NOTICE: I am a practicing Catholic, active and in good-standing with my local diocese, who professes faith and loyalty to the Church. This ministry - my "little work" - is strictly a personal expression of that faith and loyalty, and not an officially recognized ministry in the Diocese of Honolulu.

~ Peter, Ministry Administrator

Thursday, July 8, 2021

When Mystics "Fly"...

The action of rising or causing
something to rise and hover in the
air, typically by means of supposed
supernatural powers.

I was recently doing research for one of my Saint of the Month blogs, and inadvertently came across an old black and white photo of a priest.  Immediately, I was intrigued because in the picture he appears to be floating about a foot off the ground!  This is the photo...

There was no caption included with the image that explained who the priest was (if anyone knows his identity, please contact me), or what the backstory is concerning the photo; I don't even know if the whole thing is genuine, but if it is, it could possibly be - as far as I know - the only visual record of an occurrence of religious, mystical Levitation... and it's the inspiration behind this blog.

Now there are already a lot of articles online that discuss this topic, but most only cite the same two Saints who experienced Levitation with uncommon frequency - the Franciscan, St. Joseph of Cupertino (d. 1663)... and the great Carmelite foundress, St. Teresa of Avila (d. 1582).  However, after having read through hundreds of bios of Catholic Saints, Blesseds, and reputable holy persons (collectively referred to here as "Mystics"in the past 25+ years, this writer became aware of dozens more who have experienced this rare charism.

Today's posting does something different from the other articles out there by not only sharing some lesser-known cases, but it will also describe variations of the phenomenon this author has come across from past research.  So let's begin with the Man who started it all...

From Holy Scriptures...
I once read, somewhere, a Protestant's objection to Catholic Mystics being able to levitate - the person argued that it's "not biblical"... but guess what?  Sure it is.  In fact, one can cite none other than Jesus Christ, himself, as having defied the laws of gravity so as to rise up in the air without any earthly, material support.  According to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and John, our Lord famously walked over the Sea of Galilee - doesn't that qualify as Levitation since he basically hovered weightless above fluid water?  I would argue so.

A Mystic who'd likely support my assessment is Therese Neumann (d. 1965), the famous German stigmatic.  In a certain book about her visions, one can find an account of what she saw concerning Jesus walking on the sea.  It's highly fascinating because it includes a unique detail not specified in the Bible.  According to Therese, Jesus didn't walk directly on the water's surface, rather, he was actually treading the air a few feet above the waves.  It makes great sense, though, because the Sea of Galilee was extremely rough and uneven at the time due to stormy conditions; Matthew 14:24 describes the circumstances in this manner: "But the boat was now in the midst of the sea, distressed by the waves; for the wind was contrary."  What Therese claims to have envisioned doesn't, in any way, contradict what's recorded in Scriptures. 

... and let's not forget the Ascension, which in Luke 24:50, is described in this way: "And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven."  In essence, Jesus flew to Heaven in full view of his early followers.

In both the examples cited, the Lord was clearly elevated in the air... and if He can do it, why can't the saintliest of his followers?  After all, Christ did also say in John 14:12: "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do..."

As for the Old Testament, there can also be found possible references of Levitation in the writings of the Prophet Ezekiel, who was obviously a Mystic, himself.  He writes several times about being "lifted up" by the "Spirit" in what seems to be more than a moral or spiritual sense - here's just one quote from Ezekiel 8:3: "And he put forth the form of a hand, and took me by a lock of mine head; and the spirit lifted me up between the earth and the heaven, and brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem..."

What Ezekiel described is uncannily similar to the levitations and visionary experiences of later Catholic Mystics.

The Ecstatic Connection
The most common form of Levitation reported in the lives of our Mystics are those that accompanied "Ecstasy", which is basically an altered state of consciousness during which a privileged soul becomes so completely absorbed in the sublime presence of the Divine, he/she is temporarily "disconnected" from - completely oblivious and insensitive to - our material world.  Furthermore, ecstasies may come upon a Mystic gradually or spontaneously after being triggered by deep prayer or contemplation during a spiritual event (e.g. Mass, Holy Communion, or Eucharistic Adoration)... or in the presence of a hallowed image of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin, or a sacred relic.  Other signs such as brilliant auras, the Stigmata, and/or heavenly fragrances may also occur during a genuine Ecstasy, in addition to Levitation - several examples of Ecstatic Levitation are cited below:

In the life of Bl. Eusebia Palomino Yenes (d. 1935), a humble Spanish member of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians.  I recall reading that she was once secretly observed by students of her teaching congregation, contemplating a certain crucifix on the wall of the school's chapel.  The nun appeared to fall into a trance then slowly floated up to the height of the crucifix where she remained in ecstatic bliss before slowly descending back to earth.  Returning to her normal state, she looked around in confusion and became aware that she had been observed.  According to her little witnesses, Sr. Eusebia quickly approached them and instructed them to not say a word to anyone about what they had just seen.  Fortunately for us - some squealed and testified to the event during her process of Beatification.

Bl. Eusebia (Left) and St. Gemma were
both observed suspended in mid-air while
contemplating their favorite crucifixes.

A similar incident as the one above occurred in the life of St. Gemma Galgani (d. 1903).  In the home of her adoptive family in Lucca, Italy, was a large crucifix hanging in the dining room, which Gemma frequently venerated.  The corpus sometimes transformed into the living Christ to the Saint and, at least once, household members walked in on Gemma - suspended in mid-air, rapt in ecstasy - before the holy image.

St. Martin de Porres was frequently seen
in his Peruvian monastery levitated in an
ecstastic state.  Likewise, St. Agnes of
Montepulciano was also similarly
observed in Italy.

Yet another specific example is recounted of Bl. Teresa Maria della Croce (d. 1910), who founded the Carmelite Sisters of St. Therese of Florence.  Once, while her nuns were having their community meal, the foundress launched into an impromptu speech about the love of God.  Carried away by her passionate discourse, Bl. Teresa Maria fell into an ecstatic trance and was raised several feet in full view of the assembly, and remained so for an extended period of time.

Bl. Maria Teresa della Croce (left) and
the Servant of God, Maria Concetta
Pantusa were both stigmatics who were
reported to levitate.

One last specific case for this segment concerns Bl. Anna Maria Taigi (d. 1837), a Roman laywoman; wife; and mother.  Her immediate family members testified during her Beatification inquiry that she was often rapt in ecstasy in the midst of her household chores.  Amusingly, it's recounted how the Blessed was sweeping one day when she was suddenly swept up in an air-born ecstasy with broom in hand.  One of Anna Maria's daughters, who was present, naively shouted up to her mother, "Mama, what are you doing?  There's nothing to sweep up there!"

Other Mystics who fall into this particular category of Levitation include St. Agnes of Montepulciano; St. Angela Merici; St. Benedict Joseph Labre; St. Candida Maria de Jesus; St. Catherine of Siena; Sr. Chiara di MauroSt. Dominic de GuzmanBl. Edvige CarboniBl. Esperanza de Jesus; St. Francis of AssisiBl. Grimoaldo SantamariaSt. Lutgarde of AywieresSt. Margaret of Citta-di-Castello; St. Margaret of Cortona; Bl. Maria Bartolomea BagnesiMaria Concetta Pantusa; SrMaria Coronel of AgredaSt. Mariam Baouardy; St. Martin de Porres; Madre Passitea CrogiFr. Paul of MollSt. Paul of the CrossSt. Philip Neri; St. Padre Pio; Madre Ursula Micaela Morata; St. Vincent Ferrer; and the recent Servant of God, Maria Esperanza de Bianchini, the Church-approved seeress of the Betania apparitions.

The ecstatic levitations of Ven. Maria of
Agreda sometimes lasted for hours, which
gave her nuns ample time to closely
observe her; they noted her body gently
swayed with the breeze. 

In the following segments, variations of the Levitation phenomenon are presented.  With the exception of the "Mystical Crucifixions", in the following scenarios it seems ecstasy did not play a part in the levitations.  Rather, the miracle was effected for some practical reason or purpose....

Water Walkers
As related above, Jesus walked on water and prophesied his followers would be blessed with similar gifts and accomplishments, as himself... and it apparently included walking on water, which again, I personally consider as a form of Levitation.  Among the holy individuals who exhibited this ability are the following Saints: St. Peter the ApostleSt. Mary of Egypt; St. Hyacinth of Poland, Apostle to Northern Europe, along with these other Mystics...

For St. Colette of Corbie (d. 1447) her gift of working miracles was so powerful, during a trip through France, she marched not only herself over the Neublan River, but also extended the ability to her entourage of priests and nuns; faced with no earthly means to cross the body of water, she said a prayer, after which they all prodigiously walked over the river!

A depiction of St. Maurus miraculously
rescuing St. Placidus from drowning,
through the intercession of St. Benedict.

In the life of the great St. Benedict of Nursia (d. 547), there is the story about his young disciple, St. Placidus, accidentally falling into a river while collecting water.  While being swept away by currents Benedict ordered another member of his group - St. Maurus - to hurriedly rescue his drowning brethren.  Without giving it a second thought, Maurus ran towards Placidus and was surprised to see himself inexplicably treading on the surface of the water.  Thus, he was able to quickly reach his friend and dragged him back to the safety of the shore.

Concerning St. Gerard Majella (d. 1755) - another potent miracle-worker - it's narrated how he not only experienced Ecstatic Levitations that were mass-witnessed but, on one occasion, he happened upon a fishing boat just off the coast that was in danger of sinking due to a storm.  Seeing the immediate need, the Saint walked on the waves (or above them?) to the vessel, where he called out to the crew for a rope.  The awestruck fishermen threw him a line, which the Saint then used to pull them to the safety of the harbor.  Gerard later fled the scene but not before he was recognized by the large crowd that had gathered on the shore.

Bl. Giovanna Irrizaldi, a Mercedarian nun,
reportedly sailed over water using her veil.

A slight variation of the walking-on-water miracle is that of "sailing" over water on a cloak.  Yes, it's been recorded in the lives of at least two Saints - St. Raymond of Penafort (d. 1275) and St. Francis of Paola (d. 1507).  St. Raymond did it when the king of Spain tried to detain him against his will on the island of Mallorca.  Ships had been forbidden to transport the Saint back to the mainland so Raymond, instead, placed his cloak on the water, made the sign of the cross, and off he went!

St. Raymond of Penafort sailed across
the open ocean from Mallorca to Spain
using his cloak as a vessel.

Air Striders
This segment describes another manner of Levitation this author refers to as "air striding".  In these scenarios, based on descriptions of the phenomenon, certain Saints were observed to move from one place to another with such extraordinary speed and agility, they seemed to literally glide on air - like how a hovercraft does - rather than touch the ground.  This wonder was noted in the lives of the Servant of God, Fr. John Edward Lamy (d. 1931); with Bl. Maria of the Passion (d. 1912); with St. Maria Maddalena de' Pazzi (d. 1607); and in the life of St. Martin de Porres (d. 1639) who also regularly experienced ecstatic levitations.

Fr. John Lamy and Bl. Maria of the
Passion were both observed walking with
impossible speed, as though gliding on air.

Closer to our time, in 1981, it's reported that in the early days of the famed Marian apparitions of Medjugorje, the six visionaries exhibited this same phenomenon.  During one of Our Lady's alleged appearances on Apparition Hill, she beckoned to the seers to come to her and they at once "ran" up the rocky hillside with incredible speed to meet the Holy Virgin.  Observers who gathered to witness the apparition could not keep up with the visionaries and had to climb the hill with difficulty.

Mystical Crucifixions
A good deal of stigmatized Mystics in Catholic history have been levitated at some point in their lives.  In fact, many names on this blog are stigmatics (e.g. St. Catherine of Siena, St. Lutgarde of Aywieres, St. Margaret of Cortona, St. Teresa of Avila, etc.).  For a few of them, an usual feature of their periodic "Passion Ecstasies" involved being lifted in the air during their mystical reenactment of the Crucifixion, as though they were nailed to an actual, but invisible, cross!

St. Mariam Thresia was a stigmatic
whose ecstatic levitations were publicly
witnessed on many occasions.

For example, St. Mariam Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyan (d. 1926) of India, a foundress of a congregation, often suffered the eruption of bleeding wounds on certain Fridays of the year.  When this happened, she would undergo the crucifixion mysteriously suspended several feet in the air with her back against a wall of her room.  The miracle became so widely known, the townspeople gathered at her window to watch the Saint's ordeal.

In the obscure case of the Spanish Poor Clare of Burgos, Madre Joanna of Jesus Mary (d. 1650), she fashioned a large wooden cross for herself to carry and lay on so as to better contemplate the Lord's Passion.  She developed Stigmata and continued using the holy prop, except it would now float in mid-air with Madre Joanna "nailed" to it.  This miracle recurred weekly on Fridays so it was well-attested to by the mystic's fellow nuns.

An old print of Madre Joanna of Jesus
Mary, a Spanish stigmatic of Burgos.

Other women stigmatics with similar experiences include Bl. Jane of Orvieto (d. 1306),  St. Veronica Giuliani (d. 1727), and the Servant of God, Maria von Morl (d. 1868).

Mystical Flights
Sometimes Saints have been known to soar through the air - actual flight, not just hovering in one spot - in order to complete certain tasks or for other practical reasons.  Take for example, St. Joseph of Cupertino, who was a "frequent flyer" and highly referenced when it comes to Levitation - his experiences were some of the most well-observed (he once levitated in the presence of Pope Urban VIII).  It's recounted how the Saint, while residing in the Italian town of Grotella, inspired the townsfolk to erect Stations of the Cross near their parish church.  When workmen struggled to lift a large crucifix, St. Joseph flew into the air and, with little effort, hoisted the crucifix to its place where the men were able to secure it.  His life is filled with many such stories.

St. Joseph Cupertino in flight.

In the life of St. Christina the Astonishing (d. 1224), an extraordinary victim-soul who suffered for the benefit of the Poor Souls in Purgatory, she sometimes took to the air, flying up to church rafters or the tops of trees to distance herself from her fellow man.  Apparently, she had the unusual ability to smell the stench of any sin present in souls and could not bear to be near most people because their odor nauseated her.

Another example I'd like to include in this segment is Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich (d. 1824), the celebrated German stigmatic.   In her biography, the Blessed tells of occasions during which she found herself suddenly rising in the air while cleaning in her monastery's chapel.  She was lucid and attributed these flights to her guardian angel, taking advantage of them to clean the upper parts of the church that were normally inaccessible.

Of course there will always be doubters who will scoff at these stories, which is fine, but for this author there's no doubt Levitation occurs; it's a bona-fide Miracle.  The recorded accounts, and the credibility and volume of witnesses throughout history are just too compelling to dismiss it.

Three holy women-founders who levitated:
St. Joaquina Vedruna de Mas (d. 1854), St.
Maria de Mattias (d. 1866), & St. Angela of
the Cross (d. 1932).

Some skeptics concede that "something" may have really occurred BUT it was: misidentified by the witness(es)... mass hysteria.... perhaps due to the Mystic's natural agility (e.g. jumping)... or simply an outright hoax perpetrated by either the Mystic and/or witness(es).  But these explanations can be reasonably dismissed.

The fact is - there are abundant accounts of levitations that lasted for more than the brief seconds it takes for someone to jump or leap.  For example, one of St. Thomas of Villanova's (d. 1555) levitations lasted for 12 hours, while Bl. Archangela Girlani (d. 1424) once clocked in as being elevated for over 24 hours!  The duration of these levitations afforded their numerous spectators more than enough time to rationally analyze what they were seeing... and many witnesses were educated individuals, including a Protestant Duke and a Pope, as in St. Joseph of Cupertino's case.

On at least one occasion St.
Alphonsus Liguori was publicly seen
to spontaneously rise into the air.

... and finally, what about the diabolic?  It is a possibility and there are indeed well-documented cases of false mystics, occult practioners, and possessed individuals levitating, which this author will not include here... but, in the accounts cited above from the lives of our Catholic Saints, Blesseds, and Servants of God, one can be assured that God was the originator of their signs and wonders.  The Church wisely and expertly scrutinized their lives and accomplishments with a fine-toothed comb, and determined them to have lived with an exemplary degree of personal sanctity; selfless and heroic souls whose holiness also inspired goodness in countless others.  As Jesus once said in Sacred Scripture: "THEREFORE, BY THEIR FRUITS YOU WILL KNOW THEM." (Matthew 17:20)

No comments:

Post a Comment

[Your comment/feedback is welcomed. However, business advertisements of any sort are not allowed and will be deleted. Thank you.]