America has a modern mystic and perhaps future saint in a stigmatic and convert from Mormonism who -- swept into ecstasy hours at a time -- fell into what she was told to call "divine" slumber" during which she allegedly was shown various poignant, vivid segments of Jesus' life and death.
The mystic, Cora Evans, originally of Utah, spelled out such details in a moving, often mesmerizing book, Refugee from Heaven: the Mystical Life of Christ -- a book that has been flying off the shelves.
Evans (1904-1957) first experienced what she later realized was a visitation from the Blessed Mother when she was just three, but only found her way much later into the Church at the age of thirty. As she put it, "I was without a God and religion but had gained a very wonderful husband. As I looked at him and learned to love him more and more, I resolved to help find a God for him. After ten years of searching, we found the One True God in the Roman Catholic Church."
The Vatican granted nihil obstat for the cause for Beatification and Canonization of the Servant of God and the Diocese of Monterey, California, is proceeding with the investigation of her life and writings.
Besides visions, ecstasies, and stigmata, Evans reportedly experienced the phenomena of bi-location, fragrance of roses, known as the odor of sanctity, and as a website dedicated to her says, "profound writings far beyond her education level are not in and of themselves sufficient grounds for the declaration of sainthood. It is the story of her life with the proof of heroic virtues that places everything else in context."
Obviously, we can't vouch for all that; it's up to the diocese to make those determinations. One can observe that her writing about the life of Christ, in novel-like form, is immediately intense -- drawing one right to sacred spots in the Holy Land 2,000 years ago. Is it all true? Between the two covers of the book are at times startling details about the character and roles of biblical figures such as Mary of Magdala. The book begins with the meeting between Christ and Simon the fisherman. To wit:
"As Simon started for Mount Carmel and the Sanhedrin, he noticed a tall, well-built Stranger reclining on the beach watching the scene with great interest," wrote the mystic. "He seemed intrigued with the quick obedience given Simon by his men and by the calmness and the order with which the people emptied the great kettles.
"As Simon, approached, the Stranger arose and stood watching him. Simon wondered who He was and from where He might have come, for he was quite sure he had never seen Him before.
"Then his interest quickened and deepened beneath the impact of the calm dignity of this Man.
"As he drew nearer he could see His beautiful eyes quite clearly and that He was not a sailor, for His magnificent hands were not thick and calloused. Yet He seemed intensely interested in the laborious work of the crew and in their care of the poor."
There are a number of mystics who have detailed what they saw as the life of Our Lord. Mary of Agreda and Anne Catherine Emmerich are two examples. Sometimes, there are differences in details. Perhaps the same will be true of what Cora Evans penned before her death. But undeniable is the mood her book sets, resembling a time capsule.
"Simon stood quite still as though stunned," wrote Evans. "Never had he heard such a Voice, nor had he ever been so praised before."
Cora's diary reveals that our Lord entrusted her with the responsibility to write, notes the official website. "She suffered greatly for the privilege. After an experience of ecstasy, which might last for many hours, Cora would sit at the typewriter and attempt to capture the stories revealed to her. On December 24, 1946, Jesus revealed the mission entrusted to Cora. She learned that she was to promulgate the Mystical Humanity of Christ, a way of prayer that encourages people to live with a heightened awareness of the indwelling presence of Jesus in their daily lives. It is Eucharistic spirituality, and Jesus promised to foster the devotion."
Mary Magdalene? In Evans' visions, she was shown as a woman intent on seducing Jesus and proving that her salacious beauty could entice anyone. She planned, says the book, "to capture the Miracle Man." To do so -- claimed the mystic -- Mary Magdalene had slaves and friends prepare great foaming tubs of perfumed oils poured into huge copper baths, in which she reposed for hours, spending more hours styling her hair and donning a gown and dazzling emeralds before her encounter with the Nazarene. "From her ankles to her knees coiled gold bracelets in the form of snakes with wide, glittering emerald eyes," wrote Evans hauntingly.
However, Christ, she said, took virtually no notice of Mary Magdalene's beauty. "Everyone watched Jesus intently," says the book. "Slowly, He rose to His feet and faced Mary with a slight bow of recognition. With one glance of His understanding eyes He looked piercingly at her. Then He closed them tightly as though He had seen a dreadful horror." When others told Him about what her lewd life was like (she was an Arabian dancer), Jesus, in this account, showing mercy right from the start, said, "Do you not believe that I know her least action and desire? I know there is as much goodness and courage in her as you know of her evil and sin."
Might details such as those presented by Evans actually be true -- that Mary Magdalene wasn't just some street prostitute or loose woman but a seductress of great renown, yet one soon converted through deliverance? (The first demon cast out of her, wrote Evans, was the spirit of pride.) Could the way He met Simon be accurate? Are the descriptions of what occurred during and after Resurrection something we will one day learn to be factual? Fascinating it is to contemplate (at least drawing a sense of the atmosphere).
When He resurrected, said Evans in another part of this voluminous book, His Body went right through the stone in front of the Tomb.
There is the awe of the Upper Room at the Last Supper. There is Herod's ferocious personality. There is John the Baptist. We can certainly say this much: Cora Evans was a fascinating mystic, one whose time may be here and one whose writing, if nothing else (for your discernment), breathe new vibrance into Gospel figures and bring the journey of Jesus -- the Refugee from Heaven -- to life.
[resources: Refugee from Heaven]