Last night and the night before I went out into the crisp darkness to gaze for a while at a celestial conjunction of Jupiter, Venus and a sliver of a Crescent moon, all gathered directly under the Pleiades.
This spiffing display has led more than one person to wonder if perhaps we were being given a hint about Our Blessed Mother, since it fell on her true feast and her observed feast.
A nice, pious idea, but, no.
Can God make use of signs in the heavens? Sure, He can. He may have in the wake of the Apparitions at Fatima with the “miracle of the sun” and the aurora before the onset of WWII. God can and does intervene to do meaningful things which, while not contrary to nature’s order, are nevertheless beyond our ability to explain according to the laws of science.
Not very long ago, as the ages of the world have it, very smart people thought that, because God, the First Mover, placed everything in the heavenly spheres with such order and guided by angels, all concentrically whirling about the stable Earth, therefore the position of the observable stars and planets must mean something. Astrology was a common practice, and was in many cases undertaken with sincere piety.
Despite the fact that the theological wild-child Tertullian has interpreted the star of the Magi to symbolize the overturning of astrology, and despite the fact that Fathers of the Church, such as St. Augustine in City of God 8, inveighed against astrological divination, and despite even imperial condemnations, the practice stuck. It is very hard to shake the idea that the world is the stable turning point of the universe and that the movements of the heavenly spheres means something.
Not long ago I read a great book (sent by one of you readers) about the period of the life of Galileo during which he was tried by the Roman Inquisition for his Copernican tendencies. It is coauthored by a priest (who clears up from time time – you can tell when he is intervening – some points of theology and Church practice). The book, Galileo in Rome: The Rise and Fall of a Troublesome Genius by William R. Shea and Mariano Artigas, gives a fair view of the historical context, the people and the issues. One of the points explored is the role of astrology in the period. I recommend the book also as a good preparation for apologetics. Whenever the matter of Church and science comes up, someone will throw the case of Galileo in your teeth. Galileo was not entirely innocent in his own ecclesial and social demise: he had all the charm of a radial-arm saw. He used satire and invective on people who had a hard time following his odd Copernican notions. While some of them were jealous enemies, others were the very people who were his biggest fans. The Pope was numbered among them, alas. I’ll leave it to you to find out more about that fascinating person and period.