Discerning Voices

I began the study for this article over a month ago when I was inwardly guided to read a book I bought a year ago but had left on my bookshelf unread. The book is called The Miracle Detective by Randall Sullivan an American author and journalist who for most of his life identified himself as an atheist. Yet, in 1995 he underwent a spiritual conversion to Catholicism while he was in Medjugorje and investigating other apparition sites and seers. Years after he finally shared his story in The Miracle Detective.

In one of my recent articles, The Difficulties of Spiritual Discernment, I also mentioned writing more about two mystics of the fifteen century who supposedly fooled everyone with their mystical experiences for many years, only to confess of their folly in later years with one suffering the inquisition and subsequent punishment while the other mystic received even harsher punishment from an Ecclesiastical Commission who tried her case.

We read of these false mystics and seers who were found out after years of deluding townspeople, religious and prominent leaders with their fraudulent activities while really in league with the devil, satanists, having some kind of trickery or just being deluded themselves, but what about those who are believed to be legitimate but are not? Many think that supernatural events such as bleeding pictures, levitation, trances or receiving the sign of the stigmata are always a sign of God. Such is not the case as revealed in many of these cases.

While Sullivan shares many inside facts on these apparitions much has still been uncovered since he wrote his book in 2004 revealing what can still lay hidden no matter how hard we try to discern the truth.

Rose Tamisier
A modern saint, Rose Tamisier of Province, France, was known as a pious religious woman and through her sanctity and miracles, her fame increased so rapidly, and spread so extensively, that she quickly acquired a European celebrity. It was believed through the intensity of her devotion that on her body appeared the representation of a cross, a heart, a chalice, a spear, and sometimes the image of the Virgin and Child, and then to exude blood from them. Then in 1850, a picture of Christ began oozing blood. The community and the church leadership became divided. Some believed Rose was responsible for making the blood appear on the pictures because she announced that the miracle would happen.

According to The Family Herald in an 1850 article about her, she was interrogated and then tried but did not confess to any trickery. The court was so puzzled with what could have really happened to cause the picture to bleed that they declared themselves incompetent. A chemist then suggested that Rose put the blood on the picture by squeezing a leech, the article noted. Nothing more was said in that article that Rose was found guilty.

Then in 1853, Edmund Spencer wrote a book, A Tour of Inquiry Through France and Italy, where he wrote that "M. Eugene Colignon, a chemist of Apt (presumably the same above mentioned chemist), who, after wasting much time and labour in fruitless researches, at length succeeded in discovering that human blood disgorged by a leech, having lost its fibrine, was capable of serving the purpose of Rose Tamisier." Then the chemist went on to prove his theory, "so successfully in the presence of the public authorities, and a large number of the most eminent scientific men of the country, that not a doubt could remain in the mind of the most devoted believer in the miraculous powers of our heroine, that she was an impostor." In 1851, after a long and patient investigation, aided by the laborious efforts of counsel on both sides, the saint was pronounced guilty and sentenced to six months imprisonment, with a fine of five hundred francs and costs.

Whether she was or was not a fraud we will probably never uncover so long after the fact, and with so little history about her trial. It seems highly unlikely the leech hypothesis was used by Rose, but as in this following story, there could have been demonic activity involved. 

Magdelina of the Cross
Sr. Magdelina of the Cross1 is known as the diabolical saint. She was born, in 1487 in Spain. At five years old Magdalena is already known in her town for her remarkable devotion and heavenly visions and soon even healings are attributed to her. By sixteen years old many see her as a living saint. At seventeen years old she joins a Franciscan convent. Sr. Magdalena takes upon her self many pious acts. She stops eating, she goes into ecstasy and often appears to have the gift of prophecy. Testing her during her ecstasies by insertion of a needle shows she has no feelings or awareness of pain.

News of the miraculous around Magdalena spread beyond Spain people from all over, rich and poor, laity and clergy, bishops and Cardinals and even Royalty where they start petitioning her for intercession with God. Money began to pour in. All these activities only increased the admiration and devotion of her sisters in the convent. Then one day she announces she immaculately conceived the Christ in her womb and she was pregnant. It is confirmed she is still a virgin. Her pregnancy is hidden and on Christmas Eve she gives birth. The following day the child is gone. Yet life goes on without answers as to what happened.

It is not long before Sr. Magdalena is raised up as Abbess but things become more difficult for the sisters as Magdalena issues harsh practices and sacrifices. Still, she is reelected twice until reforms are instituted that appear to be outside the religious order and traditional practices. By 1542 she is no longer Abbess, she is no longer wanted by the sisters, and by the following year, she falls gravely ill. When Magdalena sees her confessor, she goes into convulsions and a demonologist is sent for.  When Magdalena hears she is dying she confesses after terrible displays of being under demon control. An Inquisitor is called and the nuns write down the events. Every time the demon is dislodged through the exorcism it comes back. They learn that all the gifts and miraculous events Magdalena has exhibited all her life were performed by two demons. She had been influenced and controlled by these demons since the age of five selling her soul to them for acclaim, it is said.

Since she confessed and was so young when this began she was not sentenced to death although she asks for it. She is publicly humiliated and sent to a different Franciscan convent to live out the rest of her life, some seven years more, in total humility.

Discerning Miracles
If the demons can perform such miracles and signs and wonders through Magdalena, and for so long without any signs of obvious evil manifestations, how can the ordinary individual discern what is a true miracle and sign and who is really a true seer? The Catholic Church has taken the role of discernment for Catholics and after a long and lengthy process, they will release their verdict. Sometimes the decision that an apparition is not real comes forth quickly from the local Bishop. Other times it goes all the way up to the Pope, as it has in today's case with the seers of Medjugorje.

Displays of miracles are traditionally a part of the confirmation that an apparition is from a God source. Thus miracles of confirmation are characteristic of true religious apparitions when the vision is not just a private revelation to help someone with their personal growth but intended for the wider religious community. One of the well-known miracles that came forth after a visitation was from the Virgin of Guadeloupe in Mexico in 1531. Juan Diego claimed he saw the Virgin and when asked of proof that it was truly the Virgin she sent two signs. First, she sent a bouquet of roses in December when they were not in bloom and then imprinted the inside of Juan Diego’s cloak with her image.

Other signs claimed as miracles are the scent of roses, rosaries turning to gold, rose petals falling to the ground and spinning suns. The pulsing sun of Conyers, Georgia, after claimed appearances of Mary, are a shadow of what happened in Fatima, an approved apparition. And not all could see the sun's movement at Conyers and those who did saw and claimed different experiences.

In Fatima in 1917, with approximately 70,000 in attendance, as the promised sign of a miracle from Mary came the sun began to do extraordinary things. Some said, "the sun was seen to whirl and turn in the circle of broken clouds ... The light turned a beautiful blue, as if it had come through the stained-glass windows of a cathedral, and spread itself over the people." "...the sun, whirling, seemed to loosen itself from the firmament and advance threateningly upon the earth as if to crush us with its huge fiery weight. The sensation during those moments was terrible."

Jesus warns, “For false christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible" (Matt. 24:24). The Bible also teaches “You will recognize them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:16). The good or bad fruits can take a long time to appear, meanwhile, their teaching needs to be in agreement with God’s Word. (Heb. 4:12) If the teacher's fruit or teaching is not good it does not matter how many miracles are present around them. They are not sent by God.

Madre Maria de la Visitacion
Another mystic was born just a few years before Magdalena's death in the same area but in the country of Portugal. At age eleven Madre Maria de la Visitacion, as she was later called, entered a convent and began to have visions and mystical experiences. Twenty years later she began having the wounds of Christ manifest on her body and she would suffer intense pain every Friday. When she prayed many saw her raised in ecstasy off the ground. A few years later she was elected Prioress of her convent. Her wounds were examined and announced they were of Divine origin. Miracles happened to some who used cloths touched to her wound to heal their own ills.

Still, Madre Maria had enemies and those who were jealous spread rumors. Soon they claimed that she was a sham and that her stigmata were faked. An Ecclesiastical Commission was appointed and declared that she was an impostor after she was threatened harshly and told that the devil would carry her away if she did not confess. She supposedly then made a long and full confession of deceit explaining she inflicted the wounds upon her self and through trickery and lights appeared to be raised off the ground in ecstasies. Many writers of her story did not believe that she was truly guilty but that she had become a scapegoat and a terrible wrong had been done to her. We don't read that anyone knows if her stigmata continued after her sentencing, but highly unlikely because of the penance she was subjected to for the rest of her life.

Madre Maria de la Visitacion appeared to die a saint after being relegated to perpetual seclusion in an enclosed convent not of her own Order. Her penance was much harder than Magdalena's. She was to eat off the floor for five years and to lay prostrate where the nuns would gather for meals so they could step over her as they walked by. She was not allowed to wear her veil and had certain disciplines assigned to her every Friday.

Veronica Lueken, Bayside, New York
In our modern times, the Catholic Church has condemned several mystics. In Bayside, New York, there was a seer Veronica Lueken, who claimed she was communicating with Mary from 1970 to 1994. She died in 1995. Mary's title was "Our Lady of the Roses". Veronica had also been in communication with Saint Thérèse of Lisieux as well as Jesus. Veronica was a devout Catholic and she truly believed what she saw and heard in her visions were from Mary and Jesus. Yet you read her messages and understand why the Catholic Church disavowed them. The messages carried unfulfilled prophecies, frightening disasters to come and conspiracy accusations, as well as theological errors such as Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Life. From these messages, the Bayside followers believe that the reforms of Vatican II were either a grave mistake or a deliberate attempt to undermine the Church.

Some examples of unfilled prophecies through her are that the "Lady" informed Veronica that a miraculous spring, called the “Lourdes of America,” would be given to convince the bishop of her appearances, but it has never appeared.  Veronica prophesied imminent chastisements that never occurred. Some sort of a fiery ball of redemption was heading to earth and was going to crush much of the earth.  The prediction clearly prophesied that this comet/ball of redemption would arrive “within” the 20th century.“Do not be affrighted, My child; you must see this, for it is important. Within this century this Ball will be sent upon mankind… It is almost too late… a ball that is fast hurtling towards earth! It will be here within this century, if not sooner.”   (1988)  In 1984, it was predicted that there would be another assassination attempt on John Paul II after the first 1981 attempt. That did not happen.

It is true that prayer can change the outcome but these examples aren't asking for prayer. They are definitively saying something is going to happen. One conspiracy claim given by the 'Lady of Roses' was that Pope Paul VI was murdered or kidnapped in 1972 and replaced by an actor who had plastic surgery and then in later years that he would be martyred.

"He is not able to do his mission. They have laid him low, My child. He is ill, he is very ill. Now there is one who is ruling in his place, an impostor, created from the minds of the agents of satan. Plastic surgery, My child--the best of surgeons were used to create this impostor." (1975)

"Your Father, in the eternal city of Rome, Pope Paul VI, your Holy Father, is a blessed man, for he carries his cross. Your Holy Father is a blessed man, for he shall be martyred." (1977)

"In the city of Rome there will be great confusion and trial. Satan, Lucifer in human form, entered into Rome in the year 1972. He cut off the rule, the role of the Holy Father, Pope Paul VI." (1978)

He was not martyred but who would have been martyred if he was already dead and replaced by an impostor? Also, to be considered a martyr one has to voluntarily suffer death as the penalty of witnessing to and refusing to renounce a religion. None of these things happened with this Pope.

In 1988 there were further words about the Pope indicating that he was not dead but still alive.

“Our Lady” of Bayside, June 18, 1988: “Please, My children, pray for your Holy Father, the Pope.  You must not lose him, for the one who comes after him will destroy if he can – he will attempt to destroy Pope John Paul II.”

Pope Benedict XVI came after John Paul II and has not attempted to destroy him, but started the process in 2005 to canonize him. Pope Francis finished the process in 2013. Besides that fact, how could Benedict XVI attempt to destroy him when John Paul II would be dead as the general process for a new Pope is that the previous Pope has passed on?

In many of the messages, Veronica and her followers are directed to take Polaroid photographs. These are believed to be ''miraculous photographs'' where the followers can interpret them to receive personal messages. The photographs usually come out distorted with streaky flashes of light and color that are then examined for various signs or evidence of supernatural messages. This practice is called "reading the photographs". Some say this practice is akin to the occult form of divination called psychometry.  Some of the Baysiders claim, ''The Holy Ghost works through the person with the camera to send a message.''

Veronica and her messages encouraged devotions to and even interaction with "guardian angels" with strange names such as  "Tomdarius", "Tusazeri", "Razene", "Sactorius", and "Nadina". This is a dangerous practice as they could actually be names of demons.

While we know that the television and Hollywood have a substantial amount of material that is spiritually, morally and mentally bad for us, we also use the television (and today youtube) to watch documentaries, news, and many other learning and wholesome entertainment. Veronica's message said:

“I have, many times, cautioned you, and all My children, against the use of the diabolical machine, your television.  There will be no excuses for having these in your presence.” (1975)

Joseph Laycock, assistant professor of religious studies at Texas State University, wrote about Veronica's story in The Seer of Bayside: Veronica Lueken and the Struggle to Define Catholicism. He notes the Baysider phenomenon is a very interesting case study about the problems of Catholic identity in a post Vatican II world. They are critical of the Church hierarchy, which they believe is corrupted by modernism. It is not, Laycock insists, that “Baysiders” are “deviant” Catholics, but that their devotional practices represent “an ongoing and asymmetrical debate about what Catholicism is”. 

Nancy Fowler, Conyers, Georgia
In 1983 Nancy Fowler went through a period where she saw demonic things, menacing eyes, demons, and dark shadows. Finally, she consulted a priest and he told her to say a prayer sending them away in Jesus' name. They finally stopped appearing to her. Soon after she started hearing Jesus. In 1987 Nancy went to Medjugorje and said she experienced mystical experiences with Jesus there and she was told she was a prophet. She then began seeing Jesus. By 1988 she was having locutions from Mary. In 1990 Fowler said she was mystically led to Conyers, Georgia where she bought some land and went public about her visions announcing that Mary would appear to her on the 13th of every month.

Word spread and pilgrims converged on Conyers to hear Mary’s message, first by the hundreds, then by the thousands. The messages supposedly were calling all of humanity, but especially the United States, to conversion. They continued for eight years until 1998. For years local authorities had been trying to block the pilgrims that had swelled to 60-100,000 a month, citing zoning violations and safety concerns but then change their mind and let the pilgrims continue.

As the fame of the apparitions had grown, a non-profit organization, Our Loving Mother’s Children, Inc., was formed to help manage the activities. Fowler announced that Mary wanted her followers to purchase the 30-acre farm next door, which was about to be foreclosed upon and to build a church and a shrine there. Two wealthy benefactors stepped forward, bought the property, and turned it over to the non-profit.

Fowler announced the last monthly apparition in 1995 and that the Virgin would only be appearing once a year. By 1998 Fowler and the non-profit organization had a falling-out and went to court and the non-profit opened the Mother of God Ukrainian Catholic Church on the 30 acres given to them. Two days later, Fowler announced to the monthly pilgrims that no further messages from the Virgin Mary would be forthcoming.

Fowler died in 2012 of cancer. She was 63. Her last years appears to be mired in lawsuits with the non-profit, according to the court documents. The original suit against the non-profit appears to have been lost by Fowler and was in and out of the court for years with Fowler trying to get twenty million dollars. Then the non-profit asked the judge for a sanction against Fowler and/or her attorneys for "frivolous litigation". Fowler filed bankruptcy in 2003 and Our Loving Mother’s Children, Inc., claimed she or her attorneys owed them a million dollars, it appears, for attorneys fees. The judge denied it telling the attorneys "Take your medicine and swallow and go home."

The Church considered Fowler's messages personal and made no ruling although the local archbishop wrote in 1991 advising the faithful that the main devotion should be to the Eucharist and quoted Acts 5:38-39, “Leave them alone, for if this plan and work of theirs is a man-made thing, it will disappear; but if it comes from God you cannot possibly defeat them.”

Today, only a few of these messages can be found Online and her books and pamphlets are out of print. Typical messages prophesied disasters, vague predictions of war, and coming viruses, none of which came true after the predictions. Many of the messages Fowler would see a tornado, a cloud, oriental men, a great wave, a mushroom cloud, etc. which she would then interpret. China was going to start a war, tornadoes were going to hit America, tidal waves were coming and watch out for a nuclear war. All with no dates and very ambiguous. The U.S. receives over a thousand tornadoes a year and major tidal waves happen but nothing immeidately followed when these predictions were made and no Third World III or nuclear war happened.

Defending Nancy as a prophet and seer "Jesus" says through Nancy, “I am not pleased with My Church. My Church is dividing and separating from Me. My Church refuses to recognize My extraordinary gifts that I give to My little children.... To My Church I say: recognize My daughter. Recognize her before it is too late.” And, "My Church continues to test Me and I am displeased. Holy apostles of My Church, you will be held accountable before Me. All priests hear this. I solemnly tell you, Nancy, those who are rejecting you are rejecting Me and each man will be held accountable to Me. Depart from Me all you black sheep. Depart from Me all you black sheep.”

This Jesus through Fowler spoke as an ordinary man and in today's Western vernacular. Nancy, troubled by an altar girl at Mass is consoled by Jesus, "Nancy, I echo My words to your opinion. I prefer tradition.” To Nancy, “One more day of rest and, then, hop to it.”

Defending these odd wordily phrases and seemingly incorrect grammar "Jesus" said, "Do you find the way that I speak is unusual? Do I just sometimes speak in incomplete sentences? I am not subject to the rules of grammar. I speak this way because it is best. Do I not succeed in getting people's attention?... Think about it. Who is learned and who is unlearned?”

The fruits have appeared and the end did come. People have to make their own choice. Good fruits always abound wherever there are more intense devotion and prayer, bringing miracles and healings as people's minds and hearts change being around so many devout people who believe that something miraculous is happening. After all, many people are sincerely praying for others to heal. And many have faith and with that faith they are healed regardless of whether the locutions and messages are really from the Mother of God and Jesus.

Continued in Part II


1The complete story of Magdalena of the Cross.