Fr. Nicholas Sheehy, LC
Modern man can be so focused on the earth, that he forgets to look up to heaven. The miracle of Fatima on October 13, 1917 reminded man that he is heaven-bound.
This was going to be the telling day for the three shepherd children who had claimed to see the mysterious lady appear at Cova da Iria, near Fatima, Portugal. After coming to receive the message of the lady every month since May, their word was going to be put to the test when 70,000 pilgrims showed up looking for the promised miracle.
Since May, Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta had faithfully made the trek to a field Lucia’s father owned where they were used to pasture their sheep and where Mary had appeared to them. Over the course of the three apparitions, Mary had shared three secrets that would end up being famous around the world.
Things had gotten critical with much anti-clericalism and even anti-Catholicism in Portugal, to the point that the children had missed their appointment in August, being detained by the authorities. Nevertheless, Mary appeared to them a few days later when they were able to return.
Thankfully, the miracle occurred. It would have been difficult for Mary to find better and humbler children to whom she could appear in the summer months of 1917. The world was being ravaged by the First World War yet was preparing for another scourge through the rise of atheistic Communism in Russia, just a little over a month after this last vision of Our Lady of Fatima. Word had gotten out and many people accompanied the shepherd children that day waiting for the vision. Some were believers, some were skeptics, but all were waiting for something to happen. What would happen went beyond the expectations of all.
Once again, only the three shepherd-children were able to see the vision of Our Lady. They saw her as they had already seen her, then in the image of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and finally as part of the Holy Family. This time, however, there was also a spectacle visible to all. The sun moved around in a curious fashion. It became very bright and seemed to move around as no one had ever seen it. The best way to describe it was a “dance of the sun.” This day has been called “the day the sun danced.”
70,000 pilgrims witnessed the event firsthand. People from other villages also reported seeing the curious movement of the sun. Some were as far away as twenty-five miles. The event was reported in newspapers around the world and really cannot be doubted.
It had been a rainy, wet day, until at noon the sun broke through the crowds and moved about in a zigzag motion, drying quickly the soggy ground and even the wet garments of the spectators. With a huge miracle, the apparitions of Fatima came to an end. There had been drama, prayers, imprisonment, disbelief and tears; but finally, the Mother of God had made it clear to all that the three shepherd-children had not been lying or involved in a devilish plot to deceive the faithful.
One of the most impressive aspects of the miracle was the absolute trust of the three children. It almost seems as if it never even occurred to them that the miracle might turn up short or fail to happen. Such an outcome could have been tragic for the shepherd children, as the people of that region are not accustomed to go out of their way looking for the supernatural. If it had turned out to be a hoax, not much could have defended the poor children, but they were simply obeying the words of the mysterious Lady who had appeared to them and not so worried about the crowds. The crowds made some aspects of their lives more difficult and sometimes they would have to hide to avoid long interrogations, but they never were trying to please the crowds. Their commitment was to the mysterious lady of the apparitions and they did not worry about anybody else.
All of this goes to show that the whole series of Fatima apparitions was a message from the Mother of God for the salvation of mankind. Modern man tends to get caught up in his own intelligence and knowledge, but sometimes the things of God can go beyond anything he is able to expect.
Fatima is an invitation to man to look heavenward once again. Through the world wars and atheistic materialism, the 20th century showed man fully what life without God could be like. Even before the worst of this could come about, Mary was giving mankind a way out. Unfortunately, mankind did not heed Mary’s warning and war and desolation broke out and destroyed millions of lives in the bloodiest century of the history of mankind.