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We are in a time of prophecy whereby many are having visions and many -- reflecting back on Joel -- are having dreams. There is a prophetic pulse. No question about that.

The question is how much we can take literally.

When we think of the third secret of Fatima, which was granted in 1917, we see the symbolism that made sense only after 64 years had passed since its utterance (the gunning down of a "bishop in white," which took place, of course, in 1981).

In other cases, it's a matter of images that at the time may make little sense, but communicate, in mysterious fashion, with our spirits. Don't be too hasty in discounting all the claims of miraculous silhouettes!

The supernatural comes to us in ways we can relate and in a manner that gets across an essence.

"The week before last I had three dreams in a week," noted a viewer named Lisa. "The first dream was about a world-wide virus, which I subsequently dismissed because of a movie I had watched that evening. Two nights later, a dream of nuclear destruction. Two nights after that my family and I were on the run trying to get to a safe camp. We were trying to help others along the way (most of whom were Spanish). My husband and I woke at about the same time and he commented to me that hed just had a nightmare about concentration camps and trying to get us someplace safe. No weird movies to account for the last dreams I mentioned." 

But how literally do we take such dreams? Are they simply expressions of the subconscious, mere symbols, or do they provide a sense of major events that will come in ways that will be varied; that we really can't anticipate; and for which we are provided no final details?

Many are those who believe the prophetic pulse is coming through numbers (in this case the number eleven).

"Just this morning while praying the prayers with my Magnificat, the most incredible storm blew through," noted Lorraine Fusaro of Huntington, Long Island some weeks back. "There were severe storm warnings on the internet and TV. The thunder was so incredibly loud, the lightening was blazingly bright, and the sky in complete darkness until about 8 a.m. It was after praying and being a bit jumpy about the loud cracks outside that I realized it was 1/11 and felt God was speaking."

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.Others peer skyward.

Said an Ohio woman: "Years ago -- about 1995, or 1996 -- I was driving home from work, in Akron. I was praying the Rosary, as was my practice. There were many clouds in the sky. I started to look at them. And something was different.  Very different. It was as if I had never, in my entire life, seen them before. It is hard to explain, but it was as if they were three dimensional (I don't know if I even understand what that means), but it was such an enormous event to me that I wanted to pull off the road, just to stare at them. I looked in other cars to see if anyone else was noticing it, but no one seemed to be looking at them. 

"A couple of weeks later, on a Saturday morning, one of my sisters, came running through my front door, exclaiming, 'Have you seen the clouds? Have you seen the clouds?' I asked her what she meant. She ran to the front window and began explaining how incredible they were -- just as I had seen them the first time -- and I said that yes, I had seen it, but I thought that everyone always saw them that way, and how bad I had felt, and she said, 'Are you crazy? I've never seen anything like this in my life!' And that is when I knew that something special had happened."

"And then I picked up a little book by St. Jose Maria Escriva de Balaguer. In it he says that people see only the flat surface, but that when you lead a spiritual life, God will give you things like dimension, volume, and color. I believe that is what happened with the clouds. I am not the judge of whether I lead a spiritual life, but I do try to love God."

But was it a sign?

Years ago, many who believed they were getting locutions or visions said they had been informed of a coming invasion of the U.S., usually by China. Was it to be taken literally, or might we see a metaphor in the remarkable and unexpected "invasion" of China financially (in flooding our markets with products and buying up American banks)? 

Noted several researchers studying visions years ago, "Like an artist's depictions of landscapes or people, they show some distortions, displacements, condensations, transfigurations, and symbolic expressions in a strange picture with fantasy."

"The prophets did not fully grasp the meaning of their own prophecies precisely because it was the Holy Spirit and not they who was doing the talking," notes a commentator named Mark Shaw. "They 'spoke beyond themselves' and so they were compelled to inquire about the meaning of the things that they themselves had spoken."

Some may speak beyond themselves, while others proclaim loudly and are largely ignored.

Many years ago, it was said, there was a man named Mate Sego who lived on the outskirts of the current apparition site of Medjugorje in Bosnia-Hercegovina, during the rule of Communists.

This man, who was born in 1901, resided in the hamlet of Bijjakovici, near Apparition Hill and where the visionaries would later be born.

As recounted in a new book by Sister Emmanuel Maillard of the Beatitudes Community in Medjugorje, Mate's home was the essence of simplicity through which prophecy so often likes to work).

"His tiny stone house had neither water nor electricity and its inhabitants measured their lives by the passage of the sun and the seasons," she writes in The Hidden Child. "No one knew if there would be bread on the table the next day. They all used to sleep next to one another on the floor. Beds were unheard of!"

It was in those trappings, asserts the book, that Mate experienced inclinations about the future. It is said he cross-crossed the valley "spreading nonsensical tales to the four winds," even causing those who heard him to laugh out loud (and wonder if Mate, who made wine, had sampled too much of it).

But it is recalled that Mate told anyone who would listen that someday "there will be a staircase going up the hill," and tried to convince everyone that Medjugorje one day would be important. "You'll see black people, yellow people, and white people," he is remembered for asserting. "They'll come here to pray. The church will no longer be this little church I grew up with. There will be a new one, much bigger, and it will be full."

Someday, he said, they would dynamite the old church. That occurred in 1978, says Sister Emmanuel, when an earthquake damaged the old one and it was razed to make room for an inexpicably larger one. Mate died the day the old church was dynamited.

The Virgin -- "my Gospa" -- will come, it is said he proclaimed to anyone who would listen.

Was he drinking too much rajka? Was he seeing matters -- as so many do -- in  metaphors?

Mate, according to the sister, said many hotels would be raised in the area. He didn't care what folks thought of him.

"However," writes Sister Emmanuel, "some of Mate's words are still a little unclear. 'Listen to me my children!' he once said. 'There will be a spring right around here. A spring with lots of water! So much water that it will make a lake and our folks will own boats that they will tie to a big rock.'"

Another metaphor?

Or a description of a great sign prophesied as part of the secrets from this, the most famous apparition site since Fatima, with the most famous prophecies since the third secret?

"Didn't the people of Lourdes see springs of flowing water with their own eyes when little Bernadette Soubirous scratched the ground near the grotto as instructed by the Lady?" asked the nun. Or "could a natural seismic event cause such a spring to surface?"

[resources: The Hidden Child and The Day Will Come]

[Also: Prophetic retreat, Los Angeles and Michael Brown leading pilgrimage to Medjugorje]

[see also: New fault found building in Croatia]

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