Saint John Berchmans Cathedral Parish: Authentic Catholicism in the “heart” of the “Bible Belt”

CathedralSJB

by Doug Lawrence

We traveled to northwestern Louisiana this past weekend to attend a family reunion. On arrival, it became abundantly clear that the people living in and around the Shreveport area tend to be very religious – but mostly – NOT Catholic.

Out of the estimated eighty or ninety who attended the reunion, only six Catholics assembled early Sunday morning, in order to attend Mass at the Cathedral of Saint John Berchmans, originally constructed in Shreveport, Louisiana, in 1902.  (Saint John Berchmans – pronounced “Berkmans” – is the patron saint of altar servers.)

A Cathedral is considered to be the principal church of a diocese and it is also typically, the “seat” (cathedra) of the local Bishop.

Near as I can tell, most everyone else at the family reunion was Baptist, but the thing that I noticed most was the sheer diversity of Christian denominations in the area, along with the fact that most of the AM radio band and more than half of the FM band seemed to be devoted solely to religious programming – and NOT just on Sundays! (Thank God for Sirius Satellite Radio!)

Non-Catholic Christian churches could be observed on almost every block, while Catholic churches were comparatively rare.

Here’s the mix:

Apostolic Churches (4)
Lutheran Churches (6)
Assembly of God (20)

Baptist Churches (333)

Bible Churches (6)
Methodist Churches (37)
Nazarene Churches (5)
Non-Denominational (15)

Catholic Churches (21)

Orthodox Churches (3)
Christian Churches (11)
Pentecostal (13)
Church of Christ (17)
Presbyterian (13)
Church of God (32)
Reformed Churches (1)
Seventh Day Adventist (2)
Episcopal Churches (5)
Vineyard Churches (1)
Evangelical (1)
Other Churches (23)

Source: USA Church

But while the Catholic “profile” in the area appeared to be definitively low, the quality of the Catholic faith experience there turned out be pleasantly high – at least, at Saint John Berchmans Cathedral Parish!

Here’s a little of what we experienced, this past Sunday:

The church was traditional and beautiful – as were most all cathedrals of similar – 1920’s “vintage”.

We were suitably impressed by the vaulted ceilings; the detailed wood and plaster work; the abundant and exquisite stained-glass windows; the deep-breathing, antique pipe organ;, the marble columns and the genuine stone (not wood) altar; along with the traditional statuary – which was both elegant and easily recognizable.

The tabernacle could be found in the very center of the sanctuary, directly behind the main altar. There was a raised pulpit/ambo for proclaiming the Word of God and the sanctuary was fully provisioned for a quick turn around and transformation, in the rare event of a TLM (Traditional Latin Mass.)

We observed altar boys/servers (not altar girls) – and the servers were NOT wearing the usual dreaded, gaudy, overly casual – popular but seriously out of place athletic shoes. Coincidentally, this parish also produces more than the average number of new, priestly vocations.

The congregation appeared to be well rounded and diverse, spanning the ages from eight months to around eighty years – with a number of young families in attendance.

The standard Novus Ordo liturgy was celebrated reverently and totally “by the book” – with no shenanigans.

A small group of RCIA catechumens occupied reserved seating. They seemed very happy and privileged to be there,  reverently filing out at the appropriate time.

A Deacon proclaimed the Gospel and delivered a homily that was both technically excellent and distinctly on-point.

tenlepers

Afterwards, I began to wonder if the nine of ten lepers
who never returned to thank Jesus for their healing
might have suffered a relapse at some point in the future! 

The Prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel was led by the priest and deacon, immediately following the official end of the liturgy.

michael_fighting_devil_4x6

Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host,
by the Divine Power of God,
cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits
who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.

Compared to some very disappointing similar experiences in New York, Minnesota, California and Washington State, I would rate this as one of the best. A very pleasant surprise, in a part of the world where the Catholic Church remains seriously under-appreciated!

The parish website will tell you much more, as will this Wikipedia post.

I suggest you also take a few minutes to watch a very nice video presentation on the saint, the cathedral and the parish.

So much negative Catholic stuff comes across my desk every day.
It’s nice to be able to post something almost entirely positive,
for a change! 

T H A N K  Y O U,  J E S U S! 

Sister Euphemia and the education of Mary Grace Parker


Never noticing St. Thomas Hospital during my brief time as a freshman at Belmont University before the wreck, I knew nothing of the rich history, mission, or theology of the hospital.

So lying in one of its hospital beds, without the mobility to explore my surroundings, I could only face straight ahead; and all there was to see on the wall before me was a 10-inch crucifix placed there dutifully by the Daughters of Charity.

Read more

Gingrich’s unlikely conversion to Catholicism: Genuine, merely convenient … or politically motivated?

Gingrich didn’t convert to Catholicism in a sudden swell of emotion. Rather, it seemed a slower and headier process. Like many adult converts, Gingrich was drawn by the philosophical richness of the Roman Catholic Church.

“Let’s not forget this is a Ph.D., a former professor, a man who loves books and loves big ideas, and there is of course a very deep intellectual tradition within Catholicism,” says Mark Rozell, a political scientist at George Mason University. “And perhaps Gingrich found a natural connection there. It connects with his persona.”

Gingrich began studying the history of the Catholic Church and its influence on Western civilization, especially the church’s role in the fall of communism. In 2010, Newt and Callista Gingrich produced a documentary about Pope John Paul II’s historic trip to Poland. But for Gingrich, the turning point was Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the U.S. in 2008.

Read more

Newt Gingrich’s faith … and political … journey

Gingrich has identified with different branches of Christianity that mirror his surroundings at different stages of life.

Born near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, an area settled by the largely Lutheran Pennsylvania Dutch, Gingrich was the son of a Lutheran mom and a Pennsylvania Dutch stepfather who adopted him.

Attending college at Atlanta’s Emory University and grad school at Tulane University in New Orleans, Gingrich became a Southern Baptist.

And as a creature of Washington, where Gingrich’s wife sings in a Catholic choir and where many prominent conservative Republicans have converted to Catholicism in the last decade, Gingrich joined the Catholic fold in 2009.

Read more

How Old Is Your Church?

Pentecost: Descent of the Holy Spirit

If you are a Lutheran, your religion was founded by Martin Luther, an ex- monk of the Catholic Church, in the year 1517.

If you belong to the Church of England, your religion was founded by King Henry VIII in the year 1534 because the Pope would not grant him a divorce with the right to remarry.

If you are a Presbyterian, your religion was founded by John Knox in Scotland in the year 1560.

If you are a Protestant Episcopalian, your religion was an offshoot of the Church of England founded by Samuel Seabury in the American colonies in the 17th century.

If you are a Congregationalist, your religion was originated by Robert Brown in Holland in 1582.

If you are a Methodist, your religion was launched by John and Charles Wesley in England in 1744.

If you are a Unitarian, Theophilus Lindley founded your church in London in 1774.

If you are a Mormon (Latter Day Saints), Joseph Smith started your religion in Palmyra, N.Y., in 1829.

If you are a Baptist, you owe the tenets of your religion to John Smyth, who launched it in Amsterdam in 1605.

If you are of the Dutch Reformed church, you recognize Michaelis Jones as founder, because he originated your religion in New York in 1628.

If you worship with the Salvation Army, your sect began with William Booth in London in 1865.

If you are a Christian Scientist, you look to 1879 as the year in which your religion was born and to Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy as its founder.

If you belong to one of the religious organizations known as ‘Church of the Nazarene,” “Pentecostal Gospel.” “Holiness Church,” “Pilgrim Holiness Church,” “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” your religion is one of the hundreds of new sects founded by men within the past century.

If you are Catholic, you know that your religion was founded in the year 33 by Jesus Christ the Son of God, and it is still the same Church.

Courtesy of EWTN and the Sancte Pater Blog

Charismatic, Pentecostal, Non-Denominational, Jehovah’s Witness, Baptist and Catholic churches

Q: I have been to Charismatic, Pentecostal, Non-Denominational, Jehovah’s Witness, Baptist and Catholic churches.

I have found that the Baptists are the most doctrinally and scripturally sound to the word. Has anyone experienced anything similar?

A: Yeah … but not with Baptists.

The Bible is a Catholic holy book, compiled, written and certified by Catholics, for Catholics, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and containing only authentic Catholic beliefs and practices.

Anyone who attempts to interpret the Bible to the contrary is obviously mistaken … including you … and the Baptists.

The Catholic Church remains the only authentic non-denominational, evangelical, charismatic, fundamentalist, apostolic, Bible-believing, full-Gospel church.

http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc.htm

Inviting Protestant in-laws to a Catholic (infant) Baptism?

Q: Inviting Protestant in-laws to a Catholic (infant) Baptism?

I am having my baby baptized, but all of my in-laws are hardcore Baptists/Evangelists. Should I even invite people who aren’t Catholic, or will they be respectful about it? Anyone had a similar experience?

They are always bagging on me for being Catholic, giving me names of “different” churches that we can attend. I have a feeling that they will roll their eyes through the whole ceremony and glare at me for not doing things the Baptist way.

A: You definitely should invite them … because it would be an insult not to.

Your non-Catholic relatives probably don’t believe in original sin. They don’t believe in the primacy of grace, and they don’t believe in the necessity of sacraments for the purpose of infusing grace into the soul.

Surprisingly … Baptists don’t believe in the necessity and effectiveness of the sacrament of baptism, either … they think it’s just a nice thing to do … but only for those who are old enough to make a profession of faith … hence their problems with infant baptism.

Ask the priest or deacon to explain to all those gathered for the baptism that infant baptism, as practiced in the Catholic Church, is THE most definitive demonstration of salvation with ABSOLUTELY NO WORKS AT ALL … according the FAITH of the Church … FREELY given by God … who desires all to be SAVED, and to come to the knowledge of his TRUTH.

Since the Holy Spirit IS the Spirit of Truth … and “knowing” that truth involves the indwelling of one’s soul by that same Spirit … it’s clear that Catholics have always had this one right, from the very earliest days of the Church.

It would also be a good idea to mention that grace necessarily preceeds faith … and that baptism is all about grace … and all about the Holy Spirit sweeping original sin from the soul and taking up residence there … making the infant a temple of the Holy Spirit, an adopted child of God, co-heir with Jesus Christ, a citizen of Heaven, and a member of the Church.

Let anyone attempt to make a case against that!

Furthermore … the Bible DOES NOT prohibit infant baptism … while the OT practice of circumcision is cited by St. Paul as one of the strongest precedents for infant baptism.

Your Baptist relatives will likely understand things framed in this manner … even if their Protestant beliefs don’t quite measure up.