The fall of 1917 brought a strange controversy to the newspapers of Portugal. Three small shepherd children in the little village of Fatima claimed that the Blessed Virgin Mary had been appearing to them monthly beginning on May 13 of that year. The supposed appearances had caused much scoffing and ridicule, especially among the communist and anti-Catholic press. But crowds of people had started gathering on the 13th of each month to witness the children praying, listen to their reports of visions, and ask for favors.
The lady had begged the children to pray the rosary and offer sacrifices for world peace. She warned that many souls go to hell because there is no one to sacrifice and pray for them. She also predicted a worse war (World War II) if the world would not repent. Finally, she promised the children there would be a special miracle so that all would believe. The miracle was expected on October 13th.
The prediction of a miracle caused intense speculation all throughout Portugal. Pilgrims gathered from other parts of the country to witness the miracle. Many came barefoot, praying the rosary. But there were also many scoffers, skeptics, and confirmed atheists who came to be eyewitnesses of yet another religious failure. A heavy rainstorm moved through the region the night before. The pilgrims were soaked and the ground was very muddy.
The children arrived and began to pray the rosary. They fell to their knees as the lady appeared to them. Witnesses reported that the sun appeared to fall from the sky. People screamed and tried to flee. The sun then returned back to its place in the sky. It made several trips back and forth, appearing to whirl and dance and give off colors. People 15 to 25 miles away reported seeing the dancing sun. As the sun returned to its spot in the sky, people discovered that the ground was dry and their clothes had not only dried, but “they looked as though they had just come back from the cleaners.” Even the secular newspaper O Seculo affirmed the reports and stood by their article despite harsh criticism.
The children themselves were told to have a chapel built on that spot, to continue to pray the Rosary every day, and that the war would end soon (World War I). They didn’t see the sun dance. Instead they saw Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Our Lady of Sorrows, and St. Joseph holding the Christ Child who blessed the world.
One hundred years later we need repentance and peace as baldly as ever. This apparition reminds us that God desires to bless us. We see the great compassion of Our Lady who wants to steer us away from sin and violence towards repentance and peace. Thousands of people continue to make pilgrimage to this site every year. I urge everyone to respond to Our Lady’s request: pray the rosary daily and offer some small penance for the conversion of sinners. Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us!
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