ROSWELL, N.M. — It was 75 years ago, in July 1947, when press reports surfaced that a crashed “flying saucer” had been recovered near Roswell, New Mexico.
Days later, an official denial came from the same source that had initially confirmed the capture, namely, the U.S. military.
In those few days the template was set for the modern unidentified flying object (UFO) phenomenon — reports followed by counter-reports, sightings by official explanations, cries of disinformation, talk of alleged cover-ups accompanied by the insistence on various “proofs” that “we are not alone.”
What are Catholics to make of all this?
Jimmy Akin is a convert to the Catholic faith and a Register contributor. He is also a popular apologist for the Catholic faith and host of the podcast Jimmy Akin’s Mysterious World. Speaking to the Register, he was clear that, based on his research, “the most likely explanation of the Roswell incident is that a Project Mogul balloon chain crashed.”
Atkins explains that Project Mogul was a top-secret U.S. Army Air Forces effort to monitor Soviet nuclear testing. He says that since the project was classified, “there was a cover-up that initially included a story about the U.S. military recovering one of the ‘flying discs’ that had just been in the news a couple of weeks earlier due to the Kenneth Arnold sighting (one of the first post-war alleged encounters with ‘flying saucers’) which launched the UFO craze. When this story backfired, they — the U.S. military — quickly walked it back, but they couldn’t tell anyone what had really happened due to the classified nature of the project.”
“The seed was planted,” he said, “and after the case was rediscovered in the 1980s, people have been fascinated with it ever since.”
And people continue to be.
“With UAP (unidentified aerial phenomena, aka UFOs), we may actually be dealing with extraordinary phenomena of various origins despite similar characteristics,” said Paul Thigpen, author of Extraterrestrial Intelligence and the Catholic Faith: Are We Alone in the Universe With God and the Angels? (TAN Books). Speaking to the Register, he said that “the extra-terrestrial hypothesis — the notion that we are encountering non-human intelligences from locations in this universe beyond Earth — best accounts for many UAP. The diabolical hypothesis (that they are demons) best accounts for some UAP reports, especially some of the so-called ‘alien abductions’ that demonstrate clear parallels with what the Church knows as demonic encounters.”
Thigpen posits other possibilities for the origins of UFOs: ultra-terrestrials. These, he says, are “non-human intelligences that share our planet as their home, largely hidden from us. This would include entities that have presented themselves in various forms throughout history, such as ancient mythological creatures, faerie folk …” He also alluded to two other possible explanations for certain kinds of UFOs/UAPs: ultra-dimensional beings. He says that these “originate from other dimensions of existence altogether that at times intersect with our own; or time-traveling humans from our future. Such realities would not lie beyond the creative wisdom and power of our omniscient, omnipotent Creator. If they do exist, he has made them and he sustains them in existence.”
In 1947, Roswell started a modern mania with its reports of crashed “aliens” and has been the global center of attention for such matters ever since. What is less well known is that, one year after the incident, and with much less publicity but much greater significance, that same city welcomed its first contemplative community, namely, the Poor Clare Monastery of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
They are the true center of an ongoing Roswell “incident.”
It was in November 1948 that a small group of Chicago-based Poor Clares set out for New Mexico. They were responding to the urgent invitation of Archbishop Edwin Byrne of Santa Fe, who desired to found a new monastery in his archdiocese. He wanted “praying nuns” to encircle his vast archdiocese with their lives of prayer and penitence. No doubt, since its founding, the Roswell community has blessed the local community. The monastery has also founded or restored six “daughter” monasteries: five in the United States (two in Virginia; one in Los Altos Hills, California; one in Belleville, Illinois; and the latest in Chicago) and one in the Netherlands.
The 1947 Roswell incident, and the endless books, movies and fevered speculation it spawned, have brought few closer to Christ. By contrast, the 1948 founding of the Poor Clare Monastery of Our Lady of Guadalupe, without fanfare, without media, has done more to bring souls to Our Lord than we or the sisters shall know this side of eternity. One wonders what, if anything, do these contemplative nuns make of Roswell’s ongoing notoriety?
Speaking to the Register, the monastery superior, Mother Mary Angela, has a certain reluctance in sharing thoughts on the events of July 1947. She feels, perhaps wisely, “not fully informed about the events, nor on the results of the investigations that have taken place.” She added that the community have never really sought “to be informed, although we are naturally interested in what is said to have taken place in our locality.”
However, Mother Mary Angela goes on to add that “something happened” — but like the rest of the world, the community has no idea what exactly that was.
“We don’t know if there was a cover-up or a withholding of information, or for what reason information might have been withheld. We do understand that there has been serious scientific investigation as well as a great deal of lightweight commercialization of whatever event occurred.”
She pointed out that the truth of what happened may never be known now that the primary participants in the events are likely dead. “Much will remain uncertain and murky,” she said, “but it makes no difference in the way we are called to live our lives today. We don’t need to know. Through natural law and divine Revelation, we already have all we need to know in order to make good decisions today, to live a good life — a great life — right now.”
“We strive to live in the present moment,” she continued, “rooted in reality and the possibilities of response that can only be achieved in the present moment, not an unknown past (the Roswell ‘incident’) or an unknown future. For us as contemplatives, there is no compelling reason to fix our attention on the matter for very long. Something far more compelling and amazing occurred in a desert land very like Roswell some two millennia ago. Simple shepherds in the fields outside Bethlehem were easily able to identify the flying objects in the sky as heralds of the most significant ‘incident’ in the history of mankind: The Hope of the World lay in a manger — and now at this moment is really present on our altar in the Blessed Sacrament. We want with all our hearts to keep our gaze fixed on him, on Jesus, the Firstborn of All Creation!”
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