In the teaching of the Catholic Church, a private revelation refers to visions and revelations from God to a specific Christian which have taken place since the completion of the New Testament. There are two types of revelations: the universal revelations, or public revelations which are contained in the Bible or were transmitted by the Church via Apostolic Tradition.

Public revelations ended with the preaching of the Apostles and must be believed by all Catholics. Saint Thomas Aquinas specifically taught that all public revelations ended with the death of Saint John the Apostle.[1] Private revelations may at times occur to Christians as a form of contemplation but the determination of the divinity of their source is often the subject of controversy. If and when the Church approves private revelations, it signifies that there is nothing in them contrary faith or good morals, and that they may be read without danger or even with profit; but the faithful are not obliged to believe them.[2][3]

Not all reports of private revelation are valid, even if they sound truly pious. For instance, the messages reported from God by Catalina Rivas were later found to correspond to exact pages of books written by others, and published instructional literature for Catholic seminarians.[4] And reports of Our Lady of Surbiton claiming that the Virgin Mary appeared every day under a pine tree in England were flatly rejected by the Vatican as a fraud.[5]

Types of Revelation

Various types of visions and private revelations have been reported in the Catholic church.[6] The appearances of the Blessed Virgin Mary are usually called Marian apparitions. These generally include a vision of the Blessed Virgin, accompanied by brief messages. These are by far the most widely reported form. Well known examples of approved Marian apparitions include Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Lourdes and Our Lady of Fatima. These apparitions, are however generally not considered private revelations from God, but from the Virgin Mary.

A number of appearances of Jesus Christ following his ascension have been reported. Some of these have received approval from the Holy See. For instance, the Vatican biography of Saint Faustina Kowalska quotes some of her conversations with Jesus.

There are also reports of interior locutions in which inner voices are reported, but no vision of divinity is claimed. The Vatican biographies of both Saint Teresa of Avila and Mother Teresa of Calcutta refer to their interior locutions, although Mother Teresa often preferred to remain private about them.

Some private revelations produce large amounts of text, while others amount to a few reported sentences. For instance, father Stefano Gobbi produced a book of messages attributed to the Virgin Mary, while sister Mary of the Divine Heart simply wrote two letters to Pope Leo XIII with a message attributed to Jesus Christ, prompting the Pope to consecrate the world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

See also


  1. Mark Miravalle, 1993, Introduction to Mary, Queenship Publishing ISBN 9781882972067, page 184
  2. Catholic encyclopedia [1]
  3. The Vatican on Fatima messages [2]
  4. Carmelita Rivas messages [3]
  5. Vatican rejects Our Lady of Surbiton [4]
  6. Michael Freze, 1993, Voices, Visions, and Apparitions, OSV Publishing ISBN 087973454X

External links

This article incorporates text from the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913, a publication now in the public domain.

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