Tag Archives: Apparitions

Fatima 100

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With the passing of October 13, 2016 we have entered the 100th year of the final apparition of Fatima.

We humans like our round numbers.   We like to think there is something significant about round number anniversaries.

The question is, does God like round numbers?

I have no clue.

Here’s what I do know – looking at the world around us, how low can we go before there is a major correction that takes place?

I will watch this next year with great interest.  If nothing else, Fatima provides hope.   I highly recommend in the coming year, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the apparitions, that we all read the account of Fatima as a reminder of all it represents.

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According to Charlie, the Time has Come

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I’ve noted recently that I follow Charlie Johnston.   I won’t rehash his background now, but in a nutshell he claims to have received training/visions/foreshadowing of things to come.   Yes, many others claim the same thing, but Charlie’s a bit different.   He does not focus on many details, but in the overall umbrella of things, which a much stronger focus on our response things than providing details of specific things.

Having said that, he has very clearly stated a couple of things that he says will happen.   He has stated this with certainty, and has as much said he will shut up and go away if it doesn’t happen:

(1) The next stable leader in the United States will not come from the electoral process.   This does not mean the election will not happen (though it could mean that), but that by the time inauguration day comes along, we will be in such a state of disarray that it will not matter.

(2) Obama will not finish out his term.    This is possibly murky as well.   It could be that he extends his term through emergency powers and doesn’t finish that out.   But in any case, whether it is by January or shortly thereafter, something will happen here that Obama is not the next stable leader.

(3) The Rescue occurs somewhere near the end of 2017.   We don’t know exactly when, other than it’s in the latter half of the year.   The Rescue is the “event” that makes everyone come to their senses and realizes that Mary is the Mother of God, that Jesus is King, and that God is really God.   Nearly everyone will be converted, and from there we can start to rebuild society more aligned with the will of God.

 

Is Charlie for real?    Well, here’s what I can say…   he shows no signs of being a liar.   There is nothing to gain, as afar as I can tell, from such a deception.    He doesn’t ask for money, he doesn’t sell stuff, etc.    He could be delusional along with a particular ability to read the tea leaves of the times around us.    In other words, he may be particularly good at foreseeing trends and may be falsely attributing his own abilities to something supernatural and is imagining his visitations.   Or, he may be entirely authentic in his claims, but despite his certainty he still got something wrong in interpretation as far as timeline and events.    Finally, he may be entirely authentic and entirely correct in his specifics.

To be honest, I have ruled out deception.   It makes no sense.     I’ve mostly ruled out delusion.    Just following and reading his blog, and seeing the straightforward and logical manner in which he addresses other topics, there are no signs of this.   Having said that, he is a smart guy who could well be good at reading trends without supernatural assistance.

If he is authentic, which to me seems highly probable, then whether or not his timeline and specifics are correct still means that  we are either in for a s***storm in the almost immediate future or we’re in for one soon enough.

It’s really kind of remarkable that he has put himself out there with such certainty.   I leave everyone to their own opinions on the matter.   But the state of politics, the powder kegs around us (not just our country, but globally – after all he is U.S. centric because that’s where he and his audience is – but this is to be a global thing), is becoming more and more evident to more and more people.   Folks who have no particular religious or moral agenda are openly wondering what the reaction will be to the elections here, regardless of who wins.   We’ve all seen that a random event that happens in a random community can escalate to mobs and protests and violence.    So far, these flare-ups have been local/regional, have been ultimately contained, and have not caused massive civil unrest.   But is there some trigger event that could cause greater disruption?

And that’s not even getting into ISIS, North Korea, China, Russia, Iran, Libya, Syria, and all the rest.

All I’d say is, pay attention, keep your eyes open, and be ready.    I am not predicting with certainty that Charlie is right.   I am, however, saying that there’s a higher probability than I’d prefer that he’s not wrong.    I can even think back to when I first heard him saying such things about a year ago – regarding the next stable leader and the elections this year.   At the time, it seemed really out there and impossible.   In one year’s time, it has moved into the reasonably possible scenario.

Interesting times.

 

 

A Shout Out to the Shrine in my Home State

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The shrine in Champion, Wisconsin, home of the only approved apparition site in the USA has received a National Designation.

I don’t really have much to add.   Just thought that was cool.

Charlie Johnston

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A few days ago I once again revisited the idea of Catholic Prophecy.    If you did not read that post before reading this one, please do, so as to put everything in appropriate context as I move on to discussing Charlie Johnston.   In that post I also encourage you to read and review in Charlie’s own words what he claims to have experienced, and what his stated mission is.

I am mentioning him here because of all the current, modern-day “prophets” he has a very unique approach to it all.   His approach, I believe, allows someone to follow him and listen to what he has to say, even if skeptical, and having one’s faith and approach to things edified.   And I think this statement holds true regardless of whether or not you choose to believe the more remarkable claims he makes with respect to his personal experiences (visions, encounters with Angels, Mary, and Jesus, etc.).

So, allow me to explain.

One of my biggest issues I have, as I’ve already mentioned, are persons who claim to have visions or apparitions of the supernatural and proclaim messages to the world.   Nearly every modern day “prophet” follows the same formula:   Some supernatural or divine entity visits or speaks to them and asks them to share a message with the world.   This happens over and over and over and over again with the same or similar message over and over and over and over again.   People listen to or read the messages and cling to every word.   After a while, we get bored with whatever good message is communicated if that message isn’t about some remarkable event that is going to occur.   I could be entirely wrong, but I think that more than one of these people, even if they started off authentically receiving (or believing they were receiving) divine messages may feel the need to sensationalize things in order to placate a widening audience.   This is speculation on my part, but I’m sure it’s happened.

In many cases, I have to believe that – even if innocent – some of these people have entirely experienced a confabulation of the whole thing.   They are in quietude and want to have a conversation with God – all well and good – and in that silence (which they haven’t entirely learned to control properly) they believe they are receiving some sort of message or locution.   But it’s their own mind running wild, but emotionally they feel in tune with God, so it must be Him, right?    What starts off as good internal thoughts from a well-formed person can become a desire to feel that and continue that, and who knows where that can take a person.

I may sound like someone who can’t accept any of this.   That is not true and it’s not my intent.   I am just careful.   And so, it is actually with a bit of an effort against my nature that I find Charlie, overall, authentic.

For those who don’t know him and will be too lazy to fully research him or read my links, I will provide a general summary:   As mentioned above, Charlie claims to have been visited by supernatural or divine entities for most of his life.    He kept it to himself for a long time, and only as he matured did he embrace all of it.   The purpose of the visitations was to provide him visions, insights, and messages for the future which would occur during his lifetime.    However, unlike others, he has not shared every individual message with the world.    He has not even provided a whole lot of details of things he claims to know about, or has known about in the past.    Because the purpose of his visitors was to train him on the bigger, more important things:   why this is happening, a general course of what to expect, and to build up the flock so that they can better grasp the reality of what about to happen and what is, in fact, happening around us.

The entire purpose of Charlie’s ministry is not to predict exactly how, when, where, and why all the corresponding events that make up what is called “The Storm” are (even though he is in tune to many of those things).  The purpose is much more general – get people right with God and each other, and not worry about all these details.   Understand the overall course of The Storm so you’re mentally and spiritually ready for it.    But he also very clearly preaches that no one can effectively prepare for everything that is to come.   We will utterly need to rely on God.   While he welcomes the idea that people make preparations, it’s always in the context of prudence and with an eye towards preparing in such a way not so much for you, but to help others.

Charlie has a different personality than most of the other supposed seers I’ve researched.   He has a sense of humor, comes from the political arena and still follows politics, and is basically just a normal guy who happens to have a remarkable attribute that the rest of us don’t have.    It’s interesting to hear him talk about his visitors so casually, when all the rest of us would likely fail to sleep for a week after receiving a visit from a supernatural friend of any sort.    But this shouldn’t be surprising.   After all, how casually do we Catholics speak of the Eucharist?    We receive it without a huge show, and sometimes in our weaker moments are distracted by other things around us as the very Son of God becomes physically manifest on the altar.    The Eucharist is so remarkable as to be utterly unbelievable by non-Catholics.  And yet, we stroll up and receive Christ as if it’s the most natural thing in the world.     So, unlike us, Charlie has received these visitors his entire life.   It should not be a surprise that over time a natural comfort level and even a sense of the unremarkable comes across in his comments about them.

Whether he’s imagining it all, or whether it’s all real, or somewhere in between, there is no sense that I get from Charlie that there is any deception.   He is very clear on all of us, most of all himself, follows whatever instruction the Church gives.    He is not one of these anti-Francis folks – far from it.   He has called Francis the Pope of the Storm.   On the other hand, this does not keep him from offering opposing opinions with respect to purely temporal matters.

I would encourage anyone to look at Charlie’s posts and start the process of discernment.   To be clear, it is not substitute for Church teaching, Scripture, etc.   But nothing I see opposes any of those things.   Charlie is a full-throated supporter of daily mass, Catholic devotions, Adoration, Eucharistic processions, etc.   He is very stout on life and family issues.    He is fine if you don’t agree with him as long as all discussion on the board is well-intentioned and respectful.   In the end, the very worst that can happen is you don’t buy into all the remarkable stuff, but you’ll still see a good group of people trying to do their best in a world gone mad.

The one part of my skeptical nature on all this that I can’t completely rid myself of is the idea that one needs these visitors to warn of The Storm.   I have for years seen signs of ultimate disaster in our country and our world.   I think to anyone paying attention, it’s not a matter of “if” it’s a matter of “when.”   One does not need an angel to point out that a country that turns its back on God, holds up abortion as a blessing, makes same-sex marriage the law of the land, continues to grow in accepting euthanasia, becomes more atheistic, and so on that there will be a point where God turns us over to ourselves.    Now, Charlie claims that in his private writings to his Spiritual Director, he envisioned what we are clearly seeing today long before it became as readily apparent as it is, and he is now taking up the mantle of one who is now making it clear to everyone exactly what it is that is happening and how we need to react.

Charlie is also very open about the fact that over the years he has greatly misunderstood, misinterpreted, and even challenged the wisdom of the messaged he’s received.    This is one reason he doesn’t share them.    He has said that this was all part of the training he needed.   Whenever he went against his direction because he thought he could protect someone from something or another, he saw that worse things happened that originally envisioned.   So he has better learned to not question, and to trust.   And trust is a major theme here.   He promotes a Prayer of Miraculous Trust – say it once for a particular intention and then leave it.  Don’t repeat it again for that specific intention (sort of like Moses hitting the rock more than once).

There are a couple areas where Charlie has been more specific.   I only assume there are particular reasons why these items are necessary to share with us.   One is that our next stable leader will not come from the election process.   It is a bit unclear exactly what that means, but it’s safe to say that if Charlie is correct, then even if elections are held and a new President elected, by the time they would otherwise take office in the normal fashion, things will have changed dramatically so that this doesn’t happen in a way that anyone expects.    Second, there will be a necessary financial collapse.   Third, he has given a timeline of the end of 2017 for what is called the Rescue – where God allows Mary to intervene on our behalf and, in some way, make it clear to everyone on earth what the Truth of Christ is.   Because of this timeline, if Charlie is correct, then whatever is to happen will happen soon, happen swiftly, and will create a situation of such extreme confusion that without the Rescue everything would so utterly devolve so quickly that we would almost certainly destroy ourselves.    Charlie’s sense (I believe this is noncommittal) is that the Rescue will actually occur before there is an incredibly severe loss of life.    Not that millions of lives lost will not be horrible, but he’s not talking about half, a third, a quarter, or even a tenth of the world’s demise.

I could go on, but I believe this covers the general sense of it.   We are under no obligation at all to pay attention to or adhere to private revelation.   So it is not incumbent upon any of us to look into all of this.   But I do think Charlie’s message is helpful and encouraging during this time, and my own personal and unofficial opinion is that it is something that is worthy of looking at.

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.

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.