Concerning Luisa Piccarreta…

Posted on 2024-02-14
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West Middlesex, Pennsylvania – Sunday would have been the Feast Day of Our Lady of Lourdes, the only approved apparition site I was aware of before I was received into the Catholic Church. The only reason it was not is because the Lord’s Feast Day always takes precedence. It was also the 13th anniversary of the day I departed on my year and a half-long walking pilgrimage across America. It is also the only Marian Feast Day in which I routinely begin, rather than culminate, my Novena. Couldn’t tell you why, though it is probably because I did it to launch my pilgrimage and just continued the practice thereafter.

Ash Wednesday comes today, the 14th. It is one of the few days in the Church calendar that spooks me somewhat. One year I had a heart attack that caused me to miss – and then for several years weird things would happen which would cause me to miss Ash Wednesday. I didn’t even know it was a heart attack until much later. Apparently, in me, it generally presents as a particularly bad cold and keeps me in bed for a few days. I was shocked the first time a cardiologist asked me when I had had my heart attack. I didn’t believe I had had one until he showed me the dead tissue on the screen. Fortunately, I have a very weird heart that cardiologists say is almost athletic – and a very resilient system. It does not go ba-bump like most healthy hearts; it goes ba-da-bump. I prefer to think it was Trinitarian from the start. It also just sometimes skips beats, pauses for a few moments, then starts up again when it feels like it. I never notice. I went to the emergency room once in Belleville – and they kept me all night because of my heartbeat. Three doctors came in to see me, one who could not hide his astonishment. He exclaimed that he could feel the dysfunction even in my raw pulse and asked me how I could not feel that. Feel what, I asked. He told me that I should be lying on the floor clutching my chest in agony. I was unimpressed. He finally said since I showed no distress, abnormal as it was, it must be normal for me. Still, they would not release me until day came and they were able to confirm with my longtime doctor in the Chicago area that this was how I had always been. He sent an old EKG from when I was in my 20’s. They let me go. It amuses me to think I am just an old jalopy, spitting, missing and occasionally backfiring while still rumbling along.

In 2020, for the only time since I was received into the Church, Ash Wednesday came on my birthday, Feb. 26. Given how that year played out I hoped it would never happen again. I see, though, it is going to happen just that way in 2031. I may sleep in that year. Of course, maybe they are bookends – and while 2020 was the entry into insane level dysfunction, 2031 will mark the complete end of it. Or maybe it just is what it is and I should not try to impose patterns on it. In any case, barring any unforeseen problems, I intend to spend this Ash Wednesday at Immaculate Conception Parish in Milan, Michigan.

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I decided last Monday I was going to write a piece about mysticism in general and Luisa Piccarreta in particular. I had no idea her cause was going to be suspended when I made the decision, but I guess that makes this more timely.

Let’s talk first about mysticism generally. When I first discussed my experiences with my original spiritual director back in 1995, after he decided they were potentially authentic, he instructed me NOT to read any mystical or prophetic material without his permission. That suited me just fine, as I had instinctively avoided most of it throughout my life, anyway. My concern was that if I was exposed to much of it, it could transform me from a witness to what I was shown into an arranger of what others were shown. Beyond that, I had heard people throughout my life boldly proclaim what God had told them. Almost invariably what “God” told them amazingly reflected exactly what they already believed or wanted to believe. Beyond that, whenever what they were “told” turned out not just to be wrong, but arrant nonsense it never seemed to slow them down. They just never spoke of their errors again and continued spouting off like some crackpot Oracle at Delphi. It did not fill me with confidence at such pronouncements – and left me with a very healthy skepticism for all such talk – including my own experiences.

Fortunately, the God who I believed often spoke to me also often contradicted me. He and those He sent encouraged me to test and vet everything I heard or was shown – and then to take responsibility for whatever I said afterward, regardless from whence it came. My angel once explained that God did not have much issue with people taking credit for the good things He inspired in them, but had a BIG issue with all the crackpot nonsense they attributed to Him. So just vet thoroughly, take responsibility for all – including acknowledging when I got it wrong – and all would be well. This gave me a framework for discernment that was far better than just breathlessly exclaiming that, “God said to me…” Frankly, it is a comfort zone for me that makes it possible to consider these things without just throwing up my hands. It is brutally hard work, harder than any endeavor I engage in, but it makes it possible. If you have any serious, sustained supernatural experiences beyond childhood, you are deeply torn over whether you are just an unbalanced nut if you concede to it – or are denying an authentic call from God if you ignore it. Start with the premise that truth will stand the test of examination and then it becomes possible, if labor-intensive, to vet the things you are shown to see whether they are likely true or likely not true. If you think you can know with absolute certainty, your mental filters are too sloppy and porous to be reliable.

If you decide to follow what you believe may be an authentic call, then you have to set up a series of safeguards – just in case it turns out you are just a nut. A nut can do a lot of damage. I do not understand why so many people who are genuinely religious chafe so at any authority put over them. Having legitimate authority over me is my security blanket. It is the difference between driving on a paved road with guard rails, mile markers, and warning signs and driving in a rocky field. You will always quickly come to grief in the latter. I suppose it is a sort of egotistic vanity that chafes at guardrails, the fear that someone placed in authority over you is greater than you – a proposition the egotist (however subtle his egotism) just cannot accept. In Christianity, obedience to authority is a means of opening channels of grace, not the submission of the lesser to the greater. You need look no further than Jesus who, after the temple, went back with His parents and was obedient to them (Luke 2:51). The Scriptures do not say He pretended obedience to them, but that He WAS obedient to them. God, Himself, was obedient for a time to creatures He created. Of course, you have to discriminate between legitimate and illegitimate authority and the same in the exercise thereof, but that is a discussion for another day. The key is that obedience to legitimate authority, legitimately exercised, is a cornerstone of  authentic Christian life. Anyone who rejects it, however pious they might otherwise sound, rejects Christ. You might choose to go driving merrily across the rocky field, but I will stick with the paved road and the safeguards God has put there for me.

Some silly people say that you can recognize a true prophet because he is never wrong. That would make all the Biblical prophets, save Isaiah, false prophets, for all of them missed significant details or got the timing wrong. In prophecy the difference between the real thing and the false ones is similar to that between real life and Hollywood: the real ones have all the warts and foibles of ordinary affairs while the false ones have nary a blemish. The satan knows how to impress silly people so he sends his men out to speak impressively of frivolous things. A better key to discernment is that the real ones tend to be wedded to their central, over-arching theme with ferocious fidelity. It is invariably substantive and plays out as described. They get the heart of it right while often missing details. The frauds tend to get the details right without having any central message or one with no significant meaning or depth.

When I look at any (again, including my own), I look for what the heart of the message is. Authentic mystics, in many ways, are like children in that they are describing things for which they have no experiential reference point, things beyond us all. I once heard a child describe a giraffe as a yellow horse who got his neck stretched. In the magnificent “Mr. McBeevee” episode of the old Andy Griffith show, Andy worried that his son, Opie, was getting lost in fantasy and lies. Opie described his friend, Mr. McBeevee, who he met in the woods, as a man who jingled while walking atop trees, blew smoke from his ears, had 12 extra hands on his belt and wore a shiny, silver hat. As it turned out – to Andy’s great relief – that was a great description of a utility pole lineman from a child’s perspective. Opie did his best to describe, from his limited lived experience, something that was outside of that experience. Authentic mystics are bombarded with things that are outside their experience (or any of ours, for that matter) and so, if they speak at all, are forced to speak of things too great for them – often clumsily.

Much authentic prophecy is not designed to be understood except in retrospect – and there is always the problem of that which is literal and that which is metaphorical. Let me offer two quick examples from the words of Jesus, Himself. When Christ told Jewish leaders that if they destroyed this temple He would raise it up in three days (John 2:19), He was roundly mocked by those authorities. That He would claim to be able to rebuild in three days what it had taken hundreds of men 46 years to build was an absolute absurdity. It was only after His Resurrection that the true meaning of this assertion could be understood – and then it was a greater miracle than the one the Jewish leaders had scoffed at. When Jesus told them they must eat His flesh and drink His blood to have eternal life (John  6:52-58) they practically begged Him to explain the metaphor. He would not, for He was speaking literally – but in a way no one could understand until He had both established the Eucharist and been Resurrected. One would think that, just with these two examples, would-be interpreters of prophecy would be a bit more cautious in applying the literal, lived experience template to all prophecies. But many seem never to learn.

Then there is the tension between the linear time of our universe and the eternity of the heavenly realm. Some very elementary strivers seek to understand eternity as some form of limitless time, completely missing that eternity is the absence of time, altogether. Everything is now in eternity. I sometimes ask people when satan and his followers were cast out of heaven. Almost all will give me some answer that is limited to our understanding of time. They had to have been cast out before man was created. How, otherwise, could the satan have been around to tempt Eve? Yet Revelation says they were cast out after the woman cloaked with the sun gave birth to her child. It was then that war broke out in heaven. (Rev 12). The truth is that satan and his angels were cast out of heaven, are being cast out of heaven, and will be cast out of heaven. Eternity is far more than linear time writ large. Yet would-be interpreters of Revelation constantly run aground because they insist on imposing linear timelines onto what is entirely outside of the limits of time.

When considering a mystical pronouncement I pay less attention to whether it is precise in its details and more to whether it is true at its heart. This does NOT mean whether or not it is consoling which, sadly, is the template far too many use to discern such things. Asking whether a word is comforting is such an impoverished filter for discernment! At the turn of the millennium, I believe my angel had warned me that the devil would actively be sending me false visions to test me. So I was even more on my guard than normal. Sure enough, I received several visitations that had profoundly consoling and comforting messages. Each, however, had some critical point that was contrary to Scriptural and Magisterial teaching. Sometimes it could be very subtle. I dismissed each of these from my mind. Just as I started to think I was pretty good at this, my angel appeared to me and acerbically told me that the satan, “is not trying to convince you of what is contained in the visitations; he is trying to convince you he is clumsy.” I was aghast that my own vanity had reached up to deceive me – and would have without that acerbic intervention. I weep to see how many Christians discern the authenticity of a mystical experience by how consoling it is. In my experience, the satan loves to tell you everything is going to be okay. God, on the other hand, challenges you and when you are bruised by the challenge, gruffly tells you to, “walk it off, kid.”

I am dismissive of timelines and consolation. Though some people I respect speak of a “prophetic consensus,” I am absolutely contemptuous of that idea. The prophetic consensus in Jesus’ time was that He was a fraud. A mystical revelation is intensely personal. Either the mystic sees true and tells true or he does not – and all the focus groups and polling of purported mystics does not change that. God have pity on the authentic mystic who trims his sails in order to comport with some manufactured “prophetic consensus.” My main tools of discernment when considering any mystic pronouncement (including my own. Anyone who thinks they cannot be fooled by the devil already has been.) are 1) is it consonant with Scripture and the Magisterium? 2) does it help us live our faith better in our particular time and circumstances? 3) Is it defiant of or docile to legitimate authority? There is much more involved, but these three are sufficient for an initial screen of discernment.

Now, let us apply some of what I have written here to Luisa Piccarreta. Some people I deeply respect are quite devoted to her teachings. Yet some of her most visible promoters make extravagant claims that just do not hold up.

When I first seriously paid attention to Luisa, it was at a conference where one of her most ardent promoters said she was the greatest saint in Church history, greater even than the Virgin Mary. When challenged, he doubled down. That immediately created a sense of hostility to her in me. I am glad to see that, since then, that particular promoter has backed off of that. I would be more impressed if he attributed it to a fit of over-enthusiastic hyperbole rather than denying he said what I heard him say. I take little he says seriously since then.

But I found that many people I deeply respect were very devoted to her. So I asked several, candidly describing my issues with her. My dear friend, Beckita Hesse, directed me to some more authentic descriptions of Luisa’s teachings, while describing at some length to me the abuses that some of her purported supporters committed in the ‘90s. I found a new and growing regard for Luisa’s teachings even as I developed a more deep contempt for some of her public “advocates.”

Luisa teaches that, in the era of peace, living in the Divine Will will offer us a deeper intimacy with God than has ever been previously available. That seems perfectly reasonable to me. It is not unprecedented. Christ promised He would send the Holy Spirit as our Comforter and Guide after His Ascension. That offered a more intimate relationship with God than had previously been common. He did what He promised. Now if some of Our Lord’s disciples had extravagantly said that receiving the Holy Spirit would give them perfect discernment, that they would never sin again, and they would have no need for the Church because God, Himself would direct all their ways it would have been a lie. But the lie would have been the responsibility of those who said it, not Our Lord, because He told us true and did what He promised.

Some of Luisa’s advocates have made these sorts of claims about the Divine Will. Some style it as a mandatory form of governance in the era of peace. God is NOT going to revoke our free will. Some advocates say we will never sin again. That would seem to be a revocation of free will, but it is possible no one would ever want to sin again. But if that were true, the world would never end. There would be no new heaven or new earth because it is written that there will be a mass falling away before the actual end. How could there be a falling away at all if no one was ever going to sin again? If it requires me to believe that Scripture and the Magisterium have erred badly – as this interpretation does – I can only conclude that it is false teaching, no matter how consoling it seems. But so far as I can see from what little I have read, Luisa did not make such claims. It is her over-enthusiastic advocates who do.

The fact that there has been so much controversy and strife over her work suggests to me that it is very likely her work is sound. The devil loves to discredit anything that is potentially really good. That does not mean that all her words, when translated properly, will be elegant or precise. She may describe some things clumsily that will require official interpretation by the Church. But having talked at some length with advocates who do NOT make extravagant claims about her and having done some little reading of her, I think she speaks true that the era of peace following the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart will offer a greater intimacy with God than ever before through living in the Divine Will.

I am not disturbed that her cause has been suspended. Many of the greatest saints have been suppressed – and in the case of St. Joan of Arc – even excommunicated for a time. If a mystic can be confused by what he is shown, how much more difficult is it for those who have not seen to distill its essence? God justifies those He sends, so if Luisa’s message is authentic it will be confirmed in God’s good time.

Even so, I still will not get deeply involved. I have what I believe is an assignment in the household of God. My duty is to live that assignment well. It is an honor to serve tea in the House of the Lord. If you are so honored, you respect the duties of other servants, but you don’t meddle in them unless you want to be dismissed from service. I am content to serve tea – and not deceive myself that I can capture the ocean of God’s wisdom in my little teapot.

It is well known that I believe I have had many mystical experiences. This piece is not to convince you of any of them, but to explain a little about my tools of discernment for both my own and others’ reported experiences. I believe that God has given us work to do – and a great opportunity to show Him our love by putting our shoulder to the plow of that work. It is not glamorous but very practical. I am dismayed by how many Christians are beguiled by tales of how God is going to take care of everything for us. God kept His promise of bringing the Israelites to a land flowing with milk and honey. When they got there, they still had to milk the cows and keep the bees to get it. We are given the chance to be participants in God’s work. Too many just want to be spectators.

I believe God is offering all of us who follow Him 10,000 acres of prime farmland. As for me, I want to gather those few folks who are eager to cultivate a small plot of it rather than listen to tales of how God will till the soil, water the crops and bring in the harvest while we sit watching. As the Lord said, “the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” At CORAC, our focus is on gathering and deploying the workers in service to God’s harvest.

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A few weeks ago I said I did not understand why so many on the right were getting so agitated about Taylor Swift. So what if a pretty young woman who is a talented singer has political opinions that are in conflict with mine? I got a little blowback, some from solid people who said she was involved with some satanic stuff. To my sorrow, I largely figured that was hyperbole. I was wrong. In her box at the Superbowl, Swift’s friends were largely people wearing satanic symbols and making satanic signs. Count me now among those people who want nothing to do with Ms. Swift.

I am curious, though. Did Taylor start cavorting with satanists after she became a Democrat or did she become a Democrat after she started cavorting with satanists?

If communication goes out for any length of time, meet outside your local Church at 9 a.m. on Saturday mornings. Tell friends at Church now in case you can’t then. CORAC teams will be out looking for people to gather in and work with.

Find me on Twitter at @JohnstonPilgrim

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1 Comment

  1. CookiePontzer01

    Thank you, Charlie, for clarifying your thoughts regarding Luisa Piccarreta!

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