It is an interesting phenomenon of modern Catholicism that so many are afraid of mysticism.
Usually, it reduces to a simple dynamic: fear of seeming superstitious or anti-intellectual (in a word, it’s uncool to the academic culture, by which we have been subsumed, and often led astray).
There is reason for the trepidation. It’s easy to go to an extreme and see the supernatural everywhere. Wait a moment:
Or is the supernatural everywhere?
When you are in a state that feels like you’re being blessed and the sun rises over a rooftop and streams at you at that moment so strongly and unusually and poignantly, should you walk away from it (“logically” discounting it) or take it as a potential Divine communication?
Little miracles are mystical tropes in the liturgy of life, God’s way of employing nature, perhaps, to convey a metaphor.
Or at least that’s one way of looking at it.
The other — the vaunted scientific view — is that God created the world and then chopped off a dynamic relationship with it (or, that He doesn’t exist at all). Physical cause for physical effect. Period.
Difficult it is to discern the little patterns of life! When we die, we’ll see the “needlepoint” from the upper, other side. Many are the scientists who will be chagrined.
For now, we see only underneath the needlepoint and therefore wonder at and find puzzlement in various circumstances.
For example, Angela Beans of Hilton Head, South Carolina, tells us how she asked her angel to grant her the smell of roses as an answer to a question she had — expecting, of course, that if such a sign came, it would be the sudden “odor of sanctity.”
Angela got the roses, but in a way that was different than she anticipated, which tends to make it more credible.
“Today, before going to nine a.m. Mass, I was sitting in my recliner after having a cup of mocha and I heard a loud pop in the kitchen,” she wrote us a few weeks ago. “Sounded like something had fallen from the cupboards. I got up to check. The cupboards were not open — nothing to the left side of the sink — but on the right by the refrigerator I noticed a tiny bottle that had blown its cap and was on its side with the contents coming out.
“This contained the rose perfume from Carmelo Cortez, [alleged] healer from the Philippines, when he was at St. Gregory’s Catholic Church in Bluffton, South Carolina, on November 17. I could not help but smile because now the kitchen was smelling like roses (and also my hands). I immediately picked up most of it with two large cotton balls and squeezed a little back into the bottle and gave them to the Blessed Mother. Made my day.” Our take: when God makes your day, accept it.
But that won’t convince your standard scientist, who follows this rule: if something has any chance whatsoever however unlikely of having a natural cause, it is not miraculous — no matter the other circumstances around it.
One scientist recently said that religion is naught more than an “artifact of the wiring in our brain.” We see the cynicism. Yet too, let us ask, can we — believers — not go too far with things?
“I wish to share this witness to the presence of the Blessed Mother in each home when the pilgrim Virgin Statue of Fatima visits,” wrote Jacqueline Stutmann of Upstate New York. “The very first time I had a visitation of the Blessed Mother’s pilgrim statue, our family lived in Virginia and we had many guests to come to venerate and honor Our Lady because we lived in the military Catholic community of Langley Air Force Base in Hampton.
“I felt a very strong spiritual presence of the Blessed Mother at this time. Now we are in Rome, New York and I can certainly attest to her presence with this special remembrance that she has left to us this time.
“Our family had a home visitation of the Pilgrim Virgin statue of Our Lady Of Fatima on September 7, a day before the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Mother, 2008. Our 11-year-old son, James, asked me if he could take pictures of the pilgrim statue with my personal cell phone and of course I said yes. In November, I decided to look at the pictures on my cell phone because our children use it to take pictures of each other. One by one I looked at them and either kept them or deleted them.
“When I got to the pictures of Our Lady, I felt the urge to look closer and longer at them. There was something different about them this time! In comparing one to the other, the face of Our Lady appeared real to me in several of the pictures. You could tell there was a real difference in the appearance of her face in the pictures. You see the statuesque picture and then pictures where it is as if she was standing before you as a real person!
“My husband put them on a CD and together we compared them and he said you can actually see a difference in the position of the statue itself and the appearance of her eyes and mouth as having a gentle smile. We even put them in negative format and you can tell that there is a tilt of the head to the statue’s left in one of the picture negatives and not in the other!
“This knowledge of her presence left to us a remembrance of her visit that has lit within me a new zeal for devotion to her and to make it spread to others. I am starting the ‘Immaculate Heart Prayer Group’ dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, focusing on the Fatima Message and renewal of the Five First Saturdays Devotion as Our Lady still requests. I now have a deep desire to know the story and message of Fatima and spread it to others. I am also renewing my Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary with the writings of St. Louis De Montfort.”
Picture or no picture, how can we quantify the feeling? And how do we factor in fruits such as devotion? Is it fringe stuff or a spiritual openness that elsewhere (in hardened secular times) is sadly lacking?
Lastly, there are what seem like prophetic coincidences.
“I just wanted to share this with you,” wrote Dede Laugesen. “On December 30 my mom was picked up by the wind in Boulder, Colorado and tossed to the ground. The action broke her hip and she had surgery later that day. [Before I went to visit her], I had a dream. I was walking the halls in my parish and my pastor passed by me. He said, ‘Merry Christmas!’ And I replied, ‘Merry Christmas, Father!’ After he passed by he stopped and said, ‘Dede, what time is it?’ I looked at the watch and it had just then turned 2:00. I said, ‘It’s two o’clock Father.’ He smiled and said thank you.
“A little while later I was showering in preparation for morning Mass. I thought to myself, ‘I wonder what the significance of two o’clock was?’ Immediately, I had a ‘knowledge’ pour forth that said, ‘It is the last hour.’ And, I thought, yes, it is the hour before Christ’s death on the cross.
“When I went to Mass, I grew even more intrigued when the first reading for the day, from 1 John chapter two, began ‘Children, it is the last hour…’
“I went to visit my mom as planned and was so relieved to see her in good spirits. But overnight on Thursday, at 2:00 a.m., her lungs filled-up with fluid and she suffered a massive heart attack. She received the anointing and the papal blessing on Friday morning.
“By the following Tuesday, the news was not good. She was taken off the respirator at ten minutes to 2:00 p.m. My sisters and brother remarked that she could linger for some time. But I told them of my dream and that I felt certain that the Lord had prepared me for the time of her death. My head was on her chest as her last heart beat occurred at 2:33 pm.
“I have been at peace with her passing as I feel certain that the Lord afforded me a special favor that has shown His great love for my mom, even as she was distant from Him in her passing. I am so very thankful for the priest who came at a moment’s notice to provide her with the Last Rites. I am also so grateful that the Lord prepared me via Scripture and a dream that she would die quickly and peacefully in that hour. She was afforded a beautiful funeral Mass on Friday.”
[resources: The God of Miracles]
[see also: Skeptical view: is it all in our heads?]