Our Lady, as well as other prophecies from mystics and saints over the ages, have foretold that the Pope will be forced to flee Rome and go into hiding. When we look at the present scenario on the surface, that doesn't seem plausible. After all, isn't this one of the most popular and trusted Pontiffs ever? Yes, and therein lies the problem. Fearing that he will continue the course he has been on for nearly twenty years of righting the Barque of Peter and steering it faithfully to the safe harbored mooring of the Twin Pillars of Eucharistic and Marian devotion as foreseen by Saint John Bosco in a vision, many who were believed to be so close to him and loyal have mutineed and jumped ship, taking up in the enemy vessels as they try, with every means at their human disposal, to sink this holy skipper and his faithful, but small crew. Recent events have born this out as news comes to the surface that all is not safe within the hallowed halls of Vatican City. We refer to a few cardinals of very, very high rank (not Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) who are purported to have bitterly opposed the Holy Father's appointment of Alois Estermann as the new Commandant of the vaunted Swiss Guard. We understand one of the cardinals who was supposedly very, very close to John Paul, not only has called for a new Pontiff and made overtures to accepting that notorious dissident theologian Hans Kung, but strongly favored an aristocrat to be named Commandant rather than the "commoner" Estermann. Ah, what evil lurks below the surface? There are many who feel the so-called murder-suicide catastrophe that occurred a few weeks ago in the Vatican apartment of the Estermann couple in which they were found dead on the floor with bullet wounds and the supposed culprit Cedric Tornay was also found there was, pure and simple, a plot and cover-up. Criminal experts point to the fact that had Tornay truly committed suicide he would not have been able to hold on to the pistol, found in his hand beneath where he crumpled to the floor. They deduct that the hand would not be able to keep clutching the gun but that it would fall away. Yet he was found clutching it. Almost too perfect. There is some speculation, therefore, that this was a murder pure and simple to prevent Colonel Alois from attaining the prestigious position of Commandant, that Tornay was merely a scapegoat, and that this plot was concocted and well-planned out by high ups within the Holy See. It is the stuff of a mystery, thriller novel except that it is not fiction. This is real. Many point to the fact that Estermann, who devoted his life to the Holy Father and who was the first to reach him after the Pope had been shot in St. Peter's Square on May 13, 1981, faithfully guarded John Paul II's quarters, allowing no one to enter without top priority clearance. It is only natural then to eliminate the guard in order to get at the subject. With Alois out of the way, who is to say either a Swiss Guard plant could not penetrate the Pope's inner sanctum or look the other way as someone else stole in there to do whatever dastardly deed they might have planned. It is shocking to even think of such a scenario but it is very, very possible. This danger would cause the Pope to flee Rome to seek safe refuge where he could continue to lead Holy Mother Church through these trying times as we near the millennium.
This might seem farfetched but we believe it is a very real danger. Cyndi and I, in our secular days before we began this ministry, wrote several fictional novels and screen plays. One was called "White Smoke, Black Fire". We understand part of that title was taken by that radical modernist Andrew Greeley, who has recently released a novel called "White Smoke" which is not necessarily favorable to the Magisterium of the Church. We began writing "White Smoke, Black Fire" back in 1986 and registered it in 1987 with the Library of Congress and the Screenwriters Guild. "White Smoke, Black Fire" deals with how the antichrist tries to wrest control of the Church from within the Vatican after killing the Pope and trying to eliminate his successor within the conclave of the Sistine Chapel, along with all loyal cardinals and religious within the papal palace. What we didn't realize then is that this all ties in with Our Lady's prophecy at LaSalette when she told the children, "Rome will be the seat of the antichrist." As God is our witness, we had not read that prophecy or very few others when we wrote this "fictional" novel around 1987. It just flowed and we know now it was the Holy Spirit guiding our hand as Cyndi would write one chapter and I would pick up with the next and it just linked perfectly. At the time it was not "commercial enough" for the market, but it might be in the near future as we come to these closing years of the second millennium. Many agents and experts in the film industry have told us that if we "jazz" it up with more sex, violence and rough language it would sell. Like the Holy Father, we have refused to compromise and thus it still sits on the shelf. But the particulars of this novel align so closely with what has happened over the past few years that it is closer to reality than we ever imagined.
The fictitious characters we created for "White Smoke, Black Fire" are so close to actual people emerging today that it is downright spooky. In this novel the enemies of the Church - known as the "Legion of the Basilisk," vanguard of the antichrist, has struck at the heart of the Christian world, signaling the beginning of the ultimate apocalypse. Taut, interwoven action takes the audience across four continents on a physical and psychological 8-day journey into hell as an eclectic group of ordinary people - lay and religious, suddenly catapulted into the smouldering ashes of the Basilisk's Black Fire, band together in a desperate effort to save man physically and spiritually. With death slithering at their heels, these few allies combat the clasdestine legion with the only weapons they have left: cunning, tenacity, and the discovery of an inner strength in their Catholic faith. Towards the end the Basilisk manages to blow up the Vatican, but they cannot destroy the Eucharist or the Church. In fact, just as the antichrist reveals himself as he is ready to destroy everything else in his path, one of the characters who, unbeknownst to all, was actually a priest, manages to preserve the Holy Eucharist and holds it up in the manner Saint Claire lifted the monstrance against the Turkish infidels and the antichrist is punctured by the light and shrivels into nothingness. The very second the antichrist - the devil - is eliminated the entire earth turns green, depicted on the burned grounds of the final scene and the purification of the world, as God has promised with the Triumph of Mary's Immaculate Heart is accomplished in all its stunning glory! Back in 1987 this seemed too far-fetched for so many studios and publishers that they wouldn't touch the book or screen play. Back in 1987 we had done so little research as to prophecies including knowing nothing of Saint Malachi, LaSalette, "The End Times" by mystic Maria Valtorta, or the messages that would later be imparted to the Hidden Flower of the Immaculate Heart and many, many others including Father Don Stefano Gobbi and very recently the prophecy from Our Lady to Saint Bernadette Soubirous. Yet we wrote "White Smoke, Black Fire" night and day and it flowed, all fitting into place with very little rewrite and, looking back, we know now that it was through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Though it was over a decade ago, we realize there was a purpose in writing it, and like the decision facing the Holy Father on the declaration of the "Final Dogma" we, as well as the Pope, and many others, too, will all know, through the strength, courage and prompting of the Holy Spirit when God wants it to happen. No matter how much we want these things to occur, what is to come will come to pass when the time - His time - is right!
What is an adequate basis for the prayer of faith? We can say what it is not. It is not the evidence of outward circumstances. Elijah prayed for rain when there was no rain in sight. Six times came the report that the sky was cloudless (I Kings 18). Regardless, Elijah insisted that rain was on the way. It was-in torrents. Yet, there was no external confirmation for that belief when the prayer of faith went up. This is belief and trust in God, in spite of appearances. I can't tell you how important that statement is, to believe and trust in God in spite of appearances. It looks like this person you are praying for is unconvertible. It looks like that cancer is irreversible. It looks like that child of yours is going to be an alcoholic, and nothing is going to change it. All the evidence goes against what you want. To believe in God despite appearances is what triggers the miracle. Not to rely on your faith, but to rely on God. There are a number of people who believe when probability is in their favor, but faith acts when the probabilities are minimal. That is why faith is so uplifting; it carries optimism within itself.
Secondly, faith does not require or demand a sign to shore it up. When Jesus was on the cross, those berating Him challenged Him to come down from the cross and save himself if He was indeed the Christ. They wanted a sign. If He had come down, they would have believed. He would have had converts right there on the spot. It would have been an overwhelming miracle. There was nothing more faithless than that very challenge itself.
Remember the two thieves crucified with Jesus? The one said, "Save yourself and save us if you are the Messiah." But the good thief responded, "We don't deserve to be saved. This man does, He is innocent." He did not demand a sign. Gideon's putting out a fleece was to determine the will of God. It was not God's response to Gideon's request that made that miracle happen. It was a sort of concession to feebleness of Gideon's faith rather than a reward for the strength of his faith.
Jesus constantly deprecated the seeking of a sign, the "prove-it-to-me" attitude. The Jewish leaders demanded a sign of Jesus. Jesus replied the His sign was the temple would be destroyed by them in three days and He would raise it up again, speaking of His body (John 2:18 and 19). The Pharisees desired to test Jesus' claim to be Messiah. They asked Him to give some great demonstration in the skies. He said in effect that they are their own worst sign, an evil and unbelieving generation that would receive no further sign except for a miracle that had already happened, that of John (Matt 16: 1-4). On another occasion (Matthew 12:39) Jesus said that only an evil, faithless generation would ask for further proof.
The Countess of Salisbury, the last living member of the Catholic Plantagenet Dynasty that ruled England from 1154 to 1485, is beheaded by order of the rebellious King Henry VIII as persecutions of Catholics intensified throughout England.
The Holy Father has also spoken recently of the "maturity" of these movements, and their need to develop a strong sense of communion with the universal Church and the body of bishops.
The meeting, organized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, will bring together 56 movements, including 20 charismatic groups, to a May 30 session at St. Peter's Square. About 150,000 participants are expected.
Among the largest groups in attendance will be the Neocatechumenate Way, with 47,000 members; Communion and Liberation, with 28,000; Focolari, with 25,000; Regnum Christi (the lay movement affiliated with the Legionaries of Christ) with 10,000; and the St. Egidio Community, with 5,000.
Archbishop Hummes in his opening remarks to a news conference criticized economic globalization for increasing poverty around the world. "Market economy has reinvented poverty in many countries," he said. "And in many parts of the world, poverty has been aggravated because of neo-liberal policies." Making a break with his predecessor's social and economic policy-centered ideas, Archbishop Hummes said, "The fundamental mission of the Church is to spread the Gospel and bring people in closer contact with Jesus Christ. And it is through this contact that we can start correcting social injustices."
Archbishop Hummes, 63, a Franciscan, had most recently served as archbishop of Fortaleza, Brazil and before that was Bishop of Santo Andre, outside Sao Paulo.
Then early on Thursday evening about three weeks ago, Fernandez, 57, a recent widow, was aroused from a light slumber by a knock on her door. The visitor, a friend's niece who had come from Fort Worth for a funeral, was sputtering with excitement. The statue, she insisted, was moving.
"I thought she was joking," Fernandez recalled. "But when I went to see, she was moving."
Since then, thousands of visitors - believers, skeptics and the just plain curious - have trekked to Fernandez' modest house near Moody High School. There, at all hours of the day and night, they perch on hard wooden benches, mumbling prayers in Spanish, ever alert for the virgin's slightest twitch.
Around them in the trampled yard are tables laden with colorful flowers and religious candles. Hanging on the wall are photos of the living and dead - the object of petitioners' prayers.
The Manhattan Theatre Club said it would not stage "Corpus Christi" this fall. The announcement of the production had elicited outrage and concern from religious groups. McNally had no comment on the cancellation.
McNally, who has won three Tony Awards for his plays "Master Class," "Kiss of the Spider Woman," and "Love! Valour! Compassion!" was nominated this year for his book of the musical "Ragtime."