Category Archives: Medjugorje

The Prophetic – What is a Normal Person (hey… stop laughing!) to Make of it All?

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Anyone who has followed this blog knows that I have always had an interest in prophecy, but also knows that I’ve taken a skeptic-first view towards a lot of it.  You would also know that I place much higher value on sources that are either approved by the Church, or who are somehow recognized by the Church as a holy individual – a Venerable, a Blessed, or a Saint.   I’ve mentioned before that I consider the work “Trial, Tribulation, and Triumph” by Desmond A Birch to be one of the best compilations of reliable prophecy that I’ve seen.   I admit that I haven’t recently searched to see if others may exist.

Along the way, I have read with interest many of the more popular modern day seers.   Through no fault of their own, since… well…  most aren’t dead yet, they are not Venerables, Blesseds, or Saints.   Further, while I may weigh things that are Church Approved, this does not mean that messages being received today are not legitimate.   After all, at the time any and all prophetic messages occurred they weren’t yet approved.   So I do like to see what’s being claimed out there today, though I usually start with the premise that it’s not legitimate or reliable and it needs to be proven otherwise to my satisfaction.   Finally, it should always be noted that even legitimate occurrences are subject to human error – improper understanding of the message, a misstatement or confusing recollection of the message, and so forth.

It is an odd thing, Prophecy.   As a guy who has studied mathematics, computer science, Physics, and Chemistry and who makes his living as an Actuary I am firmly grounded in logic and understanding.    It may seem odd that someone who gravitates to the realms of the tangible and the explainable would be interested in the strange, mystical, and mushy realm of the prophetic.    But I do not see them as incompatible.    What is incompatible is getting emotionally tied to any one person or message, particularly to the point where if the Church would ever rule against them, your allegiance goes to the person you are following rather than the Church.   One should always be prepared to make a hard break if needed, and that needs to be as unemotional and as calculated as possible.   Because that’s where the facts come in, as Augustine so famously pronounced – Rome has spoken, the matter is closed.   That takes humility, as well, at times.   But it is what we are called to do.

Over time, I have remained open, but admittedly skeptical, of the events at Medjugorje.   I am not saying I would ever try to convince anyone that they are not true (unless the Church rules it as such), nor am I saying that I am totally convinced that they are not true.   I just have some concerns that I think are valid to consider, and I find it a bit more “safe” to question rather than blindly accept it.    After all, Public Revelation is complete and must be first and foremost.   Private Revelation may help clarify the state of current times, or be otherwise edifying, but it is not incumbent on us to devote our time and energy to it.

I have also reviewed the messages of Pedro Regis.   I have some major discomfort with those, and I have stopped spending any time keeping up on those.   The same is true of a series of messages from an anonymous seer who had a website, supposedly under spiritual direction, called “Words From Jesus.”   Overall, these messages were somewhat general and it started off interesting enough, but whenever specifics were presented they were hit and miss.   The nature of the messages was extremely repetitive.  I never have fully decided if they have merit, but decided to not focus too much on them.  One of my big stumbling blocks with those who receive continued messages day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year is that I just don’t get it.    Why does Mary or Jesus or anyone else need to say the same basic thing over and over again?    It’s to the point where Spirit Daily will have a headline whenever there is a message at Medjugorje that is slightly different in word or tone from the plethora of other messages.    OK, that’s fine, but we’re basically not paying any attention any more to all the other messages because we’ve heard it all before.   So, what then is the point? Now, a confession before lightning strike me dead and my head lands on the keyboard and a string of random letters is produced ad infinitum…   I humbly submit that I’m a human being who can’t begin to appreciate and understand how God works.   So, despite my rambling paragraph above, I can accept that I’m the one who doesn’t get it, that this all does serve a salvific purpose, and that one day Jesus will say, “Yeah…  you were kind of thick-headed on that whole Medjugorje thing.”   So, take that as my own opinion and nothing more.

So, all of this brings me to a guy named Charlie Johnston.  I have spent a lot of time over the last year reading and studying his blog (which you can go to by clicking his name above), watching available video, and gaining an understanding of where he’s coming from.   I have offered some comments/questions on some of his posts along the way, and was taken enough by the overall concept of The Storm that I composed a song in relation to that.   I originally planned to provide a detailed version of what he is saying, but quite honestly that is not necessary.   His own site, and links to other places that have done this already, are in line with what I would have written on it myself, so I would encourage anyone interested to take a look at his blog and do some digging around.

This isn’t my last word on Charlie.   The entire concept of a Storm that we are in, and heading towards with even greater fury, need not be the product of divine private revelation.   It’s common sense.    I have been noting it for a number of years myself, and I make no claim to any supernatural experience (save one, which I may share someday) that has shown this to me.   It’s apparent for anyone with eyes to see.    Now, having said that, I am in no way saying Charlie is not what he says he is.   I am simply saying that – whatever the source – the words and observations of the world we are in ring true, and thus the song.

I’ll be following up with all my thoughts on Charlie in a later post.   For now, I offer my own musical summary, entitled “When The Storm Comes.”    (More music of mine can be found by clicking on “Links to My Music” on the top of the page.

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Discerning Private Revelation – New and Old

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Those of you who have followed me in the past know that I am very interested in Catholic Prophecy.   It is fascinating to read some of the prophetic messages of past Saints, Marian Apparitions, and the like.    You will also know that I have a somewhat bi-polar relationship with prophecy.   I fully and embrace the reality of prophecy and prophetic messages, but am also pretty skeptical by nature.

In the past I have noted what I believe to be one of the seminal works on the subject, “Trial, Tribulation, and Triumph” by Desmond A. Birch.    The reason I am as fond as I am about this work is that he takes my own preferred approach to the subject.   There is not whimsical adherence to random prophetic utterances.   Instead, he starts with key statements about what private revelation is, rooted in the Catechism.   He then lays the groundwork for what he decided to consider in presenting different statements or writings:   if a Church approved apparition, or if the statement came from a venerable, blessed, or Saint then these statements carry more weight and are the focus of the book.

There is no statement for or against anyone else using this approach, but it is the safest approach to take.

Interestingly, and not surprisingly, there are many common themes that run throughout the book, and across the words of many Saints of many different times.    One might wonder if the writings are really their own revelations or if they were simply instructional teachings, learned from others.   I think it’s a fair question, but for the most part I believe the statements were from personal and private revelations of one type or another.

Perhaps more surprisingly (or not to some) is that there are many degrees of variations provided in prophetic messages that aren’t always easily reconciled.    And this is where things get murky.    First of all, Private Revelation can never rise to the level of Public Revelation.   There is no guarantee of protection from error on any number of fronts:   Did the seer hear or see something incorrectly?   Did the seer misinterpret what they saw?   Did the seer repeat the message properly?    Is there possible translation error into other languages, either explicitly or in a contextual sense?   Was the prophecy conditional (meaning the outcome has since changed based on our response to God’s warning embedded in a message?)      And, there is always the possibility that the person simply did not receive a real message of divine origin at all, or conflated a real message with some confabulation or other assumptions made.

Because of this, we need to both take seriously the prophetic, but also be very careful and discerning.

In the past, I’ve openly mused about Medjugorje.   I have never understood why it would be necessary for messages to be given/received over and over and over with very little differentiation in the message from day to day, week to week…   Having said that, I simply don’t know, and one can’t deny the stories about experiences at Medjugorje.    I’m completely open and uncommitted on that.    It simply doesn’t make sense to me, but I also know I’m a simple man and God doesn’t always make “sense” to me.   So I choose to await the Church on this one.

There are numerous other cases around the world of interest.   I am generally both interested, but skeptical, of most of them.    I choose not to spend too much of my time on them.

Every now and then you start to hear a lot about this person or that person.   Usually, in my opinion, as you look more closely at them you can’t help but be somewhat disappointed, at least in regards to the reliability of the people and their messages.    I don’t want to judge, but part of me thinks that some people receive very strong feelings or promptings that lead them to develop a message that seems divine or prophetic.   Perhaps it even is.   My sense is people have to guard against an almost addictive desire for this to continue, and move from a valid (or at least not invalid) experience to something they are forcing.   I think many of those who “receive messages” are really not, but honestly think they are.   The problem with this is that their overall message may be edifying, but the extraneous content – the more predictive elements – is nothing more than their own conjecture.

There was a series of messages that could be followed from a site called “Words From Jesus” some time ago.    It started off as somewhat intriguing, but as I checked in and tracked the messages and followed them, I personally felt strongly that this was not authentic.   Again, it was a case of message after message with not dissimilar warnings of a general nature, which may well have been something authentic.   But any time the visionary ventured into specifics about upcoming events or outcomes, or even some specific prophecies of the Pope, they never really happened.    One must be willing to walk away from something and not get too involved to the point that you can’t recognize error, whether in teaching or in more specific prophecy.   You can’t get too emotionally involved or you risk being misled.   Focus on the message and the character of the person and the rest wil take care of itself.

Another more pronounced example is a supposed seer in Brazil, named Pedro Regis.   A big deal was made some time ago because he accurately predicted some devastating circumstance in this place or that place.  It was compelling to me until I studied him further.    I went back to the beginning of his documented messages, and interestingly I found that his early messages were all very vague and unspecific.   There was very little actual “prophecy” in terms of forecasting future events.   As time went on, there seemed to me to be a distinct shift in message to more of a constant declaration of some bad thing happening somewhere at some point.    The issue I have is that he’s bound to get some right, and people made a big deal out of it when he did, but there are endless messages regarding different regions or countries or cities that nothing of the sort has happened.    Now, there’s usually not timeline, so I suppose it could all come to pass, but the next question is “what’s the point?”    OK, on a daily basis we’re told that some specific area of the world is going to suffer catastrophe.    Theoretically, I suppose it could all happen at the same time.   So why not just say “look, you’re all hosed unless you pray more.”

Now, again, I admit to being simple.   God has a plan.    He may be trying to reach others and this may all make perfect sense in the spiritual realm and doing what it’s supposed to do.   I have no authority whatever in making a judgment of authenticity one way or another.   I have my opinions, and will always state that opinion with the caveat that I will accept the truth whether that comes as a judgment from the Church or God someday whacking me upside the head and saying “How could you not figure out that good ol’ Pedro was my servant?”   I will have no good reply other than I’m human and thick-headed.

To end this post, I’ll start with this:   Be careful out there.   Take it slow, don’t get caught up in a single message or “direct hit,” but take your time to read up on anyone you might start to get interested in following (I use that term a bit loosely – I mean “follow” in the sense of keeping tabs on or learning more about, or even getting to know.   But never follow someone to the detriment of following Christ and His Church).

Now, having said all that, I plan on presenting my thoughts on a man named Charlie Johnston in some upcoming posts.    I have taken a number of months to read over his entire blog history, and try to figure out what he’s saying, where he’s coming from, and whether anything he says makes me uncomfortable in the context of Public Revelation, the Catechism, and what I would consider to be the more authentic messages of the Saints.   I can’t promise when I’ll be able to present my thoughts, but I’ll start putting those together.

We, the Hierarchy, The Pope, Apparitions and Medjugorje

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Most Christians, even if not Catholic, have heard of Medjugorje. From there, one may have a very thorough familiarity with all the details and history surrounding the claimed appearances of Our Lady, and the messages given to a number of seers. Some probably have heard passing reference to it without much thought.

I won’t go into all the details about the messages and secrets associated with Medjugorje. You can find all that here. I will say, in summary, that the claim is that Our Lady (Mary, for non-Catholics among us) first appeared in 1981, and has appeared ever since. These messages are for the whole world, and published accordingly. Each of the seers have been promised 10 “Secrets” to be revealed only under certain timing and instructions. The nature of these secrets range from pleant to unpleasant. Some of the seers have received all 10 secrets, while 3 of the seers have received 9 of the 10. Only once all of them have received all 10 will events transpire. Some details have been allowed to be released, but some are strictly forbidden to be released at this time.

So, what does this all mean? Well, it means a lot of things.

There are many balancing points with regard to Medjugorje. We must be honest about what it is and what it isn’t. Firstly, we must realize and appreciate that Catholics are not bound by faith to believe in any apparition. These events are extr-Scriptural, and outside of Tradition. They do not (and cannot) add anything new to our faith, particularly if contrary to previous doctrinal teachings. They may, and often do, reinforce doctrinal teachings of our faith. One example of this is when Our Lady of Lourdes referred to herself as the Immaculate Conception to a girl, Bernadette, who didn’t understand what this meant at a time shortly after the Pope declared this ex cathedra.

Having said that, there are certain apparitions that are so well confirmed and recognized by the Church, that to not believe it would be fairly unusual for any devout Catholic. Lourdes is one, but Our Lady of Fatima is probably the most distinct of these. The messages of Fatima carried so much weight, and the miracle of the sun witnessed by so many, and Pope John Paul II carried such a devotion to Our Lady in this capacity that it seems almost unthinkable for a Catholic to reject this particular apparition as anything but true. However, the important point is that Catholics may choose to question apparitions, even approved ones.

Second, speaking of approvals… The approval of the Catholic Church is a very strong sign to the faithful that you can submit your trust in the messages of a given apparition. There are not as many firm approvals as you may think. I haven’t cross-checked this list, but from my own reading, it seems correct to my understanding. Basically, an approval does a couple things (1) it’s a stamp of authenticity, and (2) a stamp of approval of any messages.

Authenticity is obviously important, because if it didn’t really happen, we shouldn’t suggest that it did even if the message being shared is a positive one. The Church takes a long time to discern authenticity. Numerous interviews, cross-checking of facts, revelation of certain miracles, and a close review of all messages play an important role. Messages are reviewed to determine the nature of an authentic apparition. It is conceivable that an apparition is authentic, but NOT from a source we would wish to involve ourselves with. I have been told that a good spiritual advisor tells someone who claims to be receiving messages will have the recipient challenge the visitor in the name of Christ. The demonic can be very subtle, masking themselves in goodness only to pervert messages in such a way as to cause spiritual warfare of one kind or another. Seldom will a demonic apparition appear as anything but something good. And thus, great care and discernment is needed, as well as a fearlessness in having the apparitions defend their words in Jesus’s name. Thus, even if the Church is convinced of the apparition, great care is taken to ensure protection of the messages of Scripture and Tradition.

A third point is that just because a vision is NOT approved, doesn’t mean the Church has judged negatively on it. The Church will condemn visions that clearly teach things antithetical to Church teachings. Whether it’s a judgment of lack of authenticity or in message is irrelevant at that point. Both seers and followers are to immediately cease activity associated with that apparition. At other times, there may not be a condemnation, but a certain Bishop may step in and place limitations on activities. One good way of discerning the nature of an apparition’s validity is to reflect on the reaction and the obedience to these things, even when the bishop may be wrong! Humble obedience, or a proper channel of disagreement in a respectful manner, reflect a humility that suggests that this will all happen with God’s timing. Pubic clashes with the hierarchy suggest something else.

That brings us to Medjugorje.

There are many conflicting views of this, and there seems to have been somewhat of a roller-coaster ride in whether or not the faithful should be devoting time and spiritual energy to it. For a time, pilgrimages were not allowed to be organized by churches, though I am not aware of any time where individulas were prohibited to go. In practical terms, this is rational. The messages and secrets have not yet been fulfilled, and the apparition has not been approved. Even if all things look good to this point, it is reasonable on the part of the Church to protect the faithful from deception, at least to the extent of giving the perception that everything has been approved. Some have read into this a form of “condemnation.” It certainly may be true to suggest that the Church has yet to be fully convinced, but it’s really more of a cautionary measure.

Many thousands of pilgrims go to Medjugorje each year. Many have claimed to witness or experience miracles. That is for discernment. It cannot be questioned that many have had a revitalizing experience of faith. And so the phrase “by their fruits, you shall know them” comes to mind. On the other hand, many have also said that it is a commercialized circus, and don’t take much away from it.

There has been much made of the differences in opinions of different bishops. The resident bishop has gone so far as to ask the visionaries to stop making their claims. Clearly, he is an authoritative figure, and has his public doubts. He has more recently softened the language, but still clearly has his doubts.

Case closed, right? After all, he is the bishop at hand.

This is where Medjugorje is somewhat unique. I previously mentioned that obedience to a Bishop – even if wrong – is important. And it seems as if there is some differences among the seers in this area, but all in all it doesn’t seem as if they are all that much out of line. After all, if the visions are truly real, obedience can’t possibly go so far as to lie about their validity simply to please the Bishop. But beyond that, the Church hierarchy itself does not seem to universally respect the local Bishop’s opinon. In fact, a Cardinal recently visited, causing all sorts of heartburn to the local bishop.

There is even debate about whether or not the Cardinal’s follow-up letter to the Bishop was an apology.

Why the fighting? Well, on the one hand it is somewhat difficult to believe that a lie could be perpetuated this long, and with such solidarity. If someone were that rotten of soul, they’d be able to cash in substantially on breaking the news that this is a farce. That, and the messages by all accounts are affirming of the teachings of the Catholic Church. There is nothing there to suggest falsehood, save the scenario that the Secrets simply don’t come true. but on the other hand, let’s face it: this has gone on for nearly three decades. If we look to Lourdes and Fatima as our example of an approved apparition, we see a very limited number of appearances, with a pretty direct message and directive. To believe in the apparition at Medjugorje, we must convince ourselves that there is some purpose to essentially the same messages – with a fewnotable exceptions – being repeated on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis for 28+ years. The question can reasonably be, “What’s the point?” The perception is a “crying wolf” attitude. These last few secrets have taken seemingly forever to be completed. Is that God’s plan, or is it a realization by the visionaries that once the last secrets are completed, they’ll be exposed? I’m just offering the reasons for the differences in opinions, I’m not suggesting in any way that I can determine the truthfulness of the visionaries.

It’s an interesting question ,which begs the question as to where the Pope stands on this. Well, even this question is not perfectly clear, and is up for debate.

A good article from last August explains the initial opinion that Pope John Paul II was of the opinion that the Medjugorje phenomenon was legitimate, while then Cardinal Ratzinger shared the opinion of the local bishop that the apparitions were not authentic.

Dr. Jones asserts that when he met with Bishop Pavao Zanic, then-ordinary of the Diocese of Mostar (in which Medjugorje is situated) in 1988, the bishop said Cardinal Ratzinger agreed with him and did not believe the alleged apparitions were authentic.

But Pope John Paul II did not respond to Bishop Zanic in the same way. This would make sense considering certain seemingly pro-Medjugorje notes and letters JPII wrote to friends of his years ago…

There is a lengthy interview in that article more fully explaining the opinion of Jones, who sees the beginnings of the Church’s attempts to delegitimize Medjugorje.

If true, it certainly appears that Benedict XVI is not endeared towards ratification of this any time soon. However, citing a personal opinion as a Cardinal in a personal conversation is a far cry from any kind of condemnation or indicator of any campaign of delegitimization as Pope. Further, it is the opinion of others on the basis of other statements that Benedict XVI is in no way against Medjugorje, but instead has more or less framed his remarks in a neutral way that suggests investiagion is needed and prudence required.

Another interesting development, though, is the sudden public affirmation by the aforementioned Cardinal Schönborn. In fact, he has now come out and said that Pope Benedict XVI may visit Medjugorje. Clearly, if that happens, it may not be a message of outright approval, but it is certainly a positive message for devoted followers of these apparitions.

So where does that put us?

Quite honestly, it should put us where we’ve been all along: constant prayer and discernment. In the end, the faithful need to pay heed to the ultimate authority of the Church in this matter. As long as we are allowed to take an individual pilgrimage there, we are free to do so. Accept happily the spiritual fruits of such a pilgrimage, as well as the messages of Our Lady. As long as the message is one consistent with the teachings of the Church, we can heed the calls to prayer without any problem at all. If we choose to believe that this is true, we do so under the condition that we will ultimately follow the Church’s decision should she rule contrary to our own personal conclusion. Always be respectful to authorities in the Church, even a priest or bishop who may not feel your own conviction in the matter. Obviously, if the Church approves the phenomenon, we can then celebrate this devotion quite freely. Such approval also carries a call to heed the messages as well.

Quite honestly, for us laypeople to debate its legitimacy to the detriment of our spiritual community only clouds the question about its validity even more. So I would ask that any debate be respectful, and no matter how devoted a follower you may be, and however much you believe the truth of it, please respect those who have their doubts, or even outright don’t accept it. Question them, of course, but be respectful. And those who don’t believe it, please do not belittle those who do. Faith can be a very simple thing. That doesn’t make it wrong.

That we may all be one doesn’t necessarily mean we all think the same thing about everything, even with regard to our faith. It means we are united in Christ, and the doctrinal teachings of the Church. When we allow dissention to rule over something that isn’t doctrinal, it harms us all.