Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.
One of the interesting fruits of a discussion of Private Revelation is that telling stories about the strange things God has occasionally done in one’s own life or in the lives of the saints will often free people up to share their own Twilight Zone moments. Sure enough, in my comboxes and emails during the Private Revelation series, sometimes from strangers and sometimes from friends, I got a number of such Tales of the Unexplained, all exhibiting the curious characteristics of the strangeness and very specifically targeted personal encounter with God—always pointing them back toward the public revelation. I thought it might be a good idea to gather some of them up and post them, just as a reminder my readers that a) such things do happen and b) if something an analogous has happened to you, you aren’t a weirdo but actually right in the mainstream of normal human experience. So without further ado, some of my readers:
Years ago, I left the Church and fell into sin. That path was miserable. My sister-in-law took me to her family Bible study (they were Baptist at the time) and I finally understood the truth of Jesus dying for everyone's sins. After a while, I felt compelled to go back to Mass - my mother persisted in 'suggesting' I go to Church again! That Saturday evening, I was overcome with shame for the things I had done, and through tears, looked up at the crucifix over the altar. It was shining with a golden light; it seemed to me that Jesus lifted his head and looked at me. I thought that the afternoon sun was shining on the crucifix. I rejoined the Church after that, and once I was married, became a trustee of the parish. Because of that position, I worked on a restoration of the church and learned that the windows near the altar where that light would have been admitted WERE NOT OPEN TO THE OUTSIDE, but rather were interior windows that received light from a north facing, clear window. That's when I knew I received a gift of acknowledgement from God. I have never shared this experience with anyone until now.
One time I was making a trip home from OKC (3.5 hour drive). Back then, I was in such sinful state (& somewhat lapsed), & I had never made prayers or signs of the cross before getting on the wheel. But for some reason that day, before putting my hands on the wheel and turning on the ignition keys, I was moved to make the Cross sign to myself and say a prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, Angel of GOD, asking that God send him for my protection. I thought it was strange: I hadn't prayed like that in such long, long time. I got on the road and because of my sin (which had become obsession & was the reason I was sleep deprived) & my pride in my own abilities, I fell asleep on the wheel in the middle of the trip in an Interstate going close to 75 MPH. The truck flipped over in a big ditch & somehow was turned completely 180° around. At such a speed, recklessness, and ditch, I should have been dead. Nothing except part of the truck's bender's edge and a flat tire was damaged. NOTHING. Not someone else, not me, not most of the truck. Just the bender edge and one tire. I got off truck, got knees to the dirt & started to do a mixture of sorrowful sobbing & thankful prayer. Then, two Highway Patrol Men stopped to assist me & both officers didn't know how it happened. They helped me fix up the tire & made it home safely & sound. I got a good scare that day, came to repentance, realized my mortality & straightened up afterward. To this day I attribute it to God's unseen Angel, St. Michael, the Protector from God. My story might seem boring to some but to me it had profound consequences. Our Father in Heaven does indeed know how to turn us around from sin & into His Goodness.
Before my wife, Lori, and I were married, I was involved in a very serious accident that no one could understand why I survived. When I called Lori to tell her I had survived, she said: I know. I saw the accident and I knew that you had survived but someone I didn't know was killed. My grandmother she had never met was killed. Years after we were married, Lori's parents (my best friends as well)came to live with us. One night I was away flying a mission with the Air Force. When I got back she told me what had happened to her while I was gone. Her room became as bright as daylight, and she looked up to see an angel standing at her bedside. She was so startled that she closed her eyes and when she opened them he was gone. Twenty four hour later her father had a heart attack and I rushed him to the hospital and was with him. He was in a coma when his eyes opened wide and he had a look of wonder that I will never forget. I knew then he was dying and called medical personnel.I am certain that someone came for him. The angel my wife saw had come to announce the death of her father, a Third- Order Franciscan. I could write a book about such unusual things that have happened in our life together before she died at 81 in 2011. Souls often came to ask her father for prayers and always scared him half to death.
July, 1975 - me the new Protestant, my wife (by force of my personality :-)) in the Reformed church. She had toxaemia - pregnant with our first - and they tried to induce - no go. Her doctor - these days they would only give her a midwife until they decided she was in serious shape - wanted her to go into the Catholic hospital rather than the public, principally because he lived across the street from the former :-)
She went in, induction attempted; by the second day, 48 hours later, she was in a state of half-delirium (drugs, the toxaemia's high blood pressure, etc). She feared she would die (so did the doctor, though he never told us that - we only heard it from the nurses, later).
Then, in the corner of the room, she saw Jesus. His face was veiled somehow - she says she knew that was because only she could see Him. He assured her that 'everything would be all right.' And she ceased to worry. He stayed in the corner the whole time she was in that room.
Our son was born by Caesarian the next day.
She says she really never gave it much thought at the time - when we were Catholics, she suddenly thought about that hospital :-)
Just ... interesting. The thing about private revelations is that they are - well - private! The other interesting thing about both her experience and mine at the end of 1969 is that both had drugs involved. That does not, it seems to me, vitiate their reality - but makes me wonder whether such things as drugs don't perhaps make us more open to the invisible world - possibly for ill as well as for good!
If you have a Tale of the Unexplained, feel free to share it in the comboxes.