Thursday, October 29, 2009
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Modified from Wikipedia.
The Miracle of the Sun is a miraculous event that was witnessed by as many as 100,000 people on 13 October 1917 in the Cova da Iria fields near Fátima, Portugal.
According to many witness statements, after a downfall of rain, the clouds broke and the sun appeared as an opaque, spinning disk in the sky. It was said to be significantly less bright than normal, and cast multicolored lights across the landscape, the shadows on the landscape, the people, and the surrounding clouds. The sun was then reported to have careened towards the earth in a zigzag pattern, frightening some of those present who thought it meant the end of the world. Witnesses reported that the ground and their previously wet clothes became completely dry.
Estimates of the number of witnesses range from "thirty to forty thousand" by Avelino de Almeida, writing for the Portuguese newspaper O Século, to one hundred thousand, estimated by Dr. Joseph Garrett, Professor of Natural Sciences at Coimbra University, both of whom were present that day.
The miracle was attributed by believers to Our Lady of Fatima, an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to three young shepherd children in 1917, as having been predicted in advance by the three children on 13 July , 19 August , and 13 September  1917. The children reported that the Lady had promised them that at mid-day on 13 October in the Cova da Iria the Lady would reveal her identity to the children and provide a miracle "so that all may believe."
According to witness reports, the miracle of the sun lasted approximately ten minutes. The three shepherd children, in addition to reporting seeing the actions of the sun that day, also reported seeing a panorama of visions, including those of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of Saint Joseph blessing the people.
The most widely-cited descriptions of the events reported at Fatima are taken from the writings of John De Marchi, an Italian Catholic priest and researcher. De Marchi spent seven years in Fatima, from 1943 to 1950, conducting original research and interviewing the principals at undisturbed length. In The Immaculate Heart, published in 1952, De Marchi reports that, "[t]heir ranks (those present on 13 October) included believers and non-believers, pious old ladies and scoffing young men. Hundreds, from these mixed categories, have given formal testimony. Reports do vary; impressions are in minor details confused, but none to our knowledge has directly denied the visible prodigy of the sun."
Some of the witness statements follow below. They are taken from John De Marchi's several books on the matter.
- "Before the astonished eyes of the crowd, whose aspect was biblical as they stood bare-headed, 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." ― Avelino de Almeida, writing for O Século (Portugal's most widely-circulated and influential newspaper, which was pro-government and anti-clerical at the time Almeida's previous articles had been to satirize the previously reported events at Fatima). However, Almeida had not abandoned the Catholic faith.
- "The sun, at one moment surrounded with scarlet flame, at another aureoled in yellow and deep purple, seemed to be in an exceeding fast and whirling movement, at times appearing to be loosened from the sky and to be approaching the earth, strongly radiating heat." ― Dr. Domingos Pinto Coelho, writing for the newspaper Ordem.
- "…The silver sun, enveloped in the same gauzy grey light, was seen to whirl and turn in the circle of broken clouds… The light turned a beautiful blue, as if it had come through the stained-glass windows of a cathedral, and spread itself over the people who knelt with outstretched hands… people wept and prayed with uncovered heads, in the presence of a miracle they had awaited. The seconds seemed like hours, so vivid were they." ― Reporter for the Lisbon newspaper O Dia.
- "The sun's disc did not remain immobile. This was not the sparkling of a heavenly body, for it spun round on itself in a mad whirl, when suddenly a clamor was heard from all the people. The sun, whirling, seemed to loosen itself from the firmament and advance threateningly upon the earth as if to crush us with its huge fiery weight. The sensation during those moments was terrible." ― Dr. Almeida Garrett, Professor of Natural Sciences at Coimbra University.
- "As if like a bolt from the blue, the clouds were wrenched apart, and the sun at its zenith appeared in all its splendor. It began to revolve vertiginously on its axis, like the most magnificent firewheel that could be imagined, taking on all the colors of the rainbow and sending forth multi-colored flashes of light, producing the most astounding effect. This sublime and incomparable spectacle, which was repeated three distinct times, lasted for about ten minutes. The immense multitude, overcome by the evidence of such a tremendous prodigy, threw themselves on their knees." ― Dr. Formigão, a professor at the seminary at Santarem, and a priest.
- "I feel incapable of describing what I saw. I looked fixedly at the sun, which seemed pale and did not hurt my eyes. Looking like a ball of snow, revolving on itself, it suddenly seemed to come down in a zig-zag, 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." ― Rev. Joaquim Lourenco, describing his boyhood experience in Alburitel, eighteen kilometers from Fatima.
- "On that day of October 13, 1917, without remembering the predictions of the children, I was enchanted by a remarkable spectacle in the sky of a kind I had never seen before. I saw it from this veranda…” ― Portuguese poet Afonso Lopes Vieira.
While De Marchi's states that "Reports do vary; impressions are in minor details confused", Kevin McClure states that he had never seen such a collection of contradictory accounts of a case in any of the research he had done in the previous ten years.
No scientific accounts exist of any unusual solar or astronomic activity during the time the sun was reported to have "danced", and there are no witness reports of any unusual solar phenomenon further than forty miles out from Cova da Iria.
It has been alleged that the fact that an unspecified "miracle" had been predicted in advance, the abrupt beginning and end of the alleged miracle of the sun, the varied nature of the observers as including both skeptics and believers alike, the sheer numbers of people present, and the lack of any causative factor, all reasonably preclude the theory of a mass hallucination. That the activity of the sun was reported as visible by those up to 18 kilometers away, also precludes the theory of a collective hallucination or mass hysteria.
Visionaries claimed that the apparition now known as Our Lady of Fatima had promised in July, August, and September, that a miracle would occur on 13 October 1917 "so that all may believe". Pio Scatizzi, S.J. describes events of Fatima and concludes
This miraculous even was not confined in time and space as Pope Pius XII himself witnessed the miracle of the sun from the Vatican gardens in a heavenly confirmation of the momentous decision he had made in proclaiming a dogma ex cathedra..
The ... solar phenomena were not observed in any observatory. Impossible that they should escape notice of so many astronomers and indeed the other inhabitants of the hemisphere… there is no question of an astronomical or meteorological event phenomenon …Either all the observers in Fatima were collectively deceived and erred in their testimony, or we must suppose an extra-natural intervention.
Here's what Time magazine has to say:
Millions of Roman Catholics revere a spot near Fátima, in Portugal, as the scene of a miraculous appearance of the Virgin Mary. In Fátima last week stood Federico Cardinal Tedeschini, archpriest of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. To gathered pilgrims he brought momentous news.
On three successive days, Oct. 30, Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, 1950, said the Cardinal, the miraculous vision of Fátima was repeated for Pope Pius XII: "The Holy Father turned his gaze from the Vatican gardens toward the sun, and there was renewed for his eyes the miracle of this valley." Nov. 1 was the day the Pope proclaimed the dogma of the bodily ascension of the Virgin Mary into Heaven.
To honour the event, here's the first part of an article on the Marian apparition at Fatima from the 13th of May through to the final apparition on the 13th of October which also witnessed the Miracle of the Sun, seen by crowds estimated from between 40,000 to 100,000 people comprising believers, skeptics, atheists, communists and the like. The article is written in an easy and readable style. For a more scholarly description, please click here.
The 2nd part, recounting the Miracle of the Sun will be posted tomorrow.
THE STORY OF OUR LADY OF FATIMA
Brother Ernest, C.S.C.
Most Rev. Leo A. Pursley, D.D.
Bishop of Fort Wayne
Francisco Marto was born in Fatima, Portugal, on June 11, 1908, and his sister Jacinta was born on March 11th, 1910. The brother and sister were not much alike; Francisco had a calm personality and loved nature and music, while Jacinta was more active and playful.
Beginning at a young age, the two children accompanied their cousin Lucia Santo to the fields each day to watch the families' sheep. One day in 1916, they saw an Angel, who told them he was the angel of peace and the guardian angel of Portugal. The angel taught the amazed children a prayer to say in reparation for sins: "My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love You! I ask pardon of You for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love You!" The angel appeared to the children three times in all, reminding them to pray and make sacrifices. During the third visit, the angel appeared holding a chalice and a host, and taught them another prayer: "Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore You profoundly, and I offer You the most precious Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifference with which He Himself is offended. And, through the infinite merits of His most Sacred Heart, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of You the conversion of poor sinners." He gave Lucia, who was the only one who had made her first Communion, the host, and gave Jacinta and Francisco the blood in the chalice to drink. These apparitions filled the children with a sense of peace and the presence of God, preparing them for the apparitions of Mary which were soon to take place.
The first apparition of Our Lady took place on May 13, 1817, an event which would change their lives forever. In this first of the several apparitions at Fatima, Our Lady asked the children to say the Rosary and to make sacrifices, offering them for the conversion of sinners.
Seven-year-old Jacinta especially took this request very seriously, even though it had earlier been her idea to save time in reciting the Rosary by only saying the first two words of every prayer! She was particularly struck by the Blessed Virgin's request to pray for sinners, especially after seeing the vision of Hell which Mary showed to the three children.
Francisco was affected by the vision in a different way; he saw how sad Jesus and Mary were, and how much they were offended by sins, and his great desire was to console them. The children began to make sacrifices for sinners, and in reparation for the sins which wounded the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Sometimes they gave their lunch to beggars, going without food themselves; they refrained from drinking water on hot days; they offered up their daily crosses; they wore little ropes around their waist until Our Lady told them not to; they prayed often, alone, or together.
In October of 1918, Francisco and Jacinta became seriously ill with the Spanish flu. Our Lady appeared to the two children and told them she was coming soon to take them to Heaven: Francisco first, and then Jacinta later.
Poor little Jacinta, who was still extremely ill, missed her brother greatly. At the same time, she was suffering from an abcess on her chest. Despite her sufferings, she continued to make sacrifices and offer her pain to God for her dearest intention - the conversion of sinners. She was ready to suffer anything to save souls from Hell. Eventually Jacinta was transferred to a hospital in Lisbon, but her condition did not improve, despite a painful operation. Our Lady continued to console Jacinta with her presence, and on February 20, 1920, the little girl died in the hospital, attended only by a nurse.
The lives of Jacinta and Francisco teach us that even young children can become saints. In 1999, the Vatican accepted a miracle for the beatification of the two children. They were beatified on May 13th, 2000, the 83rd anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady at Fatima.
Blessed Jacinta and Francisco, PRAY FOR US!
Lucia de Jesus dos Santos was born in Aljustrel, a village in the parish of Fátima, Portugal, on March 22, 1907, and baptized a few days later on March 30. Her parents were Antonio and Maria Rosa dos Santos. She was the youngest of seven children, six girls and a boy. At age 6 she received her First Holy Communion. By 8 she was occupied with the tending of the family's sheep, accompanied by other boys and girls of the village.
It was while in the company of her cousins, Jacinta and Francisco Marti, that the first heavenly apparition occurred, that of the Angel of Portugal come to prepare the young trio for their mission and for an even greater visitor.
Lucia was 10 years old when on May 13, 1917, while tending the sheep in the Cova de Iria, a woman, who later identified herself as the Blessed Virgin Mary, appeared to the children. The apparition would continue monthly on the 13th of the month until October 1917 (save August, when imprisonment by the anti-clerical authorities prevented it). During each month's apparition, the Virgin encouraged prayer, especially the rosary, and sacrifice. She also communicated certain prophecies of the future (the end of World War I, the rise of error in Russia (communism) and its propagation throughout the world, the annihilation of nations, another war preceded by a heavenly sign if men did not convert, and the suffering and persecution of the good, especially the Holy Father).
On Oct. 13, 1930, the bishop of Leiria-Fátima, José Alves Correia da Silva, declared the apparitions of Fátima worthy of credibility and allowed public devotion to the Virgin under the title of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fátima.
After the prophesied death of Jacinta and Francisco, during the flu pandemic of 1919, Lucia alone remained to carry on the mission assigned by the "woman from heaven." At 14 she was admitted as a boarder to the school of the Sisters of St. Dorothy in Vilar, near Oporto in the north of Portugal. On Oct. 24, 1925, she entered the Institute of the Sisters of St. Dorothy as a postulant in the convent in Tuy, Spain, not far from the Portuguese border. During these years she would continue to receive private revelations explanatory of the message of Fátima. She made her first vows on Oct. 3, 1928, and her perpetual vows on Oct. 3, 1934, receiving the name Sister Mary of the Sorrowful Mother.
In 1946, seeking a more contemplative life, Lucia entered the Carmelite convent of St. Teresa in Coimbra, where she made her profession as a Discalced Carmelite on May 31, 1949. She took the name Sister Maria Lucia of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart.
In 1967, Sister Lucia traveled to Fatima to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the apparitions, presided over by Pope Paul VI. She went again in 1982, when Paul John Paul II came to the Shrine on 13 May to give thanks for the saving of his life during the assassination attempt of 13 May 1981, and again when the Pope came there in 1991, and finally in 2000, to beatify Jacinta and Francisco.
Over the years Sr. Lucia would write two books, Memoirs, recounting the events of Fatima in her own words, and Calls from the Message of Fatima, giving answers to the many questions about living the message of Fátima, which she has been asked over the years.
In the second apparition, that of June 13, Lucia asked the Lady, "Will you take us to heaven?" The Virgin responded,
Yes, I shall take Jacinta and Francisco soon, but you will remain a little longer, since Jesus wishes you to make me known and loved on earth. He wishes also for you to establish devotion in the world to my Immaculate Heart.
Sr. Lucia with Pope John Paul IIThat mission came to an end on February 13, 2005, when after weeks of weakness Sr. Maria Lucia succumbed to the infirmities of old age. Her funeral Mass at the cathedral of Coimbra was presided over by the city's bishop, Most Reverend Antonio Cleto. She will lie in rest at the convent where she spent so many years, until a place is prepared for her body at the Basilica in Fátima, where Francisco and Jacinta are entombed.
An aerial view of the Basilica. The sward of green directly opposite the basilica no longer exists, being replaced by a squat, roundish new building which seats 9000 people.
The exterior of the Basilica. Pilgrims often walk the last few hundred metres on their knees in a sign of reparation for their sins.
Trendy folks and priests are not above showing a little humility either.
The interior of the Basilica. It does not look that large, from the inside.
The apse and the high altar, with a mosaic depicting the apparition.
The relief in the half dome of the apse shows the coronation of Our Lady in Heaven.
The sanctuary crucifix.
There's some nice stained glass too. I like the kids, the look so rustic and peasanty, so very authentic.
The tombs of Blessed Francisco and Jacinta Marto also lie inside the Basilica.
The Chapel of the Apparition is build directly over the spot of Our Lady's apparition to the children. Her statue on a raised pedestal marks the location of her appearance. The structure is the first one build at the site.
And finally, an image of a candle light procession in front of the Basilica.