On the 13th October 1917, 95 years ago today, the three children: Lucia 10, and her cousins Francisco 9 and Jacinta 7 – the little “seers” of Fatima – had to be protected and guided through a converging crowd of some 70.000, or more, that had gathered in the Cova da Iria in the hope of seeing a great miracle. There had been wide spread reports from some people who had been present at some of the little seers’ previous visions of Our Lady, and although none of these onlookers had presumably actually seen anything supernatural themselves, it was still widely believed that “something extraordinary” was taking place there at Fatima.
The crowds were not disappointed: believers and non-believers alike were witnesses that day to the “miracle of the sun” as this first hand account from Dr. Jose Maria de Almeida Garrett, professor at the Faculty of Sciences of Coimbra, Portugal (one of the eyewitnesses at Fatima) recalls:
“It must have been 1:30 p.m. when there arose, at the exact spot where the children were, a column of smoke, thin, fine and bluish, which extended up to perhaps two metres above their heads, and evaporated at that height. This phenomenon, perfectly visible to the naked eye, lasted for a few seconds. Not having noted how long it had lasted, I cannot say whether it was more or less than a minute. The smoke dissipated abruptly, and after some time, it came back to occur a second time, then a third time.
The sky, which had been overcast all day, suddenly cleared; the rain stopped and it looked as if the sun were about to fill with light the countryside that the wintry morning had made so gloomy. I was looking at the spot of the apparitions in a serene, if cold, expectation of something happening and with diminishing curiosity because a long time had passed without anything to excite my attention. The sun, a few moments before, had broken through the thick layer of clouds which hid it and now shone clearly and intensely.
Suddenly I heard the uproar of thousands of voices, and I saw the whole multitude, spread out in that vast space at my feet, turn their backs to that spot where, until then, all their expectations had been focused, and look at the sun on the other side. I turned around too, toward the point commanding their gaze and I could see the sun, like a very clear disc, with its sharp edge, which gleamed without hurting the sight. It could not be confused with the sun seen through a fog (there was no fog at that moment), for it was neither veiled nor dim. At Fatima, it kept its light and heat, and stood out clearly in the sky, with a sharp edge, like a large gaming table. The most astonishing thing was to be able to stare at the solar disc for a long time, brilliant with light and heat, without hurting the eyes or damaging the retina. [During this time], the sun’s disc did not remain immobile, it had a giddy motion, [but] not like the twinkling of a star in all its brilliance for it spun round upon itself in a mad whirl.
During the solar phenomenon, which I have just described, there were also changes of colour in the atmosphere. Looking at the sun, I noticed that everything was becoming darkened. I looked first at the nearest objects and then extended my glance further afield as far as the horizon. I saw everything had assumed an amethyst colour. Objects around me, the sky and the atmosphere, were of the same colour. Everything both near and far had changed, taking on the colour of old yellow damask….
Then, suddenly, one heard a clamour, a cry of anguish breaking from all the people. The sun, whirling wildly, seemed all at once to loosen itself from the firmament and, blood red, advance threateningly upon the earth as if to crush us with its huge and fiery weight. The sensation during those moments was truly terrible.
All the phenomena which I have described were observed by me in a calm and serene state of mind without any emotional disturbance. It is for others to interpret and explain them. Finally, I must declare that never, before or after October 13 , have I observed similar atmospheric or solar phenomena.”
The children, on the other hand, were oblivious to this miracle of the sun. Their eyes were fixed on Our Blessed Lady who had appeared before them for the sixth time, as she had promised she would at her first apparition to them on 13th May 1917. She asked for a chapel to be built there in her honour. She also exhorted them to continue to pray the Rosary every day, and then announced the prompt end of the war that was still raging, (WW1), and the return of the soldiers.
Lucia gave the Blessed Mother the petitions people had asked of her, to which Mary responded: “Some, yes; others, no. People must amend their lives and ask pardon for their sins.” Then, with sadness, she said: “Do not offend the Lord our God any more, for He is already too much offended.”
Rising into the air and opening her hands towards the sun, she pointed towards it, with light emanating from her hands. Lucia called out: “There she goes! There she goes!” although later she did not recall saying this. To the left of the sun the children saw St. Joseph with the Holy Child Jesus in his arms. Together they made the Sign of the Cross three times over the world. Our Lady, dressed in the blue and white robes of Our Lady of the Rosary, stood to the right of the sun. Lucia was given the privilege of seeing Our Blessed Lord, dressed in red as the Divine Redeemer, blessing the world. Beside Him stood Our Lady, now dressed in the purple robes of Our Lady of Sorrows. Finally, she appeared clothed in the simple brown robes of Mount Carmel.
What is the purpose of this miracle of the sun? Why did it occur?
The obvious answer to these questions can only be, “to give credit to all the messages the little seers had received from Our Lady”. The children had suffered greatly for being the channels of these messages. They had been scorned, beaten (in the case of Lucia), harassed unceasingly, and even imprisoned and cruelly threatened by the local atheistic authorities, to whom this whole ‘business’ was a great embarrassment. Yet they stoically held out that what they were seeing and hearing was the truth. The foretold miracle taking place on the day and place Our Lady had told them, can do no other than give credit to everything else she communicated to the children. She promised that many souls would be saved if they listened to her requests, and that war was a punishment for sin along with hunger, persecution of the Church, and persecution of the Holy Father. She reminded them of the Commands of God; she added nothing new but asserted many of the Church’s teachings (like that on Purgatory and the Communion of Saints) and renewed the urgency to follow Christ.
Mary also presented three secrets to the children called the Three Secrets at Fatima. The first was the request for the consecration of Russia, and of the world, by the Pope and all the bishops to the Immaculate Heart of Mary “in reparation for all the sacrileges, offenses and indifferences perpetrated against my Immaculate Heart”. She warned that if this was not carried out, “Russia will spread her errors throughout the world. Many nations will be annihilated. The Holy Father will have much to suffer.”
The second secret was the horrifying vision of Hell, where she said poor sinners would go. She asked for continual prayer and sacrifice to save souls from this fate. The children took this very seriously, dedicating every moment they could to carrying out this task.
The third and final secret of Fatima was the future attempt on the life of the Holy Father. As is well known, on 13th May 1981, the 64th anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady at Fatima, this attempt on the life of Blessed Pope John Paul II took place. It is through the prayers and sacrifices of the millions who heeded the messages of Fatima that a fatal outcome of the shooting of the Holy Father was averted. Some years later Bl. John Paul II himself donated the attempted assassin’s bullet to the crown in the statue of Our Lady in Fatima.
Much has been written about Fatima and its prophecies and messages “from Heaven” to mankind through the three little seers. These messages reiterated everything already contained in the teachings, dogma and doctrine of the Catholic Church. They should therefore be seen as truly inspired teachings of Jesus, Son of God, Who said: “The Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said unto you.” (Jn 14:26) We should heed them.