Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Ch. I: What Is Private Revelation?

Chapter I


1.1: Definition

What is private revelation? Private revelations are heavenly and verbal manifestions of the divine will made to man in an extraordinary way in order to direct human activity in a particular situation of the life of private persons or of humanity in general. More striking because of their marvelous character, they provoke among certain people, and sometimes in the whole Christian people, a salutary shock which the sacramental signs, neglected and familiar, do not always produce.

St. Thomas Aquinas, the "angelic doctor' of the Church, tells us, in regards to private revelation that, "The prophets who foretold the coming of Christ could not continue further than John, who with his finger pointed to Christ actually present. Nevertheless as Jerome says on this passage, 'This does not mean that there were no more prophets after John. For we read in the Acts of the apostles that Agabus and the four maidens, daughters of Philip, prophesied. John, too, wrote a prophetic book about the end of the Church; and at all times there have not been lacking persons having the spirit of prophecy, not indeed for the declaration of any new doctrine of faith, but for the direction of human acts." (Sum. Theol.II-II, 174, 6).

This same concept and definition of private revelation was reiterated by Pope John XXIII in his message addressed "to all Christians" at the conclusion of the centenary of the apparitions at Lourdes: "`They (the Roman Pontiffs) also have a duty to recommend to the attention of the faithful - when after mature examination they consider it opportune for the general good - the supernatural lights which it has pleased God to dispense freely to certain privileged souls, not to propose new doctrines but to guide our conduct." The Holy Father made his own the essence of the doctrine of St. Thomas and cited the original text of the passage quoted above. (A.A.S. 51 (1959), 144, 147.)

Thomas Aquinas, in his commentary upon St. Matthew, also makes an observation which illustrates very well what we have just said. It concerns the text: "For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John" (Mt 11:13). The commentator asks: Does it follow this that after John there were no more prophets! Here is the reply: "The mission of prophecy is twofold: it is sent to establish the Faith and to correct morals; but (today) the Faith has already been founded, for the promises were fulfilled by Christ. But for that which is concerned with correcting morals, prophecy never has, never will be lacking." (Divi Thomae Aquinatis Expositio in. ..Matthaeum, chap. XI, 13. (Neapoli, 1858), p. 102.)

1.2: Holy Scriptures - Inspired by the Holy Spirit

The divine revelations contained in the Bible differ from private revelation in that the entire Bible is inspired by God. The Bible's principle author is God, though it was written by men whom God enlightened and moved to write all those things, and only those things, that He wished to be written.

Inspiration is a force that God puts into a man so that he can write what God wants him to write. Just as electricity gives light and power, so does inspiration give God's light and power, the light and power that come from the Holy Spirit.

This enables a writer to write just what God wants Him to, though he uses his own language, his own style and his own writing skill. The power of inspiration keeps the writer from making a mistake. There are no errors or mistakes in the Bible. All that is there is truth.

We have the guarantee from our infallible Church that the books in the Bible are inspired (Council of Hippo, 393, later confirmed by Council of Carthage, 397). The infallible guarantee does not hold for private revelation although the faithful are permitted to read the messages of a particular private revelation, for our edification, unless this particular private revelation is forbidden by the Church.

"The right and duty to prohibit books for a good reason rests with the Supreme Pontiff for the whole Church, with the particular councils for their territory, and with the individual Ordinary for his diocese. From the prohibition of inferior authorities recourse may be had to the Holy See, not however, 'insuspensivo' , which means that the prohibition must be obeyed until Rome has rescinded the orders of the inferior authority." 7p287

1.3: Supernatural Revelation

Supernatural revelation, the truths found in Sacred Scripture and in Tradition, is the communication of some truth by God to a creature through means that are beyond the ordinary course of nature. Some revealed truths, for example, the mystery of the Blessed Trinity, are strictly beyond the power of the human mind. We could never know such truths unless God revealed them. Other truths, for example, the immortality of the soul, while not beyond the power of the human mind, are objects of revelation because God has revealed them in a supernatural way. Although these latter truths could be known without revelation, they are grasped with greater ease and certainty once God has revealed them.

God's public revelation of truths to men began with Adam and Eve and ended at the death of Saint John the Apostle.

Divine revelation contained in the Old Testament is called pre-Christian. It can be divided into: first, Primitive revelation, made to Adam and Eve; second, Patriarchal revelation, made to the patriarchs, for example, to Abraham and Lot; third, Mosaic revelation, made to Moses and the prophets.

Christian revelation contains the truths revealed to us by Jesus Christ, either directly or through His Apostles.

The Church does not oblige the faithful to believe private revelations given, at certain times, to individuals. Those to whom private revelations are given are obliged to believe them when they are certain that the revelations are from God.

1.4: "Apocryphal” Books

An "apocryphal" book is a book which appears to arrogate to itself a divine authority, or one formerly held to be sacred, but which in fact has not been accepted in the list of Sacred Books. The description does not, therefore, according to another and fairly common acceptance of the word, mean books of uncertain origin containing many false items mixed up with some true elements.

1.5: Private Revelation - One of the Charisms of the Church

True private revelations are from God by their very definition. If former examples of faith and of divine grace were written down in books for the honor of God and the comfort of man, why should not the same be done, for the same ends, in regard to more recent happenings? Times change; but the strength of the Spirit remains the same. The prophets of Scripture, in regard to the latest times, teach us that the new deeds should surpass the old in the abundance of grace. That is why we recognize and honor the new prophecies and visions and we consider that they are at the service of the Church along with other resources of the Holy Spirit.

Private revelations are not the foundation upon which the Church rests, but they do exist and act within the Church. It is the Church which approves them and it is in her that revelations find their aim, for they form part of the charisms which are bestowed for the edification of the Church. Undoubtedly they do not possess the importance of the sacraments, but they are normal means willed by God to direct and strengthen the life of the Church.
Private revelations do not form a part of Catholic faith, which rests solely upon the deposit of truth contained in Scripture and Tradition, and which has been confided to the Church for interpretation. Hence, there is no obligation for the faithful to believe them. Even when the Church approves them she does not make them the object of Catholic faith, but as Benedict XIV states, she simply 'permits' them to be published for the instruction and the edification of the faithful. The assent to be given them is not therefore an act of Catholic faith, but one of human faith, based upon the fact that these revelations are 'probable' and ‘worthy of credence'. "Although an assent of Catholic faith may not and can not be given to revelations thus approved, still, an assent of human faith, made according to the rules of prudence, is due them; for according to these rules such revelations are probable and worthy of pious credence." (De Serv. Dei Beatif., 1. II, c. 32, n. II).

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