BENEFITS OF PRIVATE REVELATION
2.1: An Edification
The most venerable and most traditional term by which to designate the aim and benefit of private revelation is "an edification." It is used in this sense in the Bible (1Cor 14:3-4), as also in the writings of the Fathers, and it has remained in use right up to our own day. Private revelation is always an impetus or a stimulus toward a more serious, more authentic spiritual life. The call to conversion, also, is the strongest expression of the aim of private revelations. The invitation to prayer and penance has been frequently expressed in revelations ever since the first centuries. These divine pressures have denoted something new in the sense that men in a particular situation have "forgotten" certain divine ideas. For them the matter has been new.
When revelations contain facts, accounts, information or when they draw the attention of the faithful to certain aspects of doctrine, they always have for their aim action, edification: they are striving to make the faithful grow in their love for God or to urge them on to apostolic undertakings. They are first of all given for the salvation of souls. And what St. Thomas says about prophetic revelations holds good for all revelations. Their aim is to promote the salvation of the elect (Sum. Theol., II-II, 174, 6).
2.2: Enlightenment of the Mystical Body
God corresponds on His part to the boundless variety of talks which He asks of men by a boundless variety and wealth of gifts. Among the most important of these is the prophetic gift which often expresses itself under the form of particular revelations.
Private revelation, writes Mgr. Journet, "contribute to the orientation of the conduct of the faithful of the Mystical Body in innumerable ways. They may draw the attention of the jurisdictional power to this or that aspect of the Christian message and thus provoke speculative or practical decisions which will benefit the entire Church..." And although they cannot add new data to the Catholic Faith, "they retain, nevertheless, an immense role in the work of the enlightenment of the Mystical Body."
Even theological studies are influenced by private revelation. These revelations, by drawing attention to a doctrine which seems new, may draw the theologian into biblical research which justifies or condemns it. Revelations concerning the life of Christ may also stimulate biblical study by presenting details which serve at least as working hypotheses.
Although we use the term "private revelation', hardly any revelations are strictly private. It may happen that a revelation remains always the secret of one individual. The spiritual progress which it produces in that individual increases the sanctity of the Church. Every cell of the Mystical Body, by the very fact that it is itself expanding, augments the vigor of the whole Body.
The fruit of revelations, however, is not limited to this. The person who preserves the secret of his revelation inevitably communicates to others something of the fruit which he is receiving from God.
But there are revelations which are directly intended for many people. These revelations, called "social," bear the most abundant fruits and their influence upon the life of the Church is immense. The number of extremely beneficial movements which such revelations have inspired in specific groups of the faithful is incalculable. Countless foundations of convents, pilgrimages, and all sorts of institutions owe their origin to revelations. Powerful pious movements within the Church have been set in motion or nourished under the impulse of revelations. For example, one should read the bull of canonization of St. Bridget, proclaimed by Pope Boniface XI, to realize to what extent this saint's revelations regenerated the members of the Church.
Particular revelations were at the source of the movements of reparation of these latter centuries. We know that the devotions in honor of the Sacred Heart and of the Eucharist are due to revelations. The value and the abundance of their fruits are confirmed by the fact that they lead the faithful to the great sources of the life of the Church of the Word Incarnate, that is, toward the Faith and the sacraments.
It is a fact that the manifestations of Christian faith in the places of the great Marian apparitions of our epoch find their completion in the greatest of the sacraments. In these places God acts upon souls, not only through the sacrament of penance, which is greatly sought in them, but He is loved and glorified there in the Sacrament of Sacraments. The life of the pilgrims in these places is marked by the celebration of the Eucharist, by the procession of the Blessed Sacrament. So revelations bear the most wonderful fruits by intensifying the Church's life in places where Jesus, Mary and the faithful are most intimately united and where human activity receives the highest and most discerning direction.
Through these revelations God continues to guide and exhort His people just as He did in the Old Testament and in the time of Christ. Through them, God communicates His designs to the world and to us.
The revelations of St. Margaret Mary and the great Marian apparitions, gave expression to the devotions to the Sacred Heart and to the Blessed Virgin which they would not have received, at least at that moment of history, if these extraordinary manifestations had not taken place.
The Lord revealed His clearly specified wishes to St. Margaret Mary. They applied to her own life as well as that of the Church: "I will be your strength," He said to her, "fear nothing; but be attentive to My voice and to what I ask of you in order to dispose you for the accomplishment of My designs. First of all you will receive Me in the Blessed Sacrament as often as obedience will permit ... You will receive Communion in addition on the First Friday of each month ... I ask you that the First Friday after the Octave of Corpus Christi be dedicated to a particular feast in honor of My Heart ..." lp230
2.3: Effects of Private Revelation On The Soul
The grace of a particular revelation is not sanctifying grace which elevates the soul itself. Revelations stimulate the soul to live according to that grace or they predispose it, sometimes in an irresistible fashion, to receive it.
It is a matter of the awakening of a life or of the orientation of its activities. Revelations shake the soul; they turn its false peace, fill it with a holy fear in order to flood it with a delicious peace.
Referring to personal revelations, not approved, of mystics, St. John of the Cross tells us (Book II, ch. 17): "God sanctifies man according to his nature. He begins with what is the least elevated and the most exterior - the senses. He perfects them by supernatural communications. By this means the senses are greatly confirmed in virtue and withdrawn from their inclination to evil. The supernatural visions which God is accustomed to give afterward to a soul which is well disposed, enlighten the senses, spiritualize them and produce great fruits in the spirit.
Spiritual writers often distinguish humility (which manifests itself among other fruits) as one of the marks of true revelations. St. Teresa dilates upon this subject in chapters three and eight of the Eighth Book of Abodes: "God," she says, "has another method of awakening the soul ... this is by way of words which God addresses to the soul in many ways" (Moradas, VI, cap. 3, note 1). A few words such as, Do not be troubled, are enough to bring calm to a soul disturbed by trial and tribulation or plunged into darkness and dryness. A few words flood it with a divine light and remove all fear from it; a few words immediately give certitude on the outcome of an important matter with which it is concerned. Despite all the interior or exterior obstacles, the word of the Lord which promises success accomplishes it. And then "The soul apprehends from it so much joy and lightness that it wants to do nothing else but to praise His Majesty continuously" (Moradas, VI, cap. 3, note 8).
2.4: Edifying Food For the Soul
Private revelations are often characterized by the same doctrinal limpidity and penetrating unction which are to be found in the inspired books. Simple, good and intelligent persons, who are open-minded and entrenched neither in a hypercritical attitude nor in a taste for the miraculous, find in the reading of such revelations truly comforting and edifying food for the soul in the biblical sense of the term.
Who has spoken as glowingly as St. Gertrude of the delights hidden in the sacred Humanity of Christ? Who has written better of the action of God in the soul than St. Teresa of Avila? St. Francis de Sales, after quoting St. Paul, St. Thomas, Gerson, and the Carthusian, Denis, as the authors who have worthily written upon this most important of subjects, adds in the introduction to his Treatise on the Love of God: "But in order to make known that this kind of writing is more happily accomplished by the devotion of lovers than by the doctrine of scholars, the Holy Spirit has willed for certain women to achieve wonders in this field. Who has better expressed the heavenly passions of sacred love than St. Catherine of Genoa, St. Angela da Foligno, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Mathilda?" lp255
2.5: Private Revelations Are Precious
Private Revelations are very precious things for they help us to conform our lives to the plan which God has for us in a particular situation. They are equally precious because of the way in which they act upon men. They come as a surprise and engage man's feelings and his attention in such a way that they are effective in cases where other methods would not be.
The abundance of the fruits of these apparitions is not surprising if we think of the Incarnation. God wishes to accomplish His work of redemption through the Incarnation by which God adopted Himself to man in order to reach Him. And the apparitions, which by their nature make appeal to the senses, belong to the consequences of the Incarnation. Within this perspective we better understand why prophetic revelations have for their aim the good of the Church (Sum. Theol., 11-II, 172, 4).
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Ch. II: Benefits of Private Revelation