Saint Malachi Prophesies: An Alarm Bell?

A thousand years ago, the clock was already ticking. What will become of the lineage of Peter? “Anything can happen!”

Newsroom (November 3, 2021, 1:55 PM, Gaudium Press) One of the most intriguing mysteries in hagiography unfolds regarding a bishop born a thousand years ago: St. Malachi. His striking prophecies span until now, and his commemoration coincides with that of the Faithful Departed. He is the author of a series of 112 phrases in Latin about the popes from Celestine II (1143-1144) to the present.

A great friend of Bernard of Clairvaux

In 1140, during a trip to Rome, Malachi met for the first time with the Abbot of Clairvaux, who already was famous for his sanctity: St. Bernard. The friendship that from then on united them knew no limits, to the point that the Irish saint left several of his best disciples in France to draw from the monastic spirit that he irradiated.

Besides the closeness that they always tried to cultivate, the spiritual bond that united them was bigger than any distance, to the point that St. Bernard declared that he was his most faithful friend and that his death would devastate the entire Church.

Given such circumstances, no one else but St. Bernard could be the first biographer of St. Malachy. Through him, we know that after Malachi’s health worsened, they insistently asked him where he would prefer to die, but the saint would not say a word. Given the insistence of his closest disciples, he told them that he would be delighted to die in the homeland of his national patron saint, the Irish St. Patrick unless God had disposed otherwise, or in Clairvaux, on the feast of All Saints.

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Said and done, his first prophecy became truth with his death, which took place within the blessed vaults of the monastery of Clairvaux on the vigil of November 2. Clement II canonized him in 1190 – although St. Bernard had already given him the title of saint.

However, just as Malachi’s memory was beginning to fade, something else would make him even more famous.

Prophet for all times

Around 1595, a mysterious manuscript published by the Benedictine Arnold of Wyon appeared in Europe. It contained 112 phrases in Latin about the Popes that, according to Arnold, the Irish saint wrote.

Nineteenth-century studies reveal that, around 1140, St. Malachi was in Rome when he climbed a high mountain to thank God for the safe journey he had made. When he saw the beauty of the Eternal City from above, he fell into a deep ecstasy and weeping uttered the phrases mentioned above. A disciple who was with him wrote them all down on parchment, and when the vision was over, he showed Malachi the contents of the writing. The saint then declared that Jesus Christ had shown him the complete sequence of Peter’s successors. According to some authors, the manuscript was given to Pope Innocent II and then forgotten in the Vatican archives, being rediscovered only 450 years later by Arnold of Wyon.

Critics, such as Cornelius a Lapide and other Jesuits, have set out to deny the authenticity of the manuscript, for not even the saintly Abbot of Clairvaux refers to it in his Life of Saint Malachi. Coincidence, however, always played in favor of the prophecy, for the papal mottoes matched reality.

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Nevertheless, it was notorious that the pronouncements up to Gregory XIV (1590-1591) even included references to family names and other particularities of the Popes; the following ones, however, became more and more general and abstract, although very vivid.

St. Pius X, for example, is depicted as Burning Fire; Pius XI, Intrepid Faith; Benedict XVI, The Glory of the Olive Tree.[2]

However, St. Malachi’s last epithet causes more admiration and astonishment. It foreshadows an era of many tribulations and persecutions for the Church when a certain Shepherd will have to sit on the papal throne and lead it amidst such adversities, preceding a new and unknown path to the papacy.

Now, if one adds the sanctity and accuracy with which St. Malachy glimpsed the history of the Church through its pastors, his prophecy cannot fail to raise many questions, as Msgr. Gänswein showed in an interview with EWTN in July 2016: “Yes, [St. Malachy’s prophecy] is an alarm bell”-the alarm of what? It is a pity that there was no further exploration of the thoughts of Benedict XVI’s close secretary.

If the proof of historical “coincidences” were not enough, when asked by Peter Seewald about such prophecies and the confluence they may have on the person of Benedict XVI, the pope emeritus found himself in the contingency of stating, “[On the prophecies of St. Malachi] anything can happen.” [3]

In any case, may St. Malachi, whose feast we celebrate on November 2, assist the boat of Peter and its helmsman so that during the confusing and stormy days ahead, both may reach the safe harbor of the desired exaltation of the Mystical Spouse of Christ, the Church.

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By André Luiz Kleina

Compiled by Ena Alfaro


 SANCTI BERNARDI. Opera. Romae: Editiones Cistercienses, 1974.

BLÁSQUEZ, José Sendín. Enigmas, historias y leyendas religiosas. Madrid: BAC, 2004, p. 286-9.

LUDDY, Ailbe. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. Trad: Eduardo Saló. São Paulo: Cultor, 2016.

BUTLER, Alban. Vida de los Santos. Trad: Wifredo Guinea. London: Burns and Oates, 1954, p. 257-259.

SOCCI, Antonio. Il Segreto di Benedetto XVI: Perché è ancora Papa. Milano: Rizzoli, 2018, p. 201-218.

[1] Barbarian people from northern Europe invaded continental and insular Europe in the Middle Ages.

[2] In the vernacular: Ignis Ardens; Fides Intrepida; De gloriae olivae.

[3] Cf. SOCCI, Antonio. Il Segreto di Benedetto XVI: Perché è ancora Papa. Milano: Rizzoli, 2018, pp. 201-218.


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