“But when these things begin to come to pass, look up, and lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand.”— Lk. 21: 28.
by Marianna Bartold
Copyright 2017. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
NOTE: When colleagues like Patrick Archbold and readers alike asked for my input on the two upcoming heavenly events of 2017, it occurred to me that, rather than answer incoming questions one-by-one, I would save time by writing an article. Originally published as a 2-part essay in Catholic Family News (March and April 2017), I here present the 2 parts (for the convenience of my readers) as one piece.
Within the next six months, two celestial events will occur in this year of the Fatima Centennial. Already, Catholics are asking if they are signs of significance relating to Fatima, especially the seeming 100 year time limit for the collegial consecration. While nobody can foresee the ultimate answer, this essay offers considerations for prudential discernment because the prophecies of Fatima, the greatest “crown of all Marian apparitions” granted to the Church, continue to unfold.
Throughout salvation history, the signs of God indicate various purposes. A true sign can possess any one or more of the following seven functions: It confirms God’s word, His goodness, authenticates prophecy, verifies God’s blessings and His intervention for the sake of the elect, strengthens the faithful with hope, insures or testifies God’s Presence, or declares His judgment upon sin.
Let’s first turn to the Holy Bible, which infallibly confirms that the lights of the firmament are intended for many purposes, including “for” signs.
• “And God said: Let there be lights made in the firmament of heaven, to divide the day and the night, and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years: To shine in the firmament of heaven, and to give light upon the earth. And it was so done. And God made two great lights: a greater light to rule the day; and a lesser light to rule the night: and the stars” (Genesis 1:14-16).
Thus, the ancient Hebrews understood that God designed the lights of heaven to serve many purposes. “In Hebrew, the word ‘season’ is ‘moed’ and signifies an appointed or fixed time” but, interestingly, it does not refer to the seasons of spring, summer, fall or winter. “‘Signs’ and ‘seasons,’ used by God with respect to the mission of the stars, were to indicate ‘happenings’ and the ‘periods of time’ pertaining to them, specifically for prophetic reasons, especially that of signifying historical incidents at chosen times as the plan of salvation unfolded.”
• A STAR SHALL RISE out of Jacob and a sceptre shall spring up from Israel…” (Numbers 24:7).
• “The sun, and the moon, and the stars being bright, and sent forth for profitable uses, are obedient” (Baruch 6:59).
• “Where is he that is born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to adore him” (Matthew 2:2).
• “And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, by reason of the confusion of the roaring of the sea and of the waves; Men withering away for fear, and expectation of what shall come upon the whole world. For the powers of heaven shall be moved” (Luke 21: 25-26).
The Solar Eclipse and the Constellation Virgo
One will note that, with both of this year’s events, the sun is present but obscured or behind another heavenly object. As we know from Scripture, the sun is the material symbol for Our Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of Justice.
• Initially addressing August 21 (day of the approaching solar eclipse over the U.S.), three things are observed about this date:
—First, it is the vigil (the eve) of the octave of the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin.
—Second, it is the vigil of “The Immaculate Heart of Mary" (traditional liturgical calendar) or “The Queenship of Mary” (updated liturgical calendar). Whichever calendar one may reference, the coming total eclipse occurs on the eve of a feast day of Our Lady.
—Third, it is the anniversary of the one-time apparition of Our Lady of Knock, the silent vision  pointing to the Apocalypse Ch. 8:1: “And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven, as it were for half an hour.” Since “heaven” denotes the Church, the prophecy foretells silence in the Church for the mystical time of half an hour. We also recall that Sr. Lucia of Fatima said that the Third Secret is in the Gospels and the Apocalypse—specifically referring to Apoc. Chapters 8-13. 
• Almost a month later, on September 23, 2017, the sun will rise behind the constellation Virgo—an annual event. What is rare and striking about this year is the interaction of the planets Jupiter, Venus, Mars, and Mercury. Last year, on November 20, 2016, Jupiter (the “king” planet) entered the constellation Virgo. In retrograde motion, Jupiter is currently in Virgo’s womb, but exits Virgo on September 23 (after 43 weeks, 6 days or 9.5 months, an over-due gestational length of an unborn baby). On that day, almost directly above the head of Virgo will be Leo (the 12th largest constellation), which includes—but is not limited to—12 brighter lights of heaven, three of them being the planets Venus, Mars, and Mercury. Additionally, the moon will be near (but not directly under) the feet of Virgo.
What immediately comes to mind is Apocalypse Chapter 12:1-4: “And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; And being with child, she cried travailing in birth, and was in pain to be delivered. And there was seen another sign in heaven: and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads, and ten horns: and on his head seven diadems: And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to be delivered; that, when she should be delivered, he might devour her son. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with an iron rod: and her son was taken up to God, and to his throne.”
The Book of Destiny, a generous tome of essays on the Apocalypse, explains: “Before the eyes of the Seer [St. John], a great sign, the first of the ‘signs,’ a portent of something momentous, appears in the Church. It is a sign of divine origin. ‘Signs’ in prophetical terminology are ominous revelations of what is about to happen…The word furthermore denotes the wonders wrought by evil powers. In the Septuagint,  the word [sign] is used for celestial phenomena. The sign [of “a woman clothed with the sun”] appearing here is GREAT, because it will indicate the time of the judgment that shall proclaim the ‘Great Day’ of Almighty God. It will herald the near approach of the events narrated in chapters eleven and thirteen. Appearing in heaven, it will point to the center of the whole desperate struggle for the possession of the world by Satan and his hordes. When this sign appears in the Church, the advent of Antichrist is near…The interpretation of this ‘sign’ is thus very important.”
In my book, Fatima: The Signs and Secrets, I explained why this GREAT sign strongly indicates both the Virgin of Fatima and the Great Miracle of the Sun, which so terrified the 70,000 witnesses that they thought the world was ending. “Just as the Apocalypse foretold, in 1917 it was the Woman who first appeared as ‘a great sign’ in the Church. ‘And there was seen another sign in heaven−and behold, a great red dragon, having seven heads, and ten horns: and on his head seven diadems.’ This sign is not ‘a great sign’ like the Woman clothed with the sun, but it is another sign, one that is in stark contrast against the woman, an ominous sign that appears in the Church.”
Additionally, in the early 20th century book, The Apocalypse of St. John, Fr. Sylvester Berry states that, in Chapter 12:1-9, St. John “shows us the true nature of that conflict. It shall be war unto death, between the Church and the powers of darkness, in a final effort of Satan to destroy the Church and thus prevent the universal reign of Christ on earth.”
Below are excerpts of Fr. Berry’s commentary, with the number denoting the verse of Apocalypse 12:
“1. …The brightness of the sun is a fitting symbol for the enlightening power of the Church’s teachings. [Author’s Note: We might then consider the symbolic meaning of a sun’s eclipse.]…The crown of twelve stars represents the twelve Apostles and, through them, the whole ministry of the Church. It may also denote the assembly of faithful nations, symbolized by the mystic number twelve.
“2. The Church is ever in labor to bring forth children to eternal life. In the sad days here predicted, the sorrows and pains of delivery shall be increased many-fold. In this passage, there is an evident allusion to some particular son of the Church whose power and influence shall be such that Satan will seek his destruction at any cost…This person can be none other than the Pope to be elected in those days. The Papacy will be attacked by all the powers of hell. In consequence, the Church will suffer great trials and afflictions in securing a successor upon the throne of Peter…
“3. …The dragon is Satan, red with the blood of martyrs which he will cause to flow. The meaning of the seven heads and ten horns must be sought in the description of the beast that represents Antichrist, where they symbolize kings or worldly powers (Apoc. 17:9-12). Those of the dragon must have a similar meaning…
“With the beast of Antichrist, only the horns have diadems as symbols of royalty or governing power. The heads are branded with names of blasphemy (Apoc. 13:1). Hence, they symbolize the sins and errors that will afflict the Church. Seven, the number of universality, indicates that, in this final struggle to prevent the universal reign of Christ, all forms of sin and error will be marshalled against the Church. A prelude to this may be seen in the errors of Modernism which has been rightly designated ‘a synthesis of all heresies.’ The number seven is also appropriate since all sins are included in the seven capital sins. In like manner, all errors that have afflicted the Church may be summed up in these seven: Judaism, paganism, Arianism, Mohammedanism, Protestantism, rationalism, and atheism.
“The dragon is seen in heaven, which is here a symbol of the Church…This indicates that the first troubles of those days will be inaugurated within the Church by apostate bishops, priests, and peoples—the stars dragged down by the tail of the dragon.
“4. The tail of the dragon represents the cunning hypocrisy with which he succeeds in deceiving a large number of people and pastors—a third part of the stars…The dragon stands before the woman ready to devour the child that is brought forth. In other words, the powers of hell seek by all means to destroy the Pope elected in those days.
“5. The woman brings forth a son to rule the nations with a rod of iron… Scarcely has the newly elected Pope been enthroned when he is snatched away by martyrdom…During the interregnum, ‘that wicked one shall be revealed’ in his fury against the Church.
“It is a matter of history that the most disastrous periods for the Church were times when the Papal throne was vacant, or when anti-popes contended with the legitimate head of the Church. Thus also shall it be in those evil days to come.”
Fatima, the Apocalypse, and the Lights of Heaven: Part 2“Sweet Heart of Mary, be our salvation.”
—Favorite brief prayer of little Jacinta of Fatima
To continue with Fr. Berry (numbers below denote the verse of Apoc. 12):
“6. The Church deprived of her chief Pastor must seek sanctuary in solitude, there to be guided by God Himself during those trying days. This place of refuge prepared for the Church is probably some nation, or nations, that remain faithful to her…In those days, the Church shall also find refuge and consolation in faithful souls, especially in the seclusion of the religious life.
“7. St. Michael, the guardian angel of the Church, shall come with his hosts to defend her against the onslaughts of Satan and his minions. The followers of St. Michael are the angelic hosts of heaven and all faithful bishops and priests of the Church. The minions of Satan are the fallen angels with the leaders of heresy, schism, and persecution.
“8, 9. The battle is waged in the Church, the kingdom of heaven, from which the dragon and his angels are cast out and hurled down to earth. The earth symbolizes the nations hostile to the Church—the world over which Satan rules. By the aid of St. Michael, the Church shall purge herself of all heretics, schismatics, and apostates…”
“Michael, Your Prince,” and the Mysterious 21 Days
Interestingly, while St. Michael is specifically mentioned in the Apocalypse, it is not the first time his name appears in the bible. In fact, the first scriptural occurrence wherein Michael’s name is given may shed light on the time-frame of 21 days (again, the length of days between September 23, 2017, which will see the exiting of Jupiter from Virgo’s womb, and October 13, the 100th anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun).
As I explained in the first chapter of my book, Fatima: The Signs and Secrets, it is a moral certainty that St. Michael is the Angel of Fatima. The same chapter also touches upon a 21 day period in the Old Testament in regard to a vision of the last days. The heavenly characters include St. Gabriel, St. Michael, and an unnamed prince (angel) of the Persian kingdom—in reality, a demon who resisted a good angel for “one and twenty days”:
“In the Prophecy of Daniel, Chapter 10, the Holy Scriptures give Michael’s name for the first time. Daniel’s chapters 7-12 are considered to be his four ‘apocalyptic’ chapters…
“Beginning with Chapters 7 and 8, Daniel wrote the first of his prophetic and apocalyptic visions. Explanations of these visions were given by the angel Gabriel,  who appeared to him as a man. In Chapter 10, it is recorded: ‘In the third year of Cyrus king of the Persians, a word was revealed to Daniel surnamed Baltassar, and a true word, and great strength: and he understood the word: for there is need of understanding in a vision.’ Following this event, the prophet Daniel mourned and fasted for 21 days.
“Then appeared a good angel (whose name is not given by Daniel, but who may have been Gabriel returning to the prophet), saying, ‘Daniel, thou man of desires, understand the words that I speak to thee, and stand upright: for I am sent now to thee.’  After speaking of Daniel’s prayers and sacrifices, the angel revealed, ‘I am come for thy words,’  and then declared, ‘But the prince of the kingdom of the Persians resisted me one and twenty days; and behold Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, and I remained there by the king of the Persians. But I am come to teach thee what things shall befall thy people in the latter days, for as yet the vision is for days…’”
“…To return to the prophet Daniel, he had for 21 days fasted and prayed in reparation to the Lord, for he had seen a great and terrifying vision of what would befall his people. Although he understood the vision, he did not yet know that it was a vision ‘for days’−meaning far into the future, the end times. The 21 days were thrice the ancient custom of seven days’ of fasting, which tell us that Daniel’s 21 days of sacrifice displayed extreme sorrow and extraordinary penance. Unbeknownst to Daniel, the 21 days of his penance and reparation offered to God coincided with the angel’s battle with a powerfully resistant devil, the ‘prince of the kingdom of the Persians.’ However, it becomes clear that Daniel’s acts of reparation were accepted by God, for the angel spoke of Daniel’s sacrifices and also told him, almost in a confiding manner, of his own struggle against the ‘prince’ (meaning leader, one of a higher [hierarchical] order) demon of the Persians. Since angels of Heaven do not engage in idle gossip or expect human sympathy, it is also certain that God wished Daniel to know what had transpired and that, due to his own prayers and penances, St. Michael was sent by God to assist the good but lesser angel.”
“At the end of the same chapter, the good angel declares: ‘But I will tell thee what is set down in the scripture of truth: and none is my helper in all these things, but Michael your prince’  …meaning the prince of the elect, those who belong to God’s kingdom on earth and follow His commandments. In the Old Testament, the chosen people were those of the earthly Israel, but this ancient nation was a living figure-type of the spiritual Israel (today known as the Roman Catholic Church) that would be established by the Messiah, Jesus Christ.” 
“Michael’s name is mentioned a third time in The Prophecy of Daniel, when the good angel speaks of the last events of the end times (the Novissimi), the time when anti-Christ shall appear and persecute God’s people: ‘But at that time shall Michael rise up, the great prince, who standeth for the children of thy people: and a time shall come such as never was from the time that nations began even until that time…' 
(Author’s Note: One sentence from the October 13, 1973 message of Our Lady of Akita is remarkably similar to this Scriptural prophecy. Given on the 56th anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima, it begins: “As I told you, if men do not repent and better themselves, the Father will inflict a terrible punishment on all humanity. It will be a punishment greater than the deluge, such as one will never have seen before…)
It is this same great archangel whom God sent to Fatima; Michael, Prince of the Heavenly Host, chosen to precede the “great sign” that would appear in heaven (the Church)−the “woman clothed with the sun.”  It is he who taught the children how to make acts of adoration and reparatory mortification to God. Like the prophet Daniel before them, who prayed and fasted for 21 days (again, thrice the usual time) after he saw a vision of the end days, the three Fatima children also developed the habits of heavy penance. Perhaps the 21 days between September 23 and the 100th anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun serve as a reminder for us to do the same.
Additionally, the date of September 23 is both the memorial of Pope St. Linus (pope-martyr and immediate successor of St. Peter) and of St. Pio of Pietrelcina (who for 50 years bore the stigmata of Christ’s Passion). These two events bring to our minds the Great Secret of Fatima, in particular “a bishop dressed in white ‘we had the impression that it was the Holy Father’” (sic) who is killed by soldiers with guns and arrows and, with the death of so many people from all walks of life, what appears to be the Passion of the entire Church.
Are we prepared for these events? In truth, wouldn’t we rather avoid them completely? Let’s not forget that Our Lady foretold two possible paths for the future, either one of them dependent upon the Church’s free-will response to her motherly commands. She told us that “God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart.” She made specific “requests” which even now, in this year of the Fatima Centennial, remain disregarded. Because Fatima is constantly contradicted, she promised, “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.”
The Immaculate Heart devotion has long been willed by Christ. Almost seven centuries ago, the Sacred Heart made clear to St. Mechtilde (Matilda) that He Himself is “the herald of this devotion [to His Mother’s Heart], which He teaches to us both by word and example.” In modern times, Our Lord told Sr. Lucia the reason why the solemn, public collegial consecration of Russia to the Virgin’s Heart is His Will: “Because I want My whole Church to acknowledge that Consecration as a triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary so that it may extend its cult later on and put the devotion to this Immaculate Heart beside the devotion to My Sacred Heart…”
As we ponder this year’s celestial events, let’s also consider St. Ambrose’s commentary on St. Luke’s eschatological discourse of the great apostasy, wherein he interpreted the symbols of sun, moon and stars in this way:
“Many apostatizing from Christianity, the brightness of the Faith will be dimmed by this cloud of apostasy: since the heavenly Sun grows dim or shines in splendour according to my Faith. And as in its monthly eclipse the moon, by reason of the earth coming between it and the sun, disappears from view, so likewise the holy Church, when the vices of the flesh stand in the way of the celestial light, can no longer borrow the splendour of His divine light from the Sun of Christ. And in the persecutions, it was invariably the love of this life that stood in the path of the Divine Sun. Also the stars−that is, men surrounded by the praise of their fellow Christians−shall fall, as the bitterness of persecution mounts up; which must however come to pass, until the number of the faithful be made up; for so the good are proved and the weak made known.” 
About the Author
Marianna Bartold is the author of Fatima: The Signs and Secrets and Guadalupe: Secrets of the Image. The founding publisher of The Catholic Family’s Magnificat and editor of Sursum Corda (now Latin Mass) magazines, she also digitally publishes traditional Catholic classics on Kindle. (Click here to see the growing book list.)
Join Marianna on Facebook at Fatima 100: Our Lady and the Apostles of Our Times, a discussion group for those who understand the collegial consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart must be done.
 For examples, please see Heb. 2:3-4; Ps. 96:17, Judg. 6:17; Josh. 24: 15-17; Isa. 7:14; Exod. 3:12; Num. 17:20.
 Guadalupe, Fr. Miguel. The Seven Veils of Our Lady of Guadalupe [Goleta, CA: Queenship Publishing, 1999]: p. 266. [Emphasis added.]
 In 1944, Pope Pius XII instituted the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary to be celebrated on 22 August, coinciding with the traditional octave day of the Assumption. The date was changed after Vatican II, and the Queenship of Mary was instead instituted on August 22.
 The vision of Knock is explained in greater depth in my book, Fatima: The Signs and Secrets.
 Frère Michel de la Sainte Trinité, The Whole Truth about Fatima, Vol. III. [Buffalo, NY: Immaculate Heart Publications, Revised edition 2001]: p. 788.
 Septuagint: The ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (i.e., the Old Testament), approved by the Catholic Church but rejected by orthodox Jews and Protestant sects.
 Kramer, Rev. Herman Bernard, editor. The Book of Destiny [Rockford, IL: TAN Books & Publishers, 1975. Originally published in 1955 by Buechler Publishing Co., Belleville, IL. Reprinted in 1972 by Apostolate of Christian Action, Fresno, CA from which the 1975 printing was made]: pp. 275- 276. [Emphasis added.]
 Bartold, Marianna. Fatima: The Signs and Secrets. [Lapeer, MI: KIC, 2014, available in paperback and Kindle editions]: p. 93.[Emphasis added.]
 Berry, Rev. E. Sylvester. The Apocalypse of St. John. [Lapeer, MI: KIC, 2015. Amazon Kindle edition republished from the original 1921 edition.]
 Dan. 8: 15-26; 9: 21-27.
 Dan. 10:1. [Emphasis added.]
 Dan. 10:2.
 Dan. 10:11. [Emphasis added.]
 Dan. 10:12.
 Bartold, op cit. Excerpted from Chapter 1.
 Dan. 12:1. [Emphasis added.]
 Apoc. 12:1.
 St. Ambrose, cited in The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers.
[http://books.google.com/books?id=MCX6nTwu8U8C]. Also see SS. Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Mission. [http://www.saintspeterandpaulrcm.com/weekly_bulletin.htm] [Emphasis added.]