Friday, September 23, 2011

Some thoughts on bilocation

September 23rd, Feast of St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Last year on the feast of St. Pio, I wrote a little article about the mysterious gift of bilocation. In that article, which you can read here, I pointed out just how great a mystery this phenomenon truly is. Today I would like to revisit this discussion, including some of the major lines of response which people took in the comment box.

The problem of bilocation
The principle difficulty with the mystery of bilocation is that it is not clear whether we are to claim that Padre Pio (and others) bilocated both in their soul and in their body, or if was just in their soul.
If the body and soul both bilocate, then it is not clear how we can say that Padre Pio had only one body. If Padre Pio’s body was locally present in two places, then it would seem that there would have to have been two bodies. Some comments from the earlier article even stated this, claiming that St. Pio had a “spiritual body” and a “physical body” – to me, this seems absurd.
The real problem with claiming that St. Pio had two bodies when he would bilocate is that this would mean that he wasn’t really bilocating (at least not in his body). If St. Pio had two bodies, then each body was located in only one place and there was no true bilocation of his body.
Furthermore, there is great difficulty in claiming that the human soul could act on two bodies at the same moment. In fact, the tradition has held that even the angels cannot be in two places at the same time – much less the human soul, and how much less still the human body!
God cannot do the absolutely impossible
One of the main thrusts of the comments last year was that bilocation is a mystery and that God can do anything and that we ought not to try to understand. Many people accused me of trying to “kill the mystery”. Quite frankly, such persons are rather insulting – they are the type who would have been disappointed with the early Church Councils, which seek to understand a much greater mystery: the Trinity.
Granting that we will probably never fully understand the mystery of bilocation (at least not in this life) there are at least some insights we can gain from meditating on this phenomenon. First, we must admit that, while God is all powerful, he cannot do that which is absolutely impossible.
Given that he has created the world in the way he has, he cannot make matter be in two places at the same time. The human body simply cannot be omnipresent, neither can the human or angelic soul – for, to be omnipresent is proper to God alone. But if a body or a created soul could be in two places at one time, there is no reason why it could not be in all places at one time. Therefore, no creature (neither a body nor a soul) can be in two places at one time.
God can do all things, but he cannot make a divine creature. God can do all things, but he cannot make 1 + 1 to equal 1. If there is a body in San Giovanni Rotondo and a body in the Holy House of Loretto, these cannot be the self-same body of St. Pio. 1 + 1 must always equal 2. (and the same holds true for the soul)
Bilocation is more than a natural phenomenon
A second line of criticism of my earlier post claimed that bilocation can be explained by reference either to quantum theory or to “worm holes” or to other such natural phenomena. To this I will respond only very briefly.
If bilocation is explained through the natural sciences, then it is no longer a miracle. To claim that bilocation is just a large scale version of quantum theory is to reduce the mystery to a natural cause. This would indeed be to “kill the mystery”.
Bilocation is not a sacramental presence
Neither will it suffice to compare the bilocations of the saints with the mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist. First, because Christ is not present in the Eucharist in the way that bodies are in a place (as Pope Paul VI states very clearly in Mysterium Fidei).
Furthermore, the miracle of bilocation is not a sacrament nor does it have the power and efficacy of a sacrament. Therefore, the bilocation of St. Pio cannot be a sacramental presence after the manner in which Christ is present in the Eucharistic species.
Something of a response
I offer my own attempt to understand something of this mystery, citing from my earlier article:
“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.”
A hint of an explanation
There was one particularly insightful comment from “Pelegrinus”, which I will include here below as a final consideration of the mystery of bilocation:
“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 [i.e. Fr. Ryan Erlenbush] 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.”
On a more personal note
I would add that I have great love for St. Pio and especially for this mystery of bilocation. As a seminarian I was personally inspired to believe in the Holy House of Loreto when I learned that Padre Pio had a habit of bilocating to the little chapel to bring his petitions to our heavenly Mother.

St. Pio of Pietrelcina, Pray for us!


CM7 said...


I do not believe in ghosts but let me just throw this out there...could this logic be applied to visions of people (ghosts) that have previously died?


Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Michael P,
Indeed, there is some similar logic here.

As soon as we die, there is the particular judgment -- which means that our soul is immediately sent to hell, to purgatory or to heaven.
Now, the the human soul cannot be in two places at once -- therefore, it is quite clear that the supposed ghosts cannot be the souls of the deceased.

Further, even if it is possible that there is some "bilocation" of the soul, this would certainly only be of those in heaven (perhaps, by a special dispensation, those in purgatory).
But these souls would not torment us as ghosts.

Therefore, it is clear that any "ghost" is truly a demon.

Finally, when a saint appears on earth, we should point out that they do not appear in their own proper bodies -- not even Mary and Jesus, since their return will inaugurate the end of the world. [it was a special gift to Paul that Jesus appeared to him in his own proper body, according to the CCC]

Thus, we must hold that the apparitions of saints (and perhaps of souls in purgatory) is a special work of God by which their souls are able to immediately work on the souls of others -- perhaps in a way similar to the way I have discussed bilocation above.

Great question! My response clearly does not even begin to answer; but I hope it can at least get us moving in the right direction. +

Michelangelo said...

Father Ryan,

Thank you very much. Excellent analysis. Our Father in Heaven is so good to us. I only wish I was more sensitive to the needs of Christ's Faithful, as Padre Pio was/is. So I guess that is my prayer today. God bless you, Father.

A Sinner said...

"If bilocation is explained through the natural sciences, then it is no longer a miracle."

I would question a notion of "miracle" that excludes "natural" explanations.

The truth is, we now know that just about ANYTHING can happen in the universe, it's just a question of PROBABILITY.

All the air in the room could withdraw by a tiny chance to just one corner of the room and suffocate everyone, but if that tiny chance actually happened by an act of Providence...who would hesitate to call it a miracle?

I think this is even more pertinent when it comes to the spontaneous remission of disease and such (the most common miracles used for the canonizations of saints).

Just because (to use your example) wormholes are a phenomenon of natural science, doesn't mean that a human being able to "use" one to be in two locations at once (with no technological help) is not a miracle. Yes, there is a tiny tiny tiny chance it could just happen. But it never has just randomly, and for it to happen consistently to the same person (though, again, there is an infinitesimal possibility of this happening "naturally")...implies a supernatural agency even if the means are "natural" in some sense of not breaking the laws of physics technically.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

A Sinner,
If it happens according to the natural powers (which, in any case are ALWAYS directed by divine providence), it is not a miracle.
It may be highly highly highly improbable, but it is still not a miracle.

A miracle is when God works to accomplish something directly and not through the ordinary process of secondary causes.
If it is a miracle, then it cannot be explained by science.

Miracles do not "break" the laws of physics, but they go beyond those laws.
This is why to explain bilocation by worm-holes is to "kill the mystery" and make it to no longer be a miracle.

Michelangelo said...


Good point about going beyond the natural laws of physics. It might be more correct for a Sinner to state that miracles follow the laws of God, since as you pointed out, God cannot do what is absolutely impossible. For example, He cannot sin. Your elegant summary of this truth is what I wanted to point out as being, yet again, a wonderful summation of a truth that would normally take me 2 paragraphs of stammering to try to explain... Deo gratias, Abba!

Elizabeth D said...

This is interesting and very worthwhile to have a theological perspective on this. What do you think of the prospect that Padre Pio may have actually created his stigmata with acid as a corporal penance which he united to the suffering Christ (I will assume that if so he confessed any deception related to this as appropriate, it could have been to avoid scandalizing people or avoid creating a fad of spiritually motivated copycat self injury). The evidence of Padre Pio's garments bloodied with obvious self-flagellation wounds which were explained by him as effects of demonic attack, also suggests to me that he would associate spiritual causes with physical penances performed by him. Again, this almost seems like an explanation one gives to children that is half-true and even helps the children to understand the spiritual meaning of it, but the literal cause is acts of corporal mortification/penance.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

While it is certainly not entirely outside the realm of possibility that the wounds could have been self-inflicted - especially since there was very little inspection of the wounds by doctors - I do find it highly highly improbable.

First, Padre Pio did not want to draw attention to himself; and this is attested by many who knew him.
Second, the type of attention the wounds brought was not the type he would have wanted - his life was not one of glory and acceptance, but of intense persecution by Rome and others.
Third, when St. Pio received the stigmata the first time he asked the Lord to take them away - hence, it is clear that he was not seeking out these wounds.
Fourth, the amount of blood loss would be hard to explain, especially considering that they would begin to bleed when it was clear that St. Pio had not agitated them in any way.

Those are just my first thoughts on the issue. For these and other reasons, I am personally convinced of the supernatural nature of the stigmata in St. Pio.

Blessings to you! +

Elizabeth D said...

Father Erlenbush, I would have been disappointed if you did not believe in the supernaturality of his stigmata. Even though I feel unsure about the matter, I am not satisfied either with thinking St Pio was misleading people. One wants the Saints of Jesus who is Truth to be sterling and authentic people in everything that matters even if they have their imperfections in lesser things.

Speaking of which I used to be a Secular Carmelite novice till they kicked me out for unknown reasons, one time I upset some Secular Carmelites by saying that spiritual growth is closely connected with progressive freedom from sin, first from mortal sin then even freedom from fully advertent venial sin and even from most imperfections in the great Saints, and backsliding is not normal and inevitable but there should be a progression through St Teresa's "mansions", someone who still sometimes commits mortal sin is in St Teresa's lowest "mansions". They did not agree and seemed to be shocked and offended and perhaps take it personally which was not my intent at all. I really think they may have even been told by the friars that people jump around among the "mansions" rather than growing (by God's grace) to real freedom from sin and posession of virtue which can even grow to the heroic degree. I am a great sinner but based on my reading I really believe what I was saying is possible and is even meant to be the normal progression of the spiritual life. It has seemed to me that lack of belief in that is a key malady of spiritual theology in our time. But at any rate my conviction that someone who is really a saint in the "transforming union" grows free of any willing sin and is practicing heroic virtue, and that is why I am unsatisfied with assuming Padre Pio lied, moreso than being persuaded by other evidences for the reality of his stigmata, which do not persuade me.

A Sinner said...

But Father, I'm not sure modern quantum physics allows us to make such a hard-and-fast distinction between "ordinary" Providence working through secondary causes and the "extraordinary" miracle requiring His direct intervention. Specifically because the universe has been revealed to be PROBABILISTIC rather than deterministic in its physical laws.

Basically, we now know that every particle is constantly making "choices" (this is the Schroedinger's Cat/Double-Slit Experiment phenomenon) and the laws governing these only specify a probability, but don't ultimately force one choice or another in a deterministic fashion. It is utterly unpredictable.

There are two major theories for explaining this in physics (though they reveal where physics has reached the boundary with metaphysics/philosophy). The Many Worlds perspective believes that, basically, every possible world "exists," that every time a particle makes "choice" reality splits in two based on that choice, and that we just so happen to have our consciousness in one of the many possible histories (perhaps consciousness "splits" too, ala "The Prestige").

I think this is poor ontology, an unworkable and incomprehensible notion of what it means to be real. The various universes may all have an abstract mathematical existence (inasmuch as they were possible), but only one of those possibilities EXISTS (in the sense of being accessible to conscious persons).

So, the other theory is related to the idea that "consciousness causes collapse" of the wave-function. That, basically, it is observation by a conscious observer which finally "sets" the various probabilities into one concrete choice. Of course, there are apparently many conscious observers in the universe, and since we don't perceive ourselves as determining the outcome of these quantum "choices" by OUR free will...this still doesn't explain "why" one choice is made rather than another.

A Sinner said...

Of course, as a Christian, I find it perfectly logical to posit a Supreme Observer whose perspective is the absolute standard for what is Real and who IS "making the choices" for all the various particles (unless sometimes angels mediate it?)

However, this very fact of quantum indeterminacy (and the need, unless we want to admit Many Realities, for God to basically be making the "choice" each and every time) some ways closes the gap between a notion of "ordinary" Providence working through secondary causes...and "miracles" requiring direct it would seem that even the secondary causes in the universe (boiling down to the interactions of particles according to the basic forces)...requires a direct intervention by some conscious chooser every time anyway.

Modern physics would suggest, in this way, that if there is a God...His intervention in the universe must needs be constant, making the quantum choice for every particle at every instant (except, perhaps, within human brains? Perhaps this is the mechanism by which human free will in the spiritual soul is able to effect the matter of the body, solving the problem of occasionalism, etc) rather than like the clockmaker who sets everything rolling at the beginning according to his intents and then doesn't directly intervene much after that.

Under this model, I'm not sure how you'd make a meaningful distinction between a miracle and an "ordinary" act of Providence. As it turns out the laws of physics on the macro level...are ultimately only probabilistic approximations.

It is possible, for example, for a bowling ball to levitate (if, say, the tiny tiny tiny chance of all the air particles around it rushing up at once occurs). And given that God is the one who would be actualizing such improbabilities by making the quantum choices for particles EITHER WAY...I'm not sure where the distinction between a mere "providential" bowling-ball-levitation and a "miraculous" bowling-ball-levitation...would lie.

Seraphim said...


All the Thomist arguments concerning bilocation argue that it is logically impossible for a body to be in two places at once, using (e.g., New Advent for example) the weak argument that to be in one place is by definition not to be another (really? that's not the definition of what it means to be in a place!). Nor is there any reason why God could not create a substance which fills all space and time, granted that space and time themselves (though they are not substances) are created, so the omnipresence argument is unconvincing. I really see absolutely no reason why this is a problem, and would use the fact of bilocation as a counter-example to this metaphysical claim.

Quantum mechanics does provide a problem with the non-commutativity of the position and Hamiltonian operators, but I'm too sleepy at the moment to figure out whether there's a mathematical contradiction (or just a violation of the ordinary laws of nature, which God is perfectly free to violate when He performs miracles) in the idea of bilocation. I'm a graduate student in physics; I don't want to give a definite answer without thinking about it longer, but I don't really think there's a logical contradiction in the idea.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

1) These are not simply "Thomist" arguments ... they are held by many Catholic theologians of many different schools.
Please site a theologian from another school (e.g. a Bonaventurian or a Scotist) who thinks differently.

2) Are you saying that you think a creature could be omnipresent?
(So long as there is more than one physical place in existence, no creature can be omnipresent ... it's a divine attribute.)

3) If bilocation is just a matter of quantum mechanics, then it is no longer miracle.

Finally: 1 + 1 must always equal 2. If there is a body "here" and a body "there", they must be two bodies.

Peace to you! +

Seraphim said...

(1) All Scholastic schools work within a set of Aristotelian assumptions - if they all hold that bilocation is philosophically problematic (I'm not familiar enough with them to know whether they all do or not), then it just means that they all agree with the same assumptions. It doesn't mean that their arguments are any more convincing to me, who am both modern (operating within a set of scientific rather than Aristotelian presuppositions) and non-Latin.

(2) Yes, I am saying that a creature could be omnipresent. The fact that a word can be predicated of God does not exclude the possibility of it being predicated by creatures; omnipresence is not part of the nature or essence of God after all (since God was God before there was any space or time to be omnipresent in). Goodness and being are divine attributes, yet we predicate them of creatures - it doesn't matter in the slightest from the argument you gave against bilocation whether this common predication is univocal or analogous.

(3) It's not permitted by quantum mechanics. Actually, so long as you are not taking any measurements of bound energy states, quantum mechanics really has nothing to say about it at all.

(4) My body takes up space. You can point to two different points, separated from each other by more than five feet, and call them "here" and "there". But we call the physical object there the same body. To be sure - if we are to jettison Aquinas' teaching on substance - it is also true that the subatomic particles "here" are different than the subatomic particles "there". So you could respond by asking if I am bilocating in City A and City B, is an electron in City A the same body as an electron in City B - and the answer to this is that "you can't paint an electron red"; subatomic particles do not have individual identities like that, for which a proof from QM could be given.

A Sinner said...

I'd think there's a difference between a creature being essentially omnipresent (impossible) and a creature being accidentally omnipresent.

Aquinas himself says as much in this article of the Summa:

There could be a creature infinite in quantity, he even seems to say, but it would be in various places according to its parts. Likewise, if the whole universe was made up of just one particle, it would be everywhere, but not absolutely and properly, merely accidentally. Still, these sorts of accidental (or parts-wise) "omnipresence" are not excluded by Aquinas for creatures.

Seraphim said...

"Now to be everywhere primarily is said of that which in its whole self is everywhere; for if a thing were everywhere according to its parts in different places, it would not be primarily everywhere, forasmuch as what belongs to anything according to part does not belong to it primarily; thus if a man has white teeth, whiteness belongs primarily not to the man but to his teeth."

The premise "forasmuch as what belongs to anything according to part does not belong to it primarily" is not necessarily true. If a body were omnipresent, one could conceive of its parts being in different places, but nonetheless it could be a body whose nature it is to be present everywhere. In this case, none of the parts would be present everywhere, but the whole body would be; therefore, it would pertain to the nature of the body, not of the parts.

"It belongs therefore to a thing to be everywhere absolutely when, on any supposition, it must be everywhere; and this properly belongs to God alone. For whatever number of places be supposed, even if an infinite number be supposed besides what already exist, it would be necessary that God should be in all of them; for nothing can exist except by Him."

This is faulty reasoning, and Aquinas should have known better from his own thought. God would indeed be in all of them - for He is omnipresent in the whole universe - but as Aquinas himself says He would not be their formal being. It is more true to say that the universe is in God than that God is in the universe, though the latter phrasing, while not as profound, is also correct.

Aquinas' objection about it having to be God could apply just as well to the universe as to any individual body. The universe is indeed omnipresent. Point to me a place which isn't part of the universe; that would be a logical contradiction (simply on the definition of our terms). Yet the universe is not God. To this Aquinas responds that the universe and God are indeed everywhere but "not according to the same mode of existence", but I could say that a body is omnipresent as is God but "not according to the same mode of existence". The body has created being; God is uncreated being.

To be continued...

Seraphim said...


I would also have issue with Aquinas' reply to objection 3 on the grounds that we can certainly imagine a universe which were wholly present in every point - Leibniz present us with such a scenario with his "monads" which reflect the whole universe.

So it seems that God can create a body whose nature it is to be everywhere.

Finally, I would like to argue that God did in fact create a body which is everywhere - His own. If God became man, then the communicatio idiomatum demands that anything we say of God the Son be said of Jesus Christ and vice versa - and this includes His omnipresence. The Lutheran Concord Formula states, "Christ, not only as God, but also as man knows all, can do all, and is present to all created things". Obviously since no other men can do this nobody would deny that this is from the divinization His human nature by His divine nature (if you prefer to speak of plural natures, as if they could exist abstractly or could be separated in the one Person!), but it is still true that it is a human Christ who is present everywhere and whom we can pray in the presence of, not a remote and unattainable unincarnate God. Since the Incarnation divinity and humanity have been in an inseparable though unconfused union, and it is a human body which is now omnipresent to us.

The Church accepts the "miaphysite" formula of St. Cyril of Alexandria, "one Incarnate Nature of God the Word", and theologically I am much more comfortable with this than the Chalcedonian phrasing which runs the risk of falling into Nestorianism by speaking of intangible "natures" that only exist in the abstract and cannot be separated or isolated - one runs the risk of speaking of the two "natures" as if they could function separately, as Nestorius did. What was true of God is now true of a body and vice versa; "not by the conversion of Godhead into Flesh but by the assumption of Manhood into God."

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I'm sorry but I just cannot get into the details any further at this time ... things are just far too busy at the parish these days.

I will say this (though I admit it is a bit of a cheep shot on my part): You have preferred Leibniz to St. Thomas and accused the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon of having dangers of Nestorianism ... don't you think that this should tell you that something is not right in your reasoning process?

Maybe I am just too traditional...

Finally, the very nature of matter excludes the idea of per se omnipresence ... there is nothing in the nature of a single physical reality that absolutely excludes the possibility of any other physical reality being created ... this is why a physical body cannot be per se omnipresent.

Thank you for the conversation, and apologies that I cannot answer more fully! +

Seraphim said...

"there is nothing in the nature of a single physical reality that absolutely excludes the possibility of any other physical reality being created ... this is why a physical body cannot be per se omnipresent."

Father, your original argument was that if God could create matter that bilocated, there is no reason he couldn't create matter in three places, or four, or in all places. But here you have provided such a reason - if a body were omnipresent in its bodily form, it would exclude the possibility of other bodies, and yet we see a plurality of bodies. But we do not have this problem with bilocation. Ergo, there is no philosophical problem with bilocation.

Seraphim said...

Finally, in answer to your "cheap shot":

Leibniz wrote after Thomas, his metaphysics being an exaggerated substantialism grounding itself in medieval metaphysics rather than modern empiricism, and proposed a situation which, while I think false, is certainly not self-contradictory. Thomas never argued that it was self-contradictory; he was unaware of it, having lived prior to it.

In general I prefer modern philosophers, in particular phenomenology (Sartre and Heidegger being my favorites) to medieval philosophy. Modern phenomenology withdraws from the sphere of the natural sciences so (despite infantile whining by some people, Heidegger in particular) there is no conflict between the substance of their philosophy and science, and their disentanglement from theology also means that there is also no disharmony between their philosophy and the Greek expression of the Faith (which is completely non-scholastic in its formulation, and which resists scholastic questions). I'm not ashamed of preferring any modern philosopher to Thomas.

Secondly, my preferment of miaphysitism to Chalcedonian dyophysitism is not evidence of flawed reasoning either, but rather a preference owing a debt to hindsight and the current theological situation. We understand the semantic disputes of the time a lot better now with cooler emotions and a more objective understanding of the differences of terms, since the language we use in theological discourse now is 1700 years old rather than almost brand new. Also, the Eutychian heresy has been dead for about 1700 years, the Armenians and other "non-Chalcedonians" have clarified as clearly as possible their anti-Eutychianism, and there is no danger of unorthodoxy now. Finally, the Cyrillian formula is firmly grounded in tangible spiritual realities rather than in abstractions, and is a necessary corrective to the abstractionism that was an unfortunate consequence of degraded forms of late scholasticism.

The Church has always venerated the person and theology of St. Cyril and accepted the orthodoxy of his phrasing. I accept the phrasing of Chalcedon too, of course; I am Byzantine after all and not Coptic. But I have a personal preference for Cyril and I wanted to emphasize those aspects of the issue that his phrasing highlights that might be lost otherwise.

And I thank you too, Father, for this conversation.

PhilosophyMajor said...

Father -

I'm a senior in college, philosophy major, so bear with me as I hope my question comes out clearly.... (I'm still learning!)

I have a hard time believing that souls can act on one another simultaneously in different locations as well. Aquinas explicitly says that Angels cannot be bilocated, so claiming that Padre Pio's soul and body are acting in Rome, but his soul and some appearance of a body that God causes are acting San Giovanni Rotondo, seems just as absurd to me as his physical body being bilocated.

I tend to agree with Aquinas on this one... bilocation seems physically impossible, and acceptance of it falls within the realm of faith rather than clear reason.

Do you have any insight to offer? Thanks!

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Keep studying St. Thomas! He will be a great guide for you in your philosophical pursuits. +

Yes, bilocation is a great mystery, but we must be careful to avoid fideism. Thus, if reason tells us bilocation is strictly impossible - either we have made a philosophical error, or St. Pio did not in any sense bilocate.
I am, personally, convinced that St. Pio did "bilocate", but I'm not certain what exactly that means.

I want to hold that his soul acted upon the souls of men in other places ... but that he did not act on these souls so much under the aspect of theme being in another place, but under the aspect of a spiritual union.

A friend recently compared this to the time that St. Clare had a vision of the Mass when she was in her sick room ... she was (in some sense) present to the Mass, though she was still in her room and the Mass was being offered in the chapel ... it wasn't the same as watching Mass on TV (even though it is this incident which has made St. Clare the patroness of TV).

Much to think about.
Peace to you! +

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