Papal Heralds of the Apocalypse

Come Lord Jesus. The human race has not the strength to move the stone which it has itself fashioned seeking to impede Thy return…How many hearts, O Lord, await Thee! How many souls are longing for the hastening of the day in which Thou alone wilt live and reign in their hearts! Come Lord Jesus. There are numerous signs that Thy return is not far off…

Pius XII – Easter 1957

In regard to recent Papal teaching on the coming Apocalypse, the theologian Fr. Aidan Nichols O.P.  described it as ‘spectacularly present, yet strangely overlooked.’  After reading Heralds of The Second Coming: Our Lady, the Divine Mercy, and the Popes of the Marian Era from Pius IX to Benedict XVI (Angelico Press) by Stephen Walford, I tend to agree.

In fact I would go further and suggest that the average Catholic is woefully unaware of any such teaching and its relation to his or her faith. This book and what it speaks of is indeed, therefore, a ‘herald’, coming as it does to challenge this ignorance whilst convincing us now is the time to awake and, like the Wise Virgins, go out into the gathering night with lamps lit readied to meet Him who comes through its darkness to claim us…

Before we go any further there is an important point to be clarified. This is not a book pertaining to ‘end times’, ‘raptures’ or anything else in between. This is a sober work of scholarship. It resides in the realm of eschatology, that is that portion of theology that deals with our understanding, through Sacred Scripture and Tradition, of the Second Coming and the events of the Last Days that precede it.

That said what it explores is unusual. It takes the Papal teachings of the last two hundred years or so and examines it alongside world events – events to which this teaching responded and foresaw – supplemented with various approved private revelations and Marian apparitions. The emphasis is on the former not the latter. So often books on this subject start with the fantastic – approved or not – and then find arguments to support various conjecture. Not so with Walford’s work, its focus is Papal teaching. His ability is in extrapolating from that coherent and systematic body of teaching something that, when read as a whole, causes its reader to stop and think.

The author’s thesis opens with Blessed Pius IX and ends with the then pope at the time of the book’s publication, Benedict XVI. This covers what is seen as the centuries of the Marian Era. That expression is not the author’s but, surprisingly, that of St. John Paul II. From the middle of the 19th Century onwards, there had been a deepening of Marian related theology. The spiritual genesis for this came from the life and writings of two 18th Century saints St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696–1797) and St. Louis de Montfort (1673-1716). Their works reignited devotion to the Blessed Virgin; and, subsequently, those writing’s influenced the next century’s teaching of the popes of the Marian Era, many of whom referred directly to these two authors as inspiration.

Interestingly, this Marian Era appeared at a time when various heresies, some ancient and returning, others newer, had collectively begun to slouch from the swamp of the then Zeitgeist. The 19th Century had seen many in the Protestant world in retreat from an understanding of the Scriptures as divinely inspired. This in turn had led to the conclusion that if the text was not inspired then of Whom it spoke must simply be a construct of the world, its history and culture, rather than someone uniquely remarkable. The age-old attack upon the Divinity of the Son was underway again, and, inevitably, turned its attention to the Church. Any who remembered the early Christological controversies would have known that one of the key defences to understanding that Divinity was through a deep veneration of the Mother of God. In this context, Blessed Pius IX’s 1854 promulgation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception appears not only timely but also as part of a wider defence of the basic tenets of the Christian faith.  This was followed soon after by the 1858 apparitions at Lourdes, a conjunction the text sees not only as part of an historical pattern but of a spiritual one too. This is what makes this book so interesting: not so much the historical facts it sets out as how it re-arranges these in such a way that there emerges a spiritual logic, and, more interesting still, an inescapable conclusion.


During these last two centuries there has been an ‘alternate’ history. On the one hand there has been the so-called incontrovertible ‘progress’ of man – or so the established historians would have us believe. A ‘progress’ that yet speeds us on from the Enlightenment to the Brave New World of today and tomorrow when all our former ‘complexes’ will finally be laid to rest along with the myths and legends upon which they are based. Daily, we live in the middle of this ‘enlightenment’.  The only thing is that for some of us, the times we live in now seem darker than ever, especially, when we look back at the shadows still cast from the last century. During that time we see little by way of light coming into the world to dispel the darkness; instead, we catch glimpses of one who fell from heaven and in so doing brought a rebellion that has provoked war ever since.

In the pages of Walford’s book, the ‘received’ version of our world’s history is turned on its head. Instead, another, rarely spoken of if nonetheless seemingly more truthful, version is explored. It tells of mystics and saints, of popes and councils, of approved Marian apparitions and the Divine Mercy. Into the sad debris of history:  its wars and revolutions; its injustices and ideologies; its long litany of man’s never-ending inhumanity to man steps an alternative reading of all this with at its centre a battle, one whose victor has, mercifully, already been decided.

The personal awareness…that every Catholic must feel with regard to the needs of our time …the problems, the polemics, the hostilities, the possible catastrophes of a godless society, the full drama… the Church is experiencing today in the full tension of her history …sorely tried by the hard and disappointing experiences of modern progress, and finally secrets of divine mercy, in which the moving resources of the Kingdom of God are revealed: everything tells us that this is a great decisive hour which we must have courage to live with open eyes and undaunted hearts.

Pope Paul VI –January 1976

This book builds in such a way that when its last pages are turned it is difficult to see what other conclusions can be drawn than those presented. Whether it is the theological battles against Modernism that Leo XIII and St. Pius X engaged in, or the battle against godless ideologies with which Pius XII had to contend, through to the apostasy that Paul VI suffered, before the emergence from the east of a pontiff who stood and faced an increasingly hostile world, these men all give witness to the reality that must inevitably arise. And in so doing, they had much to say on the never-ending struggle between the spirit of the times and the coming end point of time itself, with the paradox being that the more that point was fought against the more it seems to be ushered into existence.

The twin streams of Papal teaching and the events of Lourdes, La Salette, Fatima combined with the teaching of the Divine Mercy all look to this coming Parousia. This is the book’s contention, and the immediacy of its message jolts. More curious still, however, upon finishing its thesis that which formerly confused no longer does, that which shocked no longer has any effect, and that which frightened has now lost its power. Suddenly it all makes perfect sense as one begins to understand the choice that lies ahead for each of us. It is only through the Cross that the Second Coming will be effected, and, like the Incarnation 2000 years ago, this cannot, will not, be concluded without the Blessed Virgin. It is she who shall defend the Child once more, albeit this time from the Dragon in the heat of the Desert, before, thereafter, again taking her place at the foot of the Cross this time accompanied by the Christian remnant that have chosen to witness come what may.

In spite of the great swathes of history and theology in this slim volume, when all is said and done, its unsettling conclusions could be summed up in and through two parables. The first tells of the weeds that must grow alongside the wheat – within the Church and without  – until the reckoning comes for all concerned. The second is of the Wise Virgins, for, like them, we too must trim our lamps and, regardless of the hour of night in which we find ourselves, stand ready to await the approach of the Master, for come He shall…

The Challenge is to see to it that the world is properly informed of the true meaning of the year 2000, the anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ. The Jubilee cannot be a mere remembrance of a past event, however extraordinary. It is to be the celebration of a Living Presence, and an invitation to look towards the Second Coming of our Saviour, when he will establish once and for all his Kingdom of justice, love and peace.

St. John Paul II – February 1997


Heralds of The Second Coming: Our Lady, the Divine Mercy, and the Popes of the Marian Era from Pius IX to Benedict XVI  by Stephen Walford
Angelico Press 2013
228 pages.

K. V. Turley


KV Turley writes from London

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  • JMC

    I am always and ever reminded of a phrase I read in a book about Our Lady of Quito, where the Blessed Mother told Mother Marianna de Jesus Torres of “…the third millennium, WHICH WILL BE THE LAST…” Mother Marianna, who lived in the 15th or 16th century, with her laudable humility, wished to remain unknown; though she had been told she was destined for sainthood, she asked that she and her message might remain unknown until the end times. It wasn’t until the 1990s that the story of Our Lady of Quito began to spread beyond that little convent in Ecuador.
    The third millennium will be the last. Our Lady said it would be marked by a worldwide war, the likes of which will never have been before in history when it happens, in an age in which there will be almost no virgin souls. (I posit that if you were to conduct a survey, you would find that the percentage of virgins over the age of about 10 would be less than 10%, and that’s a conservative guess. Those – both women AND men – who are victims of rape or sexual abuse don’t count here, because what is being spoken of here is SPIRITUAL virginity, which implies that the act was consentual.
    One of the best eschatological analyses I have ever seen can be found at The author of the book which this website promotes and expands upon does occasionally bring unapproved private revelations and visions into consideration, but always with the caveat that they ARE unapproved, as he tries to stay as much as possible within the realm of the approved.

  • sdk14754977

    Very interesting information. Also in regard to “virgin souls” they also include those who, having lost their chastity have recovered it. St. Mary Magdalen is the first listed among the Virgins in the Litany of the Saints. That is very good to know and can give hope to many, many who have lost at one time or another the battle against impurity.

  • Catharine

    There is a systematic attack by the so-called “intelligentsia” and “cultured classes” in our age against the purity and innocence of childhood which is simply horrifying. I have very strong memories of being on the receiving end of it in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and I cannot imagine what it must be like to be a young, innocent child of either sex today.
    Even while I was in high school in 1970, there were girls in our class at a supposedly Catholic high school in NE Illinois whose parents had put them on the birth control pill!
    Much worse, I find that many persons of my generation (early to mid 1950’s), while they may have had their children baptized shortly after birth due to parental pressure, deliberately did not raise their children in the Catholic faith, or in any faith whatsoever, so that they could feel free to experimental sexually to their hearts’ content, as soon as puberty occurred, without the crippling guilt and fear that they themselves has experienced.
    I met a young woman aged 21 recently whose parents have had her on contraceptive “shots” for years, as they assume that sexual experimentation will occur.
    This sort of culture simply MUST be drawing down upon itself the wrath of God–how could it be otherwise?

  • A wonderful book in many ways no doubt, but unfortunately Mr. Walford does not understand (and even openly opposes) the most important prophecy: the fact that we await a Glorious Reign of Peace (also known as the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary or the Reign of the Divine Will). In that regard, please permit me to recommend pages 65-69 of this book:

    And a heartfelt thank you, Mr. Turley, for this beautiful article. Dear friends, we are in truly pivotal, urgent times. Do not miss this extraordinary time of grace while there still remain a few grains of sand left in the hourglass of the Time of Mercy!!

  • RAY

    Thank you, Mr Turley, for your superb take on this equally superb book. I bought and read it just days into its availability here in the UK.
    The reason I found it so fascinating in its teaching of the Popes and through the Marian apparitions and other events, is beause I was able to come to it as a work of fact – not fiction – as I think many other people I have recommended this book to have described it! And that includes priests and at least one
    The reason I was able to read it totally in context and with some understanding (with all due modesty, I hope), is because I was brought up in a very firmly Bible-based, free-evangelical church background, which I experienced for 19 years before I became a Catholic – as it happens, on this very day – 50 years ago in 1965 – in those days, the last Sunday in October and therefore the feast of Christ The King.
    Something which is and has been very special to me since that day.
    My beautiful and truly Godly parents brought me up with a love for scripture ad its truth and, of course, we were always looking for the day when Jesus would come again in His glory and once again take over complete control. The pointers to which were there then in my early childhood and are so much more so now as I approach my 70th birthday.
    I would just like to make a couple of comments to your line above:
    “In fact I would go further and suggest that the average Catholic is woefully unaware of any such
    teaching and its relation to his or her faith.”
    How very true that is – I am very sad to say!
    If I was never convinced before, (which, of course, is a fiction!) after reading this scholarly book I was totally alive once again to its warnings – but also its promises of the imminent return of Our Blessed Lord someday much sooner than later.
    But let me tell you this. I spoke to a number of catholic priests and recommended the book to them and their flocks – and I was generally derided and told not to be silly; this was all highly allegorical stuff and didn’t bear much weight because, according to them, Jesus’s return was a very long way off yet – maybe thousands of years. There was much work to be done – by the church and science – to turn this world into the sort of place Christ would want to call His Kingdom . . . . !!
    What utter rubbish still pours from the mouths of trained men who are supposed to be our pastors and mentors and most of all, preparing us for this soon-coming and momentous, to say the least, event!
    I live in the Portsmouth diocese and noticed that it was our very own bishop, Philip Egan who had given the publication his ‘imprimatur’. I therefore assumed that he had a very special interest in this vitally important eschatological message, and wrote to him to ask if we might meet for a few minutes to discuss the book and his own feelings and beliefs about the teachings of the Bible, the popes and the Marian apparitions of the last 200 years.
    He refused to reply to me – and has steadfastly refused to see me and talk to me about the book for the last two years.
    I think that is all I need to say – it speaks for itself.
    The church is not ready, nor are its bishops and priests – and that means that the people, in general, certainly are not ready either.
    I pray every day for the early return of Our Lord – which I firmly believe to be imminent – not just because
    of this book, but because He told us it is! (Matthew 24-25).
    I also pray for the church and everyone in it, that they will open their eyes to the signs of the times and
    begin looking intently for the wondrous return of our Blessed Saviour.
    “Now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when
    the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” – Luke 8:18
    I am very concerned that there will be precious little. Nevertheless, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus!”