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171. Prophecy

1. Prophecy is the certain foretelling of a future eventby a person supernaturally informed of it, and supernaturally movedto announce it. Prophecy consists primarily in theknowledge of future events; this knowledge is beyond thenatural power of creatures to acquire, and is imparted by God tothe prophet. Secondarily, prophecy is the "expression inspeech" of the divinely imparted prophetic knowledge. And, inthe third place, prophecy takes it fullness and perfection from the"certainty of the message" prophetically made. Thiscertainty will have its proof when the event prophesied comes topass, but it is requisite for perfect prophecy to have a backingand guarantee at the time the prophet speaks. This backing andguarantee of certainty is usually afforded by the aid ofmiracles.

2. Naturally acquired knowledge is in a person as anintellectual habit; it is something he has acquired andkeeps; it stays with him, and serves as a permanent mental qualitywhich tends to make the mind better or worse in its operation. Thusnatural knowledge can be used at the knower's will. But theprophet's knowledge is not something he can use at will. It isknowledge specially given, by a special divine light, and given inthe measure that God wills, for utterance as a divine help, guide,or warning to mankind. And, while both the prophet and the peoplewho hear him can remember the prophecy, and in so far can make itan element of their knowledge, neither prophet nor people can workthe prophecy into the common fabric of their natural knowledge tobe pursued, developed, and correlated with other items of naturalexperience.

3. Prophetic knowledge includes more than future freeevents. The prophet may announce timeless things, as Isaiasannounced what was divinely revealed to him of the eternalperfections of God. Sometimes, indeed, a man is called a prophetwhen he tells of the past; so Moses prophesied when he wrote, underdivine inspiration, of the creation of the world. In this way aprophecy is the certain knowledge and pronouncement of what is"remote from human knowledge." However, in its strictsense, prophecy is knowing and foretelling what is to come, thatis, what is remote in time from human experience.

4. A prophet is not in possession of the whole field ofprophecy; he does not know all that can possibly be prophesied. Heknows what God gives him to know, and moves him to make known toothers.

5. The prophet may not always be clear in his own mindabout the precise line which divides the divinely revealed messagefrom his own knowledge. But, as St. Gregory says, the Holy Ghosttakes care that no erroneous human elements are mixed with theprophecy which God wills to have pronounced.

6. Nothing false, therefore, can enter into the prophecyas pronounced; it is a message from God Himself.

"The essence of perfection is to embrace the will of God in all things, prosperous or adverse. In prosperity, even sinners find it easy to unite themselves to the divine will; but it takes saints to unite themselves to God's will when things go wrong and are painful to self-love. Our conduct in such instances is the measure of our love of God."
St Alphonsus de Liguori

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"It is well to choose some one good devotion, and to stick to it, and never to abandon it."
St Philip Neri

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"Whom do you seek, friend, if you seek not God? Seek him, find him, cleave to him; bind your will to his with bands of steel and you will live always at peace in this life and in the next."
St Alphonsus de Liguori

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