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Monday, August 07, 2006

Private Revelation and Catholic Eschatology

Wow, just the title is a mouthful, and a brainful. Many have studied eschatology (study of the end-times) and have gone away more confused after much information than had they never broached the subject at all.

Well, (deep subject) I'm confused and I honestly haven't even started. I know I really need to read a book, and I know of several, but instead, I'm going to muse about this because it's been on my heart. I think my blog is my surrogate Spiritual Director...some of the stuff I'd tell an SD I'm sharing with all y'alls--because I don't have an SD. So, my readers, have been elevated to the realm of "Spiritual Director". After all, I know a great number of you likely have attained a higher degree of knowledge, and more importantly, sanctity, than I have...thus you are qualified to lend your opinion and your knowledge.

Anyway, here's the situation.

I have several dear friends who are into private revelation. They are all solid Catholics, recieve the Sacraments, love Jesus, and to the best of their ability, live and preach the Gospel.

The other day, one of these friends and I were discussing some current affairs in the world of religion. She was not aware that the local Cub Foods is using "pay by touch" (they use your fingerprint and basically associate it with your bank account---how is this POSSIBLY a good idea?). This lead to a discussion of the microchip some companies are using to implant in people as admission into the door every day. And is being touted as having even greater usage in the future. We may all be required to recieve this chip.

I can't remember what exactly was said on this topic, but my friend said that "we're not supposed to do that, it's bad." ("We" meaning "believing Christians of all faiths, especially Catholics because that's what we are).

I asked her why "we're not supposed" to do it...says who? She became defensive, even though I expressed that I agreed with her, but wanted to know who she was citing in their alleged authority. She couldn't tell me. She could only express that someone had told her that someone had written about it and we're not supposed to recieve the micro chip because it's bad.

I pressed her for info...if I'm going to argue against it, I want all the info in my arsenal. She couldn't provide it. Then she said, "I'm going to wait to see what the Blessed Mother says about it."

Big red flags went up in my mind. It's not as though the Blessed Mother is hanging out at the corner, talking audibly to all of us...thus my friend is referring to certain mystics, both in Medjugorje and locally, who claim to recieve messages from Our Lady. She was expressing her dependance upon these alleged messages.

I'm no enemy of private revelation, mind you. It has a great history in the Church and has lead many out of a life of sin and back to the Lord. But that does not mean we should cross lines.

I have long worried that she and some others I know have been too dependant and too devoted to these mystics, and it has sent up red flags for me for a long time now. As some of you know, I used to be involved in the occult..I used to read palms and even consult my own for guidance...I used to consult Tarot and psychics and I could even tell fortunes through the use of everyday cards. (That started as entertainment, also). In other words, I used to rely on some other percieved "authority" to direct my actions, although I denied it at the time.

My friend's comment displayed that this is exactly what she is doing...she is relying on private revelation to direct her actions.

Thanks be to God, she has the Church and the Sacraments, but she does not have as much knowledge as I had thought about the Church...and she's not seeking to learn or experience anything more than Medjugorje. She and her mother are both telling me to go to Medjugorje, and so is her husband. I will not deny what the trip has done for them and for their marriage and their faith..far be it. However, we must all be careful not to put too much trust in something untried. The faith is good, the practice of our faith is good...but the over-focus on the untried is NOT good.

I tried to express this to my friend, and explained to her that she need not wait for anyone to speak for the Blessed Mother on this issue...I expressed to her that we can argue against the microchip through the citation of Civil Rights violations and the like. The potential for abuse. After all, I can tell you that the BCA and the FBI both have my prints on file due to jobs I held in the past, and quite honestly, the government thus has enough power to mess with my identify if they so chose to become a Tom Clancy novel.

The reality is that we do not know what the "mark of the beast" really is, in the Book of Revelation. But I get ahead of myself here.

After that conversation, I spoke to some friends, although I'll admit the Holy Spirit warned me not to...(see, I'm a friend of private revelation). I expressed my concern about my friend and her over-reliance upon these mystics, explaining it thus:


"I heard Father Mitch Pacwa explain the place of private revelation in terms of a meal. Jesus (the Eucharist) is the Bread of Life, that Substance without which we cannot survive. The Gospel and Sacred Tradition (and Magesterium) is the meat, and the writings of the Saints are the fruits and vegetables of the holy meal. Private revelation is dessert...we can live without it, although the reality of it completes the meal and provides a certain emphasis."

I doubt I was that eloquent, but I was quoting the good priest. I daresay he could explain his own example much better than I, so if you hear his allegory anywhere else, put your stake in his version, not mine.

My friends became quickly defensive and indignant, stating that "dessert is good" and that some people "need" private revelation to come to the Church, etc. I agreed with them but tried to explain that we need not and SHOULD NOT rely on it...they argued nonsensically that the Church can't approve apparitions until the mystic in question has died. I agreed, but I was floored by their lack of logic. Here were people I had respected as they are solid Catholics. They are involved in a local prayer group which meets on occasion with a local mystic (whom I have met and love), and apparently they are a bit too attached.

My understanding of these mysitcs is that they only seek to lead people to the Church...not to themselves, and if they realized the dependance of their followers upon them, what would they say? That might be telling.

I should have listened to the Holy Spirit and not had this discussion with my friends...I had to back off as tempers began to flare, and I was flabbrergasted at this. I did not expect that they would disagree that private revelation was only a side dish...but their defensiveness displayed a "fruit" of mysticism that I had not previously recognized. I praise God for revealing this to me.

Now, I want to caution you all...I am not decrying against the mystics. They are orthodox Catholics, they are obedient to the local bishop, and they are dear women in the faith. My concern is with the individuals who place too much emphasis upon the revelations.

That leads to eschatology. Where to begin? According to Catholic teaching, the Book of Revelation has already occurred, and actually is occurring every day...the description of the Mass is contained, in part within this book. (Read "The Lamb's Supper" by Scott Hahn).

But then we have talk of the "end times" and "chastizements" and the like. The mystics are talking about chastizements and the coming of Christ, and while I do not doubt this, I think we all need to have a better understanding of eschatology.

One of the Spiritual Directors of one of the local mystics points out that none of us knows the day or the hour the Lord may come, and that the messages are all about repentance, returning to the Sacraments, reading scripture, etc. He points out that as long as we are doing this, then we are safe, but we must continue to pray for the world's conversion. This has been preached since Jesus entered the earth!

I do think the world needs to be cleansed and I have no doubt that this is going to happen..but not before it gets worse. I believe we need to repent, we need to pray for conversion and yet, we watch the moral decay of civilization go on and on.

We, as Catholics, do not believe in the Rapture of the "Left Behind" fame, and this is of course a very new theology, which alone makes it wrong. Jesus never preached this fallacy. The Church has ALWAYS taught that we have been in the end times since the death of Christ (or birth?), and none knows the day or the hour...and I have not seen one of the local seers give a specific date or time. They have always been ambiguous about the sign to come from the east...sounds like springtime, but no month is given, other than maybe an expressed "guess" from the seer.

But it is not about the is about chastizement.

What it comes down to is this: we must convert, we must pray, and we must spread the Gospel. If we rely on private revelation, we will not become knowledgeable in our faith, but we will become fat and looking to the skies for signs that may not come in our lifetime.

I can't express this enough...I am not against private revelation, but we have to be very careful that we are not RELYING on their unproven mesages from the alleged Blessed Mother to guide our actions...especially when we can use logic guided by what we KNOW to be true in order to defend against the poisons of the world.


Christine the Soccer Mom said...

Oddly enough, our pastor touched on this topic just this past Sunday. He said that we must be careful not to allow private revelations, which we are not required to believe, to become the centerpiece of our faith.

Adoro said...

Thank you for your comment.

I've been agonizing over this for days, and today I read a post by someone else, another local blogger, with his own take. That actually inspired me further, and I realized I had to talk about this.

Unfortunately, I don't think my resulting post has adequately displayed the agony I have experienced over this topic over the last few days, so I pray the Holy Spirit guide our discussion here in the combox.

God bless you!

Terry Nelson said...

Very good post! You expressed it very well...I've seen some of the people you know - maybe not the ones you spoke with - but those like them. They see signs everywhere and tend to be very suspicious of everyone and everything - especially when they question if there is anything supernatural about the revelations. I can't help but think it's a huge dose of curiosity and sensate gratification they are seeking to bolster their faith.

As for mystical revelations of the saints, they have never been canonized for these things and very few have had any official pronouncement upon the veracity of their writings, at most the Bishop will say such things are free of anything contrary to the faith.

Saints such as Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Sienna, John of the Cross and others have their writings approved because they are mystical theology and contain good doctrine. St. Faustina is an exception of course, as are a few others. One always has to be prudent and obedient, while detachment and mortification always keeps one very safe indeed.

Another problem I find with a local mystic I know of is those who hear and read what she says, very often repeat it with their own interpretation, hence things get to be even more convoluted. These people become vulnerable to deception and easily believe everything they hear if someone tells them the Blessed Mother said it. One lady had told me once that Mother Angelica, though silent and relatively incapacitated leaves the monastery when Our Lord permits her, and that she has done so at least two times to help with two different foundations of monasteries. I had a mother of one of her nuns ask the sisters and they laughed and said it was not true.

People must be careful.

Adoro said...

Thank you, Terry...indeed, people must be careful.

The two mystics I've met have inspired me to prayer and I admit to reading their messages...and they have bolstered my faith. But I recognized in myself that propensity to wanting to know the future, to looking for knowledge that I should not have, and realized I was looking to these women as a form of fortune-telling...and I know that both of them would set me straight if I were ever to express that to them. They are only messengers, and they do express that we are meant to turn to the Lord, not to them, and they are very clear.

I do believe that those who rely too heavily upon these women do not realize they are doing so...and I'm not sure how to help them understand my concern. Please pray for them...they are good Catholics, and many know their faith and teach it to others as well as they can..but they cannot see the example they are providing in their devotion to mystics and their "overuse" of them.

Unknown said...

I don't know.

I have a friend who went to Medjugorje and she had a powerful experience there and that may be what is keeping her Catholic. She gets not much out of attending Mass and regularly attends the services in Brooklyn Park of Mac Hammond which she enjoys greatly.

She gave me a medal of the Blessed Mother that she brought back from Medjugorje and I admit to having attached it to my Rosary.

But I don't know. A lot of people seem to be having relatively orthodox and rewarding prayer lives because of their Medjugorje experiences.

I guess that is between them and God.

I'm more worried about me and my prayer life. I don't recognize anybody but my conscience speaking to me. I'm satisfied that that might be a message, but from whom, I don't know.

I don't always listen or follow it, but in retrospect, I should have been.

Adoro said...

Medjugorje will be in question until the mystics leave for eternity, and then it will be put to the test. As the alleged apparations are ongoing, the Vatican cannot complete their investigation.

I do not doubt the conversions that have taken place there, nor do I doubt the orthodoxy of those who go...afer all, I have seen the miraculous and the return to the Sacraments and a deepening faith resulting from these trips.

But I myself do not feel any sense that I should go there..although I feel strongly drawn to the Holy Land and to Rome.

Ray, if we have a wellformed conscience, that IS God speaking to us, so yes, focus on that. We do not need to be charismatics, we do not need to visit Medjugorje or Fatima or Lourds in order to recognize the voice of our shepherd. But maybe some people DO need that experience in order to learn, and for some specific purpose, they are called to those locations.

We don't walk the same paths, and that's why the Church is so beautiful...because no matter where we go, we see her in all her glory...and we realize we are ALL a part of her.

The bride of Christ, with Mary as our Mother.

Unknown said...

Well said Adoro.

You got me to respond to the book meme and my reaction to "Theology and Sanity" was exactly what got me back to Church.

What I had been struggling with for those twenty years that I was away was what it meant to be created in the "image and likeness of God."

Sheed, building on my lifetime's learning and experience, showed me how I had been specially created by God, even to the point of being a finite copy of the trinitarian existence, and that I would have my own particular path to walk, but with God and the Communion of Saints at my side, ready to provide assistance should I ask for their help.

I haven't always asked, but I do know they are there.

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Excellent points. Here's my two cents.

Personally, I'm very mistrustful of private revelation that does not, at least, have the approval of the Church. Why? Because I think we need the distance of time and reflection to verify the validity of said revelation.

Obviously, we "run the risk" of missing some potentially important revelation of "the now" but I think our "well-formed" consciences will tell us if it's worthy of belief.

New Advent has this to say:

"When the Church approves private revelations, she declares only that there is nothing in them contrary faith or good morals, and that they may be read without danger or even with profit; no obligation is thereby imposed on the faithful to believe them."

Even the Church is not saying you have to believe even the approved revelations. However, nothing will be approved that is contrary to church doctrine.

I'm with Adoro, sometimes private revelation can be a substitute for fortune-telling. Have we all become Greeks seeking the Oracle at Delphi? I used to read Tarot cards myself and I took them as "truth". I think there is a real danger of Satan creeping in to some of these revelations which is why the Church, in its wisdom, is cautious.

Also, I think sometimes a "cult of believers" can form around these mystics. Some take everything the mystic says as fact. I used to belong to a cult so I know firsthand the dangers of losing yourself in a charismatic leader.

I think the best you can do, Adoro, is encourage your friends to review the mystics revelations in light of Scripture, Tradition and Magisterium. And to take and consider each revelation one at a time before accepting it as true.

Lady Fett said...

Hey, I just came across your blog! Looks like some good stuff. I really like this entry too. The thing about Medj. is that is has been condemned by the local bishop and that is binding on Catholics. Maybe ya'll didn't know that. Anyways. Please check out my blog and add me to your roll if you like! Thanks.

Tim said...

I am very cautious when it comes to private revelation. I feel like I have my plate full trying to understand public revelation as it is.

bookstopper said...

Thanks for your willingness to post on such a topic, Adoro. I had no idea what Medijugorje was or the apparition there. Apparitions aren't really my thing, but it's neat to know that such things can help bring someone into the faith...

Anonymous said...

I appreciate what you say. I have been to Medjugore four times and I have been blessed with many graces as were the pilgrims who accompanied me. however the graces are wherever Jesus is which is in all our Catholic churches. Being in Medjugorie is like a booster shot. It is not neccesarily that what is alleged to be happening but because so many people come there in faith. The people come seeking and God does not make fools of us and will grant us the graces we seek. It is a special place of prayer and yet it could occur wherever people of fervent faith gather. Jesus had promised this: "Where two or more gathered in prayer, there are I"