Alleged 'Signs' In The Sky Stretch From The Early Centuries To The Current Time
For some reason the Lenten time brings up the issue of a potential future sign in the heavens.
Perhaps it's because Lent is simply a serious time. It is a time when we think of extraordinary events. And it has come to be associated with Mercy Sunday -- the feast day that follows a week after Easter and is based on the revelations of Saint Faustina Kowalska of Poland, who saw Jesus as Divine Mercy. (A powerful set of prayers leading up to Mercy Sunday begins on Good Friday and we recommend it as a gateway to miracles).
In St. Faustina's messages from Jesus was the prediction that "before the day of justice arrives, there will be given to people a sign in the heavens of this sort: All light in the heavens will be extinguished, and there will be great darkness over the whole earth. Then the sign of the cross will be seen in the sky, and from the openings where the hands and the feet of the Savior were nailed will come forth great lights which will light the earth for a period of time."
The question, of course, is whether that prediction relates to our current era or some distant century at the end of time. It was St. Faustina's claim (in the 1930s) that mankind was approaching the Second Coming. As with all prophecies, we must be cautious with words like "soon" and any sort of human time frame.
But we do live in a very special period and signs in the sky have been with us through history. Jesus Himself spoke about them in Luke 21 -- using that precise terminology -- and back in the days of Constantine the Great was the report of a cross-like symbol in the sky. (Before a great battle, he and his soldiers saw it above the setting sun.)
That same century Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, a doctor of the Church, encountered something similar down in the Holy Land. Perhaps this we most directly relate to Lent.
Wrote St. Cyril: "On the nones of May, about the third hour, a great luminous cross appeared in the heavens, just over Golgotha, reaching as far as the holy mount of Olivet, seen, not by one or two persons, but clearly and evidently by the whole city. This was not, as might be thought, a fancy-bred and transient appearance: but it continued several hours together, visible to our eyes and brighter than the sun. The whole city, penetrated alike with awe and with joy at this portent, ran immediately to the church, all with one voice giving praise to our Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God."
And in the famed Imitation of Christ, Thomas á Kempis, an ascetic who lived in the 15th century, and also claimed to converse with the Lord, wrote that "the sign of the Cross shall appear in Heaven when Our Lord shall come to judge the world."
We must note the widespread reports of similar signs if on a smaller scale in our own period. We have received hundreds of accounts. Is it simply that Christ speaks to us in such a way in every era? Or are they precursors?
There are those who have seen strange squiggly lights, formations in cloud, and even the letters "CHRIST" in a photograph of the sky above an apparition site -- a sky that, in the photograph, was suddenly and inexplicably dark, as in Faustina's vision (despite the fact that it was mid-day). Others photographed a "cross" above Ground Zero. We have received hundreds of accounts.
Curious it is how the sky often seems so clouded and sullen on the evening of Holy Thursday.
"I just want to share this with you," wrote Ellie Crowe of San Antonio, Texas. "It was sometime during my work on the Katrina Crusade that I saw this. As I left work at night and was driving home I saw the crescent moon. It looked golden -- not yellow or white -- the whole time. It was on a feast day. I don't know if anyone else saw it. This was when my home was filled with rosaries, medals and prayer cards from all around the country. I just said thank you Lord for all this. It was probably a sign."
"Several of us from St. Vincent Ferrer parish in Delray Beach (Florida) took a pilgrimage September 26 to October 4 to Medjugorje [in Bosnia-Hercegovina]," wrote another viewer, Mary Mills. "One night about 8:00 p.m. three of us were coming back from St. James Church. When we got out of the cab we saw a huge group of supernaturally lighted clouds up in the sky over Cross Mountain, St. James Church, and [seer] Jacov Colo's house. They were in the shape of an oval without a bottom (like the letter U), mysteriously spinning around and around, at great speed. When you tilted your head sideways it looked to me like the Blessed Mother's veil with her face looking down on us. We were afraid to leave it before it went away.
"After ten minutes we ran into the house and got everyone out to see it. Soon, two buses came to bring home pilgrims for the evening. Cab drivers stopped and got out to see it. People came out of their houses. The phenomenon lasted about an hour and one-half. One man tried to get it on video film, but it didn't work. About a hundred people (that we know about) watched it. When I put my camera flash on and took a picture, several people saw angels around it.
"About 15 minutes later, little stars started to twinkle at the top of it. We thought they might be flashlights from Cross Mountain but all of a sudden hundreds of little white twinkling lights went off at the same time at the top area of the clouds. Someone told us it looked like the same phenomena that happened at World Youth Day in Germany with the Pope."
Added Gerianne Ryder of Jupiter Beach when we called, "It was whipping around like the clouds formed an oval, lit up by light from above, a hurricane swirling at great speed, counter-clockwise, around and around, you could see the lights coming from above the clouds, and then afterwards Cross Mountain suddenly illuminated with tiny white lights everywhere. Tiny but bright. It wasn't candles. It came on all at once. It lit up like a Christmas tree."
They are accounts that obviously must be viewed first with the perspective of seeking a natural cause, and they are presented for discernment. But they are too numerous, and presented by individuals who are too sober, to dismiss out of hand at a time when there has been an explosion of religious phenomena.
We take signs when there are given and remember that, despite the skepticism of many, God does nothing that is frivolous.
"This past week I was driving with my son to the university on a very dark morning, about 10 a.m.," wrote Donna Gray from Kent, Ohio. "I commented about how cloudy the day was, but then saw a small, beautiful area of blue sky. Here's the unusual part: the patch of blue was in the shape of the United States! I asked my son if he also saw the U.S., and he said yes. With another look, the coastlines to the west, northeast, and southeast were gone. Immediately this little patch of blue disappeared. I don't know if other people saw this, but I thought I would share this experience with you."
How to discern?
"I just read today's article at your website about signs," said a viewer named John a couple months back. What I read didn't surprise me much. Last night, I went outside and I took a little walk and I looked up at the moon. It was half full, and whispy dark clouds were rapidly blowing across it. And the strangest thing occurred to me.
"The thought occurred to me -- it just came into my mind, without thinking about it before -- that it was like where all of us are right now. It's like we -- the world-- are half full, half empty, and on the razor's edge of some kind of decision for God or not; like the moment was hanging there and extended by the grace of God, and the clouds racing by seemed to indicate that time is running out for us to make that decision.
"I just felt that. It was like I knew something all of a sudden. It was like we have only a little more time to choose God wholeheartedly or not. Then, something would happen. What, I don't know. It just felt like we are in some kind of graced moment, and it will soon end, and all the stuff that this grace has kept or blocked from happening would be allowed to happen, unless we repent and choose God. I know this sounds crazy. Maybe I was just imagining things. But, it felt weird. There were no voices, no visions, no special effects; I hadn't been thinking about things like that before I walked outside; and it didn't feel like my imagination either. It was like an intuition. But, it was so strong. And then the moment ended, and I have been wanting to pray and get right with God more since then."
[resources: The Diary of Sister Faustina and Sent To Earth]
[*note: the "nones" would be May 7 and when related to hours of the day in the ancient Church meant the fifth of seven canonical hours and came at the ninth hour of the day or at about 3 p.m. -- which Saint Faustina was to proclaim as the "hour of mercy" almost 1,600 years later!]
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