The sun, in Holy Scripture, is sometimes a symbol for our Lord Jesus Christ, most famously in psalm 18, where its circuit round the earth is a figure of the incarnation, passion, descent into hell, resurrection and ascension.

Fittingly, therefore, can the sun also be a symbol for the vicar of Christ, the pope of Rome. Commenting on the verses in psalm 136 which state that God gave the sun power over the day and the moon and stars power over the night, St Francis de Sales says that the moon, here, is a figure of the old high priest, who ruled the people during the night of the old Testament, and that the sun is a figure of the pope, who governs us during the day-time of God’s grace.

With this in mind, it is interesting to reflect on the miracle of Fatima in October 1917. When Lucia suddenly called out, “Look at the sun!”, the people saw it lose its lustre, take on colours not its own, begin to spin on its axis, zig-zag through the sky, and suddenly, to general terror, plunge toward the earth, apparently to bring the world immediately to an end. Then, all at once it was back in its proper place, serenely continuing its journey through the heavens.

It may be that God was telling us in this way of what was to befall the papacy, an institution intimately bound up with the whole message of Fatima. Having been for so many years something which the faithful could rely on in their daily lives, and take for granted, as men take for granted the passage of the sun in the sky, it would become an object of wonder and alarm. It would seem to lose its proper light, and take on hues not its own, humanist, modernist, Lutheran, pantheist. Its teachings would become erratic and alarming. It would, perhaps, appear to become entirely unmoored from the place assigned it by its Creator, even threaten by its massive weight now uncontrolled to blot out in some final crisis all supernatural life on earth…

Then, in a moment, by the sole power of God incarnate, will come salvation. We shall look up, and the pope will be in his proper place once more, as the sun, like a faithful steward, dispenses warmth and light to all who dwell upon the earth.