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As if it's not enough for the skeptics that so many believing Christians see a purification or "chastisement" -- major world events (of all kinds) -- coming, there is also the far outer region of "extreme prophecy," one might call it (the fringe, others would say). On that terrain are seen the most calamitous scenarios imaginable, or close to it. In short, there are those who envision not just "chastisement," but the end of the world coming. It is also on secular minds, as seen in headlines concerning the Holy Week quake in Italy ("It Was Like the End of the World," said one news site).

Unfortunately, such predictions have caused all prophecy to be lumped under the category of "fringe" -- tagged gleefully by skeptics as "apocalyptic" predictions. It's their way of trying to discredit all prophecy as sensationalistic.

We tend toward the so-called 1990 prophecy that foresaw "the inevitable onset of the change of era," and added: "Your era is ending. Soon the world will not be the world you know. I am not speaking of a barren world, or one depopulated, but of the end of your technological era. Many inventions of mankind will be broken down and there will be more of a peasant attitude and way of life everywhere... The world will  not end, but change."

That's the template we have followed (one also indicated at several major apparition sites): Like the third secret of Fatima, it speaks not of the world's end (as so many thought the third secret would), but of turning points in world history. A defining period looms. We believe that.

Moderate was a message from the Blessed Mother to an alleged seer in Brazil on March 21 -- three weeks ago -- that said, "Dear Sons and Daughters, I am always with you. Now is a difficult time for you. Seek strength in Jesus. You can only win if you are with Him. Know that the things of this world are not for you. Live attentive to the Grace of My Lord and all will turn out well for you. An accident in Italy will cause suffering and sorrow for My poor children. Pray. Pray. Pray. God wants to save you, but what I do depends on you. Go forward on the path I have pointed out to you. This is the message I transmit to you today in the name of the Most Holy Trinity. Thank you for permitting me to reunite you here once more. I bless you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Be at peace."

That seemed like a "hit" (in light of the Italian earthquake: not an "accident," but close enough), yet even when a prophecy is accurate and not overly extreme one must ask whether it came from a holy source or a psychic one.

Others travel much farther. There are increasing predictions of massive events. One can rationalize many reasons for them -- the economy, the weather, the political scene, Lent.

They come from both Catholic and non-Catholic realms and even from a few who testify to near-death experiences (asserting that they glimpsed future events while on the "other side"). One such person is Lou Famosa, who says he received his revelation during an encounter with a celestial being when, in 1964, as a 21-year-old, he was in a severe car accident.

"'You will be my soldier and you will go with Michael for awhile,'" he says he was told by the being. "'Gabriel will come to you at times. I will send others to you and your fruit shall not fall far from from the tree in the time of the Gathering.'"

Says Famosa: "There were scenes of men in uniform killing other men in uniforms, I recognized some of the insignias and some were from the USA. There were also thousands of them not in uniforms killing even more thousands not in uniform. It was like looking at toy figures moving on their own, mowing down other figures, different countries, different nations, different religions, different weapons, different decades, but always resulting in hundreds of thousands dead and dying.

"The next vision was of floods, many of them spilling across the earth on different continents in different seasons and I am again walking among it, feeling the force and taking in the smell of death. Hundreds of lives and acres upon acres of crops were lost as well as hundreds of livestock and wild animals floating away into the abyss. Then I was watching volcanoes from around the world erupting, first one then another. The molten lava burying whole towns and villages and the people and animals within them. I gazed among the ruins and saw little left of what once stood there. The last vision I saw in the screen were of earthquakes destroying sections of almost every continent. A massive one was in America, most others were in Europe and the Orient. Again thousands are killed, structures are crumpled, the landscape leveled and I turned again to the Being and He said, 'There will not only be more of what you have seen but there will come a time when it will all happen at the same time and it will come the same time of man's greatest sins.' I didn't have time to ask, when He said, 'They will turn from Me and claim themselves like Gods.'"

Pretty extreme stuff. And we are always cautious, of course, about "beings" of light (since the Bible tells us Satan can come in precisely this way). In realms of the New Age are many predictions of similar "earth changes" (as they call them).

In Annandale, Virginia, is writer Walter Joseph, who says he has had unusual visions of a "large shock" to the United States and the world -- an event or series of events that causes technology to be dealt "a severe setback," followed by a peasant-style of living in a world that does not end but has a reduced population (something hinted at in the alleged 1990 prophecy).

"In a powerful dream, I saw massive destruction occurring around the world," said the Virginia writer, citing "destructive 'waves'" that "resonated" around the globe, "crossing deserts and mountains."

A seismic event? Nuclear? "Eventually, there is a modest return of technology but people have a much greater degree of humility and a respect for the environment," he writes. "They are not a 'throwaway' society of wasteful consumption, nor could they be.

"I saw small ecological communities, truly 'green,' using renewable power and growing most of their own food. Barter and some systems of credit appear to be the means of currency, with almost every family growing at least some food. Solar and wind power, plus greenhouse, are highly valued but not widespread due to limited resources. Where feasible, hydroelectric or other sources of renewable power are used. This appears to be a system of small communities existing in great harmony."

Prophecy? Wishful thinking? Intuition? It is not from a New Ager but a devout and traditional Catholic, for our consideration. One vivid scene: people walking along abandoned highways.

A strikingly similar visions was reported by Dr. Howard Storm, an atheist who says he was shown the future by angels during his near-death brush.

How do we deal with "extreme" prophecies?

We are not to despise an utterance, but we are certainly to "test" it (and keep only what seems legitimate).

Many may have various little glimpses (perhaps of regional events, like the Italian quake) that they perhaps then synthesize as a single apocalyptic scenario.

The Catechism tells us that "a sound Christian attitude consists in putting oneself confidently in the hands of Providence for whatever concerns the future, and giving up all unhealthy curiosity about it." At the same time, we are not to exercise "improvidence" -- a careless, wasteful attitude.

In other words: we are  to balance prophecy, preparation, and praying (about what may occur) with the most important aspect of Christian anticipation: simple faith.

"Stand still. Fear not. This is the hour of salvation. You are going to witness the pulling down of the foundations of a world power. But in the same hour, I will fight for you. Hold your peace be still and see my works," is the "word" to a prominent evangelical leader who has been in the news of late -- for further discernment.

"I just want you to know this 'word' is very much in line with what I have been thinking and feeling in prayer, and that is simply to be quiet, wait on the Lord, and not to fear," writes a viewer named Fran from Chicago. 

Be still and pray. God draws forth good from everything. All is in His Plan.

But back to that the manuscript from the Catholic in Virginia (whose book, not yet published, is called The Thinning Veil).

"Suddenly," he said of his vision, "the waves seemed to come to some kind of resonance in conscious Divine Will over the mountain landscape and began to reverse themselves, backwards across time.

"There was a sense of an undoing of destruction by preventing a sequence of events.

"I then heard a locution, clear and calm, in my deceased mother's voice: 'Did you see a vision?'

"The intent is this: whatever chain of events that are set in motion can be reversed by Divine Will. Through sufficient prayer and fasting in petition to God, anything can change."

[resources: Tower of Light and The End of the Present World]

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