Dear Friends of the Kolbe Center,
Seven hundred and fifty years before the Incarnation of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Prophet Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would give sight to the blind (Isaiah 35:5). Since we have been spoiled by living in a Christian – although now more properly a post-Christian civilization – for many centuries, in which Our Lord has restored sight to the blind on innumerable occasions through the prayers that Saints have offered in His Name, we tend to take the miracle of the gift or restoration of sight to the blind for granted. In doing this, we forget that for the entire period of four thousand years from creation to the coming of the Holy Redeemer, there was not a single recorded instance of any blind person receiving his sight through the prayers of another person. Indeed, the only miracle involving the restoration of sight to the blind in the entire Old Testament is that of the restoration of sight to Tobit, but that was not accomplished through the prayers of a prophet. Hence, the miracles of restoration of sight to the blind performed by Our Lord Jesus Christ did much to establish His identity as the promised Messiah and Redeemer of mankind. In this newsletter, I would like to reflect on a few of the most celebrated miracles of restoration of sight to the blind in modern times, to show how they refute some of the most common evolution-based misconceptions about the physical basis for the higher powers of the soul, including free will.
The Word of God agrees with common sense, that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” However, even in the minds of theists, evolutionary presuppositions lead to the conclusion that the human eye was formed gradually through an undirected step-by-step process. Tragically, the acceptance of such a false conclusion blinds the medical expert or scientist to the overwhelming evidence that the eye cannot be understood apart from the whole body of which it is a part or apart from the soul which is the form of that body. When Our Lord Jesus Christ healed Bartimaeus, a man “born blind,” He did not set in motion a gradual natural process of healing. He instantaneously communicated to Bartimaeus all that was necessary for him to see with the same acuity as a person with perfectly normal eyes, brain and nervous system – someone who had passed through the normal stages that any healthy person must pass through when learning to see. Clearly, the God who is revealed in Our Lord Jesus Christ is very different from the evolutionary god who evolves eyes step by step over long periods of time, through a wasteful and destructive process of mutation and natural selection.
Although the Holy Gospels record a number of miracles of sight, one of them is of particular interest to us here, as it highlights the fact that every miracle of sight actually requires two distinct but related miracles. In the Gospel of Mark, the Evangelist tells us that Our Lord touched a blind man who then said that he saw something “like trees walking around” (Mark 8:23). Our Lord then touched him again, and the blind man could see perfectly. Some commentators attribute this singular two-step miracle to the blind man’s lack of faith. But there is no indication in the text that the man’s faith was lacking. Nor is there any example in the four Gospels where Our Lord failed to heal a person completely because of his lack of faith. A better explanation therefore is that Our Lord wanted to demonstrate – perhaps for our skeptical, faithless, and arrogant generation! – that there are actually two distinct miracles involved in every supernatural gift or restoration of sight to the blind.
The first miracle is the instantaneous repair of the physical hardware that provides the material basis for sight. The second miracle is the instantaneous infusion into the blind man of the experiential knowledge that allowed him to effortlessly use that physical hardware to see. I once knew a young a man whose father was a famous surgeon who surgically restored sight to many of his blind patients. The young man told me that quite a few of his father’s blind patients became mentally ill after receiving their sight because the operation had given them the physical hardware to see, but they had not acquired the experiential knowledge to effortlessly use that physical hardware – and they found it very difficult to adjust overnight to the exercise of a power that humans normally learn to use gradually over an extended period of time. Our Lord’s two-step miracle demonstrates to our skeptical generation that He had to instantaneously fix the blind man’s hardware andinfuse into him the experiential knowledge of how to use that hardware to restore his sight completely. And this would have been exactly the same kind of supernatural action that Our Lord had to perform in the beginning when He created Adam and Eve as mature human beings and infused into them the knowledge of how to use their sight and all of their senses, without their having to go through the natural process of learning to use their senses, which is a normal part of human development in the natural order of things.
The Embodied Soul Uses the Brain to See
Another important truth denied by evolution-based modern philosophy and confirmed by Our Lord’s miraculous restoration of sight to the blind is that none of the marvelous physical processes that take place in the eye can really explain vision, which is essentially an activity of the spiritual soul. Indeed, the Catholic realist philosophical tradition holds that we can know the objective reality of the things around us, not merely our own perceptions of them. In keeping with this realist tradition, the Gospels and the Sacred Tradition of the Church testify to the fact that human beings do not really see with their eyes, or with their brains, but with their spiritual souls. It is no coincidence that a number of the most celebrated miracles of sight in modern times refute the common notion that human beings “see” with their “brains” and that the higher powers of man would not exist without a physical brain.
Consider the case of Madame Marie Bire’ who was diagnosed with an atrophied optic nerve and permanent blindness before visiting Our Lady’s Shrine at Lourdes in 1908. After attending the Holy Mass, Mme. Bire’s sight was completely restored, but when medical experts examined her they found that her optic nerve was still non-functional! She could see without the physical equipment necessary for sight! (Eventually, her optic nerve returned to normal. But the well-documented fact remains – human vision cannot be reduced to a physical process requiring certain physical components.) Clearly, the three-dimensional world that Mme. Bire’ saw without an optic nerve is real, and it was possible for her – as it is for us – to have direct knowledge of that world in her mind, with or without the medium of her physical body.
Now let’s look at two other miracles of sight, involving St. Padre Pio of Pietralcina. Here we see a photograph of Gemma Di Giorgio, the famous “girl without pupils.” When Gemma was three months old, her mother took her to a famous eye specialist who told her mother that Gemma had no pupils and that she would never be able to see. In 1946, when Gemma was seven, she was taken to San Giovanni Rotondo to make her first Confession and Holy Communion with Padre Pio. Gemma received Padre Pio’s blessing, and later began to be able to see – without pupils! – once again proving that human vision cannot be reduced to the workings of the physical equipment normally used for sight.
Gemma DiGiorgio: The “Girl Without Pupils”
Finally, consider the case of Giovanni Savino, a spiritual son of St. Padre Pio who lived and worked in San Giovanni Rotondo. Giovanni was a construction worker whose eyes were terribly damaged by a dynamite explosion on February 15, 1949. Witnesses who examined Giovanni immediately after the accident testified that his right eye had been completely destroyed. Nothing was left of it – while the left eye had been badly injured.
It was three days before Savino regained consciousness, with his entire head and face bandaged. He was told that it might be possible to save the left eye, but that the right eye was “completely gone.”
In the meantime, Padre Pio was asking everyone he knew to pray for Giovanni for three days. He exposed the Blessed Sacrament in behalf of the blinded man. He was heard to pray, “Lord, I offer You one of my eyes for Giovanni, because he’s the father of a family.”
At 12:30 or 1 in the morning of February 25, Giovanni Savino was awake, praying the Rosary, when he smelled the “aroma of paradise.” To the heavy smoker, it smelled like tobacco. He felt three slaps on his forehead and understood that it was Padre Pio near him. He actually felt the tightness of the bedclothes caused by someone standing against the bed. “Give me my sight, Padre Pio, or let me die,” he said. “I cannot live like this.“
Later that morning the ophthalmologist came to examine Giovanni Savino’s left eye. When the doctor took the bandages off Giovanni immediately said, “I can see you!” “Turn, so you can see me with your left eye,” said the doctor. “No, I see you with my right eye. I don’t see anything out of my left eye.” The doctor insisted that he was seeing out of the left eye, as the right one was totally destroyed.
After further examination, it was clear that Savino spoke the truth. He was blind in the eye from which the shrapnel had been removed, but he was seeing perfectly from the eye that had been shattered to a bloody jelly. Completely astounded, the ophthalmologist, who up to that time had been an atheist, exclaimed, “Now I too believe, because this has happened right before me.”
Correlation and Causation Are Two Different Things
A little reflection on these miracles suffices to show that they not only refute the common notion that the higher powers of the soul depend on the brain. They also refute another common misconception regarding the relationship between the brain and the higher activities of the soul. According to this popular view, since neuroscientists have empirically demonstrated that brain activity correlates with certain thoughts, words, and actions, therefore the brain determines our thoughts, words, and actions. This non sequitur then leads to the conclusion that since brain activity is a physical process that can be induced in the laboratory, “free will” is an illusion, since our thoughts, words, and actions are just the result of physical changes in our brain which, in turn, are the result of electrical and chemical changes in our bodies, elicited by our physical environment.
In the light of the Gospel and the authenticated miracles of healing in the lives of the Saints, we can easily see the folly of this kind of reasoning. The deniers of free will are like people who see that the keys of the piano move while music is being played, observe that the movements of the keys are correlated with specific movements of the fingers of piano players, and conclude that it is the fingers of the piano players that produce the music! In reality, it is the soul of the piano player that wills to move his fingers (thus eliciting the associated activity in his brain) – except in the case of a mechanical “player piano,” in which case it is the soul of the programmer who programs the piano to play the music! It is neither the piano player’s brain activity nor his fingers that “cause” the notes of the piano to sound – any more than it is the electro-chemical activity in the brain that produces the thoughts, words, or actions of any human being.
Finally, the miracles of sight mentioned above also expose the folly of so much evolution-driven modern philosophy which holds that there is no such thing as objective reality and that all that we can see, sense, or know are the subjective productions of our own minds. Madame Bire’ could see trees, birds, and stars, without any physical mechanism to send a light-signal from those external phenomena to her brain, because it was her soul that saw them in their objective reality, without the need for a brain or physical senses. And that is why saints who have left their bodies in genuine mystical experiences authenticated by the Church have also been able to see trees, birds and stars – because their disembodied souls saw those things in their objective reality.
Through the prayers of the Mother of God and of all the Saints, may God restore our common sense, and our faith in the immortality of the soul, in the infinite value of every human being, and in the infinite value of all of our acts united to Christ, through Mary.
Yours in Christ through the Immaculata, in union with St. Joseph,
P.S. We are delighted to announce the publication of Cornelius a Lapide’s magnificent commentary on the first three chapters of the Book of Genesis. The translation and publication of this commentary is the latest in a series of on-going efforts by the Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation to demonstrate that the literal historical interpretation of Genesis enjoys the support, not only of all of the Apostles, Fathers and Doctors of the Church, but of the greatest Catholic exegetes of the last 500 years. Lapide was an exegete in the tradition of the Fathers of the Church who combined exceptional learning with great sanctity. His interpretation of the first three chapters of the book of Genesis draws upon three thousand years of Hebrew and Catholic exegesis, revealing an intimate knowledge of all of the major commentaries on the Bible of the Latin and Greek Fathers and Doctors. This magnificent work ought to destroy once and for all the absurd claim that protestant fundamentalist innovators invented the literal historical interpretation of Genesis 1-3.