The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, After the Bible, The Imitation is the all-time favorite book of Catholics for over 500 years. And this translation by Bishop Challoner, who revised the Douay-Rheims Bible in the 1740's, is the most beautiful and edifying we know of. Speaks to the soul of every Christian, reminding him of the shortness of time, the length of eternity and the brevity of earth. CLICK HERE



Confusing it is when priests tell us that to "prophesy" does not mean foretelling a future trend or event but rather to "preach," "teach," or admonish. It's confusing because the Bible is filled with instances whereby a prophet foresaw specific future events. Meanwhile, the dictionary definition for "prophecy" prominently includes the word "prediction."

Is the dismantling of that notion another product of modernistic seminary teachings?

To prophesy is indeed to teach and admonish and also to project.

Fatima proved that prophecy has been alive and well since the Bible and is indeed predictive (it foresaw the end of one war and the beginning of another) and so we regularly take stock of what those with mystical inclinations claim to have "received."

The question: which are truly of the Lord, which are merely subconscious musings, which are simply rehashes of previous messages, and which are of a deceptive spirit?

The problem: just because there are phenomena associated with a site does not mean it is holy. Are all these images of Jesus and Mary appearing on every sort of object a mockery by the devil or by the imagination or Heaven trying to touch every corner, as seer Maria Esperanza -- whose cause for sainthood has been announced -- often predicted He would ("knocking on every door," as she put it)?

Mystical theology is no longer taught in most seminaries, leaving priests with little in the way of guidance and placing the laymen at the mercy of their own discernment (and sometimes their own egos). Certainly, great caution is in order. Like the Middles Ages, "prophets" have risen on all sides. Back then, the messages were often exaggerated -- claiming imminent arrival of the "end" -- but indeed captured a coming chastisement (the Black Death). Is all the upsurge in modern precognition an indication of something similar?

Typical is the theme of a woman in Canada who says she feels her inspiration -- gets "messages" -- while prayerfully meditating with a Bible (lectio divina).

"My child, the time is near," she reports as an alleged message on November 18, 2009. "My angels are ready to carry out all that I have commanded. Are my faithful ones ready? Have they donned the armor of righteousness and the shield of prayer? Do they hold up the banner of the Rosary? Have they been cleansed and prepared for battle? Child prepare! Your heart has been grieved over the abominations of the age."

"My child, watch and pray, then pray some more!" she says she was told a few days later.

The admonishment: sin. The theme: preparation.

This has been said for more than a decade now.

Sometimes, the tone is a bit chilling.

"Ready your lamps, trim the wicks and do not let apathy extinguish your flame. Instead, keep the light of faith burning brightly so that in the darkness the lost will find their way home. You do not know what is coming."

"Dear sons and daughters, let the Lord guide you and you will be led to holiness," said an especially stark message at an alleged apparition site in AngüeraBahia, Brazil, around the same time, on November 28 (from "Our Lady of Peace").

"Don't lose heart. Don't back out. You are not alone. I am your Mom and I am at your side. When you feel the weight of your difficulties, call on Jesus. He will be your support in moments of pain. Don't forget, there is no victory without the Cross. Imitate My Son Jesus. I come from Heaven to offer you my love. Open your hearts to my call and joyfully live my messages. Humanity has become spiritually poor because people have withdrawn from their Creator. Pray. Pray. Pray. Something frightening will happen in Europe and three countries will be struck at the same time. People will have to weep and lament. Seek strength in prayer and in the Eucharist. Your victory is coming closer. Stay with the Lord. 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."

Three countries in Europe.

What do we make of such specificity?

Just a week before, a message from the same seer said:

"Dear sons and daughters, humanity will drink the bitter cup of suffering because of unexplained phenomena of nature that will come. Bend your knees in prayer so you can support the weight of the Cross. The Andes chain of mountains will descend and many nations will carry a heavy Cross. The earth will pass through great transformations, but in the end victory will come to men and women of faith."

And just three weeks before that:

"A great happening will shake the faith of many people. It will be in the land of the Holy Cross (Brazil)."

It's not all dismal:

"A great discovery will happen for the good of mankind. It will be the object of one of the miracles of My Son Jesus," said another November message, again in Brazil. "This is the mystery."

In this case, a former bishop, Don Silvério Albuquerque, who once headed the Archdiocese of Feira de Santana, took the time to visit the seer and his family and issued this statement.:

"About the apparition that has been occurring in Angüera for a few years, I have to say that my attitude, to date, has been of prudence. I keep waiting for things to happen and observing them from faraway. I have not been present at any of such occurrences, but I know the family very well, and I have already talked to all of its members, including to Pedro, who declares to be visionary."

We too wait for things to happen. In many ways -- in precursory ways -- they already have. Many are those who have dreams of storms or tornadoes. Symbols?

While they endlessly debate "global warming," a point is missed: we live in a time of extremes that come as signs, and the weather -- as well as swerves in climate (both in the direction of warming and perhaps soon cooling) -- are part of it. The emission of carbon may or may not be adding to it, but the main reason for these swerves is God enhancing natural trends to warn us (as also occurred in the Middle Ages, when the climate likewise gyrated; take heed of that word: gyrated).

"Sweet child, your dream about the thunderstorm was indeed a message," is another "word" from the Canadian woman. "There will be severe troubles all around you. No matter how things appear, know that you are safe."

At the most famous apparition site, Medjugorje -- where the first apparition was preceded by a tremendous thunderstorm -- there remains anticipation of "secrets" but no indication of whether any are imminent and debate over the ecclesiastical status of the site itself.

Less than a year ago, Monsignor Mato Zovkic, vicar general of the Sarajevo archdiocese, said that the matter had been taken from a national commission of bishops in Hercegovina and was now in the Vatican's hands.

That was followed by reports in European newspapers that there was a new commission based in Rome to investigate the apparitions. Less than two months ago, the  Sarajevo Cardinal reportedly predicted there would be new Vatican guidelines on the apparitions by the end of the year.

Now, the Cardinal, Vinko Puljic, says there is no such commission, at least not yet (one paper had said there were thirty members), and that the issue remains where it has been since the late 1980s: in the hands of the Bishop of Mostar when it comes to liturgical matters at Medjugorje and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome when it comes to authority over the apparitions themselves (despite erroneous reports in one Catholic news agency). A papal nuncio -- the Vatican's representative in Austria -- recently went to the site as a pilgrim (answering any lingering question of whether pilgrims are allowed to visit). It is not apparent whether the confusion over a "commission" was due to officials speaking out of turn and prematurely or was a reversal, with the Pope deciding to leave the matter where it has been.

There is thus ecclesiastical confusion. Perhaps the operative word on the stage of prophecy right now is "unease."

Are we still in the preparatory stage of purification?

We have seen precursory events. We have heard bold prophecies. Slowly but surely, trends continue to unfold -- slower than some expected; for others, faster (especially in the secular realm, where they did not expect what is amounting to an alteration of the world landscape).

No doubt about it: the landscape -- our very institutions, the things we felt were our foundations -- are melting down around us.

Is the financial crisis over -- or was it simply a foretaste?

One must admit that the trends toward one-world government bolster the credibility of prophecies that seemed wild in the early 1990s.

Back to the Canadian prompts. "There is a time of economic crisis coming which will dwarf the Great Depression of the 1930’s," is yet one more message. "Be ready to pick up the pieces of people’s lives. Be ready to help them. They will need help. There will be much despair. This will lead to a new hope in me. Never doubt that I am near when these things happen. It is part of my perfect plan for the salvation of my children. Trust me. Pray. And be joyful. Then people will know that I have sent you."

And this from 2005: "One morning during contemplative prayer, I felt the Lord hand me a gleaming sword. When I asked what it was, I felt Him say, 'It is the invincible sword of fasting.' This morning, just before waking, I had a dream in which I heard the words, 'You will crush the enemy on the golden feet of fasting and prayer.'"

We'll take that one.

[resources: Tower of Light and Michael H. Brown retreats: Phoenix and San Antonio]

[see also: archives: Cardinal's office claims Medjugorje in hands of Vatican, How Catholics see 'doomsday' and Cardinal says new guidelines on Medjugorje are coming]

[Video: play it again!, Medjugorje snapshots, and Video: praising God]

[Some of it reminds us of the "1990 prophecy. As for the anti-christ, remember Europe, and especially Central Europe," it said. "Yet know too that God's Hand will be evident in South America. The world will not end but change."]

[These subjects will be accented at the retreat we plan for Phoenix this weekend, God-willing, and in January San Antonio. Due to certain recent trends, we will be extending the discussion of globalization, a "new world order," and what may be efforts at population reduction.]

[Feedback: "My daughter received the following while praying the rosary December 1, 2009.  She is 19 years old and a daily communicant.
"'I saw Mary with the baby Jesus in the manger in Bethlehem.  She picked Him up out of the crib and looked at me.  Then she stood and as she did her robes swept down so that her entire mantle could be seen.  Her mantle was deep blue with 12 stars on one side.  She was wearing a beautiful crown with a crucifix on top of it.  It was made of gold.  She reached out her hand and her robe opened and there were red and white stripes on the garments underneath.  She said to me, "The Scourging is near. Prepare." She sounded very urgent.  The stripes looked slanted like red and white candy cane stripes.  She was still holding the baby Jesus and I could see her breath because it was cold, like winter.  She said "The winter is harsh but there will be no other winter like this one.  Prepare Now! The autumn will turn to winter and the seasons will change and it will be like a spiritual winter for what God has planned for the world is harsh!  You will see His justice!"  She stopped talking and seemed to be urging me to come  and gather in with her and Jesus under her mantle, inside and away from the cold.  I had the sense something would happen this Christmas.  After I came in under the mantle and we were together, she said "Now gather your family in!" which was urgent.  In the background I kept hearing a faint voice say "three weeks notice" repeatedly.'"]

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