Episode 8: The Miracle of the Sun in Fatima Portugal (1917)
Last year the Catholic Church collectively celebrated the 100th anniversary of a series of Marian Apparitions that are said to have taken place between May 13 and October 13 of 1917 just outside the little village of Fatima in Portugal. At the time of the reported apparitions, Europe was still fully immersed in “the ‘Great War’ [i.e. WWI]…that would cost Europe an entire generation, over 37 million lives. Besides sending her own sons to die (in France and North Africa) Portugal was in political chaos at home. There was a dizzy succession of governments following a revolution in 1910. The monarchy had been replaced by a republic, with a new liberal constitution separating Church from state. Government officials, under the influence of Freemasonry, were not sympathetic to the Faith. But for the people themselves, the Faith was the air they breathed.” (EWTN) It was out of this remote and primitive but faith-filled climate that three young shepherd children’s lives would be changed forever as a result of three angelic apparitions and six different monthly apparitions of Our Blessed Mother. The three children were Lucia Santos (10 yrs. old), leader of the group and her two younger cousins Francisco (9) and Jacinta Marto (7). The message they received touched on the importance of devotion to Mary in God’s salvific plan and a call to conversion lest a second and more serious global war should follow the one that was plaguing the world at that time [i.e. WWII that followed]. There was also a call to pray for the conversion of Russia so that it would not replicate its errors across the world, back when it was both a Christian and poverty-stricken, unremarkable country (and long before the rise of Communism and Cold War). Furthermore, three secrets were given to the children, which have since been revealed and the two youngest children were told of their eminent deaths. Francisco died in April of 1919 and his sister died in February of 1920. Both were victims of an influenza epidemic and both had been transformed from typical, playful children to serious contemplative souls as a result of their shared experiences. Today they are canonized saints and Lucia Santos, who went on to become a Carmelite nun and who lived to be nearly 100 yrs. old also has a cause for canonization opened. Their entire story can be read about in great detail for those interested. I want to focus on the Miracle of the Sun which occurred during the final apparition of October, 1917. It is now believed that this miracle was the promised sign that Mary would provide as evidence to the crowds gathering monthly at Fatima and following the story elsewhere that the messages of Fatima were authentic. The miracle was witnessed by over 70,000 bystanders of various faiths and no faith at all; witnesses from the science community and journalists from around the globe.
The event was described as follows:
“During the night of 12-13 October it had rained throughout, soaking the ground and the pilgrims who made their way to Fátima from all directions by the thousands. By foot, by cart and even by car they came, entering the bowl of the Cova from the Fátima-Leiria road…[After Mary’s final message to the children where she again expressed a desire that a chapel be built in that place and after she revealed her name as Our Lady of the Rosary she turned her palms toward the sky and suddenly bursting forth from the heavy rain clouds was the sun appearing as a “soft spinning disk of silver”. “The crowd began to shout, ‘Look at the sun!’ From this point two distinct apparitions were seen, that of the phenomenon of the sun seen by the 70,000 or so spectators and that beheld by the children alone. Lucia describes the latter in her memoirs. ‘After Our Lady had disappeared into the immense distance of the firmament, we beheld St. Joseph with the Child Jesus and Our Lady robed in white with a blue mantle, beside the sun. St. Joseph and the Child Jesus seemed to bless the world, for they traced the Sign of the Cross with their hands. When, a little later, this apparition disappeared, I saw Our Lord and Our Lady; it seemed to me that it was Our Lady of Sorrows. Our Lord appeared to bless the world in the same manner as St. Joseph had done. This apparition also vanished, and I saw Our Lady once more, this time resembling Our Lady of Carmel.
Some in the crowd claimed to have seen these images along with the children. Most did not. However, everyone that day would witness the solar phenomenon known today as the Miracle of the Sun. According to eye witnesses “It looked like a plaque of dull silver, and it was possible to look at it without the least discomfort…The sun trembled, made sudden incredible movements outside all cosmic laws—the sun “danced” according to the typical expression of the people… We looked easily at the sun, which for some reason did not blind us. It seemed to flicker on and off, first one way, then another. It cast its rays in many directions and painted everything in different colors— the trees, the people, the air and the ground. But what was most extraordinary, I thought, was that the sun did not hurt our eyes. Everything was still and quiet, and everyone was looking up. Then at a certain moment, the sun appeared to stop spinning. It then began to move and to dance in the sky until it seemed to detach itself from its place and fall upon us. It was a terrible moment.” Some later said that they thought the end of the world had come because the sun grew many times in size and appeared to be crashing into the earth. This phenomenon of this dancing sun with rainbow color array lasted about 8-10 minutes and brought many conversions of faith. When the event ceased everyone noted that the previously rain-soaked muddy field was entirely dry as were the clothes of all of the bystanders. Many journalists published stories of the events that occurred that day including the New York Times. Strange solar dog or sun halo? Group hallucination? No. In fact there are no known natural explanations for this event (whether meteorological or astronomical) for this strange “dancing sun” described with great consistency by over 70,000 eye witnesses. When no natural explanation will serve, perhaps the supernatural one is best. (EWTN)