This is Part 3 of a 4-part analysis of the book In Sinu Jesu: When Heart Speaks to Heart—The Journal of a Priest at Prayer, which is credited to an anonymous Benedictine monk. Click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2. Click here for Part 4.
As noted in part two of this article, the introduction to In Sinu Jesu—credited to an anonymous “Benedictine Oblate”—takes as a given that the book’s contents are authentic divine messages. It reproduces a letter from the book’s author—the anonymous “Benedictine Monk”—describing the circumstances in which the messages came to him.
“The vocabulary and the style are mine,” the author writes,
but the substance of what I wrote came during prayer, without any effort or prior reflection on my part. There would be an inner movement to write, and I would write until the inspiration stopped. After writing, there would be a grace of quiet union with Our Lord or with Our Lady. On a few occasions, there were “words” from saints or from holy people.
The author goes on to say that the spiritual director he consulted throughout most of the duration of his messages “identified what was happening as a gratia gratis data,” meaning a grace freely given for the salvation of others.
“I can only say,” the author adds, “that the words came peacefully, rapidly, and effortlessly. By this, I do not mean that the words came from within myself, but rather, from what I experienced as an objective but intimate presence of Our Lord, immediately related to His real presence in the Most Holy Sacrament.”
In this way, the reader is made to see that the author has, with the help of his spiritual director, discerned that he is truly receiving messages from heaven that are intended to help others get to heaven.
The author adds that his spiritual director encouraged him to share the messages with priests. And now, he writes,
In spite of my reticence and desire for anonymity in regard to this journal, I have been repeatedly told by Our Lord Himself that His words are meant for the blessing, instruction, and comfort of many Christians today, above all, His beloved priests. With a grateful and expectant heart, I gladly give this journal into the hands of all those readers whom Our Lord and Our Lady have already chosen for it,
Three major issues with In Sinu Jesu can be gleaned from the above paragraph:
- “In spite of my reticence and desire for anonymity”—These words come from an author who, as was detailed in part one of this article, published the first of his alleged messages on his blog under his own name and continued to publish further messages—all of which can still be found on his blog at this writing.
- “I have been repeatedly told by Our Lord Himself”—We have seen that the author’s spiritual director told him that his messages were a charismatic grace given for the salvation of others. With these words, he affirms his own chosenness. He is convinced he is a special instrument of God—not merely in the sense that every member of the baptized is called to be God’s instrument, but in the distinctive manner of a divinely ordained prophet.
To this assertion, I can only say that the Church has declared that claims of private revelations are to be evaluated according to the official norms set forth by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (of which more will be said in the fourth and final part of this article).
Such claims are also typically evaluated according to the examples of the saints—none of whom, to my knowledge, published a book of private revelations during their lifetime that was easily traceable to them.
- “I gladly give this journal into the hands of all those readers whom Our Lord and Our Lady have already chosen for it.” The author, having posited himself as a divinely chosen instrument, now informs his readers that they are divinely chosen listeners.
As we will see, these three issues will continue to impose themselves throughout In Sinu Jesu. In the remainder of the present installment of this article, I will examine them more closely before moving on in part four to outline two particularly problematic aspects of In Sinu Jesu’s spirituality. The latter aspects concern (1) certain distortions of the spirituality of wounds and (2) the assertion that every priest is called to seek actively to be a victim soul who is “wounded” by Christ.
The Author’s Identity: Hidden in Plain Sight
As In Sinu Jesu progresses, its author’s identity becomes clear—and not merely for those already familiar with the messages as they first appeared on his blog. Any reader wishing to locate the book’s author can do so easily with the help of numerous clues that are evident in the text itself.
The first words from “Jesus” to the author, in a message dated October 3, 2007, comprise a straightforward request: “I want priests who will adore for priests who do not adore, priests who will make reparation for priests who do not make reparation for themselves or for others. I want priest adorers and reparators” (p. 1).
More details of the instructions from “Jesus,” and how the author will carry them out, emerge over the ensuing pages. For example, “Jesus” informs the author that he is to establish a Benedictine monastery of “priest adorers” (p. 129) and he repeatedly indicates that this work is to be done in Ireland: “Take your place there in Ireland; I will place you at the heart of the Church to adore me and to make the reparation inspired by love” (p. 196).
By that point, if readers are curious to know who is this founder of a monastery of Benedictine monks of Eucharistic Adoration in Ireland, they can simply type the keywords Benedictine, monks, Adoration, and Ireland into any online search engine. Or, given that the imprimatur is from Bishop Michael Smith, who was then bishop of the Diocese of Meath, Ireland, readers could search for Meath and Benedictines.
In either case, no matter what search engine is used—Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, etc.—the first search result for those terms will be the Silverstream Priory homepage. There, readers will find a link to Silverstream Prior Father Mark Daniel Kirby’s blog, with its entries containing the same messages that would later be published in In Sinu Jesu; they will also find an online shop that offers the book.
If he truly wished to remain anonymous as the author of In Sinu Jesu, there are several simple things Father Kirby could have done. He could have removed his blog entries in which he first revealed his messages, and he could have edited the book to remove the references to his receiving a divine call to found a monastery in Ireland. In addition, he could have sought an imprimatur from the diocese where In Sinu Jesu was published—the Archdiocese of Cincinnati—rather than his own diocese. That he did none of those things indicates that remaining anonymous was not a priority for him.
“Chosen” to Receive “Gifts” and “Secrets”
“Jesus,” during a series of messages informing Kirby about the specifics of his call, repeatedly speaks of the special gifts that he is giving the monk. Some of these messages have a Gnostic quality, enticing the reader with the promise of “secrets.” For example, the alleged messages make the following assertions concerning Kirby and Silverstream:
Kirby is divinely “chosen.” Although the bulk of In Sinu Jesu consists of exhortations from “Jesus” that priests make adoration and reparation to the Blessed Sacrament, a strong secondary theme is the specific call from “Jesus” to “a Benedictine monk” who is obviously Father Kirby to found “a monastery” that is obviously Silverstream Priory. Inasmuch as the book has a narrative, it is the story of the priory’s allegedly divinely inspired origins.
“Jesus” tells Kirby, “I have chosen you, and My designs on your life will be fulfilled. The time is coming when you will praise and thank Me for doing for you according to the promises I have made you” (p. 16).
Although it could be argued that the exhortations from “Jesus” concerning the “call to adoration and reparation” (p. 113) apply in some sense to all priests, there is no mistaking the particularity of his language with regard to Kirby. He says,
The healing and purification of many priestly souls depends on your fidelity to this call to adoration and reparation. I have charged you with a grave responsibility for the healing of your brother priests and for the return of many of them to My open Heart. Their healing and sanctification depends on the love you have for them and on the expression of that love by fidelity to adoration. [p. 113]
Language of this type is troubling coming from the founder of a new monastery who makes his “messages” available in his bookshop and whose monks freely volunteer that the book was written by a member of their community. There are dangers of spiritual pride in untested claims of direct messages of Jesus and Mary regarding the importance of one particular religious community or the special calling of one priest.
Through the charism given to Kirby, the monks who will follow him into Silverstream are likewise divinely “chosen.” The Jesus of In Sinu Jesu does not desire just any Benedictine monastery; he specifically requests one with a “Mectildian charism” (p. 192, referring to Mother Mectilde de Bar, founder of the Benedictine Nuns of Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament). And he gives Kirby a host of assurances that this divine plan will come to pass. “I will build the monastery stone by stone, and I will fashion the men I have chosen for it” (p. 129).
“Jesus,” in describing his vision for the monastery, uses language very similar to that which one often finds on traditionalist blogs. Although there are thousands of Benedictine abbeys and priories around the world, he says only “several” are “fervent”: “I have several communities of fervent Benedictines in My Church, and they glorify Me according to the gifts imparted to them, but I have nowhere a house of priest adorers to keep Me company in the Sacrament of My love, and to offer themselves for their brother priests” (p. 129).
As was noted in part two of this article, a fund-raising letter for Silverstream stated that Kirby was witnessed in “deep Union” with Jesus before the Eucharist, with journal in hand. It was likewise noted that, as Inside the Vatican’s Robert Moynihan has documented, Silverstream monks inform visitors to their bookstore that In Sinu Jesu was written by a member of their community. There is therefore little question that the monks of Silverstream regard the founder and prior of their monastery as a mystic. Indeed, given that Father Kirby began to share his alleged messages on his blog before founding Silverstream or even the Tulsa house that preceded it, some of the monks may even have joined the monastery for that reason.
Moreover, Silverstream is dedicated specifically to carrying out the mission that Kirby reports was given him by Jesus himself. This claim of Kirby’s appears on his blog (as discussed in part one of this article) as well as in In Sinu Jesu, and the monks promote his book in their ministry.
In that light, it gives one pause to read the manner in which the Jesus of In Sinu Jesu portrays the founding of Silverstream. He describes the monastery as urgently necessary: “The time is short, and this work of Mine must go forward because the spiritual needs of my priests are immense” (p. 207). It would seem that monks of Silverstream who accept the validity of such messages, feeling themselves to be “chosen” through the chosenness of their founder and prior, would feel an intense personal responsibility to follow Kirby’s mind in all things.
It is therefore cause for further concern to see how Kirby’s Jesus frames Silverstream’s founding in terms of an epic battle between good and evil. Immediately following the passage cited above where he says “this work of Mine must go forward,” he adds,
I want to save My priests from the snares and entrapments laid in their path by the Evil One who seeks their destruction, and through their destruction, that of My Bride, the Church. My priests stand in the front lines; when they fall, My Bride, the Church, is left with no defense, and he who has hated Me from the beginning will advance to cause her downfall. [p. 207]
Another such message has a particularly dire tone: “There are powers of darkness working against the fulfilment of My plan, but I will prevail, and I will establish you in the place I have prepared for you—and this will be a triumph of my merciful love in the hearts of many” (p. 193).
In addition to the messages that tell how the priestly adoration and reparation to be promoted at Silverstream are to benefit the Church, the Jesus of In Sinu Jesu also provides a more personal reason for those practices. He claims that the love of his priests gives him a level of consolation that is categorically greater than the love he receives from the laity. “There is a consolation that only My priests sojourning on earth, in the valley of the shadow of death, can offer Me. Only those who live for the altar and from the altar can give Me the consoling and adoring love that delivers Me from the sorrow that constrains My Sacred Heart” (p. 156).
Such clerical exceptionalism is astonishing even when conveyed by a traditionalist; it is simply not true, and the writings of Catholic tradition do not uphold it but rather contradict it.
The constant tradition of the Church proclaims that union with Christ is attained through the virtues of faith, hope, and love; that, of these, the greatest is love (1 Cor 13:13); and that the layperson is called to love Christ in exactly the same manner as the priest. For Scriptural evidence of this, we need only to consider the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was not a priest, and whose love for Christ exceeds that of every other human person. Through the gift of love that is her perpetual “fiat,” she holds the highest place in heaven of all the saints.
Medieval Doctors of the Church such as St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Bonaventure often used the example of the vetula—the little old lady—to show that a layperson could love God more than a Master of Theology (which, at that time, was necessarily a priest). More recently, the Swiss cardinal-theologian Charles Journet, an outstanding Thomist, wrote in The Mass, “In [the] line of charity’s ardor and of the coredemption of the world, it happens that the offering of the faithful, especially those ‘friends of God’ either dispersed about the world or hidden in the cloisters, can, by being united to the personal offering of the priest, support it, elevate it, even go beyond it.”
Kirby is “set apart” to receive a “special gift” and divine “virtues.” “I will give you the gift of ministering to My priests,” “Jesus” tells Kirby. “Even those hardened in sin will be touched by your words and their hearts will be softened by your adoration before My Face” (p. 62).
But that is not all. “Jesus” also informs the monk, “I have given you a special gift that will allow you to instruct others in the prayer of My Bride, the Church. … I have set you apart as a vessel to be filled with the unfathomable graces of my friendship” (pp. 74, 75).
What are those graces? “Jesus” explains in a later message, “The work for which I have set you apart, in My infinite mercy and love for the men I have chosen, requires of you a lowliness of heart born of self-knowledge, boundless trust in My divine mercy, confidence in My divine friendship, and, in serving your brothers, a transparent purity of intention, serenity, and benignity.” And he promises Kirby, “These virtues I will give you through your consecration to the Immaculate Heart of My Mother” (p. 80).
But that is still not all. Kirby has also been given the gift of interior resemblance to Pope Benedict XVI, sharing the same “penetrating” insights and Holy Spirit guidance.
“Jesus” assures Kirby, “The soul of the Holy Father [Benedict XVI] is, in many ways, not unlike your own. You both have received a penetrating intelligence of the Sacred Liturgy—My mysteries celebrated for the life of the Church and for the salvation of the world—and you both have been led by the Holy Spirit into a deeper and more intimate union with My Immaculate Mother” (p. 165).
Kirby even receives from “Jesus” the promise of mystical espousal, an extraordinary grace that is granted to only a few. “Consent to My friendship, “Jesus” tells him, “and I will espouse your soul” (p. 132).
“Jesus” says moreover that this espousal will bring Kirby a union with him “that is the perfect expression in a human soul of the union of My human soul and of My divinity with My Father” (p. 127).
It’s not unusual for spiritual writers to compare Christ’s union with the Christian’s soul to the hypostatic union by which Jesus’ human nature is joined to his divine nature. However, the suggestion that Kirby’s union with Jesus can become “the perfect expression” of the hypostatic union raises a red flag.
To paraphrase Archbishop Sheen, no living person but Mary has ever been or become the “perfect expression” of Jesus’ union with his Father. Every human person, as long as he or she is in this mortal coil, has to fight concupiscence (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 405). Kirby, in suggesting that he has been promised perfection in this life, veers dangerously close to self-canonization.
Kirby is given “secrets” of Jesus’ Eucharistic Heart. “I have begun to form you for the work for which I chose you and have set you apart,” “Jesus” tells Kirby. “You will enter into the secrets of My Eucharistic Heart and help your brother priests to discover them for themselves by remaining in adoration before My Eucharistic Face” (p. 61, emphasis added).
“I desire to draw back the veil,” “Jesus” adds in a later message, “and to do this I will use you” (p. 72). He explains, “You will help your brothers, priests and deacons alike, to enter with Me into the hidden sanctuary beyond the veil where I stand as eternal Priest before the glory of My Father, with My Face transfigured and all-glorious in the brightness of the Holy Spirit” (p. 74).
There is a pious tradition of Jesus revealing “secrets” of his Sacred Heart to those who wish, like St. John at the Last Supper, to lean upon his breast and learn from him. But Kirby’s writings on this topic are atypical in that, with few if any exceptions, the mystics before him who revealed private revelations were not easy to track down. Either their writings were published posthumously, or they were genuinely anonymous. They certainly did not offer a book of their private revelations at their monastery gift shop.
Moreover, the secrets Kirby receives are not limited to those pertaining to Jesus’ sentiments. “Jesus” also informs him about the state of others’ souls (see pp. 77, 86, 147, 165, 178, and 199). Kirby is told about one priest, “Father will take the path that I have always wanted for him. It was for this work that everything served as a preparation, including his own sins” (p. 11).
It is particularly disturbing to read that “Jesus” assures Kirby that a certain unnamed priest was “wrongly accused, suspected, maligned, and condemned” (p. 252). Since “Jesus” does not say that the priest was eventually exonerated, the reader is left to conclude that Kirby believes that he has it on Jesus’ own word that a priest who was convicted of wrongdoing was in fact innocent. Even if Kirby truly believes that Jesus said such a thing to him, it is extraordinarily poor judgment for him to promote himself as having specially gifted knowledge of whether a convicted priest is really guilty.
One wonders, moreover, what the monks of Silverstream Priory must think when they read a message such as this: “Beginning today I entrust you with a particular grace of intercession for the souls I will send to you. You will intercede also for all those whom I shall make you see in your prayer. Pray, pray with confidence and boldness, and I shall answer you each time” (p. 6). It indicates that the monks’ prior is given gifts akin to those of a Padre Pio—and it suggests God may even grant him infused knowledge of their innermost thoughts.
Certainly there may exist holy men and women who possess the gifts that Kirby’s messages describe. I myself have known people whose lives bore evidence of similar graces. Yet they would have been horrified at the thought of self-publicizing their gifts by means of books or other media. The same goes for all the saints.
Click here for Part 4.
Image: Monks of Silverstream Priory, Regina Magazine. Source: https://flic.kr/p/mVGSDS. License: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).
Discuss this article!
Keep the conversation going in our SmartCatholics Group! You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter.
Dawn Eden Goldstein, S.Th.D., is the author of several books, including The Thrill of the Chaste and My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints. She has taught at seminaries in the U.S., England, and India. Currently she is writing a biography of Father Edward Dowling, S.J., who was a spiritual adviser to Alcoholics Anonymous founder Bill Wilson.