A Response

Elijah Sleeping
Elijah Sleeping,
by Michael D. O’Brien

 

RECENTLY, I answered your questions regarding private revelation, including a question about a website called www.catholicplanet.com where a man who claims to be a  “theologian” has, on his own authority, taken the liberty to declare who in the Church is a purveyor of “false” private revelation, and who is conveying “true” revelations.

Within a few days of my writing, the author of that website suddenly published an article on why this website is “full of errors and falsehoods.” I’ve already explained why this individual has seriously damaged his credibility by continuing to set dates of future prophetic events, and then—when they don’t come to pass—resetting the dates (see More Questions and Answers… On Private Revelation). For this reason alone, many don’t take this individual too seriously. Nonetheless, several souls have gone to his website and left there very confused, perhaps a tell-tale sign in itself (Matt 7:16).

After reflecting on what was written about this website, I feel that I should respond, at least for the opportunity to shed even further light upon the processes behind the writing here. You can read the short article written about this site on catholicplanet.com here. I will quote certain aspects of it, and then reply in turn below.

 

PRIVATE REVELATION VS. PRAYER MEDITATION

In Ron Conte’s article, he writes:

Mark Mallet [sic] claims to have received private revelation. He describes this claimed private revelation in various ways: “Last week, a strong word came to me” and “I FELT a strong word for the Church this morning in prayer… [etc.]”

Indeed, in many of my writings, I have shared in my online “daily journal” thoughts and words which have come to me in prayer. Our theologian wishes to readily classify these as “private revelation.” Here, we have to distinguish between “a prophet” and the “charism of prophecy” as well as “private revelation” vs lectio divina. Nowhere in my writings do I claim to be a seer, visionary, or prophet. I have never experienced an apparition nor audibly heard the voice of God. Like many of you, however, I have sensed the Lord speaking, at times powerfully, through Scripture, the Liturgy the Hours, through conversation, the Rosary, and yes, in the signs of the times. In my case, I have felt the Lord calling me to share these thoughts publicly, which I continue to do under the spiritual direction of a faithful and very gifted priest (see My Testimony).

At best, I suppose, I could be operating at times under the charism of prophecy. I hope so, for this is the heritage of every baptized believer:

…the laity are made to share in the priestly, prophetical, and kingly office of Christ; they have therefore, in the Church and in the world, their own assignment in the mission of the whole People of God. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 904

This mission is what Christ expects of every baptized believer:

Christ… fulfills this prophetic office, not only by the hierarchy… but also by the laity. He accordingly both establishes them as witnesses and provides them with the sense of the faith [sensus fidei] and the grace of the word… To teach in order to lead others to faith is the task of every preacher and of each believer. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 904

The key here, however, is that we do not preach a new gospel, but the Gospel which we have received from the Church, and which has been carefully preserved by the Holy Spirit. In this regard, I have striven with due diligence to qualify nearly everything I have written with statements from the Catechism, the Holy Fathers, Early Fathers, and at times approved private revelation. My “word’ means nothing if it cannot be supported by, or is in contradiction to the Word revealed in our Sacred Tradition.

Private revelation is a help to this faith, and shows its credibility precisely by leading me back to the definitive public Revelation. —Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (POPE BENEDICT XVI), Theological Commentary on the Message of Fatima

 

A CALLING

I would like to share a personal element of my “mission.” Two years ago, I had a powerful experience in my spiritual director’s chapel. I was praying before the Blessed Sacrament when suddenly I heard interiorly the words “I am giving you the ministry of John the Baptist.” That was followed by a powerful surge running through my body for about 10 minutes. The next morning, a man showed up at the rectory and asked for me. “Here,” he said, while extending his hand, “I feel the Lord wants me to give this to you.” It was a first-class relic of St. John the Baptist. [1]cf. The Relics and the Message

A few weeks later, I arrived at an American church to give a parish mission. The priest greeted me and said, “I have something for you.” He returned and said that he felt the Lord wanted me to have it. It was an icon of John the Baptist.

When Jesus was about to begin His public ministry, John pointed to Christ and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” I feel this is the heart of my mission: to point toward the Lamb of God, especially Jesus present among us in the Holy Eucharist. My mission is to bring each of you to the Lamb of God, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Heart of Divine Mercy. Yes, I have another story to tell you… my encounter with one of the “grandfathers” of Divine Mercy, but perhaps that’s for another time (since this article was published, that story is now included here).

 

THREE DAYS OF DARKNESS

God will send two punishments: one will be in the form of wars, revolutions, and other evils; it shall originate on earth. The other will be sent from Heaven. There shall come over the whole earth an intense darkness lasting three days and three nights. Nothing can be seen, and the air will be laden with pestilence which will claim mainly, but not only, the enemies of religion. It will be impossible to use any man-made lighting during this darkness, except blessed candles. —Blessed Anna Maria Taigi, d. 1837, Public and Private Prophecies About the Last Times, Fr. Benjamin Martin Sanchez, 1972, p. 47

I have published over 500 writings on this website. One of them dealt with the so-called “three days of darkness.” I touched briefly upon this subject because it is not an event that is identified specifically by our Church’s Tradition as described in the vision, but is pretty much solely a matter of private revelation. However, several readers were asking about it, and so, I addressed the subject (see Three Days of Darkness). In so doing, I discovered that there is certainly a biblical precedent for such an event (Exodus 10:22-23; cf. Wis 17:1-18:4).

It seems the basis of Mr. Conte’s assertion that “the ideas” I present on “the subject of eschatology are full of errors and falsehoods” is upon the speculation as to when this event may occur (see A Heavenly Map.)  However, our theologian has missed the point altogether: this is a private revelation and not a matter of faith and morals, even though it may be hinted at within apocalyptic Scripture. A comparison would be, say, a prophecy of a major earthquake in the American midwest. Scripture speaks about massive earthquakes in the end times, but to point to one single event revealed in private revelation would not make that specific prophecy of the midwest a part of the deposit of faith. It remains a private revelation that should not be despised, as St. Paul says, but tested. As such, the Three Days of Darkness is open to a multitude of various interpretations since it is not in and of itself an article of faith.

The very nature of prophecy requires prayerful speculation and discernment. That’s because such prophecies are never altogether “pure” in that they are transmitted through a human vessel, in this case, Blessed Anna Maria Taigi. Pope Benedict XVI explains this reason for caution when interpreting private revelation in his commentary on the apparitions of Fatima:

Such visions therefore are never simple “photographs” of the other world, but are influenced by the potentialities and limitations of the perceiving subject. This can be demonstrated in all the great visions of the saints… But neither should they be thought of as if for a moment the veil of the other world were drawn back, with heaven appearing in its pure essence, as one day we hope to see it in our definitive union with God. Rather the images are, in a manner of speaking, a synthesis of the impulse coming from on high and the capacity to receive this impulse in the visionaries… —Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (POPE BENEDICT XVI), Theological Commentary on the Message of Fatima

As such, the Three Days of Darkness is an event which, if it ever occurs, must be open to careful scrutiny, even though it came from a very holy and trusted mystic whose prophecy has proven to be accurate in the past.

 

THE NATURE OF IT

Mr. Conte writes:

First, Mark Mallet [sic] makes the mistake of concluding that the Three Days of Darkness might be caused by a comet, rather than being an entirely supernatural darkness. As explained at length in my eschatology, it is impossible for this event, as described by the Saints and mystics, to be other than supernatural (and preternatural). Mallet quotes a number of Saints and mystics on the topic of the Three Days of Darkness, but then he goes on to draw conclusions that contradict these quotes.

What I actually wrote:

Many are the prophecies, as well as references in the book of Revelation, that speak of a comet which either passes near or impacts the earth. It is possible that such an event could plunge the earth into a period of darkness, covering the earth and the atmosphere in an ocean of dust and ashes.

The idea of a coming comet is both biblical and a prophecy held by saints and mystics alike. I speculated that this is a ‘possible’ cause of the darkness—not a definitive cause, as Mr. Conte suggests. In fact, I quoted a Catholic mystic who seems to describe the Three Days of Darkness in both spiritual and natural terms:

Clouds with lightning rays of fire and a tempest of fire will pass over the whole world and the punishment will be the most terrible ever known in the history of mankind. It will last 70 hours. The wicked will be crushed and eliminated. Many will be lost because they have stubbornly remained in their sins. Then they will feel the force of light over darkness. The hours of darkness are near. —Sr. Elena Aiello (Calabrian stigmatist nun; d. 1961); The Three Days of Darkness, Albert J. Herbert, p. 26

Scripture itself indicates the use of nature in God’s justice:

When I blot you out, I will cover the heavens, and make their stars dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give its light. All the bright lights of heaven will I make dark over you, and put darkness upon your land, says the Lord GOD. (Ez 32:7-8)

What else is the “groaning” of creation that St. Paul describes other than the elements, perhaps the universe itself, responding to mankind’s sinfulness? Hence, Jesus himself describes God’s permissive will working mysteriously through “great earthquakes… famines and pestilences” (Luke 21:11; see also Rev 6:12-13). Scripture is full of instances where nature is a vessel of God’s divine assistance or divine justice.

The original prophecy states that this chastisement will “be sent from Heaven.” What does that mean? Mr. Conte seems to have taken this literally to its furthest end, that there could be no secondary or contributing cause to the darkness coinciding with the supernatural element of this prophecy: that the air will be filled with pestilence—demons, who are spirits, not physical objects. He does not leave room for the possibility that nuclear fallout, volcanic ash, or perhaps a comet could do much to “darken the sun” and “turn the moon blood red.” Could the darkness be of purely spiritual factors? Sure, why not. Feel free to speculate.

 

TIMING

Mr. Conte wrote:

Second, he claims that the Three Days of Darkness occurs at the time of Christ’s return, when the Antichrist (i.e. the Beast) and the false prophet are thrown into Hell. He fails to understand one of the most basic concepts in Catholic eschatology, that the tribulation is divided into two parts; this is clear from Sacred Scripture, from the words of the Virgin Mary at La Salette, as well as from the writings of various Saints and mystics.

There is absolutely nowhere in any of my writings where I suggest that the Three Days of Darkness occur “at the time of Christ’s return.” Mr. Conte’s assumption betrays the fact that he has not carefully examined my writings which deal with the “end times” as understood by the Early Church Fathers. He makes the entirely false assumption that I believe “all will occur for this current generation.” Those who follow my writings know that I have consistently warned against this presumption (see Prophetic Perspective). It is tempting at this point to abandon my response because Mr. Conte’s assertions are so poorly researched, his conclusions so out of context, that it could take pages to point this out. Nonetheless, I will attempt to briefly untangle his confusion in that it may benefit at least some of my readers.

Before I go on, I want to say that I find this discussion of timing to be about as significant as debating the color of the Blessed Virgin’s eyes. Does it really matter? No. Do I even care? Not really. Things will come when they come…

That said, I did position the Three Days of Darkness in a chronology of events for a reason: a chronology derived from the understanding of the last days by several early Church Fathers and ecclesiastical writers. Of this chronology, I said in A Heavenly Map, “It seems presumptuous to me to suggest that this map is written in stone and exactly how it shall be.” When prefacing my writings on eschatological events in The Seven Year Trial, I wrote:

These meditations are the fruit of prayer in my own attempt to better understand the Church’s teaching that the Body of Christ will follow its Head through its own passion or “final trial,” as the Catechism puts it. Since the book of Revelation deals in part with this final trial, I have explored here a possible interpretation of St. John’s Apocalypse along the pattern of Christ’s Passion. The reader should keep in mind that these are my own personal reflections and not a definitive interpretation of Revelation, which is a book with several meanings and dimensions, not the least, an eschatological one.

Mr. Conte seems to have missed these important qualifiers that warn the reader of the element of speculation present.

The placement of the Three Days of Darkness was reached by connecting Blessed Anna Maria’s prophecy with the authoritative words of several Church fathers where they share common ground: that the earth will be purified of wickedness before anera of peace.” That it will be purified exactly as Blessed Anna Maria suggests remains a prophecy up for discernment. Regarding this purification of the earth, I wrote in my book The Final Confrontation, that based upon the teachings of the Early Church Fathers…

This is a judgment, not of all, but only of the living on earth, that climaxes, according to the mystics, in three days of darkness. That is, it is not the Final Judgment, but a judgment which purifies the world of all wickedness and restores the Kingdom to Christ’s betrothed, the remnant left upon the earth. —p. 167

Again, from Anna Maria’s vision:

All the enemies of the Church, whether known or unknown, will perish over the whole earth during that universal darkness, with the exception of a few whom God will soon convert.Public and Private Prophecies About the Last Times, Fr. Benjamin Martin Sanchez, 1972, p. 47

Church Father, St. Irenaeus of Lyons (140-202 A.D.) wrote:

But when The Antichrist shall have devastated all things in this world, he will reign for three years and six months, and sit in the temple at Jerusalem; and then the Lord will come from Heaven in the clouds… sending this man and those who follow him into the lake of fire; but bringing in for the righteous the times of the kingdom, that is, the rest, the hallowed seventh day… These are to take place in the times of the kingdom, that is, upon the seventh day… the true Sabbath of the righteous. —(140–202 A.D.); Adversus Haereses, Irenaeus of Lyons, V.33.3.4, The Fathers of the Church, CIMA Publishing Co.

This takes place “in the times of the kingdom” or what other Church Fathers call the “seventh day” before the eternal “eighth day.” Ecclesiastical writer, Lactantius, accepted as part of the voice of Tradition, also suggests a purification of the earth before the “day of rest,” or Era of Peace:

Since God, having finished His works, rested on the seventh day and blessed it, at the end of the six thousandth year all wickedness must be abolished from the earth, and righteousness reign for a thousand years… —Caecilius Firmianus Lactantius (250-317 A.D.; Ecclesiastical writer), The Divine Institutes, Vol 7

‘And He rested on the seventh day.’ This means: when His Son will come and destroy the time of the lawless one and judge the godless, and change the sun and the moon and the stars—then He shall indeed rest on the Seventh day…Letter of Barnabas, written by a second century Apostolic Father

Careful comparison of the Letter of Barnabas with other Church Fathers reveals that the changing of the “sun and the moon and the stars” is not a reference, in this case, to the New Heavens and New Earth, but an alteration of some kind in nature:

On the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall, the light of the moon will be like that of the sun and the light of the sun will be seven times greater (like the light of seven days). On the day the LORD binds up the wounds of his people, he will heal the bruises left by his blows. ( Is 30:25-26)

The sun will become seven times brighter than it is now. —Caecilius Firmianus Lactantius (250-317 A.D.; Church Father and early ecclesiastical writer), The Divine Institutes

And so we see that Blessed Anna’s prophecy could very well be a description of what the Church Father’s said centuries before. Or not.

 

THE FIRST RESURRECTION

Once it is understood why the Three Days of Darkness is placed as it is in my writings, everything else will fall into place regarding Mr. Conte’s other criticisms. That is, according to both Scripture and the voice of the Church Fathers, an interpretation of the first resurrection is that it occurs after the earth has been purified:

Therefore, the Son of the most high and mighty God… shall have destroyed unrighteousness, and executed His great judgment, and shall have recalled to life the righteous, who… will be engaged among men a thousand years, and will rule them with most just command… Also the prince of devils, who is the contriver of all evils, shall be bound with chains, and shall be imprisoned during the thousand years of the heavenly rule… Before the end of the thousand years the devil shall be loosed afresh and shall assemble all the pagan nations to make war against the holy city… “Then the last anger of God shall come upon the nations, and shall utterly destroy them” and the world shall go down in a great conflagration. —4th century Ecclesiastical writer, Lactantius, The Divine Institutes, The ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol 7, p. 211

Mr. Conte asserts that I do “not understand that the tribulation is divided into two parts, in two time periods separated by centuries…” Again, our theologian has jumped to erroneous conclusions, for this is precisely what I have written throughout my website and my book, based not on my own conclusions, but on what the Church Fathers have already said. The above quote by Lactantius describes an Era of Peace which is preceded by a tribulation when God “shall have destroyed unrighteousness.” The Era is then followed by a final tribulation, the assembly of the pagan nations (Gog and Magog), who some writers consider to be representative of the last “antichrist” after the Beast and False Prophet, who already appeared before the Era of Peace in that first trial or tribulation (see Rev 19:20).

We shall indeed be able to interpret the words, “The priest of God and of Christ shall reign with Him a thousand years; and when the thousand years shall be finished, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison;” for thus they signify that the reign of the saints and the bondage of the devil shall cease simultaneously… so in the end they shall go out who do not belong to Christ, but to that last Antichrist…  —St. Augustine, The Anti-Nicene Fathers, City of God, Book XX, Chap. 13, 19

Again, these are not definitive statements, but teachings put forth by the early Church that hold considerable weight. We must keep in mind what the Church has recently said regarding the possibility of an era of peace:

The Holy See has not yet made any definitive pronouncement in this regard. —Fr. Martino Penasa presented the question of a “millenary reign” to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), who, at the time, was Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Il Segno del Soprannauturale, Udine, Italia, n. 30, p. 10, Ott. 1990

So while we can safely lean in the direction of the Church Fathers toward a “day of rest” within the boundaries of time, the symbolic language of Sacred Scripture leaves many questions regarding the end times unsolved. And it is by the designs of Wisdom:

He has kept those things hidden so that we may keep watch, each of us thinking that he will come in our own day. If he had revealed the time of his coming, his coming would have lost its savor: it would no longer be an object of yearning for the nations and the age in which it will be revealed. He promised that he would come but did not say when he would come, and so all generations and ages await him eagerly. —St. Ephrem, Commentary on Diatessaron, p. 170, Liturgy of the Hours, Vol I

 

ANTICHRIST?

Lastly, Mr. Conte writes that I have been led into the “the false idea that the Antichrist is already in the world.” (He insists in his own writings that “the Antichrist cannot possibly be in the world today.”) Once again, I have not made any such claim in my writings, though I have pointed to some important signs of growing lawlessness in the world that could be a harbinger of the approach of the “lawless one.” St. Paul says that the Antichrist or “son of perdition” will not appear until there is an apostasy on earth (2 Thess 2:3).

What I could say on this matter pales in comparison to the opinion of one with a far greater voice than my own in an authoritative document:

Who can fail to see that society is at the present time, more than in any past age, suffering from a terrible and deep-rooted malady which, developing every day and eating into its inmost being, is dragging it to destruction? You understand, Venerable Brethren, what this disease is—apostasy from God… When all this is considered there is good reason to fear lest this great perversity may be as it were a foretaste, and perhaps the beginning of those evils which are reserved for the last days; and that there may be already in the world the “Son of Perdition” of whom the Apostle speaks. —POPE ST. PIUS X, E Supremi, Encyclical On the Restoration of All Things in Christ, n. 3, 5; October 4th, 1903

 

CONCLUSION

In a world where the Church is being increasingly nominalized, and the need for unity among Christians is more imperative than ever, it strikes me as sad that such debates need take place among us. Not that debates are bad. But when it comes to eschatology, I find it more pointless than fruitful to debate such things when there are so many unknowns. The Book of Revelation is also called “The Apocalypse.” The word apocalypse means “unveiling,” a reference to the unveiling which takes place in a wedding. That is to say that this mysterious book will not be fully unveiled until the Bride is fully unveiled. To try and figure it all out is a near-impossible task. God will unveil it to us on a need to know basis, thus, we continue to watch and pray.

Mr. Conte wrote: “His own thinking on the topic of eschatology is full of ignorance and error. His claimed ‘strong prophetic words’ are not a reliable source of information about the future.” Yes, Mr. Conte is absolutely right on this point. My own thinking is full of ignorance; my “strong prophetic words” are not a reliable source of information about the future.

That’s why I will continue to quote the Early Church Fathers, the popes, the Catechism, the Scriptures and approved private revelation before I dare draw any conclusions about tomorrow. [Since writing this article, I have summarized the aforementioned authoritative voices on the “end times” that does indeed challenge the impoverished eschatology of other loud voices who neglect the entirety of Tradition and approved revelations. See Rethinking the End Times.]

 

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Posted in HOME, A RESPONSE.