Sunday, November 22, 2015

Marian Eucharistic Conference Part 4: Jimmy Swaggart Made Me Catholic!

I saved the most entertaining of all the lectures for last. And I knew it was going to be good when the title of the talk was: Jimmy Swaggart made me Catholic. Tim Staples outlines his journey into the last place he ever expected -- into the Catholic Church -- in this talk and because I want to know the full story, I bought his CD, except that it was sold out and so now I need to wait for it in the mail. Patience! Briefly, Tim Staples grew up a good Southern Baptist and came to the Lord when he was 10. He had such a fire for God, he wanted to be a preacher just like Billy Graham. He had an ardent desire to save Catholics because he thought they were crazy idolators and brain dead. But in his teen years he fell away from the faith and along with his brothers got into lots of trouble with the law. He was 18 when he listened to Jim Baker, Tammy Faye, Jimmy Swaggart, and even through the Budweiser fog he heard the word, “Jesus.” And he realized how much he needed Jesus in his life so he knelt and prayed. He went home (and not in handcuffs)! He did some research and saw that they were part of the Assembly of God church so he went. It was huge. Electric. And everybody was smiling and happy and welcoming.

Here he takes a little diversion and says the first time he went to Mass and knew he was going to see ordinary bread and wine changed into the Body and Blood of Christ, he thought he would burst. But all around the Catholics were ho-hum. He also wondered why they were so quiet and wanted to leave right after Mass instead of visit. His observations are not completely untrue. LOL. Too many of us take the miracle occurring on the Altar for granted, and think of His Body as a cracker. It's what hurts my heart the most. Actually, if you saw me at Mass sometimes, you'd think I was a sad tomato, but some of the psalms and Gospel stories touch my heart so deeply, I cannot help but shed tears of joy. My God loves me, a miserable sinner, so very much. 
Anyway, Tim experienced the love of Jesus here. Everybody invited him over for small home group Bible study. Tim says his desire to be a preacher was intensified even more. He read everything. But the problem was he had no high school diploma, no money, and no discipline. So he joined the Marines. And within two weeks he had enough discipline for all of us. He sought out every Assembly of God church wherever he was stationed and just exploded in his faith. He says, “Move over Jimmy; here comes Timmy!” And the end of his tour of duty, he served as a youth minister and after six months was voted unanimously to become a pastor. This was near his hometown too. It was perfect. But he had to turn it down.
Here’s why. Because in his last year as a Marine, he met Sgt. Matt Doula, a devout Catholic. And boy did Tim want to save him! They fought over doctrine. Tim recalls the first argument. He said, “Call no man father, and yet you Catholics are constantly calling your priests Father.” Usually most Catholics would sputter and go away. [Tim said, there must be a Code of Canon law 666 that says: Thou shalt not quote Scripture]. But Matt said, “Yes, that is true. But you do know there is more than one verse in the Bible, no?” Tim says that Matt took his Bible and proceeded to beat him with it metaphorically. He showed him not to take a single verse out of context but to look at verses and see how they fit. Scripture never contradicts. He quoted a number of verses showing that spiritual leaders are addressed as Father: Honor thy mother and father; Father Abraham; St. Paul becoming a spiritual father of Timothy, etc. What Jesus referred to earlier was in reference to not calling the emperor, God. It was about politics.
So you can imagine the year when Tim and Matt went back and forth about everything – praying to the saints, purgatory, transubstantiation, etc. If Matt didn’t know the answers, he’d go find them with the help of an Opus Dei priest. He gave Tim books to read. Tim read everything to find error and contradictions but could not. Catholicism made sense. After a year he thought he was losing his mind because he did not *want* to be Catholic. So as a last ditch effort to not becoming Catholic, he enrolled in the Jimmy Swaggart Bible school. But he began to argue with his professors. He found himself defending Catholic doctrine in his dorm room. he was schizophrenic. People asked him, “Are you becoming Catholic?” And he emphatically said, “NO!!!” Finally he was called into the office. Brother Andrew, an ex-Catholic, former priest, interrogated him. And Tim thought, he has 10 years of seminary training and I have so little. But after a couple of hours, Brother Andrew got mad at him and told him, “You are not going to be a Catholic. You ARE Catholic!” And with that he was dismissed from school.
A side note: Brother Andrew lost his faith in Catholics when he saw priests compromise the faith to support communism from the pulpit (Cuba, 1959). Tim Staples said: Don’t stop believing in Peter because of Judas. This is such an important point. The Catholic Church is a hospital for sinners. Don’t let bad Catholics shake your faith or steer you away from the teachings of the Church. A lot of kids leave the faith because they don’t know it or appreciate it. May we never take it for granted.  
Back to Tim’s conversion story. So he was no longer Protestant (the word itself means to protest against the Catholic Church) but he still didn’t want to be Catholic. In desperation, he asked a saint – Mary, “Is this true? Is the devil deceiving me? Help me find the Truth.” And she brought him home. Now his whole family is Catholic – his parents, his brothers (one is a priest), and of course, his wife and children. 

Behold, Your Mother
He didn’t actually cover Marian doctrines because that’s the purpose of the book but he showed us how Catholic doctrines are intimately tied with Mary, the most perfect creature God made.
Why did God create us? He doesn’t need us. And in fact, this creation of His will kill His Beloved Son. There is one reason: He loves us into existence. And he creates us free so that we can love him back. It’s an extravagant love. St. Augustine says, Love is to will the good of the other. St. Paul says, pour yourself out for others without thought for anything in heaven. And so Jesus humiliates Himself by becoming one of us. In the letter to the Philippians, St. Paul says, He emptied Himself to take the form of a slave. So not only does Jesus suffer and die for us, making the ultimate sacrifice, He further humiliates Himself by becoming Bread and Wine in the Eucharist. He loves us so that we may consume Him.
The Gospel of John focuses much on the divinity of Jesus and the Eucharist. Jesus performs a Eucharistic miracle by feeding the five thousand. The Apostles distribute the food. And people believed in Jesus. But when He says, “I am the Bread of Heaven” and “the Bread is my Flesh,” people are angry. How can this man give us his flesh to eat? This is one of the “hard” teachings of Christ (the other one is on the indissolubility of marriage). But Jesus doesn’t compromise and say, the bread is a symbol. No, He is even harsher, saying, “Unless you eat of the Flesh of Man, you have no life in you.” And many left. He didn’t try to chase after them. You have to believe this.
From the beginning of Christianity, there were heresies. Some thought that only the spirit is good and matter is evil, but that does not coincide with what God said in Genesis when He created the universe. He said, “It was good!” There were people who said Jesus did not have a body. But He most assuredly did! He was conceived in Mary’s womb. Still others said, Jesus is not divine, that he was conceived from normal sexual relations between Mary and Joseph. The Christ spirit came upon Him and left it on the Cross. So if there is no Incarnation (God made Flesh) then the Eucharist becomes a symbol. However, we know that both Mary and Joseph had taken perpetual vows of virginity, so Jesus is both fully human and fully divine. We do not have two gods, one of the Old Testament and one of the New. Nope, Catholicism is the fulfillment of Judaism. We know that Jewish people do not accept Jesus as the Messiah, but they are free not to.
Mary is the daughter of God, the Mother of Jesus (and therefore God), and the Spouse of the Holy Spirit. It’s hard to wrap all this around one’s head but in this is tied up the Trinitarian nature of God.
Anyway, check out Tim's books. He’s great. You can listen to him on Catholic Answers. He is very funny, very knowledgeable, and would make a fantastic tele-evangelist!!!! 

I loved this conference even though I was missing out on Charleston's YALLFest. I hope next year they're not on the same weekend. But if they are, you know where I'll be! Thanks for reading and sharing. Ciao meow!


Mirka Breen said...

People's journeys are fascinating.My favorite of the Chrsitian journies is still C.S. Lewis' SURPRISED BY JOY.
Incidentally, I saw Jimmy Swaggart in person at the Hilton Hotel in Jerusalem, in 1982. He was part of a world gathering of Christian Zionists. He walked by and I can only say he is more impressive looking in person, tall and handsome. But his brand of preaching could never move me.

Faith E. Hough said...

First of all, I echo Mirka's comment: I love Surprised by Truth!
Tim's journey is fascinating as well. I love how God pulls us from wherever we may be in our life and reaches us with what we need.
Glad you could make the conference, and thanks for sharing the highlights with us!

Vijaya said...

Mirka, I've never heard any of these tele-evangelists. But in reading many conversion stories (I love the book Literary Converts by Joseph Pearce) it is as Faith says, God reaching out to us in the mundane or extraordinary ... and always, always, there's that moment when the person abandons himself to God. It never fails to bring tears of joy. CSLewis remains a favorite.

Faith, it is a pleasure to summarize the talks because it brings me back to the wonderful weekend and the people we met. Such a blessing. And my friends who didn't get to go are happy to read too.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that was quite the big conference you attended. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on all the lectures. Interesting to know what is being talked about.