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DECEMBER 13/15, 2012, JANUARY 10, 2013 1a. Vassula on Discernment and Prophecy - An Interview with Mrs. Vassula
By Dr. Niels Christian Hvidt How can the authenticity of prophecy be judged? This interview with Vassula
Rydén by Niels Christian Hvidt examines both this and the concerns and
doubts prophets may themselves have about their own experiences. Saint Paul listed prophecy as second in his hierarchy of charisms, just
after that of apostlehood, and prophetically-gifted saints and mystics have
played an immensely important role in the history of the church in keeping
alive hope in the living Lord. But true prophecy has always been challenged
and put into question by its false counterpart. In this way, the danger of
false prophecy can rightly be called the Achilles Heel of the prophetic
charism. Nonetheless, given the importance of authentic prophecy, the
danger posed by its opposite should never lead Christians to disregard the
voice of God. If false prophecies lead Christians to reject the possibility
of true prophecy bearing fruit in the church, the Father of Lies would
achieve a great victory. Rather, the danger of false prophecy should lead
Christians to focus more on ways to "test the spirits to see whether they
are from God" (1 John 4: 1) in order to reject the false but gratefully
retain the authentic gifts through which the Holy Spirit never ceases to
edify and strengthen the Church. This is what this article will explore.
Usually, investigations into the authenticity of prophecy focus on the
Church's responsibility to judge the prophets. In this interview the
criteria for discerning prophecy are examined as well as the assessment of
individual believers who have a responsibility to think, pray and discern
for themselves whether a given prophecy is valid; the church would rarely
venture to investigate a prophetic message if no one believed in it.
But a fact often ignored is that the first person to judge the authenticity
of an apparent prophetic experience is the prophet himself. Most biblical
prophets had doubts about their own experience, which often stemmed from
the immensity of a task they considered beyond their strength or
worthiness. For example, upon the approach of God the prophet Jeremiah
said, "Ah, ah, ah, Lord Yahweh; you see, I do not know how to speak: I am
only a child!" (Jeremiah 1:6). Also the prophet Isaiah cried, when the Lord
approached him in might, "Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean
lips and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the
King, Yahweh Sabaoth" (Isaiah 6:5). Like Isaiah, to whom Yahweh sent a
Seraph to purify his lips, the prophets need the aid of Yahweh, who
convinces them of their calling and empowers them to carry it out.
Therefore, given human weakness, a prophet can never live out his prophetic
charism without the gift of discernment, which provides the necessary
support to carry out the task. How can the prophet go forth to speak in the
Name of the Lord, if he is not convinced of the authenticity of his own
experience and cannot discern between different kinds of experiences?
Hence, we cannot be surprised when the Bible always shows prophecy linked
to the gift of discernment. David Aune, who in his Prophecy in Early
Christianity has produced what many consider the best exegetical study on
New Testament Prophecy, has defined the relationship between prophecy and
discernment as two gifts of the Spirit that are ontologically linked and
that usually are cooperating gracefully in a true prophetic calling. He
comes to this conclusion after a thorough analysis of the various passages
of the letters of Paul that speak of prophecy - especially in Paul's first
letter to the Corinthians - and ends by saying:
The close relationship between prophesying and the evaluation of prophetic
utterances in 1 Corinthians 14:29 indicates that there is a connection
between the gift of prophecy and the gift of "distinguishing between
spirits, "just as there is between the gift of tongues and the gift of
interpreting tongues (1 Corinthians 12:10).1
Given this vital relationship between the two charisms of prophecy and
discernment in Scripture, I thought in worthwhile to seek out a
contemporary known for prophetic experience and willing to discuss it. I
therefore asked Mrs. Vassula Rydén for an interview which she kindly gave
in her home in Rome.
Niels Christian Hvidt: Vassula, it is clear from reading your messages that
at the beginning of your call you had many, many doubts. Can you tell us
about these doubts?
Vassula Rydén: Yes. You must consider the position I was in where I was
completely ignorant about divine charisms. Of course, when this call came
to me, I knew something was going on because there were visions, a voice
speaking within me, and there was the evident joy of God s presence. There
was something happening!
And yet, in the total ignorance I was in then, it was very difficult for me
to digest that it was the Creator speaking to me, because it was so
awesome. It was more than amazing to me that God could give locutions to a
mere creature like me, who had never heard that this was even possible.
This is the reason for my doubts, which kept tormenting me because I had no
one to ask about what was happening. NCH: So these charisms were the reason for your doubts?
Vassula: If I had known that God gave charisms, maybe I would not have had
such powerful doubts. Maybe I would have said, "Well, perhaps God is
speaking to me! Maybe God is calling me."
Let me give you an example: we are sitting in my kitchen, we know it's the
afternoon, the sun is shining, - you can see it through the windows and
yet, if you are right in the interior of the house where there are no
windows you could doubt that the sun is shining, because you can't actually
It was clear to me that God was speaking, but I had no solid, concrete and
physical proof. It was all within me, and I had to accept it. God's
powerful presence gives peace and it makes your heart leap with joy. There
were also mystical manifestations, such as the fact that my hand would be
I have read in St Teresa of Avila that this is called 'rapture' of part of
the body. St Teresa said God can 'rapture' the whole body, or part of it
and I would say now that my hand was 'raptured' and led to write in a
different manner. I learned this much later, when I wanted to find out what
was happening to me.
I was never, as some people accuse me, just putting my hand on a piece of
paper and letting go so that it moved without knowing what it was doing.
This is wrong. This is what is called automatic writing. It was not then
automatic writing and it is not now automatic writing. I would hear the
voice, sometimes hearing it the day before I would write down what I heard
when my hand would be taken. NCH: And you consider that the most significant difference from automatic
Vassula: That is correct. NCH: I wanted to talk more about the reasons for your doubts. You mention
that you did not know that other people had had locutions. If you had
known, you might have more easily said, "I'm just one of many," and thereby
rejected the experience?
Vassula: I really do not know how I would have reacted. As I said many
times, I did not pray, I was not close to God I did not know God at all. If
I had known that God gave locutions for the benefit of the person and the
benefit of the Church, which always go together, perhaps I would have
doubted still. I would have said, "Why does God come to a person like me?"
I might have rejected it. I am very sceptical and very hard on myself and
have a tremendous fear of being deceived. NCH: When did the doubts actually begin?
Vassula: The doubts did not begin the first or second day, nor the third,
because I believe I received grace to just accept the amazing thing that
was happening to me with joy! As I described in the introduction to the
angel book (My Angel Daniel), I was literally flying all around the house,
waiting for the hour my husband came home from his job so that I could
share it with him. And he, too, believed. I can only tell you that this was
grace working at its maximum. My husband is a Lutheran, who like myself
never went to church, and he and I both believed like children! We accepted
it. It went on like this and I didn't have a trace of doubt for about three
months. NCH: And your children? They all knew that you were not "crazy?"
Vassula: Oh yes. They believed. We were wondering, in a sense, why it was
happening, as it was not clear. But it was just as if heaven opened, and
the Angel, the Father, and Jesus just were accepted into the family.
My first doubts, terrific doubts, came when I went to the Church opposite
the house where we lived in Bangladesh and shared it with first one priest,
and then another. That is when seeds of doubt were put into me. From then
on, it was hell for me. NCH: Was it a purification?
Vassula: It was terrible. I remember describing it to somebody: it was like
being a child of three years left or abandoned in a garden, covered with
berries and fruits and mushrooms which are all edible. And the child feeds
herself on these things for about three months, delighting herself. Then
comes a passer-by, an adult, who says to the child, "Wow, you've been
eating all this! For these three months! Well, you had better be careful.
Maybe you will find a mushroom or a berry which is poisonous and die!" Then
what happens? The child is scared out of her wits and doesn't even dare to
pick up another berry. 2.
That is what happened to me after I went to the priest. He scared the wits
out of me, telling me it could be schizophrenia. Well, I knew it wasn't