These are remarks delivered by Mike Church at the Saint Benedict Center Conference, October 13-14, 2023. The theme of the Conference was Cultivating and Passing on a Catholic Worldview”.
There is a term used in usury finances to describe a bank taking something back from you that they never owned in the first place and loaned you money to buy that wasn’t there’s either: it’s called REPOSSESS. That’s an odd choice of wording because RE possessing something implies POSSESSING it at some point in time and when a bank REPO’S your home, because you couldn’t make the usury obligation, it takes possession for the first time so how can this be a RE-PO! The only exception to this rule is when the bank REPO’S a piece of real estate it had previously REPO’D from some other poor sucker. I dwell on this seemingly silly point because I use the term in this talk’s title: Repossessing the Real Estate of the Catholic Mind. This sounded great in July when Brother threatened me at Rosary point to give him a title but as I started to develop the talk the Holy Ghost insisted I override Brother’s veto and changed the title to the more catchy one of:
DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES!? And WHAT is a miracle?
“There is no impropriety in saying that God does something against nature when it is contrary to what we know of nature. For we give the name ‘nature’ to the usual and known course of nature; and whatever God does contrary to this, we call ‘prodigies’ or ‘miracles.’” – Saint Augustine
Now I’m going to conduct an informal poll right now and sure that almost everyone in this room is going to vote the same… AFTER you show me your picture ID and voter registration card!
LISTEN TO THE ENTIRE TALK HERE (Available on Monday, 16 October)
The votes are in and miracles own in a landslide but did they REALLY win!? Outside of this room, I will wager you that Miracles would lose in a landslide especially if we gave the old school definition of what a miracle is AND what is required to “believe in them”; and this is where I want to start the meat and taters of this talk and hope to assist many Catholics to begin the work of repo-ing this lost real estate in our minds, the ACTUAL belief in miracles.
Let’s get started by getting an idea of what the modern world thinks a miracle is. Some of you will remember this clip from the year that was 1980.
Now, I’m not saying that the defeat of the intrinsic evil that was the Soviet Union in a hockey game wasn’t “miraculous”, in fact at least 2 members of the team, Mike Eruzione and Ken Morrow were Catholics, but they’ve never said that the win was a “Hail Mary”. The point I wish to make is that this game is still called “The Miracle On Ice”, in fact you can still buy a Miracle on Ice 1980 USA Hockey Team Lake Placid Celebration Photo!
Much as I argued here back in 2019 that Catholics should smile and say an Ave everytime sports announcers say the home team needs a Hail Mary, I will argue here that having tens of millions of ‘Muricans calling something a “miracle” is good thing… at least the spell they word correctly! But I want to talk about REAL miracles where we know the hand and Graces of God actually interceded for or just inspired men and women of Christendom.
There’s a new book out that added lots of fuel to the fire that is this talk, it’s called THEY FLEW – A HISTORY OF THE IMPOSSIBLE by Carlos Eire.
This passage from the book is a is a perfect starting place.
“The advent of the Protestant Reformation brought about a sudden redefinition of concepts such as religion, magic, superstition, and idolatry, as well as of assumptions about the relation between the natural and supernatural realms. Distinctions that had reigned largely uncontested in the Catholic Church of the West and the Orthodox Churches of the East since the first century suddenly began to be challenged in the early 1520s when an earth-shaking paradigm shift took place. The change in thinking resulting from this new Protestant take on reality was similar in scope and significance to the one caused by Copernicus in astronomy, but its impact was much more immediate and widespread.
It gave rise to a disparate mentality that still saw reality in binary terms but drew the line between religion and magic differently, rejecting the intense intermingling of the natural and supernatural as well as of the material and the spiritual, thus placing much of Catholic ritual and piety in the realm of magic. Moreover, this Protestant mentality also involved a redefinition of the concepts of holiness and sainthood, and a rejection of the assumption that self-denial and virtuous behavior could allow human beings to be gifted with supernatural powers.”
Mr. Eire is talking about for example, Saint Joseph of Cupertino, “The Flying Monk”.
At the time of his life, Saint Joseph of Cupertino was seen levitating by literally hundreds of people but that’s not the point I want to make. The story of Saint Joseph of Cupertino was believed by nearly the entirety of the human element of the Catholic Church and indeed, was responsible for many conversions to the faith and here’s the greater question: WHY? The simple answer is this: because they had not been told that the message of the Archangel to Our Lady had reached its expiration date.
Ironically this painting was made by French artist Philip Champagne for Queen Anne of Austria and if it seems a bit over the top that’s because it is. who wanted to make sure his viewers would have no doubt that an Angel announced a pair of miracles. Let’s return to Carlos Eire for an explanation of why the Queen and her artist might have been so forceful in their public piety: they were at war with the evil of Protestantism.
“As most Protestant Reformers and their later disciples saw it, ecstatic seizures, levitations, luminous irradiance, and all such phenomena were still possible indeed and did in fact occur. But they were all diabolical in origin. So, simply put, Protestants stripped God’s agency from all such Catholic miracles and gave credit to the devil instead.
… Their interconfessional squabbling was not about the possibility or impossibility of the phenomenon itself but rather about its source. Both opposing camps thought levitation was possible, but their disagreement about its causation had an odd asymmetry to it, for they agreed not only on its possibility but also on the assumption that the phenomenon had an ethical dimension to it that had a lot to do with the agency of the human will.
Whereas Catholics believed that levitation was restricted to human beings who chose to surrender their will either to God or to the devil, Protestants believed it was restricted only to those who willed to become allies of the devil. For some quirky set of reasons, then, the peak period for flying humans in Western history coincides with the initial development of a new materialistic way of thinking about reality that would reject all this flying as absolutely impossible nonsense.”
And can you guess what came along to put an end to the belief in these types of miracles? The Enlightenment…Modernity… Protestantism but then again, I repeat myself. It would have been one thing for the Protestants to have left all miracles that occurred post-Apostolic age as either “legends” or “fables” but they went further and began declaring them as being demonic acts. I could flesh the polemical argument out even more but I suggest you get They Flew and read it instead. Now let’s get back to miracles, the Catholic mind and why it matters. I will illustrate this in two ways using first the human or efficient cause then second the natural or material cause.
A mother having left her infant at home by itself, in order to go and hear the sermon of Saint Anthony’s, found him on her return dead in his cradle. In the midst of her grief she rushed back to the church and informed the saint of what had taken place.
“Go home,” he replied, “your son liveth.”
Making use of the same words as Our Lord did when the father asked Him to cure his son. Full of confidence in St. Anthony, she hastened back, and to her great joy, found the baby up and playing with his little companions.
The story is amazing is it not!? And nearly all who hear it are amazed by the miracle of the child brought back from the dead!; but almost all of us, lacking that Catholic Worldview that is the theme of our conference, completely missed the other miracle:
THE WOMAN ACTUALLY BELIEVED THE MIRACLE WOULD HAPPEN!!
You might even say she EXPECTED IT TO HAPPEN! Let that sink in. The woman actually believed Our Lord when he said
“Jesus said to them: Because of your unbelief. For, amen I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, Remove from hence hither, and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible to you.”
Is this a euphemism or some kind of a metaphor!? No, He meant it as the Gospels recorded it and as Christendom was being built, mountains were literally moved. The stones used to make the Salzberg Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and Notre Dame de Paris, were moved from mountains hundreds and even thousands of miles away. I’ll come back to that in a bit.
Here’s another, and I read from an account on the Aletia website.
“In 1602 Maria Fernández Coronel joined the Order of the Immaculate Conception located in Spain. The religious community was known for its blue habit, and she took the name Maria de Jesús.
She led a devout prayer life and her sanctity was well known. Sister Maria’s spiritual wisdom was even sought after by King Philip IV of Spain, who exchanged letters with her for more than 20 years.
However, Sister Maria became most well known for her apparent bi-location between Spain and New Spain (Texas and New Mexico). It is reported that starting in 1620 Sister Maria was mystically transported to a tribe of Native Americans in the New World and converted them to the Christian faith.
It is said that she encountered the Jumano Indians more than 500 times and, according to DesertUSA, “instructed them in the fundamentals of the Faith, speaking to them in their own language. Her spirit carried rosaries from her cell to give to her charges… healed the sick [and] won converts.” Sister Maria later urged them to contact the local Franciscan missionaries for assistance in starting a new mission.
Again, the story is truly sensational and amazing but let’s recognize the BIG takeaway:
The Indians EXPECTED the “black robes” to arrive and baptize them! They had what Brother Francis spent 50 years lovingly noting
“The WONDER of a child.”
The same can be said of the pagan Celts of Ireland, because they believed and had seen the spirit world at work… they saw people fly. Now these were probably demons at work, like in the story of Simon Magis, who was able to fly in front of Emperor Janet Reno… Nero until St Peter, invoking Christ, rebuked back to earth.
I could go on and on about Saints who, invoking The Holy Trinity, rose the dead back to life. Father Hebert just published a book on the subject.
My point is: As Catholics, charged with catechizing a fallen world, we must TRULY believe in Miracles again and yes, even EXPECT them to occur because
“…nothing shall be impossible to you.”
Let’s move on to the second and “material cause” of belief in Miracles: the constructions of Christendom. What do I mean by that? Well, this is what modern man thinks is appropriate for a building to worship God in.
This monstrosity was designed and built by men, who obviously had no wives (and not because they were married), who did not believe in a miracle working god. The only thing this “church” produces is low attendance Friday catfish fries. It’s so hideous and yet so normal today, for the 30 “Susan’s From the Parish Council” who go to Mass there, its no wonder the laity spend most of their time in this church gossiping and staring at the terra cotta floor.
Now what’s the counter to this ugliness? Well, let’s start with this.
Then There’s this.
Men that believed that saints could fly and that saints could resurrect drowned children from the dead built those churches. Men who held the Catholic faith as their raison d’etre. Did you know that it took 182 years to build Notre Dame de Paris?
“Construction began in 1163 on Île de la Cité, under the reign of King Louis VII, and the cathedral was largely completed by 1345, although many modifications and additions were made over the following centuries. It is one of the oldest and most well-known cathedrals in the world.”
Did you know that it was built on an island!? Why?
Because this is not a miracle worker.
By the by, this painting is called Our Lady of Miracles and was commissioned by the Jew who MIRACULOUSLY became a Catholic, Marie Alphonse Ratisbonne. Marie Alphonse followed his convert brother who became a very popular and famous Catholic priest, Father Theodore Ratisbonne. If you don’t the story of his conversion . I have footnoted and linked to it in the written version of this talk which I published this morning at TheKingDude.substack.com.
And who believed in the Miracles of the Conversion of the Ratibonne brothers? Well, the Mediatrix of all Graces, the recipient of the first miracle of the Christian era, Her Immaculate Conception. So I challenge you to become childlike in your thought and I have some suggestions on how to achieve this ACTION (a MUST READ book for all CRUSADERS, get it here) and if you repeat each of these 63 times you will believe in Miracles and the compleat and total, humiliating defeat of the enemy becomes possible.
Pray for an actual Miracle; be specific about it and believe it will actually occur (63 times as Sr. Philomena told us yesterday).
Learn the stories of actual Miracles and commit them to memory; become their evangelists and share them with everyone you meet, friend, family or frenemy.
I just asked you to PRAY. Then I asked you to HOPE and finally per Saint Pio, and you must really surrender your life to Christ & His mother for this one: Don’t WORRY!
And now my Chesterton quote from Orthodoxy.
“This is also why the new novels die so quickly, and why the old fairy tales endure for ever. The old fairy tale makes the hero a normal human boy; it is his adventures that are startling; they startle him because he is normal. But in the modern psychological novel the hero is abnormal; the centre is not central. Hence the fiercest adventures fail to affect him adequately, and the book is monotonous. You can make a story out of a hero among dragons; but not out of a dragon among dragons. The fairy tale discusses what a sane man will do in a mad world. The sober realistic novel of to-day discusses what an essential lunatic will do in a dull world.”
Thank You, God bless and Our Lady of Walsingham keep you!