by Fr. Robert DeGrandis, on the
charismatic gift of 'knowing' -- of receiving direct wisdom and knowledge
from Heaven, especially in healing but also in music, in discernment, in
finding lost things, in Scripture and everyday life!
NATURE'S FIRST ALTAR: NIAGARA STANDS AS SPECIAL SPIRITUAL SPOT, WITH EVEN CHRIST'S FACE SEEN IN THE MIST BY SOME
It's said that nature is God's first church. It is also true that there seem to be some natural spots that carry special power. One of them are the famous falls of Niagara, where we are now, a great summer attraction.
This area always has been like a spiritual magnet -- drawing good and evil alike, often in open conflict and witnessed by the battles that took place here during the French and Indian wars and the intrusion of industry upon this natural treasure, such that factories crowded its shorelines and chemicals -- toxic ones, a sign of our times -- now flow with the waters.
The river provides sustenance to the region but its waters also have been devoured by hydroelectric plants. There are factories but also shrines, including a major one dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima. A mysterious parcel of forest was used as a secret staging area for the Manhattan Project. There are Indian burial mounds. They are waters that were considered mystical by the Indians, who claimed to hear voices in them, and the falls were first discovered, as far as white settlers, by a priest named Father Louis Hennepin [below, right]. The spiritual nature of this "natural wonder of the world," which was degraded by toxic dumps like the notorious Love Canal, was recorded by Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, the famous priest who ministered in New Orleans and is now up for sainthood. As a newsletter dedicated to his cause says, in a current article called "Nature's Greatest Altar":
"Around the time that Francis Seelos arrived in America in 1843, Niagara Falls had become the country’s best-known natural wonder and a major tourist attraction. In 1842, Charles Dickens described it as 'Nature’s greatest altar,' and wrote, 'What voices spoke from out the thundering waters; what faces, faded from the earth, looked out upon me from its gleaming depths; what Heavenly promise glistened in those angels’ tears, the drops of many hues, that showered around, and twined themselves about the gorgeous arches which the changing rainbows made.'
"So sacred was this place that some Christians claimed to have seen the Face of Jesus in the rainbow mists.
"The author Longfellow and the artist Frederick Church attempted to capture Niagara’s majestic force in print and on canvas, while Mark Twain approached the commercialization of the Falls with his trademark satire. Even Congressman Abraham Lincoln, standing at Niagara’s edge in September 1848, was inspired to compose an unfinished essay on its grandeur. Likewise, 'the Apostle of the Niagara Frontier,' as Saint John Neumann is called, jocularly referred to the Falls as 'his baptismal font.' He could hear it from where he lived, 'just like a heavy hailstorm.'
"Incidentally, hailstorms seemed to follow him. Years later, when Neumann and Seelos were both assigned to a large parish in Pittsburgh, Seelos recalled: 'Our dwelling was so poor that one night we had to leave our room in a severe storm and seek protection elsewhere, because the water was pouring down on our beds. I say our room because we were in one and the same room, which was separated only by a curtain. For that reason I could hear [Father Neumann] often saying his prayers during the night. He slept so little that I could not understand how he could keep his body and soul together. Because he generally got up before the regular rising time, he prepared the fire, often bringing up coal himself to have the room warm for me when I got up.'"
Indeed, storms often seem to speak to us. There are mysterious powers in nature.
Saint John Neumann, canonized in 1977, is the first U.S. bishop, priest, or man to receive this honor. Let us pray this his fellow Redemptorist confrere and storm mate will soon follow.
[Seelos newsletter and Fatima shrine]
[Note: pilgrims from recent Spirit Daily pilgrimage to Medjugorje will be featured on ABC special report this evening, barring another change in schedule]
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