Commentary on the Notification on Vassula Ryden
by Fr. Robert Hughes, SM
Fr. Robert Hughes, SM
Queen of Apostles Church
San Jose, California 95129
January 25, 1996
(written in Scottsdale, Arizona, while on sabbatical)
At a meeting with Pope John Paul II, Vassula Ryden presented him with several collections of her writings in various languages - one of which was in Polish. Later, Cardinal Sedano, the Secretary of State, reported that the Pope read her writings "with great interest".
Cardinal Franjo Kuharic, Archbishop of Zagreb, also received Vassula in private audience for over an hour. Afterwards the Cardinal said to her: "You are like Saint Paul...you declare the whole truth..." He blessed her saying twice: "I bless you and your mission". And then he added: "This is a matter of private revelation and we allow her to speak, because what she says conforms to Gospel truth".
Archbishop Frane Franic, President of the Theological Commission of Bishops in the former Yugoslavia, came strongly to her defense during a conference in Italy. He called her "a miracle and an object of wonder". He went on to say: "Her
messages are alive and authentic... These messages can help us toward a better understanding of Jesus' messages in the Gospel... It seems to me ... that Vassula's main charism is to show the purity of the integral revelation of God".
A long line of Church Prelates and Bishops throughout the world have written personal letters to her inviting her to speak in their dioceses. The late Cardinal Posada of Guadelajara, Mexico, before his assassination, invited Vassula to speak in his cathedral. Here in California Bishop John Quinn, the former Bishop of Sacramento, and Bishop Donald Montrose of Stockton did the same. Likewise Bishops in Africa and South America. Eight Archbishops and Bishops in Brazil (the Cardinal wanted to participate but fell ill) alone received her enthusiastically, where she spoke to very large crowds (20,000). These Bishops requested private interviews with her, presided over assemblies where she spoke, presided at Masses where the homilist recommended her writings be read and meditated,
had their pictures taken with her, and blessed her mission.
Vassula is also championed by leading Catholic theologians around the world: Fr. Michael O'Carroll, C.SS.P., her spiritual counselor (Ireland). Fr. "X", P.I.M.E., her first spiritual counselor (Bangladesh), Fr. Ljudevit Rupcic, O.F.M.
(Switzerland), Fr. Christian Curty, 0.F.M. (France), Fr. Ovila Melancon, S.J. (Canada), Fr. Michael Kaszowski (Poland), Fr. Bianchi (Italy), Fr. Ed O'Connor, C.S.C. of Notre Dame, Indiana (USA), Fr. Robert Faricy, S.J. of the Gregorian
University in Rome (Italy) and so many others.
Fr. Rene Laurentin (France), peritus at the Vatican II Council, one of the world's leading Mariologists, and the most widely experienced in the discernment of apparitions/locutions, wrote an entire book defending her, the authenticity of her
writings and the soundness of her doctrine under the title: When God Gives a Sign (click here for details)
Vassula is also heralded in the Eastern Church as well. Most importantly, she is in good standing with her Greek Orthodox Bishop Damakinos. Among her many supporters in the East are: Archbishop David Sahagian, Armenian Orthodox
Patriarchate of Jerusalem; Fr. Vladimir Zielinski, Russian Orthodox theologian; Todor Sabev, Orthodox theologian and Former Deputy General Secretary of the World Council of Churches (Geneva); Fr. Ion Bria, Orthodox theologian, Unity of
Renewal, World Council of Churches. We add to that list our own Ukranian-Greek Priest-monk Joseph of Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Redwood Valley, CA..
What is significant is that a number of Bishops and theologians have issued statements of support of Vassula since the appearance of the Notification. And I am happy to join them. I would like to make it perfectly clear that I am with the Pope and those Cardinals, Bishops and theologians in reading with deep interest and utter delight these amazing, all-important, and priceless revelations from heaven contained in her writings, which conform perfectly to Catholic doctrine and Sacred Scripture, and which celebrate fundamental values central and dear to our Catholic Tradition.
One of the very great graces of my life was to attend the conferences given by Vassula Ryden and Fr. Michael O'Carroll, C.SS.P., at Our lady of Perpetual Help Church April 8-10, 1992 here in Scottsdale. For this sabbatical year I decided to
return to the original place and pursue that unique grace. I meditate the messages before the Blessed Sacrament exposed several times a day; the remainder of file day I read and reflect on these same messages. If I have to leave town, the messages go with me.
I will never forget the first week of February, 1994, when Vassula finally confirmed her coming to San Jose March 26-28, 1994. We began working on a flyer immediately, but before we could print it in less than a week from her phone call all 2000 tickets were spoken for. From the rain of subsequent calls and inquiries, it was clear we could have housed 10,000 if a hall big enough were available. And I remember the Greek Orthodox woman, away from her Church for 20 years, who burst into tears as soon as Vassula began speaking: "As soon as she started," she said, "I knew God was speaking directly to me." And who will forget the red rose suspended in mid-air for over two hours at the statue of the Sacred Heart, placed by Vassula into the invisible hand of Jesus. And then there is the
special message Jesus gave to the people of San Jose: "My Heart is an Abyss of Love and Forgiveness".
After Vassula delivered her first talk in Scottsdale (1992), during the intermission people rushed up to me asking if I had seen the face of Jesus in front of her. Unfortunately, I was buried into my note-taking and rarely looked up. But during a
reception at the end of the week-end Vassula came up to me and made several suggestions how to read the messages correctly. Each remark was a correction for the way I was doing it. In Sacramento, CA. when Vassula spoke in the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament on her birthday, January 18, 1993 about the Sacred Heart, The Holy Spirit, and God the Father, I walked outside afterwards and watched three white doves circling overhead.
Neither these little signs, nor the prophecies fulfilled in her messages, nor the mark of the stigmata she bears, nor the Passion she undergoes periodically, nor the variety and excellence of her extraordinary charisms - none of these are the
central issue. Her greatest sign of authenticity lies in the conversions that take place as a result of her messages. I am witness to this at conferences when she speaks, but most of all as a spiritual director dealing with many people who find life in her messages, and an ever deepening conversion to Our Lord.
This Notification or "warning" was issued at the request of the Swiss Conference of Bishops according to their Secretary, Father Roland Trauffer, O.P.
1. Statements by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith should command our utmost respect - but they are never infallible.
a. A good example is the case of Sister Faustina Kowalska, whose writings on Divine Mercy were banned by the Vatican (1959-1978). The ban was eventually lifted and her situation was completely reversed when Pope John Paul II beatified her in 1993.
b. Cardinal Andrew M. Deskur wrote the following in the Preface to the Polish edition (1981) of The Diary of Sister Faustina:
2. This Notification is a preliminary opinion and by no means a final judgment.
1)"The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in its revision more than two years ago (1978) withdrew the censures and reservations advanced earlier by the Holy See... The withdrawal of the 'Notification' caused the devotion to the
Divine Mercy ... to grow in renewed vitality on all continents..."
2)"It is likewise necessary to stress that it was Karol Cardinal Wojtyla, the Archbishop of Cracow at that time, who made efforts to begin the Process of Beatification of Sister Faustina.."
c. It should also be noted that it was Pope John Paul II. as Cardinal Archbishop of Cracow, who followed his conscience and objected to the ban on her writings and his relentless efforts with the Congregation caused the ban to be lifted.
d. History is full of such reversals.
a. The present operation of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is basically determined by the motu proprio of Pope Paul VI, issued on Dec, 7, 1965, and entitled Inegrae Servandae ("Preserving Intact"). One of the norms in that document is as follows: "When investigating the orthodoxy of
writings, such writings are not to be condemned without having first heard from the author who has the faculty of defending himself" (ibid. n. 5). This norm was written into the law of the Church, promulgated as such and is binding. Neither Vassula
Ryden nor her spiritual counselor, Fr. Michael O'Carroll, C.SS.P., have ever been consulted so far, which clearly indicates that we are at the beginning of a long process.
b. Just as the Church renders no final judgment on an apparition until it is completely over, so the Church passes no final judgment on a book until it is finished and evaluated as a complete unit. Pope Benedict XIV emphasized this point in his Introduction to what we once knew as the Index of Forbidden Books: "We give warnhig that it must be diligently remembered that a correct judgment of the true sense of an author cannot be arrived at unless the book be read through completely and in all its parts...". Vassula's True Life in God is a book still in the making and to this date has not been completed.
3. This document indicates the beginning of a dialogue and not the end of a discussion.
a. That dialogue, if due process is to be served according to Church law, must begin with Vassula Ryden. How that dialogue will take place when her book is still not yet completed is a worthwhile question. Undoubtedly, her spiritual counselor,
Fr. O'Carroll, will be brought in at this initial stage. Fr. O'Carroll is a first-rate theologian, author of five one-volume encyclopedias of theology, an acquaintance very familiar to the Pope whose doctoral thesis was on the spiritual life.
b. The Congregation will also have to find some way to deal with the Church Prelates around the world who have already come to Vassula's defense after the Notification was issued.
c. And then there are statements of leading theologians around the world. What is most noteworthy is that in Fr. Laurentin's book, When God Gives a Sign, it is immediately evident that he effectively answers every single one of the
doctrinal objections of the Notification.
4. This Notification opens up many questions rather than closes the book.
a. This statement is made in the Notification: "In addition to pointing out the suspect nature (emphasis mine) of the ways in which these alleged revelations have occurred..." In 1943 Pope Pius XII wrote the Encyclical Divine Afflante Spiritu which in part, tries to nurture true scholarship in the Church. He seems to have in mind the "suspicion" contained in the Notification: "Let all the sons of the Church bear in mind that the efforts of these resolute ... laborers in the vineyard of the Lord should be judged not only with equity and justice, but also with the greatest charity. All, however, should abhor that intemperate zeal which imagines that whatever is new should for that reason be opposed or suspect" (emphasis mine).
b. Another statement: "...the proximate arrival is foretold of a Church which would be a kind of pan-Christian community...". Vassula never uses the word "pan-Christian" in her writings. As Fr. Laurentin indicates, her stance is simple: recognition of the Pope.
c. Again another: "...it is prophesied that God is going to make a final, glorious intervention which will initiate on earth...an era of peace...". Here are the words of Our Lady at Fatima (1917): "In the end my ImmacuIate Heart will triumph, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace".
d. Just one more: "Moreover, by habitually sharing in the sacraments of the Catholic Church, even though she is Greek Orthodox, Mrs. Ryden is causing considerable surprise in various circles of the Catholic Church."
5. This Notification is the fulfillment of a prophecy and not just
1) The New Code of Canon Law (C. 844#3): "Catholic ministers may licitly administer the sacraments of penance, Eucharist and anointing of the sick to members of the Oriental churches which do not have full communion with the Catholic Church, if they ask on their own for the sacraments and are properly disposed." The 1993 Directory for Ecumenism (n. 125) by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity quotes c.844#3 verbatim.
2) The Balamand Statement approved June 23, 1993 by the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church in Balamand, Lebanon, upholds the principle of personal freedom: "...the inviolable freedom of persons and their obligation to follow the requirements of their conscience remain secure..." (n. 15)
a. Prophecy of January 18, 1991: "I Shall Have You Exposed as a Sign of Rejection, the Rejection for Unity..." "No, My Messages shall follow their course without you but you shall be tossed around. I shall permit your persecutors'defiled hands to strike you and mistreat you openly. I shall allow them to contradict you... and like crows ravaging the crop they will attack you. You will appear in their eyes as the loser because the wounds they will inflict on you will be impressive.
"These wounds, My child, shall be given to you from within My House and by My Own, they will be given to you from Cain's clan. I will allow them to strike an innocent child, but their gladness shall turn into mourning. Yes, you will appear as the Loser My Vassula, but have I not appeared as the loser too? I appeared to have failed My Mission, I appeared in the world's eyes as the greatest loser ever. You are a sign given to them to arise questions that will be controversial."
b. Message of October 25, 1995: After the Notification appeared, "...see how My predictions come true? Flower of My Heart, flame of My Eyes, your mission will be accomplished only when I allow them to crucify you... I had told you that the
Father had traced for you a road similar to Mine... Today as you see, you have been sold by your own people, as I was sold by one of My Own; precious one, your own people have betrayed innocent blood... You were handed over by one of your own to the Romans, so that they condemn you, and then be crucified.
Vassula, you yourself keep My silence (do not defend yourself, you have enough witnesses who could defend you. The faithful will remain faithful. Your clothes My child will roll in your blood, and this too will be the evidence that you come from Me. You were born for this and your acceptance delights Me because through
your sufferings I will save many. Through your torments I will be setting light inside My Church, giving birth to a renewal in My Holy Spirit thrice Holy... Vassiliki, look at Me in the Eyes... You will promise Me if you love Me, to forgive them all."
How to Respond to the Notification
1. Renew Your Faith. "I believe in God, the Father Almighty...! - we say that every day. In the practical order that means that God is in absolute control of everything that happens on this earth down to the least detail. God has a Plan for our age, and His Will and Plan shall be accomplished inexorably. He often tests our Faith as He did with Abraham. And from time to time, we should remind
ourselves that He writes straight with crooked lines. Listen...
a. "My Holy Spirit in your generation's great apostasy is persecuted like never before..." (III-27) "I know that the most impressive wounds I will receive would be in the house of My best friends." (IV-15) "Anybody who is My servant and comes from My household, is certain to be attacked..." (III-18) "One section of My Church has been blinded because of their rationalistic mind." (V-8)
b. "Do not assume that the Most High cannot find a way to carry out His Plan... I am doing a great work that no man can stop..." (III-44-45) "Let it be known that the Holy One is in command of everything." (V-15) "I will sweep away all those that obstruct The Way to Divine Love." (I-249) "Remember, I
always reach My goals." (I -206)
c. "I have said and will repeat again and again these very important words: 'Anyone who does not welcome the Kingdom of God like a little child, will never enter it'." (I-328) "I know that My sheep who belong to Me will listen to My Voice and will never fail Me." (IV-7) Those that have ears to hear let them
hear, those who do not want to hear let them not hear." (IV--58) Whoever keeps My Word will never see death". (III-13)
2. Pray for the Members of the Congregation. They need the light of the Holy Spirit in their difficult task of discernment, particularly on the critical and difficult question of the supernatural origin of these Messages. In all justice and charity we owe them the support of our prayers, and in that way we will be working for unity.
a. "Satan is deceiving many by attacking revelations and apparitions which come from Me... Satan is desperate and is trying to confuse you and bring you all against each other." (1-364) "So long as they follow their course intellectually they will remain in the dark and estranged to My signs and marvels; so long as they make recourse to their own spirit they will continue to cross-examine My Holy Spirit of Truth without recognising Him..." (V-8)
b. "As for your oppressors... do not regard them as enemies but as people who are also part of the family and therefore dear to us needing prayers." (V-58)
3. Cooperate with Your Local Bishop. The Notification is addressed to Bishops and determine the most feasible application of pastoral directives according to the situation and common good of the Faithful. The Congregation
acknowledges the role of the local Bishop by using the word "requests" and not such words as "directs" or "requires". The Congregation suggests two lines of action for the local Bishop:
(1) "that their faithful may be suitably informed,"
(2) "and that no opportunity may be provided in their Dioceses for the dissemination of her ideas."
a. "that their faithful may be suitably informed..." This wording gives the local Bishop every right to adopt the stance that he feels is most responsible. As we saw in the case of Sister Faustina, Pope John Paul II as Cardinal Archbishop
of Cracow decided to defend Blessed Faustina after the Notification on her appeared. He succeeded in pointing out the faulty interpretations of her writings.
b. "that no opportunity may be provided in their Dioceses for thedissemination of her ideas."
1) This statement is limited to Church property mainly. Bishops have every right to decide what does or does not occur on Church property. Those Bishops who decide to implement this ban warrant complete cooperation of the faithful.
2) Bookstores are at liberty to carry the writings of Vassula, publishers can distribute her books, conferences may be held on neutral ground to discuss her Messages, and the faithful are entirely free to read what she has written.
4. Follow Your Conscience. As Catholics we do not question the
Church's responsibility to safeguard and promote the deposit of Faith. In fact, in certain instances there is a serious obligation to respond in full obedience, i.e., external compliance and internal assent, as in the case of infallible statements (the Pope speaking ex cathedra, all the Bishops in union with the Pope as at Ecumenical Councils) and in the exercise of the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church.
The investigations and disciplinary actions of the Congregations are a bit different. They are neither infallible nor irreformable as we have seen. Since the presumption is that the Spirit guides and assists those to whom this ministry has been given, the Faithful ordinarily should give an internal assent. "However, this assent is not and must not be given blindly and mechanically, for in every case the adult Catholic has the right and duty to make a personaljudgment ofhis own." (Art. "Teaching Authority in the Church" in the New Catholic Encyclopedia)
There are three instances where internal assent may be withheld:
1) During the Process of lnvestigation. Since the lnvestigation of Vassula is in its beginning stage, we are entirely free to follow the dialogue and form our own opinion;
2) Serious Doubt. "In a particular case where there is not question of some truth being proposed definitively by the infallible teaching authority, if one has seriously grave reasons for suspecting that some doctrinal decree is false, he could suspend his assent and give merely external obedience..." (ibid.
Art. "Teaching Authority in the Church");
3) An Expert's Contrary Opinion. "By way of exception, the obligation of inner agreement (assent) may cease if a competent expert, after a scientific investigation of all grounds, arrives at the positive conviction that the decision rests on an error." (Fundamentals of Dogma by Ludwig Ott, p. 10) Father
Laurentin in When God Gives a Sign, P. 42: "Vassula does not present any doctrinal problem. If a prior suspicion and an iconoclastic passion have found objections, they are not solid ones, as long as one interprets the tests in their context and in the entirety of the message, according to a solid hermeneutic
and not according to the law that applies in witch hunts."
5. Read True Life in God. Our Lord has said: "The words that I
have spoken are Spirit and Life." (John 6:63) Any words from God, whether they be in Holy Scripture or private revelation, contain the power of God - a power continually operating to convert us more and more to our God. This occurs whenever anyone reads such words with an open mind and an open heart.
Do this and you will experience the action of the Holy Spirit in your life. "Happy the man who opens his heart to My Holy Spirit... My Holy Spirit... will show Himself openly to the innocent, to the poor, and to the simple." (III-59)
a. The messages contained in True Life in God are unique, extraordinary and very special. They reveal to us the most exalted treasures in the Sacred Heart of Jesus hidden in the past and reserved in a special way for our time. They are the most important private revelations ever made. St. Gertrude, when shown a glimpse of them, was caught up in ecstasy. "I have given you this Inexhaustible Treasure that was hidden from the eyes of mankind and was revealed to Gertrude... This Inexhaustible Treasure was reserved for your times: the end of times." (V-84) "I have made a New Hymn of Love to... remind you
of My Eternal Love I have for each one of you." (III-52)
b. These messages are also very important, because they announce the Second Coming of Our Lord with a clear description of the events that will precede. They describe the Great Tribulation of the Church (I-383), The Day of
Purification (I -348) or Warning (I -330), The Great Conversion (I-339) or Great Return (I -353), The Great Sign (I-394), The Unity of the Church (I-231). The New Pentecost (I-356), The New Jerusalem (I-360), The New Heaven and the New Earth and much more... "This divine revelation will be the last warning."
B.V.M. (I-219) "Whosoever neglects to light his lamp this time and use it, it will be taken away from him and given to someone else." (III-88) "We have come to offer you all Our Peace, and prepare you for your journey to heaven..." (III-7) The time of sorting has come, the time of reckoning is here..." (III-31)
c. These messages are profoundly significant because they reveal God's hidden plan of salvation for each one of us living today. Not only that they unlock the mysteries hidden for ages and indicate our port of entry, our means of
participating in them: the divinization of our soul, our life in the Holy Trinity, our place of destiny - the Sacred Heart - our true home, the activity of the Holy Spirit in our life, the warmth and tenderness of God the Father, the infinite intensity of Jesus' loyal love, the mystery of the Two Hearts. "My hidden Plan of Salvation; it is here," (I-267) "Today more than ever before, I am asking you to consecrate yourselves, your families, your nations to Our Two Hearts." (III-31)
d. And there is so much more: the revelation of deep secrets hidden in God now taking place and the marvelous gifts and charisms present in Vassula who is a "sign" or "sample" of just how God will grace and lead all those who are open and
I pray that the Holy Spirit guides the Congregation members in all their inquiries, deliberations and decisions, and I pray especially that this same Holy Spirit embraces each one of you personally and leads you triumphantly into a True Life in God.
Rev. Robert Hughes, S.M.