Reading the article in Inside Catholic by Archbishop Raymond Burke stirred something in me that I have thought about often, and though I have intended to write it, have put off doing so for reasons that I do not know. Maybe, I am afraid that when you read what I write below, you will consign me to the looney bin, along with the NDP hopeful in Manitoba I wrote about the other day, after you dismiss what I write as pure lunacy. However, what follows is as it relates to my personal life, a very true story. As it relates to Pope Leo XIII, I believe in its veracity because of my own personal story.
First, My Own Story
In brief, I was raised in the Catholic Church, and as a late teenager left, when it was no longer "relevant" to me. As Kathy Shaidle has said for herself, I at a later date became a "relapsed" Catholic, and returned to the Church at about age 31, after I very clearly heard a voice that, to me, was certainly the Voice of God saying only 3 words to me and my wife in our kitchen one afternoon: "Go to Church."
A few years later, I became involved with the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, and fell in love with God. I was becoming active in the Church and learning about my faith, and talking about my faith.
My wife, at the time, and I, along with our 3 young daughters (about 5, 3,and 1 years of age) went to visit her family in Albany New York one summer, with plans to then go on for a few days to Vermont, where we went skiing with the kids in winter.
As we travelled north on the Vermont interstate in our van, I became aware that my wife and all 3 of the children had suddenly become quiet, and fallen asleep. We had gone from talking and laughing to a dead silence in moments. That unnerved me far less than what happened next.
After noticing that all about me were asleep, suddenly, I heard a voice that I knew to be the Archangel Michael, and what he said is indelibly etched on my mind and heart to this day. He said: "Satan has asked for permission to sift you and your family, and God has granted it to him."
If the car was quiet before that, it was tomb like after, for some miles. To say that I was shaken by the experience would be an understatement. I had no choice but to pray as I drove, and to try and make some sense out of what I had just heard.
Eventually, my wife and daughters awoke, and things returned to normal for them. For me, not so much. We came to the foot of Madonna Mountain in Vermont, where the von Trappe's lived. We found a cabin there, and after dinner bunked in for the night.
When I was taking my two oldest daughters down the hall to their bedroom to read them a story and put them to bed that evening, the oldest stopped in her tracks at the doorway. She pointed at the bed, and said: "Daddy, there's a bad man sitting on the bed." In my spirit, I knew that it was the devil, and I prayed in tongues trusting that it was a prayer to make him leave. A few moments later, she told me that he was gone, and then she was prepared to proceed in to the room. I read them stories, and they went off to the sleep that young children can enter into. Me, a father, after the experience of the day thus far, sleep was not going to be so deep.
After our 1 year old was settled in her crib, my wife and I went to bed. We left a window at the end of the bed open a few inches to let in some fresh air, and settled in to sleep. In the middle of the night, I was startled awake. It was as though the moonlight that had been shining in through the partially opened window was sucked out of the room. There at the end of the bed, was the darkest, most evil presence that I had ever encountered in my life. I have never felt such a presence before or after, and am in no need of feeling it again. For some reason, I was aware of the scripture verse: "Resist the devil and he will flee from you." I sat bolt upright and prayed in tongues. After a few moments, he disappeared, and light returned to the room through the open window. I fell back asleep. Two more times this happened that night, and I responded the same way.
In the ensuing years, my marriage disintegrated, not without help from both me and my wife. The business that we had owned fell apart, again not without our help, as we worked together in it. I have no doubt that the devil had a hand in what occurred, but I had 2 hands, 2 feet, and the rest of my body, and mind in it myself. Is the sifting of my family over? I don't know.
Pope Leo XIII
Pope Leo was Catholic Pope from 1878 to 1903, third longest reign for any pope.
In 1884, or thereabouts he had an experience that has been kept from most people since it occurred. I came across it years ago, and found it again in several places, but picked it up here because of how it was dealt with from a Church teaching standpoint. Here is the nub of the story:
In 1884, after saying mass on the morning of, according to at least one source, October 13th, as he was leaving the Altar, the 74 year old and frail Pope Leo XIII fell to the ground as if dead. One version has it that those around him thought for a few moments that he may have passed away. According to this version, a few minutes later, his breathing returned to normal and he revived.Lest you be too troubled by what you have read, gentle reader, I offer you another important bit from the same report as the Pope's vision:
Another version has it that as he was leaving the altar after a weekday low Mass, he paused as if in a trance for about 10 minutes, turning ashen white. And yet another states that Pope Leo went into this trance while kneeling in attendance of a mass of thanksgiving after his own Mass that morning. See Appendix II for sources of written documentation on this subject.
The Pope, according to the most common and popular version, related that he had experienced a sort of vision, in which he heard two voices, one of which he took to be that of Christ, gentle and kind, and the other that of Satan, guttural and harsh.
Satan said, “I could destroy Your Church if I had the time, and more power over those who give themselves over to my service.” And then Pope Leo heard Christ to answer, “You have the power, you have the time: 100 years.”
The general rule of the Catholic Church is to flee from unapproved private visions and private prophecies as if from temptation, to paraphrase St. John of the Cross.What happened to me and subsequently to my family, in large part through our own actions and inactions is a personal story. It is not a matter of faith whether you believe it or not. The same is ultimately true about the Pope's reported vision.
However, certain private prophecies or visions from recognized holy persons or saints have been recognized by the Church in one way or another as “worthy of belief.” This does not mean that these private prophecies are binding on anyone’s faith, as are the public revelations which come from the Old Testament and the New Testament up until the death of the Last Apostle, St. John, in 91 A.D.
But, I have written this piece because I have seen the world we live in through eyes that are somewhat formed through things that have happened to me, and what I reported above is one of the more significant things that has occurred in my life.
It is because I believe that the devil is very active and alive in our times, that I have written this. I believe the words of 1 Peter 5:8: "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."
So, when I read the words of Archbishop Burke that I wrote about yesterday, I want to absorb them and understand them and let them form my conscience, so that as more trials come in this world I can respond better to them, and continue to grow as a better example to my wife and children.