Father Steven Scheier should have died on Oct. 18, 1985, in a
collision while traveling back to his parish in the Diocese of Wichita,
Kan. He suffered a major concussion and fractured vertebrae of the neck.
Doctors gave him little chance to survive.
But he did.
Shortly after returning to his parish, as he read the Gospel of
Luke about the unproductive fig tree, the page illuminated, enlarged and
moved toward him from the Lectionary. Shaken after Mass, he remembered
that after his accident he found himself before the judgment seat of
Our Lord went through his whole life, showing him sins unconfessed and unforgiven since his last confession.
Father Scheier could only answer, “Yes, Lord.” Although a priest,
he admittedly was not very spiritual and had practically no prayer
The judgment was hell, to which Father Scheier agreed. He said
the Lord was merely “honoring his choice.” But then he heard a woman’s
voice pleading to spare his soul. He knew it the Blessed Mother.
He heard Jesus say: “Mother, he has been a priest for 12 years
for himself and not for me; let him reap the punishment he deserves.”
Our Lady responded, “But Son, what if we give him special graces and
strengths and then see if he bears fruit? If not, your will be done.”
Jesus replied, “Mother, he’s yours.”
Since then, he has been hers. That extreme wake-up call with its
eternal consequences has made all the difference in Father Scheier’s
life and priesthood. Moreover, he wants it to make a difference in the
lives of others. In the 1990s, he appeared as a guest on Mother
Angelica’s EWTN show to recount his experiences.
In terms of near-death experiences, the Register reported on this
topic in 2001. “I cautiously treat these experiences as a good thing,
but not as a major argument for life after death and our belief in the
Resurrection — the big thing is Jesus’ victory over death,” said Father
Gerald O’Collins, professor of systematic theology at the prestigious
Gregorian University in Rome. “However, he added, ‘Some people have
quite a big change in their lives for the better after one of these
experiences.’ Father O’Collins also sees no reason why theories about
near-death experiences being a glimpse of the eternal have to be in
opposition to those that attribute the effect to chemicals released by
the brain. As he put it, ‘Who made the brain anyway? God.’”
Today, Father Scheier is pastor at St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church in rural Caldwell, Kan.
Did your judgment experience transform your life?
It has changed my priesthood. More than anything else, I am very
conscious of the pilgrimage here on earth. This period we have is a
test, and time is so relative here compared to eternity — and so much
depends on my time here.
What important things did you learn?
It wasn’t any question of belief in the tenets of the Church. But
now, to me, heaven and the saints are not merely things on paper or in
the books I read or at services; they are real. I believe with the head
and the heart.
A lot of our priorities are mixed up. My priority should have
been to save my soul and others — what a priest should do, investing in
that future, not investing in happiness here on earth.
If we run from the cross, there is a bigger one awaiting us.
We have a heavenly Mother. Since then, she’s been everything. Any
one of us in the same stead would suffer the same consequence and
experience the Divine Mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ I experienced. His
mother is the one who interceded for me.
Any other reason you were allowed to live?
My mission is to let you know that hell exists and we as priests
are liable to it. But also his Divine Mercy exists. His love outweighs
But mention of hell and sin are so unpopular today.
These are things that have to be talked about because they are
real and are probably the most important things we can talk about. I
remember years ago visiting Cardinal William Baum in Rome, and he said,
“You have a problem in the United States. People are not going to
People don’t think they sin anymore. There are no longer lines
for the confessional. Sometimes a priest sits for an hour without
hearing one confession. How strange to me everybody goes to Communion on
Sundays and nobody goes to confession.
I see Communions being a matter of routine — no thinking about
who we are receiving. The idea of the Real Presence is less and less in
the minds of Catholics.
We are depending more on science than religion.
When you once gave talks around the country (he no longer does), what did you see happening then — and now?
The Church as I saw it was changing. I’m seeing a remnant that is
holding on to the traditions and to the doctrines of the Church, and
the Church is growing less in numbers. Things are not relevant as they
used to be, such as confession, devotions, novenas, Holy Hours,
Benediction, perpetual adoration, and prayers for souls in purgatory.
If (scheduling) is not convenient, people are not coming to any
rites we have. Sports are taking over as precedents to religious
People are following their consciences, and their consciences are not being directed by the Church in grave matters.
I’m finding people do not want any constructive advice today. Remember the book I’m OK, You’re OK?
We’ve taken that to the ‘nth’ degree: I’m okay, and you’re here to
please me and affirm anything I say or want. Whatever I do or say is
okay because I’m a good person.
Do you find not shying away from telling people the truth is unpopular?
Right now, to tell the Truth is to pay a consequence. The
consequence being we’re not going to be liked, and we’re going to be
talked about and avoided. That’s martyrdom, in a way, unbloody
martyrdom. But we’re all called to be martyrs. We can be and will be if
we stand up for the truth, even to the point other people are going to
ridicule us for it.
He never promised us we would be popular being his followers. He
only promised us crosses. But the crosses are bearable because he is
there and because his Blessed Mother is there to lighten them.
Crosses are also unpopular to talk about, aren’t they?
I’m still very much afraid of crosses. Oftentimes, we avoid
crosses. But our Blessed Mother and Our Lord have said crosses are like
jewels, ways for us to get to heaven. The cross is the only way to get
to heaven, Our Lord said.
When I look at the crosses, I look at the three on Calvary. The
Blessed Mother said we can choose one of them. Remember the Bad Thief
who cursed his suffering and the good thief Dismas? Which do we choose?
It’s only in suffering we come to know religious values. Proof is
people who spend time in the hospital. Their suffering seems to bring
them to their knees. I think that’s what God is trying to do to us now,
to the point where we fall on our knees and stay there. The Twin Towers
were a wake-up call. We didn’t heed it. At Akita, the Blessed Mother
said that she could not hold back her Son’s arm anymore.
Do you propose we have a healthy fear about all this?
I don’t think we’re conscious of the fruit of the sacrament of
confirmation. But this is the role of the Holy Spirit, making us
soldiers of Christ: being unafraid, giving witness of the truth of the
Catholic Church; and we become devoid of fear by our devotion and prayer
to the Holy Spirit.
What do you see in regards to our Blessed Mother showing us how to lighten the crosses?
What is really paramount, to me, these days is the fact that the
majority are not paying any attention to the locutions or appearances of
the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is marking out for us a detailed plan on
how to get to heaven. That’s how concerned she is. It’s not a surprise,
because we’re her children, and she loves us more that our own mothers. I
found that out.
At the wedding feast of Cana at Galilee, she says, “Do whatever
he tells you.” That’s what she has said in all the apparitions and
locutions for centuries. “Do whatever he tells you.” Revelation has
ceased. She’s said nothing new. What she’s done is what the Holy Spirit
is doing in our time. He’s reminding us of what Jesus said we should do.
The Holy Spirit and our advocate, the Blessed Mother, have the same
If young people want to know their vocations, who do you suggest they ask to help and to show them?
As far as I can remember in my early childhood, I had a special
devotion to our Blessed Mother. Not expecting anything from her, I would
go and write special prayers to her. She was always important to me —
and remains so, even though I went off and did my own thing for awhile.
But she didn’t forget, and it was to my advantage she didn’t forget.
Early devotion to our Blessed Mother played a great part in my vocation
to the priesthood and led me to the priesthood. I always relied on her
for everything, especially getting through the seminary and my studies.
Why is the devotion to our Blessed Mother you have now so important for all of us?
The Blessed Mother is like our lawyer, our advocate. She is
closest to God as mother of his Son and the spouse of the Holy Spirit. I
don’t think we know how powerful she is. The Blessed Mother pleads,
“Please pray.” What queen pleads with her subjects? She’s humility
In her mind and words, priests are special. They are to be
likened to her Son, who is the most humble person who came upon the
The one thing God does not stand for is arrogance and thinking
more of ourselves than who we are. Look at the parable of the Publican
and the Pharisee.
What major insight did you get about the Trinity and our Blessed Mother?
One thing I’ve learned is this beautiful truth: the Trinity —
Father, Son and Holy Spirit — none of them, not one, can say “No” to
her. They cannot. They will not. It’s impossible. St. Bernard said the
same thing. Even here on earth Jesus could not say “No” to her. And
that’s because his will and her will are one. Isn’t that somebody we
want on our side?