On October 13, 1917, your great, great grandfather and grandmother sat together on a sofa somewhere in the world as a miracle was filling the skies in Portugal. In the days that followed they heard the news, practically everyone worldwide heard the news, that a genuine miracle had occurred, and the most unlikely thing had happened.
The sun had danced around the sky and been witnessed by a crowd of between 30,000 and 100,000 people, including media, there to see it. It was, in many ways, the biggest news story in the world. To repeat: The sun had danced around the sky. Is it possible? It would hardly have been a miracle if it was possible. Did it happen? There is no court system in the world that does not allow witnesses to establish truth. There were thousands of witnesses. The sun had danced around the sky.
What could lead to such an event?
The pontificate of Pope Pius X began in 1903, and the pope (now saint) entered immediately into a philosophical battle with the “modernists”–those subtly supporting a heresy that had been slowly spreading since the Enlightenment, one that questioned the divine drive behind the Church and its institutions, instead ascribing religious events and achievements to human actions and trying to explain the world in purely natural terms. In other words, it was (and is) a heresy that disfavors and even dismisses the supernatural in the doings of the world.
Although Pope Saint Pius X died in 1914, the sides were clearly visible, as his successors joined in his cause. There either was a supernatural, divine realm and a God in it who could effect our world, or everything could instead be entirely explained by the natural sciences or by the actions of man himself, which of course meant there were no miracles at all.
Enter Our Lady.
In the spring and summer of 1916, nine-year-old Lúcia Santos and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto were herding sheep in the parish of Fátima, Portugal. During this time they were visited by an angel who came to them three times, saying his name was “Angel of Peace” and “Guardian Angel of Portugal.” He taught them particular prayers and sacrifices, and instructed them to spend time in adoration of the Lord.
In the spring, now 1917, they told others some of what they had seen and then had subsequent visions of the Virgin Mary, who they later described as “the Lady more brilliant than the Sun.” They explained about a prophecy they had been told that prayer would lead to an end to the Great War, and that on October 13, 1917 the Lady said she would reveal her identity and perform a miracle “so that all may believe.”
Newspapers reported about the prophecies, and pilgrims began visiting that area of Portugal. The children’s stories were a topic of the day, with criticism from secular and even religious authorities. As far as the sophisticated and enlightened world was concerned, there were no miracles to be had, so the children’s motives were questioned at every turn in the press and otherwise.
Regardless, on May 13, 1917, the children had seen that woman “brighter than the sun, shedding rays of light clearer and stronger than a crystal goblet filled with the most sparkling water and pierced by the burning rays of the sun.” She wore a white mantle with gold edges and had a rosary in her hand. She asked them to devote themselves to the Holy Trinity and to pray the Rosary every day to end what we now know as World War I.
While the children never told anyone about seeing the angel to this point, Jacinta told her family about seeing the brightly lit woman. The children said the woman told them to return on June 13, 1917. Lúcia’s mother even spoke to her parish priest, Father Ferreira, who suggested she allow them to go.
The priest asked to have Lúcia brought to him after the event so that he could ask her about it. The second appearance occurred on that day, June 13, the feast of Saint Anthony, patron of their parish. During the June visit the lady told them to say the rosary daily to help end of the War.
With October coming, thousands came to Fátima having heard of the visions and miracles, with the children even being held by civil authorities due to the unrest surrounding the events. In August a vision of the Lady told them “to pray a lot, a lot for the sinners and sacrifice a lot, as many souls perish in hell because nobody is praying or making sacrifices for them.”
Then came October of 1917.
On October 13, 1917, a huge crowd between 30,000 and 100,000, including reporters and photographers, gathered and witnessed the Miracle of the Sun. While there were a few different stories, most saw, after a period of rain, the rain clouds split and the sun revealing itself as an opaque, spinning disc in the sky. Most agreed it was not as bright as usual and that it cast differently colored lights across the area and the people there. The sun then spun towards the ground before crisscrossing the sky and returning to its normal position. Witnesses reported that their clothes that had been wet from the rain were dry, as well as the wet and muddy ground.
Some had different visions, and many who were not there claimed it was all impossible, but for the majority of those who saw it, it could only have been a miracle. The Mother of God had come six times between May 13, 1917 and October 13, 1917, in the end sending the sun spinning the sun around the sky.
There are many more facets to the events in Fatima in those few years, including the secrets told to the children by Our Lady, the prophecies, and others, but one aspect was radiantly clear: the supernatural exists, as surely as the sun shines above.