The Miracle of the Sun, Fatima 1917

As a Marian weekend takes place in the Vatican, in the context of the Year of Faith, the original statue of Our Lady of Fatima will be brought on Saturday 12th of October for the occasion. A statue with a precious crown which famously has the bullet with which Blessed John Paul II was shot at in Saint Peter’s Square encased in it. We may remember how the date of this attempt on his life took place on the 13th of May, the same date as that of the first apparition of Our Lady to the three Fatima shepherd children back in 1917. And how this Polish Pontiff believed it was through her intercession that his life had been spared on that occasion. Hence his symbolic gesture of encasing the bullet in the crown as a sign of thanksgiving for the grace received.

But on Saturday this statue is back in Saint Peter’s Square on another significant date regarding the Fatima apparitions : the 13th of October. The date when in 1917 Our Lady appeared to the three shepherd children from the hamlet of Aljustrel for the final time, in what is known as ‘the miracle of the sun ‘ .

At the time the three children, Francisco, Jacinta and Lucia, had predicted that a miracle would take place on that spot, at that particular time, “so that everyone would believe”, in a message which they had received from heaven.

The Bishop of Fatima of the day wrote in his Pastoral Letter on the Miracle: “thousands upon thousands of persons…saw all the manifestations of the sun…a phenomenon which no astronomical observatory registered and thus was not natural…persons of every category and social class, believers and unbelievers as well as journalists of the principal Portuguese newspapers..” 

Photo taken on October 13, 1917 in Fatima during the miracle of the sun

Following is the account given by Professor Almeida Garrett who happened to be present in Fatima on that great day...

"It must have been 1:30 p.m when there arose, at the exact spot where the children were, a column of smoke, thin, fine and bluish, which extended up to perhaps two meters above their heads, and evaporated at that height. This phenomenon, perfectly visible to the naked eye, lasted for a few seconds. Not having noted how long it had lasted, I cannot say whether it was more or less than a minute. The smoke dissipated abruptly, and after some time, it came back to occur a second time, then a third time

"The sky, which had been overcast all day, suddenly cleared; the rain stopped and it looked as if the sun were about to fill with light the countryside that the wintery morning had made so gloomy. I was looking at the spot of the apparitions in a serene, if cold, expectation of something happening and with diminishing curiosity because a long time had passed without anything to excite my attention. The sun, a few moments before, had broken through the thick layer of clouds which hid it and now shone clearly and intensely.

"Suddenly I heard the uproar of thousands of voices, and I saw the whole multitude spread out in that vast space at my feet...turn their backs to that spot where, until then, all their expectations had been focused, and look at the sun on the other side. I turned around, too, toward the point commanding their gaze and I could see the sun, like a very clear disc, with its sharp edge, which gleamed without hurting the sight. It could not be confused with the sun seen through a fog (there was no fog at that moment), for it was neither veiled nor dim. At Fatima, it kept its light and heat, and stood out clearly in the sky, with a sharp edge, like a large gaming table. The most astonishing thing was to be able to stare at the solar disc for a long time, brilliant with light and heat, without hurting the eyes or damaging the retina. [During this time], the sun's disc did not remain immobile, it had a giddy motion, [but] not like the twinkling of a star in all its brilliance for it spun round upon itself in a mad whirl.

"During the solar phenomenon, which I have just described, there were also changes of color 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 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. "All the phenomena which I have described were observed by me in a calm and serene state of mind without any emotional disturbance. It is for others to interpret and explain them. Finally, I must declare that never, before or after October 13 [1917], have I observed similar atmospheric or solar phenomena."

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