“Look at the sun!”
The shout echoed through the massive crowd. The multitudes looked up. Jaws dropped. From one moment to the next, the world changed.
The sun itself fell from the sky. Men, women and children shouted and cried in terror. Hundreds dropped to their knees in the thick mud. The end of the world!
“We are all going to die here!”
“Save us, Jesus! Our Lady, save us!”
“O my God, I am sorry…”
“Dear God, how great is thy power!”
Lucia’s mother Maria Rosa stood astonished. She had come ready to die, knowing the crowd would try to kill her daughter when nothing happened. Now she cried out with the rest.
It was true. Everything they had said about the Lady from heaven was true. The Blessed Virgin had come to Portugal! “Oh, Mother! Pardon my doubt!”
As these thoughts rushed through her head, the sun resumed its place in the sky. In an instant, she realized the world had not ended. And yet, she knew the world would never be the same.
It was all true, everything Lucia had told her. And that meant…that every word the Lady had spoken was true.
“I will perform a miracle for all to believe.”
The news spread like wildfire. Everyone gathered at the Cova da Iria on October 13, 1917, came to witness something spectacular. A spectacular prodigy… or a spectacular failure. Catholics and atheists, freethinkers and Jews, communists and secularists, all converged to see this purported miracle.
Maria Rosa embraced her daughter Lucia that morning. Despite her unbelief, she said through tears: “I know they are going to kill you. If you must go, I am going to die with you.”
Jacinta said before setting out, “If they hurt us, we are going to heaven. But those that hurt us, poor people, are going to hell.”
As Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta approached, scoffers shouted insults at them. Torrential rains continued through the morning.
The government, hostile to anything religious, placed soldiers to impede anyone from reaching the Cova. These armed men were soon overwhelmed by the throngs of people who flooded past them.
Among the many present that day was Avelino de Almeida, the chief editor of Portugal’s largest paper O Seculo. This paper was known for its liberal and anticlerical stance.
Almeida describes the approaching crowds: “It was an orderly, peaceful and pious crowd. There were neither tumults nor lamentations, but hope. They would go in groups, some singing religious hymns, others praying the rosary. And the heavy rain that began to fall did not dampen their enthusiasm or slow them down.”
When the great moment came shortly after noon, the shouts and cries of the people overwhelmed him. “From the road, where the carriages were crowded together and where hundreds of persons had stayed for want of sufficient courage to advance across the muddy ground, we saw the huge crowd turn towards the sun which appeared at its zenith, clear of the clouds. It resembled a flat plate of silver, and it was possible to stare at it without the least discomfort. It did not burn the eyes. It did not blind. Then a tremendous cry rang out, and the crowd nearest us were heard to shout: ‘Miracle! Miracle! Marvel! Marvel!’ Before the dazzled eyes of the people, whose attitude transported us to biblical times, and who, dumb-founded, heads uncovered, contemplated the blue of the sky, the sun trembled, it made strange and abrupt movements, outside of all cosmic laws, ‘the sun danced,’ according to the typical expression of the peasants.”
Almeida was virulently attacked in the press for writing this testimony. In response, he reprinted what he saw fifteen days later.
In the words of Ti Marto, the father of Francisco and Jacinta: “We looked easily at the sun, which for some reason did not blind us. It cast its rays in many directions and painted everything in different colors—the trees, the people, the air and the ground. 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.”
Father Ignácio Lorenço, then 9 years old, was in Alburitel 11 miles away: “I feel incapable of describing what I saw. I looked fixedly at the sun, which seemed pale and did not hurt my eyes. Looking like a ball of snow, revolving on itself, it suddenly seemed to come down in a zig-zag, menacing the earth. Terrified, I ran and hid myself among the people, who were weeping and expecting the end of the world at any moment.”
More than 70,000 witnessed the Miracle of the Sun at the Cova da Iria, and up to 100,000 more in the surrounding areas. Many eyewitnesses noticed that their clothes and the ground around them, saturated with rain, had suddenly dried.
Father John De Marchi, an Italian Catholic priest and researcher who spent seven years in Fatima, describes this aspect of the miracle: “Engineers that have studied the case reckoned that an incredible amount of energy would have been necessary to dry up those pools of water that had formed in the field in a few minutes as it was reported by witnesses.”
What the Three Children Saw
Just as at the other apparitions, the three children knelt at the base of the holm oak tree where they saw Our Lady. Here is the account in Lucia’s own words:
“What do you want of me?”
“I wish to tell you that I want a chapel built here in my honor. I am the Lady of the Rosary. Continue to pray the rosary every day. The war is going to end, and the soldiers will soon return to their homes.”
“I have many things to ask you: if you would cure some sick persons, and if you would convert some sinners.”
“Some yes, others no. They must amend their lives and ask forgiveness for their sins.”
Becoming sadder, she added, “Let them offend Our Lord no more, for He is already much offended.”
Then, opening her hands, Our Lady shone the light issuing from them onto the sun, and as she rose, her own radiance continued to be cast onto the sun.
It was at that moment that Lucia cried out, “Look at the sun!”
Once Our Lady had disappeared in the expanse of the firmament, three scenes followed in succession, symbolizing first the joyful mysteries of the rosary, then the sorrowful mysteries, and, finally, the glorious mysteries. Lucia alone saw the three scenes; Francisco and Jacinta saw only the first.
The first scene: Saint Joseph appeared beside the sun with the Child Jesus and Our Lady of the Rosary. It was the Holy Family. The Virgin was dressed in white with a blue mantle. Saint Joseph was also dressed in white, and the Child Jesus in light red. Saint Joseph blessed the crowd, making the Sign of the Cross three times. The Child Jesus did the same.
The second scene: A vision of Our Lady of Sorrows, without the sword in her breast, and of Our Lord overwhelmed with sorrow on the way to Calvary. Our Lord made the Sign of the Cross to bless the people.
The third scene: Finally, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, crowned queen of heaven and earth, appeared in a glorious vision holding the Child Jesus near her heart.
Lucia moved from group to group announcing what Our Lady had told her: the war would soon be over and the soldiers would come home! No one paid heed, though. Shouts echoed in every direction, “Miracle! Miracle!”
Newspapers in Portugal, the majority very anti-Catholic, published many accounts in the coming days. Prominent men present for the miracle gave their testimonies. Photographs of the event circulated widely.
Holy Mother Church, ever prudent in such matters, took time to thoroughly investigate the apparitions. In 1919, with the approval of the local priests, the faithful began erecting the first chapel. On October 13, 1921, the local bishop authorized the first Mass at the chapel of the apparitions. Crews digging near the base of the tree where Our Lady appeared soon discovered springs of crystalline water gushing forth. As a sign of Our Lady’s maternal care, she worked numerous miracles through the curative waters.
The anti-Catholic government soon retaliated. On March 6, 1922, the little chapel was destroyed by a powerful bomb. On May 13th of that year, the faithful responded with a pilgrimage of reparation. 60,000 people participated from all parts of Portugal. Despite all opposition, devotion to Our Lady of Fatima was slowly gaining ground. Finally, on October 13, 1930, Bishop José Correia da Silva officially gave approval to the devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. The devotion spread throughout the world, with Fatima soon becoming one of the Church’s largest centers of pilgrimage.
Francisco and Jacinta would not live to witness the fulfillment of this part of Our Lady’s requests. Showing heroic strength amid great sufferings, Francisco passed to his eternal reward on April 4, 1919. His sister Jacinta soon followed him in death on February 19, 1920. Pilgrims coming to Fatima soon thronged the tombs of the young seers.
“The war is going to end…”
In the fall of 1918, the people of Portugal rejoiced to see their sons return from the battlefields of World War I, just as Our Lady predicted. Unfortunately, the people failed to heed Our Lady’s call to prayer and conversion.
“If men do not convert, an even worse war will begin in the reign of Pius XI. When you see a night illuminated by an unknown light, know that it is a great sign that God gives you…”
On the night of January 25, 1938, a mysterious light illuminated the skies over Europe and other parts of the world. Unbelievers said it was merely an aurora borealis. As Our Lady foretold, God gave the world a warning.
The horrors of World War II soon engulfed the world. More than 60 million died as a result of the conflict. The chastisements foretold at Fatima came to pass. The end of the war in 1945 brought an end to the destruction. Would the chastisements for the sins of men cease?
Meanwhile, in Russia
At the same time as the great miracle at Fatima, agents in Russia brought about events with farreaching effects. Nationwide strikes, social unrest and political instability reigned supreme in Russia throughout 1917. The tumult of 1917 culminated in the storming of the Winter Palace in Petrograd (Saint Petersburg). Just 25 days after the Miracle of the Sun, communism officially usurped the rule of Russia.
The communists soon began a systematic restructuring of Russian life. God and religious practice were banished from the life of the people. Private property and centuries-old traditions were eradicated. Any opponents to supreme state control were arrested and interred in gulags. Millions perished under the relentless march of communism.
As foretold by Our Lady at Fatima, because men did not convert, Russia began to spread its errors throughout the world. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira describes the outcome: “A society from which the idea of God has been virtually banished was constructed in the Eastern countries under the control of the atheistic communist sect. From the highest point of the State to the smallest details of each individual life, everything was organized in opposition to the Natural Law, as codified in the Ten Commandments of the Law of God. Communist legislation abolished private property, instituted the most complete egalitarianism, and practically extinguished the family, making marriage a matter of mere public registry with legally insignificant formalities that can change at the good pleasure of the episodically joined couples.”
The true breadth of the evils of Communism would only come to be understood as they devoured whole nations, cultures, and the remnants of Christian civilization over the twentieth century. Nor was this the limit of the spread of the errors of Russia. Cultural Marxists began a relentless campaign to subvert Western civilization. Materialism, indecent entertainments, sexual immorality, public obscenity and so many other evils invaded all countries.
Our Lady’s simple call to conversion and prayer went unheeded by so many of her children. As a result, the scourge of communism and its errors are still prevalent a century later.
“God Wants to Establish Devotion to My Immaculate Heart…”
The only living person who saw Our Lady at Fatima after 1920 was Lucia dos Santos.
In 1925, Lucia entered the convent of the Sisters of Saint Dorothy. While staying at the order’s house in Pontevedra, Portugal, Our Lady would give the solution for the many threats facing humanity.
On December 10, 1925, Lucia received a vision of the Blessed Mother alongside a boy who stood upon a luminous cloud. Sister Lucia heard the Boy say, “Have pity on the Heart of your Most Holy Mother which is covered with thorns with which ungrateful men pierce it at every moment with no one to make an act of reparation to pull them out.”
Our Lady then proceeded to give what would come to be known as the devotion of the Five First Saturdays. This apparition would be followed by others, clarifying the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Seeking further solitude, Sister Lucia obtained permission to enter the Carmelite Convent in Coimbra, Portugal, taking the name of Sister Maria Lucia of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. She lived out the remainder of her years there. On February 15, 2005, Lucia dos Santos passed into eternity.
Fatima and America
The Miracle of the Sun at first had few repercussions in the United States. American Msgr. William J. McGrath later wrote: “Among those present was a correspondent for one of the major news services in this country. Next day, from Lisbon, he cabled a long and impressive story about the Miracle of the Sun. But it was never published. Chicago and New York were in the middle of the World Series and the long dispatch became a one-inch item relegated to page 24, literally snowed under with details of singles, errors, batting averages and home runs.”
But this silence about the great event would not last. Numerous American journalists went to Fatima to investigate. William Thomas Walsh, in his book on the apparitions simply titled Our Lady of Fatima, called the Miracle of the Sun “the greatest modern miracle.”
In his 1947 work, he predicted, “The future of our civilization, our liberties, our very existence may depend upon the acceptance of her commands.” History has proven his prediction correct.
That same year, American John Haffert started world-wide tours of the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Our Lady of Fatima, promoting the Fatima message. The statue had been carved under Sister Lucia’s direction and blessed by Pope Pius XII. At the final Fatima apparition, Lucia reported seeing Our Lady of Mount Carmel gloriously reigning as queen. Mr. Haffert was one of the first to promote the Brown Scapular in conjunction with the message of prayer, penance and conversion.
In this centennial year, it is good to remember that one of the most important events associated with Fatima happened in the United States. In July 1972, while in the city of New Orleans, the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue miraculously wept human tears. The event soon made headlines around the world.
Commenting a short time later on these tears, Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira wrote: “These mysterious tears show Our Lady of Fatima crying over the modern world, as Our Lord once cried over Jerusalem. Tears of most tender affection, tears of deep pain for the punishment that will come.”
“It will come to men if they do not reject immorality and corruption. It will come if they do not fight especially against the self-destruction of the Church, the cursed smoke of Satan that according to Paul VI has penetrated even into the sacred places.”
“…I will return here a seventh time.”
At the first apparition on May 13, 1917, Our Lady said to the shepherds, “I have come to ask you to come here for six months in succession on the thirteenth day of each month at this same hour. Later I will tell you who I am and what I want. Afterward, I will return here a seventh time.”
Will the Blessed Virgin Mary return a seventh time to Fatima? In what way she may again grace Fatima with her presence no one can say. A hundred years ago the world situation was desperate. Europe was being torn apart by a bloody war. Communists and atheists were banishing God from the public square. The world was awash in evil and sin.
Today, the world situation is far worse. The sins of men are mounting by the day. Who in 1917 could imagine what has become commonplace in 2017? The list of vices seems endless: blasphemy, the destruction of the family, abortion, divorce, euthanasia, widespread pornography, immoral fashions and lifestyles, homosexuality and so on. Divine intervention is more crucial than ever.
Our Lady of Fatima did not come to doom her children to despair. She came to offer hope. And that hope lies in her promise: “Finally, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.”
The Miracle of the Sun was not the end of the Fatima story. It was the beginning of a story which is still unfolding. With 100 years passing since her appearance at Fatima, let us pray that Our Lady hastens all the events that will lead to her great triumph.
To conclude, let us heed the words of Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, trusting in Our Lady’s action: “Yes, we turn our eyes to Our Lady of Fatima, requesting of her the contrition that will obtain for us the great pardons, the strength to wage the great battles, and the abnegation to be detached in the great victories that will bring the establishing of her Reign. We desire these victories with our whole heart, even if to reach them, the Church and the human race must undergo the apocalyptic—but how just, regenerating, and merciful—chastisements she predicted in 1917 at the Cova da Iria.”