Home/Rod Dreher/Signs And Wonders, Will And Intellect

Signs And Wonders, Will And Intellect

Holy image of Virgin Mary and Child on red roses. Vung Tau. Vietnam. (Photo by: Godong/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Last night, I spent about an hour on the phone with a friend who is going through a real tough time right now. She had some hard trauma earlier in her life, and never quite got over it. She lives alone, so maybe the isolation from the virus is bringing it all back up now. I’m not sure, but we talked about it. After we finished talking, I prayed for God to comfort and heal her.

This morning I received a call from my pal. She was beside herself. She said that after we finished our conversation last night, she brushed her teeth and got in bed. As soon as she turned the lights out, she said her bedroom was filled with the aroma of roses.

“It was so intense,” she told me. “It felt like I was lying down in a rose garden.”

My friend is neither Catholic nor Orthodox. I know she’s a believer, but when we speak, it’s never about spiritual stuff, so I wasn’t sure how much she was aware of the Christian mystical tradition. I told her that the aroma of roses appearing like that is associated with the Virgin Mary, and that I have experienced that miracle myself in the past. I told her that I believe this was the Mother of God visiting her to comfort her.

She told me that she was aware of roses being associated with the Virgin, and even though she’s not Catholic, she remembered the “Hail Mary,” and said it out loud. She told me she just laid there in bed after that saying “Thank you, Mary,” for about half an hour, before the aroma faded.

I told my friend that I had been praying for exactly that thing — that God would somehow bring her comfort in her pain. “He sent the Mother of Our Lord to you,” I told my friend. She agreed.

Later, I was thinking about my friend’s case, and why it was so appropriate for the Theotokos (as we Orthodox call her; it means “God-bearer,” and is a title adopted as a way of asserting Jesus’s humanity as well as his divinity) to visit this friend. I texted her to share my further thoughts, and to remind her that she has received a powerful miracle of consolation. Please, I told her, don’t doubt that all of Heaven sees you, and that God loves you, and is with you always, even when you feel down and out.

She wasn’t the only one to receive the miracle. For me, it was a reminder that God really is present, and hears our prayers. I needed that consolation too.

Now, I offer you that story side by side with this account from the San Francisco Chronicle of a death metal drummer who nearly died from Covid-19, and who had a near-death experience. Excerpt:

While in the coma, Carroll said he had dreams of visiting the afterlife. He saw himself leave his body and plummet down to hell, where Satan — a woman in his case — punished him for the deadly sin of sloth, morphing him into a Jabba the Hutt-like-monster who vomited blood until he had a heart attack.

“I woke up on the hospital bed with tubes coming in and out of me, and there was a nurse right there and my first words were, ‘Am I still in hell?’ ” Carroll said. “She ignored me.”

Carroll, who celebrated his 47th birthday on Wednesday, May 13, said his near-death experience gave him a new outlook on life. He now plans on living a healthier life without hard alcohol or bong rips, though he’ll still drink the occasional hard cider and narrow his marijuana use to edibles. He also adopted a belief in a higher power; he feels the prayers from his family and friends helped him pull through.

“I’m still going to listen to satanic metal, and I still love Deicide and bands like that,” Carroll said. “As far as for my personal life and my experience of what I went through, I don’t think Satan’s quite as cool as I used to.”

Read it all.

The word “dreams” is the journalist’s. It sounds like Will Carroll, the drummer, believes it wasn’t a dream, that it was real, not a dream. Here’s what I don’t get: you have a life-after-death experience in which you go to Hell, and you genuinely believe that you came face to face with the ultimate personification of evil, and you come out of it convinced that you should change your life … but you’re still going to listen to music that openly glorifies Satan, who is “not quite as cool” as you once thought?

I don’t get it. Maybe this is just the first step on his conversion, but still, if something like that had happened to me, and I was convinced that it was real, not a hallucination, then the last thing I would want to have anything to do with is satanic metal. Wouldn’t you?

This reminds me of the time back in 1994 when all kinds of supernatural things started happening around my father in the week after his dad died. We ended bringing in a Catholic priest and a Cajun grandmother who was mystically gifted. My folks weren’t Catholic, but they had both seen and heard the poltergeist stuff, and were willing to let their Catholic son call his priest friend if that might make the weird activity stop. The Cajun lady discerned what was going on, and did so in front of all of us, in a way that made our jaws drop. She told my dad that the Lord was not letting his father move on until my dad forgave him the wrongs that he (my grandfather) had done to my dad. And the priest led my father to forgive his father, then blessed the house. The activity stopped.

My father was not in the least bit mystically inclined. He lived for over twenty years after that, and until the last, testified to the truth of what happened that week. I had talked to him about the miracle we all witnessed, and the power of forgiveness, of letting go of grudges, to set people free, even in the spiritual realm. He would agree that yes, this is the meaning of what he saw, and what we all saw. And yet! He changed not one bit. He was as dedicated to grudge-holding as ever.

Understand: when people say that they would believe in God if only they would see some proof of His existence, some sign that there is life after death, don’t believe them. Maybe they’re telling the truth, but I’m more inclined to think that they’re lying to themselves. They construe the challenge as one of the intellect (= if only they had evidence, they would believe) when in fact it is a problem of the will (= they just don’t want to believe, because they are unwilling or afraid to change their lives). Jesus talked about that in the parable of Lazarus, in Gospel of Luke:

Now there was a rich man dressed in purple and fine linen, who lived each day in joyous splendor. And a beggar named Lazarus lay at his gate, covered with sores and longing to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

One day the beggar died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side.d And the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham from afar, with Lazarus by his side.

So he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. For I am in agony in this fire.’

But Abraham answered, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things. But now he is comforted here, while you are in agony. And besides all this, a great chasm has been fixed between us and you, so that even those who wish cannot cross from here to you, nor can anyone cross from there to us.’

‘Then I beg you, father,’ he said, ‘send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also end up in this place of torment.’

But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let your brothers listen to them.’

‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone is sent to them from the dead, they will repent.’

Then Abraham said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”

UPDATE: A reader offers a reason why Will Carroll might be reacting the way he is (still listening to satanic metal, etc):

I think the surrealist film-maker Luis Bunuel could give you an answer. In The Milky Way, we see Jesus heal two blind men. When they recover their eyesight, they follow Jesus–but they’re still using canes to feel their way forward. Bunuel explained that of course the recently blind men would continue to use their canes for a time: how would they know what a ditch looked like?

Will Carroll has been blind, and now he sees–but he’ll still be using a cane for a while.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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