Skip to comments.Be Not Afraid: Catholic Families and the Prophecies of St. Malachy
Posted on 03/11/2013 1:33:34 PM PDT by Brian Kopp DPM
The announcement of the renunciation of Pope Benedict and the preparations for the conclave have once again brought to light the so-called Prophecy of the Popes, sometimes attributed to St. Malachy.
At every papal election, these prophecies are trotted out, with the attendant tortured explanations about how their trite, nebulous descriptions fit whoever the pope in question is. During this election some have been especially alarmed that the prophecies end with the next pontificate. It is good to give this issue a brief consideration in the light of history and our contemporary situation, particularly as they relate to our vocations as families in this Year of Faith.
St. Malachy himself was an Irish bishop of the 12th century, who desperately wanted to reform the Church in his country, which was then in a woeful state. He travelled to Rome to seek the Archbishops pallium from the Pope, and perhaps acquire some reforming Bulls which would empower him to correct and admonish the Irish Church. On this journey he became fast friends with one of the most influential men in Europe at that time, St. Bernard.
Bernard helped Malachy to obtain increased authority over the Irish church from the Pope, but alas the Irishman died on the return journey in 1148, expiring in the famous monastery of Clairvaux in the presence of Bernard himself. The great Cistercian was so moved by Malachys holiness, that he himself wrote the biography of the Irish Bishop. Due to Bernards patronage, Malachy was eventually canonized by the end of the twelfth century.
It is useful to note two things here. First, Malachy is a real saint, and is a patron of those who earnestly desire reform and purification in the Church. We should invoke him regularly in these difficult days. Second, there is no evidence, either from St. Bernards life of Malachy, or from any other medieval source that Malachy authored anything like a Prophecy of the Popes. History is absolutely silent for 400 years, a silence that to the historian speaks louder than words.
The Prophecy of the Popes was discovered in the Vatican Archives in the 1590s, unsurprisingly during a period of multiple consecutive conclaves. It is extraordinary that the Archives, which had been under the diligent care of text-hungry Humanists for nearly 150 years, had somehow missed this singularly important document. After its publication the original text disappeared, a fact as remarkable for its carelessness as for its convenience. The issues above are enough to discount the story even before considering the internal evidence.
That the prophecies are attributed to St. Malachy are an example of Pseudonymity. The author adopted the name of a real saint but one who was not too well known to publicize his texts more widely. The Prophecies of Joe the Curial Bureaucrat did not have quite the same ring to it. Pseudonymity was a common tactic in the pre-modern world, but was quickly falling out of favor. One needs only recall the Gnostic gospels as an example (A gospel by Thomas the Apostle? Id better read that!) Further, this was an age that was hungry for prognostications, the most famous of which were those of Nostradamus. Astrology and divination of all sorts fascinated even some of the greatest minds of the period. In that sense the prophecies are perfectly suited to their time.
When one begins to consider the contents though, the problems multiply. A person who picks up the prophecies will be astounded at how spot-on accurate they are until one arrives at 1590. After that they turn into short, vague utterances that a local horoscope page would be embarrassed to print: Undulating man, Religious Man, from a good religion. These are a selection of the absurd post 1590s entries, which many have correctly called unworthy of the name prophecy. To take one egregious example, the phrase Farm Animal was supposed to apply to the brilliant light of learning, Benedict XIV. I am surprised the author did not include Tall Dark Stranger in his list.
The prophecies can be an innocent pastime and source of great fun, such as the story of Cardinal Spellman at the 1958 conclave. The new pope was supposed to be Pastor et Nauta (Pastor and Sailor another staggering prophetic utterance). The night before the conclave Spellman was supposed to have acquired some sheep, put them in a rented rowboat, and gave them a few pulls up and down the Tiber. Entertaining stories, but the prophecies also have a darker side.
Our forger eventually got bored around entry 112. Safely out of range of his lifetime, he brought the work to a quick end with an obligatory apocalyptic reference to Peter II (Peter the Roman). Unfortunately for us, we are currently on entry 112, leading to an efflorescence of worry and warnings to get ready for the end times. The only positive thing I can say about this is that finally after our next pope has ended his reign we will hear no more about this issue. When the new pope is announced however, many will try feverishly to shoehorn that person into the mold of Peter the Roman. (Is his Baptismal name Peter? Does he like Rock music? Is he Roman Catholic?)
These are indeed uncertain times, and we are worried for the place of Christianity in the world and in our homes. The most prudent thing to do in such a situation is to continue the work of the Church, to be witnesses of the Incarnation in our lives and to put away morbid speculation and outrageous prophecies which often become an excuse for us to thumb our noses and turn our backs on a world that is so much easier to criticize and condemn than to change. Christian families must fast and pray together for the good of the Church, holding strongly to the Deposit of Revelation once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3). Pray for the Cardinals, pray for Benedict, pray for the new Pope, and live ones life as an example to the world.
No new salvific revelation is coming, and no new prophecy will change the revelation of the Word of God Himself, who is Christ. We have been living in the end times since the Ascension of the Son of God, and we pray for His coming daily, but no man knows the day or the hour (Mt 24:36): most certainly not the authors of papal campaign literature from the 1590s.
Donald S. Prudlo is Associate Professor of Ancient and Medieval History at Jacksonville State University in Alabama. He is also Assistant Professor of Theology and Church History at the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College. His specialty is Saints and Sainthood in the Christian Tradition, and he is the author of The Martyred Inquisitor: The Life and Cult of Peter of Verona (+1252) (Ashgate, 2008) and has recently edited The Origin, Development, and Refinement of Medieval Religious Mendicancies (Brill, 2011).
Lets pray for a pope who can kick some butt. (Sorry for the irreverance).
Very soon all eyes will turn to Rome and mainstream media will have dissident Catholics bloviating away on the boob tube. They will be very very disappointed when the cry Habemus Papam! is heard and will dejectedly say, This selection has put the Church back hundreds of years.
I cant wait.
The Church is in a state of sloth from suckling on the states teat because most Catholic charities around the world are funded by grants, not the faithful. Priests have disappeared from their confessionals and rectories to hang out in louche leather bars. Lawsuits and inner-city decay have bankrupted dioceses around the world. Folks in Europe dont even pretend the Church exists anymore. So we do not need a black pope, we do not need a pastoral pope, we do not need a friendly pope, and we do not need some smiling old forgettable jackass. We need a son of a bitch pope. We need an unsmiling grumpy old man who says things such as Get your ass to work on corporal works of mercy or youll go to hell and Now, therefore, we declare, say, define, and pronounce that for every human creature it is altogether necessary for salvation to be subject to the authority of the Roman pontiff. If talking-head media libtard gasbags squawk, he can always use the papal form of the old F.U.: I shall remember you in my intentions at Mass. (emphasis added)
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Amen brother... preach it!!
I agree! That’s the kind of pope we need!
The enemies of the church, the wolves inside the church, cafeteria catholics, hollywood, the mainstream media,pop culture, the homosexual movement,etc. Thats all I can think of for now but I’m sure the list is longer.
I have written the bishops a couple times suggesting that they consecrate America to Mary and then, in union with all the bishops, a general exorcism.
I could swear I heard the other day that another consecration to Mary and the Immaculate Conception was going to be done in the near future, hope that’s true!
A warrior Pope?!!
Definitely needed in this day and age.