Private Revelation:  I Had Something Weird Happen to Me Once…

Monday, March 17, 2014 1:01 AM Comments (101)

...and if you promise you won’t laugh at me, I’ll tell you about it . . .

As I said previously in this space, I think most people have stories of private revelation to tell and, for what it’s worth, I’d like to tell you mine, since it involves the Blessed Virgin and constituted an important moment for me in learning to follow the voice of the Good Shepherd and trust that Jesus not only approves of, but acts upon, prayers to the saints.

It was early December 1987. A friend of our family’s named Sherry and I were both in the final throes of entering the Catholic Church. One day, Sherry called me from her job at a local hospital to request prayer for an eighteen-month-old girl. A month...READ MORE

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Private Revelation: The Department of the Treasury vs. Hell

Friday, March 14, 2014 1:01 AM Comments (26)

One danger of private revelations--even authentic ones--is that they can, like all God's good gifts, become distorted.  For some Catholics, devotion to private revelations--and particularly Marian ones--can take unhealthy forms. One of the surprises awaiting an Evangelical coming into the Church is that the danger has never been that of Catholics mistaking Mary for another God. Rather, it’s the danger that some Catholics mistake her for another pope. A certain sort of Catholic can get the notion in his head that the Church is governed, not by the bishops in succession from the apostles and in union with the Pope, but by a series of private revelations from Mary. Such Catholics are often not...READ MORE

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Private Revelation and Christian Liberty

Monday, March 10, 2014 1:01 AM Comments (16)

Last time in this space we noted that apparitions determined to be genuine by the Church may, if you like, become an aid to your devotions.

The phrase “if you like” surprises many people because it’s widely supposed that believing in Our Lady of Lourdes, Guadalupe, Fatima, or some other approved apparition is as necessary for a Catholic as believing the Creed. It’s not. Private revelation—even a spectacular private revelation at Fatima, where the sun danced in the sky before the stunned eyes of 70,000 witnesses—is still private revelation, not part of the apostolic deposit of faith, and therefore not binding on the Catholic faithful, as public revelation is. All Church approval means is...READ MORE

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Criteria the Church Uses for Discerning Private Revelation

Friday, March 07, 2014 1:01 AM Comments (1)

The vast majority of private revelation is so private that nobody beside the recipient and his or her close friends or spiritual director have ever heard of it. Such revelation should still be discerned as best as possible, since a false private revelation, even if it only destroys one life, has still destroyed one life too many.  However, in addition to private revelation confined to an individual or a small circle of people, God also sees fit now and then to vouchsafe a private revelation that has a wider area of impact. St. Joan of Arc is one example of a person whose revelations had such an impact. Hers changed the course of European history.

Another example is Marian apparitions,...READ MORE

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Private Revelation: Walking the Tightrope

Monday, March 03, 2014 1:01 AM Comments (15)

We've had this lengthy discussion of the complexities of private revelation because it’s easy for us to assume that all claims of private revelation are not merely false but fake, or to assume that because somebody has some facts wrong or is a morally dubious character (like Jacob), God can’t possibly be involved with them. Our default setting for claims of private revelation isn’t “evaluate” but “reject.” But the reality is that some claims are true, and therefore, while it’s necessary to be cautious when faced with claims of private revelation, it’s also possible to be too cautious. If we aren’t cautious enough we can find ourselves relieved of our cash, or crushed with heartache. But if...READ MORE

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Revelation Is Not Dependent on Our Intellectual or Moral Perfection

Friday, February 28, 2014 1:01 AM Comments (1)

As we saw last time, God is unscrupulous in his willingness to use anything to get through to us.  To make matters still more complex, recipients of real divine assistance can even be lacking in brains, emotional stability, or morals and still, by divine providence, land on their feet. As St. Paul notes:

God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God (1 Cor. 1:27–29).

And so, however sensible it is to note that a claimed revelation is being reported by...READ MORE

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Private Revelation:  There's a Weirdness in God's Mercy

Monday, February 24, 2014 1:01 AM Comments (8)

Complicating things further is the fact that sometimes the recipient of a very sketchy-looking private revelation—in the strange providence of the God who writes straight with crooked lines—receives real grace. An example of this can be seen in the recent story of a Baptist woman named Diana Duyser who believed (I am not making this up) that a grilled cheese sandwich she bit into in 1994 was a sign from God, because she saw the face of the Blessed Virgin in it:

The strange story began some 10 years ago, when Duyser prepared the sandwich for breakfast. She placed a slice of Land O’ Lakes yellow American cheese between two slices of Publix white bread and cooked it on a non-stick pan. She...READ MORE

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Various Problems Arising from Fake and False Private Revelation

Friday, February 21, 2014 1:01 AM Comments (14)

Numerous questions and problems arise from the fact of private revelation. The first and most obvious one is that a great many alleged private revelations are fake or false. Note the distinction between “fake” and “false.” A fake private revelation is a deliberate deception. An average Evangelical (and, for that matter, an average Catholic) is typically ready to assume that a claimed private revelation is fake, and there is good reason for that. The world abounds with charlatans claiming miraculous powers and looking for fame, money, sex, or power. They are found in all religious traditions. The rule of thumb regarding fake revelation is: There’s a sucker born every minute. Don’t be one...READ MORE

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About Mark Shea

Mark Shea
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Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.