Review: Desmond A. Birch’s Trial, Tribulation and Triumph

Review by Donal Anthony Foley of Trial, Tribulation and Triumph: Before, During and After Antichrist, by Desmond A. Birch, (Queenship Publishing Company, 1997, 712 pp, ISBN: 1882972732)

Trial, Tribulation and Triumph is a formidable book of over 700 pages which covers a wide sweep of Catholic history and theology, from the thinking of the Church Fathers, through private prophecies and revelations over the last two thousand years, and on into the future and the time of Antichrist. Thus it is an ambitious book, but that ambition is, for the most part, justified in that Desmond Birch does, for this reviewer, sustain his most important thesis, that is that the time of the Antichrist is not imminent.

This is the most important theme in the book and one which cannot be emphasized enough, particularly nowadays when there are so many alleged private revelations claiming that the end of the world is rapidly approaching. This work has a commendation by Fr Michael O’Carroll, and a foreword by Fr William Most, and so it comes with weighty support.

Trial, Tribulation and Triumph is divided into a dozen chapters, which cover three main areas. The first part of the book, following the long introduction, deals with the whole area of how Church Tradition and Scripture are interrelated. In reality, it could make a book in itself, and the author is at pains to emphasize that the Church Fathers and early writers were not only passing on written but also unwritten traditions, and that these are an important source of information for us about the time of Antichrist. He also looks at the damage that has been done by modern “higher critics” in this area, and particularly writers like Karl Rahner, before devoting a third chapter to the “signs of our times,” and how we are to interpret private revelations in the light of Church teaching.

The second part, which covers six chapters, and over two hundred pages, deals with the various prophecies and revelations arising from Catholic sources which deal with the time before Antichrist, and which seem to speak of a “chastisement” of some sort for the world, along with the coming of a “Great King,” a period of peace, and a restored “Roman Empire.”

In other words this section deals with the medium term future, and if these various prophecies are accurate and true then we may well see their fulfillment during this century and in succeeding ones. The big question of course is how accurate these prophecies are, and how much faith can be placed in them. The third part of the book, the last three chapters, deals with the time of the Antichrist proper, and makes clear that he will be a single individual who will come to power after a time of peace and prosperity when the world will have been evangelized.

As mentioned above, the first and third parts are fully in accord with Catholic teaching and give very valuable summations of what the Church generally, and many saints and well known writers, in particular, have said in these general areas. It is the middle section, which deals with the 21st century and probably beyond which gives rise to the most questions, simply because the prophetic sources we have to rely on are, for the most part, quite vague. Whereas the Church’s position on the importance of unwritten tradition and the reality of the Antichrist have a solid grounding in the Bible, theology and the writings of the Church Fathers, the prophetic writings about the near future, leading up to a period of peace, are not so precise. Since we are dealing with private rather than public revelation, there is also the question of sifting the wheat from the chaff, and deciding just which “prophecies” can be relied on.

It should be said that Desmond Birch repeatedly emphasizes this point, but it would seem that we are bombarded with so much propaganda about alleged apparitions nowadays, to the extent that is claimed that, for example, Our Lady “must” be appearing all of the world at the present time, that it is difficult for writers and even well-known Church personalities, to escape from this prevailing mentality. Cardinal Ratzinger is on record as saying: “One of the signs of our times is that announcements of ‘Marian apparitions’ are multiplying all over the world.”

But, the reality is, that most of these alleged apparitions have very little in common with approved revelations and that it is almost certainly the case that the vast majority of them are false. Some people argue that there is no smoke without fire, and that all these alleged apparitions must be genuine, but it is more probable that what we are seeing is the “smoke” of Satan trying to confuse and disorientate the faithful.

The author, quite rightly places a good deal of emphasis on Fatima, and Our Lady’s prophecy of a period of peace for the world.

There are some typos, but the general enthusiasm of the author carries the reader forward, and as in the case of any trail-blazer, there are various points that can be criticized. Overall, though, it is clear that Desmond Birch has done the Church a valuable service through researching and writing Trial, Tribulation and Triumph: Before, During and After Antichrist, and he is to commended for his efforts. This is a fascinating book and anyone who is remotely interested in the future of the Church and world will find much that is of great interest here.