Of prophecy & prognostication

One is often told “you cannot live in the past,” or, by way of self-contradiction, that one is doing so. I would if I could, though of course I should like to choose which past to live in. Meanwhile, what is one to say for those who aspire to live in the future? Can they do it? Should they wish even to try? (Consider: only the dead are “ahead of their time.”) For my part I am convinced that if I wait patiently, the future will come of its own accord. Too, I doubt my capacity to hurry it.

Some days time seems to move faster than others — I frankly prefer the slow time days — but I notice that events remain tightly coordinated, and the tune is the same regardless of the tempo. Many are the tasks I could perform more smoothly if I could will slow-motion. I often thought this as a cricket batsman. But if the opposing bowler could will it, too, I’d be done for a duck just the same.

Those who cannot live in the future would nevertheless like to see the movie. I understand the attraction — how curiosity killed the cat — but not what good it will do me. If I knew the day and hour of anything unscheduled, it would follow that I could not change it. I would find myself watching in mute horror. Only my powerlessness could be enhanced. Alternatively, I would have been shown only a hypothetical future, extending from present trends, in which case, what was the point?

Bad behaviour leads to bad ends, shall we say, and good to good. In which case I don’t need to know the end, only the means.

The children at Fatima, a century ago, were not told by Our Lady what would happen in the future. Or if they were, they were much too young to understand. A great deal was happening in the world of 1917, one did not require heavenly visitation to see that it was fateful. From what I’ve read, one would not even have required a newspaper subscription, to know that the West was turning from God. Not being the Mother of God, ourselves, we are poorly placed to understand Why she would come, to that then, to that there, to those particular children. We cannot “understand” the apparitions as we might try to understand the plot of a novel, or the narrative sequence in news reports.

Instead the children, and by extension all the children of the Church, were told to pray, urgently. We were told to abandon our sins, make restitution, and look in Hope, liturgically, to the East (from where Mary came, and to where she returned, literally, in the memoirs). We were told, in effect, that the Kingdom was at hand, yet from the philosophical perspective, it is always so. We were told not what will happen, but what to do, and that immediately.

Prophecy must necessarily involve a breach in time, it seems to me. This, because our world in time comes in contact with a world beyond it. In this sense the daily Mass is invincibly prophetic. But it is not prognostic.

One does not go to the altar as to the weather report; or as the pagans did to a marble slab, to examine the entrails of birds. The childish human tendency, to ignore what we are told and ask instead what will happen, is exhibited in so much well-meaning reverence towards this anniversary of the Fatima apparitions.

With respect to God, and to all divine manifestation, I think we should grow up a bit — stop asking “Why?” and, “What is going to happen?” — and instead more simply do as we are told.