MARIAN APPARITIONS INTHE LIGHT OF GOD'S WORD

By Bro. George Murad, S.M.

Here and there we hear about the apparitions of our Lady, what thismeans in the light of God's word?

All forms of devotion to Mary relate in some way to the Word of Godgiven us by Jesus Christ. The church preserves the Good News and is theservant of the Word. In its creeds, councils , and solemn, pronouncementsthe Church proposes to the faithful the truths found in Gods Word. Thesetruths are known as public or foundational revelation, and are to be embracedall members of the Church .

Apparitions and God's Word Since Christianity's beginnings , individualshave claimed to see apparitions or to receive messages. Sometimes theyclaim these events are accompanied by miracles or other supernatural signsbeyond human explanation. Usually the message recalls a truth of Gods Wordwhich has been neglected or forgotten ; for example, the need penance andreconciliation. Each of these messages are identified as private or particularrevelation. These messages are never proposed by the Church for beliefin the same way that public revelation is presented. Each message of anapparition or private revelation must be examined and judged in the lightof God's Word as found in Holy Scripture and the teachings of the Church.

Criteria

The Fifth Lateran council (1516) and the Council of Tent (1545-1563)stated guidelines for investigating apparitions and the miracles whichmay accompany them . The bishop of the diocese in which the alleged eventoccurred is directed to study the miraculous happening and investigateall aspects . After consolation with competent authorities , the bishopwill decide if something supernatural has transpired. Cardinal ProsperoLamberini, a noted canon lawyer who later became pope Benedict XIV , explainedthe meaning of an apparition approval in these words : "The approbationof a private revelation by the Church is nothing other than a permissionaccorded, after an attentive examination , to propose this revelation asinstructive for Catholics . To such revelations , even those approved bythe Church , one must accord as assent of faith . It is necessary onlyto give them an assent of human belief to the degree that such appearancesappear probable .and credible." The assent of faith is given to publicrevelation .

Twentieth century theologians like the late Karl Rahner (Visions andProphecies), and Edward Shcillebeeckx (Mary ,Mother of the Redemption)examine the matter extensively.

Judgments

After thorough examination and evaluation apparitions fit one of threejudgments : first , "not worthy of belief; " second , the neutraljudgment of "nothing contrary to the faith;" and third, "worthyof belief ." The third decision does not imply any obligation to believe;it simply states plausibility . Each part of a private revelation mustbe judged in the light of God's Word given in Scripture and in the Church'steachings.

Approved Apparitions

Marian apparitions which have been approved by the bishop of the diocesein which they occurred are : Guadalupe (1531 ) , rue DE Bac { MiraculousMedal } , Lasalette (1846 ) , Lords (1858, Pontmain (1871), Fotind (1917),Knock, Beauraing , Banneux ( 1933) , Akita (1984), Kibeho (1988). Dozensof alleged apparitions are reported each year , but few merit the stageof extensive examination and consideration for approval.

In Zagreb, November 27-28, 1990, the bishops' conference of the formerYugoslavia held a special meting to study a proper statement about theevents at Medjugorje. The following statement was accepted by an almostunanimous vote of 19 bishops in favor, and one abstaining. From the verybeginning, the bishops have been following the events of Medjugorje throughthe local bishop, the bishops' commission , and the commission of the Bishops'conference of Yugoslavia for Medjugorje. On the basis of studies that havebeen made to this moment, it cannot be confirmed that supernatural apparitionsand revelations are occurring here.

Yet, the gathering of faithful from various parts of the world to Medjugorje,motivated by reasons of faith, requires the pastoral attention and careof the bishops. Therefore, in the spirited church communion, our bishops'conference is willing to assist the diocesan bishop in organizing the pastoralactivity in Medjugorge so that a proper liturgical and sacramental lifemay be promoted, and so that manifestations and contents which are notin accord with the spirit of the Church may be prevented and hindered .