Following yesterday’s announcement that his holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, will be resigning his papacy, God sent an apparent sign by having “lightning strike” the top of St. Peter’s Basilica (presumably, there’s a lightning rod up there). No one I’ve read has presented any statistics one way or the other regarding how often lightning strikes there, though I’d figure that it’s got to be a pretty unusual event to snap photos of such lightning just in time.
Joanne McPortland, with whom I usually disagree when I either read her blog or encounter her on Facebook, has written a very good piece about how God shows His glory in Nature, per the Psalms.
It does stand to be noted that God *sometimes* uses lightning, and other phenomena, as a sign of His disfavor, as He did with St. Barbara’s father, and as He did with Rudolph Giuliani–one of the select few “Catholic” politicians who’s actually wrong on most Life Issues.
Or there’s a favorite story of mine. A family friend who often does “general intercessions” as part of grace also has a lifelong devotion to St. Barbara. Once, in the late 90s, her grandchildren were all visiting, and she was saying her typical long form of grace before meals. The children began snickering and whispering. It was storming outside. She said, “You better watch out, or God’ll get ya!” Just then, BOOM! Lightning hit the house: the TV right behind their heads in the kitchen blew up, as did the TV and VCR in the den!
However, no one was hit by this particular lightning strike: it’s just a fantastic display of God’s grandeur.
Now, that said, I keep noting on various discussions of what this lightning strike could “mean” that everyone’s forgetting their high school physical science.
Lightning does not strike from above. It strikes from below. In a storm the wind and the rapid changing of temperatures cause friction in the clouds, making the clouds positively charged. This attracts electrons from the ground, which seek out a path of least resistence to get up to the ionized clouds. Lightning is the flash of light the electrons produce, and thunder is the sound of the electrons jumping. The reason lightning rarely “strikes twice” in the same spot during a storm is that the ionization in that area has become neutralized.
So, technically, contrary to 99.99999% of the discussions online, lightning did not strike the Vatican: the Vatican struck the sky with lightning.
So, if “lightning striking” is a symbol of a rare and awesome phenomena, and Pope Benedict’s resignation (only 4% of Popes have resigned, none in 600 years, and most under serious pressure for some reason) is a metaphorical “lightning strike”, then if God is sending a message by this lightning strike, that message is:
Benedict’s Resignation is a Rare and Awesome Thing.