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The prophetic pulse:


It was a couple months ago that a famous alleged seer, Ivan Dragicević, said the Church would encounter a "great ordeal." We reported it at the time. Is the resignation of Benedict XVI, followed immediately by explosive new swirls of scandal, what he was alluding to?

Perhaps the beginning of it. Perhaps not. But perhaps: time to pay more heed to our prophets. The Church used to be based on such.

When people see lightning hit St. Peter's Basilica just hours after the resignation (twice, in a fashion even meteorologists said was strange) and still think nothing of it, one must wonder if they perceive anything as supernatural.

How secular we have become! It's a root of an ordeal indeed.

There is Fatima. "And we saw in an immense light that is God: 'something similar to how people appear in a mirror when they pass in front of it' a Bishop dressed in White 'we had the impression that it was the Holy Father," wrote Sister Lucia dos Santos. "Other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious going up a steep mountain, at the top of which there was a big Cross of rough-hewn trunks as of a cork-tree with the bark; before reaching there the Holy Father passed through a big city half in ruins and half trembling with halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met on his way."

On Sunday the Pope said the Lord was "calling me to 'scale the mountain,' to dedicate myself still more to prayer and to meditation." That should be lauded. It is certainly humble.

There is that Malachy prophecy.

Is it for real?

Can anything further be taken from it?

The next Pope, says this prophecy, "will pasture his sheep in many tribulations, and when these things are finished, the city of seven hills will be destroyed." It is given attention because as so many even in the secular world now know, the prophecy was composed of 112 phrases allegedly describing future popes and (allegedly) penned by an Irish monk who lived in the twelfth century.

That of course is Saint Malachy O'Morgair, archbishop of Armagh, and the snippets attributed to him seemed to foresee the current Pope as the "glory of the olives" -- the 111th Pope; next to last (at least for this age).

Many link that to Benedict XVI because the Benedictines have an order, the Olivetans, that uses an olive branch as its crest (although it should also be noted that the Olivetans were not part of the Benedictines until 1960 and that an olive branch is not part of the general Benedictine order's crest, nor included in Benedict's coat of arms).

Perhaps more pertinent: on April 5, 1993, the future Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, had been installed, in a titular way, as "cardinal bishop" of the diocese of Velletri-Segni in Italy.

Velletri's coat of arms is emblazoned with three olive trees.

Is there more?

A blogger recently noted that while everyone looks to the Olivetan link, one might also view it another way: Benedict as having now entered a figurative "Garden of Gethsemane": a place of suffering as he awaits a "final passion" of Christ's Church.

Gethsemane, of course, is on the Mount of Olives (and is known for its ancient olive trees).

Thus, if one makes this leap, one might say as does the blogger (Dr. Taylor Marshall) that Benedict's papacy "is the glory of the olive because he was placed in the Agony of the Garden for the Church.

"All have fallen asleep. He is betrayed by his closest friends and counselors. He is all alone.

"He is staring into the chalice of God's wrath and he is asking that it be taken from him! Pope Benedict is alone and he may know that we are about to enter into the Passion of the Catholic Church. The abdication may confirm that Pope Benedict is the Glory of the Olive. He is asking God to 'remove this chalice from me.'" 

This may be a bit of a stretch (even in the realm of prophetic metaphor), and there are apparently a number of the prophetic "Malachy" snippets that can't be linked to an actual Pope [see below]; but let's take it a step further: According to what is attributed to Malachy, the last Pope was cryptically described as Petrus Romanus, or "Peter the Roman."

Many believe he is the 112th pontiff.

Thus, as the Church approaches an historic conclave, there is anticipation that in some way the next Pontiff will have the name "Peter" or some form of link to that name and to Rome or Italy.

But what if -- instead of the name -- it is likewise a metaphor.

What if -- like the idea of the Pope in the Garden of Gethsemane -- the description relates not so much to a pontiff's name as it does to a description of what the final pontiff will stand for?

Could "Peter the Roman" be the symbol for a pontificate that would return the Church to its original roots: one that would be full circle back to the first Pope -- Peter the Apostle, the Rock of Catholicism, and the way the Church originally functioned? Peter was killed, of course, in Rome (Romanus).

"In the final persecution of the Holy Roman Church, there will sit Peter the Roman, who will pasture his sheep in many tribulations, and when these things are finished, the city of seven hills will be destroyed, and the dreadful judge will judge his people," it supposedly says in full. "The End."

True, the alleged prophecy has a blank space between the 111th and 112th popes, indicating to some that the next Pope might not yet be "Petrus Romanus." And the legitimacy of the prophecy itself is hotly debated and very much in question (there is no original documentation for it; it surfaced centuries after Malachy's death).

We have no idea whether it bears legitimacy.

We do know that theories and prophecies presupposing that the next Pope will be evil -- a false prophet or even anti-christ -- are extremely dangerous "prophecies."

Such presupposition can be from the devil. Can it happen? Yes. But to presume such?

At the same time, we are in a tumultuous period for the Church and also the world and the next Pope or a pope coming soon thereafter may indeed have to nourish a flock in the midst of tribulation. "When the prophetic secrets of the Blessed Mother are revealed in Medjugorje, the Catholic Church will find itself in a great ordeal, as much for the world as for the faithful, and a little of this suffering has already started," said the visionary mentioned at the beginning of this commentary.

We are not there yet.

In this period, it is important not to fall into the trap of judging Church officials. As mystic Maria Esperanza pointed out, the Church is perfect; the humans running it, perhaps not. Give them a break. They are just that: human.

But as for the "Peter the Roman" forecast, it affords us an opportunity, if nothing else, to reflect back on how the first "popes" and "bishops" (disciples, elders) practiced Christianity.

Traveling the countryside, they wore simple attire, praying with ordinary sinners, invoking the Holy Spirit, casting out demons, healing, and indicating the wonders of Jesus through their own exercise of miracles.

To see how the Church operates best, we need only reread the Acts of the Apostles.

Ours is a miraculous Church; we have strayed from that.

It's not all about traveling the countryside. There is the need for a system of governance. A monarchical episcopate was in place by the end of the first century A.D. (in response to the threat of Gnosticism and other heresies). Moreover, there was adherence to Jewish custom. Customs and traditions are important.

But the main energy behind Christianity was Christ; it was the Holy Spirit. We have strayed. We have become too immersed in a worldly kind of bureaucracy and governance -- one that has caused disorientation, as well as corruption.

Bishops have become administrators more than shepherds, more likely to be seen at a dinner with the mayor than on the streets with homeless.

That's not a criticism (we don't believe in critiquing priests, and certainly not bishops or higher) but rather an observation on the way the Church has evolved. It is a great institution (oldest on earth; the gates of hell will never destroy it) but a top-heavy one. It is a Church that has far more canon lawyers than exorcists. Unlike the original Church, it is based on the hierarchy, not the congregants. An organization is certainly necessary (and it is important, through Vatican pontificates, to have a say in the "world"), but it is a Church choked by the extremes of institutionalization (for example, it has its own bank and financial services, which have wreaked havoc). Indeed, it has reached the point whereby its top position, like that of a corporation, was subject to resignation.

As the apostles traveled afar, so must the Church now reach beyond Europe (and especially beyond Italy).

The various ministries needed to carry on and order the community are given directly by the Spirit. Paul lists these in his Epistle to the Corinthians: "God has given first place to apostles, the second to prophets, the third to teachers; after them, miracles, and after them, the gift of healing; helpers, good leaders, those with many languages." Surprise here? Saint Paul put "prophets" before theologians.

Religion is not our salvation; salvation is our religion. A worldly approach to religion leads to worldliness. The legalism of truth obscures truth itself. The capitalization of Man next to God is the great sin of generations.

And so now we move toward a new Pope -- one that in our view must be vibrant, must be mystical, must purge the Church of homosexuality (a most pressing crisis, for homosexuality persecutes the Church), must be overtly devout, very prayerful, must dismantle unnecessary aspects of the institution, and must send forth his bishops into the neighborhoods. Perhaps there is some truth to the Malachy prophecy; perhaps in the future will come a "Petrus Romanus" who will "nourish the flock in the midst of tribulations" -- at a time when events cause the Church to break down into its essential parts.

A huge mistake was made when the philosophy of men overshadowed the spirituality of Christ, and now we must quickly hasten back from that. It is an error that is nine centuries old (since the writings of Aristotle were integrated) and now explodes upon us, threatening to demystify the papacy.

Our rituals and sacraments are crucial; our bureaucracies not so much. It was the idolatry of bureaucracy that caused many abuse scandals.

In the first decades of the Church (see the Didache), prophets and teachers were regarded as exercising the most important ministries. The early disciples gathered and experienced the miraculous together.

This is our Church. This is the Church of Peter the Roman. It is a Church to which we must fully return, ever obedient to Rome, but simpler.

[see also: The Malachy prophecies you can't link and Pew study: sixty percent of Catholics want Pope from region like South America]

[resources: The Final Hour and Michael Brown retreats: Seattle, Portland and Medjugorje pilgrimage, Michael Brown: purification, future, self-illumination]

[Print article]

[Feedback: From Jacqueline Lupien: "Could our dear Holy Father's call to prayer by God and his "scaling the mountain" be related to the third secret of Fatima? I just reread some comments by John-Paul II on it. We, surely, all need to pray even harder than usual. Do you have any thoughts on this?"

From Charlene Frey: "There is a blog hosted by Msg. John Esseff, in which there are prophecies given about the election of the next Pope. The next Pope will be a Marian pope. There will be supernatural signs from God during the election of the next Pope so that everybody will know that God has elected this man to be Pope. This Pope will go to Jerusalem and lay down his life for Israel; thereby, he will save Israel from destruction. The whole world will know that the Pope and the Catholic Church has saved Israel from their enemies. All of Israel will accept Jesus Christ as Savior and join with the Catholic Church. When the other protestant religions see that Israel is united with the Catholic Church, they also will join with the Catholic Church. Then Jesus' prayer will be fulfilled, that all would be one as the Father and Jesus are one. The Pope will then lead the Catholic Church from Jerusalem and not from Rome. All of the nations will go to Jerusalem for guidance and wisdom. There will be no more wars. The kingdom of this earth will have become the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus will govern all of the nations through His Catholic Church from Jerusalem. Stunning recent prophecy of a coming Marian papacy. Will supernatural events surround next pope's election? Will a future pope go to Jerusalem as Christ's Vicar and die there just as Jesus did? This will be the Pope described in the Fatima prophecy."

From Diana Bartlett of Solon, Iowa: "After coming back from Medjugorje I thought that lightning was a sign of evil being dispelled by God. When I was on Apparition Hill in Medjugorje I was doing a morning prayer and when I read the psalm that had the line, 'The Lord flashes his flames of fire' and just at that moment someone's flash on their camera went off. Because of the flash of the camera I have always remembered the line. Strange phenomena started happening around the house when I got home  and I saw flashes of light around the house one night, strange light flashes outside of the house but close just outside the kitchen windows, like flashes of a camera and I just thought it was God dispelling the evil. Whenever there is a thunderstorm I have since then considered the lightning as dispelling evil.  Before a storm it's hot, the bugs are biting (we live on a farm), things seem tense. Then after the storm everything has cooled down, everything is washed clean from the rain, colors are more vivid, it's beautiful and serene.  I love a good lightning storm of course not severe weather but a good lightning show across the country side."

From Brett Urban of Fort Myers, Florida: "Concerning the lightning strikes at the Vatican: we well know that Satan is the "prince of the power of the air" (Ephesians 2:2), but I don't think people understand a much more interesting detail concerning the sky. On Day Two of creation when God made the heavens between the waters above and those below, it was the only Day that wasn't proclaimed as being 'good.'  It's Satan's domain!"

From John Riedell, Metamora, Illinois: "I found your article on the lightning interesting.  I have a book entitled Signs and Symbols of Christian Art by George Ferguson (The late George Ferguson was Rector of the Episcopal parish of St. Philip's in the Hills, in Tucson).  It has no entry for lightning.  But that doesn't mean lightning couldn't have symbolic meaning.  It could just mean it didn't find it's way into Christian art. But something struck me this morning: the fact that it struck twice might have meaning, and possibly two separate meanings.   One accentuating the Pope's action, and the other perhaps presaging something else. I noticed your picture of lightning flashing over a city.  It seems unusual in that there's a burst, and further, that the burst has something of a cruciform to it, even perhaps a suggestion of the INRI sign. The number two does have significance in that it can be taken as a sign for Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, the One having two natures. Even at Lourdes the number two could've figured in, in some way.  Bernadette said the lady had a yellow rose on each of her feet.  There is a reason for the roses, or reasons, which could be found in the color, the placement and the number.  As to placement, Ferguson said that the feet are a symbol of 'humility and willing servitude,' since they come in contact with the dust of the earth, a meaning that can apply to both Mary and her Son. And an added note: In a sermon of St. Bernard's, we are told that Nazareth means 'a flower.' And Nazareth is where Mary is from.     From there, she went to her cousin Elizabeth, carrying with her '...the Way, the Truth and the Life.'  Her path is the path we should trod in following her." 

From a viewer named Walter: "Sorry to bother you but I've been browsing your site and have a question regarding the St. Malachy prophesy. I am confused by the last Pope description.  Does the last Pope mean to be one who is going to protect and lead the Catholics or will this supposed 'last Pope' be the destroyer of the Church or Anti-Christ? I've seen web sites stating both.  Just trying to understand this clearly."

From Liz in Wilmington, Delaware: "I heard that the popular book -- Petrus Romanus, the Final Pope -- was supposed to be a good book based on the St. Malachy prophecies.  Well ... I went and got a copy and read it. IT WAS HORRID. Since this book is so popular right now, you might want to warn your readers about it. The authors start out by saying that they aren't writing the book to bash Catholicism, but that's exactly what they do. The book was filled with typical regurgitated Jack Chick style anti-Catholic absurdities and loaded anti-Catholic language. There are some legitimate things to get down on the Catholic Church over like their handing of the pedophilia scandal, but that's not where this book goes. It is nothing more than a smear against the faith AND it shows that the authors don't understand what they are talking about when it comes to Catholicism and deep theology. They peddle their own religion while slandering the Catholic faith. Please warn your readers not to waste $17 on this book.  For some reason, it is popular right now.  It's nothing more than a major waste of time and money." Right you are Liz.

And finally from David Pacitti also in Delaware: "Thank you for your wonderful articles and reporting! In reading all that has been going on with our Pope, and the swirling prophecies, I ask: 'Why the worry?' We have been asked by our Blessed Mother to continue to pray the Rosary and ask for Peace. We have been asked to continue to pray for our Pope, Bishops and Priests. People have always wondered if we are 'near the end.' But Jesus has always told us that He will come like a 'thief in the night.' Our Blessed Mother has always told us to live right and not to sin (and run to confession when we do). Yes the gates of hell are pouring out against our Church, but is this new? Yes, there are some Judas's that are wearing clerical garb, but is this new? Yes Satan is posing as an angel of light, but is this new? Yes Christians are being persecuted (and I believe that is going to get much worse) but again, is this new? We know the gates of hell shall not prevail, but we see the attack. What should we be doing? We should be praying more, and fasting for our Church and our leaders! We should be ensuring that we ourselves are standing in the full Love and Mercy of our Lord Jesus! We should be reading Scripture and praying our Rosaries everyday for our Church, our Pope/Bishops/Priests, each other and ourselves! We should always remember that being Christian means the world will hate us, and that being Christian we must expect to carry our cross and be persecuted. But above all, we must not be afraid! We know where our true home is! We belong to Christ, so be not afraid!"]


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