(Update, Mar 2 2012: Here’s the link to the bishop’s decree concerning Holy Love Ministries on the website of the Diocese of Cleveland. The diocesan site was down when I originally wrote this article and I had forgotten to go back later and link directly to their page. I wrote a new post about HLM tonight, too.
After discussing this with a new friend, I’d like to pass along her request that all of us pray for the alleged visionary, that she may be reconciled with the bishop, that she may be faithful, that she may be humble, that she may be patient and accept the will of God, even if that will is not what she would like. These would be signs of the validity and veracity of her alleged visions, or locutions, whichever type of revelations they are alleged to be. But those are not the signs that she has exhibited. In any case, I accept the bishop’s word and am not promoting Holy Love Ministries or anything associated with it unless and until the Church approves it. And that means when the bishop of the diocese where HLM is, in Cleveland, approves it.)
(Update, Dec 1 2011: The title of my post now seems misleading to me. I do not want to imply that determining the validity of “Holy Love Ministries” — or of the private revelations associated with it — is the responsibility of the Catholic laity. As you will see further on in the post, their bishop spoke out about this a long time ago and gave his ruling on it. Which was No, it is not authentic and the faithful are to have nothing to do with it. Period. The people at “Holy Love Ministries” refuse to obey. That certain other people insist on spreading the “messages” and the rosary is itself disobedient and I am disgusted to see advertisements for this group prominently displayed on the right hand side of each and every page of a well-known pro-life site. I have written to them about it and have mentioned it to them several times but have never received a reply or even an acknowledgement of my concerns.)
A friend gave me a rosary a few months ago. It’s an unusual rosary: the “Hail, Mary” beads are the shape of tears and inside each one is a tiny figure of an unborn baby. The booklet that accompanies the beads contains special pro-life meditations and prayers. I’ve enjoyed using the beads while praying the rosary, but I haven’t ever used the actual book. And I’ll tell you why. Because the text is based upon “messages” that were allegedly received by someone in Ohio who claims that the Virgin Mary has appeared to her for more than 25 years.
Now, I’m not saying she’s lying. I have no idea if she’s really been visited by our Blessed Mother or not. But I do know this: The Church has not approved the “apparitions” of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Maureen Sweeney Kyle. As a matter of fact, the Bishop of Cleveland issued a decree about Holy Love Ministry back in November of 2009. I did a search and found it on the web just now. (The diocesan site is down for maintenance and upgrades but I found a copy of the decree on another site. When the official site is back up, I’ll link to the document there.)
The Bishop of Cleveland is pretty clear in his warning to the faithful. And Ms. Kyle is equally clear in her rebuttal of the bishops warning. And that is what gives me pause. And cause for concern. If she was truly being contacted by the Blessed Virgin Mary—the model disciple, the most faithful, humble and perfect of all disciples ever —wouldn’t she respond to the Ordinary of her diocese in a faithful, humble, less prideful manner? Wouldn’t she accept the bishop’s authority and decision and, with patience and prayer, hope that he might change his mind, that God would make it known to him that Holy Love Ministry was, if not authentic, then at least, not to be forbidden to his flock?
Consider what happened to St. Teresa of Jesus (St. Teresa of Avila). She was denounced to the Inquisition for, I believe it was, the Book of Her Life and the account of some of her spiritual experiences therein. Visionary experiences. She had to write a letter explaining certain things to the Inquisition and they were happy with what they read and lifted the ban on her book. But my point is that St. Teresa submitted to the authority—the legitimate authority, I might add—of said Inquisition and complied with what had been requested of her. St. Teresa wanted nothing more than to be—and was—a faithful daughter of Holy Mother Church.
Read the rebuttal from HLM. Does that sound like someone who wants to be faithful to the Church? Someone who wants nothing more than to spread the Gospel of Christ? I’ll tell you what it sounds like to me, considering also the rest of the site, slick marketing and merchandising included. It sounds to me like someone has found a very lucrative way to profit as a “prophet”. I’d be much more inclined to view her activities favorably, or at least to reserve judgment, if they would stop hawking their wares like any common hucksters and ceased operating what looks on their website to be very like a Catholic-themed theme park instead of a place of pilgrimage or a holy and sacred shrine.
As for HLM’s claim of being “ecumenical” and “having nothing to do with the Catholic Church”, this tactic seems to me to be just part of an attempted justification for not seeking ecclesial approval.
Q – Is the Rosary of the Unborn approved by Catholic Church?
A – Holy Love Ministries is an ecumenical organization (which means it is for all people) and is NOT affiliated with the Catholic Church or any other denomination. We do not seek ecclesiastic approval under the Catholic Church. We are not a church, but an organization given a specific mission. The Rosary of the Unborn comes directly from The Blessed Virgin Mary and we are under Her direction regarding The Rosary of the Unborn. — From the FAQ page.
And consider this: our beloved Blessed Virgin Mary never ever ever points to herself but always points to her Divine Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ. I cannot imagine her telling HLM that anything comes directly from her. Nor can I imagine her condoning rebellion against her Son’s representative who has ecclesial jurisdiction over HLM in his diocese. By their fruits we shall know them. And this actually forms part of the criteria by which such things as supposed apparitions are in fact judged.
With respect to any disciplinary precepts the bishop makes concerning the apparition and its site, they should be followed faithfully (e.g. what sacraments, if any, may be celebrated there). No Catholic should ever violate the practical norms laid down by the local bishop with respect to an alleged apparition, even if intellectually they disagree with his conclusion regarding the alleged apparition. Such disobedience would be sinful, and if it characterized the attitude of the followers of the alleged apparition it would be a sign of its inauthenticity, i.e. by producing bad fruit. — From EWTN’s Expert Answers on Apparitions/Private Revelations. Written by Colin B. Donovan, STL, the whole article is very interesting and quotes relevant sections of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. (Emphasis added.)
So what will I do with my rosary beads from HLM? I’ll use them the way I have been. Occasionally. And with traditional, approved or not disapproved prayers and meditations. I long to be what St. Teresa longed to be: and in my case, if not a saint, then at least a faithful daughter of my Holy Mother, my Church.