Today is the 97th anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun, which occurred at Fatima in Portugal at the culmination of the Virgin Mary’s apparitions at the Cova da Iria to three little shepherd children—Lucia dos Santos and her cousins, Francisco and Jacinta Marto.
For those not familiar with the history of the Marian apparitions at Fatima, I encourage you to read a blog post I wrote about the miraculous events that took place in 1917. I also wrote about an amazing shrine here in the United States—the National Blue Army Shrine of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, where—if you can’t make it to Portugal—you can get a little slice of what it’s like there. In The Faithful Traveler in the U.S: East Coast Shrines, we visited the Blue Army Shrine and explored the story of Our Lady and the three pastorinhos, or little shepherds. I’ve embedded that episode at the end of this post.
In May of 1917, as Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta watched their flocks of sheep at the Cova da Iria, they met a beautiful lady—they didn’t know who she was—who asked them to meet her there on the 13th of every month for the next six months. She promised to tell them who she was and what she wanted. Today, we know that the lady was, as she called herself, “the Lady of the Rosary”, the Mother of God.
Among the many things Mary said to the children during their meetings, she promised that on the last month of the apparitions—in October—she would perform a miracle “so that all may believe.” (Note that she didn’t say all would believe. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink!)
On the evening of October 12th, the night before the apparition, heavy rains drenched the Cova and most of Western Europe. By the next morning, the rain hadn’t let up, nor did it keep more than 70,000 people from converging at the Cova.
At this time, the government of Portugal was extremely anti-Catholic. After the Portuguese Monarchy fell in 1910, a wave of anti-clericalism swept the country, during which church property was seized by the state, bishops were driven from their dioceses, religious orders were expelled from the country, seminaries were closed, and even wearing a cassock was illegal. The local government had made a few attempts to scare the children and visiting pilgrims from the Cova, even locking them up in jail for a night. But they were powerless. Nothing would stop people from visiting the Cova that day, and among the thousands of faithful were many skeptics, including newspaper reporters from secular papers in Lisbon, who couldn’t wait to report about what a joke this whole thing was. The crowd was drenched and getting grumpy—what a great story this would make!
When the lady came, the rain stopped, although the sky remained dark. She told the children who she was and asked them to build a chapel in her honor. Then, as she rose in the sky, she raised her palms toward the darkened sky. Suddenly, the sun burst through the clouds, and one of the children shouted, “Look at the sun!”
Thousands of witnesses, including people from many miles away, saw the sun leave its place in the sky, begin to spin like a top, and come barreling toward the earth. Did anyone find it odd that they could look at the sun without it hurting their eyes? Or were they focused on the fear that it was the end of the world? Many got down on their knees to pray. And then, just as quickly as it came toward the earth, it returned to its spot in the sky and stopped spinning. Everyone was dry, as if it hadn’t rained at all.*
Over the years, many have tried to disprove the Miracle of the Sun, claiming that the more than 70,000 eye witnesses all imagined it.** Of course, no one has ever explained how everyone went from being completely soaked to being completely dry… maybe they all imagined the rain, too. Since then, many have claimed to have seen the Miracle of the Sun at other times, including Venerable Pope Pius XII.
Today, as you read this, I am in Fatima, filming the day’s celebrations with my husband David and more than a few tens of thousands of people for our next series, The Faithful Traveler in Portugal. I don’t suspect we’ll be seeing a miraculous event in the sky, and I’m ok with that. I am grateful that our Heavenly Mother took the time to meet with those littlepastorinhos, and to give us all messages through them. She asks all of us to do the following things: Pray the Rosary every day for peace, offer sacrifices in reparation for sin and for the conversion of souls, go to confession and receive Holy Communion in atonement for the sins of the world on the First Saturday of every month, spread devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, amend our lives and ask pardon for our sins, and stop offending God.
Today, you can be assured that we will be offering up prayers for you all at Fatima, and we ask that you please keep us in your prayers as we film this next series in this amazing country.
Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction.