Matt C. Abbott
February 22, 2013
'Heralds of the Second Coming'
By Matt C. Abbott

Below is the foreword to the soon-to-be-released book Heralds of the Second Coming: Our Lady, the Divine Mercy and the Popes of the Marian Era from Blessed Pius IX to Benedict XVI, authored by Stephen Walford and published by Angelico Press. The foreword was written by Cardinal Ivan Dias, prefect emeritus of the (Vatican) Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Thanks to Mr. Walford and Angelico Press for allowing me to reprint this excerpt in my column. Click here for Angelico Press' website. Click here to order the book at Amazon.com.



The Catholic Church, at the dawn of the third millennium after Christ, finds itself in the midst of a fierce battle between the forces of good and evil, between God and Satan, resulting from the fall of our first parents Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. This ferocious combat has wound its way through history and will continue until the end of time. The intensity of this conflict has increased most notably in the past two centuries, as the forces of evil have misled a large segment of humanity to bow before the pseudo-gods of rationalism, secularism, and relativism: their aim is to create a world where God is irrelevant, and is replaced with the idols of hedonism and materialism, while banishing the natural law and conscience to history.

The popes of the past century have recognized this assault and spoken of it in prophetic terms encouraging the Church to read the signs of the times in the light of its eschatological journey towards the new heaven and new earth.

A decisive moment in the spiritual combat was when the Blessed Virgin entered into the battle fray in the nineteenth century with her apparitions at Rue du Bac in Paris, and thereafter at La Salette and Lourdes in France, and in many other places all around the world, some of which still await the approval of the Holy See.

These supernatural events could, in a sense, open the pages of the Book of Revelation with more clarity, as in chapter twelve, narrating the confrontation between the "Woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars" (12:1), and a "great red dragon" (12:1-17). It is the same Woman mentioned in Genesis when God cursed the serpent saying: "I shall put enmities between you and the Woman, between your seed and her seed: she shall crush your head" (3:15). Mary is, indeed, the Woman of Genesis and the Woman of the Apocalypse. The Marian era that is reaching its climax now is shrouded in the mystery of Divine providence.

It is preparing the Church for the final showdown between God and Satan, involving the persecution of Christians by the Antichrist and the inevitable martyrdom that will follow, as the last part of the third secret of Fatima would seem to foretell. The Holy Spirit has guided the recent popes to understand the importance of these challenging times and to fulfill certain wishes from heaven in preparation for the final clash: for instance, the Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Divine Mercy devotion and dedicating the second Sunday of Easter to it, and the recitation of the Holy Rosary. In their ordinary magisterium, they have drawn our attention to the crisis unfolding; we may recall the warnings of modernism and apostasy of St. Pius X, the mystical intuition of Pius XII and the "smoke of Satan" seen by Paul VI.

On the other hand, the past century, in particular, has abounded in signs pointing towards "a new heaven and a new earth." Pope John XXIII prayed for a New Pentecost and convoked the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council which, besides strengthening the inner cohesion and sanctity of the faithful, opened avenues of dialogue with other Christian communities, with non-Christians, and even with non-believers. His successors toiled unceasingly to promote "a civilization of love." Blessed John Paul II gave a sharper focus to the eschatological dimension of the Church as he proclaimed a "new advent." Pope Benedict XVI stated recently: "Indeed, it was a concern of John Paul II to make clear that we are looking ahead to the coming of Christ: that consequently the One who has come is also, even more so, the One who is to come and that, from this perspective, we should live out our faith toward the future" (Light of the World, 63).

For the great Polish Pontiff, a joyful watchfulness for the second advent of Jesus was to be an ever-present theme of his – even calling the youth of the Church "sentinels who keep watch, preparing for the glorious return of the risen Lord." Pope Benedict XVI has also spoken prophetically in similar fashion in recent years declaring: "One day, not far off, everything will find its fulfillment in the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom of justice and peace" (First Vespers of Advent, 2009). He has also prayed for the hastening of the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary at the Shrine of Fatima, and in union with his great predecessor urged vigilance from all the faithful in the face of the gathering dark clouds. For our present Holy Father, truly a theologian pope, the Catholic Church must awaken from its interior sinfulness and be purified, as it awaits what the Lord will allow for its passion and resurrection – for only in this way will the Lord find faith on earth when He returns (cf. Lk. 18:8).

What the popes of the Marian era have given us is a prophetic stream running alongside that of private revelations from visionaries and mystics. They confirm, through the authority of their office, the knowledge that we live in days leading towards the greatest triumph of God and the installation of His eternal Kingdom. They speak of hope and joy for the complete renewal of the Universe, and in doing so invite us to live like the saints immersed in the love of God and neighbor. There are many signs taking place on earth and in the heavens that point towards the dawning of a new day. In spite of the pain and suffering endured by so many throughout the world we can live our faith, safe in the knowledge that the final victory of good over evil is already assured and that God is preparing the fulfillment of the great prophecy found in the Book of Revelation: "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things have passed away" (Rev. 21:4).

The Blessed Virgin Mary has an important role to play in Christ Our Lord's Second Advent. St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Monfort begins his renowned Treatise on the True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary with these words: "It was through the Blessed Virgin Mary that Jesus came into the world, and it is also through her that He must reign in the world." It is indeed amazing to see how Mary has been involved in the well-being of the children she received at the foot of Jesus' cross on Calvary.

Who can forget her many apparitions from Akita in Japan to Kibeho in Rwanda; from Walsingham and Aylesford in Great Britain to Lavang in Vietnam; from Knock in Ireland to Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina; from Paris, La Salette, and Lourdes in France to Vellankanni in India; from Saragozza and Garabandal in Spain to Guadalupe in Mexico; from Fatima in Portugal to Naju in Korea; from Cuapa in Nicaragua to Altötting in Germany; from San Nicholas in Argentina and Czestochowa in Poland to Aparecida in Brazil; from Amsterdam in the Netherlands to Zeitoun in Egypt; from Beauraing and Banneux in Belgium to Betania in Venezuela; and – in Italy – from Pompei, Siracusa, and Civitavecchia to Saint Mary Major, Sant'Andrea delle Fratte, and Tre Fontane in Rome.

The Blessed Virgin is weaving an enormous network, building up a large army of her devoted children in order to launch a frontal and final assault against Satan, and thus paving the way for the glorious victory of Jesus Christ, her beloved Son. Truly: "Who is she who comes forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in battle array?" (Song 6:10).

The exact day and hour of Christ Our Lord's second coming is a closely guarded secret in the bosom of God our heavenly Father. It remains for us to heed Jesus' exhortation: "Be prepared, because it will come upon you like a thief in the night."

Stephen Walford's book, Heralds of the Second Coming: Our Lady, the Divine Mercy and the Popes of the Marian Era from Blessed Pius IX to Benedict XVI, will be a beacon of light to many, exhorting all to watch and pray that those who will go through the "great tribulation" may persevere with courage in the "Faith of our Fathers living still through dungeon, fire, and sword" until Christ's final victory over Satan, thanks to Mary, His Immaculate Mother and ours as well.

Cardinal Ivan Dias
Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for
the Evangelization of Peoples;
Member, Congregation for
the Doctrine of the Faith

Feast of Blessed Pius IX,
February 7, 2012


© Matt C. Abbott

 

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Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication, Media and Theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He has been interviewed on MSNBC, NPR and WLS-TV in Chicago, and has been quoted in The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. He can be reached at mattcabbott@gmail.com.

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