I read an article the other day, written by a priest, questioning whether or not the word “bilocation” was a misnomer. The author was not denying that such miracles have occurred, but rather if, in fact, the saint so credited is actually in two places at the same time, or whether the vision of the one “seen” in the second place is seen intellectually rather than physically.
Citing Saint Thomas, the writer points out that an angel cannot be in more than one place at the same moment and he gives good Thomistic reasons why not. In other words, an angel cannot be acting in New York and Chicago, disconnectedly, at the same exact moment. An angel can act in a very large area, but that area must be contiguous. Too, an angel’s power and presence is limited and finite. One angel may be able to shake the whole earth (God knows), but not the whole solar system nor two planets at the same time. Therefore, the priest argues, a fiortiori, neither can one physical body be or act in two places at the same time. The question, then, we are limiting ourselves to, is the bilocation of physical bodies, specifically a living human body.
Before I proceed to delve into the miracle of bilocation (it is not a “problem”), in honor of the greatest of the angels whose feast day is tomorrow, I would like to post something a friend sent to me today. It is taken from Our Lady of the Rosary Library weekly messages:
According to the great St. Alphonsus Liguori, veneration of the holy Angels, and particularly of St. Michael, is an outstanding sign of predestination. St. Lawrence Justinian says: “Although we must honor all the Angels, we ought to invoke in a very special manner the glorious St. Michael, as the Prince of all the heavenly spirits, because of his sublime dignity, his pre-eminent office and his invincible power, which he proved in his conflict with Satan, as well as against the combined forces of Hell.” Again, the same Saint says: “Let all acknowledge St. Michael as their protector, and be devoted to him, for he cannot despise those who pray to him . . . But he guards them through life, directs them on their way and conducts them to their eternal home.”
Multiplication or Multilocation?
Perhaps, first, it might help to look at what is called the “multiplication” of the loaves and fish. I read a commentary once that argued that what Jesus did, based on the exact inspired language, was “multilocate” the five loaves and two fish, rather than multiply them by creating new bread and fish. He did this by way of a prefiguring of the Eucharist, where His one Body is in countless places. The five thousand were fed on the five loaves and two fish (Matt. 14:19) and the four thousand with seven loaves and a few fish (Matt. 15:36) as Christ’s members are fed by the one living Body of Jesus.
Now the saints who have been bilocated by a divine miracle are finite creatures, whereas the Body and Soul of Jesus are hypostatically united to a divine and eternal Person, who can do all things. So, could He do for a creature what He does in every consecrated Host? Could He bilocate Padre Pio? Or, as the Franciscan missionaries believed, could He bilocate Blessed Maria d’Agreda? When the mystic nun was asked by Franciscan missionaries who had returned from the New World to Spain if she had been transported to evangelize the Indians in the New Mexico area, she answered “Yes.” That is a miracle! At the same moment she was in her monastery, she was also teaching the Indians in America.
Is the Soul Bilocated?
What about the soul? Where is the soul in cases of bilocation, since the soul is the principle of life in one material and animate being. The more common opinion is that the soul would have to be vivifying the body of a saint, like Padre Pio, where the saint was acting, thinking, speaking, and moving. Such would have to have been the case where, among so many Padre Pio stories, there was the one where he was seen hearing a confession in Saint Peter’s basilica. To hear a confession validly, he would have to have been physically with the penitent in his body. An intellectual vision could not effect a sacrament. By the way, Pope Benedict XV (I think, it was) and Cardinal Merry Del Val were once very opposed to believing the reports coming to Rome about a young Capuchin stigmatist named Padre Pio. That was until a holy man, Don Orione, told Del Val and the Pope that he saw Padre Pio praying in Saint Peter’s crypt at the tomb of Pius X. So did the keeper of the keys who let Don Orione into the crypt.
Where the saint is active, the soul is active. Contrary to the opinion of the priest I referred to above — namely, that the vision of the bilocated one is merely intellectual — the body of the saint, I believe, is actually bi-located. But, while active in one place outside the monastery, the body that is at the monastery is, so to speak, sleeping, perhaps with just the sensitive part of the soul enlivening the body, whereas the spiritual, or intellectual part of the soul, is with the “other” acting body. Or else the inactive body is just soulless, but preserved from death, and in a state of in-animation, trance-like. If the latter is the case, then there is the question of the heart beating and the lungs breathing.
Reasonable Not Contradictory
The Good Lord knows the answer, and He is mighty in His saints. What we must insist upon, as we do in defending the Real Presence in the Eucharist, is that there is no contradiction in saying that One Body can be in more than one place at the same time. It is a miraculous mystery. Perhaps philosophy can help explain, not the mystery of course (or there’d be no mystery), but that the miracle, which surpasses nature, is still reasonable in the sense of not being a contradiction.
Con-Occupancy and Quantity
A perfect example of demonstrating the reasonableness of an event that is preternatural can be found in employing Aristotelian physics to demonstrate that two bodies occupying the same place at the same time is not a contradiction. We can use the Philosopher’s teaching on the accident of quantity to demonstrate that the impassability of the glorified bodies of the saints, after the resurrection, is not contradictory to the natural law that two bodies cannot occupy the same place at the same time. Impassibility is an attribute of the glorified body that surpasses the natural physical laws, but it does not contradict them. Impassibility is the inverse miracle of that which we believe is the case with bi or multi-location. The glorified body of Jesus and Our Lady are physical bodies that have, among other glorious attributes, impassibility. The body of Jesus passed through walls after His Resurrection. And, at times, even before His death and resurrection, He displayed the glory and impassibility of His human body. The first such manifestation, of course, was His being born of the Ever-Virgin Mary, and passing through her womb like light through a glass. Another occasion was when He “passed through” the angry mob in Nazareth when His enemies sought to throw Him off a cliff. In His Transfiguration, Our Lord was glorified, too, exhibiting both His physical clarity (resplendence) and subtlety (dominion over the heaviness of gravity).
How does Aristotle’s teaching on quantity lend itself to defending the reasonableness of the miracle of con-occupancy of two bodies in one place simultaneously? Well, first we must understand what quantity is. Quantity is an accident of a physical substance. It answers the question: How much? Quantity can be measured in weight, volume, mass, or circumscriptive extension. When Jesus passed through a wall with His glorified Body, something had to give; the lesser physical body had to surrender something to the Greater Body. What was surrendered? The substance of the wood or rock? No, the substance of the wall remained; it did not cease to be. But, the accidental quantity of the wall, its extension into space, had to move over, cease to be, so that the extended Body of Christ could pass through.
The Great Mystery of the Real presence
In the Holy Eucharist, the Body of Christ is substantially present, but without its quantity, in an un-extended state, without weight, mass, or volume. The accidents, however, of the bread and wine with their respective quantity and dimension exist in the Eucharist miraculously, without inhering in any substance. After the consecration at Mass, the substance of the bread and the wine in the chalice cease to exist, only the accidents remain. Substance changes into Substance, bread and wine into the Incarnate God.
Miracles cannot be explained by natural laws or they would not be miracles. Miracles defy the natural physical laws without presenting a contradiction. Miracles are from God; they are the effect of His direct interference for His own holy purposes with the physical law He created. In giving some exceptionally holy men and women the power to work miracles, He gives them a share in His Omnipotent Providence and Goodness. In distinguishing between problems and miracles, Father Feeney once quipped that problems are in need of solutions; miracles are for contemplation.