Obviously I'm not very well read.
The other day when I mentioned a contemporary Monsignor and the publication of locutions from a soul he directs, prophesying that a pope would be killed in Jerusalem, my friend who shared the story also mentioned that Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson mentioned such a scenario in his writings. I had never read such a specific prophesy of a pope dying in Jerusalem before, although the idea of an assassination or execution of a pope is not a new one to me - and to die in Jerusalem would certainly be a great honor. Historically there have been more than a few popes martyred. In the 20th century a couple popes have come close: Pope Paul VI was once attacked by a man wielding a knife in the Philippines, John Paul II was shot, and Pope Benedict certainly receives death threats. The martyrdom of a pope isn't out of the question - in fact it is indicated in the Third Secret of Fatima - an 'approved' apparition and message from heaven, deemed 'worthy of belief'.
Is martyrdom to be feared? I'm not sure. The early martyrs went to their deaths willingly. Later, some saints went to mission lands with the hope of shedding their blood for Christ. One of the earlist martyrs, Ignatius of Antioch, begged Christians not to obstruct his martyrdom. The martyrs did not try to defend themselves from death, they didn't barricade themselves in their homes, or carry weapons to fend off attackers. Recall how Christ reprimanded Peter to put away his sword. My patron, Peter of Verona forgave his murderers as he lay dying, and even then, he witnessed to the Gospel by writing Credo with his blood - neither did he condemn his assailants. So I'm not sure martyrdom is something to fear.
Even as bishops are roundly criticized and condemned for teaching on faith and morals in the public square, I'm not sure we ought to feel so sorry for ourselves or the Churchmen who resist the onslaught. Yes we should pray for them and support them - and stand with them - but I think we should be edified and encouraged by what they suffer. I base my assertion on something I came across in the Syllabus Of Errors condemned by Blessed Pius IX:
To the Archbishops and Bishops of Prussia concerning the situation of the Catholic Church faced with persecution by that Government....Blessed John Paul II always encouraged us, "Be not afraid!" The Pope leads his flock...
But although they (the bishops resisting persecution) should be praised rather than pitied, the scorn of episcopal dignity, the violation of the liberty and the rights of the Church, the ill treatment which does not only oppress those dioceses, but also the others of the Kingdom of Prussia, demand that We, owing to the Apostolic office with which God has entrusted us in spite of Our insufficient merit, protest against laws which have produced such great evils and make one fear even greater ones; and as far as we are able to do so with the sacred authority of divine law, We vindicate for the Church the freedom which has been trodden underfoot with sacrilegious violence. That is why by this letter we intend to do Our duty by announcing openly to all those whom this matter concerns and to the whole Catholic world, that these laws are null and void because they are absolutely contrary to the divine constitution of the Church. In fact, with respect to matters which concern the holy ministry, Our Lord did not put the mighty of this century in charge, but Saint Peter, whom he entrusted not only with feeding his sheep, but also the goats; therefore no power in the world, however great it may be, can deprive of the pastoral office those whom the Holy Ghost has made Bishops in order to feed the Church of God. - Syllabus
As for Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, perhaps I will read him. In the meantime, two good priests have wonderful commentaries on his famous novel, "Lord of the World". Fr. John McCloskey here. Fr. Robert Barron here. Check them out.
Two things I want to mention however. Many people express surprise at how accurately late 19th, early 20th century writers 'predicted' the political, anti-religious situation of the late 20th, early 21st century. Men can imagine and calculate such outcomes naturally, through natural intelligence and learning. I suggest that based upon the sense John of the Cross writes in Chapter 21 of The Ascent, Bk. II, discussing God's displeasure at the quest for revelations and locutions.
"And likewise supernatural events and happenings may be known, inLikewise, people claiming locutions can be deluded, even unconsciously articulating details they have read about or heard in the course of their lifetime. John of the Cross also points out that things foretold do not always happen as we expect.
their causes, in matters concerning Divine Providence, which deals most
justly and surely as is required by their good or evil causes as
regards the sons of men. For one may know by natural means that such or
such a person, or such or such a city, or some other place, is in such
or such necessity, or has reached such or such a point, so that God,
according to His providence and justice, must deal with such a person
or thing in the way required by its cause, and in the way that is
fitting for it, whether by means of punishment or of reward, as the
cause merits. And then one can say: At such a time God will give you
this, or will do this, or that will come to pass, of a surety.'"
God desires not that we should wish for such visions, since He makes it possible for us to be deceived by them in so many ways.
Christ promised not to leave us orphans and to be with us - the Church - until the end of time. Trust him.Some spiritual persons convince themselves that their curiosity to know of certain things through supernatural means is good because God sometimes answers these petitions. They think this conduct is good and pleasing to God because he responds to their urgent request. Yet the truth is that, regardless of God's reply, such behavior is neither good nor pleasing to God. Rather he is displeased; not only displeased but frequently angered and deeply offended." - Ascent Bk II, - Chapter 21