A priest comes

How to make a teenager believe in miracles on demand

Romanian version of this story

Photo by Elisabeth Wales on Unsplash

When I was 12, a school mate showed me a miracle. It requires five pencils and… some toilet paper. He directed me to roll each pencil in a piece of toilet paper. Then I made a wish, I held the five pencils tight and (an essential step) I said Our Father three times. At the end, I unrolled the pencils. Mystery! Some of them had come outside the paper. Something like this:

I wasn’t stupid or naive. If I had seen my school mate handle the objects, I instantly would have suspected a trick. But since it had been me who’d done it all with my hands, who rolled the pencils inside the paper and then found them outside, I summarily dismissed any investigation and accepted that I’d witnessed a miracle. I asked my school mate:

— How does it work, I wonder?
— A priest comes and grants your wish!

With today’s brain I would object that I don’t understand who the priest is, where he comes from, how come we don’t see him, how come he knows what I wished for, why he has nothing better to do than be at my beck and call, plus a thousand other uncertainties. But my seventh-grade, not-stupid-nor-naive brain saw nothing wrong in the notion that you can employ toilet paper to summon an unseen priest to grant you a wish.

The thought that I could be responsible for what had happened never entered my mind. I guess that’s what makes the trick brilliant: that the performer is an involuntary magician. He does not understand the trick, but trusts in himself 100% and that suffices as proof that a miracle really happens. That, I suppose, is also why the trick requires five pencils: because sometimes it doesn’t work, but one attempt in five should work, and one is all it takes.

I didn’t perceive the event religiously. My school mate spoke of miracles and priests, but it fascinated me the same way as horoscopes and UFOs did (these were other things in which I believed fervently when I was 12). None of these episodes in particular made a staggering impression upon me, but little by little they opened a gate inside my brain, a gate to the conviction that paranormal happenings exist. A few years later religious conviction rushed through this gate. Then things got serious: it took me 23 years to clean up my thoughts, of which the first 10–12 years I didn’t even realize that anything needed cleaning up.

I will try to write about this in future stories, in an attempt to help others avoid this disease or protect their friends from it.

For completeness, here is the reveal of the trick (quite trivial):

software engineer living in Bucharest, Romania