Q. A Catholic friend recently gave me a copy of the magazine Signs and Wonders for Our Times. It contained some very interesting articles. Are you familiar with this publication and, if so, what do you think of it? — D.M., Virginia.
A. We were not familiar with the publication until a Catholic friend recently gave us a copy of the 80-page spring 2014 issue, which we read from cover to cover. It is published by the Signs of the Times Apostolate in Herndon, Va., and the editor-in-chief and publisher is Maureen Flynn, author, with Ted Flynn, of the book The Thunder of Justice, which discusses “The Warning, The Miracle, The Chastisement, and The Era of Peace,” and author herself of a new book entitled Signs, Secrets and Prophecies.
As you might guess, the magazine is full of apocalyptic information that is very professionally and attractively presented, with eye-catching color photographs and full-page ads for similar materials. A dedication page says that the Signs of the Times Apostolate, Inc., “is a group of lay and religious Catholics whose primary objective is to live and spread Our Lady’s messages of prayer, fasting, faith, conversion, and peace. We distribute literature, including books, audio and video materials, on the Catholic faith.”
The dedication also says that “articles published in this magazine regarding apparitions do not reflect the editor’s or the apostolate’s preference, nor importance of one apparition over another. It is simply the wish of this Organization to inform the readership of approved apparitions, and specific apparitions and locutions currently being investigated. . . . We respectfully recognize and accept that the final authority regarding apparitions and locutions presently reported around the world rests with the Holy See in Rome, to whose judgment we humbly submit.”
Before commenting on that last sentence, we should point out that there are some good articles in the magazine. For example, there is one about Our Lady: Undoer of Knots and a novena to her. This devotion has been revived by Pope Francis, and we wrote favorably about it in our column dated February 20, 2014. There is a summary of the “Great Rosary Victories of Our Lady,” including the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, and a good article by Fr. Dermot Roache, SMA, on “The Consecration of the Family to the Divine Mercy.”
There are some powerful testimonies as well, including an excerpt from the book I Just Came for Ashes, in which Robin Beck tells of her conversion after 30 years in the “gay community,” and the story of Sean Corrigan’s long battle back from drugs through immersion, along with his wife Elaine, in the Comunita Cenacolo.
There is a lengthy article about the Cenacle, which was founded in Italy in 1983 by Mother Elvira Petrozzi and now has many houses, including one in Jacksonville, Fla., where young people caught up in a variety of addictions can get their lives back through a simple, disciplined family style of life based on prayer, work, sacrifice, and faith in Jesus. The Cenacle describes itself as a “School of Life” consisting of consecrated religious brothers and sisters, married couples, single men and women, and children.
But in the magazine there are also pages of “Catholic Prophecies,” containing alleged messages from our Lady to a Pedro Regis, and the most problematic article of all — the one entitled “Now Is the Time for the Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart in Union with All the Bishops of the World.” That article said that Pope John Paul II did not consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1984, but the consecration will be done by the Pope after Benedict XVI (Pope Francis?), according to “Locutions to the World” given in Scranton, Pa., from December 2010 until the present day.
The locutions allege that the Pope who consecrates Russia will also move the papacy from Rome to Jerusalem, and two men will claim to be Pope, one in Rome and one in Jerusalem. The true Pope will die quickly, according to the locutions, but his death will usher in a time of peace for the whole world, and especially for Jerusalem.
The magazine then quotes at length from Fr. Paul Kramer, who has long contended that Pope John Paul did not reveal the entire Third Secret of Fatima in 2000, that he left out the alleged part about terrible wars and devastating natural disasters, fire falling from the sky, and a great apostasy in the Church. An editorial note says that “many current Marian devotees believe the 100 years granted by God to Satan [in Pope Leo XIII’s vision of 1886] to try to destroy the Church will end in 2017, 100 years after the Fatima visions in 1917.”
In the Signs and Wonders dedication, the magazine’s staffers said that they would humbly submit to the judgment of the Holy See on the matter of apparitions and locutions. But the Holy See, in the judgment of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, said in 2000 that the entire Third Secret of Fatima had been revealed and that “those who expected exciting apocalyptic revelations about the end of the world or the future course of history are bound to be disappointed. Fatima does not satisfy our curiosity in this way.”
That is the official judgment of the Holy See, and readers of books and magazines like Signs and Wonders ought to be prudent and, in the magazine’s own words, “respectfully recognize and accept that the final authority regarding apparitions and locutions presently reported around the world rests with the Holy See in Rome.”
Q. Do you have any information on the book The Holy Longing by Ronald Rolheiser? Our parish has selected the book for a discussion group, and I wonder if it reflects Catholic teaching. — M.K., via e-mail.
A. Fr. Rolheiser is a Catholic priest and member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. He is a popular speaker, writer of a syndicated column carried in more than 50 newspapers worldwide, and author of many books, including The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality, which was published in 1999. We have not read the book and can only pass along the following comments from one reviewer:
“This book is for those searching to understand what Christian spirituality means and how to apply it to their own lives. Rolheiser explains the non-negotiables — the importance of community worship, the imperatives surrounding social action, the centrality of the Incarnation, the sustenance of the spiritual life — and how spirituality necessarily impacts every aspect of human experience. At the core of this readable, deeply revealing book is an explanation of God and the Church in a world that more often than not doubts the credibility of both.”
Another reviewer, Dan Burke, founder of Catholic Spiritual Direction and a writer for the National Catholic Register, took a look at Fr. Rolheiser’s book Prayer: Our Deepest Longing and said that the author “seems to have a sincere desire to help and encourage those on the edge of faith but who are still seeking answers. It seems important to him to convey to people that God loves them and will accept them where they are.” However, there are some problems with his approach, said Burke. For example, there is this quote from page 53 of the book:
“Is Satan, the devil, to be conceived of as a personified force, a fallen archangel, Lucifer? Or is Satan a code name for that vast range of inner disturbances (addictions, scars, paranoia, fear, bitterness, and sexual wounds) that habitually torment us? What exactly are the principalities and powers that are beyond us?”
On November 15, 1972, Pope Paul VI made clear how we are to conceive of the Devil. He described him as “a living, spiritual being, perverted and perverting. A terrible reality. Mysterious and frightening….He is the enemy number one, a tempter par excellence. So we know that this dark and disturbing spirit really exists, and that he still acts with treacherous cunning; he is the secret enemy that sows errors and misfortunes in human history.”
This small sample of Fr. Rolheiser’s opinions makes it difficult to determine whether his writings are always faithful to Catholic teaching. Perhaps one of our readers has read The Holy Longing and could offer additional insights into this book.