• Fr. Mastroeni

Fatima, Oct. 13: the Miracle of the Sun

Updated: May 24, 2018



“The Woman clothed with the sun”


In the Psalms we find many references to God as “light”:


“the Lord God is a sun and a shield” ps.84:11 or that “God is clothed with light as with a robe” Ps.104; “the Lord is my light and my salvation.” At the Transfiguration, the face of Jesus shown as the sun Mt.17:2.


 The risen Lord revealed himself to St.Paul on the road to Damascus as a “light brighter than the sun” [Acts 26:13], in an experience of which caused him to temporarily lose his eyesight.

And our Lord himself promised that the righteous, that is, those who are admitted into the kingdom of the Father will “shine forth as the sun” [Mt.13:43]


No surprise then to hear in the Book of the Apocalypse, chapter 12 of the woman whom Tradition holds has the highest place in that kingdom as “clothed with the sun.” In that Kingdom Mary is “clothed with the sun”, in contrast to the first Eve who after having sinned, is clothed with the skins of dead animals, to signify her place, as well as Adam’s in a Creation—a fallen Kingdom–wounded by sin, and bearing the stench of death.


Pre-Fatima History


The miracle of the sun at Fatima—the subject of this conference– culminates as the sixth apparition at Fatima, occurring as it did exactly 100 years ago today, October 13, 1917.


A word about the origin of the name, “Fatima”: The name “Fatima” is of particular importance. It was the name of the favored daughter of the prophet Mohammed. As you recall from history, beginning in the 8th century and lasting for some 700 years, most of the Iberian peninsula—Spain and Portugal– had been conquered and controlled by the Muslim caliphate of Northern Africa.

Then in the late 15th century—some 700 years later–King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella successfully re-conquered [“Reconquista”] the land, defeating the Muslims, and restoring the Catholic Faith, and this in 1491 shortly before Columbus set sail for the new world [and one year before the birth of St. Ignatius of Loyola].


Tradition holds that the town of Fatima was named after a Muslim princess who had married a young Catholic prince and had become a Christian. When this young princess died not long after her marriage, the young prince was broken by a severe grief, and retired to this region of Portugal there to live as a hermit, to have the body of his beautiful princess interred in a nearby Church. Thus the town bears her name—Fatima, originally an Arabic name with Muslim significance.

It is no surprise that many Moslems are seen visiting the shrine of Fatima even today.


May 13, 1917


Exactly 100 years ago on this day Oct. 13, 1917 Our Lady for the sixth time appeared to three shepherd children of Fatima {Lucia dos Santos [age 10]; Francisco [eight] and Jacinta [seven] Marto, both brother and sister, and cousins to Lucia} at the Cova da Iria . [It was also the very day that my own dear father was born, and I’d like to think that as he inhaled his first breath of air on this earth it was already sweetened by the fragrant presence of Mary. ]


What was happening in the world on May of 1917? As we mentioned earlier, Europe was already since 1914 been ablaze with W.W.I. Pope St. Pius X had tried hard to avert the war, and is said to have died of a broken heart in August of 1914. The German forces under Kaiser Wilhelm who had declared war also on the tiny nation of Portugal and many of her young men already had paid the supreme price of their blood in this horrendous war.


On March 17, 1917 Czar Nicolas I of Russia abdicated under pressure by Bolshevik revolutionaries, and in November of that same year the Bolshevik revolution broke out in Moscow and one month later would spread its venomous red tide throughout half the world in the ensuing years.


On May 5, 1917 Pope Benedict XV began a novena and asked the Faithful of the world to pray especially to the Mother of Christ to avert what he called the “suicide of Christendom”, since the countries fighting each other were all basically Christian. He issued a pastoral letter on peace in which he asked that the invocation, “Queen of Peace be inserted in the Litany of Loretto.


On the eighth day of the novena–on the 13th of May she appeared to the shepherd children and repeated to them the message she wanted the whole world to hear: pray–especially the Rosary–repent and turn back to God; or the world would face a horrible chastisement. She also asked the children to make sacrifices for the conversion of sinners, and make reparation.


Everything our Lady spoke of eventually came to pass.


The Communists did take over power in Nov. 1917.


On July 13, of that same year during the second apparition at the Cova, the Blessed Virgin Mary predicted: “The war … [World War I was still raging] … is going to end. But if people do not stop offending God, another and worse one will begin in the reign of Pius XI… [the Pope from 1922 to 1939] … When you shall see a night illuminated by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign that God gives you that He is going to punish the world for its many crimes by means of war, hunger and persecution of the Church and the Holy Father.” What was this great light?

On January 25-26, 1938 from 9 PM to 2 AM there appeared over the Northern Hemisphere a very unusual light that scared many people. The New York Times devoted almost an entire page to the event. Scientists attributed it to an exceptional aurora borealis.


Within two months of the sign, in March of 1938, Hitler invaded his first country, Austria, and soon afterward the hated sound of Nazi boots were heard in Poland with the roar of tanks. WWII had broken out. By 1939 Pope Pius XI was dead, succeeded by Eugenio Pacelli who took the name, Pius XII.


Pius XII was the first Pope to approve the Fatima apparitions, and in 1942, consecrated the entire world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.


It is also interesting to note that Eugenio Pacelli, Pius XII, had been connected to the occurrences at Fatima many years before.


Pacelli was ordained a bishop on May 13, 1917


Already in 1931 Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, before he became pope and because he was still Secretary of State under Pius IX had occasion to read the Third Secret. He said this:

“I am worried by the Blessed Virgin’s messages to Lucia at Fatima. This persistence of Mary about the dangers which menace the Church is a divine warning against the suicide of altering the faith in her liturgy, her theology and her soul. A day will come when the civilized world will its God, when the Church will doubt as Peter doubted. She will be temped to believe that man has become God. In our churches Christians will search in vain for the red lamp where God awaits them. Like Mary Magdalene, weeping before the empty tomb, they will ask, ‘Where have they taken Him?” I leave this up to you to conclude whether Pacelli’s fears have come to pass.

Our Lady’s warnings about Russia in the second apparition of July 13 also came to pass. If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her error throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred; the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated. In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she shall be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.” This indeed took place. History shows that Russia did spread her errors. She did persecute the Church for some 50 years behind the Iron Curtain with many martyrs. She did cause many wars and many nations were annihilated to become satellites of the Soviet Union.


It is interesting also to note that beginning in October of 1950 Pius XII himself witnessed a solar phenomenon similar to Fatima while praying in the late afternoon in the Vatican gardens. It occurred on Oct.30, and again 31; on Nov. 1 and Nov.8, and then no more. This occurred shortly before Pope Pius XII would solemnly define the dogma of the Assumption of the BVM. This is all documented. He saw this solar phenomenon as a confirmation for what he was about to do.


Oct. 13, 1917, the “Miracle of the Sun”


Now we come to the famous “miracle of the Sun” which our Lady predicted would happen in the last of the apparitions occurred on this day exactly 100 years ago in 1917. A word or two about miracles.


A miracle is an extraordinary event, performed by God, which can be perceived by the senses and which exceeds the powers of nature. Miracles surpass the powers of physical nature. We see them frequently in the Bible. Their purpose is always to give divine confirmation to a divine command, teaching; or an affirmation from God that this person speaks for me.


We see them coming alive in the time of Moses:


the burning bush, the plagues in an effort to convince pharaoh to let the Jews leave Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, the water from the rock at Horeb in the desert.


In the lives of the prophets: Elijah and the testing of the false prophets on Mt. Carmel: suddenly the altar of sacrifice which he had previously drenched with water is consumed and many, many others.


In the earthly life of our Lord:


to prove he has power over all creation He would walk on the water, calm the sea and the winds;

to prove that marriage would be a sacrament imparting the power from God to guarantee the couple whatever they would need to fulfill God’s plan to be faithful and fruitful in generously cooperating with /God to bringing forth new life, he changes water into wine at Cana;

to prove He could give us His flesh and blood as nourishment for our souls—the feeding of the multitude with five loaves and two fish;


to prove that He had the power to forgive sins, He cures the paralytic;


to prove that as God He has power over life and death, He raises the son of the widow at Naim back to life, the daughter of Jairus, and his very dear friend Lazarus;


to prove that the devil did not win on Calvary, that the death of Christ put the devil to flight, has the last word over evil, He rises from the dead in his body three days later. Later on, to prove that a person is to be honored as blessed and later as a saint, two miracles are required by the Church.

Here at Fatima to prove that our Lady had indeed appeared to the shepherd children and that her message is exactly the same message of Jesus in the N.T. we have the miracle of the Sun. How and what happened?


In Fatima it had been raining for days. Over 70,000 people came to Fatima, many walking bare foot and in ankle-deep mud: simple believers and professed skeptics, Free Masons, unbelieving journalists, photographers, the simple faithful, the sick and the poor. The people were soaked to the skin. They were now cold and shivering. The apparition began, as the previous ones had, with a streak of light and a small cloud hovering over the Holm oak tree.


Then the children could see the woman who would finally identify herself as: “I am the Lady of the Rosary; I have come to warn the faithful to amend their lives and ask pardon for their sins. They must not offend Our Lord any more, for He is already too grievously offended by the sins of men. People must say the Rosary. Let them continue saying it everyday.” “In the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me; it will be converted, and a certain period of peace will be granted to the world. In Portugal the dogmas of the Faith will always be kept.”


Then rising into the air, she opened her hands towards the sun, growing more brilliant as she did. As she was about to leave, our Lady pointed to the sun. Then suddenly everyone, even the most hardened skeptic saw the very same thing, as far as 600 miles away.


Then the rain stopped and the clouds parted.


Suddenly the sun began to whirl in the sky like a wild fiery mass, resembling a massive solar explosion. It whirled furiously for three minutes, stopped and, then, resumed again a second and then third time lasting a total of twelve minutes—incredible solar movements, unheard of and beyond all cosmic laws.


Each time the sun spun faster and at the end seemed to tear itself from the sky and began plunging to earth.


Many in the crowd thought that it was the end of the world! People screamed and shrieked, on their knees, begging pardon for their sins.


The tremendous heat of the sun, as it fell on the people, had the effect of drying their wet clothes and hardening the muddy ground. From being soaked to the skin, they suddenly were completely dried.


Then suddenly it was all over. The sun returned to its normal position. And among that crowd of 70,000 there were many reported healings and cures.


Within two years after the apparitions, the youngest of the children, the brother and sister, Francisco [9] and Jacinta [7] Marto, died one year apart, just as Our Lady had promised she would soon take them to heaven.


As our Lady had predicted they did suffer: Francisco from the effects of the Spanish influenza that spread in 1917.


And then little Jacinta from the effects of the same which left her with serious abscesses and ulcers on her ribs from which her health further deteriorated. This little child died in Lisbon all alone in a hospital far from home which prevented her parents from being near her . The two were beatified by JP II in 2000, and canonized on this centenary, May 13, 2017.


Lucia on the other hand, as our Lady also promised, would stay longer on this earth to spread the message of her Immaculate Heart. Just a few years ago, Sr. Lucia, a cloistered, Carmelite nun in Coimbra, died in 2005 having lived well into her nineties.


Pray, repent, do penance. The whole NT begins with that cry from a lone voice in the desert, St. John the Baptist. It doesn’t get any simpler than that. Maybe that is why simple, shepherd children were to first to hear it, because children simply say what they heard and saw. The pseudo-sophisticated, on the other hand, are intent on imposing their own meaning on things, can rarely be trusted to tell you all the truth, especially when it is difficult to hear. For many sophisticated adults reality is never enough or rarely to their liking. Prophesying of the Messianic times the prophet Isaiah in the O.T. says, “…And a child shall lead them.” [Is.11:6] And that is precisely what we have here: children leading us back to the “Fear of the Lord”.


What is the Fear of the Lord?


It is quite different from being afraid. The fear of God must be learned: “Come, my children, listen to me,” a Psalm says, “I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (33:12); being afraid, on the other hand, does not need to be learned at school; it overtakes us suddenly in the face of danger; the things themselves bring about our being afraid.


But the meaning itself of fearing God is different from being afraid. It is a component of faith: It is born from knowledge of who God is.  It is the same sentiment that we feel before some great spectacle of nature.  It is feeling small before something that is immense; it is stupor, marvel mixed with admiration.  Beholding the miracle of the paralytic who gets up on his feet and walks, the Gospel says, “Everyone was in awe and praised God; filled with fear they said: ‘Today we have seen wondrous things’” (Luke 5:26).


Fear is here simply another name for awe and praise. This sort of fear is a companion of and allied to love: It is the fear of offending the beloved that we see in everyone who is truly in love, even in the merely human realm. This fear is often called “the beginning of wisdom” because it leads to making the right choices in life.  Indeed it is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit! (cf. Isaiah 11:2).   It is the Fear of the Lord that our world is in short supply today. “And a child shall lead them…”

Fr. Anthony J. Mastroeni, S.Th.D., J.D.

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©2018 By Father Mastroeni, S.Th.D., J.D.

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