Q: What are locutions?

A: People who have locutions can be divided into three groups: a) people who actually hear external sounds though there is no apparent physical origin.  The message is received by the ear.  The person who receives it is certain that the voice reaches him/her from the outside.  These situations are rare.  In the Old Testament we have the example of Samuel (see 1 Samuel 3:1-18). b) The second group of locuations are called "imaginative words."  They are not the result of fantasy, something that the person imagines out of his/her own volition.  Imaginative words are messages that are literally imprinted onto our imaginative faculty or imagination.  The faculty of the imagination is like a wax tablet. The message is literally pressed into the wax that is the imagination. It may be vivid, accompanied by strong emotions such as exaltation, wonderment or fear.  It is said that the instructions received by Bernadette from Our Lady in Lourdes were of this kind.  She heard them in her imagination, some would say her heart, although the witnesses around her did not hear any voice.  This may be the habitual way in which messages are received. c) There is also the intellectual locution which is based not on detailed messages, but on concepts or ideas.  These ideas may concern special insights, convictions or actions.  Messages may deal with the immanence of the end of the world, the need for fasting or conversion.  The person who receives these ideas will formulate them as messages with his/her own words so as to be able to pass them on to an audience.  The people who receive locutions are not locutionists because they express or voice messages, but because they receive them.  The different kinds of locutions are, of course, dependent on the authority of the "sender" (e.g. Christ, Mary, etc.).  In all these situations, a serious discernment is paramount.

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