Joseph Pronechen is staff writer with the National Catholic Register since 2005 and before that a regular correspondent for the paper. His articles have appeared in a number of national publications including Columbia magazine, Soul, Faith and Family, Catholic Digest, Catholic Exchange <i>, and <i>Marian Helper. His religion features have also appeared in Fairfield County Catholic and in major newspapers. He is the author of Fruits of Fatima — Century of Signs and Wonders. He holds a graduate degree and formerly taught English and courses in film study that he developed at a Catholic high school in Connecticut. Joseph and his wife Mary reside on the East Coast.
We’re heard much about the Miracle of the Sun, thanks be to God, that startled 70,000-plus people at the Cova da Iria 100 years ago on Oct. 13.
Instead of repeating basic details of the Miracle that Our Lady had promised in July saying, in October I will tell you who I am and what I want. I will then perform a miracle so that all may believe, and in August repeated, In the last month I will perform a miracle so that all may believe, and again in September reminded, In October I will perform a miracle so that all may believe, let’s look at what some eyewitnesses to the miracle said, and importantly, some basics of what Lucia described about that day and later emphasized were major instructions from Our Lady for all of us.
Our Lady’s Revelations
That day, when Lucia asked what Our Lady requested, she first answered, I want a chapel built here in my honor.
Then Our Lady followed with her constant monthly instruction, I want you to continue saying the Rosary every day.
Next, she told the children, The war will end soon, and the soldiers will return to their homes (referring to World War I)
Then, she identified herself as she had promised. I am the Lady of the Rosary.
In just a few words that’s clearly two references to the importance of the Rosary.
Lucia asked if Our Lady would grant the numerous petitions for her from the people. Our Lady answered, Some I shall grant, and others I must deny.
Then came more major guidance — People must amend their lives and ask pardon for their sins. They must not offend our Lord any more, for He is already too much offended!
Remember, in July Our Lady told the children if men do not refrain from offending God, there would be another and more terrible war (World War II).
As Our Lady left, she directed attention to the sun. Here we want to look first at what just a pinch of eyewitness descriptions. Then we’ll turn to other visions appearing that day to the children, and finally it’s imperative we listen to the urgent, vital message of Our Lady — things so obvious yet so easily ignored.
Eye Witness Accounts
Here’s a sample of what eyewitnesses said. More detail is recounted here.
Jacinta and Francisco’s father Ti Marto said it was most extraordinary the sun didn’t hurt their eyes. “Everything was still and quiet, and everyone was looking up. Then at a certain moment, the sun appeared to stop spinning. It then began to move and to dance in the sky until it seemed to detach itself from its place and fall upon us. It was a terrible moment.”
Maria de Capelinha who later became custodian of the original chapel built there, described how everything turned “different colors — yellow, blue and white.” Then the sun “shook and trembled. It looked like a wheel of fire that was going to fall on the people. They began to cry out, ‘We shall all be killed!’ Others called to Our Lady to save them. They recited acts of contrition. One woman began to confess her sins aloud…When at last the sun stopped leaping and moving, we all breathed our relief. We were still alive, and the miracle which the children had foretold, had been seen by everyone.”
A professor from Coimbra University described the vision in vivid detail, from the sun looking like “a glazed wheel made of mother-of-pearl,” to noting it “spun round on itself in a mad whirl. Then, suddenly, one heard a clamor, a cry of anguish breaking from all the people. The sun, whirling wildly, seemed to loosen itself from the firmament and advance threateningly upon the earth as if to crush us with its huge and fiery weight. The sensation during those moments was terrible.”
Even the quite anti-clerical major Lisbon newspaper described the event with respect, even awe at times, mentioning how the spectators were shouting: ‘A miracle! A miracle!’ The account recalled the reverence of an elderly man. “With his face turned to the sun, he recited the Credo in a loud voice…I saw him afterwards going up to those around him who still had their hats on, and vehemently imploring them to uncover before such an extraordinary demonstration of the existence of God.”
In fact, the Miracle was seen and experienced by others far from the Cova. One man wrote how he observed it from nearly 25 miles away. And Father Ignacio Lorenco was at the time a nine-year-old schoolboy 11 miles away. The children were outside as he described “the great Miracle, which one could see quite distinctly from the top of the hill where my village was situated.” The sun “suddenly seemed to come down in a zigzag, menacing the earth. Terrified, I ran and hid myself among the people, who were weeping and expecting the end of the world at any moment.”
Many nonbelievers converted that day even at a distance. Father Lorenco noted, “Near us was an unbeliever who had spent the morning mocking at the simpletons who had gone off to Fatima just to see an ordinary girl. He now seemed to be paralyzed, his eyes fixed on the sun. Afterwards he trembled from head to foot and lifting up his arms fell on his knees in the mud, crying out to our Lady.”
He said people were asking God to forgive their sins. “We all ran to the two chapels in the village, which were soon filled to overflowing. During those long moments of the solar prodigy, objects around us turned all the colors of the rainbow. We saw ourselves blue, yellow, red, etc.…When the people realized that the danger was over, there was an explosion of joy, and everyone joined in thanksgiving and praise to our Lady.”
Three Visions Follow Miracle
In her Memoirs (and here), Sister Lucia describes the three visions immediately following the Miracle of the Sun. Back in September Our Lady prepared them when she said: In October Our Lord will come, as well as Our Lady of Sorrows and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Saint Joseph will appear with the Child Jesus to bless the world.
Lucia described seeing “St. Joseph with the Child Jesus and Our Lady robed in white with a blue mantle, beside the sun. St. Joseph and the Child Jesus appeared to bless the world, for they traced the Sign of the Cross with their hands.”
Next appeared “Our Lord and Our Lady; it seemed to me that it was Our Lady of Dolors (Sorrows). Our Lord appeared to bless the world in the same manner as St. Joseph had done.”
When this apparition vanished, she “saw Our Lady once more, this time resembling Our Lady of Carmel.” Our Lady was telling us about the brown scapular. Lucia later affirmed “the scapular and the Rosary are inseparable. The scapular is a sign of consecration to Our Lady.’” And devotion (and consecration) to the Immaculate Heart is one of the “must-do’s” as we learned in the June and July apparitions.
Families Best Model
In her book “CALLS” from the Message of Fatima, written when she was a Carmelite,
Sister Lucia had much to say about what she saw God wished to tell us with the apparitions — the “Calls” of Fatima.
On Oct. 13, that vision of the Holy Family together after the Miracle of the Sun surely spoke of what was coming if we didn’t heed Fatima’s calls. Sr. Lucia wrote in the latter half of the century:
“In times such as the present, when the family often seems misunderstood in the form in which it was established by God, and is assailed by doctrines that are erroneous and contrary to the purposes for which the Divine Creator instituted it, surely God wished to address to us a reminder of the purpose for which He established the family in the world.”
Pointing out various Scriptures, she says, “God entrusted to the family the sacred mission of cooperating with Him in the work of creation. This decision to associate His poor creatures with His creative work is a great demonstration of the fatherly goodness of God…Thus the Divine Creator wished to entrust to the family a sacred mission that makes two beings become one in union so close that it does not admit of separation. It is from this union that God wishes to produce other beings…God established Matrimony as an indissoluble union.”
She sees this as another indispensable lesson from the Oct. 13 apparition. “Hence, in the Message of Fatima, God calls on us to turn our eyes to the Holy Family of Nazareth, into which He chose to be born, and to grow in grace and stature, in order to present to us a model to imitate, as our footsteps tread the path of our pilgrimage to Heaven.” Family holiness is essential. Little wonder Lucia told Cardinal Carlo Caffarra “the decisive confrontation between the Kingdom of God and Satan will take place over marriage and the family.”
Major Keys Doubled
Two major directives Our Lady gave on Oct. 13 stand as essential pillars of Fatima.
First, already in 1937 in her Second Memoir, Lucia realized:
“Of all the words spoken at this Apparition, the ones most deeply engraved upon my heart were those of the request made by our heavenly Mother: ‘Do not offend Our Lord and God anymore, because He is already so much offended!’ How loving a complaint, how tender a request! Who will grant me to make it echo through the whole world, so that all the children of our Mother in Heaven may hear the sound of her voice!”
Lucia hones in on this request in her “CALLS”. The message, she says, reminds us we must observe the first of all commandments, the love of God.
If anyone asked her what the Ten Commandments have to do with Fatima’s, she answers “they have a great deal to do with it; they are among the chief aims of the Message. In fact, Our Lady ended the series of apparitions in Fatima with these words: ‘Do not offend the Lord our God anymore, because He is already so much offended.’…what Our Lady wanted and, therefore the main object of the Message, was to beg us not to offend Our Lord because He was already so deeply offended. There can be no doubt that what offends God most is the breaking of His Law: all Sacred Scripture confirms this.”
Second, Lucia emphasizes that from the first apparition onward, Our Lady requested, and repeated every month through October, Pray the Rosary every day.
“So,” Lucia realizes, “calling to mind the insistence with which God, by means of the Fatima message, recommends the prayer of the Rosary, and also all that the Church’s Magisterium has said about it over the years, we can conclude that the Rosary is a form of vocal prayer which, in general, suits all of us, for which we should have the highest regard, and which we should make the greatest effort never to abandon.”
So crucial and necessary is this “Call” that Lucia devotes a whole section of her book to the Rosary. Our Lady of the Rosary gave us these directives to restore peace — in ourselves, with God, in our homes, with neighbors, and among nations.
“This is the peace,” she says, “that the world ardently longs for, and from which it is so far removed because it does not listen to, or follow, the word of God!...Hence the words of the Message: “If what I say to you is done…”
On Fatima’s 100th Anniversary, will we be willing to finally listen to the only solution heaven itself has given us?