GETTING TO THE HEART OF THE MATTER

by Sister Mary Lucy Astuto

May you believe? Be open to look!

There has been a rash of confusion that has once again arisen over pilgrimages to Medjugorje, the writings of Vassula Ryden and numerous private revelations around the world. As always the media takes one thing and turns it around to where even I get confused at times. But then I turn to God, not man, and therein I find the answers...the truth. There is a statement frequently heard that causes me to cringe every time I hear it. It is this: Regarding private revelations, "You have to wait until the Church approves before you believe or visit the reported apparition sites."

I would like to ask any reader to inform me as to where that is located in the official teachings of the Church; or for that matter, where it is implied. Canon Law does NOT state that. It seems that those who are saying this are quoting others who have little or no credentials in mystical theology. Consider these analogies. If someone develops heart trouble, does he seek advice or treatment from a civil engineer? If a person needs to have their feet taken care of, do they seek advice and treatment from a dentist? This certainly is not to say that the civil engineer or dentist are not good persons and good at what they do. But let's face it, there are very few people, including priests, who have credentials in mystical theology. This certainly does not mean that they are not qualified to give guidance in moral matters. But it may be very wise to seek the advice and direction from those who are experts in their particular fields, even regarding mysticism. Father Rene Laurentin and Father Michael O'Carroll, CSSp are just two examples who come to mind as experts in mystical theology.

Throughout my Catholic education from grade school through university, I was never taught that Catholics must wait until the Church approves before they believe. I was taught that we must be prudent, however, and we must submit our judgment to the final judgment of the Church. But the implication is not at all that we cannot believe unless the Church officially approves. Actually, Pope Urban VIII (1623-1644) once said, most likely in the case regarding Mary of Agreda who was given the words for "Mystical City of God": "In cases which concern private revelations, it is better to believe than not to believe, for, if you believe, and it is proven true, you will be happy that you have believed, because our Holy Mother asked it. If you believe, and it should be proven false, you will receive all blessings as if it had been true, because you believed it to be true." This comes from a Pope, folks!

It was 13 or 14 years after Our Lady's apparitions in Fatima ended that the Church verified or "approved" of her apparitions there. Could it have been that many people did not respond to Our Lady's request because they were waiting for the Church to approve? Did not a war ensue because of that lack of response? Could the wait for approval been a convenient excuse not to respond? Could that idea have been used by satan himself?

We know a tree by its fruits. Jesus said so! How can the Church judge unless people bear fruit? If people stay home or stay closed...where are the fruits to be seen? Prudence is in order, but shutting the doors of one's heart with the idea that we must wait until the Church approves is

. Those who say so have themselves been misled. The Church is open to mystical experiences. Her history is full of them. What if her treasure of saints had waited for the magisterium to approve something before they acted? Where would we be today? Let's not be too quick to condemn or close our ears. And in the Name of our good God, I beg everyone to STOP slandering reported visionaries, locutionists, priests and sisters. How can you say you are helping Our Lady spread her messages, if you, yourself are slandering? Our Lady has spoken clearly against that. How many good people I see trying to destroy other good people with their tongues.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, published a few years ago and to which we must consent and obey, states the following regarding private revelation: a) that there will be no new Revelation added to the Scriptures...b) people are not obligated to believe private revelation...and c) that it is not the "role [of private revelation] to improve or complete Christ's definitive Revelation [Scripture], 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 [private] whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or His saints to the Church." (Paragraph 67). The implication here is that the Church recognizes mystical experiences as playing a part in the spiritual life of the Church.

The best example of this spiritual life of the Church is Medjugorje. Our Lady wants to reach the world and she is doing so through private revelations over the last 15 years. The fruits are overwhelming. And everything was progressing along nicely. Not nice if you're satan. Therefore the devil needed to stir things up again by causing doubts and confusion in the faithful over whether they should go or not...and this includes priests. No the Church can't officially organize and sponsor pilgrimages but priests, bishops, religious and laity are NOT forbidden from going. In fact, priests and bishops have been encouraged to accompany the pilgrims so they might minister to the spiritual needs of their traveling flock. And in their experience...in their openmindedness to look and see the fruits, they just might believe. After all, if this is from God, what are we afraid of, folks? God bless you!