Private Revelation: A Simple Explanation

Prophecy is a charism, a spiritual  gift given by the Holy Spirit to some members of the Church. It is not difficult to understand how it works. It puzzles me how Catholics can have such varying opinions on it.

I had a long online discussion with a blogger I had  read and admired for years. He recently wrote a post on the unapproved apparitions in Garabandal, Spain, suggesting that there would be a miraculous event that the world would see in April of 2017. Because of some positive statements on the apparitions by some Spanish Bishops and from Rome he felt that the apparitions would soon be approved.

I argued that there were inconsistencies in the messages. This went back and forth and he became rather uncharitable. Then Joey Lomagino died. He was the blind guy who the seers said would miraculously regain his sight just before the miraculous event. He never did. The lesson: until a Marian apparition is approved, it is not approved. Simple. What a waste of time!

Then there are those who completely disparage prophecy. I recently commented on a blog post which insisted that reading about private revelations is a waste and should be avoided. I brought up Hildegard, her relationship to Pope Eugenius III, and the authenticity of her visions. I was scolded and told that I should be reading the writings of saints and Doctors of the Church. I mentioned that Hildegard is a saint and a Doctor of the Church.

St. Paul makes it clear:

Do not despise prophesying, but test everything; hold fast what is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21)

If God wants us to discern the authenticity of a prophecy then it implies that it could be done. He would not tell us to do something that we are not able to do. We use our minds and the guidance of the Church, who approves some instances of private revelation and condemns others. She also makes a judgment on those who claim the gift when she makes them saints. Benedict XVI new very well that Hildegard wrote down many of her prophetic visions when he elevated her works to the level of St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine by making her a Doctor of the Church. These writings are not perfect, but very worthy of study.


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2 thoughts on “Private Revelation: A Simple Explanation

  1. It would be worth noting the valuable contributions that Pope Benedict XVI made in this area of theology. In the Vatican document entitled, The Message of Fatima, there is a section entitled “Theological Commentary.” The future Pope Benedict states an important aspect of the Church’s teaching on Tradition in relation to private revelation. He does this first and foremost by putting it in the context of the Council document Dei Verbum, No. 8. There we read among other things that, “there is a growth in the understanding of the realities and the words which have been handed down. This happens through the contemplation and study made by believers, who treasure these things in their hearts, (cf. Lk 2:19, 51), through the intimate understanding of the spiritual things that they experience ….” The same section continues “This tradition … comes from the apostles develops in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit …. Thus God, who spoke of old uninterruptedly converses with the Bride of the beloved Son;” What is perhaps most striking is that the future Pope then went on to add the statement that “In this context it now becomes possible to understand rightly the concept of ‘private revelation’ which refers to all the visions and revelations which have taken place since the completion of the New Testament.” He adds that Jesus was referring also to private revelations when he said: “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority … He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (Jn 16:12-14). The idea that private revelation should be viewed in the context of Tradition has, in fact, been the praxis of the Church, as is evident in the liturgical year. Thus, to name just a few, there is a feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, there is the solemn celebration of the Feast of the Sacred Heart, and most recently there has been the introduction of the Feast of Divine Mercy, which is part of the devotion which was spread by St. Faustina Kawalska. The Pope has expanded on the correct idea of Tradition and its relation to private revelations in his talks on April 26, 2006 and May 3, 2006. To conclude (to be brief), people who are dismissive of private revelation as being something of little importance or something to be avoided are certainly not in harmony with the views of the Pope, who has much more to say about it than I can mention here.


    1. Gabriel!

      Thank you for the references. I have a book called Christian Prophecy (2007) written by Niels Hvidt, with a forward by Cardinal Ratzinger in which he makes similar statements. I plan to write a much more detailed statement on private revelation which I will add as a page rather than a post, when time permits.

      Thank you,



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