by Bernard Brandt
Sometimes I think that it’s not so much that Calvin was playing God, as it is that God is now playing Calvin. Between the ecological degradation that is going on these days, a level of species obliteration which has not been seen since the Cambrian extinction; together with what appears to be automata in the process of becoming sentient, and those same robots becoming
corporations, er, artificial persons, with far more rights under the law than us allegedly human critters, well, it’s beginning to lead even the most sanguine of hearts to the belief that the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the Whore of Babylon, and the Beast Itself are about to take the stage of the world, and enact a Shakespearean drama on our sorry backsides.
Yet one more straw loading this particular camel’s back, at least for me, was the election of Pope Francis the First to the Papacy. And no, I don’t think that I’m suffering from what many are coming to call ‘Francis Derangement Syndrome’. I actually like the guy. On the day that His most recent Holiness was elevated, I thought to myself, “It looks like Monsignor Quixote has entered the Vatican”. With perhaps one exception, I have thought that just about everything that he has said or done (as opposed to what the media and other gossipers have said about him) has been really nifty.
So, no, I don’t think that Pope Francis is the Antichrist. I fear, however, that His Holiness is in the process of becoming someone far more ominous than that.
Please allow me to explain. There is this text called the Prophesy of St. Malachy. It purports to be the writings of a twelfth century Irish archbishop, with gnomic phrases which are said to describe the line of Popes from his day to ours. The editor of Le Wik, who has made this particular entry, seems to be of the belief that the writing was a sixteenth century forgery, and that the description of the popes since the date of the Prophesy’s publication have been largely inaccurate.
I beg to differ. In looking at the list of at least the seven most recent Popes, I find a rather remarkable accuracy between the descriptions of, shall we call him, Pseudo-Malachy, and the pontiffs themselves.
The first of those Popes in my list was Pius XII, whom P-M named Pastor Angelicus, or ‘Angelic Shepherd’. Although this Pope has been maligned (unfairly, I believe) as one who did little when the Nazi and Fascist martyrdoms plagued Europe, we are now finding that His late Holiness did much, behind the scenes and behind enemy lines, to help many who had been afflicted under those martyrdoms. I find P-M’s naming to be beautifully apposite.
The second Pope was the blessed John XXIII, whom P-M named Pastor et Nauta, or ‘Shepherd and Sailor’. The article in Le Wik notes that before His elevation to the Papacy, John XXIII had been Patriarch of Venice. I would say, rather that this pontiff both fed His sheep, and led His fellow bishops to the great ship of the Second Vatican Council, and its later unfortunate shipwreck. This naming, too, seems to be accurate.
The third Pope was the blessed Paul VI, whom P-M named Flos Florum, or ‘Flower of Flowers’. Under the Latin saying, De mortuis, nil nisi bonum, perhaps the most charitable thing that can be said for this Pontiff was that this was the gentlest of spirits, but His gentleness was taken for weakness by His enemies, who by their malfeasance or misfeasance, had aided in the shipwreck of our Church.
The fourth Pope was the unfortunate John Paul I, who died after a pontificate of only thirty-three days. Him P-M called De medietate lunae, or ‘Of the Half-Moon’. It is both interesting and frightening to note that on the evening of His elevation to the Papacy, the Moon was between 51% to 41% illuminated. In short, the Moon was half full at His election.
The fifth Pope was the blessed John Paul II, whom I believe that the wise call Ioannes Paulus Magnus. To this great one P-M gave the appellation: De labore Solis, which can be translated as either ‘Of the Labor of the Sun’ or ‘Of the Eclipse of the Sun’. This is apposite on so many levels that I will touch upon but a few of them: He helped to found the labor movement which led to the end of the Soviet martyrdom. He worked hard on many encyclicals, chief among them was Laborem Exercens. The days of His birth and death were both marked by solar eclipses. And, for many years, little by little, he suffered from the eclipse of His own light as the Parkinson’s Disease that eventually killed him had its way with Him.
The sixth Pope is His emeritus Holiness, Benedict XVI, whom P-M called Gloria Olivae, or ‘The Glory of the Olive’. Le Wik’s article attempts to say that His Holiness took his name after St. Benedict of Nursia, whose Benedictine Orders included the Olivitan, or that He was an advocate of peace. I find this to be reaching. A simpler explanation comes nearer to hand: The best part of the olive tree is in its fruit. The most excellent part of that fruit is found in the oil which is pressed from it. But the glory of the olive is the chrism oil which is confected from it, the chrism which is used in the sacraments of Baptism, of Confirmation, of Holy Orders, and of the Holy Unction. And this holy man, who is still with us, was aptly named, because His life and His works were worthy expressions of the glory of Baptism, Confirmation, and of the Holy Orders he received.
And so now we come to Pope Francis. But at this point, rather than a simple Latin phrase, we are confronted with this:
In persecutione extrema S(anctae).R(omanae).E(cclesiae). sedebit. Petrus Romanus, qui pascet oves in multis tribulationibus: quibus transactis civitas septicollis diruetur, & Iudex tremendus iudicabit populum suum. Finis.
And in English:
“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 [i.e. Rome] will be destroyed, and the dreadful Judge will judge His people. The End.”
Our faithful editor at Le Wik holds out the hope that this is not one sentence, but two, and that there will be many popes, unnamed by P-M, between Benedict XVI and this final Petrus Romanus. I sure hope so.
Because the alternative interpretation is that the period was a typographical error, and we are dealing with a single sentence here. In which case, we are all one with the poor sap from the motion picture, Aliens, who said, ‘Game over, man! Game over!‘
Perhaps the most frightening thing, for me, is that this good man who is now the Servant of Servants of our Church, appears to be cut from the same cloth as the Apostle Peter. There is the same generous and impetuous spirit which could move them both to say such things as, “Not just my feet, Lord, but my hands and head as well!” (Or to offer that washing of feet to women as well as men). There is the same garrulousness which could cause both to say things they would later regret. And there is, alas, the same sort of thing going on with His Holiness, Pope Francis, that earned the Apostle Peter a smack down from the Apostle Paul.
Ah, well. I am probably just finding portents in paltry matters. This is just a silly text, a private revelation and a fraud to boot, that had best be ignored by the wise.
And yet, with things heading the manifold ways that they are, and none of them good, I wonder…