Malachy’s family, the aristocratic O’Moores, moved to Armagh while Malachy was an infant. Educated by some of Ireland’s most learned teachers, among them the saintly Imhar O’Hagan, Malachy decided to devote his life to the service of God. Ordained by Cellach, Archbishop of Armagh, in 1119, he shortly afterward served as vicar general to him.
In the esoteric world of Catholic seers and seeresses, Malachy is perhaps best remembered for his reputed prophecies concerning the papal Succession. An impressive number of these predictions, which were typically couched in metaphor, have the ring of truth. For example, of the pope he predicted would follow Anastasius IV, Malachy wrote “De rure albo” (Field of Albe). Anastasius’s successor, English-born Adrian IV, credited by many with giving Ireland to the English, was born in the Hertfordshire town of St. Alban.
A story, perhaps apocryphal, has made its way around the Internet concerning New York Archbishop Francis Cardinal Spellman. The tale goes that, prior to the conclave that would elect Pope John XXIII in 1958, the ambitious Spellman hired a boat, filled it with sheep and sailed it up and down Rome’s Tiber River to better fit Malachy’s criterion for the next pope, that is, “pastor et nautor” (pastor and sailor). Spellman, of course, lost out to Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, who prior to his election was patriarch of Venice, known for its canals and gondolas.
Malachy’s prediction for Pope John Paul II also gives pause. It reads: “De Labore Solus” (“From the toil of the sun,” or “from the eclipse of the sun.”) Karol Wojtyla was born May 18, 1920, during a solar eclipse. His April 8 funeral transpired when there was a solar eclipse visible in the Americas. Malachy’s prediction for the next pope — “Gloria Olivae,” or “the glory of the olive” — may be a reference to an olive-skinned cleric, perhaps from the Mediterranean, or a known peacemaker, or even the Benedectine order, a branch of which is known as the “Olivetans.” Clearly, the ambiguity works in Malachy’s favor, and perhaps the fact that the new pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, has taken the name Pope Benedict XVI, substantiates the prediction.
Malachy concluded his predictions with the following apocalyptic note, translated from the original Latin: “In the final persecution of the Holy Roman Catholic Church there will reign Peter the Roman (“Petrus Romanus”), who will feed his flock among many tribulations; after which the seven-hilled city will be destroyed and the dreadful Judge will judge the people.”
According to some interpretations of Malachy’s prophecies, the upcoming Pope (“Gloria Olivae”) will directly precede “Petrus Romanus,” the last pope.
Those concerned about the imminence of the end might also derive additional comfort from skeptics, who point to the history of Malachy’s alleged papal prophecies. In 1139, Malachy traveled to Rome and presented an account of the affairs of his diocese to Pope Innocent II. According to Abb