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A road rage shooting left Sam near death. But his faith and family
helped him find the way to forgiveness.
What a Difference a Day Makes
By Patricia Majher
Lisa lost $34 million when her mother burnt a winning lottery ticket.
Losing the money led Lisa through a journaey where she could have
lost something even more valuable.
$34 Million - Lost
By Lisa A. Stechschulte
What do you do with the palms after Mass on Palm Sunday? Consider
weaving them into something that will last the season and remind you
to continue welcoming Jesus.
By Patricia Majher
An Interview with the president of
the Association of Hebrew Catholics (AHC).
Are Jewish Converts Still Jewish?
Patrick O'Brien, with David Moss
"Catholic Schools: Where Faith
& Knowledge Meet." Download on-line video clips here.
All Schools Mass
What a Difference a Day Makes
By Patricia Majher
Photography by James Luning
a difference a day makes. On Nov. 23, 1996, Sam Miller was a happy, healthy
teenager, going to Lansing Community College on an athletic scholarship,
and making plans for a career as a professional golfer. By the next evening,
everything had changed. Sam lay unconscious in a hospital bed clinging
to life - the victim of a senseless, road rage shooting. Sam had taken
a bullet in the back of his head, and the prognosis wasn't good. "The
doctors told us Sam would likely be blind, paralyzed, and have brain damage
if he survived at all," recounts his mother, Theresa.
Sam's memory of Nov. 24, 1996, is still a bit hazy, but witnesses in
his car testified that Sam simply tried to switch lanes to one already
occupied by another car. Though he made a quick course correction, the
other driver became enraged and started to harass him, playing a cat-and-mouse
game. Shaken, Sam pulled down a side street to get away from him, but
the driver followed and fired five .45-caliber bullets into Sam's car.
One of the bullets struck Sam at the base of his head, causing him to
slump over the steering wheel and crash the car.
Because the shooter - whose last name, improbably, was Outlaw - had pulled
ahead of Sam's car at one point, Sam's friends were able to get his license
plate number and provide police with this critical piece of information,
as well as an accurate description of the car. Lansing police arrested
Roosevelt Outlaw within 45 minutes of the crime, and even caught him trying
to dispose of the gun.
Meanwhile, Sam was rushed to a nearby hospital for treatment and underwent
emergency surgery aimed at removing the bullet. Unfortunately, the bullet
had worked its way up to the front of Sam's head. "As the doctors
explained it, removal from this position could damage the brain even more
than the original gunshot," explains Sam's father, Steve. "So
they sewed him up and waited for him to regain consciousness."
in Sam's room, his family began the first of many prayer-filled vigils.
Seeking solace in their faith, they reached out to a network of believers
who supported Sam with prayers, too.
As predicted, Sam came out of the anesthesia with diminished capacities.
He couldn't see. He couldn't move the right side of his body. Walking
was out of the question, and forming words required a Herculean effort.
A machine helped him breathe and monitors of all kinds filled his room
in the neurological intensive care unit (NICU). If that wasn't bad enough,
within days Sam developed severe headaches that sent him back to surgery
a second time. In the operating room, surgeons discovered and treated
a raging infection that had created a softball-sized lump on Sam's brain.
They also located the bullet which had, almost unbelievably, worked its
way back to the point of entry. They removed the slug and surrounding
dead tissue plus hair and bone fragments.
Though the operation was deemed a success, the doctors remained cautious
about the likelihood of Sam's recovery. And, in fact, Sam found himself
in surgery two more times before the infections were sufficiently beaten
back. But Sam and his parents never lost hope and inspired everyone around
them with their deep and abiding faith.
No two days were alike for Sam during his recovery. Some days, he spent
sleeping and quietly healing. Other days were a trial in therapy, where
even relearning to lift a glass with his right hand made Sam break out
in a sweat from the exertion. On one memorable day, his temperature soared
to 105 degrees and he had to be packed in 30 bags of ice to bring it back
down. Later that same day, he became uncomfortably chilled and was bundled
up in blankets. Still later, his temperature spiked again, prompting another
round of ice.
Sam was in almost constant pain, so bad that morphine was prescribed.
On a few occasions, even that wasn't enough. "One day, I remember
asking God to 'take me or heal me. Just don't leave me here in between.'"
During these desperate moments, Sam admits to being angry with the man
who shot him. "I went over and over that night in my head, wondering
what I did to justify this," he says. "I had everything going
for me before the shooting, and here I was starting all over."
Then a miracle would happen - like the time a visit from a neighborhood
minister coincided with the return of feeling in Sam's right arm - and
Sam's thoughts would turn positive again. "I learned not to question
stayed in the hospital for 67 days - 39 of them in the NICU. During that
time, he lost nearly 40 pounds. But he also gained something back: with
intensive therapy, he was able to walk out the door - slowly, but under
his own steam - in late January of 1997. Sam had also remarkably recovered
a good bit of his sight and ability to communicate.
There was no escaping the reality, though, that his life had radically
changed. Reading and writing were a struggle for the 'new' Sam, so he
had to drop out of college. And his still-weakened body wasn't prepared
to engage in strenuous exercise, so golf was out of the question. Sam
was also cautioned about putting himself in stressful situations, as they
could bring on seizures - another lingering effect of the shooting. It
would have been easy for Sam to wallow in anger during this period. With
his parents at work and his siblings at school, he had lots of time alone
to dwell on the negatives of his situation. But he soon recognized that
was futile. "Anger is a dead-end street. I knew I had to get past
it to get better."
credits his parents with helping him round that bend. "They sat me
down a couple of times and helped me talk through my feelings. By their
own actions, they showed me how important it was to forgive." In
the first few months after leaving the hospital, Sam dedicated himself
to attending rehabilitation three times a week, often as the only young
person surrounded by older men and women felled by strokes. By the time
summer rolled around, he was able to play a few rounds of golf and even
scored a hole in one. That July, he was the featured player at a benefit
golf outing for crime victims at the Country Club of Lansing.
"I lost a lot of distance (after the injury), though," remarked
Sam, "at least 30 yards off the tee. And my putting and chipping
weren't even close to what they were before." The weakness on Sam's
right side was seriously impeding his swing. When Sam realized that his
handicap had slipped from a two or three to a nine or 10, he knew once
and for all that his dream of playing professional golf could only be
that - a dream.
Drawing on the drive and determination that made him a great athlete
to begin with, Sam set out to find a new career goal. Talks with Michigan
State University Trustee Joel Ferguson, a family friend and respected
developer, motivated Sam to consider real estate as an area of interest.
Exploring new career possibilities helped Sam with the emotional aspects
of his recovery, also.
Fighting his fear of riding in cars, however, took a bit longer. "If
I was sitting in the car and somebody drove by too fast, I would duck
without thinking. I was pretty jumpy." Then, in early November, he
suffered a serious seizure that landed him back in the hospital. "He
was scared to death with the realization that his life was still so fragile,"
Theresa says. As a result of that episode, Sam was put on an anti-seizure
medication he will likely have to take for the rest of his life.
And, in the final week of that month of November - almost a year to
the day of the shooting - Sam and his parents sat in Ingham County Circuit
Court observing the sentencing hearing for Sam's assailant. After a prolonged
trial, Outlaw agreed to plead guilty to three charges: assault with intent
to commit great bodily harm, felony firearm, and unlawfully having a gun
in an automobile. The sentencing hearing's purpose was to help the judge
decide upon Outlaw's punishment.
Outlaw was well aware of the pain he had caused - he even had a photo
of Sam taken during the initial hospital stay in his cell as he awaited
trial. When given a chance to make his remarks at the hearing, Outlaw
read a prepared statement in which he took responsibility for his actions
and offered an apology. "I have prayed day and night for you to recover
from this incident," were his concluding words to Sam, "(and)
I continue praying you will live a normal and productive life."
Steve and Theresa also prepared a statement to read. But Sam - who had
not planned to say anything at all - rose in their stead and made his
way slowly to the microphone. Looking Outlaw straight in the eye, he said:
"I accept your apology and you are forgiven." According to Theresa,
"you could have heard a pin drop in the room."
Sam's assailant received the maximum penalty for his crimes - eight
and two-thirds years to 10 years. He is currently serving his time at
a prison camp in northern Michigan.
"We're kept informed as to his whereabouts," notes Steve.
But Sam shows no interest in keeping tabs on the man. "I can't worry
about details like that," Sam said. "He's got to lead his life
and I've got to lead mine."
For Sam, the past seems almost a distant memory. He's focused instead
now on building a new future. In the past few years, he's opened himself
up to a new relationship, taken a job at an insurance company, and purchased
his first home - a small Cape Cod built in the 1940s. "It was so
important to him to arrange the financing by himself," noted Theresa.
"My plans are to remodel the house and resell it at a profit, then
roll that over into another house and do the same thing," Sam explains.
Giving his house a new lease on life is good practice for an aspiring
developer and a fitting activity for a young man who was given his own
second chance to live ... and forgive. "I thank God for everything
I've accomplished," said Sam. "From this point on, I'll always
be praying, I'll always be believing."
$34 Million - Lost
By Lisa Stechschulte
Photography by Christine Jones
was joking about my mom, but Ann said I was being horrible. This happened
in 1998 when I found out that I was the biggest loser in the state of
Michigan because my mother burned a lottery ticket worth $34 million.
I knew the ticket was mine because I played the same numbers since I was
16 and the store where I bought tickets sold the winner. While I was a
minor, my dad would buy the tickets with the numbers I gave him. So, when
the numbers of the missing ticket were announced over the radio, I called
my Mom and told her to stop burning old lottery tickets - I was a winner!
It was too late. The ticket had been burned two weeks earlier.
admit I was momentarily mad at my mother. But how can you really be upset
with the person who gave you life? My mom had not only given life to 10
children, she had also survived polio! Love never fails - I couldn't be
mad at my mom.
The sacrament of reconciliation got me through the anger I had about
losing an opportunity to assist with a wide variety of charitable projects.
More importantly, it helped me heal in my relationship with God. I was
mad at God for not letting me collect the money. I had great charities
I wanted to assist and I was not allowed to have the money. Why would
God do this to me? With this sacrament, my spiritual director, Fr. Bill
Ashbaugh, reminded me the $34 million was not mine because it would not
bring me closer to the kingdom of God. There was a reason that God did
not want me to have the money. Even though I did not know it at the time,
I believe I understand God's plan now.
After the lottery news hit my family members, my uncle, Joe, called
to console me. He told me I should keep trying to win again, as there
was a man in Colorado who has won the lottery four times. Well, I got
hooked. I was playing the lottery all the time and spending a lot of money.
I would also go to the casino and spend money there. I knew that I was
preoccupied with getting that $34 million, even though I knew I was not
supposed to have it.
is when the sacrament of reconciliation became even more important to
me. I confessed that I spent $500 in one hour at the casino. For my penance,
I was supposed to donate that much money to charity. It took me six months
to fulfill the penance because I wanted to select good charities. The
next time I confessed my gambling problem, I was told I had to give up
the casinos for Lent. I told Fr. Bill that I could not do that because
my friends wanted to take me to the casino for my birthday. I was told
to offer it up. So, I did not go to the casino for all of Lent. Over a
three-year process of confessing my sin of gambling, I finally decided
on Nov. 12, 1999, that I could no longer spend my time, energy or money
on the lottery. I also vowed to give up the casino, but went one more
time on Thanksgiving Day that year.
I am truly thankful that through the sacrament of reconciliation, I
was able to stop gambling. There are times when I still think about it.
Recently, for example, the Big Game was worth $80 million. I began to
think of the good I could do with that kind of money. I even gave some
friends a series of numbers to play. I went to Mass that weekend and Fr.
Bill gave a homily on addictions. After Mass, I confessed the error of
my sins. I felt a sense of relief and peace because I knew visiting that
confessional would help me to say no to a terrible habit.
The sacrament of reconciliation is one of the hidden treasures of the
Catholic faith. In my own life this beautiful sacrament has helped me
in many difficult times. Growing up, I was always nervous about going
into the confessional and telling the priest about the errors of my ways.
However, as I continually grow in my faith journey, I have experienced
how this sacrament has changed my life.
When I was in the fourth grade, I received the sacrament of reconciliation
for the first time. My classmates and I at St. Paul School in Owosso were
nervous. We had questions running through our heads like, "What will
Father think of me? Is he going to tell our parents (even though we knew
about the seal of the confessional)? What will I have to do for a penance?"
I remember a sense of relief when it was over. Just like riding a bicycle,
once you try it, you are fine. In high school, our Latin class was taught
the words tabula rasa, which means clean slate. We were told that Catholics
received this when they went to reconciliation. I often think of a chalkboard
full of the mistakes I have made, and when the priest prays the prayer
of absolution, God has taken an eraser and wiped away all of the sins
I have made. The absolution brings a great sense of peace, but for me
the penance I receive provides the opportunity for great growth.
Relationships with others have improved because I have learned to grow
as a person with my penances. Once I was told for my penance that I had
to write everything an individual did to me that I had to forgive. It
took eight pages of paper and three days to complete my list. When I look
back at those sheets of paper, I realize that I need to treat people as
best I can, because I would hate to see someone have an eight-page list
of things that I did to hurt them.
I am not perfect and I know that the sacrament of reconciliation is a
time to practice humility, because we have to confess our sins. This is
not easy, but the grace received to continue the faith journey is worth
humbling oneself before God in front of a priest. I am proof that this
sacrament can help people make great strides in their life. I hope to
continue to use the grace from this sacrament to make it to the ultimate
prize - heaven.
Photography by Philip Shippert
What do you do with the fronds you bring home from Palm Sunday Mass?
Place them on a dresser or tuck them behind a crucifix, perhaps? This
year, why not try something different, something more creative? Take a
page out of Sr. Cecilia Schmitt's book - literally.
Sr. Cecilia, a Franciscan nun living in St. Cloud, Minn., has self published
a book called Palm Weaving: The Story and the Art. Within its pages are
more than 100 palm-weaving patterns from around the world.
Crosses - both simple and ornate - are included in the book. So are more
elaborate patterns, including flowers, butterflies, birds, stars, fish,
frames for holy pictures, and crowns of thorns.
What is the origin of the practice of palm weaving for religious purposes?
Sr. Cecilia's research has led her to suggest Sicily as the starting point.
But much of Europe now considers it an established Easter tradition. One
German custom involves not only the weaving of crosses but the burying
of them in farmers' fields to ensure God's blessings.
Palm weaving is also part of many tropical cultures, where it is practiced
along side basket weaving.
To make a weaving of your own, start by picking fresh, flexible, green
fronds. (Store them in a refrigerator if you can't work with them right
away.) No special tools are required, just your hands and the occasional
pin or paper clip to secure a design until the frond dries.
Woven fronds will take on the color of straw as they age, and may be
displayed for years with just an occasional dusting. Depending on the
pattern you choose, the fronds can be hung from a ribbon, arranged in
a bouquet, or left to sit out on a bookcase or tabletop.
Here's a simple cross pattern to get you started on this craft. Even
children will find this one easy and rewarding; why not adopt it as a
fun family activity during Holy Week? Following that is a pinecone pattern,
for our more adventurous readers!
Take a palm frond about one inch wide and 13 inches long. Hold it horizontally.
2 Bend the right end straight up from the center to form a right
3 Fold this same top strip, from the center, back and down, up
and over again, to form a square at the back. It will still be a right
angle at this point.
4 Bring the left strip forward and fold over the center toward
the right. Fold away from you and thread through the square at the back,
all the way.
5 Bend the top strip forward and thread the end through the center
square to make a shaft of desired length.
6 Fold left strip backward and thread through the back square.
This makes the left crossbar and should be in proportion to the shaft.
7 Fold the right strip back to form the right crossbar and thread
through the back square to secure. Cut a 'V' into the base of the shaft
for a dovetail effect, if desired. The finished cross should measure approximately
2 inches wide by 3 inches high.
Find a palm that has four strands or gather four individual strands and
staple them together at the base. Choose palms that have tapered ends
to make a more natural-looking pinecone that narrows at the top.
2 Hold the connected strands in one hand. Use the other hand to bend
one strand away from you (pointing north), another strand over this and
to the left (pointing west), and another strand over this toward you (pointing
south). The last strand should be placed over the third and under the
first (pointing east). You should now have a strand going in each direction
and a square platform from which to start weaving.
3 Pull the platform tight and continue to fold the strands in four
directions, tucking the fourth strand under the first each time to secure
your work. You will weave clockwise, then counterclockwise, beginning
with any strand. Watch that your weaving stays even and the tightness
of the weave consistent.
4 As you approach the end of the strands, you can pull them together
to tie off or tuck them in under a previous loop. Put a straight pin in
to secure the closure, removing the pin when the palm is dry. The finished
pinecone will vary in size, depending on the length of the strands.
The base may be decorated with ribbon and a sprig of dried flowers.
For a wider variety of patterns, visit the following Web site: www.chem.umb.edu/Palms/
You may also contact Sr. Cecilia Schmitt directly at CHT14@juno.com
or at (320) 252-1234 to order her book, a second publication containing
reproducible lesson plans, or a how-to video on palm weaving.
When Palms Are in Short Supply In the countries of northern Europe, it
is common to celebrate Palm Sunday not with palms but with pussy willows,
which grow commonly throughout the region. In Poland, for instance, boys
lightly swat the girls with willow switches on Switching Day, celebrating
the end of Lent, and girls return the favor on Easter Tuesday. Crosses
are made of cattails and hung over the main entry of the house. Dipped
in holy water, they are also used to bless farm animals.
Are Jewish Converts still Jewish?
FAITH's Patrick O'Brien interviewed David Moss, President of the Association
of Hebrew Catholics (AHC). The AHC has recently relocated to Ypsilanti,
FAITH: Some people thought our February issue headline: 'A
Catholic Deacon Born Jewish' implied that Deacon Warren Hecht was
no longer Jewish. Is he?
Mr. Moss: Well, the term "Jew" is ambiguous the way
it is normally used. Sometimes it refers to a person's religious practices
and sometimes to a person's ethnicity.
Warren's religious practices are not those of a Jew but of a Catholic.
However, Deacon Warren remains a member of the Jewish people, or more
properly, the People Israel. This is the people that descend from Abraham,
Isaac and Jacob. In their religious faith and practice, they may be Catholics,
Rabbinical Jews, Protestants, or something else.
Many Jews don't like to be called converts since they already believed
in God, and in their religious observances, they were already responding
to that part of the Word of God in the 'Tanakh', or what we call the Old
Testament. When we recognize the Messiah and enter His Church, we fulfill
or complete our Old Testament faith. But we do not lose our ethnicity,
who we are. For clarity's sake (since we do not practice Judaism) and
to not offend our Jewish brothers and sisters, we do not use the term
'Jewish Catholic'. Instead we use the more theologically correct term,
'Catholic Israelite' or, synonymously, 'Hebrew Catholic. That is, we are
members of the People Israel who observe the Catholic faith. > FAITH:
How many Hebrew Catholics are there?
Mr. Moss: I've seen figures estimating that one half million to one million
Jews have come to faith in Jesus since the Second World War. There are
no reliable estimates for those that have entered the Catholic Church,
but from my experience I would guess that the numbers range, at the least,
in the tens of thousands.
Whatever the total number, it is a significant percentage of the Jewish
people. Before the war, there were an estimated 18 million Jewish people
in the world. After the war that number went down to an estimated 11-12
million. I think now it is between 13-14 million.
In addition to the shoah (holocaust), other factors in the decrease of
the Jewish population include: assimilation, a low birth rate among many
segments of the Jewish people, and inter-marriage which leads to assimilation.
FAITH: What is the difference between your group, Hebrew Catholics,
and Jews for Jesus, Messianic Jews, etc ... ?
Mr. Moss: Messianic Jews are Jews who have come to faith in Jesus
in the non-Catholic Christian world. Typically, their theology derives
from Evangelical Christianity. Instead of entering one of the Christian
denominations, many are joining Messianic congregations that have been
springing up in many cities throughout the Americas, Europe and Israel.
In these congregations, they attempt to live as Jews with modifications
arising from their belief in the Messiah.
term 'Messianic Jews' is an umbrella term. It does not signify a common
set of doctrines or practices. The majority believe that Jesus is both
Messiah and Son of God. A small number believe that he is Messiah, but
The group "Jews for Jesus" may also be called Messianic Jews.
Since they do not maintain their own congregations, they point new Jewish
believers to a (non-Catholic) Christian congregation.
That the Messianic Jewish movement is growing so fast can be attributed
to three major factors:
(1) a primary focus of their work is evangelization of the Jews;
(2) they don't have to take into account the Magisterium or Sacred Tradition;
(3) they make an effort to preserve their Jewish identity.
We are Catholic. We have freely chosen to enter the Church established
by the Messiah, in which He has established a teaching authority, the
Magisterium, responsible for guarding and handing on the deposit of faith
given to the Apostles. That deposit is reflected in the doctrines of the
Church. Thus, our efforts and mission must be in keeping with the teaching
and discipline of the Church.
Elias Friedman, OCD, who lived as a Carmelite friar for approximately
50 years in Israel, launched the AHC to preserve the People Israel within
the Church. Somewhat similar reasons motivate the Messianic Jewish movement.
The problem of Jewish identity may briefly be described as follows. When
a Jew enters the Church, he enters into a community and culture that has
become sociologically, for want of a better word, Gentile. The term 'Gentile'
refers to the non-Israelite peoples of the world.
Consequently, the Jewish convert is separated from his people, his culture
and his heritage. Then, through assimilation to the prevailing culture,
his offspring are no longer considered part of the People Israel.
Most importantly, the corporate vocation given to the People Israel can
no longer be fulfilled, either in the convert or in his offspring. This
is the case because, since the 3rd or 4th century, the People Israel have
not had a corporate presence in the Church. Thus, in the Jews that enter
the Church, the People terminate.
FAITH: What do you mean, the people terminate?
Mr. Moss: The basic way that Jews preserve themselves and their
heritage is through their offspring. The Jewish community recognizes the
offspring as a Jew and, therefore, a member of the People Israel. Through
the community, the individual is given his or her identity as a member
of that community.
However, when a Jew enters the Church and marries, there is no community
recognition of the offspring as members of the People Israel. Thus, the
offspring, in effect, become Gentile. And even if the family attempts
to preserve some aspects of their heritage, by the second or third generation,
those aspects have disappeared and the offspring have completely lost
any sense of their identity as Israelites.
So, even if the convert continues to describe himself in terms of his
Jewish origins, the preservation of the People through his offspring comes
to a halt. Thus, my statement that 'the People terminate'.
FAITH: That explains why, when I was interviewing a Rabbi about
interfaith marriage, he stated that every Jew that converts or marries
and does not raise their children Jewish - that is like another Holocaust.
I was startled by the comment. Is this what he was referring to?
Mr. Moss: Yes. The way it's communicated doesn't add clarity.
But, the Rabbi uses the term 'holocaust' in the sense of how many Jews
are lost. The People Israel have a God-given vocation in this world. They,
therefore, also have an obligation to preserve themselves and their vocation.
are two things that threaten this people: violence and assimilation. Violence
is brutal and swift, such as the pogroms, where under the Czars, the army
would destroy whole Jewish villages. Even worse, of course, was the Holocaust,
an attempt to totally wipe out the Jewish people during the Second World
Assimilation is peaceful and slow, but just as sure. Through the last
1700 years, Jews who have entered the Church have assimilated to the various
cultures of the Church. The Jews outside the Church, therefore, cry out:
to be open to Christ is to betray your people.
All who hear the Gospel, including Jews, have to answer the question
posed by Jesus: 'Who do you say that I am?' However, because of assimilation
there is no concrete and visible presence of the People Israel within
the Church. Thus, Christianity is seen as a Gentile religion and, as such,
the majority of Jews have no reason to consider the Gospel, much less
answer the question posed by Jesus.
The People Israel were given the Torah by God through Moses. Furthermore,
they believe that God has provided a way for Gentiles, through their various
religions, to find a place in the next world. But, those who are observant
of their Jewish faith generally have no reason to investigate the Gentile
FAITH: Is that why Jews don't evangelize or have programs to convert
people like other religions?
Mr. Moss: Basically, yes. Jews don't believe that Gentiles have
to become Jews to please God. The covenant given to Noah applies to all
of humanity. Thus, the Gentiles, through their religions, can find a place
in the next world with God.
They also believe that the Torah is the Word of God and that they have
a mission to witness to the nations the truths contained in the Torah.
Some also recognize that Christians have brought the wisdom of the Torah
to the world, despite their 'mistaken' beliefs in Jesus as the Messiah.
It is also important to recognize that there is no one Jewish position
on anything. Reform, Conservative and even Orthodox Jews don't have a
single set of doctrines or a teaching authority as do Catholics.
Another reason for the lack of Jewish evangelization over the last two
millennia is due to their minority status in most of the nations that
they resided in. In the light of persecution, various restrictive laws,
and other conditions, their primary emphasis was on survival and the transmission
of their heritage.
FAITH: What is the goal of your organization, the Association of
Mr. Moss: Our goal is to preserve the identity and heritage of
Israelites within the Catholic Church, through the establishment of a
Hebrew Catholic Community juridically approved by the Holy See.
By identity, I mean their 'vocation' or, biblically, their 'election'.
The election is a choice of God that applies to the descendants of Abraham,
Isaac and Jacob, that is, to the People Israel of the flesh. It is collective
and it is eternal.
Today, the Jew who enters the Church is unable to fulfill his vocation
as a member of the People. Instead, he enters the Church and assimilates
to the prevailing culture.
The Holy Father wrote a prayer for the Jews, in which he prayed for Jewish
children, that God would "uphold what remains the particular mystery
of their vocation." But a Jew could say, "Ha, the Holy Father
does not want us to become Catholic after all because he makes no provision
for us to be Catholic and at the same time to maintain our collective
God-given vocation." Now, most Jews would not articulate it this
way. Yet this is the reality.
FAITH: Isn't this true of all cultures or is that not a
Mr. Moss: There are similarities. You can look at converts from
other peoples, cultures and religions and, at times, see their own people
turn against them because they feel like the convert has betrayed them.
In these cases, we are dealing with human nature. In the case of the
People Israel, however, the issue is of a people created, formed, and
preserved by God, a people still intimately connected to the ongoing drama
of salvation history.
For example, the Catechism states that Jesus will not return until 'all
Israel' recognizes Him. Thus, it appears that there is a connection between
that part of the People Israel we identify as Jews and the second coming
Yet, how will His people recognize Him if they are not given the opportunity
to consider the Gospel? And, since the program of the Church today, with
respect to the Jews, is one of dialogue, not evangelization, how will
the opportunity to consider the Gospel arise?
I believe the dialogue is important and good because of the history of
Catholic Jewish relations. Healing, respect, trust, honest communications,
learning about the other, and shared efforts in the social arena are all
necessary and important.
Yet, the dialogue has its problems. One problem arises from the efforts
of some Catholics within the dialogue, as is also the case in other Catholic
disciplines, to re-interpret Scripture and Tradition to the detriment
of the Catholic faith. Thus, in attempting to deal with issues that have
negatively and unjustly affected the Jews, they are betraying the Catholic
FAITH: What do you mean? Who is betraying the Catholic faith?
Mr. Moss: Let me give an example outside of the dialogue, which
takes an extreme form: the Jesus seminar. Here, theologians vote on whether
passages are really the words of Jesus or not. When one looks at the results
of their votes, one finds that the New Testament has completely lost its
character as the inspired Word of God. Others have questioned or challanged
the truths of the virgin birth, the resurrection of our Lord, the miracles
of the loaves, and so forth. I could go on.
Within the dialogue, you will find the aberrant notion that there are
two parallel paths to salvation: one for the Jews, which is Rabbinical
Judaism, and one for the Gentiles, which is Christianity. Of course, one
may ask: How then do we explain that the Church was formed by Jews? that
Jesus, Mary, the apostles and almost all the early believers were Jews?
How then do we explain to the tens of thousands of Jews now in the Church,
and the untold numbers that have entered the Church over the last two
millennia, that they did not have to enter, nay, that they shouldn't have
entered, with all the trauma borne by themselves and their families, because
Rabbinical Judaism had all that they ever needed?
Overall, however, the dialogue is necessary, important and producing
Returning to your original question about the goals of the AHC: I already
mentioned our primary aim which is focused on preserving the People Israel
within the Church. With the establishment of a Hebrew Catholic Community,
the other major aim will begin to develop: That of restoring the heritage
of Israel to the life of the Church.
For 3,500 years, God has formed the People Israel. There is much in their
literature, their culture, and in their spiritual and moral disciplines
that will edify Catholics. God has given them certain gifts and called
them, as a Servant People, to be a blessing to the nations. As a People
living out their vocation within the Church, I believe they will be a
blessing to the life and mission of the Church, and to their brethren
outside the Church, the Jewish people.
I do not yet know what ecclesiastical format the Hebrew Catholic Community
will take. There is much work that has to be done by theologians and those
involved with canon law.
Scripture states that "for everything there is a season and a time
for every matter under heaven." The AHC makes the case that the time
is at hand to restore the People Israel, as a People, to the life of the
FAITH: So in Acts, where they discuss the problem of Gentiles entering
the Church, the issue was do Gentiles need to become Jews before they
can become Christian. What you are saying is that it is reversed? Now
the question is can you be a Jew and become Christian?
Mr. Moss: Yes. Let me state the question as it has been asked
of me: "Can I, a Jew, become a Christian without becoming a Gentile?"
Acts, the Church was made up of Jews. Through observance of the
Torah, the People Israel had been formed by God to be a holy people,
separated from the pagan world surrounding them. The Mosaic laws
not only formed them, but it preserved them as a people.
In the New Covenant, where the Gentiles were being grafted onto the People
Israel through baptism, the unarticulated question on the part of the
Jews was: How do we retain our identity if we now no longer have to observe
all of the Mosaic laws?
For example, the laws regarding ritual purity (such as the dietary laws),
had helped keep them a distinct people. But, in the new dispensation,
Jews began to eat with Gentiles. It became apparent that their distinctiveness
could no longer be preserved through these laws. And in those early days,
while the understanding of what Jesus had taught was developing, you can
read in the New Testament where some of the early Jewish followers of
Jesus continued to observe the Torah. In fact, this situation continued
through the next two or three centuries, while the People Israel maintained
a corporate presence in the early Church.
But the reversal of the situation in Acts is not the only reversal we
are witnessing. St. Paul, speaking to the Gentiles, taught that they,
the Gentiles, had received mercy because of failure of the Jews to believe
in Jesus. But a time would come when the Gentiles, who had the faith,
would lose it. And, from their failure, the Jews would again receive mercy.
And with mercy, 'all Israel' would be saved, bringing about the return
to faith of the apostate Gentiles. I believe we have entered that phase
of salvation history.
FAITH: Full circle. Thank you very much for this enlightening
conversation. Is there anything you would like to add?
Mr. Moss: Perhaps in my responses I have raised many more questions
than I have answered. Good! Questions, answers and arguments are a tradition
in Jewish learning. Your readers are welcome to contact us.
We have an information package, including the last issue of our publication,
"The Hebrew Catholic", that we send to those who inquire about
our work, without cost or obligation. We also have an online discussion
group that all are invited to participate in. And finally, we are beginning
to form small groups that meet once a month for prayer, study and celebration.
All are welcome.
We invite all who are interested in this work to join with us in this
privileged moment of salvation history, for your support is very much