Ask a Priest

Has the Church ever said anything about “Heaven is For Real” and …

May 12, 2014


This may be a silly question, but I’m curious.

I recently went to see Heaven is for real with my mom. It was a very good movie. Uplifting, and comforting.

Of course it’s (allegedly) based on a true story. What I found interesting… The little boy named Colton, allegedly went to heaven at 4 years old, and saw Jesus. He said angels sang to him, he saw a sister who said she died in their mommy’s tummy, he described Jesus and said he had markers (then went on to describe those markers as his wounds. The biggest conflict is stating the wounds were in his hands rather than the wrists as many believe they should be… but some believe, he’s 4, the wound in the wrist would have been close to the hand, so wrist/hand – same difference to a 4 year old.)

he was shown many depictions of Jesus and said none of them looked like him. In some the hair wasn’t right, in some the eyes, etc.

side step to another true story of a child named Akiane who at the same age as Colton (4) (a girl raised by an agnostic father and atheist mother) had a vision of a man who told her he was Jesus. Suddenly by the age of 6 she could paint more realistically than Leonardo DeVinci – completely self taught. By the age of 8 she painted the face of Jesus she calls Prince of Peace –

at the end of the movie, the dad is searching the internet when he finds out about the little girl, and when Colton sees the painting she did he says THAT is how Jesus looked. (this is how it allegedly happened in real life as well according to the book. He saw the photo and said that’s what Jesus really looked like.)

Flash forward a few years… a few people took the little girl’s painting and did a superimposing image with the Shroud of Turin and this is what they found… (Sometimes you have to pause it to read all the writing.)

Anyhoo… the main claim is, minus the hair weighted down with blood and sweat, and the nose which is swollen on the shroud from beatings, the faces match up so closely, the creators of the bideo believes her depiction of Jesus is fairly accurate if we are to believe the Shroud is truly Christ’s image…

So now we have Akiane who at 4 says she saw Jesus in a vision (raised by atheists not knowing who he was) who paints him at 8 years old. Colton (also 4 at the time) goes to heaven and says the painting is the closest to what Jesus looked like when he met him… and we have this comparision to the Shroud, and it does look to match up fairly closely.

The biggest detractors of both Colton and Akiane are Catholics who believe visions are strictly for Catholics since Catholicism is the True religion of Christ… and Atheists who don’t believe in God and find it all to be bunk. However, I haven’t read a convincing argument that proves these two are frauds in any way other than personal beliefs…

So… long story short (Too late)

What should Catholics take away from all of this? Normally when you hear of visions of Jesus or Mary, or heaven… it’s Catholic saints who have these miracles happen, and it’s usually not in recent times. You don’t hear much of miraculous visions anymore.

I mean, normally I am skeptical of visonaries of modern times… but sometimes a story really wraps you up to the point you don’t know what to think of it.

I’m surprised no pope has asked to speak to either Colton or the artist Akaine.

Asked at 02:35 am on May 12th 2014

Dear Dee:

I have read some reviews of the film and while they recognize its positive pionts they also observe that there are some shortcomings, for example, this review.

The Church hasn’t said anything about this, and generally does not make any official statements on films. Neither am I aware that the Church has said that only Catholics can have visions.

Maybe the story is true, we don’t really know unless there is a careful investigation.

Replied at 03:36 am on May 12th 2014

Its not so much a review of the film… it’s more of the story the film is discussing I’m wondering about… I was curious if the church had anything to say about the validity of Colton who the movie is about, and the artist Akiane – I was curious if the church had every heard of these cases and said anything about whether or not there is any merit to them.
How do we discern the modern frauds from a little kid who had some sort of experience, and how do we discern that experience from a hallucination and a miraculous event. Is it all a matter of faith? Are there rules in general?

Replied at 04:42 am on May 12th 2014

Dear Dee:

As the people are involved are not Catholics the Church is not going to be saying anything about the matter.

From time to time there are private revelations to people within the Church. For a start it is important to realize that even if they are accepted as genuine none of the content of any private revelation has to be accepted by Catholics as it does not form part of the content of public revelation. Then, when there are private revelations the Church, mostly through the local bishop, conducts a very thorough investigation which generally takes quite a few years, before coming to any decision about whether it is genuine or not.

This article explains some of the ways in which the Church comes to a judgment about private revelations.

Replied at 04:54 am on May 12th 2014