Middling Ages, Part 2

Mark J. Janssen
5 min readAug 17


Sometimes I block out everything I might see in the physical world that gets in the way of the life of the spirit. If I don’t like the news on the television, I turn it off. If I am not interested in what someone is telling me about the terrible world we live in, I don’t listen. I may change the topic or I may find a reason to end the conversation. At times I am known to ask people what is their problem. Why are they being so negative. Is it just for the fun of complaining or do they have just cause. For the most part, in my experience, it’s because they want to complain. When I tell them they are boring and it’s time to change the topic, I am not always well received.

So what?

When our life feels upside down and we can’t get it righted again, it’s time to stop. Change direction. Like the hawk outside my window a minute ago. Rather than flying into the wall of the building, it swooped up and over the rooftop.

When I see things that are not of my current life, I often feel as if I am flying over what I am told is my reality. I am carried along on the spiritual wings of my Creator. I am terribly old fashioned in so many ways. Spending a lifetime speaking about my days and nights in the company of my Creator, of angels and saints and demons should make absolutely no sense. Yet it is my reality. I speak and write about things which, in the belief system in which I was raised, do not happen to us mere mortals. To ordinary folks. Those things only happen to saints. Of which I am decidedly not one.

My middling ages were completely blown open the time I left North America for Europe. While it was a spiritual return trip, in this life I had never been before. There I spent my days living surprising spiritual gifts.

South of Bayonne and Biarritz on the Atlantic coast of France lies an area of tremendous beauty. It is the mountainous Basque area of France. If you speak French and go there expecting to hear people speak it on the street, you may be surprised. I was. For many people in the small city where I stayed it was their second language. I thought I was being stupid when I went to Sunday Mass and couldn’t understand at least half of what was said. I asked the young priest about it afterwards. That was when I learned that the service was mostly said in Basque because that’s the language and culture of the people. Isn’t that sensible?

What most people would consider far less sensible was that in the current seventeenth century church, which is the most recent iteration of churches going back to the twelfth century, I saw people of prior centuries. They passed through. In some cases we acknowledged each other and even spoke. In other cases they passed by without comment. There were some who were ordinary folks, fishermen and trades people. Surprisingly for such a small harbor city surrounded by steep mountains, there were many who were richly dressed. Why not? After all, we were in the church where Louis XIV married the Spanish Infanta. The spirits were in the city streets, in the squares and buildings, on the beaches watching the ships from centuries past. I was too tired from transcontinental travel to care who was where. I was also fascinated by all I saw.

The same sorts of thing happened on the ramparts of the old city of Carcassonne. Walking through the ancient castle the spirits I saw ranged from ancient Celts to Cathars on up to the present day.

All of Europe was settled by various Celtic and other tribes over a period beginning at least fifty-seven thousand years ago, as archeologists are beginning to tell us. As time progresses scientists will discover that those tribes previously thought to be underdeveloped were actually quite elegant in what they accomplished. One day scientists will also realize that the ancient tribes I saw in Europe also crossed into the Americas thousands of years before peoples came across the Pacific.

There were peoples in Avignon, like the other cities I visited, present before the Neolithic age. There were also a great many people from the last two thousand years. The blocks around the palace of the popes and the medieval city were filled with people from the last thousand years. I don’t know why it surprised me, but deep within the palace where the treasury was kept were the shades of many men. Still busy keeping records centuries after the papacy returned to Rome.

As a lover of post-Impressionist art, I thought that if I went to Arles I just might get a whiff of the pipe of my favorite artist Vincent van Gogh. What I got was not even a whiff. I could feel where he had walked, the streets where he’d been, but no sightings. What I saw more of were the Romans at the ancient baths and amphitheatre, men and women of various times passing through the streets and buildings. The most jarring note in all of Arles was not seeing spirits of earlier ages, but the McDonald’s on the edge of the old city.

Taking the bus from Arles along the Rhone River and through the great marsh known as the Camargue to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer was more satisfying. As was taking a boat ride through the marsh and touring the town. The Roma, French and others I saw were not just the moderns working their ranches or in the shops of the town. They went back hundreds and thousands of years. In the crypt of the fortress church was the shrine of the Three Mary’s and Saint Sarah, the servant of the Three Saints Mary and the patron saint of the Roma. I read that the relics of the Three Mary’s have been hidden away since the attempt to destroy them during the French Revolution. The Roma secreted Sarah’s bones away until the madness had subsided. However, in that crypt I could feel and see not only Sarah, but the aunts of Christ who had fled Palestine in a small boat during the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD. All four greeted me and spoke of the times they had seen over the last two thousand years.

History lives.



Mark J. Janssen

Mark Janssen is a spiritual warrior, mystic and author. His writes a weekly blog. His memoir “Reach for the Stars” is available online and in bookstores.