PORTUGAL – October 13, 2017 marks 100 years since the miracle of the sun occurred. In a series of apparitions to three young children in Portugal in 1917, the Blessed Virgin Mary urged the world to repent, pray the rosary, and spread a devotion to the Holy Eucharist. She also promised the children that there would be a miracle.
Lucia, one of the visionaries, would later describe the Marian apparitions as “more brilliant than the sun, shedding rays of light clearer and stronger than a crystal glass filled with the most sparkling water and pierced by the burning rays of the sun.” But very few people believed the messages the children conveyed from the visions.
For weeks, news of the apparitions the children saw had spread throughout newspapers, and in conversation. Suspicious if anything would actually happen, a huge crowd gathered on October 13, 1917 to see if a miracle would occur.
That day, heavy rain fell, soaking everyone. Francisco, Jacinta, and Lucia arrived with their family and began to pray the rosary. Around noon, with the rain still pouring, Lucia asked those in the crowd to put away their umbrellas. The crowd of close to 70,000 people closed their umbrellas and looked up. The sky became brighter.
Witnesses later stated that their soaking clothes were “suddenly and completely dry, as well as the wet and muddy ground that had been previously soaked because of the rain that had been falling.”
When Lucia asked Mary who she was, Our Lady responded that she was the “Lady of the Rosary,” and she requested that a chapel be built at the site of the apparitions. Then, Our Lady opened up her hands and reflected the sun. Lucia, turning to the crowd, told them to look at the sun.
Testimonies published in local newspapers say that the sun appeared to “dance” across the sky. Others said that it seemed like the sun was hurtling towards the earth. Multicolored rays of light radiated from the sun. The event lasted approximately ten minutes.
In a pastoral letter on the apparitions at Fatima, the Bishop of Leiria wrote: “The solar phenomenon of October 13, 1917, was reported and described in the newspapers. It was most wonderful and left an indelible impression on those who were present. This phenomenon, that no astronomical observatory has recorded, and was not natural, was seen by people of all classes and social classes, believers and unbelievers, journalists of the leading Portuguese newspapers, and even individuals from several kilometers away from the place where they were; which dispels any explanation of collective illusion. ”
Dr. José Maria de Almeida Garrett, who was a professor at the Faculty of Sciences of Coimbra, Portugal, gave an eyewitness account of the miracle. He described the miracle, writing, “Then, suddenly, one heard a clamor, 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.”
Dr. Garrett concluded his witness account by declaring he was in a serene state of mind when he observed the phenomena. “Finally,” he wrote, “I must declare that never, before or after October 13 1917, have I observed similar atmospheric or solar phenomena.”
The Catholic Church officially declared the visions at Fatima “worthy of belief” in 1930 after a canonical inquiry conducted by the Bishop of Leiria-Fátima. Although the apparitions are declared worthy, Catholics are not required to believe in private revelations.
More recently in 2017, Pope Francis also approved the recognition of a miracle involving tow of the children, Francisco and Jacinta Marto. He declared them saints in a canonization mass on May 13, 2017.