Indeed. The unleashed storm of heresies and immorality shaking the Church is terrible. The fact that we see Cardinals and Bishops increasingly raising serious doubts about the current pontificate is a sure sign of an extraordinary situation. Although we are aware that what is happening now surpasses any other historical catastrophes, we do what Christians have always done in times of such proportions: we diligently examine the old biblical prophecies, or the newest ones – of saints like Hildegard in Bingen, Bartholomew Holzhauser, or Francisco and Jacinta Marto.
At the same time, however, we see that the proliferation of false versions of those prophecies officially recognized by the Church (such as the secrets of Fatima) is reaching incredible proportions. Pseudo-prophets and prophetesses are everywhere. That is why our Savior Jesus Christ begins His apocalyptic discourse in the Gospel according to Matthew exactly with this warning: “Take heed that no man seduce you: For many will come in my name saying, I am Christ: and they will seduce many” (Matthew 24:4-5). And a little later, He reinforces this statement: "And many false prophets shall rise, and shall seduce many" (Matthew 24:11).
The virtue that we must observe with the greatest attention when approaching prophecies is that of prudence.
Discerning Prophecies and the Virtue of Prudence
Besides impostors, even more numerous are the erroneous interpretations applied to biblical texts. However, God has foreseen this. Therefore, in addition to certain rules of interpretation left to us in the pages of the canonical texts of the Bible and the Holy Tradition, He has conveyed to us some very clear warnings. In this article, I will mention only one divine word transmitted to us through the Holy Apostle Paul:
“Despise not prophecies. But prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians, 5:20-21).
So, on one hand, we must value the prophecies – especially those from the revealed, error-free texts of the Old and New Testament. On the other hand, it is absolutely necessary to prove the proposed interpretations for those in the Bible, as well as the older or newer prophecies from saints of all times. The virtue that we must observe with the greatest attention when approaching prophecies is that of prudence. The manifestation of this virtue occurs in a few very simple ways.
A.) We must admit, from the outset, that prophecies are not meant to satisfy human curiosity. Their purpose is to assist Christians in deciphering, in certain historical contexts, the mysterious decisions and works of Divine Providence. On the other hand, they should strengthen us in all personal decisions aimed at cultivating the virtue of religion within us. In other words, they are an exhortation to repentance, penance, prayer, deepening our own faith, and practicing virtues.
B.) Any source must be checked very carefully. Especially in the internet age, when we read prophecies on myriads of websites, the verification of the sources must be done with great care. If we cannot do this, it is more prudent to refrain from accepting a prophecy, avoiding getting caught up in sterile and endless discussions.
C.) If any of the alleged current prophecies and visions is associated with material gains, as is the case with the so-called apparitions at Medjugorje, it is always recommended to unhesitatingly reject them.
Three days of darkness: truth and lies
Now, after this invitation to prudence, we will address one of the most discussed prophecies of our days: the three days of darkness. The widely circulated text that talks about this event reads as follows:
“There shall come over the whole earth an intense darkness lasting three days and three nights. Nothing can be seen, and the air will be laden with pestilence which will claim mainly, but not only, the enemies of religion. It will be impossible to use any man-made lighting during this darkness, except blessed candles. He, who out of curiosity, opens his window to look out, or leaves his home, will fall dead on the spot. During these three days, people should remain in their homes, pray the rosary, and beg God for mercy. All the enemies of the Church, whether known or unknown, will perish over the whole earth during that universal darkness, with the exception of a few whom God will soon convert. The air shall be infected by demons who will appear under all sorts of hideous forms.”
As I mentioned in the introduction, the first thing we need to do in the face of a prophecy is to verify the sources. Regarding the quoted text, usually, no source is indicated. Sometimes, a single work is mentioned: Private Prophecy (published in 1863). But this book cannot be found anywhere. And that’s because there is no book with such a title. All these details were presented in an article published by Jimmy Akin on the Catholic Answers website.[ii] After careful checks, I found that Akin’s assertion is correct: there is no such work. However, what seems to have escaped Mr. Jimmy Akin is the existence of another work where, in fact, the true prophecy about the three days of darkness is mentioned, along with its author: Venerable Anna Maria Taigi (1769–1837). This is what I would like to clarify and complement in this article.
Is it a physical, concrete event, like a solar eclipse that anyone can see, or is it a mystical event that takes place in the souls of everyone but visible only to those few who are able to interpret symbolically and allegorically the signs of the times?
I discovered the monograph on the life and prophecies of the venerable Italian woman many years ago. It can be read in its entirety on the Internet Archives. The complete title, place, and year of publication are as follows: The Life of the Venerable Anna Maria Taigi, the Roman Matron, London, Burns and Oates, 1873.[iii] The author is not mentioned. Specifically, the monograph is based primarily on the documents of the beatification process of the Italian visionary opened in 1863, under Pope Pius IX. Wife and mother of seven children, Anna is proposed in this book – especially to women – as a model of Christian holiness. In addition to her absolutely remarkable virtues, she stood out for a wealth of mystical and prophetic graces that led to her comparison, not at all exaggerated, with Saint Hildegard of Bingen (c.1098–1179).
Although her beatification file and official documents do not contain anything explicit regarding her apocalyptic prophecies, there are credible witnesses who are quoted. The most important is Father Raffaele Natali, her confessor. She made all her prophecies known to him, under obedience. Among them is a particular vision about a great punishment that will fall upon all of humanity. Here is what this chastisement would consist of:
“This scourge, he told many persons, was to be a supernatural darkness, which was to prevail for three days, during which blessed candles would alone give light.”[iv]
That’s all. If we compare the text reported by Father Raffaele Natali with the “prophecy” of the three days of darkness mentioned and rightfully questioned by Jimmy Akin, we find some very important differences. Firstly, in the apocryphal prophecy, very precise details are provided: the air will be pestilential, many enemies of religion will perish, man-made light sources will not work, windows must be kept closed – and those who open them will die, demons will appear in hideous forms. In fact, if we pay close attention, we understand what the author of this pseudo-prophecy wants to suggest: that everything will happen physically, in the terms of our ordinary existence. In this perspective, we will deal with an event of supernatural origin that, however, will unfold exactly like in horror movies with zombies. Nothing new under the sun! We could tell countless such prophecies, and not only of Judeo-Christian origin.
On the other hand, if we pay attention to the quoted, real prophecy from 1873, it mentions only this regarding the chastisement (i.e., scourge): 1.) the supernatural darkness that will last three days; 2.) only blessed candles will give light. I emphasize: that’s all the true prophecy of Venerable Anna Maria Taigi tells us.
The crucial question: moral or physical darkness?
Based on a reading of the entire book, I can say that the author is a well-educated Catholic theologian, a true “connoisseur” of the Holy Scriptures and Holy Tradition. He quotes another prophecy of the venerable, in which she saw the whole world “enveloped in a dense and awful darkness, accompanied by the falling of walls and timber, as a great edifice were crumbling into fragments.”[v] However, what is very important for us follows only now. For the author, after recording all these details, raises the most important issue related to the interpretation of prophecies, stating that “the question would still remain whether moral or physical darkness were signified.”[vi] I absolutely agree: this is the key point.
For anyone who has read the commentaries on the Apocalypse of Saint John written by great authors such as Saints Augustine, Jerome, Cyril of Jerusalem, Venerable Bede, Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas, and many others, it is certain that the crucial question is always the one raised by the author commenting on the vision of the three days of darkness of Venerable Anna Maria Taigi: is it a physical, concrete event, like a solar eclipse that anyone can see, or is it a mystical event that takes place in the souls of everyone but visible only to those few who are able to interpret symbolically and allegorically the signs of the times?
I had – and still have – the overwhelming impression that, in fact, it is about us, the Christians of these times. For seeing what is happening right now in the Church, I believe that we are the ones about whom it could be said that “every human hope for the persecuted Church shall have vanished.”
The author, without excluding a strictly spiritual-symbolic interpretation, leans towards a physical, concrete interpretation. Of course, such an understanding of things is possible. He also comments on some parallels between the three days of darkness and two biblical texts: the one in the Old Testament, where we are told about the ninth plague inflicted by God through Moses upon the Egyptians, three days of darkness (Exodus 10:21–29), and the other from the Revelation of Saint John where, at the opening of the sixth seal, “the sun shall become black as sackcloth of hair” (Revelation 6: 12), after, first, a great earthquake will occur. Interpreting these passages simultaneously with an emphasis on the manifestation of evil in the second half of the 19th century when the book about Venerable Anna Maria Taigi was written and published, the author leans, as already mentioned, towards a literal interpretation. According to this, the prophecy would refer to a concrete event that was supposed to take place under the pontificate of Pope Pius IX (which ended in 1878).
Into the darkness: an alternative interpretation
The particular detail that directed me towards another possible interpretation, of a spiritual-symbolic nature, is found in a note from our work, where the confessor of Anna, Raffaele Natali, is quoted again. He confessed that the venerable “has assigned no date to this event, but had said that it would come to pass when every human hope for the persecuted Church shall have vanished.”[vii] When I read these words, one thing immediately seemed evident to me: the prophecy has not yet been fulfilled. First of all, we do not know of any event during the time of Popes Pius IX and his successors that could be considered the fulfillment of the prophecy (the prophetess never claimed that it is a prophecy that should be fulfilled in the 19th century). Then, I had – and still have – the overwhelming impression that, in fact, it is about us, the Christians of these times. For seeing what is happening right now in the Church, I believe that we are the ones about whom it could be said that “every human hope for the persecuted Church shall have vanished.” How can we interpret the true prophecy of Venerable Anna Maria Taigi?
I followed the author’s suggestion and searched for possible biblical references. Without mentioning the details, I consider that the most fitting parallel is not with the three days of darkness that God brought upon the Egyptians. However, I consider as probable the interpretation that mentions the opening of the sixth seal in the Apocalypse – when the sun darkened after a great earthquake. But the most probable and striking parallels, in my opinion, are different.
What was the state of the apostles devastated by the killing of their beloved Master? What is the state of those today’s few bishops who still believe in His teachings and see them trampled upon by other hierarchs who, instead of defending them at the cost of their lives, sell them for thirty pieces of silver?
One of them could be the three hours of darkness that fell upon the entire world at the crucifixion of the Savior Christ: “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over the whole earth, until the ninth hour” (Matthew 27:45). But someone might say, “Here it is about three hours, not three days.” That is true. However, what about the three days that the Savior spent in the unseen world, during which His body – untouched by putrefaction – was in the tomb? These could be interpreted as the three days of darkness. Actually, this explanation is inspired by Saint Bonaventure who thinks that the Passion of our King and Lord, Jesus Christ, “is extended from the ‘Head’ to the ‘Body’.”[viii] According to this interpretation, what our Lord suffered in His Passion, the Church itself must endure in all its faithful – who are “members” of its mystical body (1 Corinthians 12:12–27).
Let’s pause here and reflect for a moment. What was the state of the apostles devastated by the killing of their beloved Master? What is the state of those today’s few bishops who still believe in His teachings and see them trampled upon by other hierarchs who, instead of defending them at the cost of their lives, sell them for thirty pieces of silver? And what do we – the small and insignificant faithful – think? Don’t we all wish for God to intervene and defeat the darkness in which we are submerged? With this question, we come to the second and last point of the true prophecy: the blessed candles. Only they will give light in the midst of darkness.
We probably all know what the lighted candle that the priest gives to the one baptized (in the case of adults) or the sponsor (in the case of children) symbolizes at the end of the Baptism ritual when he utters the following words:
“Receive this burning light, and keep thy Baptism so as to be without blame: keep the commandments of God, that when the Lord shall come to the nuptials, thou mayest meet Him together with all the Saints in the heavenly court, and mayest have eternal life and live forever and ever.”
This refers to the sanctifying grace that must be kept unextinguished in the soul of the newly baptized. Couldn’t the blessed candles symbolize those baptized Christians who have kept the sanctifying grace burning by fulfilling the things required by the priest on behalf of God and His Church? The fact that things could be this way seems to be evident from the quality of the candles that can give light during the three days of darkness: they are blessed. Unfortunately, there are other candles – that have lost God’s blessing: countless Christians killed by the tsunami of mortal sins that have covered, like the flood, the entire humanity. In them all, who are the members of the mystical body of Savior Christ, God Himself was killed by mortal sins.[ix]
What can we do? Only one thing: to keep the light burning. At the same time, let us not forget: one day the eternal light of the Bride of the Lord, His Church – the “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic” – will shine again.
Prudence urges me to remember that, outside of exceptional mystical gifts (which I do not posses), interpreting prophecies is a risky endeavor. Therefore, I want to emphasize that I am not asserting that the interpretation I have proposed for Anna Maria Taigi’s vision is precisely and necessarily as I said above. What I affirm is only that it could be so. But what I know for sure is that we are literally covered by the most terrible darkness that has ever descended upon both the Church and all humanity. And this is not a physical, natural darkness but a spiritual, moral darkness.
What can we do? Only one thing: to keep the light burning. The Holy Baptismal Ritual clearly shows us how: by keeping God’s commandments. And this is done through deeds. And, I would add, by combating wherever we can the moral heresies – be they “material,” “formal,” or, as Timothy Flanders says, “practical.” And this regardless of whether they are promoted or tolerated by priests, bishops, cardinals, or even by the Pope himself. At the same time, let us not forget: one day the eternal light of the Bride of the Lord, His Church – the “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic” – will shine again.
May the hope be with you!
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[i] T.S. Flanders, “Pope Has ‘Uttered Plenty of Material Heresies’: Former Vatican Doctrinal Head”: https://onepeterfive.com/pope-has-uttered-plenty-of-material-heresies-former-vatican-doctrinal-head/ [Accessed: 11/09/2024]
[ii] Jimmy Akin, “Will There Be Three Days of Darkness?”: https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/will-there-be-three-days-of-darkness [Accessed: 11/09/2024]
[iii] https://archive.org/details/lifevenerablean00taiggoog/page/n9/mode/2up [Accessed: 11/09/2024]
[iv] The Life of the Venerable Anna Maria Taigi, the Roman Matron, London, Burns and Oates, 1873, p. 314.
[v] Ibidem, p. 315.
[vi] Ibidem, p. 315.
[vii] Ibidem, p. 315.
[viii] Joseph Ratzinger, Theology of History in Saint Bonaventure, Franciscan Herald Press, 1989, p. 28.
[ix] We recognize this consequence of our mortal sins in the act of contrition at Confession: „Oh my God, I am very sorry for all my sins because they deserve Thy dreadful punishments, and because they have crucified my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ etc.”