Private revelations--whether occurring as an apparent appearance of the Blessed Mother, crying statues, cryptic messages, and the like--have had throughout history a certain fascination for many who are religious minded. Those who accept these supposed revelations and subsequently do not follow the guidance of the Church are like the followers of a leader of a new religion. The Peace Weekly series on Catholicism and Other Religions deals this week with these private revelations.
The bishops of Korea, in 1997, gave us guidelines on how to see these private revelations. The little book was titled: Movements and Tendencies that Hinder a Healthy Spiritual Life. For a Catholic, the Deposit of Faith is the public revelation that ended with the death of the Apostles. It is with this understanding that private, special or individual revelations have to be considered. If these are accepted, they only help us to understand the original message that ended with the apostles.
The writer, a professor at the Catholic University, tells us that three things have been traditionally considered in determining whether the revelation is from God. First, it has to be in accord with the deposit of faith. Second, the person who received the revelation must be of sound mind. Third, are those with the revelation and their supporters showing spiritual fruits from the revelation (Gal. 5:22).
Private revelations that do not help us understand the deposit of faith are not authentic, and if those having the revelations become like the leaders of a new religion, then problems can develop. Some who are overcome by the trials of daily life are attracted to these strange phenomena, but they are not important to a follower of Jesus and his way of the cross; Jesus is the doctor they should approach.
The Church should be doing the work of a good doctor. When there are many who go looking for strange signs and miracles, one has to wonder if the Church is doing what it is meant to do. When there is a decrease in the faith life of the community, and the community fails to find strength and consolation, this may result from a failure of the Church to communicate with its members effectively. When the word of God is strongly proclaimed, however, when there is a vibrant sacramental life and community fellowship is present, the numbers of those thirsting for strange signs will diminish.