On the evening of January 25, 1938, my Oma witnessed an extremely rare meteorological phenomena; something that stuck with her for the rest of her life and something I will likely never witness myself. After the sun went down the evening of the 25th, the sky turned an deep red. This was something much more intense than a colorful sunset; a brilliant crimson light covering the night sky. At times it would appear like a cloud moving mysteriously above.
The red sky was not received well. Many in Europe panicked thinking it was a great fire and called the fire department. But as my Oma would tell the story, she knew exactly what what she was witnessing – a sign from God that the Second World War was about to begin.
She was right. About a month later, on March 12, 1938, Austria was annexed into the Third Reich. A significant moment in history and a continuation of a series of events that would forever and deeply affect my Oma (and the world).
On Monday, I visited the Shrine of Fatima in Portugal where in 1917 three shepherd children reported apparitions from the Blessed Virgin Mary. Three secrets were given to the children, one being that the Great War was about to end but a warning that a second, much greater war would occur and would be preceded with an unknown light.
“The war is going to end; but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the pontificate of Pius XI. 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, and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father.”
The “unknown” red light, the “great sign” that my Oma witnessed was an extremely rare aurora borealis. Not only rare because it was visible all the way down into Austria and to North Africa, but also rare because of the red colors. Typically the aurora is blue and green and only visible in the arctic circle.
It was an honor to visit the Shrine of Fatima on the 100th year anniversary of the apparitions. It’s really an incredible place. I don’t know how my Oma felt about the apparitions specifically (she had some feelings towards the Catholic Church later on in life) but I do remember hearing the story of the blood red night sky, and her knowing that the “warning” from the children 19 years prior was coming true. It was the start of a dark time in my Oma’s life, but it was significant and I’m grateful to experience and connect with a little part of that.