Prophecy From a Catholic Perspective – Part 1

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Oiginally posted by http://digitaldiatribes.wordpress.com on February 27, 2008.

I have an interest in a great variety of topics. One of those topics is the subject of prophecy. It is something I have spent a considerable amount of time studying. It is not, however, something I typically discuss at length. The reason I do not is because there needs to be significant context in which such discussion can be placed. The risk is that you come across as a fanatical, doomsaying nutjob without that context.

I have decided that I wish to post my thoughts on the subject. But I am going to do it over a series of posts (not necessarily in a row. My blog has no rules!) I’d rather take my time and flesh out my thoughts in detail than cram a bunch of material in one or two posts.

The first context is a definition of prophecy. Really, prophecy is the telling of words that God has placed in your heart to speak. It may not be at all “prophetic” in the sense of discussing future events. In the Catholic sense, when we are baptized, we are anointed as Priests, Prophets, and Kings. Sounds pretty exciting, eh? Well, it is! But most of us are never in a position of authority or importance that could be considered in the traditional sense of what we envision when we are called a “King.” Nor do most of us ever become ordained as a Roman Catholic Priest. A few attain these things, but not most. Likewise, most of us will never hear a voice or see an apparition that divulges future events, which is kind of the popular idea of what a prophet does. But we are all called to evangelize and call on the Holy Spirit to guide us. We are asked to share God’s Word, not necessarily through any supernatural inspiration other than strength and courage to do so. And so, prophecy may not imply at all that we are talking about future events.

But there is no getting around the fact that what intrigues us all are those prophecies of the future. Many have read and studied the Book of Revelation, and many have opined on its meaning in this regard. And yes, there are still those who seem to receive messages from God through various means that help to shed some light on future events.

One thing to put in context here are the various sources from which I draw. Primarily, all consideration to prophecy must be put in light of Holy Scripture as well as the Catechism of the Catholic Church. From there, study goes to private revelation. The most weight is given to Saints who have had these experiences. Obviously, Church approval of certain apparitions carries the highest weight in this category. Beyond that, reading such prophecies requires the utmost caution and discernment.

The simple fact is that, while Scripture does include many prophetic passages, the Catholic Church herself has stayed somewhat quiet on too many details from a doctrinal standpoint, as far as extra-biblical Tradition, and even in strictly interpreting much of prophetic Scripture as it relates to the End Times. The areas that have been addressed are very important, and respond directly to particular heresies that have evolved over time, many of which are as prevalent today as they ever have been. Less rigorous, but pretty weighty, are those teachings of the early Church Fathers. Many eschatological points are largely agreed upon by the Fathers of the Church, though they are not expressed in the Catechism. According to Pope Leo XIII in Providentissimus Deus, “Fathers… are of supreme authority whenever they all interpret in one and the same manner any text of the Bible, as pertaining to the doctrine of faith and morals; for their unanimity clearly evinces that such interpretation has come down from the Apostles as a matter of Catholic faith.” So, according to this statement, if the Church Fathers are in total agreement in a matter of the faith, this is looked upon as direct evidence of the teaching having been handed down from the Apostles, and can be viewed as authoritative. Such statements by the Church Fathers as it pertains to eschatological matters will be reviewed.

The final area that requires the most discernment, however, is the area of Private Revelation. The best place to start here are those events that have received approbation from the Church. The next place to go are the individuals who have received recognition from the Church for their Holiness – Saints, Blesseds, Venerables, etc. In some cases, local bishops may have made a statement suggesting that certain messages or events appear to be valid. However, it should always be kept in mind that Private Revelation is never, and can never be, a substitute for Public Revelation. If there is ever anything contrary to the faith in Private Revelation, it should be dismissed as either a false prophecy, or a human error of the person who claims to have received the message (depending on the circumstance). Private Revelation can never add anything in the area of doctrine to Public Revelation. The Church believes that all Public Revelation ended with the death of the last apostle. This means that all we need to know regarding our salvation and our faith can be drawn from those teachings. This is different from saying that we continue to evolve in our understanding of doctrinal matters. That is always the case, and always will be the case. But nothing new will ever be revealed that had not been previously revealed. The Holy Spirit will clarify matters of faith as they need clarifying.

Generally, Private Revelation seems to simply be messages to someone at some place and time for the purpose of helping us better live our faith. It may be a message reminding us of our waywardness. It may help us prepare for future events. They may be vague or specific, but the events that are shared will not be doctrinal matters of faith, other than a reaffirmation of current doctrine (e.g. Our Lady’s statement that she was the “Immaculate Conception” to Bernadette of Lourdes, shortly after that doctrine was pronounced.)

While this may not be as exciting as getting into the meat of what’s expected to happen, it is a crucial context in which to place Private Revelation. It serves as an important tool in discerning different things that we may see or hear as we research this subject. Satan is not beyond using people of faith to distort God’s message, and that is why all messages need careful discernment.

I look forward to continuing this series.

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2 responses »

  1. Pingback: Prophecy From a Catholic Perspective, Part 2 - Giving Credit « Catholic Diatribes

  2. Pingback: A Look at the “Prophetic Pulse” « Catholic Diatribes

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