“THAT Pope Francis!”
Bill slammed his fist on the table, turning a few heads in the process. Fr. Gabriel smiled wryly. “What now Bill?”
“Splash! Did you hear that?” Kevin quipped, leaning across the table, his hand cupped over his ear. “Another Catholic jumping over the Barque of Peter!”
The three men laughed—well, Bill sort of laughed. He was used to Kevin’s cajoling. Every Saturday morning after Mass, they met at the town diner to talk about everything from baseball to the Beatific vision. But lately, their conversations were more sober, trying to keep up to the whirlwind of change that every week brought. Pope Francis was Bill’s favorite subject of late.
“I’ve had it,” he said. “That Communist crucifix thing was the last straw.” Fr. Gabriel, a young priest ordained only four years, twitched his nose and sat back with his coffee cup in hand, bracing himself for Bill’s customary “Francis rant”. Kevin, the more “liberal” of the three, seemed to be enjoying the moment. He was 31 years younger than Bill who had just celebrated his 60th birthday. While still mostly orthodox in his views, Kevin loved to play the devil’s advocate… just to drive Bill nuts. Kevin was typical of Generation Y in that he bucked the status quo, even though he didn’t always know why. Yet, his faith was strong enough that he knew going to Mass and saying Grace was a good thing; that he shouldn’t surf porn, swear or cheat on taxes.
To any outsider, they would appear a bizarre trio. But even the occasional waitress would get pulled into their mostly friendly debates that, admittedly, were never dull and just challenging enough to make Saturday morning brunch a tradition.
“Every time this Pope opens his mouth, it’s a new crisis,” Bill sighed, rubbing his forehead.
“What about the crucifix, Bill?” Fr. Gabriel asked calmly, even dispassionately. And that only made Bill more angry. Fr. Gabriel always seemed to have an answer in defence of the Pope. Mind you, it calmed him down somewhat—at least until the next crisis. But this time, Bill thought that Fr. Gabriel ought to be outraged.
“Jesus, crucified to a hammer and sickle? Do I need to say any more than that? It’s blasphemous, Padre. Blasphemous!” Fr. Gabriel said nothing, his eyes fixed intently on Bill and a small bead of sweat rolling down from his thinning hairline.
“Well geez, Bill, Pope Francis didn’t make it,” Kevin responded.
He liked this Pope, liked him a lot. He was too young to really remember the charismatic John Paul II who likewise loved to sit with the youth, reach out from his “pope-mobile” and joke around with the faithful. So for him, Francis seemed like the end of centuries of pomp and untouchability. Francis, to him, was kind of a revolution in personi.
“No, he didn’t make it, Kevin,” Bill said in his most condescending tone. “But he accepted it. He even called it a “gesture of warmth”, an “honour”, which he placed at the feet of a statue of Mary.  Unthinkable.”
“I thought he explained that?” Kevin said, looking to Fr. for reassurance. But the priest continued to stare at Bill. “I mean, he said he was surprised to receive it and that he understood it to be “protest art” from that priest who was murdered there in Bolivia.”
“Still blasphemous,” Bill pronounced.
“What was he supposed to do? Throw it back? Geez, that would be a nice start to his visit.”
“I would have. I’m sure the Blessed Mother would have.”
“Phh, I don’t know. I think he was trying to see the positive side, the artistic expression while trying not to insult his hosts.”
Bill turned in his seat and faced Kevin squarely. “What was the Gospel this morning? Jesus said ‘I didn’t come to bring peace but the sword.’ I’m sick and tired of this Pope trying to placate everyone else while thrusting a sword through his own flock, scandalizing the faithful.” Bill folded his arms in defiance.
“Scandalizing you,” Kevin retorted, irritation rising in his own voice. Fr. Gabriel saw his moment.
“Hm…” he said, drawing the eyes of both men. “Bear with me for a moment. I don’t know, I saw something completely different in the whole thing…” His eyes drifted toward the window as they often did when their discussions struck a chord in him, when he seemed to hear a deeper “word” in their discussions. Both Bill and Kevin loved these moments because, more often than not, “Fr. Gabe” had something profound to say.
“When the President of Bolivia put that chain with the hammer and sickle over the Pope’s neck…”
“Oh yah, I forgot about that,” Bill interrupted.
“…when he put that over his head…” Fr. continued, “…it was, for me, as though the Church was receiving the cross upon her shoulder. While others were shocked and horrified—and it was shocking—I saw, in the person of the Pope, as though the entire Church were entering her passion in which Communism will once again crucify her in a new persecution.”
Bill, who had a deep devotion to Our Lady of Fatima, knew immediately what Fr. Gabriel was getting at, though he was still fighting a sense of repulsion. Indeed, it was at Fatima where Our Lady predicted that the “errors of Russia” would spread throughout the world and that “the good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, and various nations will be annihilated.” Still, Bill was too fired up to concede just yet.
“Well, the Pope seemed pleased by the gifts, contrary to the first media reports that suggested he wasn’t. I don’t think the Pope saw anything prophetic about these so-called ‘honours’.”
“Maybe not,” said Fr. Gabriel. “But the Pope doesn’t have to see everything. When he was elected, he changed mitres, not minds. He’s human, still a man formed by his own experiences, formed by his own environment, a product of his seminary, study, and culture. And he’s still not…”
“…personally infallible,” Bill interrupted again. “Ya, I know Padre. You remind me every time.”
Fr. Gabriel continued. “When I saw that crucifix of Our Lord fixed upon the hammer and sickle, I thought of the alleged seer in Garabandal… um… what’s her name again….?”
“That was condemned, wasn’t it Fr.?” While not strictly opposed to prophetic revelations, Kevin typically dismissed them. “We have the deposit of faith. You don’t have to believe in them,” he would often say, though lacking in conviction. For in private, he often wondered if anything God said could be unimportant. Still, he was a bit jaded by what he perceived to be an unhealthy attachment to the “next message” that so often consumed the “vision seekers”, as he called them. Still, when Fr. Gabriel explained prophecy, something stirred in Kevin if only to make him feel very uncomfortable.
Fr. Gabriel, on the other hand, was a student of prophecy—unusual for both his age and vocation where “private revelation” was often dismissed with a smirk by his fellow clergymen. As such, he kept much of what he knew to himself. “Too hot a potato for the bishop,” his mentor Fr. Adam used to warn.
Gabriel’s mother was a wise and holy woman whom, he did not doubt, had “prayed him into the priesthood.” They used to spend hours sitting in the kitchen discussing the “signs of the times”, the prophecies of Fatima, the alleged apparitions of Medjugorje, the locutions of Fr. Stefano Gobbi, the claims of Fr. Malachi Martin, the insights and prophecies of layman Ralph Martin and so forth. Fr. Gabriel found it all fascinating. As much as his fellow priests often “despised prophecy”, Gabriel was never tempted to set it aside. For what he had learned in those teen years in his mother’s kitchen was now unfolding before his eyes.
“Conchita. That’s her name,” Fr. Gabriel said snapping Bill back to attention. “And no, Kevin, Garabandal was never condemned. A commission there said that they hadn’t ‘found anything deserving of ecclesiastical censure or condemnation either in the doctrine or in the spiritual recommendations that have been published.’ 
Kevin said nothing more, knowing he was out of his league.
“Are you ready to order yet?” A young waitress with a polite but forced smile stared down at them. “Ugh, give us a few minutes,” Bill replied. They picked up their menus for a few moments and then set them down again. They always ordered the same thing anyway.
“Garabandal, Fr.?” While he wasn’t too much interested in anything but Fatima (“because it’s approved”), Bill’s curiosity was piqued.
“Well,” Fr. continued, “Conchita was asked when the so-called “warning” would come—an event when the entire world will see their souls as God sees them, almost a judgment-in-miniature before coming chastisements. I believe it’s the sixth seal in the Book of Revelation  and what some of the saints and mystics have spoken of as a “great shaking.”  As for the timing, Conchita responded, “When Communism comes again everything will happen.” When she was asked what she meant by “comes again”, Conchita replied, “Yes, when it newly comes again.” She was then asked if that meant that Communism would go away before that. But she said she didn’t know, only that “the Blessed Virgin simply said ‘when Communism comes again’.” 
Fr. Gabriel gazed out the window again as each man retreated into his own thoughts.
Bill was a “pro-lifer” and heavily involved in the “culture wars.” He followed the headlines assiduously, often forwarding commentaries to his children and extended family (who had all but left the Church), articles that decried the irrationality of abortion, same-sex marriage, and euthanasia. Rarely did he ever get a reply. But for all of Bill’s sometimes bold insensitivities, he also had a heart of gold. He spent two hours a week in adoration (sometimes three or four when others couldn’t fill their slots). He prayed once a month in front of the abortion clinic and visited the senior’s home with Fr. Gabriel straight after their Saturday brunches. And he prayed his Rosary every day, though he often fell asleep half way through. Most of all, unknown to even his wife, Bill would weep silently before the Blessed Sacrament, broken-hearted over a world hell-bent on destruction. The Supreme Court’s decision to invent same-sex “marriage” out of thin air left him numb… It was tyranny by judicial activism. He knew that the assurances they gave that “freedom of religion” would be safe-guarded were nothing but lies. Already, politicians were calling for the Church to lose her tax-exempt status if she would not conform to the new religion of the State.
While Bill often shared with others the warnings of Fatima, it was always kind of surreal to him, as though those days were still a ways off. But now, as though shaken from a deep sleep, Bill realized they were living them in real time.
Fidgeting with his napkin, he looked up at Fr. Gabriel. “You know, Padre, Fr. Josef Pawloz used to say that, what happened in Germany, is now happening here in America. But nobody sees it. He used to say that over and over again, but everyone dismissed him as an old Pole with paranoia.”
The waitress returned, took their orders and refilled their coffee cups.
Kevin, who would normally attempt to vanquish Bill’s “doom and gloom”, tapped nervously on the top of an unopened creamer. “I have to admit, I always thought that the rhetoric of the “right-wing” was a bit over the top. You know, that the President is a commie, a socialist, a Marxist, yadda yadda. But what’s with his statement that people should have the “freedom to worship” as opposed to saying “freedom of religion”?  Okay, so people, you’re free to worship your god, your cat, your car, your computer… go ahead, nobody’s stopping you. But don’t you dare bring your religion into the street. I don’t know, I’m a bit young and rusty on my history in terms of Communism, but from what I do know, that sounds more like Russia 50 years ago than the United States.”
Fr. Gabriel opened his mouth to reply but Bill cut him off.
“Okay, ya, so that’s my point. I mean, what the heck is the Pope saying these days? Just this past week, he slammed capitalism calling it the “dung of the devil.” I mean, first he takes this hammer and sickle cross-art-thing and then rips into capitalism. For the love of God, is this Pope a Marxist??”
“’Unfettered capitalism’”, Fr. Gabriel replied.
“The Pope criticized “unfettered capitalism” not capitalism per se. Ya, I saw the headlines too, Bill: ‘Pope condemns capitalism’, but that’s not what he did. He was condemning greed and materialism. Once again, his words are being given a twist, just enough of a twist to make him say what he didn’t say.”
“What, you too?!” Bill said, his mouth gaping wide. Kevin smirked.
“Wait a minute Bill, listen to me. We all know the stock market is rigged—you yourself said it’s totally manipulated. The Federal Reserve is printing money to pay the interest on our trillions of dollars of national debt. Personal debt is at an all-time high. Jobs are getting more scarce as machines and imports take their place. And the crash of 2008 is nothing compared to the one that’s coming. I mean, from what I’ve read, economists are saying that our economy is like a house of cards, and that Greece may be just the start of it all coming down. I read one economist who said that ‘the crash of 2008 was just a speed bump on the way to the main event… the consequences are gonna be horrific… the rest of the decade will bring us the greatest financial calamity in history.’  In the meantime, the rich are getting richer, the middle class is disappearing, the poor are getting poorer, or at least, more in debt.”
“Okay, fine. We can all see that the economy is sick, but… but… well, the Pope is calling for ‘one world with a common plan’. Those were his words, Fr. Gabriel. Sounds to me like something a Freemason would say.”
Before he could stop himself, Fr. Gabriel rolled his eyes. They’d been down this road before. Bill, having read some alleged “private revelation” and a few conspiracy theories in the Catholic press, still toyed with the idea that Francis was a Masonic implant. That was two weeks ago. The week after, Francis was a promoter of liberation theology. And this week, well, he’s a Marxist.
“Splash! Did you hear that?” Kevin said, laughing out loud.
Fr. Gabriel, sensing that the conversation could quickly spiral into a war of papal quotes and misquotes, decided to change tactics.
“Look Bill, you’re rattled because you think the Pope is leading the Church into the mouth of the beast, right?” Bill looked at him with his mouth open, blinked twice, and said, “Yes. Yes, I do.”
“And Kevin, you think the Pope is inspiring and doing a fine job, right?” “Uh, hm-hm,” he nodded.
“Well, what if you learned that Pope Francis fathered four children?”
Both men stared back in utter disbelief.
“Oh my God,” said Bill. “You’re kidding, right?”
“Pope Alexander VI fathered four kids. Moreover, he gave positions of power to his family. Then there was Pope Leo X who apparently sold indulgences to raise funds. Oh, then there’s Stephen VI who, out of hatred, dragged his predecessor’s corpse through city streets. Then there’s Benedict IX who actually sold his papacy. It was Clement V who imposed high taxes and openly gave land to supporters and family members. And this one’s a keeper: Pope Sergius III ordered the death of anti-pope Christopher… and then took the papacy himself only to, allegedly, father a child who would become Pope John XI.”
Fr. Gabriel paused for a moment, casually sipping his coffee to let the words sink in a bit.
“What I’m trying to say,” he continued, “is that popes have at times, in the Church’s history, made some very, very poor choices. They’ve sinned and scandalized the faithful. I mean, even Peter had to be corrected by Paul for his hypocrisy.”  The young priest took a deep breath, held it for a moment, and then continued, “I mean, to be honest guys, I can’t say I agree with Pope Francis’ choice to throw his moral authority behind so-called ‘global warming’.”
He glanced over at Kevin who rolled his eyes.
“I know, Kevin, I know—we’ve had this discussion. But I think we can both agree that with “Climategate” and the totalitarian attitude toward those who disagree with the science of global warming, that something isn’t right here. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  Jesus said, “My kingdom does not belong to this world.”  Someday, in hindsight, we might look back and realize that this was another Galileo moment, another misstep from the mandate Christ gave the Church.”
“Damn right, or worse” said Bill. “Oops, sorry Padre. But I’m worried about all those bloody scientists and other advisors the Pope’s been gathering around himself who have openly hinted at population reduction, even proposing that people who are climate “deniers” should be arrested. I mean, there is an ideology behind some of these global warmists that is really just Communism with a facelift. I tell you, Padre, it feels like the Church is being set up to be crucified.”
Bill stopped and realized what he’d just said.
“Being prepared for her own passion,” Fr. Gabriel echoed.
A long minute passed as no one said a word. Kevin was piecing together all the little tidbits of Saturday brunches, the prophecies he tried to ignore, the troublesome but truthful words that both Bill and Fr. Gabe shared, but which he managed to keep on the periphery of his predictable life. Now he found himself on the inside, surrounded by a crushing reality… and yet, he felt a strange peace. His heart was stirring, burning in fact, as though he sensed his own life was about to take a massive turn.
“So what you’re saying, Fr. Gabe…” Kevin squinted over his coffee mug as though ceramic could hold back the deluge of truth, “…is that you see this hammer and sickle cross as a “prophetic sign” that the—how did you put it last week—that the “hour of the Church’s passion” has arrived?”
“Maybe. I mean, there’s a momentum today, almost a “mob mentality” growing against the Church.  Once a mob forms, events can move very quickly—like they did during the French Revolution. But this time, it’s like a global revolution underway. No, I don’t believe the Pope is purposely leading the Church to her demise. I can’t say I understand everything he’s doing, but then, consider this. Jesus said that He came to do the Father’s will and that He did only what the Father told Him to. It was the Father’s will, then, that Jesus choose Judas as an Apostle. While this must have shaken the faith of the other Apostles that their wise Teacher would have chosen, in His words, “ a devil” as one of the Twelve,  in the end, God worked this evil toward the good, toward the salvation of mankind.”
“I don’t follow you, Padre.” Bill ignored the plate of eggs and sausage placed under his nose. “Are you saying that the Holy Spirit is prompting Pope Francis to forge these, these…. ungodly alliances?”
“I don’t know, Bill. I’m not the Pope. Francis has said that the Church needs to be more welcoming, and I think he means it. I think he chooses to see the good,  to listen to the good, even in those whom you and I might call ‘enemies of the Church.'”
Kevin nodded vigorously.
“Jesus openly dined with the ‘enemies of the Church’ as well,” Fr. Gabriel continued, “and in the process, converted them. It’s clear Pope Francis believes that building bridges rather than walls is a better way to evangelize. Who am I to judge?” 
Bill coughed while Kevin choked on his egg. “Oh God, don’t go there,” Bill said as he drove his fork into a sausage. It was needed comic relief.
“Okay, I have one more thought,” Fr. Gabriel added as he pulled his plate in front of him. “But we should say Grace first.”
As they finished with the Sign of the Cross, Fr. Gabriel looked up at his friends seated across from him and sensed a great love well up in his heart. He felt the transcendent authority and charge laid upon him at his ordination to shepherd and guide souls, to encourage and lead, to admonish and mend.
“Brothers—and that’s what you truly are to me—you’ve heard me say that we are entering into a Great Storm. We see it all around us. Part of this Storm is not only the judgment of the world, but first and foremost, of the Church herself. The Catechism states that ‘she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection.’  What does that look like? Well, what did Jesus look like in those final hours? He was a scandal to his followers! His appearance was beyond recognition. He seemed utterly helpless, weak, defeated. So it will be with the Church. She will appear lost, her grandeur gone, her influence dissolved, her beauty and truth all but destroyed. She will be crucified, as it were, to this “new world order” emerging, this beast… this new Communism.
“What I’m saying is that we don’t have to understand everything that’s happening with the Pope, in fact, we cannot. As Fr. Adam used to say to me, “The Pope’s not your problem.” It’s true. Jesus declared Peter, this man of flesh and blood, to be the rock of the Church. And for 2000 years, despite some of the scoundrels we’ve had at the helm of the Barque of Peter, not one pope has ever changed the deposit of faith and morals that comprises Sacred Tradition. Not one, Bill. Why? Because it is Jesus, not the Pope, who is building His Church.  It is Jesus who has made the Pope that visible and perpetual sign of unity and faith. It is Jesus who has made him rock. As Our Lord said, “It is the Spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail.” 
Bill silently nodded as Fr. continued.
“The Proverb comes to mind:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence do not rely; in all your ways be mindful of him, and he will make straight your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes, fear the Lord and turn away from evil. (Prov 3:5-7)
“For all the suspicion,  speculation, and conspiracies flying around the Pope these days, what is it doing except creating anxiety and division? There is only one thing necessary: to be at the feet of Jesus, to be faithful.
“I think of St. John at the Last Supper. When Jesus said that one of them would betray Him, the Apostles began to murmur and whisper and try to solve who it was. But not St. John. He simply kept his head upon the breast of Christ, listening to His divine, constant, and reassuring heartbeats. Do you think it is a coincidence, then, that St. John was the only Apostle to stand beneath the Cross during that bitter Passion? If we are going to get through this Storm, through the Passion of the Church, then we have to stop whispering, speculating, fretting and worrying about things beyond our understanding and begin to simply rest in the Heart of Christ instead of relying on our own intelligence. It’s called faith, brothers. We must begin to walk by this night of faith, not sight. Then, yes, the Lord will make straight our paths; then we will sail safely to the other side of the Harbour.”
Gently hitting his fist on the table he cast a glance that would freeze a lion.
“Because, gentlemen, the Pope may be the Captain of the Barque of Peter, but Christ is its Admiral. Jesus may be asleep in the hull of the Ship, or so it seems, but He is the Keeper of the Storm. He is our Leader, Our Great Shepherd, and the one who will guide us through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. You can take that to the bank.”
“Unless the banks are shut down by then,” Kevin winked.
Fr. Gabriel’s face suddenly became sad as both men returned his gaze. “Brothers, I beg you: pray for me, pray for the Pope, pray for us shepherds. Don’t judge us. Pray for us that we will be faithful.”
“We will Fr.”
“Thank you. Then I’ll buy brunch.”
First published July 14th, 2015.
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- news.va, July 11, 2015
- cf. ewtn.com
- cf. The Seven Seals of Revolution
- Fatima and the Great Shaking; see also Great Shaking, Great Awakening
- cf. Garabandal—Der Zeigefinger Gottes (Garabandal – The Finger of God), Albrecht Weber, n. 2; excerpt from www.motherofallpeoples.com
- cf. catholic.org, July 19, 2010
- cf. Mike Maloney, host of Hidden Secrets of Money, www.shtfplan.com; Dec. 5th, 2013
- cf. Gal 2:11
- cf. 2 Cor 3:17
- cf. John 18:36
- cf. The Growing Mob
- cf. John 6:70
- cf. Seeing the Good
- cf. Who Am I to Judge?
- cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 677
- cf. Jesus, the Wise Builder
- cf. John 6:36
- cf. The Spirit of Suspicion