October thirteenth is the day that we remember one of the most spectacular miracles ever recorded in Catholic history. In the year 1917, seventy thousand people gathered on a hillside in Fatima, Portugal to witness a miracle. It was an event predicted by ten-year old Lucia dos Santos, a child chosen by God to experience six visions of the Blessed Mother who appeared to Lucia and her younger cousins, Jacinta and Francisco. In one of these visions, Lucia asked Our Lady for a sign so that all might believe in the apparitions and the messages to pray the rosary and offer sacrifices for sinners.
Many newspaper and personal accounts exist that describe the miracle. Among those accounts is that of Portugese journalist Avelino De Almeida who came that day hoping for a hoax. Instead, he saw a solar phenomenon. “Before the astonished eyes of the crowd, whose aspect was biblical as they stood bareheaded, 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.”
In research for my book, Lucia of Fatima, I stumbled across a startling fact…Lucia did not see the sun spin, turn red and plummet toward earth. Instead, she and her cousins witnessed another vision, that of St. Joseph and the Child Jesus and Our Lady with Jesus in which He blessed the world. These visions vanished and Our Lady appeared as Our Lady of Carmel.
Here is a quote from the book A Pathway: Under the Gaze of Mary, a biography of Lucia written by the Sisters of Carmel of Coimbra, who lived with Lucia for decades. They described the visions of Jesus, Joseph, and Our Lord as seen by the children.
“While the children gazed at these later visions, the miracle of the sun occurred, the promised sign to confirm the truthfulness of the apparitions. The shepherds did not see the miracle of the sun (emphasis added). It was not intended for them, but for the crowd, so they might believe.”
I had not read this anywhere. Yet it does make sense. Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco believed in the apparitions. They were ready to die for this belief. They suffered humiliation and persecution from the press, neighbors, and their own families.
On this day, one-hundred and four years after the miracle of the sun, we remember Lucia and her cousins, both canonized in 2017. Our Lady’s message is contemporary, brought to us in a prophetic mystery that warns of the errors of atheism and the spread of communism, forces that threaten civilized society, even to this day.