December 16, 2011

+ Discerning the diabolical

How frustrating it must be for true mystics to find indifference and ridicule for their heaven-sent messages. Padre Pio, for example, was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2002. However, the future saint apparently was held in low esteem by Pope John XXIII who once wrote about the Capuchin's "immense deception."

Still, our Church is wise to go slow in evaluating alleged mystics. Consider, for example, the mystical deceptions of Magdalena de la Cruz. I wrote about this amazing, sixteenth century Spanish nun in The Rise, my work of historical Catholic fiction. But a more detailed biography was highlighted in a recent link at SpiritDaily.com found HERE.

Magdalena was renowned, from childhood, for her incredible piety and her reports of mystical visits from a beautiful, dark-haired young man (Jesus?) since the age of five. Through the years, she remained devout and became a Franciscan nun, who was eventually elevated to abbess of her convent.

Those details, however, pale in comparison to the other mystical circumstances of her life. She bore the stigmata, lived on nothing but the Eucharist, had the gift of bi-location, was seen elevating, revealed accurate prophecies, and healed the lame and mute. Still, there were more surprises. In 1518, on the Feast of the Annunciation, she became pregnant with what she claimed would be the second birth of Jesus Christ. The bishop ordered an investigation which determined that she was, in fact, still a virgin and with child.

When the birth neared, Magdalena claimed that her Guardian Angel wanted her to deliver the baby alone. So a house was prepared for her and everyone prayed for a glorious outcome. On Christmas night, at midnight, she claimed that she gave birth to the Savior but that he had disappeared by morning.

Believers, throughout Europe, were amazed at the continuing reports of miracles from this "living saint." However, as she gained greater public admiration, she started to change the rules of her convent, instilling fear in her sisters. Personal mortifications, optional in the past, became more severe and more public. She claimed that St. Francis, the founder of her Order, dispensed her from Confession and she liberalized Confession for her fellow nuns, eliminating the privacy screen in the Confessional. She also eliminated fasting on Fridays in the abbey. So the warning signs began to accumulate and investigations ensued.

During one of her ecstasies, she was stabbed with a needle and exhibited no pain -- a mark of authenticity. However, when the needle was dipped in holy water, she displayed signs of demonic possession.

Then, after a time, she became deathly ill and finally chose to unburden herself through Confession.

She revealed that demons named Balban and Patorrio, were responsible for her apparent miracles. In fact, she admitted that she had sold her soul to the devil and that, together, they had deceived everyone for 40 years. In the end, however, Satan was not the victor. She repented and, just like her namesake, lived a holy life for the rest of her days.

That brings us to today, when we have another example of amazing miracles and apparitions that have gained notoriety around the globe. To me, the Medjugorje phenomena appear to have all the indications of authenticity -- though my opinion, admittedly, means nothing. But the Vatican recently opened another investigation in which those alleged visionaries are being interviewed. This initiative is highly unusual because two bishops of that diocese have made negative pronouncements against the alleged apparitions, and that normally closes the door on Church approval. This time, however, the Vatican is bucking standard operating procedures.

Perhaps, Church officials detect demonic influence not from the visionaries, this time, but from another unwitting ally. Though I am not drawing any conclusions here, I simply want to present to you a sworn statement that casts severe doubt on the impartiality of the Bishop of Mostar/Duvno. It is a letter that I find hard to ignore.

The sworn statement alleges the following:

  • that the writer and a priest were invited to dine with the bishop in 1998;
  • that the discussion, during dinner, included the apparitions of Fatima and Lourdes, after which the bishop said "he did not believe in any apparitions;" 
  • that when the priest mentioned Medjugorje, "It was as if he lit a fuse on a bomb -- the look of rage on the bishop's face, he foamed at the mouth, became completely incoherent, jumped up from the table and left the room. The bishop acted as if he was possessed."
I cannot judge the validity of this letter (FOUND HERE), but it seems consistent with other reports of the excruciatingly difficult politics surrounding the visionaries of Medjugorje over the past three decades. The communists tried to stomp out the messages of the children. They failed. Nonbelievers ridiculed or ignored them, to no avail. Infighting developed between the diocese and the Franciscans, but the visions and miracles continued. Even the bishops of Mostar have attempted to snuff the life out of the movement that has made Medjugorje the Confessional of the world and the place where, right under their eyes, conversions and the fruits of the faith are abundant.

With Christian humility, the visionaries continue to withstand the slings and arrows of outrageous criticism.

I am reminded of a description that Randall Sullivan used in his great book, The Miracle Detective. He said that the visionaries don't get upset and argue with people who don't believe or mock them. Just like mailmen, they just deliver the messages. It is up to you to read your mail.

So, just as Satan knows how to bring credit to lies, isn't it possible that he also works hard to discredit truth?

Of course it is.