Friday, April 16, 2010
Visions and Private Revelations
In May 1917, a beautiful Lady who said she came from Heaven first appeared to three shepherd children in Portugal. Two months later, the Lady gave the heart of her message to the children, in what is known as the great Secret of Fatima. How does the Catholic Church respond to visions like the ones at Fatima and Lourdes?
The Church’s stance on visions and private revelations can be found in what we believe Jesus Himself reveals. The Catholic Church teaches that Jesus Christ alone offers the fullness of God’s revelation to us. In His life, His mission, His suffering, death, resurrection and ascension, God’s Son reveals to us the love of the Father through the Holy Spirit. The apostles witnessed to the truth of the resurrection and, in time, the gospels were set down in writing. Together, Scripture and Tradition form one single deposit of revelation which the Church preserves, preaches from, and interprets in the light of present day needs.
Thus, the Second Vatican Council, citing Paul's First Letter to Timothy (vs 6:14) and His Letter to Titus (vs 2:13), taught, “… no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In other words, the Council teaches that everything that God chooses to communicate to us for our salvation has been done so in Jesus and that no new “public” revelation will be given before Christ comes a second time in glory to this world of ours. This does not mean that the content of revelation as given in Jesus cannot be understood anew or interpreted freshly given the situation of the world. It simply means that nothing will be added.
In the history of Christian mysticism, there are many examples of Christians mystics who have claimed a private experience which communicates or reveals the activity of God. The appearances of Mary at Lourdes and Fatima fall into this category of private revelation. Even though the Church considers these apparitions to be credible, they are not held by the Church to be part of the content of doctrine or teaching. The approval is stated in the negative: that there is nothing there which would harm the faith. As for the Marian apparitions at Medjugorje, the Church has not yet concluded its investigation, although many pilgrims have visited this site and found solace and encouragement to their faith.
As we find inspiration in these apparitions or mystical experiences, we understand that none of these supersedes the Christ event.