Sometime over 15 years ago I told my priests that my angel had told me that when the Storm set in, the most important power satan would have is that of deception, that is, the power to lead people into rebellion by actively mimicking a sort of pious orthodoxy. For many decades leading up to the period of ‘the rumblings,’ his most important power was seduction – to persuade people that objective good was actually evil and objective evil a positive good. The rumblings began in 2000 – and during their brief period (about a decade), I reported, satan’s most important power would be that of terror – which would manifest itself as large-scale institutionalized terror. We have entered the period when deception is the primary tool. As usual with things I am told, it is taking some turns I had not expected.
I am rather baffled why the death of Joey Lomangino a few months ago has set so many advocates of the Garabandal apparitions (http://www.garabandal.org/) in such turmoil. Garabandal was a series of Marian apparitions in a remote Spanish hamlet for four years from 1961-1965. The heart of the messages was that great turmoil was coming upon the world, that at some indeterminate point in the close future there would be a Warning, or Illumination of Conscience from heaven so that all men would know the state of their souls. After that would come a Miracle, which will be marked by a permanent visible supernatural sign above a grove of pine trees in Garabandal. If the world does not repent of its grievous offenses after the Miracle, a great and terrible Chastisement will be visited upon mankind. Four girls were visionaries of this series of appearances. All but one, Conchita, ceased to have visions after the last visitation in 1965.
Joey Lomangino was an American man who was profoundly moved by Garabandal and became a tireless advocate for it. Joey was incurably blind. Conchita told him in a letter that Our Lady had told her in a vision he would be given his sight back and the first thing he would see would be the Miracle. Conchita said that her understanding of the term, “new eyes,” used in the vision was eyes as we know them and “not necessarily spiritual vision.” Since Joey died without having been given new eyes, those who opposed the messages of Garabandal are enthusiastic and many who believed those messages are shaken. The Church has not approved the apparitions, nor has it condemned them. Contrary to what many think, that is the way the Church (properly) handles almost all such events. Some it condemns outright. Those that are potentially authentic are rarely approved until long after the events are over. In fact, the “fruit” of such a potentially authentic event; conversions, vocations, renewed lives, healings are an important part of what the Church uses to discern a positive disposition as to authenticity – and that takes time. Thus, the faithful are free to believe or disbelieve an event the Church has not condemned. Though the Church has not made a formal ruling on Garabandal, several great saints of recent vintage, including St. Padre Pio and St. John Paul, held it in much respect and affection.
I am firmly in the camp of those who believe in the authenticity of Garabandal, though I also believe it the most misinterpreted set of apparitions of modern times, even by the remaining active visionary, Conchita. No, I do not think there is deception in her. A major purpose of prophecy is to extend our vision, which is so short-sightedly fixed on what is passing away, into the eternal. Let us suppose that, as a boy, George Washington was visited by an angel and told he would become a great general. If, hearing that, Washington went to bed that day convinced the prophecy was a lie because he had not become a great general, the fault would lie not in the prophecy, but in the scope of his vision. (This did not actually happen. I made it up to illustrate a point). Many of the most intense visions come with extravagantly symbolic images and language. When an authentic prophecy is accomplished, it is accomplished both on earth and in heaven. It may very well be that it is accomplished in the day-glo colors in which the visionary saw it in heaven, but it usually comes in pale pastels here.
Ancient Jews used to speculate on the magnificent raiment of the Messiah when He came, the stunning impressiveness of His physique; the armies He would raise and how all would fall in terror and awe before Him. When He came He looked and acted like…a man. And in His glorious magnificence He was…a common tradesman, a carpenter. He did not hang out with the pious and the learned, pondering fine points of the Torah or the Law, congratulating them on their learning and piety. No, He was rather dismissive of them, often rebuking them for their vanity, occasionally humiliating them, and sometimes blistering them for robbing ordinary people of hope. Even worse, the people He did hang out with were largely from the ancient equivalent of biker bars and red-light districts – and He made these His most trusted disciples. He defied every single expectation they had for what He would be like. Rather than learn from Him, they held fast to the expectations they had erected – and crucified Him as an obvious fraud. Even most of His trusted followers lost hope and were scattered for a time after the crucifixion, for this defied even their modified expectations of the Messiah…until He rose again…and His disciples saw that their impoverished expectations could not have begun to imagine the reality of Him until He came and accomplished all.
In the Book of Job, Job’s pious friends spend the whole book defending God against Job’s complaints and urgently scolding him to repent of his sins. When God comes, He is so angry with the friends that have seemed to defend Him against Job’s complaints He refuses to even hear their prayers – and insists they must ask Job to pray for them before He will forgive them. With all His complaints, Job was actively engaged with the Living God. His friends were merely engaged with their expectations of what God should be like.
The frustrated expectations over what should have happened at Garabandal seem not to have led to much humility, but the exposition of even more arbitrary expectations expressed as iron rules.
One says the mark of authenticity in a prophet or visionary is that he is never wrong. This is said in order to disqualify the visionaries involved. Well, that would disqualify a host of Biblical prophets, too. Years ago I did a timeline on Old Testament prophecies and when they were fulfilled. Often a prophesied battle, victory, or event would be correct but off by three to five or more years. I took a little comfort in that, as time is what I have struggled most with in interpreting what heavenly visitors mean. St. Joan of Arc was wrong almost as often as she was right. But the things she was right about were so ridiculously improbable it is like criticizing someone who successfully predicted the winning lottery numbers only 60% of the time. Her work required her not only to be passionate, but to inspire others to passionate resolve. Trust me, telling people, “Well, we usually win, but today we are going to get our clock cleaned,” would not have helped her win battles. Sometimes, she had to rouse herself to belief in things she was not certain of in order to inspire others.
Then I read people writing about what an authentic saint must be like, once he embraces God’s purpose – in order to dismiss potentially authentic visionaries. Those descriptions are remarkably monochromatic, usually resembling the life of the speaker’s favorite saint – and would require the dismissal of a host of existing saints from the canon. Which begs the question, what is the purpose of God revealing a canon of saints to us in the first place?
Contrary to popular belief, the Church has no power whatsoever to confer sainthood on anyone. What power the Church does have is to infallibly recognize some small few saints God has made and proclaim them to the faithful. A saint is not honored by the recognition nor is he dishonored if he is not among those so infallibly recognized. Saints are already in heaven. Our reverence or scorn for them here affects them not a whit – though it can affect us dramatically. I cheer when a John Paul is recognized because it validates and confirms something that rings powerfully true and meaningful to me. That is how it is with any saint that is recognized. Those who had advocated him are honored and take heart – and those who had not known or paid attention learn. That leads us to the heart of the answer. God leads the Church to recognize and reveal some few of the abundant saints to us to comfort and to guide us – and to teach us God’s way. The canon of the saints is not for them, but for us.
The variety in the saints is simply astonishing and abundant. There are virgins, parents, children, martyrs, warriors, contemplatives, kings, peasants, hermits…their temperaments range from the gentle to the tart-tongued to those who struggle constantly with a hot temper. Some are stunningly pure from childhood, some are reckless rakes until they find God, some retain a certain bold streak of wildness all their lives. Some are just flat out mysterious. Consider King David, a man who God, Himself, said was a man after His own heart. And yet, except for writing Psalms, David spent almost all his waking moments throughout his life warring, wenching or wining. The variety in saintly types mirrors the variety in mankind, itself. God shows us that He can and will use our authentic personality whatever our circumstances to lead people to Him. When you empty yourself of vanity and fill yourself with God, you do not lose your personality; you enhance it. Every saint’s soul lives the Magnificat: their soul magnifies the Lord – and in the process, the Lord magnifies their soul.
How often then does God defy expectations by doing something new, by calling and sending precisely what is needed just when it is needed? When France was about to perish from the earth, God called forth and sent a teenage girl, St. Joan of Arc, to rouse and rescue the nation. When men were overcomplicating theology or abandoning it altogether, God sent a little cloistered nun, St. Therese of Lisieux, to show a Little Way and help the world fall in love anew. When the Church was being torn apart by strife and war, God sent a tough nut who ministered to popes with kindness – and sometimes with a verbal cane – in St. Catherine of Sienna. You can go on and on. God always fits whom He sends to the age and needs to which He sends them. He is always startling, fresh and new. And all He sends follow Mary’s lead…for whatever their personality and temperament, their souls magnify the Lord in ways that ordinary people feel, relate to and rejoice in.
So we often fail to recognize authentic visionaries, saints or prophecies not because they are not what they should be, but because our vision is too constrained and our expectations are not what they should be. When we get vested in our own expectations, it tempts us to pride AND to disobedience. I know this from experience. From about 10 years old until my mid-20s I was given many visions about unimportant things. On almost all, I completely misinterpreted them, recognizing them only when they happened. God did not do this to be cruel to me…but to pound into my thick, vain skull that His ways are not our ways…even His ways of seeing – and to teach me to look beyond this veil into eternity to see what was important in such things – and what they meant at the heart of the matter. It taught me to be very careful and deliberate in interpretation, not to go running off after the first, second or even third thing that popped into my head, to be aware, knowing that I probably would be wrong about some parts of it – and that even when I wasn’t, I probably would not understand the fulness of what I was shown, even in little things, until I have passed on to the next life. Given that discipline, it startles me now to hear people talk with such confident certainty about such things – particularly given our poor race’s very poor record of understanding such things throughout history.
In the case of Joey’s death, Christians are nearly unanimous in believing that when we pass on to the next life, we leave our infirmities behind. Unless you will see no further than this life, Joey is no longer blind. The first thing we see when entering eternity is whatever Christ wants us to see – and when we enter eternity, we are not bound by the constraints of time. Joey can see now – and it is between Christ and him whether the Lord showed Him the Miracle that is to come. I don’t know…I just know that there is nothing in Joey’s death that is contradictory to that particular prophecy. There have been failed pronouncements, such as that a certain deceased priest’s body would be found incorruptible at the site. It was not. There are bonafide miracles, particularly a Eucharistic one that was filmed. Most believers wait for the Warning to come in a blazing moment. I think it has come and is nearly finished, without people recognizing it for what it is. People get caught up in time…but time means something different in heaven than what it does here – and language must be assessed as to whether it is literal or symbolic. Unless I am told a specific time – such as the rescue coming late in 2017 – I do not assume a day, an hour, a week, or a month to mean what we mean here. At Easter of 2008 at the Vigil, the Lord appeared to me and said, “Now the hour of darkness comes upon the world. But be not afraid. The darkness shall not prevail.” I was given an image of the Garden of Gethsemane, the sense that this was prelude to the world’s passion. I did not assume that meant the world would be plunged into darkness within a few days. The few problems with Garabandal have all been problems of interpretation and our own myopia, unable to see past the boundaries of this world.
Our determination to defend our expectations can – and often does – lead us into disobedience. Just over a month ago I wrote a piece criticizing our Bishops for often wasting time making pronouncements on purely political matters that are the proper purview of the laity’s prudential judgment, responsibility and authority. Many were heartened by that column. But then the shoe was on the other foot. Shortly after that article I got briefly caught up in controversy over the 3rd Secret of Fatima and whether a proper consecration of Russia had been made or not. I never did quite get across what was the center point of my objection to the controversy raging over it. I am not terribly curious about whether Pope St. John Paul and the Bishops were objectively right in how they handled it. I am chiefly concerned with whether gave it careful, prayerful consideration and acted in good faith. If they did, then God will correct any errors they made in time just as surely as He corrects our own in our little work when we acknowledge Him. More to the point, such matters are properly within the Bishops’ purview – their prudential judgment, responsibility and authority – not mine. We all can advise each other. I have asked priestly friends for advice on purely political matters – and some priestly friends have asked my advice on purely spiritual matters. But in each case, we knew and respected who had prudential responsibility for such matters. When laymen, at the top of their lungs, seek to correct the hierarchy on matters that legitimately are its responsibility and in which it has acted in good faith with due consideration, it is the equal and opposite abuse of Bishops opining with terminal authority on purely political matters.
It is important because we are in serious times. Everyone needs to get to their battle stations and perform their duty with love, fortitude and resolve. Every time someone abandons their particular station to go tell someone at another how to do their job, it opens up a fresh vulnerability. If enough do it, we are sunk. With various controversies flaring up and raging between some very pious people, I see now that the devil is using an imitation of piety, itself, to lure people away from their battle stations. It is not so that we will make better political decisions at the behest of our Bishops – or so that our Bishops will make better spiritual decision at the behest of the loudest of the laity – but so that satan may more easily ensnare those who have left their duty station and forgotten their lawful obligations.
So I tell you two things. First, resolutely man your duty station. Do not be lured into contentious arguments over what is not your job in the first place. Second, be a bit less certain of your expectations. If a prophesy or visionary is not what they should be, they shall have to account to God for it. But if you loudly attack them because your expectations are not what they should be, you will have to account to God for it. And again, it is why I say over and over that you should stick to the safe course of a simple way: take the next right step and be a sign of hope to those around you.