Here it is. Oct. 13, the big finale, the moment we’ve been waiting for: The 100th anniversary of the climactic end of the Fatima apparitions, the Miracle of the Sun.
It is also an opportunity to bask in the bright glow of a much sunnier Fatima message than we remembered the last two months:
In July 1917, Our Lady of Fatima taught about hell to three shepherd children in Portugal — in an intentional, positive way, yes, but without hiding the gruesome details.
In September, she taught the 7-, 9- and 10- year-olds about penance. If we think that makes her look harsh, we should probably look at ourselves instead, but it was a hard lesson all the same.
In October 1917, she reiterated both those lessons, but presented the world with a dramatically different miracle, proof for her assurance that “in the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.”
In September, she had promised: “In October, I will perform a miracle so that all may believe.”
The miracle, when it came, dazzled some 70,000 who came to see it.
“The sun turned everything to different colors — yellow, blue, and white. Then it shook and trembled. It looked like a wheel of fire that was going to fall on the people,” described Maria de Capelinha, an early Fatima believer. “When at last the sun stopped leaping and moving, we all breathed our relief.”
Even skeptics reported seeing the miracle.
“It must have been nearly 2 o’clock by the legal time, and about midday by the sun,” said Coimbra University’s Dr. Almeida Garrett. “The phenomenon, except for two interruptions when the sun seemed to send out rays of refulgent heat which obliged us to look away, must have lasted about 10 minutes.”
The Miracle of the Sun is a fitting metaphor for all that had come before it. It showed both the might and mercy of God —who can control the sun — and so longs to be reconciled with mankind that he will do tricks with it if he needs to.
The real test of the miracles of Fatima is to watch what came of them.
First, what came of it in the lives of the three shepherd children?
“I loved seeing the angel, but I love seeing Our Lady even more. What I loved most of all was to see Our Lord in that light from Our Lady which penetrated our hearts. I love God so much!” said St. Francisco. In the few years he remained on earth, he would spend long periods of time in the chapel with the “hidden Jesus” in the tabernacle.
Jacinta did the same, and when she was hospitalized at age 9 because of tuberculosis, she was delighted that she could see a church from her window — and prayed to the Eucharistic Jesus from afar. “Oh, how much I love to suffer for love of Our Lord and Our Lady,” said St. Jacinta. “They greatly love those who suffer for the conversion of sinners.”
Lucia spent her lifetime promoting devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and said, “There is no problem, I tell you, no matter how difficult it is, that we cannot resolve by the prayer of the holy rosary.”
The authenticity of their witness was an inspiration to people all over the world, and the story of Fatima helped convince Catholics the world over to console Jesus, pray for the conversion of sinners, and commit themselves to Our Lady.
In the end, the three children of Fatima had more to do with how the world was shaped in the 20th century than just about anyone else.
By canonizing Jacinta and Francisco, Pope Francis has invited each of our families to follow in their footsteps. Here are my suggestions as to how.