When I was seventeen I had a series of visions. For the first time in my life, however, the visions were really visual. I could see them.
They lasted for four nights. For the first three nights, I was awakened in the night, in my large, dark, four-poster bed, to see a nun standing serenely and silently at the end of my bed. She made no demand on me. She looked at me. I wondered if I were imagining that she looked at me with expectancy. Nothing about the experience disturbed me. I easily sunk back into my pillow and went back to sleep.
On the fourth night, the vision changed. Instead of the nun, a man appeared at the end of my bed. I didn’t know much, if anything, about appearances like this, so I just assumed, from the little I could call up into my thoughts in my sleepy-headed state, that it was Jesus. It had to be Jesus. Isn’t that what he did? Appear to people?
But this man did not look like the image of Jesus that I carried in my heart. There was no softness about him. There was no glow. Instead, there was intensity. A glaring, even. And he was not wearing a soft robe. Instead, he was very roughly garbed.
“It’s time to come do your work,” he snarled.
“No,” I replied. I was seventeen. I had had visions since I could walk. I had had enough time to watch the world, to see how people behaved, to experience how young people lived and laughed. I wanted to be like them. I wanted to be normal.
It’s funny how when you are young, you can believe in the concept of normalcy in people.
Years and years and years after this vision, still bothered somewhat about who this man that showed up and growled at me could be, I told this story to a priest I hoped would become my spiritual director.
He jumped up out of his chair, spread his arms out wide , and smiled at me. “It was John, the Baptist,” he cried out.
He was absolutely right. My whole body hummed in confirmation.
If I had known that it was John, the Baptist, my personal hero, who had come to call me, I would have leapt out of my bed and followed him right then and there. “Let’s go eat some bees,” would have been my response.
For John, the Baptist, my seventeen-year-old self would have looked over my shoulder and laughed at the idea of me being normal. Instead, it took me until last week to be able to do that.
It’s too bad that we don’t know what we should know at the time we should know it.
(Shortly after this event, I was offered two full college scholarships. They were both from Roman Catholic schools. I declined both offers.)