Yearning for the real thing
The soul growing close to God yearns for Him and is satisfied by praising Him. As the Psalmist sings “My soul shall savor the rich banquet of praise” (Ps. 63:6).
People are often shy of venerating Mary or the saints and with good reason. After all, search the Internet for Marian apparitions and you’ll get 7 million results. Search Catholic visionary and you’ll have 3 million results. Too easily we succumb to seeking sensationalism rather than the Sacred. This opens us to temptation by Satan who satiates curiosity with false seers, who urges desperation for control in an out-of-control world by using our spiritual weapons, and/or provides a diversion so we can avoid conversations with God the Father. We know the enemy has affected our disposition toward God when we believe it is not harmful to follow the teachings of seers that are not yet approved for veneration. On the contrary, our scriptures teach us that Satan is the master of illusion. Our saints teach us that the method he uses to divert good Christians from God isn’t temptation to obvious sin but, rather, to make the lesser good choice.[i] The lesser good choice always is made out of our self-reliance, our own efforts, and ultimately pride as we say, “it can’t harm us; it doesn’t matter”.
St. Teresa of Avila, doctor of the church, gives explanation on revelations and visions in chapter VIII of Foundations including the “images which Satan effects for the purpose of deceiving us when he assumes the likeness of Christ our Lord or of His saints.” [ii]
She gives example of a woman who thinks she is having regular, lengthy visits with Mary. Her initial confessor was mistaken in accepting these as true because, although a spiritual person himself, he had no experience with this. Only when a confessor with specific experience addressed the situation was it unveiled for what it truly was: foolery. Due in great part to the Internet, we’ve experienced an explosion of would-be prophets and visionaries. They very often state they have priests as spiritual directors, yet we can see how easily they can be affirmed in their error, whether its source is their own psychological phenomenon (using St. Ignatius’ terms, “the enemy”) or Satan (“the enemy of human nature”).
This is why God has given us the Magisterium who investigate claims with ‘devil’s advocates’ until they can prove no natural explanation exists. However, proving it is of a non-natural cause isn’t sufficient. They must judge it to determine its origin: God or Satan. That takes specific clergy designated to have the deep knowledge of our mystical theology as well as the spiritual experience (as noted by St. Teresa). Also note that many saints had false visions, or visions that were misinterpreted, so having a saint’s name attached to a vision or instruction does not imply authenticity or approval of visions.
The saints and apparitions approved for veneration by the Magisterium are direct gifts from God. Imagine Him standing before you with arms full of presents and offering for you to take any that you wish, as many as you wish. He knows each will be good for you in some way, mentoring you throughout your day. Yet you say to Him “not now God, I want to read this seer’s blog first” and turn away from the Creator and Sustainer of your very existence! What could be more offensive than that? He sustains our breath in every moment. Every moment we make the choice whether to walk with God who is already walking with us. Ultimately God has given us these saints as part of our providential plan. To knowingly turn away from the gift chasing after the sensationalism of a seer of one’s own choosing is a precarious path to take.
“Everything I do is preparation for, and in thanksgiving of, receiving the Eucharist” (St. Pio)
A common thread in approved Marian apparitions is Mother Mary’s plea to us to pray for forgiveness of offences against her and Jesus. She isn’t telling us to point fingers at the rest of the world. She leads us to Jesus who, in the scripture, very clearly has taught to remove the plank from our own eye first. Hence the purpose to fasting, confession, and mass that usually comes with Mary’s pleas begins with us. Only then with contrite hearts do we seek penances for the offences of others against Him and Her.
Of course, God permits all mistakes as He waits for us in silent prayer, ready to talk about why we are attracted to unapproved seers, willing to rely on our own reasoning, willing to take the spiritual risk. And if we’re examining our thoughts each day, these conversations will come often. He will give us the light to see our patterns of self-reliance or spiritual risk in other areas too. We would never have understood this on our own without the addition of His actual grace. (Fr. Koterski, SJ gives excellent suggestions for help in these conversations with God.)[iii]
The anniversary of the 4th Fatima apparition August 13 is celebrated around the world. More importantly, August 15 is the Feast of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven. This is great opportunity to accept God’s gift and be in communion with the worldwide Church in prayer. We can renew our commitment to take on the life of Christ as we are taught by Faith and shed habits that lead us astray. Learning from recognized teachers of our faith aid tremendously in keeping commitments. To help better understand our Marian teachings, the Institute of Catholic Culture offers a free course with Dr. Mike Aquilina, The Protoevangelium of James: The Early Life of the Blessed Virgin. [iv]
We continue to pray for Pope Francis, all clergy and religious, and the worldwide Church, asking for the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary:
Our Lady gave God a human heart.
She made it possible for him, for Christ, to love me.
She gave her life to be his life.
She gave him her body, what he asked for.
She gave Christ his capacity for pain.
Giving him life she gave him death.
She was made for Christ and then literally her life became his life.
She gave birth not only to the Christ in history, but to the Christ in all of us, she gave her good simple life to be the substance of his life in us.
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam 😊
Image: The Assumption by Peter Paul Rubens and workshop, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
[i] Servant of God John Hardon SJ explains true visions http://www.therealpresence.org/eucharst/mir/vision.htm
[ii] St. Teresa of Avila, Foundations https://librivox.org/author/1562?primary_key=1562&search_category=author&search_page=1&search_form=get_results
[iii] Fr. Koterski SJ help on prayer http://www.hprweb.com/2017/07/using-the-means-at-hand-for-spiritual-growth/
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