Catholics/"Apparitions"

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APPARITIONS, MIRACLES, PRIVATE REVELATIONS, AND VISIONS

       The question often arises how much emphasis we should put upon
private revelations, apparitions, and visions.  There have been some 260
alleged, likely spurious, "apparitions" since Vatican II (Medjugorje,
Bayside, etc.).  Too many Catholics, so confused in the present state of the
Church, cling "to any port in a storm" and therefore cling to even the
ludicrous, such as the "apparition" of the Blessed Virgin Mary in an oil
stain in a subway in Mexico or in the knothole of a tree in Northern
California!

       It is not surprising how fanatical the belief in every kind of
miracle has become, because the rapid incorporation of new converts, who
believed in magic and the pagan mystery religions of the East, into the
Church in the Late Roman Empire exercised a profound influence upon
Christian beliefs and practices.

       First, it should be stated that such latter-day apparitions, even if
true, are never part of the Public Revelation of the Church, and nothing in
them is necessary for our salvation, nor are we bound by them as we are by
the Public Revelation of the Church.  In fact, they are much more apt to be
diabolical than worthy of belief.  The Church, therefore, forbids to
Catholics the reading of books and pamphlets that relate recent apparitions,
unless they have specific approval (Canon 1399).

       Everything necessary for our salvation is contained in the
Public Revelation of the Church, that is, the Deposit of Faith:  Sacred
Scripture (the Bible) and Sacred Tradition, which closed with the death of
the last of the Apostles, St. John.

       As far back as Deuteronomy, the Jews were warned against visions:  
"Thou shalt not hear the words of that prophet or dreamer.  For the Lord
your God trieth you, that it may appear whether you love him with all your
heart, and with all your soul, or not....   And that prophet or forger of
dreams shall be slain:  because he spoke to draw you away from the Lord your
God" (Deuteronomy 13:3,5/DRV).

       The Gospels warn us:  "An evil and adulterous generation seeketh a
sign; and a sign shall not be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet.  
For, as Jonas was in the whale's belly three days and three nights; so shall
the Son of man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights."  
(Matthew 12:29/DRV)  In other words, we look to Our Lord Himself as the
sign.

       Moreover, Our Lord Himself warned us that false "miracles" can be
used by Satan to deceive:  "For there shall arise false Christs and false
prophets and shall shew great signs and wonders, insomuch as to deceive (if
possible) even the elect (Matthew 24:24/DRV).  When His Apostles asked for a
prediction of the future, Our Lord told them explicitly:  "It is not for you
to know the times or moments, which the Father hath put in his own power
(Acts 1:8/DRV).

       In place of Catholic and Apostolic teaching and practice, to presume
to find a new basis of faith in private revelations prophecies, visions, and
"signs and wonders," particularly in Fatima, the error of "apparitionism,"
is a grave error.  We must be very cautious indeed about these things, since
Sacred Scripture warns us again and again about the fact that even visions,
apparitions, signs, and wonders may be of the Devil:  

"Beloved, do not trust every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they
belong to God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1
John 4:1/DRV)

       And again:        

"For such false apostles are deceitful workmen, transforming themselves into
the apostles of Christ.  And no wonder: for Satan himself transformeth
himself into an angel of light.  Therefore, it is no great thing if his
ministers be transformed as the ministers of justice, whose end shall be
according to their works" (2 Corinthians 11:13-15/DRV)

       And again:

"And then that wicked one shall be revealed:  whom the Lord Jesus shall kill
with the spirit of his mouth and shall destroy with the brightness of his
coming:  him Whose coming is according to the working of Satan, in all power
and signs and lying wonders:  And in all seduction of iniquity to them that
perish:  because they receive not the love of the truth, that they might be
saved.  Therefore God shall send them the operation of error, to believe
lying" (2 Thessalonians 2:8-11/DRV).

       Pope Benedict XIV (1740-1758) clearly expressed the traditional
place of private revelation in the Church when he stated:  "[The Church]
simply permits them [private revelations] to be published for the
instruction and the edification of the faithful.  The assent to be given to
them is not therefore an act of Catholic Faith but of human faith, based
upon the factthat these revelations are probable and worthy of credence.

       St. John of the Cross (1542-1591), perhaps the Church's greatest
mystic, warned:  "The desire for private revelations deprives faith of its
purity, develops a dangerous curiosity that becomes a source of illusions,
fills the mind with vain fancies, and often proves the want of humility, and
of submission to Our Lord, Who, through His public revelation, has given all
that is needed for salvation.  We must suspect those apparitions that lack
dignity or proper reserve, and above all, those that are ridiculous.  This
last characteristic is a mark of human or diabolical machination.  STAY AWAY
FROM VISIONS, APPARITIONS, AND MIRACLES AS MUCH AS YOU CAN.  BE CAREFUL OF
VISIONS, EVEN WHEN THEY ARE AUTHENTIC.

       St. Vincent Ferrer similarly warned:  "The first remedy against
spiritual temptations which the devil plants in the hearts of many persons
in these unhappy times, is to have no desire to procure by prayer,
meditation, or any other good work, what are called (private) revelations,
or spiritual experiences, beyond what happens in the ordinary course of
things; such a desire of things which surpass the common order can have no
other root or foundation but pride, presumption, a vain curiosity in what
regards the things of God, and in short, an exceedingly weak faith.  It is
to punish this evil desire that God abandons the soul, and permits it to
fall into the illusions and temptations of the devil, who seduces it, and
represents to it false visions and delusive revelations. Here we have the
source of most of the spiritual temptations that prevail at the present
time; temptations which the spirit of evil roots in the souls of those who
may be called the precursors of Antichrist."

       Pope St. Pius X captured the truly Catholic sense when he wrote in
1913:  "When anyone tells me about the extraordinary, I am the most
incredulous man in the world..., but when holiness results from the practice
of virtue..., I believe in it.  Just this morning ... I was saying that long
ago the devil manifested himself openly in the possessed whom he caused to
suffer, and from whom he could be driven out only by exorcism.  Now he has
changed his method; he takes the appearance of sanctity and makes people
believe in visions.  He even gives to certain persons the knowledge of
hidden things, so that they may appear to prophesy; sometimes he even
simulates stigmata!  But as for holiness expressed in the simple practice of
virtue..., I believe in that.  That is indeed holiness....  The way to
sanctity is not difficult.  It is a thorny road, but easy."

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A traditional Catholic priest, who provides forthright answers to questions FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF TRADITIONAL CATHOLICISM (not the New Order) on topics pertaining to TRADITIONAL Roman Catholicism, including theology, the Bible, Church history, the Latin language, liturgy (especially the Traditional Latin Mass), and music (especially Gregorian chant), and current events in the Catholic Church.

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