THE WHOLE TRUTH ABOUT FATIMA
10. “ The dance of the sun ” (October 13, 1917)
HERE are the facts, briefly recounted by a journalist that nobody could suspect of impartiality in this affair, and with reason ! The man in question is Avelino de Almeida, Editor in Chief of O Seculo, the great “ liberal ”, anticlerical and Masonic daily of Lisbon :
« From the road, where the cars were packed together, and several hundred people had remained, not having had the courage to advance towards the muddy field, one could see the immense multitude turn towards the sun, which appeared at its zenith, coming out of the clouds.
« It resembles a dull silver disc, and it is possible to fix one’s eyes on it without the least damage to the eye. It does not burn the eyes. It does not blind them. One might say that an eclipse was taking place.
« An immense clamour bursts out, and those who are nearer to the crowd hear a shout : “ Miracle ! Miracle ! Prodigy !... Prodigy !... ”
« The attitude of the people takes us back to biblical times. Stupefied and with heads uncovered, they watch the blue sky. Before their dazzled eyes the sun trembled, the sun made unusual and brusque movements, defying all the laws of the cosmos, and according to the typical expression of the peasants, “ the sun danced ”... » 1
Violently challenged by all the anticlerical press, Avelino de Almeida renewed his testimony fifteen days later in his review, Illustraçao Portuguesa. This time, he illustrated his account with a dozen photographs of the immense crowd, in a state of ecstasy, and all through his article he repeated like a refrain : « I saw it... I saw it... I saw it. »
Let us quote his conclusion :
« What did I see at Fatima that was even stranger ? The rain, at an hour announced in advance, ceased falling ; the thick mass of clouds dissolved ; and the sun – a dull silver disc – came into view at its zenith, and began to dance in a violent and convulsive movement, which a great number of witnesses compared to a serpentine dance, because the colours taken on by the surface of the sun were so beautiful and gleaming. »
And our reporter concludes, quite appropriately :
« Miracle, as the people shouted ? A natural phenomenon, as the learned would say ? For the moment, I do not trouble myself with finding out, but only with affirming what I saw... The rest is a matter between Science and the Church. »
FIRST HISTORY, THEN SCIENCE, FINALLY FAITH
This conclusion of the agnostic and positivist journalist we can make our own. It is not a question of saying, « I believe in it ! » or « I don’t believe in it ! » The fact does not belong first to the domain of faith, or even that of science. Before all else it is a historical event, which must be related with the greatest precision, even to its tiniest details. Then, and only then, science or more exactly the rational sciences can consider the facts and judge their natural or supernatural character. And finally, after the results of the scientific examination, the Church must make a pronouncement...
This order in the analysis of the fact by which one passes successively from history to science, and only then to theology and faith, cannot be dispensed with by anybody without confusing the whole process. And this confusion, which is so common, easily leads us to adopt a conclusion which corresponds neither to reality or the facts, nor their rational interpretation, but only to subjective a priori passions and prejudices.
I. THE HISTORY : A PRODIGIOUS, EXTRAORDINARY EVENT
It is easy to relate what happened at the Cova da Iria on October 13 : The witnesses of the event were innumerable, their testimonies agree, and the documents they left us are superabundant. Is a brief summary needed ?
THE HISTORICAL SOURCES
THE CONTEMPORARY PORTUGUESE PRESS. First of all there are the numerous accounts which appeared immediately in the Portuguese press. It is noteworthy that the first publications to bear witness to it were the anticlerical papers. The three articles of Avelina de Almeida, that of October 13, written right after the event, that of the 15th, written the same night at Vila Nova de Ourem, and that of October 29 merit special mention. In spite of the derisive tone and Voltairian irony which in part inspire the first article, in spite of the anticlerical prejudices which still appear in the article of the 15th, these texts of a talented journalist, who was also honest and conscientious, are incomparable historical documents. 2 But he was not the only one to relate the facts, and all through our exposition we will cite the testimony of other journalists present at the Cova da Iria.
THE OFFICIAL INVESTIGATIONS. In November of 1917, at the request of Msgr. Vidal, who was then directing the diocese of Lisbon, the parish priest of Fatima began his inquiry and interrogated several witnesses from the parish. Unfortunately, he wrote down only four depositions... And why ? The other depositions, he explains ingenuously, « were not written down because they add nothing to the preceding ones. » Granted, it is tiring to write down texts which all say the same thing ! But what a pity from the historian’s point of view ! The canonical investigation did complete the documentation, but without assembling the mounds of evidence it was then possible to collect. We will return to this point in Volume II.
THE INVESTIGATIONS OF HISTORIANS. Fortunately, there were more zealous investigators to make up for these negligences. All the first historians of Fatima went to interrogate the witnesses. Father Formigao obtained from Dr. Almeida Garrett, professor of the Faculty of Sciences at Coimbra, the most scientific and detailed account we have of the events. Father da Fonseca went to verify the points disputed by Father Dhanis, 3 then Father de Marchi, Canon Barthas, Father Messias Dias Coelho, Father Richard, and in 1960 John Haffert, who collected the statements of forty witnesses in a book, Meet the Witnesses. 4 In 1967, Father Martins dos Reis devoted a whole new book to the solar phenomenon of October 13. 5
All these successive inquiries conducted by the historians of Fatima resulted in the collation of an impressive number of accounts of the event, which were published during the lifetime of numerous witnesses. Thus they were completely at liberty to publish any corrections, where they were necessary.
In 1977, to commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the last apparition, it was still possible to reunite at Fatima more than thirty persons who had attended the solar prodigy, and who were able to give their testimony once again. 6
REPORTING ON THE EVENTS OF OCTOBER 13. Rather than cite only a few documents at length – it is to be hoped that soon almost all of them will be collected in the great critical work of Father Alonso – we prefer, using extracts from numerous accounts of the witnesses, to reconstruct a precise report which will permit us, hour by hour and minute by minute, to relive this decisive day, which is certainly one of the most important of this century. 7
WAITING FOR THE EVENT
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 12 : THE PILGRIMS ON THE MARCH. To begin with, let us follow the report of Avelino de Almeida, which is particularly vivid and colourful. Having arrived at the train station of Chao de Macas, the director of O Seculo had the annoying surprise of not finding the car which was to take him to Vila Nova de Ourem, where he would spend the night. « The stagecoach has no more room, and all the carts which await the passengers have long been booked. » So courageously, he set out on foot.
« ... On the road (from Chao de Macas to Vila Nova de Ourem), we encounter the first groups which are on their way to the holy place, a good thirteen miles away.
« Men and women are for the most part barefoot, the latter carrying their shoes in bags on their heads, while the men lean on thin sticks and are also prudently armed with umbrellas. Apparently indifferent to what is going on around them, they do not seem to notice the countryside nor their fellow-travellers, but murmur the Rosary as they go along immersed in thought.
« A woman recites the first part of the Ave Maria and immediately her companions continue the second part in chorus. They move rhythmically and rapidly in order to reach the place of the apparitions by nightfall. Here, under the stars they will sleep, keeping the first and best places near the little tree. »
« ... It is only thanks to an extreme favour that we are able to obtain lodgings in Ourem. During the night the most varied types of vehicle have arrived in the square, bringing their loads of the devout and the curious... » 8
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 13 : A PILGRIMAGE OF PENANCE. The whole night it rained. But as the proverb says, « the morning rain does not stop the pilgrim ». « The sudden change in the weather, which allowed the stubborn rain to transform the dusty roads into muddy quagmires, for one day made the gentle autumn give way to the bitterest winter weather. This did not move the crowd, or cause it to give up or lose hope. » 9
« At daybreak fresh groups hurry through the town and the habitual quiet is broken by singing of the most varied kind... At sunrise the weather looks threatening. Black clouds gather right over Fatima but this does not deter the people who by now are flocking in from all sides, employing every means of transport. There are luxurious motor cars travelling at speed, oxcarts pulled in to the side of the road, victorias, closed carriages, carts in which seats are improvised and in which not another soul could be squeezed. Everyone is provided with food both for themselves and for the beasts... valiantly playing their part.
« Here and there one sees a cart decorated with greenery, and although there is an air of discreet festivity people are sober and well-mannered. Donkeys bray at the side of the road and the innumerable cyclists make prodigious efforts not to collide with the carts.
« By ten o’clock the sky was completely hidden behind the clouds and the rain began to fall in earnest. Swept by the strong wind and beating upon the faces of the people, it soaked the macadam and the pilgrims, often without protection against the weather, to the marrow of their bones. But no one complained or turned back, and if some took shelter under trees or walls, the great majority continued on their journey with remarkable indifference to the rain.
AT THE COVA DA IRIA : HOURS OF WAITING... IN THE RAIN. « The place where the Blessed Virgin is alleged to have appeared is fronted to a large extent by the road which leads to Leiria, along which the vehicles that bring the pilgrims are parked. But the great mass of the people congregate round the oak tree which, according to the children, is Our Lady’s pedestal. It can be imagined as the centre of a large circle round which the spectators gather to watch events.
« Seen from the road the general effect is picturesque. The peasants, sheltering under their huge umbrellas, accompany the unloading of fodder with the singing of hymns and the recitation of decades of the Rosary in a matter-of-fact way. People plod through the sticky clay in order to see the famous oak tree with its wooden arch and hanging lanterns, at closer quarters...
« Groups take it in turns to sing the praises of the Virgin, while a terrified hare runs through the crowd and is hardly noticed except by a half a dozen or so of small boys, who catch and beat it to death with sticks... » (O Seculo, October 15 ; De Marchi, p. 130-131).
BETWEEN 50,000 AND 70,0000 WITNESSES
How many people were there at the Cova da Iria ? It is difficult and even impossible to get the exact number. The exact figure does not matter much, for it changes absolutely nothing – neither the reality of the fact, nor the explanation we can give of it. It is only a question of approaching the historical reality as closely as possible.
For this purpose, all we can do is compare the different estimates, trying to discern each one’s degree of credibility. G. de Sede claims that it is the “ incense-bearers ” of Fatima who inflate the number of witnesses each year. 10 Nothing could be more false. For the largest estimate, that of Dr. Almeida Garrett, was proposed a few months after the event. He estimates the spectators at over 100,000. In his article published in O Seculo of October 15, Avelino de Almeida wrote : « This crowd, which unbiased estimates of learned persons, very foreign to mystical influences (sic), place at somewhere between thirty to forty thousand people. » 11 Fifteen days later, he corrected his first estimate : « On October 13, according to the calculations of completely unbiased people, some fifty thousand people were gathered at the moor of Fatima. » 12 A neutral journal, the Primeiro de Janeiro, also estimated the crowd at fifty thousand people. Thus one can say, with near certitude, that this is a minimum figure ; this is why the majority of historians propose that there were probably 70, 000 witnesses in the crowd.
A DIVERSIFIED CROWD. Although « the peasants dominated » the crowd, as Avelino de Almeida noted, the whole population of Portugal was represented at the Cova da Iria. Was such a representative and motley crowd ever seen ? People of all sorts, from all regions of the country, from all social classes and cultural levels, the faithful already certain of witnessing a miracle and the fanatical and sceptical unbelievers, all were side by side, waiting for what would take place, and preparing to observe it as best they could.
« At the moment of the great miracle », notes a Portuguese historian, Leopoldo Nunes, « there were present some of the most illustrious men of letters, in the arts and the sciences, and almost all were unbelievers coming out of simple curiosity, led by the prediction of the seers. » 13 After the account of the event, we will report the reactions of some of them. Even the national Minister of Education for the masonic government was there ! We will analyse his version of events.
Although the great mass of people was composed of the faithful, there were many of the curious and the incredulous. They had come to see, to amuse themselves, and make fun of the credulity of the others ! 14
Finally let us point out that a good number of believers, who were practicing Catholics, were in no way disposed to believe in the apparitions. Among them there were also many who had remained on the road to Leiria, observing the spectacle from afar, well sheltered by their cars, such as Dr. Almeida Garrett, Professor Ferreira Borges or the lawyer Pinto Coelho, to whom we shall return...
THE HOUR APPROACHES...
« The presence of the seers (writes Avelino de Almeida) is announced perhaps a half hour before the moment indicated for the apparition. 15 The little girls, crowned with flowers, are led to the place where the platform has been erected. The rain continues without stopping, but nobody loses hope. Some late-coming wagons arrive on the road. Groups of the faithful kneel in the mud and Lucy asks them, orders them, to shut their umbrellas. The order is transmitted and executed right away, without resistance. » 16
AT NOON, SOLAR TIME... According to the watches it is already almost 1 : 30 p. m. 17 Near the seers, a priest who has spent the whole night there begins to get impatient :
« He asks them what time Our Lady is to appear, recounts Maria Carreira. “ At midday ”, said Lucy. The priest looked at his watch and said : “ Look, it’s midday now ! Our Lady doesn’t lie !.. Well ! Well !... ” After a few minutes he said again : “ It’s past midday. You see, it’s all a delusion ! Run along, all of you !... ”
« But Lucy refused to go and the priest began to push the three children with his hands. Lucy who was nearly crying, said to him : “ If anyone wants to go, they can go. I shall stay where I am. Our Lady said She would come. She came the other times and She will come this time, too ! ”
« At the same time she looked to the east and said to Jacinta : “ Jacinta, kneel down ; Our Lady is coming. I saw the lightning ! ”
« The priest didn’t say another word and I never saw him again ! » 18
THE SERIES OF MARVELLOUS PHENOMENA
In comparing the numerous accounts of the witnesses, we can distinguish fairly well the various aspects and order of the stupefying phenomena observed by all. 19 For this analysis, which attempts to reconstruct the picture of the events in their various phases, we generally follow the account of Dr. Almeida Garrett, professor of the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Coimbra. This account is the work of a learned person used to making subtle and precise observations, which he expresses with perfect clarity. 20
I. AT THE MOMENT OF THE APPARITION : A COLUMN OF CLOUD
Here is the first marvellous fact observed by Dr. Almeida Garrett : « It must have been about one-thirty by the legal time and about midday by the sun, when on the very spot where the children were, a fine, slender, bluish column of smoke rose straight up to about six feet above their heads, and vanished at this height. This phenomenon, which was perfectly visible to the naked eye, lasted a few seconds. Not having kept track of the time, I could not say whether it was less than a minute or longer. The smoke suddenly disappeared, and a few moments later the phenomenon took place a second and then a third time. All three times, and especially the last one, the beams went up and clearly disappeared in the grey atmosphere.
« I looked in that direction with my glasses. I was not able to see anything except the columns of smoke, but I remained convinced that they were produced by some censer, with incense inside it being swung. Then some people worthy of faith told me that this phenomenon was a regular occurrence on the 13th of the five previous months, and that nobody had made any fire, either this time or the others. » 21
The professor said at the beginning of his account that he was only a little more than a hundred yards from the holm oak. Thus he was well placed to observe everything with precision.
II. THE SUDDEN STOPPING OF THE RAIN
Although there had been a steady rain all morning, during the apparition the rain totally stopped, and suddenly the sky cleared.
« The sky, which had been overcast all day, suddenly clears up ; the rain stops and it looks like the sun is about to fill with light the countryside that the wintry morning had made so gloomy... » 22
This sudden change in the weather surprised all the witnesses : « It was a rainy day, with a thin but steady rainfall. But a few minutes before the miracle, it stopped raining. » 23 « The rain suddenly stopped. » (Dr. Pereira Gens) « At this moment, I got out of the car, and as I extended my hand to my wife to help her step out, suddenly all the clouds disappeared without the slightest breeze, and the sun was shining in a clear sky. » (Professor Ferreira Borges). 24
The crowd is waiting expectantly. The believers think the promised miracle is about to happen :
« The miraculous demonstration, the visible sign that had been announced is about to take place, many of the pilgrims said. » 25 Meanwhile the chilly spectators were getting impatient : « ... I was looking at the spot of the apparitions », writes Dr. Almeida Garrett, « in a serene, if cold, expectation of something happening and with diminishing curiosity because a long time had passed without anything to excite my attention...
« The sun, a few moments before, had broken through the thick layer of clouds which hid it and shone clearly and intensely. » 26
III. THE VISION OF THE SUN
« Suddenly I heard a shout from thousands of voices and saw the multitude which straggled out at my feet, here and there concentrated in small groups round the trees, suddenly turn its back and shoulders away from the point towards which up to now it had directed its attention, and turn to look at the sky on the opposite side.
« Then they saw a unique spectacle », remarks the reporter from O Seculo, « an unbelievable spectacle for anyone who did not witness it. From the road... one could see the immense multitude turn towards the sun, which appeared free from clouds and in its zenith.
« It resembles a dull silver disc, and it is possible to look at it without the least discomfort. It might have been an eclipse which was taking place. » 27
Dr. Almeida Garrett, who observed things more keenly, sought to express with minute precision what his eyes saw :
« I veered to the magnet which seemed to be drawing all eyes and saw it as a disc with a clean-cut rim, luminous and shining, but which did not hurt the eyes.
« I do not agree with the comparison which I have heard made in Fatima – that of a dull silver disc. It was a clearer, richer, brighter colour, having something of the lustre of a pearl.
« It did not in the least resemble the moon on a clear night because one saw it and felt it to be a living body. It was not spherical like the moon. It looked like a glazed wheel made of mother-of-pearl...
« It could not be confused, either, with the sun seen through fog (for there was no fog at the time), because it was not opaque, diffused or veiled. In Fatima it gave light and heat and appeared clear-cut with a well-defined rim.
« The sky was mottled with light cirrus clouds with the blue coming through here and there but sometimes the sun stood out in patches of clear sky. The clouds passed from west to east and did not obscure the light of the sun, giving the impression of passing behind it, though sometimes these flecks of white took on tones of pink or diaphanous blue as they passed before the sun.
« It was a remarkable fact that one could fix one’s eyes on this brazier of light and heat without any pain in the eyes or blinding of the retina.
« 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 ten minutes. » 28
Ti Marto, who left us a brief account of the event, which is particularly remarkable for the precision of his observations, also declared : « What was the most extraordinary was that the sun did not hurt our eyes at all. » 29
IV. THE THREEFOLD DANCE OF THE SUN
Suddenly the sun began trembling, shaking with sudden movements, finally turning over upon itself with dizzying quickness, spraying out rays of light of all the colours of the rainbow. Let the witnesses speak :
« The sun trembled, the sun made sudden incredible movements outside all cosmic laws – the sun “ danced ” according to the typical expression of the people. » 30
« It shook and trembled ; it seemed like a wheel of fire. » (Maria da Capelinha). This expression is found in many accounts.
« ... It spun like a firewheel, taking on all the colours of the rainbow. » 31 It looked « like a ball of snow, revolving upon itself. » (Father Lourenço). « The sun’s disc did not remain immobile. This was not the sparkling of a heavenly body, for it spun round upon itself in a mad whirl. » (Dr. Almeida Garrett).
« Suddenly », wrote Father Pereira da Silva in a letter sent the very evening of October 13, « the sun appeared with its circumference well-defined. It came down as if to the height of the clouds and began to whirl giddily upon itself like a captive ball of fire. With some interruptions, this lasted about eight minutes. » 32
Many witnesses mention these interruptions. Ti Marto relates with precision :
« At a certain moment the sun seemed to stop and then began to move and dance. » 33 « However, the sun stops, only to begin its strange dance all over again after a brief interruption, whirling upon itself, giving the impression of approaching or receding. » (Dr. Pereira Gens of Batalha. At the time he was a student at Coimbra.) 34
Thus the “ dance of the sun ” that thousands of witnesses affirmed they saw, was actually repeated three times.
V. « ALL THE COLOURS OF THE RAINBOW »
First let us listen to the description of Dr. Almeida Garrett :
« During the solar phenomenon, which I have just described in detail, there were changes of colour in the atmosphere. Looking at the sun, I noticed that everything was becoming darkened. I looked first at the nearest objects and then extended my glance further afield as far as the horizon. I saw everything an amethyst colour. Objects around me, the sky and the atmosphere, were of the same colour. An oak tree nearby threw a shadow of this colour on the ground. Soon I heard a peasant who was near me shout out in tones of stupefaction : “ Look, that lady is all yellow ! ” And in fact everything both near and far had changed, taking on the colour of old yellow damask. People looked as if they were suffering from jaundice and I recall a sensation of amusement at seeing them look so ugly and unattractive. My own hand was the same colour. 35
« The sun produced different colours : yellow, blue, white... », reports Maria da Capelinha. 36 Maria do Carmo recalls : « The sun took on all the colours of the rainbow. Everything took on the same colours : our faces, our clothes, the earth itself. » 37 « A light whose colour varies from one moment to the next is reflected on persons and things », notes Dr. Pereira Gens. Ti Marto : The sun « shot rays in different directions and painted everything in different colours. » 38
A witness from Alburitel, Father Inacio Lourenço, points out that objects took on different colours depending on their location : « Objects around us turned all the colours of the rainbow. We saw ourselves blue, yellow, red... » 39
VI. THE FALLING OF THE SUN : « THE SUN SEEMED TO FALL TO THE GROUND »
« Then, suddenly », relates Almeida Garrett, « one heard a clamour, a cry of anguish breaking from all the people. 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. » 40
« The sun... began to move and dance until it seemed that it was being detached from the sky and was falling on us. It was a terrible moment ! » (Ti Marto). 41 « It seemed like a wheel of fire which was going to fall on the people. » (Maria da Capelinha). Alfredo da Silva Santos : « The sun began to move and at a certain moment appeared to be detached from the sky and about to hurtle upon us like a wheel of flame. » 42 « It suddenly seemed to come down in a zigzag, menacing the earth », recalls Father Lourenço. 43
Seeing this unanimity, it is easy to see why Father da Fonseca had no great difficulty refuting the minimizing allegations of Father Dhanis. Among others, he cites the very interesting witness of Baron de Alvaiazere, 44 whom Canon Barthas in turn went to interrogate :
« The sun at its zenith whirled upon itself ; it detached itself in descending towards the right, all the while whirling with sudden movements never seen before, to the right and the left ; having almost arrived at the horizon line, it went back up to the zenith on the left, tracing a sort of winding ellipse as it went. » 45
The spectators had the irresistible impression that the sun was going to fall on them : « It threatens to fall on us » (Dr. Pereira Gens) ; « Seeing the sun falling on us... » (Father John Gomes Menitra) ; « ... giving us the impression that it was about to fall on us » (Mario Godinho). 46 It was such a terrible moment that several people fainted.
« Finally, the sun stopped and everybody breathed a sigh of relief... » recalls Maria da Capelinha. 47
VII. « EVERYBODY’S CLOTHES WERE DRY »
A last astonishing fact : all these people, who were for the most part soaked to the bone, noticed with joy and stupefaction that they were dry. The fact is attested in the canonical process, and the academician Marques da Cruz made a personal inquiry on the subject. He writes :
« This enormous multitude was drenched, for it had rained unceasingly since dawn. But – though this may appear incredible – after the great miracle everyone felt comfortable, and found his garments quite dry, a subject of general wonder... The truth of this fact has been guaranteed with the greatest sincerity by dozens and dozens of persons of absolute trustworthiness, whom I have known intimately from childhood, and who are still alive (1937), as well as by persons from various districts of the country who were present. » 48
Sister Lucy herself, who was absorbed in her ecstasy, was not aware of any of this, and did not even think of pointing out this fact. She declared to Canon Barthas : « However, some nuns of my congregation, who were still in the world and were at Fatima that day, assured me of the reality of the phenomenon. » 49
How can we explain this fact ? The account of Dr. Pereira Gens gives us a glimpse into the answer :
« ... It continues to rain so strongly that in spite of our umbrellas, nobody has a stitch of dry clothing left... The rain suddenly stops, the clouds split open, and the sun is visible in all its splendour. Our clothes are wet and our bodies cold ; I still remember the delicious sensation that this warm caress of the sun gave me... » And after mentioning the dance of the sun, he continues : « Although it is true that the luminosity of the sun was diminished, its warmth lost none of its power. I feel my clothes almost dry now, although they were all wet only a few moments ago. » 50
In A Ordem, Pinto Coelho made an analogous remark : « The sun seemed... to be loosened from the sky and to be approaching the earth, strongly radiating heat. » 51 « We felt the heat as though we had entered an overheated steam-room », remarked Maria de Vieira Campos. 52
VIII. THE VISION OF THE SOLAR PRODIGY AT A DISTANCE
A marvellous fact is that the phenomenon could be admired as far as two or three miles from Fatima. There are even perfectly credible witnesses who were much further away from the Cova da Iria, who related how they had seen the unheard of spectacle of the dance of the sun, exactly as did the thousands of pilgrims gathered around the holm oak of the apparition.
AT SAO PEDRO DE MUEL. At a distance of about twenty-five miles from Fatima, while he was on the veranda of his summer home next to the ocean, at Sao Pedro de Muel, the poet Alfonso Lopes Vieira was suddenly surprised by a most unusual spectacle :
« On that day, October 13, 1917, 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. »
All his relatives witnessed it with him. 53
THE VILLAGE OF ALBURITEL. In the village of Alburitel, the whole population enjoyed the vision of the solar prodigy. The testimony most often cited is that of Father Inacio Lourenço, because it is the most detailed. But all the good villagers, when questioned by the historians, confirmed that they saw the same things he saw, and in exactly the same manner.
« I was only nine years old at this time, and I went to the local village school (about 12 miles from Fatima)...
« At about midday we were surprised by the shouts and cries of some men and women who were passing in the street in front of the school. The teacher, a good, pious woman, though nervous and impressionable, was the first to run into the road, with the children after her. Outside, the people were shouting and weeping and pointing to the sun, ignoring the questions of the schoolmistress.
« It was the great miracle, which one could see quite distinctly from the top of the hill where my village was situated...
« I feel incapable of describing what I saw and felt. I looked fixedly at the sun, which seemed pale and did not hurt the eyes. Looking like a ball of snow revolving upon itself, it suddenly seemed to come down in a zigzag, menacing the earth. Terrified, I ran and hid myself among the people, who were weeping and expecting the end of the world at any moment.
« During those long moments of the solar prodigy, objects around us turned all the colours of the rainbow... » 54
When interrogated by successive investigators, numerous other witnesses gave a similar version : the teacher herself, Delfina Pereira Lopes, her daughter Myriam, who became Sister Maria do Carmo, Father Joaquim Lourenço (the brother of Father Inacio), etc. Even more so than for the Cova da Iria, it was a simple matter for any historian to take down their witness on the pot, and verify with precision the accounts which had been published.
UNQUESTIONABLE HISTORICAL FACTS
These are the facts, which were seen and felt by over fifty thousand witnesses, all of whom watched the same spectacle. To a rationalist friend, profoundly troubled by the stupefying phenomena he had observed at the Cova da Iria and trying to find out what his innermost convictions were, Avelino de Almeida replied frankly : « Assuredly, our eyes and our ears could not have seen and heard different things. » 55
It is important to stress that, regardless of what interpretation is put on it, the solar prodigy of Fatima is an unquestionable fact, a solidly established historical event. It is more solidly established than the mass of facts firmly maintained by history, that it would never occur to anybody to suspect. For it must be said that the historical events equally well attested by such a host of witnesses are exceedingly rare !
What remains now is to try to propose an adequate explanation for these phenomena, the like of which have never been found in all the annals of history. But this belongs to another order and other disciplines. Once history has established the reality of the facts, it is for science to propose solutions.
« All the phenomena which I have described (writes Dr. Almeida Garrett), 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. Finally, I must declare that never, either before or after October 13, have I observed similar atmospheric or solar phenomena. » 56 Avelino de Almeida notes for his part, after pointing out the unanimity of the witnesses : « It is no less certain that rare are those who remain insensible to the greatness of such a spectacle, which is certainly unique, and in every respect worthy of meditation and study... » 57
II. SCIENCE : AN UNQUESTIONABLE MIRACLE
Since it is a question of cosmic or atmospheric phenomena, would the natural sciences have some explanations to propose ? Can the disturbing events observed at the Cova da Iria be explained by the ordinary laws of astronomy or meteorology ?
I. THE NATURAL SCIENCES : AN EXTRAORDINARY PHENOMENON
THE OPINION OF AN ASTRONOMER. « What should we think of the cosmic phenomena that thousands of people say they saw at Fatima ? » Such is the question the paper O Seculo posed for the director of the Observatory of Lisbon, Mr. Frederick Oom.
« The illustrious astronomer had the kindness to give us the following response », we read in O Seculo on October 18 : « “ Had it been a cosmic phenomenon, the observatories would not have failed to register it. And this is precisely what is lacking, this inevitable notation of all disturbance in the solar system, however small. Since then... ” » 58
Let us save for later the end of our quotation, which no longer falls within the scope of a competent opinion of a scientist. Moreover, there was hardly any need to consult the Faculty to realize that the sun had not really budged, and that nothing had been disturbed in its regular movement of rotation and revolution ! If it had really approached the earth, as thousands of spectators had the terrifying impression it did, it would have been the end of the world and our planet would have disappeared instantly in the great conflagration announced by St. Peter for the day of the final Parousia : « In that day, the heavens will be kindled and dissolved, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up. » (2 Pet. 3 : 10)
In this sense, the verdict of the astronomer is incontestable : the solar prodigy of Fatima does not belong to his discipline.
A METEOROLOGICAL EXPLANATION. Was it then a simple atmospheric phenomenon, in conformity with the natural interplay of meteorological laws ? No again ! For never has any phenomenon been observed even remotely comparable to what happened at the Cova da Iria.
How can it be maintained that this « thin, subtle and bluish column of smoke », which went up three times in a row in front of the holm oak before completely disappearing, was a simple natural phenomenon ? As for any hypothesis based on fraud, it is practically untenable, given the attentive presence of a crowd of witnesses, many of whom had been present on the spot of the apparitions since the night before.
And then especially, how could we reduce to ordinary phenomena the simple fact that the crowd could stare at the sun for ten minutes without any protection while the sun itself, according to the unanimous word of the witnesses, appeared in a perfectly clear sky, where the clouds had disappeared and there was no fog ? The photographs are the proof of it : we find hardly anybody protecting their eyes with their hands. They look at the sun, in an ecstasy.
And finally, how can we explain by the laws of meteorology the incredible spectacle of the threefold dance of the sun in broad daylight, projecting streams of light of all the colours of the rainbow on everything, then whirling upon itself like a wheel of fire before descending in a zigzag towards the earth, threatening to crush it with its fiery mass ? Has any plausible natural explanation been proposed for this unheard of spectacle ? No, not ever. At least, not one that explains all the facts. For it is easy to explain a fact by totally distorting it, reconstructing events at will, without taking reality into account.
The conclusion can be stated in a single sentence. And to contest it rationally, one would have to be able to contribute facts, arguments and solid hypotheses to the dossier : The solar prodigy of Fatima cannot be explained by the simple interplay of natural forces, and the laws regulating their natural course are ill-suited to account for it.
Does this mean that the natural sciences cannot study this event and that the phenomenon necessarily and entirely eludes their grasp ? This is not certain. And at the end of our investigation we will see how important a role remains for them in any event. But we must not get ahead of ourselves...
II. PSYCHOLOGY : AN OBJECTIVE PHENOMENON
Let us go on with the “ scientific ” article from O Seculo. Our astronomer, observing that the solar phenomenon of Fatima was « completely foreign to the branch of science he practiced », could not content himself with stopping at this completely negative response : « So », the journalist replied, « was it a phenomenon of a psychological nature ? » The astronomer answered, « Why not ? No doubt it was the effect of a collective suggestion. » 58a
A PERSISTENT MYTH : “ COLLECTIVE HALLUCINATION ”. From October 13, 1917 until our own day, “ collective hallucination ” has been the only solution continually repeated by intellectuals of all persuasions, atheists, agnostics, liberals or modernists. This allows them to reassure themselves, giving the phenomena of Fatima only a distracted or contemptuous attention. The cause has been judged, it is obviously some sort of “ collective hallucination ” ! Hey presto !
From André Lorulot to Gerard de Sede, not to mention Father Jacquemet, the learned editor of, the encyclopaedia Catholicism – and we could prolong the list almost indefinitely – they are all on the same wavelength, maintaining the same thesis imperturbably expressed by Henri Fesquet : « Undoubtedly it is some sort of optical illusion, resulting from the psychology of a crowd expecting a miracle. » 59
The impressive unanimity in favour of this one hypothesis leads us to seriously pose the question : what is this “ collective hallucination ” that everybody speaks about... and nobody ever defines ?
WHAT IS A “ COLLECTIVE HALLUCINATION ” ? It is very difficult to get a good idea of what is meant by “ collective hallucination ”, because the psychology manuals are remarkably quiet on this point. A psychiatrist friend writes to us : « No manual of psychology treats this question in a serious manner. » As a matter of fact, in the monumental treatise on hallucinations by the great specialist, Henry Ey (1543 pages !), 60 not a single chapter deals with this question.
On the contrary, the « four directing ideas » which are developed in the course of the work show that the notion of “ collective hallucination ”, as it is commonly employed (and notably to furnish a natural explanation of the phenomena of Fatima), does not correspond to any genuine scientific fact.
To have a hallucination is « to take as objectively true something which does not exist as an object ». 61 In other words, it is to believe in the objective existence of purely imaginary beings. The author demonstrates that this disorder does not happen to just anybody, anywhere. Four « directing ideas » are the framework of his thesis :
1. The hallucination cannot be the effect merely « of a neuro-sensorial excitation ».
2. « The hallucinatory apparition is not and cannot be merely the projection of an emotion, albeit unconscious... It requires another dimension, that of a defect or breach in the system of reality. »
3. « The hallucination can only appear where there is a “ psychic disorganization ”, or “ disorganization of the psycho-sensorial systems ”. »
4. In short, « hallucination is a pathological phenomenon ». 62 « Hallucination is always the effect either of troubles in the perceptive functions, or of the destruction of the conscious being. » 63
The conclusion is that the hallucinator is always a sick person.
If the solar prodigy of Fatima were to be explained by hallucination, it would amount to saying that the fifty or sixty thousand witnesses were all, without exception, mentally ill !
But, it will be said, here the “ mental contagion ” intervenes, by which only one hallucinator can transmit his error to a whole crowd... This is a new and completely gratuitous affirmation, without any scientific foundation. Apart from the case of drug addicts who together absorb the same hallucinogenic drugs, the common notion of “ collective hallucination ” does not correspond to any experimental reality.
Those who use this notion to rid themselves of the disturbing problem posed by Fatima are incapable of citing a single authentic example where such a “ collective hallucination ” took place, even for a few dozen persons. And yet since Gustave Le Bon, who was the first to propound this nonsense (in 1896 !), this thesis continues to be used shamelessly as if, since then, all the solid acquisitions of science had not shown the inanity of his thesis. 64 Why such stubbornness in treating such a hoary myth so respectfully ? Because it is the one thing that the rationalist in difficulty can always trot out... It is his final recourse, a real anti-miracle panacea !
THE SOLAR PRODIGY : “ AN ILLUSORY COLLECTIVE VISION ”. Such is the solution proposed by Gerard de Sede in 1977. Here are his exact words :
« We are familiar enough with the kind of subjective logic obeyed by what we can call the psychology of the witness : first one wishes he had seen, then one believes he has seen, and finally one says that he has seen. In this way, not having witnessed the promised apparition of the Holy Family, many people affirmed in compensation that they saw the sun change its colour and dance, in defiance of the inflexible laws of celestial motion. » 65
And that is all ! In this alone consists the rationalist explanation of the solar phenomenon of Fatima.
It is clear, and simple, but worthless for two reasons. First of all because the psychological law that it formulates is a pure invention : no normal witness lets himself be prompted in this way ! And also, because this law, although a complete fabrication, does not even apply to the phenomena it claims to explain. To do so the author is forced to distort the facts, or to miserably ignore them.
LONG-DISTANCE WITNESSES. Why, for example, does he not say a word about the village of Alburitel, more than nine miles from Fatima, where the whole population, which was not expecting anything, witnessed at the same moment exactly the same unusual phenomena ?
THE TESTIMONY OF THE UNBELIEVERS. Moreover, even at Fatima, how can we maintain without a brazen lie that everyone was expecting a miracle or the apparition of the Holy Family ? For it is a historical fact that numerous unbelievers were there, and numerous sectarians had come with the express purpose of shouting on the rooftops to everybody that they had seen nothing ! Now, even the curious, such as the editor of O Seculo – for that matter, why does G. de Sede not cite his witness ? – or the fanatics who passionately desired to see nothing, were obliged to confess that something had taken place.
On the evening of the 13th, Avelino de Almeida concluded his article by stressing that « free thinkers and other persons not overly concerned with religious matters » were « naturally impressed » by what they had seen. The typical example of these unbelievers who were shaken in their convictions is the Mayor of Santarem, Antonio de Bastos, who was so troubled that he wrote to his friend Avelino de Almeida to learn his innermost thoughts on the matter. The journalist answered him by his article in the Illustraçao Portuguesa.
We could easily quote the witness of Mario Godinho, this young engineer who was totally incredulous, and shaken up by the event ; and for that matter, here is the testimony of the Baron of Alvaiazere, which is very indicative of the mentality of the majority of learned people at that time :
« Having come to Fatima, purely for a diversion (he declared before the commission of inquiry), considering everything I had heard on the apparitions to be just a joke, I met several friends there. I began making comments on the events in an ironic tone to the point where I antagonized several of them who thought otherwise.
« I was prepared to keep an open mind, regardless of what happened. I recalled this principle of Gustave Le Bon, which says that the individual influenced by a group cannot escape the hypnotic current that dominates it. And I took precautions not to let myself be influenced. In this state of mind, I witnessed the solar phenomenon. » He finishes his account by declaring : « I only know that I shouted : “ I believe ! I believe ! I believe ! ” and that tears fell from my eyes. I was in a state of wonder, in ecstasy before this manifestation of the Divine Power. » 66
As for the testimony of the national Education Minister, Antonio Sergio, quoted by G. de Sede, here it is :
« When the sun appeared, there were light clouds that gathered around it and which, under the effect of the storm, were driven by gyratory movements that had nothing astonishing about them. » 67
The storm ? No other witness mentions it. But if the minister saw clouds “ driven by gyratory movements ”, that is hardly a banal phenomenon ! As for explaining the whole phenomenon by the presence of “ clouds gathered around the sun ”, that would be affirming a phenomenon still more marvellous than the one related by the 70,000 normal witnesses ! The sun would have had to descend very low indeed for the clouds to be able to be hooked around it in this way ! In short, our witness, blinded by his passion, pathetically begins talking nonsense and his clumsy explanations betray him. He saw everything like the others, but his principles and his function do not allow him to admit it.
THE BELIEVERS ARE CREDIBLE WITNESSES. There is more. If by preference we invoke the statements of the sceptics as ad hominem arguments, it is very doubtful that their testimony is more credible than that of the believers.
The best proof that the immense capacity for autosuggestion attributed to them is a pure invention, is found in the fact that on September 13, Ti Marto himself or his spouse Olimpia, Maria Rosa or Carlos Mendes, Father Formigao or Father da Silva, etc, declared that they saw nothing, while the enthusiastic crowd around them described what it had seen !
A MIRACLE THAT WAS WAITED FOR, BUT UNFORESEEN AND UNFORESEEABLE. Let us recall finally that, although the faithful knew in advance the moment of the miracle, none of them could have guessed what its nature would be. Instead they envisioned a sudden end to the war, or an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Herself. 68 What is certain is that none of the 70,000 witnesses could have imagined in advance the stupefying dance of the sun that everybody witnessed.
CONCLUSION : AN OBJECTIVE, LUMINOUS PHENOMENON. The conclusion is firm, unquestionable : the solar prodigy of Fatima cannot be accounted for by any psychological explanation without a total blindness or flagrant bad faith. In no case can it be a question of subjective phantasms, imagined simultaneously by 70,000 witnesses, all of whom were the victims of illusion, autosuggestion, or hallucination ! To affirm that is senseless and simply absurd.
It is reasonable to think that it was a concrete reality, a luminous atmospheric phenomenon which was perfectly objective, that was noticed by all 69 and came normally into the course of their ordinary perceptions.
What then can the explanation be, what could have been the cause ? Psychology cannot tell us any more than the natural sciences. They must give way to the highest rational science, which goes back to the creative First Cause...
III. METAPHYSICAL REASONING : THE WORK OF PROVIDENCE
If the extraordinary, supernatural character of the solar prodigy reasonably implies the intervention of the creative Cause, another very simple fact, which is independent of the first one, demonstrates it luminously and in all certitude : the solar prodigy was announced three months in advance by the three little shepherds of Aljustrel, while humanly speaking it could not have been foreseen.
THE PROPHECY OF THE EVENT. Indeed since July 13, the seers had announced that Our Lady had promised : « In October, I will work a miracle so that all may see and believe. » She repeated it on August 19 and September 13. This prophecy is also a certain historical fact.
Now, another indisputable fact is that all the atmospheric phenomena of October 13 unfolded in close connection with the apparition : it is above the holm oak that the mysterious cloud appeared. It is at an hour announced in advance that the rain suddenly stopped falling. « The rain stopped as if by magic », 70 a witness wrote. And finally, it was at the precise moment when Lucy, turning around, shouted to the crowd, « Look at the sun ! » that the sun became abnormally visible, whirled upon itself, and danced, before appearing to be about to crush the earth by its frightening fall.
This exact, perfect coincidence between the words of the little seer and the reality of the grandiose physical phenomena, observed by the whole crowd, demands an explanation. G. de Sede, not being able to supply one, preferred... to omit the prophecy in his account of the apparition of July 13 ! 71 What an admission !
The only rational response, which common sense also spontaneously finds, and which the highest metaphysical wisdom affirms with certitude, is however easy : it is the same sovereign Intelligence, the same all-powerful Spirit that worked the marvellous prodigy and announced it three months in advance to the humble shepherds. To affirm it is no longer making an act of faith, it is giving the only explanation of the event that is fully rational, and really scientific. Never has anybody been able – or will be able ! – to propose another. For regardless of whatever wonderful progress they may make in the future, the natural sciences will never be able to explain... a prophecy. “ That belongs to another order ”, as Pascal might have said. 72
IV. THEOLOGY : A STRIKING MIRACLE
As for the discernment of spirits – for God sometimes permits the evil Spirit to work prodigies – this is a task of theological science. Is it God or the Devil that is manifesting himself by extraordinary phenomena ? Theology must decide the question.
In the case of Fatima the conclusion is easy ! For in all the circumstances surrounding the extraordinary events at the Cova da Iria, none appears contrary to the doctrine of the Church, or its morals, or is otherwise unfitting. On the contrary... The calm, the exemplary piety, the courage of this innumerable crowd, its perfect order, won the admiration of the journalists. 73
A MIRACLE GUARANTEED BY THE CHURCH. Henri Fesquet, blindly repeating the article of Father Jacquemet, writes perfidiously :
« The Church refused to decide in favour of the solar prodigy which is claimed to have taken place on October 13... (sic) Let us note that the Bishop of Leiria discreetly ignored this part of the events of Fatima. » 74
This is false ! But neither Henri Fesquet nor Father Jacquemet took the trouble to read the letter A Divina Providencia of October 13, 1930, which proclaimed the Church’s recognition of the authenticity of the Fatima apparitions. Although there is no mention of the solar prodigy in the few lines of the canonical formula where the Bishop of Leiria « declares the visions of the children worthy of belief » and « officially authorizes the cult of Our Lady of Fatima », in the same letter Bishop da Silva explicitly mentions the solar prodigy and affirms its miraculous character very clearly :
« The solar phenomenon of October 13 was the most marvellous of all, and made the greatest impression on all those who had the good fortune to witness it... And this crowd witnessed all the manifestations of the sun which paid homage to the Queen of Heaven and earth. This solar phenomenon... which was not natural, etc. » 75
By the voice of the Bishop of Leiria, the authority of the Church solemnly confirmed the unanimous sentiment of the Portuguese people, formulated by the multitude at the very moment of the prodigy : « Miracle ! Miracle !... Marvel ! Marvel ! »
III. FAITH : « A SPECTACULAR SIGN »
« We have seen the Sign of God ! We have seen the Sign of God ! » exclaimed the enthusiastic pilgrims, spontaneously using the most exact biblical term, which also evokes the mysterious prophecy of the Apocalypse : « Signum magnum apparuit in coelo... A great sign appeared in Heaven ! » 76 (Apoc. 12 : 1)
What was the meaning of the prodigious miracle ? All recognized it, even at that very moment, as a marvellous manifestation of God the Creator, a visible proof of His existence and greatness.
I. THE SIGN OF GOD : TRIUMPH OF THE FAITH
“ THE HEAVENS PROCLAIM THE GLORY OF GOD ”. The miracle was a dazzling spectacle of radiant beauty. The description given by Madalena de Martel Patricio, a journalist, witnesses to it eloquently :
« A cry went up from every mouth. Thousands of God’s creatures, transported by faith to Heaven, fell on their knees on the sodden ground...
« The light turned a beautiful blue as if it had come through the stained-glass windows of a cathedral and spread itself over the people who knelt with outstretched hands. The blue faded slowly and then the light seemed to pass through yellow glass.
« People wept and prayed with uncovered heads in the presence of a miracle they had awaited. The seconds seemed like hours, so vivid were they. » 77
Another witness recalled simply : « I was very happy, because it was very beautiful. » 78
“ GOD IS GREAT ! ” « “ What did you think at the moment of the miracle ? ” Ti Marto was asked. “ What did I think ? That it was the power of God ! ” “ And now, what do you think ? ” “ I think the same thing : how God is great ! ” » 79 The Sign expected and observed by all was before all else this striking manifestation of the Divine Omnipotence : God allowed a glimpse of His Glory to be seen, showing that He is the Creator of the cosmos and its Sovereign Lord. At that moment, there was nothing more to be done than to kneel in the mud, join one’s hands, and adore His Majesty.
This is what almost all the pilgrims did spontaneously. But not all. And history relates to us the movements of just indignation and scandal of some zealous witnesses, confronted with the stupid or proud inertia of some rebellious souls :
« Perched on the steps of the Torres Novas bus, an old man... with a gentle and energetic face, recites the Credo in a loud voice, turned towards the sun... Then I saw him address those around him who left their hats on. He vehemently requested that they take their hats off before such an extraordinary demonstration of the existence of God.
« Identical scenes took place in other places. A lady cried out in tears, as if suffocated with emotion : “ What a pity ! There are still men who do not uncover themselves before such a stupefying spectacle ! ” » 80
Another witness reports : « An old man with a white beard began to attack the atheists aloud and challenged them to say whether or not something supernatural had occurred. » 81
Here is a proof that even the most striking miracle cannot by itself compel a soul to have faith. There must be a movement of the heart responding to the gift of grace, and the will of man – what a terrible mystery ! – remains always free to refuse it. However, at the sight of the miracle, many were converted, and left us moving accounts of it. In any case, the incredulous, even according to the editor of O Seculo, left the Cova da Iria very shaken in their unbelief.
THE JOY “ OF THE TRIUMPHANT ”. As for the good faithful people, they left Fatima filled with joy, having received an immense strengthening of their faith from seeing the Sign of God. Scorned and persecuted by a minority of sectarians, atheists and fanatics, they saw the solar miracle as a wonderful response of God and the Madonna in their favour.
Let us quote once more the report of O Seculo, which is very instructive.
« The crowd dispersed rapidly and without any incidents, without any disorders or the need for the police patrol to intervene. The first pilgrims to leave are those who arrived first, with their shoes on top of their heads or hanging from their sticks. Their souls full of joy, they go to spread the good news in the villages where there are still some people left who did not come here.
« And the priests ? Some of them had shown up on site, mixing with the curious spectators rather than with the pilgrims avidly desirous of heavenly favours. Perhaps one or two of them could not conceal the satisfaction that appears so often on the faces of those who are triumphant... » 82
Yes indeed ! – why deny it ? – the miracle of Fatima was a triumph for the faith ! The triumph of God and the triumph of Mary Immaculate, His Mother ! « After the miracle », says Professor Ferreira Borges, « the crowd retired chanting the Salve Regina, in profound recollection and perfect order. I recognized some fierce sectarians, looking silent and meditative... » 83 For them the event was the most pressing, the most convincing call to conversion.
UNBELIEF CONFOUNDED. Parroting Voltaire, Renan wrote : « Miracles do not take place where they ought to... A miracle in Paris, before so many of the learned, would put an end to so many doubts ! But alas, that never happens. No miracle ever took place before those who could discuss and make critical judgments on it. » 84
Well, yes there has ! At Fatima, God seems to have willed to give a striking response to the challenge of His deniers : three months in advance, He made known the place, day and hour of the miracle. All « the competent experts » could be there, and afterwards they could « discuss and make critical judgments on the miracle ».
Those who were present were quite careful to avoid this. As for those who were not present, we must read their articles in the Portuguese press of the time, to see the pathetic disarray they were in. In the Diario de Noticias of October 15, the facts are objectively recognized, but to prevent the reader from concluding in favour of the miracle, the author repeats the magic word « suggestion », without any other clarification or explanation ! A Capital demanded a search for « the practical joker who fabricated this atrocious stunt. » Finally, all the heralds of “ free thought ” were reduced to a few variants on just one theme : the sun could not have infringed on the untouchable laws of astronomy ! For lack of a better argument, they contented themselves with such satires as the following : « What really makes us swoon is that the sun, such a respectable star... also took part in the feast and began dancing... in spite of its considerable age of thousands of centuries... » 85 etc, etc.
« In intellectual circles », writes Barthas, « the controversy was settled by an article by Antonio Sardinha, chief of the “ integralist ” movement who not long before had converted from impiety to faith, writing in the royalist journal A Monarquia. » In an article entitled “ O Milagre de Fatima ” (November 8), he lambasts the mediocrity of the arguments against the supernatural, showing the intellectual poverty of the freethinkers, and the “ fossilism ” of their ideas. Nobody responded to this attack ; « the frogs of the freethinking press stopped croaking », said Costa Brochado. 86 And since that time ? Nothing ! At least, nothing serious, nothing intelligent, nothing which might have added some serious argument to the stale old masonic refrains of 1917.
A MIRACLE FOR OUR TIMES. Like the miracle of Lourdes, like the Holy Shroud of Turin, 87 the solar prodigy of Fatima marks an intervention of God in history, which is open to the investigation of science. It also remains to this day a striking proof in favour of the Catholic faith.
To be sure, our faith had no need of such signs, being solidly founded on other grounds. But since innumerable minds, influenced by the Kantian critique which is as arbitrary as it is destructive, had become incapable of reading the creative action of God in the great book of nature, unable to recognize in each bit of progress by science a new proof of the sovereign intelligence which orders the universe, in His great mercy God decided to intervene in an extraordinary manner in our history, in such a way that His action, being directly visible and tangible, could be observed scientifically. The solar prodigy of Fatima is a miracle for our time.
But it is also a message : it is for the sake of Mary, His Immaculate Mother, that God worked this unheard of, incomparable prodigy. « Fecit mihi magna qui potens est... He who is mighty has done great things for me ! » (Lk. 1 : 49) Yes, at Fatima it is through Her and for Her that the Most High and Almighty Lord « showed the power of His arm », and manifested His Glory. Such is indeed the first purpose of the Miracle...
II. THE SIGN OF MARY : PROOF OF HER APPARITIONS, GUARANTEE OF HER MESSAGE
« In October I will work a miracle », Our Lady had sovereignly declared on July 13. And on October 13, it was at Her efficacious gesture that the wonderful “ dance of the sun ” began : « Opening Her hands », the seer relates, « She made them reflect on the sun, and, as She went up, the reflection of Her own light continued to project itself on the sun. »
Thus it was She who promised this striking miracle, which is incontestably the work of the Divine Omnipotence. She announced it three months in advance, and at Her gesture it took place. In other words, the spectacular sign is indissolubly linked with Her apparitions, Her words, and Her message. It is the response of the Queen of Heaven to the insistent request of the humble shepherdess : « I would like to ask You to tell us who You are, and to work a miracle so that all may believe that You are appearing. » The response surpasses all expectation, for it has such a magnitude and splendour that nobody would have dared to imagine the like.
Since then, all doubt is excluded : Yes, it is indeed the Immaculate Virgin who on each month since May 13, came down from Heaven to speak with the three little shepherds, and pass on Her message to them. This miracle, the grand finale of the cycle of the six apparitions, is henceforth the indisputable proof of their authenticity. It is also the divine guarantee that Her words were faithfully passed on by the seers chosen by Her. For God is truthful in all His works, and He could not work a prodigy which would risk leading His faithful creatures into error. The great Solar Miracle thus appears to us as the visible, tangible, incontestable seal that God willed to place on the apparitions of Fatima, on the prophecies, promises and terrible warnings that His Immaculate Mother came to reveal at the Cova da Iria. The solar prodigy is the incontestable proof, and perhaps something more...
III. FROM THE GREAT MIRACLE TO THE GREAT SECRET
Is not the « dance of the sun » also the sensible sign, the symbol of the two great themes of the secret between which the whole drama of our century is unfolding ?
THE SIGN OF THE COMING CHASTISEMENT : A CALL TO CONVERSION. Even before the mysterious nocturnal aurora of January 25, 1938, is not the solar prodigy of October 13 already in a veiled manner « the great sign » given by God « that He is about to punish the world for its crimes », as Our Lady said in Her great secret ?
In any case, it certainly had the appearance of a terrible chastisement hurled by God on sinful humanity, to persuade it to be converted. A few moments earlier, Our Lady had demanded sorrowfully : « Men must amend their lives ! They must ask pardon for their sins, they must not offend Our Lord God any more, for He is already too much offended ! »
Even before the pilgrims knew about these words, the “ Sign of Heaven ” made them understand its meaning, for it spoke to them in such a clear and expressive language.
A SALUTARY FEAR. Indeed it was a terrible moment when the sun appeared to be about to fall upon the crowd : « They cried out : “ Oh, Jesus, we shall all be killed ! Oh, Jesus, we shall all be killed ! ” Others called on Our Lady to save them and recited acts of contrition. » 88 Father John Gomes Menitra told John Haffert : « When I saw the sun fall on us, I shouted : “ We are going to die ! ”... I knelt on the pebbles, joined my hands, and asked pardon of the Lord for all my sins. » 89
AN IMAGE OF THE END OF THE WORLD. At Alburitel, the terror of the crowd was none the lesser. Here is the testimony of Father Inacio Lourenço :
« The sun suddenly seemed to come down in a zigzag, menacing the earth. Terrified, I ran and hid myself among the people, who were weeping and expecting the end of the world at any moment.
« Near us was an unbeliever who had spent the morning mocking at the simpletons who had gone off to Fatima just to see an ordinary girl. He now seemed to be paralyzed, his eyes fixed on the sun. Afterwards he trembled from head to foot, and lifting up his arms fell on his knees in the mud, crying out to Our Lady.
« Meanwhile the people continued to cry out and to weep, asking God to pardon their sins... We all ran to the two chapels in the village, which were soon filled to overflowing. » 90
Many people at the Cova da Iria as well as Alburitel believed that it was the end of the world. « I was not afraid, but I thought that the world was going to end », declared José d’Assunçao. 91
Is not the solar prodigy of October 13 one of the signs announcing the parousia (the Second Coming of Christ), prophesied by Our Lord in His great eschatological discourse ? « There will be signs in the sun, the moon and the stars... The powers of Heaven will be shaken. » (Lk. 21 : 25.) The resemblance is striking. The events of Fatima, with their grandiose character, unprecedented in the whole history of humanity, undoubtedly have an eschatological dimension which little by little we will be able to see.
Although the solar prodigy perhaps marked the dawn of the “ last times ”, the solar prodigy was not the sign of an imminent end of the world. For it also evokes the other major theme of the secret, the revelation of the great design of God for our times, by the mediation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
THE SIGN OF MERCY. « When the people realized that the danger was over », says Father Lourenço, « there was an explosion of joy and everyone joined in thanksgiving and praise to Our Lady... » 92 And Mario Godinho adds : « From these thousands of mouths I heard shouts of joy and love for the Most Holy Virgin. And then I believed. I was certain that I had not been the victim of an illusion. I had seen the sun as I will never see it again. » 93
No, it was not the end of the world ! The miracle graciously promised by the Mother of Mercy would not end in a frightful cataclysm. With a great supernatural wisdom, Ti Marto declared to Father Messias Dias Coelho : « No, I was not the slightest bit afraid. God was not going to destroy the world that way ! » 94 Instead of the dreaded chastisement, the pilgrims had the happy surprise of finding themselves perfectly dry, and during this last apparition of Our Lady there were even two miraculous healings. 95
“ BLESSED VISION OF PEACE ”. Far from coming for judgment or chastisement, Our Lady had announced as early as August 19 and September 13 that in October « Saint Joseph will come with the Child Jesus to give peace to the world, and Our Lord will give His blessing to the people. » On this frightened crowd which asked for grace and begged for pardon, the Holy Family poured out its blessings from the heights of Heaven. Terrible chastisements threaten us, to be sure ! But God has a great design of Mercy : « He wishes to establish in the world devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. »
IV. A SIGN OF HOPE : THE IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY, SALVATION OF THE WORLD
« Signum magnum apparuit in coelo, Mulier amicta sole... A great sign appeared in Heaven, a woman clothed with the sun... » (Apoc. 12 : 1) This sign of the Apocalypse is a great sign of hope. Was it not fulfilled at Fatima on October 13, 1917, when the Immaculate Virgin appeared in the sky, « more brilliant than the sun » ?
It is a vision of hope, and a pledge of imminent victory. Like the mustard seed in the Gospel, in 1917 the mystery of Fatima had only begun. For Our Lady had promised to return to take our history into Her hands, to remind us of the chastisements which threaten us, to renew Her requests, and announce with assurance Her final Victory.
The unheard of prodigy of the “ dance of the sun’’is the pledge of Her all-powerful mediation. Yes, Her words will be fulfilled : « In the end My Immaculate Heart will triumph, the Holy Father will consecrate Russia to Me, it will be converted and a certain period of peace will be given to the world. »
How can we hasten this Hour of the Universal Reign of the Holy Hearts of Jesus and Mary ? By applying ourselves now to « making known and loved » these blessed and unique Hearts of Jesus and Mary, our final salvation.
THE MYTH OF COLLECTIVE HALLUCINATION
In reading the historical article on the question, presented by H. F. Ellenberger in an authoritative work, 1 we learn that the principal source of the myth of collective hallucination, which is still frequently admitted as though it were a scientific truth, is the work of Gustave Le Bon, The Psychology of the Crowd, published in 1896.
It is interesting and even amusing to refer to it. This work, written in a lively style in which gratuitous assertions and gross sophisms follow each other almost uninterruptedly, enjoyed an immense success.
On every page Le Bon affirms the erroneous thesis that as soon as people come together, they completely lose the use of their reason, become incapable of observation and their statements lose all credibility. If we are to believe him, collective hallucinations are habitual, quite common : « The observations made by crowds simply represent the illusion of an individual who, by way of contagion, has planted a suggestion in others. » 2 « The most questionable events are certainly those which have been observed by the greatest number of people. » etc.
Now in these ten pages, which are the privileged source of the myth of collective hallucination, G. Le Bon has found only one example which has the appearance of being convincing. The example has become a classic... for good reason : that it is the only one that exists. Here it is :
THE SAILORS OF THE “ BELLE-POULE ”
« The frigate la Belle-Poule was cruising at sea, looking for the warship le Berceau, from which it had been separated by a violent storm. It was broad daylight, under a bright sun. Suddenly the lookout signals that a small craft is in distress. The crew looked over to the point spotted out and everybody, both officers and sailors, clearly perceives a raft full of people, towed by some small boats with distress signals on them. However it was only a collective hallucination.
« Admiral Desfosses equipped a small boat to assist the castaways. As they approached, the sailors and officers saw “ a crowd of men waving, extending their hands, and they heard the dull and confused noise of a great number of voices. ”
« When the small boat arrived, they found only some branches covered with leaves. Before such palpable evidence, the hallucination vanished.
« In this example we see very clearly the mechanism of collective hallucination in action, just as we have described it. » 3
FROM MYTH TO AUTHENTIC HISTORY
Analyzing this example, Ellenberger has no difficulty showing that in no way does it confirm Le Bon’s thesis. Indeed the latter was careful to cleverly isolate the fact reported from its whole context, which makes it perfectly understandable.
1. The crew, which was afflicted with malaria, was in a state of great physical exhaustion.
2. The sailors feared that the warship, which had disappeared after a hurricane, had sunk, leaving three hundred victims.
3. For a whole month while the search was going on, the crew was in a state of anxiety, and the thought of those who had disappeared had become a veritable obsession with them.
4. The warm air was stirring on the horizon, and the sea currents were carrying “ a mass of large trees ” (not “ a few branches ” !).
5. The sailor on the lookout, in the face of intense illumination, perceived objects whose nature he could not distinguish, and cried out : « Disabled craft in sight ! » And this was the point of departure of the illusion, which was easily understandable, and gradually spread to the whole crew.
We should speak rather of a “ mirage ”, or if the term “ collective hallucination ” must be retained, its nature should be specified more clearly, and the definite causes that provoked it must be pointed out : « physical exhaustion, mental depression, a dominant preoccupation which over the course of a month had become an obsession, and finally the sensorial factors which favoured the creation of an illusion. » 4
We could even go further and ask if it was a true hallucination in the strict sense. Was it not merely an illusion placing an imaginary interpretation on a real perception ? This occurs frequently but has nothing to do with “ collective hallucination ”, according to Le Bon. 5
In a word, true hallucination always appears as a pathological factor, which takes place only in subjects afflicted in some way by a grave disturbance, be it physical, nervous or psychic. Thus, it is sheer fantasy and an absurdity to pretend to explain the solar prodigy of Fatima by any kind of “ collective hallucination ”. The only solution which adequately explains all the facts is to recognize the miracle.
HYPOTHESES ON THE NATURE OF THE SOLAR MIRACLE
« SCIENCE WILL EXPLAIN »
First of all let us mention a frequent objection : Granted, it is said, in the actual state of our knowledge, the atmospheric prodigies observed at Fatima are inexplicable, going only by the interplay of natural laws. But why not believe that in the future, new progress in our knowledge of nature will allow us to explain it ?
The answer is simple. In the discovery of natural causes and effects science continues to make progress. But a miracle is not just a mysterious, inexplicable phenomenon. It corresponds to the will of a man, and takes place at his word : science will never have any new contribution on the multiplication of the loaves or the resurrection of Lazarus, which took place at the words of Jesus. The same is true of the miracle of Fatima, which only took place at the precise moment when the seer shouted : « Look at the sun ! » With this intervention of the messenger of God, who acts in His name and fortified with His power, we are outside the interplay of natural causes and effects.
A MINIMIZING HYPOTHESIS
A Portuguese doctor, Diogo Pacheco de Amorim, once believed it was possible to maintain that perhaps the solar miracle consisted only in the fact that it had been announced three months in advance. All other aspects of the prodigy, he claimed, could be explained naturally. 1
Without even discussing his arguments, we can say that his thesis is incoherent : indeed how can it be maintained that there was a true prophecy of an atmospheric event, and that the whole miracle consists precisely in the prophecy alone, while in the very words which announce it the Virgin is supposed to have been mistaken ! For She did not say : « There will be a sign in the sky » ; She said : « In October, I will work a miracle. »
This alone is enough to prove that the hypothesis is untenable.
A SUPERNATURAL PERCEPTION ?
Was the vision of the solar prodigy a sort of participation by the crowd in the supernatural vision of the three children ? That is possible, and in this case the dance of the sun is of the same nature as all the atmospheric signs observed in previous months, 2 with this difference : on October 13, as Our Lady had promised, all the pilgrims received the privilege, the grace, of contemplating the prodigy.
THE NATURAL PERCEPTION OF A LUMINOUS PHENOMENON OF MIRACULOUS ORIGIN ?
Another hypothesis seems equally plausible : that the luminous phenomena were produced miraculously by God, but were naturally visible to all according to the ordinary laws of perception, without any need for a special favour from God. In short, in this case it would be a perception as natural as that of a rainbow or an eclipse.
The miracle then is spectacular, cosmic, atmospheric. What might its nature be ? A scientific hypothesis has been proposed by G. Cordonnier, a specialist in optics. We submit it to the judgment of our reader :
« Everyone knows the effect of a prism when placed in the path of a beam of white light. For one thing, the beam of light “ bends ”, and it breaks into various colours of the rainbow ; the beams of the various wavelengths bend at a different angle. If one looks at a lamp through a prism, the lamp seems to suddenly move and take on colours. Instead of a simple prism, let us take two “ half-prisms ” placed in independently swivelling circular mounts, each operable by one hand. The whole thing will produce a bending of the light somewhere between zero and a certain maximum, and the direction of the bending will also continuously change. The lamp will “ dance ”, and give off rays of all different colours.
« Let us perfect our experimental device still more. Let us mix in a test tube two transparent non-soluble liquids of the same density – like vinegar and oil in a salad dressing – both liquids having very different indices of refraction. Let us look through our test tube at a piece of dark cloth about a yard away, in which has been made a small circular hole about one-third of an inch in diameter, and through which will shine a bright white lamp. This will have the apparent diameter of the sun. When the liquids aren’t moving, we will see a normal “ sun ”. If we turn the whole thing, one of the liquids will take in the other the appearance of a rapidly spinning nebulous spiral. We must close one eye, because each eye will see a comparable but very different image. Our open eye will see a dancing “ sun ”, animated by jarring movements, cartwheeling upon itself, and hurling rays and spirals of coloured light, As the eye is moved sideways, it reaches a point where the whirlpool is centred and appears stationary. And so the bending of the “ sun ” varies suddenly according to whether the beam of light passes through the centre of the whirlpool or not. After some experiments a movie-maker could produce a very valuable film of the Miracle of Fatima on October 13, 1917...
« We have said enough to conclude that the “ Sign ” was produced by the creation of a gigantic “ cosmic whirlwind ” on the trajectory going from the sun to Fatima. This whirlwind would profoundly change the normal refractional characteristics of space by a sort of “ rotational polarization ”....
« Seen through this extraordinary “ optic instrument ”, the sun seemed to “ cartwheel upon itself ”, to shoot off coloured rays, to tremble, to increase in size, to shine more brightly, to dance and suddenly leap, after two lulls during which the whirlwind was briefly delayed. Like all optical instruments, this whirlwind had a limited area in which its effects could be seen. And the prodigy was visible within a range of thirty miles, where there was no observatory to record it. »
These excerpts, although taken from an article and a periodical which are often unreliable, are nevertheless suggestive. Their chief interest is to introduce a scientific rationality in the process of the miracle, and to give us an idea of how the miracle might have worked.
However, we should be careful not to exaggerate the importance of a hypothesis which of course remains as disputable as it is incomplete.
Let us distinguish the areas and degrees of certitude : the highly relative character of a hypothesis on the “ how’’of the prodigy does not negate the absolute certitude of the historical fact and the solid rational basis of the demonstration proving the miracle ! The question of the “ how ” of the miracle is entirely secondary. Whichever hypothesis we adopt, it does not detract from the spectacular, divine character of the miracle.
DID EVERYBODY SEE IT ?
Did all the pilgrims present at the Cova da Iria, without exception, see the solar miracle ? Such is the question we must now try to resolve.
CONTRADICTING TESTIMONIES ? « Others », writes Gerard de Sede, « saw nothing at all. This was the case with the parish priest of Penacova, who could not bring himself to believe in the miracle, even during the dance of the sun. » Where did that come from ? Gerard de Sede is careful not to indicate the precise source of his information ! But here it is : during the canonical process Manuel Antonio de Paula related that the parish priest of Penacova, even though he saw perfectly well « a little cloud, which was fairly dense » above the holm oak, could not be convinced that it was not of smoke.
« Even during the dance of the sun, he could not bring himself to believe in the miracle. Seeing the colour red on the clothes of the people, he explained to Mr. de Paula : “ They are all wearing red shawls. ” The witness charitably corrected him, showing him it was impossible for so many people to be wearing the same colour clothing. Moreover, the ecclesiastical sceptic soon saw the same immense crowd clothed in a golden yellow. » 3
So the parish priest of Penacova saw perfectly well the phenomena observed by everybody else ! They seemed so objective, so “ natural ” to him, that he naively refused to believe that there was a miracle !
There is another discordant testimony put forward by G. de Sede : that of the lawyer, Pinto Coelho. In the Catholic journal A Ordem, he plays the devil’s advocate and claimed that there was no miracle. Yet it is certain that our lawyer saw the same phenomena as all the other witnesses. He himself admits as much :
« The sun, at one moment surrounded with scarlet flame, at another aureoled in yellow and deep purple, seemed to be in an exceedingly fast and whirling movement, at times appearing to be loosened from the sky and to be approaching the earth, strongly radiating heat. » 4
Here is the important fact, which alone concerns us. The explanations advanced by our lawyer are so poor that we need not even examine them : « A collective psychology was established in the crowd, etc. » 5 We have heard that tune before !
Finally G. de Sede quotes... the testimony of Lucy, who declared on several occasions : « I myself saw nothing ! » Indeed, absorbed by the Vision that she contemplated during this time, contrary to all the other pilgrims, she did not see the solar miracle in all its successive phases. That is easily understandable.
And that is all ! It is astonishing that G. de Sede was unable to quote a single valid testimony of somebody who clearly affirmed that he saw nothing !
“ THE CASE ” OF IZABEL BRANDAO DE MELO. Yet there is such a case – the only one, as far as we know. It is the case of Izabel Brandao de Melo. On October 31, 1917, in a letter to a Swiss priest, Father Gelase, after having described the prodigy she continued :
« This is what was said by those around me, and what thousands of people affirm that they saw. As for myself, I saw nothing ! I could indeed look at the sun and I was terribly agitated to hear everybody shouting that there were extraordinary signs in the sky. I believe that I was not found worthy by Our Lord to see these phenomena, but in my soul I had no need to see them to believe in the apparition of the Holy Virgin to the children. » 6
In 1950, Father Martindale mentioned “ two English ladies ” who had not seen anything either. 7 What, exactly, was he referring to ? In 1974, it seemed that they had metamorphosized... for the same author then wrote : « We know of two devout Portuguese women who saw nothing at all... » 8
The information is vague. Undoubtedly it refers once again to the same Izabel Brandao de Melo, who had decidedly become the star witness ! In his article against Fatima, the future Cardinal Journet did not fail to mention her : « I have heard of a very cultured Portuguese lady who, for her greater desolation, saw nothing. » 9
Is this one witness enough to be able to say, with Dom Jean-Nesmy : « There are however some discordant voices. Some people saw nothing. » 10 ? For is it not already surprising that this devout lady affirms : « I was able to stare at the sun. » ? Now it was a clear sky. Is not this fact by itself extraordinary and abnormal ? She also confesses that she was « terribly agitated... »
Father A. Richard writes, and with reason : « If a few persons in this huge crowd claim they saw nothing, that can be explained by the peculiarities and inattention of certain people, and still more by their fear when faced with these unusual phenomena on October 13, to the point where all their powers of sensation were hindered, so that they could not testify to anything – like the victim of an accident who no longer remembers anything.
« A few years ago we questioned a Portuguese woman who later became a nun, and who was present at the Cova da Iria on October 13. At that time she was a young woman of nineteen. She could not remember at all “ the beautiful colours of the rainbow ” which were described by so many witnesses. She had realized only one thing : she was going to die, the world was going to end. Right near her two people had fainted. The terrible anguish that gripped her had kept her from discerning all the rich diversity of the phenomenon. » 11
This case is not unique : « My wife – we had been married only a short time – fainted, and I was too upset to attend to her », recalls Alfredo da Silva Santos. « My brother-in-law, Joao Vassallo, supported her on his arm. I fell on my knees oblivious of everything and when I got up I don’t know what I said. I think I began to cry out like the others. » 12
A few other discrepancies in details, have been found in various statements of the witnesses. This is completely normal when it is a question of such varied phenomena, whether simultaneous or successive, and moreover such unusual and impressive ones. 13
Thus after examining the question we can affirm – at least until solid witnesses to the contrary appear – that everybody present at the Cova da Iria, as well as Alburitel, could see the prodigious solar phenomenon.
At the end of his investigation Father de Marchi could write : « Up to the present we have not met a single person among the many we have questioned who has not confirmed the phenomenon. » 14
In 1958, Father Richard noticed the same unanimity among all the witnesses he had encountered : « For them, there was no question. They could not even imagine anyone asking the question whether somebody had not seen anything. » The same goes for Alburitel. « Did everybody around you see it ? » Canon Lourenço, who was nine years old in 1917, answered this question of Father Richard without hesitation : « I am absolutely sure that everybody saw it. » 15
In 1960, John Haffert reached the same conclusion : all those who simply bothered to look saw the great solar sign.
In conclusion, it would be astonishing if it had been otherwise. On July 13 Our Lady had promised : « In October, I will work a miracle so that all may see and believe. » The most faithful Virgin kept Her promise.
(1) O Seculo, October 15, 1917.
(2) The article in O Seculo of October 13 is entitled : “ Utterly supernatural ! The apparitions of Fatima. Thousands of people go to a moor, around Ourem, to see and hear the Virgin Mary (sic). ”
On the evening of the Miracle of the Sun, the journalist wrote down his account of things, which was published in O Seculo of October 15, under the title : « How the sun danced in broad daylight at Fatima. The apparitions of the Virgin. – What the sign of heaven consists of. – Thousands declare it is a miracle. – War and peace. » Excerpts can be found in De Marchi, p. 199.
The last article finally appeared on October 29, in Illustraçao Portuguesa, p. 353-356. The title alone sums up the evolution in the journalist’s thought : « The miracle of Fatima. – Letter to somebody seeking an unbiased witness. » Gilbert Renault (alias Colonel Rémy) provides a full translation of this in “ Fatima 1917-1957 ”, p. 142-148.
The Portuguese review Fatima 50 published a full photocopy of these three documents in its issue of October 13, 1967, p. 6-10 ; 14-15.
(3) He quotes extremely valuable testimonies in Broteria of May 1951 (p. 511-515).
(4) Meet the Witnesses, Ave Maria Institute, 1961. Barthas gives a few excerpts in Fatima 1917-1968, p. 359-361.
(5) O Milagre da Sol, e o Segrede de Fatima, Porto.
(6) Cf. José Géraldes Freire, The Secret of Fatima, p. 14 (Fatima, 1978).
(7) We will quote all references to the excerpts used, so that the reader can verify for himself the context they are taken from. On the other hand since there are not very many, we will examine all the discordant testimonies, cited by G. de Sede – who performed his own investigation – or quoted by the other enemies of Fatima. We will quote all of them without exception.
(8) O Seculo, October 15.
(9) Avelino de Almeida. Illustraçao Portuguesa.
(10) De Sede, p. 113-114.
(11) Fatima, Unprecedented Miracle, p. 297.
(12) Article of October 29, “ Fatima 1917-1957 ”, G Renault, p. 143.
(13) Quoted by Barthas, Fatima 1917-1968, p. 159.
(14) See for example the conversation reported by Canon Formigao : « What fools we were. Why didn’t we stay in Ourem and have a decent meal there ! » (De Marchi, p. 132.)
(15) Our journalist is exact, for Almeida Garrett notes for his part that they arrived shortly after one o’clock (legal time).
(16) O Seculo, October 15.
(17) As we have said, in Portugal there was an hour and a half’s difference between legal time and solar time.
(18) Quoted by De Marchi, p. 132-133.
(19) Cf. Fatima 1917-1968, p. 347, 361.
(20) This text is quoted in extenso in Fatima 1917-1968, p. 343-347, and for the essential in De Marchi, (Fr. Ed.) p. 199-202. Note also that this report is almost contemporary with the event since it was drawn up only two months after, at the request of Canon Formigao, who published it in his first work in 1921.
(21) Fatima 1917-1968, p. 344.
(22) O Seculo, October 15.
(23) Alfredo da Silva Santos, quoted by De Marchi, p. 140.
(24) Fatima 1917-1968, p. 355-356.
(25) O Seculo, October 15.
(26) De Marchi, p. 137.
(27) O Seculo, October 15.
(28) De Marchi, p. 137-138.
(29) De Marchi, p. 135. Again in 1957, to Father Messias Dias Coelho, he declared : « What impressed me the most was being able to stare at the sun. » (Father André Richard, La Reine aux Mains Jointes, p. 96 (La Colombe, 1958.)
(30) O Seculo, October 15.
(31) Maria do Carmo Marques da Cruz Menezes. De Marchi, p. 139.
(32) Quoted by De Marchi, p. 139.
(33) De Marchi, p. 136. “ Three times in all, with a duration, each time, of between three to four minutes... ” (Correio da Beira of October 30, quoted by Dom Jean-Nesmy, p. 121.)
(34) Barthas, Fatima 1917-1968, p. 358.
(35) De Marchi, p. 138-139.
(36) De Marchi, p. 136.
(37) De Marchi, p. 139.
(38) Fatima 1917-1968, p. 358 ; De Marchi, p. 135.
(39) De Marchi, p. 141.
(40) De Marchi, p. 138.
(41) De Marchi, p. 135.
(42) De Marchi, p. 140.
(43) De Marchi, p. 141.
(44) Broteria, May 1951, p. 512.
(45) Barthas, Fatima 1917-1968, p. 353.
(46) Ibid., p. 358, 360, 361.
(47) De Marchi, p. 136.
(48) Cited by J. Castelbranco, Le Prodige Inouï De Fatima, p. 54. It is found on p. 50 of the translation More About Fatima.
(49) Barthas, Fatima 1917-1968, p. 153.
(50) Barthas, p. 357-358. See also the testimony of Dominic Reis, given to John Haffert, Barthas, p. 361.
(51) De Marchi, p. 139.
(52) Quoted by Dom Jean-Nesmy, p. 120.
(53) De Marchi, p. 140. It was he who composed, later on, the verses of the Fatima Ave.
(54) De Marchi, p. 141.
(55) Illustraçao Portuguesa, October 29.
(56) De Marchi, p. 139.
(57) Illustraçao Portuguesa, October 29. Gilbert Renault, p. 143.
(58) Fatima, Great Miracle of the Twentieth Century, p. 329.
(58a) Loc. cit.
(59) Le Monde, May 11, 1967. It seems H. Fesquet has not read anything at all on Fatima except the article by Father Jacquemet in Catholicisme, Col. 1112-1115. It is regrettable that a learned encyclopaedia, which in some other places is useful, presents such a defective article despite its appearance of objectivity : « The purity of the Catholic faith does not require that northern people experience the same vibrations as those of the south when reading accounts of this nature, whatever might be the exact nature of the phenomenon described. »
Besides his hypocrisy, this phrase alone abases our author to the level of the rationalist of the Documentation antireligieuse which contented itself with saying : « The Portuguese are a merry bunch. » This is absurd.
(60) Masson, 1973.
(61) P. 50.
(62) Page VIII. In the preface the author sums up all the conclusions of his thesis.
(63) P. 51.
(64) We will show in an appendix how the origin of this myth goes back to this clever popularizer, and his fantastic work which enjoyed a huge success : The Psychology of the Crowds, Alcan, 1896.
(65) P. 117.
(66) Fatima 1917-1968, p. 352.
(67) P. 119.
(68) We read, for example, from the pen of Avelino de Almeida : « Some pious people continue to hope that the Virgin Mary... in Her goodness, will even go so far as to tell them when a peace treaty wilt be signed. » And earlier on : « Our Lady announces to the faithful that on October 13 – that is, today – She will tell the real reason for Her visits, and by Her heavenly apparition console those who are in the state of grace (sic). » O Seculo, October 13, 1917.
(69) We will return to this disputed point in an appendix.
(70) Maria Augusta Saraiva Vieira de Campos, who drew up a detailed account of her voyage in October 1917. Dom Jean-Nesmy, p. 120.
(71) P. 110.
(72) On this eminent role of Metaphysics, « this highpoint of natural wisdom », see the study of our Father : « Metaphysics, judge of science and religion » (CRC no. 170, October 1981, p. 3-7).
(73) Cf. Avelino de Almeida, article of October 29.
(74) Le Monde, May 11, 1967.
(75) Documentos, p. 519.
(76) On the expression employed by the crowd, see O Seculo, October 15.
(77) De Marchi, (Orig.) p. 198.
(78) Joachim Pereira dos Reis, Fatima 1917-1968, p. 352.
(79) Interview with Father Messias Dias Coelho, in January, 1957. Three weeks later, the old man returned to his God. Quoted by A. Richard, La Reine aux Mains Jointes, p. 96.
(80) O Seculo, October 15.
(81) De Marchi, p. 140.
(82) O Seculo, October 15.
(83) Fatima 1917-1968, p. 357.
(84) Les Apôtres, p. XLIII.
(85) Fatima 1917-1968. “ The Portuguese Press and the Apparitions ”, p. 163-175.
(86) P. 175.
(87) Cf. The Holy Shroud, Proof of the Death and Resurrection of Christ, by Brother Bruno Bonnet-Eymard, member of the scientific congresses of Turin (1978) and Bologna (1981). (Maison Saint-Joseph).
(88) Maria Carreira, De Marchi, p. 136.
(89) Fatima 1917-1968, p. 360.
(90) De Marchi, p. 141.
(91) La Reine aux Mains Jointes, p. 97.
(92) De Marchi, p. 141.
(93) Statement to John Haffert, quoted in Fatima 1917-1968, p. 361.
(94) La Reine aux Mains Jointes, p. 96.
(95) These will be described at length as we retrace the history of the pilgrimage. Cf. Michel Agnellet, Miracles at Fatima, p. 125-133. Ed. Trévise, 1958.
(1) “ Psychoses Collectives ”, in Encyclopédie medico-chirurgicale, 1967.
(2) Psychology of the Crowds, p. 35. See this whole chapter, p. 27-37.
(3) P. 30-31.
(5) See the famous fable of La Fontaine about the floating sticks.
(1) He sustained this thesis in the International Congress of Lourdes, in 1958. It was refuted by Canon Martins dos Reis, The Miracle of the Sun, p. 15-63 ; Sintese Critica, p. 76-77.
(2) See our appendix : “ The Atmospheric Phenomena From May 13 to September 13 ”, after Chapter VIII.
(2a) Atlantis, no. 295 (1977), p. 99-105.
(2b) P. 118.
(3) Barthas, Fatima 1917-1968, p. 227.
(4) De Marchi, p. 139.
(5) Fatima 1917-1968, p. 173-174.
(6) Quoted by Father da Fonseca, Broteria, May 1951, p. 514-515. The review erroneously dates the letter October 13.
(7) The Message of Fatima, p. 82.
(8) What Happened at Fatima, p. 10.
(9) Nova et Vetera, May-August 1948, p. 187.
(10) La Vérité de Fatima, p. 123.
(11) La Reine aux Mains Jointes, p. 99.
(12) De Marchi, p. 140.
(13) Barthas, Fatima 1917-1968, p. 153-154. Here is a significant example : before the official commission, Antonio de Paula declared that, on October 13, he did look at the changes of colour on the crowds and on nature, and that he did not see the rotation of the sun. He did not look up to the sun, absorbed as he was by the spectacle below.
(14) P. 198, (Orig.).
(15) La Reine aux Mains Jointes, p. 98-99.