Private Revelation: Why we need it

Ronald Doggett

St. Thomas Aquinas states that God makes revelations for two reasons: first, to make clear and precise what we can know by reason amidst a confusion of error, and second, to reveal truths that are above reason (Summa 1a Q1 a1). Simply put, God reveals the truth so that all men may know the truth with certainty and without any admixture of error.

The Church recognises two types of revelation: public revelation and private revelation.

1. Public revelation is the revelation of truth by God for all people and for all ages; it is preserved in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. It is also called the deposit of Faith.

2. Private revelation is something of a different sort, in that while it may come from God, it does not add to or take away from the deposit of faith or in any way contradict the faith and morals that have been handed down to us. In private revelation, God continues to reveal himself to individuals “not indeed for the declaration of any new doctrine of faith, but for the direction of human acts,” says St. Thomas (2a 2ae Q17, 4a 6 ad 3). This private revelation a supernatural gift from God to an individual is for the benefit of their soul and it is often beneficial to other souls too.

One may ask the question, why does God make private revelations when all that one needs to known is contained in the deposit of faith? In principle, we do not need private revelation because all necessary truth is wholly contained in Scripture and Tradition, but unfortunately, in the course of history, our personal circumstances, attachments, and appetites often obscure the truth. Therefore God in his mercy sends us reminders of the truth, for “He does not desire the death of any one but that they convert and live” (2 Peter 3:9).

In almost all the authentic apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary, she calls us to conversion and reparation for sinners. The message of Fatima is no different: it is a call to conversion, reparation and prayer. A timely reminder indeed.

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