12 October 2012

Crossing the Tiber

Sub Tuum.

The River Tiber with the Basilica of Saint Peter
in the Background (source: Wikipedia)
In Rome, there are a number of ancient bridges that cross the River Tiber, not to mention numerous modern bridges. If one would cross the Tiber, there are many ways to accomplish this, no matter where one might begin. Let one cross by the Ponte Milvio or the Ponte Sant'Angelo, and the result is the same. One is on the other side of the river.
"Crossing the Tiber" is, of course, also a common metaphor for conversion to Catholicism. As there are a number of bridges over the Tiber, so there are several spiritual bridges to conversion that all lead to the same destination. Some of these spiritual bridges are more widely known and used. Others less so. 
As one in Rome is either on one side of the Tiber or the other, so too one is either Catholic or not. One cannot accept some doctrine of Catholicism while rejecting the rest. There is no middle ground on this point, for moving to the middle indeed leaves one floating in the river. There is no room for half measures.
As crossing over a bridge is a conscious act and a decision to move to the other side of the river, so too the conversion process is a conscious choice. One cannot say "I am on the western bank" while on the eastern bank. It is a logical inconsistency. If one would be on the western bank, one must cross from the eastern, and vice versa. Likewise, it is insufficient to claim one is Catholic without being truly so through a conversion of heart.
This process of conversion, of crossing the bridge, requires the acceptance of all the facets of Catholicism, even when not fully understood. Can one cross a bridge and refuse to accept the presence of a pine tree on the other side? One might not understand why the pine tree is there, but its presence still cannot legitimately be denied. Just as crossing a river provides one with a new environment to explore, conversion is truly a journey of discovery, both about the faith and about ourselves. Exploration in general takes time and dedication, not to mention the courage to venture into the unknown. Yet, its rewards can be great. The rewards of undertaking the exploration of one's own spirituality through Christ's Holy Catholic Faith are immense beyond compare.

+ Rutherford Cardinal Johnson