I was born, baptized and raised a Catholic, educated in a Catholic School for 12 years. After 83 years of life as a follower of Rome, I still consider myself a good “hickory” Catholic, as defined by my beloved mother-in-law, Agnes Becker Hartman, who has gone on to her reward. I don’t know where the tag “hickory” came from but it means someone who would fight and die for the church, but doesn’t necessarily believe all the “truths”.
There have been two hundred and sixty-six Popes running the ship since it was built and when I first walked up the plank, Pius XI was the captain and there have been seven different Popes since then. There was another Pius, the XII, then four with variations of the name John and Paul and our beloved Gregory.
Now after a gap of six hundred years, the Captain, instead of going to his eternal reward while Master of the ship, has decided, due to ill-health, to pass the helm to a younger successor. I think this is very admirable and applaud the Pope for this, not that he is awaiting my OK. But this does give rise to the reason I am here writing today.
It was probably around 1935, my first year under the tutelage of the Sisters of St. Francis, that I learned my first truths of the Catholic church. Pope Pius XI was in charge of the ship at the time and remained at the wheel until 1939. So then the church was faced with the first opportunity that I can remember to choose their next Captain, and we all had been taught that Peter I was our first Pope and when the next person picked Peter II, or Peter the Roman, that would mean the end of the world was imminent (this prophesy was first revealed in 1595).
I was just nine years old, lived on a farm with a radio as my only link to the outside world and being educated by Catholic Nuns that had been taught the same things about being a Catholic as they were teaching me. I truly believed that if the next Pope picked was Peter, that would mean the end of time. We were also told what the suffering and pain that accompanied the end would be like…it was not good.
From what I remember of my early days of religious instruction in my 12 years of Catholic School, the emphasis was on fear. It was fear of the wrath of God and fear of the eternal fires of Hell and finally the fear of all of the terrible things that will accompany the end of our time. You can well understand why I was frightened out of my mind when the election of a new Pope was happening and all I could do on that day was to hug the radio and when the white smoke came from the small chimney, I turned off the radio, not wanting to hear the name of the new Captain of the ship. My father, who was not a frightened 9-year-old, and my mother who was deaf and sitting there awaiting someone to tell the results, turned the Philco back on.
I ran outside and took refuge in the barn, my place to escape the world. Mom knew where I would be and she quickly found me and took me in her arms and assured me that all was OK and Pius XII would be the next Pope. We all know that Pius XII took us through WWII with all of its pain, death and controversy, and remained at the helm until 1958. I was 28 when Blessed John XXIII assumed the control of the ship and I suppose had already started my leanings toward becoming that ”hickory” Catholic that I spoke of earlier.
Pope John instituted a lot of change in the church but was still our Blessed John when he died in 1963 and Paul VI was elected. My fear of Peter II may have popped into my head at the time but I gave little thought to it. Then we come to short-timer John Paul I and then quickly to John Paul II, we hardly had time to think Peter II and Armageddon.
When Gregory became our Pontiff, I don’t think I ever gave a thought to Peter II but who knows.? Why has no Pope, with 266 opportunities, ever picked Peter II as his Papal title? Is that old belief still buried deep in the church and no one wants to take the dare?
Like that TV ad says…so many questions, Soon we can all watch those curls of smoke and when the wisps of white arise in Rome, sitting on the edge of my seat, this “hickory” Catholic will be anxious to see if Peter gets the call.
Have you ever heard of the Peter prophesy before? If so, what do you think of it all?