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Sensationalized Catholicism

Stop chasing after signs and wonders.

May 1, 2023  0


There is a very strong current running through groups of faithful Catholics in these days of confusion and bewilderment. It's the tendency to go chasing after prophecies and apparitions and seers and so forth, instead of knuckling down to do the hard — and, yes, shall we say it — frustrating, even boring life of day-to-day Catholicism.

It's the Catholic version of the Protestant phoniness of "signs and wonders." In the Catholic world, this psychological phenomenon is born out of an almost desperation to have certain worldviews ratified by any charlatan or disturbed that comes along.

Here's a gut check: If you are using or appealing to an unapproved "apparition" or the words of a supposed "seer" to back up your worldview, then your worldview is likely wrong.

On one level, the same is true of actual approved apparitions and how various faithful use them to support their view of things.

If you're appealing to an unapproved apparition to back up your worldview, your worldview is likely wrong.

Yes, of course the approved apparitions themselves are likely true, but the interpretations of those by various folks with their own worldviews and the following application of them to warn us about the coming end of the world or whatever, not so fast.

But this episode is about the phony or imagined apparitions and seers and mystics and so forth; NOT how approved apparitions and messages are distorted and misapplied to prop up someone's personal agenda or narrative.

Just a short while ago, for example, the account spread like wildfire all over the Catholic internet that Pope Benedict appeared to a Columbian nun with the secret message that he was the legitimate pope up until he died, meaning Francis wasn't and isn't and, therefore, there is no pope right now.

Weak-minded folks who want to believe Francis isn't pope immediately seized on the phony apparition as other folks have seized on other apparitions or privately deciphered "prophecies" and on and on, all in a misguided attempt to make sense of the world around them, to provide themselves some kind of psychological cushion between the evils of the world and their world.

But retreating into piety or "prophecy" is not an authentic Catholic response. The great saints of the Church did not do that, even ones who actually experienced true apparitions. The great religious orders were not built by people in psychological retreat. The missionaries who spread out to every land in the world were not hunkered down in their own spiritual safety space. They went out into the world and confronted it and defeated it.

The Catholic life, meaning evangelizing and working for salvation, is not a private, mystical, apparition-driven affair (and this especially includes unapproved apparitions). To disregard the Church and cling to something Catholic-looking, how is that any different than Protestants poring over Scripture and deciding for themselves what's true and not.

If the Church hasn't approved it, have nothing to do with it. If others who profit in any way from promoting such things are encouraging it, run away and be done with them. Be especially careful when internet Catholics who promote certain narratives start seizing on apparitions and interviewing "prophets" and mystics to support their worldviews begin advancing more and more strange ideas.

This kind of stuff is spiritual poison.

Of course, there is always the possibility that a Catholic must consider that some of these apparitions and actors and so forth are not just nutty or looking for fame, but might be demonic.

Certainly, Hell would have a vested interest in deceiving people and leading them to a point of disobedience against the Church. That's essentially the battle plan of the diabolical from the get-go anyway. Why would they not pull that arrow out of their quiver when convenient?

Back in the 1970s, there was a smash hit book among certain Protestant circles called The Late Great Planet Earth, by a fellow named Hal Lindsey. It was total bunk because it was his personal opinion, or salesmanship, dressed up to sound all authoritative and scholarly — as he plumbed various Scripture passages and the book of Revelation and discovered prophecies and how they "applied" to the current days.

None of it was true, and here we are, half a century later, with none of his gnostic fancies having been borne out. This is a problem with Catholic and Protestant "prophets" and "seers" and "discerners" of secrets and hidden messages and apparitions: They are seldom around to be held accountable when their predictions don't pan out.

It's not good, as the Holy Spirit warns in Scripture, to plumb too deeply the mysteries of God. Frankly, if the Church is silent on such things, how do you know if you're right? All of this sort of thing — the "appeal" of knowing how things will play out, the desire to have discerned prophecies (even legitimate ones) — is a dangerous game on many levels.

They are seldom held accountable when their predictions don't pan out.

But one level worth pointing out is that it often serves as a great distraction to the real work of the gospel; again, the laborious, even tedious, work in the vineyard. The world of apparitions and prophecies, let's face it, is much more sexy than confronting a fallen-away family member.

It also has the dangerous quality of puffing up someone, making them feel they are more informed about things of the spiritual world. Danger Will Robinson, danger!

The Catholic life for almost everyone is a slow growth, a day-to-day walk. Always looking for the hidden this or the as yet undeciphered that — what's the point? How are you increasing in holiness, or even attempting to, trying to mesh phony apparitions into Catholic conspiracy theories?

It would be much better to simply pick up and read The Life of Christ by Bp. Sheen than to spend one moment in the world of signs and wonders and prophecies and apparitions. We aren't Protestant. What any of us individually arrives at without the Church's seal of approval is completely pointless and, perhaps, even spiritually dangerous.

The Church provides for us seven spiritual works of mercy and seven corporal works of mercy.  Nowhere on either of those lists is included poring over prophecies and/or checking out the latest apparition claims. Be Catholic. It's just that simple, even if it isn't necessarily sexy and exciting every day.

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