One of the most extraordinary events of an extraordinary century had its inception on this day May 13, 1917. On that day three Portuguese shepherd children coming to Cova da Iria, a natural depression near their hamlet, claimed to have met a lady "brighter than the sun." According to the three (Lucia dos Santos, Francesco and Jacinta Marto) the lady spoke to them and instructed them to return each month on the thirteenth. She said that she had an important message for all nations and for all men and women. In October, she would, by the power of God, work a great miracle which would substantiate her veracity.
The children reported this unusual event. It was met with a good deal of incredulity and remains controversial. They were interrogated by the local clergy, but stuck to their story. In August they were kidnapped and held by a civil prefect for two days during the usual time of the apparition.
Interest mounted when it became known the lady would work a miracle in October. In June, 50 people appeared on the site in the Parish of Fatima. By September this number had swelled to 30,000. The children alone saw and spoke with the lady. The others saw only movement in tree and cloud.
October 13th was different. A crowd of 50,000 massed on the site. Some were skeptics. The day was dreary and wet. Three inches of water stood on the ground in the depression of Cova da Iria.
The lady appeared to the children and told them that she was Our Lady of the Rosary. At midday the sun suddenly appeared in the cloud-covered sky. It rotated fantastically, shooting off colored rays, its rim a rainbow. It was not too bright to gaze upon. The crowd watched with smiles. It was said that the sun began to roam among the clouds, half disappearing behind cloud puffs. From time to time it would stop and spin fantastically as at first.
Finally it became stationary and pulsated. Without warning it hurtled toward the crowd, growing brighter and hotter. People screamed and cried for pardon from their sins. The children called to the crowd to pray. As quickly as the phenomenon had begun it reversed itself. The sun returned to the clouds. It took on its usual bland noonday brilliance. A great wind arose but the trees did not bend. The soggy ground where the people had stood was now baked mud. Everyone's clothes were dry.
Roman Catholic authorities authenticated the miracle. Believers built a shrine to the Lady of Fatima, which remains a major pilgrimage destination.
Protestants have difficulty accepting the apparition. Its gave glory to Mary, not to Christ. Why were Lucia's prophecies kept so hush hush for so long? (The Vatican recently announced that one of the prophecies appears to refer to the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II and the documents can now be viewed online). The miracle is unlike the miracles of the New Testament; Christ, for instance, refused to give the Jews and Herod any prearranged signs.
- Gillett, H. M. "Fatima." New Catholic Encyclopedia. New York : Thomson, Gale, 2002 - .
- Martin, Malachi. The Keys of the Blood; the struggle for world dominion between Pope John Paul II, Mikhail Gorbachev, and the capitalist West. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1990.
- Various internet articles.
Last updated April, 2007.