Saturday, January 31, 2015

From Judaism to married Catholic priest

Marty Heisey/Staff
Rev. Paul Schenk, a priest who converted from Judaism at Annie Bailey's Pub in Lancaster.
Posted: Thursday, January 29, 2015 5:00 pm | Updated: 5:04 pm, Thu Jan 29, 2015.

The Rev. Paul Schenck is a married Catholic priest.

You may think that's a poorly written sentence that should read "…a former Catholic priest who is now married." But, no, Schenck, of York, really is a married Catholic priest, one of about 200 in the nation and another 200 worldwide. He and his wife, Becky, have been married 37 years and have nine children, including "one in heaven."

And that's not all. Schenck, 57, was raised Jewish, converted to Christianity at age 16 and was a Protestant pastor for about 20 years before becoming Catholic in 2004.

And there's more. Schenck served one month in prison and 18 months in home detention for leafleting and offering support to women and their companions at abortion clinics before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his favor in the 1997 case of Schenck v. Pro-Choice Network of Western New York.

Ordained in the Catholic Church in 2010, Schenk has served as director of respect life activities and continuing education for clergy in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg since 2008 and chairs the Washington, D.C., National Pro-Life Center, an ecumenical mission at the Supreme Court, which he founded in 2004.

Wednesday evening, he spoke about his unusual faith journey at Theology on Tap, at Annie Bailey's Irish Pub on East King Street. About 35 people attended and were so spellbound that they didn't seem to move a muscle, except perhaps to widen their eyes or cover their mouths when they dropped open in shock and disbelief.

Ethan Demme, 32, of East Lampeter Township and a member of San Juan Bautista Catholic Church, South Duke Street, introduced Schenck at the social event for young adults, sponsored by the diocese and held about eight times a year on the second floor of the pub.

"It's a very compelling story," Demme said after Schenck spoke. "I really want to talk to him because I had a very similar journey."

Schenck's journey began in Western New York, where he was raised. There he attended Hebrew school for six years, learning Babylonian Aramaic. When he was in ninth grade, two classmates — one a son of a United Methodist minister and the other who became the first female minister ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America — introduced him to Christianity.

“I listened to them very closely," Schenck said. "I grew up in a home where Jesus was respected. I was told Jesus was a great rabbi that Christians mistakenly turned into a God."

He began reading the New Testament, which he found very familiar, with names such as Isaiah, Solomon and David and references to circumcision and bar mitzvahs.

"There was nothing non-Jewish about it," he said.

Schenck used the Yiddish word mishmash to describe his family, explaining that his mother was baptized a Catholic and raised an Episcopalian before marrying the son of Jewish refugees and converting to Judaism to please her husband's father. The priest, whose twin brother is a UMC pastor in Chicago, confirmed his mother and baptized his father in the Catholic Church before they died.

Schenck graduated in 1979 from Elim Bible Institute, in Lima, N.Y. He then attended the Institute of Jewish Studies at the State University of New York because he wanted to study the Old Testament in Hebrew. He graduated from Luther Rice Seminary in 1982.

By then, he and his wife, who married at 19, had six children and lived in a garage apartment without enough heat.

"We were in desperate straits, but we didn't know it. We were enormously happy. Our family life and ministry fulfilled us. Our children were our treasures and still are."

In 1984, Schenck read "The Jewish People and Jesus Christ after Auschwitz," by Jakob Jocz, a third-generation Jewish Christian from Ukraine and a professor at Wycliffe College at the University of Toronto. The two met and became colleagues, collaborating on a series of articles for the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

When Jocz died three years later, he left his entire library — four floors in a Victorian townhouse, to Schenck. In a journal on Judaica, Schenck found an article about a fragment in Hebrew found in Syria before the fourth century believed to be a Haggadah, a Jewish text of the order of the Passover Seder, but which on further study was found to be the oldest known Christian Eucharistic liturgy.

"I was convinced that the Church of the Apostles, the Hebrew speaking church of Jerusalem, was liturgical and Eucharistic," Schenck said. "That led me to conclude that the earliest church was Catholic."

Although Schenck was a Protestant clergyman, he said he felt Catholic. When he learned that Pope John Paul II would grant pastoral provisions to married Anglican priests, allowing them to become Catholic priests, he joined a Reformed Episcopal Church, a member of the worldwide Anglican communion.

"I have tremendous respect and admiration for my brother unmarried priests," Schenck said, "because they voluntarily surrender what is a right that every Christian man has — a wife and a family. They do that for the love of Christ and his church. And I think that's heroic."

Friday, January 30, 2015

Complaining Christians or Charitable Christians - Your Choice

From Catholic Answers:

The Church, like a nation, must defend herself and her faith. She must fight for the truth and for the salvation of souls. This demands doing battle, for which reason we call ourselves the Church Militant. Like a nation, however, the Church also encounters a danger: that the fighting spirit of the Church Militant turn against her. The danger is not of fighting—but of only fighting, and fighting in the wrong way. The danger is that the Church become not the New Jerusalem, but the New Sparta. And Sparta was known for only one thing: fighting. Ruthlessly, effectively, heroically at times, but only fighting. Sparta produced no great artwork, poetry, plays, or philosophy. It produced only war.

In short, the risk is to cease being the Church Militant and to become instead the “Church Belligerent.” This term describes not so much a specific group of people as a certain attitude, mindset, or approach. It indicates the necessary fighting spirit of the Church Militant severed from the principle of charity. And it constitutes a hazard—not for those who think that the past forty years have been a catechetical and liturgical success, not for those who see no need to evangelize, not for those waiting for the Church to be updated. Rather, it poses a threat precisely to those—to us—who take the demands of the Church Militant seriously, who see the crisis in society and within the Church, who recognize the catechetical and liturgical fallout of almost four decades, and who desire to enter into the battle for souls.

…Those who constantly challenge and criticize cannot be taught. They may be able to pick apart goofy catechesis and spot liturgical abuse from a mile away. But they cannot learn, because they never stop questioning, criticizing, picking things apart. The criticism results in a cynicism borne (ironically) of a zeal for truth. If we refuse to trust anyone, then we set ourselves up as our own personal magisterium. And we have a name for that: Protestantism.

Further, the constant criticizing quickly becomes just complaining. And there is plenty to complain about. So we sit around and swap anecdotes about how bad Mass is at that parish, and how bad that school is, and what bishop so-and-so did or didn’t do…and so on. We may be dead right on every point. But so what? At the end of the complaining, have we become holier? Have we grown in the interior life? And what attitude have we fostered in those around us?

Some of our greatest saints saw similar, and worse, crises. Yet they did not leave us an example of complaining. The hallmark of Christians is charity, not churlishness. The pagans were moved by the Christians: “See how they love one another”—not “See how they complain to one another.”

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Sunday Word

Time to take a look at the Word of the Lord for the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time. 

The first reading for this Sunday is from Deuteronomy and finds the Israelites begging Moses for a prophet and the Lord responding favorably. There's a stern warning for the prophet, however, lest the prophet speak in the Lord's name anything the Lord had not given him to speak. This becomes background for Sunday's Gospel where Jesus, hailed as a prophet, exorcises a man with an unclean spirit.

In the day's second reading, St. Paul writes the Corinthians that he wants them to be free from anxieties. Who wouldn't want to be free from anxieties? Paul addresses some anxieties shared by spouses. What he says may sound strange until you recall that he was writing expecting Christ to return in glory at any moment.

Both the first reading and the Gospel raise questions about whom we listen to and whom we trust. Remembering that the prophet is one who teaches and heals with the authority of God:

• To whose prophetic word do we listen?
• What anxieties come between us and our faith in the Lord?
• From what "unclean spirits" might we want Jesus to free us?

Serious questions to ponder...

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

2015 March for Life

More pictures of our participation in the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Marianist Monday

Listening to God requires a deliberate choice to shut out the chaos around you and focus your thoughts. Is God someone you can hear? The Bible says He is, and the Bible is one of the main tools through which He speaks.

We live in a world of noise. Almost everywhere we go, we find sounds competing with our minds, keeping us from letting our thoughts get below the surface level. Hearing God's voice means not listening to the noise of the world around us. It's not easy, but it can be done. Do you desire God's will for your life above every other desire? If you do, you can trust that He will direct your path. Listen to His message, and be quick to obey.

When you listen to God and obey Him, you will discover a life that is full and rich with purpose, confident you are following the Lord's plan.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Sunday Word

Why do you think God chose you? This is a great question. Yes, it's ultimately because God loves you and wants to know you. But is there anything in you or about you that made God want to love 

you? Perhaps it's your IQ. Your mom always said you were smart. Maybe it's your keen sense of style. God thought you could make God look good. Or maybe it was the fact that you're a type-A go-getter, and God wants a high-functioning, action-oriented winner on His team.

Did God call you to Christ through his word and draw you to the waters of baptism, marking you as his own and placing every promise of the cross upon your life, because God saw something awesome in you? No. God called you to Christ for the same reason he called those original 12 disciples: because you make an excellent object lesson on the depths of God's grace and the scope of God's power.

- You, with your rebellious heart.

- You, with your secret struggles.

- You, with your lack of faith and your long list of faults.

- You, who knows deep down that you are unworthy to tie God's shoes let alone be called God's child.

God chose you so that the world might look at you and see that God is indescribably merciful and incredibly powerful.

That said, the question that you may be asking at this point is, "So what?" We can proclaim the truth that God has chosen us completely out of mercy all day long (and we should) but what's the action step? How does this truth get lived out in our lives?

The answer is found in the actions of the disciples. What do we see them doing the moment after Jesus comes and taps them on the shoulder? What do we see them doing when a rabbi comes and makes it clear that he wants them?

They dropped everything and followed. They dropped their nets. James and John left their dad! Why? Because when something you don't deserve but desperately want comes knocking at your door, you don't tell it to wait five minutes. You answer that door as fast as you can.

We're all disciples. We've each been given something we don't deserve but desperately need: an encounter with Christ. And our task each day is to see this life with Jesus as an undeserved invitation. It's an undeserved invitation to drop our plans and follow him wherever he leads, knowing and trusting that wherever he takes us is better and more beautiful than whatever else we had planned.