Perhaps you have heard that the seasons in and around New Orleans run something like this: King Cake Season, Carnival Season, Friday Fish Fry Season, Festival Season, Hurricane Season, Football Season and Holiday Season! We humans live by seasons, but the Lord has his “times and seasons” as well. The Church prays at the Paschal Vigil during the blessing of the Paschal Candle: “All time belongs to him and all the ages.” God’s timing is indeed interesting, especially when we can somehow detect a confluence or pattern in God’s plan. It is interesting to look at the 20th century to see the unfolding of God’s plan.
SPIRITUAL BATTLE OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
There is a story that sometime around 1884 Pope Leo XIII had a revelation of Satan threatening to destroy the Church in 100 years. Part of this reported revelation was the Lord pledging to defend the Church with the weapons at his disposal. It is said that this experience caused the Pope to compose the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, which was recited after Mass until the mid-sixties. (Some parishes have recently begun to revive this practice.) One thing seems certain: spiritual warfare heated up in the 20th century and has only increased in the 21st.
One of the Lord’s powerful weapons was (and is) the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, the 20th century has been called “the century of the Holy Spirit.” Following the urging of Blessed Elena Guerra, Pope Leo XIII called down the Holy Spirit on January 1, 1901, and dedicated the 20th century to the Holy Spirit. Interestingly enough, it was on that very day that a woman named Agnes Ozman was baptized in the Holy Spirit in Topeka, Kansas, beginning the modern-day Pentecostal movement, which spread around the world in a few short years.
We can also plainly see the work of Satan and his minions in the 20th century: World Wars I and II; Nazism and the Holocaust; Korea and Vietnam; atheistic Communism in Soviet Russia, China, Cuba and in other places around the world; the beginning of worldwide terrorism…to cite just a few examples. The devil also launched attacks on the truth of Scripture and divine revelation, as well as against marriage and the family, with a radical spike in the divorce rate. We witnessed the birth of the so-called “sexual revolution,” situation ethics and moral relativism. The 20th century saw legalized abortion, the emergence of a militant homosexual agenda, and the ravages of rampant secularism, with prayer outlawed from public schools. There was even a “theology” which proclaimed “God is dead!”
THE LORD IS A WARRIOR, THE LORD IS HIS NAME!
It seems that one of the Lord’s favorite weapons against the devil is his own Blessed Mother. In 1917, near the end of World War I, Our Lady appeared to three shepherd children at Fatima in Portugal. That same year saw the beginning of communist takeover in Russia.
In 1967, the 50th anniversary of the Fatima apparitions, the Charismatic Renewal began in the Catholic Church. In June of that same year, Israel gained sole possession of the Old City of Jerusalem for the first time in 2000 years! Some have seen in this event a literal fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy in Luke 21:24, “And Jerusalem will be trampled down by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” It certainly seems that 1967 was a “key year” in the Lord’s timetable!
In 1984 Pope St. John Paul II made the collegial consecration of Russia and the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary that Our Lady of Fatima had requested. A few short years later in 1989, the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union began its dissolution, which was finalized in 1991. One could say that the Fatima revelations prophetically described the major political history events of virtually the entire 20th century!
The Lord launched many other spiritual weapons against the enemy of our salvation in the 20th century: St. Padre Pio; St. Faustina and the Revelation of Divine Mercy; Saints John XXIII, Paul VI, and John Paul II, with his impressive body of magisterial teaching (including Theology of the Body), to name just a few.
So here we are now, well into the 21st century and wondering what will happen next. As the saying goes, “we don’t know what the future holds but we know who holds the future!”
DISCERNING THE TIMES
The Lord seemed to put great emphasis on discerning the signs of the times (cf. Matt. 16:3; Luke 12:56). It sounds like this is something that Jesus desires and expects us to do. With the grace of the Spirit of God and the Word of God, let us ask in faith for the divine wisdom promised to us (cf. James 1:5). The battle indeed rages on! As the darkness around us is getting ever darker, the Lord calls us to be “light in the Lord” (cf. Eph. 5:8) and to let our light shine brightly. Let us “work while we have the light, for the night is coming when no one can work” (cf. John 9:4; 12:35). Let us make use of every opportunity to bring light and truth – the truth that sets men free (cf. John 8:31-32). May we fight with wisdom and fortitude, having the assurance of victory if we persevere with Christ. Remember, the back of the Book says: “We win!”