By DONAL ANTHONY FOLEY
The Signs of the Times, the New Ark, and the Coming Kingdom of the Divine Will, by Kelly Bowring (Two Hearts Press, 2013: print edition, $17.86, Kindle edition, $13.25).
A list of the sources used is given at the beginning of the book, and while some of these are very familiar, such as St. Louis de Montfort, St. John Bosco, and the Fatima seers, others are far less well known, such as Ven. “Conchita” (Concepion Cabrera de Armida), and the Servant of God Cora Evans.
Others, such as Servant of God Maria Esperanza (associated with the claimed visions at Betania, in Venezuela), could be said to be somewhat controversial, while some of the apparitions mentioned, and particularly “Our Lady of All Nations” (Amsterdam) and “Our Lady of Akita,” are questionable.
The “Divine Will” movement which is associated with Luisa Piccarreta, is a focus of the book, and while it has received some Church support, it too could be said to be still undergoing a process of discernment, and so it seems risky to put too much reliance on it just yet, particularly in comparison with Fatima or the Divine Mercy devotion.
The first chapter of the book is concerned with what Christ said about the End Times, and no Catholic can quarrel with His authoritative words about what will certainly happen in the future. But we must ask, are those events imminent and can this be ascertained by seeing what recent seers, saints, Popes, and apparition messages, have had to say about this topic?
This is what the author sets out to do in further chapters, particularly regarding the importance of the Divine Will devotion, and how this relates to the Second Coming. But certainly, in reading the first chapter, the strong impression is given by Bowring that the End Times are close, and that the advent of the Beast of Revelation is near (p. 27).
The second chapter continues in a similar vein, with a focus on apocalyptic events in the writings of saints and Popes. In themselves these texts and prophecies are important and valuable, but they have to be read in context, and with an understanding that the events they portray may not happen for a long time yet, possibly centuries.
One of the problems with the book is that the prophecies it includes are not referenced to any particular sources. And while a lack of references makes the book less formidable for the average reader, the reality is that a book of this type really does requires references.
However, there is a useful discussion of the prophecies from Blessed Elizabeth Canori Mora (d. 1825), who saw visions relating to a future crisis in the Church, in which the papacy would be attacked, and also of some of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich’s prophecies.
Bowring asks the question, “When will all these things happen?” and gives this answer: “Recent prophecies have indicated that we are now in the times of the rise of evil and the earthly reign of the antichrist” (p. 55).
He then gives quotations from various recent Popes who have pointed to the dangers surrounding the advent of the Antichrist, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that this event is imminent, and in fact in one of the quotations given, from Pope Benedict XVI, this Pontiff clearly stated that: “The real crisis has scarcely begun” (p. 60).
One of the serious weaknesses of the book is the way that the alleged visions of Our Lady of All Nations, in Amsterdam, are given credence, despite their many questionable aspects, and particularly the fact that this Lady of All Nations promoted a prayer which speaks of the Blessed Virgin as being she who “once was Mary,” as though the name Mary should not be used.
And this is despite the fact that we have the Hail Mary as one of the major Catholic prayers, and there is also a feast day of the Holy Name of Mary. Similarly there are problems with aspects of the alleged visions at Akita.
As the title of the book indicates, there is a particular focus on the idea of Our Lady as the New Ark, which comes from the alleged visions associated with the title Flame of Love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. These visions have received some Church approval, but the tone of some aspects of the message is suspect, and particularly the idea that a new petition should be added to the Hail Mary, as follows: “Spread the effect of the grace of your Flame of Love over all of humanity.” This may be genuine, but it is unlikely that Heaven would make such a request to change a prayer as well established as the Hail Mary.
However the author’s focus on Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart and the Fatima message is important and useful, as are his references to the works of St. Louis de Montfort and St. Maximilian Kolbe.
Chapter 5 is given over to Luisa Piccarreta’s Divine Will devotion — which despite a degree of Church approval — cannot be said to be properly established in the Church, while chapter 6 deals with “Coming Chastisements.” Padre Pio is put forward as a witness to the idea that there will be “three days of darkness” in the future, but again there is no reference to any source. And Bowring also speaks of Melanie of La Salette’s later alleged prophecies as though they were genuine, rather than highly questionable (p. 167).
Overall, the Divine Will devotion may turn out to be genuine, but it would seem prudent to treat it with caution until we have more certainty about that, and so it shouldn’t be treated as being on a par with, for example, Fatima. It seems to lack the simplicity of the Fatima and Divine Mercy devotions, and this is another reason for caution.
Chapter 7 deals with what we can do about all of the above, and sees consecration to our Lady, the rosary, and the Fatima Five First Saturdays devotion, as well as eucharistic adoration and devotion to the Sacred Heart as the answer. It also deals with devotion to St. Joseph, the importance of fasting, and of purity.
Overall, there are many good aspects to this book, particularly the extensive quotes from Church approved texts, but the big problem is that these are from a whole variety of sources, and there is a need to distinguish a hierarchy of texts, such that those which are clearly the most important, such as Fatima, are given prominence.
Another problem is that disentangling the future on the basis of prophecies is a very difficult task, and in all probability, it will only when the Church is actually going through the End Times that she will be able to correctly discern the meaning of these events. Thus it would seem to make more sense for Catholics to concentrate on building up the Church now, rather than focusing unduly on the future.
Overall, it is a cause for concern that the book will give a distorted message to many readers, who will get the impression that the coming of the Antichrist is fairly imminent, and for this reason, this book cannot be generally recommended.
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(Donal Anthony Foley is the author of a number of books on Marian Apparitions, and maintains a related web site at www.theotokos.org.uk where information about some of the alleged apparitions mentioned above can be found.)