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Is the Holy Spirit behind supernatural visions?

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Philip Kosloski - published on 05/24/24

Many holy men and women have received various private revelations, believing that God has revealed to them a specific heavenly message.

Whenever someone claims to have received a private revelation from God, the Church will investigate it and discern whether or not it is compatible with the Catholic faith.

It is possible that the vision did come from the Holy Spirit, as a recent document from the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith explains:

God is present and active in our history. The Holy Spirit, who flows from the heart of the risen Christ, works in the Church with divine freedom and offers us many valuable gifts that aid us on the path of life and encourage our spiritual growth in fidelity to the Gospel. This action of the Holy Spirit can also reach our hearts through certain supernatural occurrences, such as apparitions or visions of Christ or the Blessed Virgin, and other phenomena.

However, there needs to be further discernment to discover if an alleged supernatural vision has the mark of the Holy Spirit.

Action of the Holy Spirit

The Vatican has listed several criteria that can help in affirming a private revelation as an action of the Holy Spirit:

The credibility and good reputation of the persons who claim to be recipients of supernatural events or to be directly involved in them, as well as the reputation of the witnesses who have been heard. In particular, one should consider the mental equilibrium, honesty and moral uprightness, sincerity, humility, and habitual docility toward ecclesiastical authority, willingness to cooperate with it, and promotion of a spirit of authentic ecclesial communion;

The doctrinal orthodoxy of the phenomenon and any messages related to it;

The unpredictable nature of the phenomenon, by which it is evident that it is not the result of the initiative of the people involved;

The fruits of the Christian life, including a spirit of prayer, conversions, vocations to the priesthood and religious life, acts of charity, as well as sound devotion and abundant and constant spiritual fruits. The contribution of these fruits to the growth of ecclesial communion is to be evaluated.

This contrasts with any negative fruit that would indicate this is not from the Holy Spirit and might be influenced by human or diabolic forces, such as the following:

A sectarian spirit that breeds division in the Church;

An overt pursuit of profit, power, fame, social recognition, or other personal interest closely linked to the event;

Gravely immoral actions committed by the subject or the subject’s followers at or around the time of the event …

The Holy Spirit can act in a variety of ways in a Christian’s life, but it is important to maintain a skeptical stance until it can be discerned that a supernatural occurrence is from God.

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Devotions and FeastsHoly SpiritSaints
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