Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from “Dying to Live: From Agnostic to Baptist to Catholic”, a new book by Ian Murphy, published by Ignatius Press.
The new ministry position at the Catholic Diocese of Austin was wonderful… The Catholic parsonage provided the perfect atmosphere for me to complete the remainder of my thesis. The university even scored me another talk in front of a thousand students, at its annual tent revival. The remaining time in the theology program became some of the happiest months of my life.
Nevertheless, there was one spiritual concern that still required God’s healing grace before I could officially enter the Church at the 2004 Easter Vigil. Namely, I still couldn’t bring myself to believe in the Communion of the Saints. That is, I couldn’t ask for prayers from angels or saints in heaven. I had no theological issue with the practice. After all, I had no problem with asking for prayers from Christ’s followers on this side of eternity. I simply couldn’t bring myself to ask for prayer from someone on the other side.
I had been raised with an emotional allergy to the very idea of the intercession of the saints. Growing up, my dad taught me that asking the saints to pray for us was idolatry. By every possible means he instilled deep within my heart that prayers to the dead are evil.
Years later the aversion to the practice still lingered. God went to work on this issue with style.
Before landing the new job at the diocesan office, my savings had depleted rapidly. At one point, it was going to take a financial miracle for me to remain in school. My brother Sean came to my rescue. He prayed, “God, if you give me any surplus of money, it will all go straight to Ian.” The day after he said this prayer, Sean received a check in surplus of a thousand dollars.
Libby called me up with the good news. She said, “We put together a care package that includes the money. You should ask your personal guardian angel to have this package hand- delivered to you, so that the enemy can’t interfere. You’ve dealt with enough of his interference lately.”
“Okay,” I said, in a patronizing tone of voice that communicated evident disbelief.
“I’m serious, Ian. The Communion of Saints includes God’s host. Saint Michael was God’s instrument for defeating Satan and the other angels who rebelled. This is real. You already know that fallen angels are real. Why struggle with the notion of the angels who are on God’s side? You have a guardian angel,” she insisted, “ask for his help.”
“I can’t,” I said.
“I just can’t. I’ve mentally filed it along with stuff that’s bad,” I explained.
She replied, “Then I’m lending you my angel. I’ve asked him to hand- deliver this money to you.”
The next day, a man was wandering about outside the college residences. He looked lost. Then he walked up to me holding a box. “I don’t suppose you’re Ian Murphy?” he asked.
“That’s me,” I said.
“Here,” he replied, handing me the package that Sean and Libby had overnighted.
After I signed for the delivery, he started walking away from me.
“Wait!” I stopped him.
“Yes?” he said.
“Who told you who I was?” I questioned.
“Nobody,” he said, beginning to look confused.
I asked him, “Then how did you know it was me?”
“I . . . I don’t know. Somehow, I knew. I looked at you, and I knew. Come to think of it, there are hundreds of people around here. Wait a minute, I have no clue how this happened!” he exclaimed in bewilderment.
Confounded at the experience, I called Libby. “It was hand- delivered!”
“I know,” she said.
“No, I mean miraculously, impossibly HAND-DELIVERED!” I yelled in amazement.
“I know,” she repeated. “Welcome to a larger world. Now may I have my angel back, please?”
I thought to myself, “You mean this is real?” Even with that, I couldn’t bring myself to talk to anyone from the other side.
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Isn’t that stretching it quite a bit? There’s no justification to impute an extraordinary supernatural explanation for what happened. Reminds me of the people who love to tell others how St. Therese gives them roses all the time. What about the people who pray to her and don’t get roses? Human nature forms patterns and even construes patterns of meaning where no meaning lies. Talking about faith and prayer and intercession and supernatural like it’s magical Harry Potter sure-thing stuff doesn’t help people, especially not people who are suffering. Like those who say, “God is good,” after they experience a windfall or get a beneficial opportunity… what about those who haven’t been so lucky? Why isn’t God as good to them? So more than just anecdotes that can be given a natural explanation are necessary if you want this sort of thing to be taken seriously.
A life consumed by Jesus is one where what others believe is extraordinary becomes ordinary. Delivering a package, in hand, is a rather simple task for the angels who serve the God Who Rose from the Dead. One can only judge based on his or her own experiences and prayers. Only God can truly move your heart/soul. It’s the submission to God (Trust in Him) that is the miracle, not the hand-delivered package. God bless you for your inquisition. Only those who present questions receive answers.
very inspiring to read about Ian Murphy revelation about the communion of Saints thanks.In Africa is even communion with the ancestors
“Isn’t that stretching it quite a bit? There’s no justification to impute an extraordinary supernatural explanation for what happened. Reminds me of the people who love to tell others how St. Therese gives them roses all the time. What about the people who pray to her and don’t get roses?”
I’ve received roses from St. Therese on a few occasions. Sure, there can be natural explanations for events like that. And God also tends to work within the natural world He created.
He could choose to directly drop roses from Heaven to land at our feet.
He could inspire a non-Catholic lady (one who had no acquaintance with St. Therese or novenas) to randomly stop at a street corner in a sketchy neighborhood that they’d usually avoid stopping in at all. Then buy a little yard rose from an elderly street vendor because they felt suddenly moved that there was a reason they needed to bring a rose to their coworker who,( completely unbeknownst to them), was making a novena which ended on that day, St. Therese’s feast day.
I think the 2nd scenario which I experienced was the greater witness of the Communion of Saints because it involved more cooperation to make it happen. And it certainly was a witness to the other non-Catholic employees when I explained the background story.
Perhaps one day St. Therese will pull some strings with a Higher Authority to drop us those roses straight from Heaven. But meanwhile she uses us as her floral delivery people.
And you know, our prayers aren’t quarters in a celestial vending machine, guaranteed to deliver the goods we ask for. Even human parents know that sometimes their children want junk food & we have to say no because we love them & we know better.
Mscracker, that analogy of God being a parent who won’t give his kids junk food is frequently given to placate people whose prayers aren’t answered, maybe even to make them feel like they should be ashamed for asking for what’s not good for them, but the analogy fails miserably because God is the father of all human beings and he quite obviously does give junk food to some of his children. Witness George Soros, Nancy Pelosi, Bill and Hillary Clinton, the Obamas, Joe Biden, Jeff Bezos, Jeffrey Epstein, many Hollywood bigwigs and celebrities… the list is endless. So explain why God gives ample junk food to some of his children if it’s not good for them instead of denying junk food to all his children?
Material gains can be a blessing or a curse depending upon how we make use of them and the degree of our attachment to them.
So you’re saying God has nothing to do with it… it’s just what we do.
Wonderful story about the reality of guardian angels! Thank you Dr. Ian!
A God of truth , mercy and holiness , all as One , In God ,even like a ray of light that has the infrared , visible and U V spectrum – the latter having more subdivides- ? like the attributes of The Spirit, through whom has been revealed the reported powerful benefits of Far U.V light , against infections . 🙂
Evils come into our lives through the kingdom of death spirits and those that are under them ; God desiring in His Kingdom , for holy angels and saints, persons with Godly wisdom , to have a powerful roles – a reflection of His goodness , often in
very gentle manner , like the incident in the article .
Feast of Pentecost around us and the mention of the strong winds , yet , how so gentle , when we consider the strength of The Spirit – pardon one favorite recollection of same , still beyond reach of our human minds to grasp – of an earth being moved at 18 miles a second and how so little of same we perceive ! 🙂
May that Spirit help to drown away every chariot of the armies of evil holds around nations and persons , to instead lift us up, into ever deeper , mightier thunder of praise , in union , for the holiness He desires to pour into us through The Bread and Wine lifted up in countless Holy Masses and the unity there in with the countless , that is moving the whole universe closer to The Father ,in hearts set free from every curse and hatred against The Father and the related myriads of evil floods .
Sat . 11.30 EST , reciting the Rosary with the Holy Father , thanking The Lord , for taking on our earthly human nature through The Mother and with all who are of her , to thus also counter every lying accusing tongue that scorns the sacredness of life and its God given roles and destiny .
Glory be !
I was born and raised a Baptist too and had my doubts about communion with the saints…except that there are two passages from the Bible that support communion with the saints: Matt. 18:20 – there is communion with Jesus in collective prayer and Matt. 17:3 – yes, even Jesus prayed with the saints. As a Married-into-an-Irish-Catholic-Family convert my faith has been strengthened by praying with the saints. And the wonderful, beauty of it all is that I can pray with my saintly deceased father and other saintly relatives who were inspirations to me as to how to be a good Christian man. So, why not ask the saints to pray with you when you know they are live but just not here anymore? “Roll back the tombstone, let the saints appear, roll back the tombstone and make a new man out of me.” – Neil Finn, (The band ‘Crowded House’).
But how do you know they do anything?
Pardon , for answering uninvited , think it is St.John Paul 11 and St.Faustina wanting to be more of your friends and letting me be the blessed donkey to thus do this sharing 🙂 –
Reading the popular Diary of Divine Mercy , even repeatedly / at random , one means , help see how vivid and complex spiritual life and experiences are , including the part of saints .