"And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves” –Luke 21:25 RSV
For the past four years and 8 months, a series of celestial signs have occurred. Now, such signs are not, in and of themselves, anything portentous. We are not to do as the Romans and other ancient cultures did and spend our days constantly looking to the sky for some omen from which to divine the will of the gods. Yet, the concentration of these signs and their connection to each other would cause any reasonable believer to sit up and take notice. Additionally, all these signs are connected in some way to the Blessed Virgin Mary and through her, to the Apocalypse of Saint John, usually referred to as the Book of Revelation.
Know not the Day nor the Hour
Bringing up such things, especially in light of the Apocalyptic connection, will surely elicit a quotation of the following Scripture:
“But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” –Mark 13: 32 RSV
However, just like the Protestant who quotes the third verse of the third chapter of the Gospel according to Saint John to say one must be “born again” yet ignores the surrounding verses (especially the fifth) that explain the manner in which one must be “born again,” to use this verse to say that we can never know when the End is nigh is to take it out of context and lose its meaning.
In fact, just prior to this verse, Christ tells His Apostles,
“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know the summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you that know that He is near, at the very gates.” –Mark 13:28-29 RSV
Our Lord’s meaning is quite clear. “These things” are signs to tell us that His coming is near. “At the very gates” was an idiom that would have been unmistakable to an ancient audience, evoking images of a walled city beset by an invader with battle beginning at any moment. The modern equivalent might be “knocking on the door.” Christ wanted His followers to watch for signs of His imminent advent. The thirty-second verse is simply a warning that despite all those signs, we will never know the exact moment at which He will arrive.
What are “these things” that will be signs of His arrival? In the preceding verses, Our Lord neatly lists them.
“But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.” –Mark 13:-24-26 RSV
The other two Synoptic Gospels, clearly using Mark as a source, have similar parallel verses. Here, Christ is clearly alluding to verses from the book of the prophet Joel.
"And I will give portents in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes.” –Joel 2:30-31 RSV
“Preterists” hold that apocalyptic prophecies in Scripture all had their fulfillment in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Most scholars agree that the beginning of the Mount Olivet Discourse in the Synoptic Gospels (Chapters 24, 13 and 21 of the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark and Luke, respectively) is a prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans. However, the second part of the discourse is clearly a reference to an event that takes place after the Fall of Jerusalem.
Note that Our Lord prefaces His words about the signs in heaven with “after that tribulation.” The tribulation in question is certainly the Fall and Destruction of Jerusalem as evidenced by details in the preceding verses.
"But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near.” –Luke 21:20 RSV
This is a reference to the armies of the future emperor Vespasian and his son (and successor) Titus, which surrounded Jerusalem in A.D. 70. After a five month siege, the Romans took the city and upon doing so, not only destroyed the Temple but offered sacrifice to the idolatrous images upon their vexilla. In the Gospels according to Matthew and Mark, Christ prophesies this event as the “abomination that makes desolate, of which the prophet Daniel wrote” In all the Synoptic Gospels, Christ presents this information as a warning for His followers. Heeding their Master’s warning, Christian inhabitants of Jerusalem fled to Pella, in Jordan, prior to the surrounding of the city by the Roman legions.
Ergo, the first part of the Mount of Olives discourse is Christ’s prophecy of the Destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple. The second part refers to His Coming in Glory and the signs that will accompany it. Now, most Christians in the early days of the Church believed that the two sets of events would closely follow each other. (The miniseries A.D. The Bible Continues does an excellent job of dramatizing this.) History has of course proven that there is to be a much longer interval between the destruction of Jerusalem and the Return of Christ.
I will say right now that I do not claim to know what these signs mean. They could all be a coincidence. Nothing could happen. Even if something does happen, it will almost certainly not be The End and probably will not even be the beginning of it.
The purpose of this is not to convince anyone that any particular thing is about to happen in the near future. It is simply to lay out the particulars of a series of heavenly signs with connections to each that are fascinating…and arguably frightening. They could be a coincidence. They could be nothing. But if they are something, then it would profit everyone to pay attention and, perhaps, prepare.
Vatican Lightning Strikes
On February 11, 2013 lightning struck the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City twice. A big deal was made of these particular lightning strikes, even in the secular media, because they occurred within hours of Pope Benedict XVI announcing that he would become the first pope to voluntarily abdicate the papacy in 719 years. Notably, the date of Benedict XVI’s abdication, and therefore the lightning strikes was the memorial (double major feast on the Tridentine calendar) of Our Lady of Lourdes.
All this could be chalked up to coincidence. After all, the chances of lightning striking St. Peter’s are relatively high. However, the dome of St. Peter’s was struck by lightning again, three months and almost seven months later on another Marian feast: Our Lady of the Rosary. Even more notable, the centennial year of Our Lady’s apparitions at Fatima, under the title of Our Lady of the Rosary, began six days later.
In the Gospel according to Saint Luke, Christ tells His disciples “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” (Luke 10:18 RSV). It would be ludicrous to state the somehow Satan literally fell on February 11, 2013 or October 7, 2016. However, the image of Satan’s fall as a lightning fits with the next two heavenly signs.
On August 21, 2017 a total solar eclipse occurred. It was referred as the Great American Eclipse because the path of totality cut across the continental United States. Throughout the course of the eclipse, somewhere in the United States, the light of the sun was completely obscured by the moon. Because the hours of the solar eclipse were from noon until 3 p.m., it was eerily reminiscent of the darkness that accompanied Our Lord’s Crucifixion
And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.-Mark 15:33 RSV
On the new Liturgical Calendar, August 21 is the day before (and therefore the vigil of) the memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This feast was established by Ven. Pope Pius XII in 1954 in his encyclical Ad Caeli Reginam (“To the Queen of Heaven”).Pius XII was greatly devoted to Our Lady of Fatima, having been consecrated as a bishop by Pope Benedict XIV on May 13, 1917: the day of the first apparition of Our Lady at Fatima. He had also dogmatically defined the dogma of Our Lady’s Assumption in 1950 and consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1942.
The Queenship of the Blessed Virgin had originally been commemorated on May 31. (That date is now the Feast of the Visitation in the New Calendar) Bl. Pope Paul VI moved it to August 22. On the Tridentine Calendar, however, August 22 is still a Marian feast: the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Additionally, it is also the feast of Our Lady of Knock. The apparitions at Knock are notable for being silent as well as featuring Christ appearing as a Lamb and St. John the Apostle, author of the Apocalypse. These details have led some to connect the apparitions with the Apocalypse itself, specifically the fifth chapter, wherein the Lamb opens a scroll with seven seals. When the seventh seal is broken, there is silence in Heaven.
Thus, the Great American Eclipse becomes the second (or fourth, if one counts each lightning strike as a separate event) celestial sign occurring close to or during the centennial year of Our Lady’s apparition at Fatima on a Marian feast day. However that is not the only connection with the previous celestial sign.
As stated earlier, In the Gospel according to St. Luke, Christ describes the fall of Satan from Heaven as resembling the suddenness of a lightning strike. In the Apocalypse of St. John, it is St. Michael the Archangel casts Satan out of Heaven and down to earth.
Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they were defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world -- he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. –Revelation 12:7-9 RSV
In the Middle Ages, the forty day period leading up to Michelmas, the Feast of St. Michael, (along with fellow archangels Sts. Gabriel and Raphael in the New Calendar) was known as St. Michael’s Lent. St. Francis of Assisi was observing St. Michael’s Lent by fasting and prayer on Mount Alverina when he received the Stigmata on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (September 14). The first day of St. Michael’s Lent is August 21: the same day as the solar eclipse.
“Signs in the Stars”
Besides St. Francis of Assisi, the most well known stigmatist is likely St. Pius of Pietreclina, better known as Padre Pio. Like St. Francis, Padre Pio’s first experience of the Stigmata was during St. Michael’s Lent. In Padre Pio’s case, this was on September 20, 1918. Fifty years later, almost to the day, Padre Pio went to his eternal reward. That day, September 23, is now the liturgical memorial of St. Pio. And on that day, in the centennial year of Our Lady of Fatima, a great sign will appear in the sky that is also connected with the Apocalypse of St. John and St. Michael the Archangel.
St. Michael’s defeat and casting out of the Dragon and his angels occurs at the end of the twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse. This chapter starts with one of the most striking of Biblical Marian images: the Woman Clothed with the Sun.
And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery. –Revelation 12:1-2
Astronomers have mapped out a conjunction of astronomical phenomenon that correspond to this verse with startling precision. They consist of the constellations Virgo (Latin for “Virgin”) and Leo (Latin for “Lion”—a symbol of the tribe of Judah; Jesus is also referred as the “Lion of Judah” in the Apocalypse), the star Regulus (the “king” star from the regis: Latin for “of the king”) and the planets Jupiter (the king planet because Jupiter was king of the Roman gods) and Venus (the “mother” planet).
As part of what one researcher calls a “starry dance,” Regulus and Jupiter join together in a “coronation” within Leo, which could symbolize “King of the Jews.” This “king star” then joins Venus in a conjunction that produces an exceedingly bright star. At this time, constellation Virgo rises behind Leo, in such a way that it appears to be “a woman clothed with the Sun with the moon under her feet.”
This phenomenon was repeated, with some variation, on November 20, 2016. This is the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe in the New Liturgical Calendar. It was the last day of the Jublilee Year of Mercy promulgated by Pope Francis. On that day, Jupiter appeared to enter the body or “womb” of Virgo. It remained there for nine and a half months, which is the approximate gestational period for a pregnancy. On the day that Jupiter leaves the womb of Virgo and is “born” the sun will rise directly behind Virgo and the moon will be at her feet. And there will be a crown of twelve stars upon her head, made up of the nine stars that compose the constellation Leo and the planets Mercury, Venus and Mars.
This day is September 23, 2017. As stated above, on the New Calendar it is the memorial of St. Pio of Pietreclina. On the Tridentine Calendar it is the (semi-double) feast of Pope St. Linus, successor of St. Peter, and St. Thecla, virgin martyr and companion of St. Paul. However it is also the feast of Our Lady of Walsingham, the mother shine of all England and patroness, by extension, of English speakers, which would include Americans.
Shortly after the appearance of the celestial sign mentioned above, there will be a second sign in the sky that matches the second portent in the Twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse of St. John.
And another portent appeared in heaven; behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems upon his heads. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth. –Revelation 12:3-4
The Draconid meteor shower occurs every year in October. It is so named because it originates in the constellation Draco (Latin for “dragon”). Anyone who has seen a meteor shower, or even just a “shooting star”, can attest that it has the appearance of stars “falling” from sky. This year, the Draconid meteor shower takes place on October 7, the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.
Although hurricanes are technically in the sky, one would not ordinarily think of them when speaking of “signs in the sky.” However, Our Lord did mention “the roaring of the seas and the waves” in connection with the “signs in the sun and moon and star.” Moreover, two of these years’ more powerful hurricanes fit the pattern of having Marian connections. A lot of people have made something out of two hurricanes in the Atlantic bearing the names Jose and Maria, the Spanish cognates for Joseph and Mary. That is not the Marian connection that I wish to make
I write on a bit of personal note here, but I believe it is important. The 2005 Hurricane season was the most powerful since such things have been recorded. Is infamous most for the damage Hurricane Katrina wreaked on New Orleans (where I was born and where my parish youth group had completed a mission trip just two weeks prior). However, when I moved to southeast Louisiana (three hours west of New Orleans), I learned just how destructive Rita, a hurricane later in the season, was for this part of the state.
Twelve years later, I am living in Lake Charles, Louisiana and my wife and I have to make the decision of whether or not we are evacuating with Hurricane Harvey. Although we took precautions, we ultimately decided to not evacuate, which turned out to be a good call. We were barely affected. My parents live in Brunswick, Georgia which was in the direct path of Hurricane Irma, an incredibly strong Category 5 hurricane, just two weeks after we dodged Harvey. Needless to say, they evacuated. Fortunately, Irma veered to west and the damage to their house and property was minimal, consisting mainly of downed tree limbs crashing into fences. Their area did have flooding in some places and was, as a whole, more affected by Irma than we were by Harvey.
Harvey made landfall in Texas as a Category 4, dissipated and went back into the Gulf of Mexico, then made landfall again as a Tropical Storm closer to where my family and I live. This second landfall was within territory of the Diocese of Lake Charles in Cameron Parish (Louisiana has parishes instead of counties.) Cameron Parish includes the church Our Lady, Star of the Sea which boasts an image of Our Lady with the inscription “Do Not Harm My Children.” Interestingly, in the county just south of the one in which my parents live, the only Catholic parish is also named Our Lady, Star of the Sea. I firmly believe that both these locations were sparred more severe damage from the hurricanes this year thanks to the intercession of Our Lady, Star of the Sea.
Earthquakes are even less celestial than hurricanes. However, they do have apocalyptic connotations. There are two earthquakes in the Apocalypse (in the sixth and sixteenth chapters, respectively) that are caused by the wrath of God.
In the 33 days from the solar eclipse to September 23, there have been three major earthquakes. Two were in Mexico. The largest of these was a 7.1 magnitude quake that rocked Mexico City. Mexico City was the location of the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1531. The miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe left behind on the tilma of St. Juan Diego has often been connected with the Twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse because in it, Our Lady is clothed with the sun and has a crescent moon at her feet. The title Guadalupe is actually a Spanish corruption of the name Our Lady gave herself in the ancient Aztec language: coatlaxopeuh (“she who crushes the serpent). In the Apocalypse, the Dragon is also referred to as “that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan.” (Revelation 12:9)
Earlier in the month a 5.3 earthquake hit Akita, Japan. Akita is the site of a fairly recent apparition of Our Lady, which occurred in 1973. The visionary, Sr. Agnes Sasagawa received the last message from Our Lady on October 13, fifty-six years to the day from the final apparition at Fatima. Many people consider Akita to be a “sequel” or “reminder” apparition of those at Fatima. The earthquake occurred on September 8, which is the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Since the memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes in 2013, which was the same date upon which Pope Benedict XVI announced his abdication, there have been anywhere from four to nine (depending on how you count separate incidents of the some kind of event) events that share a connection to each through the Blessed Virgin Mary, a number of her apparitions and the Twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse of St. John.
- Two lightning strikes at St. Peter’s Basilica on the memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes (February 11, 2013) and another on that of Our Lady of the Rosary (October 7, 2016)
- A total solar eclipse that occurred on the feast of Our Lady of Knock (August 21, 2017) and the vigil of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary (August 22, 2017), as well as the first day of the 40 day period known as St. Michael’s Lent that ends on the Feast of Sts. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael (September 29, 2017)
- On the feast of Our Lady of Walsingham (September 23, 2017), a sign appeared in the sky consisting of the constellations Virgo (the Virgin), Leo (the Lion), the sun, moon and the planets Jupiter, Mercury, Venus and Mars that matches first two verses of the Twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse with startling precision.
- Two earthquakes hit Mexico, the strongest of which hit Mexico City, the site of the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the image of whom matches the description of the Woman in the Twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse. On the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (September 8, 2017) an earthquake hit Akita, Japan, site of an apparition considered by many to be a continuation of that of Our Lady of Fatima
- The Draconid meteor shower, originating in the constellation Draco (the Dragon) will occur on the memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary and appear as stars falling from the Dragon, in line with the third and fourth verses of the Twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse.
Except for the lightning strikes, all of these signs have (or will) occur not only within the year leading up to the Centennial of the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima but within the same five month period that the apparitions originally occurred.
What does any of this mean? I do not dare to even claim to know. It certainly does NOT mean that the world is ending today or at any time in the near future. It could be nothing. But I do not think it is. I think Our Lord and His Mother are trying to tell the world something. Personally, I think we would all do well to pay attention to the skies above and the world around us and follow these words of Our Lord.
“Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.”-Matthew 24:42