In all of Church History, people have experienced the One God whom we worship in and through Jesus Christ. These experiences can help other Christians, and can even be highly beneficial to all the faithful. However, these revelations are not universal, and are not to be imposed on others as necessary to the faith.
In today’s Christianity, there is an identity crisis plaguing all forms of Christian spirituality so that many of the churches have essentially forgotten the deposit of faith in their consideration of what makes Christianity specifically Christian.
What I mean is, Christians are turning everywhere but the deposit of faith for revelation and insist of revolution instead of renewal, often unknowingly insist on rebellion instead of remembering the Fathers of our faith. Some turn to reaction instead of refining, some are caught in the endless present through culture wars and forget the deeper and more enduring aspects of the faith that are a constant source of guidance and renewal.
Especially among Protestants, private revelations run wild. They change the faith, they alter the form and content of Christianity from generation to generation. Word-faith, full-gospel, and other movements which bear the name Charismatic are often shaped by private revelations. What can truly help unite the Churches and set them on a single path, united despite differences is a common realm of experience. In fact, Tradition is simply the records of a commonly regarded and Authoritative Experience.
Pope Benedict XVI offers this meditation from Verbum Domini under the paragraph called “The Eschatological Dimension of the Word of God”:
[Private Revelation] can have a certain prophetic character (cf. 1 Th 5:19-21) and can be a valuable aid for better understanding and living the Gospel at a certain time; consequently it should not be treated lightly. It is a help which is proffered but its use is not obligatory.
Discernment is something that we all need when encountering the Word of God through the people of God. It is incumbent upon us to learn how to take upon ourselves the voice and mind of the Church. Hope, Faith and Love are to be essential criteria of how we are to understand and hold to private revelations. The virtues they inculcate and the general charity which they inspire are essential elements of how we relate to revelations that are non-essential to faith. Pope Benedict XVI offers us a criterion:
In any event, [the validity of private revelations] must be a matter of nourishing faith, hope and love, which are for everyone the permanent path of salvation.
There we have it. Discernment is a matter of virtue, of charity and Christ-likeness in all things.