Broadcast Worldwide on EWTN - June 11, 2006
In response to an e-mail question about the value of private revelation:
Now, private revelation is a great big subject. For those watching the program who are not familiar with this phrase, down through Christian
history there have been many reports of Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself appearing to people. There have been reports of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of Saints appearing
to people. Sometimes these were incredibly important apparitions. They saved people's lives.
I think of one that nobody has ever studied, but it happened to a Franciscan brother I knew who was a missionary in China. The Japanese army
was entering the city. They could hear the machine guns, so they all ran out the back gate of the city. He was with an old friar who was going slowly. They got up
into the hills, and they were going to turn right. Then, a man was standing in front of them in biblical dress. He said, "No, go left." They went left. They heard the
machine gun fire on the right, and they survived. That brother was convinced that night he had seen St. Joseph.
What do you do with that? It saved his life.
Private revelations are people from the "other" world, the transcendent, the serious world of eternity, appearing to us. They could be angelic
people, (garbled word here- heavenly?) citizens. They could be apparitions of Saints. Apparitions are appearances because the present bodies of the saints are in fact
in the grave till the Last Judgment.
The Church has had to try to deal with these seriously. I wrote a book on private revelations. It is called, A Still Small Voice, the Church's
Teaching about Private Revelation. It is only $10-12; and if you are interested in private revelations, it would do you a lot of good to read it.
First of all, the Church can never infallibly teach that a private revelation has taken place. The infallible teachings are about the
Scripture and the very early teachings of the Church. So, the most the Church could do is give approval; and probably the strongest approval is given when a Pope
visits the place of the apparition. Pope John Paul II visited Lourdes, the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Bernadette, and he visited Fatima where the three
little children believed they had seen the Virgin Mary. Neither Bernadette nor the three children knew whom they were talking to. Other people had to tell them they
were talking to the Virgin Mary. They didn't know that. They reported what was told to them.
In Fatima the three little children repeated the phrase that Russia would be converted. They thought Russia was a person. They had no idea of
geography. They were peasant children.
So there are all kinds of interesting private revelations. The vast majority of private revelations reported and examined are not approved,
are not approved. Only a very small number are. In the last 300 years, the Church has not given widespread approval to any private revelation given to adult if the
identity of that adult was known at the time of their death. So when people with private revelations are running around telling everybody in their public relations, I
flee from them. I won't risk it. I'd get out of the way.
Now, there are only three revelations to adults in modern times given highest Church approval: the revelation to St. Margaret Mary of the
Sacred Heart of Jesus, the revelation of Our Lady to St. Bernadette (no, excuse me, Bernadette was a child), the revelation to St. Faustina of God's Mercy, to a
humble little nun, and to St. Catherine Laboure', the revelation of the Immaculate Conception Medal, or the Miraculous Medal. All three of these were utterly unknown
at the time of their deaths, and these are among the most popular. Others like Bernadette and the children of Fatima were known because they were children and in
their naivete they told people.
If you hear somebody say, "The Blessed Mother appeared to me on ninth hole of the golf course", you know, or someplace, don't run there and
don't start proclaiming that this has happened, because this could be a sin against the First Commandment. You are obliged by the First Commandment to avoid false
worship. Even when you have been impressed by the reports of conversions and things like that about private revelations, it is also important to know that even a
"saint" making a report of a private revelation can make mistakes because they are human beings.
Pope Benedict XIV, who wrote extensively on private revelation, said that no private revelation is necessarily free from error. He listed
three saints who made big errors, St. Catherine of Sienna, St. Bridget, and St. Hildegard?.
"No one can go off and start up his own church and call it Roman Catholic."
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