For quite a few years I had been interested in following various reported apparitions of the Mother of God, for if Heaven was indeed speaking to the world, I didn’t want to miss out on it. I think it did help my spirituality at the time, and also supported my devotion to Our Lady. Things sort of ground to a halt, however, around the turn of the millennium, when many alleged prophecies had failed to materialize. I didn’t want to waste my time meditating on words from Heaven if they were not really words from Heaven. So I concluded that the Gospel was enough, and the Tradition of the Church was sufficient to help me put the Gospel into practice.
My position is still basically the same, though I do accept the various apparitions over the past few centuries that the Church, after much prayer and thorough scrutiny, has declared worthy of belief (but the Church never requires belief in anything beyond the public divine revelation contained in Scripture and Tradition). I am quite hesitant to follow or recommend any apparition or associated devotion not yet approved by the Church. About thirteen years ago, I kind of went out on a limb in support of one of these, and recently the visionary was excommunicated by the Church, so, as the saying goes, I’m “once bitten, twice shy.” [Update, 8-9-11: Maybe I should have been more shy still. I'm not sure yet; I know some controversy has recently arisen, which has caused some faithful ministers of the Church who had supported Anne and her ministry to withdraw their support and encourage others to do the same. At this point I do not know what has happened. As I say below, I await the judgment of the Church. Anne has had the support of her bishop, which was a good sign. But perhaps things have changed. The Church must always have the last word, and we must be willing to walk away from anything that merits her disapproval. UPDATED UPDATE, 10-16-11: I have recently received some "inside" information which makes me think that the issues involved are merely personal and have nothing to do with the authenticity of the messages or the integrity of the ministry. Anne still has her bishop's support. The final judgment of the Church remains the ultimate criterion.]
But in the past year or two I’ve become acquainted with a lay spiritual movement known as Direction for our Times (see their website here). It began with revelations made to a lay woman (wife and mother of six, and a secular Franciscan) known as “Anne,” which is a pseudonym, since she originally intended to remain hidden and unknown. In recent times, however, this movement has grown quite a bit and she is now often asked to speak at conferences, etc, so her face is now known, though “Anne” remains her public name. The whole point of it is the sanctification of the laity through a disciplined life of prayer, good works, and fidelity to the Church, not only for personal sanctification, but also in anticipation of a coming time of renewal for the Church, which is meant to bring many straying souls back to God.
Anne has published several books of her own, in addition to publishing the messages she has received from God and from Our Lady. I have read some, though not all, of them, and I have been favorably impressed. She is quite down to earth, practical in her spirituality despite her mystical experiences, and she writes at a level easily accessible to the average layperson. She is orthodox in her Catholicism, stresses the mercy of God but does not ignore his judgment, and submits everything to her bishop, who has approved the publication of her writings and the messages.
All this does not in itself prove that God and Our Lady are in fact speaking to her, but they are all good signs, and I haven’t yet found anything that would dissuade me from paying attention and benefiting from what she has published. One of her volumes contains messages from the Mother of God to priests, which I have found (naturally) to be quite helpful and inspiring. I’ve had the further blessing of having some personal contact with Anne, and again I am favorably impressed with her spirituality, wisdom, and ability to endure joyfully the many sufferings the Lord has required of her.
While I await a definitive judgment of the Church on the authenticity of the messages from Heaven, I would still suggest you check it out for yourself. There are a whole series of video interviews with Dr. Mark Miravalle on her site, and perhaps you can get a better idea by actually seeing her and listening to her speak. The Direction for our Times movement seems quite solid to me, and as far as I can tell it is bearing much good fruit. With the world in such sorry spiritual shape these days, I’m not at all surprised that the Lord is busy with “grassroots” movements mobilizing the faithful to be more fervent in prayer, evangelization, and daily faithfulness to the Gospel. Such movements are all about winning souls for the Kingdom of God, and that’s what He’s all about, while this world still lasts.
I will conclude here with a message from Our Lady: “Look closely into your vocation and you will see the invitation that God extended to you to serve Him with the gift of your life. Now look closely at your life. Are you doing God’s will? Or are you doing your own will?… Your salvation and crown in heaven depend upon the answer. Much is expected of you, yes, but not unfairly. You are given every grace and consideration to complete the mission we have entrusted to you… I will help you. In fact, we will do this together, you and I. Spend time with me, your heavenly mother, I and will help you understand if there is any area in your life that is not in keeping with the mission God has designed especially for you since the beginning of time… we will seek out the truth together, and together we will find the truth and set matters right with you… Be joyful, dear soul of my heart, that I am working so lovingly with you at this time… Your mother is with you and will come to you as soon as you ask… Jesus is pleased with your effort to work with your mother in this holy project… He longs to be united completely with you, so that He can save the souls of His children… Do not be afraid. We will proceed together in this endeavor and soon you will marvel at the graces bestowed upon you… Your mother blesses you. Be at peace. I am with you.”
I find this both serious and joyful, and to me it rings true, as do the others I’ve read. And I can say that everything she mentions here is already happening in my own life. Perhaps I’ll say more about this in the future, but for the moment I’ll just say that the “encounter” I had with her last month (which I wrote about here) has changed practically everything for me. So when she speaks, I listen.
Discern for yourself. Perhaps you are being called to go deeper into your relationship with Jesus with the help of his Mother. You can’t go wrong, and abundant grace awaits you.