Ninety-six years ago today, seventy thousand people gathered, including news paper reporters and photographers, to a small town in Portugal called Fatima, anticipating a miracle. What they saw that day was supernatural and extraordinary.
Eyewitnesses reported seeing the sun change colors and rotate like a wheel. Bouncing and moving towards the Earth. Columnist Avelino de Almeida of O Seculo, a Portuagal newspaper which was anti-catholic, reported, "Before the astonished eyes of the crowd, whose aspect was biblical as they stood bare-headed, eagerly searching the sky, the sun trembled, made sudden incredible movements outside all cosmic laws - the sun 'danced' according to the typical expression of the people. An eye specialist, reporting for the newspaper Ordem, Dr. Domingos Pinto Coelho, reported "The sun, at one moment surrounded with scarlet flame, at another aureoled in yellow and deep purple, seemed to be in an exceeding fast and whirling movement, at times appearing to be loosened from the sky and to be approaching the earth, strongly radiating heat". Another reporter, of the Lisbon daily, reported the following, "...the silver sun, enveloped in the same gauzy purple light was seen to whirl and turn in the circle of broken clouds...The light turned a beautiful blue, as if it had come through the stained-glass windows of a cathedral, and spread itself over the people who knelt with outstretched hands...people wept and prayed with uncovered heads, in the presence of a miracle they had awaited. The seconds seemed like hours, so vivid were they." What is now known as the Miracle of the Sun still echo's today, with Pope Francis' consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on October 13, 2013. However, the story begins with three children almost one hundred years ago.
On May 13, 1917, while tending sheep in the Cova da Iria near their village of Fatima, ten year old Lucia Santos and her younger cousins, 7 year old Jacinta and 9 year old Francisco Marto described seeing a beautiful lady "brighter than the sun, shedding rays of light clearer and stronger than a crystal ball filled with the most sparking water and pierced by the burning rays of the sun". The lady asked them to return to the Cova the following month on 13th day. The children returned to the Cova in June and July but were prevented from coming on the 13th day in August.
The children reported what they saw to their families and word spread quickly. The children were ridiculed and questioned by their families and local authorities. The local provincial alleged the apparitions were politically motivated, he arrested the children without their parents knowledge. The police interrogated the children and threatened he would boil them in a pot of oil, one by one, unless they confessed they were lying. The children refused, were jailed and were later returned to their parents.
The Mother of God, appeared to the children May-October on the 13th day, except for August, when she appeared on the 15 (Feast of the Assumption), because of their arrest the children were prevented from returning to the Cova that day. On October 13th, the final apparition at the Cova, culminated in the Miracle of the Sun.
The children were given several prophesies during the apparitions: the rise of error in Russia (communism) and its propagation throughout the world, the annihilation of nations, another war preceded by a heavenly sign if men did not convert, and the suffering and persecution of the good, especially the Holy Father.
One of the prophesies was fulfilled on January 25, 1938 when a great sign in the night sky appeared, which preceded a second great war. An aurora borealis appeared over the northern hemisphere, including in places as far south as Africa and California. It was the most extensive sighting of the aurora since 1709. Many people thought it was the end of the world. In large cities like Paris people believed a great fire was burning. Lucia, the only seer still living, reported that it was the sign that was foretold to her. Over a month later, Hitler seized Austria then later invaded Czechoslovakia.
Another prophesy was told in the second apparition on June 13. When Lucia asked the Lady, "Will you take us to heaven?" The Blessed Virgin responded, "Yes, I shall take Jacinta and Francisco soon, but you will remain a little longer, since Jesus wishes you to make me known and loved on earth. He wishes also for you to establish devotion in the world to my Immaculate Heart.
Jacinta and Francesco did die within a couple of years, both coming down with influenza. Lucia became a Carmelite nun. She attended the 50th anniversary of the apparitions in Fatima. She had visions of Jesus and his mother throughout her long life. She died in 2005 at the age of 97.
The first two secrets were revealed in 1941. The first and second secrets refer especially to the frightening vision of hell, devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Second World War, and finally the prediction of the immense damage that Russia would do to humanity by abandoning the Christian faith and embracing Communist totalitarianism.
The third secret was revealed on May 13, 2000. Cardinal Sodano gave details that the Third Secret was persecution of Christians in the 20th century and the failed assassination attempt on Pope John Paul 22 on May 13, 1981.
The Fatima apparitions are approved by the Catholic Church. The message of Fatima is one of prayer, fasting, devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
On October 13, 2013, Pope Francis renewed the consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The first consecration took place by Pope John Paul II in 1981. The act was renewed in 1982 and repeated in 1984. Ninety-six years later, the apparitions of Fatima and prophesies are still prevalent. Extensive accounts of Fatima, the children and the secrets can be found on EWTN's website and more information with official documents can be found on the Vatican's website.