Your Questions on the Era

 

 

SOME questions and answers on the “era of peace,” from Vassula, to Fatima, to the Fathers.

 

Q. Didn’t the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith say that the “era of peace” is millenarianism when it posted its Notification on Vassula Ryden’s writings?

I have decided to answer this question here since some are using this Notification to draw flawed conclusions regarding the notion of an “era of peace.” The answer to this question is as interesting as it is convoluted.

Vassula Ryden is a Greek Orthodox woman whose writings, “True Life in God,” exploded on the scene as “prophetic revelations,” especially in the 1980’s. In 1995, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), after reviewing her works, posted a Notification that…

…brought out—in addition to positive aspects—a number of basic elements that must be considered negative in the light of Catholic doctrine. —from Notification on the Writings and Activities of Mrs. Vassula Ryden, www.vatican.va

Among their concerns, the Congregation noted:

These alleged revelations predict an imminent period when the Antichrist will prevail in the Church. In millenarian style, it is prophesied that God is going to make a final glorious intervention which will initiate on earth, even before Christ’s definitive coming, an era of peace and universal prosperity. —Ibid.

The Congregation does not specify which passages of Vassula’s writings tend toward “millenarian style.” However, the CDF invited her to respond to five questions based on this Notification, and offer any clarifications on her writings. This seemed in the spirit of Pope Benedict XIV (1675-1758), whose treatise, On Heroic Virtue, has been used as a guideline in the beatification and canonization process in the Church.

Such occasional occurrences of flawed prophetic habit should not lead to the condemnation of the entire body of the supernatural knowledge communicated by the prophet, if it is properly discerned to constitute authentic prophecy. Nor, in cases of the examination of such individuals for beatification or canonization, should their cases be dismissed, according to Benedict XIV, as long as the individual humbly acknowledges his error when it is brought to his attention. —Dr. Mark Miravalle, Private Revelation: Discerning With the Church, p. 21

Vassula’s answers, including her response on the “era of peace,” were submitted through Fr. Prospero Grech, renowned professor of Biblical theology at the Pontifical Institute Augustinianum. He was commissioned by Cardinal Ratzinger, then Prefect of the CDF, to put the five questions to the alleged seer. On reviewing her answers, Fr. Prospero called them “excellent.” More significantly, Cardinal Ratzinger himself, in a personal exchange with theologian Niels Christian Hvidt who has carefully documented the followup between the CDF and Vassula and initiated the meetings with her, said to Hvidt after Mass one day: “Ah, Vassula has replied very well!” [1]cf. “Dialogue between Vassula Ryden and the CDF” and the attached report by Niels Christian Hvidt

In perhaps a unique insight into the politics of the Vatican, Hvidt was told by those in the heart of the CDF that “The millstones grind slowly in the Vatican.” Hinting at internal divisions, Cardinal Ratzinger later relayed to Hvidt that He ‘would like to see a new Notification’ but that he had to “obey the cardinals.” [2]cf. www.cdf-tlig.org

It was confirmed in May of 2004 that a new Notification would not be forthcoming and that, rather, the positive response to Vassula’s clarifications would be “kept low-key.” That response was sent out by Fr. Josef Augustine Di Noia, undersecretary to the CDF. In a letter to a number of Bishops’ Conferences, it said:

As you know, this Congregation published a Notification in 1995 on the writings of Mrs. Vassula Rydén. Afterwards, and at her request, a thorough dialogue followed. At conclusion of this dialogue, a letter of Mrs. Rydén dated 4 April 2002 was subsequently published in the latest volume of “True Life in God”, in which Mrs. Rydén supplies useful clarifications regarding her marital situation, as well as some difficulties which in the aforesaid Notification were suggested towards her writings and her participation in the sacraments… Since the aforementioned writings have enjoyed a certain diffusion in your country, this Congregation has deemed it useful to inform you of the above. — July 10th, 200, www.cdf-tlig.org

When asked in a subsequent meeting with Vassula on November 22nd, 2004, if the 1995 Notification is still valid, Cardinal Ratzinger responded:

Well, we would say that there have been modifications in the sense that we have written to the interested bishops that one should now read the Notification in the context of your preface and with the new comments that you have made.” —Ibid.

This was confirmed in a new letter from the Prefect of the CDF, Cardinal Levada, who wrote:

The Notification of 1995 remains valid as a doctrinal judgment of the writings examined.

Mrs Vassula Ryden, however, after dialogue with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has offered clarifications on some problematic points in her writings and on the nature of her messages which are presented not as divine revelations, but rather as her personal meditations. From a normative point of view therefore, following the aforementioned clarifications, a case by case prudential judgment is required in view of the real possibility of the faithful being able to read the writings in the light of the said clarifications. —Letter to the Presidents of the Episcopal Conference, William Cardinal Levada, January 25th, 2007

From the above dialogues and letters, four conclusions can be drawn.

I. The Notification is in reference to Vassula Ryden’s writings and her own particular presentation of an “era of peace” among other aspects of her writings and activities. Those who claim the Notification is a carte blanche rejection of all doctrines pertaining to an “era of peace” have made an erroneous extrapolation, and in the process, created their own set of contradictions. [3]cf. What If…? For one, to suggest that any concept of an era of peace is now rejected wholesale by Rome conflicts with the approved apparition of Our Lady of Fatima who promised a “period of peace,” not to mention the Pope’s own theologian:

Yes, a miracle was promised at Fatima, the greatest miracle in the history of the world, second only to the Resurrection. And that miracle will be an era of peace which has never really been granted before to the world. —Mario Luigi Cardinal Ciappi, papal theologian for Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, and John Paul II, October 9th, 1994, The Apostolate’s Family Catechism, p. 35

Most notably, such faulty conclusions contradict Cardinal Ratzinger’s clear statement regarding the possibility of a “new era of Christian life” in the Church: [4]cf. Millenarianism‚What it is, and is Not

The question is still open to free discussion, as the Holy See has not made any definitive pronouncement in this regard. Il Segno del Soprannauturale, Udine, Italia, n. 30, p. 10, Ott. 1990; Fr. Martino Penasa presented this question of a “millenary reign” to Cardinal Ratzinger

II. Both renowned theologian, Fr. Prospero Grech, and the Prefect for the CDF, Cardinal Ratzinger, confirmed that Vassula’s theological clarifications were “excellent.” (I have read her clarifications on this as well, and they properly explain the era in terms of an interior sanctification of the Church through the power of the Holy Spirit or a “New Pentecost,” not the reign of Jesus in the flesh on earth or some kind of false utopia.) However, Cardinal Ratzinger admitted that the Congregation itself was divided, which prevented any changes to the Notification.

III. The Notification on her writings, though still in effect, has been modified to the extent that Vassula’s writings can now be read under the prudential “case by case” judgment of the Bishops along with the clarifications she has provided (and which are published in subsequent volumes).

IV. The CDF’s original statement that “These alleged revelations predict an imminent period when the Antichrist will prevail in the Church” should be understood as a contextual statement as opposed to a condemnation of the possibility of the proximity of Antichrist. For in an Encyclical of Pope Pius X, he predicted the very same thing:

…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

 

Q. If Medjugorje is related to Fatima, as John Paul II said in his comment to Bishop Pavel Hnilica, does the former have a role in the “end times” according to the eschatology of the Church Fathers?

Keeping in mind that the Church has made no definitive pronouncement on the alleged phenomena at Medjugorje, the Pope’s own words on the apparitions and those purportedly of the Blessed Mother point toward a master plan of peace and unity in the world before the end of time. [5]see The Triumph – Part III However, I would like to highlight one further aspect of Medjugorje that seems to tie directly into the theology of the Church Fathers on the era of peace.

In the early stages of the apparitions in Medjugorje, alleged seer, Mirjana, relates that Satan appeared to her, tempting her to renounce the Madonna and follow him with the promise of happiness in love and life. Alternatively, following Mary, he said, would “lead to suffering.” The seer rejected the devil, and the Virgin immediately appeared to her saying:

Excuse me for this, but you must realize that satan exists. One day he appeared before the throne of God and asked permission to submit the Church to a period of trial. God gave him permission to try the Church for one century. This century is under the power of the devil, but when the secrets confided to you come to pass, his power will be destroyed… Words from Heaven, 12th Edition, p. 145

And again,

…a great struggle is about to unfold. A struggle between my Son and satan. Human souls are at stake. —August 2nd, 1981, Ibid. p. 49

The above echoes the vision Pope Leo XIII purportedly had when…

Leo XIII truly saw, in a vision, demonic spirits who were congregating on the Eternal City (Rome). —Father Domenico Pechenino, eyewitness; Ephemerides Liturgicae, reported in 1995, p. 58-59; www.motherofallpeoples.com

The story goes, according to some versions, that Satan asked God permission to test the Church for a century. Hence, the pontiff immediately went to his quarters and penned the prayer to St. Michael to “thrust into hell, Satan and all evil spirits, who prowl throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.” This prayer, then, was to be said after Mass in every church, which it was for decades.

According to St. John’s vision in Revelation 12, he saw a battle between the “woman clothed with the sun” and a dragon.

This Woman represents Mary, the Mother of the Redeemer, but she represents at the same time the whole Church, the People of God of all times, the Church that at all times, with great pain, again gives birth to Christ. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Castel Gandolfo, Italy, AUG. 23, 2006; Zenit

But then, something “breaks” in the spiritual realm:

Then war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. The dragon
and its angels fought back, but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The huge dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels were thrown down with it. (v. 7-9)

The term “heaven” here most likely does not refer to Heaven, where Christ and His saints dwell. The most suitable interpretation of this text is not an account of the original fall and rebellion of Satan, since the context is clearly with regard to the age of those who “bear witness to Jesus.” [6][cf. Rev 12:17 Rather, “heaven” here refers to a spiritual realm related to the earth: the “firmament” or “heavens”: [7]cf. Gen 1:1

For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. (Eph 6:12)

St. John foresaw some kind of “exorcism of the dragon” that is not the definitive chaining of evil, but a lessening of Satan’s power. Hence, the saints cry out:

Now have salvation and power come, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed. For the accuser of our brothers is cast out, who accuses them before our God day and night… (v.10)

However, St. John adds:

Therefore, rejoice, you heavens, and you who dwell in them. But woe to you, earth and sea, for the Devil has come down to you in great fury, for he knows he has but a short time… Then I saw a beast come out of the sea… To it the dragon gave its own power and throne, along with great authority. (Rev 12:12, 13:1, 2)

Satan’s power is then concentrated in a single individual whom Tradition identifies as the “son of perdition” or Antichrist. It is with his defeat that Satan’s power is then chained for a time:

“He shall break the heads of his enemies,” that all may know “that God is the king of all the earth,” “that the Gentiles may know themselves to be men.” All this, Venerable Brethren, We believe and expect with unshakable faith. —POPE PIUS X, E Supremi, Encyclical “On the Restoration of All Things”, n. 6-7

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years (Rev 20:1).

Thus, the message of Medjugorje that foretells the breaking of Satan’s power is consonant with the events of the “end times”, as taught by the Church Fathers:

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

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, The City of God, Book XX, Chap. 13, 19

 

Q. You have written about an “illumination of conscience” in which every soul on earth will see itself in the light of truth, as though it were a judgment in miniature. Such an event, one would think, would change the world for a time. Couldn’t the time after this event be considered the “period of peace” spoken of at Fatima?

Since the “period of peace” prophesied by Our Lady is considered precisely that—prophecy—it is subject to interpretation, one of which the above is possible. For instance, “illuminations” of people’s consciences are not infrequent already, such as for those who have had “near-death” experiences or been in accidents where their lives have flashed before them. For some people, it has changed the course of their lives, while others, not. Another example would be post-September 11th, 2001. Those terrorist attacks shook the consciences of many people, and for a time, churches were packed. But now, as Americans tell me, things are pretty much back to normal.

As I have written elsewhere [8]see The Seven Seals of Revolution, there is another period spoken of in Revelation following what does indeed seem to be some sort of “illumination” where everyone on earth sees a vision of Jesus crucified or something related, “a Lamb that seemed to have been slain,” [9]Rev 5:6 when the “sixth seal” is broken [10]Rev 6:12-17 What follows, writes St. John, is some break in the chaos of the preceding seals:

When he broke open the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. (Rev 8:1)

This “pause”, however, seems to be more a time of sifting and choosing sides, if not which “mark” one will take… [11]cf. Rev 7:3; 13:16-17 than it does the certain Triumph of peace and justice that will come after Satan is chained. It is only my opinion, but I believe the “exorcism of the dragon” as I explained in the previous answer, is the same event as the “illumination” since the “light of truth” will scatter the darkness in many souls, setting many free from the oppression of the oppressor. This event will be like the Transfiguration in which the glory awaiting the Church in the Era of Peace is anticipated before her passion, as it was for Our Lord.

Alas, regarding these things, it is better to spend more time in prayer than speculation.

 

 

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1. cf. “Dialogue between Vassula Ryden and the CDF” and the attached report by Niels Christian Hvidt
2. cf. www.cdf-tlig.org
3. cf. What If…?
4. cf. Millenarianism‚What it is, and is Not
5. see The Triumph – Part III
6. [cf. Rev 12:17
7. cf. Gen 1:1
8. see The Seven Seals of Revolution
9. Rev 5:6
10. Rev 6:12-17
11. cf. Rev 7:3; 13:16-17
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