Consider that well-over two thirds of the Orders were begun through private revelation. To just touch the surface, there was Saint Benedict who began the Benedictines through mystical messages imparted by Our Lord and Our Lady. Saint Francis of Assisi inaugurated the wonderful tradition of the Order of Friars Minor, commonly known as Franciscans, on the words Jesus imparted to him "Rebuild My Church." We also know that Christ came alive on the cross in a vision to Francis. His friend and fellow Franciscan Saint Anthony of Padua experienced many on-going mystical experiences with Jesus, specifically the Child Jesus - all through private revelation. The Blessed Mother appeared to Saint Dominic encouraging him to promote the Rosary and to begin the Order of Preachers to eloquently defend her Divine Son's Church. By being loyal to Our Lady's words devotion to her Rosary was promulgated and the Dominicans flourished, playing an integral role in European history. Before Dominic founded his Order for priests, he first began a contemplative, cloistered Order of nuns to pray for the success of his Preachers. Though he began with only three women this multiplied into countless graces for the Dominicans and all people who would be affected by the words of these learned Preachers, many of whom went on to become saints - most notably Saint Albert the Great and Saint Thomas Aquinas, author of the profound theological tome "Summa Theologica", among many. The Jesuits, too, were founded on private revelation by Saint Ignatius of Loyola after learning at the feet of the Dominicans and receiving visions from the Blessed Virgin. The Jesuits, Dominicans and Franciscans - all spawned by the Benedictines, became the most powerful congregations in the Church and had the most profound influence not only on Holy Mother Church, but also on world civilization. We owe our existence in America to the efforts of these noble missionaries. The list of saints and popes who were guided by private revelation is endless. To name just a few more, Saint Teresa of Avila who reformed the Carmelites; Saint Bridget of Sweden who received the beautiful promises from Jesus that have been passed down; Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque who promulgated devotion to the Sacred Heart through private revelation from Our Lord two centuries after He had appeared to Saint Gertrude with a like vision. Then there were Saint Catherine LaBoure whom Our Lady imparted the Miraculous Medal to at Rue de Bac in Paris and Saint Bernadette Soubirous whom the Mother of God appeared to at Lourdes; both of whose bodies are still incorrupt and which the Church has recognized as events of private revelation worthy of belief. So also with La Salette, Fatima, Knock, Banneaux, Beaurang, et cetera et cetera. This is only an inkling of the massive documents available that verify how many through the centuries influenced the Church for the good through Heavenly guidance in private revelation. Two of the most recent recognized were Saint Therese of the Child Jesus and Blessed Sister Faustina Kowalska to whom Our Lord appeared numerous times bestowing the beautiful devotion of Divine Mercy, perpetuated through her Diary: "Divine Mercy in My Soul".
Then there is the case of the mystic and stigmatist Padre Pio who has been the center of many claims of appearances before and since his death. The Holy Father is expediting his canonization process fully cognisant of the role private revelation played in Padre Pio's life and intertwined with others half way around the world. Add to this the plethora of reported appearances from Garabandal on including the unprecedented daily occurrences at Medjugorje for well over fifteen years as well as the countless messages being imparted to countless messengers on every continent. It is something we can't ignore. And the priests shouldn't either! No, they don't have to accept private revelation. But when they don't, when they scoff at it, it is, in essence, the same as limiting God. They, along with the bishops and laity must be open to what Saint Paul advises in 1 Thessalonians 5: 19-21: "Do not extinguish the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. But test all things; hold fast that which is good."
The Church has always held this policy, testing all things while not extinguishing the Spirit. Therefore her chosen sons - the priests should also do likewise. One of her most cherished priests today is Father Don Stefano Gobbi an Italian priest who has been receiving messages from Our Lady for well over twenty years. His messages have been circulated worldwide and the majority of his messages are for the priests, evidenced by the title of the works compiled from all Mary has imparted: "To the Priests - Our Lady's Beloved Sons." Yet, sadly, there are only a remnant of loyal priests who follow the guidelines set down by the Blessed Virgin. Our Lady also has imparted specific messages for priests to other messengers such as the purported visionary of Marlboro, New Jersey and Brother David Lopez of South Texas who wrote down Our Lady's words regarding the end times and the impending Three Days of Darkness: "I want to add this message for the priests. They have the responsibility to tell these occurrences to all their parishioners, to give them strength and conversion, and to tell the parishioners not to fear. They have the obligation to pass this message on and not to be afraid to communicate it, because the message has been revealed before to many holy saints, and we cannot lose any more time ignoring it. They should put all their emphasis in teaching people to convert, to pray with the Holy Spirit. They should also teach them not to be preoccupied with material goods, money, power, work, etc., because it is not worth it. In the same way, they should preach how to prepare for death. It is important to preach about the final things for human beings: death, judgment, Heaven, and hell. Preach expressly on the consciousness for sin, and, especially, mortal sin, with its deadly consequences. The Lord prefers that we convert for love, but if it is necessary, for fear of punishment. Nonetheless, He will accept conversion all ways and will receive us because He loves us and wants our salvation. For love or for fear, the only thing that matters is that we guide ourselves to Him. The priests have the obligation to guide the people, especially by example of their lives of absolute dedication to Christ." There's nothing new in any of that, likewise there's nothing new in any of the messages from Medjugorje as well as the majority of private revelations being revealed today by so many of God's chosen messengers. Basically, what all these private revelations continue to do is only reinforce all Holy Mother Church teaches. This has been the case since the time of Saint Peter and it will be that way until Christ comes again.
Consider what Saint Nilus, a little-known saintly prophet in the 5th Century, foretold through private revelation fifteen centuries ago: "After the year 1900, toward the middle of the 20th Century, the people of that time will become unrecognizable. When the time for the advent of the antichrist approaches, people's minds will grow cloudy from carnal passions, and dishonor and lawlessness will grow stronger. Then the world will become unrecognizable. People's appearances will change, and it will be impossible to distinguish men from women due to their shamelessness in dress and style of hair. These people will be cruel and will be like wild animals because of the temptations of the antichrist. There will be no respect for parents and elders; love will disappear, and Christian pastors, bishops, and priests will become vain men, completely failing to distinguish the right hand way from the left. At that time the morals and traditions of Christians and of the Church will change. People will abandon modesty, and dissipation will reign. Falsehood and greed will attain great proportions, and woe to those who pile up treasures. Lust, adultery, homosexuality, secret deeds and murder will rule in society. At that future time, due to the power of such great crimes and licentiousness, people will be deprived of the grace of the Holy Spirit, which they received in Holy Baptism and equally of remorse." Are we in these times? If anybody doubts it they've been in a time capsule! Yet, so few priests caution us from the pulpit or reinforce Public Revelation with pertinent passages of private revelation that confirm the former. So many priests hide behind the fact we don't have to follow private revelation and thus close the door to what God is saying. When Public Revelation stopped with the completion of Sacred Scripture and the last book of the Apocalypse it only meant that nothing new could or should ever be revealed. God had revealed all there was to reveal. But it didn't mean He wouldn't continue to reveal new insights into Public Revelation by means of private revelation to help His children better understand Public Revelation. Thus, over the centuries He has inspired saints and sinners with inspired perceptives that address the times, triumphs, trials and travails of the Church and various cultures. He continues to this day, even moreso, for these times are indeed more volatile than any in history. Is it any wonder then, that there is such a plethora of private revelation?
Our Lady imparted this first at La Salette, then it was confirmed to Saint John Bosco in a prophetic dream he received in 1862 when he was given to understand that peace in the world would come only after a great battle in which the Pope would achieve victory by anchoring the Boat (the Church) of St. Peter securely to the pillar of Jesus in the Eucharist and to the pillar of the Virgin Mary through the Rosary. This vision is more of a prophesy for us today than for the Church of the 19th Century for Pope John Paul II said in 1980: "The Rosary is the remedy against evil. Pray, pray and ask for nothing else. Put everything in the hands of the Mother of God. We must be prepared to undergo great trials in the not-too-distant future..."
Without private revelation where would the Church be today? Without private revelation would we have such a strong Vicar of Christ today in these times St. Nilus foretold? The priests need to be aware of all these factors before so quickly dismissing purported Heavenly messages. They and the bishops, above all others, should know Sacred Scripture and Catholic Dogma, Doctrine and the Teachings so well that if they would just take the time to truly study and examine the majority of private revelation messages imparted during these last few decades, they would discover that most are in total accordance with the Gospel of Jesus and the number of messages being given has to be a definite sign of the end times Christ spoke of in Matthew and Saint John related in the Apocalypse/Book of Revelation. That being the case, they'd do well to follow the Blessed Mother's strong advice imparted to Brother Lopez and to Fr. Gobbi in addition to numerous other messengers hammering home God's point of view.
In the sixties there was a phrase often heard, "Give peace a chance." Today, we pray the priests will "Give God a chance" because the syllogism follows that if the private revelation supports Public Revelation and is totally in accord with Church Doctrine, then it would therefore be worthy of considering because God has a reason for conveying what is being conveyed. Yes, we beseech the priests to not limit the Almighty but rather "Give God a chance." Even if there are some doubts, give Him the benefit of the doubt by heeding the advice of one of His most staunch disciples whom He converted - St. Paul who echoes Heavenly advice in 1 Thessalonians 6: 19-20 and which we once again repeat because of its importance: "Do not extinguish the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. But test all things; hold fast that which is good."
In the next installment of this mega-series we will begin delving into the loyalty factor of the Church in these times when more often than not the Holy Father is held up for ridicule and subterfuge and such groups as "We are Church" and Catholic Action try to undermine all that Christ established in His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.