By Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD (Jan 23, 2009)
Editor's Note: This article was originally posted in February 2008.
The topic of this column is one that causes faithful Catholics increasing worry and dismay. You do not have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that over the last decade the enemies of Christianity have steadily increased their hold on international institutions (the U.N., the E.U., and soon, perhaps, the U.S. government); on the mainstream media; on the academic establishment; and even on some of the churches (such as the Anglican Communion and the World Council of Churches).
In Great Britain, an orthodox Anglican bishop and his diocesan staff was recently ordered by the courts to undergo "equal opportunities re-education" because they refused to hire a practicing homosexual to a church position. In Canada, "Human Rights Tribunals" have taken the country's leading conservative columnist to court for stating in an editorial that Islam is a threat to western civilization. In the same country, the Knights of Columbus were heavily fined for refusing to allow a lesbian couple to rent their Knights Hall for their "wedding" reception.
In Europe, church properties have just been made subject to taxation throughout the E.U. for the first time in history, and any Pro-Life politician who is nominated for a leading E.U. position is met with a chorus of protests. Meanwhile, Neo-Tsarist Russia and Still-Communist China continue to grow in economic power and military cooperation, and the threat from Radical Islam in the Middle East, continues, awaiting the opportunity to fill the power-vacuum that would ensue from a U.S. retreat from the region.
Is it any wonder that faithful Catholics are now asking whether we could be nearing the time of the great tribulation predicted by the Bible, in preparation for the final coming of our Savior?
We tend to forget, however, that not all of the signs of the end prophesied in Scripture are negative, "doom and gloom" stuff: trials and tribulations for the faithful, the coming of the Anti-Christ, etc.
One of our readers, named Tina, assessing the more positive signs of the times, asked me the following question:
I have heard Fr. Seraphim Michalenko and other Divine Mercy authorities link Jesus' revelations to St. Faustina with His Second Coming. With the World Mercy Congress soon to be upon us, do you think the Second Coming is nigh? I know: no one knows the hour or the day (Mk 13:32), but if the Congress succeeds the way the planners hope, and St. Faustina's mission to spread word of God's mercy to the whole world is fulfilled, would that give us a strong clue about the end times?
My thinking, Tina, is completely in line with yours. Yes, I think this would be a good sign that we are headed down "the home stretch."
First of all, your question alludes to an important prophecy from Jesus Himself, when He told us that one of the clear preconditions for His Second Coming would be "The good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world as a witness to all the nations. Only after that the end will come" (Mt 24:14). There are still large sections of the world where that has not happened to any great degree yet: China and parts of India in particular, the world's two most populous nations, have been "closed" to some extent to Christian missions for several generations. Moreover, we know for a fact that the Divine Mercy message and devotion has proven to be an especially effective means of presenting the gospel message to the crumbling, post-modern world.
Remember that Our Lady and our Lord Himself told St. Faustina that her revelations and mission would have a special role in preparing the way for Christ's final coming. Consider the following passages from the Diary of St. Faustina:
Secretary of My mercy, write, tell souls about this great mercy of Mine, because the awful day, the day of My justice is near (965).
Then I saw the Mother of God, who said to me ... "I gave the Savior to the world; as for you, you have to speak to the world about His great mercy and prepare the world for the Second Coming..." (635).
Write down these words, my daughter. Speak to the world about My mercy; let all mankind recognize My unfathomable mercy. It is a sign for the end times; after it will come the day of justice. While there is still time let them have recourse to the fount of My mercy ... (848).
Write: before I come as just Judge, I first open wide the door of My mercy (1146).
Today I am sending you with My mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My Merciful Heart. I use punishment when they themselves force Me to do so; My hand is reluctant to take hold of the sword of justice. Before the Day of Justice I am sending the Day of Mercy (1588).
Clearly, the spread of the message of Divine Mercy throughout the world, in the form given to St. Faustina, is meant to be an important part of the global outreach of our Savior's merciful love, in preparation for His Second Coming. I can even visualize a scenario of how this may play itself out on the stage of history. The upcoming World Apostolic Congress on Mercy ignites an earnest effort on the part of faithful Catholics everywhere to renew their faith and spread the gospel of Divine Mercy to the ends of the earth. India, China, and parts of the Middle East and Europe, relatively closed to Catholic missionary activity in recent generations, through rising prosperity increasingly open their doors to business contacts and internet contacts with the rest of the globe (it is happening already). As a result, the message of mercy begins to find its way into these corners of the globe more than ever before, and even much of Israel and the global Jewish community will be converted to the Faith (see Rom 11).
At the same time, the allies of the coming Anti-Christ will solidify their consolidation of global power in preparation for his appearance on the scene. The stage will be set for the final persecution and Passover of the Church: We will be prepared for it by the mercy message and ultimately purified by suffering. Then, the Bridegroom will come down from heaven and bring about the final triumph of His Divine Mercy, and the final reckoning with His unrepentant enemies. On all this, please read the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 673-677. I do not think that the scenario I have spelled out here is a fanciful one, Tina, and it fits with your intuition that maybe it is the "positive" sign of the spread of Divine Mercy that is as much a clue to the coming of the End Times as the "negative" signs that we so often focus on.
Of course, I do not know for sure how all this will play out: Call it a prayerful and educated "guesstimate." I would just remind our readers not to worry too much about it, not to retreat into an intellectual, spiritual "bunker mentality" as if everything is going wrong. It's not. He's still "got the whole world in His hands," as the song goes. Moreover, as St. Louis De Montfort and other saints prophesied, the deeper the darkness grows, the brighter the saints will shine in response. Besides, these mounting signs of the end are not meant to cause us depair, but to bring us hope: "When these things begin to happen, stand erect and hold your head high, for your deliverance is near at hand" (Lk 21:28)!
Robert Stackpole, STD, is director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy, based in Stockbridge, Mass. His latest book is Divine Mercy: A Guide from Genesis to Benedict XVI (Marian Press). Got a question? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.