Photo by Janice Matuch
A friend connected to the underground Church in China told me of this incident not long ago:
Two mountain villagers descended into a Chinese city looking for a specific female leader of the underground Church there. This elderly husband and wife were not Christians. But in a vision, they were given the name of a woman they were to look for and deliver a message.
When they found this woman, the couple said, “A bearded man appeared to us in the sky and said we were to come tell you that ‘Jesus is returning.’
There are stories like this emerging from all around the world, often coming from children and the most unexpected recipients. But it’s coming from popes too.
At World Youth Day in 2002 when John Paul II called us youth to become “watchmen”, he said specifically:
Dear young people, it is up to you to be the watchmen of the morning who announce the coming of the sun who is the Risen Christ! —POPE JOHN PAUL II, Message of the Holy Father to the Youth of the World, XVII World Youth Day, n. 3; (cf. Is 21:11-12)
He did not consider this a perfunctory flattery, but called it a “stupendous task” that would require “a radical choice of faith and life.” POPE JOHN PAUL II, Novo Millennio Inuente, n.9
As we all know, certain signs will precede the return of Jesus. Our Lord himself spoke of wars and rumours of wars and a host of natural or man-made disasters, from famines to plagues to earthquakes. St. Paul said there will come an apostasy or rebellion in which many will take good for evil and evil for good—in a word, lawlessness, followed by an antichrist.
And so it is extremely significant that numerous popes before and after John Paul II, from Pius IX of the early eighteenth century to our present pontiff, have described the times we are living in clear and unequivocal apocalyptic terms (see Why Aren’t the Popes Shouting?). Most notable are the explicit references to the “apostasy”—a word which only appears in 2 Thessalonians—and which precedes and accompanies an antichrist.
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… 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
In our days this sin has become so frequent that those dark times seem to have come which were foretold by St. Paul, in which men, blinded by the just judgment of God, should take falsehood for truth, and should believe in “the prince of this world,” who is a liar and the father thereof, as a teacher of truth: “God shall send them the operation of error, to believe lying (2 Thess. ii., 10). —POPE PIUS XII, Divinum Illud Munus, n. 10
Apostasy, the loss of the faith, is spreading throughout the world and into the highest levels within the Church. —Address on the Sixtieth Anniversary of the Fatima Apparitions, October 13, 1977
In an allusion to the “beast” in Revelation, who gains control of all monetary transactions and puts to death those who don’t participate in its system, Pope Benedict said:
We think of the great powers of the present day, of the anonymous financial interests which turn men into slaves, which are no longer human things, but are an anonymous power which men serve, by which men are tormented and even slaughtered. They are a destructive power, a power that menaces the world. —BENEDICT XVI, Reflection after the reading of the office for the Third Hour, Vatican City, October 11,
And in a direct modern interpretation of “the mark of the beast,” Benedict commented:
The Apocalypse speaks about God’s antagonist, the beast. This animal does not have a name, but a number… The machines that have been constructed impose the same law. According to this logic, man must be interpreted by a computer and this is only possible if translated into numbers. The beast is a number and transforms into numbers. God, however, has a name and calls by name. He is a person and looks for the person. —Cardinal Ratzinger, (POPE BENEDICT XVI) Palermo, March 15th, 2000
As I have often quoted, John Paul II summarized all of the above in 1976:
We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has ever experienced. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-church, between the Gospel and the anti-gospel, between Christ and the antichrist. —Eucharistic Congress, for the bicentennial celebration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Philadelphia, PA, 1976; some citations of this passage include the words “Christ and the antichrist” as above. Deacon Keith Fournier, an attendee, reports it as above; cf. Catholic Online
Now, most Catholics have been taught to believe that the battle between the antichrist and Jesus essentially ushers in the very end of the world. And yet, other statements, not only from the popes, but also “approved” private revelation, suggests something to the contrary. Let’s begin with the popes…
THE DAWN OF HOPE
Return again to John Paul II’s words at the beginning, where he called the youth to be “watchmen” to announce the “coming of the sun who is the Risen Christ.” Speaking to another youth gathering that year, he reiterated that we were to be…
…watchmen who proclaim to the world a new dawn of hope, brotherhood and peace. —POPE JOHN PAUL II, Address to the Guanelli Youth Movement, April 20th, 2002, www.vatican.va
Heaven is the fulfillment of hope, not its dawn, and so what is John Paul II referring to? Previously, he was announcing that the “final confrontation” was at hand, and “the coming of…the Risen Christ”. What happened to the “end of the world” part that we’ve always been told immediately follows Jesus’ return?
Let’s turn again to Pius XII, another pope who has prophesied the imminent return of Jesus. He wrote:
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… and strife will cease and there will be peace. Come Lord Jesus… Send thy angel, O Lord and make our night grow as bright as the day… How many souls are longing for the hastening of the day in which Thou alone wilt live and reign in their hearts! Come, Lord Jesus. There are numerous signs that Thy return is not far off. —POPE PIUX XII, Urbi et Orbi address,March 2nd, 1957; vatican.va
Wait a minute. He foresees that this destruction “of the night of mortal sin” will give way to a new day in factories, cities, and nations. I think we can be quite certain that there are no factories in Heaven. So again, here is another pope applying this coming of Jesus to a new dawn on earth—not the end of the world. Could the key in his words be that Jesus will come to “reign in their hearts“?
Pius X, who thought the antichrist may already be on earth, wrote:
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
Well, this too may seem at first to be a strange description of Jesus’ return, which some Catholic eschatologists insist brings the end of the world and the Final Judgment. But the description above is not referring to this either. For the Catechism teaches that the Sacraments “belong to this present age,” not Heaven. CCC, n. 671 Nor are their “foreign dominions” in Heaven. So again, if Pius X believed the antichrist was on earth, how could he also prophesy in the same Encyclical a “restoration” of the temporal order?
Even our two most recent pontiffs are speaking, not of the end of the world, but a “new era.” Pope Francis, who has warned that the worldliness of our time is “apostasy”, …worldliness is the root of evil and it can lead us to abandon our traditions and negotiate our loyalty to God who is always faithful. This… is called apostasy, which… is a form of “adultery” which takes place when we negotiate the essence of our being: loyalty to the Lord. —POPE FRANCIS from a homily, Vatican Radio, November 18th, 2013 has notably twice compared our generation to a novel on the antichrist, Lord of the World. But Francis also said, in an allusion to the era of “peace and justice” spoken of by the prophet Isaiah…Isaiah 11:4-10
…[the] pilgrimage of all of the People of God; and by its light even the other peoples can walk towards the Kingdom of justice, towards the Kingdom of peace. What a great day it will be, when the weapons will be dismantled in order to be transformed into instruments of work! And this is possible! We bet on hope, on the hope of peace, and it will be possible. —POPE FRANCIS, Sunday Angelus, December 1st, 2013; Catholic News Agency, Dec. 2nd, 2013
Again, the Pope is not referring to Heaven, but to a temporal time of peace. As he affirmed elsewhere:
Humanity is in need of justice, of peace, love, and will have it only by returning with their whole heart to God, who is the source. —POPE FRANCIS, at the Sunday Angelus, Rome, February 22nd, 2015; Zenit.org
Likewise, Pope Benedict is not predicting the end either. Instead, at World Youth Day, he said:
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… A new age in which hope liberates us from the shallowness, apathy, and self-absorption which deaden our souls and poison our relationships. 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
Help “build a world”? Is Heaven still under construction? Of course not. Rather, the Pope foresaw the rebuilding of a broken humanity:
The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult… but the Church of faith. She may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but she will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death. —Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (POPE BENEDICT XVI), Faith and Future, Ignatius Press, 2009
So, how can the same popes who are warning of the signs of the approach of antichrist speak at the same time of a renewal or “new springtime” in the Church? Pope Benedict gives an explanation based on St. Bernard’s teaching that there are “three” comings of Christ. Bernard spoke of a “middle coming” of Jesus that is…
…like a road on which we travel from the first coming to the last. In the first, Christ was our redemption; in the last, he will appear as our life; 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
Indeed, the early Church Fathers and St. Paul spoke of a “sabbath rest” for the Church as well. Heb 4:9-10
Whereas people had previously spoken only of a twofold coming of Christ—once in Bethlehem and again at the end of time—Saint Bernard of Clairvaux spoke of an adventus medius, an intermediate coming, thanks to which he periodically renews his intervention in history. I believe that Bernard’s distinction strikes just the right note. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Light of the World, p.182-183, A Conversation With Peter Seewald
This “middle coming” is further illuminated in God’s word to the Church, spoken through His prophets…
THE GREAT PURIFICATION
God does not only speak through the Scriptures, Sacred Tradition, and the Magisterium, but also through His prophets. While they cannot “improve or complete… or correct” the Public Revelation of Jesus, they can help us to…
…live more fully by it in a certain period of history… —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 67
That is, “private revelation” is like the “headlights” on the “car” of Public Revelation. It can help to illuminate the path ahead, already ordained in Scripture and Sacred Tradition.
In that regard, this past century has provided a thread of revelation to the Body of Christ that is consistent. Now, keep in mind that seers and visionaries are as if peering into the same house, but through different windows. To some are revealed more aspects of the “interior” than others. But taken as a whole, a general picture emerges that is a direct parallel to what the Magisterium is saying as outlined above. And this should not surprise us since most of these revelations come by way of Our Lady, who is an image of the Church.cf. Key to the Woman
“Mary figured profoundly in the history of salvation and in a certain way unites and mirrors within herself the central truths of the faith.” Among all believers she is like a “mirror” in which are reflected in the most profound and limpid way “the mighty works of God.” —POPE JOHN PAUL II, Redemptoris Mater, n. 25
The predominant thread running through the apparitions of the past century is essentially this: lack of repentance will lead to apostasy and chaos, which will lead to judgment, and then the establishment of a “new era.” Sound familiar? Just a few examples now from private revelation that has enjoyed a certain amount of ecclesial approval.
Bishop Héctor Sabatino Cardelli of San Nicolás de los Arroyos in Argentina recently approved the apparitions of “Mary of the Rosary of San Nicolás” as having a “supernatural character” and being worthy of belief. In messages echoing the papal themes of “resurrection” and “dawn”, Our Lady said to Gladys Quiroga de Motta, an uneducated housewife:
The Redeemer is offering to the world the way to face the death that is Satan; is offering as He did from the Cross, His Mother, mediator of all grace…. The most intense light of Christ will resurge, just as in the Calvary after the crucifixion and death came the resurrection, also the Church will resurge again by the force of love. —messages were given between 1983-1990; cf. churchpop.com
In the mid 90’s, Edson Glauber was also given revelations by Our Lady saying that we have entered the “end times”. June 22, 1994 What is remarkable is the level of support they have gained from the local bishop, since the seer is still alive. In one message, Our Lady said:
I am always with you, praying and watching over each one of you until the day when my Son Jesus will return to seek you, when I will entrust all [of you] to him. It is for this that you are hearing about many apparitions of mine in many parts and various places in the world. It is your Heavenly Mother who for centuries and every day has been coming from heaven to visit her dear children, preparing them and enlivening them on their way in the world towards the meeting with her Son Jesus Christ in his second coming. —September 4th, 1996 (translated by theologian Peter Bannister and provided to me)
But like the popes we’ve been citing, Our Lady also does not speak of this “coming” of Jesus as the end of the world, but a purification which leads to a new era of peace:
The Lord wishes to see you attentive, awake and vigilant, because the time of peace and of his Second coming is approaching you…. I am the Mother of the Second Advent. As I was chosen to bring the Saviour to you, so I have again been chosen in order to prepare the way for His Second coming and it is by means of your Heavenly Mother, through the triumph of my Immaculate Heart, that my Son Jesus will again be among you my children, in order to bring you His Peace, His Love, the Fire of the Holy Spirit that will renew the whole face of the earth... Soon you will have to pass through the great purification imposed by the Lord, which [or who] will renew the face of the earth. —November 30th, 1996, December 25th, 1996, January 13th, 1997
In messages which have received both the Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat, the Lord began to quietly speak to Slovakian, Sister Maria Natalia, in the early 1900’s. When she was a child during an approaching storm, the Lord awakened her to events that were coming, and then revealed more details later in visions and inner locutions. She describes one such vision:
Jesus showed me in a vision, that after the purification, mankind will live a pure and angelical life. There will be an end to the sins against the sixth commandment, adultery, and an end to lies. The Savior showed me that unceasing love, happiness and divine joy will signify this future clean world. I saw the blessing of God abundantly poured out upon the earth. —from The Victorious Queen of the World, antonementbooks.com
Her words here echo Servant of God, Maria Esperanza who said:
He is coming—not the end of the world, but the end of this century’s agony. This century is purifying, and after will come peace and love… The environment will be fresh and new, and we will be able to feel happy in our world and in the place where we live, without fights, without this feeling of tension in which all of us live… —The Bridge to Heaven: Interviews with Maria Esperanza of Betania, Michael H. Brown, p. 73, 69
Jennifer is a young American mother and housewife (her last name is withheld at her spiritual director’s request in order to respect the privacy of her husband and family.) Her messages allegedly come directly from Jesus, who began to speak to her audibly one day after she received the Holy Eucharist at Mass. The messages read almost as a continuation of the message of Divine Mercy, however with a marked emphasis on the “door of justice” as opposed to the “door of mercy”—a sign, perhaps, of the imminence of judgment.
One day, the Lord instructed her to present her messages to the Holy Father, John Paul II. Fr. Seraphim Michaelenko, vice-postulator of St. Faustina’s canonization, translated her messages into Polish. She booked a ticket to Rome and, against all odds, found herself and her companions in the inner corridors of the Vatican. She met with Monsignor Pawel Ptasznik, a close friend and collaborator of the Pope and the Polish Secretariat of State for the Vatican. The messages were passed to Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, John Paul II’s personal secretary. In a follow-up meeting, Msgr. Pawel said she was to “spread the messages to the world any way you can.” And so, we consider them here.
In a bold warning that echoes what so many other seers have been repeating, Jesus said:
Do not fear this time for it will be the greatest purification since the beginning of creation. —March 1st, 2005; wordsfromjesus.com
In more stark messages that hearken Cardinal Ratzinger’s warning on the “mark of the beast”, Jesus says:
My people, your time is now to prepare because the coming of the antichrist is near… You will be grazed and numbered like sheep by the authorities who work for this false messiah. Do not allow yourself to be counted among them for you are then allowing yourself to fall into this evil trap. It is I Jesus who is your true Messiah and I do not number My sheep because your Shepherd knows you each by name. —August 10th, 2003, March 18th, 2004; wordsfromjesus.com
But the message of hope is also prevalent, which speaks of a new dawn in the same vein as the popes:
My Commandments, dear children, will be restored into the hearts of man. The era of peace will prevail upon My people. Take heed! Take heed dear children, for the trembling of this earth is about to begin… stay awake for the new dawn is coming. —June11th, 2005
And one cannot fail to mention mystics, such as Servant of God Luisa Piccarreta, who also spoke of an unprecedented purification of mankind. The Lord’s focus in these revelations are primarily on the following “era of peace” when the words of the Our Father will be fulfilled:
Ah, my daughter, the creature always races more into evil. How many machinations of ruin they are preparing! They will go so far as to exhaust themselves in evil. But
while they occupy themselves in going their way, I will occupy Myself with the completion and fulfillment of My Fiat Voluntas Tua (“Thy will be done”) so that My Will reign on earth—but in an all-new manner. Ah yes, I want to confound man in Love! Therefore, be attentive. I want you with Me to prepare this Era of Celestial and Divine Love… —Jesus to Servant of God, Luisa Piccarreta, Manuscripts, Feb 8th, 1921; excerpt from The Splendor of Creation, Rev. Joseph Iannuzzi, p.80
In other messages, Jesus speaks of the coming “Kingdom of the Divine Will” and a holiness that will prepare the Church for the end of the world:
It is the Sanctity not yet know, and which I will make known, which will set in place the last ornament, the most beautiful and brilliant among all the other sanctities, and will be the crown and completion of all the other sanctities. —Ibid. 118
This hearkens back to Pius XII who prophesied—not the end of suffering or sin—but a new day in which “Christ must destroy the night of mortal sin with the dawn of grace regained.” This coming “gift of living in the Divine Will” is precisely that “grace regained” that Adam and Eve enjoyed in the Garden of Eden, and which Our Lady likewise abided in.
To Venerable Conchita, Jesus said:
…it is the grace of graces… 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… —Jesus to Venerable Conchita, The Crown and Completion of All Sanctities, by Daniel O’Connor, p. 11-12
That is to say that this apparent “last” grace being given to the Church is not the definitive end of sin and suffering and human freedom in the world. Rather, it is a….
…“new and divine” holiness with which the Holy Spirit wishes to enrich Christians at the dawn of the third millennium, in order to make Christ the heart of the world. —POPE JOHN PAUL II, L’Osservatore Romano, English Edition, July 9th, 1997
We need only look to Our Lady to dispel any notions that the above refers to a “utopia.” Despite living in the Divine Will, she was still subject to suffering and the effects of the fallen condition of man. And thus, we can look to her as an image of the Church to come in the next era:
Mary is totally dependent upon God and completely directed towards him, and at the side of her Son [where she still suffered], she is the most perfect image of freedom and of the liberation of humanity and of the universe. It is to her as Mother and Model that the Church must look in order to understand in its completeness the meaning of her own mission. —POPE JOHN PAUL II, Redemptoris Mater, n. 37
THE BINDING OF SATAN
I want to briefly emphasize one other aspect of these “end times” that the popes have alluded to and which is spoken of in private revelation, and that is the breaking of Satan’s power in the near future.
In the approved messages to Elizabeth Kindelmann, Our Lady is promising a gift to this generation, what she calls “the Flame of Love” of her Immaculate Heart.
…my Flame of Love… is Jesus Christ himself. —The Flame of Love, p. 38, from Elizabeth Kindelmann’s diary; 1962; Imprimatur Archbishop Charles Chaput
In her diary, Kindelmann recorded that this Flame will mark an epochal change in the world that, again, echoes the papal imagery of the light of dawn dispelling darkness:
Ever since the Word became Flesh, I have not undertaken a greater movement than the Flame of Love from My Heart who rushes to you. Till now, nothing could blind Satan as much… The soft light of my Flame of Love will light up spreading fire over the entire surface of the earth, humiliating Satan rendering him powerless, completely disabled. Do not contribute to prolong the pains of childbirth. —Ibid.
Jesus revealed to St. Faustina that His Divine Mercy will crush Satan’s head:
…the efforts of Satan and of evil men are shattered and come to naught. In spite of Satan’s anger, the Divine Mercy will triumph over the whole world and will be worshiped by all souls. —Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary, n. 1789
Linked to the Divine Mercy that flows from the heart of Christ, is the devotion to His Sacred Heart, which itself carried a similar promise:
This devotion was the last effort of His love that He would grant to men in these latter ages, in order to withdraw them from the empire of Satan which He desired to destroy, and thus to introduce them into the sweet liberty of the rule of His love, which He wished to restore in the hearts of all those who should embrace this devotion. —St. Margaret Mary, www.sacredheartdevotion.com
To Jennifer, Jesus said:
Know that the reign of Satan is coming to an end and that I will bring an era of peace to this earth. —May 19th, 2003
And again, from Itapiranga:
If you all pray together Satan will be destroyed with his whole kingdom of darkness, but what is lacking today are hearts which truly live deeply united in prayer with God and myself. —January 15th, 1998
One very noteworthy aspect of the approved messages of Itapiranga is that Our Lady mentions her apparitions in Medjugorje as an extension of Fatima—something John Paul II also conveyed to Bishop Pavel Hnilica in an interview for the German Catholic monthly magazine PUR. http://wap.medjugorje.ws/en/articles/medjugorje-pope-john-paul-ii-interview-bishop-hnilica/ In a dialogue with Jan Connell, one of the seers of Medjugorje, Mirjana, speaks to the issue at hand:
J: Concerning this century, is it true that the Blessed Mother related a dialogue to you between God and the devil? In it… God allowed the devil one century in which to exercise extended power, and the devil chose these very times.
The visionary answered “Yes”, citing as proof the great divisions we see particularly among families today. Connell asks:
J: Will the fulfillment of the secrets of Medjugorje break the power of Satan?
M: That is part of the secrets.
Of course, many Catholics still recite the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel that was composed by Pope Leo XIII after he too reportedly heard a conversation between Satan and God in which the devil would be granted a century to test the Church.
Last of all, the great Marian saint, Louis de Montfort, confirms that following Satan’s defeat, Christ’s kingdom will triumph over darkness before the end of the world:
We are given reason to believe that, towards the end of time and perhaps sooner than we expect, God will raise up people filled with the Holy Spirit and imbued with the spirit of Mary. Through them Mary, Queen most powerful, will work great wonders in the world, destroying sin and setting up the kingdom of Jesus her Son upon the RUINS of the corrupt kingdom which is this great earthly Babylon. (Rev.18:20) —St. Louis de Montfort, Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin,n. 58-59
HIS KINGDOM COMES
In conclusion, taking everything into account that we have considered from magisterial and approved sources—that there is or will be an apostasy, which gives way to an antichrist, which leads to a judgment of the world and Christ’s coming, and an “era of peace”… a question remains: do we see this sequence of events in Scripture? The answer is yes.
In the Book of Revelation, we read of those who worship and follow after “the beast”. In Rev. 19, Jesus comes to execute a judgment on “the beast and false prophet” and all those who took his mark. Rev. 20 says that Satan is then chained for a time, and this is followed by the reign of Christ with His saints. All of this is a perfect mirror of everything described above in both the Public and private revelation of Christ.
The most authoritative view, and the one that appears to be most in harmony with Holy Scripture, is that, after the fall of the Antichrist, the Catholic Church will once again enter upon a period of prosperity and triumph. —The End of the Present World and the Mysteries of the Future Life, Fr. Charles Arminjon (1824-1885), p. 56-57; Sophia Institute Press
In truth, brothers and sisters, the exact chronology we see described above is nothing new. The early Church Fathers taught this as well. However, the messianic Jewish converts of that time expected Jesus to come to earth in the flesh and establish a pseudo spiritual/political kingdom. The Church condemned this as a heresy (millenarianism), teaching that Jesus will not return in the flesh until the end of time at the Final Judgment. But what the Church has never condemned is the possibility that Jesus, through a profound intervention in history, may come in a triumphant way to reign in the Church before the end of history. In fact, this is clearly what both Our Lady and the popes are saying, and is already affirmed in Catholic teaching:
Christ dwells on earth in his Church…. “on earth, the seed and the beginning of the kingdom”. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 699
The Catholic Church, which is the kingdom of Christ on earth, [is] destined to be spread among all men and all nations… —POPE PIUS XI, Quas Primas, Encyclical, n. 12, Dec. 11th, 1925; cf. Matt 24:14
So Jesus is coming, yes—but not to bring the history of humanity to its conclusion just yet, although it…
…has now entered its final phase, making a qualitative leap, so to speak. The horizon of a new relationship with God is unfolding for humanity, marked by the great offer of salvation in Christ. —POPE JOHN PAUL II, General Audience, April 22nd, 1998
Rather, Jesus is returning to sanctify the Church in a decisive manner such that His Kingdom will come and will be done “on earth as it is in heaven” so…
…that he 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 5:27)
For the wedding day of the Lamb has come, his bride has made herself ready. She was allowed to wear a bright, clean linen garment. (Rev 19:7-8)
From the Theological Commission Canon 827 vests the local ordinary with the authority to appoint one or several theologians (commission; equipè; team) of qualified experts to review materials before they are published with a Nihil Obstat. In this case, it was more than one individual. struck for the publication of The Teachings of the Catholic Church, which bears the Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat, it is stated:
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, London Burns Oates & Washbourne, 1952. Arranged and edited by Canon George D. Smith; this section written by Abbot Anscar Vonier, p. 1140
The Pope’s own theologian wrote:
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… With His Holiness Pope John Paul, we look expectantly and prayerfully for this era to begin with the dawn of the third millennium…. —Mario Luigi Cardinal Ciappi, October 9th, 1994; papal theologian for Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, and John Paul II, The Apostolate’s Family Catechism (Sept. 9th, 1993); p. 35; p. 34
In fact, Pope Pius XI was explicit on such an era himself, as was his successor, who quoted him in his Encyclical:
‘May blind spirits… be illumined by the light of truth and justice… so that those who have gone astray into error may be brought back to the straight path, that a just liberty may be granted the Church everywhere, and that an era of peace and true prosperity may come upon all the nations.’ —POPE PIUS XI, Letter of January 10, 1935: AAS 27, p. 7; cited by PIUS XII in Le Pelerinage de Lourdes, vatican.va
This is all to say that this “era of peace” is as far from the heresy of millenarianism as Christ is from His diabolical counterfeit.
So, while the Catechism teaches that the Church is already the reign of Christ on earth, in the course of history it is not, nor can it ever be, the definitive kingdom that we look forward to in eternity when all sin and suffering and rebellious human freedom will cease. The “era of peace” will not be the restoration of a sinless and perfect Eden, as if God accomplishes His end before the End. As Cardinal Ratzinger taught:
The biblical representation of the End rejects the expectation of a definitive state of salvation within history… since the idea of a definitive intra-historical fulfillment fails to take into account the permanent openness of history and of human freedom, for which failure is always a possibility. —Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life, Catholic University of America Press, p. 213
Indeed, we see this “failure” in Revelation 20: the world does not end with an “era of peace”, but the sad and cyclical rebellion of mankind against its Creator.
And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be loosed from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations which are at the four corners of the earth, that is, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle. (Rev 20:7)
The kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God’s victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven. God’s triumph over the revolt of evil will take the form of the Last Judgment after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 677
THE BIG PICTURE
In closing, I will leave the reader with two prophecies from “Rome” that powerfully summarize the “big picture”—one from the Pope himself, and one from a layman. They are a call to us to “watch and pray” and to remain in a “state of grace.” In a word, to prepare.
We must be prepared to undergo great trials in the not-too-distant future; trials that will require us to give up even our lives, and a total gift of self to Christ and for Christ. Through your prayers and mine, it is possible to alleviate this tribulation, but it is no longer possible to avert it, because it is only in this way that the Church can be effectively renewed. How many times, indeed, has the renewal of the Church been effected in blood? This time, again, it will not be otherwise. —POPE JOHN PAUL II, Speaking in an informal statement given to a group of German Catholics in 1980; Fr. Regis Scanlon, Flood and Fire, Homiletic & Pastoral Review, April 1994
Because I love you, I want to show you what I am doing in the world today. I want to prepare you for what is to come. Days of darkness are coming on the world, days of tribulation… Buildings that are now standing will not be standing. Supports that are there for my people now will not be there. I want you to be prepared, my people, to know only me and to cleave to me and to have me in a way deeper than ever before. I will lead you into the desert… I will strip you of everything that you are depending on now, so you depend just on me. A time of darkness is coming on the world, but a time of glory is coming for my Church, a time of glory is coming for my people. I will pour out on you all the gifts of my Spirit. I will prepare you for spiritual combat; I will prepare you for a time of evangelism that the world has never seen…. And when you have nothing but me, you will have everything: land, fields, homes, and brothers and sisters and love and joy and peace more than ever before. Be ready, my people, I want to prepare you… —given by Ralph Martin in St. Peter’s Square in the presence of Pope Paul VI; Pentecost Monday of May, 1975
To journey with Mark in the The Now Word,
click on the banner below to subscribe.
Your email will not be shared with anyone.
|↑1||POPE JOHN PAUL II, Novo Millennio Inuente, n.9|
|↑2||CCC, n. 671|
|↑3||…worldliness is the root of evil and it can lead us to abandon our traditions and negotiate our loyalty to God who is always faithful. This… is called apostasy, which… is a form of “adultery” which takes place when we negotiate the essence of our being: loyalty to the Lord. —POPE FRANCIS from a homily, Vatican Radio, November 18th, 2013|
|↑6||cf. Key to the Woman|
|↑7||June 22, 1994|
|↑9||Canon 827 vests the local ordinary with the authority to appoint one or several theologians (commission; equipè; team) of qualified experts to review materials before they are published with a Nihil Obstat. In this case, it was more than one individual.|