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What to make of recent "prophecies"? When are we being prudent (in such uncertain times) and when are we paranoid?

For example, last week even secular news sites carried links related to a well-known evangelical preacher in Texas named David Wilkerson who sent out an "urgent" message saying the "Holy Spirit" had guided him to warn that "an earth-shattering calamity is about to happen. It is going to be so frightening, we are all going to tremble -- even the Godliest among us."

The warning caught notice because Wilkerson (once based in Manhattan) has a large church and once penned a bestselling Christian book (The Cross and the Switchblade). Ten years ago -- and then just before the current financial crisis hit full bore -- this minister warned about coming chaos and economic problems very similar to what we now see. In 1974 he released a second book, The Vision, that foresaw weather extremes and natural disasters hitting the U.S., and in 1998 he focused more specifically on coming financial crises ("America's Golden Calf Is Coming Down," was the title of one prophecy). He saw banks closing, nations going bankrupt, and martial law.

"The auto industry is going to be hurt badly," he prophesied more than three decades ago. "Makers of recreational vehicles are going to get hit very hard. Appliance inventories will pile up, and sales will fall off drastically." Last September, he saw a little economic respite (after the Bear Stearns debacle) followed by a quickly deepening crisis.

In 1973 Wilkerson said, ""The United States government is going to overreact to the confused economical developments. I see a flurry of near-panic decisions being made by various government agencies, but these hasty efforts to shore up the economy will backfire."

Periods of calm and false prosperity would precede great demise, he said.

It has been long years. Time went on. "Soon" was not so soon. But the language was striking. "I believe we are going to witness the bankruptcies of some of this nation’s major and most popular corporations," he said way back. "I see tremendous difficulty arising for credit corporations. There are going to be many people unable to pay off their heavy obligations to major credit card companies, causing near-chaos."

The current prophecy -- indicating "fire" in the way of what sounds like nuclear terrorism in the New York area, as well as "blazes" and uprisings in other cities -- was labeled "urgent." He delivered it on March 7.

"For ten years I have been warning about a thousand fires coming to New York City," he wrote.  "It will engulf the whole megaplex, including areas of New Jersey and Connecticut. Major cities all across America will experience riots and blazing fires—such as we saw in Watts, Los Angeles, years ago. There will be riots and fires in cities worldwide. There will be looting—including Times Square, New York City. What we are experiencing now is not a recession, not even a depression. We are under God’s wrath."

What are we to make of that? What are we to make of other matters on the prophecy beat?

It is very hazardous to prophesy with specificity, and especially to interpret words like "soon." It is curious how God delivers prophecy divorced from time. Wilkerson's detractors may point out that his prediction is overly specific and that rarely if ever does a specific prediction that has made the secular media materialize.

In addition, when one looks back at Wilkerson's previous prophecies, one can point out not only "hits" but also "misses."

In 1992, he foresaw fire and riots erupting "soon," that there would be tanks down the streets of New York, that fire would fall. After a premature prophecy about a financial "crash" (in 2000), Reverend Wilkerson, to his credit, acknowledged that "in prayer, I have told the Lord I am ready at any time to confess I am wrong -- that I must have spoken from my own fears or that I have spoken unadvisedly. Recently, when the market reached record highs, I wondered if those calling me a false prophet were right."

In 1994, he foresaw that within "five years," there would no longer be Gospel programs on television.

Obviously, this has not yet come about, but the questions are many. Is it because Wilkerson is a "false prophet" or because he simply jumped the gun? Might his initial inkling in the early 1990s that there would be fire in New York have been related to what soon after transpired as the first World Trade Center attack (the failed one in 1993, a year after his first New York warning), or the later 9/11 attack? And while 1976 was a long time ago, what he wrote about the weather and economy has turned out to be jarringly accurate -- just not as soon. What are we to make of the current warning? There are times this "prophet" has warned of something happening within weeks that has not occurred.

"Personally, I don't take it seriously, but I will note that a friend in New York City who used to go to Times Square Church [where Wilkerson preached] said that in the three months before 9/11, people in the church were constantly praying for the city because they had a sense that something terrible was about to happen," notes Christian commentator Rod Dreher. "Me, I don't take it seriously because I have no reason to, not knowing much of anything about Wilkerson. But the thing is, I do believe, as most Christians believe, that prophecy is real."

And so it is. Whatever the legitimacy of Wilkerson's current "word," the bottom line: it would be folly to ignore the fact that events are piling up around us. Note that the last time there was big news about human stem cells in the way of a prominent headline in The New York Times -- on September 11, 2001, to come full circle.

Thus far, the most accurate one we have studied has been what we call the "1990 prophecy." It mentioned that there would not so much be fire from the sky as fear of fire from the sky, and "strange loud rumblings."

It does not escape our notice that other prophetic indicators -- from two books of recent note (The End of the Present World and Our Lady of Kibeho) -- also mention fire. As for the rumblings, there seems to be a recent epidemic of unexplained "booms." Reports have come from Canada, the U.S. Northwest, New Jersey (where mystic Maria Esperanza, who definitely foresaw 9/11, once said she felt a "trembling"), and New York.

In some cases, the sounds have been associated with what the media has described as fireballs.

Is any of this relevant? Do strange happenings accent prophecies like Wilkerson's (or the 1990 one)?

"On the Channel 9 news (KCAL) Los Angeles they reported 'strange rumblings' (as written in your book Tower of Light) happening all throughout Orange County (near where you visited us in Buena Park)," writes Manny Gil of Los Angeles. "No seismic recordings were logged, all the airports and military bases stated no sonic booms had occurred and everyone was reporting their homes and windows rumbling very strong. I looked briefly on-line for a story but I didn't find anything."

Adds Helene Eissler of West Chester, Pennsylvania: "Yesterday morning (March 9, 2009) at about six a.m. there was a loud boom sound outside of our home. I thought it was the beginning of a thunder storm but there was none. Just a minute or two before the sound of the boom, our dog, a golden retriever, who has a habit of being scared of thunder (electric current), nervously came upstairs before we awoke. However, there was no thunder storm or rain...very odd and fits with what was heard in West Chester, New York, at approximately the same time."

We mention this phenomenon only because the odd mention of sounds in the 1990 prophecy -- which bore some similarities -- in the way of societal comeuppance -- to Wilkerson's inclinations. Certain scientists say the rumblings are "scalar waves" from deep earthquakes -- waves that don't register on standard seismographs. Thus the mystery. Is something stirring deep below? And could it one day involve a volcano (as indicated at the apparition in Kibeho), which would also include fire?

Again, when prophecy becomes too specific -- or sets a time-table -- it tends to get into deep water. It is curious how God gives prophecy divorced from time.

We're not sure how beneficial it is to speculate. When we focus too much on a negative, we can draw it. On the other hand, it gives us something to pray away (especially when we fast, and when, the Blessed Mother tells us, we can even "suspend natural laws").

"My name is Michael Britt I live in Oldsmar Florida," writes another. "I have been having visions of all sorts of spiritual experiences since 1994. I cannot believe I am writing this to you because I have only spoken to a small number of close friends about these experiences. However, the one I feel the need to share is as follows: It was late on February 14, 1995. My wife and I had just finished saying the Rosary and we getting ready to retire for the night, and I remember just thinking about and praying that how I was living my life was according to His Will.

"There was a load rumble of thunder, then I sensed a overwhelming sense of peace and silence. 

"What followed next did kind of startle me: I heard a voice -- an audible voice which seemed to come right out of thin air (no electronic equipment could ever duplicate it) -- and these three words: 'Purify My Heart.'"

We take it into discernment.

"For what it is worth to anyone, I am overwhelmed with the desire to pray and prepare," wrote Cynthia Morningstar. "I know I am not alone in this experience, though my family thinks I am a bit nuts. Thank you for everything you share through your website, it brings me comfort and inspires me to listen to what the Holy Spirit is telling me: pray and prepare."

That message -- prepare -- is certainly a constant one, and Wilkerson himself mentioned the need to store necessary food and items in case of an event that would cripple our infrastructure for a month. This gets onto especially dangerous turf: again, how do we separate what is inspired concern from paranoia?

It is also well for us to note that we have nothing to fear if in prayer and fasting we join Christ in the desert.

There is paranoia and then there is prudence. Pray for balance (Maria Esperanza always urged)!

"Thought I'd just drop you a note after reading your 'prophetic pulse' article on your website this morning," notes another. "Just yesterday I was telling relatives that we should stock up on items in the event of terrorism or natural disasters. One of the responses to me was 'Oh, I've been hearing that for forty years.' To tell you the truth, I really haven't done much to prepare for what can effect us physically. I've been trying hard to prepare my soul, but I guess not enough for physical needs, so for me to be suddenly and strongly thinking of such things is meaningful."

The spiritual preparation is the one preparation we can confidently urge. It never hurts to have emergency supplies on hand, whether one lives with quakes, ice storms, twisters, floods, or in a hurricane zone. It also does not hurt to remember that when things fall, we see more clearly.

For whatever happens in the world, we know that the world will end for all of us someday. We all die. Lent is a great time to contemplate purification!

Notes a professor from New England, Dr. Lawrence F. Roberge of Ludlow, Massachusetts: "The critical question this year will be whether people will choose to direct their energies (and whatever resources they have) into building for and preparing for a failing-shrinking economy with the subsequent shift in food pricing, energy pricing, diminished government services and social welfare. Or, expend their energies and resources in riots, protests, and other acts of anarchy (fueled by frustration, unemployment, starvation, and spiritual/moral bankruptcy)."

"I am inspired to have a community garden for family, neighbors and friends on my 22 acres of land this growing season," says Susan Williams. "It will be fun for all to work together and reap the benefits as well.  Last summer I started canning again and it feels good that we are eating what I labored on.  Not to mention they make great Christmas gifts; it puts joy back into giving.  The more simple I becoming the more aware how wasteful I've been."

Can we all agree on that? 

A bubble has burst. It is not just a high-tech bubble, as occurred several years ago, nor just a housing bubble; it is not just a stock bubble, a bubble caused by hedge funds and private equity firms. It is a huge bubble that comes down to the basic fact that the U.S. has been living since the 1980 as a consumer nation without producing anything (at least, not nearly what it once did). There is no longer a single television set manufactured in this country that invented it.

And now, of course, there will be a reckoning. As one seer noted a few months back, there will be "false dawns." It could yet be some time. Or it could be tomorrow. We are going to be simplified. Praise God for that! There will be what looks like "recovery." But purification will escape the predictions -- the specific predictions -- of analysts on Wall Street or here or any pulpit.

Here's a word we'll take: "My child, remove the sadness from your soul; do not get discouraged or disturbed; hold peace as the greatest treasure."

[resources: Tower of Light, The Final Hour, The End of the Present World, and Our Lady of Kibeho]

[also: prophecy retreats: Tampa, Michael Brown: spiritual warfare, protection, preparation and Michael Brown, retreat in Detroit area]

[see also: Recession grows interest in seeds, gardening Shortage of critical commodities seen already Mystery of the 'earthquake boom', Another loud boom, 'Heed Wilkerson's message' and Blog: Wilkerson's 'false' prophecies?]

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