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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Prophecy of Hope Featured

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These are tumultuous times, both inside and outside the Church, no doubt about it.  It is unsurprising therefore that among some of the faithful there is a growing interest in the end times and Catholic prophecy.

Spend just a few minutes on Catholic social media and you will see faithful who run the gamut from viewing today’s events as humdrum growing pains in the age of the Church, to those who seem convinced that the Parousia is just around the corner.  Further, you will see well-meaning faithful getting caught up in messages of some modern-day apparition of a self-proclaimed messenger of God.  Some Catholics, realizing the problems to which an uncritical approach to prophecy can easily lead, reject all or most prophecy rather than risk going down that particular rabbit-hole.


But we are not advised to take either the gullible or cynical approach; the Bible tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:19, "Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil."

But before one can begin to take a critical but open approach to genuine discernment, one question must be answered:  Why bother with prophecy in the first place?  If everything we need to know for our salvation is already revealed, why is prophecy even necessary?  I mean, even the Church, while approving of certain phenomena, never requires us to believe in it.  Why bother with testing anything, why don’t we just ignore it? 

I understand this sentiment well, but I think it is more helpful to approach the problem of prophecy another way.  If it is true that God sometimes reveals things about the present and future through saints, sages, and even His Mother, why does He do it?

Prophecy is not about predicting this element or that event. Prophecy in the era of the Church serves much the same role as it did in the pre-Church era, namely to instruct and to give hope. Since public revelation is complete with the death of the last Apostle, there is no more we need in terms of what to believe.  So the instruction part of prophecy today is mostly aimed at helping us understand the evils and ills of our day and where they will naturally lead.

Specifically, this is the "If men do not cease offending God, xyz will happen."  Prophecy serves the purpose of helping us properly diagnose the ills of our age as seen through heavenly eyes, even going back centuries.   We can recognize our era in many of these prophecies and know that this way leads to disaster.  That is the one function of prophecy.

The other function is hope.  I read an article last week by a poor convert to Catholicism in which he admitted that he had lost faith in the papacy and thus the Church.  He thinks that world has triumphed over the Church and that the promised protections of the Holy Spirit, not obviously evident to him, means that the Church isn’t what she claims to be.  In short, he has lost his faith because he has lost hope.

Hope may be the most critical aspect and reason for prophecy. God gives us prophecy so that we never lose hope in a situation that can many times seem hopeless.  Prophecy gives me great hope in that I know, no matter how bad things may seem now, this will end.  The Church will triumph.  The how and the when is obviously of great interest to us, but ultimately not the primary function of prophecy.  For this reason, I tend to give little weight to prophecies and prophets that get too specific about future events, knowing that such detail tends not to serve the primary goals of genuine prophecy.

God tells us only what we need to know.  Not so that we can look smart predicting events on Facebook or wow our friends, but to bring us to genuine repentance and to help us lead others to the same. And to give us hope through the great trials which God in his great generosity allows us to know are coming or already here.

It doesn’t take a prophet to know that today the Church is in the midst of great trials.  The approved prophecies of countless saints, seers, and sages going back centuries attest to the evils of our age better than most contemporary pundits.

I will quote one here as what he has to say is very representative of the general outline presented by more than a millennium of approved prophecies.  Venerable Bartholomew Holzhauser, a 17th century parish priest, ecclesiastical writer, and a founder of a religious community had this to say about our era (that would follow the council of Trent until a great chastisement, a period he referred to as the fifth period in the life of the Church.)

"The fifth period is one of affliction, desolation, humiliation, and poverty for the Church. Jesus Christ will purify His people through cruel wars, famines, plagues, epidemics, and other horrible calamities. He will also afflict and weaken the Latin Church with many heresies. It is a period of defections, calamities and exterminations. Those Christians who survive the sword, plague and famines, will be few on earth. Nations will fight against nations and will be desolated by internecine dissensions…""Are we not to fear during this period that the Mohamedans will come again working out their sinister schemes against the Latin church…""During this period, many men will abuse the freedom of conscience conceded to them. It is of such men that Jude the Apostle spoke when he said, ‘These men blaspheme whatever they do not understand; and they corrupt whatever they know naturally as irrational animals do… They feast together without restraint, feeding themselves, grumbling murmurers, walking according to their lusts; their mouth speaketh proud things, they admire people for the sake of gain; they bring about division, sensual men, having not the spirit.’""During this unhappy period, there will be laxity in divine and human precepts. Discipline will suffer. The Holy Canons will be completely disregarded, and the Clergy will not respect the laws of the Church. Everyone will be carried away and led to believe and to do what he fancies, according to the manner of the flesh…""They will ridicule Christian simplicity; they will call it folly and nonsense, but they will have the highest regard for advanced knowledge, and for the skill by which the axioms of the law, the precepts of morality, the Holy Canons and religious dogmas are clouded by senseless questions and elaborate arguments. As a result, no principle at all, however holy, authentic, ancient, and certain it may be, will remain free of censure, criticism, false interpretation, modification, and delimitation by man…" 7"These are evil times, a century full of dangers and calamities.. Heresy is everywhere, and the followers of heresy are in power almost everywhere. Bishops, prelates, and priests say that they are doing their duty, that they are vigilant, and that they live as befits their state in life. In like manner, therefore, they all seek excuses…"I say without fear of contradiction that a better description of our era has not been penned by even the most sagacious pundits of our day.   Ours is certainly a century full of dangers and calamities for the Church.  As I mentioned, there are countless prophecies that describe our era in much the same way.  If you stopped there, it would be enough to tear the heart out of even the most stoic among us.  But prophecy doesn’t stop there.  Because prophecy is not just about the evils, it is about hope too.  Hope in the promise that this era is not the end of the Church, but just a trial that precedes her triumph.  Many other prophecies, too numerous to mention, agree in the broad strokes with the rest of what the Venerable Bartholomew Holzhauser had to say about how this era comes to an end and what follows.

"The fifth period of the Church, which began circa 1520, will end with the arrival of the holy Pope and of the powerful Monarch who is called "Help From God" because he will restore everything…"When everything has been ruined by war; when Catholics are hard pressed by traitorous co-religionists and heretics; when the Church and her servants are denied their rights, the monarchies have been abolished and their rulers murdered...Then the Hand of Almighty God will work a marvelous change, something apparently impossible according to human understanding. There will rise a valiant monarch anointed by God. He will be a Catholic, a descendant of Louis IX, yet a descendant of an ancient imperial German family, born in exile. He will rule supreme in temporal matters. The Pope will rule supreme in spiritual matters at the same time. Persecution will cease and justice shall rule. Religion seems to be suppressed, but by the changes of entire kingdoms it will be made more firm. "He will root out false doctrines and destroy the rule of Muslimism. His dominion will extend from the East to the West. All nations will adore God their Lord according to the Catholic teaching. There will be many wise and just men. The people will love justice, and peace will reign over the whole earth, for divine power will bind Satan for many years until the coming of the Son of Perdition.That is the message I want you to hear.  This era when faithful Catholics are hard pressed by traitorous co-religionists and heretics will come to an end and God will work a change that can only be described as a miracle, something that seems impossible to us now in our trials.  From this Church on the edge will come the triumph.  This is the prophecy, regardless of its particulars, that I want you to hear.  This era will end and the Church will triumph.  If you believe just that much, you will understand what so many misunderstand and fail to take from genuine Catholic prophecy, you will understand its purpose: Hope. ■

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Patrick Archbold

Patrick Archbold is co-founder of Creative Minority Report and a Catholic writer on the intersection of religion, culture, and politics. When not writing, Patrick is director of information technology at a large international logistics company. Patrick, his wife Terri, and their five children reside in Long Island, N.Y.