"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor

Monday, April 16, 2007

The (relative) importance of apparitions

One of the countless ironies of contemporary Catholic life is that people who pride themselves on "listening to the people of God" and on new developments rarely celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday, which was yesterday, the Second Sunday of Easter. It is based on the apparitions of and dialogues with Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ by St. Faustina Kowalska, a Polish nun canonized in 2000 by Pope John Paul II. In that year, he also made Divine Mercy Sunday a "universal feast" of the Church; you can read his homily for the first celebration thereof here. But apparently this feast is considered undue innovation by the progressives, and an obscuration of Easter by liturgical purists who otherwise pride themselves on updated sensibilities that abhor various ancient liturgical traditions, such as celebration of Mass ad orientem. Too bad.

The same attitude seems to go for today's feast: that of St. Bernadette Soubirous, the visionary of Lourdes. Now mystical apparitions fall under the category of "private revelations," which add nothing to the faith once-for-all delivered to the saints. Indeed, and given as much, the Church does not even present the ones she formally approves as requiring the assent of faith. However, we ignore the approved ones only at our peril. If the sensus fidelium and the teaching authority of the Church have the relationship that the Church says and history bears out, then it's far safer to accept the approved ones as genuine, and act accordingly, than not. Perhaps unsurprisingly, though, these things are dimly viewed almost everywhere save among orthodox and traditional Catholics: not merely by progressive Catholics and liberal Protestants, but by traditional Orthodox and conservative Protestants as well.

As far as I'm concerned, such a sign of contradiction only increases the credibility of these things. They have all the greater prophetic significance in our apocalyptic times, when humanity has achieved the capacity for destroying the planet and even remaking itself. Unless God intervenes, the former will coincide with the latter. It's time we listened humbly to the voice of these humble visionaries.
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