Not so long ago, I entered the Catholic Church on my hands and knees. Humbled by an atheistic life that was propelled by selfishness, materialism and lousy steering, I crashed into a wall. So groveling for God’s favor is an apt metaphor.
In time, I was able to find a direction for my life–and stand–because the teachings of the Church became my true bearing. Buttressed by crystalline religious truths that melted away my cynicism and doubts, I eventually learned to walk in faith.
The path has been wondrous.
However, there’s an aspect to the Catholic perspective that draws me back to my knees–in a good way. Like a wide-eyed child who sees a butterfly for the first time, I’m in awe of the mysterious interplay between the natural and the spiritual, where mystics and saints have supporting roles in humanity’s epic drama. Directed by God, of course. It’s faith reaffirming.
Yet, there are extraordinary moments–supernatural private revelations–when Mary, the Mother of God herself intercedes in a person’s life and graces them with a glimpse of the Divine. Is the following story such an instance?
Claude Newman, an illiterate African-American man born in 1923, murdered his beloved grandmother’s abusive husband in 1942. Stealing the man’s money, Claude fled but was captured in a short amount of time. He was returned to Mississippi, found guilty by a jury and sentenced to die in the electric chair. [Note – As to motive, Claude may have murdered this man because he was caught raping Claude’s wife.]
Awaiting execution, Claude passes the time in his cell block with four other men. One night, he notices a “trinket” around another prisoner’s neck, he asks about it, there’s an argument, and the trinket is thrown to the floor. “Take the thing,” the man says. Strangely compelled, Claude places it around his neck. He has no idea that it’s the Miraculous Medal of the Blessed Virgin Mary.