Marian Movement of Priests

The Marian Movement of Priests is a private association of Catholic clergy and lay associate members founded by Italian priest Fr. Stefano Gobbi in 1972. While visiting the Shrine of Our Lady of Fátima in Portugal he felt himself inspired to begin this work, whose principal emphases are to encourage Consecration, especially of priests, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and whole-hearted fidelity to the Magisterium of the Pope. 

For this purpose Fr. Gobbi has traveled throughout the world holding Cenacles of Prayer on every continent. Cenacle refers to the gathering of the apostles around the Blessed Mother in the Upper Room in which the Last Supper was celebrated and in which they awaited the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In Cenacles of Prayer the laity gather with the clergy, and with our Lady by praying the rosary, and often celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, as they pray for and await the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart, so ardently desired by the Church and promised by Our Lady at Fátima. In the almost three decades of this movement, many tens of thousands of deacons, priests and bishops, including Cardinals, and millions of religious and laity, have consecrated themselves to the Blessed Virgin and pledged fidelity to the Magisterium at the Cenacles of Prayer. In addition, besides the public Cenacles held in parish churches throughout the world, many weekly, bi-weekly or monthly Cenacles are held in private homes. 

One aspect of the Movement which has resulted in some controversy is the claim of Fr. Gobbi to receive interior locutions from the Blessed Virgin, messages which are published in his spiritual diary To the Priests, Our Lady's Beloved Sons.. An interior locution is a mystical word, a message received interiorly by a person while in prayer and which to them is clearly not from their own mind or spirit. Naturally, the person making such a claim is not the best judge of the authenticity of the alleged mysticism. We are often subjectively certain of things which prove to be false in reality. In the case of alleged mysticism there is always the possibility of mental illness, fraud, vivid imagination, or even the demonic. It is the task of a qualified spiritual director to discern, in the first instance, the authenticity of mysticism, basing himself on his knowledge of Catholic teaching, the personality,  character and prayer life of the alleged mystic and his own experience in directing others. The spiritual director is the Church's first line of defense in protecting individuals, and the faithful in general, from false mysticism. The local bishop is next, and then the Holy See, which alone can render a definitive judgment. Any sincere person who believes himself to be experiencing mystical phenomenon should be willing to undertake spiritual direction, for their good and that of those whom they might influence. 

From the beginning Fr. Gobbi has been under the care of a spiritual director, one who judged his locutions to be authentic and who determined which of the messages would be published. Contrary to some published reports, Fr. Gobbi has never been subjected to any other formal scrutiny. Two instances are sometimes attested to the contrary. The first concerns the changing of the name of the book from Our Lady Speaks to Her Beloved Priests, which was done so as not to imply the certain authenticity of the messages. This represented nothing more than prudent reserve, typical in such matters, and was not a formal action of any entity in the Church.

The second instance is a letter from an official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith asking Father Gobbi to state explicitly that the messages are merely his own meditation. Fr. Gobbi has said that in good conscience he could not deny what he believed to be true. Seeking clarification of his responsibilities, he sought counsel from a higher authority in the Holy See and was assured that this letter was merely a request by the monsignor who wrote it and not an act of the Congregation. Nonetheless, it is perpetuated by some as judgment of the Holy See condemning Fr. Gobbi. In reality, the Marian Movement of Priests continues to meet regularly in Rome and elsewhere with the permission and participation of bishops.

Unless a condemnation is warranted for the good of the faithful, the authentication of mysticism usually takes place during a canonization process, after the mysticism is obviously concluded (because the person has died) and it can be viewed in the context of the person's entire life. During life it generally stands on the witness of responsible persons, such as a spiritual director, the fame of sanctity of the alleged mystic and the fruits. This is somewhat different from the phenomenon of an apparition, which has a discrete beginning and end, and usually occurs independent of the stage of prayer life of the person receiving it. Upon its conclusion an apparition can be judged by the Church as an event in itself, as was the case at Lourdes and Fátima. The mystic, however, finds himself involved in phenomenon bound up with his own spiritual perfection and related to his growth in prayer, a process only concluded at death. Unless there is something to be condemned, it is after death that it is usually judged by the Church, if at all.

The final judgment of the alleged mysticism of the Fr. Gobbi rests, therefore, with the Church. In his favor, however, are the opinion of his spiritual director, his own zeal to promote Consecration to the Immaculate Heart and fidelity to the Magisterium, the great numbers of lay, religious and priestly vocations strengthened, and in some cases saved, through the Marian Movement of Priests, and the good will shown him by very many members of the hierarchy, including the Pope, who has received him and encouraged him in his work on several occasions.

Answered by Colin B. Donovan, STL

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