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THERE can be no doubt that the pontiffs of the last century have been exercising their prophetic office so as to awaken believers to the drama unfolding in our day (see Why Aren’t the Popes Shouting?). It is a decisive battle between the culture of life and the culture of death… the woman clothed with the sun—in labor to give birth to a new era—versus the dragon who seeks to destroy it, if not attempt to establish his own kingdom and “new age” (see Rev 12:1-4; 13:2). But while we know Satan will fail, Christ will not. The great Marian saint, Louis de Montfort, frames it well:
Your divine commandments are broken, your Gospel is thrown aside, torrents of iniquity flood the whole earth carrying away even your servants… Will everything come to the same end as Sodom and Gomorrah? Will you never break your silence? Will you tolerate all this for ever? Is it not true that your will must be done on earth as it is in heaven? Is it not true that your kingdom must come? Did you not give to some souls, dear to you, a vision of the future renewal of the Church? —St. Louis de Montfort, Prayer for Missionaries, n. 5; www.ewtn.com
Speaking in an informal statement given to a group of German Catholics in 1980, Pope John Paul spoke of this coming renewal of the Church:
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 toalleviate 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. —Regis Scanlon, “Flood and Fire”, Homiletic & Pastoral Review, April 1994
“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church,” said early Church Father, Tertullian. 160-220 A.D., Apologeticum, n. 50 Hence, again, the reason for this website: to prepare the reader for the days that lay ahead of us. These times had to come, for some generation, and it may well be ours.
The more noteworthy of the prophecies bearing upon “latter times” seem to have one common end, to announce great calamities impending over mankind, the triumph of the Church, and the renovation of the world. —Catholic Encyclopedia, Prophecy, www.newadvent.org
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
So they are, above all, times of hope. We are passing from a long spiritual winter into what our recent popes have called a “new springtime.” We are, said St. John Paul II, “crossing the threshold of hope.”
[John Paul II] does indeed cherish a great expectation that the millennium of divisions will be followed by a millennium of unifications… that all the catastrophes of our century, all its tears, as the Pope says, will be caught up at the end and turned into a new beginning. —Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (POPE BENEDICT XVI), Salt of the Earth, An Interview With Peter Seewald, p. 237
After purification through trial and suffering, the dawn of a new era is about to break. —POPE ST. JOHN PAUL II, General Audience, September 10, 2003
THE THRESHOLD OF A NEW ERA
While I was gathered with hundreds of thousands at World Youth Day in Toronto, Canada in 2002, we heard John Paul II call upon us to be “watchmen of the morning” of this anticipated “new beginning”:
The young have shown themselves to be for Rome and for the Church a special gift of the Spirit of God… I did not hesitate to ask them to make a radical choice of faith and life and present them with a stupendous task: to become “morning watchmen” at the dawn of the new millennium. —POPE JOHN PAUL II, Novo Millennio Inuente, n.9
…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
Benedict XVI continued this appeal to the youth in a message that describes in more detail this coming ‘new age’ (to be differentiated from the counterfeit “new age” spirituality prevalent today):
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—not rejected, feared as a threat, and destroyed. A new age in which love is not greedy or self-seeking, but pure, faithful and genuinely free, open to others, respectful of their dignity, seeking their good, radiating joy and beauty. 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
He referred to this new era again while speaking to the people of the United Kingdom in his visit there:
This nation, and the Europe which [Saint] Bede and his contemporaries helped to build, once again stands at the threshold of a new age. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Address at Ecumenical Celebration, London, England; September 1th, 2010; Zenit.org
This “new age” was something he foresaw in 1969 when he prophesied in a radio interview:
From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge — a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes, so it will lose many of her social privileges… The process will be all the more arduous, for sectarian narrow-mindedness as well as pompous self-will will have to be shed… But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. —Cardinal Ratzinger (POPE BENEDICT), “What Will the Church Look Like in 2000”, radio sermon in 1969; Ignatius Press; ucatholic.com
I have explained previously how this new era is rooted in the Apostolic Tradition we have received, in part, from the early Church Fathers (see The Coming Dominion of the Church) and, of course, Sacred Scripture (see Heresies and More Questions).
Quite notably, however, is what the Holy Fathers have been saying all along, especially in the last century. That is, John Paul II and Benedict XVI are not proposing a unique hope for the future, but building upon that Apostolic voice that there will indeed come a time when the spiritual reign of Christ will be established, through a purified Church, to the ends of the earth.
God loves all men and women on earth and gives them the hope of a new era, an era of peace. His love, fully revealed in the Incarnate Son, is the foundation of universal peace. When welcomed in the depths of the human heart, this love reconciles people with God and with themselves, renews human relationships and stirs that desire for brotherhood capable of banishing the temptation of violence and war. The Great Jubilee is inseparably linked to this message of love and reconciliation, a message which gives voice to the truest aspirations of humanity today. —POPE JOHN PAUL II, Message of Pope John Paul II for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace, January 1, 2000
Papal theologian for John Paul II as well as Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, and John Paul I, affirmed that this long awaited “period of peace” on earth is drawing near.
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, October 9th, 1994, Family Catechism, p. 35
Cardinal Ciappi is therefore linking previous magisterial statements to the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart, which is at once a triumph of the Church.
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
It will at length be possible that our many wounds be healed and all justice spring forth again with the hope of restored authority; that the splendors of peace be renewed, and the swords and arms drop from the hand and when all men shall acknowledge the empire of Christ and willingly obey His word, and every tongue shall confess that the Lord Jesus is in the Glory of the Father. —POPE LEO XIII, Consecration to the Sacred Heart, May 1899
This hope was reiterated again in our day by Pope Francis:
…[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
Like his predecessors, Pope Francis also holds to the hope that a “new world” is possible wherein the Church truly becomes a home for the world, a unified people birthed by the Mother of God:
We implore [Mary’s] maternal intercession that the Church may become a home for many peoples, a mother for all peoples, and that the way may be opened to the birth of a new world. It is the Risen Christ who tells us, with a power that fills us with confidence and unshakeable hope: “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev 21:5). With Mary we advance confidently towards the fulfillment of this promise… —POPE FRANCIS, Evangelii Gaudium, n. 288
A promise contingent upon conversion:
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
It is consoling and reassuring to hear this prophetic anticipation of a global period of peace on earth from so many of the popes:
“And they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.” May God… shortly bring to fulfillment His prophecy for transforming this consoling vision of the future into a present reality… It is God’s task to bring about this happy hour and to make it known to all… 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
Speaking in no less an authoritative document than an encyclical, Pope Pius X 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… “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.14, 6-7
Echoing Jesus’ prayer for unification, “that they may all be one” (Jn 17:21), Paul VI assured the Church that this unity would come:
The unity of the world will be. The dignity of the human person shall be recognized not only formally but effectively. The inviolability of life, from the womb to old age… Undue social inequalities will be overcome. The relations between peoples will be peaceful, reasonable and fraternal. Neither selfishness, nor arrogance, nor poverty… [shall] prevent the establishment of a true human order, a common good, a new civilization. —POPE PAUL VI, Urbi et Orbi Message, April 4th, 1971
Before him, Blessed John XXIII elucidated this vision of a new order of hope:
At times we have to listen, much to our regret, to the voices of people who, though burning with zeal, lack a sense of discretion and measure. In this modern age they can see nothing but prevarication and ruin … We feel that we must disagree with those prophets of doom who are always forecasting disaster, as though the end of the world were at hand. In our times, divine Providence is leading us to a new order of human relations which, by human effort and even beyond all expectations, are directed to the fulfilment of God’s superior and inscrutable designs, in which everything, even human setbacks, leads to the greater good of the Church. —BLESSED JOHN XXIII, Address for the Opening of the Second Vatican Council, October 11th, 1962; 4, 2-4: AAS 54 (1962), 789
And again, before him, Pope Leo XIII also prophesied of this coming restoration and unity in Christ:
We have attempted and persistently carried out during a long pontificate towards two chief ends: in the first place, towards the restoration, both in rulers and peoples, of the principles of the Christian life in civil and domestic society, since there is no true life for men except from Christ; and, secondly, to promote the reunion of those who have fallen away from the Catholic Church either by heresy or by schism, since it is most undoubtedly the will of Christ that all should be united in one flock under one Shepherd. —Divinum Illud Munus, n. 10
SEEDS OF THE FUTURE
In St. John’s Apocalypse, he speaks of this renewal of the Church in terms of a “resurrection” (Rev 20:1-6). Pope Pius XII also employs this language:
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. —POPE PIUX XII, Urbi et Orbi address,March 2nd, 1957; vatican.va
This “resurrection”, then, is ultimately a restoration of grace in mankind in order that His “will be done on earth as it is in Heaven,” as we pray each day.
God himself had provided to bring about that “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, Address to the Rogationist Fathers, n. 6, www.vatican.va
Thus, the new millennium envisioned by the popes is really the fulfillment of the Our Father.
…every day in the prayer of the Our Father we ask the Lord: “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10)…. 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
MARY… A VISION OF THE FUTURE
The Church has always taught that the Blessed Virgin Mary is more than the mother of Jesus. As Benedict XVI said:
Holy Mary… you became the image of the Church to come… —Encyclical, Spe Salvi, n.50
But clearly, the popes are not suggesting that her holiness is something the Church will realize only in Heaven. Perfection? Yes, that will only come in eternity. But the popes are speaking of a restoration of that primordial holiness in the Garden of Eden that was lost, and which we now find in Mary. In the words of St. Louis de Montfort:
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) —Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin,n. 58-59
Towards the end of the world… Almighty God and His Holy Mother are to raise up great saints who will surpass in holiness most other saints as much as the cedars of Lebanon tower above little shrubs. —Ibid. n, 47
The Resurrection, however, does not precede the Cross. So too, as we’ve heard, the seeds of this new springtime for the Church will be and are being planted in this spiritual winter. A new time will blossom, but not before the Church has been purified:
The Church will be reduced in its dimensions, it will be necessary to start again. However, from this test a Church would emerge that will have been strengthened by the process of simplification it experienced, by its renewed capacity to look within itself… the Church will be numerically reduced. —Cardinal Ratzinger (POPE BENEDICT XVI), God and the World, 2001; Interview with Peter Seewald
The ‘test’ may very well be the one spoken of in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the “mystery of iniquity” in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth… The Antichrist’s deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment. —CCC 675, 676
Clearly, then, the popes are not speaking of a political kingdom in millenarian style, but of a spiritual renewal of the Church that will impact even creation itself before the very “end.”
Thus is the full action of the original plan of the Creator delineated: a creation in which God and man, man and woman, humanity and nature are in harmony, in dialogue, in communion. This plan, upset by sin, was taken up in a more wondrous way by Christ, Who is carrying it out mysteriously but effectively in the present reality, in the expectation of bringing it to fulfillment… —POPE JOHN PAUL II, General Audience, February 14, 2001
This is our great hope and our invocation, ‘Your Kingdom come!’ — a Kingdom of peace, justice and serenity, which will re-establish the original harmony of creation.—ST. POPE JOHN PAUL II, General Audience, November 6th, 2002, Zenit
THE FINAL CONFRONTATION
Perhaps as no other time in the past 2000 years has secular messianism been so prevalent. Technology, environmentalism, and the right to take another’s life—or one’s own—has become the “hope of the future,” rather than God and a true civilization of love built on His order. Thus, we are indeed “facing the final confrontation” with the spirit of this age. Pope Paul VI seemed to understand the necessary but hopeful dimensions of this confrontation when he canonized the martyrs of Uganda in 1964:
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
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
First published September 24th, 2010.
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|160-220 A.D., Apologeticum, n. 50