Doomsday or distraction?

By Clare Myers and Robert Duncan

One may not know the day and hour of the second coming of Christ, but according to Stephen Walford, the signs of its approach are obvious.

In his recently published 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,” the English writer argues that there is substantial evidence that we are entering an “apocalyptic” age.

“The popes have spoken in a prophetic way about the nearness of the second coming,” he said. “The coming of the Lord is approaching and we have to prepare ourselves.”

The book includes a foreword by Cardinal Ivan Dias, retired prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and has been given both a “nihil obstat” and an imprimatur by the bishop of Portsmouth, England. Although neither constitutes an official endorsement by the Catholic Church, the “nihil obstat” declares that a work contains no errors in matters of faith and morals, and the imprimatur grants the author official permission to publish it.

Walford says it is important that readers know “that what they are reading conforms exactly to the teachings of the church on this really important subject.”

The piano teacher-turned-author classifies the past century and a half as the “Marian Era,” an age in which devotion to the Virgin Mary has gradually increased since Pope Pius IX formally defined the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception in 1854.

“We can see this Marian Era as heaven’s attempt to warn the church,” he said.

In addition to Mary, Walford identifies other “heralds” who bring the world’s attention to what is happening in history today. In particular he analyzes the words of recent popes and the experiences of certain mystics, people who have especially intimate encounters with God. One such mystical event Walford discusses is the appearance of the Virgin Mary to three young children in Fatima, Portugal. Our Lady of Fatima, as she is now called, is closely associated with the signs of the second coming. Another mystic is St. Faustina, a 20th century Polish nun whose visions of Jesus led to the establishment of the Divine Mercy devotion. Walford calls the Divine Mercy devotion, like that of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, “of paramount importance for all Catholics as preparation in these times.”

Walford also claims that two omens of the second coming — the spreading of the Gospel to the entire world and a “massive falling away of the faith” — are at hand.

“On one hand [the faith is] spreading,” he says, giving the example of missionary expansion throughout Africa, “and on the other hand it’s being rejected.”

The “silent apostasy” or religious indifference, of the West, coincides with a widespread persecution of Christians, he said. Walford cites the large number of modern Christian martyrs, estimated by the International Bulletin of Missionary Research at 1 million over the past decade, as evidence of this, although he believes that this is not the ultimate trial the church will have to undergo.

“We haven’t as yet seen this final persecution,” he says.

Walford bases much of his argument on what he calls the “apocalyptic” words of recent popes.

For instance, he highlights Blessed John Paul II’s 2000 exhortation to youth to act as “morning watchmen at the dawn of the new millenium.” He also quotes Paul VI’s words from a 1976 general audience: “Sometimes I re-read the Gospel on the end of times and I notice that, at this moment, there are emerging some signs of this end.” Although the book does not include an analysis of the current pope’s words, Walford asserts that he is consistent with those who came before.

“Pope Francis is absolutely … in continuity with his predecessors,” he says, noting that his papacy is consecrated to Our Lady of Fatima.

Although he sees the need for the church to rouse itself in light of these reflections on modern events and the second coming, he emphasizes that no one can know when exactly the world will end.

“I’m suggesting that humanity has reached some critical point,” he says. “How long that carries on for is a mystery.”

Ultimately, Walford insists his message is positive. He says he is not trying to frighten people, but rather to inspire them to live better lives in anticipation of the Christ’s triumphant return.

“We have to live in these times with real hope,” he says. “We have to live in these times with real joy.”

“Heralds of the Second Coming” has received mixed reviews. Dr. Jeff Mirus of noted that the author demonstrates a “scholar’s grasp of the writings and speeches of the popes,” but dismissed the conclusions he draws from them.

“Insofar as Walford sends us on the wild goose chase of mining papal documents for confirmation that the end times are upon us, then the book will be but one more apocalyptic distraction,” he wrote.

Francis Phillips of the Catholic Herald agreed with the author’s general description of the modern era, and also remarked on the author’s “scholarly” approach to papal teachings. But she remained unconvinced that the end times are imminent.

“As Christians we believe in the second coming of Christ at the end of the world,” she wrote. “But … we do not know the day nor the hour when this will take place. In this respect we are in exactly the same position as the early followers of Jesus 2,000 years ago.”

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7 Responses to Doomsday or distraction?

  1. llooeegee says:

    Look around you ; Korea, Syria, etc etc — The WESTERN governments and their abuses of democracy, by bowing to the voiciferous immoral/evil minorities who encourage all types of perversions and, their refusal to act with moral fibre in almost ALL situations.
    Over the last 50 years, follow the evolution of ‘human rights’, ‘civil liberties’ proclaimed as FREEDOMS through – divorce, contraception, abortion, co-habitation, homosexuality now [GOD help us] the SANCTITY of marriage and Family thrown to the wolves, again, through LEGISLATION.
    Where is the next generation coming from? As a result of the forementioned
    ‘freedoms’ , how many children know their natural parents ? How many are in even their 3rd or 4th so called family and do not know who they really are?

    So, is ‘the second coming’ far away, I can not prophesy and would not dare to do so.

    Respect, responsibility, accountability care, duty, manners, concern and MORALITY/Ethics, are now replaced by greed, pride, vanity, power, celebrity culture and antagonism everywhere.

    Almighty God must be running short on patience.

    Jesus, have pity on us – Mary and Joseph, pray for us

  2. warnings about the end times are dated to the New Testament.. Human life has been around about 20 K years and the Universe for millions. Some say we have been here for a tiny fraction of Time since Time began. God sees us morally still filling our diapers with war, greed, destruction of the Earth and each other. He is Patient and giving us time to get potty trained and eventually grow up.

  3. Ralph G Conte says:

    Why would anyone presume to warn us of God’s future plans. We can count on the Lord’s second coming but we would be better served to plan for our own more imminent demise.

  4. John says:

    20,000 years from now we will hear the same old old complaints and blaming everything new for our troubles. Then, when the Sun becomes a red giant and reduces the earth to a cinder, millions of years in the future, then that’ll be the end.

  5. Jim Finfera says:

    The author did well in quoting Saint Faustina, She is God’s messenger of His Divine Mercy. It will do us well to visit a link on EWTN’s web page titled “Divine Mercy and the Second Coming” at:

    It is well presented and worthy of our note. In short, Jesus is asking us, like Saint Faustina to be his apostles of his Mercy!!! He is giving us a chance for his Mercy before the time of Justice is upon us. Let our lives be a living gospel.

  6. Jim says:

    I’d like to know what John means by, “everything new”.

    Preparing as though end times and the second coming may be tomorrow is never a distraction. It is what Christ instructs us to do. We are living in a time where bad is called good and good bad even by those who are supposed to be living consecrated lives. We also live in a time of increasing resistance to the Church’s efforts to bring Christ to the world as a matter of government policy. That is made possible only because of the corruption within the Church.

    On feast of the immaculate conception in 2008 Pope Benedict commented on the image of Our Lady of the Apocalypse as described in Chapter 12 of that book:

    “What is the meaning of this image? It represents the Church and Our Lady at the same time,” “Before all, the ‘woman’ of the apocalypse is Mary herself.”“She appears ‘clothed in sunlight,’ that is, clothed in God,” “Besides representing Our Lady, this sign personifies the Church, the Christian community of all times,”The Church, he explained, is “pregnant, in the sense that she carries Christ” and “must give birth to him to the world.” “This is the labor of the pilgrim Church on earth, that in the midst of the consolations of God and the persecutions of the world, she must bring Christ to men.”
    Because the Church continues to bring Jesus into the world, Pope Benedict said, it “finds opposition in a ferocious adversary,” symbolized in scripture by the “dragon” that has “tried in vain to devour Jesus,” and now “directs his attacks against the woman – the Church – in the desert of the world.”
    “But in every age the Church is supported by the light and the strength of God,” the Pope said. “She is nurtured in the desert with the bread of his word and the Holy Eucharist.”
    “And in this way, in every tribulation, through all of the trials that she finds in the course of the ages and in the different parts of the world, the Church suffers persecution, but comes out the victor.”

    Benedict has also said that we have more to fear from corruption within the Church than from the persecution from the outside. There are people who have “defected in place” with the sole purpose of opposing the teachings of the Church. These are attacks against the Church.

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