The rain continues, and by the official government time it is well past one o’clock. But by sun time it is precisely noon when Lucia looks to the east. “Jacinta,” she says softly, “kneel down.” Then more strongly she calls, “Our Lady is coming; I have seen the lightning.”
The children kneel, as do countless numbers of the faithful; but the people as yet have been stirred by no great happening. The faces of the children are mirrors of ecstasy, yet what they see is not for other eyes to know, except through the testimony of the children themselves.
Their Lady stands in unearthly beauty above the bright flowers and rain-wilted ribbons of silk that affectionate hands have fixed there in her honour. But flowers fade and sunlight pales, and every natural glory of earth withdraws its poor pretensions in her company, if we can believe her witnesses.
Now we find that by God’s gift, it is almost impossible not to believe.
“What do you want of me?” asks Lucia
The dialogue, read this way, does not seem inspired. From May to October it has been much the same. But there is this significant difference. It is heaven and earth concerned with goodness, rather than with skills. There is no call for Dante, or for Shakespeare, or for any modern literary hand.
“I want a chapel built here in my honour. I want you to continue saying the Rosary every day. The war will end soon, and the soldiers will return to their homes.”
“Yes,” says Lucia “Yes.” But since the Lady has promised this day to tell exactly who she is, Lucia asks further,
“Will you tell me your name?”
“I am the Lady of the Rosary.”
There is a reverent silence. Lucia then explains, “I have many petitions from many people. Will you grant them? ”
“Some I shall grant, and others I must deny.” This Lady of the Rosary, who is God’s Mother, is gentle, but she is serious. She has never smiled- She is asking for penance. She is talking in terms of heaven and hell—a blunt and terrifying equation that so many have comfortably forgotten. She speaks as though after 1900 years, a cross still weighs upon the shoulders of her Son: “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! ”
“And is that all you have to ask?” Lucia inquires.
“There is nothing more.”
Now the Lady of the Rosary takes her last leave of her three small friends. She rises slowly toward the east. The children behold how she turns the palms of her gentle hands to the dark sky over them, and now, as if this is a signal, the rain has stopped; the great dark clouds that have obscured the sun and depressed the solemn day, are suddenly burst apart; they scatter; they are rent like a bombed rainbow before the eye, and the bold sun hangs unchallenged in its place, a strangely spinning disc of silver.
Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco are beholding their Lady. From her upturned hands strange rays of light are rising, as though to assault and make dim the light of the sun itself.
Lucia cries out a single time, “Look at the sun!”
But she has no recollection later of having called this out to the crowd. The Lady of the Rosary is no longer ascending. She stands in glory to the right of the sun, and her light is such that the great fixed star is by comparison pallid and weak. For a moment she is gowned in white, precisely as the children have known her each time she has appeared above the stubby oak. Yet as quickly, and as strangely then, she is wearing a mantle of blue, and with her, in fidelity to the promise she has made, is St. Joseph, with the Christ Child in his arms. St. Joseph is robed in red, and he appears to lean from the clouds, holding the Child who also is dressed in red.
These visions are brief and they succeed one another rapidly. Three times St. Joseph has traced the sign of the cross above the people. St. Joseph fades away, and Christ appears at the base of the sun. He is cloaked in red. With Him stands His Mother. She is gowned now in neither white nor blue, but as Our Lady of Sorrows, gazing on the earth. She has not the traditional sword in her heart. This the children clearly note, and are later able to recall. Christ gives his blessing to the people, and then, as this vision passes, there is one that Lucia alone is privileged to see: Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Remember, this is Lucia speaking; this is the privileged sight of three, quite different from the shocking and indisputable phenomenon that is witnessed by the crowd.
It seems strange, recounting here in simple words, such prodigies as this. There can be no attempt to describe the impact of this experience on the children. They have themselves no more succeeded in this than they have managed fully to convey a picture of the Lady whose beauty was more than the senses, unaided, could properly comprehend.
But what of the crowd who did not see the Christ Child, or His Mother, or St. Joseph in the sky? Here the record pursues the sceptic, and inexorably, if he does not flee from the evidence, it will defeat him. The miraculous hand falls heavily. Like stones, the signs of God will be laid before you now to build a house of faith.
When Lucia cried, “Look at the sun!” the people responded. The rain at that moment had stopped; the sun was clearly seen. There was no cloud to obscure it, yet it did not strain the eyes of any man to look on its unveiled light. The people could see that the sun was strangely spinning. It began to revolve more rapidly, more frighteningly. It began to cast off beams of many-colored lights in all directions. Shafts of brilliant red came from the rim of the revolving star and fell across the earth, the people and the trees; and green lights came and violet and blue in mixed array. It is a story of wonder and of terror, too, as the great star challenges the discipline of all the ages it has known, and begins careening, trembling in the sky for seventy thousand witnesses to see. Now, horribly, it appears to plunge from its place in the heavens and fall upon the earth. People are crying:
“I believe! I believe!”
They are shrieking, “Jesus, save us!”
They are crying, “Miracle!”
They are begging, “God forgive us our sins!”
They are praying, “Mary, save us!”
This is, of course, not our story to tell. It is the story of the seventy thousand people who were there. It appears more prudent to call them in witness, than to belabour the subject ourselves. We will start with our friend, Ti Marto, who is not an excitable man:
We looked easily at the sun, which for some reason did not blind us. It seemed to flicker on and off, first one way, then another. It cast its rays in many directions and painted everything in different colours—the trees, the people, the air and the ground. But what was most extraordinary, I thought, was that the sun did not hurt our 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.
Among our friends, Maria da Capelinha has told us pretty much the same thing:
The sun turned everything to different colours—yellow, blue and white. Then it 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, advertising that she had done this and that…. 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.
It must be admitted that this was not an afternoon of celestial fireworks enjoyed by simple and unlettered people predisposed to accept any flash of lightning as the Lord’s own signal. The 70,000 witnesses 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’s unscheduled behaviour in the sky. The special reporter for the Lisbon daily, O Dia, had this to report in the edition of October 17, 1917:
At one o’clock in the afternoon, midday by the sun, the rain stopped. The sky, pearly grey in colour, illuminated the vast arid landscape with a strange light. The sun had a transparent gauzy veil so that the eyes could easily be fixed upon it. The grey mother-of-pearl tone turned into a sheet of silver which broke up as the clouds were torn apart and the silver sun, enveloped in the same gauzy grey light, was seen to whirl and turn in the circle of broken clouds. A cry went up from every mouth and people fell on their knees on the muddy ground….
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. The blue faded slowly, and then the light seemed to pass through yellow glass. Yellow stains fell against white handkerchiefs, against the dark skirts of the women. They were repeated on the trees, on the stones and on the serra. 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.
In the journal, O Seculo, which we have previously described as Portugal’s most influential newspaper—pro-government in policy, and avowedly anticlerical, the following extract was published under the by-line of Avelino de Almeida:—
From the road, where the vehicles were parked and where hundreds of people who had not dared to brave the mud were congregated, one could see the immense multitude turn toward the sun, which appeared free from clouds and in 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.
Standing at the step of an omnibus was an old man. With his face turned to the sun, he recited the Credo in a loud voice. I asked who he was and was told Senhor Joao da Cunha Vasconcelos. 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.
Identical scenes were repeated elsewhere, and in one place a woman cried out: “How terrible! There are even men who do not uncover before such a stupendous miracle!”
People then began to ask each other what they had seen. The great majority admitted to having seen the trembling and the 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 in its rays. Some said they saw it change colours successively….
Another, and entirely responsible witness of the great event in the Cova da Iria, was Dr. Almeida Garrett, of Coimbra University, who in response to a request by Dr. Formigao, recorded the following:
I was looking at the place of the apparitions, in a serene, if cold, expectation of something happening, and with diminishing curiosity, because a long time had passed without anything to excite my attention. Then I heard a shout from thousands of voices and saw the multitude suddenly turn its back and shoulders away from the point toward which up to now it had directed its attention, and turn to look at the sky on the opposite side.
It must have been nearly two o’clock by the legal time, and about midday by the sun. The sun, a few moments before, had broken through the thick layer of clouds which hid it, and shone clearly and intensely. I veered to the magnet which seemed to be drawing all eyes, and saw it as a disc with a clean-cut rim, luminous and shining, but which did not hurt the eyes. I do not agree with the comparison which I have heard made in Fatima—that of a dull silver disc. It was a clearer, richer, brighter colour, having something of the luster of a pearl. It did not in the least resemble the moon on a clear night because one saw it and felt it to be a living body. It was not spheric like the moon, nor did it have the same colour, tone, or shading. It looked like a glazed wheel made of mother-of-pearl. It could not be confused, either, with the sun seen through fog (for there was no fog at the time), because it was not opaque, diffused or veiled. In Fatima it gave light and heat and appeared clear-cut with a well-defined rim.
The sky was mottled with light cirrus clouds with the blue coming through here and there, but sometimes the sun stood out in patches of clear sky. The clouds passed from west to east and did not obscure the light of the sun, giving the impression of passing behind it, though sometimes these flecks of white took on tones of pink or diaphanous blue as they passed before the sun.
It was a remarkable fact that one could fix one’s eyes on this brazier of heat and light without any pain in the eyes or blinding of the retina. The phenomenon, except for two interruptions when the sun seemed to send out rays of refulgent heat which obliged us to look away, must have lasted about ten minutes.
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. Then, suddenly, one heard a clamour, 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.
During the solar phenomenon, which I have just described in detail, there were changes of colour in the atmosphere. Looking at the sun, I noticed that everything around was becoming darkened. I looked first at the nearest objects and then extended my glance further afield as far as the horizon. I saw everything an amethyst colour. Objects around me, the sky and the atmosphere, were of the same colour. An oak tree nearby threw a shadow of this colour on the ground.
Fearing that I was suffering from an affection of the retina, an improbable explanation because in that case one could not see things purple-colored, I turned away and shut my eyes, keeping my hands before them to intercept the light. With my back still turned, I opened my eyes and saw that the landscape was the same purple colour as before.
The impression was not that of an eclipse, and while looking at the sun I noticed that the atmosphere had cleared. Soon after I heard a peasant who was near me shout out in tones of astonishment: “Look, that lady is all yellow!”
And in fact everything, both near and far, had changed, taking on the colour of old yellow damask. People looked as if they were suffering from jaundice, and I recall a sensation of amusement at seeing them look so ugly and unattractive. My own hand was the same colour. All the phenomena which I have described were observed by me in a calm and serene state of mind, and without any emotional disturbance. It is for others to interpret and explain them.
You may be assured the quotations here supplied from the testimony of actual witnesses represent the general impression of the countless number of people we have interviewed. Looking back, there does seem to be an oversupply of doctors. It should be made clear that Dr. Garrett is not a physician, but a university professor. Dr. Formigao, as earlier explained, is a priest, and his doctorate was gained in philosophy, at Rome. Both are teamed, responsible men. But in consideration of whether or not the great commotion at Fatima that day represented the work of heaven, or a general optical illusion, it is comforting to call as a witness Dr. Domingos Pinto Coelho, who happened to be, of all convenient things, an eminent eye specialist. The following is from his report in the newspaper Ordem:
Much more here-whole story of Fatima from a Priest who was there.My favorite book.