Sliver of Light

When the liturgy parallels what is happening in my life, I pay attention, and the Lord provided a sign in the sky that day. 

Welcome to article 25 of a weekly series on the formation journey of Br. Josh, MIC, a second-year seminarian at the Marian House of Studies in Steubenville, Ohio. It is the continuation of Br. Josh's previous column, "Novice Notes."

By Br. Josh, MIC

On the afternoon of April 8, I saw my friend Br. Joseph “Major” standing at the end of our cloister hallway. 

“I’ve got the truck ready to go, and I’m just waiting to see if anyone’s interested in coming out to see the eclipse with me,” he said.

“I’m going with you!” I answered immediately.

Solar eclipse
I had never seen an eclipse before. As we drove to Steubenville’s Franciscan University, Br. Joseph told me about how he and his Dad experienced the last eclipse a number of years before. While everyone else was looking at the sun, his Dad looked at the ground because the eclipse did amazing things to the shadows, which looked three-dimensional. Br. Joseph only got to see that eclipse very briefly, but he was amazed by it.

When we reached the campus, we found a large party of young college students playing games and chatting on the grass. A handful looked up from time to time with their dark glasses, but most did not. The sun was shining brightly, and it appeared that the eclipse had not started yet. However, as soon as I slipped dark glasses over my eyes and looked up at the sun, my mouth dropped open.

“Wow!” I exclaimed, for the first of many times that afternoon. 

The sun was nearly half covered by the moon. Very slowly, the moon kept creeping upward from below, blocking out more and more of the sun. 

Even when the moon blocked 80% and then 90% of the sun, it was still impossible to see any difference with the naked eye, and the crowd remained none the wiser. I marveled at how powerful the sun is, that almost all of it was hidden and yet it shone so brilliantly that no one could see any difference. 

Eventually, the eclipse reached a point where the sun was almost completely blotted out, leaving only the thinnest of light slivers. At that point, the sky darkened and the crowd of students quieted down and looked up.

I learned later from the brothers who stayed back at our Marian House of Studies that birds were hopping around eating seeds, but when the sky darkened, they flew away, thinking it was nighttime. 

The eclipse was awesome. At its zenith, I could see it even wearing ordinary sunglasses. Though it was risky chancing brief glances upward without the full protection of the dark glasses from Franciscan University, what I saw was a memory I will always treasure. 

The sun had almost completely vanished out of the sky. The fluffy white and gray clouds and the lovely blue sky were still there and the moon was invisible, but the sun was reduced to the barest sliver of light. It was as if the sun played a magic trick on us. 

I had never seen it that way. I mentioned to Br. Joseph, “If this is how amazing nature can be, just think what it would have looked like at Fatima when the supernatural was at work.” The sun danced at that time, emitted rainbow colors and appeared to fall toward the Earth. 

Brother Joseph was a wonderful companion as we rejoiced together like little children beneath the spectacle.

The Annunciation
When we returned to the Marian House of Studies, we attended an evening Mass and I was the reader. We celebrated the Annunciation that day because the Easter Octave caused the usual March 25 feast to be postponed. 

I was struck by the first reading from Isaiah (Is 7:10-14; 8:10), as the Lord said to Ahaz, “Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God; let it be deep as the nether world, or high as the sky!”

When the liturgy parallels what is happening in my life, I pay attention, and the Lord provided a sign in the sky that day. 

I heard speculation that the eclipse might mean divine judgment, while others said no, it meant Divine Mercy. As for me, I have no idea what it means, but I know it was beautiful, awestriking to behold. 

Except in Alaska, the next time an eclipse will be visible in the United States is 20 years from now. This was such a rare event, and I am thrilled to have seen it. 

Next: "Paschal Blessings."
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