Thursday, September 23, 2010

The problem of bilocation

On the feast of Padre Pio, many good Catholics and also many non-Catholics and even atheists recall the stories of his miraculous bilocations. St. Pio of Pietrelcina was known to have bilocated many times throughout his life, a phenomenon which has become central to the telling of his mystical life. Of course, Padre Pio was not the only saint to have bilocated, but he is certainly the saint most commonly associated with the mysterious gift.
Without denying the fact of bilocation as a phenomenon, there is still some difficulty in explaining just what this event really is. By “bilocation,” do we mean that Padre Pio was present in two places at the same time? If yes, was he present both in his soul and in his body, or just in his soul? If just in his soul, was he materially present, having acted through a momentarily constructed physical body, or was his presence only a spiritual action visible only to the intellect?
What follows is more speculative than most of the writing on this blog. I offer this speculation neither to give any definitive answers nor to induce doubt, but rather to help us all wonder at the glories of God’s works.

The nature of the human soul
St. Thomas tells us that even the angels cannot be present in two places at the same time. Angels are present in a place by acting upon the matter in that place, but while they can act on a very large body of matter at one moment (thereby being present in a very large place), they cannot act on two discontinuous bodies of matter at the same moment. Thus, not even an angel can be present in the two cities of San Giovanni Rotondo and Loreto at the same moment. (cf. ST I, q.52, a.2)
Likewise, the human soul cannot act upon matter except through the body to which it is substantially united. The human soul cannot be present in a place in which its body is not present. This means that, if a man is in Italy, he cannot at the same time be in Germany. (cf. ST I, q. 76, a. 8) Just as the angelic soul cannot act upon two discontinuous bodies, neither can the human soul be present in one place through the body and act on another place outside of the body.
By this consideration of the nature the soul, it seems clear that Padre Pio could not be present in one place through his body while being present in another place through his soul only. Therefore, his bilocations cannot be the presence of his soul outside of his body. So, if through bilocation Padre Pio was present in two places at the same time, then he was present both in his body and his soul.
The nature of the human body
No material body can be present in two places at the same time. While a body can fill a place which is rather large, this place must be continuous and be only one place. The very nature of the material order requires that bodies be present in one and only one location. If the angelic soul cannot be present in two places at the same time, how much less the human body!
This means that Padre Pio could not have been present in two places in his own body. His body was one and could only be present in one continuous place at any one time. So, Padre Pio was not present, both body and soul, in San Giovanni Rotondo and in the Holy House of Mary at the same time. We have, however, already ruled out the possibility that he could be present in his body in one place while being present in his soul and outside his body in another place – neither the human nor the angelic soul can be present act on/in two discontinuous bodies at the same time. Therefore, it seems that Padre Pio, in bilocating, could not have been present in two places at once in either his body or his soul (or in both together).
The problem of bilocation
Perhaps bilocation is a miraculous work of God by which a man is able to immediately act upon the intellects of other men. In this respect he is spiritually (not physically) present to their souls. He is not present to their bodies, he is not really in two places, but he is acting on the soul of a man who is in another place.
There is no reason why one soul could not act upon numerous other souls, all in the same instant. St. Thomas explicitly states this when referring to the fall of Lucifer and the other angels – just as one man communicates his thoughts to many men all in the same moment (excepting only the time it takes for the sound to pass from his mouth to their ears), so too Satan communicated his wicked plans to many angels in only one moment. (cf. ST I, q.63, a.8)
Therefore, by a most wondrous work of God, it seems possible that Padre Pio could both be present in San Giovanni Rotondo (through his body and his soul) and at the same time be present to the people in Loreto (through his soul acting immediately upon their souls). Properly speaking, this would not be not bi-location; since he would then be present in only one place – though he would be acting upon persons who are in another (even far distant) place.
This immediate action upon others’ souls would not make his activity any less real, though it would make it immaterial. This would explain why not everybody could always see Padre Pio when he did bilocate (I understand this to have been the case) – for he would be seen only by the minds of those upon whom he acted.
A problem with the theory I have here proposed is that it seems to reduce bilocation to a sort of miraculous communication, rather than a miraculous presence. Indeed, as I mentioned, my theory would seem to deny the very notion of the word “bilocation” – though I might respond by saying that the Saint was present in one place and to the people in another place.
I have not offered this reflection as an authoritative statement of doctrine, nor even as my own answer to the problem – I really don’t yet know what to think for sure. Rather, I hope to incite some dialogue and reflection. Please contribute your own thoughts on this subject!
How great a mystery is this most wondrous divine work!


David Lamb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Lamb said...

I got a bizarre one. What if God made it possible for the body to move at the speed of light. Couldn't the body seem to be in two places at once?

Nobel Savage said...

While it is wise to utilize the work of the angelic doctor, there are other factors of consideration.

1. When and when not are bodies of matter contiguous?

2. What of quantum entanglement? It seems this solves the matter of matter, as well as the same matter in two locations. I also wage to reject the premise no material body could be in two places at once.

3. What of pure miraculous grace?

4. If the presence of angels is merely limited to their intellect, as they are not coporeal, as we return to q52, we recognize that an angel is only in one place, subject to the angel, not in subject view by the cosmos, as we may say a man is in one place and his son in another. Where a man would be of two places, an angel is in one place by his own reference cf. q52a.2. In this was, we may consider bilocation.

Bender said...

I really don’t yet know what to think for sure

Maybe that we should not look to or rely upon St. Thomas Aquinas for everything?

If the eternal and omnipresent God, who is beyond time and space, willed for Padre Pio to literally be in two places at the same time, from the human perspective, then Padre Pio was actually and truly in two places at the same time. And if God did not so will this, then he wasn't.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me like you're overthinking this and, in the process, killing the mystery. You argue that the human soul cannot be present in two discontinuous bodies at the same time. This conclusion is, however, obviously wrong as proven by the Real Presence of our Lord (who, having once assumed a human nature, is human forevermore) in thousands, nay millions, of discontinuous bodies throughout the world. Of course, exactly how our Lord is present in the Eucharist and how he can be present in so many discontinuous bodies at once are essential aspects of the great Eucharistic mystery, but can't we make decent sense of Padre Pio's bilocative moments by simply saying that, through a great grace of our Lord, he was granted a participation, however brief and limited, in the Risen Christ, whose glorified Body truly can be present in multiple locations at once?

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

If it is a matter of very rapid movement, then it is not really bilocation, but only apparent bilocation. You may be correct, but other problems also arise (like, how did he move so fast without tremendous trauma to his body).
Many good things to think about! Peace to you!

You are quite right in mentioning the new discoveries of science. I have heard that some do claim that matter can be in two places at the same time. Philosophically, I am not sure how to account for the visible phenomena of science. However, I am quite certain that the human soul cannot be in two places at once (even if matter could be).
As to ST I, q.52...angels are only able to be in one place. They can act upon a very large place (made up of numerous bodies), but they act upon that place as one (not as many individual bodies).
As angels can be in only one place, how much more are human being circumscribed by one place!
Finally, as to the question of pure miraculous grace -- I agree, there is much grace at work here. But grace does not destroy nature, it perfects nature. Can grace do what is contrary to nature, can grace do what is contradictory to the natural laws? This of course begs the question - Is being present (bodily and spiritually) in two places at the same time contrary to nature? You bring up some good questions!

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Bender (Sept 24, 6:22am),
Could you please explain how your comment adds anything to this discussion? Or do you just enjoy beating up on Thomists?
Who ever said we should "look to or rely upon St. Thomas Aquinas for everything"? I didn't look to St. Thomas when I learnt how to drive a that good enough?
Your fideism and anti-intellectual spirit is disturbing to me.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Anonymous (Sept 24, 6:37am),
I am very sorry that you find me to be "killing the mystery". I am a Catholic priest and I promise you it was not my intention to harm the faith in any respect.

As to the Real Presence of Christ in the are "obviously wrong" (to use your words). Christ is not present in the Eucharist as in a place, he is present as in a Sacrament. Therefore, the Eucharistic Presence of Christ WILL NOT help us in understanding biLOCATION, since Christ is not LOCALLY PRESENT in the Eucharist. (Cf. ST III, q.72, a.5)
Christ's glorified body is not "present in multiple locations at once", he is present on all the altars (and in the tabernacles) throughout the world, not as in a place, but as in a sacrament. It is a sacramental presence, not a local presence.
Read any serious book on the Eucharist, you will find I am correct. I recommend "The Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist" by Abbot Vonier. The best book in English on the subject!

David Lamb said...

It struck me, when quantum entanglement was mentioned, that if a body could be in two places at once, it would not necessarily follow that the soul was in two places. Perhaps the soul could be multi-tasking?

Nick said...

Bilocution, the gift by which a man is in two ("bi-") places ("-locution"), is indeed a mystery. Padre Pio was asked how he did it, to which he said it was something like stretching his mind.

Personally, I believe bilocution is a miracle and miracles defy the laws of nature. My evidence is the burial and descend of Christ, Who was both in the tomb and in sheol at once by His Divinity. By this same Divinity, I believe bilocution is possible.

Unknown said...

What is very interesting to me is the nearly universal accounts of those who've "died" and experienced being in a place outside their bodies. True, my death will mean an unnatural separation from my soul from body...but out of tragedy will come a greater glory to God. Could God be giving us a glimpse of something "greater" by these holy examples of bilocation?

Anonymous said...

@Reginaldus (6:51 AM)

Thanks for the response and the book recommendation. I will admit that I have heard of the idea of sacramental presence before, but it was never satisfactorily explained to me, so I'll have to look into it. I hope I didn't offend.

Unknown said...

Bilocation is a phenomenon of noetical interactions between souls.

This also explains Padre Pio's other gifts.

Anonymous said...

First of all, the Aristotelian view of time which St. Thomas inherited was much more simplistic and inflexible than the view which THE NATURAL WORLD has imposed on us by now. For example, we now know that the question of whether two distant events are simultaneous may depend on one's frame of reference. An anti-particle can be viewed as a "normal" particle traveling backward in time; in this and in other ways a particle may "be in two places at the same time". (These examples do not, however, apply directly to bilocation." We need a St. Thomas who is familiar with modern physics, but until we get one, we should at least be cautious about St. Thomas' physics-related statements.

Secondly, let me recommend OCCULT PHENOMENA IN THE LIGHT OF THEOLOGY by Alois Wiesinger (ISBN-13: 978-0912141800). Abbot Wiesinger refers to a sizable body of theological speculation on the preternatural gifts which Adam had and which would have allowed him to avoid danger, repair any damage to his body, and complete his work without toil; Wiesinger argues that many "occult phenomena" may be the result of people accessing what remains of this gift, which he believed CAN BE done but SHOULD NOT BE DONE. In the case of Padre Pio's bilocations, though, if they were done in this fashion I think we can assume divine approval.

Finally, I think according to folk legends a guardian angel can sometimes appear as the person he guards. Certainly when the angel appeared in the Burning Bush, he represented God so perfectly that Moses' conversation appears to be directly with God, not with an angel. Perhaps the "bilocations" involved an angel acting in Padre Pio's stead.

-- Howard

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I am not sure how the descent of Christ is an example of bilocation.
His soul was in only one "place" (the hell of the Fathers), his body was also in only one place (the tomb)...this is what happens to us all at death...our bodies and souls are separated.
Thank you for the info on how Padre Pio understood his own bilocation. "Stretching the mind" seems to accord well with what I have written in this article -- through his intellect he communicated directly with the intellects of men in far distant places.

Certainly, by his divinity Christ is/was present everywhere, in all places at once. But this is not what we mean by bilocation...bilocation seems to refer to the presence of the body and/or soul in two places at once.

If God is present in many places by his divinity, this does not mean that Padre Pio was present in many places by his humanity. There is no comparison.

The death experiences of people are (seem to be) indeed the separation of the soul from the body. But this is not bilocation, since they are not really present in two places -- they are no longer personally united to their body.
I do agree, though, that these examples of bilocation are meant to build up our faith and to give us true hope in the resurrection. Thank you for reminding us all of that essential point!

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Anonymous (Sept 24, 2:14pm),
No offence taken. I hope that my own comments where not too curt. I am very happy that you are interested in the book. It can be purchased from Zacchaeus Press. Abbot Vonier was one of the great Benedictine theologians of the early 20th century. This particular book is the best modern example of theology done well which I have come across in some time.
Another good book on St. Thomas' doctrine of the Eucharist (which has largely become the Church's doctrine) is "Aquinas and the Liturgy".
Peace to you in Christ our Lord!

Fr. Jay Finelli said...

From personal knowledge of mystic living today, I would say that it is both body and soul that are in two places at the same time. This person can do completely different things, hold two conversations and even do physical things at both locations. For confidentiality sake, I can't say much more, but I can personally attest to this reality. This information comes through my direct questions and knowledge of situations.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Fr. Finelli,
Thank you for your contribution to the blog. Your point about the physical effect that the bilocator can have on two locations is a good point.
This would seem to make bilocation more than simply a communication between intellects...
I still don't know what to say seems to be metaphysically impossible for a single soul to be in two places at the same time...
A great mystery indeed!

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Howard (Anonymous, Sept 24, 4:03pm),
Even if you are correct in supposing that St. Thomas' view of matter is no longer applicable (something which I am not willing to grant), it nevertheless remains to be shown that his understanding of the soul is off.
In other words: even if matter is able to be in two places at the same time, St. Thomas does seem to have shown that the soul cannot be in two places at the same time. Thus, the problem of bilocation is still a difficulty which exceeds the reasoning of the hard sciences.

It is popular these days to quote sound-bites of quantum theory and then say that the Aristotelian/Thomistic view of reality is no longer relevant. I suspect that this is a sort of obsession with novelty, combined with a desire to sluff off the inherited tradition. Rarely do these people really know anything about quantum theory -- often they know even less about the physics of St. Thomas.

Thank you for the book recommendation, and especially many thanks for the information about the guardian angels! What an interesting theory!

Unknown said...

St. Anthony of Padua was also known to bilocate. We are told by one biographer of his that he was about to give a sermon in front of a large crowd of Paduans, on a high feast day, when he suddenly recalled that he had promised to sing a prayer elsewhere, in a convent, I believe. He considered this to be an act of disabedience and felt mortified. Up on the high pulpit about to speak an eloquent sermon, he instead pulled his hood over his head in before thousands of people and sunk down so that all were watching him intently, wondering what was happening. At that moment, he appeared before the other congregation across town and sang his office as promised, to the great pleasure of all, and then returned to give a beautiful sermon in the large church. If your theory is correct, perhaps the "real" St. Anthony was the one who suddenly appeared elsewhere since it seems that the St. Anthony left behind was quite "inactive."

Unknown said...

Consider a totally different frame of reference. Energy and matter are fully interchangeable. So, one's body which we see and feel are really energy states. After all, we consist of atoms that contain far more empty space than solid matter. Perhaps angels have a different steady state energy state. When directed by God to appear to humans, they adjust their energy state (frequency)and become visible and audible in the spectrum of light and sound to which humans are sensitive. We say Guardian Angels are with us at all time. Well how can that be without having them take up space somewhere, at some energy state that desn't impinge upon the visible and audible world we live in.

If this is applied to bilocation, then the bilocator is somehow able to change the energy state of his body differentially. His "regular" body stays the same, but his energy modified body is free to move as directed by his/her mind and soul. In this way, the problem of the absent soul is solved. The expanded range of the bilocated body is accompanied by the soul, as an extension of the physical location added by the energy transformation.

Think of the Transfiguration. The Lord appeared glowing white, more white than humanly possible. This appears to be a modification of the frequency spectrum of the human body. Moses was "sunburned" whnever he spole to God face to face. Again, a change in energy state is a logical postulation.

I think the issue most of the commentators have expresses is the reliance upon the physical body as a fixed entity. I don't believe it is. And i think our glorified bodies in paradise if I can make it in the back door) will restore is to the energy state Adam and Eve were given before the fall.

God bless


Anonymous said...

You are mistaken to say Christ is not in the Eucharist locally but only as a sacrament."The Eucharist,though a sacrament, is the greatest of them because it contains Christ himself.The other sacraments are simply instruments of his power."(Edward.J.Gratsch S.T.D,Aquinas'Summa An Introduction and Interpretation)
The council of Trent also taught that the holy Eucharist contains the body,blood,soul and divinity of our lord,TRULY REALLY and SUBSTANTIALLY.St.Thomas says His body is there after the manner of a substance,whose nature is for the whole to be in the whole and the whole to be in every part.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Anonymous (Sept 25, 10:31am),
You are mistaken.
The Eucharist contains Christ sacramentally (following Fr. Gratsch), not locally.
Christ is truly, really and substantially present (following Trent), but he is not locally present.
Christ's body is there after the manner of a substance (following St. Thomas), not after the manner of an accident - locality is an accident.

Have you even read St. Thomas' treatment of the Eucharist? You should read it again.

If you were more familiar with St. Thomas, you would have recognized that I was quoting him directly: "Christ's body is not in this sacrament in the same way as a body is in a place... but in a special manner which is proper to this sacrament. Hence, we say that Christ's body is upon many altars, not as in different places, but sacramentally." (ST III, q.73, a.2, ad 3)

In the future, please leave some means of identification or tag, so that I can respond to you more easily and distinguish one anonymous from the other. Also, do not accuse me of heresy until you have done your homework.

I suspect you are pious and good intentioned...but you will get into a lot of trouble if you jump to conclusions and fail to read the theological work of others in a spirit of charity. I and the other contributors to this blog are very conservative and go to great pains to follow the teachings of the Church in the most traditional manner possible. We are working here to build up, but you seem more intent on tearing down.

andrew(anonymous) said...

Am sorry i misunderstood your meaning.I did not mean to offend.

Anonymous said...

Stella Davis, the author of "SPIRITUAL WARFARE Lessons on Deliverance from Spiritual Bondage to Freedom in Christ" experienced firsthand that we have 2 bodies... a physical one and a spiritual one. Her near-death experience describes this phenomena vividly.

Peregrinus said...

Did you mean to write, Andrew, that the substance of the Christ in the Eucharistic species is within a place, i.e., within the quantitative dimensions of the bread or the wine that remain after consecration, instead of that “the Christ is in the Eucharist locally”(see Summa contra gentiles Bk IV, chpt LXIV).

The two statements are quite distinct. The first statement does not deny that the Eucharist is confected by substantial change, and not by a change of place. The second statement does deny this fact and, consequently, makes the Eucharistic miracle impossible and absurd.

I assume that the serious implications of the second statement, which you seemed to make, account, at least in part, for the severity of Father Reginaldus’ response.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Thank you for offering additional clarification of the point regarding Christ's presence in the Eucharist.
You have a gift of explaining the truth clearly without being too harsh...perhaps I spoke too strongly..

@Andrew, Please forgive any offense I may have caused. I am very glad that we are able looking into these great mysteries together.
I regularly pray to St. Jerome to help me to soften my pen!

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Anonymous (Sept 28, 2:50pm),
I am not familiar with Stella Davis or the work you site. However, I can assure you that the physical body and the spiritual body are not two distinct bodies. The spiritual body (which we will receive after the resurrection) is numerically identical with the physical body we know have.
Moreover, there is no, has never been, and will never be a body which is wholly spirit -- the very nature of body is that it is physical. In the resurrection, our corruptible body will be raised incorruptible and will be called "spiritual" because it will be quickened by our spirit which will then enjoy the perfect beatitude of Vision.

Thus, I highly doubt that bilocation can be explained in reference to physical and spiritual bodies.

I do agree, however, that the near death experiences which people have may occasionally have something to do with the mystery of bilocation.

Anonymous said...

Blessed Mother's bilocation to Zaragoza, Spain in 40 AD must be mentioned. Blessed Mother appeared to St. James in Spain and left behind two material objects still present today: a pillar of jaspar and a statue of Blessed Mary holding the Christ Child. It's ridiculous to pretend to understand the phenomena of bilocation, the Holy Shroud of Turin, the Miraculous Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Resurrection of the dead. They're mysteries and thank God, the Almighty has placed a limit to the understanding of men on such matters. Unless the Lord Himself reveals the mystery, this side of heaven, we will never be able to figure it out through the so called logic of science.

Anonymous said...

Two things:
1) Padre Pio said that his bilocation was from "an elongation of the personality." This makes sense -- I am simultaneously touching my chair AND the computer keyboard.

2) We know that our PERCEPTION of time is not what space/time really is. Space/time is preserved under relativity, but SPACE (alone) or TIME (alone) are not. Physics is now showing us that time is essentially a human perception more than it is a physical phenomenon. It is safe to say that "God does not have time." That is, time is a limitation that God does not have to deal with. So, if my body CAN be in two different places, at two different times, then, if time becomes space/time, or if time is completely "out of the picture" (as it is for God), then we can understand that it is just as possible for God to have a body be in two places at ONE time as it is for the body to be in two places at TWO times. The "time limitation" is a limitation on US not on GOD! THere is no CONTRADICTION here, just a LIMITATION that God does not have!

I have taken doctorl-level quantum mechanics, and the thing that you finally have to accept in QUantum Theory is this: Your perceptions are biologically-convenient, time-limited macro-scale PERCEPTIONS --They are NOT what is really "going on."

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

It seems to me that a large majority of comments can be fit into one of two groups...

EITHER, like Anonymous (sept 28, 9:40pm), they say that bilocation is a mystery and hint that we ought not be trying to understand it...
OR, like the next Anonymous (sept 29, 12:12am), they say that bilocation is just a natural part of the way that matter works and can be understood by quantum theory...


Anonymous said...

What did St. Pio himself say?

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Anonymous (sept 29, 1:11am),
Very good point!

St. Pio didn't try to explain bilocation with quantum theory or science (he didn't try to reduce the mystery to mere biology).
On the other hand, neither did St. Pio refuse to speak about the mystery - he tried to explain it as best he could (referring to it as "elongation").

St. Pio takes a perfect middle road between to two extremes of so many commentators...I hope to have followed his example, at least as best as I can, in my article.

Anonymous said...

"The eternal now" of God's being is called "Kairos". God is everywhere: including those states which cannot be termed a "where." So in a metaphysical sense, --in God there is no such thing as "no-thing" or "no-where". When we are in union with God, (the ground of our being) we are co-extensive with Him. Therefore, if for some reason he wants us to "bi-locate" then we can. With God all things are possible.

It might be instructive to re-visit the phenomenon of Blessed Mary of Agreda who in the 15- or 1600's often bilocated from her cloister in Spain to a tribe of Pueblo Indians in the American southwest, instructing them in the faith. --When missionaries eventually came to that region, the whole tribe eagerly converted, and explained their prior knowledge of the faith by the visits of Bl. Mary, describing her appearance and distinctive nun's habit perfectly. As I recall (it's many years since I read this) Blessed Mary was extremely annoyed at the questions the Inquisition asked about her bi-locations; and eventually she said no more about it, indeed this simple nun ceased bi-locating because it caused so much consternation amongst the "learned".
--"Aunt Raven"

Michel said...

@ Reginaldus (September 24, 2010 6:51 AM)

Correction re. (Cf. ST III, q.72, a.5) should be (Cf. ST III, q.76, a.5)

and @ Reginaldus (September 24, 2010 6:51 AM)

Correction re. (ST III, q.73, a.2, ad 3) should be (ST III, q.75, a.1, ad 3)

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Thank you Michel for these correction...I'm not sure how I got the citations confused!
I hope that it hasn't caused too much difficulty for others!

Peregrinus said...

Bio-location is certainly miraculous and a mystery (i.e., something not completely understood). It is, nonetheless, possible, since it actually does occur; and the apologist should defend the fact that it has occurred by explaining how it is possible.

Bio-location, in the strict sense, is impossible; for, as Father Reginaldus has noted, no integral body can occupy two distinct places at the same time, the theories of modern physicists notwithstanding. The appearance of a body in two places at the same time, however, is possible. That is to say, a body actually in one location can appear also to be in another place simultaneously.

God can generate an image or likeness of something, including of something absent (e.g., of a person’s body actually somewhere else). The best example of His doing so is the appearance of the body of Moses on Mount Tabor during the Transfiguration. Moses’ body was clearly somewhere else, but it appeared to be on the Mount; for God generated an image or likeness of his body there so that the chief Apostles would be aware of the Law-Giver’s presence (see ST IIIa, q. 45, a. 3, ad 2um).

The person whose body appears present can also be present, in a sense, through his soul; for God can either unite a disembodied soul to a likeness of the soul’s former body, as St. Jerome suggests occurred in the case of Moses, or allow an embodied soul to perceive in an extraordinary way (i.e., otherwise than through the senses) the surroundings of the place where the image or likeness of the person’s body appears. The latter seems to have been the case for Padre Pio; and he describes the extraordinary perception involved as an “elongation,” i.e., a lengthening or enlargement of the soul’s perception. God can even cause the actions of the embodied soul in response to those surroundings to manifest themselves through the apparent actions of that image or likeness not united to the soul. The actual body united to the soul may appear to be motionless or unanimated during the soul’s response to the remote surroundings, as seems to have been the case in St. Anthony of Padua’s bi-location, since the soul’s action then pertains to another body, so to speak, and does not affect the body united to it.

Bio-location properly understood can occur; and God has allowed it to occur for sufficiently important reasons.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I very much enjoyed your last comment (5:56pm)...I think you are quite right to bring in the Transfiguration and the question of Moses.
Funny, when I wrote a Thomistic Scriptural Commentary on the Transfiguration, I sided with Cornelius a' Lapide against St. Thomas - maintaining that Moses' soul was momentarily re-united to his own body (and that he then died again and his body was put back in the earth)...but, in the present context I agree with your analogy...

I will let your comment stand as a final word on the mechanics of bilocation...not that it is the only option, certainly there are many possible explanations...but I think the way you have put it has sufficiently taken into account various possibilities (including those from the original article)...I'm still not sure about how a soul can affect a body while at the same time being united to another body, but I don't need to understand everything!

Thank you for your contributions!

Anonymous said...

Ok. I haven't read all the comments yet and I'm not a theologian but here goes my two cents. God is outside of time and space (because he created both) so he is not bound by the laws of physics. When people like St. Pio are bilocating, I suppose that they have just been given that gift to go through space.

Anonymous said...

how do we get the power to bilocate??...somebody help.....i wanna do good to the world...change the wicked..and help the needy....

Seraphim said...

David - it's not possible for a body to move at the speed of light and retain a non-zero mass without the whole nature of space changing (from Minkowski space to Euclidean space) - so God would probably not perform a miracle like making it possible for a massive body to move at the speed of light. And even then it would still be impossible to be at two places at once - c is a finite speed, as Father Reginaldus already pointed out.

Christopher - I think it is a bit problematic from a QM viewpoint. How could ONE body be measured with two different (radically different) values for the position eigenstate? It is really a miracle. I certainly don't think it's beyond God's power, which is to say I don't think it's mathematically self-contradictory. I think that Father Reginaldus' solution of reducing it to only apparent bilocation (a solution common among Thomists) is wrong. It is a real miracle, not only an apparent one, and I do agree with Bender that Aquinas was being simplistically rationalistic here. I don't think that's being fideistic or anti-intellectual. The Eastern tradition of the Church from which I came has a very strong tradition of preserving the mystery of the Faith, and one of the major complaints the Orthodox have had against St. Thomas Aquinas - a complaint which the West might do well to take seriously - is a tendency towards wanting to reduce everything in the Faith to philosophical categories. Sometimes we can't do that. I understand that you don't intend to "kill the mystery", but it would seem that any reduction of the mystery of bilocation to apparent bilocation would do so.

I would also extend what you say about the sacramental presence of Christ in the Eucharist to the soul. How is the soul present in a PLACE, aside from its assocation with a body? As spiritual, a soul has no "position" you can measure. Bilocation really has to be bilocation of a body in order for the soul to bilocate, unless we are talking about clairvoyance (another common miracle among Eastern saints, one which like bilocation is probably simply a preternatural gift lost by the Fall and which should not be exercised under normal circumstances.)

Geoffrey Miller - I'm not sure that it's consistent with the Orthodox understanding (speaking myself as an Orthodox Christian, one in communion with the Pope of Rome, or an "Eastern Catholic") to say that bilocation is JUST a "phenomenon of noetical interactions between souls", and I'm not sure where you're getting that from Protopresbyter Romanides' book. In the East at least since the time of St. Gregory Palamas divinization (what the West calls "sanctification") is given not only to the soul but also to the body, because the body and soul are inseparable. My spiritual father did not even speak of the body and soul as being separate substances, because of his emphasis on their unity (without, of course, denying the separate existence of the body and soul after death before the parousia).

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I notice that many of the comments you make bring in certain aspects of the Eastern approach to theology. Thank you for that!

However, I also notice that you seem to have a bit of an axe to grind against Western theology ... specifically you seem to think that St. Thomas and the West are too rationalistic, philosophical and also reductioninstic.

Rather than going into all the details of that claim (one which really has no place in this particular comment box) ... I would like to point out one simple fact.

Gregory Palamas claimed that the Beatific Vision was only an "apparent beatific vision" since the creature cannot possibly see (with an intellectual vision) the divine essence.
If you are so quick to accuse Thomists and the West of being too reductionistic for (seeming) to claim that bilocation is only apparent ... how much more is Palamas and the East to be blamed for reducing the mystery of Heaven?!

[btw, I'm really not interested in continue the debate on Palamism or the West vs. East ... just a comment for you to think about]

Anonymous said...

I am interested in the claim that angels cannot bilocate. CCC 329 quotes scripture that angels "always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven." CCC 336 teaches that each believer has an assigned guardian angel. How can an angel BE WITH us and constantly behold the Father's face who is IN HEAVEN without bilocation?


Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

The simple answer is that Heaven is not a place (especially not for the angels)...
Thus, enjoying the beatific vision, they always behold the Father; yet, at the same time, the guardian angels are present (at times) on earth -- through acting on material things present in particular locations on earth.

Hope this helps. +

Anonymous said...

Please note that I am not trying to be difficult, just to learn and grow and understand. I recently found this blog through Adoro and like it very much. I grew up Protestant, but no one could answer my questions. I found my way to the Catholic Church and know that all the necessary answers are available with Her.

If Heaven is not a place, how/where are the saints and Mary and Jesus Christ all of whom are body AND soul?


Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

It is wonderful to have you comment and question here! You are always most welcome!

In fact, your intuition is correct...there is one sense in which heaven is a place -- namely, it is the bodies of Jesus and Mary. However, the bodies of Jesus and Mary are not contained in a place...they are the place itself (in what Thomists call "uncontained space")...
For more on this point...see my earlier article "Where was Mary assumed to?" --

However, it is better not to think of the angels as being in heaven as in a place...for them (since they are pure spirits), heaven is entirely a state of existence.
Thus, they are able to both be "on earth" (when they act on physical beings) and "in heaven" (through their vision of God).

I hope that this helps....I know that it can be a bit confusing...
Peace to you!+

andre said...

If Christ is not physically present in the Eucharist, then what do u call the miracle of the the bread and wine turning into blood and body, physical flesh?


andre said...

If Christ is not physically in the Eucharist then what is the miracle when the bread and wine turned to actual blood and flesh? Not meaning to offend but does that still make Christ not physical in the Eucharist?

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I myself would not go so far as to say "Christ IS NOT physically present", but I definitely do not think it is helpful to say that he is "physically present". In general, I would rather not use physicality either pro or con. Christ is really, truely, substantially, and sacramentally present.

Cardinal Ratzinger, on the other hand, is quite negative about the idea of physical presence: “But this [the doctrine of transubstantiation] is not a statement of physics. It has never been asserted that, so to say, nature in a physical sense is being changed. The transformation reaches down to a more profound level. Tradition has it that this is a metaphysical process. Christ lays hold upon what is, from a purely physical viewpoint, bread and wine, in its inmost being, so that it is changed from within and Christ truly gives himself in them. […] [The Eucharist] is not a thing. I don’t receive a piece of Christ. That would indeed be an absurdity.” (God and the World, 408)

The future Pope says it with extreme clarity: “From a purely physical viewpoint” the Eucharistic species is “bread and wine” because the change is not to be understood “in a physical sense.” However, on a more profound level, on the level of being and of essence, indeed the level of substance; there is a radical change by which what was once bread and wine now has become the Body and Blood of our Savior.

Within a couple of days, I will be posting an article on why it is important to think of the Eucharist in sacramental rather than physical terms -- especially in relation to the Mass as a sacrifice.

A Sinner said...

Forget QUANTUM mechanics. There's also just good old relativity. A wormhole can connect two discontinuous points in space. Perhaps bilocation can be analogized to a wormhole, with the person in the wormhole visible at both "openings."

I generally agree with your analysis, but I'd also add the analogy of a hologram. There's no reason the Saints' effects need merely in the MINDS of the people in the other location after the manner of a "communication"/hallucination. It could be that he's also controlling a sort of hologram remotely that God has created or in which God is the medium of communication between the Saints' mind and the hologram (assuming it's not radio waves or something like that, lol).

In this sense, his soul may not be "present"...but may still be having its effects long distance on something that resembles a body (ala the bodies used by the angels, or Moses at the transfiguration in St Thomas's theory)

yan said...

hey, great stuff! brings to my mind the miracle of the loaves and fishes. i have often wondered how the multiplication took place. the apostles are passing out the foodstuff, and, what, poof, there is more in the basket? Did they notice the stuff appear in the basket? could they not see because the new stuff was at the bottom? did it come into existence when they looked away?

Lucchesi said...

There are two testimonials(there are more, actually) that disprove your theory that this is only a matter of soul communication:

The first was that of a WW2 plane pilot, whose mother asked Padre Pio to look after him. His plane exploded and he was the only one to manage to leave it. However, his parachute didn't work, but he was brought back safely to the ground, held by the priest.

So, there was physical contact with the bilocated body.

The second was of a priest that saw Padre Pio "talking to himself" by a window, while he was in bilocation, and he didn't notice the priest's presence.

So the "original" body was still there(but unaware of the surroundings).

The source(along with other testimonials):

How to explain all this I don't know =)

Allen Choong said...

I am thinking about, when the bilocation happened, how does the mind work? The mind is conscious in one location, or both locations at the same time, or both locations in different time?

If only in one location, is that possible Padre Pio can decide which location he is willing to be conscious?

If it is two locations, I personally cannot imagine how does this feel.

If it is both locations, it might be Padre Pio is conscious in this location first, then conscious in the other location later, just like time travelling.

Or may be, the mind is only conscious in one location, but the other location is working using subconscious.

Unknown said...

Somewhat related is the account in Acts where St Phillip is transported bodily to another place. Similar things are spoken of in accounts of the Holy Dormition of Our Immaculate.

ad Jesum per Mariam,
Taylor Marshall

Post a Comment

When commenting, please leave a name or pseudonym at the end of your comment so as to facilitate communication and responses.

Comments must be approved by the moderator before being published.