Editor’s Note: This past October 13 was the 90th Anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima. Presented here is a thought-provoking speech on the subject given by Dr. Peter Chojnowski at the “Fatima: Only Way to World Peace” conference in Brazil, August 2007.
I appreciate the invitation to speak about an event which has great significance for the entire world and for me personally. What always surprises me about this great miracle, perhaps the greatest miracle since the Resurrection, is how little it is known in the world at large. It should shake the very world itself. It should shake our governments; it should shake our media; it should shake our own souls.
And, yet, for how many does it have this profound effect? To quote the famous French rationalist and skeptic Renan, “Miracles do not take place where they ought to. A miracle in Paris before so many of the learned would put an end to so many doubts. But, alas, that never happens. No miracle ever took place before those who could discuss and make critical judgments on it.” To this challenge and doubt, we can offer the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima on October 13, 1917.
That is why this miracle is so important. Not only does this miracle disprove Renan; it is also an absolute proof of the authenticity and the importance of the Message of Our Lady of Fatima. It is at this point that we can mention our thesis. This specific miracle — God, of course, does nothing in “general” — is meant uniquely for our times; for our “modern” times. This miracle is a unique antidote to the specific intellectual diseases in our time.
At the end of this lecture I will mention the specific intellectual diseases which this miracle is an antidote to. Those diseases are philosophical skepticism, theological ambiguity, and political secularism.
There is also no doubt that this miracle was intended to be an absolute proof of Our Lady’s Universal Queenship. It was meant to be the initiation of the Universal Reign of Our Lady as Queen over the world.
But, as Catholics who value and understand the validity of reason and evidence, we must ask ourselves what lends credibility to this Miracle of the Sun. When we ask this question and begin to do the research, we are amazed at how much evidence there is to support the validity of the claims of this miracle. There are so many contemporary testimonies. I can mention only some of the basic sources which testify to the truth of this miracle.
The contemporary press is the first of these sources. Indeed, it was the anti-clerical, Masonic press in Portugal which reported on the Miracle first.
1917: Newspaper account of the Miracle of the Sun
When looking for reliable sources concerning historical events, it is always best to consult those who have no “bias” or “vested interest” in the events. If they testify to the truth of the historical claim, the claim is bolstered immeasurably. If, however, the witnesses are professionally hostile and yet testify to the truth of the claims of their opponents, the testimony is of incalculable worth. We have this kind of testimony in the account of Avelino de Almeida, the Editor in Chief of O Seculo, a liberal, anti-clerical, and Masonic daily in Lisbon. Mr. de Almeida was actually a witness to the events at the Cova da Iria.
To this testimony of the anti-Catholics, we add the testimony of the Church. The official investigation into the miracle itself began in November 1917. Monsignor Vidal, who was directing the diocese of Lisbon, instructed the parish priest to launch an immediate investigation into the case. So the Church, from the beginning, was investigating the claims and interviewing the witnesses. This investigation came to fruition when Bishop da Silva of Fatima officially approved the apparition as worthy of belief. This could not have been difficult, since, unlike most historical events, the events on October 13th at Fatima had innumerable witnesses, whose testimony agree, and who have left innumerable documents.
These innumerable accounts of the events that October day were meticulously documented from the beginning until our own time. These accounts of the events came out in the decades when eyewitnesses were still alive, leaving open the possibility that the accounts could be refuted by the eyewitnesses. They could have objected when the reports came out, but no one did. In fact, on the 60th anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun, there were some 30 eyewitnesses who could still testify to the events on that day.
What also adds to the veracity claims concerning the Miracle of the Sun is the fact that the miracle itself was witnessed by some 70,000 people that day. Their testimony is unanimous. However, who were these witnesses, other than our Masonic newspaperman Avelino de Almeida, were there only Portuguese Catholic peasants who attended this anticipated miracle?
The answer here is, of course, no. The Portuguese historian, Leopoldo Nuñes, who was present on the scene on October 13th, says, “At the moment of the great miracle there were present some of the most illustrious men of letters, in the arts and the sciences, and almost all were unbelievers coming out of curiosity, led by the prediction of the seers. Even the Minister of Education of the Masonic government was there.”
So we see here how Renan is refuted, because exactly the men whom he said are not present at miracles were present at Fatima at the moment of the miracle. Here we have Our Lady, at the request of Lucy, who sought to prove the authenticity of Her Fatima Message to the unbelievers.
Again, we return to the account of the miraculous events on the day of the 13th given us by Avelino de Almeida, the self-professed anti-Catholic witness. It is worth noting that the editors of the other anti-clerical newspapers attacked de Almeida for his report. But even in the face of such criticism by his comrades he did not retreat from his testimony. In fact, 15 days after his original account of the miracle, he published another story about the events, this time illustrating it with 12 pictures taken of the crowd in the midst of the Miracle of the Sun. Throughout this article, de Almeida just kept repeating, “I saw it … I saw it … I saw it.”
Let us follow the account of Avelino de Almeida, adding to it that of another eyewitness Dr. Almeida Garrett, professor of the Faculty of Sciences at the University of Coimbra, obtained by Fr. Formigao.
The story for de Almeida begins on October 12th, 1917, when he arrives at Fatima to “see” the non-fulfillment of the prophecy of a miracle. Here, the unbeliever — who was obviously impressed with the faith of the believers, says, “On the road, we encounter the first groups which are on their way to the holy place, a good 13 miles away … Men and women are for the most part barefoot, the latter carrying their shoes in bags on their heads, while the men lean on thin sticks and are also prudently armed with umbrellas. Apparently indifferent to what is going on around them they do not seem to notice the countryside nor their fellow-travelers, but murmur the Rosary as they go immersed in thought … A woman recites the first part of the Ave Maria and immediately her companions continue the second part in chorus. They move rhythmically and rapidly in order to reach the place of the apparitions by nightfall. Here, under the stars they will sleep, keeping the first and best places near the little tree.”
What a moving account. He must have been profoundly moved by what he saw. We can only wonder about his attitude. Perhaps it was one of pity for what he thought were the pathetic hopes of the people.
The whole night it rained. This was a change in the weather from what had occurred earlier in the autumn season. It was as if Our Lady was perfectly stage managing the scene to emphasize the miracle. The rain transformed the dusty roads into muddy quagmires. What does de Almeida say concerning the response of the people to these adverse conditions? “They did not lose hope and they did not forget the cause for which they came.”
The day of October 13th arrived. De Almeida continues, “By 10 o’clock the sky was completely hidden behind the clouds and the rain began to fall in earnest. Swept by the strong wind and beating upon the faces of the people, it soaked the pilgrims, often without protection against the weather, to the marrow of their bones … But no one complained or turned back … Hours of waiting …The great mass of people congregate round the oak tree which, according to the children, is Our Lady’s pedestal.”
What amazes us about the Miracle of the Sun is the specificity of Our Lady; just as God Himself is so specific in all that He does. God does not merely create, sustain, or guide “the general.” Our Lady said in July of 1917 that She would perform a miracle at midday on the 13th of October. But it was after noon, how can we say that Our Lady’s promise was being fulfilled? Here it is necessary to say that the Portuguese government, due to its belligerency with France and Britain during World War I, decided that the clocks were to be set 90 minutes ahead so that Portugal would be in the same time zone as her fellow belligerents. On October 13, 1917, 1:30 p.m. was actually midday, sun time.
The hour of the miracle approached. The presence of the seers is announced shortly before the scheduled time of the apparition and miracle; they arrive about one-half hour early. The little girls Jacinta and Lucy, crowned with flowers, are led to the place where the platform has been erected. When Lucy asks them, no, orders them to shut their umbrellas in the drenching rain, something that goes against intuition, the order is transmitted and executed right away without resistance. Then they wait. What if there was no miracle? But there was.
Near the time of 1:30 p.m., a priest, who stood by the children and had been waiting since the evening, began to grow impatient. “Look its midday now. Our Lady does not lie. Well, well.” After a few minutes with nothing happening except the rain pouring down on the uncovered thousands, the priest again looked at his watch and said, “Look, its midday now. Our Lady doesn’t lie. It’s past midday. You see it’s all a delusion. Run along all of you. Go away. It’s a delusion.” In response to this skepticism and doubt, Lucy refused to go. It was midday, so the priest began to push the three children away from the site. Then the simple faith of Lucy took over. She began to cry and said, “If anyone wants to go I shall stay where I am. Our Lady said She would come. She came the other times and She will come this time too.”
At that moment Lucy looked to the east and said to Jacinta, “Jacinta, kneel down. Our Lady is coming. I saw the lightning.” According to Sister Lucy’s account, the impatient priest did not say another word and the children never saw him again. It was at this moment that the miracle commenced. Here are the stages of the Miracle of the Sun:
What is truly amazing about this miracle is that Our Lady perfectly “stage managed” the entire event. Each aspect of the miracle was directed to accentuate the miraculous nature of the phenomenon. Dr. Almeida Garrett reports, “The sky, which had been overcast all day, suddenly clears up; the rain stops and it looks like the sun is about to fill with light the countryside that the wintry morning had made so gloomy.” This sudden change of weather surprised all of the witnesses. Dr. Pereira Gens simply reports, “The rain suddenly stopped”; it “suddenly stopped,” of course, at the exact moment which had been predicted for the miracle to take place.
Why “the vision of the sun”? Because at this moment, contrary to the normal phenomenon, everyone, and this is a unanimous testimony without contradiction, could look at the sun clearly, directly, and without wincing or closing their eyes. No one needed to turn away. This is what the editor of O Seculo says, “Then they saw a unique spectacle, [an] unbelievable spectacle for anyone who did not witness it. From the road … one could see the immense multitude turn towards the sun, which appeared free from clouds and in its zenith. It resembles a dull silver disc, and it is possible to look at it without the least discomfort.” Dr. Garrett, however, had this observation, “I …saw it [the sun] as a disc with a clean cut rim, luminous and shining, but which did not hurt the eyes. I do not agree with the comparison which I have heard made in Fatima — that of a dull silver disc. It was a clearer, richer, brighter color, having something of the luster of a pearl … I felt it to be a living body … It looked like a glazed wheel made of mother of pearl … It was a remarkable fact that one could fix one’s eyes on this brazier of light and heat without any pain in the eyes or blinding of the retina.”
One would think that this would be enough, being able to look at the sun without having to turn away, but Our Lady wanted to demonstrate Her power in a more convincing way. So this sun that all the witnesses could observe without irritation “danced.” This was called by many of the common folk present, “The Dance of the Sun.” De Almeida says concerning this “dance”: “The sun trembled, the sun made sudden incredible movements outside all cosmic laws — the sun ‘danced’ according to the typical expression of the people. It shook and trembled; it seemed like a wheel of fire.”
Dr. Garrett adds, “The sun’s disc did not remain immobile. This was not the sparkling of a heavenly body for it spun round upon itself, it made a whirl.” Also, “It spun like a firewheel, taking on all the colors of the rainbow … It looked like a ball of snow, revolving upon itself.” According to Ti Marto, the father of Jacinta and Francisco, “At a certain moment the sun seemed to stop and then began to move and dance … However, the sun stops, only to begin its strange dance all over again after a brief interruption, whirling upon itself, giving the impression of approaching or receding.” This “dance,” which was seen by the 70,000 witnesses, was actually repeated three times during the course of the 10 minute long miracle.
With the Dance of the Sun something else began to happen. The landscape, and everything in it, began to take on, in succession, all the colors of the rainbow. Dr. Garrett testifies, “During the solar phenomenon … there were changes of color in the atmosphere … I looked first at the nearest objects and then extended my glance further afield as far as the horizon, I saw everything an amethyst color. Objects around me, the sky and the atmosphere, were of the same color … Soon I heard a peasant who was near me shout out in tones of stupefaction: LOOK, THAT LADY IS ALL YELLOW! And in fact everything both near and far had changed to yellow. People looked as if they were suffering jaundice … My own hand was of the same color.” The exact same report comes from another witness, Maria do Carmo, “The sun took on all the colors of the rainbow. Everything took on the same colors: our faces, our clothes, the earth itself.”
Now we come to a part of the miracle that made many of those present on the scene of the Cova da Iria believe that the world was ending — such was the fearsomeness of the experience. This was clearly Our Lady’s warning that the Message of Fatima was not only a “message,” but, also, a very grave warning. What happened at that stage of the miracle is called the “falling” of the sun. “Then suddenly, one heard a clamor, a cry of anguish breaking from all the people. The sun, whirling wildly, seemed to loosen itself from the firmament and advance threateningly upon the earth as if to crush us with its huge and fiery weight. The sensation during these moments were terrible.”
Again, “The sun began to move and dance until it seemed that it was being detached from the sky and was falling on us. It was a terrible moment!” “It seemed like a wheel of fire that was about to fall on the people.” Alfredo de Silva Santos reports, “The sun began to move and at a certain moment appeared to be detached from the sky and about to hurtle upon us like a wheel of flame.” Even though many thousands were expecting imminent death and were making their final preparations for that event, the miracle was not the end, but a warning and an indication of the mercy of God and the intercessory power of the Mother of God — because the sun returned to the heavens.
Then the final miracle, the last manifestation of the intimate knowledge and love that God and His Blessed Mother has for mankind and for the pious faithful. Fr. Lourenço: “This enormous multitude was drenched, for it had rained unceasingly since dawn. But — though this may appear incredible — after the great miracle everyone felt comfortable, and found his garments quite dry, a subject of general wonder … The truth of this fact has been guaranteed with the greatest sincerity by dozens and dozens of persons of absolute trustworthiness, whom I have known intimately from childhood, and who are still alive .” We have it from Dr. Pereira Gens that, “I still remember the delicious sensation that this warm caress of the sun gave me … I [felt] my clothes almost dry now, although they were all wet a few moments ago.”
Jacinta being carried from the field after the Miracle of the Sun.
What do we gain from this great manifestation of God? What should this miracle say to us? What basic truths do these events confirm for our “modern” minds? I would say this. First, that the true God, Master over Heaven and Earth, showed His power over Nature. He brought forward to the modern mind the simple idea that God is omnipotent and yet He is present to us in an intimate and personal way.
When before have we had a miracle which was predicted in advance, down to the very moment of performance? Even the Resurrection itself had been predicted, but, perhaps, only Our Lady was expecting it. With the Miracle of the Sun, 70,000 were in some way expecting the miracle, which had been predicted for three consecutive months, July, August, and September 1917. In response to the simple request of the earnest Lucy, Our Lady said in July, “In October I will work a miracle so that all may see and believe.” Here we have, for the ghost of Renan and for all “virtual” modern men, a miracle which appeals to our senses. It involves our senses working with reason; our senses working with reason and speaking to us about the activity of the Supreme Cause.
It was not, however, just a manifestation of the omnipotence of God Himself. The Miracle of the Sun occurred while Lucy and the other children were viewing the apparition. Lucy indicated that in the apparition, Our Lady extended Her hands and it was the light coming from Her own hands which reflected on the sun at the moment of the miracle. The sun danced for Our Lady, the Ark of the New Covenant, just as David danced before the Ark of the Old Covenant. This miracle speaks about Our Lady’s all-powerful intercession. The obviousness of this fact is the reason why there is such shock and bemusement when the witnesses are asked “what did you think at the moment of the miracle?” Ti Marto answered such a query by saying, “What did I think? That it was the power of God. And if you ask me again, what do you think now? I think the same thing. How God is great.”
Another amazing aspect of this miracle was the response of the faithful. During the miracle they were praying, saying the Act of Contrition, pleading for Our Lord and Our Lady’s mercy for their sins because they believed, perhaps, that this was the end of their lives. They also, however, saw this miracle as a great triumph for them — a great consolation from Our Lady. In the face of persecution, in the face of mockery by the press, by the government, by the intellectuals of the Catholic Faith, that faith was affirmed in a miraculous way that no one could deny. It was a confirmation of all of their hopes.
We are moved when we read of the shock which the faithful felt, after the miracle occurred, when they saw that some of the other witnesses had their heads covered with their hats. This was a sacred event; hence, their outrage. There was an old man who was throughout the apparition reciting the Creed. He turned to another group, unbelievers, who had seen the same thing that he had seen and he violently protested and requested that they take off their hats before such an extraordinary manifestation of the existence of God. Believing ladies responded in the same way to the sacrilegious rudeness of the unbelievers. They cried out, as if suffocated with emotion, “what a pity, there are still men who do not uncover themselves before such a stupefying spectacle.” Even our friend, Avelino de Almeida, Editor of O Seculo left shaken in his unbelief.
|Our Lady’s Miracle of the Sun at Fatima is an answer to three major errors of our times: philosophical skepticism, theological ambiguity and political secularism.|
How is this event an antidote for our times?
Our Lady was here. Remember Her words, “In October I will work a miracle.”
She proclaimed the miracle to proclaim Our Lord Jesus Christ’s universal Kingship and Her own universal Queenship. In this act, to the amazement of all, She participated in the very sovereignty of God. The sun “playing the fool,” in humility, danced before its Sovereign Queen.