There is a lot being written and produced about the “end times” these days. As Catholics we believe and profess that Jesus is coming again, but that no one knows when. From Protestant books about being “left behind,” to atheist theories of aliens on the warpath, to true Catholic teaching about how the end of time will be revealed, there is a preponderance of thought, prayer, ink and media being spent on the possibility that this current time of dramatic change and turbulence signals the beginning of the end of time.
I do not know what all of this turbulence means. But as a prayerful person I see a pattern emerging with mirrored and opposing thoughts and actions among the people of God and those who follow the ways of the world. Spiritually, things are coming to a head. Extremes are being experienced in nature, in behavior and in the many facets of our socioeconomic world. What this “head” is that “things” are coming to, I do not know. But for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, these are very interesting times indeed.
Having reverted to the faith after a 20-year absence, I had a lot of catching up to do. Having never really known my faith as a child, I doubly had a lot of catching up to do. Twenty years later, I would not say I have “caught up,” but by God’s mercy I have learned a lot, read a lot, experienced a lot and received a lot of grace. One such grace is an openness to the Holy Spirit in the form of Church approved prophecy. I understand that there are people who prefer to stick to only what is “required” to believe and not delve into approved Marian and other apparitions, but I don’t understand why. If the Church has given her approval to a private revelation, I want to learn about it and learn from it. If a gift is given, you better believe I’m going to open it. Yes, public revelation ended when the last Apostle died and the New Testament was completed, but approved private revelation continues even now.
Much of the Marian and other apparitions of the past few centuries relate to the end times or to the end of this current era we are living in. Many of the messages overlap and speak of the same type of events using slightly different wording. In St. Faustina’s Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul, Jesus relates to her that we are living in a time of mercy, which will be followed by the time of judgment. There is really nothing new in this statement that Jesus didn’t already tell us in the Gospels, except that He added that this time of mercy is drawing to a close. Remaining with St. Faustina, Jesus told her:
Before I come as the just Judge, I am coming first as the King of Mercy. Before the day of justice arrives, there will be given to people a sign in the heavens of this sort:
All light in the heavens will be extinguished, and there will be great darkness over the whole earth. Then the sign of the cross will be seen in the sky, and from the openings where the hands and the feet of the Savior were nailed will come forth great lights which will light up the earth for a period of time. This will take place shortly before the last day. (Diary, 83)
Similar words or prophecies have been given for centuries to many saints and blesseds. The wording varies, as does the sign foretold, but the theme is this: mankind falls into a time of unprecedented evil and distance from God; God intervenes by means of an “event” that every soul on earth is aware of, which reveals to each the state of their soul; finally, a choice for mercy or judgment is given to each soul. Following this event prophecies differ. Some relate that the event signals the beginning of the great and final persecution of the Church, the Church’s “passion” followed by Jesus’ second coming, or the event signals a great “new springtime” for the Church and an era of unprecedented holiness and faith, peace and joy.
All prophecy given seems to have the addendum that our free will can affect these future events. As we repent and return to God, we can mitigate chastisements and change the future course of history for the Body of Christ and the whole world.
In the past several years, with an increase in natural disasters, political unrest, personal immorality and just the overall pace and tenor of life, many prayerful souls sense that something is coming, that this post-Christian era is coming to a head.
The diagram above is a sort of synopsis of all that I, as a nobody, as a simple, prayerful Catholic, have taken and distilled from reading approved visionaries, following current events and praying. Perhaps you will find it helpful, perhaps not.
Although, as we previously discussed, all future events can be mitigated or even avoided by repentance of the people, it seems likely that some event is coming. Whether that is a huge natural disaster, a world war, an “illumination of conscience” or all three is anyone’s guess. When it will happen is also anyone’s guess. What does seem certain is, as a society, we are not progressing towards peace and human progress, but regressing to paganism, incivility and the rejection of reason.
Down the center of the diagram above is a vertical line titled “ideological divide.” This represents the two sides of humanity, those trying to follow God and those following the world’s way of doing things. Souls on either side may or may not be aware of the times we live in, but see the events happening in very different ways.
The First Ray: The Age of Mercy
Jesus told St. Faustina we were living in the time of mercy, a time of great grace for souls open to conversion, to the love and mercy of God. The only requirement of receiving this mercy is the willingness to admit one’s need of it. This admission, this falling into Jesus’ loving arms, opens the floodgates of grace to change the soul daily into what God originally intended it be.
The Second Ray: The Age of Illumination
Many prophecies speak of an event called “the Illumination” or “the Warning” which will show each of us the state of our souls in such a way that there will be no arguing or posturing. The only choice will be either repentance or setting one’s heart against the mercy of God. However, it seems to me that in these past few years, and even more so in these past few months, we are living in a precursor to that event, that moment in time, a precursor that could be labeled the Age of Illumination. From politics to Hollywood to business to Church hierarchy to the state of one’s own soul, it seems as if the Lord is revealing crimes and sin and lack of virtue. Not a day goes by of late without some major revelation about some person or institution’s past failures. As always, personal holiness is the answer, but not many are even asking the question.
The Third Ray: The Age of No Mercy
From road rage to hit men, from false accusations to blaming the victim, from comment boxes to defamation plots, from grudges held onto for decades to judgments of others’ souls, mercy is on life support in our culture. One false step, one poorly chosen word and a person becomes a pariah, no matter how greatly they were previously embraced by the same culture. The devil is sometimes known as the “accuser” and his presence in this guise is very apparent in the world today.
The Fourth Ray: The Age of Blindness
There are 27 genders. No really, there are. A pre-born child is not human. No really, he or she isn’t. There aren’t any societal repercussions to divorce, extra marital sex or pornography. No really, there aren’t. In the face of a preponderance of scientific and statistical proof to the contrary, a society that says it only believes in what can be empirically proven, sure does a fine job of closing its eyes to the truth when it suits its purposes and agendas.
Where Good and Evil Meet
A wise friend of mind frequently says, “When good and evil collide, there is suffering.” This comes to mind when I picture these four rays or ages of Mercy, Illumination, No Mercy and Blindness coming together at the point of “some event.”
Suffering. There will be much suffering. Whatever it is that happens, whenever and however it takes place, the good and the bad will suffer alike. But for the good it will be redemptive suffering that brings about a time of great purity and holiness, freedom from sin and all of the failings of the world. Many of the visionaries speak of the unprecedented grace that will flow at this time, how the saints and angels will be very present to us to help us, and how we will become great saints if we cooperate with all of this grace.
“Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more” (Romans 5:20).
“Towards the end of the world…Almighty God and His holy Mother are to raise up saints who will surpass in holiness most other saints as much as the cedars of Lebanon tower above little shrubs.
“These great souls filled with grace and zeal will be chosen to oppose the enemies of God who are raging on all sides. They will be exceptionally devoted to the Blessed Virgin. Illumined by her light, strengthened by her spirit, supported by her arms, sheltered under her protection, they will fight with one hand and build with the other.
“With one hand they will give battle, overthrowing and crushing heretics and their heresies, schismatics and their schisms, idolaters and their idolatries, sinners and their wickedness. With the other hand they will build the temple of the true Solomon and the mystical city of God, namely, the Blessed Virgin.” (St. Louis de Montfort)
St. Louis’ writings read today like a literal description of our moral landscape. But, we can trust that God’s grace will superabound in comparison to any trials we will face.
The Sacraments, Our Lady and the Duty of the Moment
As these four “ages” converge, time seems to speed up, confusion reigns and it is difficult to keep one’s feet under one’s legs. So how do we remain constant and true in “interesting times”? The same way as always. Tradition holds that St. Francis of Assisi was once conversing with a brother while they were hoeing a plot of land. The brother asked Francis what he would do if he heard that Jesus returned right at that moment. Francis replied, “I would finish hoeing this row.”
These days it is hard to finish hoeing our rows. It is hard to complete one task without our phones interrupting us with five other tasks awaiting our attention. But God only asks us to receive the gift and the grace of one moment at a time. If we remain faithful to the duty of the present moment according to our state in life, we are doing all that God requires. Even this can require heroic virtue. But if we train ourselves to do this in these challenging times, we will be prepared to do the same if more difficult times come.
The strength for this present moment heroism comes from our life in the Sacraments. As the world becomes stranger and more challenging to traverse, it becomes more essential that we cling ever more to the Sacraments and our prayer life. To paraphrase an old saying, “Seven days without prayer – and the Sacraments – makes one weak.” But with Jesus, through the gifts He gives via His Church and prayer, we can be more than conquerors of the trials of the present moment. By staying close to the Sacraments, by living in the grace and gift of the present moment, we will be able to be God’s lights in a darkening world, even if an “event” never comes in our lifetimes. There is a superabundance of grace in just these two areas: the Sacraments and the present moment.
God, never to be outdone in generosity, gives us one more giant gift: Our Lady.
Listen and let it penetrate your heart…do not be troubled or weighed down with grief. Do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain. Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle? In the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need? – Our Lady’s words to St. Juan Diego
There is nothing Mary will withhold from us that is for our eternal good. She is a pure font of every grace Jesus longs for us to have if we turn to her. By staying close to Mary, especially by means of the Holy Rosary, we remain under her maternal protection. As she once proclaimed that her soul “magnifies” the Lord, Mary will help our lives to do the same. The circumstances, the times, in which we live will never affect her ability to help us, nor our ability to give God glory, to sing of His mercy.
Lord, these times can be confusing, upsetting and even frightening. We ask for the grace to stay close to you and our Blessed Mother through the Sacraments, prayer and the duty of the present moment. Help us to be your lights, to magnify you, the give you glory and to sing of your mercy always.