Patrick Archbold is co-founder of Creative Minority Report, a Catholic website that puts a refreshing spin on the intersection of religion, culture, and politics. When not writing, Patrick is director of information technology at a large international logistics company in New York.
"Despise not prophecies. But prove all things; hold fast that which is good." --1 Thessalonians 5:20
From time to time on a Catholic blog or Facebook post someone will make reference to the prophetic utterance or alleged message from some saint, seer, or sage.
Almost always in discussions about prophecy, whether old or new, somebody will correctly state that even approved private revelation is not binding on us and nobody is ever obligated to believe in it.
So the question is, why bother with it at all?
In order to answer the question, I think it is important to understand its purpose. Why does God provide for such heavenly communication? Why bother telling us such things about the present or future if it is not necessary to believe in it?
I suppose that the answer is surprisingly simple. It has to do with our human nature. Private revelation and public prophecy serve the dual function of correction and hope.
Let's look at one of the most widely known approved private revelations and public prophecies, the appearance of Our Lady to 3 shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal in 1917. Leaving aside the third part of the secret and the vision's proper interpretation, let’s look at the other parts.
The first part was a vision of Hell followed by the second part which was an explanation of what the children just saw.
You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace. The war is going to end: but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the Pontificate of Pope Pius XI. When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that he is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine, and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father. To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the Consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of reparation on the First Saturdays. If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred; the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated. In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she shall be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.
Correction. The war is going to end, but if people do not cease offending God, more war is coming.
Our Lady, out of love, offers us correction. Our Lady clearly states the consequences of our actions and expresses the desire for us to change. Stop offending God or something horrible will happen, war, famine, persecutions, Russia's errors spreading throughout the world.
Notice that none of these things are Heaven sent, but rather the natural consequences of our ungodly actions. And Our Blessed Mother tells us how to fix things through the consecration and the communion of reparation.
Our Blessed Mother clearly tells us the consequences of our actions and how to amend them. This is the correction part.
But human nature, being what it is Our Lady also provides us with hope. Hope is the key. We look at the subsequent centuries and it is clear we have not ceased offending God and all the things predicted by Our Lady have come to pass, war, famine, persecutions, and Russia’s errors spreading throughout the world. All of it.
But Our Lady didn't stop there, she gave us more. "In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she shall be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world."
Living through such times, it is easy to lose hope. We know that our reprobate culture has not done all of what Our Lady asked of us, so it would be easy to resign ourselves to ongoing war and suffering. But Our Lady assures us that this will come to an end and that we will someday have a period of peace. For this I am eternally grateful, in these dark times I cling to this hope. I need this hope.
To finish, I want to relate to you the less know prophecy provided by Our Lady to Mother Mariana de Jésus Torres in Quito, Ecuador in the early 1600's.
How could a 400 year old apparition in South America be relevant to us? Well, for some wonderfully mysterious reason Our Blessed Mother spoke to Mother Mariana specifically about our times. They are startling in their specificity about the errors of our age. For instance:
“In those times, the sacrament of Extreme Unction will be largely ignored.… Many will die without receiving it, being thereby deprived of innumerable graces, consolation, and strength in the great leap from time to eternity.
“The sacrament of Matrimony, which symbolizes the union of Christ with the Church, will be thoroughly attacked and profaned. Masonry, then reigning, will implement iniquitous laws aimed at extinguishing this sacrament. They will make it easy for all to live in sin, thus multiplying the birth of illegitimate children without the Church’s blessing….
“Secular education will contribute to a scarcity of priestly and religious vocations.”
“The holy sacrament of Holy Orders will be ridiculed, oppressed, and despised, for in this both the Church and God Himself are oppressed and reviled, since He is represented by His priests.
Once again, Our Lady clearly tells us the reasons for out problems. This is the correction. But even 400 years ago, Our Lady told us about the peace that will come, she gave us hope.
Unhappy times will come wherein those who should fearlessly defend the rights of the Church will instead, blinded despite the light, give their hand to the Church’s enemies and do their bidding. But when [evil] seems triumphant and when authority abuses its power, committing all manner of injustice and oppressing the weak, their ruin shall be near. They will fall and crash to the ground.
“Then will the Church, joyful and triumphant like a young girl, reawaken and be comfortably cradled in the arms of my most dear and elect son of those times. If he lends an ear to the inspirations of grace–one of which will be the reading of these great mercies that my Son and I have had toward you–we shall fill him with graces and very special gifts and will make him great on earth and much greater in Heaven. There we have reserved a precious seat for him because, heedless of men, he will have fought for truth and ceaselessly defended the rights of the Church, deserving to be called ‘martyr.’”
Why prophecy? Correction and hope. Is it necessary for our salvation? No. But I am very grateful that we have it.