The Message and the Miracle
God does not waste miracles. Throughout salvation historyfrom Joshua, to Moses, to the Twelve Apostles, to the saints of the Catholic Church down through the centuriesGod has granted miracles for one overriding purpose: to serve as a divine credential for a witness who invokes the miracle in His name. When God chooses a witness, and then associates an authentic miracle with the testimony of that witness, we can know for certain that the witness is worthy of belief. God does not grant miracles to vouch for unreliable witnesses; God does not choose unreliable witnesses.
No, God does not waste miracles. Much less does God waste a public miracle witnessed by 70,000 people, believers and unbelievers alike, which occurred at precisely the moment predicted three months earlier by three witnesses whose testimony had been doubted: Lucia dos Santos (known to the world as Lucy) and her cousins, Francisco and Jacinta Marto.1
It is October 13, 1917. In a humble field known as the Cova da Iria in Fatima some 70,000 people have assembled to await the happening of a miracle. This in itself is astounding. For never before in salvation history has a visionary predicted months in advance that a public miracle would occur at a precise time and place. Never before has a vast crowd assembled to witness a predicted public miracle. Yet that is exactly what was happening on this day.
Why this day? Because Lucia dos Santos and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta had been receiving apparitions from "the Lady" on the thirteenth of each month since the previous May. The Lady had been appearing to them above a holm-oak tree in the Cova, and with each apparition the crowds had grown. But doubts about the veracity of the seers had also grown, as well as mockery and persecution of the seers and their families at a time when Portugal was under the control of an atheistic and Masonic political regime.
And then, on July 13, 1917, the Lady had shown them something which would terrify them and change them forever, making them into saints who would spend their lives (in the case of Francisco and Jacinta, very brief lives) praying and making sacrifices for sinners. As Lucy recounts in testimony the Catholic Church has deemed worthy of belief, the Lady showed them hell:
Having shown the children the fate of the damned, which is considered the first part of the Great Secret of Fatima, the Lady then confided to the children the second part. Everyone, including those members of the Vatican apparatus who are the focus of this presentation, agrees that the second part of the Secret, as recorded in Sister Lucys diaries, is as follows:
The basic elements of this astonishing Message are these:
To these things, the Lady added an urgent request that Catholics include in their recitation of the Rosary at the end of each decade, the following prayer: "O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need." In obedience to the Ladys request, and as a testament to the authenticity of Her apparitions at Fatima, the Church included this prayer in the Rosary, and Catholics recite it to this day.
The Church has also adopted the First Saturday devotion of the Communion of Reparation, which the Lady explained thusly: "I promise to help at the hour of death, with all the graces needed for salvation, whoever on the First Saturday of five consecutive months shall: confess and receive Holy Communion, recite five decades of the Holy Rosary, and keep Me company for fifteen minutes while meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary, with the intention of making reparation to Me."
We pause here to note in passing (for further discussion later) the curious phrase at the end of the first two parts of the Secret: "In Portugal the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved etc." The incomplete phrase, ending with "etc.", appears in Sister Lucys fourth memoir of the apparitions. It clearly introduces a heavenly prediction, containing further words of Our Lady not recorded, about the state of adherence to Catholic dogma in the Church at large, distinguished from Portugal in particular, where the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved.
Standing alone, the observation about adherence to Catholic dogma in Portugal appears gratuitous and quite senseless, for the phrase does not at all follow logically from the first two parts of the Secret. Every recognized Fatima scholar concluded from this that the phrase represents the beginning of a third part of the Secretwhat came to be known simply as the Third Secret of Fatima. As we shall see, Lucy was so terrified by its contents that even after she was ordered to write it down in October of 1943, she was unable to do so until the subsequent apparition on January 2, 1944 in which Our Lady assured her that it ought to be done. And yet, to this day, the Vatican has never revealed the words of the Virgin which clearly follow "In Portugal the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved etc." The "etc." remains a secret. This ongoing concealment is a key element of the crime that is the subject of this book.
Having received from Heaven itself a message with obviously profound importance for the Church and all humanity, Lucy knew that she and her cousins needed a divine credential if they were to be believed. During the apparition on July 13, Sister Lucy asked the Lady "to tell us who You are, and to work a miracle, so that everybody will believe that You are appearing to us." And the Lady replied: "Continue to come here every month. In October I will tell you who I am and what I want, and I will perform a miracle for all to see and believe."5 The Lady repeated this promise in further apparitions to Lucy and the other seers on August 19 and again, at the Cova, on September 13.
And so the people had assembled in a great crowd at the Cova on October 13. And at precisely the hour predicted in July12 noon solar time, and 1:30 p.m. by the clock in Portugalit begins. Lucy suddenly tells the people in the crowd to shut their umbrellas in the midst of a drenching rain which has turned the Cova to mud. She then goes into an ecstasy, and the Lady, appearing again, first tells Lucy who She is and what She wants, just as She had promised: "I want a chapel to be built here in My honor. I am the Lady of the Rosary." The Lady is the Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, who will henceforth also be known under the title Our Lady of Fatima, one of many bestowed upon the Blessed Virgin by the Church. The chapel, of course, was built, and then rebuilt after being blown up on March 6, 1922 by a bomb placed there by the friends of the Tinsmith, a nickname for the Masonic mayor of Ourem.6
And then the Miracle began. We recount here the testimony of a reporter who cannot possibly be accused of partiality in this matter and for a good reason! We refer to Avelino de Almeida, the chief editor of O Seculo, the large "liberal" anticlerical and Masonic daily newspaper of Lisbon. He writes:
Attacked violently by all the anticlerical press, Avelino de Almeida renewed his testimony, fifteen days later, in his review, Ilustração Portuguesa. This time he illustrated his account with a dozen photographs of the huge ecstatic crowd, and repeated as a refrain throughout his article: "I saw ... I saw ... I saw." And he concluded fortuitously: "Miracle, as the people shouted? Natural phenomenon, as the experts say? For the moment, that does not concern me, I am only saying what I saw... The rest is a matter for Science and the Church."8
Saturday, October 13 begins for the pilgrims as a walk of penance because it had rained the whole preceding night. Now, this "almost sudden change of weather, with the dusty roads transformed into muddy quagmires by a pelting rain, causing to replace abruptly, for a day, the sweetness of autumn with the biting rigors of winter, did not succeed in moving them, to make them give up or despair."9
In comparing the numerous accounts of witnesses, we can distinguish the diverse aspects and the result of the astounding phenomena seen by all. For each one of the phenomena, it would be possible to line up some ten pages of witnesses which would constitute in themselves an impressive book.
Here is the first marvelous fact described by Dr. Almeida Garrett:
Whereas "the low and heavy sky had a very dark color, laden with moisture, [which] released an abundant and long lasting rain," during the time of the apparition, the rain stopped totally. Abruptly the sky cleared: "The sun triumphantly pierced the thick bed of clouds hiding it until then, and shone intensely." (Dr. Almeida Garrett) This abrupt change of weather took all the eyewitnesses by surprise: "It was a day of heavy and continuous rain. But a few minutes before the miracle, it stopped raining." (Alfredo da Silva Santos)
And this testimony from a physician, a man of science, concerning the inexplicable silvering of the sun, allowing it to be viewed directly without harm to the eyes:
In the same vein this testimony by the editor-in-chief of O Seculo:
And likewise: "The people could look at the sun as we look at the moon." (Maria do Carmo)12
One could multiply endlessly the testimonies about the ensuing solar phenomena, witnessed even by the secular editor-in-chief of an anticlerical newspaper. Consider these:
What happened next constitutes the most terrifying aspect of the Miracle, and one with profound implications for our era, in which man has perfected the ability to destroy the whole world with fire from the sky: the sun appeared to detach itself from the sky and plunge toward the earth.
Another astonishing fact: all those people, who were for the most part soaked to the bone, verified with joy and amazement that they were dry. The fact is attested to in the canonical process for Jacinta and Francisco, who were ultimately beatified on May 13, 2000.
The academician Marques da Cruz testified as follows:
And finally, there were also moral miracles of the conversions of many people. In his book, Meet the Witnesses, John Haffert writes:
A number of other cases of cures and conversions are documented in, among other places, the following books: Documentação Crítica de Fátima and Fatima from the Beginning.35
To those who would say the miracle was a product of "mass hysteria" at the scene, God Himself arranged a ready rebuttal: the phenomenon could be admired from beyond Fatima. Perfectly credible witnesses, who were very far from the Cova da Iria, related having seen the unprecedented spectacle of the dance of the sun, exactly like the 70,000 pilgrims gathered around the holm-oak where the Virgin had appeared.36
In the small village of Alburitel, situated about ten miles from Fatima, the whole town was able to enjoy the vision of the solar prodigy. The testimony frequently quoted is that of Father Inacio Lourenço, because it is the most detailed. But what he relates having seen, all the villagers, questioned by the investigators, confirmed seeing it exactly the same way.
The witnesses of the event were indeed innumerable, their testimonies agree and we are flooded with the documents they have left us.37
In the first place, numerous accounts appeared at once in the Portuguese press. It is noteworthy that the first to provide testimony were the anticlerical reporters. The three articles of Avelino de Almeidathe one of October 13, immediately before the event; the other of October 15, edited at Vila Nova de Ourem on the evening of the 13th; and a third article of October 29merit a special mention. In spite of the jeering tone and Voltarian irony which inspire in part the first article, in spite of the expected anticlerical tones which still appear in the article of the 15th, these texts from a talented reporter, one who besides, is honest and conscientious, are historical documents of prime importance.38 But he was not the only one to relate the facts, for other reporters were present at the Cova da Iria.
Next there were the official investigations. In November 1917, at the request of Bishop de Lima Vidal, who was then directing the diocese of Lisbon, the parish priest of Fatima led his investigation and questioned several witnesses of the parish. Unfortunately, he transcribed only four depositions!
The investigations of the historians fortunately compensated for the negligence of the official investigators. The report of Father Formigao, who obtained from Dr. José Maria de Almeida Garrett, professor at the Faculty of Sciences of Coimbra, a very thorough account, is the most scientific report in our possession.39 In addition, we have the reports of Father da Fonseca (whose work was done in order to verify the points disputed by Father Dhanis,40 who refused to examine the evidence), Father de Marchi, Canon Barthas, Father Dias Coelho and Father Richard.
In 1977, to commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the last apparition, it was still possible to assemble in Fatima more than thirty persons who had been present at the solar prodigy and who could reveal their memories. Thanks to those numerous testimonies, it is possible to reconstruct a precise running commentary, allowing us to relive, hour-by-hour and minute-by-minute, this decisive day, assuredly one of the most important in the history of the world. Indeed, the evidence of the solar miracle on October 13, 1917 was so overwhelming that in 1952 even Hollywood vouched for its authenticity by releasing a classic film (starring Gilbert Roland) entitled "The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima", which is still being sold on videotape today.
Why was this day so important? Because it was the day on which a heavenly Message from the Mother of God was authenticated beyond any reasonable doubt; a message which, more than 84 years later, stands at the heart of the perilous situation of the Church and the world at this very moment in human history, offering us a way out.
1. This chapter is largely taken verbatim from Frère François de Marie des Anges, Fatima: Intimate Joy World Event, Book One, The Astonishing Truth, (English edition, Immaculate Heart Publications, Buffalo, New York, 1993) Chapter III, pp. 163-198.
2. English translation of text in Sister Lucy, "Fourth Memoir", Fatima in Lucias Own Words, (Postulation Centre, Fatima, Portugal, 1976) p. 162. See also Frère Michel de la Sainte Trinité, The Whole Truth About Fatima Volume I: Science and the Facts, (Immaculate Heart Publications, Buffalo, New York, U.S.A., 1989) pp. 181-182.
3. English translation of text in Sister Lucy, "Third Memoir", Fatima in Lucias Own Words, p. 104. See also The Whole Truth About Fatima Volume I, p. 182.
4. English translation of text in Sister Lucy, "Fourth Memoir", Fatima in Lucias Own Words, (Postulation Centre, Fatima, Portugal, 1976) p. 162. See also Sister Lucy, Memorias e Cartas da Irma Lucia, (Porto, Portugal, 1973, edited by Father Antonio Maria Martins) pp. 340-341; in Sister Lucys own handwriting there is no ellipsis after the "etc.". See also Frère Michel de la Sainte Trinité, The Whole Truth About Fatima Volume I: Science and the Facts, p. 182.
5. Frère Michel de la Sainte Trinité, The Whole Truth About Fatima Volume I, pp. 180-181.
6. Frère Michel de la Sainte Trinité, The Whole Truth About Fatima Volume II: The Secret and the Church, (English edition, Immaculate Heart Publications, Buffalo, New York, U.S.A., 1989) pp. 357-358.
7. O Seculo of October 15, 1917.
8. Article of October 29, 1917. See also Frère François de Marie des Anges, Fatima: The Astonishing Truth, p. 164.
9. Ilustração Portuguesa, October 29, 1917.
10. Frère François de Marie des Anges, Fatima: The Astonishing Truth, pp. 171-172.
11. Ibid., pp. 172-173.
12. Ibid., p. 173.
13. Frère Michel de la Sainte Trinité, The Whole Truth About Fatima Volume I, p. 337.
14. Frère François de Marie des Anges, Fatima: The Astonishing Truth, p. 178.
22. Ibid., pp. 178-179.
23. Ibid., p. 179.
24. Frère Michel de la Sainte Trinité, The Whole Truth About Fatima Volume I, p. 337.
25. Ibid., p. 339.
26. Ibid., p. 340.
28. Frère François de Marie des Anges, Fatima: The Astonishing Truth, p. 179.
31. Frère Michel de la Sainte Trinité, The Whole Truth About Fatima Volume I, p. 340. See also Father John de Marchi, I.M.C., Fatima From the Beginning, (Missoes Consolata, Fatima, Portugal, 1981, third edition, first published in 1950) p. 141; and Joseph A. Pelletier, A.A., The Sun Danced at Fatima, (Doubleday, New York, 1983) pp. 129-130.
32. John M. Haffert, Meet the Witnesses, (AMI International Press, Fatima, Portugal, 1961) p. 62. This book was published with an Imprimatur from the Bishop of Leiria, Portugal and provides us with credible direct testimonies of numerous witnesses to the Miracle of the Sun.
33. Ibid., p. 65.
34. Ibid., pp. 86-89.
35. Documentaçáo Crítica de Fátima, Volume II, (Santuário de Fátima, 1999) 17 cases documented on pp. 277-372; and Father John de Marchi, I.M.C., Fatima From the Beginning.
36. Father John de Marchi, I.M.C., Fatima From the Beginning, p. 136. See also Documentaçáo Crítica de Fátima, Volume I, (Santuário de Fátima, 1992) p. 408. See also Frère Michel de la Sainte Trinité, The Whole Truth About Fatima Volume I, pp. 330-331.
37. Among the many reference works, see: Frère Michel de la Sainte Trinité, The Whole Truth About Fatima Volume I: Science and the Facts; John M. Haffert, Meet the Witnesses; Father John de Marchi, I.M.C., Fatima From the Beginning, pp. 135-142.
38. We find the photographic reproduction of those three articles in Fatima 50 of October 13, 1967, pp. 6-10; 14-15.
39. Novos Documentos de Fatima, Loyola editions, Sao Paulo, 1984, pp. 60-63.
40. The modernist Jesuit priest, Father Dhanis, who would later attempt to "debunk" the vision of hell and the prophetic elements of the Message, including the consecration and ultimate conversion of Russia. Father Dhanis refused the invitation of Sister Lucy herself to come to Fatima and study the Fatima archives. Father Dhanis will eventually be cited by key members of the Vatican apparatus in their attempt to revise the Message of Fatima according to a "commentary" published on June 26, 2000.