We recently carried an article about Catalina ("Katya") Rivas of Bolivia (now of Mexico), a stigmatic whose mysticism began, it is alleged, in 1993 and whose experiences intensified after a trip to a reputed and controversial apparition site in Georgia.

Is Catalina real? Some say -- loudly -- no. Others, including her archbishop, have offered support (in the case of her bishop, in the way of an imprimatur on some of her messages -- the pages of which number in the thousands and claim to be from Mary and the Lord). Fox TV presented a special on her stigmata and it was viewed by twenty-seven million in North America, Australia, and New Zealand. The television crew documented the miraculous eruption of stigmatic wounds, as well as fluid emanating from a statue associated with her. Real phenomena. But from what source?

Among other things, there are a bleeding image of Jesus and a print of the Guadalupe image that hung in her hallway and in front of witnesses gathered the preternatural glitter known in Latin countries as "escarchas." The bust of Jesus was officially investigated and declared worthy of veneration. It is the one that shed tears in front of cameras. We'll have more on this shortly.

Said a television reporter (see the video): "We continued to visit Catalina at her home the artistic glitter on the picture of Mary continued to grow and change. On the third night we notice part of the Image illumined in the dark. We then bathed the Image in a strong television light. The same area lit up into a phosphorus green. To us a mystery but to Catalina it was simple. A gift from Jesus and a message. This was the womb of Mary where He became man."

It is difficult terrain because one wants to be open at the same time one does not want false notions put forth.

Far be it from us to determine such things.

Many seers and locutionists during the 1980s and 1990s -- as well as since -- have proved to be questionable. Some exhibited the presence of deceptive spirits (perhaps unbeknownst to them). Most seem to be an admixture of legitimately prayerful inspiration-meditation/subconscious notions/supernatural interplay/and deceptive input from spirits playing games in this realm where we have at best partial vision.

Yet, following Scripture, we don't despise prophecy and when looking at supposed messages, take what seems good and leave the rest.

Discerning the "good" part -- the wheat -- is the tough part. Sometimes one wants to toss it all to the side when there is chaff.

Boring it is not.

With Rivas, a mother and grandmother, by all accounts obedient and sincerely devout (as well as active in past diocesan events), there are curiosities when it comes to messages. For example, skeptics have had a field day with one in which Jesus apparently referred to her (endearingly) as "My cucarachita." That means "my little cockroach." As one critic pointed out, the Lord is also quoted as using expressions such as "Do not cry over spilt milk," expressions that do not exactly remind us of the verbiage in the New Testament.

Is Christ that laid back and jocular? Some who have near-death experiences say exactly this: that Jesus surprised them with His humor and the twinkle in His Eyes. Hard to envision. But so is everything of Heaven. It is peculiar.

When the Lord says things such as "My daughter, much beloved, today I want your prayers for the conversion of the former USSR... Yes, you heard correctly, for the former USSR," are such expressions as "you heard correctly" from Him or the human filter -- the person -- through whom the notion flows? It is a bit colloquial and worldly.

There are accusations that some of the messages and teachings from the Lord are at least partial plagiarisms of writers such as Jose Prado Flores and Salvador Gomez of Guadalajara, Mexico. Alleges a website called The Skeptic's Dictionary, "Her messages from God published in 1996 as Renovacion Evangelica (Evangelical Revival) bear a remarkable resemblance to Formacion de Predicadores (Training Preachers) published several years before she got them from 'god.'"

Allegations such as that should be taken seriously. Still, Catalina Rivas has profound teachings on things such as the Ark of the Covenant and Mass, which many have found authentically inspiring. What does Catalina say she was told as far as future events?

"He [The Antichrist] lives hidden;  it is as if everything were only eyes that look at the world; a mouth that speaks words that confuse and seduce the minds of man, causing them to rush to their perdition," is a message that perhaps suffered in translation. "In his pride, his heart full of hatred, and he will carry through the most monstrous action, throwing himself towards where the Pope is, trying to raise himself."

Jesus tells her He is about to return -- as so many others say they have been told.

"Wait attentively for My return."

"My hour will soon strike for the joy of many souls and the sorrow of others... My messages of love -- preparing humanity to face, with atonement and penitence, the evil that is approaching -- are neither heard nor put into practice.

"The Divine Mercy, ready to mitigate that evil, is not implored. If there were more souls that would atone... many things would change. The forces of hell, accumulating all their power, are swiftly deceiving the world in order to unleash the most terrible war that the centuries have known.

"Since time has passed in vain confirmations and the punishment is imminent, I desire all the formation houses dedicated to My service in all the religious orders to prepare to be the army that will give the triumph in the decisive battle, in that hour in which I will remove the bad from the earth and institute My reign. I want My peaceful army to decide the destiny of humanity for its own good and grandeur with its spiritual force...

"With its help, I will settle everything in an instant, everything that man would not be able to achieve... I will show Myself to everyone, and even those who deny Me will believe. Because of this, salvation without penance is not possible. Many and great evils will continue to come if penance is not made. Many are the sins, much the pride against God, whose Justice is held back by My Mother's pleadings and supplications.

"My daughter, the evil, the ambition, the pride, and the sensuality of life have created a monstrous present-day sin: the willful negation of the wrong that is done to God through all kinds of sins. Working in this way, humanity atrophies the collective conscience and imbues in it the erroneous notion of what is natural in life, in order to pretend that everything is lawful if everyone does it... taking away from it malice and introducing it into the mentality of all people...  

"Pride is reigning in the world, and from that pride sprout all the vices preventing it from acquiring humility, the virtue that would allow it to reach the Divine benevolence and the fruits of charity. I need souls that by sacrificing themselves voluntarily and lovingly will offer Me continuous prayer and a burning desire for pain because of the offenses committed against My Divine Heart. The love of the chosen ones of My Eucharistic Heart will have their reward in that same love -- having Me present always in everything they contemplate and that surrounds them. I will be the center of their material and spiritual lives, as a foretaste of what will be eternally."

Is this Jesus -- or personal ruminations, based on what has been said and heard elsewhere? Common intuition? Or the "real deal"? Certainly, the translation is not eloquent. There is not the economy of language we associate with Jesus and the Blessed Mother, at places such as Fatima. Yet, we take it as a rough-hewn product, as a raw ingredient, and decipher what may be an authentic ingredient for a legitimate missive.

Not an easy task.

In fact, so difficult a task that we'll give it to you.

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[See also: Michael H. Brown retreat, spiritual warfare, our prophetic times, Cincinnati, September 19]