At a time when so many are down on the Church, it's interesting to see through the eyes of a young girl -- a blind girl who had mystical vision.
Let's back up and say this comes from a book by a medical doctor named Dr. John Lerma, who specializes at the Houston Medical Center Hospice in tending to patients as they near death.
Dr. Lerma has had tremendous experiences with these patients -- documenting the many who see angels or deceased loved ones and have glimpses of the eternal as they approach the threshold.
But what we'd like to focus on today is a different kind of supernatural experience that occurred when a ten-year-old girl named Sarah who had been blind since birth as a result of atrophic optic nerves was taken to St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. This was an Easter Sunday nearly two decades ago.
"I marveled at the multitude of loving sounds that Bernini's dramatic design was exuding," recalled Sarah nineteen years later as she lay dying of cancer. "As I walked through the towering, ornate door of St. Peter's Basilica, I was drawn by an alluring vibration toward the chapel to my right.
"What I was allowed to hear was beyond awe.
"The vibrations and frequencies, now a part of my entire being, were the remnant echoing sounds of sadness replaced by utter joy and exuberant love from the statue where Jesus was heard to be lying on His mother's lap after being crucified. I knew I was now standing in front of Michelangelo's most honored statue, the 'Pieta.' Feeling some unfamiliar loving force take hold of my hand, I took hold of my mother's and followed with total faith. I told my mom not to worry and to trust me, as there was an angel leading us to our next spiritual experience."
The angel lead them to the front of the basilica, where a "gentle voice" told Sarah that "this is where God would like you to sit."
Sarah's mother thought it was all very cute -- but also impossible; and she readied to leave. It was reserved seating. It was a front pew! But Sarah persisted, and when a priest in charge of seating approached, he told them it was not only okay to remain where they were but that after Mass he would take them to meet John Paul II!
Mass began. It was "surreal."
"As the angelic sound of cardinals and priests walked past me," recalled Sarah, "I then heard a different, more glorious sound pass to my left. It was Pope John Paul II. Amazing warmth and healing power radiated from his hands as he blessed the crowd. Once again, I could make out sounds emanating from everything around the basilica -- both animate and inanimate, as if everything was glorifying God."
Throughout Mass Sarah sensed the sounds and colors from the relics and paintings and felt she could sense angels throughout the sacristy. Her angel held her hand and he sang praises to God.
After Mass, the priest, whose name was Father Delaney, took Sarah and her mother to a smaller room, which she said was "saturated with the most beautiful sounds and vibrations of desire and hope that were felt to be piercing my ears and soul," according to Dr. Lerma's splendid book, Learning from the Light.
The angel -- who identified himself as "Cherin" -- whispered that the Holy Father was coming.
"All the other children must have had their own angels, as my mother told me we all appeared to be standing up in unison and without a formal announcement from Father Delaney.
"Mesmerized as to why we stood up, I knew he was aware that there was something greater than him coordinating this most glorious occasion. At the moment our Holy Father walked in, I began to hear the sound of several angels singing on either side of me. Cherin told me I was hearing all the guardian angels singing in reverence of the Pope."
The pontiff, John Paul II, in the prime of his pontificate, greeted them -- then gently held Sarah and placed her head on his chest, over his heart, "and just loved me."
As tears flowed down her face, the Pope let one roll onto his finger.
"He then whispered into my ear, 'My child, this teardrop holds the faith needed to heal you in ways you cannot imagine. God has sent an angel to guard you and guide you as you prepare to glorify Him through a miraculous life.
"'You will help many come to believe in an all-loving God. Sarah, like you, I could be healed from my ailments, but we are being asked to view suffering for its strength and not its weaknesses. You see, Sarah, Jesus' Plan is to bring all souls back home, but He needs the empowering innocence of children and their willful suffering to engender His design. Pray for understanding and wisdom my child.'"
This she told to Dr. Lerma. "I guess you know the choice I made," she later recounted as a 29-year-old dying in that Houston hospice from cancer.
"When our Holy Father had finished talking to everyone, the spirited energy was almost palpable," she said.
"Simultaneously, I heard the angels singing the following words, 'Glory, glory Hallelujah. Glory, glory Hallelujah, Glory, glory, Hallelujah. His Truth keeps marching on." A moment later, John Paul II and Father Delaney were singing this too! We see the interaction with Heaven.
It was breast cancer that eventually caught up with Sarah. She had decided to suffer "joyfully" for those people "far from God." In the end, she was promised, there would be a gift for her.
When Sarah died, it was in the accompaniment of angels. She was graced too by words from the Blessed Mother, who identified herself to Sarah as "the woman you saw on the statue [Pieta] when you visited Rome."
Before Sarah succumbed, she was given a lifelong wish: sight! She was able to see her surroundings and write something for Dr. Lerma! It had been a promise from above. She told the physician about the incredible angels that were four to ten feet tall with long blond hair and blue or hazel eyes -- and flowing robes. She was able to describe what the doctor looked like and what he was wearing, even though she had never seen an earthly color before! "I wanted to tell you that Jesus was here the whole time you and I were talking about the angels," she said as she approached death. "He was sitting next to you and His energy was what gave us both total peace and comfort. The 'gift' was on the other side of the bed, and his name was John.
"Yes, John Paul II.
"He showed me my tears that were still on his fingers and palms from my visit to Rome. When he rubbed them on my eyes, I was able to see infinitely more. I was looking at the Kingdom of God. It was so worth it."