THERE is a remarkable parallel under the reign of both Pope Francis and President Donald Trump. They are two completely different men in vastly different positions of power, yet with many fascinating similarities surrounding their incumbency. Both men are provoking strong reactions among their constituents and beyond. Here, I am not staking out any position but rather pointing out the parallels in order to draw a much broader and spiritual conclusion beyond State and Church politics.
• The election of both men was surrounded by controversy. According to alleged conspiracies, it has been suggested that Russia colluded in getting Donald Trump elected. Likewise, that the so-called “St. Gallen Mafia”, a small group of cardinals, conspired to raise Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio to the papacy.
• While no hard evidence has emerged to provide a solid case against either man, opponents of the Pope and the President continue to insist that they hold office illegitimately. In the case of the Pope, there is a movement to declare his papacy invalid, and thus, that he is an “anti-pope.” And with Trump, that he should be impeached and likewise removed from office as a “fraud.”
• Both men made immediate gestures of personal austerity upon their election. Francis dispensed with many papal traditions including the papal private quarters, opting to move into a communal building to live with ordinary staff at the Vatican. Trump dispensed with receiving a presidential salary and frequently arranges rallies to be with the common voter.
• Both leaders are considered “outsiders” of the establishment. Francis is a South American, born far from the Italian bureaucracy of the Church, and has vocalized his disdain for the clericalism within the Roman Curia that puts career before the Gospel. Trump is a businessman who remained out of politics most of his life, and has vocalized his disdain for career politicians who put their future ahead of the country. Francis was elected to “clean up” the Vatican while Trump was elected to “drain the swamp.”
• Coming in as “outsiders” and perhaps victims of their inexperience with the “establishment,” both men have surrounded themselves with advisors and associates who have been controversial and caused problems for their leadership and reputation.
• The unorthodox means by which both men have chosen to communicate opinion has stirred plenty of controversy. Pope Francis, sometimes unreservedly and without editing, has expressed tendentious opinions onboard papal flights. Trump, on the other hand—without reserve or seemingly much editing either—has taken to Twitter. Both men have at times used harsh language to characterize their colleagues.
• The media have served as the “official opposition” against either man with a general and nearly universal negative approach to either. In the Catholic world, “conservative” media have focused almost entirely on papal glitches, ambiguities, and flaws while almost ignoring wholesale his orthodox homilies and teachings. In Trump’s case, the “liberal” media have also been completely obsessed with a negative outlook while likewise ignoring any progress or success.
• Not only the style but the content of their reigns have caused unforeseen division and rancor among those whom they serve. In a word, their tenures have served to destroy the status quo. As a result, the gulf between the so-called “conservative” and “liberal” or “right” and “left” has never been so wide; the dividing lines have never been so clear. Remarkably, within the same week, Pope Francis said he was not afraid of “schism” of those who oppose him, and Trump predicted a kind of “civil war” if he is impeached.
In other words, both men have served as agitators.
WITHIN DIVINE PROVIDENCE
The daily rancour surrounding these men is almost unprecedented. The destabilization of the Church and America are not small—both of them having global influence and a discernible impact for the future that is arguably game-changing.
Nonetheless, I believe all of this lies within Divine Providence. That God has not been taken by surprise by the unorthodox ways of these men but that it has come to this by His design. Can we not say that the leadership of both men has knocked people off the fence into one direction or the other? That the interior thoughts and dispositions of many have been exposed, particularly those ideas that are not rooted in truth? Indeed, positions founded on the Gospel are crystallizing at the same time that anti-gospel tenets are hardening.
The world is rapidly being divided into two camps, the comradeship of anti-Christ and the brotherhood of Christ. The lines between these two are being drawn. How long the battle will be we know not; whether swords will have to be unsheathed we know not; whether blood will have to be shed we know not; whether it will be an armed conflict we know not. But in a conflict between truth and darkness, truth cannot lose. —Bishop Fulton John Sheen, D.D. (1895-1979); source unknown (possibly “The Catholic Hour”)
Was this not also predicted by Pope John Paul II while he was still a cardinal back in 1976?
We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has gone through… We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel and the anti-Gospel, of Christ and the anti-christ. This confrontation lies within the plans of divine providence. It is a trial which the whole Church… must take up… a test of 2,000 years of culture and Christian civilization, with all of its consequences for human dignity, individual rights, human rights and the rights of nations. —Cardinal Karol Wojtyla (JOHN PAUL II), from a 1976 speech to the American Bishops in Philadelphia at the Eucharistic Conference
He later went on to compare this polarization of society to the battle taking place in the Book of Revelation between the “woman clothed in the sun” and the “dragon”:
This struggle parallels the apocalyptic combat described in [Rev 11:19-12:1-6]. Death battles against Life: a “culture of death” seeks to impose itself on our desire to live, and live to the full… Vast sectors of society are confused about what is right and what is wrong, and are at the mercy of those with the power to “create” opinion and impose it on others. —POPE JOHN PAUL II, Cherry Creek State Park Homily, Denver, Colorado, 1993
According to the late Saint, we are living in a decidedly Marian hour. If that is the case, another prophecy takes on a certain significance:
Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:34-35)
All around the world, images of Our Lady have been inexplicably weeping oil or blood. In apparitions, several seers report that she is frequently weeping over the state of the world. It’s as if our generation has pierced Our Lady all over again as we crucify belief in God. As such, the thoughts of many hearts are being revealed. Just as dawn is preceded by light on the horizon, I believe The Agitators are serving to facilitate that “first light” before a coming “illumination of conscience” or “warning” comes to all of humanity, as described in St. John’s “sixth seal” (see The Great Day of Light).
WHAT SHOULD WE DO?
We ought to take a certain comfort in knowing that what is happening has been foretold. It reminds us that God is very much in charge and very near to us, always.
I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place, you may believe. (John 14:29)
But it should also be a sobering reminder that the relative calm of this past generation is coming to an end. Our Lady has been appearing not only to call us back to her Son but to warn us to “prepare.” On this memorial of St. Jerome, his words are a timely wake-up call.
Nothing is more to be feared than too long a peace. You are deceived if you think that a Christian can live without persecution. He suffers the greatest persecution of all who lives under none. A storm puts a man on his guard and obliges him to exert his utmost efforts to avoid shipwreck.
There is no guarantee that America will remain as a superpower. Likewise, there is no guarantee that the Church will remain a dominant influence. In fact, as I wrote in The Fall of Mystery Babylon, I believe the United States (and entire West) has a dramatic humbling and purification coming. Oh, how the Scriptures this past Sunday on the rich man and Lazarus collectively speak to the Western World! And as several prophets in Scripture have attested, the Church will also be reduced to a “remnant.” The signs of the times indicate this is well underway.
The Agitators, I believe, are playing a crucial role in faciliating this purification and even exposing what lies in individual hearts. Do we as Christians have faith when we no longer have sight? Are we still charitable toward those who aren’t? Do we trust in Christ’s promises to the Church or are we taking matters into our own hands? Have we elevated politicians and even popes in a way that is almost idolatrous?
At the end of this “final confrontation,” whatever is built on sand will crumble. The Agitators have already begun The Great Shaking…
Many forces have tried, and still do, to destroy the Church, from without as well as within, but they themselves are destroyed and the Church remains alive and fruitful… She remains inexplicably solid… kingdoms, peoples, cultures, nations, ideologies, powers have passed, but the Church, founded on Christ, notwithstanding the many storms and our many sins, remains ever faithful to the deposit of faith shown in service; for the Church does not belong to popes, bishops, priests, nor the lay faithful; the Church in every moment belongs solely to Christ. —POPE FRANCIS, Homily, June 29th, 2015 www.americamagazine.org
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