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When it comes to certain prophets, the Bible leaves us no doubt, of course, that they have a gift of the Spirit: God speaks through them; He does few things without warning His servants. See Joel. See any number of biblical books. See Jeremiah.

And Jeremiah is especially relevant.

For we learn, in that book -- particularly in Chapter 27 -- three things: that there are indeed Godly and false prophets (the latter speaking their own words); that when God communicates through prophets, it is usually to guide and give hope; but that when He does act to chastise it is usually "by the sword, by the famine, and by pestilence."

War, food shortages, and epidemics.

These are guides for our own times.

Do we read Scripture as much as we do reputed messages?

That is not asked to dissuade the prophetic, which would be to stifle the Spirit. We take no stand on most controversial seers, presenting both sides and waiting for official direction, which we then immediately report. We have relayed information on dozens of alleged apparitions around the world. We don't believe in argumentation. Nor do we believe in "cessationism": that gifts of the Spirit ceased with the death of the Apostles. (That would discount how many saints?)

Yet always, always we must plead with the Holy Spirit to illuminate, to grant a balanced perspective, to reveal falsity (including within ourselves). We give air to those who believe they receive words that are prophetic, although once there are prophecies that fail, we set them aside (in accordance with Deuteronomy 18:21: "“When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously").

That's a straightforward test. Do we use it?

Right now, we stand at a time when we're not sure what is presumptuous and what is not because so many of the utterances are of supposed events that are still expected to unfold. As far as major worldly events, it has seemed (or did until the Philippines) that there has been a lull -- although not in the opinion of one man who asserts that he has received messages, Charlie Johnston of Illinois, a former radio broadcaster and political advisor from Illinois who opines: "What you sense is not a lull. Events continue apace. But now there is a weary resignation in the land as people reconcile themselves to the reality that we will not be in the light again until we have directly confronted and overcome the darkness. The lull you sense is of people, sober now, girding both their minds and their souls along with their loins. I have been astonished at how many in politics and in office have been in touch with me to seek advice on their 'bugout' plan or how to convert assets so they will not lose all. Many are laying in stores of food, bedding and supplies for themselves and to take in refugees. Meanwhile, I am surrounded by sudden conversions and some healings. People are finding their way back to Him Who is the only One Who can overcome the darkness -- and I am profoundly grateful to be helping them find Him."

It was Johnston who claimed to have received warnings -- since childhood -- of a coming "great storm."

What's meant by that? A meteorological storm? A military or social one?

And so it is in this murky yet sometimes valid realm that's often understood (mysteriously enough) only in retrospect.

Let us issue this prophecy: very intense darkness is afflicting so many and spiritual warfare has been ramped up, but so is the presence of the Spirit, of angels.

Focusing on them often diminishes the evil.

Fear not, said John Paul II -- constantly. Fear is a weapon of the enemy, unless it is a holy fear of God (and the fires of hell).

It is interesting, as an astronomer in Ireland once told us, that what seem like indications of cataclysms appear by some measures to  have a "periodicity" of roughly 1,260 years -- what he called "times of crisis."

"There's a very mysterious number in the Book of Revelation of 1,260 years, and that almost says it all because that is a funny number that looks like an observational basis," said S. V. M. (Victor) Clube. "There is a kind of view of the world that tells us roughly every 1,260 years we're going to meet some sort of upset that much of religion in the past is concerned with, because it's going to come in such a way as to upset society and empires and all the rest of it."

For our discernment.

Does it only cause fear?

If so, weigh it even more stringently.

Clube defined previous events as occurring in 2300 to 2000 B.C. and lasting two or three centuries, "where we're undergoing more severe bombardment from the Taurid system of meteorites or whatever stream from it and where people are fearing that the end of the world is coming."

The Taurid system includes a comet called Encke that's currently squiggling along as if in a race with one known as ISON.

Really, if and when things occur, we mostly can expect not to know foregoing details.

In 540 A.D., it was a massive plague ("pestilence").

One could argue also for events around 800 A.D. As for prophesied events, look no further than today's reading (11/26/13) whereby Jesus warns of indeed war and plague along with earthquakes (and signs from the sky).

As for periodicity, while there may be something to some events clustering every 1,200 or so years, one could argue that a great chastisement occurred in the 1300s (with bubonic plague and many natural and societal disruptions).

We are in  a time when comets and fireballs are prominent, as (perhaps) in the Middle Ages.

Is cosmic dust driving that alleged "cycle"?

Many think the greatest wildfire in U.S. history (in Wisconsin), which occurred at the very same time as the greatest urban fire in American history (Chicago), was due to gases from a comet called Biela that had split apart.

The Wisconsin blaze was twelve years to the week (and possibly the day) that an apparition of the Blessed Mother, the first fully Church-approved in the U.S., warned, in that very same area of Wisconsin later destroyed by the fire, of a coming chastisement (due to slackened belief).

Those who teach that God does not chastise -- nor warn through prophets -- would do well to study this sanctioned apparition.

Cycles seem driven, said the scientist, in "mysterious ways."

Clube and another astronomer we interviewed, William Napier, suggest that outer planets occasionally divert giant comets into the inner solar system.

Debris from them can affect us.

Giant comets normally reside far beyond the planets, in a spherical (and largely hypothesized) cloud that surround the sun called the "Oort cloud." There is also the "Kuiper Belt."


Astronomers toss out ideas -- scenarios -- no less extravagantly than do prophets.

[resources: Sent To Earth and Fear of Fire; see also: Retreat announced 1/25 for Fort Myers, Florida]

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