Circle of Prayer - Private Revelations Explained
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The Section on Private Revelations contains the following links:

Private Revelations
The Church's Position
Famous Catholic Mystics
Why Revelations Today?
Revelations Worldwide
Revelations in Ireland
Denis O'Leary, Cork
Christina Gallagher, Mayo
Doon, County Limerick

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From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

[67] "Throughout the ages, there have been so-called "private" revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ's definitive Revelation, 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 whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church.

The New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia on Private Revelations states there are two kinds of revelations:

(1) universal revelations, which are contained in the Bible or in the depositum of Apostolic tradition transmitted by the Church. These ended with the preaching of the Apostles and must be believed by all;

(2) particular or private revelations which are constantly occurring among Christians. When the Church approves private revelations, she declares only that there is nothing in them contrary faith or good morals, and that they may be read without danger or even with profit; no obligation is thereby imposed on the faithful to believe them.

How can they be classified correctly in relation to Scripture? To which theological category do they belong?

The oldest letter of Saint Paul which has been preserved, perhaps the oldest of the New Testament texts, the First Letter to the Thessalonians, seems to point the way. The Apostle says:

“Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise prophesying, but test everything, holding fast to what is good” (5:19-21).

In every age the Church has received the charism of prophecy, which must be scrutinized but not scorned. On this point, it should be kept in mind that prophecy in the biblical sense does not mean to predict the future but to explain the will of God for the present, and therefore show the right path to take for the future. A person who foretells what is going to happen responds to the curiosity of the mind, which wants to draw back the veil on the future. 

The prophet speaks to the blindness of will and of reason, and declares the will of God as an indication and demand for the present time. In this case, prediction of the future is of secondary importance. What is essential is the actualization of the definitive Revelation, which concerns me at the deepest level. The prophetic word is a warning or a consolation, or both together. In this sense there is a link between the charism of prophecy and the category of “the signs of the times”, which Vatican II brought to light anew:

“You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky; why then do you not know how to interpret the present time?” (Lk 12:56).

In this saying of Jesus, the “signs of the times” must be understood as the path he was taking, indeed it must be understood as Jesus himself. To interpret the signs of the times in the light of faith means to recognize the presence of Christ in every age. In the private revelations approved by the Church this is the point: they help us to understand the signs of the times and to respond to them rightly in faith.

In judging of revelations or visions we may proceed in this manner:

(1) get detailed information about the person who believes himself thus favored;

(2) also about the fact of the revelation and the circumstances attending it. To prove that a revelation is Divine (at least in its general outlines), the method of exclusion is sometimes employed. It consists in proving that neither the demon nor the ecstatic's own ideas have interfered (at least on important points) with God's action, and that no one has retouched the revelation after its occurrence. This method differs from the preceding one only in the manner of arranging the information obtained, but it is not so convenient. To judge revelations or visions, we must be acquainted with the character of the person favoured with them from a triple point of view: natural, ascetical, and mystical. (For those who have been beatified or canonized, this inquiry has been already made by the Church.)

An inquiry into the visionary's character might be pursued as follows:

  • What are his natural qualities or defects, from a physical, intellectual, and especially moral standpoint? If the information is favourable (if the person is of sound judgment, calm imagination; if his acts are dictated by reason and not by enthusiasm, etc.), many causes of illusion are thereby excluded. However, a momentary aberration is still possible.
  • How has the person been educated? Can the knowledge of the visionary have been derived from books or from conversations with theologians?
  • What are the virtues exhibited before and after the revelation? Has he made progress in holiness and especially in humility? The tree can be judged by its fruits.
  • What extraordinary graces of union with God have been received? The greater they are the greater the probability in favour of the revelation, at least in the main.
  • Has the person had other revelations that have been judged Divine? Has he made any predictions that have been clearly realized?
  • Has he been subjected to heavy trials? It is almost impossible for extraordinary favours to be conferred without heavy crosses; for both are marks of God's friendship, and each is a preparation for the other.
  • Does he practice the following rules: fear deception; be open with your director; do not desire to have revelations?
Information concerning a revelation considered in itself or concerning the circumstances that accompanied it might be secured as follows:
  • Is there an authentic account, in which nothing has been added, suppressed, or corrected?
  • Does the revelation agree with the teaching of the Church or with the recognized facts of history or natural science?
  • Does it teach nothing contrary to good morals, and is it unaccompanied by any indecent action? The commandments of God are addressed to everyone without exception. More than once the demon has persuaded false visionaries that they were chosen souls, and that God loved them so much as to dispense them from the burdensome restrictions imposed on ordinary mortals. On the contrary, the effect of Divine visitations is to remove us more and more from the life of sense, and make us more rigorous towards ourselves.
  • Is the reaching helpful towards the obtaining of eternal salvation? In spiritism we find the spirits evoked treat only of trifles. They reply to idle questions, or descend to providing amusement for an assembly (e.g., by moving furniture about); deceased relatives or the great philosophers are interrogated and their replies are woefully commonplace. A revelation is also suspect if its aim is to decide a disputed question in theology, history, astronomy, etc. Eternal salvation is the only thing of importance in the eyes of God. "In all other matters", says St. John of the Cross, "He wishes men to have recourse to human means" (Montée, II, xxii). Finally, a revelation is suspect if it is commonplace, telling only what is to be found in every book. It is then probable that the visionary is unconsciously repeating what he has learnt by reading.
After examining all the circumstances accompanying the vision (the attitudes, acts, words, etc.), do we find that the dignity and seriousness which become the Divine Majesty? The spirits evoked by Spiritists often speak in a trivial manner. Spiritists try to explain this by pretending that the spirits are not demons, but the souls of the departed who have retained all their vices; absurd or unbecoming replies are given by deceased persons who are still liars, or libertines, frivolous or mystifiers, etc. But if that be so, communications with these degraded beings is evidently dangerous. 

In Protestant "revivals" assembled crowds bewail their sins, but in a strange, exaggerated way, as if frenzied or intoxicated. It must be admitted that they are inspired by a good principle: a very ardent sentiment of the love of God and of repentance. But to this is added another element that cannot be regarded as Divine: a neuropathic enthusiasm, which is contagious and sometimes develops so far as to produce convulsions or repugnant contortions. Sometimes a kind of unknown language is spoken, but it consists in reality of a succession of meaningless sounds.

What sentiments of peace, or, on the other hand, of disturbance, are experienced during or after the revelations? Here is the rule as formulated by St. Catherine of Siena and St. Ignatius: "With persons of good will [it is only of such that we are here treating] the action of the good spirit [God or His Angels] is characterized by the production of peace, joy, security, courage; except perhaps at the first moment." Note the restriction. 

The Bible often mentions this disturbance at the first moment of the revelation; the Blessed Virgin experienced it when the Angel Gabriel appeared to her. The action of the demon produces quite the contrary effect: "With persons of good will he produces, except perhaps at the first moment, disturbance, sorrow, discouragement, perturbation, gloom." In a word the action of Satan encounters a mysterious resistance of the soul.

It often happens that the revelation inspires an exterior work - for instance, the establishment of a new devotion, the foundation of a new religious congregation or association, the revision of the constitutions of a congregation, etc., the building of a church or the creation of a pilgrimage, the reformation of the lax spirit in a certain body, the preaching of a new spirituality, etc. In these cases the value of the proposed work must be carefully examined; is it good in itself, useful, filling a need, not injurious to other works, etc.?

Have the revelations been subjected to the tests of time and discussion?

If any work has been begun as a result of the revelation, has it produced great spiritual fruit? Have the sovereign pontiffs and the bishops believed this to be so, and have they assisted the progress of the work? This is very well illustrated in the cases of the Scapular of Mount Carmel, the devotion to the Sacred Heart, the miraculous medal. These are the signs that enable us to judge with probability if a revelation is Divine. In the case of certain persons very closely united to God, the slow study of these signs has been sometimes aided or replaced by a supernatural intuition; this is what is known as the infused gift of the discernment of spirits.

As regards the rules of conduct, the two principal have been explained in the article on CONTEMPLATION, namely if the revelation leads solely to the love of God and the saints, the director may provisionally regard it as Divine; at the beginning the visionary should do his best to repulse the revelation quietly. He should not desire to receive it, otherwise he will be exposing himself to the risk of being deceived.

Here are some further rules:

  • the director must be content to proceed slowly, not to express astonishment, to treat the person gently. If he were to be harsh or distrustful, he would intimidate the soul he is directing, and incline it to conceal important details from him;
  • he must be very careful to urge the soul to make progress in the way of sanctity. He will point out that the only value of the visions is in the spiritual fruit that they produce;
  • he will pray fervently, and have the subject he is directing pray, that the necessary light may be granted. God cannot fail to make known the true path to those who ask Him humbly. If on the contrary a person confided solely in his natural prudence, he would expose himself to punishment for his self-sufficiency;
  • the visionary should be perfectly calm and patient if his superiors do not allow him to carry out the enterprises that he deems inspired by Heaven or revealed. One who, when confronted with this opposition, becomes impatient or discouraged, shows that he has very little confidence in the power of God and is but little conformed to His will. If God wishes the project to succeed, He can make the obstacles suddenly disappear at the time appointed by Him. A very striking example of this divine delay is to be found in the life of St. Juliana, the Cistercian prioress of Mont-Cornillon, near Liège (1192-1258). It is to her that the institution of the feast of the Blessed Sacrament is due. All of her life was passed in awaiting the hour of God, which she was never to see, for it came only more than a century after the beginning of the revelations.
As regards inspirations ordinarily, those who have not passed the period of tranquility or a complete union, must beware of the idea that they hear supernatural words; unless the evidence is irresistible, they should attribute them to the activity of their own imaginations. But they may at least experience inspirations or impulses more or less strong, which seem to point out to them how to act in difficult circumstances. This is a minor form of revelation. 

The same line of conduct should be followed as in the latter case. We must not accept them blindly and against the dictates of reason, but weigh the reasons for and against, consult a prudent director, and decide only after applying the rules for the discernment of spirits. The attitude of reserve that has just been laid down does not apply to the simple, sudden and illuminating views of faith, which enables one to understand in a higher manner not novelties, but the truths admitted by the Church. Such enlightenment cannot have any evil result. It is on the contrary a very precious grace, which should be very carefully welcomed and utilized.

Pope Urban VIII on Private Revelation

His Holiness, Pope Urban VIII stated: "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."(Pope Urban VIII, 1623-44)

Check out  Prophesies From the Past  for a list of prophesies going back for centuries.

In conformity to Pope Urban VIII’ Decree and the directives of the Council Vatican II, the author declares not to have the intention to precede the judgment of the Church about the supernatural character of facts and messages related on this page.This judgment belongs to competent authorities of the Church, to whom the author submits fully. Words like « apparitions, miracles, messages » and similar have here the value of human witness.

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