The Miracle of the Sun
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article appeared in the October 1987 issue of The Angelus.
October 13, 1917
“Silence, silence! Our Lady is coming!” Lúcia cried out as she saw the flash. The rain having ceased, the sun began gradually to appear, and Our Lady came. Her snowwhite feet rested upon the beautiful flowers and ribbons with which Senhora da Capelinha had adorned the tree. The faces of the three children assumed an unworldly expression, their features becoming more delicate, their color mellow, their eyes intent upon the Lady. They did not hear Lúcia’s mother warning her to look closely so as not to be deceived. “What do you want of me?” Lúcia inquired of the Queen of Heaven.
“I want to tell you that they must build a chapel here in my honor; that I am the Lady of the Rosary; that they continue to say the Rosary every day. The war will end and the soldiers will return to their homes soon,” Our Lady responded.
“I have many favors to ask. Do you wish to grant them or not?”
“Some I will, others I will not. They must amend their lives, ask forgiveness for their sins. Offend not Our Lord any more,” Our Lady continued, her face becoming very grave, “for He is already much offended.”
Lúcia, knowing this was to be the last interview with Our Lady, wanted to make sure that she received all the commands Mary wished to give her. She hoped to spend the rest of her life on earth fulfilling the desires of Our Lady. “Do you want anything else from me?” the girl asked.
“I desire nothing else.”
The Brightening of the Sun
As Our Lady took leave of the children, she opened her hands which emitted a flood of light. While she was rising, she pointed towards the sun and the light gleaming from her hands brightened the sun itself.
Instinctively, Lúcia cried out in ecstasy, “Oh, look at the sun!”
The echo of Lúcia’s shout came back in a huge, immense cry of wonder and astonishment from the multitude. The sun was now pale as the moon. To the left of the sun, St. Joseph emerged from the bright clouds only to his chest, sufficient to allow him to raise his right hand and make, together with the Child Jesus, the Sign of the Cross three times over the world. As St. Joseph did this, Our Lady stood in all her brilliancy to the right of the sun, dressed in the blue and white robes of Our Lady of the Rosary.
Meanwhile, Francisco and Jacinta were bathed in the marvelous colors and signs of the sun, and Lúcia was privileged to gaze upon Our Lord dressed in red as the Divine Redeemer, blessing the world, as Our Lady had foretold. Like St. Joseph, He was seen only from His chest up. Beside Him stood Our Lady, dressed now in the purple robes of Our Lady of Sorrows, but without the sword. Finally, the Blessed Virgin appeared again to Lúcia in all her ethereal brightness, clothed in the simple brown robes of Mount Carmel.
As the children stared enraptured by these most beautiful heavenly visions, the countless thousands of people were amazed and overpowered by other miracles in the skies. The sun had taken on an extraordinary color. The words of eye-witnesses best describe these stupendous signs. “We could look at the sun with ease,” Ti Marto testified. “It did not bother us at all. It seemed to be continually fading and glowing in one fashion, then another. It threw shafts of light one way and another, painting everything in different colors, the people, the trees, the earth, even the air. But the greatest proof of the miracle was the fact that the sun did not bother the eyes.” A man like Ti Marto, who spent all of his days in the open fields with his flocks and tended his garden under the hot sun of the Portuguese hills, marveled at this fact. “Everybody stood still and quiet, gazing at the sun,” he went on. “At a certain point, the sun stopped its play of light and then started dancing. It stopped once more and again started dancing until it seemed to loosen itself from the skies and fall upon the people. It was a moment of terrible suspense.”
Further Details on the Miracle
O Seculo, a newspaper of Lisbon, carried a more detailed account of the extraordinary events. “From the height of the road where the people parked their carriages and where many hundreds stood, afraid to brave the muddy soil, we saw the immense multitude turn towards the sun at its highest, free of all clouds. The sun called to mind a plate of dull silver. It could be stared at without the least effort. It did not burn or blind. It seemed that an eclipse was taking place. All of a sudden a tremendous shout burst forth, ‘Miracle, miracle! Marvel, marvel!’
“Before the astonished eyes of the people, whose attitude carried us back to biblical times, and who, white with terror, heads uncovered, gazed at the blue sky, the sun trembled and made some brusque unheard-of movements beyond all cosmic laws; the sun danced, in the typical expression of the peasants.
“On the running board of the bus from Torres Novas, an old man whose stature and gentle, manly features recall those of Paul Deroulede, turned toward the sun and recited the Credo in a loud voice. I saw him later addressing those about him who still kept their hats on, begging them vehemently to take their hats off before this overwhelming demonstration of the existence of God. Similar scenes were repeated at other places. A lady, bathed in tears and almost choking with grief, sobbed, ‘How pitiful! There are men who still do not bare their heads before such a stupendous miracle!’
“Immediately afterwards the people asked each other if they saw anything and what they had seen. The greatest number avowed that they saw the sun trembling and dancing; others declared that they saw the smiling face of the Blessed Virgin herself; they swore that the sun turned around on itself as if it were a wheel of fireworks and had fallen almost to the point of burning the earth with its rays. Some said they saw it change colours successively.”
More Testimony on the Miracle
The testimony of another witness, Dr. Almeida Garret, professor at the University of Coimbra, is most informative and corroborates the others. “As I waited,” he said, “with cool and serene expectation, looking upon the place of the apparitions and with a curiosity that was fading because the hour was passing away so slowly without anything to arouse my attention, I heard the rustle of thousands of voices. I saw the people stretched out over the large field turnabout from the point upon which their desires and anxieties had converged so far to the opposite side and they looked up to skies. It was almost two o’clock wartime or about noon, sun time.
“The sun had broken jubilantly through the thick layer of clouds just a few moments before. It was shining clearly and intensely. I turned to this magnet that was drawing all eyes. It looked to me as a luminous and brilliant disc, with a bright well-defined rim. It did not hurt my eyes. The comparison (which I heard while still at Fátima) with a disc of dull silver, did not seem right to me. The color was brighter, far more active and richer than dull silver, with the tinted luster of the orient of a pearl.
“Nor did it resemble the moon on a clear night. Everyone saw and felt that it was a body with life. It was not spheric like the moon, neither did it have an equal tonality of colour. It looked like a small, brightly polished wheel of iridescent mother-of-pearl. It could not be taken for the sun as though seen through fog. There was no fog at that time. (The rain and the fog had stopped). The sun was not opaque, veiled or diffused. It gave light and heat and was brightly outlined by a beveled rim. The sky was banked with light clouds, patched with blue here and there. Sometimes the sun stood out alone in rifts of clear sky. The clouds scuttled along from west to east without dimming the sun. They gave the impression of passing behind it, while the white puffs gliding sometimes in front of the sun seemed to take on the color of rose or a delicate blue.
“It was a wonder that all this time it was possible for us to look at the sun, a blaze of light and burning heat, without any pain to the eyes or blinding of the retina. This phenomenon must have lasted about ten minutes, except for two interruptions when the sun darted forth its more refulgent, lightning-like rays, that forced us to look away.
“The sun had an eccentricity of movement. It was not the scintillation of a celestial body at its highest power. It was rotating upon itself with exceedingly great speed. Suddenly, the people broke out with a cry of extreme anguish. The sun, still rotating, had unloosened itself from the skies and came hurtling towards the earth. This huge, fiery millstone threatened to crush us with its weight. It was a dreadful sensation.
“During this solar occurrence, the air took on successively different colors. While looking at the sun, I noticed that everything around me darkened. I looked at what was nearby and cast my eyes away towards the horizon. Everything had the color of an amethyst; the sky, the air, everything and everybody. A little oak nearby was casting a heavy purple shadow on the ground.
“Fearing impairment of the retina, which was improbable, because then I would not have seen everything in purple, I turned about, closed my eyes, cupping my hands over them, to cut off all light. With my back turned, I opened my eyes and realized that the landscape and the air retained the purple hue.
“This did not give the impression of being an eclipse. While still looking at the sun, I noticed that the air had cleared and I heard a peasant nearby say, ‘This lady looks yellow.’ As a matter of fact, everything far and near had changed now. People seemed to have jaundice. I smiled when I saw everybody looking disfigured and ugly. My hand had the same color…”
Another Surprise Awaits the Crowd
As the miracle came to its end and the people arose from the muddy ground, another surprise awaited them. A few minutes before, they had been standing in the pouring rain, soaked to the skin. Now they noticed that their clothes were perfectly dry. How kind was Our Lady to her friends who had braved the rain and mud, and put on their very best clothes for her visit.
The Bishop of Leiria wrote in his pastoral letter that those who witnessed the events of this great day were fortunate indeed. “The children long before set the day and hour at which it was to take place,” he said. “The news spread quickly over the whole of Portugal and although the day was chilly and pouring rain, many thousands of people gathered…They saw the different manifestations of the sun paying homage to the Queen of Heaven and Earth, who is more radiant than the sun in all its splendor. This phenomenon which no astronomical observatory registered was not natural.
It was seen by people of all classes, members of the Church and non-Catholics. It was seen by reporters of the principal newspapers and by people many miles away.” These are his official words, spoken after long study and careful interrogations of many witnesses of the apparition. There is no possibility of error or illusion when close to a hundred thousand people concur in their testimony. God in Heaven had called the people of the world to join with the heavens in paying honor and glory to His Blessed Mother, Mary.