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Our Lady Of Fatima: The October Apparition And The Miracle Of The Sun

November 5, 2017 Featured Today No Comments

By FR. SEAN CONNOLLY

(Editor’s Note: This is the ninth in a series of articles on the one hundredth anniversary of our Lady’s apparitions at Fatima. Fr. Connolly is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York.)

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Reports of the Mother of God appearing to three shepherd children in the Cova da Iria spread throughout the countryside of Portugal by word of mouth without any systemized propaganda or publicity.
The irresistible flow of pilgrims increased more and more each 13th of the month in response to the message of hope given by our Lady to the children which man had lost. During the last apparition on October 13, 1917, a crowd of 70,000 gathered at the Cova. The Blessed Virgin promised a great miracle that day so all would believe. As the crowds raised their eyes to Heaven in prayer, they would witness the promised miracle confirming everything the children had said. They saw the sun dance.
Gathered in the Cova were the devout, the curious, scoffing unbelievers as well as journalists seeking to unmask what they deemed to be a hoax. The day was terribly gloomy, an allegory for a world immersed in war and losing its way. Everyone was soaking wet, had mud up to their ankles and were chilled to the bone on account of the torrents of rain that had been falling throughout the night and right up until noon, the moment of our Lady’s appearance.
The children saw the flash of light and our Lady appeared on the holmoak tree as had happened before in the previous apparitions. Lucia began her conversation with the Blessed Virgin with her usual question: “What do you want of me?”
Our Lady replied: “I want a chapel to be built here in my honor. I am the Lady of the Rosary. Continue always to pray the rosary every day. The war is going to end, and the soldiers will soon return to their homes.”
Lucia then presented our Lady with petitions on behalf of others: “I have many things to ask of you: to heal some sick people and to convert some sinners.” The reply was simple and direct: “Some, yes; others, no. People must amend their lives and ask pardon for their sins.” Then growing sadder, our Lady said: “They must not offend our Lord any more for He is already too much offended.” Lucia inquired lastly: “Do you want anything more?” “Nothing more” came the reply.
As the Mother of God took leave of the children she opened her hands emanating a flood of light up to the sky brightening the sun itself. Lucia cried aloud for everyone to look up to the sun. At this moment the clouds quickly parted and the children saw the Holy Family with St. Joseph holding the Christ Child on one arm. Together, they blessed the world tracing the Sign of the Cross with their hands. This vision then disappeared and Mary appeared as the Mother of Sorrows along with the suffering Christ who blessed the world by tracing the Sign of the Cross.
This vision also vanished and was followed by the Blessed Virgin as Our Lady of Mount Carmel, holding her Divine Son.
This is what the children saw. The crowd however, could only see the bright sun piercing through the sky which strangely cleared so abruptly. Then, they saw what the sun did.
The rainfall ceased and the bright sun was able to be looked upon directly without any painful disturbance to the eyes. One witness to the miracle, Mary Allen, stated: “Suddenly the rains ceased, the clouds separated and I saw a large sun, brighter than the sun, yet I could look at it without hurting my eyes, as if it were the moon.” (1)
Then it began to dance, whirling violently through the sky shooting forth streams of light which colored objects on the Earth. The sun then seemed to detach itself from the sky and plummet to the Earth.
Another witness, Maria Carreira, recalled: “It looked like a wheel of fire that was going to fall on the people. They began to cry out, ‘We shall all be killed!’ Others called to our Lady to save them. They recited acts of contrition. One woman began to confess her sins aloud, advertising that she had done this and that.” (2)
The sun then climbed back to its normal pace in the sky, leaving everything instantaneously dry, the dirt of the ground and the clothes on the people’s backs. The whole spectacle lasted about 1ten minutes.
Not every witness was a willing believer. Many were skeptics and some even were declared enemies of the Church.
Mario Godinho was a skeptic. He was a member of an important and distinguished Portuguese family who worked as an engineer and lived 18 miles away from Fatima. Mario was one of the few owners of a car in the area and succumbed to the nagging of his pious mother to drive her to the Cova da Iria for the June apparition.
Over the course of the six months the apparitions were taking place, he met all three children and was able to ask them many questions. He was even the one who took the first photograph of the little visionaries. But unlike his mother, he did not believe. He left every encounter disappointed (perhaps at their simplicity) and did not even bother to get out of his car on October 13 when his mother nagged him to bring her to the Cova for the promised miracle.
Desiring to avoid the immense crowd as well as the rain, he remained seated in his car on a road a distance off from the Cova. After hearing the cries of the crowd he got out of his car and described a similar account of the dancing sun as mentioned above concluding with the simple words: “I saw that sun as I never saw it again.”
In his account, he added as a side note that his mother was able to take two leaves from the holmoak our Lady would appear upon which still had drops of candle grease from the candles lighted by the three children. One of these leaves he sent to the Holy Father in Rome and the other he carried in his wallet for the rest of his life as a sign of his restored faith.
Two prominent newspapers of Portugal at the time were O Seculo (“The Century”) and Diario de Noticias (“The Daily News”). They were pro-government, anticlerical, and had a wide circulation that included Lisbon. From October 13 to 17, 1917, these newspapers recorded the eyewitness accounts of editors and reporters who had been at Fatima and witnessed the “Miracle of the Sun.”
The reporters dispatched to Fatima expected to detail for their readership crowds being dispersed by soldiers of the anticlerical government or even better, the crowds themselves repudiating the three little children because the promised miracle failed to transpire. Lucia herself later reported in her memoirs that she was accompanied to the Cova by her doubting mother who had a fear her daughter would be killed by the crowds if the miracle did not materialize. (3)
Diario de Noticias was forced to publish the following account, however: “Then the silvery sun, still shrouded in that grayish light, began to rotate and wander within the circle of the receded clouds! The people cried out with one voice. Thousands, transported by ecstasy, fell to their knees upon the muddy ground.” (4)
Avelino da Almeida was the managing editor of O Seculo. He was also a Freemason and antagonistic toward the Catholic Church. The very morning of the miracle he published a critical article about the gathering at Fatima and questioned the state of mind of the many who gathered at the Cova and also suggested that clergy and commercial interests were promoting the spectacle purely for financial benefit.
The next day he reported this: “. . . One could see the immense multitude turn toward the sun, which appeared free from the clouds and in its zenith. It looked like a plaque of dull silver, and it was possible to look at it without the least discomfort. It might have been an eclipse which was taking place….People then began to ask each other what they had seen. The great majority admitted to having seen the trembling and the dancing of the sun.” (5) He would later say that the rationalism of unbelievers suffered a “formidable blow” by all that transpired that day. (6)
Not every witness was in Fatima either. The great miracle was seen by multiple people from neighboring towns and villages up to 25 miles away. These distant witnesses dispel theories of mass hallucination or suggestion resulting from the heightened emotion of expectation.
And with this great miracle, the Fatima apparitions had come to an end.

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FOOTNOTES

1. Andrew Apostoli, Fatima for Today: The Urgent Marian Message of Hope (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), p. 130.
2. Ibid., p. 132.
3. Lucia dos Santos, Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words: Sister Lucia’s Memoirs 20th Edition (Fatima Postulation Center, 2016), p. 182.
4. John M. Haffert, Meet the Witnesses of the Miracle of the Sun (Spring Grove, PA: The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property — TFP, 1961), p. 74.
5. Apostoli, pp. 132-133.
6. Haffert, p. 75.

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