Dom Guéranger on Private Revelation and The Mystical City of God

The incomparable Dom Guéranger, author of the monumental Liturgical Year and a writer of the highest piety, discretion and scholarship, was skeptical of The Mystical City of God. The attacks of the adversaries of the book swirled through the years until they reached his ears and moved him to study this case, and in imitation of Bl. Innocent XI and Cardinal D’Aguirre he read it himself. He also studied the life of Ven. Mary, the Papal decrees regarding the book, and the Sorbonne proceedings. The result was a series of 24 articles in L’Univers (Paris) in 1858-9 in which he extolled Ven. Mary and praised and defended the book.

Here is what he said in general regarding private revelation in the history of the Church:

“In all periods the Church has had in her bosom souls to whom it pleases God to communicate extraordinary lights, of which He allows some rays to fall onto the community of the faithful.

“What counts for the Christian who wishes to know the things of God in the measure which is permitted to us here below is to know that beyond the teaching generally imparted to all the children of the Church, there are also certain lights which God communicates to souls whom He has chosen, and that those lights pierce through the clouds when He so determines, in such a way that they spread far and wide for the consolation of simple hearts, and also to be a certain trial for those who are wise in their own opinion.

“Those to whom the seer communicates what he has learned from a Divine source, being reduced to a human and fallible intermediary, need give it only that assent which we give to probable matters, an assent to which we give the name pious belief. No doubt this is little if we consider the invincible certitude of Faith; it is much if we consider the shadows around us.

“But there always remains that superhuman tone which is gentle and strong at the same time, an echo of the Divine words which resound in the soul, that unction which penetrates into the reader’s mind and soon obliges him to say: The source of this is not human. Our heart slowly takes fire as we read, our soul feels a desire for virtue that it had not yet felt, the mysteries of faith appear more luminous to us, bit by bit the world and its hopes vanish, and the longing for heavenly good, which seems to have been asleep in us, awakens with new fervor.”

Regarding The Mystical City of God, here are a few excerpts from these articles.

In his introductory article of May 23, 1858, he called the book “this marvelous summary...her astonishing if not superhuman work.”

In the Sep. 12, 1858, article he says: “The reader remains completely free to consider this vast synthesis as a purely human work. Is it merely that? It would be difficult to sustain this assertion. However that may be, the least that might be said in praise of this work is that it remains as one of the most imposing monuments of human genius, and it presupposes in its author the most marvelous understanding of the mysteries of Christianity, the most profound knowledge of its moral teaching, and a rare comprehension of Holy Scripture.”

In the Dec. 5, 1858, article he gave his final opinion regarding the book:

“My intention has never been to sustain that absolutely everything is of equal value in the book. I merely take advantage of the liberty which the Church gives me to believe.

“After a lengthy study of The Mystical City of God, and of the voluminous writings that have been published for and against it, above all after reading the dossier of the Process before the Sacred Congregation of Rites, I conclude that the revelations of Mary of Agreda on the life of the Blessed Virgin have a right to the respect and the esteem of all those who are capable of undertaking to read them, that they deserve to occupy a distinguished place among writings of that kind, and that the judicious use which can be made of them can serve as a powerful stimulus to a revival of devotion in souls by developing a comprehension of the fundamental mystery of the Christian Religion, the Incarnation of the Word, and by uplifting the mind concerning the sublime role of the Mother of God in the whole economy of the Divine plan.”