In the year 1140, an Irish bishop named Malachy visited Rome with a group of monks. They climbed the Janiculum Hill to thank God for the safe completion of their journey. While there (so the story goes), Malachy had a vision in which he “saw” 111 Popes to the end of time. Each Pope was chronicled with by a short, cryptic epigram in Latin. And with the resignation of Benedict XVI, the last Pope on Saint Malachy’s list is about to be elected.
The prophecy for the last Pope contained a alarming vision: “During the last persecution of the Holy Roman church there shall sit Peter of Rome, who shall feed the sheep amidst the many great tribulations, and when these have passed, the City of the Seven Hills shall be utterly destroyed and the awful Judge will judge the people.”
It’s all very exciting to think that the last Pope is about to be elected, so the second coming and the end of the world is nigh.
The problems, however, are manifold. First of all, the prognosticators behave like all conspiracy theorists and prophecy lovers: Begin with the theory or prophecy and make the facts fit.
So you can probably sleep peacefully tonight. The end of the world is probably not nigh.
On the other hand . . . why not prepare your soul, just to be on the safe side?
— Father Dwight Longenecker is the author of the Screwtape Letters-type Lent book The Gargoyle Code.