Hildegard’s Scivias (abbreviated form of the Latin for “Know the Ways of God”) is her record of a series of 26 visions that encompass the whole of salvation history. When she gets to the last days, specifically the time leading up to the Antichrist she makes an interesting comment on the nature of the passage of time during these days:
“All things that are on Earth hasten to their end, and the world droops toward its end” (Book III, Vision 11, chap. 1).
She is stating that one character of these times is that history will progress rapidly. She refers to the five beasts which symbolize the succession of individual historical periods leading up to the Antichrist, as “fleeting times”. She also compares them to the end of the day when the sun is setting, explaining that in her vision it is why the beasts face the west. She also likens them to end of the life of a person: Continue reading “St. Hildegard on Our ‘Fleeting Times’”→
An insightful review of the book was posted today on the popular Catholic blog Unam Sanctam Catholicam. Some highlights:
“The book is very cautious; when it makes connections and inferences, it does so in a very qualified manner, respecting the limits posed by the nature of eschatological speculation. That being said, the inferences it does make are very strong and convincing.”
“Any student of Catholic eschatology, especially that branch which studies the private revelations of the saints, will want to check out Mr. Turner’s book.”
You may click on the icon below to go to the book’s Amazon page:
“More works can be definitely attributed to Hildegard than any other composer from the Middle Ages. The melodic variety of Hildegard’s chant, ranging from the highly florid works of her early years to the more restrained chant, reflect her intimate familiarity with chant genres and the compositional practices of late medieval chant. Where Hildegard’s musical brilliance shines brightest is the sublimity of the liturgical poetry that accompanies it.”
“…For Hildegard, music rises almost to the level of a sacrament, channeling the perfection of divine grace from the heavenly choirs down to us.”
O vis aeternitatis, “O power within eternity”, is one of her responsories:
The term “social engineering” originated in the late 19th century and was used by early sociologists to define the attempt by governments to influence human attitudes toward certain ideas or behaviors. It is primarily associated with authoritarian governments like Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, and Chairman Mao’s China. Using manipulative laws, re-education, and propaganda, they sought to reshape their societies according to their repective ideologies. All governments, however, practice social engineering to some extent, with the intention of producing a desirable outcome that is in the best interest of the public. Regulation of industry and financial markets, laws, and tax incentives are a few examples. But social engineering, even in free societies can have a sinister side.
Pope St. John Paul II tried to warn the West about this in his 1993 encyclical Veritatis Splendor. Written just after the fall of the Soviet Union, something he had helped accomplish, he cautioned the West about the dangers of freedom in a society that was losing its moral foundations:
“Today, when many countries have seen the fall of ideologies which bound politics to a totalitarian conception of the world — Marxism being the foremost of these — there is no less grave a danger that the fundamental rights of the human person will be denied and that the religious yearnings which arise in the heart of every human being will be absorbed once again into politics. …Indeed, if there is no ultimate truth to guide and direct political activity, then ideas and convictions can easily be manipulated for reasons of power. As history demonstrates, a democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism.”
It may not be correct to assert that social engineering itself is an evil; that would depend on whether the desired outcome is evil in nature. We get a clue about the intentions of today’s social reformers from a recent article in the New York Post. Citing Gallup Polls, the writer points out some of the dramatic changes that have affected American culture in the last decade or so. They reflect a complete shift in attitudes toward moral issues over very brief periods of time. Some examples:
In 2003 34% of people polled said they were in favor of legalizing marijuana; in 2013 it was over 50%. (Interestingly, only 7% said they used it).
In 2006, support for homosexual marriage stood at 39%, today it is 60%.
In 2001, only 40% of those surveyed considered homosexuality morally acceptable; today it is 63%.
In 2003 only 34% of people polled thought that having a child out of wedlock was morally acceptable. Today that number is 61%.
He compares the scale of these massive changes to the cultural revolutions of the 1960s and notes perceptively: “We’ve hardly taken notice of it, because it happened in people’s minds instead of in the streets.” He cannot explain how this came to be, but suspects it has to do with the degrading nature of pop culture. In my view, however, what is ultimately responsible for this is social engineering by government institutions: schools, legislatures, presidents, judges, as well as lobbyists and special-interest groups, and those that fund them. The journalist rightly poses a troubling question that should give Roman Catholics a cause for concern, “…what comes along with this mass departure of moral judgment from public life?”In his encyclical, St. John Paul II answers that question: “…if there is no ultimate truth to guide and direct political activity, then ideas and convictions can easily be manipulated for reasons of power.” (note the word “easily”) Continue reading “Is Social Engineering the Salient Evil of Our Time?”→
Archbishop Thomas Wenski of the Archdiocese of Miami recently celebrated a Red Mass for members of the legal community. His homily touched on the legal troubles currently facing the Catholic Church:
“And so in our country as in other Western countries, we see a tendency to relegate religion to the private sphere. And, in these countries, we see the courts chipping away at the original understanding of religious freedom. In order to fit new political agendas, religious freedom is being reinterpreted narrowly to mean merely “freedom to worship” but excluding the freedom to serve and/or the freedom to witness. The Catholic Church in this country is currently battling in legislatures and in courts against this tendency. And it is not clear that we will prevail. Education, family law, healthcare are just some of the areas in which narrow readings of religious freedom are paving the way for antireligious policies.”
According to St. Hildegard’s vision of the fourth beast, the Black Pig, we will not prevail. This era, which began in 1991 with the fall of the Soviet Union, is unusual in that it is focused squarely on society’s leaders rather than the people themselves. She explains that the blackness is caused by the pig rolling around in mud and excrement, reflecting the corrupt nature of this era’s leaders:
“…[T]his epoch will have leaders who blacken themselves in misery and wallow in the mud of impurity. They will infringe the divine law by fornication and other like evils and will plot to diverge from the holiness of God’s commands”[Scivias, Book III,Vision11]
The reason we will not prevail has to do with Hildegard’s explanation of the symbolism of the ropes, which signifies that the particular evil that characterizes each era will be present from its beginning to its end. Archbishop Wenski goes on to call what’s happening to the Church “soft despotism”:
“…[I]n this country and other liberal democracies, people of faith are being increasingly subject to a soft despotism in which ridicule, ostracism, and denial of employment opportunities of advancement are being used to marginalize us. We see this when butchers, and bakers and candlestick makers are being put into the legal dock for refusing to renounce their religious beliefs. …Christian pastors are stalked and threatened for being “Christian” pastors, social scientists are expelled from universities for having turned up “politically incorrect” facts, charitable organizations and confessional schools are harassed if they take seriously their faith’s moral precepts and required their employees to support their missions.”
I discuss this present era at length in the book. Until it ends, however, what signifies the era, the actions of leaders who “…plot to diverge from the holiness of God’s commands,” will continue unabated. Catholics should be prepared for this to intensify.
I recently received an e-mail from someone who had just finished reading my book, The Five Beasts of St. Hildegard: Prophetic Symbols of Modern Society, stating that it “…sent chills down my spine”. The reason it can have that effect on readers is due to the compelling case the book presents which demonstrates that four of the five symbolic beasts, representing a succession of historical eras preceding the Antichrist, may have already occurred. If readers agree with the book’s assessment of recent history in light of St. Hildegard’s vision, then they will conclude that the events marking the fifth era are likely to be experienced by them, which also includes you and me, our children and grandchildren. An era, as described by Hildegard, that would indeed send chills down your spine.
Each of the five eras also reflect a particular social evil as symbolized by its respective beast. For example, the second era, the Yellow Lion, is an epoch engulfed in militarism and malice (1914-1945); the third, that of the Pale Horse, is identified with licentiousness and hedonism (1948-1991). The fourth is the current historical era that began after the collapse of the Soviet Empire. The fifth one, the era of the Grey Wolf, the only era left before the arrival of the Antichrist, is described as a time of extreme civil violence and economic disparity. Today, certain “signs of the times” suggest that this era may not be too far off. Hildegard portrays it as a period of class warfare and revolution (in another chapter she adds that it will include persecution of Christians):
“And the last is like a grey wolf; for those times will have people who plunder each other, robbing the powerful and the fortunate. …And they will divide and conquer the rulers of those realms” (Book 3, Vision 11, chapter 6) [Hildegard of Bingen: Scivias, translated by Columba Hart and Jane Bishop. The Abby of Regina Laudis: Benedictine Congregation Regina Laudis of the Strict Observance, Inc. Paulist Press, 1990.]
Today we often hear concerns about income inequality and a growing “wealth gap” in America. 20% of the total income earned in the U.S. goes to the top 1% of income earners, which is double what it was a few decades ago. The distribution of wealth, however, is 10 times more unequal, with the top .01% of the population (160,000 people) owning the same amount of wealth as the bottom 145,000,000. Historically, these are recurring economic realities and there are numerous studies that demonstrate what effects they can have on a nation. One is an increase in violent crime, particularly murder. We’ve seen this in a number of American cities today like Baltimore and St. Louis. British researcher Richard Wilkinson argued that it wasn’t a nation’s overall wealth or lack thereof that determined its level of social diseases like crime, violence, mental health etc., but its level of income disparity. If he’s correct, and should this inequality continue to worsen, so also will American society. This may explain why wealthy people in New York City are building safe rooms in their apartments and adding 1400 lb. doors.
A recent historical study concluded that income inequality can also lead to civil war, adding, however, that there are always other factors involved, like extreme distrust in government or a high unemployment rate. One doesn’t need to be an historian to recall some famous examples of this: the French Revolution, Russian Revolution, American Revolution, and more recently, the “Arab Spring”. Is America today headed toward a similar end? The answer is probably no, at least not for the moment. Those other factors that historically can lead to civil war, like high unemployment, extreme distrust of the government, repressive laws, etc., are not at a level that would suggest a potential revolt. The unemployment rate is currently 5.5% (though, unlike Europe, the U.S. conveniently refuses to count as unemployed those who have given up looking for work, in which case it would be about 11%).
On the other hand, looking at Europe, the unemployment rate in Spain is 23%, it’s over 12% in Italy and France, and 26% in Greece. Youth unemployment is a staggering 51% in Spain, 43% in Italy, and 24% in France. There is also a high level of distrust of the government in Spain, Portugal, and an alarming level of mistrust in Italy.
The upshot of all these studies is that parts of Europe and America may be ticking social time-bombs. In a previous post I discussed the consequences of rising interest rates in America. Countries that are deep in debt like the U.S., U.K., Italy, Spain etc. are only able to service their debt because of extraordinary interventions by central banks to force interest rates down to the lowest level they’ve been since usury laws were enforced in the Middle Ages. Should the banks lose control of rates and they start to rise, triggering a rise in inflation, many governments would quickly find themselves insolvent. In my view, this is mathematically unavoidable. In Tunisia, inflation and rising food prices were the straws that broke the camel’s back, setting in motion the events that led to the “Arab Spring”. The era of the Grey Wolf, particularly in Europe, strikes me as only a crisis away from its own “Spring”. Changes are coming.
Keep an eye on interest rates.
In her book, Scivias, St. Hildegard writes in far more detail about the world during the era of the Grey Wolf.
Lou Verrecchio, author of the popular Harvesting the Fruit blog wrote a post on the Second Vatican Council document intended to redefine the relationship of the Church with the Jewish people, Nostra Aetate. He rightly criticized an interpretation of the document by Swiss Cardinal Koch, who, in a recent speech celebrating its 50th anniversary suggested rather clearly that Jews who have rejected Christ as the Messiah may still find a pathway to salvation:
“That the Jews are participants in God’s salvation is theologically unquestionable, but how that can be possible without confessing Christ explicitly, is and remains an unfathomable divine mystery.”
Lou points out how unbiblical such a notion is, as well as contrary to Catholic teaching regarding salvation. In a follow-up post, Lou attempts to clarify a passage from Romans 11:25-27 where St. Paul emphatically states that “all Israel will be saved”:
Lest you be wise in your own conceits, I want you to understand this mystery, brethren: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles come in, and so all Israel will be saved; as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”; “and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.”
In 1997, America’s former national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote a book on America’s new role as the only global superpower, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives. He warned that America’s post-Cold War role in the world may not last long:
“In the long run, global politics are bound to become increasingly uncongenial to the concentration of hegemonic power in the hands of a single state. Hence, America is not only the first, as well as the only, truly global superpower, but is also likely to be the very last.” (p.209)
Eighteen years later, in a recent interview he suggests that this may have already taken place:
“The fact of the matter is that the redistribution of global power has produced a situation in which the US is no longer the sole hegemon. The US has to acknowledge the fact that the world is now much more complex.”
While the theater where the era of the Grey Wolf is to set to play out is primarily Europe, my attention for the moment is more focused on the point at which the United States officially (or forcibly) relinquishes her role as the “sole hegemon”. Why this is so important is that St. Hildegard’s five bestial era’s must align with well defined historical periods (she refers to them as “five ferocious epochs of temporal rule”) and the present one (the era of the Black Pig) that began with the fall of the Soviet Union, will likely end with a similar fall of the United States. Shifts in the world’s geopolitical power alignment, for historians, conveniently mark the end of an era and the beginning of another.
In the first part of this series we focused on the unsustainability of America’s financial condition and the consequence of the U.S. dollar losing its status as the world’s reserve currency. We did this by reevaluating the true total debt owed by the United States, combining the government’s reported “official” debt total with the present value of the country’s long-term unfunded liabilities like Social Security and Medicare. America’s official 18 trillion dollar national debt fails to account for these future obligations. Numerous economists have calculated the true dollar figure to exceed 200 trillion, likely forcing the government to devalue its currency through inflation.
But here in Part II, we will assume that these future liabilities don’t exist or somehow become manageable, leaving the 18 trillion in debt as all the government has left to worry about. Unfortunately America, you are still insolvent!. This will have far reaching domestic and international consequences, triggering the end, or limiting of, America’s military role in Europe and elsewhere.
As the story of the wedding in Cana (John 2:1-11) is one of the Luminous mysteries, many of us have contemplated the account of Jesus’ first miracle many times. The narrative is simple and easy to understand: Jesus begins to show his “signs” in order to prove who he is. Homilies I’ve heard on this text will often focus on Mary’s role here as the initiator of Christ’s first miracle and expound on that role in the life and ministry of her Son.
However, I’ve always been perplexed by the exchange between Jesus and Mary. She comes to Jesus and reports that the wine had run out. He answers, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” Mary does not respond to Him, but addresses the waiters, “Do whatever he tells you.” It’s the objectionable language of Jesus, and Mary’s non-response that I have trouble understanding.
One thing I will often do to help me fully grasp a gospel narrative is to use my imagination to picture the scene as if I was part of it. I enjoy theater and did a lot of acting in college which helps. I once heard a lecture by actor Michael York on performing Shakespeare. He noted that Shakespeare did not provide stage directions and never really cared how a play or a character was interpreted; the director or actor could do whatever they wanted. This is perhaps why his plays work in many different settings. Gospel narratives can be similar in that the text can be lacking in detail, as well as the fact that the Greek manuscripts had no punctuation, leaving it to the interpreter to picture the scene and punctuate the text. Continue reading “Lenten Reflections on Scripture: A Wedding in Galilee”→