Confused about private revelations


I read the Catechism passages regarding the Deposit of Faith ending with John and how the Catholic Church views private revelations (Lourdes, etc). I am confused and hope some people can help me.

When the Church approves of a private revelation, what does that mean? For example, did Mary literally appear to St. Simon of Stock and give him the Brown Scapular? Or is the Church just saying the message is “OK to believe” regardless of whether the event took place.

Another example, is the Church saying that the Fatima revelations literally happened or just that the message of the revelations is “OK to believe” regardless of whether or not they happened?

If private revelations aren’t binding on all Catholic faithful, then why do Popes publish things like the Three Secrets of Fatima, etc?

Just learning and trying to understand. Thank you.

David Goliath

Public revelation ended with the death of the last apostle, John, and it is binding upon all believers. Since that time, all additional revelation has been private revelation, and this is not binding upon all Christians.

When the Church approves an apparition, she is saying that the message delivered is worthy of faith, but she is not requiring or even recommending the message. You may believe or ignore as you see fit.

There’s a great little book on the topic by Fr. Benedict Groeschel A Still, Small Voice that goes into your questions quite well, but in plain, understandable language.

There is also some very good information about the nature of private revelation in this Vatican document:

So, is it possible that Mary did not literally give the Scapular to St. Simon of Stock?
Even if she didn’t, the point is that the Catholic Church says that devotion to the Brown Scapular is acceptable? I know, it can’t just be worn as a magic charm. I realize it is a sacramental. What about the Miraculous Medal? Did that happen actually happen, maybe, yes, no?

Does “worthy of believe” mean “it may or may not have happened, but the core message behind the apparition is acceptable for private devotion”?

Honestly, I’m not sure how to answer your question at this immediate moment. Let me say this, EWTN presents the story of the Miraculous Medal as that it really did happen.

I believe it and wear the MM.

You don’t have to believe it to be a Catholic in good standing. That much I do know.

Here is an excerpt from an EWTN artiicle:

Although an assent of Catholic faith may 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.]
The Pope is saying that a Catholic, seeing that the Church (and here the Holy See is meant, as only it’s acts can be of universal effect) has investigated and approved certain revelations, is being prudent to give them human assent. That acceptance does not rest on the guarantee of Faith, or the charism of infallibility, but on the credibility of the evidence as it appeals to reason. The assent involved is not supernatural but the natural assent that the intellect gives to facts which it judges to be true. Approved private revelations are thus worthy of our acceptance and can be of great benefit to the faithful, for as the Catechism of the Catholic Church notes,

Guided by the Magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church. [CCC 67]*

If the private revelation sounds reasonable, and good I believe it… simple as that.:slight_smile:

It helps to know what the discussion is about. So I have included some facts about privite apparitions.

There have been reported Marian Apparitions reported back to 40 AD and all throughout the
history of the Church. They have only started to be officially approved by the Vatican since
the 1500s.

Private apparitions have given us:

The Sacred Heart of Jesus
The Immaculate heart of Mary
Our Lady of Guadalupe
Our Lady of Fatima
The rosary
The shrine and miracles of Lourdes
St. Faustina’s picture of Jesus, the Divine Mercy painting of “I trust in you”
St. Simon’s Mount Carmel picture and brown scapular
St. Catherine Laboure’s miraculous medal and picture of Our Lady of Grace
Sister Justine Bisqueyburu’s green scapular
St John Bosco’s Salesian movement
Icon Cross of San Damiano helped developement of Francisans and Poor Claires

Here are special Masses of commemoration of some of the above.

Sacred Heart is the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost.
Divine Mercy is 2nd Sunday after Easter.
Immaculate Heart of Mary is the Saturday after the Sacred Heart
St.Simon (brown scapular) Oct. 28
Brown Scapular Jul.16
Lourdes Feb. 11
Rosary (Fatima) Oct. 7
Guadalupe Dec. 12
St. Bernedette (Lourdes) Feb. 18
St. Margaret Mary (Sacred Heart) Oct. 17
Miraculous Medal Nov. 27
St. Catherine Laboure (miraculous medal) Nov. 28
St. John Bosco Jan. 31

Below is a story.

"I grew up in a family that didn’t go to church or know God. I often heard family members say
that if God were real, why doesn’t he do stuff like parting of the sea in the 10
Commandments? Where did He go after that? It’s all stories, make belief. (My only catechism
was Christmas carols at Christmas time. How I wish they would be played now instead of Santa Claus and Rudolf!)

One day a Catholic loaned me his book on Fatima. The miracle of the sun, told by the
children before the event, was as good as the Red Sea parting long ago. Better even. It
changed my life. I saw in that book that God did and does exist, He exists today, and He
wants me to be close to him. What Good News!"

Below is another moving story.

"I have not had any personal experiences of Our Lady appearing but I would like to share with
you a story about my Grandfather.

My Grandfather served in the First World War and he was a RSM regimantal sergeant major.He was given orders one day to take the men from the trenches in a certain direction.Now that day as he was about to follow orders and go in ‘that direction’ Our Lady appeared to him (and others were witnesses) she did not speak but stood with her arm pointing in the other direction to which my Grandfather’s orders were.Grandad took the men in the direction Our Lady pointed.Later that day it was confirmed that if they had gone in the direction they were ordered to go they would have all been killed. I would not be here among other things! My Grandad was awarded many medals during the war one for bravery.He never got into trouble for disobeying orders.It was documented in the catholic church.I never knew this story until my Grandfather’s funeral.Our Priest Fr Collins produced the article as documented in the bulletin when my Grandfather died in 1968."

And one last very interesting story with original pictures and twists and turns of Fatima where several Popes have made visits.

Private revelation is not binding; the Church has not been given such authority. In saying that, I firmly believe - and I think that a strong case could be made for this - that God preserves His Church from approving false revelations. Church-approved revelations are always backed up by miracles and other great fruits e.g. The Miraculous Medal

Correct on all counts.
Is that a problem?

These judgements of the Church are always “prudential”. The Church itself may be mistaken on these judgements which, in theory, could be shown at a later date to be fraudulent if unknown historical information came to light.

But it is saying that what is known does not contradict the deposit of faith and is even to be praised if it cultivates good devotion and holiness.

Thank you all. I understand (more, at least) now.

Hi, this will give you an idea of the process.

The “brown scapular” is in fact a smaller version of the habit of the Order of the Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel–a religious order that has its roots in Palestine: The legend is that Mary appeared to St. Simon Stock, a Carmelite religious, and made the promise to him about the habit and the order. I say legend because the original documentation, if any, was lost in history. The Church has said that there is nothing contrary to faith and morals in lay people wearing the scapular–it’s a sacramental meant to remind the wearer to keep his baptismal vows. Also, the promise is acceptable since Mary does aid us in our faith.

Does “worthy of believe” mean “it may or may not have happened, but the core message behind the apparition is acceptable for private devotion”?

Worthy of belief merely means there is nothing contrary to faith or morals in believing in/following devotions which spring from approved apparitions. Such apparitions must not contradict Church teaching nor lead people into immorality. The local bishop rules based on the following criteria:

At the end of the investigative process, the committee may submit to the bishop(s) one of the following verdicts or conjectural judgements: constat de supernaturalitate (the event shows all the signs of being an authentic or a truly miraculous intervention from heaven); constat de non supernaturalitate (the alleged apparition is clearly not miraculous or there are not sufficient signs manifesting it to be so); non constat de supernaturalitate (it is not evident whether or not the alleged apparition is authentic).

The Bishop’s decision regarding alleged apparitions usually does not attempt to interpret or give the spiritual significance of the events, nor to interpret the messages or identify the heavenly persons who may have appeared.

To be totally technical - the Rosary had existed for a long time in various formats before anybody ever had a vision about it. I’m going to talk about this, because I’m kinda sad that we teach kids wrong, and that creates a window for them feeling lied to, later on.

Blessed Alanus de Rupe (aka Alan of the Rock, Alain de la Roche, etc.) was a famous Dominican preacher and visionary. Like many Dominicans, he promoted the faithful’s use of the Dominican Rosary format, which already existed for a little while but was much younger than St. Dominic. Bl. Alanus had many visions and mystical dreams, which he described during his preaching, among which were visions of Mary giving the Rosary to St. Dominic.

This doesn’t mean that Mary was telling us that St. Dominic historically received the Rosary from her, or that God is telling us that about Mary. The context of the vision was pretty clearly that the Dominican order had been given the Rosary in general and was supposed to spread it, and that Bl. Alanus (a Dominican) was specifically supposed to start using it, but not that the vision covered any single historical event with Dominic as a specific person. (Unless it was supposed to be an event which took place in Heaven between Mary and Dominic, after his death. Which is possible.)

St. Dominic’s prayer life is pretty fully documented, for a medieval guy. We know his various prayer postures. We know about his devotion to Mary. His Dominicans were always trying to imitate his doings. So the idea that St. Dominic was historically saying the Dominican Rosary, including the Hail Mary that was invented later, but that it was then forgotten for a couple hundred years until it was re-invented, is kinda historically implausible. If Mary had historically told St. Dominic during his lifetime to spread the Dominican Rosary, half of Europe would have been Dominican Rosaried out the gahooey. But we don’t have any evidence for that.

On the other hand, a vision to convince Bl. Alanus de Rupe that the Rosary was a totally good idea for Dominicans is a lot more likely and useful. (We know he was originally not too interested in the Rosary.) In fact, medieval academics expected to have symbolic visions if they had any, so I’m sure it made him very happy!

Re: the late invention of the Hail Mary:
St. Albert the Great was a Dominican who joined up not long after St. Dominic was already dead, and he stayed in the order during a fairly long life.

St. Albert’s Marian prayer was to say the Angelic Salutation, which consisted of only Gabriel’s Scriptural greeting to Mary. He would say this something like fifty times a day, (in Latin) “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women”, and then going down on his knees to say, “and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.”
And he’d meditate a little, and then he’d get up and say it again.

If they’d had the Hail Mary or the Dominican Rosary, he would have said them. But they didn’t have either of those things yet.

So anyway… one of the things about private revelations is that even true and approved revelations can be misinterpreted or garbled by people, even though they fully intend to pass along the visionary’s account faithfully. Since people can take the Bible wrong even though it has Divine inspiration, this isn’t surprising.

Church-approved private revelations are supposed to be helpful. But when they’re not (for whatever reason) it’s good to know that they’re not essential. They are “worthy of belief,” but you don’t have to believe them or treat them like the Bible.

I got curious and went looking for Blessed Alan’s own works.

It turns out that it’s kinda hard to get his stuff, as opposed to things about him. I am probably going to have to go to Gallica, the French national library system’s digitized books. Paraphrases just aren’t the same.

However, it also turns out that Bl. Alan never claimed that St. Dominic was given the Rosary by Mary for the first time. He actually was under the impression that all previous forms of Angelic Salutations with genuflections counted as pretty much the same as the Dominican Rosary, and that St. Bartholomew was actually the originator, with various other saints who were fond of Mary (like the Venerable Bede and St Bernard of Clairvaux) continuing the tradition down the years, and St. Dominic just another such person. (Albeit with some wonderful things of his own.)

It also seems that many of his students thought that when he described miraculous things happening to St. Dominic or to an unnamed person, he was just being modest about describing a vision that had actually happened to himself.

But since Dominicans were the ones most interested in telling Bl. Alan’s story and encouraging the Dominican Rosary among all the confraternities of the Rosary founded by him and his students, the story of all Bl. Alan’s visions gradually turned into “St. Dominic first got the Rosary.”

Is it possible? I suppose. The Church does not require me to believe one way or the other so I have never even thought about it.

Even if she didn’t, the point is that the Catholic Church says that devotion to the Brown Scapular is acceptable?

A devotion is a method of prayer or worship of God. No one should be devoted to a piece of cloth.

I know, it can’t just be worn as a magic charm. I realize it is a sacramental. What about the Miraculous Medal? Did that happen actually happen, maybe, yes, no?

Does “worthy of believe” mean “it may or may not have happened, but the core message behind the apparition is acceptable for private devotion”?

Correct. Approval means acceptable.

Be sure to read the article on Fatima which I linked to earlier in this thread.

Private revelation is exactly that - Private. It is not and never will be and nor should it be a required belief by Catholics.
It adds nothing to the Deposit of Faith. It is not a new teaching and nor does it change or add to any teaching of the Church.
If any individual person gets some spiritual lift from one or more of the “approved” revelations then that’s fine but it can never be imposed on all.

By the way, even “approved” revelations can be full of errors and inaccuracies.

For example:

Anne Emmerich said Mary died 13 years after the death of Jesus.
St Bridget said Mary died 14 years after the death of Jesus.
Marie de Agreda said Mary died 21 years after the death of Jesus.

They can’t all be correct!

Anne Emmerich said Jesus was nailed to the cross while it was lying on the ground.
St Bridget said Jesus was nailed to the cross when it was upright and in place.

They can’t both be correct.

Anne Emmerich said Jesus was nailed to the cross using 3 nails.
St Bridget said Jesus was nailed to the cross using 4 nails.

They can’t both be correct.

(Forgive the late reply; I’ve been away from the computer for some time)

Sorry, what I meant to say was Church-endorsed e.g. Sacred Heart, First Five Saturdays, Scapular etc. I also could have been more nuanced in what I wrote. I don’t think that even these private revelations are infallible or binding.

My views on private revelation are almost identical to those expressed by Rev. Augustin Poulain:

Take care.

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