Perhaps one of the defining characteristics of the Catholic Church in the 20th century has been the proliferation of private revelations from Fatima to Medjugorje to Conyers, Georgia. Not every reported revelation is truly from God and not even those private revelations inspired by God but relayed through flawed human beings are free from all error.
How does a faithful Catholic determine which apparition or vision to listen to and which to ignore? And what do we do about those inner promptings we feel when we pray, those inclinations that we believe are God guiding us?
Fr. Benedict Groeschel uses his education in theology and psychology and his incisive wisdom to offer a practical guide to dealing with private revelations, visions, and other phenomena. This book is neither a skeptic nor a credulous observer, but takes the position that the Lord wishes to communicate with His people and does so in varied ways that required careful discernment by them.
First, Fr. Groeschel observes an historic perspective on private revelations and offers a fundamental basis for looking at them. Above all, private revelations are different from the one, complete public revelation in that they reveal nothing new and that the must only be observed in so far as they reflect the teachings already present in Scripture and Tradition, the two sources of the Word of God, public revelation.
Second, the book then delves into the Church's criteria for investigating and then deciding on the authenticity of revelations, a long, laborious process that gives comfort in that error is assiduously avoided through diligence. Among the surprising discoveries presented by Fr. Groeschel is that some revelations by canonized saints were later debunked, even before the canonization was complete. The declaration of courageous holiness does presume inerrancy for all statement . If that were true, then there would be no canonized saints among flawed humanity.
Fr. Groeschel provides many examples of errant revelations, including St. Catherine of Siena's famous declaration that the Virgin Mary herself revealed to the saint that she was not immaculately conceived. How could this be if the Church later declared it a dogma? Fr. Groeschel reveals that the role of the psyche in religious experiences is not completely understood -- and likely never will be -- and we do not know to what extent it will "taint" the vision or revelation. And that is another way in which private revelation is different from the public revelation: the Holy Spirit intervenes in public revelation to prevent the taint of untruth.
The book also makes clear that just because a saint is wrong in one area, it does not invalidate other apparitions or revelations made by him. This is why a Catholic must presuppose a primary obedience to the wisdom of the Church in her declarations of validity. Even if we are convinced of the authenticity of a vision or apparition, and even if we are later proven right when the Church declares a previously invalidated revelation to know be licit, we can never go wrong seeking the wisdom of the Church. After all, reported revelations do not reveal anything that is not already in the Word of God.
Bottom Line : A Still, Small Voice is not a scholarly book, if by scholarly we mean a technical reference for theologians and the like. Instead, it is a practical guide for everyone, from those who eagerly greet each reported revelation as an opportunity to see the Lord's intervention into history to those who cautiously stand back waiting for the Church's declarations. And even more so, it is a practical guide for each Christian who prays, seeking the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the guidance of God, so that we may truly discern our own desires from God's own promptings in our heart.
If you find yourself not knowing what to believe and what not to believe this book can help.
The always articulate Father Benedict J. Groeschel, C.F.R. offers an excellent examination of how the faithful should approach extraordinary religious experiences such as New Age encounters and the reported Marian apparations at Medjugorje.
Groeschel offers practical steps for how the faitful are to evaluate such claims and summarizes the Church's teachings on private revelation.
Groeschel uses Saint Therese of Liseux who offers an example of a humble and prayerful approach to life which will lead the reader to discern God's presence in their life.