Once a month I visit Sister Mary Lucy–a hermit at a Poor Clare monastery to hear her confession. Today we got talking about prophecies and the end of the world.
She asked if I thought the end of the world was nigh. I was skeptical. “I grew up in a fundamentalist church.” I explained “where we heard terrible prophecies about the Rapture and the tribulation and the end times and how there was a big computer in Brussels called ‘The Beast’ which had everyone’s number, and how San Francisco would fall into the sea because of a big earthquake and this would be God’s punishment and maybe New York City too etc. etc. etc.”
When I became a Catholic the apocalyptic stories were even more stupendous. The three days of darkness, the prophecies of St Malachy that there is only two pope until the end of time, Fatima, consecrations of Russia to the Blessed Virgin, etc. etc. The exciting thing about the Catholics is that they actually had visions of Mary and stigmatics and visionaries and miracles and lots more to boot.
Added to the religious apocalyptic prophecies there has always been a secular apocalyptic story in currency. When I was growing up it was the threat of nuclear war. Then it was the new ice age that was coming. Then it was the population explosion and we would all starve by the mid 1980s, then it was AIDS which would destroy the world, then the millennium bug, now it is global warming and global economic meltdown and added to all this there has always been the threat of meteors hitting the world, earthquakes and tsunamis and terrorist outrages.
I don’t really know if we’re headed for apocalypse now, but I somehow doubt it. We may come in for hard times, persecution and terror. It has happened before, but what interests me more than the actual possibility of apocalypse is the apocalypse mentality.
Why is it that in virtually all places and at all times and all cultures there is a cloud hanging over everyone? Why is there the fear of disaster, death and destruction? I think it is just part of human psychology. We are all aware of death and so we project the reality of our own eventual death on our culture–even on our whole human race and our whole world.
What to do? Live with it. It’s part of being human. Realize that whatever you fear, it probably won’t happen. Take moderate precautions, but most of all, live in hope. Christ is (soon to be) risen from the dead. He the Phoenix. He rises from the ashes. Behold he makes all things new.
And this is what Sister Mary Lucy said in her quiet, sweet way, “I’m always excited to think that Our Lord said he ‘makes all things new’ and not that ‘he makes all new things.’ It’s much better that he will bring it all back to a much better and more glorious existence out of the destruction we bring about. That’s much better than him just starting again, and if he is going to make all things new, well, that includes me too.”