All Saints Day is one of my favorite celebrations and always has been. I think it's because it's a day that is set aside to celebrate our Catholic ancestors and the truly human part of our history.
For whatever reason, European and American Catholicism has been short on this concept of honoring ancestors in an ongoing meaningful way. We certainly celebrate the memory of some saints, St. Patrick comes to mind, but for the most part we give a sort of lip service to this whole concept of the Communion of Saints and Angels. Hispanic Catholicism is quite a bit different in this regard, and the Pueblo Catholicism of New Mexico is even more different.
In these spiritualities, the Communion of Saints and Angels and familial ancestors are alive and active and as loving and concerned about us as if they were still around. They are real. They have an immediacy and a potency that speaks to the eternal nature of our own souls. They offer true hope about our not being vanquished by death. They let us know we do exist beyond this reality, in fact, if not in body. But best of all, there is no distinction between them on any of the terms we divide ourselves by in our current reality. In their experience of the kingdom, wealth, sex, gender, race, age, education, class, and status are meaningless. Freed from these illusions, it's all about community, love, wisdom, connection and mission. The Communion of Saints and Angels is what we profess we desire for ourselves here on earth. It represents what we are working towards. It's the understanding they guide us to achieve.
Any number of psychics and mystics are now saying that the barriers between that dimensional existence and our dimensional existence are receding. They say there is a sort of bleeding through of consciousness between our two dimensions. That has been my own experience, not just my own personal subjective experience, but it seems more and more people are experiencing non ordinary events in this reality. The Saints and Angels are becoming more active and more present to more and more people and this is changing people's spirituality and their understanding of spirituality and man's role in this reality.
This Communion is becoming it's own independent source of authority for one's spiritual path. In this sense, it is becoming a threat to Hierarchical Church authority. It's also happening at exactly the same time that younger generations are purposely seeking out these experiences, both with in and outside the framework of traditional Catholic spiritual practice. I guarantee there will be conflict between their experiences and church authority, and not because they will necessarily contradict Church authorities.
The Vatican's statement on the dangers of Halloween, the African Bishops statement on Traditional African Religions, the denouncement of Medjugorge and the latest Irish upheaval around the Marian Shrine at Knox all speak to the threat that these interactions are to institutional authority.
There is a legitimate issue concerning private revelation about discernment and certainly with the motivation of the visionary, but there is also this issue of these revelations as outside the control of the hierarchy. The following article about the recent goings on at Knock, illustrate some of these issues. The article is from the Irish Catholic.
(Short note: My problem with individual revelation is that it is individual and certainly subject to quirky individual discernment, interpretation, and influence. Personally, I prefer group work and group discernment which is pretty much what Jesus advised. It's always better to have two or more.)
A prominent theologian and adviser to Pope Benedict XVI has backed Archbishop Michael Neary in his opposition to claims of visions at Knock Shrine, Co. Mayo.
Fr Tom Norris, who sits on the influential International Theological Commission charged with advising Pope Benedict XVI, told The Irish Catholic: ''I would tend to be very sceptical of anyone claiming to have visions that do not appear to make unity with the Church.'' (What's interesting about this statement is that the 'visionary' has stated nothing contrary to Church discipline or doctrine. He has stated that in his visions Mary is calling for a return to traditional Catholic practices of Mass and the rosary.)
Fr Norris' comments come after Archbishop Neary warned that recent events in Knock ''risk misleading God's people and undermining faith''.
''For this reason, such events are to be regretted rather than encouraged,'' Dr Neary said this week.
Responding to the bishop's comments, Dublin-based clairvoyant Joe Coleman reacted angrily, insisting that he was among thousands of people who witnessed an apparition at Knock on October 11, 2009. ''While I am deeply disappointed by the archbishop's statement I have to say, sadly, I am not surprised,'' Mr Coleman said.
The Irish Catholic understands that Dr Neary has decided to act swiftly to avoid the situation getting out of control.
It is understood the archbishop is concerned that, without swift action, the alleged visions could follow the same pattern of the controversial House of Prayer run by Christina Gallagher, which is also in Dr Neary's Tuam archdiocese.
The Irish Catholic understands that Dr Neary is keen that the fact be immediately established that the alleged visions have no support from the Church nor are the allegations being taken seriously by Church leaders.
Fr Norris, a lecturer in Systematic Theology at St Patrick's College, Maynooth, said that ''you always find that when these things are authentic that the recipient of the message shows obedience to the Church and makes unity with the Church.
''Obviously, no message coming from Heaven is asking people to disobey and cause disunity in God's Church,'' Fr Norris added.
''Because these things are very often experienced at an emotional level, it can go crazy, that's where the judgement of the Church comes in,'' he said.
''The Church has been dealing with claims like these for centuries. There's a wisdom that has been accumulated over time that includes the criteria by which the Church judges these things, such as their holiness of life and their obedience.
''Someone who shows disrespect to the bishop is unlikely to be a recipient of private revelation,'' Fr Norris said. (The good father needs to review the lives of a number of saints, who if they didn't show disrespect, came very very close.)
However, Mr Coleman remains defiant, stating that his vision was authentic and that he expects to receive more visions in Knock this weekend.
The archbishop has called on people to stay away. (About 10,000 of them didn't heed his message.)