The Great Solar Miracle: Fatima October 13, 1917


 Damien F. Mackey



Taken from my book (1994),

The Five First Saturdays




After the Lady had identified who she was, Lucia again asked her if she would cure the sick, and convert the sinners who had been recommended to her. Our Lady replied:

“I will cure or convert some of them. Others I will not.

They must repent and beg pardon for their sins”.


Then, with a look of grief and in a suppliant tone of voice, she added:


“Men must not offend God any more for He is already very much offended”.


And opening her hands Our Lady, as She was rising to go away, projected beams of light onto the sun. Lucia cried: “Look at the sun!” And suddenly, as the crowd looked upwards, the clouds opened and exposed the blue sky with the sun at its zenith. But this sun did not dazzle. The people could look directly at it. It was like a shining silver plate. Then the sun trembled. It made some abrupt movements. It began to spin like a wheel of fire. Great shafts of coloured light flared out from its centre in all directions, colouring in a most fantastic manner the clouds, trees, rocks, earth, and even the clothes and faces of the people gathered there, in alternating splashes of red, yellow, green, blue and violet – the full spectrum of rainbow colours.


After about five minutes the sun stopped revolving in this fashion. A moment later, it resumed a second time its incredible motion, throwing out its light and colour like a huge display of fireworks. And once more, after a few minutes, the sun stopped its prodigious dance.


After a short time, and for the third time, it resumed its spinning and fantastic colours. The crowd gazed spellbound. Then came the awful climax. The sun seemed to be falling from the sky. Zig-zagging from side to side, it plunged down towards the crowd below, sending out a heat increasingly intense, and causing the spectators to believe that this was indeed the end of the world.


People stood wild-eyed, or sank to their knees in the mud, as the sun rushed towards them. A desperate cry went up from the crowd, begging God, or the Blessed Virgin Mary, for mercy, asking pardon for their sins. The sun halted, stopping short in its precipitous fall, and then it climbed back to its place in the sky, where it regained its normal brilliance.


Then the dazed people, who had just experienced the wonder of the age – or what Cardinal Laraana would later call “the greatest Divine intervention since the time of Our Lord” (Soul, Sep-Oct, 1990, p. 6) – found that another miracle had occurred. This apocalyptic scene, full of majesty and terror, had ended with a delicate gift, which showed the motherly tenderness of the Immaculate Heart of Mary for her children. Their sodden clothes were dry and comfortable, without a trace of mud and rain.


But there was another aspect to Our Lady’s Miracle that only the three children witnessed. Corresponding to the three distinct movements of the sun, separated by the moments of pause, Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco


saw three distinct tableaux representing, successively, the Joyful, the Sorrowful and the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary.


In the first tableau they saw the three members of the Holy Family; with Our Lady of the Rosary to the right of the sun and more brilliant than the sun, wearing a white dress and a blue mantle. To the left, dressed in red, was St. Joseph with the Infant Jesus blessing the world. Next, Our Divine Lord appeared as a grown man, lovingly blessing the world. To the left was Our Lady of Sorrows, clad in purple. Finally, Our Lady of Sorrows was replaced by Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the Scapular in her hand. The Miracle of the sun at Fatima, therefore, was absolutely a Rosary miracle. It seemed even to move to the pulse and rhythm of a Rosary being recited. Its approximately fifteen minutes’ duration might also have been intended to represent one of the conditions of the Five First Saturday devotion: fifteen minutes of meditation on the Mysteries of the Rosary, while keeping Our Lady company.


Full of Scriptural Imagery

All in one, the great Miracle of the 13th of October, 1917, incorporated some of the most spectacular elements of renowned Old Testament miracles. Fr. Smolenski (op. cit., pp. 11-12) has compared Noah’s time for instance, when it rained for forty days and forty nights, with Fatima on that day, when everything was drenched with rain. The dove with the branch indicated that the storm had subsided; Our Lady’s presence over the holm-oak tree was Heaven’s peace. The Ark landed on solid earth; Fatima was dry because of the miracle. God re-established the covenant of peace by means of Noah; Our Lady asked that Consecration be made to her Immaculate Heart. The rainbow became the sign of peace; the whole area of the Fatima miracle reflected all the colours of the rainbow during the sun’s dance. “As Noah’s sons inherited the covenant of peace, brought to mind by the presence of the rainbow, so Mary, Image of the Church as the servant of God, would have her children be the bearers of her peace to a re-energized and re-evangelized creation”. Other comparisons with Old Testament miracles appear in Soul magazine (Sep-Oct, 1990, p. 6). For instance, the sun’s leaving the entire area dry at the Cova da Iria reminds one of the dry path through the Red Sea. Or of Joshua’s own solar miracle, when, at his command, the sun gave its light two hours after sunset. Again, reminiscent of the sun’s fall, was Elijah’s calling down of fire from the sky as a challenge to the pagan priests. (Elijah is of course already linked to the Carmelites, and the Scapular, due to his association with Mount Carmel, and his miraculous mantle). Finally, we could add to these the miraculous alteration affected on the sundial, as cause by the prophet Isaiah for the benefit of king Hezekiah. Pope Pius XII, when instituting the feast of The Queenship of Mary with his encyclical, Ad Caeli Reginam, in 1954, likened Our Lady to the rainbow in the Genesis account of Noah and in Ecclesiasticus:

“Is She not a rainbow in the clouds, reaching towards God, a promise of peace? (Cf. Genesis 9:13). ‘Look upon the rainbow, and bless Him that made it; it is very beautiful in its brightness. It encompasses the heaven about with the circle of its glory, the hands of the Most High have displayed it’ (Ecclesiasticus 43:11-12)”.

But undoubtedly, more than anything else, it was the stupendous character of the Miracle of the Sun – coupled with the fact that it had been predicted to the very hour, months in advance – that sets Fatima apart from all of the Old Testament manifestations of God, and even from the preceding Marian apparitions. Pope Paul VI referred to it simply as ‘Signum Magnum’, ‘The Great Sign’.


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