Do Miracles Exist ?
13 May 1917
On 13 May 1917 the three children took their flocks out to pasture on the small area known as the Cova da Iria. After lunch and the rosary they suddenly saw a bright flash of something like lightning, followed quickly by another flash in the clear blue sky.
They looked up to see in Lucia's words, "a lady, clothed in white, brighter than the sun, radiating a light more clear and intense than a crystal cup filled with sparkling water, lit by burning sunlight." The children stood there amazed, bathed in the light that surrounded the apparition, as the Lady smiled and said: "Do not be afraid, I will not harm you." Lucia as the oldest asked her where she came from.
The Lady pointed to the sky and said: "I come from heaven." Lucia then asked her what she wanted: "I have come to ask you to come here for six months on the 13th day of the month, at this same hour. Later I shall say who I am and what I desire. And I shall return here yet a seventh time."
" ............ "
"Lucia then began to put forward the petitions for cures, to be told: "Yes, I will cure some, but not others. In October I will perform a miracle so that all may believe." With that she rose, moved to the east, and disappeared.
13 October 1917
The proclamation of a public miracle caused the most intense speculation throughout Portugal, and the journalist Avelino de Almeida, published a satirical article on the whole business in the anti-religious newspaper O Seculo. People from other parts of the country descended, in their tens of thousands, on the Cova, despite the terrible storm that lashed the mountain country around Fatima, on the eve of the 13th. Many pilgrims went barefooted, reciting the rosary as they went, all crowding into the area around the Cova, as by midmorning the weather again turned bad and heavy rain began to fall.
The children reached the holmoak around noon, and then saw the flash of light as Mary appeared before them. For the last time, Lucia asked what she wanted: "I want to tell you that a chapel is to be built here in my honour. I am the Lady of the Rosary. Continue always to pray the Rosary every day. The war is going to end, and the soldiers will soon return to their homes."
Again Lucia made her requests, being informed that people must amend their lives, and ask forgiveness of their sins, if they wanted healings or conversions. She reported too that Mary grew very sad and said: "Do not offend the Lord our God any more, because He is already so much offended." Then rising into the air and opening her hands towards the sun, growing more brilliant as she did, she disappeared, being replaced by various visions seen only by the children.
The Miracle of the Sun.
At the same time the vast crowd saw a true miracle. The black clouds parted, and the sun became visible, looking like a dull grey disc that could be looked at directly quite easily. In O Seculo Avelino de Almeida would adopt a very different tone from his earlier satirical article on Fatima:
"...one could see the immense multitude turn towards the sun, which appeared free from clouds and at its zenith. It looked like a plaque of dull silver and it was possible to look at it without the least discomfort. It might have been an eclipse which was taking place. But at that moment a great shout went up and one could hear the spectators nearest at hand shouting: "A miracle! A miracle!" Before the astonished eyes of the crowd, whose aspect was Biblical as they stood bareheaded, eagerly searching the sky, the sun trembled, made sudden incredible movements outside all cosmic laws - the sun "danced" according to the typical expression of the people. ...
"People then began to ask each other what they had seen. The great majority admitted to having seen the trembling and dancing of the sun; others affirmed that they saw the face of the Blessed Virgin; others, again, swore that the sun whirled on itself like a giant Catherine wheel and that it lowered itself to the earth as if to burn it with its rays. Some said they saw it change colours successively. ..."
Other witnesses too, such as Maria Carreira, testified to the terrifying nature of the solar miracle: "It turned everything different colours, yellow, blue, white, and it shook and trembled; it seemed like a wheel of fire which was going to fall on the people. They cried out: 'We shall all be killed, we shall all be killed!' ... At last the sun stopped moving and we all breathed a sigh of relief. We were still alive and the miracle which the children had foretold had taken place."
Other people witnessed the solar miracle from a distance thus ruling out the possibility of any type of collective hallucination. A final intriguing, and important, point was that the heat of the sun, as it descended on the people, also had the effect of drying their clothes and the ground, so that they went from being completely soaked to being dry in about ten minutes.