There was something about the 20th Century, something awful. Did Pope Leo have the answer?

What are we to make of the 20th Century? Like any period it is marked with its glories and its horrors. In his now classic work Modern Times, historian Paul Johnson gives a sober assessment of the 20th century and estimates, many think conservatively, that 100 million died in war and for ideological reasons in that violent century. Perhaps no century can be said to have been bloodier.

It was a century of the imposition of every sort of collectivism from communism, fascism, tribalism, and socialism , all with catastrophic results. Whole populations were the subject of social experiments; and here too, with the predictable and horrific results as economic, political, and social, theories, population “control” and other hideous visions gave way to human suffering. Millions were sacrificed in the name of collectivism in places like the USSR, China, Germany, Cambodia, Turkey, and Africa.

It was a century of endless war and further untold bloodshed that extended even into the womb as abortion too ran rampant on the globe. Our capacity to kill ourselves in huge numbers and horrifying ways reached terrifying heights in arms races and the development of gruesome weapons of mass destruction, conventional, chemical, biological and nuclear.

Faith too suffered unimaginable setbacks as Europe all but lost its Christian and Jewish faith. In both Europe and the US, Churches and Synagogues emptied as atheistic Communism, secularism, and various forms of humanism (i.e. man at the center), moral relativism, and indifferentism swept the Western World.

Families and the family structure were devastated by war, dislocation, the sexual revolution, divorce, expansive and intrusive governments with oppressive population policies, and foolish social experimentation. There are few places left in the Western World today where the family, (nuclear or extended) can be said to be strong. And as the family, the fundamental unit of civilization, has unraveled, it seems increasingly uncertain that Western culture can survive such a mortal wound.

Paradoxically, amidst all this bloodshed, war, disorder and unraveling, technological progress has been nothing less than astonishing: Electricity, radio, television, computers, telephones, the Internet, faxes, cellular technology, air-conditioning, agricultural advances, amazing medical advances and breakthroughs, astonishing scientific discovery and progress, space travel, visits to the moon and back, global communication, global economies, and remarkable market efficiencies that provide huge numbers of products and services quickly and inexpensively.

Yes, amidst all the grave darkness and bloody death of the 20th Century, we have also come (at least in the Western World) to a place or remarkably good health, nutrition and life-span with endless numbers of creature comforts and pleasantries.

The 20th Century, the worst and the best, all at once, murder and medicine, war and wealth, sorrow and science, genocide and genome projects, monstrosities and moon shots.

I am of the mind that to understand the 20th Century and its colossal contours, that no simple or natural explanation is possible. While one may see its technologies as having emerged from an organic development, I cannot personally understand the global horrors, and the great and sudden falling away from the faith in purely natural terms.  Something supernatural, I would say Satanic, has afflicted us and sent “ordinary” human wickedness over the top. The bloodshed is too global, too organized and sweeping to be merely of human origin. As St. Paul says, For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in high places (Ephesians 6:12).

October 13, 1884,  Pope Leo XIII had just finished celebrating Mass in a chapel in the Vatican. At the Mass were a few Cardinals and members of the household  staff. Suddenly the Pope stopped at the foot of the altar. He stood there for about 10 minutes, as if in a trance, his face ashen white. The going straightway from the Chapel to his office, he composed the prayer to St. Michael and later issued instructions that it be said after all Low Masses everywhere in the world. He explained that, as he was about to leave the foot of the altar, he had suddenly heard voices – two voices, one kind and gentle, the other guttural and harsh. There he heard the voice of Satan in his pride, boasting to Our Lord: “I can destroy your Church.” The gentle voice of Our Lord: “You can? Then go ahead and do so.” Satan replied,  “To do so, I need more time and more power.” The Lord said,  “How much time? How much power?” “75 to 100 years, and a greater power over those who will give themselves over to my service.” was Satan’s reply.  Mysteriously our Lord said, “You have the time, you have the power. Do with them what you will.”

No Catholic is required to accept this event as an article of faith. But there is something about the 20th Century, something awful. As observed, the 20th century is not without its merits. But the degree and scope of wickedness, suffering and the widespread falling away from the faith in the West set apart the 20th Century and cause me to ponder if Leo’s “Job-like” vision is true.

Many questions rush through our mind in reference to this vision: Why would God permit this? Was it to test, prune and purify his Church? Why does God allow Satan any influence at all? Is this fair? When did the 100 years begin and end? Will spring come soon? Do God and Satan even talk in terms of “years” and if so, does the word correspond to our use of it? If this vision happened, why did the Lord let Leo XIII hear it?

I have no simple answers to questions like these. You are free to dismiss the notion and see the 20th century as wholly unremarkable in its wickedness and falling away from the faith. But there is something about the 20th Century, something awful. Did Pope Leo have the answer? Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets (Amos 3:7). Was Pope Leo that Prophet?

I am interested in your thoughts.

Here is a Ten Minute synopsis of the 20th Century:

79 Replies to “There was something about the 20th Century, something awful. Did Pope Leo have the answer?”

  1. Many questions rush through our mind in reference to this vision:
    Why would man permit this? Why does man allow Satan any influence at all?

    Other than by outright demonic possession, Satan has absolutely no power over us whatsoever except that which we let him have. Even in our fallen state, in which our judgment and ability to discern right from wrong are impaired, still it is only by our agreeing to go along with the Father of Lies that he can do anything.

    It is important to keep that in mind. So while it is good, very good, to pray and seek the intercession of St. Michael, etc., and seek grace, etc., we should not go so far as to abdicate our own responsibility and say, “it’s God’s problem to fix.” We should not simply sit around bemoaning, “God, God, why won’t you do something?” but should go out there and do the job ourselves.

    As for the “why” of the evils of the 20th century, the seeds were planted long before then. Most all of the ills of the 20th century, of “modernity,” have their roots in the materialistic utilitarianism of the 19th century, which found fertile ground in the Industrial Revolution. But that materialistic utilitarianism is, at its heart, merely the echo of that first corrosive ideology and philosophy that was spoken in the Garden, the idea that we can be like gods ourselves, that we can choose our own truth of what is right and wrong.

    1. I agree with what you’ve said. In my research for bioethics, I draw the same historical threads together. We can blame 19th C philosophers and movements, but they have their root in earlier events and persons, back through the Enlightenment, through the Reformation, back through all of the old heresies and false pagan philosophies, all the way back to Eden. The first sin was a bioethical choice, and it went terribly wrong.

      That said, the 20th C was one of eerily fast and sweeping — cataclysmic — changes.

    2. The reason why GOD revealed to our Pope Leo XIII the vision is because of GOD’s love to mankind. He usually used His prophets to deliver such message to warned and be prepared to such a great battle between good and evil.

  2. Are you saying that humanism is evil? Are you saying that any an all humanism is evil? Is that not exactly what the Church is accused of saying? Can you clarify your message.

    1. Of all the material goods that Msgr. mentioned above, and that are the pride of humanism, none singly or taken together are necessary or sufficient for peace and joy in this life or for our true home in the next. Living the life of grace through Christ is the only necessary and sufficient condition for true peace, joy and communion. Even Socrates stumbled upon this with his claim, “The just man cannot be harmed.” Not by cancer, bubonic plague, starvation, war, public trial and execution,the burden of a broken sexuality, etc. This is the radical truth of the Catholic faith.

    2. Brian,

      There is a distinction between secular humanism , the kind more usual today, and humanism considered simply, as it would appear you want to consider it. Secular humanism puts man at the center and removes God, this both alters and world and the proper center and end for man. In this sense it can be seen as evil, though I do not recall particularly using the term evil in te article.

    3. Of course humanism is Evil. It is pure Evil.

      Mother Theresa on the other hand, was good.
      She stated plainly “I am not a social-worker, I am only doing this as a favour to the Lord”.

      Thus she did not try to credit herself for anything.

      And she also spoke less highly of herself than any snot-nosed wanna-be activist who has bought some kind of wrist-band, usually does.

      Humanism is phony to the core, and is the “religion” for posers.
      Humanism basically is about:

      “Ohh look at me, I`m so into social issues, I`m really, really, really good cause I bought this t-shirt, and ate vegan food once.”

      So yeah Buddy, I am saying any and all humanism is Evil, because it does not bring glory to The Lord or credit Him, and I`ll say this again:

      All roads who do not lead to The Lord, leads to Hell.

      Humanism does not credit God. It does not do any work in the name of God.
      It does not glorify God, and thus it is Evil and Worthless.

      You could give a billion dollars to charity.
      If you do not give it in the name of the Lord it is WORTHLESS.

  3. Msgr,

    Wow! First off yesterday I randomly stumbled on two links & then you posted this (great write up the way)

    Both has the St Michael prayer & the first one spoke of Pope Leo’s vision (by the way why did we eliminate the Leonite prayers from Mass? We need them more then ever) St Michael prayer on youtube video of Leonite prayers after Mass

    Pax Christi!

  4. Monsignor,
    I attend the Tridentine Mass, where after each low Mass we recite the Leonine Prayers, including St. Michael.
    Why were the Leonine Prayers suppressed by the Holy See’s 1964 Instruction Inter Oecumenici?

    You also ask “When did the 100 years begin and end?” – The time-frame of 1914 (WWI) and 1917 (October Revolution and Our Lady of Fatima) seem reasonable for its commencement. Although, as Bender says in the above comment, “the seeds were planted long before then”. Some (e.g., Peter Kreeft) might argue the seeds were planted in the early 1500s with Machiavelli and the infancy of Modernism, while many others argue 1789 with the French Revolution.

    Regarding the end, I trust in our Lady – “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.” – Our Lady of Fatima, 1917. How about 2017? Pray to her Immaculate Heart; consecrate Russia; and receive Communion of reparation on the First Saturdays.

  5. Whenever our Popes speak out about the worlds ills, and the causes–one can clearly see the Holy Spirit at work through them. So many times their warnings and solutions could have been a remedy but they were ignored.
    Now we come to the sad state of affairs that we must deal with, but without God there will never be peace in this world.

  6. The video really makes me wonder if the technological advances of the 20th century were, in the final analysis, a net positive or a net negative for humanity. Certainly the carnage that 10 minute video testifies to is not balanced by the joys of the I-Pod, the internet, or the moon landing. Perhaps medical advances balance things out, then again how much more disease is there in the world thanks to greater pollution due to technology? I’m no Luddite, but it makes me wonder if Satan’s greatest work of the twentieth century was to convince us to divorce technological (and scientific) discoveries from the moral order. Imagine the death and destruction that could have been avoided if scientists would ask not simply “can this be done” but “SHOULD this be done.” St. Michael defend us in battle…

    1. I totally agree. I wonder if even the technological advancements were not also a “gift” of satan. Sure, many good things have happened. But isn’t pornography one of the biggest uses, if the THE biggest use of the internet? I see even the good things being used to drag humanity away from God. They’ve done nothing but create a materialistic society, bent on removing all desire for God. We have our “Heaven” here on earth. We don’t need anything else…

      1. Are you saying we’re supposed to live in destitute medieval villages?

          1. Why not ask the survivors of Chernobyl, Jack?
            If you can find any, that is.

            Ask them what they would prefer:

            The stupid old sweet summer rain falling on the newly ploughed fields, or
            – the radioactive fallout killing everything in the entire region and rendering it uninhabitable to this very day?

            By the way, Jack, did you know that Chernobyl is a Ukrainian name for mugwort which is a species of artemesia, commonly known as “Wormwood”?

            That`s right! “Wormwood” as in Revelations 8:10-11.

            I have an idea, Jack, why don`t you move to Chernobyl with your kids and behold the marvels of technology for yourself? Live there for a very, very few years before you make up your mind.

            Im sure you`ll find it positively radiant.

        1. Brian, you do realise that all pollution is the fruit of “science” right?

          Every plastic bag that pollutes the ocean, every scrap of styrofoam, every radioactive fish that swims the oceans of japan.

          Science is Pollution.
          It even left it`s junk on the moon.

    2. “it makes me wonder if Satan’s greatest work of the twentieth century was to convince us to divorce technological (and scientific) discoveries from the moral order”
      “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” – Charles Baudelaire, “The Generous Gambler” 1864

      … and cast into Hell Satan and all the evil spirits prowling about the world seeking the ruin of souls.

    3. The Archangel Gabriel revealed to the prophet Daniel that in the last days, “men will run to and fro and knowledge shall greatly increase.” I do not know whether this technology was a net positive or net negative for humanity, but I do know that it was prophesied.

  7. Additionally. I have heard that story about the devil’s boast of destroying the Church. One needs not look far to see that Satan has been given his chance, and is on a rampage. I do wish the St Michael prayer would be restored and said at the end of every Mass. It is certainly needed today more than ever. Our consolation are the words of Mary–“In the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph.” We know Our Lady has been given power over the devil and will crush him under her foot.

  8. Yes… Pope Leo XIIIth was that prophet! Absolutely and even more, in all that he wrote and did in preparation for what came and is still coming! Though I believe the prayers of the Faithful, in particular those of consecrated religious, etc. are the golden threads binding us to heaven. Those prayed with the angels and saints at the heavenly altar of The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass! Also, before anyone makes comment be certain you have indeed read all that this good man did and wrote. If people realized what he wrote and did more would be spoken of NOW about this most holy prophet! Amazing… so much preparation for what was to come!
    God bless the good guys!

  9. Thank you for this post. Once again your insights are on the mark.
    For the whole of the 20th century, the Church has experienced wholesale persecution across the world and during that period more people have died for their Faith in Christ than in the whole of the previous 19 hundred years all together.

    The challenge from the Devil at the end of the 19th century was that he could destroy the Church but Jesus’ response was OK “Try”.

    He has failed simply because the Church has ultimately been promised that Jesus “will be with it until the end of time.”

    Wherever there has been and still is persecution, the faith continues to grow, fulfilling Christ’s promise “that when I am lifted up I will draw all men to myself”
    The growth in the numbers in the Church is present and not diminishing where persecution is currently taking place and the reverse (numbers are diminishing) is occurring where our Faith is not being challenged.
    The anti-Christian changes being promoted by governments in USA, here in the Britain and elsewhere may have the effect of providing a focus and enable us to see the Faith in terms of persecution.

    As we enter Holy Week, should we not reflect that as part of Christ’s body through our Baptism, when part of this body is suffering, then it is not only individuals that suffer but Christ is himself, undergoing His Own repeated Good Friday Experience once again?
    When the Church (meaning individuals within the Church) suffers, Christ continues the redemptive process for all of us.

    Thank you once again for your perspective and your valuable insights.

    Kevin P (UK)

  10. Msgr. Pope,

    A chilling post. Mankind did see in the 20th Century the unleashing of violent, worldwide evil on an unprecedented scale from the womb, the family, societal norms, international law, crimes against humanity, monstrous evil against the Church and efforts through the perversion of science and technology (nanoelectronics and organ replacement and harvesting) to offer the ultimate in wisdom and immortality to man. It is virtually impossible to see all of this and not see Satan (and willing, fallen man) behind these events.

    As horrifically chilling as your post is, Father, the question is: Is Satan done or are is he just warming up? Has he run the course that the Lord set and allowed for him? That is an even more chilling thought. I think that the ever-incresing number of Catholics who selectively decide what doctrines to obey and to reject the authority of the Pope as Vicar of Christ and the Magesterium are all signs that there will be a further faling away and with further falling away, the continuation of this evil steram of history.

    Viewed in perspective, it is clear that the appearance of our Lady at Fatima, the renewed urgency of the Holy Rosary and the many Marian appearances since then are all intended, through Christ’s mercy, for our spiritual well-being and protection. The Prayer to St. Michael, greater devotion to our Blessed Mother, fasting and especially and most importantly devotion to the Holy Eucharist and the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ are truly and absolutely vital to our survival in biody, soul and spirit

    Satan, the liar and murderer from the beginning, has many oblivious and useful advocates at his disposal as he roams about seeking those to destroy. We must take refuge in the Church and its scaraments for we know that the gates of hell will not prevail against our Holy Mother Church.

    Bless you, Father, for this post and may the Lord keep you and preserve you in His care from all tribulations.

    1. Is he done, or is he just warming up? Good question. In terms of bioethical issues, we stand on the verge of catastrophes and oppressions that will make the 20th C look tame. But God is in charge. He didn’t suffer and die for nothing. The end is a foregone conclusion. It’s those last chapters leading up to it that are killers.

  11. With Steve C. above, I too would like to know why (and IF) the St. Michael prayer was eliminated after Masses. I’d also like to know if it’s OK for groups of people to say this prayer together after any mass. I asked my pastor about it once, and he said we weren’t allowed to “tack” anything on to the end of a Mass.

    1. Carol, I attend daily Mass at my parish whenever I can– there’s a group of devout stalwarts at that early-morning Mass who say the prayer to St. Michael to Archangel. Without fail. Once the priest says “the Mass is ended,” it’s ended. There shouldn’t be any problem with a bunch of you hanging around after it’s over to say that prayer. The group of Italian ladies who go to the afternoon Italian Mass at another parish that I frequented would say a litany to the Sacred Heart of Jesus after Mass.

    2. Carol — you might respectfully ask the pastor whether it is permissible to tack a hymn onto the end of Mass?

      To my knowledge, a recessional hymn is not provided for in the GIRM. And yet, most everywhere there is one. (At my parish, most times we do NOT have a recessional hymn, which has the benefit of people not leaving in the middle of it.)

      If you can tack on a group song after Mass, you can tack on a group prayer. (Another nearby parish that I’ve been to a few times is Vietnamese, and they say a prayer to Our Lady of La Vang after the priest gives the dismissal.)

    3. How about getting a group after Mass to pray in the parking lot.

  12. If the date of October 13, 1884 is correct, this would place the pope’s vision precisely 33 years before the October 13, 1917 Miracle of the Sun at Fatima.

  13. My only comment is on the video. It makes it seem as if the last few years have been a time of relative peace with our “savior” Obama at the helm. The only blips on the radar during his mighty rule are just natural disasters. No mention whatsoever of the abortion holocaust? Please. I thought the first 9 minutes was intriguing, but the end leaves me truly nauseated.

  14. I believe that Pope Leo was a true prophet. However I comfort myself that the Virgin of Guadelupe is the Empress of the Americas. That is one banner that will not fall.

  15. Just to claim: By “event”, Msgr. Pope was referring to the private revelation (“heard two voices, etc.”).

    No private revelation is an article of faith. Learn more here.

  16. The message which jumps out for me the most, so far, is Bender’s statement that Satan only has power over us if we let him. The Scriptural instructions that follow the quoted, Ephesians 6:12 in the Holy Bible make it clear how to protect ourselves and the humility part in it states the flaw in humanism (at the centre) for any who ask. Also touched on in, 1 Peter 5:6-11.
    At any rate, the impression of Pope Leo XIII’s vision which I was most left with was that, Our Lord was calling Satan’s bluff but, it’s only one opinion and besides, couldn’t there have been a greater purpose than I can understand and/or more purpose than I can understand?
    As Msgr. Pope so well put it, “Mysteriously”

  17. At our parish, we have been reciting the prayer to St. Michael after all masses (both o-form and x-form) for four years. When mass is over, it’s over. If the priest wishes to invite the people remaining to pray, there’s no reason he shouldn’t. It’s voluntary on all sides, but a fine practice that should be encouraged.

  18. Thank you Msgr. Pope. Even if things get darker and darker, the sun will break through in splendor. Keep up the great work.

  19. Matthew 13:24 – 13:30

    Missing from the video is the violent attacks on Holy Mother Church of anti-clericalism of the 20th Century:

    Russia – Bolshevik revolution of 1917 (28 bishops and 1,200 priests executed)
    Portugal – Republican revolution of 1910
    Mexico – Cristero War – Between 1926 and 1934, over 3,000 priests were exiled or assassinated.
    Spain – Second Republic and Civil War (1931-1939) – thousands of churches were destroyed, thirteen bishops and some 7,000 clergy and religious Spaniards were assassinated.

  20. I saw a reader mentioned the Holy See’s 1964 Instruction Inter Oecumenici. I looked it up and found it chilling to see how anthrocentric the Mass of Paul VI is. Everything is geared to focus on man and not God. Praying for a return of the Mass of St. Pius V, the Mass of all time.

  21. Unlike most atheists (okay, agnostic, if we’re going to be technical about it), I see Christianity as being too good to be true. I think a respectable position, whatever you believe, believe it all the way. If you’re going to be a Catholic, you had better not try and pull any of those kumbaya spirituality nonsense and dismiss the Devil as an allegory, or a myth, or whatever. Jesus clearly knew and a believed in Satan, and his power (binding the strong man and so forth).

    I think any Theodicy, if it is going to approach being successful, needs a role for the Devil to explain all of the evils in the world, I can’t wrap my head around Christians who would deny it. And certainly, if the whole story is true, I would not doubt the private revelations of holy persons, certainly not Pope Leo, and so I would accept this private revelation on faith.

    I think it’s very interesting, not that the story is merely ‘Job-like’, but almost identical in dialogue structure between Yahweh and the Satan in the story of Job. My only guess is that God can permit evil, because he can right everything at the Last Judgment. I think a greater mystery is why the Devil would even bother? Isn’t he defeated, categorically, eternally? Doesn’t he know of his defeat on the Cross? I guess Acedia isn’t a problem for him!

    Now to the 20th century. Yes, it had horrible carnage and bloodshed, but as you rightly point out, it was also a great century in many other ways. I think the historical realities can be traced back in time as organically emerging (though I wouldn’t eliminate the possibility of an ultimately Diabolical cause) from what came before. You might be interested in the work of Hannah Arendt. She has an excellent text The Banality of Evil, which draws heavily from St. Augustine, and she writes (you probably know this) from the perspective of German Jew (who dated an infamous Nazi – Heidegger), who is trying to render an account of the evil of the holocaust. In the end she comes to the conclusion (which is Augustine’s, I think), that there really isn’t such a thing as radical evil, that all evil actions are aimed at some good, even if the most twisted and depraved means are enacted. In that, I would understand the horror of the 20th century as a bunch of well intentioned, but ultimately deeply misguided, aims at very good – goods. Communism, for instance, aimed at the good of social cohesion, freedom of the means of production, emancipation of the poorest of the poor, ectcetera. We might be able to understand the 20th century if we understand it as the misguided aim at many goods.

    I think another major factor would be the massive increase in life expectancy, massive decrease in infant mortality, and massive population growth. The point here is that, in a world with advanced weaponry and lots more people than the previous century, bloodshed in warfare would increase alongside that.


    1. “Communism, for instance, aimed at the good of social cohesion, freedom of the means of production, emancipation of the poorest of the poor, ectcetera.”

      “We might be able to understand the 20th century if we understand it as the misguided aim at many goods.”

      Thank you. That is the point I have been trying to make about liberalism. It is not something that sprang up out of hell. It is a human thought and a human effort.

    2. The narrative of the private revelation – “heard two voices, etc.” as being Job-like dialogue is questionable, since the Pope never wrote down what he saw nor told anyone what he saw.

      Something else to consider is that some Catholics like to put words into people’s mouths (like the so-called “three days of darkness” prophesy of St. Padre Pio), often for sensationalist reasons (end-times, etc.)

      Another thing to consider is that emotional stories – like the vision of the Pope which Mgsr. used – are often circulated and propagated without checking out where the story came from (e.g., Appeal to Emotion)

      This can be for good or for evil reasons, but, regardless, though evil is to be avoided, and I do not judge Msgr., it must be remembered that as people exist, there will be stories and will be weeds and wheat.

      See my comment on March 30, 2012 at 1:07 pm for more information on private revelations in general.

  22. I would like to see the resumption of the prayers as well. But, until that happens, we will continue to say them at every meal and at most Masses. I guess I’m not waiting for permission. Better to ask for forgiveness . . . .

  23. The sheer speed of the Church’s collapse in the West points toward diabolical influence, in my mind. Virtually overnight (as the Church reckons time) we saw hundreds of seminaries closed, tens of thousands of priests abandon their vocations, hundreds of thousands of religious sisters abandon their charisms, dissent, rebellion, divisions, moral, doctrinal, and liturgical anarchy… the list goes on. It’s as if God withdrew sanctifying grace from the Universal Church, leaving us at the mercy of Lucifer and his demons. As Monsignor Pope said, the faith is almost extinct in Europe. To be sure, part of this catastrophe can be traced to bad decisions by the hierarchy which can be reversed. But the speed and the scale of the Church’s decline indicates to me that the devil was waiting to pounce.

  24. I do not see the 20th Century as being undeniably worse than previous crises like Arianism, the Protestant revolt, and earlier challenges from outside forces like Islam. The difference today is that the Church has lost confidence in itself and its mission. The ecumenical movement (as it actually exists and not as it does on paper) has undermined everything. The Catholic Church, as an institution, no longer makes a compelling case that it is the ONE TRUE CHURCH of God whose teachings reflect God’s will, so it shouldn’t be surprising that people will leave for easier paths or ignore inconvenient teachings. You can make sociological arguments about how ignoring the Church’s teaching has a negative impact on society but that isn’t going to stop someone from doing something, particularly when life is generally pretty comfortable in spite of these social problems. Its just another example of the ‘Tragedy of the Commons’. The only effective argument is pointing out that the Catholic Church – and only the Catholic Church – is God’s Church and ignoring its teachings puts you at odds with the Creator of the universe and will have very personal consequences.

  25. The wealth of Pope Leo XIII’s writings and encyclicals that so clearly and prophetically speak to the synthesis of evil and error of our day amaze me. Yes, I think he may have had many of the answers especially in his writings on freemasonry (4 I think) and 11 on the Rosary.

    I truly believe he is one of the greatest prophets of our time. I never tire of reading his encyclicals. It perplexes and disturbs me that there seems to be no cause for his canonization. Perhaps this another great tragedy of the 20th century that can be added to the mix?

  26. “Mysteriously our Lord said, “You have the time, you have the power. Do with them what you will.””


    Why is this mysterious, Monsignore?

    He let the pope know that it was time for a showdown, and He made it pretty clear that He only wanted the hardcores. Those who are willing to take a clear stand for God.

  27. Makes you wonder why the Leonine prayers were removed, eh? Especially after such great upheaval in the earlier part of the century, devastation the likes of which no one had ever seen before.

    Lord Jesus I trust in you.

    1. A skeptic would ask, if those prayers were so important and necessary, why weren’t they more effective? History would suggest that, whatver impact they had on St. Michael and God, they were not very effective to influence people away from the scourges of modernity.

      Perhaps that is why the Church thought it necessary to try another tack. A new springtime in the Church.

      Which would include, by the way, those devotions that had been viewed with suspicion before the Council, but embraced afterward, such as “Jesus, I trust in you,” from St. Faustina and her visions of Divine Mercy.

      1. 😉 Bender I’ve followed Msgr long enough to know you like to take issue with anyone who hints at something wrong with Vatican II. Perhaps those prayers are what turned the tide of the wars?

        IMO it is the 60’s of America that unhinged the world. As for the rest and in conjunction with the below post about green shoots in Europe I would say the devotion of Blessed JPII to St. Faustina had a lot to do with that. Poland is remarkably devout and Catholic. And it is hard to argue with a visible tract of half a century of fruits or non fruits and it is notable that Pope Benedict XVII is trying to make changes to music, liturgy, etc.

        I almost added last night that the Holy Spirit might have allowed V2 so that a purification could come and the enemy’s pawns would be revealed. Certainly debatable, but I think we can also see that over the last 50 years as well.

        Just for clarification, I go to the Novus Ordo every Sunday and almost every day of the week and have no problem with it, in fact it is all I know. As a Baptist convert and only 12 years of being a Catholic I have never been to a Tridentine Mass. However, I believe in being in full communion with Rome and that the Holy Roman Catholic Church is led by the Holy Spirit, so there was reason for Vatican II.

        1. And I am all for saying the prayer to St. Michael. I say it myself, now and then. But to restate my first point, with saying such prayers, let’s not engage in trying to shift moral responsibility away from us — either in the doing of evil or in defeating it — by putting all the blame for evil on Satan and all the responsibility for stopping it on God.

          We really do need to avoid the mindset of “the devil made me do it.” No he didn’t. He might have influenced you, maybe a rather strong influence. But evil is done in this world by the free choice of the will of human beings. The Nazis are not some singular evil people, such that what they did could never happen again — what they did happens every day in some manner or fashion, even if in some different form.

          Yes, we need the assistance of archangels to help protect us against the snares of the Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. But we have to take some personal responsibility here too.

          That personal responsibility includes finding better and more persuasive arguments and means of fighting human evil. It is not enough to issue anathamas and syllabi of errors and quote a 13th century theologian to a world that stopped listening to such things long ago. That strategy did not work. We need a better plan.

          The substance of the faith as taught by Leo, et al. is to be cherished and celebrated. The light is not the problem. The problem is in finding a better lamp, a better and more effective and more persuasive way of providing that light to a dark world, of helping to soften people’s hearts, of turning them away from evil.

          1. Yes, we need the assistance of archangels to help protect us against the snares of the Satan

            Of course, that should be “Yes, we need the assistance of archangels to help protect us against the snares of Satan . . . ”
            Originally, I wrote “the devil,” but then changed that to “Satan” and failed to delete the “the.”

  28. As I said, it is a shame that The Church was deceived into embracing “Human Rights”.
    Here is what happened then.

    “Strasbourg court victory on religious education in Norway.
    July, 2007 – 07:57

    “There were celebrations in the Humanist House in Oslo last Friday, when the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg found that the religious education in Norwegian schools was in violation of Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 of the European Human Rights Convention.

    With the help of the Norwegian Humanist Association, three sets of parents had taken the Norwegian government before the Court, claiming that the KRL subject (Christianity, religion and life stance education) introduced in public schools in 1993 was not objective, critical and pluralistic. Subsequently, refusing the parents full exemption from the subject for their children was a violation of their rights as parents: “… the State shall respect the rights of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.”

    So with the help of the European Human Rights Convention and The Humanist Association, 6 parents managed to put an end to teaching Norwegian children Christianity.

    So there. So why does not The Church denounce the entire Human Rights convention?
    Why does she look the other way?

    Why does she not take a stand against all things Secular / Humanist / Satanist and condemn it as instruments of Satan?
    Please do explain.

  29. You see, the European Convention on Human Rights is so cleverly designed, that you according to it`s own text cannot denounce any one part of it, but must accept it as a whole…

    So here is what is happening in America, by the use of “Human Rights”:

    “American Humanists challenge “God” in Pledge of Allegiance”

    “Yesterday, February 13 2012, the American Humanist Association argued in Massachusetts Superior Court that the state’s constitutional equal rights amendment should bar the practice of public schools conducting a daily flag-salute exercise that utilizes the version of the Pledge of Allegiance that includes the phrase “under God.”

    This case, Jane Doe, et. als. v. Acton-Boxborough Regional School District et al, is unique and important because the state’s constitutional equal protection guarantees are the basis of the suit, not the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment. This same strategy could be replicated in other jurisdictions.

    “The daily recitation in public schools of a pledge declaring that the nation is ‘under God’ is discriminatory toward atheists and Humanists,” said David Niose, president of the American Humanist Association and lead attorney for the plaintiffs in the case. “No child should go to school each day to have the class declare that her religious beliefs are wrong in an exercise that portrays her and her family as less patriotic than believers.”

    Currently, Massachusetts law requires public school teachers to begin each day with a classroom recitation of the Pledge for the purpose of instilling patriotism and love of country. On behalf of the plaintiffs, the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center is asking for a court declaration that daily recitation of the “under God” version of the pledge is discriminatory. They also seek a court order that other, nondiscriminatory means should be used to instill patriotism.”

    Full text here:

    So again, Monsignore, I want to ask you:

    Since it has now become painfully obvious to all that the entire concept of “Human Rights” is a sham:
    Why does not The Church do something about this?

    Why not instruct the 1,2 billion members of The Catholic to say “NO” and take the fight?

  30. All this is very interesting …. but to say that the faith is almost extinct in Europe is absurd. In many places it is experiencing renewal, green shoots, and I am a priest based in London working with young people and the church is thriving here – we have record numbers in the local seminary for 20 years and the numbers have been rising for years on end. It seems as JPII heralded an era of new growth. So please – this North American rhetoric about Europe is ignorant and well off the mark.

    1. Thanks Fr. For pointing to the green shoots and rays of light. If the hundred years are ending (?) then I would hope your experience signals that very fact.

  31. Yep, the 20th century was somewhat grisly, wasn’t it? And the 21st isn’t shaping up too well either. However, we are called on to keep faith and remain hopeful. Here in the Swiss village of Echallens, just 70 klicks down the road from Calvin’s Geneva, the angelus rings 3 times a day and there are big Catholic churches in every village which are packed out for 2 of the 3 traditional weekend services. When the local church bells ring at 5 today, our family will be off to celebrate Palm Sunday. And we’re expecting our 4th child in 3 weeks. So, the devil and all his human cohorts can do their worst; they won’t stop us and millions like us doing our duty to God! Happy Easter to one and all!

  32. Dear Monsignor,

    Twenty years ago, I wrote an article, “Russia and the Leonine Prayers,” and (among other things) tried to trace the origin of the story of Leo XIII’s vision, and its reputed connection with the St. Michael the Archangel Prayer in the Prayers after Low Mass.

    A German priest, Fr. Bers, tried to do the same in 1934. “Wherever one looks,” he said, “one may find this claim — but nowhere a trace of proof.”

    Contemporaneous source were silent on the matter. Fr. Bers quoted a priest who visited with Leo XIII when the prayer was instituted in 1886:

    “When the prayers which the priest says after Mass were be­ing instituted, I happened to have a short audi­ence with the Holy Father. During the conversation Leo XIII men­tioned what he was go­ing to prescribe and re­cited all the prayers from memory. This he did with such deep-seated con­vic­tion of the power of the cosmic rulers of this dark­ness and of the beguilement which they cause, that I was quite struck by it.”

    Commenting on this passage, Father Bers con­cluded:

    “Therefore it can be safely assumed that the Holy Fa­ther would have spoken of the vision if he had had it — or that at least the reporter would have mentioned it — since it would have been most relevant to the general purport of the state­ment. Conse­quently, the argument “from silence” seems to indicate clearly that the ‘vision’ had been in­vented in later times for some rea­son, and was now feeding upon itself ‘like a perpetual sick­ness’.”

    The link to my article is:

    Like Fr. Bers, I concluded that the story of the vision was probably apocryphal. If any reader has any earlier sources for the story than I was able to find, I’d greatly appreciate hearing from him.

    1. I recently added a comment on this subject at the Abbey Roads blog which may also bear some relevance here.
      There is a lot of supporting evidence that Pope Leo XIII did indeed experience a vision in relation to his institution of the St Michael Prayer. The earliest version of this story to appear in print was in 1934, in a German Sunday newspaper article Theo-Prakt. Quartalschrift 87. This story seemed to be confirmed 14 years later, in the Roman journal Ephemerides Liturgicae V in 1947, by Fr. Domenico Pechenino, a priest who worked at the Vatican during the time of Leo XIII – who witnessed the pope experiencing this vision. In the above journal, Fr Pechenino describes the pope as experiencing the vision in near verbatim language to the apocryphal account, and that the Holy Father immediately set about composing the St Michael Prayer thereafter. However this account leaves out any mention of the hundred years granted to Satan. But we can be almost certain that Fr Pechenino was aware of the 100 years element in this story, since it was first published 13 years previously, but he doesn’t attempt to refute that this was the central component of the pope’s vision. This therefore seems to be a deliberately low-key confirmation that the events transpired as recounted in the apocrypal account.

      1. Dear Mr. O’Regan,

        The article in Theo-Prakt. Quartalschaft was the same one by Fr. Bers that I cited in my post. He was skeptical about the incident of the vision.

        But thanks for the tip on Ephemerides, 1947. I will check it out!

        — Fr. Cekada

  33. One hundred years is one-hundred years. Think about it for a second. Pope Leo’s vision occurred in 1884. Pope John Paul II’s consecration of the world and of Russia officially occurred in 1984 – one hundred years. Five years later the Soviet Union collapsed along with Russian atheistic , communism (although communism still exists in political and social forms, the latest in the West being secularism, and Chinese communism still has a grip on a major part of the world). Do we now dare look for a better and more peaceful 21st century?

  34. Know Our Lord Jesus Christ and make sure He knows us. Live with our bags packed. Keep the oil lanterns filled. Recognize the enemy. Pray.

    It doesn’t really matter if the exact details are right regarding how the revelation was made. It has been handed down for years that Pope Leo XIII had an experience that instilled the St. Michael Prayer to be said, post mass. The experience made known that the devil would be rampant beyond all others in the 20th century. There’s no question. The data is everywhere; just look around. All the questions posed eloquently by Msgr. Pope are worthy of discussion, and we must keep them within the context of our souls being fixed upon the Lord.

    If we are blessed with an open heart to know and realize this, then we must go forth and spread the Good News!! To those who have more, more will be expected. Let us all pray and fast, unleashing God’s power and grace to save souls.

  35. I wish Msgr. Pope would have also mentioned Pope Leo’s XIII Encyclical “Quod Apostolici Muneris”. This was written in 1878, 6 years before his experience at mass in 1884. The encyclical warns the world in great detail of a coming disaster from the growth of socialism & the philosophy of atheism. I specifically like sections 8 & 9, which are still very relevant today.


  36. I liked the essay/article. I thought it was insightful. There are the big events and our little lives. Imo, it is our little lives that matter and that God cares about. The little things we do or refuse to do, etc.

  37. At our pastor’s behest, our small rural parish in the Rockford Illinois Diocese has been praying the St. Michael Prayer after Mass for over a year now. South of us, in the Peoria Illinois Diocese, Bishop Daniel Jenky asked that this prayer be inserted into the Sunday General Intersessions “just before their concluding prayer” until [the HHS matter] “issues are favorably resolved”.

    One thing I have wondered about in the prayer is why we ask God merely to “rebuke [Satan] ” versus, say, annihilating him. I also note that it is “through the power of God” that St. Michael casts into hell Satan and all the evil spirits. This would seem to indicate that St. Michael, on his own, has not the power to do so. Is this a rank/power thing or do you suppose Pope Leo thought St. Michael ought to await for God’s command to take action? Proximate to the final trumpet?

  38. \October 13, 1884, Pope Leo XIII had just finished celebrating Mass in a chapel in the Vatican. At the Mass were a few Cardinals and members of the household staff. Suddenly the Pope stopped at the foot of the altar. \

    This is an urban legend with no basis in fact, however popular it may be in some circles.

    According to this version of the legend, Satan’s chance ended in 1984.

    BTW, the so called Leonine Prayers (which were NEVER part of mass and NEVER included in the Altar Missal) had NOTHING to do with this vision. They were originally a separate devotion (popular since they were frequently recited in the vernacular) composed for the protection of the temporal sovereignty of the Holy See over the Papal States, and directed to be said after a Low Mass–and actually, not after all of them. This became a dead issue in 1920 (or so: I’m not sure of the exact year) when the Lateran Treaty made the “Roman question” (as this matter was called).

    Pius XI changed the intention of these prayers to “the conversion of Russia.”

    Some people have been complaining since 1965 or so about the terrible state the Latin church has fallen into since “the removal of the St. Michael prayer from the Mass.” An example of the “post hoc, ergo propter hoc” fallacy, as these prayer (as you see) were NEVER part of the Mass to start with.

    1. Methinks thou dost protest too much Jack. That you doubt the story is OK but then you go into lawyer mode with all the NEVER and NOTHING stuff. It s generally good advice to avoid using terms such as this in a matter such as this. History is seldom as defintive as proponents make it to be. You might notice I indicate freedom in the post to accept or reject the matter. Your simple declaration of the whole thing as an urban legend does not make it so.

      Finally numerology requires a bit of sophistication. When periods begin and end have a mystery about them. When the “100” years began and end is not clear from the alledged vision. Perhaps the vision was proleptic and indicated the co ming century or the beginning of WWI. Who knows for sure. But your crudely literalist approach to the number is neither helpful and is proabably meant to ridicule.

      1. I agree with Jack on one thing..Satan’s chance must have ended in 1984. In 1985 John Paul II called to have the Catechism of Catholic Church written. As soon as this book was made available to all of us we not only began learning about this beautiful faith but we are gaining confidence in teaching and sharing it with others as well.

        I was always taught that after this period of 100 years that the Church would rise to a level of Glory never seen before. This has always given me hope.

  39. in response to fr. anthon”ys skepticisim about the Popes vision being concocted please advise him to read blessed anne emerich’s life story, written in the mid 1840s, in which she foretold of the satanic vision to the pope prior to its happening. her writings have been approved by the church. when a profound stigmatist who suffered painfully with the bleeding marks of christ plus some and not having eating solid food for years and years other than the holy eucharist and “sips” of water and juice, should convince the good Father and remove his uncertainty about the prophecy. review the period 1914 to now and realize the disaster both natural and humankind that have occured during this 100 year period

  40. Monsignor: after reviewing the film clip you failed to recognize or hilight the most significant of human events, the holocaust. in addition to the many war tragedies you hilighted you didn’t cover or consider the gigantic change and explosion of world wide human behavior starting in the 60s with homosexualtiy, abortion, divorce, euthanasia, severe weather changes and calamities experienced world wide and still continuing as well as other satanic driven results which will still occur. in these past hundred years satan has been active and will continue his crusade as he requestedl, now be watchful for the results of the current political upheaval taking place here and across the globe now with possible catastrophic results possibly finishing by 2014.
    ps as an aside consider, during this centruy which also included, the persecution of the church, the martydoms occuring during the effects of the communist takeover of european countries, the spanish civil war, the mexican persecution, the chinese and vietnam persecution currently underway.

  41. I’ve got to say that Pope Leo’s vision, in hindsight, rings very true. And sadly, I don’t think the 100 years is over. Maybe it started with the advent of the First World War and so we are getting closer to its termination.

    However, I do think that the proper interpretation of the vision is probably alegorical and not literal. By that I mean that the Pope probably had an insight into the direction society would take and it was expressed in his vision. I’m not certain that Satan has this organizing ability. Society’s have a tendancy to rise and fall organicaly, just as the individual human matures to his or her prime and then succumbs to old age and dies. And I think western culture as we have known it is on its deathbed.

    And this is not necessarily a bad thing as there was plenty in western society that should have died (colonialsim, racism, economic imperialism, etc.). And positive aspects of the west’s legacy will live on in the rise to prominance of the global south. These cultures cannot exist independent of the western legacy today, but can certainly shape that legacy with contributions of their own. I look forward to the day, for instance, when we see a Pope elected from among the African, Latin or Asian cultures. I think such a Pope could bring a freshness to the Catholic faith in Europe where it has become something of a tourist attraction.

    And Europe and America will still exist, we may just have to share the world instead of dominating it. And we may see Catholicism refreshed by experiences outside of what has become characteristic of purely culturally western and not universally catholic.

    And that has been the genius of Catholic faith from the beginning, the ability to accept new cultures into it without demanding a complete repudiation of what existed there before.

  42. I thank you for this most important article. I have long held, as internal perspective, that Pope Leo XIII’s vision very succinctly explains the demonstrative evil and subsequent horrors that, in particular, the world has been experiencing since around the time of his vision up to the present moment. Truly, I cannot entertain any other cause then the obvious one: Satan is running amok as he knows his time is short. He is hell-bent on taking as many souls with him as possible. He is, in fact, doing an excellent job of meeting his objective. Pride and arrogance, the very sins which caused him to be extricated from Heaven are the same sins causing so, so many souls to fall to the pit of Hell like so many leaves falling from the trees in Autumn. Satan’s ability to connive, persuade and lie to mankind is unparalleled and much of mankind walks without God. God has become, via conditioning by Satan, a relic and does not fit into the “enlightened” world. Who but Satan could develop this new religion of secularism, relativism and atheism. I wouldn’t want to give more recognition of the enemy but this seems to me to be the cause and effect of virtually every evil in the present world. Finally, if a reader would like one additional example, abortion is the perfect one to give. The arguments for and justification of mass murder are, in the most negative possible way, ingenius. It also helps his cause that so many people exist on their own arrogance and selfishness that, in reality, they are easy pawns of the father of lies. We must stay close to the Church, take strength in learning of the lives of the Saints and pray the Holy Rosary unceasingly. May God bless us all.

  43. As an almost lifelong mystic, who died as a child of Reyes Syndrome and came back, I do think the vision is true.
    I have studied spirituality and history throughout my life and I have always wondered why the twentieth century was so different from all of the other prior centuries: this explains So Much!
    The other centuries were marked by a slow and gradual progress; not the twentieth! It stands out as a period of time that saw such rapid “progress” (on steroids) that quickly went off on a negative track…’Roid-rage Progress’ that it stuns the mind!
    Recently Our Lady has said that the 100 years were almost over; it would be good to find out when she said that.
    Another thing that she said was that because his time was almost up, Satan was getting aggressive about the fact that he didn’t have as many souls as he thought he should. When you look at the mass shootings, companies like Monsanto/Monsatan, and global terrorism that we are dealing with I’d say he’s getting aggressive alright.
    Thank you to all for the great insights and links. May God Bless Us and our World.

  44. I find the coincidence of the date of October 13 interesting. October 13 was the day Pope Leo was given his vision. October 13 was the day the Sun danced at Fatima, and October 13 was the date the third secret at Fatima was fulfilled; the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul.
    I’m just getting a bit impatient for this 100 years to be over. I was hopeful around June 2014, as I assumed World War I had to fall within the Century of Satan, but got a little disappointed shortly afterwards. I guess we can’t pin exact dates down. I know I’m not supposed to look forward to a certain day or a certain time, but let’s just say I won’t be surprised if SOMETHING dramatic happens on an upcoming October 13 again.

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