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The many good faithful priests of the world should be honored for tremendous strength amid the current Church upheavals; that they could keep their heads above the turbulent water is astonishing; although equally heroic have been laity who have maintained devotion and spirituality at a time when there is daily news about clergy abuse. They should be appreciated for their loyalty.

The news has been pouring forth for years now -- much of it unfair (especially in the portrayal of certain bishops), and the rest of it due to arrogance, intellectualism, demystification of the Church, and societal influences. A shame it is that the exposures of abuse were spearheaded by the media and lawyers and not the Church years ago when the first cases arose in the U.S. and before there was significant damage.

It is a dark time that may well get darker but the faithful know that no matter how bleak matters may look, the Church will endure and even come out stronger as it has during past historic crises (and persecutions).

The troubles appear to be an increasing focus among current locutionists -- none of which have met with any form of Church approbation, but some of whom capture a certain urgency felt indeed by the flock.

Says one recent message in the U.S.: "You are indeed aware of the pain of the Holy Church. It shall survive, but its wounds shall be deep and take their toll. So many are lead astray because priests and others have forsaken the truths of Jesus Christ. The people are not nourished and they scatter as their shepherds turn away from their flocks. My Son knows what is in the heart of each priest and He will show them all of it at the moment of decision. The earth will quake over and over because of the sins of the priests. They must be shaken and made aware of their discrepancies, because they have become blinded by pride. Seek after holy priests -- those I can call my sons. They will feed you with the Eucharist and cleanse your souls. They will be your strength as the Church begins to crumble under the force of evil. But God's Hand has already made ready the remedy, and those who are faithful and persevere will see the Church rise once more in splendor and it will be as never before."

"The priests I call my sons await their trial, but I say to them prepare, your time fast approaches," is another missive to this same recipient. "The trial draws near, but so too does the splendor of Heaven -- the splendor of the Holy Church."

"Hear my appeals," a seer, from Brazil quoted Mary as saying in another recent message, which we submit only for consideration, and only because he has not yet met with disapproval from his bishop. "Pray much of the Church of my Jesus. The Church will drink the bitter cup of suffering. The darkness of lack of faith and of infidelity will spread more and more within the Church. A great scandal will shake the faith of the people and the church will lose much. I ask you to keep your flame of faith alive. Don't go away from the truth. Accept My Gospel joyfully and you will be saved."

That alleged message came on February 25 -- days before the priest-abuse scandal rocking Ireland swept into the Pope's native Germany and even his old archdiocese. While none of it implicated Benedict XVI, it afforded the media a chance at attacking the Vatican itself (which, a week before that, also made headlines when it was learned that a Vatican usher was involved in a homosexual scandal).

How many such locutions are inspired, and of those, how many are pure? At the apparition site of Medjugorje in Bosnia-Hercegovina, secrets given to the visionaries also supposedly contain messages about the Church (as well as Medjugorje itself).

These troubles long have been prophesied. On September 19, 1846, the Blessed Mother allegedly told a French shepherd girl named Melanie Calvat at LaSalette (in what seemed like unusually harsh language) that "the Vicar of my Son will suffer a great deal, because for a while the Church will yield to large persecution, a time of darkness, and the Church will witness a frightful crisis." "The chiefs, the leaders of the people of God, have neglected prayer and penance, and the devil has bedimmed their intelligence," it added. Nuns, it warned, would allow "Asmodeas" (a demon some associate with the New Age) into convents. The devil, said part of the alleged LaSalette secret, "will resort to all his evil tricks to introduce sinners into religious orders." "The priests, by their wicked lives, by their irreverence and impiety in the celebration of the holy mysteries, by their love of money, honors, and pleasures, have become cesspools of impurity."

The adjective "alleged" is employed because though the first part of Melanie's secret, which had to do with a coming famine and epidemic, was formally accepted by the Church, the more dramatic and even apocalyptic second part of her secret was rejected by bishops and at several points even condemned (although at least one Pope, Pius IX, and possibly Leo XIII, accepted it).

Whether LaSalette referred to problems in the Church's far future or to troubles that afflicted it later in the 19th century, persecution of the Church was also a theme in the third secret of Fatima when it seemed to foresee oppression of Catholics by Communist Russia.

But what about internal, clerical problems -- such as those faced today as sex-abuse scandals (having embroiled the North American, Australian, and Mexicans churches), now boil over in Europe and lap even at the door of the Vatican (at least in the eyes of the media)?

Another alleged message -- one that, like LaSalette, has been welcomed by some bishops, rejected by others (including the most recent one with authority) -- claimed that "the work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against other bishops." This was to a nun on October 13, 1973, at Akita, Japan. "The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres," it said. "Churches and altars will be sacked. The Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord."

All of this is particularly fascinating at a time indeed when cardinals have in some cases opposed other cardinals and bishops have opposed other bishops (over many issues, including apparitions) and at a time when a famous exorcist has asserted that Satan has infiltrated the Vatican (this being Father Gabriele Amorth of Rome in a new book, although he offers no specifics). It is interesting at a time when what is rotten certainly is being exposed -- as God first chastises and cleanses what is dearest to Him.

Whatever the authenticity of past Church revelations as well as current musings by exorcists -- and however unfairly the Church may be portrayed by the media -- once more such issues are rising to the fore, this time among modern (and in most cases self-claimed) prophets. Do we take such messages literally, or -- when they seem a bit drastic -- simply the underlying angst of them?

"In my early twenties, I had a vision of Our Blessed Mother, after which she granted me several locutions concerning, among others, the papacy and the end times," proclaims a seer from the Philippines (who, strangely, goes by an alias). "I was granted to know the details of the papacy during the reign of the 'last pope' and his struggle with the 'true antichrist.' The reality of the 'last pope' and the 'true anti-christ' is the key to understanding almost all the prophecies uttered in ancient times which seem to us initially as cryptic or vague. The Holy Father will offer himself as a sacrifice to God, and through this offering of himself, the gates of hell will be opened and the infernal dragon released. The 'true anti-christ' will come at the expense of the 'last pope.'"

If nothing else, a novel idea.

But more to our point: "The mystery of angels and men will be revealed through a scandal in the papacy."

Do we take things like this literally -- or simply as a prophetic pulse conveying Church anxiety?

Two weeks ago there were reports of abuse at a choir once directed by the Pope's brother (occurring, however, before his brother took charge, and reported, again, by some, unfairly).

Topsy-turvy times.

The times were are in -- challenging and as such exciting us to prayer!

"I saw myself praying where there were very tall trees," said a Texan locutionsit. "Then the Archangel Michael said: 'Pray for Spain.' Then he added: 'Also for Rome, Italy.' Again no explanation was given as to why."

[resources: The Final Hour and St. Louis retreat, Michael Brown: March 27, prophecy, afterlife and Announcing Maryland-D.C.-Virginia retreat]

[see also: Pope set to speak in 'decisive voice' about scandals, Vatican: abuse in Church less than in society, Benedict's directives on abuse, and What Paul VI really said about 'smoke of Satan']

[Feedback: "I read with interest that there are folks who think Benedict XVI might resign.  I was reading St. Malachy's prophecies yesterday about papal succession and after this current Pope (the glory of the olives) there will be one more Pope, according to St. Malachy.  He will be Petrus Romanus.  Our archbishop here in the Washington, DC Archdiocese is Most Reverend Donald William Wuerl. He was ordained bishop in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome by Pope John Paul II.  Very interesting. I know you appreciate a good thought provoking tidbit of prophecy. St. Malachy is astounding."]

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