Faith in the Holy Spirit

Faith in the Holy Spirit

Last Tuesday, Archbishop Hart sent a letter to Melbourne parishes, warning against the Maria Divine Mercy messages I’ve previously blogged about.

The action elicited a surprisingly global response online. I think this is the first time Archbishop Hart has made headlines at Spirit Daily. The response in other quarters has been less edifying, and I won’t reproduce or link to them here.

The incident has revealed to me just how quickly and deeply the MDM messages have penetrated. I’ve exchanged e-mails and messages with many devotees — good, faithful Catholics with active prayer lives — who are honestly mystified that their family and friends are dubious of the messages, and object to bishops’ expressing their opinion on the matter.

I’ve heard it again and again. “The Archbishop has no right to condemn these messages.” “If the Archbishop must speak, he should state his opinion only, not impose his will.” “The Archbishop of Melbourne is outranked by Jesus, so we must ignore him.”

I’m mystified myself. These aren’t like other apocalyptic revelations. They explicitly reject the reigning pontiff. In this, they are categorically different to Garabandal, Međugorje and other disputed apparitions. There’s not a bishop in the world who wouldn’t instinctively object to them, and it’s easy to see why Archbishop Hart acted as he has.

Even if these messages are true, and Francis really is an anti-pope who has usurped Benedict, it’s unconscionable that Our Lord would want us to disobey and malign bishops when they are exercising their legitimate authority. That’s not how the Catholic Church works. It’s not how our Lord works!

There are many reasons for losing faith in the Church. The apostasy of recent decades. The evil inflicted on children. The consequent cover-up. The hypocrisy of church leaders.

But loss of faith in the Church is a temptation we must resist. To lose faith in the Church, I think, is to lose faith in the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the Church’s “guarantor.”

It simply isn’t coherent for a Catholic to confess faith in Jesus while abandoning faith in the Church. When a person does this, they cease to be Catholic and instead become Protestant — not in the historical sense of the word, but in its literal sense.

As always, GKC says it better than I can:

chesterton-catholic

I don’t ask MDM devotees to reject her messages. I ask them to discern prudently, mindful of the Church’s teaching authority. Authority invested by Christ, and manifested by the Holy Spirit. That means obeying legitimate episcopal authority — a leap of faith in the Holy Spirit — even while believing that MDM’s messages are authentic.

Incidentally, St John of the Cross, one of the Church’s greatest mystics, relates this counter-intuitive advice to anyone who discerns that visions are impacting their prayer life — for better or worse:

It is always well, then, that the soul should reject [visions], and close its eyes to them, whencesoever they come. For, unless it does so, it will prepare the way for those things that come from the devil, and will give him such influence that, not only will his visions come in place of God’s, but his visions will begin to increase, and those of God to cease, in such manner that the devil will have all the power and God will have none.

So it has happened to many incautious and ignorant souls, who rely on these things to such an extent that many of them have found it hard to return to God in purity of faith; and many have been unable to return, so securely has the devil rooted himself in them; for which reason it is well to resist and reject them all.

For, by the rejection of evil visions, the errors of the devil are avoided, and by the rejection of good visions no hindrance is offered to faith and the spirit harvests the fruit of them.

It is clear, then, that these sensual apprehensions and visions cannot be a means to union, since they bear no proportion to God; and this was one of the reasons why Christ desired that the Magdalene and Saint Thomas should not touch Him. And so the devil rejoices greatly when a soul desires to receive revelations, and when he sees it inclined to them, for he has then a great occasion and opportunity to insinuate errors and, in so far as he is able, to derogate from faith; for, as I have said, he renders the soul that desires them very gross, and at times even leads it into many temptations and unseemly ways.

This quote from St John of the Cross contains a translators’ error. An amended version is available on a later post.

Is Pope Francis an imposter?

Is Pope Francis an imposter?

Today is the 96th anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady’s of Fátima.

Later today, in Fátima, Portugal, the archbishop of Rio de Janeiro will consecrate to our Lady the pilgrims he will host for World Youth Day. The college of Portuguese bishops will join him at the shrine to consecrate Francis’ pontificate to our Lady of Fátima, at the pope’s personal request.

Here’s a three minute rundown of the Fátima apparitions for those who don’t know or need reminding:

In view of the supernatural events which occurred at Fátima, and Pope Francis’ evident belief in and devotion to the apparitions, today might be a good day to raise the spectre of mystics and visionaries who claim that Francis is an anti-pope and agent of the anti-Christ.

(I decided I wouldn’t blog about this, since I don’t want to add to its notoriety. But I have heard of priests, in Australia, who felt compelled to denounce these false prophets from the pulpit, such is the misplaced enthusiasm in some parishes.)

The most famous of these visionaries is “Maria Divine Mercy,” an anonymous Irish woman who claims to receive locutions from our Lord and the saints. She shot to fame in the wake of Pope Benedict’s resignation because of a locution she published nearly twelve months earlier, which seemed to prophesy his unusual departure:

My poor Holy Vicar, Pope Benedict XVI, will be ousted from the Holy See in Rome.

Last year, my daughter, I told you of the plot, within the corridors of the Vatican.

A plan to destroy My Holy Vicar was devised in secret on the 17th March, 2011, and this will come to fruition, for it has been foretold.

At the present time, more than eighteen thousand people follow Maria Divine Mercy on Facebook, and who knows how many people have paid for her ebooks?

Jimmy Akin, one of the Catholic sphere’s super-bloggers, wrote about her at length shortly after the election of Pope Francis, and concluded that she’s not worth heeding. His case is compelling, as is the case presented by Prof Mark Miraville, a renowned Mariology expert.

Neither author, though, considers the seed of self-destruction contained in Maria Divine Mercy’s most recent messages. In mid-March, she published a locution which ultimately exposes the lie. Here’s the pertinent part:

There is to be a particular insult, which will be inflicted upon My Holy Name, in an effort to desecrate Me, during Holy Week. This wicked gesture, during Holy Week, will be seen by those who keep their eyes open and this will be one of the signs by which you will know that the imposter, who sits on the throne in My Church on earth, does not come from Me.

I’d like to think that followers of Maria Divine Mercy’s messages paid extra attention to Pope Francis during Holy Week — and were at least perplexed when he didn’t deliver any desecration worthy of the name. The only gesture which remotely comes close was the pope’s Holy Thursday ritual feet-washing, which incorporated women and Muslims.

It was a controversial gesture, to be sure, but a wicked one? A “particular insult,” which desecrates the Lord himself? If this is the best the Anti-Christ can do, then maybe John’s Apocalypse is a bit overhyped.

Personally, though, I’m inclined to stick with the scriptural account and expect much worse from the forces of evil. Speaking of scripture, the Bible provides us with a measure for assessing prophets:

I will give thee a test; If the prophet foretells something in the Lord’s name, and it does not come about, this was no message from the Lord; it was the prophet’s vain conceit that imagined it; let no word of his strike terror into thee. (Deut 18:22)

That leads me to conclude that Maria Divine Mercy is a false prophet. Let no word of hers strike you with terror. Is Pope Francis an imposter? No. There’s nothing to see here. Carry on.