October 21, 2019

Preparing Ourselves for the Coming Persecution

Christian Martyrs in the Colosseum (Courtesy: WikiArt)

My book Spiritual Dangers of the 21st Century, published in 2009, lists (in chapter 12) some of the signs of a coming persecution, giving the theological reasons why God may allow it, the traditional stages in which a persecution unfolds, and some examples of how Christians—even seven years ago—were already suffering here in the United States. Then my book On the Brink, published in 2014, went into more detail about the link between a loss of faith and a loss of political freedom and other blessings from God, and listed a number of decisions by federal judges and the Supreme Court limiting the rights of religious believers, along with numerous anti-Christian policies and actions by the Obama administration. Finally, my latest book, Preparing for the Coming Persecution, which came out just a few months ago, lists additional examples of a growing hostility toward Christianity on the part of government, the media, and society as a whole, along with more examples of individual Christians experiencing persecution because they take their religious faith seriously. I believe these three books, taken together, thoroughly document a growing trend of increasingly blatant hostility toward followers of Jesus. (I hadn’t planned that one book would, in a coherent or orderly fashion, automatically prepare for and lead into the next, but it worked out that way; I hope that’s a sign the Holy Spirit was guiding me in my research and writing, and that these books are meant to help many people open their eyes and prepare for what’s coming.)

This trend toward an outright persecution of Christians is not only continuing, but accelerating. I’m going to list some actual examples that have occurred or come to light just since the writing of my last book early this year:

  • Dr. Eric Walsh, a public health expert in Georgia who also happens to be a Seventh Day Adventist lay minister, was fired by the Georgia Department of Public Health because of sermons he delivered in church upholding biblical teaching on marriage, sexual morality, and other subjects.
  • A woman in California went to court seeking an injunction against a hospital denying further treatment to her elderly aunt because of her dementia. Not only did the judge refuse to grant the niece’s injunction, but he also slandered her Catholic faith (which was her motivation for trying to save her aunt’s life).
  • In 2014 the California Department of Managed Health Care reclassified abortion as “basic health care” under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), and required all insurance plans in the state to cover surgical abortions—including the insurance plans of churches. Some of the churches filed suit, claiming this violated the Weldon Amendment, which for ten years has protected the rights of religious believers to have insurance plans that do not include abortion coverage. The Obama administration—through the Health & Human Service Office of Civil Rights—conducted a cursory investigation, and in a blatant conflict of interest and disregard for the law, declared that the California policy is somehow not a violation of the Weldon Amendment, and that the religious lawsuit is without merit.
  • In Colorado Springs, a Christian center has for three years paid for an ad on city bus stop benches that reads “Jesus in Lord.” In response to a single complaint from one resident, the city decided it would no longer allow this advertisement because the name “Jesus” invites hate messaging.
  • The Iowa Civil Rights Commission, based on state laws protecting “transgender rights,” has claimed the authority to monitor and control the content of church services “open to the public,” and to prevent churches from barring the use of their restrooms, shower facilities, and changing rooms to persons asserting a different gender than that of their biological sex.
  • In Washington State, Christian pharmacists who consider the use of contraceptives immoral are prevented by law from referring customers to other pharmacists or by making other arrangements; they must personally serve such customers, even though doing so violates their religious beliefs.
  • In Mississippi a federal judge ordered all county clerks to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, without trying to excuse themselves for religious reasons—forcing them to violate their faith in order to hold public office
  • A married couple owning a bakery in Texas, David and Edie Delmore, politely refused to provide a wedding cake for a gay marriage celebration, and referred the homosexual couple to other bakeries. As a result, their home was vandalized, and their son was threatened with assault by someone using a broken beer bottle.
  • The owner of a pizzeria in Indiana was interviewed by a local TV station on the issue of religious liberty. She stated that while her restaurant serves gays, she wouldn’t cater a gay wedding if asked to do so. As a result, she received numerous death threats, and was forced to close her business.
  • A youth program in Louisiana, which for 25 years has been helping at-risk young people, lost its federal funding because its graduation ceremony mentions God.
  • Joe Kennedy, a high school football coach in Washington State, was forbidden to simply take a knee in silent prayer during voluntary, student-led prayers before games—a practice he had been following for seven years. When he respectfully requested a religious accommodation, he was suspended by the school district.
  • In Texas, a boy’s track team defeated its closest rival by seven yards, which would have allowed it to compete for the state championship. However, when the team’s anchor runner crossed the finish line, he silently pointed to the sky as a way of giving glory to God. Someone objected, and in response, the authorities ruled the team was disqualified.
  • A high school wrestler in North Carolina knelt for a brief two-second prayer before a wrestling match, causing the referee to penalize him a point for doing so.
  • A small school district in Ohio was sued by the ACLU and the Freedom From Religion Foundation because one of the 24 portraits of famous historical figures displayed in a certain school since 1947 happened to be Jesus Christ. The school was not only forced to remove the portrait of Christ, but also to pay almost $100,000 in attorneys’ fees and damages.
  • A senior at a high school in Wisconsin received a zero on his art project, simply because his drawing of a landscape included a cross and the words “John 3:16—A Sign of Love.”
  • A high school in Rhode Island was forced by the ACLU to remove a prayer banner from the auditorium, even though there had been no complaints in 38 years.
  • The U.S. Air Force Academy removed the phrase “so help me God” from the Cadet Oath, the Officer Oath, and the Enlisted Oath in the Academy Cadet Handbook.
  • Also at the Air Force Academy, leadership cadets who wrote Bible verses on their own personal dormitory memo boards were disciplined for doing so.
  • On Thanksgiving Day, 2014, Army Ranger Chaplain Joseph Lawhorn was punished after giving a talk aimed at preventing military suicides (a widespread problem), simply because his presentation was too Christian.
  • A highly decorated Navy chaplain, Wes Modder, was relieved of duty and threatened with a dishonorable discharge for using biblical sexual morality when counseling sailors.
  • Philip Monk, an Air Force combat veteran, was relieved of duty and threatened with a court-martial because he declined his lesbian commander’s order to affirm same-sex marriage.
  • Bibles were temporarily banned from being given to wounded soldiers at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C. (though a public outcry led to the ban being overturned—at least for the time being).
  • The Reverend Franklin Graham was banned from speaking at the National Day of Prayer at the Pentagon, due to his outspoken defense of biblical morality.
  • Some U.S. Army trainers warned soldiers not to associate with dangerous groups and potential terrorists such as Evangelical Christians.

Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore chairs the U.S. Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty. Referring to these and many other similar instances, he has stated that we are witnessing a “bloodless” persecution involving “policies that seek to manage and put limits on religion.” This echoes similar warnings by various Catholic bishops and other religious leaders over the past few years (warnings too numerous to mention here).

All three of my books list many examples of the rise of the surveillance state, the misuse of technology, and the potential to manipulate and control human behavior, virtually eliminating all personal privacy and freedom. I won’t attempt to repeat or summarize these many examples, but I do want to share some additional information that’s come to light since my book on persecution was published earlier this year.

  • The use of biometrics is developing rapidly, not just in the United States, but throughout the world. Fingerprints, or face or voice recognition, is becoming a supposedly secure and convenient way to conduct financial transactions. MasterCard, for instance, plans to introduce biometric payments here in North America sometime this year. This may be harmless in and of itself—but whenever a new technology is adopted, governments and especially organized crime are quick to seek ways of exploiting it.
  • There are now over 250 million surveillance cameras throughout the world, and with the right computer software, these can be used to identify passers-by almost instantaneously—either for surveillance, or for advertising. Microsoft has patented a technology that allows a billboard to determine who you are, and immediately show you personalized advertisements. Various retail stores use similar technology to track loyal customers. Some high schools use facial recognition technology to take attendance. More ominously, government security agencies can now more easily identify previously-anonymous dissenters and political opponents at rallies and protest marches. As one expert noted, “we leave our ‘faceprints’ everywhere we go, which means our movements can be tracked and stored on an unprecedented scale.”
  • The Department of Homeland Security has funded a pilot program developed at Purdue University called VACCINE—the Visual Analytics for Command, Control, and Interoperability Environments. It’s intended to be used by police and security agencies to process biometric images taken without our permission or knowledge, and compare these to police crime databases, along with social media and government databases.
  • Facebook has successfully experimented with trying to manipulate users’ emotions, discovering it could make people feel more positive or negative through what it calls a process of “emotional contagion”—that is, deliberately filtering the type of information and photos its users saw. (Facebook also recently admitted to slanting its news coverage in a more liberal direction by censoring certain stories and information provided by conservative sources.)
  • Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced that the Department of Justice will be working in several American cities to form the Strong Cities Network (SCN), a global law enforcement initiative that could very easily end up replacing American laws—including the U.S. Constitution—with laws from the United Nations (all without any consultation with Congress). This would also involve the use of a global (i.e., foreign) police force in American cities.

These are just some additional examples of how the noose is tightening—for the most part, with little public awareness or opposition. If and when the federal government decides to implement a more widespread or direct persecution of Christians, political conservatives, and other politically incorrect groups, it will have many different tools available.

I serve as spiritual director for several alleged visionaries, one of whom I refer to as Elaine and whom I quote extensively in my last two books. She has allegedly received many messages from Jesus and Mary about the state of our world and our nation today, and I wish to share some of them with you. (These were all received since the publication of my latest book, so they haven’t been made public until now.)

The first of these is a warning for the United States from Our Lady regarding coming chastisements; our Heavenly Mother states, “America will be punished for her crimes against humanity, and soon. [However,] God will not permit the globalists [the one- world movement] their coveted world domination through the use of America; they have diminished her enough. America, [just] as the Church, has diminished, grown smaller in this world. America, and also the Church worldwide, will diminish in numbers and in power, but will be purified. Pray for the purification of both Church and state. Continue to pray earnestly for the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (2-22-2016).”

Our Lord and Our Lady speak a great deal about the devil’s war against humanity. Elaine allegedly received a message from Jesus which states that Satan “delights in the corruption of the innocent. He seeks to corrupt as many souls as he can as quickly as he can. . . . [However,] even once his most evil system is in place, God is sovereign, and God Himself will protect whom He wills from corruption.” Jesus then speaks specifically of the so-called Mark of the Beast, an implanted computer chip, which will be fully effective only if willingly received by the person. Our Lord says, “If it is received innocently—as by a baby—it will not take full effect. God is sovereign. He created free will, and He will give every man a choice of whether to serve Him or reject Him. Do not be foolish; do not accept the Mark of the Beast. Willingly accept it, and your will belongs to Satan” (11-29-2015). The Blessed Mother also offers a warning against the Mark of the Beast, saying, “The lord of the world knows his allotted time grows short. . . . He is well aware that the only way many men will embrace him as he is, is to hide his true appearance. That is why he developed the [computer] chip, to deceive a man’s mind into thinking of ugliness and sin as ‘a good.’ Satan sees clearly how the human mind works. However, there are aspects to a man’s mind that the enemy knows nothing about, such as man’s heroic capacity, and his capacity for love. There is a God-shaped hole both in the heart of man and in his mind. The enemy knows nothing of the love of God; he is willfully blind to it. For those people who are micro-chipped against their will, this God-shaped hole will still be fully functional, and will be their saving grace. For those who willingly accept the chip, when they do so, they close this hole and shut themselves off to the love of God. God loves man and gives him free will, a choice. Satan hates man and seeks to enslave him. It is really that simple” (1-22-2016).

Jesus spoke at length to Elaine about the devil’s plans, allegedly saying, “Satan knows that his time is short. He has many corrupt people placed in many positions of power worldwide. He is trying to get these warring factions to agree with one another, so that he may, ultimately, consolidate all worldly power into a one-world government. Know this: his is a kingdom divided against itself, and it always will be. His greatest enemy is you, My remnant Church on earth, the Mystical Body of Christ. When the hour of your greatest persecution comes, recall that Satan’s is a kingdom divided against itself, for you will be enabled to use that to your advantage at times. Satan is all about ‘personal power’ and ‘control.’ Souls can only be either saved or corrupted one at a time. By implementing the Mark of the Beast, he seeks to get around this inconvenient truth; however, dear children, truth is truth. He may still only corrupt one soul at a time. A soul must willingly accept the Mark of the Beast in order for it to have its full effect. Any person given this mark without their personal consent may still be saved by Me—or by you, through Me. The Holy Spirit still blows where He will, especially in times of chaos and upheaval. The time of upheaval will also be a powerful time of renewal for My holy Bride, the Church” (2-19-2016).

Thus, Our Lord reminds us that even though we are engaged in a vast spiritual war, God still remains in control. A similar reminder was given to Elaine by Our Lady, who states, “God the Father is a God of Justice. Right now, dear children, you are being shown His Face of Mercy. Next, you will see His Face of Justice. As you will be shown during the Warning, for the men who continue to do evil, this is bad news, while for the good, it is Good News—for behold! Your redemption is at hand!” Mary also states, “Evil spreads its tentacles throughout the world. . . . I am Our Lady of Sorrows. I weep over the state of your nation and of the world. Dearest children, I beg of you: pray, pray, pray! Make sacrifices on behalf of sinners. . . . Prepare spiritually, dearest children, for evil envelopes the world. Through prayer, the hand of God the Father Himself will snatch you to safety, even should evil surround you. Through prayer, He may lift you, little sheep, right to His bosom, where you may listen contentedly to the beating of His Sacred Heart” (4-27-2016).

This sort of reassurance is most welcome, for faithful Catholics will be increasingly targeted. Our Lord and Our Lady have much to say about the war being waged against the Church. In regard to anti-Catholic propaganda, for instance, Jesus states, “There is little media coverage of truly important stories within the Church. . . . The media works hard to present two opposing views of Pope Francis simultaneously—one to upset so- called ‘conservative’ Catholics, and one to upset ‘liberal’ Catholics. The truth, as usual, lies between the two extremes. In the meanwhile, they use this current Pope’s papacy as a means to destabilize the Church. Their aim is to destroy her from within” (12-13- 2015). Elaine has allegedly received many messages and visions showing that Pope Francis is truly a faithful servant of Our Lord and Our Lady, but that he is surrounded by enemies even within the Vatican, and thus in great need of our constant prayers.

An important part of Satan’s war against the Church is directly specifically at priests; Mary warns that priests “are under very fierce attack by the enemy today, [for] one priest truly living out his vocation is a threat to the enemy. . . . One such faithful priest son has the divine power from God to lead many sinners’ hearts to conversion. . . .” Because “Satan knows his time is short . . . he sends his minions to work extra hard to deceiving that priest’s soul. If that fails, Satan himself will attack the priest. If he cannot get to the man himself, he will get to the things or circumstances or situations in this man’s life which touch the priest, while being forbidden [by God] from touching the priest himself” (11-28-2015).

Our Lady also told Elaine, “Satan sees the eternal sacrifice taking place at every Mass, and it inflames his hatred for my Son and for all of you, my children. Satan wants to wipe the priesthood off the face of the earth. In the days to come, Satan will offer an alternative to the priesthood that will be very tempting for men to sign onto. It will very much resemble the true priesthood; however, I tell you the true priesthood will be hunted, and therefore forced to go underground. In the meantime, a false class of priests will arise, who will not be hunted down. The most noticeable difference will be this: they will be, officially, sexually permissive. At the time this occurs, the split within my Son’s Church will have become official. There will be calls for death for those who disagree with the new, permissive, seemingly ‘tolerant’ church. In actuality, it will be run by the same intolerant, authoritarian people in charge of world government. . . . Take courage, faithful remnant! Jesus would never forsake His bride. The schism will help to purify His bride, so she may be presented to Him spotless” (1-30-2016).

Further speaking on the topic of persecution, Our Lady told Elaine, “The Passion of the Church has already begun. . . . The Church on earth is already being persecuted. In some countries, such as China, the persecution is outright. In your own country, the persecution comes in more subtle forms, such as the imposition of fines or taxes. As the one-world government people increasingly occupy seats of power, look for this persecution to increase and, in time, to become outright. Take heart, dear Church, however; do not forget that the world hated my Son before it hated you! Take courage! Your Redeemer is near.”

Jesus Himself reassures us, saying, “Know this, O My people: The gates of hell will never prevail against My holy Church! She is under the Holy Spirit’s protection and guidance. I will preserve her and keep her pure and safe from corruption. I will use you, My faithful remnant, to purify My bride. . . . Oh, My faithful remnant! I place you together in little patches throughout the world, where you may accompany one another and, through your prayers, fasting, and sacrifice, you help to purify the waters in which you stand. . . . Have faith and trust in Me, dear children, for things are not always as they seem. Please try to remember this: when all seems lost, look to My Cross, for victory is right at hand, if you wait for that one extra minute” (12-13-2015). In other words, as Scripture promises, the one who holds out until the end will be saved (Mt. 24:13).

The final message to Elaine that I’ll share with you is one she allegedly received from Our Lady this past spring on Good Friday. Speaking of our spiritual war with the devil, Mary said, “he seeks to dominate, oppress, and eventually enslave all of mankind. Those who do the Will of the Heavenly Father will be protected. You are the arrows that He holds close to Him, in His quiver. Know this, dear arrows, held close to His Heart: should He choose to use you, He is an expert marksman; you will hit your mark, and devastate the enemy. Know that, for some of you, martyrdom will be the result, as it was for my Son. Do not be afraid, dearest children, for He will be with you every step of your pilgrim journey” (3-25-2016).

Thus, each of us personally has an important role to play in the unfolding of God’s plan as we approach the end of this age—an age soon to be marked by chastisements and persecution, but which will lead into a promised era of peace: one in which the Church will be more glorious than ever, and in which humanity will experience a golden age of harmony and prosperity. If we’re not already doing so, now is the moment to pray for wisdom and guidance, to read the signs of the times, and to prepare ourselves spiritually.

More than ever before in our lifetimes, it’s essential that we be firmly rooted in faith. Certainly there’s nothing wrong with making prudent material and financial preparations, especially if we’re led to do so as a result of prayer and discernment; however, our trust must ultimately be in God, for He alone can help us remain firm in a coming time of turmoil, confusion, and persecution. Spiritual preparations must always come first, and then material ones; moreover, Our Lord has promised to provide for His people, even to the point of multiplying food and other supplies, and confusing the electronic tracking devices of the one-world authorities, as long as we live in a spirit of obedience, generosity, and trust.

Assuming we do have a solid spiritual foundation, and are seriously living our religion, there are some practical things we should be doing as we prepare for the coming persecution.

First of all, we must use our religious freedom while we still can, and avoid taking it for granted or assuming everything will remain more or less the way it is now. Even apart from private revelations on the subject, there are numerous signs in government and society that a persecution is probably coming. Now is our final opportunity to resist this trend as fervent Catholics and concerned citizens. Our bishops, in their document “Our Most Cherished Liberty,” have stated, “There is an urgent need for the lay faithful, in cooperation with Christians, Jews, and others, to impress upon our elected representatives the importance of continued protection of religious liberty in a free society.”

Therefore, we should join organizations such as the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, Focus on the Family, and the American Family Association; write letters to the editor when our Catholic Faith or our Christian values are attacked, and let elected officials know where we stand on issues involving religious freedom and moral values. Above all, vote—in every election—only for candidates who not only say the right things, but who have a track record of defending human life and religious liberty. We do not have to apologize for letting our Catholic Faith guide and inform our political and social values, and we must vigorously oppose any efforts to turn us into second-class citizens. It’s time we started pushing back, in a peaceful and loving but unyielding way; there’s nothing wrong with Catholics adopting an “in your face” attitude toward society—as long as we show the face of Jesus while doing it.

Secondly, we must find others who believe as we do and begin meeting together and talking and sharing and brainstorming. Become well-informed on these issues. Has one of you read a good book or magazine article on these subjects? Mention it or share it with others in your circle of friends and acquaintances. Can someone in your group personally vouch for a political candidate as being a person of true patriotism and integrity? Consider using that input as you decide how you’ll vote. Do you know someone who’s very good at using the various information and communication technologies? Seek his or her help in organizing e-mail alerts and on-line petitions. The more you know about coming threats, the better prepared you’ll be to resist them; the more you know other people who feel strongly on these issues like you, the easier it will be to overcome temptations to hopelessness and discouragement.

Thirdly, we must strengthen our relationship with Christ, learning to trust in Him ever more deeply, for a solid spiritual foundation is necessary in order to withstand the troubles of life in general, and the unique challenges in our era of history in particular. Our Lord’s parable of the house built on a rock foundation (Mt. 7:24-27) is timely and important in this regard. Too many Christians today—Catholics most definitely included—have built their lives on sand by giving a higher priority to this world than to the Kingdom of God, and so if the threatening storms do arrive, their so-called faith will come crashing down. We must be sure we’re putting Jesus first; we must be closely united to the One Who promises that He has conquered the world (Jn. 16:33), seeking His guidance in all things and learning to trust in His care for us. This also involves keeping a proper perspective; as one Christian leader pointed out, “The reason Christians are being persecuted is because we are winning, not because we are losing.” Satan knows his time is short, and that the victory promised through the Immaculate Heart of Mary draws near; therefore, we should see the frightening roars of his servants for what they are: the death rattles of a doomed and defeated kingdom of evil.

Fourthly, if we’ve not already done so, we should very soon make whatever material or physical preparations we feel the Lord is calling us to do. Perhaps that may mean slowly weaning ourselves away from an over-reliance on technology; certainly it means being cautious in our use of electronic devices, including being careful what we watch on TV, being careful what we discuss near a TV (for some newer models contain cameras and microphones), and assuming our telephone conversations and computer communications are being monitored and recorded. We should also pray about storing food and water, acquiring useful barter items in case of an emergency or economic collapse, and purchasing any religious articles or books we may need while they’re still available. These preparations, however, must be undertaken in a spirit not of fear and selfishness, but one of generosity and trust. Through various alleged messengers, Jesus has promised that when it comes to food, water, and other needed supplies, He will, if necessary, multiply what we have—but only if we generously share with others in need.

Fifthly, we must pray and sacrifice as if our future and the future of our country depend on it—for they do. Our active participation at Mass, our attendance at Eucharistic Adoration, our Rosaries and Divine Mercy chaplets, our freely-chosen prayers offered in reparation for the sins of the world, and our fasting and other acts of penance, can unleash great spiritual power—not only benefiting ourselves and our loved ones, but also resulting in the conversion of many sinners and the delaying, lessening, or even averting of many predicted chastisements. Prayer is extremely powerful—especially the two greatest prayers of all: the Mass and the Rosary. You can offer all your own daily prayers in reparation for our nation’s sins, along with your regular intentions.

As Our Lady told us at Fatima, we need to pray for the souls in purgatory, the conversion of sinners, and for peace in the world—and today it’s more evident than before that we must also pray for the Holy Father and all leaders of the Church, for the moral and spiritual renewal of our country, and for the restraining of all who seek to implement an evil agenda and harm the people of God. Prayer may delay, mitigate, or even prevent a coming religious persecution—and at the very least, it will help us and many others to be spiritually ready if-and when- it arrives. According to recent prophecies, some followers of Jesus will experience hardship, imprisonment, or even martyrdom; many others will be led to places of refuge, and all who place their trust in the Lord will have their names written in the Book of Life.

No matter what may happen in the near future, we are called to place all our trust in Jesus and to turn to Him in all our needs. He is the Lord of history; nothing can occur without His knowledge and approval—and you and I will soon have the chance to demonstrate our love for Him, and experience His tender care for each one of us.

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Fr Joseph Esper

REVEREND JOSEPH M. ESPER is a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit and pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Anchorville, Michigan. He received his Master of Divinity degree from St. John's Provincial Seminary in Plymouth, Michigan. Through the years, Father Joe has lectured at Marian conferences, appeared on EWTN, spoken on Catholic radio, and written more than a dozen articles for This Rock, The Priest, Homiletic and Pastoral Review, and other publications. He is also the author of numerous books, including Saintly Solutions, More Saintly Solutions, After the Darkness, Lessons from the Lives of the Saints, and Why Is God Punishing Me? In addition to Amazon, many of his most recent books are available through Queenship Publishing.

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