What happened on October 13th, 1917, that awed 70,000 witnesses? What shows that this was a phenomenon beyond the explanation of science? Truly, the events surrounding this “Miracle of the Sun” attest that this was indeed a miraculous event brought about through the intercession of Our Lady.
In 1917 in Fatima, Portugal, Lucia and her two siblings were out in the fields with their flocks. They were praying the Rosary together, when they suddenly saw “lightning in a clear sky.” As they were beginning to walk home, Lucia saw a lady dressed in white—but surprisingly, her siblings couldn’t see the woman. This was because she had seen a vision Our Lady–Mary, the mother of God.
Our Lady told Lucia to meet her in that same place, at that same time on the thirteenth of each month for the next six months. Lucia and her siblings obeyed, and as people found out about these visions, crowds began to form who followed her to see if these visions were true and to hear what Our Lady would say. In these visions, Mary asked that they would “Say the Rosary every day, to bring peace to the world and an end to the war,” referring to World War I which was currently happening. She also showed them a brief vision of hell, warning them to repent of sin and pray for the conversion of sinners. Furthermore, she even predicted several prophecies which came to pass and caused many miraculous healings through her intercession. These included the healings even of people who were not believers, but who despite being skeptics were healed through the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima (more information can be found at the link provided in the footnotes).
Our Lady first prophesied that, with their prayers, the war would end, and that “many souls will be saved, and there will be peace.” However, she also warned them that “if men do not refrain from offending God, another and more terrible war will begin during the pontificate of Pius XI. When you see a night that is lit by a strange and unknown light [this occurred on January 28, 1938], you will know it is the sign God gives you that He is about to punish the world with war and with hunger, and by the persecution of the Church and the Holy Father.” She was predicting World War II! Furthermore, she said that if they followed her wishes, “Russia will be converted and there will be peace; if not, then Russia will spread her errors throughout the world, bringing new wars and persecution of the Church.” During a time when Russia was still “a weak, agrarian nation suffering from the internal throes of civil war,” this was not an occurrence anyone (especially a young child) would have predicted at the time.
Finally, Mary promised a sign that would confirm the legitimacy of these visions, saying that “In October I will perform a miracle so that all may believe.” On October 13, as Our Lady of the Rosary appeared again to Lucia and to her siblings, the Miracle of the Sun occurred just as the sun was at its zenith. A spectacular occurrence was seen by around 70,000 (seventy-thousand) witnesses, from which we have many eye-witness accounts of the sun described as “dancing” in the sky. At the same time, the three children saw further visions of Mary, Jesus, and Joseph in the sky.
O Seculo, a “pro-government, anti-clerical, Lisbon paper,” reported that “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 colors successively….”
One of these many witnesses, Dr. Almeida Garrett (who has a PhD from Coimbra University), reports in great detail what he observed, describing how one could look at the sun without pain or blindness, and how it did not look like it could have actually been the moon, nor was the sun obscured through fog, nor did it look like a solar eclipse, nor did he think it was “an affection of the retina.”
“This was not the sparkling of a, heavenly body,” he says, “for it spun round on itself in a mad whirl. …. 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.”
He ended this description with the assurance that “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.” Thus, he emphasizes that he was an impartial observer; and yet, by the details he gives, he evidently was unable to give a rational explanation.
Furthermore, this occurrence was also witnessed by many others not even in the vicinity, but who were many miles away. For example, Alfonso Lopes Vieira, who observed from a distance of nearly 25 miles away, reported that “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….” Similarly, Fr. Ignacio Lorenco reported that (back then, when he was just a boy of nine years old), he saw it happen as well. He was at school 11 miles away, where many people outside the school saw it and began to shout and cry. He even describes how “an unbeliever who had spent the morning mocking at the simpletons who had gone off to Fátima just to see an ordinary girl,” was now watching the sun and “seemed to be paralyzed…. Afterwards he trembled from head to foot and lifting up his arms fell on his knees in the mud, crying out to our Lady.”
Evidently, this could not be an occurrence of hallucination, since 70,000 people saw it, many of whom were skeptics or who were miles away. Perhaps science may try to explain it as an optical illusion of some sort—but again, how did so many see it, even miles apart? And even supposing Lucia had any reason to lie (of which I see none, considering she didn’t even want to tell anyone at first, and it was her siblings who let out the secret)—how would she have possibly known, unless the Virgin Mary had told her, that this phenomenon would occur a whole month beforehand, and know what day and what time of day it would occur on? And finally, what of all the other prophesies and healings that went along with these visions?
The more reasonable explanation is that these phenomenon really were beyond the power of man and nature—they were truly miracles. It means that God must have been at work here, that the visions seen and the prophetic words heard by Lucia and her siblings were real. It attests to the truth of the Catholic Faith, which reveres Mary as our spiritual mother and intercessor before God. It means that Our Lady truly appeared there, and she implored us to repent of our sins and pray the Rosary for the conversion of sinners and the peace of our world. Though the World Wars are now over, our world and our country are still just as much in need of prayers for peace and conversion. The message of Fatima will always be relevant and important: calling us to repentance, faith in Jesus Christ, and a relationship with Mary as our spiritual mother and intercessor before God.
God bless and keep you,
 Fr. John de Marchi. “The True Story of Fatima.” EWTN. 1952. https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/library/true-story-of-fatima-5915
 Alan Schreck, The Compact History of the Catholic Church (Cincinnati, OH: Servant, 2009, 120.