Sunday, August 1, 2010
Medjugorje: VI. Satan's Motives
This brings us to the ultimate question that Medjugorje believers have for Medjugorje sceptics: namely, “why would Satan want to perpetuate a false apparition?” Dr. Miravalle, after speaking about all the “good fruits” (ie. the conversions and vocations), quotes another Medjugorje apologist as saying “if Satan is behind Medjugorje, he has made the greatest mistake of his existence.” First of all, such a claim is wrong because the greatest mistake Satan made and will ever make was in crucifying Christ. Secondly, such a statement, if indeed Satan is behind Medjugorje, shows both our human pride and ignorance. Satan is far more intelligent than we are, and outwits us on a daily basis, sometimes constantly. We will begin to answer this question through an examination of the modus operandi of Satan as we have come to know it in Scripture and Tradition.
The first thing Scripture says about Satan is that he is “subtle”, in fact “the most subtle” of all creatures. (Genesis 3:1) In his conversation with Eve, Satan did not tell a single bold-faced lie. In fact, everything he said was true – but they were merely half-truths. He told them they “would not die”, and they indeed did not – at least physically. But they did die spiritually. He said they would be like God, knowing good from evil, and indeed they were – but this was a “knowledge” that they were better off not having (in their case, “ignorance was bliss”).
In other words, Satan is a counterfeiter. He seeks to present something to us that although it seems true and seems like the good thing that we are looking and yearning for, in reality it is an evil thing that will do us harm and bring us misery. But it is presented in such a way that it seems or appears like “the real thing”. That would explain why if Medjugorje is not authentic, the Bishop was able to “get” so little that he could “use against” the seers – Satan is adept at “covering his tracks”, so to speak. Now, because the counterfeit is often so much like the “real thing”, and because he often makes use of good things, there will be some good fruit. And Satan will bear and tolerate some good fruit if in the end he can gain a great deal in the long run and inflict much damage – sometimes by using that good fruit to “trick” us into believing it is authentic and thus giving ourselves to it or submitting our minds and wills to it – sometimes to large degrees (ie. making it the center of our spirituality).
These are the principles behind religious life. The evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience are the direct renunciation of three things which are inherently good – wealth / possessions, sex / marriage, and power / influence. Jesus Himself came to possess and rule the earth, and promises us each great “rewards” and “riches” in heaven (ie. an “inheritance” or “spiritual goods”) (Matthew 6:19-20). Christ created sex and marriage as the most profound sign and analogy of His own divine love and life, and His relationship to us (Song of Songs, Hosea 2:18, 21-22; Revelation 21:1-2). Christ came to have absolute “dominion” and “power” over all things and people (Revelation 5:12), and willed that his saints “reign on earth” (Revelation 5:10) and “subdue” it and exercise “dominion” (Genesis 1:28) because every Christian is to be a priest, prophet, and king. Every bit of wealth, every sexual act, and every exercise of power is good because all these things are natural signs and partial realizations of the spiritual goods we are called to possess forever and enjoy for eternity.
However, knowing we desire these things, Satan seeks to counterfeit them or present them as something more than they really are. Instead of being signs and partial realizations that are meant to lead us to seek the greater reality and full realization we can only have in God, he seeks to present them to us as the actual reality and fullness, as ends in themselves rather than means to the end, as that which we are ultimately seeking. He strives to convince and persuade us to see and make these goods our ultimate good and thus make God at best secondary to those things and at worst irrelevant and unnecessary. Thus, he seeks to “trap” us in “idols”, which the Church has always defined not as statues, but as anything that “we make the supreme source of our joy” and set up as being preferable to God. (CCC 2113), which can include “power, pleasure, race, ancestors, the state, money, etc.”. This is precisely what St. Paul speaks about in Romans 1:19-25, which culminates in him speaking about “worshiping the creature rather than the creator” after speaking about “exchanging the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of an image” (vv. 25, 23).
The three opposites to the evangelical counsels – namely wealth, sex, and power – are the three most ancient and popular idols, and in fact, the Golden Calf epitomized these three, for the bull symbolized strength and fertility, while the gold from which it was made symbolized riches. Thus its worship promised to grant its worshipers those things. Satan, as prince of this world, has the power to grant these things to those who serve him – and those who worship idols, those who seek to make this world their ultimate end or joy without respect to God, are in the best possible position to obtain those things.
Seers from authentic apparitions almost without exception embraced religious life and thus the three vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and most of those who did not thereafter lived lives of simplicity and obscurity. However, among the seers of Medjugorje, we see the opposite, which we should take as a sign of caution. We see the wealth (large houses and huge speaking fees), sex (all married, and Ivan married to a Miss America participant – in which contestants are essentially judged on the basis of their sex appeal), and power (over the audiences of eager listeners who daily stand in awe of them, believing that what they say is either a direct message or at least a second-hand message from heaven and who consider it an enormous honour and thus attempt to get in a position to speak with them or in some cases even so much as touch their garments).
With these things in mind, there are at least six reasons why Satan might want to perpetrate a false apparition and do so at Medjugorje. Unfortunately, there is much background information (concerning the deficiencies and problematic aspects of the Charismatic renewal, the tendency towards “the Catholic ghetto”, and the problems associated with lay ministry) which I cannot get into here as it is beyond our scope. Ideally, the manuscript Overcoming the World as well as the article series And He Is Divided would be read previous to this, but since they are not written let alone published yet this is not presently possible.
1. “False Devotion”. St. Louis Marie de Montfort, in his classic on Marian spirituality, True Devotion to Mary, warns believers against “false devotions”. (no. 91) He explains: “There are false devotions ... which can easily be mistaken for true ones. The devil, like a counterfeiter and crafty, experienced deceiver, has already misled and ruined many Christians by means of fraudulent devotions [emphasis mine]. ... Day by day he uses his diabolical experience to lead many more to their doom, fooling them, lulling them to sleep in sin and assuring them that a few prayers, even badly said, and a few exterior practices, inspired by himself, are authentic devotions. ... The devil leaves other devotions alone and counterfeits mostly those directed to Jesus and Mary, for example, devotion to the Holy Eucharist and to the Blessed Virgin, because these are to other devotions what gold and silver are to other metals.” (no. 90)
De Montfort identifies “seven types of false devotion”: “namely, the devotion of (1) the critical, (2) the scrupulous, (3) the superficial, (4) the presumptuous, (5) the inconstant, (6) the hypocritical, (7) [and] the self-interested.” (no. 92) Of concern to us with regards to the spirituality of Medjugorje is mainly numbers 3 and 4: the “superficial’ and the “presumptuous”.
Regarding the superficial, de Montfort says “they say many rosaries with great haste and assist at many Masses distractedly. They take part in processions ... without inner fervour. They join ... confraternities without reforming their lives or restraining their passions or imitating [Jesus and] Mary's virtues. ... All that appeals to them is the emotional aspect of this devotion, but the substance of it has no appeal at all. If they do not feel a warmth in their devotions, they think they are doing nothing; they become upset, and give up everything, or else do things only when they feel like it. The world is full of these shallow devotees.” (no. 96)
As for the other, “presumptuous devotees ... under the fair name of Christian and servant of our Lady, conceal pride, avarice, lust, drunkenness, anger, swearing, slandering, injustice and other vices. They sleep peacefully in their wicked habits, without making any great effort to correct them. ... They take all this for granted because they say the Rosary, fast on Saturdays, are enrolled in the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary or the Scapular (etc). They say they have devotion [because] they wear the scapular ... they even say the Rosary and the Office ... as well as fasting and performing other good works.” (no. 97) De Montfort says that “such a devotion is only an illusion of the devil and a dangerous presumption” (no. 97) and “nothing in our Christian religion is so deserving of condemnation as this diabolical presumption. How can we truthfully claim to love and honour the Blessed Virgin when by our sins we pitilessly wound, pierce, crucify and outrage her Son?” (no. 98). How does this apply to Medjugorje?
The “Message of Medjugorje”, much like the “Divine Will” movement, consists in “Five Spiritual Stones”, which their respective proponents say are the keys to becoming holy. For the latter, this consists of (1) Mass, (2) Confession, (3) Fasting / Penance, (4) Scripture, and (5) The Rosary, while for the former, this consists of (1) Prayer, (2) Fasting, (3) Penance, (4) Conversion, and (5) Peace. Now obviously, these things not only lead to holiness but are also the fruits which flow from a life of holiness, and thus are certainly to be encouraged for every Christian. In other words, there is something definitely authentic about this “devotion”. However, it is also true that these things can become routine, they can become mere outward observances rather than inward prayer and authentic communication and communion. The problem with these movements which establish a program of certain daily spiritual devotions to be fulfilled is that they tend too easily towards legalism and thus do not produce the holiness they promise. It bears reminding that the Pharisees had their own “spiritual stones”, which generally consisted of Fasting (Matthew 9:14) and Tithing (Matthew 23:23) (Luke 18:12), Sunday observance and Synagogue worship (Matthew 12:1-2, 9-10), and Scripture (Matthew 23:5b). However, these good and godly practices did not make them holy because although they may have started well, their devotions became external routines rather than authentic interior encounters with God (they became a checklist of devotions to mark off) and thus their hearts were not converted through them (they did not act any differently as people do when they are converted, thus failing to develop a life of charity and virtue, and in fact developing one other serious vices, namely, religious pride). (Mark 7:6; Matthew 3:7-8)
The fact is, all of these “spiritual stones” have a particular end goal or purpose – namely, conversion to a life of virtue, especially charity. The spiritual stones are meant to empower us to do the hard work of “practicing” (a “virtue” is a “habit” which is developed through “practice”) acts of patience, love, humility, etc. Unfortunately, it can happen that (a) we can avail ourselves of all the graces we need through prayer and the sacraments but then fail to truly open ourselves to that grace by failing to properly dispose ourselves to receive, or (b) we receive sufficient grace but then expect it to transform us automatically without our cooperating by moving our will and acting, for instance, with patience in situations where we would normally react angrily due to the bad habits (vices) we have developed. This is reinforced when God’s will is outlined as consisting in pious and religious practices (as we see with the “five spiritual stones”), and thus we begin to naturally see these religious devotions as making one holy, when in fact they are means to an end that we may or may not reach through them. We thus begin to see the means as the end, and this is exactly what we said Satan’s modus operandi was. Certainly, these devotions all claim that the end goal is peace or charity - which it is in theory. However, with these devotions, this truth is easily and thus often pushed to the background of our minds. Fulfilling the repertoire of devotions becomes so much the focus that the concentration is placed almost exclusively on these than on the virtues, which becomes an afterthought. It is difficult to fit these “five stones” into one’s day or week, so one who is successful doing so will think “I am done for the day / week”, and more often than not, he thinks the virtues will just develop automatically, and thus he does not worry about being attentive to this. And the key is he does not even notice if he is not developing virtue because he thinks he has done God’s will. De Montfort says: “It is better not to burden ourselves with a multitude of prayers and pious practices but rather adopt only a few and perform them with love and perseverance.” [emphasis mine] (no. 101) But this pitfall is what often happens with these particular devotions, when there is a certain “quota” and repertoire of prayers and spiritual practices to fulfill.
There is a booklet called Prayers and Heavenly Promises by Joan Carroll Cruz which consists in numerous prayers that have either been indulgenced, or more commonly, have “promises” of spiritual rewards attached to those who say them as given by various visions or apparitions of Jesus, Mary, or one of the Saints. The problem with such booklets and such spiritualities (whose adherents often make their prayer lives consist almost solely in such prayers) is that one cannot keep up with it all! As Ralph Martin says, you can have a nervous breakdown trying to wear every badge and scapular [as stated in his Summer, 2009 course “Theology of the New Evangelization” at Franciscan University of Steubenville]. It is like in the days when certain prayers from the Raccolta were prayed repeatedly so as to obtain as many indulgences as possible – one’s prayer life can easily become an endless pursuit of goods from the spiritual treasury rather than intimate and personal communion and an authentic relationship. This gets to De Montfort’s point about the “self-interested” devotees, “who turn to her only to win a court-case, to escape some danger, to be cured of some ailment, or have some similar need satisfied. Except when in need they never think of her.” (no. 103). We must also call to mind that De Montfort said “the world is full of these shallow devotees.” (no. 96) In other words, this is a common problem among those who practice such devotions – something the Church took far too long to address.
One might point out that the fact we often do not feel like doing these practices, and that when we do so even though we do not feel like doing it means our motive is solely for the love of God, and thus the practitioner will by that fact be growing in charity. However, sometimes it is not love for God that motivates us, bur rather (a) the feeling of personal satisfaction in fulfilling the devotion, of using all five stones, or (b) the thought that we are obtaining many graces that will benefit us personally or make us “greater” vis-a-vis other Christians, or (c) the fear of the consequences if we fail, or (d) the fact that it has become part of our daily routine, which makes us uncomfortable if we do not do it – like some who cannot go to sleep at night if they have not brushed their teeth. None of these motivations are bad per se; however, if our motivations for practicing these devotions consist primarily or solely in one or more of these, the chances are great that they will become ends in themselves, they will not be said with devotion and attention (which is essentially to authentic prayer), and thus the devotee will not develop a life of virtue through them.
2. Too Central in One`s Life and Spirituality. The second reason Satan may have is that Medjugorje has taken far too central a position in the spiritual lives of many believers. One blog commenter stated that “some people choose Medjugorje as their religion”, whereby they “filter the Catholic Church through Medjugorje, rather than the other way around.” (http://patrickmadrid.blogspot.com/2009/11/caller-to-my-open-line-radio-show-asks.html) Various problems can arise when this is the case.
A. (a) First of all, as book reviewer Jackie Parkes commented: “there is ... the danger of people becoming ‘addicted’ to the spiritual experiences generated by a visit to Medjugorje. This is particularly the case if the person who has been converted at Medjugorje was previously a lukewarm or non-practicing Catholic”. (http://www.theotokos.org.uk/pages/books/medjbook/jpreview.html) Parkes continued by mentioning one problem that arises from this: “One hears of people whose whole spiritual life revolves around the messages from various alleged visionaries”. [Ibid.] Medjugorje critic Mark Waterinckx claims to have observed the following: “One again and again wants to know the 'latest message' or the 'latest news'. ... Previous activities are replaced by Medjugorje gatherings, where one speculates about nearing punishments, about 'secrets', about the date on which Jesus will return on earth, what only 'initiates' know”. (http://en.gloria.tv/?user=16878) Granted, not all go to these extremes, and some more or less properly integrate Medjugorje into an authentic Catholic faith, but many do go too far, and this is a fact Satan has always been well aware of.
(b) Parkes mentioned another problem: “[Some] travel from one place to another to satisfy a ‘craving’ for these phenomena.’” Speaking of this, Waterinckx added, “We must develop our own prayer lives built on an intense sacramental life and be detached from seeking signs and wonders”. [emphasis mine] This is why Parkes wisely pointed out that “Medjugorje, taken as an overall phenomenon, can thus at best be regarded as a sort of porch or vestibule of the Church proper, a sort of halfway house; but it is not a place where one should remain, spiritually, for any length of time.” Of course, this applies to all apparitions, including (and perhaps especially) Fatima. However, it seems that Medjugorje, with its focus on world-transforming secrets and ongoing daily apparitions, tends to become more central to the spiritualities and lives of more believers than Fatima has. Parkes mentions another motivation for some and cause for concern: “One of the symptoms of ... mental illness can be increased religiosity”. She adds “Interestingly, we were practicing Catholics who undoubtedly had a ‘religious awakening if you like’ at Medjugorje. But coming from a family with many alcoholics and addictive types of personalities, it comes as no surprise to read what Foley has observed. We too were carried along on the visionary trail.”
(c). It is interesting to note the particular saints which there is a devotion to among those who embrace this particular spirituality (I would call it a "mystical spirituality"). Almost all of the Saints which are focused on are the ones who exhibited various mystical gifts. For instance, they speak much about Padre Pio and how he sent his guardian angel on missions; they have a great devotion to St. Philomena who worked great miracles after her bones were discovered two centuries ago; they speak frequently about Saints who were incorrupt, bilocated or levitated, and worked various miracles and healing; and it goes without saying that there is much talk about all the "seers" and those who saw visions (St. Gertrude the Great, St. Bridget, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Margaret Mary, St. Faustina, etc.). But seldomly are they interested in reading about the "humdrum", about Saints who lived holiness but without any great displays of mysticism. And when they do speak of these Saints, it is only the mystical aspects they focus on, not the virtues they possessed and lived out. For instance, they will speak about St. John Bosco, but usually only when speaking about his "dreams" (visions) and about the mysterious dog "Grigio" (an angel?) who protected him from his enemies. It is a spirituality which desires to focus on the "immanent", the "divine inbreakings" which we can see with our eyes and hear with our ears, that we can "sense". It is akin to the Apostles wanting to stay on the mountain after the Transfiguration, or staring up into heaven after Jesus ascended. However, they were called back to the "humdrum", to the everyday battle against vice through struggle and the slow and painful process of building up virtue, to experiencing God only through faith (believing without seeing) and not through the "feeble senses". Similarly Christians are called to turn their attention more and more from St. John Bosco's dog and his dreams and shift their focus towards the love he showed his children at the oratory and the suffering he embraced in his pilgrimage of faith.
B. It is not surprising that in the spiritual vacuum created by doctrinal and liturgical confusion and poor catechesis, something like a false apparition could make easy prey out of many Catholics starving for authentic Catholic spirituality. It is in such an environment that Catholics are most vulnerable to such things.
3. Schism and Loss of Faith. Third, Satan could use something like this to cause division, disobedience, and ultimately schism on the one hand or a loss of faith on the other.
(a) Regarding the first, one blog commenter stated, “I too have heard or read people saying that they would choose ‘Gospa’ over Church, if it were ever condemned.” (http://patrickmadrid.blogspot.com/2009/11/caller-to-my-open-line-radio-show-asks.html) One example of this is a post by a commenter on a blog by the name of “Nancy D”. She says the following: “Medjugorje is a very holy place. If the Vatican decides it does not merit their approval, can we really turn our backs on the Blessed Mother, on the Risen Christ, conversions, healings, the spinning sun, the golden rosaries, the gifts of faith given to us? Never! How many holy signs do we need? Should the Vatican Commission rule that Medjugorje is not deserving of our faith, then this would be the ultimate act of undermining the immence [sic] graces given to us as catholics. Millions have converted, millions have returned to our church. ... I will continue to believe no matter what the outcome of the ‘investigation’ ... While The Trinity and the Blessed Mother are everywhere, Medjugorje is where we were called to hear their whispers of love for us. No one can tell me I don't hear them.” (http://medjugorje-online.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=20791) How many people like Nancy are among those who believe in Medjugorje?
According to Dr. Miravalle, not many. This is what he says, “All true members of the Church realize obedience must come first. ... Most of the [believers in Medjugorje] I’ve met are obedient Catholics, with a great love for the Holy Father. I think that will continue regardless of what’s said about the apparitions.” (http://www.osv.com/tabid/7621/itemid/6229/A-look-at-unprecedented-Medjugorje-commission.aspx) Let us disregard for now how Dr. Miravalle chose to word this. Let us deal with the assurance given by believers in Medjugorje that they would be obedient to a negative judgment if that were to happen. It is easy for them to say that now, but when push comes to shove and their faith is really put to the test rather than just hypothetically (trials are always quite easy to handle in the abstract but difficult if not impossible when they become concrete realities), will they agree with and adhere to the Vatican’s judgment? It is uncertain. Part of the problem stems from the fact that when they say they will agree with the Vatican’s judgment, they say in the same breath (or believe in their minds if this goes unspoken) that this will not happen because they are convinced Medjugorje is authentic. Thus, if the Vatican does what to Medjugorje believers regard as “the unthinkable” – ie. make a negative judgment – will they accept this, or will they succumb to a crisis of faith having believed so ardently in it and invested so much into it that they will look for reasons to assure themselves that it is authentic as well as ways to continue to believe in its authenticity?
Now we will return to the way Dr. Miravalle worded this. Notice Miravalle does not explicitly state that believers in Medjugorje will, out of loyalty to the Holy Father, agree with the negative judgment. He basically says they will continue to be “obedient” and “love the Holy Father” “regardless of what is said” about the apparitions. Can one disagree with a negative judgment about an apparition and still be “obedient” and “love the Holy Father”? Dr. Miravalle would say “Yes”! I have just said that many believers in Medjugorje will look for a reason to continue to believe. Dr. Miravalle, in his lectures, has stated that Garabandal, which previous local bishops have condemned, has now been re-opened, and one can now once again believe in its authenticity. [See Lecture #36] Hence, Dr. Miravalle, if there was a negative judgment, may cite this as a precedent (if not publicly than privately and in his own mind) and continue to hold out hope that the same “overruling” will someday happen with Medjugorje. We must remember that Dr. Miravalle has largely staked his career on Medjugorje. Although he has done other work, Medjugorje was the topic of his dissertation and it was his chief means of notoriety and supplementary income (most of his speaking engagements have been in regards to Medjugorje and its message). If it turns out to be a false apparition, Dr. Miravalle may feel compelled to continue to believe in its authenticity.
Now, in all fairness, sceptics of Medjugorje are saying the same thing – namely, that they will believe a positive judgment from the Vatican. Will they too experience a crisis of faith? This is doubtful, since they have not invested as much (their opposition to Medjugorje, however strong it may be in some cases, still remains on the periphery of their Catholic faith) and since apparitions are in general something they believe in the possibility of. The only danger may be that those who have been the most vocal against it and who have argued against it with a great deal of assurance in their positions may have too much pride to eat the large portion of crow they will be required to eat. Secondly, although many sceptics really do want to believe it is not authentic (despite what they may say and no doubt believe to the contrary, being aware of how bad it is to think this let alone acknowledge this), they will not have as much difficulty assenting to a positive judgment because such an acknowledgement will not be as much of a stretch. The fact is, sceptics have come to despise Medjugorje because of the problems they have seen there (ie. Ivan’s lifestyle, no vocations among the seers). Those problems lead them to conclude that Medjugorje is not authentic, but if it turns out to be authentic, those problems remain problems, and one then has to grapple with how an authentic apparition can result in the aforementioned anomalies. If these are both true, there must be a reason, and the sceptic should remain sceptical of problems arising from Medjugorje and get to the bottom of why this may have happened. Finally, since no private revelation is binding on the faithful, sceptics in Medjugorje can refuse to embrace it even if a positive judgment is rendered.
(b) Regarding the second, that of the loss of faith, there are many people who experienced profound conversions to the faith at Medjugorje. One thinks immediately of Fr. Don Calloway. He was a practical pagan before his trip there, having been involved in drug dealing and immoral living. If it turns out Medjugorje was not authentic, what will happen to his vocation not to mention his faith? One whose conversion is rooted in something such as this will begin to naturally question and possibly even doubt everything else he has experienced. “If Medjugorje is not authentic, is anything I have experienced in my Christian journey authentic?” Once again, we make a connection to the Legion of Christ. Many members of the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi have lost their faith, if not in Christianity than in the Catholic Church or at least a sense of trust for anyone with a position of authority in the Church. This began before the revelations about Maciel (due to the defects in the movements as they emanated from their founder), but have increased since. If Cardinal Schonborn is correct that half or more than half of his seminarians and recently ordained priests owe their vocations to Medjugorje, then a negative judgment might result in a mass-exodus and loss of faith similar to what we have seen in the Legion.
Regarding the many conversions, and the claim that Satan would never create a false apparition because of this, we have to remember this: the people who went to Medjugorje were by and large already “searching”. If there was no Medjugorje, many of those would have been attracted to other apparitions sites which have been approved by the Church, because much of what attracted them to Medjogorje is that which is present also at those other sites. However, now their spiritual experiences and conversions are going to be attributed to what will be declared a false apparition rather than an undoubtedly true and approved one, which lead some of them to doubt the experience itself, and as a result their faith as well. Among these include many priests and religious, and as a result, we may see these doubt their vocations as well.
4. Problems of the Renewal Ratified. The fourth reason is that some of the problems arising out of and associated with the Charismatic Renewal movement have been in a sense “ratified” by their association with the phenomenon. Three of those problems include (1) the tendency of lay ministers to get so consumed with their “work in the Church” that they neglect their duties towards their wives and children; (2) an over-attachment to consolations, an excessive emotionalising of the faith, and the seeking of and dependence upon “signs”; and (3) a tendency to re-create the “Catholic ghetto” due to fear of or repugnance to “the secular world” and thus failing in their duty as lay people to get involved in temporal affairs and order all things to the Gospel. Unfortunately, as was stated before, a full and thorough discussion of these points will be found in other works that are not yet written, meaning the argument made here may be greatly weakened. As such, I will only attempt to briefly make the connections between these and Medjugorje.
A. Regarding those over-involved in lay ministry, the undercutting and compromising of the grave obligation of obedience towards ecclesiastical superiors at Medjugorje is only part of a broader attack on obedience in the Church. With what was said earlier about the pre-eminence of obedience as a backdrop, it is clear that the chief error of those involved in “lay ministry” or “lay evangelism” is a disregard for Our Lord’s warning that “not everyone who calls me ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the Kingdom of God, but only those who do the will of my Father in heaven”. (Matthew 7:21ff) This passage goes on to speak of how many Christians who do great “religious” works such as preaching the Gospel, prophesying, performing miracles, and driving out demons will not be saved. This is because what matters to God is not great religious works, but rather doing His will. If God has truly called you to marriage, His will is that you be the best husband and father you can. So if you are neglecting your duties as husband and father because you are so busy “doing the work of the Lord”, then paradoxically and to some surprisingly it will be through your work in ministry and evangelism that you will lose your soul. As the prophet Samuel told King Saul when He disobeyed God’s directive to immediately kill all the animals of their conquered enemies and instead kept the best of them in order to do the greatest “religious work” of “sacrificing” them to God (the Old Testament equivalent of our Mass), “obedience is better than sacrifice”. (1Samuel 15:22) In other words, if you do a “religious work” that God has not called you to do, this is a sin. As one Protestant televangelist once said in speaking about a time in his life where he got so busy with his ministry he neglected his family, “I was doing the work of God but not the will of God. [The televangelist was James Robison, in a series in which he and his wife spoke about building and sustaining a good marriage] For lay ministers and lay evangelists, this is the chief means Satan uses to conquer their souls, for it is something that many are oblivious to. “How can one be doing other than that which is great in the eyes of God when one is doing something ‘religious’?” they think. But this is not so. One astute blog commenter (who unfortunately remains among the high minority in the Church) observed: “I'm married and would find it very difficult to receive these messages and be able to give back to the Lord what he deserves. I have a husband and children to take care of. I would not be honoring the duties of my vocation if I should give more to the Lord than my vocation allows. That is why when lay people get too involved in these apparitions and start to act like consecrated people, they often end up with broken marriages and children who've left the faith altogether. It's the same reason priests aren't allowed to marry. We have limitations and God, in his infinite mercy, has set up the Church to recognize and honor them.” (http://catholiclight.stblogs.org/archives/2010/02/hauke-on-medj.html) There are many objections and counter-arguments that may arise in the minds of many readers throughout the reading of this paragraph, but unfortunately I will have to leave them unaddressed for now.
We can see an example of this in the life of Dr. Miravalle himself. The back cover of his books dating back to the 1980s have stated that he has given hundreds of talks on Medjugorje on all six continents. Besides these many speaking engagements, he is a full-time professor of theology, is a founder, president, and itinerant promoter of a lay organization called “Vox Populi Mariae Mediatrici” which is devoted to rallying support for and lobbying the Vatican to proclaim the “fifth Marian dogma”, and also studied to become and was ordained and function as a permanent deacon. During this time he gave birth to eight children. It came as little surprise to me, then, when I read in the February 18, 2009 bulletin of St. Peter’s Parish in Steubenville the following announcement: “Some of our good folks regularly present for the 11am Mass on Sundays may have noticed that Deacon Miravalle, who regularly serves as Deacon for that Mass has not, for the last few weeks, served in his usual fashion. Simply by way of information and with his approval I mentioned to him that I would simply share his wish to spend a bit more time directly with his family and participate in Mass with them. With the possibility of the permanent deaconate taking on more prominence in our diocese, it is good to recognize that any permanent deacon, although ordained as is the priest, STILL [emphasis theirs] retains his position as husband and father of his own, personal family. Thus, for the time being, if you should notice this change in procedure, simply regard his absence `formally` from our Mass as deacon, as sort of a sabbatical for the time being." In fact, I had just been discussing Dr. Miravalle`s lengthy curriculum vitae with a friend and wondering to him how such a schedule could allow a man to properly fulfill his role as husband and father. I told my friend about a man back home who had received an award from a Charismatic organization for all his work in the Church. Four years later, his wife left him – she had been left at home to raise the kids by herself because he was always gone, and she had finally had enough. A further explanation of the many things that are wrong with this picture will have to wait until And He is Divided.
B. Regarding the seeking of signs and emotional consolations, once again Satan tries to make our faith something which is “emotionally-based”. He tries to convince us that if we do not “feel” God’s consoling presence, it means He is not there. Our response is usually to “give up” on prayer, and we fail therefore to grow closer to God. Of course, the spiritual masters, such as St. John of the Cross, have always said that God deliberately withdraws consolations in order to test the Christian. God forces you into a position where your prayer must be done for His sake alone, because you personally are getting nothing out of it. The question you are asked is this: “Do you want the consolations of God or do you want the God of consolations?” If you so move your will that you continue to pray through the excruciating and wearisome desolation, you have made spiritual progress because you have grown in your love for Him, and at that point, He once again blesses you with consolations – and even to a greater degree than before. It is called the “dark night of the senses” spoken of by St. John of the Cross (Dark Night of the Soul, Book I, Chapter 9).
By that same token and for the same reason, God also wants to wean us off the “signs” and even “miracles” that He often needs to grant “spiritual babies” to get them to follow Him and trust in Him. God wants to test our faith – He wants us to believe because we acknowledge He is trustworthy and not because we see it with our own eyes as He proves it to us indubitably. “Signs” and “Miracles” are spectacular and attention-grabbing, like great and powerful winds or earthquakes or large fires. But God is humble and gentle, and speaks with a “still small voice” in the silence. (1Kings 19:11-12) Jesus said to Doubting Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” (John 20:29) When the doubting Pharisees asked for a sign, Jesus replied, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of Jonah”. (Matthew 16:4) The “sign of Jonah” was the resurrection, but only those who believed in Jesus could see the risen Christ. For in the parallel passage in Luke, Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed ... for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” (Luke 17:20-21) The Kingdom of God is in one’s heart – because that is where the Blessed Trinity resides for believers who are in the state of grace.
Therefore, the seeking of and reliance on signs must give way if one is to grow out of spiritual infancy. Perpetual signs and miracles in the life of any believer is a negative and potentially dangerous thing for such a one’s spiritual life. That is why such frequent daily apparitions that last for years in a place where solar miracles, rosaries turning to gold, and other such mystical phenomenon are frequently reported, rightly provokes scepticism. Authentic apparitions, on the contrary, usually consist of one great sign that lasts a short time but then gives way. True, at Lourdes the graces of that initial sign were distributed to many over time. However, there is really nothing dazzling about the water – it’s just ordinary water, and the sight of it does not dazzle the unbeliever as a solar miracle would, and only dazzles the believer because he associates it with the stories of miracles he has heard about.
We are often like the Apostles after the Ascension, who wanted to keep staring up at the magnificent spectacle of heavenly glory. (Acts 1:9-11) However, just as the Apostles were called to go forth from there and return to the cold, hard, and painful world in order to evangelize and minister (Acts 2-28), so too we are called to return to live our faith in the “humdrum” of everyday life in the various areas and facets of our world and mundane lives. This is another problem found in the Renewal – the failure to discern God in the everyday and see His will as much in that as in going around performing miraculous healings and doing “great works” of “winning souls for Christ” at parish missions and in preaching to other gatherings and audiences. Many Charismatics get restless in their secular professions because they cannot see how they minister in hidden ways through little acts of charity to their small number of customers and coworkers or in doing a job well and with love, and make plans instead to go about powerfully preaching the kerygma and performing great and very visible works of healing to large audiences in order to help “save the world”.
God is humble and quiet, and because fallen man is not, he fails to discern God in what is humble and quiet and thus seeks fulfillment in that which is not. Satan, on the other hand, is “flashy” and loud, not only because of his pride, but also because that is what fallen man associates God with, and that is how he gets us to embrace that which is inspired by him and thus keep us from God. Only the spiritually-mature recognize how backwards this is. The spiritually-mature do not want visions and apparitions and signs and miracles, as St. John of the Cross advised (http://www.theotokos.org.uk/pages/appdisce/smasters.html)
C. Regarding the “Catholic ghetto”, much more will be said about this in Overcoming the World. For now, we will just say that many involved in the Charismatic Renewal, like many heavily involved in the Medjugorje movement, have fallen prey to that which was pointed out by John Paul II in speaking of the lay faithful, namely, “the temptation of being so strongly interested in Church services and tasks that some fail to become actively engaged in their responsibilities in the professional, social, cultural and political world”. (Christifidelis Laici, 2) It is not uncommon to see members of both movements set up quasi-communes or at least exclusive social networks consisting of fellow members which in greater or lesser ways “quarantine” themselves from the “secular world” and from “sinners”, or at least avoiding it and them as much as possible. The “Catholic ghetto” plays into Satan’s hands because it means we leave him essentially alone to continue to dominate and impose his will on the fallen world and on fallen man. We allow it to continue rather than fight him in order to wrestle away his control of it. The “Catholic ghetto” also keeps us from much of the work of evangelization we could do and are called to do. We must ask the question, “What does it mean to be Christian? How are we to authentically live as Christians in a fallen world? What is the role of the laity in both the Church and the World?” These questions have been answered by various Church documents, the most recent being the documents of Vatican II. Many from both the Renewal and Medjugorje movements are either ignorant of much of those teachings, or are aware but are not living them. It has been my observation that the more involved one gets in either of these movements, the more divorced they are from involvement in secular affairs, from people who are not Christian or religious, and from the duties of their state as lay people. Satan would like this to continue and in fact draw more Christians down this path.
5. ``Bad Fruits``. The fifth reason is the fact that besides the “good fruits”, there have been a large number of “bad fruits” as well. We spoke earlier about how many of the alleged “bad fruits” have been witnessed at other apparitions sites as well – such as the commercialism and those who have embraced Medjugorje for financial gain. We also spoke about how many such things cannot be attributed to Our Lady, such as the fact that many mentally-unstable people have been harmed by becoming overly-attached to Medjugorje, while others have disappeared on pilgrimage, having died or been murdered . However, it must also be stated that from the paradigm of a Medjugorje sceptic, such things demonstrate why the Devil may want such a false apparition. If it is indeed not authentic, some other things that Satan may have had in mind were the illicit (and sometimes invalid) sacraments given to thousands; garnering sympathy for those who are disobedient and those priests who have broken their promise to remain celibate perpetually thus undercutting faith in and support for the Church’s discipline and teaching on celibacy vis-a-vis marriage and sex and for the perpetuity of other kinds of vows such as marital vows [aside: even with a dispensation the Church has always frowned upon this, but since priests left en masse beginning in the late 1960s, many Catholics are now turning on the Church for the fact it always grants such dispensations with sorrow and a heavy heart – see Paul VI’s encyclical “Sacerdotalis Caelibatus” (On Priestly Celibacy), paragraph 85]; the perpetuation of what is practically speaking a schism of Franciscan priests and their followers; the formation and operation of certain religious communities without permission of or submission to the local bishop; the fanaticism, broken families, disillusionment and loss of faith, and even depression and suicide among those who have become too engrossed in Medjugorje; false prophecies that kept some believers in the phenomenon from being vigilant about continuing to strive to transform and convert the world to Christ; the great influx of money that has been used in part to fund the war efforts of the communists and the political points that have been scored due to the phenomenon; the many people who either visited Medjugorje or otherwise made it central to their own spirituality that also became “visionaries”, “seers”, or “locutionists” (which Medjugorje believers recognize, one blog commenter saying that such “‘copycat’ type of missions” have “led astray some of those who have been touched by Medjugorje”) [now unable to find link] and have likewise been followed as “daughter apparitions” by Medjugorje followers; and the weakening of episcopal collegiality which has occurred when certain bishops who either believe in or are neutral about the phenomenon have allowed or even invited some of the seers to come to their dioceses and speak and manifest their visions publicly or have at least permitted believers to disseminate a great deal of information in its support, and who sometimes themselves go on pilgrimage – on occasion very publicly so, at times give it their personal endorsement in the process, and at times without informing the local bishop they are coming (which is against episcopal protocol). True, the “good fruits” may eventually outweigh the “bad fruits”, but this is something we have spoken about earlier. The fact is, Satan knows there will be good fruit which comes out of the bad – but that does not stop him from raising up as much “bad” as he can, and this provides another reason as to why he may have wanted a false apparition if it turns out to be false.
6. It should also be stated that many believers in Medjugorje will reject the “spinoff” apparitions we spoke of earlier that have been rightly condemned by the Church with the explanation that Satan wants to counterfeit apparitions in order to draw people away from Medjugorje. I would agree – except I would say that Medjugorje could be one of those apparitions, and the believers in Medjugorje may be among those who are drawn away. In fact, knowing that many believers acknowledge some apparitions are false, Satan will sometimes make a false apparition appear clearly false so as to make other (and more important) false apparitions look authentic by comparison. Hence why Medjugorje may be as orthodox and believable as it is.