Thursday, May 10, 2012

Four Signal Graces

I just wanted to share with everyone four very special signal graces that Our Lord granted me through the hands of Our Lady, since my journey began to enter the Catholic Church. These have given me innumerable graces and strengthened me in times of doubt, discouragement, and despair. They have been guiding lights, directing my path to my Lord in the Most Holy Eucharist.

The first signal grace occurred when I received my first Holy Rosary in the mail from a charity. I doubt I would have been able to obtain one any other way, and I received it along with a Catechism and a Bible. This Rosary was beautiful, all black beads, with steel interlocking chains and a steel corpus, and a miraculous medal as the Salve Regina place. When I held it in my hands for the first time, I placed my fingers on the miraculous medal piece to hold it, and it felt like fire in my hands. I took my hands away, thinking that I was dreaming, and put them on again, and yet again, the medal felt warm, like it had been in a fire. It was so warm it almost hurt to hold it, but I didn't want to let it go. This continued on for some time, and I thanked Our Lady for giving me reassurance of the holiness of the Rosary and of coming to Our Lord through the Rosary. I've loved the Rosary ever since.

The second signal grace I have already mentioned on this blog before, so I will pass over it quickly. I approached my local Roman Catholic Church, to enter it for the first time. It was late that day, and the front doors had been locked, due to the lateness of the hour. I pulled on it, but to no avail. When I look back on the event, I bet there would have been a way to signal inside for someone to come unlock the door, since they had perpetual adoration, but I was flustered at the time and didn't notice that. I remember leaving my hand on the door and feeling crestfallen, praying to Our Lord, truly present in the Tabernacle and Chapel. I walked away, and went to have a bite to eat for a late dinner at a local fast food restaurant. Upon sitting down, Father Tony walks in and sits down nearby to eat, completely randomly! He stayed there about as long as I was there, just reading the paper and eating. What are the chances that we ate at the same McDonalds, of which there are more than one in town, at the same time, on the same day, directly after I had touched the Church and wanted to go in? It was as if the Lord had heard my prayer, and had responded to my pursuit of Him by pursuing me.

The third signal grace occurred when I had a particularly awful day on my journey. It was a Sunday, and I had attempted to go to Mass that morning, and gotten into familial strife with both of my parents, especially my dad, about my conversion the the Catholic Faith. I was reading a newsletter from a Catholic Church (not my own, but a different one somewhere near me) that evening, feeling dejected, and upon opening it my eyes fell to a portion that talked of a particular Catholic Saint, a sainted woman somewhere in the annals of Church history, who had to leave her father's household at the age of eighteen to live in a convent. Eighteen. I'm eighteen. This was entirely random, I didn't even have to read the whole article, I don't even frequent this Church's website, and yet here this is a message of encouragement for me and to keep striving forward. The message I heard from the Father was to keep striving forward, spiritually leaving your household, physically leaving for Mass, and to continue to be a charitable witness to the Truth in all things, that by any means I might convert some (my parents).

The fourth signal grace occurred last night. I had prayed the Rosary before retiring to bed, and I had invoked Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, and Our Lord of the Divine Mercy. I prayed for some time afterward on my own and freely, in the Holy Spirit, and fell asleep that way. I dreamed heavily all night, and most of it I do not remember clearly, but I remember with perfect clarity waking up, facing my right toward a photo of Jesus of the Divine Mercy that I have sitting on my right endtable by my bed, and for a moment the dream and reality seemed to overlap. I recall before opening my eyes but as I was waking up, seeing Jesus Christ, surrounded by a bank of clouds, in Heavenly glory, with His arms outstretched in welcome and love. Whether it was His second coming, or my death, I could not tell (and really, both have a similar character as far as the individual soul is concerned, the appearance of Christ and of judgment). As I opened my eyes, they were already looking, without my having to move them, at the picture of Jesus of the Divine Mercy, and the two images overlapped for a moment, blurring and blending in beauty. Finally, the image faded away, and I saw Jesus of the Divine Mercy standing there, just loving me as a Divine Spouse. It was a tremendously mystical experience, one that I'm thankful for.


I am thankful for all of the times the Lord Jesus Christ comes to me and speaks to my soul, encouraging my journey onward, until at long last I may finally partake of His Presence in the most literal, spiritual, mystical, and incredible sense possible: In His coming in the Most Holy Eucharist.

7 comments:

  1. Jonathan - this is a very interesting post, but don't read too much into these things. The heat you felt from your rosary upon receiving it could well have been psychosomatic (the body has been known to experience weird things at times at the seeming behest of the soul). Or, even more disturbingly, it could have been demonic (since I know you cannot buy a blessed rosary, since the blessing would not transfer if it had been purchased). Demons love (literally love) to attach themselves to devotional objects and give favors to fool people into false devotion. Make sure you get your devotional objects (rosaries, medals, scapulars, images, etc.) all blessed! This drives away those demonic attachments!

    Also, dreams are a very tricky subject. While you may have had an edifying experience from this particular dream, dreams can lead to falsity and false devotion. There is a median, or middle road, to make sure you are traveling here. Private revelations and sensations are absolutely unnecessary to salvation, and some even liken the desire to receive these to going the wrong way (St. Vincent Ferrier, St. Teresa of Avila, etc.). If you do receive them, you should certainly tell your pastor about them so that he, being the proper authority, can discern them for you.

    I'm not trying to sound bossy, but at this point, you really should be focusing on the "Manner of Preparation" for Justification as laid out in the Council of Trent and not so much these pleasant, but possibly dangerous sentiments.

    Session Six:

    Chapter VI.

    The Manner of Preparation.

    Now they (adults) are disposed unto the said justice, when, excited and assisted by divine grace, conceiving faith by hearing, they are freely moved towards God, believing those things to be true which God has revealed and promised, - and this especially, that God justifies the impious by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; and when, understanding themselves to be sinners, they, by turning themselves, from the fear of divine justice whereby they are profitably agitated, to consider the mercy of God, are raised unto hope, confiding that God will be propitious to them for Christ's sake; and they begin to love Him as the Fountain of all justice; and are therefore moved against sins by a certain hatred and detestation, to wit, by that penitence which must be performed before Baptism: lastly, when they purpose to receive Baptism, to begin a new life, and to keep the commandments of God. Concerning this disposition it is written; He that cometh to God, must believe that He is, and is a Rewarder to them that seek Him; and, Be of good faith, son, thy sins are forgiven thee; and, The fear of the Lord driveth out sin; and, Do penance, and be Baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost; and, Going, therefore, teach ye all nations, Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; finally, Prepare your hearts unto the Lord.

    I am not saying that you're not already focused on this, I am merely trying to highlight the imperative/necessity here versus the possibly profitable sentimental experiences.

    Take care and all the best to you, Jonathan!

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    1. Hi Nicole :) I appreciate you posting that quote from the Council of Trent regarding orthodox preparation. What I've come to appreciate from both a study of my own family and a study of history is that orthodoxy, solemnity, asceticism, sobriety, and the quiet and still are the bedrock of the Faith. That is orthodox Catholicism, it is the very continuous core of what our Faith lives should be built on, and should always embody. It is also what the Church continually embodies. The reason is that feelings, however pious, come and go, and religious or mystical experiences come and go as well. Even charisms given by the Holy Ghost are not to be relied on as the foundation of Faith, for they, along with feelings and experiences, are a subjective, unstable, dangerous foundation, when taken by themselves.

      I know this from history by learning from the Montanists, and the unfortunate fall of Tertullian. He ruined for himself a chance at Sainthood because he fell away from the pillar and foundation of the Truth, the Church, because he was lured away by emotional and mystical experiences which he believed were of the Holy Ghost. He even went so far as to criticize the Church as being dead and dry and lacking the Holy Ghost's presence. Amazing when you compare him to Saint Irenaeus, who said that where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church, and where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God and all grace. The thing that Tertullian did not understand is that the presence of the Holy Ghost is guaranteed and ordinarily present to transform, renew, and sanctify the faithful in the Sacraments of the Church; they are the power of the Spirit of God. All charisms, even extraordinary ones, are additional building blocks that must have the Sacramental life as a firm foundation, and otherwise are useless and dangerous. They also must have the discernment of Pastors of souls, and of the Magisterium in the cases of more widespread private revelation.

      I also know this from my own familial experience because many family members on my mom's side are Pentecostal in background. I have seen how their worldview affects how they think and believe, and it is not good nor holy nor orthodox, which is to be expected considering they are formally outside of the Church.

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    2. Believe me, I know about essential orthodoxy and preparation, and I very much understand it's importance as the bedrock of the Faith. However, having said that, I do understand myself in light of the charisms that God has given me, and one thing that I know about myself is that I am a profoundly mystical person. My entire blog is mystical, it's full of prose and ruminations on the intricate tapestry that is Scripture and Tradition, and the presence of the Holy Ghost within that tapestry, and how He is speaking to us through that beautiful woven fabric of Truth. I seek in all things to combine the principal foundation of orthodoxy with Catholic mysticism, the sort of mysticism one finds in the Saints. I desire only to emulate them, not in rash pursuit of extraordinary charisms, but in using the charisms and leanings that I have already been given by God, following the lights and graces given to me, in order to pursue God and help others to see God more profoundly every day. I am willing at any time to drop any idea or experience or seeming charism I have if it legitimately contradicts orthodoxy (in other words, my subjective relationship with God is always and at every time subject to the objective Divine and Catholic Faith, as interpreted by the authority of the Priest and of the Magisterium), and I also am at all times willing to heed a spiritual director, which I hope to have at some point soon in my life. But I'm not going to deny the fact that God has made me to know Him in orthodox mysticism; not a roving, heretical, innovative mysticism, but a legitimate contemplation of the Truths of the Faith in Tradition and Scripture and a union with God in prayer and contemplation. Again, to do anything else would be to stop this blog and to cease to be who God made me to be, and to deny the charisms He has given me.

      Also, do you really believe that the devil would take a Protestant who has a fear of Our Lady and of the Holy Rosary, and perform a trick in order to lead him to lower all his guards to Our Lady, to love her more deeply, to serve her more fully, to venerate her more profoundly, to have a deeper devotion to her absent of fear, and to pray the Rosary more often, more faithfully, and more devoutly? Wouldn't that be like the *last* thing any demon would like to do? I can't see that as reasonable given that the devil and the children of the devil are the ones who hate the Ark of the New Covenant, and hate her children, and hate those devoted to her, and hate her name, and hate her purity, and hate her privilege and glory. According to the discernment of fruits, my devotion to Our Lady has only grown stronger and stronger by both that event with the miraculous medal in the Holy Rosary, and the overall mystical contemplation, and with all of the other experiences I have had with God.

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    3. As far as discerning whether they are imaginary, I really don't put much stock in that. It's always possible that went someone is having a mystical experience or something supernatural happens to them, that it could be an internal projection, or even more likely, that it is both supernatural with elements of your humanity mixed in. Some of the Saints had this happen to them as well. I recall a certain female Saint, whose name I cannot recall, who lived at the time of St. Thomas Aquinas, who experienced visions and mystical encounters with God and who proclaimed that Jesus told her His mother was not immaculately conceived. The Church has approved most of her private revelation as authentic and inspired by God, but that piece was obviously her humanity showing and injecting itself. Who's to say where the line begins and ends? That's the risk you run when you open yourself up to God if He chooses to work in your life in a less than normal manner; you have to be willing to be a fool sometimes and not worry about what is and is not supernatural, and what is your own feelings mixed in, with the huge caveat that of course you should always obey those in authority over you. I am simply referring to personal discernment regarding whether something is your own mind or God's Mind.

      Take care, Nicole, and I appreciate your comment! I am not disagreeing with your emphasis on preparation and doing the essentially orthodox, for it is absolutely necessary to retain that as the bedrock of your faith at all times. I appreciate your reminder of that! I am at all times dedicated to orthodoxy and living as the Saints lived, as far as allowing God to totally have me as His own possession, to say Fiat to His presence, so that Christ may be born in my heart just as He was born of the Blessed Virgin.

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    4. Don't get too wound up Nicole with hifalutin Church law and protocol. I think Johnathon is a sane and sensible person and is not likely to be hallucinating nor having a psychomatic experience.

      People have mystical experiences. All the time in fact. A miracle, which signal graces fall into the category of, is very often a change in perception. There are big mindblowing ones and smaller everyday miracles or graces.

      The removal of the blindfolds is needed for everyday experiences with the divine. It is as simple as asking for this help in order to better live out God's will for us, which is in fact our own deepest will.

      For some people, especially those with trust issues in general, it can take a long time for the scales to fall off one's eyes. I should know, I was one of these people and my answers were actually staring me in the face for years. I wasted a lot of energy and lost a lot of time in "not seeing".

      Overcoming fear also had a lot to do with it, which is where lack of trust emanates anyway.

      As Bartimaeus said "Open my eyes Lord that I may see." He meant it both literally and metaphorically or spiritually.

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  2. Hi Johnathan that sounds really amazing you are very blessed i know i dont deserve this but could you please pray for me as i am going through a really rough time spiritually and things just seem tough like im fighting against a lot of things

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  3. Jonathan, I commend you for your convictions. I know that we the believers, know the signals when we see it. So, Good luck with your spiritual journey and coming to the Roman Catholic Church.

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