Sunday, April 29, 2012

Visiting the "Journey Home"

Only one day until my visit with The Journey Home airs on EWTN.  The episode was taped on April 2nd, and I have been nervous since:  The time flew by, so the end of the interview is rather abrupt; and there was much more I wanted to explain about the process.  Mostly though, I have worried at what people will take away from it.  

Those who know me today hear me present more on the "intellectual" side of the Faith - logical reasons to believe in God and the Scriptural and historical witness to Catholicism as the full expression of the Faith Jesus gave us.  The early years of my journey on the other hand were so "experiential," which of course is open to argumentation; and yet, that is the way God led me and I am eternally grateful that He was so merciful in reaching out to me in a way I could understand prior to the years of study that have followed.  In between the experiences I shared on TJH, there were of course months of reading Scripture and other books, and talking to the adults I had come to trust about the truths the experiences forced me to grapple with.  

In the end my prayer is that God will use that hour on EWTN to excite people at the thought of how much He loves them and challenge those on the fence to dive into study and prayer on the beliefs they struggle with.  I also pray that it can direct parents, teens, and college students to The God Who is Love: Explaining Christianity From Its Center.  There my experiences provide an introduction for each chapter, but the other 75% is the Scripture, logic, and history the experiences introduced me to and the cumulative effect that had in bringing me fully home.


  1. Hi Shane, God bless you! I loved your story on TJH just now, my first acquaintance with you. My heart swelled with appreciation of our "personal" God, and also of the similarities in our stories (except that I was raised a heathen, not a Catholic). But how God worked through people he put in your life and how he touched you with joy and his presence and the gift of tongues and then later deliverance and understanding--all similar to my story. I was so filled by your story, it motivated me to be more devoted to the Lord and deny myself and place Him in the place of other things. Too long to explain, but I was just greatly blessed by your story.
    Love in Christ and Mary,

  2. Lee, thank you for sharing that with me - absolutely made my day! Exciting to hear about someone with a similar experience. You will be in tomorrow morning's Rosary my friend. God bless you, Shane.

  3. God Bless you Shane - I loved your enthusiasm on the show, especially for the Holy Spirit and the personal relationship with Jesus. I am a new, non-Catholic, Christian and, with all due respect, I think your church has a long way to go in the evangelization dept. I experience a genuine welcome in most Christian churches in a way that I don't experience in Catholic churches. Catholics I know are not very responsive when I have questions about their faith, and none have ever invited me to church. I recently talked to an RCIA leader, telling him I wasn't raised Catholic (I'm 40-ish) but had an interest in learning more about Catholicism. Instead of enthusiasm and support, he only talked about (several) reasons why I may not want to pursue it and that it is not right for everyone, including perhaps me. He succeeded in talking me out of Catholicism for the time being. But I still sometimes feel my heart tugging in that direction (thanks to EWTN and guys like Mitch Pacwa, Scott Hahn, and Robert Barron). Maybe one day I will try again and, if God wills it, perhaps find a more receptive embrace or my desire might grow strong enough to push forward regardless of such encounters. -Jim

  4. Jim, thank you for writing. Scott Hahn, Fr. Mitch, & Fr. Barron - those guys are fantastic!

    You're right, so many of us have a LONG way to go in effectively sharing the Gospel (me included). I am sorry to hear about your recent experience with RCIA. I served as an RCIA director for a few years, and am really disappointed to hear that someone in that position would give you such advice. To tell you "it is not right for everyone," when, as you well know, the very name Catholic means "universal, all embracing" is horrible.

    I too have not felt very welcomed at the parish level - although part of that, I'm sure, is my own shyness and not diving into the donut socials, etc. (I've also just recently changed parishes, so no disrespect to my new parish family!) My love for the Mass has really come down to that recognition that, of all the various ways to worship available to us, Jesus said, "Do THIS." Receiving Him in the Eucharist, and Him receiving me into the embrace of the Trinity, has more than made up for whatever feelings of disconnection I have felt. That said, I have cultivated a circle of Catholic friends from a number of parishes throughout my Archdiocese that I meet with to talk, study, and pray. And this "wider" experience of fellowship goes along with the wide vision of the Church I have come to - stretching across the world, from 30 A.D. into eternity, and spanning heaven and earth(and the purification in between).

    If I can be of any service as you think and pray through things, please let me know. It is an honor to meet a brother wanting to follow wherever the Lord leads.

  5. I am so sorry, but I caught only the last few minutes of the show. I did catch your web address. If I understood correctly, you referred to a book you read on, maybe fundamentals. Can you tell me more about that, maybe actual title, etc. Please tell the other anonymous author that I invite him/her to the Catholic church and am so very sorry he/she has not received the warm and welcoming reception he/she should have. I will pray for those Catholics who come into contact with him/her to open their hearts and their minds to his/her needs.

  6. I caught only the last few minutes of the show. I did get the web address. You mentioned a book that was, perhaps, fundamentals? Please give me correct name or reference. Also, please tell the other anonymous person that I invite him/her to the Catholic church and that I am so sorry he/she did not receive the warm and inviting welcome of which he/she is so deserving. I will pray that the Catholics with whom he/she comes into contact will open their hearts and minds to him/her and his/her needs.

  7. Yes, the book you asked about is Karl Keating's "Catholicism & Fundamentalism." Wonderful book! It really opened my eyes to the Fathers of the Church for the first time. I spent the following summmer going through the first of the three volume "Faith of the Early Fathers" by William Jurgens and highlighting all of the different witnesses to 1) The Eucharist, 2) Apostolic Succession, 3) The Papacy, 4) The other Sacraments, 5) The formation of the NT Canon, and 6) the Blessed Mother. For my first book, "The God Who is Love: Explaining Christianity From Its Center," the Liturgical Press actually gave me permission to quote from "Faith of the Early Fathers" at length to share those findings with others. Happy hunting!

    1. Interestingly that book was also one of the first ones that I read as well after my brush with the Holy Spirit. Look at Jeff Cavin's Great Adventure A Journey Through the Bible And the Catholicism series by Father Robert Barron

  8. Hi Shane, This is Lee again.
    Your story is a perfect illustration of the reason there are so many cafeteria Catholics (misunderstanding of humane life issues, voting for Obama, use of contraception, etc.), people who have no motivation to follow the Church's teachings. It is rooted in a major, far-reaching "omission" in the Catholic Church--a clear, simple, frequent, and broadcasted-widely, presentation of salvation by and new life in Jesus Christ in the Catholic Church. It's almost as if that is buried under the sacraments and under all the beautiful prayers and all of the disciplines. I don’t mean to sound like I’m lowering or degrading the Church’s teachings, because I’m not. I’m just saying that Catholics so often miss the personal, intimate experience with Jesus. That’s why, in my opinion, Catholics grow up, learning devotions, prayers, and disciplines, but they feel like they're just a lot of don'ts and shoulds. None of it has been connected or fitted into a heart that has been converted and wants to follow God in a vital way in their life.
    If, in a Protestant church service, they have a major, real, conversion, where they are really touched by the Holy Spirit and are set on fire with love for God, these newly committed Christians conclude that Jesus Christ is not to be found in the Catholic Church. Catholics are taught a lot of wonderful things, ways to be devoted to the Lord, knowledge about God, etc., before they actually have a real personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
    Maybe that's why God allowed the reformation. At least someone's offering Jesus to the people. Thank the Lord for EWTN.
    I wish there was a whole organization for this in the Catholic Church. All we have presently is personal evangelism. I don't know what the answer is, but I don't think it's inviting people to Mass.

  9. Lee - this exchange is going DEEP quickly! I just got to work, so I wanted you to know that I saw your comment; but I'll have to wait until later today to really respond. God bless, Shane.

  10. Lee - Looking back, I see what seems to me at least, a few different issues in your post: Cafeteria Catholics, placing ourselves under the Lordship of Jesus in all matters, and why many Catholics who leave Catholicism for other denominations seem to experience faith in a new way.

    I guess when it comes to Cafeteria Catholicism, I see things often working the opposite way: I was a Cafeteria Catholic WHILE having a deep, personal commitment to following Jesus. If I could see that something was taught by Jesus - which in my early days meant VERY explicitly in Scripture - then I was completely on board. I parted way with Catholic belief because 1) My knowledge of Scripture was very incomplete, 2) I didn't understand how the NT came together through the medium of the Catholic bishops, and 3) I did not yet recognize that Jesus commanded me to be obedient to the Church's ordained shepherds (Mt.18).

    There is of course another segment of Cafeteria Catholics that I meet who pick and choose the beliefs that are most agreeable to them because they view faith as being something completely individual. Jesus and big chunks of the Catholic Faith are right for them, but Buddhism or Islam are just as good for someone else. That is the segment of our Church that I think your comments are referring to - if they recognized Who Jesus was, and were personally committed to Him with the realization that He is the Lord of the universe, then they would live out all of the Church's teachings.

    This personal commitment to Jesus - why do Catholics sometimes feel they have not experienced it until they go to a Protestant church? Reflecting throughout today, I really don't feel that they Church needs another organization devoted to this (there are already so many!). I think the deficit lies with we the laity. Typically if a Catholic attends a Protestant church, he or she has been invited by a friend; and that friend has a deep faith commitment they want to share. That has typically been absent in the Catholic's home life - as it had been in mine. The Catholic may have attended a Catholic school where the formation was watered down too - as in mine.

    Faith - deep personal trust in Jesus and sharing ones life with him - is "caught, not taught." The Pope is talking about it, the Bishops are talking about it; but it has to be modeled to us in the day to day, and that's where so many of us seem to be lacking. When someone comes to us with a problem we need to bring Jesus to them, "Can I pray WITH you about this?" We need to pray with our children and let them see us studying the Faith.

    I think that Mass could be an occasion for conversion - if a seeker is there with others they know who will immerse themselves in prayer and take time to explain what is going on, speak to them afterward about how the readings struck them - what they heard the Lord saying to them - and share about those moments of prayer following Communion.

    When I attended a non-denominational church I would say that I went there to "get fed." In retrospect I realize that a lot of what I was doing was wanting to be entertained - good music that lifted my spirit, eloquent preaching, etc. When I go to Mass on the other hand, I am joining myself to Jesus sacrifice. I am offering myself to the Father along with Him. I receive Him in His Word and then sacramentally in the Eucharist. Objectively, there's nowhere that I can receive Jesus better than in the Catholic Church. I think the question then becomes, how well-disposed am I to receive Him? How have I been formed by those to whom my upbringing was entrusted to? This is our task. You're right - personal evangelization is where it's at!!

  11. Rob, thank you for mentioning those. LOVE Jeff Cavins' "Great Adventure." I have not seen any of Fr. Barron's "Catholicism" yet, but have enjoyed hearing him on the radio the past couple of years!

  12. I'm so sorry, Shane. I posted a response a few days ago, but now I see that it never registered. Thank you so much for your thoughtful, detailed, response to my post.
    I think both of us are saying that we need on fire Catholics who have experienced the Lord in an incredible way and want others to have it. (or Him).
    I agree with your point that “Faith - deep personal trust in Jesus and sharing one’s life with him - is "caught, not taught." And all that you said about living it and sharing it.

    But instead of just relying on random and unorganized people to help the seeker along the way, which is very good, what about, in addition, each parish having a welcoming booth at every mass, where the people greet each person, visitor or member with, “Hi, I’m Joe Blow, and I’m glad to see you. I’m sorry I don’t know if you are new or just visiting.” Then, if they’re a member, at least someone’s connected with them personally. If they are a visitor, they could be given a simple pamphlet on what to do if you’re new at the parish, with a person's name who would spend time with them, and what to do if you are wanting to learn about the Catholic faith. "Coffee and donuts time" with a room full of people you don’t know, but they know each other, is not really comfortable for a lot of people, particularly if your life is a mess, and you’re just hanging on, barely making it.

    So, I would summarize what we’ve said, to say that we both believe emphatically in personal evangelism. But I would go one step further and say that we emphatically need a concrete vehicle, like the “welcoming booth.” I can’t institute this at my parish. My first parish was closet liberal, not coming out directly, but the “inner circle” resented me because I was not liberal, even though I was really quiet. I think they can sense orthodoxy. So my new parish, well, I’m new. So it’s difficult to come in with new ideas. I learned that when my boss asked me to start making Starbuck’s in our office for hospitality for professors who helped us with events. Boy!!! was my boss resented! By who? the people who had always made coffee in the break room, who had always made no brand coffee, and grumbled, “are you saying that the coffee we’ve always served is not good?” and then stopped speaking to us, in a Christian seminary! So I think it should be something put out by the bishops, required for each parish.
    Thanks so much for your thoughts, and any further thoughts you have. Lee
    P.S. I don't mind identifying myself. I just don't know how to use the Name/URL, etc.

  13. Lee, I think the welcoming booth is a marvelous idea. And I do see what you mean, and completely agree, that welcoming and evangelization need to be made a PARISH priority, not simply sporadic individuals responding to what the Pope and Bishops have asked - even though as we both believe, it comes down to individual contacts. You have reminded me of a program called Envision which seeks to turn each parish into an evangelizing community. Here is the website:

    Thank you again Lee for your thoughtful posts! -Shane

  14. Thanks, Shane. You're a great blessing. I wish we could clone you, but I'm against cloning. :o)