Here is another story about a supposed private revelation of the Blessed Mother in southeast Michigan.
I first became aware of these apparitions by coming across several free booklets given away by the "Heavenly Grace" prayer group containing reputed messages of the Blessed Mother to one Carolyn Belprez-Kwiecinski of Pinkney, Michigan (north of Ann Arbor). The three booklets, Heavenly Grace, Standing in a Miracle and Loved for All Ages recount the messages of the Blessed Mother to Carolyn from December 1996 to November 2004. Before saying anything for good or ill about these messages, we will explain the nature of the messages and hear from the seer in her own words.
Carolyn says of her first message in 1996: "One afternoon while I was praying for help in choosing the right college, I asked to understand God's will. I clearly heard the words,"That which brings you closer to Him is always His will." I was stunned. I had heard someone speak to me in a way I had never before experienced. It was a voice that I did not hear with my ears, but within me. I knew in my heart who had spoken to me. It was Mary." Then, much like the Seers of Medjugorje, Carolyn was promised a message daily by Mary: "Because the Lord has allowed it to be so, I will give you each day a teaching for the good of the world."
Two things are interesting about the so-called messages to Carolyn: first, as with the Medjugorje seers, Mary (and sometimes the saints) speak through her in the first person, as if Carolyn in "possessed" by the one speaking. Secondly, as far as I can tell from reading the books and looking at the group's website, Carolyn never actually sees any apparitions; she only hears voices interiorly which she believes is the Blessed Mother.
The messages, like the Medjugorje messages, are trite and speak about generic blessings; take this message from September 23rd, 2003: "My dear children, again it is good to be with you...Pray, always! Dear ones, my desire for you in peace...peace in your homes, peace in your lives, peace in this world...May the peace of Christ be with you this day and always. As a mother to you, I pray God bless you and lead you always to a life filled with His peace." Does that sound familiar? Although, to Carolyn's credit, most of her messages (while not evidincing anything close to supernatural origin) are actually more theological and believeable than the Medjugorje messages (which is not saying much).
These messages have been submitted to the Diocese of Lansing for review, but neither the group nor the diocese says who is in charge of scrutinizing them, though Fr. Bill Ashbaugh of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Howell, MI, a defender of Carolyn, assures us that "Carolyn's messages were given to a priest in the Diocese of Lansing who has been charged by the bishop to review books and materials for proper theological content. According to his best judgement, Carolyn's messages are free from theological error and are in harmony with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They are simple and encouraging." But there is no word of who this priest is. Nor has any official endorsement come from the Diocese of Lansing.
I am suspicious of these messages for the same reason I am suspicious of Medjugorje. (1) There is no tradition that I know of in the Church of Mary of the saints speaking first person through a seer (2) As Cardinal Ratzinger said regarding Medjugorje, the sheer volume of messages received through Carolyn renders authenticity improbable: approximately 2,944 messages over seven years (3) Though Fr. Ashbaugh assures us that everything in the messages is theologically sound, I picked up the first book, Heavenly Grace, read it for twenty minutes and located at least three passages in the first 35 pages of the book that, while not openly heretical, definitely smacked of heresy (suspecta de haeresi errorem):
On page 3, in the 4th message (12-4-96), we have Mary saying: "Seek out your Lord in prayer. Know Him. Strive to hear His voice, for He has never left you. His faith in you is unshaken." His faith in you is unshaken? Since when does Jesus have faith in us? Faith is defined as believing in the revelation of God because He is truth and cannot deceive nor be deceived; it is a supernatural virtue infused by baptism. How can Jesus have faith in us? In fact, how can the Second Person of the Trinity have "faith" in anything since He has immediate knowledge of everything and thus no need of faith??
On page 11, in the message for 12-20-96, Mary opens her message with this shocking statement: "Blessed are all people, for they have experienced the mercy of God." Blessed are all people? First of all, not all people are blessed; only those who through the grace of God remain among the blessed. The Bible (especially the Psalms) always makes a clear distinction between the "righteous" and the "wicked." So clearly, not everybody can be blessed. As for the statement that "they have [past tense: ie, have already] received the mercy of God", this could be true if it meant they have all objectively been ransomed by Christ; but it uses the word "experienced", which subjectifies the atonement and seems to refer to the appropriation of Christ's saving grace. Clearly, not everybody receives this. This statement is tantamount to saying that all people are saved. I know that is not what Carolyn means, but that is what the words imply. And a true apparition would never be sloppy with such theologically important words.
One final example: on page 32 in the message for 1-26-97, Mary supposedly tells us: "Dear little one, you must trust that God has forgiven you fully." What? First of all, the catechism teaches that nobody can be absolutely certain that they are at any given moment in a state of grace. Secondly, forgiveness depends on contrition, confession, absolution and satisfaction. If these are deficient, then forgiveness is questionable or lacking; it certainly cannot be implied that it has already been accomplished fully, as the apparition apparently insinuates.
These are just three examples found in the first 35 pages of the first book. I don't understand the anonymous priest's assertion that there is nothing contrary to faith or morals in these messages when there are three quasi-heretical statements in just the first 35 pages! And these were not even all of them; I actually found seven.
To Carolyn's credit, unlike the Medjugorje seers, she has not attempted to profit from these messages and (to my knowledge), has not profited. But like them, she apparently did not change her lifestyle after hearing the Blessed Mother, meaning that she still went ahead and chose the married state. While the traditional seers of old demonstrated extraordinary change of life after their apparitions (usually by entry into religious life), modern seers tend to reat apparitions as something that you can just go ahead and continue your life afterward as you did before. Everybody has free will, but it is suspicious that 2,944 visits from Jesus, the Blessed Mother and the Saints did not produce a religious vocation. Again, St. Bernadette and Sr. Lucia should be our models.
I think the rise in private apparitions and things like this bespeak a crisis in Church authority; people are increasingly turning to such things because they are not getting the truth spoken clearly from the Magisterium. I do not know the status of the Heavenly Grace Prayer Group as of now; Carolyn's book says the messages ceased in 2004, but the website says they continue to this day (though it seems the website has not been updated for some time).