today their big banner headline is “GRIPPING NEW BOOK DETAILS ALLEGED APPARITIONS AND PROPHECIES OF PAGAN BOY IN DEEP AFRICA”
Ahem. If I were to put up a headline that urged my readers “PAY ATTENTION TO HOROSCOPES” or “CONSULT WITCH DOCTORS” or “PAGAN PROPHETS SHOW US THE WAY” you would be understandably nonplussed. In fact, the Church discourages us from seeking out pagan prophets because they are, you know, pagan. (Not that God cannot reveal himself to a pagan, of course. But when he does so it is to refer the pagan to Jesus Christ in his Church–NOT TO SEND BELIEVERS IN JESUS CHRIST RUNNING AFTER PAGAN PROPHETS.) But, Spirit Daily being Spirit Daily, the emphasis is not so much on the common sense teaching of the magisterial Church as it is on a sort of indiscriminate hankering for the spooky, the signs and wonders of whatever dubious provenance, and the murky shadowy area of what I call “X Files spirituality”. Is some of this stuff legit? I reckon so. They are indiscriminate enough that we get everything from approved apparitions to the Shroud of Turin (which I think is the genuine article), to increasingly dodgy stuff about statues with dripping legs, to conspiracy theories about anti-Catholicism sinking the Titanic, to fearmongering about Christian yoga, to paranoia about Munch’s “The Scream” and its relation to “prophecy” to “the new world order” to near death experiences. It tends to be all about stuff from the shadowy borders of human experience, not stuff from the sunlit uplands of common sense, natural law, and the central deposit of Faith.
What they intuit is something that really is and always has been a part of the Catholic tradition: the charismatic and mystical insight that we live in a world governed by a God who does some pretty strange things sometimes. (I’ve got a couple of lulu stories myself.) It’s not bad to acknowledge that, particularly in an age where both hyper-rationalists *and* some species of Catholic are deeply hostile to the mystical element of the faith. But there is a right and a wrong way to be open to the mystical and there is something unhealthy about cultivating a habit of running after this stuff as the central part of your spiritual diet while exercising what is often an astonishingly bad sense of discernment. God calls us to grow up into mature Christians who are formed by the ordinary common life, worship and teaching of Christ in his Church. When your *primary* diet of spiritual things comes not from the ordinary magisterial teaching of the Church, the liturgy, the virtues, and the works of mercy, but from the latest rumor about what some dodgy apparition like Medjugorje says (and Spirit Daily is *huge* on Medjugorje and other dodgy unapproved “apparitions”) or what some alleged apparition to some alleged “pagan prophet” in “deep Africa’ says, you are treading on very thin ice. What often happens in such cases is that the “seer” or the apparition or the “sign” winds up taking the place of the Church’s teaching, with typically pernicious results.
Before I was Catholic, I thought Catholics believed that Mary was another god. After I became Catholic, I discovered that some Catholics (the sort who look to sites like Spirit Daily for their *main* formation in the faith) think Mary (or various *claimed* Marys in dubious apparitions) is another Pope. They run here and there looking for better revelation than the boring ordinary stuff the Church gives, hoping to have the inside track on the hidden history of our time and often deeply disappointed or, worse, deeply suspicious of the Church when she does not fall in line with what “Mary” or the latest prophet or seer is supposedly telling the Church to do. They prefer their Folk Hero to the Church. That is poison. Avoid it like the plague. And do not, for the love of God, entrust yourself to what some “pagan prophet” somewhere has to say.