The Miracle of the Sun: The Final Apparition of Our Lady of Fatima
Despite heavy rain, heat emitted by the spinning sun
dries ground and clothes immediately.
6th and Final Apparition of Our Lady of Fatima: October 13, 1907
The rain continues and by the official government time it is well past one o’clock. But by suntime it is precisely noon when Lucia looks to the east. “Jacinta” she says softly, “kneel down.” Then more strongly she calls, “Our Lady is coming; I have seen the lightning.”
The children kneel, as do countless numbers of faithful; but the people as yet have been stirred by no great happening. The faces of the children are mirrors of ecstasy, yet what they see is not for other eyes to know, except through the testimony of the children themselves.
Their Lady stands in unearthly beauty above the bright flowers and rain-wilted ribbons of silk that affectionate hands have fixed there in her honor. But flowers fade and sunlight pales, and every natural glory of earth withdraws its poor pretensions in her company, if we can believe her witnesses.
Now we find that by God’s gift, it is almost impossible not to believe.
“What do you want of me?” asks Lucia.
The dialogue, read this way, does not seem inspired. From May to October it has been much the same. But there is this significant difference. It is heaven and earth concerned with goodness, rather than with skills. There is no call for Dante, or for Shakespeare, or for any modern literary hand.
“I want a chapel built here in my honor. I want you to continue saying the Rosary every day. The war will end soon, and the soldiers will return to their homes.”
“Yes,” says Lucia. “Yes.” But since the Lady has promised this day to tell exactly who she is, Lucia asks further, “Will you tell me your name?”
“I am the Lady of the Rosary.”
There is a reverent silence. Lucia then explains, “I have many petitions from many people. Will you grant them?”
“Some I shall grant, and others I must deny.” This Lady of the Rosary, who is God’s Mother, is gentle, but she is serious. She has never smiled. She is asking for penance. She is talking in terms of heaven and hell – a blunt and terrifying equation that so many have comfortably forgotten. She speaks as though after 1900 years, a cross still weighs upon the shoulders of her Son: “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!
“And is that all you have to ask?” Lucia inquires.
“There is nothing more.”
Now the Lady of the Rosary takes her last leave of her three small friends. She rises slowly toward the east. The children behold how she turns the palms of her gentle hands to the dark sky over them, and now, as if this is a signal, the rain has stopped; the great dark clouds that have obscured the sun and depressed the solemn day, are suddenly burst apart; they scatter; they are rent like a bombed rainbow before the eye, and the bold sun hangs unchallenged in its place, a strangely spinning disc of silver.
Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco are beholding their Lady. From her upturned hands strange rays of light are rising, as though to assault and make dim the light of the sun itself.
Lucia cries out a single time, “Look at the sun!”
But she has no recollection later of having called this out to the crowd. The Lady of the Rosary is no longer ascending. She stands in glory to the right of the sun, and her light is such that the great fixed star is by comparison pallid and weak. For a moment she is gowned in white, precisely as the children have known her each time she has appeared above the stubby oak. Yet as quickly, and as strangely then, she is wearing a mantle of blue, and with her, in fidelity to the promise she has made, is St. Joseph, with the Christ Child in his arms. St. Joseph is robed in red, and he appears to lean from the clouds, holding the Child who is also dressed in red.
These visions are brief and they succeed one another rapidly. Three times St. Joseph has traced the sign of the cross above the people. St. Joseph fades away, and Christ appears at the base of the sun. He is cloaked in red. With Him stands His Mother. She is gowned now in neither white nor blue, but as Our Lady of Sorrows, gazing on the earth. She has not the traditional sword in her heart. This the children clearly note, and are later able to recall. Christ gives his blessing to the people, and then, as this vision passes, there is one that Lucia alone is privileged to see: Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Remember, this is Lucia speaking; this is the privileged sight of three, quite different from the shocking and indisputable phenomenon that is witnessed by the crowd.
It seems strange, recounting here in simple words, such prodigies as this. There can be no attempt to describe the impact of this experience on the children. They have themselves no more succeeded in this than they have managed fully to convey a picture of the Lady whose beauty was more than the senses, unaided, could properly comprehend.
But what of the crowd who did not see the Christ Child, or His Mother, or St. Joseph in the sky? Here the record pursues the skeptic, and inexorably, if he does not flee from the evidence, it will defeat him. The miraculous hand falls heavily. Like stones, the signs of God will be laid before you now to build a house of faith.
When Lucia cried, “Look at the sun!” the people responded. The rain at that moment had stopped; the sun was clearly seen. There was no cloud to obscure it, yet it did not strain the eyes of any man to look on its unveiled light. The people could see that the sun was strangely spinning. It began to revolve more rapidly, more frighteningly. It began to cast off beams of many-colored lights in all directions. Shafts of brilliant red came from the rim of the revolving star and fell across the earth, the people and the trees; and green lights came and violet and blue in mixed array. It is a story of wonder and of terror, too, as the great star challenges the discipline of all the ages it has known, and begins careening, trembling in the sky for seventy thousand witnesses to see. Now, horribly, it appears to plunge from its place in the heavens and fall upon the earth. People are crying:
“I believe! I believe!”
They are shrieking, “Jesus, save us!”
They are crying, “Miracle!”
They are begging, “God forgive us our sins!”
They are praying, “Mary, save us!”
This is, of course, not our story to tell. It is the story of the seventy thousand people who were there. It appears more prudent to call them in witness, than to belabor the subject ourselves. We will start with our friend, Ti Marto, who is not an excitable man:
We looked easily at the sun, which for some reason did not blind us. It seemed to flicker on and off, first one way, then another. It cast its rays in many different directions and painted everything in different colors – the trees, the people, the air and the ground. But what was most extraordinary, I thought, was that the sun did not hurt our eyes. Everything was still and quiet, and everyone was looking up. Then at a certain moment, the sun appeared to stop spinning. It then began to move and to dance in the sky until it seemed to detach itself from its place and fall upon us. It was a terrible moment.
Among our friends, Maria da Capelinha has told us pretty much the same thing:
The sun turned everything to different colors – yellow, blue and white. Then it shook and trembled. 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 . . . When at last the sun stopped leaping and moving, we all breathed our relief. We were still alive, and the miracle which the children had foretold, had been seen by everyone.
It must be admitted that this was not an afternoon of celestial fireworks enjoyed by simple and unlettered people predisposed to accept any flash of lightning as the Lord’s own signal. The 70,000 witnesses included believers and non-believers, pious old ladies and scoffing young men. Hundreds, from these mixed categories, have given formal testimony. Reports do vary; impressions are in minor details confused, but none to our knowledge has directly denied the visible prodigy of the sun’s unscheduled behavior in the sky. The special report for the Lisbon daily, O Dia, had this to report in the edition of October 17, 1917:
At one o’clock in the afternoon, midday by the sun, the rain stopped. The sky, pearly gray in color, illuminated the vast arid landscape with a strange light. The sun had a transparent gauzy veil so that the eyes could easily be fixed upon it. The gray mother-of-pearl tone turned into a sheet of silver which broke up as the clouds were torn apart and the silver sun, enveloped in the same gauzy gray light, was seen to whirl and turn in the circle of broken clouds. A cry went up from every mouth and 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. Yellow stains fell against white handkerchiefs, against the dark skirts of the women. They were repeated on the trees, on the stones and on the serra. People wept and prayed with uncovered heads, in the presence of a miracle they had awaited. The seconds seemed like hours, so vivid were they.
. . .
An interesting document has been left by the late Father Inacio Lourenço, a priest from Alburitel, a village about eleven miles from Fatima. We have ourselves taken the trouble to verify his recollections with many of his surviving parishioners, and especially with the school teacher, Dona Delfina Lopes, to whom he refers. Here is Father Lorenço’s report:
I was only nine years old at this time, and I went to the local village school. At about midday we were surprised by the shouts and cries of some men and women who were passing in the street in front of the school. The teacher, a good, pious woman, though nervous and impressionable, was the first to run into the road, with the children after her.
Outside, the people were shouting and weeping and pointing to the sun, ignoring the agitated questions of the school-mistress. It was the great Miracle of the sun, accompanied by its extraordinary phenomena.
I feel incapable of describing what I saw and felt. I looked fixedly at the sun, which seemed pale and did not hurt the eyes. Looking like a ball of snow revolving on itself, it suddenly seemed to come down in a zigzag, menacing the earth. Terrified, I ran and hid myself among the people, who were weeping and expecting the end of the world at any moment.
Near us was an unbeliever who had spent the morning mocking at the simpletons who had gone off to Fatima just to see an ordinary girl. He now seemed to be paralyzed, his eyes fixed on the sun. Afterwards he trembled from head to foot, and lifting up his arms fell to his knees in the mud, crying out to our Lady.
Meanwhile the people continued to cry out and to weep, asking God to pardon their sins. We all ran to the two chapels in the village, which were soon filled to overflowing. During those long moments of the solar prodigy, objects around us turned all the colors of the rainbow. We saw ourselves blue, yellow, red, etc. All these strange phenomena increased the fears of the people. After about ten minutes the sun, now dull and pallid, returned to its place. When the people realized that the danger was over, there was an explosion of joy, and everyone joined in thanksgiving and praise of our Lady.
The evidence mounts that for the devout, the pagan, and the coolly in-between, it must have been an exciting afternoon. Decide as you will whether the power of God or the faulty eyesight of 70,000 is responsible for this chapter of contemporary history. Believe only that we, who are reporting it here, lived for more than seven years within sight of the Cova da Iria, and have yet found no one to confound or deny with just reason, the events of this memorable day.
Perhaps less dramatic than the visible acrobatics of a heavenly body ninety million miles removed from the earth, was another phenomenon we have not yet emphasized. In that hectic noontime, while the great star hung in cloudless clarity, the people, who had been drenched and soggy with the pelting, unremitting rain, were suddenly and completely dry – their shoes and stockings, their skin and their clothes, as though the Lady of the Rosary had involved the power of some new machine. You’ll pardon our conviction that it was the power of her Son, from whom all grace and lesser powers proceed.
We’ll close this chapter by quoting from a pastoral letter on the apparitions written in 1922 by D. José Alves Correia da Silva, the bishop of Leiria:
The solar phenomenon of October 13, described in newspapers of the time, was of a most marvelous nature and caused the deepest impression on those who had the good fortune to witness it.
The children had foretold the day and the hour at which it would occur. The news spread rapidly throughout Portugal, and in spite of bad weather, thousands and thousands of people congregated at the spot. At the hour of the last apparition they witnessed all the manifestations of the sun which paid homage to the Queen of heaven and earth, more brilliant than the heavenly body itself at its zenith of light.
This phenomenon, which was not registered in any astronomical observatory, and could not, therefore, have been of natural origin, was witnessed by people of every category and class, by believers as well as unbelievers, journalists of the principal daily papers and even by people miles away, a fact which destroys any theory of collective hallucination.
[Source: pp. 179 – 194, The True Story of Fatima, by John de Marchi, I.M.C., imprimatur 1952].