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06.06.06 | Is the End At Hand? | An Interview with Michael OBrien
by Valerie Schmalz
The number "666" is believed by some interpreters of The Apocalypse
(or The Book of Revelation), the final book in the New Testament, to be
the Mark of the Beast and the sign of the Antichrist, who will arise in
the worlds final years to do battle against God and Gods people.
Not ones to let an opportunity pass them by, the producers of a remake
of The Omen titled The
Omen 666 are releasing the movie on June 6, 2006 06.06.06.
And while the fictional tale of a child born to be the Antichrist hits
movie theaters, The
Rapture, the final book in the fundamentalist potboiler Left
Behind series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, is set for release
in bookstores on the same day.
What does the Catholic Church believe about the Antichrist and the end
of the world? Recently, Valerie Schmalz of IgnatiusInsight.com interviewed
Author Page), whose fictional work Father
Elijah is built around the character of a priest who is a convert
from Judaism. Father Elijah is sent by the pope and the cardinal secretary
of state to penetrate the inner circles of the man they believe is the
Antichrist and call him to repentance. The plot for OBriens
novel came to him in one inspiring moment while he was praying in a parish
church for the state of the world and the Church. OBrien, who is
a husband, father of six children, and a painter, went on to write a series
of novels about the end of the world, the Children of the Last Days books,
all published by Ignatius Press. He is known as a strong voice for the
Churchs moral values in Canada and in the Western world. Most recently,
OBrien gave a
talk about the Apocalypse and Christianity at St. Patricks Basilica
in Ottawa, Canada.
IgnatiusInsight.com: Who is the Antichrist? Is he for real?
Michael OBrien: At this point in history we do not know whom,
specifically, \the Antichrist is. There are many people on the world stage
who promote the ideas of the Antichrist and spirit of Antichrist. We do
know that at some point in history this spirit of Antichrist will manifest
itself in an actual person who will be totally under the influence of
Satan. Scripture calls him the Man of Sin, alternately the Son of Perdition
and the Beast. Who, in fact, this will prove to be, we do not yet know.
But we should clearly understand that he will be a world figure, not just
a spirit. That spirit of the Antichrist has been with us from the beginning
of the Church, making war against the Church but when it is embodied in
the person of the anti-Christ he will make total war. St. Paul says he
will come to power by "lies and flattery." In other words, deluding
IgnatiusInsight.com: So it is a real teaching of the Catholic Church?
The Catholic Church believes there is a real person of the Antichrist
who will appear at some point in history?
OBrien: Absolutely yes. It is in Scripture and in the teachings
of the Church. (See Catechism of the
Catholic Church, par 675)
IgnatiusInsight.com: Do you think this appearance of the Antichrist
is something that could happen in our lifetimes?
OBrien: It certainly is looking more and more possible, even
probable. The climate of world opinion, the consciousness of modern man,
which has become so conditioned by new media culture, which is continuously
pumping into the consciousness of modern man moral values and ideas that
are completely at odds with the teachings of Christ and the Church. That
spirit of Antichrist is growing, spreading throughout the world. And the
proponents of the New World Order recognizeyou can read it in their
writings and interviewsthat the Catholic Church is the single major
stumbling block to their agenda. Only the Church, the Body of Christ in
the world, stands as a bulwark against the emergence of this New World
Order, which embodies many of the ideas of the Antichrist. But I should
say that it is not only anti-Christ, it is anti-human, it is anti-person.
It is collectivist and totalitarian, although it speaks endlessly of the
beauty of democracy.
IgnatiusInsight.com: Are there apocalyptic elements in the modern
OBrien: I believe there are unprecedented apocalyptic elements
in the modern age. Two main ones we should keep an eye on. First is this
emergence of a New World Order that continuously exhibits a willfulness
to override individual conscience on moral issues and also to override
the conscience of sovereign nations.
For instance, the European Union has shown itself quite willing to threaten
and withhold benefits from member states that refuse to provide abortion
services, typically that is Catholic countries, for example Slovakia and
Poland. It also threatens to prevent the entry into the European Union
of small nations that do not agree to the redefined morality of the European
Union. The United Nations Organization actively promotes population control
and uses the whip-and-carrot approach to make reluctant nations complythe
carrot being financial aid. This is a grave undermining of democracy as
weve known it. Its also a severe violation of the inviolability
of personal conscience and conscience of nations.
On a more grassroots level, the countless movements such as the feminist
movement, the pro-abortion movement, gay marriage advocates all
posit freedom as an absolute but disconnect it from responsibility. I
am free to kill my child in the womb. I am free to cohabit with a person
of my gender and I will force you, my nation, and I will force you Christians
who oppose it, to call it marriage. In these and similar phenomena we
are seeing a new kind of violation of conscience in the democracies of
the formerly Christian nations. Those nations who retain remnants of fundamental
principles of their Judeo-Christian heritage are punished when they resist
the New World Order. They must pay a high price to retain their moral
autonomy. Pope Benedict XVI calls it the "dictatorship of moral relativism"
and I would say it is practically universal in the contemporary world and growing
IgnatiusInsight.com: Do movies and books such as The Omen 666
and the Left Behind novels reflect a consciousness or sense in
the culture from both religious fundamentalists and the very secular that
something is afoot in our culture?
OBrien: Whatever the filmmakers and publishers
motivation may bewhich is probably moneyregardless, I think
they are tapping into a reality in the modern age. Most people are aware
of a radical shift in the nature of modern life that is fundamentally
different than all traditional societies. Good, bad, and ugly, (up until
now), all societies protected the family, most societies recognized that
killing your children was an evil, all societies recognized that homosexual
relationships were disordered in some way. Whether or not they handled
this badly or well, they recognized it as a severe problem and that it
had negative social consequences.
The formerly Christian nations of the democratic West are losing their
democracy even as they increase their rhetoric about democracy. People
realize that they are being forced into unnatural and evil choices. We
are now living in a double-income-two-child-or-less economy. We are living
in a pyramid of sin from top to bottom in this society. I think that most
people, even when they think thats a good thing, in the heart of
their soul they recognize that something is seriously wrong in this.
These tensions in the modern world are unprecedented in scope and power.
Add to this the fact that the character of the previous century was a
tremendous shock to mankind. It is now estimated that upward of 170 million
people were murdered by their governments in the 20th century.
Those governments ranged from Marxist to fascist to various forms of utopianism.
This figure does not include the number of lives taken unjustly through
abortion and euthanasia. The power of death and the fear of death have
grown at an extraordinary rate in a very short period of time, in little
more than one generation. At least on the intuitive level most people
realize there is something gravely wrong and something has to change but
almost no one knows how to change.
As Christians we know where ultimate salvation lies. Yet, whether one
is a believer or an unbeliever I think most people are haunted by a sense
that we live in a strange, existentially dangerous period in history.
The dread is increased by the fact that few people feel they understand
what is happening or know how to solve it. Therefore apocalypse begins
to function as catharsis. People will flock to films like The Omen
or End of Days or other End Times films because they can experience
a vicarious catastrophic explosion of the world they live in and watch
it resolved. Of course, it is a false resolution.
IgnatiusInsight.com: Your novel Father Elijah is the fictional
story of a man raised up to battle the Antichrist. What was your inspiration?
OBrien: My novel Father Elijah does not attempt to predict
the future. It is a very different kind of novel than certain
fundamentalist Protestant scenarios or even secular scenarios of an apocalyptic
nature. It is not "baptized fortune-telling" which is a contradiction
in terms. My book attempts to raise, in a fictional form, the questions
that must be asked in every generation. Am I awake? Am I living in a spirit
of vigilance? Am I reading the signs of the times with a calm, peaceful
and trusting heart and with a mind in tune with the mind of the Church,
or am I asleep? Am I vulnerable to the falsehood of Antichrist? Have I
made compromises with that spirit? And if so, where? Am I praying to the
Holy Spirit for light? Light to understand the times we live in and light
to understand my role?
IgnatiusInsight: How exactly did you come to write Father Elijah?
OBrien: In the early 1990s, raising a large family in an anti-life
society with very little income, I was often overwhelmed with a feeling
of discouragement. My faith was very strong in Christ but I saw the power
of anti-life and anti-Christ forces growing in my native landwhat
Pope Benedict XVI has now called "the dictatorship of moral relativism."
At the same time, I saw a grievous weakening of the particular church
in the nation where I live, the Church in Canada, which is very much like
some particular churches in Europe and in America. We were losing the
ability to recognize truth, to live by truth and to resist the power of
falsehood and death.
One day I was in my local parish church, praying about this. I was weeping
in front of the crucifix and pleading with the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.
Begging him to bring us through this time. I was pleading with him to
purify and strengthen the Church in my land. And in this state of deep
grief and prayer, I was suddenly flooded with a very powerful supernatural
peace, for me an unprecedented type of peace, and at the same time there
came into my mind a full-blown story. It was like watching a movie in
my mind. It startled me because I had no thought of writing a novel. I
did not think of myself as writer; I was a Christian painter, the father
of a family and the editor of Catholic family magazine. However, there
came a very strong knowledge that God wanted me to write this down. I
was absolutely convinced it could not be published. Even so, over an eight-month
period I wrote it and then I just put it on a shelf and did not try to
get it published. However, through an uncanny act of Providence, doors
opened and I was asked to submit the manuscript. I refused because I thought
it would be a waste of postage. So my eventual publisher, Ignatius Press,
said just send us the manuscript, well pay for postage. A couple
of months later they sent me a contract and Father Elijah was published
within the year.
That little act of obedience has born tremendous fruit. I think over 40,000
copies of this novel have been sold and it has now been now translated
into four languages.
I realize in hindsight that my feeling of discouragement was part of the
falsehood of the modern era, which can so easily infect Christians with
a sense of futility. How can we resist this monolith that seems to control
and dominate every aspect of our lives in this secular age? This moral
relativism that sucks the life out of the modern world? Well, we can indeed
resist it. The New Evangelization is possible but it will demand of each
of us a docility to the Holy Spirit and a willingness to risk everything
for Christ even when it appears to be pure folly. We must remember that
the darkness cannot overpower the light. Christ has won.
Related IgnatiusInsight.com Articles:
Page for Michael O'Brien
Becomes a Reality in Canada | Michael O'Brien
Intolerant? | Michael O'Brien
Valerie Schmalz is a writer for IgnatiusInsight. She worked as a reporter
and editor for The Associated Press, and in print and broadcast media for
ten years. She holds a BA in Government from University of San Francisco
and a Master of Science from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown
University. She is the former director of Birthright of San Francisco. Valerie
and her wonderful husband have four children.
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