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174. The Types of Prophecy

1. Prophecy is divided into prophecy offoreknowledge which tells what is certainly to come, andprophecy of denunciation which tells what will comeif the present situation does not change. The first typeis prophecy of information; the second type is prophecy of warning.When the prophet Jonas told the people of sinful Ninive that inthree days their city would be destroyed, he uttered a prophecy ofdenunciation. He did not tell the people that their being destroyedor being spared would depend on how they received and acted uponwhat he prophesied; indeed, he did not know that escape fromdisaster was possible for them. Yet his prophecy was actually, asit turned out, conditioned upon the way the Ninivites behaved; theyand their king fasted, and did penance, and called on God; inconsequence, they were spared, and the dire prophecy of destructionwas not fulfilled. Now, the point to remember is this: Jonas made atrue prophecy. The causes that would destroy Ninive werein action and were to produce their effect unless Godshould intervene to stop them. When Jonas told the people thatdestruction was coming, it was coming. Jonas was givenforeknowledge of destruction to come in a certain situation, butnot foreknowledge of what was to come if the situation shouldchange; and the situation did change. Therefore, in distinguishingthese two types of prophecy (that is, of full knowledge, and ofdenunciation) we may say: prophecy of full foreknowledgemust be fulfilled; prophecy of denunciation must befulfilled if the conditions in which it is uttered remainthe same. And the prophet may or may not know which type ofprophecy he is uttering.

2. The most excellent of prophecies comes from theinspiration of the Holy Ghost without sensible signs, words,dreams, or visions of material things.

3. Prophecy may be typed or classified according to thefact that it is imparted by pure inspiration or by materialindications. And the indications themselves are various, and can beused for further classification. And so we can speak of propheticknowledge imparted to the prophet when he is awake, when he isasleep, by signs of truth, by words of truth, by the word of anangel, by the word of our Lord in apparition, and so on.

4. Of all the prophets Moses was the greatest. Scripturetells us that the Lord spoke to Moses "face to face," andthe prophecies ofMoses were authenticated by very greatmiracles. In Deuteronomy (34:10, 11) we read: "There arose nomore in Israel a prophet like unto Moses." Of course, when wecall Moses the greatest of prophets, we are speaking of merelyhuman prophets, divinely enlightened to speak prophecies; we do notinclude our Lord (who made the most wonderful of all propheciesconcerning man's redemption, and the Resurrection, and the HolyEucharist, and the Church), for our Lord is God himself as well asman, and he has no need of enlightenment about the future, for asGod he knows it perfectly.

5. Prophecy has no place among the blessed in heaven. Theywho dwell in light itself have no need of enlightenment. Prophecyis a gratuitous grace imparted by God to help, guide, and warn manthe wayfarer, that is, man living here on earth. Prophecy is meantto help get man safe home to heaven; those who are at home need nohelp and guide to get there.

6. Prophecies and prophets are not more and more excellentas time goes on, so that the predictions are better or greater asthey near fulfillment. Moses was the greatest of the prophets, buthe preceded most of the others. Indeed, it seems that the mostessential and therefore the most excellent of doctrinalprophecies came earliest.

"A man should keep himself down, and not busy himself in mirabilibus super se."
St Philip Neri

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"A person who rails at God in adversity, suffers without merit; moreover by his lack of resignation he adds to his punishment in the next life and experiences greater disquietude of mind in this life."
St Alphonsus de Liguori

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"Every man naturally desires knowledge; but what good is knowledge without fear of God? Indeed a humble rustic who serves God is better than a proud intellectual who neglects his soul to study the course of the stars."
Thomas á Kempis

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