The Warning and Illumination of Conscience

by | May 12, 2023

Dear Brothers and Sisters Awaiting the Lord’s Coming,

People regularly ask me about something called the Warning or Illumination of Conscience. This refers to a stream of prophecy that we find in Catholic history and some contemporary Marian apparitions. It refers to a future time when the Lord in his great mercy will address the whole world with an exterior sign and an interior illumination about where we stand with God. It will be an invitation to profound repentance by a very special grace of God. This is spoken about by some very reliable sources and will be a wonderful thing if it happens. 

References to the Warning and Illumination of Conscience date back to the time of Edmond Campion (1540-1581) and Blessed Anna Taigi (1769-1837). St. Faustina (1905-1938) also wrote in her Diary that Jesus told her: 

“Write this: before I come as the just Judge, I am coming first as the King of Mercy. Before the day of justice arrives, there will be given to people a sign in the heavens of this sort: All light in the heavens will be extinguished, and there will be great darkness over the whole earth. Then the sign of the cross will be seen in the sky, and from the openings where the hands and the feet of the Savior were nailed will come forth great lights which will light up the earth for a period of time. This will take place shortly before the last day.” (Section 83) 

In other places in St. Faustina’s Diary, Jesus says He is calling her to prepare the world for the Second Coming. 

We also have a very specific reference to this Warning or Illumination of Conscience in the purported apparitions of Mary at Garabandal. There has been a lot of controversy about Garabandal; some strange phenomena associated with it need discernment, but among the good things about Garabandal are very clear predictions. Whether or not those predictions come true will form a large part of the Church’s discernment about its authenticity. Mary told Jacinta, not the Jacinta of Fatima but one of the children at Garabandal in the early 1960s, that a warning will first be seen everywhere in the world and then will be transmitted into the interior of our souls. It will last for very little time but will seem to last a long time because of its effects within us, which will be for the good of our souls. We will see the good that we have failed to do and the bad we have done, and then we will feel a great love toward our heavenly Father. We will ask forgiveness for all our offenses. The purpose of the warning is to draw us closer to Him and to increase our faith. One should prepare for that day but not await it fearfully. God does not send things for the sake of fear but rather, with justice and love, He does it for the good of his children so they might enjoy eternal happiness and not be lost. 

Another apparition—one I’m more familiar with, which has been extensively studied by psychologists, theologians, and Church officials—is Medjugorje. Millions of people have been positively impacted by Medjugorje, and hundreds of thousands of conversions and many vocations to the priesthood and religious life have been attributed to it. I have visited extensively with Sister Emmanuel, who helps pilgrims, interprets the message for people, and has a website, podcast, and newsletter. I have a high esteem for her holiness, truthfulness, reliability, and attention to the facts. 

The Church can’t decide definitively on these apparitions until they’re over. They are ongoing, with some of the visionaries still receiving visions annually or even daily. Recently, the Church gave all but pastoral approval to what’s happening there. The former Archbishop of Warsaw, a very solid Polish archbishop, was appointed to oversee Medjugorje’s sanctuary and to care for it as a place of pilgrimage. The Vatican also removed any restrictions on bishops and cardinals leading official diocesan pilgrimages there—so the Church now recognizes that it’s a place where God is working. 

The Medjugorje visionaries have reported receiving messages from Mary that include ten secrets that won’t be revealed until the time is close for them to be fulfilled. One of the secrets talks about a warning or a chastisement, another talks about a permanent sign appearing at Medjugorje. Garabandal’s messages say something similar about a permanent sign appearing there and at many Marian sanctuaries. These are very clear predictions. We’ll have to wait to see if they come true or not; in the meantime, let’s ask ourselves what this Illumination of Conscience, or Warning, could possibly look like, what could come from it, and how we should approach it. 

I’d like to tell you about a special day in Medjugorje, when a foretaste of this Warning and Illumination of Conscience may have happened. In her newsletter, Sister Emmanuel said that although the Church celebrates the Nativity of the Blessed Mother on September 8, Mary informed three visionaries that she would be two-thousand years old on August 5, 1984. Sr. Emmanuel wrote, 

“(Mary said), ‘On this day, the priests who carry out the Sacrament of Reconciliation will have great joy.’ During the three days leading up to her birthday, the villagers of Medjugorje prepared with fasting and continuous prayer. 

“(On the eve of Mary’s birthday,) Jelena Vasilij was holding the usual evening of prayer with her prayer group. Suddenly, in the middle of the Lord’s Prayer, she was abruptly interrupted by a strange phenomenon in her throat as if someone wanted to prevent her from continuing. It was then that she had the vision of Satan rolling on the ground with rage. Furious, he asked Jelena to tell the Blessed Mother not to bless the world the next day. Jelena, who was already well-trained in spiritual warfare against the enemy, was careful not to enter into dialogue and simply ignored his requests. Satan eventually withdrew, and Jelena resumed her prayer and peace. It was then that she had the vision of Mary more radiant than ever. She said to Jelena with a smile, ‘Satan knows why he is asking for this. He knows that tomorrow, August 5, the Most High has allowed me to bless the world with my solemn blessing, and he knows that on that day he will be bound and will not be able to act.’

“. . . According to a few witnesses whom I met, there were about seventy priests present in the village and a few thousand people, locals and pilgrims. Without saying a word, as if driven by an irresistible inner force, all lined up to go to confession. Priests, at the time, were sitting outdoors on chairs in the great meadow around the church. The people were confessing while kneeling on the ground. The priests dispensed the Sacrament of Confession without ceasing, and there were many conversions. The extraordinary thing was not only that everyone lined up to confess, but especially that . . . everyone was weeping. They were weeping over their sins, of course, but what brought them tears was to feel Jesus’s infinite love for them, tears of love and true contrition, tears of happiness to know themselves so loved and so deeply forgiven. Even the priests wept to the point where one of them said to me, ‘Our stalls were drenched in tears. We were in tears at all those people who came to confess. Grace was tangible.’ 

“An Italian friend who was present that day said to me, ‘You can’t imagine the peace that came down upon us from heaven. We could touch it. I had never experienced this before; it was like heaven on Earth.’ Some tourists who came on holiday to enjoy the beach felt moved to go to Medjugorje, and the first thing they did when they arrived was to expand the lines in front of the priests. Many of them had long since stopped receiving the sacraments. 

“One could imagine the joy of the heavenly Father to be able to offer his daughter Mary this beautiful harvest of souls as a birthday present. Mary comes to bring us closer to the heart of God and to reconcile us with Him. That day, she saw thousands of her children running toward Him and so many conversions. That evening, during her apparition at 6:40 p.m., she said to the visionaries these deeply moving words: ‘Dear children, never in my life did I cry so much from pain as I weep tonight for joy. Thank you. Keep praying and fasting, but remember, dear children, that tomorrow Satan will be out of his chains again.'”

I believe God gave this special grace to honor Mary. I think He also gave it to say that the things prophesied by true prophets and by his Mother will indeed come to pass. I don’t recommend that people develop a lot of curiosity about the timing of these events or get into the innumerable websites about them that are filled with both good and bad content. We only need to know that reliable people and possibly reliable apparitions have prophesied something like the Illumination of Conscience and a Warning that will come from God as a great mercy to souls.

How do we respond? It would be a difficult but wonderful thing. We are concerned about people who appear to be on the broad way heading to destruction, committed to lives of sin with hearts closed to God’s love. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if God gave everyone a chance to repent and be sorrowful for their sins? We shouldn’t count on it happening in our lifetime, although some who are very close to the visionaries think it is close at hand and that they will be alive when it happens. Sadly, we shouldn’t count on everyone responding to it with open hearts. 

The possibility of this happening does not in any way remove our need to get up every day and try to live in a way that glorifies God and helps others. We must continue doing all we can for the salvation of souls. We must not fall into the trap of waiting for something that may or may not happen. Even if it does occur, it may not happen in time for those who are now on the broad path heading to destruction. Therefore, we must work while the light lasts every day. We must remember what the Lord says, “If you hear his word today harden not your heart” (Ps 95:8). If we’re living in sin, if we haven’t opened our hearts up to the love of the Father, if we haven’t repented, if we haven’t gone to confession in a long time, if we have committed serious sins, we need to go to confession if we are Catholic and confess to the Lord if we are not. We can’t wait. We don’t know how much longer we will live. We don’t know how much longer others have to live. We shouldn’t hold back from taking advantage of every opportunity to offer a reason for the hope that’s in us (1 Pt 3:15). 

We know that God exists and loves us. He sent us his only Son, who has spoken clearly about what we must do to be saved. At Fatima, Mary said that many souls are going to hell because so few people are offering prayer and sacrifice for the conversion of sinners. Do not delay, because we have heard that maybe a chastisement is coming, maybe a permanent sign is coming, maybe an illumination of conscience is coming, maybe a warning is coming. Indeed, such things would be wonderful gifts of God’s mercy, but we shouldn’t count on them. In the meantime, let’s not be deluded to think that we can be casual about zealously seeking the Lord every day and doing all we can right now for the conversion of sinners. 

I’d like to end with a story from Luke 16:19-31. It’s about the poor man Lazarus at the rich man’s doorstep. Dogs are licking his wounds, but the rich man doesn’t have mercy on him. When they both die, the poor man goes to Abraham’s bosom and the rich man goes to hell, where he calls out, 

“Father Abraham, have mercy upon me send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.” Abraham responds, “In your lifetime, you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.” He answered, “Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.” 

The rich man is asking for a special mercy for his brothers so that they won’t end up in hell. But Abraham replies, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them listen to them.” The rich man responds, “If someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.” Abraham says to him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”   

Despite special graces and miracles that the Lord may do in history and in some people’s lives, people harden their hearts. When Jesus rose from the dead and appeared in glory, many didn’t believe. When Jesus performed signs and wonders during his earthly lifetime, many people saw them but didn’t open their hearts. 

In conclusion, although special graces may come, don’t depend on them. Heed now the word that’s being spoken to us. Heed now the revelation that has been given to us. Heed now Moses, the prophets, and all the books of the New Testament. Heed now the one who is truly risen from the dead and is present in these words that are being spoken, is present wherever we are. Jesus is near us right now. Don’t hesitate to respond to Him in repentance, faith, and love. Remember, Jesus is Lord and has already won the great victory! 

Your brother in Christ, 


This article is condensed from a weekly message that originally appeared on Renewal Ministries’ YouTube channel, here. The article originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ May 2023 newsletter.

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About the Author

<a href="" target="_self">Ralph Martin</a>

Ralph Martin

Ralph Martin is president of Renewal Ministries. He also hosts The Choices We Face, a widely viewed weekly Catholic television and radio program distributed throughout the world. Ralph holds a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas (Angelicum) in Rome and is a professor and the director of Graduate Theology Programs in the New Evangelization at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in the Archdiocese of Detroit. He was named by Pope Benedict XVI as a Consultor to the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization and was also appointed as a “peritus” to the Synod on the New Evangelization. Ralph is the author of a number of books, the most recent of which are A Church in Crisis: Pathways ForwardThe Fulfillment of All DesireThe Urgency of the New Evangelization, and Will Many Be Saved? He and his wife Anne have six children and nineteen grandchildren and reside in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


  1. Sigler Thomas

    If the Illumination of Conscience happens today, or at the moment of our death, its coming, and it’s personal. Either way, Dr. Martin is spot on with his wisdom and advice to prepare, repent, pray and atone.

    • Teresa

      Thank you for spreading God’s work.

      I pray more people hold the faith in God and go to him. We are all.facing end times, I pray noone is left behind.

  2. Lavey

    Ralph has commented in the right perspective. The time to repent is ‘now’ indeed.

  3. Candiace Newcomer Fontenot

    I, myself, have been one of those to experience the Illumination of Conscience. My experience started with a vision of the Holy Eucharist in the Monstrance to the Eucharist changing into Christ right before my eyes. Then Christ weep before me because he showed me all that is to happen and what we will do to him. I weep for him. The Holy Spirit then pierced my soul and my Illumination of Conscience began. Christ showed me all I had done until that moment, good and bad, and how it affected him. All through the experience, the Holy Spirit was active letting me know what will happen during the process. My experience of accepting God’s mercy happened on 7/26/2019.
    Since then the Holy Spirit gave me the words to tell the world of my experience with the Holy Trinity in this Illumination of Conscience experience and write about it on Facebook for thousands to read and know what a gift the Father has for us soon. What I received from the Holy Trinity from it was the gift of God’s eternal joy, to always have it because I know my Father in Heaven.

    • Carol A Carroll

      Amen. God is great!

  4. Reuben Ortiz

    There is one important fact that is not referenced in this document, and it is about Saint Pio.

    A priest friend of Saint Pio of his order gave to Conchita Saint Pio’s veil that was supposed to be buried with him. Saint Pio told his priestly friend to tell Conchita upon giving it to her that he saw the Great Miracle before he died. Saint Pio was a big promoter of Garabandal, telling people “Our Lady of Mt. Caramel appears there.”

    I do not know how people feel about Saint Pio, but how I feel: That priestly man is a saint in heaven!

  5. Nanette Evangelista

    I’m following the Garabandal apparitions and I believe The Warning or Illumination of Conscience is going to happen soon. Good to prepare for it by going to Confession more often, pray the Rosary daily, and live the messages.

  6. Ed Kelly

    At Garabandal, the Blessed Virgin Mary told Conchita, not Jacinta, about the Warning on January 1, 1965. (Ramon Perez, “The Village Speaks” p. 29.


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