Tuesday 18th September 2018

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The Miracle Of The Sun And Our Times

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By DONAL ANTHONY FOLEY

The Miracle of the Sun at Fatima, which took place on October 13, 1917, just over a century ago now, was one of the most stupendous, if not the most stupendous event of the twentieth century. And yet, it is hardly known outside the Church, and not well enough known within the Church.
On one level this is a puzzle, because it was such a singular event — the greatest miracle in 2,000 years, and one witnessed by tens of thousands of people — that it is something that even nonbelievers ought to have been interested in it. But on another level it isn’t so puzzling — rather we can well imagine the lengths to which the Devil, and his mostly unwitting followers, have gone to minimize its effects in the eyes of the world.
But the fact remains that even within the Church it is not nearly as well-known as it should be, and so, it is a good to look again at it and see what it has to teach us.
One way of doing this is to look at it through the eyes of those who actually witnessed it. How did they react to it? How would we have reacted to it if we had been privileged to be present at the Cova da Iria on that fateful day?
The people who did brave the terrible rainstorm which struck Fatima on October 13, 1917 had gone there because of the promise of a miracle — exactly what sort of miracle they didn’t know, but they knew that something exceptional was going to happen. Many skeptics and unbelievers were also drawn to Fatima on that day in the expectation of a fiasco in which the Church would be turned into a laughingstock.
The previous July, our Lady had told the three Fatima children that she would perform a miracle in October, and this sensational report spread throughout Portugal, ensuring that a huge crowd was present on October 13 despite the appalling weather.
Unbelievers mocked the devout pilgrims who made the journey to Fatima, but for the most part they carried on doggedly to their destination, despite the torrential rain.
At noon, our Lady appeared to the children, and after repeating her requests for the daily rosary, and promising that the First World War would soon end, she said to them plaintively and sadly, “Do not offend the Lord our God anymore, because He is already so much offended.”
Then, while the three seers saw visions of the Holy Family, the crowd of at least 70,000 persons were mesmerized as the miracle of the sun unfolded. What happened was so incredible that even nonbelievers couldn’t deny it, as this report which appeared in the secular Lisbon paper O Dia indicates:
“The silver sun,…was seen to whirl and turn in the circle of broken clouds. A cry went up from every mouth and the people fell on their knees on the muddy ground….The light turned a beautiful blue as if it had come through the stained-glass windows of a cathedral and spread itself over the people who knelt with outstretched hands. The blue faded slowly and then the light seemed to pass through yellow glass….People wept and prayed with uncovered heads in the presence of the miracle they had awaited. The seconds seemed like hours, so vivid were they.”
Another witness, Dr. José Almeida Garrett, a young lawyer, reported: “The sun’s disc did not remain immobile. This was not the sparkling of a heavenly body for it spun round on itself in a mad whirl. Then, suddenly, one heard a clamor, a cry of anguish breaking from all the people. The sun, whirling wildly, seemed to loosen itself from the firmament and advance threateningly upon the earth as if to crush us with its huge and fiery weight.”
Another witness, Maria Carreira, likewise testified to the terrifying nature of aspects of the solar miracle:
“It turned everything different colors, yellow, blue, white, and it shook and trembled; it seemed like a wheel of fire which was going to fall on the people. They cried out: ‘We shall all be killed, we shall all be killed!’ Others called on Our Lady to save them and recited acts of contrition. One woman began to confess her sins aloud, saying that she had done this and that….At last the sun stopped moving and we all breathed a sigh of relief. We were still alive and the miracle which the children had foretold had taken place.”
The fact is that eyewitnesses to the miracle reported that the sun danced in the sky, that the color of the whole landscape changed successively, and that the sun seemed to come down toward them, so that many of the crowd thought it was the end of the world. It was also seen at a distance by various people, thus effectively ruling out any notion of hallucination.
And what also shows that the miracle wasn’t a hallucination is the fact that the people at the Cova felt the heat of the sun as it approached them, and their clothes and the ground — which had been soaked by the torrential rain — were dry at the end of the miracle.

A Foreshadowing

A point worth focusing on is the fact that many of the witnesses thought it was the end of the world, so terrifying was their experience — and the heat of the approaching sun only intensified their fears.
And this gives us a clue as to how we should interpret the miracle of the sun in a wider sense. St. Peter, in his second letter, when speaking of the Second Coming of Christ and the end of the world, spoke about how future generations would mock this idea. But he warned that the heavens and the earth have been “stored up for fire,” and that the day of the Lord would mean the elements being dissolved with fire, “and the earth and the works that are upon it,” being burned up (2 Peter 3).
So we can also see the miracle of the sun as a foreshadowing of what will happen at the end of the world, and also as an indication that we are living in a time of crisis, of judgment, when we are called to stand up for the Church and for the truth — particularly now at this present moment.
Our Lady’s apparitions at Fatima have also been linked with the Book of Revelation (the Apocalypse), and by authorities such as Pope Paul VI and responsible writers such as Fr. Louis Kondor, the now deceased postulator for the Causes of Saints Jacinta and Francisco.
Paul VI said that the miracle of the sun was “eschatological [pertaining to the four last things] in the sense that it was like…an annunciation of a scene at the end of time for all humanity assembled together.”
And the Pope also identified our Lady with the “great sign” of chapter 12 of the Book of Revelation, in which “a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.”
In short, Fatima, and the miracle of the sun in particular, are great “signs of the times” that have been given to the Church and the world by God through the Blessed Virgin — and within the Church, we really ought to be taking both the great miracle and message of Fatima much more seriously.

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(Donal Anthony Foley is the author of a number of books on Marian Apparitions, and maintains a related website at www.theotokos.org.uk. He has also a written two time-travel/adventure books for young people — details can be found at: http://glaston-chronicles.co.uk/.)

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