The “Great Sign” in the Night

On the night of January 25th to 26th, 1938, a strange light filled the skies of northern, as well as, most unusually, southern Europe. It was described as a particularly brilliant display of the aurora borealis, the “Northern Lights,” but Sister Lucia realized that it was the “unknown light” foretold by Our Lady during the July 13, 1917 apparition to her, Jacinta, and Francisco.

On that occasion, the Blessed Virgin said, amongst other things, “When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that He is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine, persecutions of the Church and the Holy Father.”

Our Lady then went on to say, “To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of reparations on the First Saturdays.”

It is worth noting that the Blessed Virgin linked these two things, the collegial consecration and the First Saturdays devotion, and this helps us to understand just how important the latter devotion is. With these two aspects of her message, Our Lady was inviting the whole Church to embrace her message, since the collegial consecration (which was carried out by St John Paul II in 1984), principally concerned the Pope and the bishops in union with him, while the practice of the Five First Saturdays devotion is essentially the province of the laity and their parish priests.

northern-lights-520Regarding the “unknown light”, the Daily Telegraph, a British paper, reported on this event the next day, describing how, “the sky was illumined by a crimson glow which deepened to violet” over a large part of Europe, including Portugal. The New York Times similarly described how the “aurora” was seen even in Gibraltar and Bermuda.

Sister Lucia informed the Bishop of Fatima about the importance of this sign, and again referred to it in her third memoir, where she said, “Your Excellency is not unaware that, a few years ago, God manifested that sign, which astronomers chose to call an aurora borealis. I don’t know for certain, but I think if they investigated the matter, they would discover that, in the form in which it appeared, it could not possibly have been an aurora borealis. Be that as it may, God made use of this to make me understand that His justice was about to strike the guilty nations. For this reason, I began to plead insistently for the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays, and the consecration of Russia. My intention was to obtain mercy and pardon, not only for the whole world, but for Europe in particular.”

Obviously, the moral situation in Europe, and in the world generally, is far more serious today than it was then, so this only further underlines the importance of the First Saturdays devotion.

One of the interesting things about this phenomena is how it can be linked to the miracle of the sun which took place on October 13, 1917 at the Cova da Iria in Fatima, and which was seen by at least 70,000 people. Just as that incredible miracle, which was a solar phenomenon, was a great sign for the people present that day, so also the aurora of 1938 is linked to the sun.

Auroras happen when the solar wind, the great stream of particles thrown out by the sun, interacts with the earth’s magnetic field at the North Pole, causing the incredible sight we call the Northern lights. Usually, such displays are only seen to the far north, but as noted above, the January 25th 1938 aurora was seen over a vast area of the Northern hemisphere.

So, in 1917, God, through Our Lady, worked the miracle of the sun, and in 1938 he worked another “miracle of the sun” in causing it to give out an unusually large stream of particles which interacted with our planet’s magnetic field in such a spectacular and awesome way, that it was indeed a “great sign” for the world. Such indeed is the power and majesty of our God.

Finally, it is also worth noting that there is another “light” miracle linked with this date, January 25, which is the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle. This took place when he, as a zealous Pharisee and persecutor of the Church, traveled to Damascus in Syria. On the way, though, Saul the Persecutor became Saul the Christian Apostle, when a light from heaven shone all around him and he was thrown from his horse; he heard the voice of Christ saying, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” The implication of this was that Paul, in persecuting the followers of Jesus, was also persecuting Him, since the Head of the Body of Christ and the members are one.

Perhaps on this date, we can remember those poor Christians in Syria, and elsewhere in the Middle East, who today are suffering persecution, and following in the footsteps of their forebears of 2,000 years ago.



Donal Anthony Foley is the author of a number of books on Marian Apparitions, and maintains a related web site at He has also a written a time-travel/adventure book for young people – details can be found at:

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