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Keys: How should Catholics consider mystical experiences of saints and apparitions?


Mystical experiences of saints and Marian apparitions have occurred throughout the church's history. St. Francis Assisi, St. Padre Pio, St. Faustina and also Marian apparitions, such as Fatima, Guadalupe, Walsingham are common examples of them. 

These are where saints have received visions or seen Holy Mary reveal things concerning the Church or the life of Christians.

However, how should a Catholic consider these apparitions and mystic experiences?

Regarding revelations, the Catholic Church recognizes two types of revelations where God has made himself known: public and private revelations.

WHAT IS “PUBLIC REVELATION”?

The idea is that all God has wanted to reveal is in the Gospel and in the Sacred tradition transmitted by his Apostles. 

FR. DAVID KOONCE LC
Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum
“God has made himself known to the whole Church, in Jesus Christ because in Jesus Christ we see who God is. Jesus himself tells us, 'He who has seen me has seen the Father.' So, Jesus himself is the fullness of revelation, and the apostles have transmitted that to the whole Church. Now it is not something private reserved to a few. Everyone has received the fullness of revelation, though not everyone understands it fully, and that is where theology comes into play.”

The essential revelations are those contained in the Bible and the “Tradition” of the Church.

Private revelations do not add anything new.

WHAT IS A PRIVATE REVELATION?

Private revelations are all visions and Marian apparitions that have taken place since the New Testament. 

FR. STEFANO CECCHIN OFM
Pontifical University Antonianum
“Many saint have received revelations and apparitions. God can also send revelations to a family, parish, a diocese, a place, for the world. For example, Fatima and Lourdes is a message for all. ”

For example, apparitions such as Fatima or St. Faustina's writings on Divine Mercy would be classified as private revelations.

ARE CATHOLICS TO ACCEPT EVERYTHING FROM A PRIVATE REVELATION?

The Catholic Church states it is not the role of private revelations “to complete Christ's definitive revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history.”

FR. DAVID KOONCE LC
Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum
“In the case of authentic revelations, private revelations, again it is a matter of recognizing that the revelation itself doesn´t contribute anything new to the deposit of faith. It is drawing our attention to something perhaps worth recognizing or reflecting on more and assimilating and putting into practice. So no one is ever obliged to believe the content of a revelation.”

FR. STEFANO CECCHIN OFM
Pontifical University Antonianum
“I do not like it when some people, not all, know all about Medjugorje, Fatima and other shrines, but they do not know the Gospel. This is the problem...” “Our salvation comes from the Gospel and the Church sacraments.”

Although officially approved mystical experiences of saints and Marian apparitions have there appropriate place in the Church, they are not obligatory for a Catholic to accept.

They are only there to help to emphasize and bring one closer to God found in Scripture and the sacraments of the Church.