After enthusiastically following messages that eventually unraveled, I’ve come to realize that the Church ultimately provides all that I need.
Years ago, I followed several reported apparitions and messages from reported inner locutions. I traveled to Conyers, GA with my Dad and to Kettle River, MN with my family. Both places drew crowds of faithful Catholics who love the Church. Since these gatherings incite crowds to pray the rosary together, I reasoned that was no way the devil would want that and therefore, it had to be from God.
It takes awhile to digest a fraud or at least that someone was misled. Initially, in spite of Church condemnation of messages and sites, not everyone is ready to give up on such messages. And there lies the power to do harm. Certainly the devil hates the rosary, but an initial setback is merely an investment if he can get otherwise faithful Catholics to turn against the Church. And turn they do.
Not so Holy Love
Consider the Holy Love Ministries in Ohio site where messages and apparitions to a housewife have been reported to be occurring for twenty years. They claim numerous miracles and special blessings are bestowed on all who come. The shrine is on one hundred-plus acres of land, adorned with beautiful statues of Mary, Jesus and many of the saints.
Even though the messages, purportedly from Jesus and Mary, encourage Catholic devotions, they have declared that this ministry is ecumenical and therefore, does not have to answer to Catholic authority. That alone should stand as a warning. John Paul II frequently appealed to Catholics to be ecumenical—to share their faith—not to leave it.
Ultimately, Bishop Richard Lennon, Ordinary of the Diocese of Cleveland, issued a Decree to clergy and laity of the diocese regarding Holy Love Ministries of Lorain County on Nov. 11, 2009:
“Having been directed by the Holy See (in Rome) to act definitively in the matter of the alleged apparitions … and having reviewed the theological content of the alleged apparitions to Maureen Sweeney-Kyle and having consulted an expert in this matter, I … declare that the alleged apparitions and locations … are not supernatural in origin.”
Lennon’s decree forbids members of the clergy of any ecclesiastical jurisdiction “to celebrate the sacraments on the site of Holy Love Ministries.
And yet, still many Catholics continue to visit Holy Love and become cynical of Church authority, thinking they know better. I wrote a couple articles about the site and the Bishop’s condemnation and received quite a few angry responses.
People that continue to follow Holy Love, fail to accept that in all approved Marian apparitions, Mary never undermined Church authority and always told visionaries to obey. If there was initial skepticism and resistance, God eventually paved the way. Never was a true visionary told to ignore Catholic authority
Not Bad People
In the end, the type of people that go to apparition sites are motivated by their love of God and their desire to experience Him to a greater degree in their lives. To think that he or the Blessed Mother is sending messages enamors them with the notion that they can get even closer by taking the messages to heart. It is really the same motivation for those that visit approved Shrines.
Being part of a sea of people praying the rosary and loving God and his mother is uplifting. These are people willing to travel great distances and do whatever else it takes to bask in the love and graces from heaven. But there is a dark side to participating in messages that the Church has not ruled on or particularly those the Church has condemned. It can get the faithful off course and Catholic priests and bishops are seen as the enemy for rejecting or ignoring them. If the time comes when people realize the messages are false, there is a risk that they will feel duped by religion and turn away entirely.
These days, purported messengers are taking to the speaker's circuit and starting blogs. I cannot imagine the likes of St. Bernadette of Lourdes, the children at Fatima or St. Faustina of the Divine Mercy messages engaging in such activities. That is not to say speaking and blogging are not acceptable activities for visionaries. However, given it looks very different from Church approved messages from the past, one must be very cautious.
In the end, we have all we need right at home. At Holy Love Ministries, it is reported that Jesus sometimes comes with Mary during her apparitions. God is physically present in the tabernacle at our Catholic church and can even receive Him in Holy Communion.
Apparitions and devotions have played a large part in my own faith development. I am dedicated to the Fatima message and actively promote the Five First Saturdays. I’ve also written on Divine Mercy for Our Times as containing a remedy for our world.
I realize now that the best way to act radically for Christ is to receive him every day at Mass and then to live the Gospel message.