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.
A reader writes:
So, I’m having a bit of a discussion with a friend about the veracity of the La Salette apparitions. I’m willing to submit to the Church’s authority and acknowledge that Mary did in fact appear to the visionaries in question, but I simply cannot believe that they understood Mary correctly, because it seems completely contrary to Scripture and Tradition for Mary to describe her Son thus:
“If my people do not wish to submit themselves, I am forced to let go off the hand of my Son. It is so heavy and weighs me down so much I can no longer keep hold of it.
I have suffered all of the time for the rest of you! If I do not wish my Son to abandon you, I must take it upon myself to pray for this continually. And the rest of you think little of this. In vain you will pray, in vain you will act, you will never be able to make up for the troubles I have taken over for the rest of you.”
What are your thoughts on this? I know it’s a private revelation and not necessary for salvation, but my friend seems to think that if I don’t acknowledge the truth of the entirety of the message of La Salette, I am “picking and choosing” when I want to obey Church authority.
My gut says that this is ridiculous, but my gut has been wrong before.
Any help you can offer would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
I’m not super familiar with La Salette, but my understanding is that the apparition of September 19, 1846 is approved (including these words). They are patient of an orthodox interpretation (namely, that God does sometimes allow people to have what they want if they persistently sin—and become hardened in impenitence). My understanding is that some of the seers made claims later on that are highly questionable (such as the claim that ““Rome will lose the Faith and become the seat of the Antichrist”. Approval of this apparition does not mean that everything else the seer(s) claimed is likewise approved.
And, in any case, it’s just a private apparition and not binding on your conscience. If it helps you serve and trust God better, then great. If not, move on to something that does. All an authentic private revelation (including this one) ever does is lead us back to the public revelation handed down to us from the apostles in the common worship, common teaching, and common life of the Church.
It is not “picking and choosing when you want to obey Church authority” when Church authority itself says of a private revelation, “There’s nothing here contrary to the faith and you can believe it if you like, but you don’t have to.” The Church never binds us to believe in a private revelation. The Church does not function on the theory “That which is not forbidden is compulsory.”