The Father William Most Collection
Open Letter to One who is Searching
[Published electronically for use in classes taught by Fr. Most and for private theological study.]
To start off, the Catholic Church does not ask anyone at all to believe in any private appearances of Mary or the Saints. These things all belong to the area of private revelation, not public. The Church claims authority to teach in the area of public revelation, not in that of private.
Today there are so very many claims of these private apparitions. The Church is very slow to accept those. Even miracles, the Church is slow to accept. At the great shrine of Lourdes there have been reported thousands of cures. Anyone going there - I have been there - can see countless crutches hung up there by people who no longer need them. But in over a century the Church has checked and approved only a little over 60 alleged cures. And there must be no chance of suggestion. For example, in 1908, Madam Biré was blind, atrophy of the papilla (optic nerve withered where it came into the back of the eye - can be seen with an ophthalmoscope). They took her to Lourdes. When the Blessed Sacrament procession passed by, she said she was cured and could see. They took her at once to the medical bureau there. Any person with an M. D. is welcome to check as much as he wants there, even if he is an atheist Some have come to laugh, have come back converts. The Doctors looked into her eye with the ophthalmoscope, found the nerve still withered. Yet she could read a newspaper. She was seeing with a no-good nerve. It did recover in some weeks, but at the start she saw with a useless nerve. No room for suggestion there.
Further, it happened when the Blessed Sacrament passed. No other Church claims to have an abiding presence like that. So the miracle worked then was a proof that He really is present in that Sacrament.
Incidentally, there are other marvels. At the small town of Lanciano in Italy, about 750 years ago a priest was saying Mass, and had doubts abut the presence of Christ. Then something happened. The central apart of the host continued to look like bread, but the outer part turned into meat, and the wine in the chalice into 5 clots of blood. This marvel is still there. I have seen it myself. It has been checked to the hilt by modern science three times, 1971, 1976, 1981 by a team of biologists and doctors. They found it is a part of a human heart, no preservatives, contains type AB blood. Normal chemistry of the blood.
Is it possible that God could let some deceased person appear? We must not set limits to the power of God. If He so wills, of course it could happen. And in Scripture we find many times that angels appeared to human beings. And in the transfiguration of Jesus, Moses and Elijah appeared conversing with Him.
To return to private revelations, our faith does not depend on them at all. We depend on a rational process that works without calling on faith at first, then shows that faith is reasonable. An outline of this is enclosed. No other church can give such evidence. Certainly not Luther -- cf. the enclosed summary in which Luther said: "If this article [justification by faith[ stands, the church stands; if it falls, the church falls. Poor man. It never did stand, for he, being either careless or dull, never took the trouble to see what St. Paul meant by that word faith. Luther thought it meant confidence that the merits of Christ apply to me. But if you read all of S. Paul, it is clear it includes three things: 1)When God speaks a truth, believe it in your mind; 2) When He makes a promise - have confidence; 3)When He tells you to do something- obey (Cf. Rom 1:5). But Luther thought if you have faith you can disobey extensively and it will not hurt. In one letter (Luther's Works, American ed. vol. 48. p. 182) he said: "Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly... . No sin will separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day." He also said: "We must remove the Decalogue [ten commandments] out of sight and heart. :" (De Wette, 4, p. 188. cited in P. F. O'Hare, The Facts about Luther, Rockford, 1987, p. 311. De Wette was a protestant scholar who collected the most significant sayings of Luther in several volumes).
Yet he thought he had a guarantee of salvation. . St. :Paul did not think that way. In 1 Cor 9:27: "I discipline my body and master it, for fear that after having preached to others I myself should be rejected." Paul worked heroically for Christ. If anyone ever "took Christ as his personal Savior" it was Paul. Yet he knew he had to discipline his body, lest it lead him into sin, and he be lost. He did not think he had it made. If one commits a mortal sin and then does nothing but believe it is all right, as Luther suggested, that will not remove that sin. He is in danger of hell.
Luther thought he could run on Scripture alone. But he not only did not prove that, but, sadly, he found no way to be certain which books are inspired, and therefore part of Scripture. He thought if a book preaches justification by faith strongly it is inspired, otherwise not . But, sadly , most books of Scripture do not even mention the subject. Strange dullness again? In context. St. Paul in 2 Tim 2:2 told Timothy to hand on things to other men who in turn could teach still others.
Really Protestantism at bottom rests on a foolish notion. It is as if Christ told the Apostles: Write some books - get copies made - pass them out - tell people to figure them out for themselves. But books were expensive then, and so many could not read. and experience shows Scripture is not clear all by itself. If you need proof, see the Yellow Pages of the phone book--there are over 7700 brands of Protestantism in the world. Not all can be right!
Finally, if I had to believe that the Church was so deserted by Christ that it taught the wrong way to salvation for nearly 1500 years, I could not believe in Christ at all. He would be just a fake. And to think it was to be corrected by a man of such character, who admitted his personal immorality, who said one could break all the commandments of God and still not be separated from Christ!
P. S. If someone worries that we use the title Mother of God -- this is the same situation as saying a woman is the mother of John Jones. She shared only in producing his body, not also his soul. We do not say she is the mother of the body of John Jones, but the mother of John Jones. Similarly, Mary is the Mother of Him who is God. So we say: Mother of God, not meaning of course that she produced the divinity, any more than Mrs. Jones produced the soul of John Jones.