Tuesday 1st December 2015

Home » Our Catholic Faith » Currently Reading:

Public Revelation Vs. Private Revelation

November 28, 2013 Our Catholic Faith No Comments


Our previous installment ended by citing a pair of remarkable verses from the Letter to the Hebrews, verses that concisely summarize God’s divine pedagogy, His master plan of divine Revelation: “In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by a Son, Whom He appointed the heir of all things, through Whom also He created the world” (Heb. 1:1-2). As expounded last week, God’s Old Testament revelation, mediated to mankind through the patriarchs and prophets, was gradual and partial — it was revealed in stages and progressively supplemented throughout successive epochs and ages of salvation history. But its culmination in the person of the Incarnate Word was definitive and complete.
As taught by the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Christ, the Son of God made man, is the Father’s one, perfect, and unsurpassable Word. In Him He has said everything” (CCC, n. 65).
Dei Verbum (DV), the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation promulgated after Vatican Council II, explains that “Jesus perfected Revelation by fulfilling it through His whole work of making Himself present and manifesting Himself: through His words and deeds, His signs and wonders, but especially through His death and glorious Resurrection from the dead and final sending of the Spirit of truth” (DV, n. 4). The Revelation made by Christ to the apostles, and the Holy Spirit whom He sent after, was final and definitive — nothing will ever be added to that revealed Deposit of Faith, nor will anything ever be changed. St. John of the Cross, in an excerpt from his spiritual masterpiece The Ascent of Mount Carmel, which is set before the Church in the Liturgy of the Hours during the second week of Advent, comments strikingly on the previously cited verses from the Letter to the Hebrews:
“In giving us His Son, His only Word (for He possesses no other), He spoke everything to us at once in this sole Word — and He has no more to say…because what He spoke before to the prophets in parts, He has now spoken all at once by giving us the All who is His Son. Any person questioning God or desiring some vision or revelation would be guilty not only of foolish behavior but also of offending Him, by not fixing his eyes entirely upon Christ and by living with the desire for some other novelty” (Book 2, chapter 22, nn. 3-5).
As Pope Benedict XVI states in his apostolic exhortation Verbum Domini (VD): “. . . with Jesus Christ [the Church] stands before the definitive word of God: He is “the first and the last (Rev. 1:17)” (n. 14).
The words of St. John of the Cross serve as a fitting segue into the main theme of this installment: public Revelation versus private revelation. What is public Revelation? In his Modern Catholic Dictionary, Fr. John Hardon, SJ, defines public Revelation as “the supernatural manifestation of God’s wisdom and will for the human race, in order to lead humanity to its heavenly destiny. It is entrusted directly to the Church for preservation and interpretation and is contained in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.”
It is the “new and definitive Covenant, will never pass away, and no new public Revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ” (DV, n. 4). Public Revelation ended with the death of the last apostle.
The Catechism, however, goes on to make a critical distinction: “. . . even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries” (CCC, n. 66). The Church’s teaching office — her Magisterium — guided by the Holy Spirit, continues to “plumb the depths” and “uncover the riches” of divine Revelation as generations and centuries pass. This truth is manifestly made evident as the Church, from time to time, solemnly defines dogmas of the faith, truths that must be accepted by the faithful as part of divine Revelation and necessary for salvation.
One need only consider such Marian dogmas as the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption to see how Church doctrine providentially develops over time. Although not solemnly defined until 1854 and 1950, respectively, these teachings of the universal Church are examples of truths of the faith that are implicitly contained in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition which, “under the successive influence of theological study, devotional impulse, and even theological disagreement, come to be explicitly understood, universally believed, and, in the end, solemnly defined by the Church” (Fr. George D. Smith, The Teaching of the Catholic Church, p. 35).
Readers interested in examining the history of doctrinal development surrounding these Marian dogmas are encouraged to consult two apostolic constitutions: Ineffabilis Deus on the Immaculate Conception and Munificentissimus Deus on the Assumption.

A Valuable Aid

We turn now to private revelation, examples of which abound in the history of the Church. Fr. Hardon defines private revelation as “supernatural manifestations made to a particular person since apostolic times. . . . When the Church approves certain private revelations . . . they are to be accepted on the Church’s judgment, but they are not part of divine faith.” All that is necessary to attain salvation has been revealed through public Revelation. As such, private revelations “do not belong…to the Deposit of Faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ’s definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history” (CCC, n. 68).
Having made this distinction, it may also be said that private revelation is a wonderful gift to the Church and can lead souls closer to God. However, it’s important to understand their purpose in the spiritual life. They are given to the Church at times in history when the particular message contained in the private revelation is providentially needed. In the words of Pope Benedict XVI, “Private revelation is an aid to [the] faith, and it demonstrates its credibility precisely because it refers back to the one public Revelation. . . . A private revelation can introduce new emphases, give rise to new forms of piety, or deepen older ones . . . and can be a valuable aid for better understanding and living the Gospel at a certain time” (VD, n. 14).
Take, for example, the 1917 apparitions by the Blessed Virgin Mary in Fatima, Portugal. Our Lady appeared to three shepherd children to encourage them and others to pray the rosary and to offer up their daily sufferings as a penance in reparation for the sins of mankind. Isn’t this precisely the Gospel message? The Magisterium of the Church carefully investigated the Fatima apparitions and deemed them worthy of belief.
Two other well-known examples of Church-approved private revelation that have led many souls closer to God are Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus (revealed to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in 1673) and Devotion to Divine Mercy (revealed to St. Faustina Kowalska in the 1930s). They teach not an iota that is contrary to faith and morals, but rather highlight certain aspects of the public Revelation of God.

The Middle Ground

Again, it is important to emphasize that it is not prudent to center one’s spiritual life on private revelation — the Church dutifully investigates private revelations and deems many worthy of belief if they are authentic, but she does not enjoy providential protection in such matters. Also, it would be unwise to desire or seek out visions or revelations. Two great doctors of the Church, the Carmelite mystics St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila, caution strongly against such a practice.
In her spiritual classic Interior Castle, St. Teresa warns that “when you learn or hear that God grants these favors to souls you [must] never beseech Him or desire Him to lead you by this path” (Book VI, chapter 9, n. 14), for such a way is fraught with dangers.
It would also be unwise to err in the opposite direction. Several months ago, as recounted by a local pastor, a mission was preached at his parish by an excellent missionary priest. The mission leader spoke of the visions at Fatima and afterward, a parishioner objected: “Why is he talking about Fatima? That’s just private revelation, so we don’t have to believe in it, and he shouldn’t be talking about it from the pulpit.”
While the parishioner was correct in saying one does not have to believe in the Fatima apparitions to gain salvation, the individual didn’t seem to grasp that the essence of the Fatima message — prayer and penance — is precisely the Gospel message. How true was the pastor’s response: “It would be quite a mistake . . . to say that we cannot teach about Fatima from the pulpit or in catechism classes!”
As always, if one compares the extremes described in the two preceding paragraphs, the wise course of action and middle ground is always found in the teaching of the Church.

+    +    +

(Don Fier serves on the board of directors for The Catholic Servant, a Minneapolis-based monthly publication. He and his wife are the parents of seven children. Fier is a 2009 graduate of Ave Maria University’s Institute for Pastoral Theology. With the full blessing of Raymond Cardinal Burke, Fier is doing research for writing a definitive biography of Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ.)

Share Button

Comment on this Article:

Police officer killed at Planned Parenthood was pro-life, Christian pastor

Nov. 28, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Officer Garrett Swasey, the police officer killed during a standoff with a lone gunman at a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs Friday, was reportedly a leading figure in his church who was also pro-life.…Continue Reading

In Australia, bishops face legal complaint for defending marriage

Sydney, Australia (CNA/EWTN News) — The Sydney archbishop has strongly defended the freedom of the Catholic Church in response to a legal complaint claiming the Australian bishops’ pastoral letter on marriage violated Tasmania’s strict anti-discrimination law. “Australia is party to…Continue Reading

Obama Just Sent MAJOR Threat To Every US State That Won’t Take Syrian Refugees

The Obama Administration is issuing a showdown with states that are refusing to accept Syrian refugees. The administration sent a letter telling states they would be subject to enforcement action if they do not comply with federal plans to import…Continue Reading

Pope at UN in Africa: We Have a Choice: Either Improve or Destroy the Environment

Says It Will Be ‘Catastrophic’ If Individual Interests Prevail Over the Common Good in Paris Meeting, and Information Is Manipulated to Protect ‘Plans and Projects’ Kenya, November 26, 2015 (ZENIT.org) Staff Reporter Here is a Vatican translation of the address…Continue Reading

Cardinal Pell bets against the odds: insists Pope Francis will strongly reaffirm Catholic tradition

ROME, November 25, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) — Contradicting the statements of some of the pope’s closest advisors, the Vatican’s financial chief Cardinal George Pell has declared that Pope Francis will re-assert and “clarify” longstanding Church teaching and discipline that prohibits Communion…Continue Reading

‘Bleeding host’ under investigation by SL Catholic diocese

(KUTV) The Salt Lake Catholic Diocese has started an investigation into what is being described as a ‘bleeding host’ at a local parish, St. Francis Xavier in Kearns. Images of the host, given to 2News, showed circles of deep red,…Continue Reading

How did heterodox prelates try to change doctrine at synod?

In this address delivered at the Catholic Voice conference Faith of Our Fathers, Matthew McCusker of Voice of the Family discusses three key elements of the “progressive” strategy deployed at the Ordinary Synod: arguing for changes in the Church’s language,…Continue Reading

Bishop Defends ChurchMilitant.com Against ‘Vicious’ Bill Donohue Attack

by Church Militant • ChurchMilitant.com • November 24, 2015 65 Comments Bishop Rene Henry Gracida is criticizing the Catholic League The bishop emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas is defending ChurchMilitant.com against what he calls the “vicious attack” by Catholic League’s…Continue Reading

Pope Francis to German Bishops: Your Church is a mess! Fix it and … GO TO CONFESSION!

The German bishops are making their ad limina visit. Every few years diocesan bishops have to go to Rome to meet with offices of the Roman Curia and, usually, the Pope. Pope Francis gave an address to the German bishops…Continue Reading

Germany’s bishops discuss decentralizing the Church in meeting with Pope Francis

ROME, November 23, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) — The German bishops, sixty-seven of them, recently visited Rome together for their obligatory Ad Limina visit with the pope from November 16-20. This Ad Limina visit, which is obligatory for all bishops of the…Continue Reading

In Australia, Catholic Bishops Face Court Action, Huge Fines Over Traditional Views on Marriage

Australians have always viewed America’s litigious culture with suspicion. Our “no worries mate” approach to life means we tend not to rush off to court at the drop of a hat. So last week when a state government commissioner ruled…Continue Reading

Cardinal Wuerl’s Embassy Row Penthouse

Walking through the posh neighborhood of Embassy Row in October, I stumbled across a scoop: that Washington, D.C.’s Cardinal Donald Wuerl lives in a penthouse atop a mansion priced north of $40 million. That Embassy Row mansion is the Our…Continue Reading


Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our new website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for over 145 years in our weekly print edition. Now we are introducing the online daily version of our print journal.

  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 145 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

A Powerful Weapon: 15 Quotes on the Holy Rosary

We live in evil times. I hardly need elaborate the multitude of crises that fill the globe. Sadly, many are being swept away by this flood of evil and are succumbing to an overwhelming anxiety and discouragement. But no matter how tempting it is, we must not shrink back. We must pray and fast with a living faith and a firm confidence—and there is no better way to…Continue Reading

12 Ways to Become a Committed Catholic Man

There is a Catholic “man-crisis.” Large numbers of men who were baptized Catholic have left the Church and the majority of those who remain are “Casual Catholic Men”, men who do not know the Catholic faith and don’t practice it. This large-scale failure of Catholic men to commit themselves to Jesus Christ and His Church has contributed to the accelerating…Continue Reading

Today . . .

Pope Francis attacks ‘fundamentalist’ Catholics, dismisses condom ban as unimportant

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE, November 30, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) — On the plane returning from his journey to Africa today Pope Francis made his clearest remarks in condemnation of ‘fundamentalist’ Catholics. “Fundamentalism is a sickness that is in all religions,” Francis said, as reported by the National Catholic Reporter’s Vatican correspondent, Joshua McElwee, and similarly by other journalists on the plane. “We Catholics have some — and not some, many — who believe in the absolute…Continue Reading

Pope celebrates closing Mass of African Journey

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday celebrated Mass at Bangui’s Barthélémy Boganda Stadium for thousands of the faithful from the Central African Republic. Speaking of Paul’s missionary zeal in the Letter to the Romans, Pope Francis in his final Mass in the Central African Republic reflected on the great missionary effort which first brought the Gospel to the people of Central Africa. Times of difficulty, trial and suffering remind all of the Lord’s call to…Continue Reading

Pope Francis Arrives in Central African Republic

Francis Will Open Holy Door in Bangui Before Inauguration of Jubilee of Mercy in Vatican Bangui, November 29, 2015 (ZENIT.org) Deborah Castellano Lubov Pope Francis has arrived in the Central African Republic, the final leg of his first Apostolic Visit to Africa, after having visited Kenya and Uganda. The Pontiff arrived at the M’poko International Airport in the war-torn nation’s capital of Bangui around 10 a.m. local time, after a nearly three-hour flight from Uganda,…Continue Reading

Pope to young: Jesus can transform walls into a path


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday encouraged young people in Uganda to turn negative experiences into positive ones with the help of Jesus and his grace. In an address where the Pope ditched his prepared remarks and spoke off-the-cuff in Spanish, he urged the young people to open the door of their hearts to Jesus. More than 150,000 cheering and dancing young people had gathered at an airstrip near Kampala to hear the Pope and…Continue Reading

Pope Gives Youth Choice: Do You Want to Overcome Challenges or Be Overcome by Them?

Throwing Aside Script, Pope Francis Asks Kenya’s Young People If They’ll Allow Difficulties Destroy or Use Them As Opportunities Nairobi, November 27, 2015 (ZENIT.org) Deborah Castellano Lubov Pope Francis has asked Kenya’s young people how they will respond to the challenges they face, including those of bad tribalism, corruption, and desperation, and challenged them to get out of vicious cycles. Speaking to tens of thousands gathered in Nairobi’s Kasarani Stadium, this morning, the Pope listened…Continue Reading

What To Be Thankful For?

By ANDREW P. NAPOLITANO What if the government’s goal is to perpetuate itself? What if the real levers of governmental power are pulled by agents and diplomats and bureaucrats behind the scenes? What if they stay in power no matter who is elected president or which political party controls Congress? What if the frequent public…Continue Reading

Notre Dame Professor . . . Forced To Leave Project Aimed At Faithful Catholic Education

By JUSTIN PETRISEK (Editor’s Note: Catholic Education Daily, an online publication of the Cardinal Newman Society, published this report on November 24. All rights reserved.) + + + In an unexpected turn of events, University of Notre Dame professor Fr. Bill Miscamble, CSC, has been forced to disassociate himself with a new project recommending Notre…Continue Reading

Conversion To Pro-Life

By DONALD DeMARCO Before Roe v. Wade, but when the abortion issue was being hotly contested, certain pro-life leaders in Canada, as well as in the United States, told me that once people realized what abortion entails, the controversy would be settled solidly in favor of life. The plausible assumption in the minds of these…Continue Reading

How An Americanist/Modernist Continued To Undermine Catholic Teaching

By JAMES LIKOUDIS The author of Pilgrim Church: A Popular History of Catholic Christianity (Revised & Expanded; Twenty-Third Publications, 1989) that continues to circulate in Catholic parishes is Fr. William J. Bausch, who may be remembered by veterans of the sex education battles of the 1970s for his book A Boy’s Sex Life when he…Continue Reading

The End Of Obamaworld

By PATRICK J. BUCHANAN In denouncing Republicans as “scared of widows and orphans,” and castigating those who prefer Christian refugees to Muslims coming to America, Barack Obama has come off as petulant and unpresidential. Clearly, he is upset. And with good reason. He grossly, transparently underestimated the ability of ISIS, the “JV” team, to strike…Continue Reading


Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

A Leaven In The World . . Critique Of Church Art Is Not Comment On Sponsors’ Faith

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK I recently received a phone call in which I was informed that a tweeted comment of mine on the Twitter social network about the interaction between some chapel visitors and sacred art recently installed therein had, in effect, called into question the faith of that chapel’s proprietors in the Real Presence. Although I did not…Continue Reading

An Apologetics Course . . . The Rule Of Faith Is The Church’s Teaching Authority

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 30 In order to finish the discussion on the revolution caused by Martin Luther nearly 500 years ago, let us consider his first major dogma, namely, sola Scriptura. Any Catholic — especially The Wanderer readers — who want to take their faith seriously and apply the criteria laid down by John Paul II in…Continue Reading

The Communion Of Saints

By DON FIER For the past six weeks, we have examined and elaborated upon the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) on a state of life embraced by many loyal followers of Christ who have freely responded to a special call to follow with radical fidelity the way of life that the Lord Himself led. These generous…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Q. I know the word “friend” appears many times in the Bible, but sometimes it is capitalized. For example, at daily Mass today there was a reading from 1st Maccabees which said that King Antiochus, who was about to die, “called in all his Friends” to tell them of his tribulations, and he chose Philip, “one of his Friends,” to…Continue Reading

The New Jerusalem

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Second Sunday Of Advent (YR C) Readings: Baruch 5:1-9 Phil. 1:4-6, 8-11; Luke 3:1-6 In the Gospel reading today we hear about the preaching of St. John the Baptist. However, unlike what we read in the other Gospels, St. Luke does not record the Baptist as saying that he is the voice in the desert calling…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. John Damascene

By CAROLE BRESLIN “The Fathers of the Church were those saintly writers of the early centuries whom the Church recognizes as her special defenders of orthodoxy. And the Patristic Age is the period during which they lived. “It is generally held that the last of the Western Fathers (Latin) was St. Bede the Venerable (673-735), and the last of the…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… Blessed Maria Virgo

By CAROLE BRESLIN When I visited my aunt in St. Louis, Mo., we would visit the basilicas, the museums, and other places of interest. She had many sites near her that were particularly special to her, such as her parish, The Little Flower, in Richmond Heights. In addition, she described a place where she frequently went for eucharistic adoration at…Continue Reading