There has been much interest in Saint Malachi recently. For those of you who don't know Saint Malachi, let me explain why.
In 1139 Saint Malachi visiting the Innocent II in Rome supposedly received a vision of all the future popes until judgment day. He gave a written account of his vision to the pope that was not discovered in the Vatican archives until 1590.
There has been much debate concerning their authenticity. Some scholars believe the prophecies are Jesuit forgeries from the sixteenth century intended to comment on the various popes of that period.
The prophecies of Saint Malachi were first pronounced a forgery by Fr. Menestrier, S.J., in the seventeenth century. He claims the forgery was intended to influence the conclave that elected Gregory XVI. Later scholars, such as J. J. Delaney, Pocket Dictionary of the Saints (1983), note that the descriptions of the 16th century popes, around the time of the supposed forgery are exact, while their accuracy falls off quickly after 1590. The New Encyclopaedia Britannica (15th edition) pronounces the prophecies "a 16th-century forgery" pure and simple.
The vision itself contains a brief description of 112 future popes beginning with Celestine II who was elected in 1130. These descriptions are in the form of mystical titles referring to some trait, symbol, or biographical detail.
So why would such a document with no ecclesial authority and of undetermined authenticity claim so much attention? Well, some of the recent predictions have been remarkably accurate!
Hal Lindsey, the guru of all things apocalyptic, points out in his April 8th article on WorldNetDaily that the "descriptive predictions...Though they are a bit obscure, they have fit the general profile of each of the popes." He points to the examples of the three popes before Benedict XVI: The prophecy for Paul VI "Flos Florum" (Flower of Flowers) and his coat of arms contained three fleurs- de-lis (Isis blossoms). The description for John Paul I was "De Medietate Lunae," (the Half Moon). He was baptized Albino Luciani (white light), was born in the diocese of Belluno (beautiful moon), became pope when there was a half moon (Aug. 26, 1978), and died after an eclipse of the moon.
John Paul II was prophesied under the title "De Labore Solis," (from the labor of the sun), and indeed he was born during an eclipse of the sun on May 8, 1920. There was also an eclipse on the day of his funeral.
What about Benedict XVI? As it turns out Saint Malachi describes him as "Gloria Olivae" meaning "the glory of the olive." The Order of Saint Benedict had a branch called The Olivetans.
Not to mention the name chosen by Cardinal Ratzinger put Saint Malachi speculators into high gear. About the last pope, the prophecy reads, "In the final persecution of the Holy Roman Church there will reign Peter the Roman, who will feed his flock amid many tribulations, after which the seven-hilled city will be destroyed and the dreadful Judge will judge the people. The End."
If Saint Malachi's prophecy accurately described the last four pontiffs, could it mean that the end is near? The substance of the vision resembles that of the Book of Revelation. The issue is one of chronology: Are we to believe the Judgment Day is at hand?
Before you descend into apocalyptic gloom, recall the Acts of the Apostles, Book One. Just before Jesus ascended into Heaven, one of his disciples asked him a final question, "'Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?' And he said unto them, 'It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father hath put in his own power.'" (1.6-7).
That fact is, we never know when the end might come. We must to be ready always and live our life as such. Would you be ready to go?