In the spring of 1917 in a town in Portugal, three children, and Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta reported seeing an Angel, and in May 1917, apparitions of the Virgin Mary, whom the children described as “the Lady more brilliant than the Sun” began.
The children reported a prophecy that prayer would lead to an end, the Great War, and that on 13 October that year the Lady would reveal her identity and perform a miracle “so that all may believe.”
Newspapers reported the prophecies, and many pilgrims began visiting the area. The children’s accounts were deeply controversial, drawing intense criticism from both local secular and religious authorities. A provincial administrator briefly took the children into custody, believing the prophecies were politically motivated in opposition to the officially secular First Portuguese Republic established in 1910. The events of 13 October became known as the Miracle of the Sun.
On 13 May 1917, the children reported seeing a woman “brighter than the sun, shedding rays of light clearer and stronger than a crystal goblet filled with the most sparkling water and pierced by the burning rays of the sun.
The woman wore a white mantle edged with gold and held a rosary in her hand. She asked them to devote themselves to the Holy Trinity and to pray the Rosary every day, to bring peace to the world and an end to the war. The children did not tell anyone about seeing the angel, but Jacinta told her family about seeing the brightly lit woman.
Jacinta’s disbelieving mother told neighbours about it as a joke, and within a day the whole village knew of the children’s vision.
The children said the woman told them to return to the Cova da Iria on 13 June 1917. Lúcia’s mother sought counsel from the parish priest, Father Ferreira, who suggested she allow them to go. He asked to have Lúcia brought to him afterward so that he could question her.
The second appearance occurred on 13 June, the feast of Saint Anthony of Padua, patron of the local parish church. On this occasion, the lady revealed that Francisco and Jacinta would be taken to Heaven soon, but Lúcia would live longer in order to spread her message and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
During the June visit, the children said the Lady told them to say the Holy Rosary daily in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary to obtain peace and the end of the Great War.
The lady also purportedly revealed to the children a vision of hell, and entrusted a secret to them, described as “good for some and bad for others”. Fr. Ferreira later stated that Lúcia recounted that the lady told her, “I want you to come back on the thirteenth and to learn to read in order to understand what I want of you. …I don’t want more.”
In the following months, thousands of people flocked to Fátima and nearby Aljustrel, drawn by reports of visions and miracles. On 13 August 1917, the provincial administrator Artur Santos intervened, as he believed that these events were politically disruptive in the conservative country. He took the children into custody, jailing them before they could reach the Cova da Iria.
Santos interrogated and threatened the children to get them to divulge the contents of the secrets. Lúcia’s mother hoped the officials could persuade the children to end the affair and admit that they had lied.
Lúcia told Santos everything short of the secrets, and offered to ask the woman for permission to tell the official the secrets.
That month, instead of the usual apparition in the Cova da Iria on 13 August, the children reported that they saw the Virgin Mary on 19 August, a Sunday, at nearby Valinhos. She asked them again to pray the rosary daily, spoke about the miracle coming in October, and asked them “to pray a lot, a lot for the sinners and sacrifice a lot, as many souls perish in hell because nobody is praying or making sacrifices for them.”
The three children saw the Blessed Virgin Mary in a total of six apparitions between 13 May and 13 October 1917.
After some newspapers reported that the Virgin Mary had promised a miracle for the last of her apparitions on 13 October, a huge crowd, possibly between 30,000 and 100,000, including reporters and photographers, gathered at Cova da Iria. What happened then became known as the “Miracle of the Sun”.
Various reports have been made as to what actually happened during the event. The three children who originally are said to have seen Our Lady of Fátima, reported seeing a panorama of visions during the event, including those of Jesus, Our Lady of Sorrows, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and of Saint Joseph blessing the people. Fr. John De Marchi, an Italian Catholic priest and researcher wrote several books on the subject, which included descriptions by witnesses who believed they had seen a miracle created by Mary, Mother of God.
According to accounts, after a period of rain, the dark clouds broke and the sun appeared as an opaque, spinning disc in the sky. It was said to be significantly duller than normal, and cast multicoloured lights across the landscape and the surrounding clouds.
The Sun was then reported to have dropped closer towards the earth before zig-zagging back to its normal position. Witnesses reported that their previously wet clothes became “suddenly and completely dry, as well as the wet and muddy ground that had been previously soaked because of the rain that had been falling”.
Sr. Lucia lived on to a very ripe old age. The year 2017 marked 100 years of the apparition and was remembered globally.
A heart full of love will do anything and everything for its loved ones. We all know the extent to which our earthly mothers will go for us. We should therefore not be surprised but excited, loved and honoured knowing that our heavenly Mother will do much more so as not to loose us. May we go to Her whom the Angel called Blessed. A mother’s heart and love never knows no end.
Mary our mother, please keep praying for us. Amen
Saint of the day: Sts. Nereus, Achilleus and Pancras (Martyrs)
Compiled by Elvira Kudiabor
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