Benedict J. Groeschel, C.F.R.,
The more suspicious among our readers will be relieved to know that while Fr. Groeschel is a Novus Ordo priest, C.F.R. is not the Committee on Foreign Relations.
A Still, Small, Voice is a thoroughly readable volume on the Church's method of dealing with reports of extraordinary mystical phenomena; with people who claim to hear spiritual voices, see spiritual visions, and so forth. (We will use the term "vision" to refer to all such phenomena in the general sense.) At least in part, it answers the need for guidance as to how Catholics should regard the enormous number of visions claimed throughout the world since Vatican II.
Groeschel, trained as a psychologist, combines traditional understanding of claimed mystical phenomena with modern insight into why people sometimes think they are witnessing apparitions, and how their friends and neighbors and fellow devotees are likely to react. He does not, of course, discount the possibility that people do sometimes experience genuine apparitions; sometimes of heavenly origin, and other times diabolical. In general, he gives the standard advice: don't ask God for visions, ignore them if you have them, and if they persist follow the directions of your confessor. He presents four rules for those who are considering the reports of those claiming to have had visions:
For the most part, Groeschel is faithful to his own regulations and does not comment on any of the visions said to be taking place in the modern world. He slips just a little in dealing with Medjugorje, mildly criticizing the Bishop of Mostar and his advisors for being "all so sure of their respective positions." His reference to "the consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary as requested by the visionaries of Fatima" suggests an ignorance of the facts surrounding the apparitions at Fatima and the post-apparition claims of the surviving seer.
Perhaps the most serious omission is the lack of reference to the Pentecostalism so often found in the New Order church. Certainly this "charismatic" appeal to the direct guidance of the Holy Ghost fits into the category of "asking God for visions," and ought to be treated with at least as much suspicion as any other purported vision. As a Novus Ordo priest he may not feel secure in dealing with what has become an institutionalized aberration.
Likewise, and likely for the same reason, there is no mention of the decrees of Urban VIII and Clement IX prohibiting the unauthorized publication of private revelations. While Pope John Paul's New Code of Canon Law may have deprived these decrees of the force of law, they still oblige in prudence.
While A Still, Small, Voice has a few limitations, it will make good reading for anyone with an interest in extraordinary mystical phenomena. Understanding this aspect of the spiritual life will deepen the value of true apparitions, and help to reject those that are false or diabolical.
Many will come in My name, saying, "I am the Christ," and they will lead many astray. They will deliver you up to tribulation, and will put you to death; and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake. And then many will fall away, and will betray one another, and will hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because iniquity will abound, the charity of the many will grow cold. But whoever perseveres to the end, he shall be saved.... Mt. 24.