Written Saturday,Â May 15, 2006
I have never been one for chasing apparitions, though people send me information and arguments why I should go here and go there to hear the latest locutions and revelations.Â
But yesterday Janet and I went to visit our first apparition site since becoming Catholics. It was approved by the Church in 1861 and has been visited by millions of people.
In 1846, two years before Karl Marx published his Communist Manifesto, Mary appeared to a 14 year old girl and an 11 year old boy 6,000 feet above sea level in southern France. They were tending a small herd of cows and the saw a â€œBeautiful Ladyâ€ weeping with her head in her hands.
Mary told the youngsters to tell the Christians to follow her Son and not to profane Sunday, keeping it holy for the Lord. She said many other things and then went up the hill and rose into the sky and disappeared into a bright light.
The bishop of Lyon, overseer for the town of La Sallette, approved the apparition on the anniversary of the appearance, on September 19, 1861.
Janet and I drove several hours from Lyon. At first it was relatively flat but soon we saw the snow-capped French Alps in the distance. We knew the site of â€œOur Lady of La Salette” was over a mile above sea level and as we wound back and forth up the mountains we soon drove above the snow line with remaining piles of snow to left and right.
The location of the church and complex honoring Our Lady of La Salette was indescribably beautiful. Janet and I had lived in Switzerland (studying with Dr. Francis Schaeffer) in the early 80â€™s and these mountains and deep valleys took us back in time and brought lovely memories to mind.
We took lots of pictures, prayed and worshiped God while we felt a little lightheaded because of the lack of oxygen at that height. I wondered why Mary revealed herself to young herdsmen way up in the cold pastures above sea level â€“ far from the cities and churches below.
Then I remembered what Jesus said: that we had to become like little children to inherit the kingdom of God. I also recalled that Jesus had chosen the rough and coarse fishermen from the outback instead of the learned scholars in Jerusalem.
I also wondered why some Catholics are prone to chase after every supposed apparition or locution as though the word of God is scarce and must be sought after with great zeal. I find it curious that many travel the globe seeking to hear a word from God when their Bibles collect dust on the coffee table.
With many of the apparitions vying for our attention today we do not KNOW if it is really Godâ€™s word or not, but with the Scriptures we can hear the word of God with all certainty â€“ and you donâ€™t have to travel the globe to hear it! And the Mass and the tradition of the Church all provide the riches of Godâ€™s word and sacrament right in our own back yards.
What about apparitions? Are Catholics obligated to listen and obey them â€“ referring of course to the Church sanctioned apparitions?
No, the Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly states that they are private revelation and Catholics are not obliged to follow them. Here is what it says:
Revelations made in the course of history which do not add to or form part of the deposit of faith, but rather may help people live out their faith more fully. Some of these private revelations have been recognized by the authority of the Church, which cannot accept so-called revelations of faith that claim to surpass or correct the Revelation of Christ confided to his Church.
Public revelation, of course, is that which was given by Jesus and the Apostles â€“ the deposit of faith once delivered to the saints. It is contained in Scripture and Sacred Tradition and cannot be added to by any subsequent â€œprivateâ€ relevelation.
So, we really enjoyed the visit to La Sallette and we prayed that the approved message of the â€œBeautiful Ladyâ€ will be firmly lived out in our lives. But, now much more grateful we are for the Holy Scriptures, the Sacred Tradition, the Liturgy of the Church, and the Magisterium.
No apparition chasing here â€“ but definitely a love for all the riches Jesus Christ has given us in his Church.