Sunday, November 1, 2009

All Saints Day Commemorates The Real End Point For The Family Of Man

This wonderful portrait is the work of John Nava. (Magnolia Editions)

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.)


  1. Fascinating and revealing observation here about "authentic" revelations.

    The argument appears to go something like this: All the authentic revelations include obedience to the church; revelations opposing church authority cannot be authentic; who decides the authenticity? The church.

    Is it surprising that revelations accepted as "authentic" demand obedience?

  2. Terence, actually it's even more subtle. The revelations don't even have to oppose Church authority, but the visionary must assert to the control of Church authority. Otherwise they are in opposition to the church no matter the content of their visions or messages.

    I suppose this is why in the stories of Lourdes and Guadalupe there were outward undeniable tangible manifestations of the authenticity of the visions. They were intended to overwhelm the objections of the authorities.

    This is a tough area for the Church and the visionary. Wealthy frauds and or well meaning delusional folks are not unheard of.

    It's why I am much more inclined to credence group visions or those accompanied by a physical manifestation--not dancing suns. There are concrete explanations for dancing suns.

  3. think we all have our vision and for it to be truthful we must not be concerned about the problems that it might cause us or others (esp. the Episcopacy.) In all human understanding there is a tremendous resistance to change and yet without change there can not be growth and development. As far as visions from God, Mary or other saints, few will receive these and I certainly agree that consensual evaluation by a group is better. This is what happens when scientists try to change what was once thought. We observe a lack of precision a theory or law, and we proceed to correct what was once thought. When others can make the same observations and agree with the corrections, we make our changes.

    However, out individual observation and vision is also very important to begin this process. Most growth and development does not to me seem to come from a vision of what a saint tells us but from the observations of what the Holy Spirit shows us over time. The major problem with our Episcopacy is that they tend to believe that laws should not be changed no matter what the current environment or what the Holy Spirit reveals to us. They also pretend to be the soul vessel for the revelations of the Spirit. They begin with an impossible position that as a Magisterium they can not error or correct their own errors. I think the scandals of the present serve to more than undermine their position.

    I wish the Episcopate were irrelevant, they are not. They ARE tremendously hurtful to the growth and development of society. Is it not sinful to listen to what the Holy Spirit is telling us- all of us?

    R. Dennis Porch, MD

  4. My last question should have asked, Is it sinful to not listen to what the Holy Spirit is telling all of us?

    Sorry for the necessity of this important correction. You can call my other errors "old timers disease."


  5. Colleen, thanks for a beautiful meditation on the communion of saints. I like very much this statement: "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."

  6. Dear Ms. Kochivar-Baker,

    We respectfully ask that you please host the copyrighted John Nava image you have included with this post on your own server. It is easy enough to download it and re-upload it to blogger.

    We also ask that you please credit Mr. Nava for the image, and that you provide a link to our website and not simply to the image itself.

    Thank you very much.

    Nick Stone at Magnolia Editions

  7. Thank you, this is a wonderful illustration.

    In the future I will now always download to my own server. To be honest, I never knew what the difference was, but now I do and the change has been made.

  8. Any so called mystic or visionary should undergo proper testing by the Church Hierarchy and this doesnt seem to be happening in Ireland where there is not one or two but many 'visionaries' going around Ireland claiming messages from Jesus, Mary and the Saints and they have free reign. Most of these if not all of them are false. I would like to see them asked by the Hierarchy to be silent and to stop propagating their messages. If they are disobedient it shows clearly they are not from God. St Pio was silenced for 11 years and he suffered greatly as did many other genuine visionaries. They did not disobey the Church and proved their authenticity by doing so.

  9. Anonymous, this is such a difficult area. The problem is the Church has no real way to enforce such an edict on a lay person. Pio was under vows of obedience and this brought up the whole issue of spiritual integrity for him. I'm sure it was extremely difficult, but given his mindset, and the power of vows made to God, to disobey would most likely have had a profound impact on his mystical ability. Guilt does not help mystical ability.

    Lay folks are under no such vows. The other part of the equation is that even though the Church has come down forcefully on Medjugorge it hasn't had much of an impact. The search for meaningful spiritual experiences will always take precedence over hierarchical demands people not support them.

    Proper testing, although nice in theory, would probably cause more problems than it would solve. I can think of a number of cloistered visionaries who would not pass most psychological profiles even though their visions seemed orthodox. These people were not playing with a full deck.

    This whole area is difficult and really comes down to the old addage: Buyer beware.