Even the most devout Catholic can be fooled into believing false revelations. This is because most of us are not aware of the extent of the preternatural powers of Satan and how he uses them to trick the devout, particularly in this area.
Father Peter Joseph, whose articles appear on the Miracle Hunter website, teaches that Satan is an excellent mimic of apparitions and revelations and he gives us the following list of what the Evil One is capable of doing. Satan can:
(1) Produce corporeal or imaginative visions.
(2) Falsify ecstasy.
(3) Instantaneously cure sicknesses that have been caused by diabolical influence.
(4) Produce the stigmata.
(5) Simulate miracles and the phenomena of levitation and bilocation.
(6) Make people or objects seem to disappear by interfering with a person's sight or line of vision.
(7) Cause a person to hear sounds or voices.
(8) Cause a person to speak in tongues.
(9) Declare a fact which is otherwise hidden or distant.
He goes on to explain that, “Whatever nature or science can cause, the devils too are able to cause, according to what God may permit.”
But many of the messages from these apparitions sound so holy! Why would the devil be behind a revelation which encourages people to pray and fast and do penance? That would be Satan divided against himself, wouldn’t it?
This is a fair question, and one that Father answers very succinctly:
Satan employs these tactics for several good reasons, such as: to distract people from the genuine private revelations, to lead them into exercises not blessed as such by God, to bring private revelations into complete disrepute, to cause disenchantment and even a crisis of faith when a seer is later plainly seen to be false, and, worst of all, subtly to lead some people out of the Church altogether.
“The devil is willing to lose a lot, if he can gain in the long run,” Father says and goes on to warn that the devil rejoices when Catholics reject the tried and true means of spiritual growth to chase after the extraordinary and the unapproved. The Church is extremely careful before approving a private revelation because she knows how Satan can disguise himself as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14).
A good modern example would be the writings of Vassula Ryden, author of True Life in God. Ryden has been condemned twice by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the grounds that her revelations do not come from God, and because they contain errors against the Faith.
Yet people insist that her writings are so spiritual and beautiful.
They are! As Father points out, possibly 99 percent of Vassula's messages are in conformity with the Catholic Faith, but it’s the one percent that does the harm.
“A poison apple is a mostly good apple — but will harm you nevertheless. The devil knows he cannot mislead devout Catholics with outright heresy, but he can appeal to their piety and then subtly plant errors within,” Father writes.
But what about those who get an imprimatur for their writings? Again, a word of warning is in order. We must beware of so-called seers who seek imprimaturs from any bishop who will give it to them rather than to seek them from the proper authority – their local bishop or the bishop who oversees the city where the writings are published.
We must also be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking that we can follow a visionary until the Pope comes out against it. As Father states, “This is a useless guide for action in this matter — very rarely does the Pope make a pronouncement for or against a revelation.”
Instead, it is the local bishop or conference of bishops who make such pronouncements.
What about when, for whatever reason, a local bishop refuses to approve a genuine revelation?
We are expected to obey, Father instructs. “Even should the local bishop mistakenly disapprove of a genuine revelation, obedience to the Church remains paramount. It is a sin to propagate a private revelation disobediently, but it can never be a sin not to propagate one.”
This rule applies both to claimed seers and to their followers.
“In fact, if an alleged visionary disobeys a legitimate order from the bishop, and claims God's backing for the action, this is a sure sign that the message is not from God. Even if a genuine private revelation has been given, not even God Himself would want or command a seer to spread it against a lawful decree of a bishop to desist” (emphasis in original).
In fact, in the approved revelations of the Lord to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, she once asked Jesus what to do about a superior who refused to permit something that He had asked her to do. He replied: " . . . not only do I desire that you should do what your superior commands, but also that you should do nothing of all that I order without their consent. I love obedience, and without it no one can please me.”
As the popular axiom goes: “A superior may or may not be inspired by God in his command, but you are always inspired in obeying” (except in the case of sin, of course.)
“The simple fact is that most claimed revelations are false,” Father writes. If we don’t want to content ourselves with spreading only approved messages, it is best that we avoid spreading any at all. “It is better to keep to what is countenanced by the Church, than to go it alone and risk being a dupe of the devil.”
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