Vital Signs

"I Had Always Been Skeptical…"

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  moment I would never, never let anything dissuade me from the reality of what had happened. Knowing my skeptical self, I expected I would later be inclined to doubt it. It was an experience as real, as powerfully confirmed by the senses, as anything I have ever known. That was some seven years ago. Since then I have not had a moment in which I was seriously tempted to think it did not happen. It happened—as sure, as simply, as undeniably as it happened that I tied my shoelaces this morning. I could as well deny the one as deny the other, and to deny either I would have to play very peculiar tricks with my mind.

“Everything is ready now.” I would be thinking about that incessantly during the months of convalescence. My theological mind would immediately go to work on it. They were angels of course. Angelos simply means “messenger”. There were no white robes or wings or anything of that sort. As I said, I did not see them in any ordinary sense. But there was a message; therefore they were messengers. Clearly, the message was that I could go somewhere with them. Not that I must go or should go, but simply that they were ready if I was. Go where? To God, or so it seemed. I understood that they were ready to get me ready to see God. It was obvious enough to me that I was not prepared, in my present physical and spiritual condition, for the beatific vision, for seeing God face to face. They were ready to get me ready. This comports with the doctrine of purgatory that there is a process of purging and preparation to get us ready to meet God. I should say that their presence was entirely friendly. There was nothing sweet or cloying, and there was no urgency about it. It was as though they just wanted to let me know. The decision was mine as to when or whether I would take them up on the offer.

I said that then and there I resolved never to doubt what had happened. That does not mean that I have not subsequently questioned it. I have done so many times. There is that marvelous statement by [Cardinal] Newman that a thousand difficulties do not add up to a doubt. I believe that. A doubt is a decision against something. You tell me that something happened,



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