Private Revelation

If you are inclined to dismiss the thoughts or opinions of those who claim to believe in or to have been affected by a so-called private revelation, please take the time to read this page. Rather than presenting my personal opinions I present excerpts from A Still, Small Voice – A practical Guide On Reported Revelations by Fr. Benedict J. Groeschel, C.F.R and end with an excerpt from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Excerpt from the book’s cover:

“Fr. Benedict Groeschel, author, psychologist, spiritual director and leader of renewal in the religious life, has written a brief but comprehensive practical guide for all those interested in private revelations, the reports of visions and other extraordinary religious phenomena that is so widespread in these times. Because of the intense interest in extraordinary religious experience that ranges from Medjugorje to the New Age, Fr. Groeschel’s book is an urgently needed resource that gives practical norms for everyone on how to evaluate these claims. Drawing on spiritual classics and Church documents not readily available, he summarizes the Church’s perennial wisdom on this topic.

He also offers an alternative to unusual and extraordinary ways of knowing the things of God which is a normal everyday opportunity open to all called ‘religious experience’ – the action of grace operating in the context of human life that can become a powerful source of virtue and holiness.”

Excerpt from Introduction:

“A person concerned with his own spiritual life should be aware that ‘God has visited his people’ throughout the ages, beginning with the prophets and continuing down through the history of the Church. These visitations do not add to the single, unique, and complete message of the Messiah, but apply and, as it were, highlight certain aspects of his teaching in different times and circumstances. In Christ are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (cf. Col 2:3), but he did send apostles like Peter and Paul to deliver this message with their own particular gifts. Can he not speak now through seers and even through others like creative teachers to renew the impact of the gospel? However, to make one’s way through the confusing possibilities, to sort out all the subjective elements that individuals inevitably add, to discard the rubbish, to dismiss kindly those who with the best of intentions have misled, and to filter out what is, in fact, a grace of God – all this is no small task.”

Excerpt from Chapter One (regarding Medjugorje):

“In such a complex situation it is surprising to find someone [the bishop] in such a no-lose situation. The worst that can happen is that the bishop may have to make some apologies to the Virgin Mary – but then we have it on the best authority that she is very benevolent and understanding. One might assume that with a couple of Rosaries the bishop will be out of trouble with the Blessed Mother. My problem with the bishop and his advisors, as well as with everyone else except the visionaries themselves, is that they are all so sure of their respective positions. The visionaries have at least a subjective excuse for being certain. I had the opportunity to interview one of the young visionaries, Maria Paprovick, for over an hour, through an interpreter. I found her to be a rather levelheaded, sensible peasant girl. Without clear evidence of fraud or mental illness, how can anyone else be so certain in completely rejecting their accounts?

Excerpts from Chapter Two:

“Private revelations are not the most important things in the world. The consistent and authentic pursuit of holy life leading to a loving union with God is the essential element of true religion.”

“It is important to keep clearly in mind that private revelations have no significance apart from the public revelation of Sacred Scripture, interpreted by the traditional teaching of the Church.”

“This public revelation is available to all. It is most important to keep this truth in mind.”

“One may legitimately ask: Why do we have private revelations at all? The obvious reply is: Ask God. True revelations, public or private, are never contrived or planned by human beings. They happen as the result of causes beyond human control or knowledge. Public revelation is given to the people of God in Scripture and is addressed to all for all times. It must be accepted and believed. Public revelation in this precise sense ended with the close of the apostolic age. The end of public revelation does not at all mean that God no longer reveals himself to his children. He continues to do so, but now indirectly or in what we call private revelations, as by other means of Divine providence.”

“Private revelation is possible for the same reasons that public revelation is possible: the Divine Being can and does communicate with limited created beings. Private revelation may be said to encourage or even guide individuals or the whole Church at a particular time.”

Excerpt from Chapter Seven:

“I also believe that the Lord can send warnings to an age that certainly could use plenty of warning. I assume that this need has been fulfilled by the Weeping Virgin of La Salette in the nineteenth century and the somber message of the Virgin of Fatima in our own time. I am open to considering new private revelations seriously. Who am I to suggest to God when and how he will make himself known? I think it is the height of incredible opacity to reject a reported revelation simply because one does not agree with its content, so long as it is not doctrinally erroneous or, clearly, mentally unbalanced. God has never consulted men, nor is there any evidence that Christ fitted his teaching to what people wanted to hear.”

Excerpts from Chapter Eight:

“As we have seen, the religious discord observable among believers both clerical and lay along with the cultural confusion of our times have caused much uncertainty. I believe that this has given rise to a plethora of reports of private revelations and extraordinary phenomena. What is one to do with all these reports? The two easiest responses – skepticism on the one hand and unbounded credulity on the other – are both unintelligent when one considers all the authentic as well as fraudulent revelations of the past. The truth is to be found between skepticism and credulity. This is not an easy path to walk. The following suggestions are culled from many informed writers, especially Poulain, and may prove helpful.”

[Father Groeschel then gives suggestions and guidelines under the headings “Remain Calm and Discerning” and “Learn As Much As You Can Before Making Any Judgment”. He then makes some conclusions from the above and ends his conclusions with the following statement.]

“It is strangely observable that the reports of alleged revelations attract prejudiced people, that is, those who prejudge, or judge before the facts are known. All shrines appear to have their friends and foes. The friends refuse to hear criticism and the foes refuse to hear anything good… It has been my observation that those opposed to a revelation are often victims of pre-existing prejudice, such as pseudo-scientific attitudes against any miraculous phenomena, hostility to the form of piety expressed at the event, and so forth. This kind of hateful response may lead to character assassination and calumny. If one must be careful not to be carried along by the credulous, one must also resist the contrasting incredulity. The skeptical inquirer may not be any more objective than the devotee.”

Excerpts from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

66 "The Christian economy, therefore, since it is the new and definitive Covenant, will never pass away; and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ."28 Yet even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries.

67 Throughout the ages, there have been so-called "private" revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ's definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the Magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church.

Christian faith cannot accept "revelations" that claim to surpass or correct the Revelation of which Christ is the fulfillment, as is the case in certain non-Christian religions and also in certain recent sects which base themselves on such "revelations".

Catechism of the Catholic Church