"Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world." — 1 John 4:1
There is no doubt that Heaven is sending humanity Her final warnings. Each year’s natural (and man-made) disasters continuously surpasses the previous years, whether it be from wars and riots, storms and droughts, earthquakes and tsunamis, or even an out-of-control world economy heading into technocratic dictatorship. But, these are not the only Heavenly warnings that appear to be on the increase. Visionaries, mystics, and prophets appear to be almost “popping out of the woodwork”, so to speak, on a daily basis. The main concern arising from all these messages now is… are these all true visionaries?
In recent weeks I have received many emails in regards to various visionaries, many of which are responsible for the writing of this article. I can surely say without a doubt that confusion abounds when it comes to modern apparitions of Jesus and Mary throughout the world today. Many claim to be for, or against, various visionaries, each claiming that they came to their conclusion via the discernment of the Holy Spirit. Yet, a whole other set of people will discern the exact opposite in regards to the same visionaries. This conflict within the Body of Christ is troubling because in the heart of this confusion lies the evil one, trying with all him might to sow disunity and misinformation into the flock of Christ so to weaken, disillusion, and separate them. He is, without a doubt, the master of the tactic ‘Divide and Conquer’.)
"For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect." — Matthew 24:24
So, is it possible that some of the visionaries that we are paying attention to (and even trust in) could end up being false visionaries? At one time I, like many others, believed that there was no chance that a false prophet would be able to fool me into believing in their messages… but today I find myself a little unsure. Unfortunately, a false visionary doesn’t always come claiming a gospel different than that which has been taught to us. (Gal. 1:8) Instead, they may come as wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing. They take on our humility, our faith in Jesus, our devotions to the Catholic Church, and even praying the rosary devoutly. Often they may not even realize that they are being used as a pawn in a chess game for souls, which makes it even more difficult to discern.
Discerning who is (or is not) a false prophet apparently isn’t as easy as it appears, especially when the visionary is saying just what we want to hear. For instance, in recent weeks there has been opposing opinions from our readers in regards to a visionary named Maria, whose site is www.TheWarningSecondComing.com. Some claimed that through prayer they have discerned that she is an authentic visionary and that her messages speak to their hearts. Others, on the other hand, have voiced uneasiness in regards to the spirit of her messages after also praying to the same Holy Spirit for discernment. Now I’m not mentioning Maria so to claim whether or not she is authentic, as I’m sure this would cause a flurry-storm of bickering between those who believe in her messages and those who do not. Instead, I want to point out the confusion that appears to be forming around her and other visionaries of our times when discernment also means possibly rejecting a visionary's messages which we hope are true. (In this case, many [including myself] find a hesitation when wanting to disceren messages that talk about the Illumination of Conscience because our desires for the fulfilment of these prophecies tend to override the need to discern for or against visionaries whose words 'tickle our ears' and say what we are wanting to hear.)
The False Prophets
“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits… Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.” — Matthew 7:15-20
To begin discerning whether or not a visionary is authentic, we must first understand the different categories of visionaries:
These are people who truly are receiving messages from Heaven. You will know them by their fruits, because they will never lead others away from the true faith or go against it in any way. Even true visionaries who are not in the fold of the Catholic Church will find that their messages never go against the Catholic faith. A sense of spirituality and humility will usually be evident in the individual, willingly accepting skepticisms and scorn from others without retaliation, and a love for both God and his (or her) fellow brothers and sisters.
A false visionary, on the other hand, is someone who also receives messages but, unbeknown to themselves, is not receiving them from Heaven. “Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14) so to deceive as many as possible. Satan, knowing the true messages from Heaven, will deceive the messenger, often providing 99% of the truth, with the smallest fraction being a lie so to confuse the faithful or discredit true visionaries. He will say exactly what we want to hear (even in regards to the coming Illumination and the need for prayer), while robbing us of peace in our hearts, or the time that we need to prepare for what is coming.
[This ‘robbing of time’ has snagged me several times. For instance, when various visionaries over the past few years had said that the Warning is imminent, or that economic disasters are coming, I often found myself no longer taking on tasks that I otherwise would had done such as learning a new skill so to improve my family’s financial situation, or making any long-term plans since I carried an attitude of “why bother, it’ll be gone soon anyway”, just to find out later on that I wasted the time I had because I thought future events would had unfolded more quickly than they have. Now I am trying again to better my family, but always keeping in mind that, if today the Lord was to change my world, I must be able (and willing) to let go of my plans and accept God’s will for me in the present moment, entrusting all to Him.]
These deplorable people, unfortunately, know they are deceiving people. They do so usually for some kind of gain, whether it be financial gain, fame, or even a sense of importance or being specially favored by God (pride). Usually these types of people will go on the defensive when confronted. Often their messages will condemn or threaten those who are suspicious of the messages or the messenger, disregarding the fact that the Church does not oblige the faithful to believe in any 'private revelations' given to individuals, but instead, those to whom private revelations are given are obliged to believe them when they are certain that the revelations are from God.
Yes, there are those who are not always in their ‘right mind’ who also claim to receive messages from Heaven (or aliens). These people often cannot discern true messages from the thoughts (or voices) in their own mind. Usually these types are more easily identified because they don’t usually adhere to the true faith of the Catholic Church, often combining new-age ideas with Christian beliefs.
This is not to say that an individual must fall into one of these categories, since many times an individual may show more than one of these characteristics, such as a true visionary finding difficulty in distinguishing an actual message from their own thought or the whisperings of the evil one. But for most general purposes, this breakdown will at least help us with a general sense as to what to expect when an individual comes forward with spiritual messages.
A Lesson on Discernment
Now, if we are certain that a person is truly receiving messages from a spiritual source, how can one tell if it is of God or not? An excellent lesson on the 'Discernment of Spirits' is that given by St. Ignatius Loyola in his "Spiritual Exercises". Saint Ignatius gives two rules when discerning the spirits:
Both the good and the evil spirit act upon a soul according to the attitude the soul assumes toward them. If the person poses as their friend, they flatter the person; if the individual resists them, they torment the person. The evil spirit speaks only to the imagination and the senses, whereas the good spirit acts upon reason and conscience. The evil labors to excite concupiscence, the good to intensify love for God.
St. Ignatius also teaches us to distinguish the spirits by their mode of action and by the end they seek. Without any preceding cause, that is to say, suddenly, without previous knowledge or sentiment, God alone can flood the soul with light and joy. But if there has been a preceding cause, either the good or the bad angel may be the author of the consolation. As the good angel's object is the welfare of the soul and the bad angel's its defects or unhappiness, if, in the progress of our thoughts all is well and tends to good, there is no occasion for uneasiness; on the contrary, if we perceive any deviation whatsoever towards evil or even a slight unpleasant agitation, there is reason to fear.
Though not the easiest rules to understand, they can be very helpful in understanding how to distinguish between a good or evil spirit, the best identifier being if the message leaves a lack of peace in our hearts (an agitation of the spirit), which is often a sign that something is not right.
Above all though, before discerning anything, one must first pray to the Holy Spirit for the gift of discernment since the discerning of spirits is the supernatural ability given by the Holy Spirit to perceive the source of a spiritual manifestation and determine whether it is of God (Acts 10:30-35), of the devil (Acts 16:16-18), of man (Acts 8:18-23), or of the world.
Fulfillment of Prophecy
Lastly, if a private revelation eventually is proven to be not of Heavenly origins, do not allow this to impede your own spiritual growth and trust in the Lord. For instance, what if one of the more popular visionaries today, such as Maria or even Medjugorje, was found to not be authentic? Would you allow it to devastate you? Truthfully, even I would find this to be a difficult pill to swallow, but in the end we must follow the Church’s decrees in obedience and humility. It is more important to be obedient to the Church than it is to follow a self-proclaimed visionary.
Confusion truly is pulling people to and fro on the shifting sands of today’s society, and our only hope is to ensure our faith is anchored to the one true Rock (Matthew 7:24). The evil one has sent out many false prophets into the world so to deceive, if possible, even the elect. (Matthew 24:24) This does not mean that we should abandon prophecy, but instead recognize that we are in the midst of fulfilling them. So rejoice, for Satan knows his time is almost at an end. He is franticly doing all he can to ensure that, once the Illumination occurs, his false prophets and antichrist will go about to steal from God the largest number of souls ever since the foundation of the world. Only by prayer, fasting, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, can we ever hope to truly discern Heaven’s messages and avoid the evil one’s false prophets.
As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”
And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many. “You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. “But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.
“Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. “At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. “Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. “But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come. — Matthew 3-14