Archbishop Fulton Sheen may soon be called Blessed Fulton Sheen. Watch the video below and learn more about it.
This is a touching description by the woman who experienced it of the miracle from John Paul II that saved her life.
A reader asked if I had written about my conversion. I wrote this a while back and republish it here.
I’ve written about other people’s miracle stories. Now, I’ll tell you about one of my own.
I think most Christians have miracle stories. Mine is the fundamental Christian miracle, the accessible and universally available miracle. I am going to tell you about the day I stepped, blundered actually, from death to life.
I lived about 17 years of my life in an anti-God mindset. There were reasons for this. To this day, I understand myself and accept that when I made the turn away from God, I did the only thing I could have done under that circumstance.
I didn’t decide that there was no god. I tried. I read the atheist books of the day; Passover Plot among them. I went back a few decades and read Why I Am Not A Christian. I actually wanted to believe there was no god. It would have been a great simplifier for me in those days.
But the books I read were essentially self-refuting. You can’t think them through too seriously and miss the train-sized holes in their line of reasoning.
In truth, I knew there was a god. I’m not sure how I knew. But I did. My problem wasn’t that I thought he wasn’t there. It was that I thought he didn’t care.
I didn’t come to a point where I decided Today I Will Become Anti-god. I just sort of segued into it, one decision, one discussion, one opposing commitment at a time.
By the time I was into my 20s, I was thoroughly launched on my anti-god way of living, thinking and reacting. The fight to defend Roe v Wade and legal access to abortion pushed me hard toward an aggressive anti-god mode.
What had been a walking away became, through the catalyst of my pro-abortion stand, a fierce resentment. I detested the various churches for their opposition to Roe. I thought, believed to my core, that they were utterly indifferent to the sufferings of women.
This wasn’t all just a web I wove in my own mind. I knew of actual instances of churches turning away from women who were in great distress; of them abandoning these women or even attacking them.
To say I was angry over this hardly touches it. I was enraged, bitter and hard as a diamond about it. I knew there was a god. But I also thought I knew that he didn’t care. I had no use for him.
I did a lot of things in this period of my life that I regret now. I wish I could tell you that everything I ever did that I regret I did then, but that isn’t true. However, my most dastardly deeds, including the one time I ever hurt another person deliberately, selfishly and with full intention, happened during those years.
I was, in the way I judged myself at that time, certain that I was a good person and that everything I was doing was not only right but morally superior. Even the one thing that I absolutely knew was wrong didn’t bother me.
This peculiar moral certitude of moral ingrates is, I believe, a direct consequence of being your own god. If you decide what is right and wrong, it’s pretty easy to be morally proud 24/7. I encounter it in people who are their own gods all the time. The difference being that now I know it for what it is.
As time went by, this one thing I couldn’t justify to myself ate at me. I knew I had hurt another person. Worse, I knew that I had decided to hurt another person and done it for entirely selfish reasons. I stood convicted in my own court by my own rules. That brought me face to face with one of the sadder realities of living life as your own god: When you come to that place where you see that you have really been wrong, you can’t make it right.
You are stuck there, you and your guilt, in a battle for your peace of mind that you can only win by hardening your heart and “going on.” If you do that, of course, it will be much easier to do the wrong again. And again. And again forever until you die. You become wedded to your sin and in time it becomes who you are.
I was stuck there, at that precise fork in the moral road. I could either tell myself to forget about it, or even, as many people do, blame the person I had hurt, or I could face my own fault. It’s never an easy thing to face the fact that you are really not such a good person. But in truth none of us are. We only pretend, and mostly we pretend to ourselves.
Fortunately for me, I wasn’t able to take that sharp turn into the abyss and send my healthy and completely justified guilt away. I knew what I had done.
I didn’t talk about it. Didn’t share it with anyone. I kept it inside me.
The tension grew.
I have tried many times to find the words to describe what happened next. But I can’t do it. I’ve come to the conclusion that there are no words.
I was alone in my car, driving to Enid Oklahoma to make a speech. Without thinking about it or really understanding what I was doing, I blurted out two words. Forgive me, I said. I said it out loud. But I wasn’t talking to myself. I was talking to the God who didn’t care.
Here’s where words fail me. I’ll try, but please understand: I have no words for what happened next.
I said Forgive me, and it was as if someone, some Being, Who had been right beside me all along without my knowing of it, reached out to me. I felt this Being’s joy for me, experienced His absolute, ecstatic love. I had a physical sensation of this love, pouring into me, filling me with His joy.
As I said, there are no words. I didn’t understand exactly what was happening. But I knew it was real. I also learned in one instant that the god who doesn’t care was my own creation. God, the real God, loves us beyond anything we can comprehend, or, in my case, describe.
I didn’t understand what had just happened. I went on to my meeting, made my speech, and said not a word about it to anyone. But it wasn’t an apprehensive silence. The Being I met in the car that day stayed with me. He kept me enveloped in love and I basked in it.
I also waited. Waiting is not something that comes naturally to me. I am most definitely not the waiting around kind. But this time, waiting came easily. I didn’t know what to do next, so I waited, with complete peace of mind that the answers would come, for this Being to tell me what to do.
About a month later, it came into my head to go to a large metropolitan church. I did, and over time, that path has led me to where I am now.
As I said, this is the most prosaic and commonplace of miracles. It is freely available to anyone who asks for it with a sincere heart. It’s free for the asking. But I wouldn’t say that it’s cheap. I’ll talk about the cost in other posts at other times.
Today, I just want to add one of my miracles to the ones I’ve been sharing. I also want to make it clear that the real miracle here isn’t that I experienced these things, but what they meant. I said two words from my heart to a God I had come to believe didn’t care, and I stepped from death to life.
That is the miracle that lasts for eternity.
Click here throughout the Year of Faith, as the Catholic Channel at Patheos.com invites Catholics of every age and stripe to share what they are gleaning and carrying away from this gift of timely focus.
I almost decided not to post this particular miracle story. It is so incredible that just by sharing it I open myself up to charges of being naive and soft-headed.
I finally decided to go ahead because I don’t think God intended for it to be kept a secret. It is the story of God’s direct intervention in the life of one of the least of these. I wish I could tell the whole story; of the rescue and tremendous experience the girl who tells this has gone through. But I can’t.
When you spend time with those who were the most completely lost, you find the most intense faith.
This miracle happened to a victim of sex trafficking from India.
The young woman who tells it was taken as she was walking to school when she was around 7 and put in a brothel. She suffered terrible things which I will not go into here. She was confined in a tiny room and forced to have sex with many men each day. Her life was mostly that room and her tormentors. She had never heard of Jesus Christ in her young life.
She was alone in the room at one point, and she said that she saw a spot of glowing light in front of her. Then, she saw a man in the light who told her “I am Jesus and I will take care of you.” She did not know who this Jesus was, but she did understand that she was in the presence of God. In the face of every objective criteria to the contrary she believed Him when He said “I will take care of you.” Through a series of incredible events, she ended up here in Oklahoma, free from her captors, and living a new life.
When she talks about this experience, her face glows. Her life, even more than her words, are a testimony to the redemptive power of God’s love. She is going to school, and plans to be a missionary to the trafficked girls in her native India.
Jesus went into a brothel, into the pit of one of our worst man-made hells, and reached out to this young girl. She didn’t pray. She didn’t ask for Him to come to her. She didn’t know Who He was.
It’s an incredible story and I offer you no proof. Believe it or don’t. All I can say is that those who know this young woman believe it. They see the proof in her life and rock-solid faith; in her unwavering purpose to bring Jesus to everyone she meets. She was rescued to be a rescuer.
I have to be honest, I find this offensive.
I’m not talking about Bob Seidensticker and his request. I am referring to those “show me or else” lugs who seem to regard being offensive to Christians as their reason for living.
I can not lose the idea that no matter how ignorant these people undoubtedly are, they are still arrogant beyond comprehension.
I love Jesus. The idea that anyone would treat Him as a sort a divine trained seal appalls me.
Of course, I have to confess that did I try this kind of thing once, myself.
If I remember correctly, I was in the third grade. I sat at my desk in school and stared down at a sheet of math problems that I did not want to answer. Did I want to go play? Or did I just hate math? I don’t remember that part. But I do remember closing my eyes and praying; asking/telling God that when I opened my eyes, I wanted the math problems answered and ready to turn in.
I opened my eyes. The spaces for the answers would were still blank.
This wasn’t a faith-shattering experience for me. Even in the third grade, I knew that what I was demanding was a cheat. But it did teach me a small lesson about God.
Based on the thinking of some professional atheists, my unanswered math questions prayer would be a “proof” of a sort that there is no god. What they want is to put God in a test tube of their devising and then demand that He turn straw to gold or water to wine or some such while they time Him with a stop watch and tape it for future reference. They probably would also like for God to repeat this trick a few times just to be sure.
I have a feeling that if God actually did come through with a few tricks for them, they wouldn’t even so much as toss Him a fish. If your whole social structure is built on not believing in something, it’s going to take more than a few flaps of the celestial flippers to change your mind. Of course, I think I can make that assumption without testing it since I doubt that the Almighty is going to treat their demands for “proof” any differently than he did my demands for answers to math questions.
You see, while the comparison between the two events may seem a trifle extreme, they really are of a type. There isn’t much difference between an 8-year-old praying to be exempted from doing her math and a 40-year-old demanding a miracle or else he’ll keep on disbelieving.
Based on my walk with Christ, I am fairly certain that God doesn’t do parlor tricks for the enrichment and amusement of the jeering section. I doubt very much that you will ever be able to stand on a stage and perform answered prayers for a paying audience. I know that some people have pretended to do this down through the years, but deliberate frauds are … well … deliberate frauds.
What God does do, and rather consistently, is answer the humble prayers of true believers who are asking for things that contribute to the greater good rather than their own benefit. As a for-instance, I offer my friend Linda Cavanah.
I’ve written about Linda a couple of times before, and I expect I will write about her again in the future. God rescued her from the pit and she has followed through by rescuing others from the same pit where she was trapped. Her ministry, All Things New, rescues women and children from sex trafficking and prostitution.
The part of her story I find relevant to the discussion of prayer and miracles is the way she has raised money and put this ministry together. To be honest, she confounds me. I thought I had faith until I started working with her.
Here’s one example. Her car broke down. Linda drives many thousands of miles each month starting shelters for women and managing them. You have no idea how much work goes into this. She runs the wheels off her cars. This time, her car was irrevocably broken.
I asked her what she was going to do. She said, “I’m going to pray for another car.” A couple of days later, she called me and said that a family (who she did not previously know) had called her and said that while they were praying, it came into their heads to call her and offer to donate their car to her ministry.
Another time, she was trying to help a woman who had just been rescued and who needed a lot of medical care. There was no money for this kind of extensive care. I didn’t even ask her where she was going to get the money. I knew if I did, she’d tell me she was going to pray.
I can’t remember exactly how long it was; just a few days later, that we were talking and she said that she going to have lunch with a woman the next day. Just a networking meeting, the kind of thing she does all the time. No big deal. She called me after the lunch and said the woman just wrote out a check (without knowing how much was needed) that would exactly cover the medical expenses. Linda told her, “You just saved someone’s life.”
I could go on. I mean I could go on and on and on and on with these stories. Each one of these answered prayers might easily be a coincidence. But taken together (and I’m talking about years of examples like these) you start getting into a preponderance of the evidence type situation. One coincidence is a coincidence. Repeated, reliable coincidences begin to seem like they are most likely something else, especially when they seem so absolutely intentional.
God answers prayers when He wants to do so. He doesn’t appear to give a care about answering prayer as a performance art. I think this is because God isn’t a blind, unthinking and unfeeling force. He is a personality. He doesn’t just react. He chooses.
Notice, God didn’t set up a printing press and print off the money Linda needed. He didn’t erect a factory and build the car. He didn’t even go abracadabra poof! and conjure these things up. He sent another person. His gift of love was, to paraphrase Shakespeare, twice blessed in that it blessed both the women who are struggling to escape prostitution, and it blessed the person who wrote the check or donated the car. Like any loving and wise parent, God lets us do our part.
God loves us from death to life. Then He inspires us to do the same for one another. I think that is the most important miracle of all.
Bob Seidensticker, an occasional atheist commenter here at Public Catholic, has called for miracle stories in a post on his blog, Cross Examined.
I’ll be posting a few miracle stories in the next week. All from real life as I know it. This one involves my youngest son.
My son went to mother’s day out at a Methodist church near our house when he was a toddler. It was just a few hours, a couple of days a week, but it gave me a breather, and he loved playing with the kids.
His best friend was a little boy named Shane. One morning I took John in, and Shane came running out of the playroom.
“John!” he said. “Do you know what’s happened? We’ve got to pray!”
He put his arm around my son’s shoulder and they walked into the playroom, golden-haired baby heads close together as they talked.
I went on my way and didn’t think anything about it. When I picked John up that afternoon, Shane’s mother told me that her father had been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. She said the docs had told her father that he only had a couple of months to live. I told her how sorry I was and she nodded, her eyes shining with unshed tears.
A couple of weeks went by and I happened to see her again as I was leaving John at mother’s day out for the day. I asked how her father was. She looked almost confused then told me that when they’d taken him in to begin radiation treatments, the doctors had taken new x-rays. Long story short: The cancer was gone. There wasn’t any sign it had ever been there. She and I didn’t say much at the time. There isn’t a lot to say about something like that. But later, I remembered Shane running out of the playroom and yelling “John! … We’ve got to pray!”
I told Shane’s mom about it the next time I saw her. We both just sort of stared at one another. I think the magnitude of this made us feel shy about talking about it.
It might have been a coincidence of some sort. I have no problem with people who say they think that’s what it was. I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything. I’m telling you this is what happened. I can also say that I never thought this was anything but a gift from God to two little children who prayed to Him. I will never forget those innocent little boys, walking off together, talking, and probably getting ready to pray.
The end of the story is that the cancer did come back in a few years. This time it was in Shane’s Grandpa’s brain. It took him fast, with little suffering. I always thought that this confirmed the original diagnosis. There had been cancer there. The x-rays had shown it; the biopsy had diagnosed it, and the recurrence seemed to confirm it again. The cancer, which was there, went away. Then, in a few years, came back to stay.
Those few years meant a lot of a little boy who loved his grandpa. Shane and his grandfather spent important time together during Shane’s most impressionable years. Who knows the impact the positive influence this loving, deeply Christian man had on that sweet little boy.
There are miracles. They aren’t even rare. But they don’t come with instructions on the lid. God doesn’t send a telegram saying, “Miracle coming now;” not unless it suits His purpose to do so. Most miracles are private gifts. Because He loves us.
I’ll post another miracle story tomorrow. I’ve got lots of them.