was an up and down emotional roller coaster for her until she got the final word she had been accepted as a Postulant. She was so excited and was so ready to go. After all the tears and wrestling with so many things, she was happy to be following her heart. We packed her up and dropped her off. Only time would tell if this was her vocation.

We visited her many times during her Postulant year and stayed in contact through email, letters and the phone. She seemed to be settling into the lifestyle and embracing it with a “joy” and a “purpose”, in which we as parents had never witnessed in her before.  Though when we did visit her that first year, as we left, the flood of tears would be hard on us all. Time has made it better, but when you love someone, there will always be tears during departures. I think our tears have changed in time, and they are different. We can’t really explain it. Maybe I will one day.

Her Novice year was one of surprises and the reality that seasons change in life. Two months before she became a Novice, and while she was on her two weeks off and with us on vacation in Florida, my mom, her Nana, had a stroke. It was a serious stroke and she got to say her “goodbyes” to her Nana before she left to become a Novice. My mom seemed to have recognized her, as they would share their last embrace. God works in mysterious ways.

December 2013 Jeanine is off for two weeks and she is coming to the end of the road as a Novice. She will return in January and go into a silent retreat for a week and pray, discern and see if she is ready to say “yes” to this way of life. The way I’ve looked at the process in which she has been discerning is much like a couple; dates, gets engaged and then marries.  Rushing into a relationship, sometimes folks find out they made a bad mistake. Jeanine and I’ve discussed it at length, and when she left for Holy Angels over two years ago, she was dating the idea and knew she would be dating the “process” as a Postulant and a Novice. Two years would allow her the ability to understand what this life would be like and if she wanted to walk away, she could. If she wanted to stay, it all came down to her and also the entire Community of Sisters. They would all be seeking her vocation together. Very much like a couple who invites “God” into their relationship for answers. God will guide them if it is meant to be.

The next step after dating would be the idea of engagement and I’ve known a few who did not make it to the altar. Some did not make it to be engaged.

Our time over Christmas was rush, rush, rush. She wanted to go see her Grandma in Texas, her brother and family in Florida and spend a few days at our place before she returned. I admired how well she handled being in her “habit” in the presence of family who still don’t quite understand it. Remember, we come from a long line of Protestants. It was interesting in the airports and the restaurants and many public places to be accompanied by a Nun in a habit. Funny, folks with tattoos all over their bodies, nose rings and pants hanging at their butt crack, never got a second look. But, a Nun in a habit; my, my, folks do wonder what it is all about. If they only knew…

When we finally made it to our place, I got sick and did not feel like getting out. Though we did do a few things and got to see some of her friends, she got to attend Mass and see folks at her Parish. It was nice having her home and we discussed her next step. A mom is a mom until her last breath. She was most definitely ready and hoped the Sisters felt as she did, to continue. The next step; temporary vows (the engagement) and becoming a JR. Sister. I personally know someone who wanted to be a “Religious” and the Order, in time, felt this was not this person’s calling. It devastated this individual, but in time, they knew the Order was right and God had a special plan for them in marriage and kids. We discussed it at length, what if? What if the Sisters in seeking answers, feel this is not your vocation Jeanine? To my surprise, she was very aware of this, and shared she would be disappointed, but would accept it as God’s plan for her life. Yes, she would be upset, but knew it could happen. All in all, she seemed at peace, and she was no longer the young women that left two years ago, who was on a roller coaster of emotions concerning her make-up and jewelry. She was at peace; being in God’s will.  Something we seem to have a hard time with.

I drove her back to Holy Angels, a five hour drive, and asked her if she would like to stop in Little Rock or Jonesboro before we returned and do some last minuet shopping. Because I had been sick, we had only been able to go to the Mall and shop one day. She was looking for a coat and everything was picked over after Christmas. We were ahead of schedule getting her back and I felt sure we could find her a coat in a larger market than our area. She loves to shop. When I ask her if she wanted to stop and shop for a coat, she says “ No….. I am ready to get home.” It was the “first time” I ever heard her calling a place “Home” that was not connected to me and her dad. It felt strange and was bitter sweet to my ears.

January 20th would be the day the Sisters would make their decision if our Jeanine would continue. To be honest, I had mixed emotions and in some ways had selfish motives, maybe they would not. As a mother, I’ve learned many things after she left to follow her heart. Guess my mother’s death brought this reality center stage. There is nothing like a mother and daughter relationship and all they share in life. Many women, including me and my mom, might have had growing pains through the years. But, the joy in which “maturity” finally brought our relationship as adults was priceless. We could always be ourselves around each other, no mask and no acting. Jeanine and I have always gotten along, though we have had our moments too. For some reasons, I’ve never pictured her with her own children, guess God had been preparing me. That is something I’ve come to realize and never really thought about it until after my mother’s death. Selfish reasons; knowing some moments will never take place, that only a daughter and mother share. Like the old Irish proverb says: A son’s a son till he takes a wife, a daughter’s a daughter for the rest of her life.

 Though we will have many, many memories as the years go by, it’s different; just being honest with myself and whoever reads this. These thoughts were a part of the processing of the reality of it all. But, in my heart I hoped the Sisters would accept her, because I see my daughter blooming and growing and loving following her heart.

The good news is she has been accepted and will take her temporary vows March 21st.  She called to tell us her news and we shared a special moment together, as she rattled off the plans for her special day. She said; “guess what? I take my temporary vows on the anniversary that my Nana went home to eternal rest!” It was as if my mother had planned the day and I know she will be there in spirit looking down from heaven, taking it all in. She then goes on to tell me that; “St. Benedict went to eternal rest the same day.” Makes me wonder if St. Benedict greeted my mother the day she arrived and said; “So, I see your granddaughter is going to be a Benedictine Sister?” After Jeanine takes her temporary vows she will no longer be called Novice Jeanine. We will now have to call her “Sister Marie Jeanine.” The engagement process will begin and we still have a few more years before the wedding (final vows). Keep her in your prayers, you never know, she, or the Sisters, might get cold feet. God Bless!

 

The following links will take you to earlier writings, as we have journeyed in sharing our story about our daughter discerning the life of a religious, a Nun.


Monday, October 7, 2013

We Are On Our Way To Cross the Tiber



We are off and on our way for a pilgrimage this coming Friday, October 11th 2013 in which we hope to make wonderful memories, meet new friends and broaden our knowledge of the love of our Lord Jesus Christ in walking the “Footprints of St Paul.” We will also be visiting Rome, Assisi and other places as we track across Italy and visit historical Christian landmarks that will take us back in history and we will witness it up close and personal.

We want to think our dear friends Bee and Helen for staying and watching over our place while gone. Hope you enjoy the pool and the weather is nice for some chicken-coop time. Thanks for being such good friends and text us if you need us..

This trip is a first for us in many ways. We as a married couple, who have been together for 38 years, have never taken a vacation by ourselves, since our honeymoon. Sure we’ve gotten away for a few days together here and there, but a planned vacation…never. This is also our first Pilgrimage overseas. Our vacation days since we have been married have always been planned around family that lives miles away. To be totally honest we have also had a few nice vacations, other than visiting family, with our kids as they grew up, always taking my mother with us. But, this is the first vacation since our honeymoon, in which we have planned for the two of us. We won’t know how to act. We would not trade all those memories we made over the years, in which we shared our vacation time to stay connected with family. A family budget and vacation days only went so far and staying connected was a must. Also, family was a treat to visit and have a free place to stay. Loved it when we had family in Maine….wish they would move back. (Hint, hint, hint) Maybe this is one of the benefits of getting old…. We answer to nobody…and it’s finally about us. LOL

This is a first for me to travel overseas to Europe. Jim has been there many times on business (Sweden, Germany, France and Denmark) and usually found some time to be a part-time tourist after working hours. This is a “first” for both of us to travel to the places we are going. We are so excited to be visiting these places. Our tour guide Stephen Ray and his wife Janet just emailed us a letter with information on what to expect, to take and “to do list” to make sure we do not forget anything…like our Passports. He also said; “Just wait until you walk along the streets of ancient Ephesus in the footprints of St. Paul, and see the Island of Patmos where St. John received his apocalyptic vision of Revelation written in exile.  I can't wait to lead you through the city of Athens to the top of Mars Hill where Paul preached.” We can’t wait either Steve!

  I was never very interested in history growing up and it was our move to Pennsylvania that finally got my attention to fall in love with history.  I guess I am more of a visual learner and might have been a better student in my youth had I seen it, rather than having to read about a person or place I could not see or touch.  We lived 30 min. from Gettysburg, 2 hours from Washington, D.C., and 4 hours from NY City and the Statue of Liberty and the list goes on. The northeast boast several hundred years of history, while the area of the south I grew up in only had a 100 plus years of history. Many of my great-grandparents were part of the pioneer families of my region of the world in which I grew up. Sad to say they arrived during or soon after the government pushed the original settlers west… the American Indians.  Just think the areas we are traveling to on our “first” vacation together boast several thousand years of history. Pennsylvania also surprised us and challenged us to explorer Church History. It was such a time as this, that God used a doctrine we had never heard of to open the door and discover Church history. Up to that point in our lives we really did not think about the history of the Christian faith.  All we knew was Jesus was born 2,000 years ago and the stories in the Holy Bible told us about His life. Attending a Calvinist (Presbyterian PCA) church in PA opened our eyes to the history. The teaching of “predestination” is very much a “foundational truth” in that denomination. Predestination really challenged us and as much as we tried to make sense of it… we could not. They showed us a few Scripture passages on which they built this doctrine; we could see that the doctrine did not add up with the totality of the entire Bible. This Predestination doctrine was so different to anything we had ever been taught and in time it opened up Church history to us. We are so thankful we were challenged, because it made us start learning about the 2,000 years of Christianity, good and bad. We had heard about the Reformation, but really did not know what it was about. We didn’t even know the Reformation took place 500 years ago and that was when Christianity started splitting into thousands of denominations. We didn’t know we were part of Christianity called Protestantism… which meant we were a part of a group that protested against 1500 years of Church History, called the Catholic Church. It all started with Martin Luther and a year after he got the ball rolling he wrote this:

  “I never approved of a schism, nor will I approve of it for all eternity. . . . That the Roman Church is more honored by God than all others is not to be doubted. St, Peter and St. Paul, forty-six Popes, some hundreds of thousands of martyrs, have laid down their lives in its communion, having overcome Hell and the world; so that the eyes of God rest on the Roman church with special favor. Though nowadays everything is in a wretched state, it is no ground for separating from the Church. On the contrary, the worse things are going, the more should we hold close to her, for it is not by separating from the Church that we can make her better. We must not separate from God on account of any work of the devil, nor cease to have fellowship with the children of God who are still abiding in the pale of Rome on account of the multitude of the ungodly. There is no sin, no amount of evil, which should be permitted to dissolve the bond of charity or break the bond of unity of the body. For love can do all things, and nothing is difficult to those who are united.” Martin Luther to Pope Leo X, January 6, 1519 more than a year after the Ninety-Five Theses quoted in The Facts about Luther, 356
This is also why the trip is so special for us and why we are excited. We will be seeing things we have been reading about since we started learning about the history of the Church. We are also excited about the tour we chose. Stephen Ray and his wife Janet are converts to the Catholic faith just like us. Their journey to the Catholic Church was very similar to ours and it was history that pushed them to surrender to the Catholic Church. They were devout Evangelicals with a strong Baptist upbringing and very anti-Catholic. If you want to read their conversion story click on the following link: http://www.catholic-convert.com/about/why-im-catholic/   .  

 Since their conversion they have personally traveled the “Footprints of God” all over the world. After learning and falling in love with these holy sites, they started taking pilgrims from all over the world to experience the history of salvation and the footprints in which God and his people have traveled since Adam and Eve. In the last few months they have been to the Holy Lands and just finished taking a group to the Shrine of Fatima in Portugal, Santiago de Compostela in Spain and Lourdes in France. After they get finished with our pilgrimage they are off to the Holy Lands again. They have been to the Holy Lands 100+ times. If you read Steve’s daily blog on his website you wonder where he gets all his energy. He posts daily on his website and Facebook, pictures and YouTube videos of where they are and what they are doing. You can see all these places he takes these pilgrims from all over the world without leaving your home and you feel as if you are with them. This brings me to our pilgrimage …… you can follow us every day by looking at his website at http://www.catholic-convert.com/ or you can go “like” his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/CatholicConvert and wait for it to show up daily on your Facebook page. We also plan to be posting it on our Facebook page too…. But we’ve learned internet service can cost a bunch over there. We have been informed that sometimes you can hook up on Wi-Fi free…. So we really don’t know how much we will be able to find free Wi-Fi. I’m hoping the hotels and some cafes will offer it free. If you do not see us posting…it means we can’t find any free Wi-Fi. If you really want to follow us on this journey, and see what we are seeing and doing, the best way is to click on Steve’s Facebook or website. His website is amazing and has so much information on it... I challenge you to read his apologetics. He really knows his stuff… Also, Jim’s testimony coming home to the Catholic Church is posted on Stephen Ray’s website “The Defenders of the Catholic Faith.” Click here to read it: http://www.catholic-convert.com/blog/2013/06/26/jims-story-born-presbyterian-then-to-parties-drugs-protestantism-and-finally-to-the-church/

Stephen also shares a link to my testimony of coming into the Catholic Faith on Jim’s link. He called me "Jill"…lol  It’s a typo….

Our dear friends Diane and Dudley who we met a few years ago are also on Stephen’s website as well.  Click here: http://www.catholic-convert.com/blog/2012/04/08/dudley-and-diane-brossettes-conversion-from-searching-many-churches-to-catholic/

For reason I do not understand, when clicking on the Brossette’s story on Stephen’s website the link is broken…. So if that happens to you when you click on it, their story was also published in the Arkansas Catholic and you can read it here: http://www.arkansas-catholic.org/news/article/1232
I keep telling Diane she needs to write a book. Her journey as a Christian has taken her down many roads. She grew up Mennonite and eventually end up in the "Faith" movement. Diane was a youth minister in a big mega church in AZ many moons ago. I thank my Lord everyday for putting such a special friend in my path. It is truly a miracle we both crossed the Tiber around the same time. We did not meet each other until after the "deep crossing" in which we both swam, HOME. 

Keep us in your prayers that we all have a safe trip and we are excited!!!!!

God Bless

P.S. Today is the Feast of “Our Lady of the Rosary.” A FB friend of ours posted this today on his blog. It is a very good and well written article to read today, as we remember and ponder; “Our Lady of the Rosary.”

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A True Story of Double Standards. The Journey of Losing a Child


 
A few weeks ago I was having one of those long girl talks with a good friend. You know one of those talks that you wish could last forever. You’re solving all your problems and the world's and also learning new things you never knew about each other. In many ways you feel like a teenager who has unlimited time with no responsibility. Only realizing the next morning you are too old to survive on three hours of sleep with all the things you need to complete on your to do list the same day you go to sleep.  I think we started talking about 8pm (I just called to ask a simple question) and before I knew it was 3:00AM. Those “wee hour” talks with a friend cost you a little sleep, but can save you money from ever having to go to a psychologist. Think about it.
One area we shared with each other inspired me to write from my heart today. She lost a precious adult son to eternal life a few years ago and her heart is still broken. The pain of losing a child is something no parent should have to experience. Her son so young had no plans to leave this world and he had no money left behind to bury him. The family decided to have him cremated and to this day she still has his ashes with a hope one day to have his ashes buried and put to rest.
I listen to her as she explained the reasons why she still has her child’s ashes and it took me to a place (while listening) in my own life in which I could understand her dilemma with compassion. After she told me her story, I then shared my story with her. Wow, it seems like yesterday it happened, and as I write this from the heart, it has been 16 years.
“Me too….. I’ve got some ashes of a child in a special keepsake box and my plan is to have her ashes placed in my casket when I am called home to eternal life.”
After I shared my story with her, she said; “You need to share this with the world….. This is an amazing testament to the Sanctity of Life.”
Pondering her words in my head for several days, I knew she was right and wondered why I had never shared this on my blog. Sure, I had shared it over the years in my circles of friends and family and even on a local level at a Pregnancy Crisis Center Banquet. Who knows it could speak to someone’s heart, which have found themselves in a crisis pregnancy and really do not understand the facts. So, this is my story………..
 
My husband and I decided early in our marriage that we really could not afford more than two kids. Society had taught us well, that to afford the better things in life for your children, one needs to analyze what it takes to raise a child. Sports, Dance Lessons, Piano Lessons, Private School, Day Care and College are costly and if we have too many kids we will be jeopardizing their wants and need. Sorry to say… it really made good sense to us. Sure, we had already made a few mistakes living in an adult world and we did not want to make any mistakes in raising our children. (Funny now, looking back how stupid we were) Our goal was to work hard and provide to the “best” of our ability for two children. Our views of this pattern of life to follow society has changed over the years and wish we would have heard the other side of the story before starting a family.. That’s another story and I will not go there this time.
After our second child we really never discussed a birth control plan. For some reason to this day and I do not understand why…. It was my responsibility. I think that is another of society's “thinking”. It’s up to the women, in many cases, to figure these things out. I tried the pill and it made me sick, an IUD and I got an infection, something called the rhythm method ( was not educated enough in the method to trust) and on a few occasions my husband would use a condom and complain the whole time how it took the pleasure out of the love making.  After all the failed attempts to find a way to have “Safe Sex” I suggested to him to have a vasectomy… my dad had one and so did an uncle and they survived. “NO!” was his answer… no, ifs, ands or buts about it…. NO! This left me to no other choice… if we were going to be like “society” had trained us to be and have 2.5 children. I decided to have my tubes tied….which meant cutting me open (surgery) and tying those tubes so the sperm and egg would never meet again and make a baby. I was 26 years old when I had my tubes tied…
Life was good, we made it through the terrible two’s (twice), the independent four’s (twice)…… kindergarten,  Jr. High and we were now on the last stretch of the race, high school, and things were looking good.
We were living in Pennsylvania during our two kid's high school years and I was working part-time. My story begins in late January, it was cold and it had been snowing (as usual) and I had been fighting a head cold that I could not shake. Then I started feeling like it was more than a stuffy nose, my stomach was upset, I had no energy, a constant headache and my digestive tract felt as if I had gastritis. I had experienced gastritis a few years prior and was given some meds that helped, so I wondered if I needed to see my doctor. I did drag my feet before making the appointment just because of reasons that I will not get into here. Another story… It was the first week of February on a Friday (I was off work) and I finally went to see my Family Doctor. Told him all my symptoms and he totally agreed with me that I was experiencing “gastritis” and he would give me some meds that would calm down my stomach. He advised me if I did not feel better in a few weeks, we might need to do a scope. I agreed with him and he started writing my prescription…… as he is writing he says; “I need to do some blood work on you today, because these meds can cause birth defects if you were pregnant.” My reply; “Pregnant!!!!!  No way…. I had my tubes tied and it is impossible.” He replied; “Oh, well since you did have your tubes tied, I’m sure that is not an issue…. But, I still have to do the blood work, to be safe.” “Whatever”…was my reply, as I took the script out of his hands. All that was on my mind was getting home…get my meds and feel better. He said to me as I was leaving; “I will call you and do not get that prescription filled until you get a call from my office.”
I returned home and as I am walking in the door my phone is ringing. Rushing to answer it and a little out of breath….. “Hello!” …… Reply; “Mrs. Jewels this is your doctor’s office and we need you to get to the hospital immediately! Your blood work shows us, you are pregnant. Since you had your tubes tied, the chances are it is a tubal pregnancy and depending how far along you are and the size of the fetus your tube could rupture and create a serious situation.” As I am retrieving and processing this news my husband opens the door…. He is off work early and comes “be bopping” in with a smile on his face…it’s Friday and the week-end is here. Am looking at him, as I tell the doctor’s office; “yeah I understand and will get there immediately” and hang up the phone. “Who was that?” as he is hanging up his coat. "Well, you want believe this…..  I’m pregnant and they want me at the hospital ASAP, because my tubes could rupture since I had my tubes tied."
It was a quite drive to the hospital and it became even more silent as my husband and I were put into the sonogram room together. The Tech silently moved the probe over my tummy taking pictures of things we had no clue about. We patiently waited as she gathered all the information for the doctor. It wasn’t long before he entered the room and to our surprise the news was good. Doctor: “You’re pregnant and the baby made it into the womb.” Oh my….. Cannot explain in words all the emotions we both were feeling at that moment. How could this be? I was beginning to relate to Sarah in the Old Testament and even to Mary the Mother of God.. Now, I knew this was not an immaculate conception… but in my eyes and heart it was a miracle. Why would God in this time of our life, allow a baby to be conceived? How did it happen? Funny thing was….. Now we had proof to share with our teenagers….that there really is no such thing as “safe sex.” We both left the hospital glowing and feeling so blessed and could not wait to tell everyone the news….. especially our kids.
We all soon rejoiced in this gift sent from heaven and reminisced what it was going to be like having a baby in diapers and a child in college. We all fell in love with this gift, this little one, now growing in my womb. We did have fears concerning my age and health….. and we tried not to dwell on those fears. My first OBGYN doctor appointment I heard the heart beat (8 weeks) and still could not believe this was happening. My doctor informed me that he would like to do a test, no later than my fourth month to make sure the baby was not Down syndrome. I told him it would not matter if the child was DS, because we would still keep it and did not want the test. I also did not want to know the sex…. To find out the sex to me was like opening a Christmas present before Christmas. My husband and I were in total agreement about the testing.
We figured I was around 8 weeks when I first heard the heart beat and the baby would be due in October. By April I was getting a little belly and I was finally feeling good… no more gastritis. As we entered the month of May, folks who did not know me, begin to notice my womb with the signs of a baby. “Are you pregnant?” a few would ask. Glowing from ear to ear I would say “YES!”
We were heading into the 5th month at the end of May. I had made it four months and was feeling pretty good. Then I woke up one morning feeling a little nauseous (Wednesday) and headed to work. Eating a few crackers seemed to settle down my stomach some, but could not wait for the day to end. Got home from work and got violently ill…. Throwing-up several times. Called my doctor and he assured me it was most likely a virus and if I did not feel better by tomorrow call back.  The next morning (Friday) I felt great! The nausea was gone and I felt like eating a horse. My next check-up doctor’s appointment was in a few days. It was the beginning of the next week, Monday. Could not wait to see how much I’d gained and grown in my tummy.
Monday arrived and I had an afternoon appointment with the OBGYN Doctor for my 18th week check-up. Driving to my doctor’s was about 45 minutes and I made sure I left my house on time, did not want to be late. I was excited to get the opportunity to hear the baby’s heart beat again and the thought of finally entering into the second trimester meant October was getting closer.
Arriving at the doctor’s office, checking in and waiting for the nurse to call my name…. Finally after waiting they call me. They weigh me and “yes” I had gained a little, blood pressure check is okay, then they ask me to wait in the room for the doctor… He enters; “How are you feeling?” “Great!” is my reply. “Well, let’s see how your baby is doing and listen to their heart” the doctor continues to say. He puts the monitor on my belly, moves it around and there is silence, moves it to another area and there is silence, moves it to another area, “TOTAL SILENCE” engulfed the whole room. You could have heard a pin drop. He did not have to say a word… I knew what was going on and I wished in that moment I was dreaming. Silence seemed like it lasted forever in that space of time and when it was finally broken it was the first time in my life I really did not want to hear what he had to say. The doctor trying to find words to use, to direct my attention to this fact and with words to try to smooth over this new phase of my life, I was now entering into… not by choice. “I cannot find a heartbeat…. Sorry… for reasons unknown the baby has died.” He went on to say; “You have two choices; #1. You can let nature take care of it and in time you will go into labor and deliver. #2. I can perform an abortion and remove the baby without you having to go into labor.” My reply: “Nobody is going to pull my baby’s “parts” out of my womb… I will deliver my child.” The only thing I did request of the doctor was that he induces my labor. My history of childbirth was not good in the area of labor starting on my own. I always needed help with drugs to get it started. Once it started it went very fast. I delivered both our children naturally and intended to do the same for this child.
I do not remember much about my drive home, only the dread of having to tell my husband and children this gift was now taken from us. I was to return the next day to the hospital and after a few tests to make sure the baby was dead, and then induce me into labor. The return home is a blur in my memory too and can only remember getting a few things in order, for the few days of my absence, away from home.
 
We arrived very early the next morning at the hospital. Deja vu all over again…same ultrasound room we had learned we were pregnant, with a baby that had made it into the womb. Now an ultrasound to confirm the baby has died in the womb. The room seemed darker this time and silent with only an occasional beep as the tech took pictures of our baby. The ultrasound confirmed the doctor’s suspicions and yes…. the baby had died.
We were taken to labor and delivery, given a private room and they started the drug into my system that would in time start up contractions, then labor and then delivery. It did not take long for it to start working and I labored for a few hours and then delivered our baby. It was a girl and she seemed so perfect. We named her Jamiee Alice after my little brother and my husband’s grandmother. They weighed her…. She weighed almost a pound and she was 10 ½ inches long. The nurse then dressed her in a little outfit. Then wrapped her in a blanket and let us hold her. “Take your time” the nurse said. The scene that will always be stuck in my mind is seeing her daddy cradled her in his hand and it was amazing. She was so perfect and her features developed to maturity. So tiny…. She was a miniature human, so perfectly formed. We said our “hello” and our “goodbye” that day and it was so hard. In just four short months we had fallen in love with our child and now what do we do with this “love” we have lost? Why, God, have you taken us here?            
I do not remember how long we spent with her…..it’s all a big blur. The nurse did ask us before she took her away if we planned on having a funeral? Funeral? Our minds never went there until she asked. “Oh my… what do you suggest?” My mind quickly thought about aborted babies that go into dumpster…. My baby the same age as many aborted babies was given an option. If we did not have a funeral or plans for her body she could end up in a dumpster. After much discussion we decided on a memorial service and have her cremated. Why cremation? We were living far from our family in the south and we knew in time we would be returning to the south. If we buried her in PA she would be left behind. If we cremated her we then could take her ashes with us. I do plan to have her ashes placed in my coffin when the Lord calls me to eternal life. The day was over, they took her and we will not see her again until we all meet in heaven. This is my hope.
I woke the next day in my hospital bed, empty handed. I was still on the maternity floor and could hear the shuffle of baby beds rolling down the hall with new babies crying and being wheeled to their mothers to be fed. “Why Lord?” A nurse enters my room with many things for me to take home. To my surprise she has all these "goodies" to give me and with each item she handed me she ripped my heart in many pieces. The blanket we held Jamiee in, the outfit she wore as we held her, pictures they had taken of her and impressions of her hands and feet. “Why do you want to give me these things? They hurt to look at, we are going home empty handed and these things remind me we lost our Jamie Alice.” She replied; “Did you know this blanket was handmade by ladies that want you to have a keepsake to always remember your time you held her? This outfit was given to your baby so you could see her all dressed up when you said your goodbyes. All these things I know hurt right now, but one day they will be items that will help you move through the grieving process in a healthy way. We’ve learned over the years that we have (medical profession) harmed more women by denying them the chance to say goodbye to their babies. Many women never had the chance to see their babies at all. The hospitals would dispose of their babies without giving them the chance, out of sight- out of mind. Many women, who have lost a child like you, never got a chance to work through the grieving process and in time it could cause mental health issues like depression. They become depressed later in life…. Not knowing why. They were never given that opportunity or permission to grieve.”
A huge lump was in my throat and tears streamed down my face as she handed me all my keepsakes of our time we spent to say “Hello” and “Goodbye” to our Jamie. I was emotionally choked-up to the state I could not speak and even tell her; “Thank-You." I accepted her gift with a few gestures to let her know I did appreciate them. It was the best I could do.
Jamiee's blanket that someone made just for her.
Jamiee's little outfit we dressed her in.
Jamiee's feet and hand prints the nurses took.
This picture might be hard for many to look at, "yes" it's our Jamiee all dressed up and laying on her blanket. The photographer took this several hours after we said our goodbye. Her coloring was better when we held her.
 
Soon after my husband arrived at the hospital to take me home, the reality of it "all" was in high gear and impacting my hurting heart in ways I can not explain with words. I just wanted to crawl up into a fetal position and never face the world again. A few glances of new parents and babies on the maternity floor as we left my hospital room stabbed my wounded heart. “Why Lord?”         
It would be at least a year before I could handle seeing pregnant women or a mother with a new baby. I also for years would see children that would be the same age as my Jamie, if she had lived and the pain would return. This May 28th, just a few days ago, she would have been 16 years old. Cannot imagine today what it would be like to be raising a teenager. We are also new grandparents to a little baby girl (6 months old) and if she had lived, Jamie would be an aunt.
When I finally arrived home I did crawl up into that fetal position and stayed in bed for several days that turned into a few weeks. They did not give me any type of medication to stop my milk from coming in and for many days my breast longed to nurse my baby. During those first few days and weeks I could not see a future without a broken heart and how would I ever get over this broken heart? How would I ever feel the joy of living again? “Why, God, did you make me go through this?” Was a question I asked often… “Lord, I was not even trying to get pregnant and thought I could not get pregnant and why? Why did you put me through this, with so many women choosing to kill their babies, because their babies are unwanted, we wanted our unplanned pregnancy.”
I did pull myself together for a memorial service a short time after I got home from the hospital. It was a top priority to give this precious life a proper “respect” to being “real” and a person, a life created by God. We decided to make it a private service in our home with our children and the pastor of the church we were attending. I feared that our Pastor could not give enough honor to her life.
He never knew her as we did and I wanted her memorial service to express how important she was to our family. In the quiet space I had retreated, locked up in my room, away from the world, I retraced in my mind her short life in which we witnessed and I wrote those memories into words to share at her memorial service.
Hebrews: 1:14: Are not all angels ministering spirits to serve those who will inherit salvation
Hebrews: 13:2: Do not forget to entertain strangers for by doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.
I know the creation of life between a husband and wife is a precious gift from God. Through our love for each other, He blesses us with a human baby designed and created by Him, but put together as a reminder of who we are in special ways. He also created the angels long before He created the human race. I want to keep this separated because His word tells us there are angels, and then the creation of human life. The Lord took me and my family to a place a few years ago. I was 39 going on 40 and for 4 1/2 months, I really believe we came as close as we will ever come to touch an angel. Though I know it is not so, God gave us a glimpse through a little one, 4 1/2 months in my womb. "His precious creation of an Angel."

THE ONLY AND SMALLEST ANGEL WE CAME TO LOVE
She was the smallest angel we ever saw
Almost a pound, and ten and a half inches tall
Cradled in her fathers hand, her head rested on his finger tips
While her little legs dangled at his wrist
Sound asleep in eternal rest
Her eyes sewn shut like a puppy dog pup
Her body so perfect with its small detail
As I counted her fingers and toes, I noticed her little nails
Her eye brows were beginning to grow
Along with her ears, lips and little nose
They were all there in a distinct array
In time the Master could have finished our clay
For reason we do not know
The Master decided to finish it as not earthy works
Only in heavenly places, that are unknown
I think she was the only and smallest angel we'll ever touch
I just wish we had her for a little more time
We are longing and looking forward to the day we will all arrive
My first agenda on that very special day
Will be see how He finished our little clay
                "Jamiee"
I purchased this new born doll soon after Jamiee's death because it is 10 1/2 inches tall. This picture is a visual of what she looked like resting her daddy's hand.
 
I do have to give credit to our Pastor who put together a wonderful agenda of Scripture readings (without our input) in a printed keepsake. I can still remember to this day how the Holy Scriptures in which he had chosen, ministered to my broken spirit and I could draw strength from them. It was a beginning to see glimpses that life will go on for me and my family.
This was the Memorial Keepsake our pastor put together.
I know it is to small to read, will share a few things written on it that I will never forget.
Memorial Service for Jamiee Alice
June 4, 1997
A beloved child delivered immediately from the womb to the light of God's Presence.
 
2 Samuel 12:16-23
16David therefore besought God for the child; and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth. 
17And the elders of his house arose, and stood beside him, to raise him up from the earth: but he would not, neither did he eat bread with them. 
18And it came to pass on the seventh day, that the child died. And the servants of David feared to tell him that the child was dead; for they said, Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spake unto him, and he hearkened not unto our voice: how will he then vex himself, if we tell him that the child is dead! 
19But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, David perceived that the child was dead; and David said unto his servants, Is the child dead? And they said, He is dead. 
20Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel; and he came into the house of Jehovah, and worshipped: then he came to his own house; and when he required, they set bread before him, and he did eat. 
21Then said his servants unto him, What thing is this that thou hast done? thou didst fast and weep for the child, while it was alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst rise and eat bread. 
22And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who knoweth whether Jehovah will not be gracious to me, that the child may live? 
23But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.
 

Life did go on and with the help of my husband, children, family and friends, hours turned into days, days into weeks, and weeks into a year and years into today. Time does heal and that’s okay. I slowly got out of my bed and me and my husband would drive the picturesque back roads of Pennsylvania and we slowly healed. There is nothing like the beauty of those back roads to heal one's soul. It was a process and I am so thankful for those whom God put in our path to help us (including the nurses) move on. I am thankful for those who told us to take our time in grieving.

In closing; I still to this day question “why?” This is normal, but I thank my God for the pain in which He taught me so much. In a world in which society tells us we can control our destinations in life, including family planning. I’ve learned society is wrong and if God has a plan for a new life, who are we to stop God from creating?  Sixteen years ago was not that long ago and society today is “foreign” even to the thinking back then. I would have never dreamed how far we have moved into rationalizing “reasons” why some abortions are needed in this world. Even in Christian circles abortion is okay …IF…
Our family walked through the “loss” of a baby and was encouraged by many, including the medical world, to grieve that life. Our child we held, dressed up and cradled in her blanket and she was the same age of those who are killed every day in this world with the act of abortion. Double standards are the way I see it. We were married and financially could afford our child; our child was an unplanned pregnancy like so many other children are today. We embraced this gift, when others take their child’s life. The medical society knew this was a life that had died in the womb and encouraged us to take our time and go through the grieving process. The double standard: a baby that is aborted is called a fetus, a baby that is aborted, the parents are denied to grieve. My question is why? Why was our Jamiee honored and respected by the medical world? Why are the unwanted babies aborted denied that respect and thrown in dumpsters? Lord have mercy on our society. Maybe Jamiee’s purpose in life was to teach us how to look at the double standards. For those who could be reading this and are experiencing an unplanned pregnancy…. It is not a mistake you are reading this. God has brought you to this spot for a reason. You are not alone and God does have a plan for your child. He created that child for a purpose and there are many solutions to consider. Killing your baby is wrong. For those who could be reading this and you went through an abortion, maybe you did not have all the facts, maybe you did. God still loves you and He has been waiting for you to be healed. You were denied the grieving process and He will meet you where you are and forgive you. Many who have gone through an abortion have a hard time forgiving themselfs, even when they know God has forgiven them. I recommend you contact a ministry called Rachel Vineyard; http://www.rachelsvineyard.org/

They will help you begin the grieving process and in time you will be healed.

I thank my friend who I stayed up with in the wee hours for encouraging me to share my story and I pray many will see God’s heart for the "Sanctity of Life" in my true life story. It is a life and a baby… It has a heartbeat and feels pain just like us.
Jamiee's ashes
We were even given a birth record from the hospital..... wasn't she special?

We were also given a death certificate.... Jamiee's death is recorded in the State of PA. Makes me sad to think of all the babies that loss their lives in abortions, no records that they ever touched the lives of this world.
 
My keepsake box of all my treasures in which a little one touched our lives forever and into eternity!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

He Is Home... Testimony of Faith



My husband a quiet man at times, especially if he does not know you, spent the last few months writing his journey into the Catholic Faith. For a man who usually does not use many words….. He had much to say. I am so proud of him and every time I asked him if he was finished yet? He would say… “No! I have too many areas I need to cover. This is my story and I want to get it right.”

Why do we want to share this? In hopes of bridging a gap and help folks understand the misunderstandings that have divided Christianity.  We know we are just a small pebble in this great big ocean in which we live. Hoping our pebble with bring a few ripples across the waters and touch others. God Bless, Jewels

I was born the second child of a staunch Presbyterian family; father, mother, four sisters and me. From as early as I can remember our parents did not “send” their children to church, they “took” them. We did Sunday school and Church service almost every Sunday. We may have protested (more about protestation later) from time to time, but we understood we were going. It was a part of our lives. I thank God often for the father and mother he prepared for me. They were not perfect parents by the world’s standards, but they were perfect for me. God does not make mistakes. What does the world know?
I was baptized at the age of 13 months. Until I was about five years old, I have scant memories of life; a few places and events. When I was eight years old, we began attending St. Phillip Presbyterian Church in Hurst, TX. There were many families with children my age, but the ones that attended regularly only had girls my age. There I was in Sunday school surrounded by girls. Not the ideal situation for an eight or nine year old boy, especially a boy with four sisters! Still, I enjoyed the Bible stories, mostly from the Old Testament, that told the ancient history of the people of God. Great heroes like Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua and David were imperfect, yet God showed them great power and had mercy on them. Then too, we had stories from the New Testament of Jesus healing multitudes of people, teaching them to obey God and ultimately being crucified. Oh yes, He was buried, rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven. Yet, the “full” meaning of all this escaped me.
When I was thirteen, it was time for Confirmation. Yes, the Presbyterians have, or had back then, a confirmation process. Eight or ten weeks meeting with the Minister to “learn” the tenets of the faith (Communicants Class), followed by a Confirmation Service. We made a profession of faith, were received into full membership and received our first Communion (sound sort of familiar to you Catholics?). I cannot tell you the complete affect first Communion had on me, but as I continued to take Communion over the years I experienced something special. I now know it was the Grace of God. I had wondered for many years why I could not “participate” in Communion and why my father, mother and others in the assembly would weep at the eating of flat bread and wine. (Yes, our Presbyterian church had WINE! It was not until much later that grape juice was offered as an alternate to wine.) I too would well-up during the Communion Service, but would be so at peace afterword.
At this point of the story I know many Catholics are screaming “What about examination of conscience? What about Reconciliation? What about receiving unworthily? What about crackers and juice? What about… What-up with dat?” Calm down already. We were taught to examine our conscience and confess our sin and sinfulness, before receiving. Did we confess to a Priest? Yes and no. We were more than welcome to approach our minister, Reverend James F. Garvin (a wonderful man of God, but not a Catholic Priest… more on this later), and discuss any manner of sin, fault or greivance. He would assure us “in Jesus Christ you are forgiven.” Most of us confessed to the High Priest forever of the order of Melchizedek. You might know him as Jesus Christ.
As I transitioned from junior high to high school, my church attendance slowly declined. Eventually it was relegated to the level of holiday celebrations. There were basically two, Easter and Christmas. Two things occurred during this time that affected my attitude toward church attendance.
First, my dad had a “disagreement” with the church leadership. He was a Deacon willing to serve, but something upset him so much he resigned and rarely attended church the remainder of his life. I know nothing of the details and never asked.
Second, I became self absorbed. I focused on working, football, friends with little or no inclination toward spiritual development, smoking, drinking and girls. Imagine that, smoking and drinking coexisting with football. Sure, many players on my high school team smoked and drank their way through the season. Young bodies can take a lot of abuse and recover quickly. Probably still happens today with the added influence of drugs. Girls? Although I liked girls, I never had success in this department. I was terrified of them. I feared rejection and thought I had nothing to offer. I had three dates in three years of high school. One of those the girl asked me, but I thought she was motivated by her recent breakup with another guy. Enough about this. In my senior year I quit football half way through the season and worked (money was important to me) while moving on to a more “important” activity, experimenting with drugs.
I graduated from high school and began to work construction. I had plenty of money, but wanted more. What better way than to sell pot. I was not the prime North Texas Distributor, but sold it none the less. This was a dark period in my life. I lived for money and the next high. I worked all day, partied all night, got up the next day and repeated the cycle. This lasted for about three years.
Then it happened. The night I returned to my apartment after a 1,000 mile motorcycle trip, a beautiful young maiden entered my life. What a vision of loveliness. God had placed a Jewel (Julie) in front of me to bring some light to the darkness. I wanted desperately to ask her for a date, but was afraid of rejection. For weeks I asked our mutual friends how she felt about me and if she would accept a call from me (I thought she was “dating” one of them). They assured me she would like to hear from me. I gathered up the courage and made the call, and a date. From that point forward I spent as much time as I could with her. The unfortunate thing is I pulled her down to my level. After four months that included premarital sex and subsequent pregnancy, we were married. Lest you think we were “forced”, I actually decided to ask her and miracle of miracles she said yes.
The morning of the wedding I was extremely unsettled and spoke to my mother about it. She said, “Why don’t you go to the church and pray.” I do not know what I expected her to say, but pray about it was not it. Regardless, I went. I entered the sanctuary (this was before the now all too common auditorium), chose a pew close to the alter (yes we had an altar table in my Presbyterian church), and began to pray. Although I had not practiced prayer, other than the Our Father, I poured forth my heart to God. When I ran out of words, I sat there for some time wondering if I had even reached the ears of God. The Lord did hear me, and the most amazing peace came over me. Later that day we said our vows and began a new life as Mr. & Mrs.
Life came at us hard and fast. We had our first child Jeanine. She was baptized in St. Phillip Presbyterian and we continued the holiday tradition, Christmas and Easter. I changed jobs a few times and was focused on providing for my new family. Three years after Jeanine, Joshua came. Again, we had him baptized in St Phillip. I still had no desire to develop spiritually, nor was I concerned for my family’s spiritual condition. But, things would soon change.
One day I noticed Jewels was watching one of those “TV preachers”, Pat Robertson. She tried to explain to me the “encounter” she had with The Lord. Words like born again and saved were not foreign to me, but they were reserved for the “religious fanatics” not for the “Frozen Chosen” Presbyterians. Unfortunately, I allowed her to explore this new fangled religion on her own. I was a busy man. I had a full-time job and many other odd jobs to make extra money. My God demanded hard work. Then it happened again.
Jewels had been talking with an old family friend, Betty. She and her husband Dick had invited us to their house in Dallas for an overnight stay. We showed up with two kids, an appetite and a jug of wine. Jewels and Betty discussed all manner of religion, while Dick and I killed the jug and solved the world’s problems. The next morning, Easter Sunday, Jewels, Betty, the kids and I went to church, a new mega-church in Farmer’s Branch, TX. Dick had no time for this nonsense; you see, he was a cradle Catholic and rarely attended Mass. After a short drive, we entered the gigantic auditorium, found some seats, and settled in for the Easter service, or should I say entertainment. First, Pastor Bob Tilton, followed by “reformed and saved” Little Richard (yes, the Little Richard) and finally a man named Norvel Hayes. He presented the “Pentecostal” gospel of Jesus Christ. I listened intently. At the end Mr. Hayes announced the “altar call”. Altar call? Where was the altar? The only thing I saw was a stage and some couches. Must be part of the new fangled religion. As some folks made their way forward I waited in silence thinking of how hungry I was. Then something happened. I apparently had received some sort of “enlightenment”. Where did that come from? Should I stay, or should I go forward. The conflict raged in my mind. I was Frozen Chosen! Then, a well placed elbow to my ribs had me in the aisle (I have this thing about aisle seats. They are a must for me.) The Jewels from God had forced me to confront God. I shuffled down the aisle to the stage, I mean “altar”. There Mr. Hayes led us in the “sinner’s prayer” and prayed over us. No magic. No bright light. After a while the hunger pangs returned and I had to find my way back to the family. There were high fives all around, but I was hungry. Let us go and be filled. In the parking lot Betty was explaining healing. For whatever reason I mentioned a knot on my wrist that would come and go throughout my life. It was painful when it appeared and it was present that morning. She slammed the car in park, grabbed my wrist and began to pray. I was appreciative, but I needed to eat. Jewels, the kids and I returned to our home later that afternoon.
The next morning I awoke and readied myself for work. As I went through my morning routine, I noticed the knot on the wrist was gone. I had full range of motion and no pain. This was not completely unusual; however, it had never disappeared that quickly. I was just happy the pain was gone and expected it to return some day. It never has returned. Praise God.
Within a few days Jewels purchased a pocket New Testament for me to read at work during lunch. The first day I opened it I devoured verse after verse. My coworkers were amazed that I could not put it down. The Scriptures came alive and I began the painfully slow process of conversion. I was starting to grasp a fuller meaning of crucifixion, death and resurrection.
We began attending an Assembly of God church in Cleburne, TX. There were some wonderful Christian people there. We did not concern ourselves with doctrinal issues and theology, we had Christ! The importance of doctrine and theology would be learned much later. Fellowship and worship with other professing Christians was comforting.
After two years, we believed the Lord was calling us into a vastly different phase of life. After much prayer and discussion, we sold all our worldly goods, save a few, and moved to south Texas, Kingsville that is. There I attended college working toward a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Jewels worked ten hours a day, 6 days a week. I carried a full load of classes year round and raised the kids. We had “no time” for church, although we did visit a few. God was put on the back burner after having called us to endure this phase; however, He never failed to provide our needs.
Three and a half years later we moved to Waco, TX where I was once again gainfully employed as a rocket motor designer. God had blessed us with a good job and we experienced the fruits of our labor during the college years. Again, we visited a few churches, but were not truly seeking fellowship with Christians. We wandered through life for three years in Waco and found ourselves dissatisfied and wanting a change.
I was offered a job in Huntsville, Alabama as a rocket motor Project Engineer. We purchased our first and only “new” house. We had owned others, but this one was built for us. Several new friends came into our lives. They were good people, but most of them were not regular church attendees. Jewels seriously desired spiritual development and I was content to ride what I call “the velvet lined rut.” She suggested we visit an Assembly of God church a few miles from our house and I agreed. We attended regularly for about a year. One Sunday morning during the opening praise & worship session, the Lord clearly spoke to my heart saying, “Join this church.” I told Jewels after the service and she said, if I was sure, we should speak to the pastor. We spoke. We joined and began an interesting phase of our spiritual journey.
We became very involved in many aspects of the church. Jeanine and Josh became involved in all youth activities. Jewels and I led Children’s Church and helped with other youth activities. I was elected to the Board of Trustees. It seemed we were at the church more than we were at home and we loved it. Then, it began to unravel. We discovered how mean and cruel some “Christians” can be. I will spare you the details, but bearing false witness and theft were involved. People accused me of using my position as a Trustee to take control of the church! I was astounded and resigned. We left the church and sought a short period of reflection. A few visits to a Presbyterian church did little to heal the wounds we suffered at the hands of “Christians.” Shortly after, we moved to a new job in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania was new and exciting, but from the very beginning we searched for a church. A few Assemblies of God were visited, but nothing clicked. Jewels had been reading about the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA). After several visits we were encouraged to study “church history” with one of the Elders. The “history” basically started in 1500 AD. Imagine that? Well the more studying we did, the more confused we became. What is this Calvinist understanding of predestination? What was this Calvinist theology? I did not get this at St Phillip. Why was the minister so anti Catholic? Well, he had grown up in a Catholic family, but something had turned him against Catholicism. He was firmly convinced the Pope was the antichrist and all Roman Catholics were following him to hell. Imagine that? In all my years in the Presbyterian Church I had never experienced such a prejudice. Heck, my parents allowed me to occasionally attend Mass with the Catholic family that lived behind us. The only derogatory (if you can call it that) thing they ever said about Catholicism was “They are the people that have a lot of kids.” My parents said that? With five kids? Kind of funny, huh?
After two years attending that church we decided to leave. We just could not subscribe to the Calvinist theology. There were some good people there, but we just did not understand the teaching. I felt many of folks there thought they were the only ones having the “keys to the Kingdom” and unless we joined, our souls would be in serious jeopardy. The one thing the experience taught us was there is more to church history than 1500 AD to 2000 AD. So, off we went searching for another Assemblies of God. Remember, that was the first church experience following our “real awakening” to the Gospel and we had spent several years in that environment. Two more years in two different Assemblies churches and my job ended. The search for another job landed us back in Texas in the small town of Bellville.
The search was on again. First, we visited a couple of Assemblies churches; one in Bellville and one 17 miles up the road in Brenham (home to Blue Bell Ice Cream). We stayed at the one in Brenham for quite some time, not because of the people, preaching or scenic drive, but because we could go to a real good Mexican buffet after church (that is my opinion). Next we moved on to a non denominational group meeting in a private residence. Again all were good Christian folks, but something was missing. I was struggling with how the “preacher”, a full time pest control man, got his credentials to preach. Where, and by whom, was he ordained? Don’t get me wrong, he was a good Christian man and preached within the orthodoxy of mainline Protestantism, but by what authority (more on this later)? Finally, we visited a Lutheran Church, Baptist Church, Cowboy Church and then a Bible Church. Guess what? We moved again.
Our next stop was, and still is, Magnolia, Arkansas. This is where it gets interesting. After 25 years of wandering in the desert, we were still searching for the “Promised Land”. Let me tell you, this is a Baptist town. There are no less than 25 Baptist Churches within a 20 minute drive of our house. Well, we ignored them for a couple of years and visited an Assemblies church (definitely a heavy spiritual struggle there) and a non denominational church. Finally, we gave the Baptists a chance. Everywhere we attended there were many good Christian people, but I just could not understand where some of the theology was developed, or by what authority it was delivered.
After a particularly interesting “Bible Study” on Sunday evening, I told Jewels, “I guess we should visit the Catholic Church. Maybe there we will be free from the ‘demon of alcohol’ syndrome.” Many folks at churches we visited here hold the opinion that someone who drinks alcohol, even in moderation, is on the fast track to hell. Well, I enjoy beer. I like to make beer. It tastes good with Bar-B-Q and Mexican food. I do not abuse alcohol and I can go for months without a beer, but I do not like others determining my eternal fate based on whether or not alcohol passes my lips.
For several years Jewels’ uncle and aunt had politely discussed with us the historical, theological and doctrinal background of the Catholic Church. Most of the time I listened, and then questioned certain positions or statements. The primary roadblock to going further into Catholicism was the “real presence” in the Communion bread and wine. The concept of transubstantiation was difficult for me to grasp. Also, I could not understand why we were restricted from participating in the “Communion” portion of the Mass.
After my statement about visiting the Catholic Church, Jewels began to investigate; service time, Sunday school, Bible Study, etc. I will leave that story to her. We finally had a Sunday morning set aside to attend the first Mass where we were going to “understand” what Catholics do. We were totally overwhelmed and lost! The Priest was from Nigeria and had an accent so thick you needed a chainsaw to cut it. A knife was out of the question. I had no idea what the Homily was supposed to tell me. Do not misunderstand. Father Pius was a wonderful man of God. He spoke 6 languages (I think), but he carried an accent when speaking English. From what I was told, his accent was almost nonexistent when he spoke Spanish. As I mentioned earlier, I had been allowed to attend Catholic Mass as a child, but I did not remember exactly how long Catholics were on their knees (I was younger with better knees). We did not kneel that day, but it still seemed like a long time. However, there were two things I understood; the Nicene Creed and the Our Father. Both were said every week at St. Phillip Presbyterian. My mother had taught her children “The Lord’s Prayer” as soon as we could speak, and we each said it every night before bedtime.
We discussed our first experience at Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHOM) with mixed emotions. Jewels was discouraged and I was confused, but we decided to continue attending. There are many stories of our early days at IHOM, but three key things happened. First, I trained my ears to cut through Father Pius’ Nigerian accent so as to understand the Homily and prayers, especially the Eucharistic Prayer. I discovered what a wonderful man of God he was and I love him to this day. I began to see the Liturgy as “soaked” in Scripture. Second, I began to participate, as fully as I could, in the Mass. I would kneel at the appropriate time, make the appropriate responses, and take in fully the new things. One new thing was the Gloria. What a wonderful expression of God and to God. (A side note here; I loved the older version as we sang it, but it has been slightly modified to a more “accurate” Latin-to-English translation. Still it is beautiful, but does not flow as well as the older version did for me.) Finally, we enrolled in The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA). Our RCIA instructor was willing to discuss the Catechism of the Catholic Church with us, and I think it forced him to dig much deeper into the Catholic faith than he had gone before. He did his best with what few resources were available at our Parish. He was a cradle Catholic with the heart to serve, but was unable to answer some of the deep questions from us Protestants.
The second time we went through RCIA, a more comprehensive and structured lesson plan was available. About half way through the class Jewels and our daughter Jeanine decided to “join”, or “convert to”, the Catholic Faith. I remained committed to studying and discerning further. Most folks thought I was just dragging my feet, but I was still unsure of that sticking point of the “real presence” in the Eucharist. I finished year two of RCIA.
Our former instructor moved his family to Florida and a new instructor took the reins. He was always well prepared because the new Priest at our Parish brought with him an excellent RCIA program. This was much needed in our Parish and I thank Father Hart for the material and guidance it has made to all who attend. The new RCIA instructor, a cradle Catholic, was forced to dig deep into the Catechism and discovered more than he ever knew about Catholicism. An unexpected consequence of the RCIA instruction experience has changed his life. For four more years I read and listen too many of the Catholic world’s premier apologists discuss all facets of the faith. I prayed during adoration. Sound funny? “What is Adoration”, you ask? It is prayer and contemplation in front of the Blessed Sacrament, the Most Holy Sacrament, the Real Presence, Christ physically present. Yes, I attended adoration on several occasions; at the Catholic Charismatic Conference, at retreats and at church. I received no answer, whether God did not speak or I did not hear. This was a most frustrating time in my life. I truly sought an answer, but it escaped me. Sometimes we must rely on the measure of faith God has given us.
Then it happened. The Lord spoke to me during my morning drive to work. I listed to a talk radio show during those drives and the focus of the host is original intent of the US Constitution. To fully appreciate the Constitution’s creation and purpose, one must read from the volumes of letters, notes and debate transcriptions of those who framed and ratified the document. These people are known as the founding fathers of our nation. Well, the Lord reminded me that the Church had founding fathers, and I should consider the volumes they wrote during its founding and development. I had read many things written by the Church fathers, but as many people do. I accepted what fit with my theology and ignored the rest. For the next several months I considered three basic things.
My Presbyterian Experience
I considered similarities between St. Phillip Presbyterian (form my childhood) and the Catholic Church. For 4-5 years I had heard the statement “Protestants do this or that” and I did not remember doing “this or that”. At other times I heard “Protestants believe this or that”. Again, I did not remember “this or that”. As I thought back on the structure at St. Phillip, I realized some striking similarities. Hang on to your hat, it will be enlightening. Reverend Garvin (remember, I said he was not a Catholic Priest) wore vestments. Granted, they were not as elaborate as today’s priest wears, but vestments none the less. He wore a black robe with collar and stole. The stole changed colors over the course of each year, and the cloths draped over the lectern and alter matched the minister’s stole. Sound familiar? His daily attire was black shirt with clerical collar and black slacks. Sounds very much like a priest.
 Sunday service was structured as follows:
Entrance Procession – The massive choir began at the rear of the sanctuary and proceeded up the center aisle. They continued back down the outer aisles and into the choir loft. The choir was followed by the acolytes with candle lighters in hand and Rev. Garvin last. Imagine that, candles in church! Can you find a Protestant church today that has candles burning during the worship service?
Greeting – Rev. Garvin greeted the congregation in the name of the Lord and offered up a prayer.
The Call to Worship – Rev. Garvin encouraged all to call to mind their sinful shortcomings and ask for forgiveness, in order to enter into worship. Sometimes this was a silent act and other times it was vocalized as written in the bulletin.
The Assurance of Forgiveness – Rev. Garvin would assure the faithful that in Jesus Christ we were forgiven and say “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.” The congregation responded in kind after each.
A Reading from the Old Testament – A passage from one of the Old Testament Books was read by a Lector.
Responsorial Reading from the Psalms – A passage from one of the Psalms was read by a Lector with appropriate congregational response.
A Reading from the Epistles – A passage from one of the New Testament Epistles was read by a Lector.
A Reading from the Gospels – A passage from one of the New Testament Gospels was read by Rev. Garvin.
The Sermon – Rev. Garvin explained life application of the Scripture readings.
The Offering – Self explanatory
The Intercessory Prayer – Rev. Garvin prayed for the needs of the world.
The Benediction – Rev. Garvin pronounced a blessing (below) and sent the congregation out to live for Christ.

Jude 1:24-25(NKJV)
24 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, 25 To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.
 The Recessional – The choir sang a song as the acolytes extinguished the candles, then the acolytes and Rev. Garvin exited down the center aisle.
All of this is a mirror of the Mass, save the Eucharistic Prayer and the receiving of Body and Blood. We did not celebrate Communion every Sunday, but when we did, it went something like this. The gifts were brought to the altar. The Rev. Garvin would position himself behind the alter and recite words eerily similar the Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass. The gifts were held aloft as the words were spoken. We were assured the Bread and Wine “representing” the Body and Blood of our Savior would give us life. We were encouraged to examine our conscience and partake in a worthy manner. The elements were distributed by Communion ministers.
As I continued to reflect on how closely the service followed the Mass, I could not help asking myself, “Where did that come from?” The answer is, before The Reformation. Originally, the reformers did not desire to wipe out all vestiges of the Catholic Church or the Mass. Rather, Martin Luther wanted the abuse of Indulgences to be addressed by the Bishops. His Ninety-five Theses were more of an academic challenge to doctrinal positions than an absolute challenge of authority. Whether the Bishops were too slow or Luther was too impatient, I do not know. What I do know is Pope Leo X, a dubious character at best, demanded Luther retract his writings. Nowhere do I find evidence Leo X attempted to address each academic challenge. Quite possibly he was too busy enjoying the fruits of indulgence sales where they were being accomplished and involving himself in the secular political affairs of Europe. Leo X was known for his own self indulgence to the material good life. Luther refused to retract (rejected the Papal Authority) and Leo X excommunicated him. The unfortunate result was a sinful hardening of hearts on both sides, leading to a separation lasting 500 years. As the years have passed, more and more of the ”Traditions” have been eradicated or replaced by the Protestant denominations. I am extremely thankful that Reverend Garvin was more “catholic” than anyone realized. Many of the Sacred Traditions handed down for 2,000 years were in effect outside of the Catholic Church and reflected at St Phillip Presbyterian. It afforded me the privilege of being brought up in a liturgy very close to the Church of antiquity.
The Apostolic Succession
This topic is a huge hindrance to Protestants accepting Catholicism. I think the biggest hurdle is the idea of being under “authority”. Humans, by nature, reject authority. It is at the root of our sinfulness. The first parents, Adam and Eve, rejected God’s authority and men and women have been rejecting it since that Original Sin. If we are prone to reject the authority of the Creator of the universe, how much more would we reject the authority of another human being claiming to be the Vicar of Christ; Christ’s representative on earth to guide the faithful. Why did Christ continually speak in terms of sheep and shepherds? We are like sheep! As salvation history will attest, humans need real, present authority to keep them from going astray. Read the Mosaic Law. Read about the Prophets and how the children of God (Israel) rejected their authority and killed them. Read about the Kings of Israel and how they rejected the Prophets and fell into great sin. Yes, God had Prophets to provide authority over the Kings! Without the presence of authority we wander into all manner of debauchery. As I see it, God left the following after the ascension of Christ
1)    Real, present Holy Spirit – available to all Baptized
2)    Real , present human authority – Peter (as the first) with successors
3)    Real Presence – Sacrament of Communion or Eucharist
Consider the following passage from Matthew:

Matthew 16:15-19 (NKJV)
15He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth £will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
This passage has been explained by many a Protestant like this: Simon Peter confesses that Jesus is the Messiah. And on that confession Christ would build His church. The keys to the Kingdom of Heaven were that believers can bind Satan and loose people from the bondage of demons. When viewed in light of Isaiah 22, there is clarity of keys and binding and loosing.
Isaiah 22:20-23 (NKJV)
20 ‘Then it shall be in that day, that I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah; 21 I will clothe him with your robe and strengthen him with your belt; I will commit your responsibility into his hand. He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem And to the house of Judah. 22 The key of the house of David I will lay on his shoulder; so he shall open, and no one shall shut; and he shall shut, and no one shall open. 23 I will fasten him as a peg in a secure place, and he will become a glorious throne to his father’s house.
In this passage God is promising to transfer authority (key of the house of David) to Eliakim. He can open and no one can shut. He can shut and no one can open. Sound like authority to you? Jesus was transferring authority to Peter to deal with sin. And how was Peter to deal with sin? The Sacrament of Reconciliation or, as it is commonly known, Confession. It is appropriate to insert Confession here, since it is part of the “authority”. Before I entered into full communion with the Catholic Church, I was drawn to the idea Confession. Regular confessing one’s sins is a must throughout this life. Nobody is sin free for long. It is in our nature. God demands confession and repentance when we give in to our sinful nature. Without confession, one cannot be in “right standing” with God. John says:

1 John 1:8-10 (NKJV)
8If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
When he says “we” he is including himself. If John needed to confess his sin, I certainly need to confess mine. Most Protestant folks would say, “I can go straight to Jesus and confess my sin.” This is very true, but I found something special in confessing to a priest. If you truly want to experience humility, confess your sins to a Catholic priest.
I was told by many that I could not participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation unless I was Catholic. I refused to accept this position. I asked our priest if he would hear my confession. He said he would ask the Bishop. Well, the Bishop said sure. I read a small pamphlet about examination of conscience and preparation for Reconciliation. I was nervous when I entered the confessional the first time. Would I remember the “word formula”?  Would I chicken out? I found out there is no exact word formula. The “formula” is simply this: Examine conscience, approach in humility, admit your sins & sinfulness, perform an act of contrition (express true sorrow) and ask for forgiveness. When I was done, the priest pronounced absolution. He absolved me of my sin giving me a special peace. This is the loosing of sin on earth and loosing of sin in heaven. How can he do this? The priest has received the authority from Jesus, as in Matthew 16: 15-19, through apostolic succession; succession from Peter and the other Apostles. All bishops and priests receive the authority to act in “the person of Christ” when ordained, and loose the confessed sins of the faithful.
As I considered apostolic succession, wondered why there were so many theologies and doctrinal positions within the “Christian community”. Many years of reading Scripture brought to mind specific passages. One in particular kept returning; John 17: 20-23.

John 17:20-23 (NKJV)
20“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their
word; 21that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.

Why did Jesus pray for unity, but there was little unity in the faithful? Unity was not meant to be unity of professed faith in Jesus Christ, as I had been taught and accepted. Unity of “profession” is a weak position when one considers the totality of Scripture. Take for instance Romans 12:4-5.


Romans 12:4-5 (NKJV)
4For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.

Paul is leading into specific gifts given each member of the body, but the gist of these verses is many members of one body; one body in Christ. Again in I Corinthians 12:12-14 Paul speaks of many members of one body and one body in Christ. Not only that, but by one Spirit baptized into one body.


1 Corinthians 12:12-14 (NKJV)
12For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. 14For in fact the body is not one member but many. 15If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 16And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 17If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? 18But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.19And if they were all one member, where would the body be?
20But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. 21And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. 23And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty,
24but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, 25that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. 26And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
27Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.

Again, in Ephesians 4 oneness is the theme; one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God. Christ is the head and has joined the whole body, according to His desire to effectively work and grow the body in love.

Ephesians 4:1-6 (NKJV)
1I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all…11And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which
every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

There is so much oneness in the New Testament, yet so much disunity in the Christian community. Why are there differing opinions concerning evil in the world within the Christian community? Why are there differing opinions about suffering in this life within the Christian community? Why are there differing opinions of the sanctity of life within the Christian community? Why are there tens of thousands of doctrinal positions and beliefs within the Christian community? Did God intend His prayer for unity to be disunity? Did God establish His one holy catholic and apostolic church (read the Nicene Creed accepted by many Protestant churches) to be separated? Obviously Jesus made a mistake in John 17, did he not? No mistake was made by the Lamb without blemish, the Perfect Sacrifice.

Finally, we have John 20:19-23 as a reinforcing of John 16:15-19.


John 20:19-23 (NKJV)
19Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Jesus sent the disciples as the Father sent Him. He sends the disciples, with the authority to forgive or retain sins. These disciples were the very ones being used by Jesus to build his church. These were ordinary sinful (as we all are) men, but with the power to forgive or not forgive sins of the people. What an awesome responsibility, and I have no doubt that along with this power, Jesus expected the apostles to establish His church in unity. He left them with no particular or specific “structure”, but with the Holy Spirit to guide them into all truth and righteousness. In John 21, three times Jesus commands Peter to feed His sheep. How does one feed sheep? By leading them to green pastures. By using a rod and staff to nudge and comfort them. By watching for the predators that seek to devour them (a dead sheep cannot be fed). There is definitely an indication of Jesus’ desire to form a leadership structure in the unified church.

History is littered with facts of popes being less than holy in their duties. I pointed out one earlier in this document. The same can be said of many Protestant leaders. I will not play the game of “your leader was worst than mine”. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God; me, you and all leaders secular and religious. But, the interesting fact is God has preserved the Catholic Church with unchanging doctrinal positions throughout 2,000 years. Do not think the Church will one day acquiesce and approve of sacrificing children on the altar of convenience (abortion). No, the sanctity of life will be preserved regardless of the pressure from godless heathen rulers of any stripe!

The Eucharist

Now I come to the Sacrament of Holy Communion. This was my biggest stumbling block to entering into full communion with the Catholic Church. Once the issue of apostolic succession was settled, it was somewhat easier to accept the “real presence” in the Eucharist. If I accepted apostolic succession, I should be able to accept the teaching and Tradition the apostles and their successors (Magisterial Office) preserved for 2,000 years.

For more than six years I sorely missed the partaking of Communion. It was a special participation in the Lord’s grace each time I received as a wandering “Presbyterian”. Many times I would contemplate attending the Presbyterian Church in order to receive Communion, but something kept me from it.

All Catholic apologists continually refer to John 6: 22 & following for the roots of the real presence.

John 6:22-31 (NKJV)
22On the following day, when the people who were standing on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other boat there, except that one £which His disciples had

entered, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with His disciples, but His disciples had gone away alone— 23however, other boats came from Tiberius, near the place where they ate bread after the Lord had given thanks— 24when the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they also got into boats and came to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. 25And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You come here?” 26Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. 27Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” 28Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” 29Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” 30Therefore they said to Him, “What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do? 31Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’

The previous day Jesus performed the miracle of loaves and fishes. Several thousand “sheep” were fed from 5 loaves of bread and 2 small fish. Jesus blessed and broke the loaves and likewise the fishes. The bread and fishes were distributed to thousands of people and when they had been satisfied, there were twelve full baskets of leftovers. After crossing the Sea of Galilee, Jesus launches into the “Bread of Life Discourse” of John 6: 32-58. Why did the “sheep” follow Him to the other side of the sea? They wanted more bread and fish. Jesus knew they did not come because of the miracle they witnessed, but because they wanted full bellies. He told them the bread eaten the previous day perishes, but they should work for the bread that “endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you”. Interestingly enough they asked what works they should do for God. And Jesus says the work of God is to believe in Jesus. Well, they must have a sign to believe in Him! The sign their fathers witnessed to believe in Moses was the manna from Heaven. The crowd thought Moses provided the manna. Jesus quickly sets them straight:


John 6:32-41 (NKJV)
32Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34Then they said to Him, “Lord, give us this bread always.” 35And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. 36But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. 37All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. 38For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

God gives the true bread, He (Jesus) who comes down from Heaven and gives life to the world. Whoever comes to Jesus will never hunger, and believes in Him will never thirst. If you see him and believe in Him you will have everlasting life. Sounds pretty straightforward, right? Read on.

 

John 6:41-42 (NKJV)
41The Jews then complained about Him, because He said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.” 42And they said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He says, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”

The Jews complained. How could this guy claim to be from Heaven? We know Him. He is just the old carpenter’s son. We know that family! He certainly is not from Heaven. As you read further, notice how Jesus points to the prophets. The prophets of the Old Testament clearly taught that those who heard and learned from God would recognize Jesus, the Messiah, when He appeared. In fact, Jews would be drawn by God to Jesus, if they knew the prophet’s teachings.

John 6:43-58 (NKJV)

43Jesus therefore answered and said to them, “Do not murmur among yourselves. 44No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. 45It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me. 46Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father. 47Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. 48I am the bread of life. 49Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 50This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. 51I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” 52The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?” 53Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. 54Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. 56He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. 58This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”

Jesus goes on to say he is the bread from Heaven. The fathers ate manna and are dead, but anyone who eats of the true bread will live forever, and this true bread is His flesh! Say what? There was a quarrel. He is going to give us His flesh to eat? How can He do that? This is hard to swallow! (pun intended) I count no less than the following:

1)    Jesus is the Bread of Life – 4 times

2)    Manna did not provide eternal life (as the Jews thought) – 3 times

3)    Eat the Flesh – 5 times

The discourse continues:


John 6:59-66 (NKJV)
59These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum. 60Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?” 61When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you? 62What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? 63It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. 64But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. 65And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.” 66From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.

This is a hard saying. Who can believe it? I was previously under the impression the closing words spoken by Jesus were indicating symbolic meaning – “the Spirit gives life; the flesh profits nothing.” But just now as I write this, I see a more perfect meaning in context. Jesus says the words he speaks are spirit and life, but some do not believe. Jesus knew from the beginning those who would betray Him, then once more said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.” Those who are seeking Jesus, the Father will grant him to believe. Fast forward to John 13:


John 13:15-20(NKJV)
15For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. 18“I do not speak concerning all of you. I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me.’  19Now I tell you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe that I am He. 20Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.”
21When Jesus had said these things, He was troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.” 22Then the disciples looked at one another, perplexed about whom He spoke. 23Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. 24Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask who it was of whom He spoke. 25Then, leaning back on Jesus’ breast, he said to Him, “Lord, who is it?” 26Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it.” And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. 27Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.”
28But no one at the table knew for what reason He said this to him. 29For some thought, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus had said to him, “Buy those things we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. 30Having received the piece of bread, he then went out immediately. And it was night.

It is unclear whether or not Judas actually ate the “dipped” bread/morsel, or just took it and left the room. Theologians (Catholic included) are divided over this, but regardless of whether Judas ate it or took it and left, I see it like this:

1)    Judas took it and left – he did not believe and as a result he betrayed Jesus, and then hanged himself.

2)    Judas took, ate unworthily and then hanged himself.

Either way there is unbelief and the end result was the same. However, Peter and nine others took, ate worthily and when they betrayed Jesus (yes, they did by denial), they repented and were restored because they believed. Do not think I have miscounted. John did not deny the Christ. We can know from Scripture John was at the foot of the cross with The Blessed Virgin!  (She is the new Mother of all the living in Christ. Suffice it to say, there is not enough space in this document to expand, but Eve was the mother of all creation and Mary is the mother of all the new born in Christ. I leave it to you to study further. Think in terms of: the Divinity of Christ, Mary as Divinity’s mother and Divinity’s purpose.)

Lest you think this is a symbolic action and worthiness is not required, I refer you to Paul’s words in I Corinthians:


1 Corinthians 11:23-30 (NKJV)

23For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. 27Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.

If you eat and drink unworthily by not discerning the Lord’s body, you eat and drink judgment upon yourself. Paul says some are weak, some are sick and some are dead because of unworthy participation!

I came to the point of decision. There are times when reason must yield to faith. This is not to say reason is unimportant. Faith and reason are in harmony. All doctrinal positions were developed using faith AND reason. Scripture admonishes us to give reasons for the hope that is in us.


1 Peter 3:15 (NKJV)
15But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;

From the earliest days of the Church, there are preserved various writings composed by what are termed The Fathers of the Church. Many Protestant theologians refer to these men and their documents. Developed in the writings are basics of the Christian faith; the Trinity, Deity of Christ, sacramental worship, real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. For example, one of the very earliest, Didache, was written about 100 A.D. and contains the basic structure of the Mass, instruction on faith & morals, basic church government,  baptism and the resurrection. These writings formed the basis of Catholic doctrine. Other writings detail how the Romans held a negative view of Christianity because of the Eucharist. Early Christians professed consuming the Body, Blood, Soul & Divinity of our Lord. Romans considered them cannibals, part of the reason Christians were martyred. Rather than deny the real presence in the Eucharist, they were willing to die! Later writings develop the doctrine of Transubstantiation – how the elements of bread and wine are changed into the actual substance of the flesh & blood of Christ, but “hidden” by remaining bread & wine to the partaker’s senses. This is a mystery of the Faith, the central mystery. Not all the fathers were in total agreement in everything they wrote, but from that body of work, produced over hundreds of years, the Magisterial Teaching Body of the church has defined, confirmed and preserved the doctrinal positions/beliefs of Christ’s Church. This is referred to as the “Deposit of Faith”. Where the fathers had differences among themselves, or the Church, they yielded to the Magisterium. By the way, the Magisterium is not just the current Pope Francis and College of Cardinals. It is to sum total of all popes, cardinals and bishops throughout the past 2,000 years. Then the Great Schism of the eleventh century divided the Catholic Church into East & West (actually this was brewing for 600-700 years). There was no debate over Eucharistic real presence, but basically a disagreement over where the “authority” resided; Rome or Constantinople. By the way, another Leo, the IX, was involved. His legacy fared better than Leo X, because he was canonized a Saint.

There were good popes and bad popes. There were good cardinals and bad cardinals. There were good Bishops and bad bishops. There were good priests and bad priests. Christ established His Church using fallible humans and gave them the Holy Spirit to guide them into all truth and righteousness. Dissension and struggle have been a part of the 2,000 year history, but Christ has protected the Deposit of Faith throughout that time. The Reformation produced two strains of Christianity – the Roman Catholic Church and Protestantism. The Catholic Church has remained essentially the same since antiquity, save some corrections of abuse existing at the time of the Reformation. Protestantism had produced 30,000 – 40,000 “denominational” and “non-denominational” sects. Each has its own method of arriving at doctrinal positions as the cultures, people, leaders or governments may demand. If changes are not made, they divide again. Is that unity?

I worked through history, Scripture and Tradition of the Catholic Church and moved forward in faith to enter into full communion. I had worked through the three areas described above, yet there was a lingering hesitancy. I wanted to have a discussion with our new priest, Father Tony. Jewels suggested we invite him to the Chicken Coop for supper and I could have a discussion with him after we ate. We ate and Jewels excused herself so Father and I could do our business.

I began with a plan prepared over the preceding weeks. I knew where I would end up and the final two or three questions I would present to Father Tony. I was not planning to say I want to enter the Church. Well, you know what they say: If you want to make God laugh, make your own plans. As I spoke of issues religious, I found myself saying things I had not prepared to say. Needless to say, God had thwarted my plan and inserted His. After what seemed to be an eternity, Father Tony said, “Sounds to me like you are Catholic and ready to enter the Church.” That is the amazing thing – I was more Catholic than I thought! I still hesitated in committing to Confirmation. I asked if I could enter as soon as possible and not wait until the Easter Vigil, as is customary for the Catechumens. He said the Bishop would need to approve entrance apart from the Easter Vigil. Bishop Taylor needed to know I had completed RCIA. I left my fate in the hands of the Bishop and we went to tell Jewels. Now, Jewels was quite upset that she was not the first to be told. I tried to explain my plan vs. God’s plan to no avail (over the following weeks she understood, I think).

Bishop Taylor was out of the country on a mission trip, but Father emailed the request, assuring the Bishop I had in fact completed at least six years of RCIA. Bishop Taylor consented, but I envision him laughing to himself first (six years??). I was surprised and thankful. Jewels was happy, but not satisfied. She desired I wait until Easter Vigil so our daughter Jeanine could witness the event. She had entered The Holy Angels Convent in Jonesboro, AR and was discerning a life consecrated to our Lord. She would not be able to leave the Convent until after Easter. I could not wait to receive communion. Jewels’ brain went into high gear and she devised a plan to have my Confirmation and First Communion at the Holy Angels Chapel. The problem with this plan was twofold. First, Bishop Taylor would once again have to approve of this venue. Second, the sisters at Holy Angels would have to approve. They were in the midst of celebrating 125 years in Arkansas. Visitors were coming and going and the sisters were very busy. They also had a feast day planned, Feast of The Holy Angels.

Bishop Taylor provided his approval, but Jewels had not completed “negotiations” with the sisters. She had begun the process by contacting Sister Ann Marie the Novitiate Mistress. Sister Ann Marie was out of town, but the sister on the phone suggested Jewels speak with the committee chair planning the feast day activities. That sister was thrilled at the possibility, but she could not make the decision. Jewels was then referred to the Convent Prioress, Sister Lillian Marie, who thought it was a great idea and approved, but she did not commit without the celebration committee chair’s concurrence. Back to the chair Jewels went, but she said she could not make that decision. The committee members would need to approve! Well, finally the sisters were in one accord. We desired to surprise Jeanine with the “real” reason for attending the Feast of The Holy Angels. We said we were just coming to help celebrate. The day was set.

Early (5:00) on the morning of October 2, 2012, we set out for Jonesboro. Two cars; one containing me, Father Tony and David my sponsor, the other containing Jewels, Susana, and Dalene. Just over five hours later we were in Holy Angels Convent, about 45 minutes prior to the start of Mass for the Feast of The Holy Angels. Jeanine was excited to see us, but unaware of what would transpire at the Mass.

The celebration of Holy Angels sisters being in Arkansas for 125 years was continuous goings-on throughout the fall and many visitors were in and out to help celebrate. We were unaware of just who was visiting that particular day. We expected to have the sisters, a few visitors from the area and us six sojourners at Mass.

There was a Bishop from India on sabbatical and travelling around the states. Bishop Moses had heard of the Convent’s celebration and decided to visit. How fortuitous for me. I would have a Bishop concelebrating with Father Tony as I entered into “full communion” with the Catholic Church, and from India at that. Bishop Moses had another priest travelling with him. Imagine that, three priests celebrating at my Confirmation. A few minutes before the beginning of Mass we found out there were three other priests visiting, and of course the Chaplin at Holy Angels – 7 priests at my confirmation, a perfect number. The perfect starting lineup:

Bishop Moses, Father Tony, Father Sammy, Father Leonard, Father Udo, Father Mike, Father Vu.

The chapel was full of visitors and I was amazed at such a cloud of witnesses for my entrance. I was overwhelmed when all seven priests prayed for my continued formation and evoked guidance of the Holy Spirit. The moment came for my first full Eucharistic communion. It was all I had hoped for and I have no reservations about my decision. It is good to be Home.