Miracles in May 1: Miracle of the Sun – Fatima, Portugal, 1917

Continuing from last week’s column, I want to share with you about some different “miracles in our modern times.” Here, I will talk about the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima, Portugal in October of 1917.

May 13 is the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, where we commemorate the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima, Portugal in 1917. She appeared six times from May through October, while nations were entangled in the First World War and the atheistic communist revolution was happening in Russia. She appeared to inspire faith in God, conversion to Christ, and to encourage people to pray for peace in the world.

As Mary appeared each month to the three children, she promised them she would show them a “sign” during her final apparition in October that others might come to believe. Some people believed the children, many were skeptical, but enough people were intrigued by the children’s promise of a miracle that on October 13, 1917, around 70,000 people gathered with the children, to see if their claims of a miraculous sign would prove true. Catholics and atheists, freethinkers and Jews, communists and secularists, all converged to see this purported miracle.

It was a rainy day, and the field where the people gathered was full of mud. Then, right around noon, the rainy sky cleared up, the clouds dispersed and the ground, which had been wet and muddy from the rain, was dried (seemingly in but a few moments). A transparent veil came over the sun, making it easy to look at, and multi-colored lights were strewn across the landscape. The sun then began to spin; twirling in the sky, and at one point appeared to veer toward earth before jumping back to its place in the sky.

People gasped and cried out. Many fell to their knees and began to pray. Some cried out that it was the end of the world. Faithful believers and non-believers alike claimed to see the seemingly miraculous movements of the sun. The stunning miracle was a direct, and very convincing contradiction to the atheistic regimes at the time, which is evidenced by the fact that the first newspaper to report on the miracle on a full front page was an anti-Catholic, Masonic newspaper. The chief editor of this newspaper Avelino de Almeida was himself present at the event and he said that, “outside of all cosmic laws, ‘the sun danced.’”

Duarte, a theologian and director of the Fatima shrine museums, spoke about the cultural significance of the Miracle of the Sun given the atheistic thought prevalent in Portuguese society at the time. The Miracle of the Sun was understood by the people to be “the seal, the guarantee that in fact those three children were telling the truth.” He says that even today, “Fatima makes people change their perception of God,” since “one of the most important messages of the apparitions is that even if man has separated God from his existence, God is present in human history and doesn’t abandon humanity.”


– Fr. Kevin