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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.

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

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"The more you know and the better you understand, the more severely will you be judged, unless your life is also the more holy. Do not be proud, therefore, because of your learning or skill. Rather, fear because of the talent given you."
Thomas á Kempis

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"God commands not impossibilities, but by commanding he suggests to you to do what you can, to ask for what is beyond your strength; and he helps you, that you may be able."
St Augustine

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