Throughout the centuries, various
individuals have claimed to see Mary or that Mary (as well as Jesus) has
come to visit them. This would be entirely possible since Catholics feel
that Mary is in Heaven with her Son.
Never-the-less, the church soon found out that man's mind, a remarkable
instrument, can do some pretty amazing things including produce a vision
so, Mother Church in her wisdom, devised a pretty sophisticated method of
'testing' or 'discerning' these 'visions'. This process takes years and
involved answering to their satisfaction such questions as:
Is this vision in accordance to what Jesus taught in the Bible?
That's the most important question to answer and if the answer is "no"
then the vision is ignored.
Is this vision accompanied with True
Prophecy (not the type of foretelling which
Jean Dixon does but specific prophecy of future events which could only
come from God. An example of this type of prophecy can be seen in the
visions at Fatima in 1917 which for one, foretold the Communist takeover
of large parts of Europe <"an evil will come out of Russia which will
swallow entire countries". Keep in mind that at the time this alleged
apparition said it, the Russian revolution had not occurred and no
Russians even, had a clue it would occur. For nine months after the
Russian revolution, the government was loosely democratic and only then
did the Communists gain power. No one could have known this would happen
in Oct 1917 as the storming of Moscow took place in Nov 1917!)
Is the vision accompanied by instantaneous organic healings?
(i.e. healing of physical) complaints which had caused documentable
physical changes. Again the church has stringent rules for this. There
must be well documented evidence of the physical problem BEFORE the
healing and well documented evidence of the physical condition after the
healing. At Lourdes, healing was an important issue and of all the claimed
healings, the church picked three which absolutely could not be attributed
to anything else and were fully documented.
One was a boy with cerebral palsy who had epilepsy and was in a state of
statis epilepticus which in the days before Valium injections, often
killed its sufferer. The boy was instantaneously healed and after his
healing no evidence of the cerebral palsy OR the epilepsy was found in
him. He grew up a healthy robust man and was present at the ceremony which
declared the girl who had seen that vision at Lourdes, Bernadette
Soubirous, a saint (i.e. a saint is someone the church says is definitely
in Heaven). On the committee examining the healings at Lourdes were
physicians, some of whom were atheists. The church did this on purpose so
that if there were any chance that these healings could be attributed to
something other than supernatural, the atheists would discover it.
If there are other miracles, are they attributable to any natural
(For example the painting given to Juan Diego at the vision in Guadalupe,
And most important of all, questions are asked regarding the after
effects of the so called visions. Are many
people converted to be Christians? (in the ten years which followed the
vision at Guadalupe in the 1500's, over 10,000 people converted to the
Catholic church as a direct result of the vision)
The church has only proclaimed the possibility that a very small fraction
of the thousands of visions claimed throughout its history, were of
supernatural origin. Three of them proclaimed thusly are Lourdes, Fatima
and Guadalupe. There are many books you can get on the subject to study
this - some of the best are by Rene Laurentin. As for the discernment
process itself, an excellent book is Morten Kelsey's DISCERNMENT.
Catholics are not required to believe any of these visions and yet,
people, so hungry for a glimpse of the invisible God are much consoled by