Holy Ministry or Wholly Marketing, You Decide

An unusual rosary

(Update, Mar 2 2012: Here’s the link to the bishop’s decree concerning Holy Love Ministries on the website of the Diocese of Cleveland. The diocesan site was down when I originally wrote this article and I had forgotten to go back later and link directly to their page. I wrote a new post about HLM tonight, too.

After discussing this with a new friend, I’d like to pass along her request that all of us pray for the alleged visionary, that she may be reconciled with the bishop, that she may be faithful, that she may be humble, that she may be patient and accept the will of God, even if that will is not what she would like. These would be signs of the validity and veracity of her alleged visions, or locutions, whichever type of revelations they are alleged to be. But those are not the signs that she has exhibited. In any case, I accept the bishop’s word and am not promoting Holy Love Ministries or anything associated with it unless and until the Church approves it. And that means when the bishop of the diocese where HLM is, in Cleveland, approves it.)

(Update, Dec 1 2011: The title of my post now seems misleading to me. I do not want to imply that determining the validity of “Holy Love Ministries” — or of the private revelations associated with it — is the responsibility of the Catholic laity. As you will see further on in the post, their bishop spoke out about this a long time ago and gave his ruling on it. Which was No, it is not authentic and the faithful are to have nothing to do with it. Period. The people at “Holy Love Ministries” refuse to obey. That certain other people insist on spreading the “messages” and the rosary is itself disobedient and I am disgusted to see advertisements for this group prominently displayed on the right hand side of each and every page of a well-known pro-life site. I have written to them about it and have mentioned it to them several times but have never received a reply or even an acknowledgement of my concerns.)

A friend gave me a rosary a few months ago. It’s an unusual rosary: the “Hail, Mary” beads are the shape of tears and inside each one is a tiny figure of an unborn baby. The booklet that accompanies the beads contains special pro-life meditations and prayers. I’ve enjoyed using the beads while praying the rosary, but I haven’t ever used the actual book. And I’ll tell you why. Because the text is based upon “messages” that were allegedly received by someone in Ohio who claims that the Virgin Mary has appeared to her for more than 25 years.

Now, I’m not saying she’s lying. I have no idea if she’s really been visited by our Blessed Mother or not. But I do know this: The Church has not approved the “apparitions” of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Maureen Sweeney Kyle. As a matter of fact, the Bishop of Cleveland issued a decree about Holy Love Ministry back in November of 2009. I did a search and found it on the web just now. (The diocesan site is down for maintenance and upgrades but I found a copy of the decree on another site. When the official site is back up, I’ll link to the document there.)

Holy Ministry or Wholly Marketing?
Holy Ministry or Wholly Marketing?

The Bishop of Cleveland is pretty clear in his warning to the faithful. And Ms. Kyle is equally clear in her rebuttal of the bishops warning. And that is what gives me pause. And cause for concern. If she was truly being contacted by the Blessed Virgin Mary—the model disciple, the most faithful, humble and perfect of all disciples ever —wouldn’t she respond to the Ordinary of her diocese in a faithful, humble, less prideful manner? Wouldn’t she accept the bishop’s authority and decision and, with patience and prayer, hope that he might change his mind, that God would make it known to him that Holy Love Ministry was, if not authentic, then at least, not to be forbidden to his flock?

Consider what happened to St. Teresa of Jesus (St. Teresa of Avila). She was denounced to the Inquisition for, I believe it was, the Book of Her Life and the account of some of her spiritual experiences therein. Visionary experiences. She had to write a letter explaining certain things to the Inquisition and they were happy with what they read and lifted the ban on her book. But my point is that St. Teresa submitted to the authority—the legitimate authority, I might add—of said Inquisition and complied with what had been requested of her. St. Teresa wanted nothing more than to be—and was—a faithful daughter of Holy Mother Church.

Read the rebuttal from HLM. Does that sound like someone who wants to be faithful to the Church? Someone who wants nothing more than to spread the Gospel of Christ? I’ll tell you what it sounds like to me, considering also the rest of the site, slick marketing and merchandising included. It sounds to me like someone has found a very lucrative way to profit as a “prophet”. I’d be much more inclined to view her activities favorably, or at least to reserve judgment, if they would stop hawking their wares like any common hucksters and ceased operating what looks on their website to be very like a Catholic-themed theme park instead of a place of pilgrimage or a holy and sacred shrine.

As for HLM’s claim of being “ecumenical” and “having nothing to do with the Catholic Church”, this tactic seems to me to be just part of an attempted justification for not seeking ecclesial approval.

Q – Is the Rosary of the Unborn approved by Catholic Church?
A – Holy Love Ministries is an ecumenical organization (which means it is for all people) and is NOT affiliated with the Catholic Church or any other denomination. We do not seek ecclesiastic approval under the Catholic Church. We are not a church, but an organization given a specific mission. The Rosary of the Unborn comes directly from The Blessed Virgin Mary and we are under Her direction regarding The Rosary of the Unborn. — From the FAQ page.

And consider this: our beloved Blessed Virgin Mary never ever ever points to herself but always points to her Divine Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ. I cannot imagine her telling HLM that anything comes directly from her. Nor can I imagine her condoning rebellion against her Son’s representative who has ecclesial jurisdiction over HLM in his diocese. By their fruits we shall know them. And this actually forms part of the criteria by which such things as supposed apparitions are in fact judged.

With respect to any disciplinary precepts the bishop makes concerning the apparition and its site, they should be followed faithfully (e.g. what sacraments, if any, may be celebrated there). No Catholic should ever violate the practical norms laid down by the local bishop with respect to an alleged apparition, even if intellectually they disagree with his conclusion regarding the alleged apparition. Such disobedience would be sinful, and if it characterized the attitude of the followers of the alleged apparition it would be a sign of its inauthenticity, i.e. by producing bad fruit. — From EWTN’s Expert Answers on Apparitions/Private Revelations. Written by Colin B. Donovan, STL, the whole article is very interesting and quotes relevant sections of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. (Emphasis added.)

So what will I do with my rosary beads from HLM? I’ll use them the way I have been. Occasionally. And with traditional, approved or not disapproved prayers and meditations. I long to be what St. Teresa longed to be: and in my case, if not a saint, then at least a faithful daughter of my Holy Mother, my Church.

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About Disciple

I am a pro-life activist, blogger, writer, poet, singer songwriter, musician, photographer, nerd, bookworm and Mac fan. I have two dogs, one of whom is well-travelled. (I had three for a while after adopting a senior dog, but he has now passed away, and the pack is back to two girl dogs. One was born after, the days of mammoth road trips.) And the most important thing is: I was received into Holy Mother Church in 1996 and, through the grace of God, I love Christ and His Church more with every passing day. Thanks be to God!
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11 Responses to Holy Ministry or Wholly Marketing, You Decide

  1. Carlos says:

    I just got one of those rosaries for free at my church and I like it. Not very long after reading the booklets that come with it, I also started to doubt about the authenticity of its claims, looked for their website and it all looked like little more than marketing. and after searching more about it, I ended here.

    I want to point out that when they answer the question
    “Q – Is the Rosary of the Unborn approved by Catholic Church?
    A – Holy Love Ministries is an ecumenical organization (which means it is for all people) and is NOT affiliated with the Catholic Church … We do not seek ecclesiastic approval under the Catholic Church. W…”

    they are not actually answering the question. The question was wether the Rosary was approved, not about wether the organization has or seeks approval.

    I am also taking the approach of waiting to hear about an official approval by the Catholic Church before I trust their claims.

    • Disciple says:

      Yeah, I agree, Carlos. They certainly did dodge the question and the dodge itself is revealing. But did you notice the link (I did link to it, didn’t I?) to the document from the local bishop? The Church did rule on it. The only ruling the Church needs is the ruling from the local bishop. He is the Ordinary in his diocese and he has authority over it. He’s pretty clear in his decision and it is binding upon Catholics, as I understand it, in his diocese and beyond. I can’t imagine that he would rule that Catholics from Cleveland are to stay away from HLM but other Catholics could attend services there. Nor can I imagine that another bishop would come along and give his approval, contradicting the local bishop.

      Here’s the link: Bishop’s Decree on HLM.

      Now it is possible that more rulings could come at a later date when the situation warrants it. But, really, the only way I can see that happening is if HLM and the “mystic” concerned undergo a serious interior conversion and become faithful to their bishop. The obvious commercialism that you note in your comment would seem to indicate that this conversion has not yet happened, as does their disobedience, rebelliousness, and the fact that they issued a “rebuttal” of all things, instead of a mere letter of clarification and submission.

      An example will be useful (especially for non-Catholics reading this): Consider St. Bernadette. She was upset with people for selling “holy” items at Lourdes. She absolutely refused to profit off of the apparitions. And she objected to her family profiting from them too, poverty stricken though they were. She submitted to her bishop and remained a humble daughter of the Church, even though she refused to deny what she had seen. She still obeyed the Church, she did not rebel.

      I’m glad you got the same impression I did about HLM. But I”m sad that they’re taking the direction they seem to be taking. I still like the rosary. And I’m glad I didn’t give them any money for mine.

      Now that you’ve found the blog, I look forward to hearing from you again! Peace be with you, Carlos. :)

  2. Carlos says:

    I am liking your blog a lot, by the way.

  3. margarita says:

    i was there and after i found out was going on i told people not to go and to be obedient to the church,but the response its that some priests has told them to just go.i know a priest and a woman who after been there (the woman lives in ohio and work for hlm they booth got a house from some rich men who our lady told him to do it .
    this woman its very deep into the messages and actually all her family receives messages too.i know the bishop from mexico has said not to go and rule the same as the bishop from cleveland.also another minister in mexico its promoting hlm and bring in people from mexico..who will put a stop to this?when priest are going there too?

    • Disciple says:

      Greetings, margarita! Welcome to the blog! :)

      It is troubling when priests don’t listen to bishops and lead their flocks astray. But this isn’t new. I’ve heard priests tell people on Catholic radio that it doesn’t matter what the Church says about Medjugorje, that they should just go anyway and make up their own minds. When the show’s host pointed out that we are supposed to listen to the voice of the Church on these matters, the priest insisted that he knows the apparition is authentic and people should just go.

      This (along with many other instances) is what makes me suspect that the apparitions are not authentic. We shall know them by their fruit. Disobedience and obstinance are fruits but they’re not good ones. When the followers and the “seers” stubbornly refuse to listen to the Church, I want to steer clear of it all.

      But what to do with those who won’t listen? I don’t know. Perhaps we can speak to them, speak the truth, in charity. And we absolutely must pray for them.

      Thank you for reading, margarita, and for sharing your story about HLM. And for being a faithful Catholic. Peace be to you. :)

  4. Mei says:

    When I read about the decree by the local Bishop, I also felt the way you do concerning it. If the ministry is not following the authority of the local Bishop, then I think it is wise to be wary and avoid it. The rosary of the unborn is beautiful and needed and I wish another legitimate, Church approved organization would have something like it too. I won’t even buy that rosary from that ministry because I would be reminded of the concern over it. Unfortunately, when I was younger, I went on a pilgrimage to Medjugorje. I was naive at the time to realize it was a questionable pilgrim site. I just went along with the parish group that organized it. I went with a youth group. When I attended the prayers when the apparitions were suppose to be happening, I did not experience anything unusual. My experiences out of the whole trip were positive with my interaction with the children and other pilgrims. I just admired their strong faith but felt I could have learned the same remaining at home. I think if you want to make a pilgrimage, go to the Divine Mercy Shrine in Stockbridge instead. :)

  5. Disciple says:

    I agree. Unfaithfulness to the local bishop is a big red flag, Mei. I haven’t used my rosary from this company (I really can’t use the word ministry when referring to it) since, well, since I wrote this post, as far as I can remember. I look at it and see all those little figures of tiny babies in the beads and I can’t quite bring myself to get rid of it. But I don’t use it; I keep it in my rosary bag. Every time I see it, I’m reminded of the pro-life cause and about the importance of the faithful Christian witness, too.

    And, yeah, I stay away from the Medjugorje stuff, too. If and when Holy Mother Church approves, I’ll look more into it. Until then, I have more than enough approved devotions and studies to keep me busy the rest of my life. The Church is so vast and time is so short. The Divine Mercy Shrine suggestion is a great one! The Chaplet of the Divine Mercy and the Rosary are two of my favorite devotions. :)

    Thank you for reading and commenting, Mei. :) Peace be with you.

  6. Pingback: Praying with the Rosary of the Unborn? Pray for Maureen Sweeney Kyle and Holy Love Ministries | Catholic Heart and Mind

  7. Elizabeth says:

    I’d get rid of the rosary, if I were you. If the devil is at work through Holy Love Ministries, I’d not want to touch one of those. I have had friends try to give me those and I just say no thank you.

    • Disciple says:

      Hi, Elizabeth! What a beautiful reminder of Our Lady’s Visitation to her cousin who was also with child: Elizabeth, carrying the baby Saint John the Baptist to be in her long-barren womb. What joy!

      I’m not afraid of the rosary beads themselves. Everything I know about Holy Love Ministries, which isn’t very much, leads me to believe that the people are either deceived or deceivers, but that doesn’t necessarily make them in league with the devil. But you could be right. Have you actually been there? In any case, I got rid of the beads a long time ago after going through a thorough explanation of what I saw as the problem. The woman who took them is strong in the Holy Spirit and I’m sure she went right to a priest to have them cleansed or whatever he thought they needed.

      But, like you, a dear pro-life friend gave me those (as she gave them to lots of other people, too). As soon as I glanced at the booklet that came with it, my Uh-Oh alarm went off. Nothing anyone has said has made that alarm go away yet.

      Peace be with you, Elizabeth! Thank you for stopping by and for speaking out about something you see as harmful. I wish more Catholics would have the awareness and the courage to do that, every day, wherever they are.

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