The retirement or abdication of Pope Benedict XVI has brought us to a place where there’s a combination of bewilderment, hope, and speculation.
Many are the theories that can be floated and many the ways of looking at it.
If there is danger, it’s in how the papacy suddenly or temporarily takes on more the look of a job than a calling — one that is or was anointed unto passage into the afterlife.
Will the “retirement” permanently affect the mystical power or perception of the papacy? Does it take away the mystery? Is it modernistic (which would be an irony, coming from a man who fought so hard for tradition)? Was the Pope “forced” out? Is there hidden illness?
At the moment what it seems like is simply the humble act of a human being who had grown too fragile and weary (perhaps even blind in one eye) and who may fear that further infirmity or even incapacitation would invite more turmoil in a Vatican where there are clearly factions (he has referred to this himself in the past week) and mismanagement. It is curious in retrospect to recall how in his first homily as Pope, Benedict had said, “Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves.” There is no evidence that he was “chased” out. But he was obviously plagued by inner Vatican upheaval.
At one extreme are media types who see it all as another sign of religion and particularly Roman Catholicism in decline (it is wishful thinking; the Church will survive beyond any other institutions on earth) while at the other end are Church hierarchies at both Vatican and local levels that may be too distanced from the flock and insulated by the trappings of prelature to realize how deeply their influence has diminished with the general public due to the scandals and bureaucracy and in fact other trends of de-mystification. So immersed are we in theological theories and “banks” that we have strayed dramatically from the simplicity of Jesus.
If there is one over-arching emotion,it is thus, at this time, a feeling of unsettlement.
That was emphasized on the very day of abdication when now-famous lightning struck St. Peter’s Basilica.
When we see lightning, when we hear thunder, we are on the lookout. We make sure we know where to seek shelter. It certainly draws attention. It has drawn our attention to what transpires in Rome, as if to say that this new development has a different quality about it, beyond simple historical precedent.
Saint John Bosco once had a prophetic vision in which the Lord said, “Will you be the rod of My power?”
He also saw a Pope who safely brought a ship (the Church) to port between two pillars (the Eucharist and Blessed Mother) in tossed seas.
It now seems that we have not yet seen that pontiff.
How two lightning bolts can strike the Vatican on the very day of the Pope’s announcement and then a meteorite that same week — one that actually injures people (hundreds) — and two days later a quake shakes Rome itself could all be ignored including by Catholics or dismissed as mere happenstance shows how far indeed so many have wandered from belief that the supernatural functions today in the same way as it did in Scripture.
Instead, if there is any heed paid to the mystical angle at all, by the media, it is to the alleged prophecies of Saint Malachy — alleged because there is not even any proof that the Irish monk, who lived in the twelfth century, even wrote them.
These are phrases describing the final 112 popes from A.D. 1159 on and while there are certainly some curious and at times astonishing qualities to them (for example, the way they described John Paul II as from the “labor of the sun,” this a Pope who was born during an eclipse and buried during another, while Benedict’s papacy seems to have been what Malachy foresaw as “the glory of the olives” in perfect line with how the Pope took the name associated with an order — Benedictines — who have a branch called “Olivetans”), it would be unprecedented for a major public prophecy to quite so loudly and specifically describe the next one (allegedly called “Peter the Roman”) and turn out right.
If nothing else, the College of Cardinals (if they have given the Malachy prophecies ear) might consciously stay away from picking a “Peter” who could be associated with “Rome” because it would fuel belief in the reputed prophecies, which say that Peter the Roman (Petrus Romanus) will be the last Pope, at least of this age (one who will nourish the flock amid great tribulation).
All our prophecy is imperfect (1 Corinthians 13:9). Usually, it operates more subtly. In approved apparitions, there can be specificity, but usually in a way that is more sweeping (see the secrets of Fatima). In addition, some say there is an ellipsis (“…”) in the Malachy description (“In the extreme persecution of the Holy Roman Church, there will sit … Peter the Roman,” it says), leaving room for something before Peter. (In a manner of speaking, all popes are “Peter.”)
Yet, it is not to discount the prophetic potential, and certainly not the fact that Benedict’s decision seems very much characteristic of a time during which we face all forms of major events, and will face even greater ones in the future, whether or not they are all specified beforehand.
The meteorites that struck Siberia recall prophecies of “two stars that will clash in the sky” as a warning. Was it a coincidence that earth experienced the greatest recorded encounter with an asteroid the very same day as the meteorites? And happenstance that fireballs were seen last weekend from Kazakistan to northern California, Cuba, and Florida?
Something will come.
From RIA Novosti news: “A meteorite which injured hundreds of people in Russia’s Chelyabinsk Region on Friday was ‘the Lord’s message to humanity,’ a senior local clergyman said. From the Scriptures, we know that the Lord often sends people signs and warnings via natural forces,’ Metropolitan of Chelyabinsk and Zlatoust Feofan said in a statement released on Friday. ‘I think that not only for the Ural [regions] residents, but for the whole of humanity, the meteorite is a reminder that we live in a fragile and unpredictable world,’ the clergyman said. He called on people to support each other and pray to God in thanks for saving the world from a devastating disaster.”
Meanwhile, the very same week (all of it the week of Benedict’s announcement) it became known that the Pope had sent a letter to an emissary to a shrine known as “the Lourdes of Germany” that invoked Mary as “mediatrix of all graces.” This too is unusual, and may have caused excitement among those who believe that a papal proclamation or fifth dogma of Mary as “Co-Redemptrix and Mediatrix of all Graces” will herald the end of our age.
The one hitch, of course, was that the Pope did not use the term “co-redemptrix.”
Still, the language was interesting, and the Pope’s resignation, to take this a step further, came on the feast day of Lourdes.
Those who believe all these things were coincidence will believe anything — but the mystical. Meanwhile, with deep respect, let us pray that the leaders of our Church forsake at this time in history and this time of the year any royal robes and instead lead us in donning sackcloth and ashes.
[Further note: At LaSalette, France, one of the two seers, Maximin Giraud, allegedly said (on July 3, 1851, in predicting huge world events, and with some error, “Before all that arrives, great disorders will arrive, in the Church, and everywhere. Then, after [that], our Holy Father the Pope will be persecuted. His successor will be a pontiff that nobody expects. Then, after [that], a great peace will come, but it will not last a long time. A monster will come to disturb it. All that I tell you here will arrive in the other century, at the latest in the year two thousand.”]
[And, In the annals of prophecy, in the apocrypha, perhaps in the mythology, is an Austrian monk who reportedly lived between 1204 and 1257. His name was Johannes Friede. And, it is said, he left the following enthralling prophetic word: “When the great time will come, in which mankind will face its last, hard trial, it will be foreshadowed by striking changes in nature. “The alteration between cold and heat will become more intensive, storms will have more catastrophic effects, earthquakes will destroy great regions, and the seas will overflow many lowlands. “Not all of it will be the result of natural causes, but mankind will penetrate into the bowels of the earth and will reach into the clouds, gambling with its own existence. “Before the powers of destruction will succeed in their design, the universe will be thrown into disorder, and the age of iron will plunge into nothingness. “When nights will be filled with more intensive cold and days with heat, a new life will begin in nature. The heat means radiation from the earth, the cold the waning light of the sun. Only a few years more and you will become aware that sunlight has grown perceptibly weaker. When even your artificial light will cease to give service, the great event in the heavens will be near.”]