There’s a somewhat tongue-in-cheek saying that a bishop’s worst nightmare is to have an apparition occur in his diocese. Of course, there are much worse things that could happen, but apparitions are bound to cause a multitude of problems and headaches for him, at least initially, especially in this age of rapid communication and mass media, where news travels quickly and far before the bishop even learns about it.
Once the news begins to spread, there will surely be new sources of division within the local, and quite possibly broader Church, over the authenticity of such visions. People will question the motives and character of those on the other side, conspiracy theories arise, and little good will seem to come out of something that should be a source of great blessing and charity within the People of God. Alas, the poor bishop won't be able to win with his people, no matter which side he’s on, as he undertakes the long and arduous task of examining the veracity of the event.
Not many people may know this, but after Lourdes, a surge of false apparitions appeared in France – more than two dozen, in fact. Some were quickly dismissed as the work of charlatans or products of overactive imaginations or people seeking attention, and a few even seemed to have some more disturbing origins, whether evil or psychological, it’s hard to say from such a historical distance. The Evil One would have liked nothing better than to deceive the faithful, to divide the Church, or to distract from the authentic Marian apparition. This is not to say that a false visionary is a fraud or evil – their intentions may be pure and true – and some might simply be deceived or being manipulated. There are very, very few apparitions that Holy Mother Church has judged worthy of belief, and for good reason.
At this point, certain readers might call me an apparition sceptic. Oh, I do believe in them. I belong to an Order and a Confraternity whose history are based in part on visions or apparitions. If people tell me they had an apparition (saw or heard something) I presume the good, and believe that they at least believe, in good faith, in what they saw or heard. Many good vocations have come from such encounters. Most of all, I firmly believe that Our Lord appears to us at each and every Mass. He truly appears to us, not as a figment of imagination, and not as a mere mental memory, but under the appearance of mere bread and wine as the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord.
It's been said that "ordinary Catholic life – that’s boring.” The Uncontainable God of the Universe Himself is there on the altar, ready to come down to you, and some people still complain that that’s boring? God is acting through the priest, absolving you from your sins that might doom you for eternity, which only God can do, and some folks are disappointed? Authentic visionaries have tended to live pretty humdrum lives after the apparitions, at least in the world’s eyes. They have less to do with worldly delights, and are happy with the ordinary daily task of sanctity that our Faith asks of us: regular confession, Mass, spiritual reading, good works, and the like. They move further away from the superficial and ephemeral to the substantial and ever-lasting. Visions and apparitions don’t last – LOVE does. St. Paul’s famous call to love as the greatest and enduring gift in 1st Corinthians 13 reminds us that it’s not in the flashy and extravagant where God can generally be found, but in the more ho-hum task of loving. There’s nothing wrong with flashy or extravagant things, but those should be leading you to God, not away from God, which is what happens if we focus on them instead. It’s not in the dating, nor in the honeymoon, that a man proves his love for his wife. It’s more in going to the market at 3 AM dressed in pajama bottoms, because his wife is sick, or has terrible pregnancy cravings. It’s mom attending a choir recital, for the tenth time, of everyone’s kids butchering the same corny songs, because she loves her children and is proud of them. Everyone who loves knows what I’m talking about. He or she will have a love that will endure when the bad times come – and they will come, but they will face it with their beloved spouse.
In a like manner, live a good life, taking care of your spiritual side, and you know what? When the end does come, whether you peacefully pass away in your sleep, or you experience the most Apocalyptic scenario, you can calmly face it with God, with the Blessed Mother of His Son at your side. And THAT is good news.