When God Speaks — We Must Listen
Edited transcript of a Speech by Father Paul Kramer,
B.Ph., S.T.B., M.Div., S.T.L. (Cand.)
How many times in your life have you been approached by a so-called missionary and he or she wants to explain to you, "What must you believe to be saved." I had that happen to me one time and I said, "Well, you tell me." The young lady said to me, "You must believe that Jesus Christ is your personal Savior, and then you will be saved."
My answer to that was, "Where does it say that in the Bible?" I received no answer. If we examine Sacred Scripture very carefully, first and foremost we must have faith. We are speaking here about the virtue, the theological virtue of faith.
First and foremost, we must believe everything that God has revealed, all that is contained in Sacred Scripture and sacred tradition, and what has been set forth by the Magisterium of the Church, the Church’s infallible teaching office, and proposed definitively as being revealed by God. These are the truths of faith and morals. First and foremost, this is what we must believe.
Without faith, it is impossible to please God, as St. Paul says, "If we reject even so much as one single article of faith, we cannot be saved." As the Profession of Faith says, "Whoever would be saved must hold fast to the Catholic Faith integral and inviolate."
But is that all? Must we believe only this and nothing else? Are we permitted to say, "I don’t accept private revelations"?
I have heard this many times. People will say, "I believe what is defined in the Church, I believe what is set forth in the catechism, but please don’t confuse me with private revelations. We don’t have to believe them to be saved. The Church teaches us what we must believe, and what we must believe is the Deposit of Faith, what has been set forth by the infallible teaching office of the Church."
This is a very deceptive half-truth because there is a distinction that must be made. What we believe by Divine Faith, the theological virtue of faith, are the divine truths — what God has revealed.
Pope Innocent III Listened
However, when Pope Innocent III had been visited by St. Francis, he did not, in his first impression, think too highly of the young man from Assisi. But then, when he had a dream and saw the Church was falling and the young man from Assisi was holding it up, he knew that this was a revelation from God.
What if Pope Innocent III had said this was a private revelation, and for you to reject it because it has not been set forth in the Deposit of Faith?
It’s a matter of common sense, more than mere common sense, because everyone who is blessed with the use of reason understands the first most basic principles of morality, which is to do good and to avoid evil. And the corollary to that is that we must hold fast to that which is true, not just to what God has revealed in the Deposit of Faith, but we must hold fast to what is true.
So if God has spoken, even if it is not a part of the Deposit of Faith, we have the obligation to believe.
Pope Innocent III understood that he had the obligation to believe. He was being given a special grace, the enlightenment by God to understand that it was the will of God that he authorize the Franciscan order. The history of the Church bears witness to the fact that his decision to authorize the young man of Assisi to establish that order was essential to the survival of the Church at that time.
The idea that we are free to reject private revelation is based on a half-truth. It is a deception. What we believe by the theological virtue of Faith is what God has set forth and proposed by the Magisterium of the Church. These are the essential truths that we must believe in order to be saved.
All that has been set forth by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church as revealed by God, the truths of faith, the truths of morals, which we must absolutely adhere to in order to be saved.
But beyond that, there is the moral obligation, not the obligation of Divine Faith, but the moral obligation to hold fast to what is true.
This should not be a difficult question to answer, but for some people, they find it very perplexing. St. Alphonsus Liguori, the greatest teacher of moral theology, Doctor of the Church, specifically, in moral theology, explains that if one receives a prophetic revelation from God, such a one is obligated and bound morally to believe and to obey what God has revealed.
St. Patrick Listened
We see this in the lives of the saints. One of the most enlightening examples is that of St. Patrick. Pelodius was sent by the Pope to evangelize Ireland. He was expelled. But St. Patrick was called, not by the Pope, but by Jesus Christ personally, and against the will of much of the hierarchy. He followed the call of Jesus Christ, Who, Himself, spoke to him and ordered him to go to Ireland.
And so, without the authorization of Rome, but with the personal command of Jesus Christ, St. Patrick went to Ireland and did the impossible — a hostile, pagan nation received the gospel. And he went from village to village, consecrated 350 bishops without papal approval, and ordained 3,000 priests.
In a period of 30 years, pagan Ireland became Catholic Ireland and this was because one man believed and understood he was obliged by Jesus Christ Himself to obey the word he had received in a so-called private revelation.
St. Alphonsus Liguori upholds that principle. If God has spoken, you must believe. Our Lady of Fatima spoke to the three children, and the modernist objection we often hear is, "Our Lady spoke to only those three, so they are the only three who need to believe. No one else must believe."
There is a huge problem that they overlook. When Our Lady revealed the three parts of the whole Secret of Fatima on July 13, 1917, the eldest of the seers, Lucy, was not trained in theology, but she understood with basic common sense, which is the understanding of the first principles of knowledge and the first principles of morality.
A Miracle So We Can Believe
Lucy understood that maybe people might not be inclined to believe that the Mother of God had revealed such weighty matters. She asked for a miracle so that the people might believe. This phrase we must recall — so that they will believe.
Our Lady of Fatima said She would work a great miracle on the 13th of October so that everyone would believe. If God works a miracle in order to convince people that Heaven has spoken — just as St. Alphonsus Liguori explains that once you understand that Heaven has spoken, that you have received a divine Heavenly revelation — once you understand it was true and that God has spoken, you have the obligation to believe. Not with divine faith, it’s not a matter of dogma, but there is a moral obligation to believe that God has spoken.
What would have happened to St. Patrick if he had simply said, "I don’t see in Scripture or tradition that I personally have the obligation to obey the voice that I heard"?
But it was Our Divine Savior, Jesus Christ, Who spoke to him. Are we free to reject Him when He speaks directly and when He works miracles, because it was not something that was revealed before the death of the last apostle?
Here we make a distinction. What must I believe as a matter of Faith in the virtue of Faith? And also, what must I believe, generally speaking? The universal principle of law ordained is that we must hold fast to what is true.
God is the author of truth. In order to apply the very revealed principles which are found in the Deposit of Faith, all the Articles of Faith, we must put them into practice. We are oftentimes in need of divine help in order to carry out, in particular instances, the dictates of divine law that are revealed to us in general, and need to be applied in particular, so that God’s governance of the world is carried out through His appointed human instruments.
And this is the reason why there is prophecy. If there was no obligation to believe in prophecy, if there was no obligation to believe in any Heavenly revelations that take place after the death of the last apostle, if there was no need, then God would not be giving them.
God does not work superfluously. If God speaks, He speaks for a reason. He is Almighty, He is Omniscient. When He speaks, we mere creatures have the obligation to hear and to obey.
This is the moral principle. We must, like Samuel the Prophet, say: "Speak Lord, Thy servant heareth."
The obligation to obey the Message of Fatima is the moral obligation that Heaven has spoken. God sent His most Holy Mother with a message — the survival of the human race and salvation for the multitude of souls — in order that sinners may be converted and souls may be saved.
The Message was Given for the Salvation of Souls
If we consider only this — the salvation of souls is at stake, purchased by the Blood of Jesus Christ, the souls that He loves with His Infinite love.
In order to bring the salvation of souls about, God wishes to establish devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in the world. It is through the Message of Fatima, it is through the devotion of the Five First Saturdays, it is through the act of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, that Russia will be saved, the world will be saved, an incalculable number of souls will be saved by fulfilling what God has commanded.
The Miracle of the Sun was worked in order, as Our Lady Herself said, that we might believe.
If God works the miracle so that all of us might believe, we are bound to believe. Being bound to believe, we are bound to obey and to put in practice and not desist to persevere until what God has commanded through His Holy Mother is accomplished.