Meet the “Apostle of the End Times.”
In this installment of my primer on Marian apocalypticism I will shift focus from the world of Catholic traditionalism to what I have labelled (for lack of a better term) charismatic apocalypticism. Here I am not speaking of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, but of Marian apocalypticism in a charismatic mode, which has a different character than its traditionalist counterpart in that it draws upon a much wider range of private revelation, emphasizes emotion and experience, and focuses more on the People of God than the institutional Church. It is easiest to introduce this mode of apocalypticism by looking at one of its more popular contemporary representatives: Father Michel Rodrigue.
Father Rodrigue is a Canadian priest and exorcist whose story and prophecies have been shared widely on social media. Most recently, he has appeared as one of the main featured prophets on an elaborate website titled Countdown to the Kingdom, a joint project of Christine Watkins, Daniel O’Connor, Mark Mallett, and Peter Bannister that was launched in March of this year. You can see Daniel O’Connor’s welcome message for the website, which will give you an idea of its purpose, here:
Countdown to the Kingdom represents a synthesis of various elements of Marian apocalypticism in the charismatic mode, all put together in a very polished way. Judging by what I’ve found online, the website appears to be successful. Several of their Youtube videos already have over 100,000 views, and the public Countdown to the Kingdom Facebook group has over 5000 members.
While I do not question the sincerity of the website’s creators, I do question the wisdom of attempting to create what appears to be an orthodoxy of apocalypticism out of private revelation and presenting it in a way that suggests the end times are already upon us. Further, when it comes to the promotion of the prophecies of Fr. Rodrigue, I think they could be making a serious mistake, for reasons that will become evident in my overview. Readers can decide for themselves whether or not they think Fr. Rodrigue should be listened to, but in any case he is a fascinating figure who embodies the charismatic mode of Marian apocalypticism I will explore, even if he also displays some traits of the traditionalist mode. (I should point out that although Fr. Rodrigue claims to receive most of his messages from God the Father, much of his apocalyptic narrative is derived from Marian sources.)
Those who want to get a feel for Fr. Rodrigue’s public personality can have a look at the video below, which displays his compelling and appealing style. He casually weaves together prophecies of doom with promises of protection, and astounding claims of supernatural experience with self-deprecating anecdotes, all delivered with a heavy but charming French-Canadian accent.
Here are some alleged facts about Fr. Rodrigue that I gleaned from the Countdown to the Kingdom website (all of which are contained in the 17-part “virtual retreat”):
- He is the youngest of a family of 23 children. [Such a thing is possible, but it is really remarkable, and might even have been newsworthy in Quebec at the time.]
- He has survived eight heart attacks. [It is very unusual for a person to survive eight heart attacks. Many find it remarkable that former US Vice President Dick Cheney has survived five.]
- He has survived three bouts of cancer. At least two of his cancers (eye cancer in both eyes, and an unspecified near-fatal cancer) were cured through miraculous means.
- He has been receiving messages from God since the age of three. This includes a thorough theological education from age three to six, delivered directly from God the Father, that later allowed him to stun his professors with his intellectual precociousness.
- Satan attacked his family’s home when he was a child, causing phenomena characteristic of a “haunting.” Young Michel was apparently the target of this supernatural activity. To resolve the situation, his family burned down their home, allowing ten-year-old Michel to set the fire by igniting gasoline.
- When his mother died, her body illuminated the hospital room—a phenomenon that was witnessed by every nurse and doctor in her Montreal hospital.
- The bishop who ordained him as a priest did so after being commanded by the voice of Jesus.
- In 2009, when he was celebrating Christmas Eve mass at a Montreal parish, he brought a woman back to life who had collapsed and was declared dead by four doctors on the scene.
- God the Father instructed him to found a new religious order. God also dictated the entirety of the order’s constitution, and chose a spot for Fr. Rodrigue to build a monastery (which is now partially completed).
- During the vesting ceremony that followed the bishop’s approval of the new order, Fr. Rodrigue heard Our Lady say “I call the apostle of the end times” (referring to Fr. Rodrigue).
- He was once taken to Heaven by Padre Pio, where he met the Holy Family and was given the opportunity to hold the baby Jesus in his arms. Afterward, Padre Pio took him to Purgatory, where he saw—at the lowest level—souls being abused by the Devil. He declined an invitation to visit Hell.
There are more astonishing claims as well, but no actual evidence on the website for any of them, and I have not been able to find any evidence elsewhere. We are simply expected to take Fr. Rodrigue’s word for it, and it seems that these claims are themselves supposed to function as evidence that Fr. Rodrigue is a true prophet, which in turn is meant to lend credence to the apocalyptic narrative he promotes. With charismatic figures such as this, the “proof” of their claims lies in their ability to convince their listeners—in an emotional, personal way—that have been granted special gifts and powers by virtue of their privileged relationship to the world of the supernatural.
I will do my best to describe the key elements of Fr. Rodrigue’s apocalyptic narrative, based on my reading of the “virtual retreat.” According to Fr. Rodrigue:
- We are in or are entering a period of great trouble (the “minor tribulation”) for the Church and the world. False ecumenism will cause a schism in the Church. Christians will be persecuted. There will be famine, plagues, uprisings, and a financial crash.
- A Satanic one-world government under the influence of the Illuminati and the anti-Christ will rise up, and a nuclear war will break out. The war should have started in 2019, but Donald Trump has been able to resist the efforts of the one-world government. The Trump-facilitated reprieve was granted thanks to an angel who intervened to make sure Trump would win the 2016 election.
- The minor tribulation will be interrupted by a great event called “The Warning,” during which the sun will go out, time will seem to stop, and the sky will light up across the world with the figure of Jesus on the Cross. Everyone on earth will be granted an “illumination of conscience” for about fifteen minutes, during which they will see all of their sins and be given a taste of where they will end up if they don’t change their behavior. Many who experience the pains of Hell will die as a result. After the Warning there will be a “period of repentance” lasting over six weeks.
- The Warning will be followed by the Time of the Refuges. Each person’s guardian angel will show them a flame, and if they follow the flame they will be led to a refuge. People can consecrate their own houses as refuges beforehand. They must stay in these refuges for over three years, during which time they will be protected from both the adherents of the one-world government and the comets that will rain fire from the sky as part of the Major Tribulation.
- After the Tribulation, a period of peace will reign on the purified earth until the return of Satan followed by the Second Coming.
In many ways, this narrative follows the traditionalist pattern of a Great Chastisement leading to a period of peace, but with the addition of the novel elements of the Warning and the Time of the Refuges. Fr. Rodrigue emphasizes the Time of the Refuges, encouraging his devotees to consecrate their homes and prepare their families. Given that the Major Tribulation will be especially devastating, it seems that these people—the ones who listened to the Warning—will comprise the majority of humans who make it through alive, and who will be able to enjoy a glorious period of peace in a world that has been cleansed by war and fire.
In my next installments I will take a closer look at the background of the ideas of The Warning and the Era of Peace—the latter of which has special significance in the charismatic mode of Marian apocalypticism. For now, though, I will confine myself to completing this profile of Fr. Rodrigue with a look at some of the odd specifics embedded within his larger apocalyptic narrative.
Fr. Rodrigue peppers his grand prophecies with details that are troubling, to say the least, and show the influence of some strains of traditionalist conspiracism. Consider this statement that appears in his one of his talks about the impending World War III (transcribed by Christine Watkins, who may have gently modified some of the text, so it is perhaps not 100% verbatim):
There is a One World Order comprised of people who call themselves the Illuminati and worship Satan. They have puppets now in positions of power in every country, whom they oblige to worship Satan with them. Their second arm is international banking elites, who decide which countries’ money will be devalued, causing bankruptcy, and which currencies will thrive. This is not decided within a country, but outside of it. The third arm of the Illuminati is the three major Satanic cults in the world: the cult of Egypt; the cult of Europe, and the wicca cult, which is in America. The group that works under them is the Masons. The One World Order is preparing military corps groups in different countries, who will be disciples of Satan, linked directly to them. When the devil’s power returns after the Warning, they will emerge as the One World government. Even now, their military police force is in place, awaiting orders. You have to know that.
This is standard New World Order conspiracy boilerplate, with the addition of the strange and unelaborated mention of the “three cults.” I should not need to point out that talk of a cabal of “international banking elites” who manipulate the world from behind the scenes is a trope associated with anti-Semitism that has a very ugly history both inside and outside the Church. Here, his language has more in common with Archbishop Viganò than anyone else.
In another talk, he offers a prophecy that appears to draw upon Third Secret traditionalist apocalypticism regarding apostasy in the Church, though he carefully refrains (through a unique contrivance) from stepping into either apostate-pope territory or “Benevacantism”:
An ecumenical Mass will be introduced in the Church. It will be formulated by different religious heads, first, in a committee. As a final step, it will be proposed to Rome, to the pope. A document by Pope Francis, Magnum Principium, went into effect on October 1 of 2017, which gave authority to national bishops’ conferences to include new terms or prayers in the rite of the Mass for their countries. Many countries are now caught up in sins of matrimony and have already deviated from the path of the Lord. If synods of bishops in these countries have the authority to make an altered rite of the Mass, you can be sure they will bring something wrong to the pope. If the pope doesn’t sign their proposals, which means rejecting what he has already given them the power to do, what will happen? Schism, which is one of the things that we will soon see in the Church.
Rome will just sign the paper because they will feel that all the authority has been given to the bishops to make those changes in their own country. This doesn’t mean it will be the pope who accepts the document.
The Antichrist is in the hierarchy of the church right now, and he has always wanted to sit in the Chair of Peter. Pope Francis will be like Peter, the apostle. He will realize his errors and try to gather the Church back under the authority of Christ, but he will not be able to do so. He will be martyred. Pope emeritus, Benedict XVI, who still wears his papal ring, will step in to convene a council, attempting to save the Church. I saw him, weak and frail, held up on either side by two Swiss guards, fleeing Rome with devastation all around. He went into hiding, but then was found. I saw his martyrdom.
So according to Fr. Rodrigue, an illegitimate ecumenical Mass will be accepted by Rome, perhaps against the will of Pope Francis, because his hands have been tied by Magnum Principium, which was itself issued by Pope Francis. This will be done to prevent a schism, which will happen anyway, and which may or may not have something to do with the Antichrist, who is in the hierarchy and wants to be pope. Then Pope Francis will attempt to correct his “errors” but will be killed, which means that Benedict XVI will gain the authority to convene a council based on the false claim that he still wears his papal ring. Then Benedict will be killed, which means…what? The complete collapse of the organizational structure of the Church? I don’t really follow, since it’s all so convoluted. It sounds something like a traditionalist narrative of an apostate Church with an apostate/Antichrist pope, but modified so that Pope Francis is not accused of apostasy but only incompetence or lack of courage.
Evaluating the Claims and Prophecies of Fr. Rodrigue
My purpose here is not to make a definitive judgment regarding the legitimacy of Fr. Rodrigue as a prophet, especially since I have no authority to do so. Yet I will say that, personally speaking, I simply don’t buy Fr. Michel’s act. To me, he sounds like a fabulist who has used his talent of communication to build a following of devout but naïve Catholics, some of whom I expect are dutifully preparing to cower in their refuges, scared to death of the one-world government and the looming Tribulation. Further, with his confusing prophecies regarding Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI, he has planted more than a few seeds of doubt in the minds of his followers regarding the institutional Church and its ability to withstand strife and turmoil.
For those seeking a more authoritative judgment, Dr. Mark Miravalle has provided a theological examination of Fr. Rodrigue’s claims on Kevin J. Symonds’ blog here, which Daniel O’Connor from Countdown to the Kingdom responded to here. But perhaps the final word should go to Fr. Rodrigue’s bishop, Monsignor Gilles Lemay, who wrote to Fr. Rodrigue on April 23, 2020 (as documented on the Countdown to the Kingdom website) to inform him that he does not support his teachings on “the Warning, the chastisements, the third World War, the Era of Peace, any construction of refuges, et cetera.” On April 24, Bishop Lemay then responded to inquiries from the public regarding Fr. Rodrigue. In his email, he describes Fr. Rodrigue as a priest working in his diocese who is also “the founder of the Fraternité Saint-Benoît-Joseph-Labre, a lay association of the faithful which is not a religious institute,” and continues:
As you probably did too, I read on the Countdown to the Kingdom website related to Fr Michel and also in the book of Christine Watkins, The Warning. Testimonies and Prophecies the Illumination of Conscience (Note 84, p. 278 and p. 280), that: ‘Michel Rodrigue receives the full support of his bishop, and all of his locutions and visions are submitted to his local ordinary for approval.’ This quotation was removed these days from the website after a request I sent to Fr Michel. No mention is made of the reason for the removal, that is to say: because it was untrue. However, the quotation remains in the book mentioned above.
I have to tell you that Fr Michel never submitted to me any of his locutions and visions for discernment or approval. Accordingly, I could not have supported the content of his talks which are not presented in my diocese nor elsewhere in the Province of Québec as far as I now, but mostly in the United States. Moreover, I learnt about his teaching while reading some reports on the website mentioned above. I did not and I do not approve his teaching with regard to his locutions and visions. Consequently, it is untrue that he ‘receives the full support of his bishop’ as it is written in the Countdown to the Kingdom website and in the quoted book.
Countdown to the Kingdom has issued a response, but the statements from Bishop Lemay should be enough to convince anyone interested in Fr. Rodrigue’s prophecies to proceed with extreme caution.
Photo: Mount Yasur at night — Lava Explosion, Vanuatu (2012) [cropped]. By Christopher Hogue Thompson. License: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.