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It seemed like a slow news week, on the prophetic beat. Perhaps not any longer.

First was the news that Italian priest-locutionist Father Stefano Gobbi of Milan -- known around the world for cenacles and alleged messages from the Virgin Mother (the Vatican advises that they be called "meditations") -- had died at 81 after suffering a heart attack.

At least according to initial information from the Marian Movement of Priests -- which Father Gobbi founded -- his death came at three p.m. -- the Mercy Hour, and a fitting one for a priest immersed in the mysticism of Mary, which has always been linked to the Divine Mercy revelations.

The death of Pope John Paul II, who was a powerfully Marian pontiff, was likewise connected to Divine Mercy.

According to Tammy Ouellette, national secretary for the U.S. Marian Movement of Priests in Maine (which was founded on Father Gobbi's reputed locutions), the priest's heart was "very damaged" by an attack on June 19. He underwent a bypass operation in 1998 but doctors were unable to operate further. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Was there mystical significance in the death of this locutionist who issued many "meditations' about prophetic aspects of the time in which we live?

It was Father Gobbi who saw the current time as a "decisive," apocalyptic one -- often mentioning the anti-christ and red dragon. He also mentioned natural events coming as "chastisements," and referred in his messages to the secrets of both Fatima and Medjugorje.

At the same time, there was the thirtieth anniversary of the first alleged apparitions in Medjugorje and release of an interview with seer Ivan Dragicevic that on its face seemed a bit surprising -- coming from a seer who virtually always avoids discussion of the future.

In the interview (conducted by long-time Medjugorje supporters Denis and Cathy Nolan of Mary TV in Notre Dame, Indiana) Ivan said, "These apparitions of Our Lady are a great crossroads for humanity, a new call, a new way, a new future for mankind. But how aware are we of the messages? Do they go to our heart? Do we live them? 

"For thirty years we have had a message, you could say, each day from Our Lady. Can we live these messages in one life time? For a few years we had a message every Thursday and then we had a message once a month. Why?  Our Lady was giving us more time to understand each message. It is important to use our time well, to live the messages. 

ďMany pilgrims, even priests, donít understand why Our Lady has been coming every day, what she could be saying to me every day and what I have to say to her every day. I have to tell you we talk a lot! One day when things are revealed, you will understand, your eyes will be opened. 

"When we see the physical changes that will happen in the world, we will understand why she came every day.  (I am not talking about the secrets!) The time before us is one of great responsibility."

Ivan doesn't usually use such words. When we see the physical changes that will happen in the world, we will understand why she came every day. 

Clearly, if we believe in Medjugorje (currently under Vatican study) we are galvanized by his confirmation that the world will change around us. It is also fascinating that such change may not be what is in his secrets, or at least not in their entirety.

Secrets are a unique phenomenon, and visionaries throughout history who have received them have not necessarily been given the entire prophetic picture in those secrets -- which can be small snippets of larger events that are not fully covered in prophecies they have been given: pieces of a puzzle.

Indeed, we were with seer Marija Pavlovic of Medjugorje two days before September 11, 2001, and she indicated no awareness of imminent events -- even jabbing at us jokingly when we spoke at a joint conference of "fire" that was about to fall on the U.S. because of its waywardness (later, she sent word expressing fascination that indeed fire had fallen).

Let us recall that while, at Fatima, seer Lucia dos Santos received secrets predicting the coming of another great war, as well as persecution, there was no explicit mention of the Nazi holocaust nor of the great Ukrainian famine that interwove with the war.

It is fascinating stuff and it was discussed at great length in the meditations of Father Gobbi -- which galvanized many priests who otherwise may have been discouraged.

His predictions were not etched in stone. Indeed, one saw the major events he was prophesying as occurring by the year 2000 (which obviously they did not). There were other "misses" as well. Church authorities requested that the title of his message book be changed from Our Lady Speaks to Her Beloved Priests to the less definitive, To the Priests, Our Lady's Beloved Sons. We must be careful in discerning this. Take only what is good. He once quoted the Blessed Mother as saying "that at the end of the Marian Year (1987-88) the secrets that I gave in Medjugorje will be announced." Of course, they were not.

But the gist of his messages seemed to coincide with world events -- and Gobbi foresaw the shocking fall of Communism (when political commentators and other "experts" never saw it coming). In fact, Father Gobbi pronounced the imminent fall of Communism while speaking during 1988 in Vienna to priests from countries under the yoke of Communism -- quoting Mary as saying that "the moment of their liberation is close." Again, we must recall how swiftly Communism soon fell -- and unexpectedly.

He was praying in a chapel built at the spot of the Fatima apparitions when he first experienced "an interior force."

During the following twenty years Mary would speak regularly to Gobbi not in apparition but as a "voice" in his heart and consciousness. His last public message was on December 31, 1997.

Such locutions are subject to great question, since a voice can easily be a trick of the subconscious, but there was power and coherence in certain of Father Gobbi's messages, and if he was truly hearing the Madonna's voice, we are indeed in those days immediately preceding the fulfillment of major prophecies (as well as the clash between Mary and the dragon spoken about in the thirteenth chapter of Revelation).

Night had now fallen upon the world, Mary seemingly lamented to Gobbi. It was the time of Satan's greatest triumph. There were even people attacking the purity of Jesus---"such a horrible and satanic blasphemy that all Heaven is, as it were, dismayed and incredulous!" For that and other reasons, a "tremendous and now inevitable storm" was about to break upon humanity; the "demon of corruption, the spirit of lust, has seduced all the nations of the world! Not one of them is any longer preserved."

Our Blessed Mother also lamented that Satan would "make every effort to remove me further from the hearts of my faithful, in order to keep me even more obscured in the Church. He is now engaging in the greatest battle against me, the decisive one, in which one of us two will be defeated forever."

Because the demon of lust has "contaminated everything," nothing could any longer hold back "the hand of God's justice, which will soon be roused against Satan and his followers." In ringing words nearly identical to those which would be spoken at Medjugorje, she declared that "this is the hour of the power of darkness."

Father Gobbi was 42 at the time of his first locution, a native of the lake region north of Milan, ordained in 1964 after working for a real estate and insurance company. His locutions were specifically addressed to priests whom Mary sought to form into a special cohort for her struggle. "My angels have already begun the battle," she told Gobbi on October 24, 1975. "At my order they are bringing these sons of mine together from all parts of the world." It was the crucial role of these priests to "live only for my Son Jesus, carrying out the Gospel to the letter," which would enable them to outweigh the faithless priests "who no longer believe and yet they still remain in my Church, true wolves in sheep's clothing."

Though Satan might rage against her cohort, she said he would not be able to touch a hair on the head of anyone consecrated to her.

The angels were being sent, she said, to keep them from the devil's snares.

But priests needed to pay more attention to the high praises of Christ and recitation of the Rosary.

That was what Mary most desired, what she most persistently urged, what she always, always begged: prayer.

Prayer would defeat Satan. Prayer would help the Church through its Calvary. You couldn't pray too much. "At Fatima, I pointed to my Immaculate Heart as a means for the salvation of all humanity," she said. "I pointed out the way of return to God. But I was not listened to." The First Saturday devotion never really caught on, and as for fasting and sacrifice, it was now even difficult to get Catholics to forsake meat on Fridays, let alone to fast on bread and water.

On July 28, 1973, Mary told Gobbi that the time of apostasy---the great loss of faith emphasized at Fatima and mentioned long before by Paul in his Second Letter to the Thessalonians---was unfolding. Attendance at Mass continued to decrease, both in America and in strongholds such as France, where she'd made such an effort through apparitions, and priests were being seduced or discouraged by Satan. Enemies of the Church were seizing professorships in the seminaries and colleges, making them into what Pius X called "chairs of pestilence" and sin was justified and even extolled by academics, movie makers, and the media. Laymen had stopped going to Confession, acting like devotion to Mary or the communion of saints was an antiquated superstition. Many Christians have been made a "sport" by Satan, complained the Virgin, "obscuring my place in the Church and obliterating me in souls!"

Such an hour is the hour "when the abomination of desolation is truly entering into the holy temple of God," said the meditations. Even the pope, Paul VI, remarked in 1977 that after rereading the biblical accounts of the end times, "I attest that, at this time, some signs of the end are emerging."

The Church had been forsaken, deprived of its inhabitants, desolated, the subject of apostasy, and as a result, mankind was approaching the brink of what Mary called "the greatest storm in history."

[see also: The Final Hour, Marian Movement of Priests and messages]

[And: Signs in Russia?]

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