Monday, 14 August 2023 13:00

The night Jerseyville's Father Marty Smith saw a UFO - What does the Church say about this phenomenon?

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The night Jerseyville’s Father Marty Smith saw a UFO
What does the Church say about this phenomenon?

JERSEYVILLE — What was supposed to be a normal spring night for Father Marty Smith, pastor of several parishes in Jersey County, turned into something out of this world.

In 2018, Father Smith invited a friend to come over to his home in Jerseyville to have some pizza and sit by a fire outside, as the weather had finally warmed up enough, and it was a pleasant evening. After they ate, the two of them were sitting around the fire and talking about a variety of topics under a dark and clear sky. That is when things took an eye-popping turn.

“As we were talking, I detected movement out of the peripheral vision of my left eye,” Father Smith recalled. “Thinking it might be an owl, I turned my head and looked over my garage only to see not an owl, but something being dimly illuminated by the moonlight moving at an incredible speed. Staring for a moment to figure out what I was looking at, it suddenly became apparent that it looked like a giant black triangle seemingly the size of a house, with a dim white strip along the side. It had no lights on it, was making nearly no sound aside from a very slight whooshing sound, and it appeared to be flying at about 3,000-5,000 feet to the northeast.”

Father Smith then asked his friend if he was seeing it too. His friend confirmed the same. In just a matter of a few seconds, whatever it was shot across the sky, gone. 

“We both were shocked and perplexed by what we saw,” Father Smith said. “We spent some time discussing and explaining what it possibly could have been, but never figured out what exactly we saw. Now, I’m not sure what it was we saw that night, but as a former Army paratrooper, I am familiar with the altitude it appeared to be flying at because that was the altitude we often jumped from in the military. I am also familiar with a wide variety of military aircraft in flight, having seen many in my time in the service and at airshows throughout the years. Whatever it was, it looked like nothing I have ever seen. I also enjoy observing stars, tracking satellites, watching meteor shows, owls, and nighttime birds throughout the year. It was none of those. It moved across the sky so quickly, and it was so dark that even if there had been more time for me to grab my phone and attempt a picture, I’m not sure anything could have been seen on it. It could have been something natural, an optical illusion, it could have been a secret aircraft, or something else totally unknown. Whatever it was, it is a complete mystery, and it defied our explanation.” 

Other people in the area also saw it too, confirming it wasn’t just these two friends hanging out by the campfire.

Recently, there has been a renewed interest in UFOs (unidentified flying objects), now called UAPs (unidentified arial phenomena). This is in part due to the revelation by the Pentagon that between 2007 and 2012, it had been investigating this phenomenon in a program called A.A.T.I.P. (Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program). That, along with the release of videos from U.S. Navy fighter jets that captured unknown flying objects, and the fact that these videos were confirmed as authentic by the Department of Defense and other high government officials, continues to grow interest in UFOs. In July, John Kirby, the National Security Council’s coordinator for the White House, said that “Some of these phenomena (UFOs), we know, are having an impact on our training ranges.” So, what does the Church say on this topic? 

“The Church doesn’t have a defined teaching on the topic of unidentified arial phenomenon or on extra-terrestrial life for that matter,” Father Smith said. “This is because first, we don’t know what these objects are and what the explanation for them is. Are they a natural phenomenon we do not yet understand? A secret technology being experimented by a government or group? Or, is it technology that didn’t come from this world? There are several different opinions on that question.

“I have heard people wrongly make the argument that if alien life were discovered, it would destroy religion or break down our faith and the Church. That is not true. Most of the time when I hear people make this claim, it comes from people who don’t have a very good understanding of what the faith, Scripture, and the Church are. Let’s say for a moment that alien life were discovered. It does nothing to change the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Revelation of God throughout humanity. It just means that there are still aspects of God’s creation that we do not yet know about, and that will always be true because God is the creator of everything, visible and invisible, seen and unseen. There are many aspects of our faith which are mysteries. A few examples are angels, demons, heaven, hell, miracles, creation, time, and the Holy Trinity. All of these things we can talk about with limited knowledge and experience by what has been revealed to us by God, but the vast majority of these things will remain a mystery to us on earth. If God chose to reveal more to us about these mysteries, it doesn’t end our faith, it enhances it and reveals more to us about God’s creation.”

Many people also wrongly assume that faith and science are opposed to each other. Father Smith points out that the two actually go hand-in-hand. Science can help answer the “how;” however, science cannot answer the “why.” Faith answers the “why” question, and that answer in its simplest form is God.

“The more we learn about science, the more it reveals to us how God has created things and the order in which He has established for how things work,” Father Smith said. “Our faith then strengthens our science to first make sure it is authentic and true, and then to strengthen our trust in God even in the things science cannot yet or never will be able to explain. When a mystery is before us, whether it’s something natural but unknown, manmade, or from another source that we don’t know about, we must realize that none of that changes our faith. Our understanding of things as humans or our choosing to believe or not believe in something doesn’t determine what reality is and what is true. Only God does that. He determines what is true. The topic of UFOs or any mystery is nothing we must worry or be anxious about because our trust is in Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, and the Creator of all things.” 

Back to that story in 2018. The following weekend, as Father Smith was in the church preparing to celebrate the weekend Mass, he discovered that his friend who was with him that fateful night had told his dad of the account. His father, an older gentleman with a deep booming voice that could be heard clearly throughout the whole church, was sitting in the front pew with his arms resting on his walker. Father Smith describes the rest: 

“As I walk out to light the candles he says to me, ‘Father … what’s this I hear about you and my son, sitting by a fire, and seeing a UFO?’ I think every person who was already in the church at that moment stopped what they were doing, turned, and was listening. ‘It’s a mystery,’ is all I could say with a laugh. There are some things we may never know.”