Skip to comments.Our Journey Home
Posted on 04/03/2008 3:24:39 PM PDT by annalex
Our Journey Home
By Larry and Joetta Lewis
I vividly remember being awakened in the middle of the night by the sound of their praying. Praying for each of the people in their church. Although my parents never spoke in derogatory terms about anyone, including Catholics, many of the ministers I came in contact with were not so generous. I heard more than one preacher expound on the evils of Catholicism. For many it was taken for granted that the Catholic Church was the Great Whore of Babylon and the Pope the antichrist. I was in my thirties and an ordained Methodist minister before I met my first nun, Sister Monica Marie. Joetta had taught with her at Ursuline Academy in Dallas, Texas. It was through Sister Monica Marie that Joetta experienced a dynamic encounter with the Holy Spirit. To my surprise I discovered that Sister was truly a woman of God. My heart was warmed just by being in her presence. She was totally the opposite of all I had envisioned nuns to be.
My father is a retired Assemblies of God pastor. My parents had a deep and abiding love for Jesus Christ. Their lives expressed who Christ was.
My first contact with a priest was just two years ago. While working on my Doctorate at Oral Roberts University I met Father Amalor Vima from India. As class mates we spent a good deal of time together and became close friends. It was in this environment that something happened that would revolutionized my life forever. During a reflective moment in one of our sessions, Selmar Quayo, a Methodist Bishop from Brazil, stood to his feet and said: "In my country, as a Protestant, I am in the minority. Unfortunately, there is much animosity between our church and the Catholic Church. Many of my people are filled with bitterness toward all Catholics. Yet here, Father Vima is in the minority and Ive seen nothing from his life but the love of Jesus Christ." With tears running down his face he said, "Father Vima, I want you to forgive me."
I watched as these two men of God embraced. There was not a dry eye in the room. In that one brief moment my mind began to envision a new possibilityProtestants and Catholics all over the world coming together, embracing in love, and dropping to their knees in prayer.
In this simple act Selmar Quayo had challenged all of us to become ministers of reconciliation. My thoughts raced. "Imagine what the Holy Spirit could do if Catholics and Protestants really were one."The words of Jesus flashed through my mind, "If you are offering your gift at the altar and remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift" (Matt 5:23-24). As I watched the scene unfold I could almost hear Jesus praying, "May all of them be one, Father . . . that the world may believe that you have sent me" (John 17:21). I knew at that moment I must become a minister of reconciliation.
Years earlier Joetta and I had ministered at a Southern Baptist Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. After the service, a woman came up to Joetta and asked her if she would pray for her daughter, Regan. She did not, however, want to divulge the specific prayer need. Joetta assured her that it wasnt necessary to know the need because the Holy Spirit would intercede for Regan. For the next year, Joetta prayed faithfully for a young lady she had never met.
At that time Joetta was working as a Technical Writer for Thrifty Rent-A-Car. One day, her boss informed her that they had hired a new Software Trainer and were going to put her in the cubicle across from Joettas. They asked Joetta to make her feel welcome and to show her around. When the new trainer arrived, she introduced herself as Regan. To Joettas surprise, here stood the young lady she had been praying for all those months! God was definitely up to something. Joetta and Regan worked as associates over the next seven years. Although they never socialized outside of the work place, they began to develop a close relationship.
One day in 1995, Regan shared that she and her husband were having problems in their marriage. Kelvin was a Roman Catholic, and she was a Southern Baptist. For several years, Regan attended the Catholic Church off and on with Kelvin and although he did not fell comfortable in the Baptist Church he would attend with Regan on special occasions. This arrangement worked, until they had children and realized how strongly they both felt about how their children should be raised. To Regans chagrin Kelvin was adamant about baptizing and raising their children in the Catholic Church. They were at an impasse when Regan came to Joetta for advice.
Joetta told Regan that a house divided cannot stand, and that it was essential that they be in church together. Joetta suggested that, if her husband would not go to church with her, she should go to church with him. God would bless their marriage if Regan would submit to the spiritual authority of her husband. Joetta informed Regan of some classes held by the Catholic Church which she could attend, without obligation, to learn about the Catholic faith. Joetta said, "If I were you, I would want to know what my children were going to be taught, so that I could counter any incorrect teaching." For Regans peace of mind, Joetta said, "You go through the program, bring all of the material to me, and Ill give it to Larry so that he can check it out and see if it is Scripturally sound."
I never paid any attention to the material Regan gave Joetta, except for two things. One was a newspaper article by a Lutheran journalist discussing Marian apparitions. The author of the article had spoken at Regans church and told how the Mother of God had been appearing to six young children daily since 1981. Regan was so intrigued she read everything she could get her hands on. The second thing she gave us was a cassette by a woman who had been miraculously healed at the same apparition site. This woman, a nominal Christian at best, was so impacted by the experience that she committed her life to serving Christ. I took these items and started to throw them away. On a whim I stuck them in a drawer instead.
The week prior to May 25, 1996, Regan told Joetta that she was going to a Marian conference in Wichita, Kansas. She was really excited about it because both the author of the article and the woman who had been healed were featured speakers. Regan, however, was bothered by a prayer she had received in the pre-conference material that supposedly would be prayed at the conference. "I would like," she told Joetta, "for you and Larry to look it over and see what you think." As Joetta read the prayer, all kinds of red flags went up. In almost a state of panic she brought the prayer to me. It was the Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. As I began to read the prayer the hair on the back of my neck stood straight up. "Immaculate Heart of Mary, I give to you my body and soul . . . ." I stopped in mid sentence. Rage filled my heart. "This prayer is demonic!" I said, "You dont give your soul to anyone but Jesus. Tell Regan she can go to the Conference but whatever she does dont pray that prayer." Within three days, something deep within my spirit told me I had made a terrible mistake. Remorse for what I had said flooded my soul.
I decided to take a copy of the prayer to Fr. Vima, "I dont understand this prayer," I said. "How in the world can you give yourself to Mary in this way?" With a twinkle in his eye Fr. Vima gently said, "Larry, have you ever held Joetta in your arms and said, I love you, I adore you, I worship the ground you walk on?" "Yes," I cautiously replied. "Have you looked lovingly into her eyes and assured her of your complete love and devotion? Have you spoken words like, I am completely yours now and forever? All that I am and all that I ever hope to be is yours.?" I was beginning to get his point. "If the truth were known," I admitted, "Ive used those exact words."
"Catholics," he continued, "would never say of Mary, We adore you. We venerate her. We honor her. But, we would never say we adore you because adoration is reserved only for God. It is something we give only to Jesus. We adore Him. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and there is no one like Him. We believe that Mary, as the Mother of God, loves and cares for us. What were saying in this prayer is, All of me, I place in your hands and I ask you to take me to your son, Jesus. Mary always points to Jesus."
As I listened to Fr. Vima I began to realize how wrong I had been. Two emotions flooded over me simultaneouslyshame and joy. Shame for my quick assessment, and joy at the possibilities that were opening up.
I went home and found the Marian newspaper I had put in one of my dresser drawers and begin to read. As I read what Mary was reported as saying I was struck by how biblically based her messages werepray, repent, fast, commit your life to Christ. This was obviously not the work of Satan. I wondered out loud, "Could this really be the Mother of God." If it were, than what she said was important and worthy of our consideration. One of her more frequent statements was somewhat puzzling: "Pray the Rosary every day." Joetta and I knew nothing about the Rosary. Perhaps it was time to discover what this prayer was all about.
As Regan was leaving for the Marian conference, Joetta gave her some money to buy a Rosary. Their relationship had become strained, and sometimes emotionally charged because of Mary, and Joetta felt that if she let Regan show her how to ray the Rosary, it would at least keep them dialoguing. When Regan gave Joetta her Rosary, she said, "Whats great is that the man who made this Rosary lives just outside Tulsa, in Claremore, Oklahoma. If theres ever a problem with the Rosary, it is guaranteed."
The more closely that Joetta looked at her Rosary, the less she liked the centerpiece. "It looks like an idol. I think Ill call Two Hearts Rosaries and see if theyll exchange it for something else."
"Come on out," the voice on the other end of the line said, "Bobs work is guaranteed, and he will be happy to replace it with something you like." When we arrived, Bobs wife Johanna asked Joetta what was wrong with the Rosary. "Its the centerpiece," Joetta said, "I dont like the centerpiece." Johanna looked at her quizzically, "What about it dont you like?" "Wellit looks too, you know, Catholic!"
"The Rosary," Johanna smiled, "is Catholic!" While Joetta looked at centerpieces, Bob was sharing with me what had happened to them on a pilgrimage to an apparition site in Europe. I yelled at Joetta, "Come in here and listen to this. You wont believe this story!" These were the first real Catholics that we had ever spent any time with, other than Sister Monica Marie and Fr. Vima.
Bob shared with us how God through Mary had transformed their lives. As he told their story, tears rolled down his face. He said he hasnt stopped crying since he got back from their pilgrimage. In his words, his heart "just turned to mush." When they got back, Bob went in and quit his job at Amoco. He was a laboratory technician and had been with the company for over 21 years. Not too long after that, Johanna quit her job at Tulsa University. God was calling them to complete obedience and dependence upon him.
During this time, Bob met a nun who showed him how to make Rosaries. Bob decided to make two Rosaries: one to thank Mary for leading him to Jesus, and one to thank Jesus for saving his soul. The rest is history. All of Bobs rosaries are lovingly hand-made. He sees each bead as a prayer sent out by Mary to convert and bring souls to Jesus. Joettas and my conversion are the direct result of those prayers.
After our meeting with Bob and Johanna, I was emotionally shaken. As we drove away neither of us said a word. It was as if we had experienced an epiphany. I cant explain it. I felt like I had been in the presence of Jesus. Not wanting to go right home I pulled into a Taco Bueno to get something to drink. As we sat there looking at each other tears began to stream down our faces. What was happening to us? What was God asking of us?
Our lives were literally being pushed toward the Catholic Church. Regan had introduced us to the owners of the local Catholic bookstore, so we decided to go there for more information. Lee and Anita lovingly welcomed us and pointed us to exactly what we needed. When we figured our income tax at the end of that year, we discovered that we had spent over $5,000 on books, cassettes, videos, and other materials in search of spiritual truths! We couldnt get enough. We were in Lees store three and four times a day. "Were here for our Catholic fix." Lee and Anita would just laugh and point us to another book, cassette, or video. It was like an addiction that we couldnt get satisfied. One question just led to another and another. It was a wonderful experience.
We began going to bed later and waking up earlier trying to jam as much reading into the day as possible. We decided to maximize our time. I began taking Joetta to work and picking her up so that we could read out loud coming and going. I would pick her up for lunch, put a couple of lawn chairs and TV trays in the trunk and drive to a park so that we could read without interruptions. We took turnsone would eat while the other would read out loud. We did everything together. God was graciously speaking to us together. Drawing us at the same pace deeper into himself.
We read the Catechism from cover to cover. The Catechism is the greatest systematic theological work we have ever read. Answers to long sought after questions were coming like torrential showers.
I remember one Saturday morning in particular. We both woke up about 4 oclock in the morning. We sat up in bed with our Bibles in one hand and Catechisms in the other. I would say, "Joetta, listen to this. This is fantastic. This just brings everything into focus!" Before I would finish, Joetta would interrupt and say, "Larry, wait, wait. Listen to this!" She would then read from a different section of the Catechism. We would read supporting scripture verses, go to the writings of the Early Church Fathers and then check a commentary. Before we knew it, it was 1 oclock in the afternoon! We were like sponges. Issues such as the real presence of Christ in the bread and wine, the role of Mary in the Church, prayers to the saints, Scripture and Tradition as authoritative vs. Sola Scriptura, Papal authority, Purgatory, and Salvation as a process vs. Salvation as a completed work we began to see in a whole new light. It was like finding all the lost pieces in a huge theological puzzle. The full picture was becoming clear.
The Lord was taking us down two paths simultaneously: one intellectual and the other emotional. We had been praying the Rosary, and parking ourselves on Bob and Johannas sofa, asking question after question about Catholic doctrine, tradition, and culture. We asked God to somehow reveal to us if He was drawing us to the Catholic Church, because none of this made any sense to us. We had spent all of our lives in Protestant churches and were quite content in our ministry. We desperately needed to know about the Church to which God was calling us, so three short weeks into our conversion I prayed this prayer. "Father, if you are drawing us into the Catholic Church, I want a sign, and I want it big."
Several days later, we were coming home from a short trip to Dallas. As we largest, most vivid sun either of us had ever seen. It went from horizon to horizon, and it looked like we were going to drive right into it. An indescribable array of colorsorange, red, and pink. It was magnificent, so much so that our young grandson, who was sleeping in the back set sat up and said, "Grandpa, grandpa, do you see that? Isnt it beautiful?" As brilliant as it was we could look right at it.
As the sun went down we put in a cassette tape by Dr. Scott Hahn and continued toward Oklahoma City. As I looked into the night sky I prayed again silently, "Oh God, if youre drawing us into the Catholic Church, give us a sign and please make it big!"
At the same time, unknown to me, Joetta was staring out the passenger window silently praying, "Blessed Mother, if youre real, we have to know beyond a doubt." Suddenly, I heard Joetta gasp and say, "Oh my, Larry, Larry, look!" As I looked to the right I saw what looked like a chain of stars falling in slow motion at a downward angle from right to left. Just before the stars reached the horizon they shot straight up and then fell back toward the earth again falling right in the center of the highway. Usually a falling star shoots downward and moves so quickly you dont have time to tell anyone about it. We were speechless, because we both saw it! Finally Joetta broke the silence, "You did see that didnt you?" We were both visibly shaken.
I put in a cassette by Catholic singer Dana in which she sings through the Rosary, and for the next hour and thirty minutes we prayed the Rosary with her. We finished just as we reached the exit road going toward our parsonage. As we turned under the freeway and went up over a little hill, there, sitting on the road in front of us was the most beautiful, enormous, vivid quarter-moon we had ever seen. Like the sunset, it seemed to literally sit in the middle of the road and extended as high into the sky as we could the sun. For 2 1/2 miles, we watched in total silence.
As we turned into our driveway the moon disappeared. "Joetta, what does all of this remind you of?" "Revelation chapter 12," she said: "A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head." At that moment we knew that the Holy Spirit was not only bringing us to the Catholic Church, but that Mary was leading the way.
Two months later Joetta and I knelt in a small chapel on the University of Tulsa campus and prayed the prayer of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Our love for her is without bounds. I had been afraid that she would somehow take away from my love for Jesus, but what I found was that my love for Christ has deepened beyond measure. Truly our cup runs over!
On September 12, 1997, I surrendered my ordination papers to Bishop Bruce Blake of the United Methodist Church. In doing so, I laid down 30 years of Protestant ministry to become a Catholic. To many of my colleagues, this seemed a horrible mistake, but to Joetta and I, it was "coming home."
In January, we made a pilgrimage to Rome to symbolize our desire to place ourselves under the authority of Pope John Paul II and the Roman Catholic Church. This March, Joetta and I made a pilgrimage to a Marian site in Eastern Europe to thank the Blessed Mother for bringing us into the Church. We now look forward with great anticipation to being received into full communion in the Catholic Church this coming Easter Vigil. This will be the culmination of a 23 month, life transforming odyssey. Thank you Mary for loving us home.
Larry Lewis has a Master of Divinity degree from Phillips Theological Seminary and is currently a Doctoral candidate at Oral Roberts University where his doctoral research is in Catholic apologetics. The Lewis have three married daughters and five grandchildren.
The scripture you posted does not say that, "doctor". Please post the scripture that supports your opinion.
One is not committing their life to Christ when they dictate for themselves what that commitment will look like.
It is mohammedans who are lead by their own interpretation of ancient writings: not Christians.
Please remove me from your pinglist
I have no idea what you're trying to say.
Regaredless, no one is saved "through" Mary.
Please post any Scripture at all that tells us to come to Christ through His mother. Any.
Again, please post the Scripture that supports any of your bizarre, hyper-inflated opinions of Mary.
Luke 1. He came to us through her.
Will you — it is about 5th time I ask on two threads — substantiate your mariophobic opinions with any scripture? You, not me, are supposed to be the Bible-alone superstitionist, remember?
You alleged a scriptural contradiction in Catholic Mariology. Please show the contradiction.
Then I suggest you are not qualified to offer unsolicited advice.
It sure looks like an angel to me, but that's not how it's listed (and I don't see how it'll support the Savior on her shoulders)...
“His mother saith to the waiters: Whatsoever He shall say to you, do ye.” John 2:5
I couldn't tell. Then again, I didn't peek at her backside or lift up her dress to look for the requisite "Made in China" label.
"Woman, what does your concern have to do with me? My hour has not yet come." John 2:4
"The thing is, Bob, it's not that I'm lazy. It's that I just don't care."
There is no scriptural basis for the "veneration" of Mary. None. It is purely made up out of whole cloth. My own take is that it came about with pagans who were used to worshiping a goddess (there was the huge cult of Artemis, in Ephesus, the same city where Mary ended up with John according to tradition) and as Christians were in competition they naturally gravitated toward the "mother of God".
It's not that I don't have profound respect for Mary as the mother of God. It's just that there is nothing within scripture that indicates Mary has any special position outside of agreeing to bear the Messiah and cooperate with God. That's it. She's only mentioned about a half dozen times in the gospels. There's no mention of her at all in any of the rest of the New Testament writings (I know that Catholics argue that the "woman clothed in the Sun" in Revelation is Mary, but I disagree).
It's an undue emphasis and focus on Mary that keeps me away from the Catholic church to this point. There's no basis for it except a tradition that developed within the church (in my opinion, at least) out of old goddess worshiping pagans who were brought into the faith.
Christ repeatedly says he is the only way to the Father. 1 Timothy says there is one mediator between man and God, the man Christ Jesus. Hebrews talks about Jesus as our great High Priest and there is no one between man and God but Jesus. No priests. No Mary. No one. Just Jesus. It was for this very symbolic reason that the curtain of the temple was torn in two. The barrier between men and God was removed. Jesus has now made a direct relationship with the Father possible.
I know that the Catholic Church claims Mary isn't "adored" but only "venerated" but this is a bit disingenuous because it is quite clear that when you see these various peoples in the third world carrying around statues of Mary on biers, and kneeling before them, etc, they are quite definitely "worshipping" her - I doubt the average lay person, especially in the third world where there is little education, knows the difference (splitting hairs) of "adoration" vs. "veneration". They are quite clearly praying to Mary in the worship sense.
Putting anyone in between Jesus and the believer is not only wrong, it's idolatry. Nowhere does the Bible indicate Mary has any special status in the afterlife, nowhere does anyone else in the New Testament treat her as having any special status in the afterlife (she's not even mentioned).
Okay, this got longer than I planned...
Did He do something, or not?
Your first test is invalid. You assume everything from God has to be in Scripture. The voice of the seven thunders is purposely omitted, yet will that not be from God?