The great Miracle of the Sun

Father John A. Kiley

During the months one hundred years ago that Our Lady of the Rosary was appearing to the three Fatima children, the young Lucy asked the Virgin Mary on July 13, 1917 “to work a miracle so that everybody will believe that you are appearing to us.” Lucy obviously knew that the Lady’s message of prayer and sacrifice was not merely meant for the three children but was intended for the whole world. Our Lady responded to this request by making a very explicit promise. She said she would come “to perform a miracle for all to see and believe” during the month of October. This promise of a miracle was repeated by the Blessed Virgin Mary during the August 19 and September 13 appearances as well. The children reported that the Lady would reveal her identity to them at that same event. Some believers are impressed that this miracle is unique in devotional history for having been predicted ahead of time and then actually occurring.

The Miracle of the Sun was witnessed by as many as 100,000 people on October 13, 1917 in the Cova da Iria fields near Fátima, Portugal. Many reports and reflections on this celebrated miracle are handily available nowadays on the Internet. Those in attendance had assembled to observe what the Portuguese secular newspapers had been ridiculing for months as the absurd claim of three shepherd children that a miracle was going to occur at high-noon at that spot in October 1917. According to many witness statements, after a downfall of rain, the dark clouds broke and the sun appeared as an opaque, spinning disc in the sky. Some remembered the disc being separate from the sun itself giving rise to a more recent discussion of the possibility of a Flying Saucer descending on the muddy field. The sun, or disc, was said to be significantly less bright than normal, and cast multicolored lights across the crowds, the landscape, and the surrounding clouds. The sun, or disc, was then reported to have careened for the next twelve minutes towards the earth in a zigzag pattern, frightening some of those present who thought it meant the end of the world. Some witnesses reported that their previously wet clothing became “suddenly and completely dry.” Estimates of the number of witnesses range from 30,000-40,000 by Avelino de Almeida, writing for the Portuguese newspaper O Século, to 100,000, estimated by Dr. Joseph Garrett, professor of natural sciences at the University of Coimbra, both of whom were present that day.

The reporter, Avelino de Almeida from the Masonic newspaper O Seculo, gave this published report: “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 disc 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, dumbfounded, heads uncovered, contemplating 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.” Motion pictures of the event either were not taken or have not survived but still photographs confirm the vast crowds, the rain soaked conditions, and the full sun breaking through the clouds.

While this great miracle of the sun was occurring, the three children also report seeing a “panorama” of visions which included Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Saint Joseph. Our Lady of The Rosary as she was first seen by the children appeared and then she moved off into the distance. Then Saint Joseph with the Child Jesus and Our Lady all appear altogether. Saint Joseph and the Christ Child bless the world by making the Sign of the Cross. As their apparition fades our Lord appears with our Lady of Sorrows and he blesses those present again with the sign of the Cross. Then the Blessed Mother reappears as Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.

The sun and its light have clearly been symbols of the Divine Presence and Divine activity since Biblical times. “Let there be light,” the Father proclaimed as he initiated the created world. The sun halted in the heavens allowing the embattled Joshua to enter the Promised Land victorious. Light was restored to the eyes of the man born blind as a signal of his new found faith. St. Paul beckons his readers: “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” From the first moments of creation through to Fatima’s miracle of the sun and in this Sunday’s Gospel and beyond, the Divine Presence, “the true light, which enlightens everyone,” is still coming into the world.