Fr. Martin Fuchs´s sermon on 13th May 2018, Prague, Czechia
When we speak about the divine revelation, we mean that God speaks to people. God spoke to Adam and Eve, to Noe and Abraham and to many other people.
The universal revelation – destined for all people for their salvation – was made to prophets and the Apostles.
Partly it was recorded in written form. We find this written revelation in the Holy Scriptures. Partly it was handed orally by the Apostles.
Saint Thomas Aquinas calls the oral transmission a prophetic tradition.
With the death of the last Apostle, St. John, the universal, divine revelation was completed.
The divine revelation consisting of the Holy Scriptures and the oral tradition is also called depositum fidei. This treasure of faith is immutable and contains all the truths that man needs to attain eternal salvation. The Catholic Church passed this treasure on down the centuries.
Saint Thomas Aquinas called this transmission dogmatic or doctrinal tradition.
This distinction between prophetic and doctrinal tradition is very important because nowadays we are taught again and again by various priests and Bishops that “the Holy Ghost blows anywhere he wants“. It must not, however, be misinterpreted. They use this sentence to justify their new doctrine.
Nothing can be added or removed to the treasure of faith (the Holy Scriptures and the oral revelation or the prophetic tradition). The Catholic Church has received the Holy Ghost to keep the divine revelation as it was given and to interpret it correctly.
In addition to this general revelation, we can also see private revelations in the course of the Church History.
They had been given in private to some people for their spiritual benefit or for the benefit of the faithful.
Such recipients of private revelations were for instance saint Birgitta, saint Juliana of Liège, saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, saint Hildegard, saint Catherine of Siena, blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich and others.
The ultimate purpose of such revelations is God’s glory.
One day Our Lord spoke the following words to saint Gertrude: “The more I change and multiply the way of giving my gifts, the more I show my wisdom according to the capacity of each person to teach him what I want to teach.“
Private revelations are never given to proclaim a new doctrine.
Another purpose is the glorification of the Catholic Church, as Anne Catharine Emmerich said one day: “The Lord said to me that my visions are not for me but for other people. I have to write them down and pass them to others. It is not the time for miracles. He gives these visions to prove that He will be with His Church to the consummation of the world.“
Private revelations have also special purposes that correspond to the particular needs of the time and the ordinance of the Divine Providence.
a) The sinners should be startled by the description of the dreadful punitive justice. At the same time those who have good will should be reminded of the mercy and God’s goodness. We can see it beautifully demonstrated by the revelations of saint Birgitta.
b) Some private revelations are given to invite the faithful to celebrate piously the feasts of the Church. Let’s just think of the revelations to blessed Juliana (Corpus Christi), to saint Margaret Mary Alacoque (The Sacred Heart of Jesus).
c) Others are given to have a filial worship of the divine Mother, e.g. the revelations to abbess Mary of Agreda.
d) Still others are meant to sanctify the recipient, e.g. those revelations to saint Philip Neri, to saint Alphonsus Liguori, to saint John Vianney or to saint Bernadette in Lourdes. On the 20th and 23rd February 1858 Our Lady taught the latter a prayer and revealed a secret for her own life. She did not speak of it to anybody. Only a few private revelations are for the whole Church. Those who fight against such revelations are guilty of mortal sins.
There is no special condition required to receive divine revelations. God gives these gifts to people of all ages, to men as well as women.
Father Gravina, however, distinguishes between the gift of prophecy and its use. For the use of the gift, special spiritual dispositions are required, e.g. humility and holiness.
That is why Jesus said:
“I confess to thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to the little ones.“ (Matthew 11:25)
The state of sanctifying grace is not essential. We have examples in the Holy Scriptures: Balaam, who wanted to curse the Chosen people and the High priest Caiphas, who prophesied:
“You know nothing. Neither do you consider that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.“ (John 11:49)
These men were in the state of mortal sin.
Usually, however, the gift of revelation – according to saint Thomas Aquinas (II-II q 172 a5) – is only given to those who are in the state of sanctifying grace and have a high degree of perfection and prayer.
Private revelations have not more value than the value of the testimony of the prophet who reports them. This person is never infallible.
There were saints who received revelations that were not fulfilled – for example St. Norbert of Xanten (1226-1234) felt absolutely certain that the Antichrist would appear in his generation… Saint Catherine of Siena believed that Mary had revealed to her that she is not the Immaculate Conception… Saint Vincent Ferrer (1398-1419) preached the last 21 years of his life that the Last Judgment is imminent. He knew that from a revelation and to prove it, he did miracles everywhere. Among many other miracles he raised a woman of death in Salamanca in 1412. She had just been carried to the cemetery and she confirmed his words.
But this authentic prophecy never came true.
God wants us to believe that even a greatest scholar and a saint are fallible. Only the Magisterium of the Church is infallible.
It is true especially when a prophecy comes from a person who is not a saint. At the beginning of the 16th century, a Spanish nun, Magdalena of the Holy Cross, brought the whole country in the state of excitement. She levitated, had ecstasies, the Host lay itself on her tongue, on certain days she had the stigmata, prophesied that Francis I would be beaten in Pavia and much more; everywhere there was a great enthusiasm! People from the whole world came to visit her: priests, Bishops, the emperor, all worshipped her and asked for her advice. One day, Rome sent an apostolic visit to examine the case, and the “Prophetess“, the “saint“, finally confessed that when she was a young shepherdess, she had given her soul to the devil in order to gain power to work “miracles”. This had taken place for 38 years. Even the greatest theologians, Bishops, cardinals and inquisitors fell for it.
Now there are a number of revelations approved by the Church. What shall we think about them?
The Church never obliges anybody to believe in private revelations, given to any person, even if the Church may confirm them.
By this confirmation she simply declares that there is nothing against the Catholic Faith and morals and that everybody can read them without danger. He can read them even with spiritual profit. Visions are not granted for curiosity; their goal is much more precious: The sanctification of a soul and the increase of love for the passion of Jesus Christ.
So we must keep the truths given by the universal revelation till our death. Without this faith we cannot reach Heaven.
“He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned.“ (Mark 16:16)