Sunday, 18 January 2009

Christian Unity, Vassula Ryden and "True Life in God"

This is a photograph of Vassula Ryden with Cardinal Toppo of India. We had just celebrated Mass at the shrine of Our Lady's House at Ephesus and the Cardinal had said, in his homily, the future is "True Life in God"! Below in the blog list, you will see some links to information about Vassula and her writings. Now for a few basic facts.

The Notification against Vassula and her writings, issued by the Roman Catholic Congregation for The Faith has not been removed. There are a few reasons for this. First of all, every statement made by the Holy See passes into the archives and remains there. Secondly, there can be no definitive statement made about "True Life in God" at this time, whilst Vassula is still alive. The Notification was not a condemnation, but a "warning". It was Cardinal Ratzinger (now His Holiness) who said this in answer to a question in the Italian journal "30 Days" (see the blog links below). The Notification was not personally issued by Card. Ratzinger. A Brazilian bishop, Rt. Rev. Joao Evangelista Terra, S.J. who at that time worked under him and was a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission personally asked the Cardinal what he should do about these writings which he, the Bishop, had found to be in agreement with Catholic teaching and personally inspiring. The Cardinal's answer was to carry on as before (that is reading and meditating on the "messages") but to do so carefully.

When Vassula issued a document answering all the questions raised by the Notification (made possible with the help of Fr. Prospero Grech who had worked on the staff of the CDF) it was Cardinal Ratzinger who, in writing to some Bishops' Conferences, said that she had provided "useful clarifications". He then sent a message to Vassula telling her that her clarifications should be published in her books, thus allowing for the possibility of her books being obtained and read. In other words, the books are NOT, in any way, banned! Catholics are free to read and profit from Vassula's writings, and are free to decide, according to human faith, whether they be inspired by God or not. In issuing the "warning" the CDF did not prohibit Catholics from reading the books, and neither did the Cardinal.

We have moved on from there. The books have received an imprimatur from Bishop Toppo (no relation to the Cardinal above) and he has explained how and why he did this in a video interview which can be accessed through the main TLIG web site (see below). Bishop Toppo is a Jesuit and was for a time a Novice Master and seminary professor.

My own story regarding "True Life in God" begins with my disapproval of it. I am not without some experience in these matters. For over 25 years I have been the spiritual director of a mystic (I took this on with my bishop's knowledge and continued at his request). I am also a diocesan exorcist. I had not read much of Vassula's writings, and like most people who hear about her, I had relied on second and third hand information, some of it from people I admired and trusted, and had formed the opinion that she and her writings were highly suspect and should be avoided. I even told some Catholics who were interested her to have nothing to do with her.

However, visiting a pilgrimage hostel in Wales, I discovered a copy of her book on sale in the corridor, and warned the manager, Sister Mary, that this was a mistake on her part and that the book should be immediately removed. She told me that it was a local hermit who had placed it there. I spoke to the hermit. She, quite reasonably asked if I had read any of the writings, and suggested that I might look at them before condemning them! I agreed. From the first page I felt that I had recognised a "voice" I had known since my childhood. I realise that this is subjective, but I could not deny this inner certainty. Who was it? I can express it best by saying that I identified it with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Real Presence in the Tabernacle, the Face on the Shroud, and the One who, I believed, had called me into the priesthood. Another thing happened which was very odd and inexplicable (I will not go into that here - it might take too long). Very quickly after that I met Vassula in Rome and celebrated Mass in her house. From that day I became convinced that she is completely sane and extremely honest and open. She appears to have no psychological issues and is "ordinary" in the best sense. She does not promote herself, as though she is some celebrity, but speaks openly about her faith and about the God she loves and serves.

I mention her now because one of the main reasons for the "messages" is the call to unity. In these writings we find the elements of the One Church and the spiritual path to unity. There is nothing new here, but the writings contain a sense of urgency and are full of spiritual wisdom. One Catholic bishop compared them to the writings of St. Catherine of Sienna. The keys to unity are "humility and love", and it is clear that the One Church will contain all that is best and essential in Catholic and Orthodox and Protestant churches. The Petrine ministry is central, as is the Real Presence. As far as Roman Catholics are concerned these writings reaffirm Catholic Tradition as they do Orthodox Tradition. Protestants of different backgrounds will recognise here something that is central to their faith - as it is to the faith of all Christians - the personal call from God to an intimate relationship with Him. These messages also contain what I believe are some of the most beautiful words written about the Mother of God. The books are read by Christians (and others) throughout the world in almost every language. They are read by Christians of different denominations including Greek and Russian Orthodox, Lutherans, Evangelicals, Marionites, Greek Catholics, Copts and Catholic Copts, Armenian Orthodox, Anglicans and others. More information can be found on the web site (see below).

Here is the video of the Brazilian bishop speaking about Vassula, Cardinal Ratzinger and the writings known as "True Life in God"


  1. Dear Fr. John,

    Glad to know you here.

    My name is Albert, from Indonesia. I started reading TLIG on May 2009. I feel Jesus is speaking directly to me when I read the book. Jesus said that even one soul is very precious for him. That's why, on June I made a website at, to spread His Messages.

    Please kindly let me know your email address.

    God Bless

  2. Hello. What do you think about the document issued by Cardinal Levada?

  3. Anonymous. If you have seen the video above you will see that Cardinal Ratzinger told the bishop that he should not worry. Vassula answered all the questions put by the Notification. Cardinal Ratzinger said that when anyone asked the CDF what its position is, the answer would be, "it is modified". How could Cardinal Levada have written as he did? It is a puzzle and we have asked for clarification. It seems that in writing about "prayer groups" he is actually talking about pilgrimages, and his concerns about those. if there are problems with them, we will deal with this, but I can say that we now have very strict rules about what happens on the pilgrimages and the Cardinal need have not concern about them. There is nothing "inappropriate" about the prayer groups, and since, in Canon Law, we have freedom to meet and pray, we continue to be free to do so since there has been no specific instructions to the contrary. Having said all that I am open to further comments by the CDF or the Cardinal and will always obey my bishop in union with the Pope. In this matter there is no disobedience although there seems to be some confusion. I hope it will soon be cleared up.