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For our discernment:


Many are the ways that the supernatural enters our realm and one of them, it seems, is through "orbs" of luminosity.

Like any other phenomena, there seem to be manifestations of roundish lights representing angels or spirits.

Reports and photographs of such alleged phenomena are rampant -- some simple reflections from dust on a lens or digital artifacts in cell cameras while others seem attached to spiritual events.

Are they holy? Here we have to issue an "occult watch." In some cases, they have been linked to heavenly manifestations. At the Church-approved apparition at LaSalette (in the French Alps south of Grenoble during the 19th century), the Blessed Mother arrived in a static and "beautiful light shining more brightly than the sun," which acted as if "it had opened up" to reveal "a more brilliant, moving light." In this light was the woman identified as Mary (weeping over sins).

Such lights have been reported in association with other Marian apparitions.

At Fatima, the Blessed Mother was accompanied at least once by a luminous globe. At Lourdes, it was a gold-colored "cloud."

Oval-shaped lights are also linked to the appearance of angels, or spirits of the deceased.

One doctor who works with hospice patients in Houston reports that oval lights have been seen as patients approach the threshold. Upon death, they also have been seen on or near the bodies -- as if representing the soul as it departs.

Yet, they are also reported in occult, psychic, and New Age literature. In older times, Indians reported "spirit lights," greatly resembling many reports of "UFOs" (which are ironically spotted on occasion over old Indian grounds and sometimes occult circles).

Therein lies the caution: It may be that good, neutral, and evil spirits all use a similar mode of supernatural transportation.

Spirits can form themselves however way they desire, and usually do so in a way that best corresponds to the beliefs of those who are witnesses or in the way they will be recognized. When it isn't a technical quirk, an orb may have images and symbols in it -- as one witness encountered, looking at the moon at Fatima.

"This picture was taken at Saint Joseph Hill Church in Sellersburg, Indiana," wrote Sandy Bierly. "We call this church 'Hill' because it is located atop a high hill in southern Indiana. There is 24-hour Eucharistic Adoration following the 7:00 P.M. Mass until Benediction at 7:00 P.M. on Wednesday evening. 

"I was praying there on February 11, 2009 (feast day of Lourdes) and was moved to take a picture of the mural of Jesus on the wall behind the altar with a Nikon camera I had with me. This orb was in the picture. I took some more pictures, but this was the only one where the orb showed up. I have sent you other pictures of orbs taken at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in New Albany, which is the parish where I belong. The last picture I sent you was of the orb with the St. Joseph statue at Our Lady. I have no idea if there is a connection. I have been praying the Novena to St. Joseph for three years and asking St. Joseph to protect my family. I don't know if there is a connection."

Nor do we. Is it a charism gifted to certain folks, or simply that their cameras are more prone to reflection (or malfunctions)? 

"There is a huge difference between something we capture on film and notice after the fact and something we see happening and capture on film/video," notes a viewer named Tobin Pilotte. "I think this is an important distinction. I have heard of many people who have seen orbs of light but this is big in the areas of the occult, UFO research, crop circle research, and ghost hunters.  Did you recently have an article where an exorcist reported balls of light?"

Wrote Tom Morrison of Williamsport, Pennsylvania: "Regarding observations and experiences regarding orbs. If some of the photos do not satisfy skeptics, there can be a very real feeling of presence that may accompany them. And I think one needs to be open and attuned to accept not only at special moments but to extend these feelings through prayer so that at every moment, one can be open. I have been to a home where they have always had 'friendly' happenings. During a one time visit, I experienced two dogs simultaneously run to a chair, staring directly into the upper corner of the room with their front paws up onto the chair, quiet and at attention as if transfixed, just staring. While this is taking place, we had taken photos of where they were looking. Lo and behold, there was a large beautiful orb. I  think dogs have better instincts then we do or perhaps not as judgmental?"

It is not good to judge but it is to discern, especially at a time when there is great deception.

In Lubbock, Texas, famous photographs showed what seemed like orb-like UFOs in 1951 and decades later this same city was the site of controversial manifestations in the sky associated with the Virgin Mary.

"The orbs really are nothing supernatural, in fact they are quite easy to create naturally with a camera, especially depending on what aperture the camera is set for. I am a photographer and will send you a couple of links to my shots explaining how it works," noted Brooke Pennington of Grand Rapids, Michigan. "The first shot will show how depth of field works. My 50-millimeter lens can drop down to a every low F-Stop of 1.4 which creates such beautiful and soft effects under the right conditions. This shot shows how snowflakes will look when there is a very shallow depth of field [note example here]. Many of the shots you have posted are also nothing but lens flares that are really easy to produce and even used intentionally to create a nice feel to an image."

Noted Francie LaFortune of Las Vegas, who was present during an apparition to a seer from Medjugorje, "Ivan came in and we began to say the Rosary and he stopped at a small altar on the right side, right in front of us. When the time came for the apparition, he knelt down and I saw orbs of light circling around him and where the blessed mother would be. I saw an orb come right over to him and stop in front of him. These orbs were golden on top and clear on the bottom so you could see through them. When I say golden on top, I mean the light on top was a yellow-gold light like a regular light bulb. There were maybe four or five of these globes. Next I saw a lit cross and this cross was all like a bright white light and it stayed for about thirty seconds, long enough for me to see it."

"I have seen orbs during actual TV movies," said another, Peggy O'Brien, a property manager in Chicago. "There usually is a street light on or a car light during the night scene of the movie. The orbs were usually yellow. However, the white orbs in the pictures of your article is much more mysterious and nothing like a light reflection of a street lamp. The detail and texture of the orbs pictured seem more unexplainable."

At right is one "orb" of which we can be certain (even in times such as ours).

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