My friend and I sometimes talk about life and religion after mass. I asked him recently if he had ever had a mystical moment. His instant reply was, “Yes. And it changed me.” The way was open for him to tell me all about it but he didn’t and I didn’t press him. Actually, I thought I had been a bit forward in just asking the question. I have written before about my one and only mystical moment, when I was flooded with a overwhelming feeling of sweetness one night as I was saying a rosary.  I don’t know how I immediately identified it as sweetness (as, I suppose, in “taste and see that the Lord is sweet”). The first thing I did was to look in the mirror to see if I might possibly glow–it was that amazing. My friend, Dolores, tells me of a one-time-only experience of incredible joy as she was taking a shower! I recall another story of an attendee at a Christian conference, listening to a lackluster speaker, when he, too, experienced incredible joy. Many people tell of experiencing God’s love when someone prays with them. I love hearing about such anecdotal experiences which are multiplied thousands of times in the lives of sincere Christians.

I recently read Nowhere But Up by Justin Bieber’s mother, Pattie Mallette. As a lost, addicted, single Mom she had an such an experience of God  that she went around telling everyone “God is real!” whether they wanted to hear it or not. It changed her. Such experiences seem to have a profound effect. Somewhere in my past I read something to the effect that one will not lay down one’s life because of a theory but one may be willing to die because of an experience. We know that all of the apostles but one died a martyr. They had experienced Jesus and knew he was real.  Nothing could shake their faith.

Everyone knows of Mother Teresa, that she was a nun in Calcutta who received a “call within a call” as she was riding on a train going to a retreat.  It seems that she had an experience on that train in which Jesus told her she was to leave her convent and go about Calcutta ministering to the needy herself.  Eventually others gathered about her and her Missionaries of Charity still care for the abandoned, homeless, sick, orphaned, AIDS patients, and the like all over the world.  What was never known until her private writings were revealed after her death was that she had no further  experience of God for FIFTY YEARS after her profound life-changing experience on that train.   Yet she never doubted she was doing God’s will.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI tells us he made his very unusual decision to resign as Pope because God told him to in a “mystical” way. Not a voice, not a vision, but mystically. “Asked why he resigned, the pope emeritus said, ‘God told me to,’ but added that he had not received any kind of apparition or similar phenomenon. Rather, it was a “mystical experience” in which the Lord planted a seed of “absolute desire” in his heart “to remain alone with him, secluded in prayer.”

With these two praying for us, how can our church go wrong?

Pope Francis, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI


Everyone who has been around for awhile knows the name of Orson Bean.  As a child he did magic tricks, became a stand-up comic, and he has been an entertainer in clubs, movies, and on TV for the past 70 years.  Now 85, he was interviewed yesterday by an early morning radio talk show host where he enthusiastically proclaimed his love for Yeshua (Jesus).  He had also come out with a new book  Safe at Home.  Intrigued, I looked it up on Amazon where I found this quote from Bean:  “When I take communion (ritualized cannibalism) tears come to my eyes. This happens because during that rite I remember that the two thousand year old man (sorry Mel Brooks) whom I believe (in some way I can’t explain) to be the Son of God (Whom I also can’t explain) instructed His followers (one of whom I have become) to symbolically drink His blood (sorry Bela Lugosi) and eat His body (sorry Jeffrey Daumer) and by doing so to become a part of Him. I find that deeply moving.”

Thinking that there were reasons behind this rather odd statement of Orson Bean’s faith I wanted to read his book.  The quickest, cheapest way to do so was to download it to my Kindle, and he did not disappoint me.   I find the true story of anyone’s life fascinating, but Orson Bean’s was especially so since he describes the long-ago America we old folks remember and does a lot of famous name dropping along the way.  I read the whole thing in one day, lickety-split, looking for his religious “experiences.”  As a child he would go to the coal bin and put a smudge on his forehead so he would look like the Catholic boys in the neighborhood but he never had  much religious education.   He was pretty much adrift after his mother’s suicide when he was 16 and while the ups and downs of his life make for fascinating reading, his experiences during the war years, for example,  they just led up to the time when “I should have been on top of the world, but I wasn’t. I would go to my shrink, lie on his couch, and tell him that life was “just OK.” There was a hole in me that just never got filled.”

After ten years of analysis Bean  tried a number of other new age type therapies.  He even, actually, walked on burning coals!  This man was really seeking!

After his divorce, at a time of despair, he writes:

I’m sitting on my couch, trying to decide whether it’s too early to go to bed. I glance up and whom do I see, standing in the hall between the kitchen and the living room but our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He doesn’t say anything to me, just stands there in my hall, with the slightest trace of a smile on his face, radiating unconditional love. I recognize him at once . The experience is as real as any I’ve ever had in my life. I don’t question it for an instant. I know the difference between real and imaginary. I’m a magician . Christ graces me with his presence for twenty minutes. Then I look away and when I turn back, he’s gone. The next night, he comes again, standing in a different part of the room, visits for fifteen minutes or so, and then leaves. Oddly enough, I don’t feel particularly changed by the experience . I just think to myself, “So, He’s real and alive and living in New York.”

Another time when he had a problem with alcohol he was advised  to turn to a higher power and say a little prayer of gratitude morning and night, which he did.   Still later, still questioning the existence of a higher power, he got some religion books from the library, including C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. Slowly he began to believe there was a God who made the universe, who cared about him and, thirty years after his visions, he was baptized. He wrote: “There was never any doubt in my mind that on the two evenings in question, I had been in the physical presence of the living Christ; and if He was there then, He is surely here now, standing beside me.”   This is truly a fascinating tale.

When I started writing this post I had no idea I would have so much to say about Orson Bean. but things do not always go as planned.  Indeed, everyone who finds Christ has a fascinating story. I will not multiply stories about mystical moments — surely there are millions. But I’d love to hear yours — why do YOU believe?

Email from Orson Bean:
Hello babydot. I thought it was because I’m 85 that computers confuse me. My grandkids of course, even the littlest ones, can do anything. But if at 90 you’re such a pro I guess it’s not an age thing. Thanks so much for the note and your kind words. I’m not doing much of anything to promote the book, just leaving it in the hands of Himself for it to reach anyone who might be influenced by it. I’ve already heard from a couple of non-believers that they are getting down on their knees and asking if there’s anyone there. A guy named Frank Sontag who does a broadcast on a Christian network asked me to come on his show and I’ll do so next Monday. I enjoyed your blog. Again, thanks. O.