Is it possible to see Angels on earth? I believe it is — no matter what your faith or systems of beliefs hold — and I’ll tell you why. After John Cardinal O’Connor died of brain cancer in New York City in 2000, Janna and I found ourselves outside Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. We saw a snaking line of mourners outside the beautiful and towering French Gothic church at Madison and 50th-51st.

Saint Patricks Cathedral

We were both starving for something to eat. Even though our stomachs were rumbling, and even though we were not Catholic, we gave in to the irresistible urge to fall in line with those there to pay their last respects to Cardinal O’Connor. It was an “of the moment decision” that would end up staying with us long after the instant was over.

Cardinal O’Connor was a tough, charismatic, man who believed in life and God and Christ and his intellectual character was a powerful political and spiritual force in all of New York. As the cancer ate him up from the inside out, he soldiered onward. He refused to be defeated despite losing his body. His final days in the public eye were hard to watch but easy to respect. It was Cardinal O’Connor who said, “The Catholic Church is not a buffet. You do not pick and choose what to believe. You take it all, or you take nothing.”

He believed any Catholic who supported abortion deserved excommunication. That hard stance made him the flashpoint for the argument between life and death and in the morality of living a disciplined life. You may not have agreed with Cardinal O’Connor, but you respected the deep logic of his faith put into the practice of his life and teaching.

As the line crept closer to Cardinal O’Connor’s body inside church, we were amazed to see how beautiful the cathedral looked inside. Cardinal O’Connor was dressed in full burial regalia and there was an amber glow that washed over the arches and the mourners.

Inside Saint Patrick's Cathedral

It was then, in the moment between stopping to ponder on the life of Cardinal O’Connor and the pressing flow of the line, when I saw something out of the corner of each eye. I could only see this movement of spirit by looking directly at Cardinal O’Connor’s body.

If I averted my eyes, the excitement vanished. It was the same sort of eye mastery required for good night vision: If you want to see something in the dark, don’t look directly at it — put what you want to see in your periphery, relax your eyes into an unfocused state and everything becomes sharper and clearer despite the dark and the lack of directed purpose.

As I gazed at Cardinal O’Connor — John Cardinal O'Connorwho was whiter and thinner in death than he had ever been in life — I began to sense the outline of two tremendous Angels standing guard on either side of him. They were female and their faces were full and round and pink with life.

The Angels hovered in the air above him. Both were dressed in heavy, but flowing, crimson robes with golden trim. They were each carrying glimmering Shepherd’s Crooks.

Their Angel hair, as if made of sunbeams, poked out of white hoods in blonde ringlets. The Angels were the most beautiful things I had ever seen on earth and they were real and they were alive. As I moved my eyes from Cardinal O’Connor to steal a better glimpse at the Angels, they each plainly looked at me and wondered together if I could see them or not.

When I smiled at them, they nodded and disappeared. I tried to unfocus my eyes again on Cardinal O’Connor and reconnect with the Angels, but they were gone. I was pushed back into the reality of New York as one of the besotted church staff yelled at us to “Keep Moving!”

We were each handed a laminated John Cardinal O’Connor “baseball card” with his image on one side and all his religious vital statistics on the other as a final good-bye from the church and the workers who were there to bring order to misery, shuffled us along the line and, finally, out the door.

I asked Janna if she saw the Angels guarding Cardinal O’Connor. She had not. As we walked home on the hard streets of New York, I felt great inner warmth in knowing what I saw was not a vision or a dream but an Angelic reality as powerful as John Cardinal O’Connor’s bedrock belief that faith is not a buffet. I was no longer hungry.

52 Comments

  1. David- i was very skeptical of the whole angel phenomenon sweeping thru the new age movement in ’95. i was fully saturated with angels and new age music and looked at both as saccharin. Taking a photograph of what i thought was an abstract pattern (liking abstraction and natural patterns) i was suprised when the photo came back with a face on it. Happy to see the face i showed it to my wife hoping she would see it. She not only saw the face, but saw a body, wings, tail and said it looked like an angel. At first i thought that this was a strange comment as she too used to put down the whole angel phenomenon saturating commercial markets. After intentionally seeking other pareidolia, i started to see this angel photo as an actual angel given to me that could possibly start some communication with the outside world that seemed to be lacking from my life, and could possibly change the way the world looked at things also. The first photo eneded up being the start of the series of 500 shadow pareidolia that followed, and was the beginning of my acceptance by the outer world as a person having some value. It was eventually published with 8 otherphotos in Raw Vision magazine in 2004/5. i know this sounds self promoting, but i felt it was appropriate. Thanks.

  2. Thanks, Fred, that’s quite a fine story.
    When I originally wrote this I use the word “vision” to describe the Angels — but I realized that isn’t what I experienced. What happened to me was not a vision. I experienced something otherworldly and vibrant and alive and definitely had the feeling I was not supposed to experience what I saw.

  3. David- “otherworldly and vibrant and alive,” definitely fits my discription of a “vision.” William Blake described it as light enetering the soul. If it had the look of what Van Gogh must have seen when he painted “Starry Night” it has all the earmarks of a vision. Why you felt you weren’t supposed to experience this, you would know better than i.

  4. Hi Fred —
    Visions to me are not real. They are only of the mind. They do not have a physical form. The Angels were there. They were not imagined. They were not a vision.
    I wasn’t supposed to experience the Angels because they were there for Cardinal O’Connor’s protection, not my amusement – but, because of some kind of momentary rip in the time and space continuum — I was able to see them for an instant and when the Angels recognized my witnessing them in the flesh, they left.

  5. I don’t think Mother’s Intuition is any special, Dave. If a mother isn’t tuned into her kids on a psychic level then she isn’t much of a mother.
    Thinking comes from the mind, but knowing comes from the body, and my experience with the Angles was knowing something I know I wasn’t supposed to be a part of in the first place.

  6. That’s interesting, Dave. I had a similar sensation when I was in high school and Jesse Jackson was in the Cornhusker Hotel in Lincoln. He got off the elevator and walked toward me alone — back then you didn’t need a bodyguard entourage — and you could just feel the essence of him flooding out of his body. After the moment passed I could not help thinking to myself, “That is a man touched by God.”
    The core into the experience at St. Patrick’s was definitely retina-centric. It was a seeing that went beyond body perception.

  7. I think there’s a great power of the universe out there, Dave that we have yet to understand. Some call that energy God or Allah or Nirvana or the Devil or whatever — I claim the specifics and the label doesn’t matter. All that matters is there is a greater energy out there waiting for us not to understand it, but to use for our betterment.

  8. This is a different topic than usual today. I’m popping out but I had a similar experience when I was younger. My absent minded mother and I were in Manhattan visiting during the holidays. Bunches of people were all crowded together and pushing and shoving to cross the street.
    My mother wasn’t paying attention and stepped off the curb into incoming traffic. I froze. I didn’t know what to say or do because if I followed her the on coming cars would hit me, too.
    Someone in the crowd reached out and put a hand on my mother’s shoulder just enough to get her attention and she jumped back up on the curb just as a livery cab was aiming for her and zoomed by us.
    I looked for that person who saved my mother but the light changed and everyone started moving forward to cross the street.
    My mother was not an emotional or warm person. When we reached the other side she looked down at me and said, “That was my guardian angel.” Her face told me she knew how close to death she’d come. We never talked about it again.

  9. Hi Anne!
    Thanks for sharing your story and I always appreciate it when you can pop in during the day and drop a comment!
    These Guardian Angel stories are always fascinating. Janna’s mom had a similar experience when she was visiting New York and stepped out into oncoming traffic! I wonder if these are common NYC stories or Angel stories?
    😀
    Anyway, Janna’s mom was more yanked back than touched, but the experience for her was still just as moving.

  10. Being full-body aware is a full time job, Anne. It’s kind of funny to watch people who are so unaware of all the elements and life swirling around them. No one would ever be lonely again if they knew just how unalone we really are.
    😀

  11. A friend sent me this article yesterday.
    Story in the Stockton Record last week called, “Meth Takes a Son”. A 21 year old was being chased by the police and had a bad head on crash. As they were helicoptoring him to the hospital………….(cut to his home)………
    The boys Mother, father, and sister were home in their house, when all of a sudden the Mother blurts out, “I want my Mother!!”. The husband and sister looked at her like she was nuts. “What’s that all about”, they asked. “I don’t know” said the Mother, “it just came out of me.”……..
    The boy died but screamed for his Mother before he died in the helicopter.

  12. Hi Fred!
    Yes, now imagine if everyone would make that kind of “wireless” — but hardcoded — connection with each other?
    We get tastes of it when we think of someone and they call us or when we answer the phone and know who it is without looking at Caller ID first. This “sense memory” is important for everyone to explore.
    That kind of electricity was at play when my friend and mentor Marshall called me:
    http://urbansemiotic.com/2006/01/24/attempting-death/

  13. David- “The Web of Life,” is a great book. In it, he describes how the universe is like a web wherein we are in touch with the whole universe as is a spider in touch with it’s web. i like his stance that life is less a competative struggle for survival than a triumph of cooperation and creativity.

  14. Fred — I think it is a stretch to associate quantum entanglement with telepathy… there isn’t even a working theory as to how “spooky action at a distance” can be used to transfer information at all, it’s really just an intriguing observation.

  15. Hiya Nicola!
    That’s interesting the dead don’t find you. Is that by choice or happenstance?
    You should also add to your reading list Carl Sagan’s outstanding books “The Demon Haunted World” and “Pale Blue Dot” for incredible insight into the mysteries of the of us all.

  16. Hi David,
    Excellent post!
    I’m somewhat rushed right now — I was out of the office most of the day and am getting ready to run out to a meeting and a little party after that, but I’m going to come back and put an extended comment when I get the chance.

  17. intepid- Previous “stretches.”
    1. The sun is the center of our solar system.
    2. The earth is roughly spherical, not flat. (even though anyone in a lake could see it.)
    3. Van Gogh is a great artist.
    Some of the stretches expanded peoples minds enough so they could get the general public to accept these views.
    Einstein’s term “spooky” may one say show that in some cases, Einstein was no “Einstein.” (That would be spooky and quantumesque).
    see Bell – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bell_test_experiments

  18. David,
    So what are these angels then? If not from God, what does it mean. Angels with wings, halos, pale light clothing. From the love of God. Loving this old cardinal?
    I admit, I am an atheist. But it troubles me to read a post like this from a seemingly very enlightened person like yourself.
    You wrote:
    “It was Cardinal O’Connor who said, “The Catholic Church is not a buffet. You do not pick and choose what to believe. You take it all, or you take nothing.”
    There is no such things as the whole package. The Catholic faith is not holistic. There are interpretations and the religions has changed and transformed over the last 2000 years.
    Believing in angels is a weird mix of archaic belief and new age sentiments.
    I am sure you were squinting your eyes and wanted to see something. You have a need to believe in this. I hardly believe it to be reality.
    It saddens me to see what religion does to people and how some (!) people of the Catholic faith abuses people, tries to deny women their right of abortion choice, how children at the same time is being molested and the Church covering it up, how the wage religious invasions in Africa, because they have a segment of people here who can be more easily impressed. How religion incl. the Catholic faith is the perpetrator of so much evil and so little good.
    Sorry to be in disagreement…
    D.

  19. Draccan —
    I try not to judge the experiences that are presented to me. I allow them to wash over me and I evaluate them later.
    Cardinal O’Connor’s point about Catholicism not being a buffet is that you cannot be Catholic and choose to believe only pieces of the catechism. You either believe in the whole or you believe in nothing. His point was that there were many people, especially in NYC at that time, who identified themselves Catholic through tithing but who also had and supported abortion and repeatedly got divorced and who do not attend church or indoctrinate their children in the faith enough. I understand his point even though it is a hard one. Catholicism demands unquestioning blind faith in the teachings of the church and to doubt one bit of it is to not be Catholic.
    I am surprised by the comments this article is creating. I thought for sure this would have been a Chris and A S dominated comments stream, but it was instead filled with Fred and Dave’s fascinating analysis.
    As well, we haven’t heard from you in a long while, yet this post poked you enough to place a comment here.
    It just goes to prove, once again, how one cannot predict how or why a post will gain footing in some people or not.

  20. Very probably David!
    Rule man is coming New Year – I will update on those rules after I have spoken to him – he will no doubt be able to point me in the right direction.
    Budgie and helicopter proving more elusive – remember the hard drive crash ……… hope is resting on the super hard drive restorer who is under instruction to try and recover the picture files and not worry about anything else.
    I have spoken to Sue and Matthew over at http://seminars.torontoghosts.org/blog/ about why some people can see and others cannot – they were not able to give me any definative answers either.

  21. Hello David,
    That I stumbled in here is merely by coincidence. Or rather, it is a coincidence that I am here at this moment rather than another. Work stuff kept me off from spending time on blogs…
    I am here though as I find many of your posts interesting though I often have an opposite point of view.
    I think everyone has their right to speak about whatever is on their mind.
    I just really wonder, what makes you so special that you see angels and I don’t? Or the person next in line to you?
    My fundamental problem with religion that nothing is based on fact but all on belief.
    Admittedly I am provocating a bit in my post, but isn’t that how you start a healthy discussion?
    I understand perfectly well, even before your elaboration what was the point of the cardinal, but this is where the alarm flashes goes off in my head.
    You mention yourself how he was a political force too. And I think with the power the church invests on him comes responsibility. And the Catholic church is doing so much wrong all over the world, that surely there must be bigger issues than abortion or divorce.
    I find it contradictory that on one hand one can hide in beliefs and call it “my personal belief” whenever it is convenient and yet go out and critisize other people’s personal choice.
    Another thing that makes me cringe about your story is how it uses all the conventions for explaining the experience. Of course the robes are crimson with gold rim. You noticed the gold rim huh?
    And the hair as light. They were hovering. Had shephard’s crooks, and were the most beautiful thing you ever saw. Yet your girlfriend didn’t see them. And most other people, for what we know.
    These descriptions are like taken straight out of the John’s gospel or whatever you call it. Guess it most be true then huh?
    You present your experiences here, not just for evaluation later, but for all of us to chip in. And I just did so. C’est simple, n’est-ce pas?
    It wasn’t just for (online) friends to clap your back in awe was it? ;-))
    D.

  22. Draccan- You seem to be confusing religion with “organized religion.” The latter has much in common with “belief” (non-first hand experience), and “superstition” i admit. (i do not follow any organized religion). The former is not ex nihilo, and had it’s organic roots in animism, shamanism and many say entheogenic ingestation, which some refer to as “plants of the gods.” If one, as most today, has never experienced these roots which grew into organized religion it is easy to thow the “baby out with the bathwater,” and embrace skepticism, science, and the cold sterile Descartian split which divides man from her/it’s/his environment, and the split dividing woman/man/animal/mineral from “God,” as well as the division of matter and “spirit.”To KNOW that there is “no god” as atheists claim is as great a “belief system” and “superstition” and often more arogant than many professing organized religious beliefs. How can one know something isn’t? Many scientists (post Descartian) now believe there are 10 or 11 dimensions, 5 or 6 we have no senses or instruments to contact. Perhaps “God” hides there except for rare quantum leaps into our 4 dimensions. How can one know anything, least of all that there is no “god” ? Scientists do not even know if matter exists, which is the whole basis of the material belief system.
    One can see not only angels first hand as clearly as one sees “material,” but “auras,” “karma,” and “the presence and communication of what has been called “God.” On my part i am speaking from first hand experience and has nothing to do with “belief.” It makes me no more special, just someone who felt as if he choose to seek, even if i don’t even stictly believe in “choice.” When i found, it wasn’t even through seeking, but because i had seeked. It was a gift of “God,” -as is everything, including life.

  23. David, putting aside all discussion of politics and religion (and the old saw of atheism as a belief system), I see something in Draccan’s post that I think is worthy of a response:
    “You noticed the gold rim huh?”
    Even if you saw “something” your detailed description makes it pretty obvious you are embellishing, and to me undermines your story. Sensing their detailed appearances with your mind, you are really just saying you imagined it.
    Many years ago I was in a forest, and I saw a bright light in the sky above the trees and heard a strange alien sound, but rather than tell everyone I saw a spaceship I am content to accept that, frustrating as it might be, I did not see enough to know what it was that I witnessed.

  24. You are misinterpreting my story, intepid. I was quite clear I saw the Angels in my peripheral vision:

    If you want to see something in the dark, don’t look directly at it — put what you want to see in your periphery, relax your eyes into an unfocused state and everything becomes sharper and clearer despite the dark and the lack of directed purpose.

    I even looked straight at the Angels:

    As I moved my eyes from Cardinal O’Connor to steal a better glimpse at the Angels, they each plainly looked at me and wondered together if I could see them or not. When I smiled at them, they nodded and disappeared. I tried to unfocus my eyes again on Cardinal O’Connor and reconnect with the Angels, but they were gone.

    You are both forcing an accusation that isn’t valid. The fact I am able to describe them in detail in the re-telling of a story that isn’t happening in real time tells me you are not carefully reading the story in context but coloring conclusions with your own prejudices.

  25. Apologies David, but you made the original point about peripheral vision very clearly, so I didn’t quite pick up on the point at which you could suddenly see them straight on.
    My prejudices are based on experience, because I frequently observe people screwing up the retelling of even the most banal happenings, let alone the extraordinary ones. I try to resist the temptation to do so myself, but can’t say I’m always successful. We humans are very good at fooling ourselves.

  26. Hi David,
    I meant to write on this subject a little earlier, but I got caught up in other posts and with some work related things and didn’t get a chance until now.
    I’ve never seen an angel, but I’ve had a couple of experiences that have made me wonder what lies beyond the realm of our earthly existence.
    Back in the 1980s, my brother and I were listening to my parents’ John Lennon’s Double Fantasy album during a lazy summer afternoon.
    Here’s what I wrote last year:

    (I)n the summer of 1982 or 1983, my brother and I were hanging out at home during the summer. We were listening to various albums on the turn table as we enjoyed the seemingly endless summer of riding bikes, visiting friends, and relaxing at home while our parents were at work.
    We had our line-up of albums to play that afternoon. My dad’s turntable had an arm that would allow several records to be stacked up. When one album finished, the next would drop down. Hours could be spent listening to music without having to change a record.
    We had finished listening to our usual assortment of Foreigner, Journey, Ozzy Osbourne, when we decided to listen to Double Fantasy. I liked the song (Just Like) Starting Over, so it was probably me who selected the album. My brother was more inclined to crank up AC/DC during those days.
    While we were listening to (Just Like) Starting Over, an ashtray in our living room exploded. It cracked in the middle and split into two pieces.
    I don’t know why it happened, but it freaked my brother and me out.
    Was it John Lennon’s spirit?

    In the mid-1980s, my brother was riding in a car that crashed in a one-car accident while jumping hills. My brother and another guy survived. The driver and another guy were mortally injured when the car careened out of control and ran off the road after going airborne.
    My mom worked for the local hospital, so she got a call to come down to the ER right after the ambulance brought my brother in for emergency care.
    I stayed at home because my parents didn’t know what to expect and they probably wanted to shield me from having to go to the emergency room. My mom said later that she assumed the worst when they refused to tell her anything more than come down to the hospital.
    A short time after my parents left, I was waiting near the phone for a call with any news about what was happening and heard something upstairs in my brother’s room.
    My brother’s radio had turned on full blast by itself. I don’t have a logical explanation for why the radio would activate on its own, but I always wonder if it was a sign from one of my brother’s friends.

  27. Chris!
    Thanks for commenting on this article! I’ve been waiting for you usual fascinating analysis and you didn’t disappoint!
    Your examples of a supernatural power at work that is beyond our understanding is important and valuable. There are highly explosive powers and energies all around us waiting for exploitation and interpretation and you showed us just why we need to welcome those experiences instead of wondering them away.