This article originally appeared on Fr. Dwight Longenecker’s blog “Standing on My Head,” and is reprinted with permission. Visit his website, browse his books, and be in touch at dwightlongenecker.com.
I’ll call him Fr. John. He was a charismatic Anglo Catholic priest.
A friend of my brother Daryl’s we’ll call Henry died suddenly in a plane crash and he was upset because although Henry was a believer he was away from God when he died.
So Fr. John said, “We have to have a requiem Mass for Henry.”
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They went into church and locked the door for privacy’s sake. Another priest we’ll call Fr. George celebrated the Mass.
Henry was about twenty years old. He was just over five foot tall with a shock of blonde hair and a wide face with freckles.
At the point of communion Daryl was weeping and sensed that Henry was there next to him and that Henry was restless and disturbed. In his own mind Daryl told Henry not to be frightened. They were praying for him to meet Jesus.
After the Mass Daryl said to Fr. John, “I sensed that Henry was there in some way.”
Fr. John said, “Oh yes. I saw him.”
“What do you mean you saw him?”
“At the offertory a young man came down from the back of the church.”
“Hold on. The door was locked. I didn’t see anybody.”
Fr. John smiled, “I know you didn’t but I did.”
“What did he look like?”
“Just over five foot tall with a broad freckled face and a shock of blonde hair.”
“That’s Henry! But I didn’t describe him to you. You mean you saw a ghost?”
“I saw Henry just as solid and real as you are now.”
“What happened then?”
“He knelt next to you at the communion rail, and after Mass he went out into the East end of the church and upward into the morning light”
Fr. George said, “I sensed his presence too, but didn’t see him. He was in my mind as John described him.”
Neither priest knew Henry who lived in the USA. This took place in England.
True story. Not exaggerrated.
What do we make of it? I have thought a lot about this experience over the years and I think certain people simply have psychic gifts like certain people have artistic or athletic or musical gifts. It is up to them to give the gift back to God and use it for his glory.
A person might have a psychic gift and yield it to Satan and let it be used in spiritualism, fortune telling or some other occult activity.
On the other hand, it can be yielded to God and used for healing, discernment, reading of souls and spiritual direction.
Padre Pio clearly had astounding gifts which he yielded to God.
The problem with such people is that very often the very gifts they have set them apart and they have a very difficult spiritual path to follow.
We should never seek such gifts, but if we have them we must yield them to God and allow the Spirit to develop them through a serious life of prayer and holiness so that these gifts might be transformed by the Holy Spirit.
We should also remember that the psychic gifts are not a guarantee of personal holiness any more than being gifted musically, artistically or in athletics makes you holy. Becoming a saint is a nitty gritty, down to earth difficult business. It has little to do with mystical visions and everything to do with discipline and self denial.
Having a psychic gift does not mean you are automatically holy.
The sad fact of the matter is Fr. John eventually left the priesthood and left his wife to live in sin with a boyfriend.
Psychic gifts? They’re always to be yielded to the Holy Spirit and the person must be under supervision of a good spiritual director and if possible–one who is level headed and tough. The objective means of grace are the sacraments. God’s saving grace is always present there.
The requiem Mass was effective in applying the saving love of Christ to the needs of a suddenly departed soul. It was the Mass which was effective and it would have been if anyone had been able to see the dead or not.
What do you make of the fact that the Eucharist was Anglican and not “properly Catholic”? The church teaches that God is not limited by his sacraments. That an Anglican Eucharist is beneficial and may be a means of grace is not disputed by the Catholic Church. At the same time the Church teaches that it is not a fully valid Catholic Mass.
We can assume that the prayers of Christ’s faithful were heard and we can certainly hope that what was seen in a vision was true in reality: that Henry went further into Christ’s light and love.
Seeing the dead or having apparitions, locutions or visions? These seemingly supernatural gifts are astounding, but they should never make us lose sight of Christ the Lord and the primacy of his church and sacraments.
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