Frequently I have asked audiences I speak to to shut their eyes and then raise their hands if they have had encounters with angels or someone they trust has had such encounters. Usually about 80% of the audience raises their hands.
We need the help of the spirits or angels today not only because otherwise angels eager to help us are unemployed but especially because as a species we are doing badly and it is clear we need all the help we can get.
I am happy to share a portion of my Forward to this extraordinary book by Carol Vaccariello, on the immense support that awaits us from the angelic realms...if we are willing to ask.
by Matthew Fox
Reading this surprising book with its surprising ending reminds me of two encounters in my life. The first was with the widow of David Paladin, the Navajo painter who was initiated as a shaman through a particularly painful episode as a young soldier. Lying about his age at sixteen to get into the army in the Second World War, he was sent to Europe to fight and was almost immediately captured. He was imprisoned not in a GI camp but in a concentration camp where he was the only Native American among the other inmates and was tortured periodically. For example, one Christmas one foot was nailed to the floor and he was ordered to twirl on that foot for twenty four hours. When after four years the Americans liberated that camp they found David’s comatose body—which weighed all of 65 pounds—at the bottom of a pile of dead bodies. He was returned to his reservation in Arizona and after two years, on coming out of his coma, his elders said to him: “You have a choice. You are a paraplegic so you can go into a veteran’s hospital where you will live in a wheelchair the rest of your life. Or: We can try to heal you in the ancient way.”
He chose to be healed in the ancient way so they took him to an ice cold river and threw him in over his head. He said when he hit the water he was more angry at his elders than at the Nazis who tortured him. But it worked. He got his legs backed and made two pilgrimages to Mexico in back on foot. Being an artist, he also met Marc Chagall and Picasso as a young man and Chagall said to him: “Don’t paint the stories of your people; paint your dreams of the stories of your people.” This, he testified, gave him his freedom to be his own kind of artist.
I learned about David through his wife who invited me to contribute to an exhibit of his work after he died since, as it turned out, he had read my books such as Original Blessing and appreciated how my theology helped reconcile his Native American and Christian spiritual traditions. Later I visited his widow Lynda Paladin in the home where they had lived and he had painted over the years and she told me this story. “Often,” she said, “dead painters would come and visit my husband during the night and ask him to paint a picture which he did and it was their picture, not his.” Then she left the room and came back with a picture and as soon as I saw it I said, “That’s by Paul Klee.” And sure enough it was signed “Paul Klee” at the bottom. “I remember the night that Paul Klee came to visit him and dictated this picture,” she said.
I share this story to remind the reader that life is more interesting and boasts far more dimensions than our culture dares to tell us. We live in many worlds at once. David Paladin’s elders told him late in his life that the reason he suffered so much as a young man was to initiate him as a shaman. Shamans are often people who went through deep struggle in their youth—a shattering experience that often has the effect of shattering the psyche with the result that they live in more than one world at once.
The stories that Carol Vaccariello shares in this moving book are of this kind as well. Her visitations with angels is special but also very real and it bears close attention. “By their fruits you will know them,” says Jesus. Carol, whom I have known for over twenty years, is very real, very grounded, very hard working; she is a keen serious listener and teacher, a seasoned student and administrator. She is committed to service and lives a simple life style of service to others. She has lived and worked as a Catholic sister for five years; as a wife and supporter of a union organizer in Ohio for thirty years; as a Protestant pastor for thirty-one years; and as co-director of the Doctor of ministry program at my school the University of Creation Spirituality for nine years; and later at Wisdom University; she has served as an interim pastor at a number of UCC churches, often called in to resolve conflicts or to help heal wounded congregations. Her feet are very much on the ground. The fruits of her healthy and giving life are there for anyone to see. The stories in this book reveal another and more hidden side to Carol yet they are stories we can all heed and learn from. It is courageous of her to share them.