The Miracle of the Sun at Fatima, which took place exactly a century ago, on October 13, 1917, was one of the most stupendous, if not the most stupendous event of the 20th century. And yet it is hardly known outside the Church, and not well enough known within it.

The people who braved the terrible rainstorm which struck Fatima that day had gone there because of the promise of a miracle. Exactly what sort of miracle they didn’t know, but they knew that something exceptional was going to happen. Many sceptics and unbelievers were also drawn there in the expectation of a fiasco in which the Church would be turned into a laughing stock.

The previous July, Our Lady had told the three Fatima children that she would perform a miracle in October, and this sensational report spread throughout Portugal, ensuring that a huge crowd was present on October 13, despite the appalling weather.

At noon, Our Lady appeared to the children, and after repeating her requests for the daily rosary, and promising that World War I would soon end, she said to them plaintively and sadly: “Do not offend the Lord our God any more, because He is already so much offended.”

Then, while the three seers saw visions of the Holy Family, the crowd of at least 70,000 people were mesmerised as the Miracle of the Sun unfolded. What happened was so incredible that even non-believers couldn’t deny it, as this report, which appeared in the secular Lisbon paper O Dia, indicates:

The silver sun … was seen to whirl and turn in the circle of broken clouds. A cry went up from every mouth and the people fell on their knees on the muddy 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 the miracle they had awaited. The seconds seemed like hours, so vivid were they.

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