I promised to share more about the fascinating book by Fr. René Thibaut, S.J., La Mystérieuse prophétie des papes (Namur: Bibliothèque de la Faculté de philosophie et lettres,1951, Imprimatur: June 28, 1945, Et. Jos. Carton de Wiart). Fr. Thibaut was a Belgian Jesuit who taught at the University of Namur. Fr. Thibaut's analysis of the titles given to the various popes is worth reflecting upon since so much of the history of the Church is captured therein. The last forty titles of the prophecy attributed to St. Malachy, which escaped the tampering of Renaissance forgers, are carefully scrutinized. Fr. Thibaut discerns that among the complex patterns woven into the Prophecy are thirteen couplets or binaries, as seen on p. 85:
77. Crux Romulea, Aquila rapax 97. Clement VIII, Pie VII.I will share Fr. Thibaut's explanations of some of the binaries and how they connect with historical events. Crux Romulea (Clement VIII, 1592-1605) and Aquila rapax (Pius VII, 1800-1823) signify the confrontation between two Romes, of Christian Rome symbolized by the Cross with pagan Rome symbolized by the Eagle. Under Clement VIII the Protestant advance was halted while under Pius VII Napoleon, "the rapacious eagle," tried to make Europe and the Church his own in a new Roman Empire. (p.86)
78.Undosus vir, Peregrinus apostolicus 96. Leon XI, Pie VI.
79. Gens perversa, Ursus velox 95. Paul V, Clement XIV.
80. In tribulatione pacis, Rosa Umbriae 94. Gregoire XV, Clement XIII.
81. Lilium et rosa, Canis et coluber 98. Urbain VIII, Leon XII.
82. Jucunditas crucis, Lumen in caelo 102. Innocent X, Leon XIII.
83. Montium custos, Crux de cruce 101. Alexandre VII, Pie IX.
84. Sidus olorum, De balneis Etruriae 100. Clement IX, Gregoire XVI.
85. De flumine magno, Vir religiosus 99. Clement X, Pie VIII.
86.Bellua insatiabilis, Animal rurale 93. Innocent XI, Benoit XIV.
87· Paenitentia gloriosa, Columna excelsa 92. Alexandre VIII, Clement XII.
88. Rastrum in porta, Miles in bello 91. Innocent X II, Benoit XIII.
89. Flores circumdati, De bona religione 90. Clement XI, Innocent XIII.
The titles Lilium et rosa (Urban VIII, 1623-1644)) embraces the latter period of the counter Reformation of seventeenth century. (p.86) The "Lily and the Rose" symbolize the virtues of purity and chastity preached and lived by such extraordinary saints as St. Francis de Sales, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Jeanne de Chantal, and St. Louise de Marillac, as well as the religious orders founded at the time, such as the Visitation, the Daughters of Charity, the Lazarists, the Eudists, the Oratorians, and the Sulpicians. (p.87) Canis et coluber (Leo XII, 1823-1829)) or the "Dog and the Serpent" signifies the age of Revolution, of the liberalism which encouraged unrestrained license (p.87) and the class hatred and envy that would eventually give rise to socialism.
Bellua insatiabilis (Innocent XI, 1676-1689) or "Insatiable Beast" represents Louis XIV whom Innocent excommunicated. In his insistence on controlling the Church in France, Louis emulated Philip le Bel, as well as becoming a precursor of Napoleon, the "Rapacious Eagle." Gallicanism opened the way for the overt paganism of the reign of Louis XV, manifested in art, in literature and in lifestyles. Animal rurale (Benedict XIV, 1740-1758) symbolizes the preoccupation with naturalism that characterized the era, being that in prophetic language the words "animal" and "rural" symbolize paganism. (p.88) Such elements opened the way to the Revolution.
Towards the end of the list, Fr. Thibaut explores the individual meaning of the titles in chronological order, often in strophes of three. I will mention those I found especially compelling. Rosa Umbriae is Clement XIII, reigning from 1758 to 1769. In 1765 Pope Clement authorized the feast of the Sacred Heart; the "Rose" symbolizes the feast of love. (p. 90)
There follows a triptych of popes, numbers 95, 96 and 97 which are Ursus velox (Clement XIV, 1769-1774), Peregrinus apostolicus (Pius VI, 1775-1799) and Aquila rapax (Pius VII, 1800-1823). Clement XIV's reign saw the prelude to the Revolution, ideas and forces which swept Europe like a "charging bear" during the years which also saw the suppression of the Jesuit order. The Jesuits were among the few who had the ability to debate and confound the new ideas put forward by the philosophes; the order was disbanded at the moment it was most needed.
As an anagram "PeregrInUS aPostolIcUS" or "Apostolic pilgrim" signifies both Pius VI and VII who were forced into exile. Fr. Thibaut says that the repetition of the name "Pius" is a refrain. "Pius! Pius!" is similar to the sailors' cry of "Land! Land!" upon catching sight of a distant shore. (p.91) The difference between the two popes is that Pius VI had to contend with the Revolution, and Pius VII with the Aquila rapax, Napoleon Bonaparte, as has been said before.
Another triptych of popes includes Crux de cruce (Blessed Pius IX, 1846-1878), Lumen in caelo (Leo XIII, 1878-1903), and Ignis Ardens (St. Pius X, 1903-1914) There is an exhaustive analysis of the mysterious connections between the three popes and the historical circumstances which they each faced which would take five blog posts to explain. For one thing, they each received at baptism a name of one of the three saints closest to the Blessed Mother: John, Joachim, and Joseph. (p.95) The "Cross from the Cross" refers to the persecution of the papacy at the hands of the House of Savoy, whose coat-of-arms bore a cross. On a deeper level, it signifies Christ Crucified, with Mary the Coredemptrix at the foot of the cross. "Cross from the Cross" is an echo of "flesh of my flesh" of Genesis 2:23, when Eve was brought forth. The new Eve, Mary Immaculate, received the privilege of her Immaculate Conception, defined by Blessed Pius IX in 1854, because of the future merits of her Son. (p.94) "The Light in the Sky" of Leo XIII is an allusion the the Eternal Father who dwells in light inaccessible. (1 Tim. 6:16). It also alludes to Apocalypse 12: 1: "And a great sign appeared in the sky." (p.94) The encyclicals of Leo XIII challenged the modern world as it grew closer to the cataclysms of the twentieth century. "The Ardent Fire" of St. Pius X signifies the persecution of the Church (p. 93), about to be intensified in many places, and already in full force in France, where many religious communities were expelled.
Next Fr. Thibaut analyzes the three popes who faced the upheavals of the early twentieth century, Religio Depopulata (Benedict XV, 1914-1922), Fides Intrepida (Pius XI, 1922-1939), and Pastor Angelicus (Pius XII, 1939-1958). "Religion Depopulated" refers to the World War I which Fr. Thibaut says was the natural effect of the great apostasy of the European nations. The apostasy, however, was not universal, and the "Intrepid Faith" of Pius XI symbolizes the martyrs in Spain and Mexico at the time. (p.96) The fall of Russia into Communism and the resultant persecution of believers needs also to be remembered. "The Angelic Shepherd" was Pius XII, who would lead the sheep through many catastrophes, namely World War II and the spread of Communism.
Pius XII was still reigning when Fr. Thibaut published his book, so his historical insights end with that pope, although he guesses at what the future would hold. He surmises that Pastor et nauta, the "Pastor and Mariner" whom we know as John XXIII (1958-1963), signifies that the Church's mission to the world would come into into stormy seas. (p.97) Fr. Thibaut predicted that the persecution of the Church by the world would be redoubled during that reign. He saw Flos florum, "The Flower of Flowers" of Paul VI as a consoling symbol (p.97) Others have connected the lilies of purity with Humane Vitae.
De medietate lunae "Of the half moon" is (John Paul I, August 26-September 28, 1978) and De labore solis "The Eclipse of the Sun" is (John Paul II, 1978-2005). Fr. Thibaut says that in prophetic language the sun and moon herald the coming of the judgment of God as well as calamitous times of great schism in the Church. Changes in the moon signify civil anarchy and changes in the sun suggest religious anarchy. (p.97) It also comes to mind, remembering how Pope John Paul II canonized more saints than any pope in history, the verse from Matthew: "Then shall the saints shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father." (Matthew 13:43)
It is then, as Fr. Thibaut interprets, that the kingdom of God will be manifested in an extraordinary manner. Benedict XVI is De gloria olivae. "The Glory of the Olive" means that the people of God, represented by the olive tree, will be glorified in an unprecedented way. Fr. Thibaut claims that many factors point to 2012 as being the pivotal year for the culmination of events but, as he makes clear, exactly what the future holds remains to be seen. (p.97) He makes it clear, however, that this does not indicate the end of the world but the end of an era. As for myself, I have found Fr. Thibaut's book to be inspiring, in that he reflects upon all that has already transpired, upon the many calamities through which the Church has journeyed. It is cause for hope rather than trepidation, hope which inspires reverence, prayer and vigilance.
"But of that day and hour no one knoweth, not the angels of heaven, but the Father alone." Matthew 24:26 Share