Frequently Asked Questions
Can you explain apparitions and their history?
Can you explain your relationship with the Diocese of Cleveland? I've seen confusing statements and quotations.
APPARITIONS by Rev. Frank Kenney, S.M
Apparitions have played and still do play a major role in God's dealings with His people, whether in the Old Testament or in the New Testament. The frequency and reality of apparitions since the beginning of time are beyond question. God Himself has made many personal visits to mankind and continues to do so. He has also sent to mankind many messengers from heaven, including angels, Saints and especially the Blessed Mother. One scripture scholar counted as many as one hundred and forty angelic apparitions in the Bible throughout both the Old and the New Testament.
All through the history of the Old Testament, there were many and significant apparitions. God Himself visited Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. He also appeared or sent messengers to Abraham, Moses, many prophets and other individuals. We can take for granted that there were many other apparitions that were not recorded in the Bible.
The age of Christianity began with an angelic visit, that of the Archangel Gabriel to Mary. Gabriel not only visited Mary, but also Zachary, the father of St. John the Baptist. St. Joseph received three angelic visits, which also were probably from Gabriel. Angels also visited the holy women who went to the grave of Jesus to take care of His Body. Angels released St. Peter and other disciples from prison. After His Resurrection Jesus appeared many times to His apostles and followers. The first one recorded was to Mary Magdalen, who like the holy women, was told to report to the first Bishops. They seem to have set a precedent for all Bishops - don't believe those crazy women and their so-called apparitions! At least St. Peter and St. John, instead of ignoring them, checked it out in person and found out that the report of the holy women was true. Would that our Bishops were as eager to check out for themselves the reported apparitions in their respective dioceses, instead of ignoring or defaming them.
The apparitions recorded in Holy Scripture are part of Divine Revelation, and we have to believe in them, regardless of what some modern Scripture scholars may say about them. There is plenty of evidence that God did not stop making interventions by way of apparitions after the apostolic age. Private revelations by way of apparitions are a continuation of God's revelations at particular times in history, to particular persons and for specific reasons. Private revelations add nothing essential to the teachings of our faith. We do not have to believe in private revelations by Divine Faith. Nevertheless it would be foolish to ignore them especially when the Church has approved and promoted many of them. When the Church approves an apparition she says it is believable by human faith alone, and that there is nothing contrary to faith or morals connected to the apparition. Almost always it takes the Church a long time to investigate and give its approval to a reported apparition. Waiting for Church approval may take a couple of life times.
A quote from Pope Urban VIII (17th century) lends insight. "In cases which concern private revelations, it is better to believe than not to believe, for if you believe and it is proven true, you will be happy that you believed, because our Holy Mother asked it of you. If you believed and it should be proven false, you will receive all the blessings as if it has been true, because you believed it to be true."
On the other hand, theologians generally agree that those who receive apparitions, under the proper circumstances, including prayer, careful discernment and the guidance of a competent spiritual director, could very well be obliged to believe their apparitions by Divine Faith. A visionary may be required to respond to God in a direct and intimate manner. (There have always been reluctant prophets, like Jonah.)
We must be aware that there have been and are false prophets. But also be aware that there are those who have a mindset against apparitions, and some are quick to ridicule them without any justifiable reason. It is not a sin to not believe in private revelations. But it is a sin to rash judge and/or detract them without any rational reason.
Once the Church condemns a reported apparition, because of obedience to authority we should stay away from it, although the Church's decisions are not infallible in this matter. Such decisions are subject to change, as for example in the case of the Divine Mercy messages of Sister Faustina, or in the case of Garabandal. At the same time a non-approval is not a disapproval. Unfortunately it happens that, without any official investigations, Church authorities may make negative remarks about a reported apparition. It would seem appropriate for the proper Church authorities to remain neutral in the matter until and unless it is the prudent and required time to make an official investigation. In our civil courts, the accused is innocent until found guilty. In any case, Rome has the last word in this decision. In spite of many negative remarks made by the Bishop of Medjugorje, Rome has not yet spoken in that case. It is the first time in history that a local Bishop's report in such a matter has not been accepted by Rome. So far, in the United States, Bishops have suppressed at least five reported apparitions. Where apparitions are accompanied by miracles and miraculous signs, such as conversions, spiritual, mental or physical healings, solar signs, miracle-like photographs, rosary chains turning a gold color, and where thousands of people gather regularly, it would seem that those apparitions are of supernatural origin and should be recognized and supported. Some Bishops without any apparent prudent, relevant or doctrinally sound reason, have forbidden or discouraged their priests and lay persons from visiting places where reported apparitions are taking place. It seems to me that priests should be the first to go to such places and see for themselves. Many a skeptical priest has been converted at such places. Mary has a way of melting down souls who are open.
Pope Paul VI eliminated two canons in the Church's Canon Law book in order to allow more freedom in writing about reported apparitions. Today books and writings about reported apparitions do not any longer need imprimaturs or nihil obstats as long as they contain nothing contrary to the Church's teaching on faith and morals. Pope Paul VI, quoting St. Paul, I Thessalonians 5, 19-21, advised that we should not quench the Spirit, but examine everything and keep what is good.
It stands to reason that people may go to places of reported apparitions. If they were not allowed to go to those places there would not be anything to write about - no fruits to observe. Another restrictive policy of some priests and some Bishops is to forbid reported visionaries to speak at Marian Conferences on Church property, which seems contrary to St. Paul's and Pope Paul VI's policy of "Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good."
Apparitions have a marvelous record in bringing about conversions and in promoting devotional practices, e.g. Sacred Heart devotions, Jesus of Mercy devotion, and many other devotional practices in honor of Our Blessed Mother (Rosary, pilgrimages, novenas, wearing medals, etc.). Such devotions increase the fervor of the faithful, feeding the human spirit in ways God understands are needed to sustain and support faith in the events and decisions of everyday life.
Cardinal Ratzinger, who heads the Congregation that deals with reported apparitions, said about ten years ago that over 300 reported Marian apparitions have been submitted to his Congregation for judgment. He has called this time the age of Marian apparitions, for good reason.
Marian apparitions have a history of bringing about conversions on a grand scale. There are hundreds of Marian shrines around the world that trace their origin to an apparition of Mary. At many of these shrines there are testimonials of many healings and graces received. In our day ten million people visit Guadalupe each year, five million visit Fatima and Lourdes each year. Medjugorje, in spite of having no approbation by the Church, attracts its millions of people every year. Thousands of prayer groups have resulted from visits to Medjugorje. Thanks to Medjugorje and many other holy places where Mary is reported to be appearing, the Rosary is making a big comeback, devotion to Mary is flourishing, Marian Conferences are thriving, and shrines of Mary are again being visited by huge numbers, especially in this Jubilee year. Pope Paul VI has endorsed shrines as places that "have made enormous strides in promoting the liturgical and pastoral life of the Church" as a recent magazine article points out.
In my experience, like no other place on earth, the faith is demonstrated in all its beauty and depth at Marian shrines. Confessions there are heard daily in great numbers, Masses are attended with remarkable fervor, while all kinds of devotional practices, including adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, are everywhere.
Marian apparitions have also had a great impact on the foundation and direction of many Religious Orders, including the Jesuits, Dominicans, Carmelites, Passionists, Marianists, etc. In addition, many saints owe their sanctity to Mary's personal visits, as do many other non-canonized holy people.
Some of Mary's apparitions are personal and intended for the individual or a small number of people. Others are intended for the benefit of the whole Church, as Fatima, Lourdes, Guadalupe and others. If Mary's requests at Fatima had been spread and fulfilled around the world, perhaps there would not have been a Second World War, and Russia would not have spread its atheism in so many places.
It goes without saying that over the centuries Bishops have not been prone to approve reported apparitions. Visionaries have almost always received difficult treatment from Church authorities. Think of the children of Fatima, Bernadette, Joan of Arc, Padre Pio.
Prudence and caution are required in discerning apparitions, but should not be an excuse for not recognizing true and genuine calls from heaven. Too often it seems that Mary's urgent and all-important messages are voided. There seems to be more tolerance for dissenters to the teachings of the faith than to Mary's calls from heaven. True Marian apparitions are never a threat to Church teachings. Mary is an ardent supporter of our present Pope and his papal authority. In her messages Mary does ask us over and over to pray for Bishops and priests in this time of rampant schism, heresy and apostasy in the Church.
Apparitions have been and still are a major factor in God's showing His love, mercy, care and concern for his people. They are cries from heaven, appeals and sometimes warnings. They are meant to arouse our faith and lead us to holiness. In our day we should thank God for sending us Mary, His prophetess for our times, to call us back to God by her motherly tenderness and urgent messages, together with amazing signs and wonders that accompany her visits. She told one visionary that just as St. John the Baptist prepared the way for Christ's first coming, she is preparing the way for His Second Coming. Let us listen attentively and with joy to the trumpeting of Her words that are sounding His approach!
Can you explain your relationship with the Diocese of Cleveland? I've seen confusing statements and quotations.
Concerning the Relationship of Holy Love Ministries with the Cleveland Catholic Diocese:
I am the Spiritual Director of this Ministry and would like to comment on this situation.
Since we are frequently asked, we would like to state clearly that the Bishop has not condemned the Holy Love Ministries prayer site. It is a serious point to remember that non-approval is not disapproval. Apparently the diocesan authorities have given a few minor discouraging points in statements made: They state that they are not supporting this site. This is obvious and appropriate, as it is an ecumenical group. Catholic Church support has not been sought. Nor has the group represented itself as Catholic.
They have apparently warned people to be cautious about donations. Certainly that is not a bad thing, although difficult to understand as their main emphasis, since the site is free for all to visit, and the messages are given freely to anyone who asks.
They have also stated that this ministry is ecumenical. That is true. The Gospel message being taken to heart at this site is for all people and all nations. This was presented and agreed upon in a meeting with the diocese five years ago at which I was present. This frees the diocese from being bothered by the media and others who may be asking their opinion of the ministry.
What the diocese has not claimed is that there is anything against faith or morals for there is not! They find themselves in the strange position of admiring what praying occurs there, and yet discouraging people from going there to pray!
The diocese does not apparently make mention of the fruits at this apparition site, which are abundant. In particular the group meets to pray against abortion, for peace in the world, for priests, and that all people and all nations will begin to live by loving God above all else and neighbor as self. This prayer takes the form of rosaries, chaplets, singing, and processions. Private prayer and meditation are encouraged for all visiting pilgrims. Active spiritual lives in their church communities is the frequent fruit of their spiritual progress.
This rosary group was not welcome to meet and pray in most of the local churches, in spite of the fact that it is not a dissenting Catholic group along the lines of the Call to Action people (who are quite active in the area). We uphold Catholic teaching and are loyal to the Pope and his teachings, since we seek and cling to the truth. Mary has come to us as the Mother of all people, and we are responding to her request for prayer, penance and conversion. And we are taking that message to all people and all nations.
Cardinal Ratzinger in his commentary on the Third Secret of Fatima pointed out that private revelation refers to “all the visions and revelations that have taken place since the completion of the New Testament.” He encourages us that they do not add anything new to public revelation, but help us live more fully the Gospel teachings in certain periods of history. The Cardinal states that private revelations take into account the signs of the times, and their main purpose is to lead people to salvation, by exhortations to prayer, penance, conversion. What fault can be found, then, with the commandments of love given by Jesus that are spoken of in all the messages propagated at this apparition site? In reading the recent revelations Jesus has made there about the Chambers of His Sacred Heart, one cannot help but be led to greater love of Jesus and Mary. And it is evident that many people who come to the site or study the messages are led to this greater love, by the many testimonies of conversion, return to the Church, non-Catholics beginning to pray the rosary and study Scripture more intensely, physical cures, solar miracles, etc.
This Ministry is a rare case of an apparition site growing up around a message given to the visionary. This message is pure Gospel. Love God above all else. Love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus and Blessed Mother have been explaining and giving examples of exactly how to do this in today's world. The messages are freely available on the internet, www.holylove.org for those willing to assess the facts by study, rather than by jumping to conclusions based on hearsay. The property is open free of charge to anyone wanting to experience the graces of God granted to pilgrims.
My questions are: Why is this apparition not judged according to its fruits, and instead judged because it needs minimal funds to maintain the property? And why judged for being ecumenical which has ordinarily been deemed a worthy goal in Catholic circles?
Throughout history God has visited His people or sent representatives from heaven with messages, directives, warnings, promises, for His beloved people's spiritual and physical well-being. His chosen visionaries are prophets who are His spokespersons. Prophets (visionaries for the most part) have not been well-treated by civil as well as Church authorities historically. Jesus Himself is a case in point.
In our day, it would seem that judging by the hundreds of reports from all parts of the world, the Blessed Virgin Mary is THE prophetess of our time, and she is not being treated well by Church authorities. She is giving us very urgent messages, calling us back to God. She accompanies her visits with signs and wonders, conversions, healings, solar miracles, etc. Where people gather in great numbers those things are happening. But, while lay people recognize a miracle when they see one, Church authorities are reluctant to recognize these spectacular goings-on. They often discourage people from visiting those places without any justifiable reason. And yet it is the belief of the common faithful that has, and always will play an important role in the belief of Marian apparitions, and thereby enabling the spiritual effects Heaven desired in the first place. (Perhaps Acts 5: 34-39 would be an appropriate reference here. Gamaliel the Pharisee had wise advice.)
Catholics should feel free to go to this apparition site and pray. They have not been forbidden to do so. They will be led to deeper spirituality, greater participation in the sacraments of their faith, strengthening of their loyalty to Pope John Paul II, a deeper longing for Jesus in the Eucharist, love of His Blessed Mother, and a greater understanding of the Father's Will in their daily life.
Non-Catholics should feel free to go to this apparition site and pray. They will be led to a deeper spirituality, a longing for the truth, an understanding of the Father's place in their daily life.
Extending to you the Blessings of the United Hearts of Jesus and Mary,
Rev. Frank Kenney, S.M.