When I was working Totus Tuus this summer, teaching Catechism and immersed in Catholic culture, I heard about a fad that was sweeping through the faithful. The book Heaven is for Real is a “true” story about a 4 year old boy who, while undergoing emergency surgery for a ruptured appendix, visited heaven. The book was written a number of years later by his father, a Wesleyan Pastor at a relatively small rural Nevada church. Throughout the second half of the book, Pastor Todd, through humorous and inspiring anecdotes, explains some of the things his son saw in heaven.
Here’s the thing–this book IS spiritually inspiring, above all its a testimony of strength, perseverance, and hope through suffering.
The book would also qualify as personal revelation which has not been approved and even if it has been we can choose not believe:
“Throughout the ages, there have been so-called ‘private’ revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ’s definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the Magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church. Christian faith cannot accept ‘revelations’ that claim to surpass or correct the Revelation of which Christ is the fulfillment, as is the case in certain non-Christian religions and also in certain recent sects which base themselves on such ‘revelations’” (CCC # 67).
However, I don’t believe that this simple little book will ever be approved by Church. Why? Because 1) the source is not credible… the visions were by a young boy who hardly even knows how to communicate what he saw, and then were written down, many years later, by his Protestant father who could have interpreted his son’s words in ways that fit his belief.
Secondly, some things are directly against Catholic doctrine or dogma, specifically that the young boy says that Jesus told him those in Hell will not have resurrected bodies–a notion which contradicts centuries of Catholic doctrine (“For an hour is coming in which all those in their tombs shall hear His voice and come forth. Those who have done right shall rise to live; the evildoers shall rise to be damned” (Jn 5:28-29)).
To my Catholic brethren–it is OK to read this book, it has some emotionally and spiritually moving sections that, for the right person, could enrich their spiritual life. However, to all who read this I must urge prudence and deliberation in choosing which elements of the revelation to believe. Educate yourself before reading this, disregard the parts that are contrary to established Catholic teaching, and, if by chance you are prone to being led astray, just stay away from the book. There are other books you can read for the same effect that are more solid.