Category Archives: Catholic Church

Sunday Devotional: ‘unclean spirits came out of many possessed people’

Acts 8:5-8

Philip went down to the city of Samaria
and proclaimed the Christ to them.
With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip
when they heard it and saw the signs he was doing.
For unclean spirits, crying out in a loud voice,
came out of many possessed people,
and many paralyzed or crippled people were cured.
There was great joy in that city.

Exorcists often say real cases of demonic possession are rare, but the above passage from the Acts of the Apostles says otherwise.

As an example, Catholic News Service reports on Feb. 17, 2005 that:

“Two Italian exorcists preparing priests and seminarians to respond to reports of demonic possession have affirmed that the devil is real and can possess people, but it does not happen as often as many people think.”

The late Gabriele Amorth, Vatican’s chief exorcist who passed last September 16 at age 91, said again and again in his writings and interviews that while demonic possession is on the rise across the world because “Today Satan rules the world” and “The masses no longer believe in God,” real cases of possession nevertheless are rare.

But Fr. Amorth emphasized that demonic attacks come in forms other than demonic possession — the full possession by a demon or demons of a human’s body, not the soul. There are five other types of demonic attacks:

  1. External physical pain caused by Satan: Demonic activity that manifests as physical pain, such as the physical beatings and torment demons inflicted on some saints, e.g., St. John of the Cross and St. (Padre) Pio.
  2. Diabolical oppression: Severe to mild events that plague the individual where “There is no possession, loss of consciousness, or involuntary action and word.” Some examples are Job’s severe afflictions and St. Paul’s thorn in his flesh (II Cor 12:7).
  3. Diabolic obsession: “Symptoms include sudden attacks, at times ongoing, of obsessive thoughts, sometimes even rationally absurd, but of such nature that the victim is unable to free himself.” Moreover, “the obsessed person lives in a perpetual state of prostration, desperation, and attempts at suicide. Almost always obsession influences dreams.”
  4. Diabolic infestation: “Infestations affect houses, things, or animals.”
  5. Diabolical subjugation or dependence: This is the classic Faustian bargain or pact with the Devil. In Fr. Amorth’s words, “people fall into this form of evil when thy voluntarily submit to Satan. The two most common forms of dependence are the blood pact with the devil and the consecration to Satan.” Fr. Malachi Martin called this total or perfect possession. Since the human, with full consent and assent, voluntarily invites in the demon(s), we would not expect the totally possessed person to seek an exorcist. In other words, the cases of demonic possession that come to the attention of exorcists are only of the partial or incomplete variety, which is a frightening thought.

So what’s the antidote?

Jesus Christ.

Forever and always.

John 14:15-21

Jesus said to his disciples:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
And I will ask the Father,
and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always,
the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept,
because it neither sees nor knows him.
But you know him, because he remains with you,
and will be in you.
I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
In a little while the world will no longer see me,
but you will see me, because I live and you will live.
On that day you will realize that I am in my Father
and you are in me and I in you.
Whoever has my commandments and observes them
is the one who loves me.
And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father,
and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”

Love the Lord thy God fiercely — with your whole heart, your whole soul, your whole mind, and with all your strength.

And may the peace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you,

~Eowyn

See also:

Advertisements

‘Embryo jewelry’ made from cremated IVF-conceived human embryos

Every year, untold numbers of human babies are killed, not via abortion while still in their mothers’ wombs, but as “excess” IVF-conceived embryos.

IVF is in vitro fertilization, a type of assisted reproductive technology used for infertility treatment, wherein an egg is fertilized with sperm outside the woman’s body, thus in vitro. The process involves monitoring and stimulating a woman’s ovulatory process, removing an egg or eggs from the woman’s ovaries, and letting sperm fertilize them in a liquid in a laboratory. The fertilized egg is cultured for 2–6 days in a growth medium and is then transferred to the uterus of the same or another woman, with the intention of establishing a successful pregnancy.

To maximize their chances of a successful pregnancy, women who undergo IVF typically have more than one egg fertilized.

What to do with the leftover embryos if the woman has successfully carried one or more pregnancies to term? The methods of disposal include:

  1. Donating the excess embryos to other women or couples as a means of third party reproduction.
  2. Freezing the embryos indefinitely, which cost money. The Rand Consulting Group has estimated there to be 400,000 frozen embryos in the United States.
  3. Donating excess embryos for research, typically embryonic stem cell research, which effectively means the embryos are killed.
  4. Outright destroying, i.e., killing, the excess embryos via burial or cremation.

A small Australian company, the cutesy-named Baby Bee Hummingbirds, has figured out a way to make money from those women who opt for Method No. 4, by turning cremated human embryos into jewelry.

Kevin Jones reports for CNA, May 5, 2017, that an Australian mothers’ website Kidspot recounts the story of a couple who had conceived three children, including twins, but faced financial strain in paying for the annual storage of the leftover embryos. So they turned to Baby Bee Hummingbirds.

Families send the jeweler IVF straws containing the embryos, which are cremated into embryo ash, which is then incorporated into the jewelry, like the heart-shaped pendants below.

Since 2014, Baby Bee Hummingbirds has made 50 pieces of jewelry with embryos. The company also makes jewelry using breastmilk, placenta, hair, ashes, and umbilical cord stumps. The pieces cost from $80 to $600.

Baby Bee Hummingbirds founder Amy McGlade said, “I don’t believe there is any other business in the world that creates jewelry from human embryos, and I firmly believe that we are pioneering the way in this sacred art, and opening the possibilities to families around the world. It’s special because the embryos are often signifying the end of a journey, and we are providing a beautiful and meaningful way to gently close the door. Reactions from families who understand the journey are amazing and heartfelt. They are so grateful for our service. at a better way to celebrate your most treasured gift, your child, than through jewelry? It’s about the everlasting tangible keepsake of a loved one that you can have forever.”

Jennifer Lahl, the founder and president of the California-based Center for Bioethics and Culture, disagrees.

Lahl said, “I have no words. I have no category for who would think this would be something good to do. It’s so undignified that these embryos have been destroyed to become jewelry. I thought, ‘My gosh, it really has hit rock-bottom’. If anything it creates even more complex ethical problems, a new novel way of disrespecting human life.”

Lahl, who has a background as a pediatric critical care nursing and hospital administration, has long been a critic of IVF, which she sees as symptomatic of parents who think they have “a right to pursue that child at whatever cost, and at whatever manner. It loses sight of the fact that children are intended to be gifts and blessings, not something we have a right to.”

Lahl believes that “creating life and calling it surplus” is “an undignified view of early, nascent human life,” and that the solution to “excess” embryos is to stop creating surplus embryos: “The solution is to stop freezing human embryos, so that parents aren’t left with these ethical dilemmas of what to do with them when they decide they don’t want any more children.”

Lahl said that people considering IVF should have the facts on what is really involved in reproductive technology. “People are uninformed about the risk of these technologies, the ethics of using these technologies and all the problems that come about.” In-vitro fertilization is “fraught with ethical problems” due to the health risks to the mother, the conceived children, the cost, and the way in which the use of medicine creates more problems, rather than treats and heals conditions. “Most of the people who enter into the assisted reproductive technology enterprise don’t get a baby. Overwhelmingly, IVF cycles fail.” Typically, it costs six figures to successfully conceive and bear a child through IVF.

The Catholic Church stresses that all human life – including those in the embryonic state – have an invaluable human dignity. Catholic teaching opposes IVF.

Although she is not Catholic, Lahl said “I think the Catholic Church has gotten these issues quite right. If you really look at the evidence and the medical literature, it will only reinforce the teaching of the Catholic Church.”

Kidspot cited one woman who had seven cremated embryos turned into a heart-shaped pendant through Baby Bee Hummingbirds. She said: “I’d heard others had planted them in the garden but we move a lot, so I couldn’t do this. I needed them with me. My embryos were my babies – frozen in time. When we completed our family, it wasn’t in my heart to destroy them. Now they are forever with me in a beautiful keepsake.”

But readers of the CNA article observe that making human embryos into jewelry is no different than the Nazis making lampshades from human skin, or the Hindu goddess Kali adorning herself in a necklace of human skulls.

Kali by Raja Ravi Varma

~Eowyn

Sunday Devotional: ‘I am the good shepherd’

John 10:7-11

So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you,
I am the gate for the sheep.
All who came before me are thieves and robbers,
but the sheep did not listen to them.
I am the gate.
Whoever enters through me will be saved,
and will come in and go out and find pasture.
A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy;
I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.
I am the good shepherd.
A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

On Christmas Day, December 25, 2016, my pastor began his homily by asking the question pondered by so many learned and brilliant theologians through the centuries:

Why did God become man, to be incarnated as a lowly human being born in a humble manger, only to suffer and die for us?

Below is my reconstruction of his homily.

The Parable of the Farmer and the Geese

There once was a farmer who, though a decent man, was an unbeliever because he could not understand why God would become man, only to be crucified to death, abandoned by his friends.

The farmer loved all animals, but especially loved birds.

One morning, news came of the imminent arrival of a terrible snow storm. Anxious to protect his flock of geese from the coming blizzard, the farmer put his heavy coat on and went out to get the geese into the shelter and safety of the barn.

He first tried coaxing the geese, gently shooing them into the barn. But the geese, being geese, refused to be coaxed.

He then tried luring the geese into the barn. He got a bag of grain and left a trail of seed from the outside into the barn. The geese ate the seed but stubbornly refused to enter the barn.

Meanwhile, the wind began to howl, and heavy snow began to fall . . . .

Now desperate, the farmer thought he would try scaring the geese. So he took a hammer and banged on a metal pan, so that the loud noise would frighten the geese into the barn. But the geese again refused to budge.

So the farmer gave up and retreated into his house.

In the warmth of his living room, he stood helplessly at the window, watching the blizzard descend on the geese. He knew they would surely die in the freezing storm.

In despair, a thought came to the farmer: “If only I could become a goose, then maybe the geese might listen to me and follow me into the barn . . . .”

At that, the farmer finally understood.

Falling on his knees, sobbing and choking with tears, he said: “Forgive me, Lord. I know now why You became man.”

1 Peter 2:24-25

By his wounds you have been healed.
For you had gone astray like sheep,
but you have now returned
to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

May the peace and joy of Jesus Christ our Lord be with you,

~Eowyn

Sunday Devotional: Have mercy on us and on the whole world

John 20:19-20

On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked,
where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came
and stood in their midst
and said to them,
“Peace be with you.”
When He had said this,
He showed them His hands and His side.

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday.

The message of The Divine Mercy is simple: It is that God loves us — all of us, saints and sinners. He has an “ocean” of mercy, which is greater than our sins. We are to call on Him with trust and contrition, receive His mercy, and let it flow through us to others.

When I encounter great difficulties and find myself overwrought, desperate and suffering, I turn to Him with a child’s simple faith, and whisper: “Jesus, I trust in You.”

He always answers my plea.

So, to anyone out there whose soul and conscience may be stirred by this post, if you hear His voice, harden not your heart.

Take that first step by acknowledging you have sinned:

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell. But most of all because I have offended you, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve with the help of your grace, to confess my sins, to do penance and to amend my life. Amen.”

All you have to do is make that first step . . . .

See also:

~Eowyn

Insane: 16% of French with favorable view of ISIS

As the French prepare to vote for a new President this weekend, the country is the throes of another Islamic terrorist attack.

On the night of April 20, 2017, two French policemen were shot dead and others wounded on Paris’ famed Champs-Élysées boulevard. The assailant, 39-year-old French national Abu Yousif al-Belgiki, was shot dead by police. The Islamic State or ISIS quickly claimed responsibility for the shooting. (Reuters)

France has lived under a state of emergency since 2015 and has suffered a spate of Islamist militant attacks mostly perpetrated by young Muslim males who grew up in France and Belgium.

Despite that, there is no assurance that French nationalist Marine Le Pen will win the upcoming presidential election. Among the reasons is the fact that, incredibly, a 2014 survey of Europeans’ opinion of ISIS found that the French viewed ISIS more favorably than Brits or Germans. As many as 16% of the French had a positive view of ISIS — those radical Muslims who torture and behead people.

The survey was conducted by ICM for Russian news agency Rossiya Segodnya. ICM interviewed 3,007 respondents in Britain (1,000), France (1,006) and Germany (1,001) by telephone, July 11-21, 2014. Here are the poll’s findings:

France:

  • 16% of all French citizens had a positive opinion of ISIS.
  • 27% of ages 18-24 viewed ISIS favorably.

Britain:

  • 7% of all Brits had a positive opinion of ISIS.
  • 4% of  ages 18-24, 6% of ages 24-35, and 11% of ages 35-44 viewed ISIS favorably.

Germany:

  • 3% to 4% of all age groups had a positive opinion of ISIS.

In 2017, France has an estimated population of nearly 67 million, with at least 5-6 million Muslims. Though historically Roman Catholic, France has become de-Christianized. A study by political scientist Pierre Bréchon in 2009 concluded that the proportion of Catholics had fallen to 42% of the population, while the number of atheists and agnostics had risen to 50%. According to a survey in January 2007, only 5% of the French population attended church regularly; among those who identified as Catholic, only 10% attended church services regularly. (Wikipedia)

The onslaught of Muslim “refugees” and “migrants” have transformed parts of Paris into a dump.

H/t FOTM‘s Ken R. for the pics.

~Eowyn

New evidence dates Shroud of Turin to time of Christ

The Shroud of Turin is a rectangular 14 ft 5 in × 3 ft 7 in piece of woven flax cloth, believed by Christians to be the burial cloth of Jesus. The cloth bears the faint, brownish 3D imprint of the front and back view of the face and body of a bearded naked man — muscular and tall (various experts have measured him as from 5 ft 7 in to 6 ft 2 in). The imprint shows reddish-brown stains from wounds at the man’s wrist and pinpricks around his brow which are consistent with Christ’s wounds from being nailed to the cross and from the “crown of thorns” mockingly pressed onto his scalp.

To this day, scientists cannot account for how the image had been impressed on the cloth. They have dismissed the image being a painted or photographed image. A reigning hypothesis is that the image is the result of an intense blast of ultraviolet radiation.

Even those who don’t follow every development concerning the Shroud probably know that in 1988, carbon-14 dating tests performed on scraps taken from a corner of the Shroud dated it to the Middle Ages, between the years 1260 and 1390.

What is less known is a probable explanation for the dating — that in 1532, the Shroud had been damaged in a fire in the chapel where it was stored; Poor Clare nuns repaired the damage with patches; and the carbon-14 dating was performed precisely on a repaired patch, thereby skewing the test result.

Two discoveries in recent years lend support to that explanation, as well as to the authenticity of the Shroud as the burial cloth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

(1) Pollen

Doug Stanglin reports for USA Today, March 30, 2013, that a new test by scientists at the University of Padua in northern Italy, using the same fibers from the 1988 tests, dates the Shroud to between 300 BC and 400 AD, which would put it in the era of Christ.

The latest findings are contained in a new Italian-language book, Il Mistero Della Sindone (The Mystery of the Shroud), by Giulio Fanti, a professor of mechanical and thermal measurement at Padua University, and journalist Saverio Gaeta.

The new test:

  1. Determined that the 1988 carbon-14 results may have been skewed by contamination from fibers used to repair the cloth when it was damaged by fire in the Middle Ages.
  2. Supports earlier findings of traces of dust and pollen on the Shroud which could only have come from the Holy Land in the time of Christ.

Marco Tosatti reports for Vatican Insider that the pollen that covers the Shroud corresponds to that of flowers used for funerals in Asia Minor 2000 years ago.

Marzia Boi, a university researcher at the University of the Balearic Islands and an expert in Palynology, the science that studies pollen, wrote:

“The pollen traces on the Holy Shroud which have so far been linked to the geographic origin of the  relic reveal what oils and ointments were put both on the body and on the sheet. These discoveries have an ethno-cultural meaning linked to ancient funeral practices. These non-perishable particles capture the image of a 2000-year-old funeral rite and thanks to them it was possible to discover what plants were used in the preparation of the body that was kept in the sheet. The oils allowed the pollens, as fortuitous ingredients, to be absorbed and hidden in the shroud’s fabric like invisible evidence of an extraordinary historical event.”

Using a electron microscope, Boi identified the pollen on the Shroud as “from a plant called Helichrysum which is part of the Asteraceae family” (29.1%), Cistaceae pollen (8.2%), Apiaceae pollen (4.2%), and trace amounts of Pistacia pollen (0.6%). She writes:

The list of pollens reveals traces of the most common plants used in ancient funerals . . . that followed the customs of Asia Minor, 2000 years ago. They are the components of the most precious oils and ointments of the time and have extraordinarily remained sealed in the [Shroud’s] fabric… The correct identification of the Helichrysum’s pollen, wrongly believed to be that of the Gundelia flower, confirms and guarantees that the body wrapped up in the sheet was an important figure.

(2) A Second Face


Second face on backside of Shroud of Turin

Jerome R. Corsi reports for WND, April 27, 2010, that scientists examining the Shroud of Turin since the restoration that began in 2000 have found a “second face” on its reverse “hidden side,” a discovery they believe adds evidence to the argument it is not a medieval painting or photographic rendering.

The second face image, also 3D, on the back of the shroud had been hidden for centuries, until the 2002 restoration when the Holland cloth – the backing cloth placed on the shroud by the Poor Clare Nuns to preserve it after the 1532 fire – was removed, permitting for the first time in centuries an examination of the back side.

In 2004, Professors Giulio Fanti and Roberto Maggiolo of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Padua in Italy published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Optics their study, “The Double Superficiality of the Frontal Image of the Turin Shroud.” They concluded there exists a second, even fainter face image on the backside of the Shroud of Turin, corresponding but not identical to the now-familiar face image of the crucified man seen in head-to-head dorsal and ventral views on the front side.

To the naked eye, the backside of the shroud appears to show no image whatsoever. But Fanti and Maggiolo used image-processing techniques, including Gaussian filters and Fourier transformations to highlight the extremely faint second face on the backside of the shroud, including details of a nose, eyes, hair, beard and mustache.

Like the face image on the front side of the shroud, the previously hidden image on the backside is a superficial image that exists only on the topmost linen fibers, created by the same dehydration process characteristic of the face and body image on the front.

The researchers concluded that the image of the face on the backside of the shroud had neither been created by a photographic process nor by painting in which the facial image on the front “bled through” to create an image on the reverse side, because the front and back facial images are not identical and the center fibers show no image creation whatsoever.

Fanti and Maggiolo concluded the shroud image was created by a “corona discharge” — a radiant burst of light and energy that scorched the body image of the crucified man on the topmost fibers of the shroud’s front and back sides, without producing any image on the center fibers.

Daniel Porter, editor of ShroudStory.com, points out that images on the Shroud of Turin, at their thickest, are as thin as “slicing a human hair lengthwise, from end to end, into 100 long thin slices; each slice one-tenth the width of a single red blood cell.

Here’s a video showing how the Man in the Shroud, with scratches and wounds cleaned and removed, might have appeared.

~Eowyn

Coming Home: The conversion of atheist John C. Wright

John C. Wright, 55, is a fiercely intelligent writer of science fiction and fantasy novels. A former lawyer, newspaperman, and newspaper editor, he was a Nebula Award finalist for his 2006 fantasy novel Orphans of Chaos. Publishers Weekly said he “may be this fledgling century’s most important new SF talent” when reviewing his debut novel, The Golden Age.

On Easter in 2008, at the age of 42, Wright converted from atheism to Catholicism.

This is Wright’s moving account of his conversion. It is long, but well worth your read.

Philosophy, Evidence, and Faith: The Conversion of John C. Wright

By John C. Wright

My conversion was in two parts: a natural part and a supernatural part.

Here is the natural part: first, over a period of two years my hatred toward Christianity eroded due to my philosophical inquiries.

Rest assured, I take the logical process of philosophy very seriously, and I am impatient with anyone who is not a rigorous and trained thinker. Reason is the tool men use to determine if their statements about reality are valid: there is no other. Those who do not or cannot reason are little better than slaves, because their lives are controlled by the ideas of other men, ideas they have not examined.

To my surprise and alarm, I found that, step by step, logic drove me to conclusions no modern philosophy shared, but only this ancient and (as I saw it then) corrupt and superstitious foolery called the Church. Each time I followed the argument fearlessly where it lead, it kept leading me, one remorseless rational step at a time, to a position the Church had been maintaining for more than a thousand years. That haunted me.

Second, I began to notice how shallow, either simply optimistic or simply pessimistic, other philosophies and views of life were.

The public conduct of my fellow atheists was so lacking in sobriety and gravity that I began to wonder why, if we atheists had a hammerlock on truth, so much of what we said was pointless or naive. I remember listening to a fellow atheist telling me how wonderful the world would be once religion was swept into the dustbin of history, and I realized the chap knew nothing about history. If atheism solved all human woe, then the Soviet Union would have been an empire of joy and dancing bunnies, instead of the land of corpses.

I would listen to my fellow atheists, and they would sound as innocent of any notion of what real human life was like as the Man from Mars who has never met human beings or even heard clear rumors of them. Then I would read something written by Christian men of letters, Tolkien, Lewis, or G.K. Chesterton, and see a solid understanding of the joys and woes of human life. They were mature men.

I would look at the rigorous logic of St. Thomas Aquinas, the complexity and thoroughness of his reasoning, and compare that to the scattered and mentally incoherent sentimentality of some poseur like Nietzsche or Sartre. I can tell the difference between a rigorous argument and shrill psychological flatulence. I can see the difference between a dwarf and a giant.

My wife is a Christian and is extraordinary patient, logical, and philosophical. For years I would challenge and condemn her beliefs, battering the structure of her conclusions with every argument, analogy, and evidence I could bring to bear. I am a very argumentative man, and I am as fell and subtle as a serpent in debate. All my arts failed against her. At last I was forced to conclude that, like non-Euclidian geometry, her world-view logically followed from its axioms (although the axioms were radically mystical, and I rejected them with contempt). Her persistence compared favorably to the behavior of my fellow atheists, most of whom cannot utter any argument more mentally alert than a silly ad Hominem attack. Once again, I saw that I was confronting a mature and serious world-view, not merely a tissue of fables and superstitions.

Third, a friend of mine asked me what evidence, if any, would be sufficient to convince me that the supernatural existed. This question stumped me. My philosophy at the time excluded the contemplation of the supernatural axiomatically: by definition (my definition) even the word “super-natural” was a contradiction in terms. Logic then said that, if my conclusions were definitional, they were circular. I was assuming the conclusion of the subject matter in dispute.

Now, my philosophy at the time was as rigorous and exact as 35 years of study could make it (I started philosophy when I was seven). This meant there was no point for reasonable doubt in the foundational structure of my axioms, definitions, and common notions. This meant that, logically, even if God existed, and manifested Himself to me, my philosophy would force me to reject the evidence of my senses, and dismiss any manifestations as a coincidence, hallucination, or dream. Under this hypothetical, my philosophy would force me to an exactly wrong conclusion due to structural errors of assumption.

A philosopher (and I mean a serious and manly philosopher, not a sophomoric boy) does not use philosophy to flinch away from truth or hide from it. A philosophy composed of structural false-to-facts assumptions is insupportable.

A philosopher goes where the truth leads, and has no patience with mere emotion.

But it was impossible, logically impossible, that I should ever believe in such nonsense as to believe in the supernatural. It would be a miracle to get me to believe in miracles.

So I prayed. “Dear God, I know (because I can prove it with the certainty that a geometer can prove opposite angles are equal) that you do not exist. Nonetheless, as a scholar, I am forced to entertain the hypothetical possibility that I am mistaken. So just in case I am mistaken, please reveal yourself to me in some fashion that will prove your case. If you do not answer, I can safely assume that either you do not care whether I believe in you, or that you have no power to produce evidence to persuade me. The former argues you not beneficent, the latter not omnipotent: in either case unworthy of worship. If you do not exist, this prayer is merely words in the air, and I lose nothing but a bit of my dignity. Thanking you in advance for your kind cooperation in this matter, John Wright.”

I had a heart attack two days later. God obviously has a sense of humor as well as a sense of timing.

Now for the supernatural part.

My wife called someone from her Church, which is a denomination that practices healing through prayer. My wife read a passage from their writings, and the pain vanished. If this was a coincidence, then, by God, I could use more coincidences like that in my life.

Feeling fit, I nonetheless went to the hospital, so find out what had happened to me. The diagnosis was grave, and a quintuple bypass heart surgery was ordered. So I was in the hospital for a few days.

Those were the happiest days of my life. A sense of peace and confidence, a peace that passes all understanding, like a field of energy entered my body. I grew aware of a spiritual dimension of reality of which I had hitherto been unaware. It was like a man born blind suddenly receiving sight.

The Truth to which my lifetime as a philosopher had been devoted turned out to be a living thing. It turned and looked at me. Something from beyond the reach of time and space, more fundamental than reality, reached across the universe and broke into my soul and changed me. This was not a case of defense and prosecution laying out evidence for my reason to pick through: I was altered down to the root of my being.

It was like falling in love. If you have not been in love, I cannot explain it. If you have, you will raise a glass with me in toast.

Naturally, I was overjoyed. First, I discovered that the death sentence under which all life suffers no longer applied to me. The governor, so to speak, had phoned. Second, imagine how puffed up with pride you’d be to find out you were the son of Caesar, and all the empire would be yours. How much more, then, to find out you were the child of God?

I was also able to perform, for the first time in my life, the act which I had studied philosophy all my life to perform, which is, to put aside all fear of death. The Roman Stoics, whom I so admire, speak volumes about this philosophical fortitude. But their lessons could not teach me this virtue. The blessing of the Holy Spirit could and did impart it to me, as a gift. So the thing I’ve been seeking my whole life was now mine.

Then, just to make sure I was flooded with evidence, I received three visions like Scrooge being visited by three ghosts. I was not drugged or semiconscious, I was perfectly alert and in my right wits.

It was not a dream. I have had dreams every night of my life. I know what a dream is. It was not a hallucination. I know someone who suffers from hallucinations, and I know the signs. Those signs were not present here.

Then, just to make even more sure that I was flooded with overwhelming evidence, I had a religious experience. This is separate from the visions, and took place several days after my release from the hospital, when my health was moderately well. I was not taking any pain-killers, by the way, because I found that prayer could banish pain in moments.

During this experience, I became aware of the origin of all thought, the underlying oneness of the universe, the nature of time: the paradox of determinism and free will was resolved for me. I saw and experienced part of the workings of a mind infinitely superior to mine, a mind able to count every atom in the universe, filled with paternal love and jovial good humor. The cosmos created by the thought of this mind was as intricate as a symphony, with themes and reflections repeating themselves forward and backward through time: prophecy is the awareness that a current theme is the foreshadowing of the same theme destined to emerge with greater clarity later. A prophet is one who is in tune, so to speak, with the music of the cosmos.

The illusionary nature of pain, and the logical impossibility of death, were part of the things I was shown.

Now, as far as these experiences go, they are not unique. They are not even unusual. More people have had religious experiences than have seen the far side of the moon. Dogmas disagree, but mystics are strangely (I am tempted to say mystically) in agreement.

The things I was shown have echoes both in pagan and Christian tradition, both Eastern and Western (although, with apologies to my pagan friends, I see that Christianity is the clearest expression of these themes, and also has a logical and ethical character other religions expressions lack).

Further, the world view implied by taking this vision seriously (1) gives supernatural sanction to conclusions only painfully reached by logic (2) supports and justifies a mature rather than simplistic world-view (3) fits in with the majority traditions not merely of the West, but also, in a limited way, with the East.

As a side issue, the solution of various philosophical conundrums, like the problem of the one and the many, mind-body duality, determinism and indeterminism, and so on, is an added benefit. If you are familiar with such things, I follow the panentheist idealism of Bishop Berkeley; and, no, Mr. Johnson does not refute him merely by kicking a stone.

From that time to this, I have had prayers answered and seen miracles: each individually could be explained away as a coincidence by a skeptic, but not taken as a whole. From that time to this, I continue to be aware of the Holy Spirit within me, like feeling a heartbeat. It is a primary impression coming not through the medium of the senses: an intuitive axiom, like the knowledge of one’s own self-being.

This, then, is the final answer to your question: it would not be rational for me to doubt something of which I am aware on a primary and fundamental level.

Occam’s razor cuts out hallucination or dream as a likely explanation for my experiences. In order to fit these experiences into an atheist framework, I would have to resort to endless ad hoc explanations: this lacks the elegance of geometers and parsimony of philosophers.

I would also have to assume all the great thinkers of history were fools. While I was perfectly content to support this belief back in my atheist days, this is a flattering conceit difficult to maintain seriously.

On a pragmatic level, I am somewhat more useful to my fellow man than before, and certainly more charitable. If it is a daydream, why wake me up? My neighbors will not thank you if I stop believing in the mystical brotherhood of man.

Besides, the atheist non-god is not going to send me to non-hell for my lapse of non-faith if it should turn out that I am mistaken.

See also:

~Eowyn