A look at the apparitions of the
Virgin Mary throughout Church history, from the year 40 A.D. to present! You'll
be astonished at the number. This is the first comprehensive history of Mary's
entire history of apparitions -- how they helped form history, how Mary
intervened to institute the Church, to heal, and to save her people from war and
plague -- to the current day. Originally released
in 1997 and now newly republished.
IS IT JUST THE TIME OF YEAR OR HAS A 'PROPHETIC HEAVINESS' FALLEN UPON SPIRITUAL LANDSCAPE?
By Michael H. Brown
Is it just the time of the year -- this week, leading up to Halloween -- or is something about to precipitate? A "heaviness" seems to hover over the land -- a darkness -- and we'll be addressing it this week at a retreat in Cleveland, where, as elsewhere, we'll emphasize -- in times like these -- the important nature of sacramentals, especially use of blessed salt and Holy Water. We have priests bless items at the retreats for the purpose of protecting our homes and sanctifying areas. Ohio is a place with many spiritual dynamics, and at the same time we totally respect and adhere to the discernment of bishops, so do we hold a soft spot in our hearts for those holy people who believe, as we do, in supernatural visitation.
We are in special times, and one Ohio native, Mother Angelica, the highly popular foundress of the country's largest television network, was acutely aware of the spiritual dynamics. The last time I saw her, during a visit for an appearance on her show, on March 21, 2001, just before she became ill, she made that plain in a personal conversation we had during the afternoon, when she expressed her strong view that major and even apocalyptic events are on the way. She thought we were approaching the Second Coming. In fact, she and her nuns had emergency provisions in place, and during a visit with all of them at their convent the next day, we continued the conversation and as a little memento Mother Angelica gave me a little led key-chain flashlight in case the lights go out. All her nuns also had one. Many would be surprised to know that Mother Angelica's embrace of mysticism and prophecy at times exceeded my own. She was doing an hour show on a book of mine called Sent To Earth, which she greatly helped to promote. She told me when a "great miracle" that was prophesied occurred, her cameras would be there to go to the foreign country where it occurred. In her early years Mother Angelica was very influenced by an Ohio mystic and stigmatic named Rhoda Wise, of Canton, who brings to mind suffering mystics such as Theresa Neumann and Luisa Piccaretta, about whom we wrote earlier this week. We spoke of all the natural disasters increasing around us [audio]. Those times have only intensified in the years since we did that show.
But Mother Angelica was also cautious when it came to some circumstances, as we must be in the realm of the prophetic. St. Paul told us that two or three prophets will speak, and others will have the gift to judge.
A prominent evangelical scholar and expert on Christian mysticism named Derek Prince offered special insight in this regard and once wrote, "Prophecy is not just inspired preaching. Neither does it proceed from human reasoning, learning, education, or seminary training. [Prophecy] is the only gift we are specifically told in Scripture to earnestly seek [see 1 Corinthians 14]. Any believer, therefore, who is not interested in and who is not seeking prophecy is really ignoring a scriptural exhortation."
It is better to believe than not to believe but we must be cautious because there are spiritual dangers in falling into the orbit of a seer who is inspired by a dark force or a mixture of good and the deceptive. "In a number of cases, you actually find people more or less representing themselves as the sole mouthpiece of God to a certain assembly, congregation, or prayer group," wrote Prince, in a fascinating book called The Gifts of the Spirit. "Not only is this incorrect, but also the whole attitude is totally contrary to the spirit and purpose of the New Testament."
Do not despise prophecy, he warned, but added that "I have to say frankly that, if the Bible didn't say not to despise prophecies, there have been times I might have despised prophecies because I have heard so many half-baked, useless utterances put forth under the guise of prophecy. Whenever I hear a message that is condemnatory, negative, and destructive, I do not accept it as genuine prophesying because it does not meet the parameters that have been set in this Scripture (Corinthians 14:3). The people were not out to deceive; they were not false prophets, but they moved out of the Spirit and back into the flesh."
That is: true prophecy does not condemn the Godly -- but the sinners and unbelievers.
Prophecy is supposed to edify the Church -- not leave us frightened or depressed. If it does -- and especially if it is discouraging or condemnatory toward believers [see Romans 8:1], throw it out. It is the devil's work. The Holy Spirit does not leave people feeling afraid or terrible.
There is a time for rooting out what God has not planted. We are in that time. Prince himself cited the passage from Joel whereby in the last days, the Spirit would be poured out. "Every section of the human race, without exception, is going to experience this last-day visitation of the Holy Spirit," he himself prophesied. "In the United States and around the world, we will see a sovereign visitation of God upon young people." Visitation of God. Fascinating words. Meanwhile, Revelation itself tells us that "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" (19:10). But let us be careful. The fruit of any mystic should be love, joy, peace, longsuffering, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These are fruits of the Holy Spirit.
Meanwhile, if a prediction fails, the Bible says: "that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously" (Deuteronomy 18:20-22). "Many times, in churches, particularly in prayer groups, there will be someone who will use her prophetic ability to cause people to become dependent on her," wrote Prince, warning Christians not to let others direct our lives by claiming to have messages for us. "If you cannot hear directly from God, there is something wrong with your spiritual life, and you need to correct it," said this scholar who traveled the world and was educated at both Cambridge and Hebrew University.
Beware if something is "deadening," even though it may sound "good and religious," he added. That means the Holy Spirit is missing -- and it happens most frequently on the institutional side of Catholicism, among those who are divorced from any mysticism and are arid. Better to believe, in our view, than not believe. Disdain not prophecy.
The key word here: balance.
We must be balanced in how we approach our spirituality. How exciting it is to hear the Holy Spirit! And, as we discuss at retreats, and as Mother Angelica and Derek Prince maintained, we are in very special times.
Count on it.
But also count on the fact that God is as close to you as He is to anyone.
[resources: Sent To Earth, The Gifts of the Spirit, and The God of Miracles]
[Audio: Mother Angelica and Michael Brown discuss prophecy]
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