The Catholic Thing
The Day I Met Jesus in Las Vegas Print E-mail
By Francis J. Beckwith   
Friday, 03 January 2014

Several days before my 13th birthday, in late October of 1973, I had a dream that was so vivid that when I woke up the next morning I was convinced that it was no mere dream. As I note in my 2009 memoir, Return to Rome, in the dream Jesus and I “were sitting, facing each other, with the landscape of heaven in the background. He spoke to me. Over thirty years later, I cannot honestly recall the words he uttered. But I do remember waking up the next morning with the sense that I had experienced a reality that was unlike any dream I had ever had.”

Last week, on the evening of December 26, while my wife and I were visiting family in Las Vegas for the holidays, I voiced a brief prayer under my breath while I was driving alone to my brother’s home, Jesus, I invite you back into my dreams tonight. We recently received news that my father has been diagnosed with cancer. Although the prognosis was far from hopeless, such news, especially during Christmas, has the power to jar one from the complacencies of ordinary life.

I began to reflect on the fragility of our mortal existence, the inevitability of death, and how ill-prepared I am for the journey that awaits each and every one of Adam’s children. So my mind harkened back to the one first-person glimpse of the supernatural that seemed the most real to me.

I awoke on the morning of the 27th with no recollection of any dream, let alone one in which I met Jesus. Because it was only 7 AM, I readied myself for 8 AM Mass at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, about two miles from where my wife and I were staying. When I arrived at 7:45, the doors were all locked, with a few people mulling about outside wondering why the sanctuary’s entry was not accessible as it is every weekday morning at this time.

One of them, a daily communicant named Tien, told me that this was highly unusual.  I told Tien that there was an 8 am Mass at St. Joseph Husband of Mary Parish, which is about five miles away, though I thought I could make it if I got on the road right away. Tien said that he wished he could go, but he had no car and relies exclusively on public transportation. So I invited him to join me.

        Matthew 25:40 by Cameron John Robbins

After he sat down and before he closed the car door, he said, “I want to be honest with you. I live at a local homeless shelter.” He then pulled out of his wallet an ID-card that allows him access to the shelter. I said, “Don’t be silly. Let’s go to Mass.” On the way, he told me that he was an immigrant from the Philippines and had been living in the shelter for a while after having lost his business as a consequence of the economic downturn in Las Vegas.  I told Tien about my father, and that I was going to Mass this morning to pray for him. 

The Mass began, and I soon realized that it was the Feast of St. John, which was apropos, for my father had met his future wife, my mother, at St. John’s University in Brooklyn when they were students there in the late 1950s. Among their teachers was the legendary philosophy professor, Charles Bonaventure Crowley, O.P., who my father says once told his students that the greatest evils of the age were Communism and Protestantism.

While we were kneeling after Communion, Tien leaned over to me and asked, “What is your father’s name? I want to pray for him.” I said, “Harold,” and Tien then bowed his head.

After Mass, I offered to drive Tien to the shelter, but he declined. The shelter did not open until 5:30 pm. So I took him back to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish. When we arrived we found out, much to our surprise, that the normal 8 AM Mass had been rescheduled for 9. As he left the car, he said to me with obvious exuberance, “I can go to Mass again!” We parted ways, and I gave him all the cash I had in my wallet, which was only a few bucks.

Driving back to where my wife and I were staying, I thought about the prayer I had uttered the evening before. It had seemed, initially, to have gone unanswered. I did not wake up that morning with any recollection of having met Jesus in my dreams. As that thought entered my mind, accompanied by a tinge of disappointment, another thought soon followed, one that I had not expected:  “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40)

My prayer was answered. I did meet Jesus after all.

Francis J. Beckwith is Professor of Philosophy & Church-State Studies at Baylor University, where he is also co-director of the Program in the Philosophical Studies of Religion in Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion. His most recent book (with Robert P. George and Susan McWilliams) is A Second Look at First Things: A Case for Conservative Politics – The Hadley Arkes Festschrift (St. Augustine’s Press, 2013)
The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

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Comments (8)Add Comment
written by CCR, January 03, 2014
I had a similar dream seven days before my mother's death. n the dream Our Lord appeared next to my mother as the Lord of Mercy. As a result of that dream I contacted my mother who totally surprised me when she asked me to "send her a priest". My mother was baptized as a Catholic in infancy but never practiced at all; in fact she was a Jehovah's Witness most of her life. I contacted a priest through the Internet (my Mom was in South America and I was living in Virginia at the time.) During the priest's visit Mom made her first Confession, received absolution, and --I later learned-- the Anointment of the Sick. It was St. Anthony's Feast 2009. That night she went into a coma. She died the following Wednesday. Just like you many times I had the impression that I was "visited" by what I would call "representatives" of Our Lord. I am convinced that nearly everyone experience those "visits" but most of us don't notice when they happen.

Malcolm Muggeridge reported once that after seeing Mother Teresa being verbally abused by some local big wig she asked her where she found the strength to remain so calm. She responded: "That man was the Lord Jesus, cleverly disguised as an obnoxious person."

We unwittingly entertain (or fail to entertain) angels everyday.
written by Jack,CT, January 03, 2014
Dr Beckwith,
I found myself in tears reading this essay.
I just want say your love,generous way and selflessness
is so refreshing.One can naturally assume "Harold" had
alot to do with all of that.

I grew up with a elderly father and even older relatives.
I was raised to show a degree of Respect that has long left
us for those in need.

My father was a very giving person despite to stints in the
the war and growing up himself without his mom and a drunkard for a father I never heard him "Yell' or speak ill
of anyone,he was the type to not just"Empty his wallet"but
spend time with the homeless.I heard him in your words so I
say thanks as he has been gone since 1989.
written by RamonAntonio, January 03, 2014
Who was the least of you two and who did what to whom?
written by Karen, January 03, 2014
I had a similar experience while touring cathedrals in France 20 years ago. It occurred in the Cathedral of Laon that remained in disrepair after WWII. A man approached me for a handout. He caught me off guard, startled me so I walked away. Within seconds after he left I realized he was Christ. Finding change in my pocket I ran out to find him, but he was gone. I will never forget it.

For me your column is, in a sense, redemptive. Where I failed, and where anyone of us may fail, we can lift each other up because together we are the Body of Christ.
written by Layman Tom, January 03, 2014
Professor Beckwith,

Very, very moving. I had my own experience with God reaching directly into my heart in a tangible, physical way. I think of it as my Easter miracle. It’s at once exhilarating and humbling isn’t it?.

God Bless you and your family this new year. I will pray for your father. Thank you for sharing this story.
written by Riki, January 03, 2014

Your Toothless Thankful Smile

It is Jesus I see on the Rood
when a homeless is asking for food
for a cup of water given in His Name
enkindles God's loving fiery flame.

Rita Biesemans 4-5-2011

written for a homeless veteran who often was standing where I
had to enter the I-10 to drive to work. I always gave him the food that I took with me for the night. He was always all smile when he saw me passing by.
written by Jack,CT, January 04, 2014
This essay seems to bring out the best in all who read it!
written by Tony, January 05, 2014
We always meet Jesus we just don't recognized Him. When we help someone, when we smile at anyone, when we care for someone, when we forgive someone, when we are compassionate, when we are charitable... Jesus is always with us in our heart. When we gather in His name He is in our midst...we just don't see Him but we always meet Him. From: Catholic Silent Crusader.

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