With 2017 comes the 100th Anniversary of the Fatima event which is an extraordinary part in the Church’s rich history and so, as with most historic moments, it will be tremendous to celebrate its centennial. However, it is also richly significant to note that this October 13th will be the 99th year since the Miracle of the Sun in Fatima, Portugal, an event witnessed by tens of thousands. Why is 99 significant? Maybe it is simply unusual, but I find it amazing because 99 is the product of 33 x 3. So we have the number of years that Christ lived with the number of Persons in the Blessed Trinity. Is this related at all to the Year of Mercy? I don’t know, maybe I read too much into it, but what I do know is this:
“As the sun danced at midday in Fatima” is the translation of the article printed in the anti-Catholic Lisbon newspaper, O Seculo, reporting on the events that occurred in Cova da Iria, a field where the shepherd children of the apparitions pastured their sheep, in Fatima, Portugal on October 17, 1917. The miracle of the Sun, as it has come to be known, was witnessed by an estimated 70,000 people and the voice of one of those eye-witnesses belonged to the chief editor of O Seculo, Avelino de Almeida.
Almeida was present for the claimed apparition of Mary in hopes to embarrass the Church and report a story opposite of what he did write. What he did publish was a detailed account of a miraculous event.
“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. We would say that it produced an eclipse. 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 …”
Dr. Jose Maria de Almeida Garrett, professor at the Faculty of Sciences of Coimbra, Portugal, reported something similar,
“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 color. Objects around me, the sky and the atmosphere, were of the same color. Everything both near and far had changed, taking on the color of old yellow damask. People looked as if they were suffering from jaundice and I recall a sensation of amusement at seeing them look so ugly and unattractive. My own hand was the same color.”
“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.”
This is a supernatural event reported by an atheist reporter trying to discredit the Church, a Science professor at a University, and a crowd 70,000. Of course, claims are made that the whole event was merely a case of psychological experience in which many wanted badly to see a miracle, they were tired, wet, and excited by the crowd and so all collectively, besides an apparent few who reported nothing or others reported slight variances of the miracle, experienced a hallucination of some sort. Basically, the anti-claim is that the miracle is a product of mass hysteria.
However, what about the two reports earlier mentioned? One was definitely hoping not to see a miracle, the other was well versed with science enough to be a university professor. Can we truly discredit the whole event with this amount of information, simply because a few people say, “no way”?
I recently had a chance encounter when I was at a friend’s house: I personally met the daughter of a man who was present in the field of Fatima on October 13 to witness the Miracle of the Sun. I was told that everything handed down to us about the event is absolutely true. “It’s exactly as they say”, said her husband in a classic Portuguese accent. Moreover, he shared with me that there was such a great number of people in the usually small populated Fatima due to the fact that the O Seculo paper had reported that the children said that The Lady promised that there would be a miracle on October 13, 1917.
This promise was made during the month or so that the children were kept in an adult jail. They had already been interviewed by their parents, priests, and the Bishop. Now the police placed them in a holding cell, threatened them that they were to be boiled alive if they did not tell “the truth”. However,their story never changed.
And so we have a supernatural event given to the world to call us to pay attention to what was spoken by the Heavenly Visitor over the course of the 6 months in which Mary appeared to the shepherd children of Fatima. This can be likened to the miraculous deeds of Christ that He brought about to affirm His own Teaching.
So what then was the message that Our Lord wanted us to hear through these appearances of His Mother? Simply stated, we are instructed to pray the Rosary, offer sacrifices for the reparation of our sins and the sins of the whole world, and practice devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Furthermore, on the same day as the Miracle of the Sun, she tells us that we all need to strive to live well as she states, “People must amend their lives and ask pardon for their sins. They must not offend Our Lord any more for He is already too much offended.”
So let us remember Our Lady’s message as we continue on in this valley of tears. In it she gives us a gameplan to live in peace. Not peace that is freedom from struggle, but true peace that transcends our struggles, lifting us ever higher to the Source of Peace, Jesus Christ.