Friday, April 22, 2016

Saintly encounters with the paranormal

With soooo many important things in the news and so many reporters and bloggers expressing their most necessary opinions, I figured it was about time to take myself ever so seriously as well and prompt the needed discussion of Saintly encounters with the paranormal.

St. Anthony encounters a Hippocentaur and a Faun 

St. Jerome relates the story of St. Anthony going out in the desert to search for St. Paul the Hermit:

 “Scorching noontide came, with a broiling sun overhead, but still he did not suffer himself to be turned from the journey he had begun. Said he, ‘I believe in my God: some time or other He will shew me the fellow-servant whom He promised me.’ He said no more. All at once he beholds a creature of mingled shape, half horse half man, called by the poets Hippocentaur. At the sight of this he arms himself by making on his forehead the sign of salvation, and then exclaims, ‘Holloa! Where in these parts is a servant of God living?’ The monster after gnashing out some kind of outlandish utterance, in words broken rather than spoken through his bristling lips, at length finds a friendly mode of communication, and extending his right hand points out the way desired. Then with swift flight he crosses the spreading plain and vanishes from the sight of his wondering companion. But whether the devil took this shape to terrify Anthony, or whether it be that the desert which is known to abound in monstrous animals engenders that kind of creature also, we cannot decide…

Anthony was amazed, and thinking over what he had seen went on his way. Before long in a small rocky valley shut in on all sides he sees a mannikin with hooked snout, horned forehead, and extremities like goats’ feet. When he saw this, Antony like a good soldier seized the shield of faith and the helmet of hope: the creature none the less began to offer to him the fruit of the palm-trees to support him on his journey and as it were pledges of peace. Anthony perceiving this stopped and asked who he was. The answer he received from him was this: ‘I am a mortal being and one of those inhabitants of the desert whom the Gentiles deluded by various forms of error worship under the names of Fauns, Satyrs, and Incubi. I am sent to represent my tribe. We pray you in our behalf to entreat the favour of your Lord and ours, who, we have learnt, came once to save the world, and ‘whose sound has gone forth into all the earth.’’ As he uttered such words as these, the aged traveller’s cheeks streamed with tears, the marks of his deep feeling, which he shed in the fullness of his joy. He rejoiced over the Glory of Christ and the destruction of Satan, and marvelling all the while that he could understand the Satyr’s language, and striking the ground with his staff, he said, ‘Woe to thee, Alexandria, who instead of God worshippest monsters! Woe to thee, harlot city, into which have flowed together the demons of the whole world! What will you say now? Beasts speak of Christ, and you instead of God worship monsters.’ He had not finished speaking when, as if on wings, the wild creature fled away…”

Subtle Matter and the touch of an angel

What are angels made of up of? Well, nothing, but when we can be affected by them how is it so? Nothing dogmatic strictly but…

“This is the assertion that angels and spirits are made of a matter like but unlike that of the physical world; unlike it that it can be invisible, weighs little, moves quickly, etc; like in that beings composed of it can affect physical objects, and can be, as it were, measured or perceived to some degree. Holders of this belief would assert that only God can be immaterial, for He alone is unchangeable. (Angels, while of immovable Will, did change at least once, when they took up sides at Satan's revolt). Moreover, the Second Council of Nicaea ruled in favour of this belief, when it approved the following passage from a book by John of Thessalonica

Respecting Angels, Archangels, and their powers, to which I also adjoin our own Souls, the Catholic Church is indeed of the opinion that they are intelligences, but not entirely bodiless and senseless, as you Gentiles aver; she on the contrary ascribes to them a subtile body, aerial or igneous, according to what is written: "He makes His angels spirits, and His ministers a burning fire. Although not corporeal in the same way as ourselves, made of the four elements, yet it is impossible to say that Angels, Demons, and Souls are incorporeal; for they have been seen many a time, wearing their own body, by those whose eyes the Lord has opened.” (h/t Charles Coulombe)

St. Andrew and St. Bartholomew relieve a man of a dog-faced curse

 From the “Myths of the Dog-man” by David Gordon White:

 “Cynocephali also figure in medieval Chrisitan world-views. A legend that placed St. Andrew and St. Bartholomew among the Parthians presented the case of “Abominable”, the citizen of the “city of cannibals… whose face was like unto that of a dog.” After receiving baptism, however, he was released from his doggish aspect.”

Other animal-headed men in Catholic lands

The following is taken from Wikipedia:

“Paul the Deacon mentions cynocephali in his Historia gentis Langobardorum: "They pretend that they have in their camps Cynocephali, that is, men with dogs' heads. They spread the rumor among the enemy that these men wage war obstinately, drink human blood and quaff their own gore if they cannot reach the foe. At the court of Charlemagne the Norse were given this attribution, implying un-Christian and less-than-human qualities: "I am greatly saddened" said the King of the Franks, in Notker's Life, "that I have not been thought worthy to let my Christian hand sport with these dog-heads." The ninth-century Frankish theologian Ratramnus wrote a letter, the Epistola de Cynocephalis, on whether the Cynocephali should be considered human (he thought that they were). If human, a
Christian's duty would be to preach the Gospels to them. If animals, and thus without souls, such would be pointless.

Quoting St. Jerome, Thomas of CantimprĂ© corroborated the existence of Cynocephali in his Liber de Monstruosis Hominibus Orientis, xiv, ("Book of Monstrous men of the Orient"). The thirteenth-century encyclopedist Vincent of Beauvais acquainted his patron Saint Louis IX of France with "an animal with the head of the dog but with all other members of human appearance… Though he behaves like a man… and, when peaceful, he is tender like a man, when furious, he becomes cruel and retaliates on humankind".

St. Martha and the Tarasque

Also taken from Wikipedia:

“The legend of the Tarasque is reported in several sources, but especially in the story of St. Martha in the Golden Legend. The creature inhabited the area of Nerluc in Provence, France, and devastated the landscape far and wide. The Tarasque was a sort of dragon with a lion's head, six short legs like a
bear's, an ox-like body covered with a turtle shell, and a scaly tail that ended in a scorpion's sting. Other legends report it as living on the modern site of the Chateau Tarascon; i.e. on a rock in the midst of the Rhone. According to the Golden Legend "There was, at that time, on the banks of the Rhone, in a marsh between Arles and Avignon, a dragon, half animal, half fish, thicker than an ox, longer than an horse, with teeth like swords and big as horns, he hid in the river where he took the life of all passers-by and submerged vessels. " "Sainte Marthe". L'Abbaye Sainte Benoit. Retrieved 28 Jan 2013.

The Tarasque was said to have come from Galatia which was the home of the legendary Onachus, a scaly, bison-like beast which burned everything it touched (this creature is similar to the Bonnacon). The Tarasque was the offspring of the Onachus and the Leviathan of biblical account; disputably a giant sea serpent.

The king of Nerluc had attacked the Tarasque with knights and catapults to no avail. But Saint Martha found the beast and charmed it with hymns and prayers, and led back the tamed Tarasque to the city. The people, terrified by the monster, attacked it when it drew nigh. The monster offered no resistance and died there. Martha then preached to the people and converted many of them to Christianity. Sorry for what they had done to the tamed monster, the newly Christianized townspeople changed the town's name to Tarascon. The story of the Tarasque is also very similar to the story of Beauty and the Beast and King Kong. The monster is charmed and weakened by a woman and then killed when brought back to civilization. A similar idea is found in the myths of Enkidu and the unicorn: both are calmed by sending them a woman. The description and legend of this creature is curiously similar to other dragons of French folklore such as Gargouille and Peluda.”

St. Columba encounters the Loch Ness Monster

Taken from

“Columba, you may recall, was trained by Irish monks. However, his youthful Christianity was skin-deep while his passions were strong. He was partly responsible for the battle of Cul-drebene in which many men lost their lives. Repentant, he sailed to Britain as "a pilgrim for Christ" and founded the monastery of Iona, from which Christianity spread across North Britain. He himself traveled and preached, establishing several churches and monasteries.

Revered as a saint, his life was written by Adamnan. In reporting Columba's life, Adamnan gives what appears to be the first written account of the Loch Ness Monster.

Traveling in Scotland, Columba had to cross the Loch Ness. On its banks, he saw some of the Pict folk burying a man who had been bitten by a water monster while swimming. The body had been pulled from the loch with the aid of a hook by rescuers who had come to his assistance in a boat.

Despite the danger, Columba ordered one of his followers to swim across the loch and bring back a coble (boat) that was moored on the other side. This man's name was Lugne Mocumin. Without hesitation, Lugne stripped for the swim and plunged in.

The monster, robbed of its earlier feast, surfaced and darted at Lugne with a roar, its jaws open. Everyone on the bank was stupefied with terror; everyone, except Columba, that is. A firm believer in the authority of the crucified Christ, he raised his hand, making the sign of the cross. Invoking the name of God, he commanded the beast, saying, "You will go no further, and won't touch the man; go back at once."

At the voice of the saint, the monster fled as if terrified, "more quickly than if it had been pulled back with ropes," says Adamnan.

The heathen were amazed. Everyone who witnessed the sight gave glory to the God of the Christians.”

Anslem’s Hare

Not specifically paranormal, but a good story with the purpose of showing sympathetic comparison of the hare to the poor hunted sinner:

"Anselm left the court and, while he was hastening to his manor at Hayes, the boys of his household with their dogs chased a hare which they came upon in the road. As they were pursuing it, it fled between the feet of the horse on which Anselm sat. The horse stood still; and Anselm - knowing that the wretched animal looked to find a place of refuge beneath him, and not wishing to deny it the help it needed - drew his horse by the reins and kept it still. The dogs came round, snuffling about on all sides and restrained against their will, but they could neither make it move from under the horse, no

r harm it in any way. We were astonished at the sight. But Anselm, when he saw some of the horsemen laugh and make merry at the expense of the cornerned animal, burst into tears and said: "You laugh, do you? But there is no laughing, no merry-making, for this unhappy beast. His enemies stand round about him, and in fear of his life he flees to us asking for help. So it is with the soul of man: when it leaves the body, its enemies - the evil spirits which have haunted it along all the crooked ways of vice while it was in the body - stand round without mercy, ready to seize it and hurry it off to everlasting death. Then indeed it looks round everywhere in great alarm, and with inexpressible desire longs for some helping and protecting hand to be held out to it, which might defend it. But the demons on the other hand laugh and rejoice exceedingly if they find that the soul is bereft of every support."

When he had said this, he slackened his rein and set off again along the road, raising his voice and forbidding the dogs to chase the animal any more. Then the hare leapt up unhurt, and swiftly returned to its fields and woods; while we, no longer laughing and not a little uplifted by so affecting a deliverance for the frightened animal, followed the Father along our appointed way."

Christopher Columbus encounters UFOs apparently

And of course there is the story of St. George and the dragon.


Thanks to Charles Coulombe for bringing some of these to light. Here are a couple talks he does where he talks about the paranormal and the Catholic mind:

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