Wednesday, May 23, 2007

What to make of supernatural happenings and private revelations?

I think the first time I began to notice strange possibly supernatural happenings going on around us was as a newly ordained priest in the Fall of 1983. Someone offered me a little wooden icon (a copy of course) of "Ou Lady of Tenderness" from a photo of the original in a Verdun church, where the original icon was sweating a fragrant smelling oily liquid. It smelled of roses only better, more heavenly somehow, and all who smelled them were mysteriously touched in a deeply spiritual way with sheer love from God and a desire or return of love to God and Our Lady.

Since then, I have noticed any number of such happenings, not to mention a plethora of so called personal revelations and inspired writings. You can see for yourself a few things our pastors have to say about these things in the Catechism of the Catholic Church among other sources. Why, I was myself quite taken up with some of these phenomena from 1992-3 at a time when I had been stirred up by an international priests' retreat in Rome (September 1990) and was marvelling at all that was happening in the Church and the world and wondering what the Lord was expecting of me.

Why all these amazing and often questionable phenomena and why now? What are we to do about them - what is the Father's will for us in the face of these and everything else that is going on in the world and in our lives?

My purpose in reflecting on this with you, dear reader, is that chances are you have asked or are asking yourself questions like these or know someone who is. Pope Benedict's presence, witness, and pastoral care for us directs us to Jesus, and especially, as the Father's eternal response to us in our need, Jesus in the Most Holy Eucharist (choose your language version of Pope Benedict's Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist as the Source and Summit of the Church's Life and Mission (February 22, 2007). We have been designed and created by the Father for love, to receive and live in his love and that of his Son Jesus, in the communion of the Holy Spirit. All other things must be judged and ordered in light of this most important of all truths and realities.

What to think about all the strange happenings? First of all, we must be careful not to jump to the conclusion that they are from God. Paul warned us that even the devil can appear to us as an angel of light in order to deceive us and lure us away from the will and love of our Father. It also happens that strange things can happen due to human deception or illness that can cause or exaggerate unexplainable human behaviour. That is why our Church authorities have always taken great care in judging these things. It took some 20 years of investigation before the Pope and bishops felt the Church say definitively that what happened at Lourdes or Fatima was worthy of human belief, that is, that people can reasonably believe that what happened in these places was of supernatural origin, that is, from God.

Why are so many of these phenomena happening in our times? Perhaps because the devil has been for many years recruiting agents, witting or not, in such areas as the arts, media, politics, and culture in general, to break down any remaining barriers of morality, decency, respect, and consideration of others in human society, the Blessed Trinity are endeavoring to strike a balance in what is getting the attention of people, especially the innocent, the poor, the fragile, the old, and the young.

Since many have lost their way and may not even know about what really goes on in church on Sundays and so don't have any occasion to benefit from the pastoral ministry and care of the shepherds Jesus continues to send us, it seems as though the Good Shepherd is using once again some of the arts of Simon Peter the fisherman and casting all over the world a very wide net to catch all those that can be caught in order for the three divine Persons to get their undivided attention, if only for a few moments, hours, or days.

Each of these supernatural happenings, books of private revelations, and signs in the sun and in the sky, and so on are so many strands in this new fishing net from Heaven combing the seas of human society to catch all the good and often suffering souls who, though lost, are somehow seeking or desiring the good intended for them by our Father and Creator of us all.

Now, if the Father, Jesus his Son, and the Holy Spirit already have your attention, and you are walking in the company of our Blessed Mother Mary, Mother of all disciples and of the Church, and are allowing yourself to be drawn each Sunday to the Divine Liturgy at the faith Assembly where Jesus continues to nourish and form us to live and proclaim the Good News in the world all week with our lives; then you really don't need all these unusual things. If for a time they may help you better understand the Gospel and other Scriptures and the ways of the Lord and increase your enthusiasm for prayer, for reading Scripture, for living all day long in the presence and company of the Blessed Trinity, and for serving your neighbor - even to forgiving enemies and praying for the good of evildoers before the Lord - then perhaps the Lord intends for you to use them, for a while.

However, beware of the trap of getting hooked on these "goodies" and letting yourself become closed in on your own personal and private experience of God but diverted from actually living your life, having your own relations with the three divine Persons in God, generously carrying out your duties, and going out into the world. If these things anaesthetize you to what is your real life and pull you into something of a fantasy and a distaste for the company of others or for real life, then you would only be regressing. You would be like the person who throws away a precious gift in order to play with the wrapper in which it came. It's fine for little children to enjoy playing with boxes, but it's no longer healthy for adolescents or adults to do that all the time. Once in a while, OK, but be careful.

God gives us graces, kind of like spiritual "candy" that makes us feel loved and sense spiritual pleasure, but only sparingly, so that we will not become obsessed with getting more candy but rather fall in love with the Giver of the gifts, and want to become like Him and go out and do as He did and say as He said.....

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