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Official Marian apparitions

By Sean Martin
John Paul II Generation

On December 12, we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Unborn and the Americas. In 1531, Mary appeared to St. Juan Diego on Tepeyac Hill outside of Mexico City. As a sign to the local Bishop and to the Aztecs, Mary’s image appeared on the tilma of St. Juan Diego. As a result of this image approximately nine million people converted to Catholicism in less than ten years, the largest mass conversion in the history of the Catholic Church. The Miraculous Medal, Our Lady of La Salette, Our Lady of Lourdes, and Our Lady of Fatima are other major Marian apparitions that have been officially approved by the Catholic Church as truly authentic. In recent times, it has been reported that upwards of one hundred world-wide apparitions and locutions are under some form investigation by the Catholic Church. Some of these events might be condemned as false, some may be approved, and some the Church may leave it open and not officially say one way or another. As these events happen and unfold, it seems prudent that we should be cautious as the Catholic Church investigates.

Are messages from Jesus or Mary the same as what is written in the Bible?
Modern messages from the saints, angels, or Jesus and Mary are not on the same par as what is written in the Scriptures. The Catholic Church distinguishes between two different types of revelation, Divine (Public) Revelation and Private Revelation.

Divine Revelation is God revealing Himself to us. It is the Divine truths revealed to us for the sake of our salvation. Divine Revelation is transmitted to us through the Deposit of Faith, Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. The Sacred Scriptures, all 73 books of the Old and New Testaments, are inspired or authored by God and are inerrant or free from error. Sacred Tradition is the teachings of Christ orally handed on to the Apostles and their successors guided by the Holy Spirit. Divine Revelation is safeguarded by the Magisterium of the Church, the bishops in union with the pope. We believe as Catholics that Christ is the fullness of Divine Revelation and there is no more new Divine Revelation, it ended with the death St. John the Apostle.

Private Revelation “constitutes a revelation given by God to an individual for the spiritual benefit of the person, a specific group or the entire Church” (Introduction to Mary, Mark Miravalle, 132). It does not contain new doctrine, rather it encourages the faithful to believe and live Divine Revelation (Catechism of the Catholic Church 67). Private revelation is not necessary to believe for our salvation as Public revelation is, but it encourages the faithful to live the Gospel message in the Sacraments, prayer, penance, mortification, fasting, virtues, and conversion of heart.

How does the Church determine what Apparitions of Mary are true and which one’s aren’t?
Private Revelation should be reported to the local bishop to determine the authenticity of the revelation. After the official reporting of the apparitions and messages to the local bishop, an investigation committee will be appointed by the bishop. The committee will evaluate the apparitions, messages, and other phenomena and make a recommendation to the bishop. Lastly, the local bishop will make a public verdict regarding the events.

The committee will investigate into whether or not a miraculous event occurred, the character of the person(s) claiming the event, the theological accuracy and faithfulness of the messages (they cannot conflict or contradict Divine Revelation), the phenomena of the event, and the spiritual fruits (conversions and people returning to the Sacraments and prayer.)

Typically one of the three verdicts will be made by the Church. The first is that the event is supernatural (Constat de supernaturalitate), the event appears to be truly miraculous and authentic. The second is the event is not supernatural (Constar de non supernaturalitate), the event is without a doubt not miraculous. The third verdict is that the event is not recognized as supernatural (Non constat de supernaturalitate), it is not apparent whether or not the alleged apparition is authentic (which leaves it open for further investigation.)

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