Why We Don't Know More About Heaven

My mother, Helen Sullivan, died in August of 1994. She was only 72. About 9 months after she died, I had a most interesting dream.

In the dream, I walked up a flight of stairs to the second level of what seemed like a private club, very traditional looking, with carpeting and paneled walls. As I reached the top of the stairs, I saw many clusters of people and heard the tinkling of glass. The scene was like that of a cocktail party. I walked around a group of people chatting with one another, and all of a sudden there was my mom.

What words cannot describe is the sensation I experienced the moment I saw my mother. I felt the deepest peace, the deepest goodness and a euphoria that were beyond anything we can sense in this life. It was like the tiniest sliver of what heaven must be like. When I woke up, I had the thought that if you could bottle up what I experienced and offer it for sale, you'd be the wealthiest person on the face of the earth.

This experience made me wonder, "Why don't we know more about heaven? Why doesn't God give us more evidence of what heaven is like?" 

I came up with an answer. It's the same answer reached by Dr. Eben Alexander, the author of a book entitled Proof Of Heaven. Dr. Alexander, a skeptic about near death experiences, had a near death experience himself when an infection basically rendered his own brain non-functional. During his experience, he received the explanation as to why we don't know more about heaven.

Dr. Alexander writes: "...[M]aking the right decisions through our free will in the face of the evil and injustice on earth would mean far less if we remembered, while here, the full beauty and brilliance of what awaits us...That evil could occasionally have the upper hand was known and allowed by the Creator as a necessary consequence of giving the gift of free will to beings like us."

God does not give us more information about heaven because He wants us to be truly free to choose between good and evil. If we knew what heaven was really like, that knowledge would be too strong an influence on the exercise of our free will. So God withholds that information from the great majority of us.

I think most of us believe that we'll get to heaven if we don't do anything really bad. I think the test goes beyond that, however. If we drift through life, not really having an active faith, not experiencing at least the taste of the kingdom that is available to us down here, do we really deserve the bliss that awaits those given entry to heaven? I think the contrast between our lukewarm life on earth and the life in heaven would put us into a kind of shock.

I encourage our readers to get a copy of Proof of Heaven and give it a read. I found it very inspiring and I think you will, too. Heaven is beyond our comprehension. There are no words to adequately describe it. At the same time, our faith gives us the opportunity to experience the supernatural in authentic, powerful ways on earth. We need to be taking advantage of those opportunities.


Mary and the Eclipse

There is of course a great deal that has been written about the spiritual significance of the solar eclipse of August 21, 2017. I like one article in particular, at http://catholicexchange.com/mary-great-american-solar-eclipse, which discusses in detail the relationship between the eclipse and various Marian apparitions.

In this post, I'd like to share a brief personal reflection on Mary and the meaning of the eclipse for me.

To me, Mary's role is to reflect the light of Christ. Her mission is very much like the moon, which reflects the light of the sun. One of my favorites prayers for Mary's intercession is that she will, like the full moon, reflect the light of Jesus more fully and more intensely to a humanity that desperately needs this light.

Every time I see a full moon, then, I think of Mary. There have been some special times in my life, on nights when the sky was filled with clouds, that I would be prompted to look up. Each of these times, the clouds parted for just a second or two and exposed a full moon.

When this happens, I'm inclined to think that, even though Mary has done so much to evangelize the world, why hasn't she done even more? My own answer to this question is that even Mary, whose heart burns with the desire for all of humanity to love and embrace her Son, has to respect the right of every human being to choose freely whether to accept or reject Jesus. So she has to be careful about doing too much, about possibly infringing on our freedom by revealing in too dramatic a fashion some aspect of her Son's majesty and power.

For me, as for others, the eclipse is at least a warning that humanity has a tendency to favor the darkness over the light, and that God and members of the celestial army, including Mary, allow this to happen, at least for a time. I think a special saint for our times is St Maximilian Kolbe, who started his ministry, the Militia of the Immaculate, in or near 1918, the last time there was a total eclipse of the sun and a time also marked by worldwide confusion. St. Maximilian encouraged his followers to avoid the confusion by seeking guidance and clarity from Mary.

In 2017, a time marked by confusion even in the Catholic Church, we would do well to draw closer to Mary, whom we can rely on to keep us on the straight path. We might want more illumination from her, but the light she provides will always be sufficient.


Adventures Big and Small

In our fast-paced modern life, it's easy to get locked into a routine. I've seen many adult eyes glazed over as they rush to attend one more function, one more kids' activity, one more whatever. 

I remember meeting a new couple once. The husband was a professor in a college business school. He told me that he had met his wife in Alaska. Long ago, each of them had traveled independently to Alaska in search of adventure, in search of something new and exciting. That's where they met and fell in love. Now they lived in a comfortable suburb.

I feel a bit guilty about this now, but I asked the professor what had happened to that spirit of adventure that had taken him to Alaska so many years ago. He just stared at me, unable to speak. It was clear to me that the zeal that had sparked his journey to Alaska had vanished from his personality, and the realization of what he had lost had just hit him like a two by four.

I think one of the strengths of my relationship with my wife, Connie, is that we have always had a spirit of adventure. We never made it to Alaska, but we did live for a while in northwest Montana. And while we had a lot of routine when we were bringing up our six children, we also found ways to go on adventures, with them and just as a couple.

In 2008, after living virtually all of our adult life in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a series of events took us to Newark, New York, just east of Rochester, a place with which we were totally unfamiliar. That was a very big adventure, and after we arrived there we went on many smaller adventures.

From Newark, we could go an hour or two or more in any direction and find something beautiful and interesting. We took many day trips on Saturdays to go exploring. After 5 1/2 years in upstate New York, we felt that we had not left anything on the table when we returned to Tulsa.

So I'm just asking you to consider where there is some adventure in your life, and if your adventure barometer is giving you a low reading, try to stir up some excitement. Here are a few suggestions.

Focus on something in nature, something beautiful. Do not take along any gadgets for movies, video games, texting or even finding directions. A cell phone would be okay ONLY for taking pictures. No GPS. Bring a map. Gadgetization leads to mesmerization, which inhibits adventure.

I love the concept of pilgrimages. Go on a pilgrimage to a place that has significance, either in religion, history, your genealogy, something like that. I went on a pilgrimage once to Mattoon, Illinois, just to visit the Catholic church where I was baptized. I went to Mass and stayed afterward to thank God for my Baptism as a Catholic, for my parents who not only had me baptized but were inspiring models of adult Catholics and for all the graces I had received through my experience as a Catholic.

My wife and I still plan adventures, taking short weekend trips to places in Arkansas and Missouri, going to places we've never been.

Of course, the best adventure is waking up every day and saying, "Okay, Lord, I've got my agenda for the day, but if you have something else in mind, just let me know and we'll do it together." God will never let our lives get boring. No character in the Bible lived a boring life, and it should be the same for every one of us.

Sunset over the Missouri River on a recent trip to Boonville, Missouri

Sunset over the Missouri River on a recent trip to Boonville, Missouri