What’s around the bend?
IN an open letter to the Pope, cf. Dear Holy Father… He is Coming! I outlined to His Holiness the theological foundations for an “era of peace” as opposed to the heresy of millenarianism. cf. Millenarianism: What it is and is Not and the Catechism [CCC} n.675-676 Indeed, Padre Martino Penasa posed the question on the scriptural foundation of an historic and universal era of peace versus millenarianism to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: “È imminente una nuova era di vita cristiana?” (“Is a new era of Christian life imminent?”). The Prefect at that time, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger replied, “La questione è ancora aperta alla libera discussione, giacchè la Santa Sede non si è ancora pronunciata in modo definitivo”:
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
Thus it is remotely possible that the Church, at any point in the future, may also state definitively that an “era of peace” is also contrary to the Faith. Until such a pronouncement is made, if ever, one can also ask, “What if—what if an “era of peace” is not part of the “end times”?
The truth is, there are some contemporary authors who are taking this stand, suggesting that the Second Coming of Christ and the end of the world is in fact imminent. We must say that they too are within their rights to propose this since the Church has not made any definitive pronouncement one way or the other. That said, Pope Benedict XVI, commenting on St. Faustina’s messages, which state that they were given to prepare the world for “the final coming” of Jesus, remarked: cf. Faustina, and the Day of the Lord
If one took this statement in a chronological sense, as an injunction to get ready, as it were, immediately for the Second Coming, it would be false. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Light of the World, A Conversation with Peter Seewald, p. 180-181
Indeed, in the same interview, Pope Benedict affirmed the expectation for the “triumph of the Immaculate Heart,” which Our Lady of Fatima promised would bring about a “period of peace” in the world. So, he clearly sees the “triumph” as an interim event before the final events which usher in the end of the world. He prayed, then, that God may “hasten the fulfillment of the prophecy of the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.” Homily, Fatima, Portugal, May 13th, 2010
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. —Cardinal Mario Luigi Ciappi, papal theologian for John Paul II as well as Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, and John Paul I, October 9th, 1994, Family Catechism, p. 35
Most notably, Benedict said of his prayer for the hastening of the Triumph:
This is equivalent in meaning to our praying for the coming of God’s Kingdom. —Light of the World, A Conversation With Peter Seewald, p. 166
Yes, the fulfillment of the Our Father when His kingdom will come and “will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Admittedly, this is where many eschatologists today have taken a wrong turn. They equate the “coming of the Kingdom” with the parousia at the end of the world. However, even Jesus said 2000 years ago that “the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matt 3:2 That is, the Kingdom of God has come, is coming, and will come. It is this “middle coming” of Christ’s kingdom that Our Lady and many of the last centuries mystics have been speaking of when the Bride of Christ will be brought to resemble Mary’s holiness, and when…
…the power of evil is restrained again and again, that again and again the power of God himself is shown in the Mother’s power and keeps it alive. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Light of the World, p. 166, A Conversation With Peter Seewald
…in this middle coming, He is our rest and consolation.…. In His first coming Our Lord came in our flesh and in our weakness; in this middle coming He comes in spirit and power; in the final coming He will be seen in glory and majesty… —St. Bernard, Liturgy of the Hours, Vol I, p. 169
Thus, said Pope St. John XXIII, this present time…
…prepares, as it were, and consolidates the path toward that unity of mankind which is required as a necessary foundation, in order that the earthly city may be brought to the resemblance of that heavenly city where truth reigns, charity is the law, and whose extent is eternity. —POPE JOHN XXIII, Address at the Opening of the Second Vatican Council, October 11th, 1962; www.papalencyclicals.com
According to the Lord, the present time is the time of the Spirit and of witness, but also a time still marked by “distress” and the trial of evil which does not spare the Church and ushers in the struggles of the last days. It is a time of waiting and watching. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 672
BUT WHAT IF THEY’RE WRONG?
So what if an era of peace were not part of the last times, when according to the prophet Isaiah, all the nations will stream to the Lord’s house during a time of peace? cf. Isaiah 2:2-4 For didn’t Jesus say that the gospel must be preached “to all the nations” before the end (Matt 24:14)—something both St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict said is still very much a work in progress?
The mission of Christ the Redeemer, which is entrusted to the Church, is still very far from completion. As the second millennium after Christ’s coming draws to an end, an overall view of the human race shows that this mission is still only beginning and that we must commit ourselves wholeheartedly to its service. —POPE JOHN PAUL II, Redemptoris Mission, n. 1
There are regions of the world that are still awaiting a first evangelization; others that have received it, but need a deeper intervention; yet others in which the Gospel put down roots a long time ago, giving rise to a true Christian tradition but in which, in recent centuries—with complex dynamics—the secularization process has produced a serious crisis of the meaning of the Christian faith and of belonging to the Church. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, First Vespers of the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, June 28th, 2010
The above expectations are, of course, part of our Sacred Tradition and do indeed seem to have yet to reach their ultimate fulfillment.
This eschatological coming could be accomplished at any moment, even if both it and the final trial that will precede it are “delayed”. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 673
St. Peter further illuminates what must come “until the time for establishing all that God spoke” is fulfilled.
The glorious Messiah’s coming is suspended at every moment of history until his recognition by “all Israel”, for “a hardening has come upon part of Israel” in their “unbelief” toward Jesus. St. Peter says to the Jews of Jerusalem after Pentecost: “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for establishing all that God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old.” —CCC, n.674
So, are these “times of refreshing” to be understood as Heaven—or are they rather referring to an era of peace? Without the eschatological light that the “era of peace” brings, it is hard to understand how exactly there will be “times of refreshing” that will include the Jewish people. Also, how will the Gospel be preached to the ends of the earth creating one flock, under one Shepherd, cf. John 10:16 without there being some kind of “new Pentecost” that enables the Kingdom of God to reach the coastlands… given that the world is now becoming pagan again?
We cannot calmly accept the rest of humanity falling back again into paganism. —Cardinal Ratzinger (POPE BENEDICT XVI), The New Evangelization, Building the Civilization of Love; Address to Catechists and Religion Teachers, December 12, 2000
The “era of peace,” as explained especially by the saints and mystics of this past century, certainly sheds new light and understanding in this regard. However, what if they are wrong?
Our Lady of Fatima promised that, “in the end” her “Immaculate Heart will Triumph and the world will be granted a period of peace.” One author suggests that “in the end” refers to “the end of the world.” However, this makes little sense since Our Lady was clearly stating that, after all her requests were fulfilled, that is, “in the end”, the world will be granted a “period” of peace. Eternity is not a period. It is eternity.
Others have suggested that the “period of peace” has already happened with the collapse of the Soviet Union and end of the “Cold War.” However, that is a rather myopic viewpoint since, following the fall of the Berlin wall were the genocides in Rwanda, former Yugoslavia, and the Sudan; then there’s the plague of pornography and no-fault divorce that has ravaged families; this has been followed by the rise of violent crime and dramatic increase in teenage suicide and STD’s; and of course, what kind of peace has there been in the womb as now one billion babies have been brutally slaughtered there through abortion? cf. LifeSiteNews It would seem that the “period of peace” is yet to come. For to be sure, we have not heeded Our Lady’s requests, which amount to conversion back to God.
Another author asserts that the statements made by the pontiffs of the last century regarding a “time of peace and justice” refer solely to the Second Coming of Christ at the end of time and definitive establishment of the eternal Kingdom of God in a New Heavens and a New Earth. While I have demonstrated in my letter to the Holy Father how the popes statements are consistent with Sacred Tradition from the times of the Early Church Fathers regarding an authentic “era of peace” within the boundaries of time, what if the popes were referring to Heaven?
Then, I would have to say, the language chosen by the pontiffs is strange, if not contradictory, to say the very least. For example, when Pope Benedict XVI called the youth to be “prophets of this new age” that is coming, he said to them:
Empowered by the Spirit, and drawing upon faith’s rich vision, a new generation of Christians is being called to help build a world in which God’s gift of life is welcomed, respected and cherished… Dear young friends, the Lord is asking you to be prophets of this new age... —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Homily, World Youth Day, Sydney, Australia, July 20th, 2008
If this refers to Heaven, as some suggest, then it may come as a surprise to others that Heaven is still under construction; that we are going to have to “help build a world in which God’s gift of life is welcomed.” I was under the impression that, in Heaven, the gift of life was already welcomed. However, this statement makes more sense if it is understood as a triumphant period of Christianity in the world that emerges after this present culture of death has been crushed beneath Our Lady’s heel—the “triumph of the Immaculate Heart.”
In 1957 in his Urbi et Orbi Easter address, Pope Pius XII stated:
But even this night in the world shows clear signs of a dawn that will come, of a new day receiving the kiss of a new and more resplendent sun… A new resurrection of Jesus is necessary: a true resurrection, which admits no more lordship of death… In individuals, Christ must destroy the night of mortal sin with the dawn of grace regained. In families, the night of indifference and coolness must give way to the sun of love. In factories, in cities, in nations, in lands of misunderstanding and hatred the night must grow bright as the day, nox sicut dies illuminabitur, and strife will cease and there will be peace. —The Tablet, April 27th, 1957 as cited in Heralds of the Second Coming by Stephen Walford, p. 218-219, (a book which, ironically, rejects any notion of an “era of peace.”)
So what if there is to be no “era of peace” and this refers to the state of Heaven, as one author suggests? Then Catholics may find it strange that there will be “factories” in eternity. However, the theology of an “era of peace” fits in perfectly with Pius XII’s words that, after the death of Antichrist, there will be what St. John calls a “first resurrection” in which the saints will reign with Christ during an era of peace, a “thousand years.” cf. Rev 20:1-6
Now… we understand that a period of one thousand years is indicated in symbolic language. —St. Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Ch. 81, The Fathers of the Church, Christian Heritage
As I explained in my letter to the Holy Father, the approved mystics of the 20th century have spoken about this destruction of “the night of mortal sin” when “the dawn of grace” is regained. What is regained is the “gift” to live in the Divine Will that Adam and Eve, as well as Mary, the New Eve, enjoyed, according to Servant of God Luisia Picarretta. cf. Popes, Prophecy, and Picarretta This is a state of mystical union with God that will prepare the Church so that Jesus….
…might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish… (Eph 5:25, 27)
It is a union of the same nature as that of the union of heaven, except that in paradise the veil which conceals the Divinity disappears… —Venerable Conchita, cited in The Crown and Completion of All Sanctities, by Daniel O’Connor, p. 11-12; nb. Ronda Chervin, Walk with Me, Jesus
The essential affirmation is of an intermediate stage in which the risen saints are still on earth and have not yet entered their final stage, for this is one of the aspects of the mystery of the last days which has yet to be revealed. —Cardinal Jean Daniélou, S.J., theologian, A History of Early Christian Doctrine Before the Council of Nicea, 1964, p. 377
This mystery is simply the mystery of love flowering in the Church.
If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Fathers commandments and remain in his love. (John 15:10)
To live in the Divine Will of God is such a close state of union that, although it is not the perfection of Heaven, it draws Heaven down into the soul such that even the “hidden faults” of the person are consumed in the fire of divine love—just as a celestial object that draws too close to the sun is consumed by its heat without ever touching the sun’s surface.
Love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Pet 4:8)
It is precisely this lack of understanding of mystical theology that has led many commentators to presume that any notion of a stage in history where the Church is groomed by the Holy Spirit into a preliminary state of perfection is therefore “millenarianism.” cf. Millenarianism: What it is and is Not
However, Pope Benedict XVI explained it so well:
…we recognize that “heaven” is where the will of God is done, and that “earth” becomes “heaven”—i.e., the place of the presence of love, of goodness, of truth and of divine beauty—only if on earth the will of God is done. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, General Audience, February 1st, 2012, Vatican City
Again, Jesus said, “the kingdom of heaven is near.” In fact, one could rightly say that the “era of peace” has already begun in the hearts of some of the faithful, for that is precisely where the Kingdom of God is to be found within the “living stones” of the Church.
This “gift of living in the Divine Will” that Luisa prophesied cf. The Coming New and Divine Holiness will come about in a “new era” (many other notable mystics such as Venerable Conchita, Martha Robin, St. Hannibal, Maria Esperanza, etc. spoke explicitly of this “new era”) and might be what led Pius X to cry out:
Oh! when in every city and village the law of the Lord is faithfully observed, when respect is shown for sacred things, when the Sacraments are frequented, and the ordinances of Christian life fulfilled, there will certainly be no more need for us to labor further to see all things restored in Christ… And then? Then, at last, it will be clear to all that the Church, such as it was instituted by Christ, must enjoy full and entire liberty and independence from all foreign dominion… All this, Venerable Brethren, We believe and expect with unshakable faith. —POPE PIUS X, E Supremi, Encyclical “On the Restoration of All Things”, n.14, 6-7
But what if there is to be no such temporal “era of peace”? Then Pius X’s words are a pipe dream (though these words were written in an Encyclical letter, which is a magisterial teaching of the Church.) For he refers to a time of peace and liberty “when the Sacraments are frequented.” There’s your clue: the Sacraments belong to the temporal order, not Heaven; they will cease in eternity since Jesus will then be physically and eternally present and united to His Mystical body. Thus, this time of peace he is referring to cannot refer to Heaven, but to a momentous hour in the future.
When it does arrive, it will turn out to be a solemn hour, one big with consequences not only for the restoration of the Kingdom of Christ, but for the pacification of… the world. We pray most fervently, and ask others likewise to pray for this much-desired pacification of society. —POPE PIUS XI, Ubi Arcani dei Consilioi “On the Peace of Christ in his Kingdom”, December 23, 1922
But still, what if there was to be no “era of peace”? Then Pius XI’s reference to a solemn “hour” is a strange way to describe the eternal state of beatitude. Furthermore, would it not be redundant to say that this “hour” will bring about the “much-desired pacification of society” if he is referring to Heaven? “Pacification”? It’s a baffling understatement if it refers to the eternal Kingdom.
However, if one were to apply the proper theology of an “era of peace” according to the Early Church Fathers, then Pius X’s and XI’s words make perfect sense. They are the prophetic hope of a coming “period of peace” that will establish the “kingdom of God” to the coastlands, and which “we believe and expect with unshakable faith.”
So, the blessing foretold undoubtedly refers to the time of His Kingdom… Those who saw John, the Lord’s disciple, [tell us] that they heard from him how the Lord taught and spoke about these times… —St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Church Father (140–202 A.D.); Adversus Haereses, Irenaeus of Lyons, V.33.3.4, The Fathers of the Church, CIMA Publishing
Here, St. Irenaeus, giving us a rare testimony of the direct development of St. John’s Apocalypse, is speaking of a coming “time” when the Kingdom of God will reign on earth in a new mode cf. The Coming New and Divine Holiness—that is, the will of God will reign “on earth as it is in heaven.” Blessed John Paul II also employed temporal terminology in this regard:
May there dawn for everyone the time of peace and freedom, the time of truth, of justice and of hope. —POPE JOHN PAUL II, Radio message, Vatican City, 1981
Again, the language chosen here refers to a “time”. Consider Paul VI’s prophetic words:
These African martyrs herald the dawn of a new age. If only the mind of man might be directed not toward persecutions and religious conflicts but toward a rebirth of Christianity and civilization! —Liturgy of the Hours, Vol. III, p. 1453, Memorial of Charles Lwanga and Companions
“Christianity” and “civilization” are terms that we use to refer to both the spiritual and temporal order. Heaven will not be the rebirth of Christianity but the wedding of Christians with Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom. The term Christianity will in fact become obsolete in Heaven since it is a description we use to denote the Church from the various religions in the temporal order. Again, if Paul VI was referring to Heaven, then it is stretching the lexicon of eschatology as we know it.
With a heart trustfully open to this vision of hope, I implore from the Lord an abundance of the Spirit’s gifts for the whole Church, so that the “springtime” of the Second Vatican Council can find in the new millennium its “summertime,” that is to say its full development. —POPE JOHN PAUL II, L’Osservatore Romano, English Edition, February 25th, 1998; as cited in Heralds of the Second Coming by Stephen Walford, p.157, (a book which, again, rejects any notion of an “era of peace.”)
Here again, without the theology of an “era of peace”, the Holy Father’s statement seems an odd way to say “Heaven.” Rather, the “summertime” of the Second Vatican Council is precisely the realization of that general preliminary Christian perfection for which John XXIII called the council in the first place:
The task of humble Pope John is to “prepare for the Lord a perfect people,” which is exactly like the task of the Baptist, who is his patron and from whom he takes his name. And it is not possible to imagine a higher and more precious perfection than that of the triumph of Christian peace, which is peace at heart, peace in the social order, in life, in well-being, in mutual respect, and in the brotherhood of nations. —POPE JOHN XXIII, True Christian Peace, December 23rd, 1959; www.catholicculture.org
In my writing, Faustina, and the Day of the Lord, the “summertime” referred to here would correspond to the “midday” of the “day of the Lord.” Here again, we see two differing schools of thought: one, is that the “day of the Lord” is the last 24 hour day on earth. But according to the early Church Fathers, their teaching—which is consistent with the pope’s vision of a dawning new era—is that the “day of the Lord” is an era of peace and justice.
…this day of ours, which is bounded by the rising and the setting of the sun, is a representation of that great day to which the circuit of a thousand years affixes its limits. —Lactantius, Fathers of the Church: The Divine Institutes, Book VII, Chapter 14, Catholic Encyclopedia; www.newadvent.org
Behold, the Day of the Lord shall be a thousand years. —Letter of Barnabas, The Fathers of the Church, Ch. 15
RENEWING OUR HOPE IN HIS COMING
While it is certainly permissible for Catholics to hold either position regarding what occurs on the “day of the Lord” since the Church has made no definitive pronouncement, what seems objectionable to me are those who do not permit others to propose the theological possibility of an “era of peace.” Both Cardinal Ratzinger himself, while head of the CDF, and a theological commission in 1952 that compiled The Teaching of the Catholic Church, have put forth magisterial statements cf. Inasmuch as the cited work bears the Church’s seals of approval, i.e., the imprimatur and the nihil obstat, it is an exercise of the Magisterium. When an individual bishop grants the Church’s official imprimatur, and neither the Pope nor the body of bishops oppose the conferral of this seal, it is an exercise of the ordinary Magisterium. to the effect that an “era of peace” is still very much open to the realm of possibility, that there could still be…
…a hope in some mighty triumph of Christ here on earth before the final consummation of all things. Such an occurrence is not excluded, is not impossible, it is not all certain that there will not be a prolonged period of triumphant Christianity before the end. If before that final end there is to be a period, more or less prolonged, of triumphant sanctity, such a result will be brought about not by the apparition of the person of Christ in Majesty but by the operation of those powers of sanctification which are now at work, the Holy Ghost and the Sacraments of the Church. —The Teaching of the Catholic Church: A Summary of Catholic Doctrine, The MacMillan Company, 1952, p. 1140
It is puzzling to me why otherwise faithful Catholics have chosen to ignore these magisterial statements.
Some authors wish to explain the coming “new Pentecost”, the “period of peace” promised at Fatima, and “springtime” or “summertime” of Christianity as concomitant with the final coming of Jesus at the end of time. I personally believe these positions are a strange way to simply say “Heaven” and simply do not explain the temporal context in which these prophetic words have been made. Furthermore, they neglect entirely the early Church Fathers, patrisitic and resourcement theology, the approved apparitions of Mary, and the powerful testimony and teachings of many approved contemporary mystics. cf. Is Jesus Really Coming? Nonetheless, since the question remains open, the most important thing is to keep such theological debates in a spirit of charity and mutual respect.
The reality is that the preparations for the Day of the Lord are the same, whether they contain a triumphant period of sanctity or not. The reason is that, every day, at any moment, anyone of us could come face to face with our Creator. Most of you reading this will likely enter your particular judgment before God within 50 years or less. And so the need to remain in a “state of grace,” in a place of mercy and forgiveness towards others, and as a servant wherever you are, is imperative. This can be achieved by the grace of God through a life of prayer, penance, participation in the Sacraments, and above all, trust in God’s love and mercy.
For ultimately, what comes will come… and it will come “like a thief in the night.”
First published May 1st, 2013
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|1.||↑||cf. Dear Holy Father… He is Coming!|
|2.||↑||cf. Millenarianism: What it is and is Not and the Catechism [CCC} n.675-676|
|3.||↑||cf. Faustina, and the Day of the Lord|
|4.||↑||Homily, Fatima, Portugal, May 13th, 2010|
|6.||↑||cf. Isaiah 2:2-4|
|7.||↑||cf. John 10:16|
|9.||↑||cf. Rev 20:1-6|
|10.||↑||cf. Popes, Prophecy, and Picarretta|
|11.||↑||cf. Millenarianism: What it is and is Not|
|12, 13.||↑||cf. The Coming New and Divine Holiness|
|14.||↑||cf. Inasmuch as the cited work bears the Church’s seals of approval, i.e., the imprimatur and the nihil obstat, it is an exercise of the Magisterium. When an individual bishop grants the Church’s official imprimatur, and neither the Pope nor the body of bishops oppose the conferral of this seal, it is an exercise of the ordinary Magisterium.|
|15.||↑||cf. Is Jesus Really Coming?|