Today is the anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima. On this date, May 13, in 1917, Mary appeared in a vision to three children near the Cova da Iria in Fatima, Portugal for the first of six times in the span of six months.
Regardless of whether or not you believe, it’s pretty cool to image that angels and saints want to reveal God’s glory to us, long to see peace on Earth, and hope for the repentance of all humankind. It’s almost the stuff of urban fantasy fiction.
There are some pretty spectacular things that happened in the six visits from Mary. Most incredible, to me, is the second of the three secrets revealed on July 13 to the children.
According to Lúcia, the second secret, was a recommending for devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary as a way to save souls and bring peace to the world. It predicted an end to the First World War, but predicted a worse one if people did not cease offending God. this second war would be presaged by a night illuminated by an unknown light, as a “great sign” that the time of chastisement was near. To avert this, Mary would return to ask for the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart, and the establishment of the First Saturday Devotions. If her requests were heeded, Russia would be converted, and there would be peace; if not, Russia would spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. It ended with a promise that in the end, the Immaculate Heart would triumph. The Holy Father would consecrate Russia to Mary, and a period of peace would be granted to the world.”
On 25 January 1938 (during solar cycle 17), bright lights, an aurora borealis appeared over the northern hemisphere, including in places as far south as North Africa, Bermuda and California. It was the widest occurrence of the aurora since 1709 and people in Paris and elsewhere believed a great fire was burning and fire departments were called. Sister Lúcia indicated that it was the sign foretold and so apprised her superior and the bishop in letters the following day. Just over a month later, Hitler seized Austria and eight months later invaded Czechoslovakia.
Okay, sure, I did take that from Wikipedia and it’s not known as the most reliable of sources, but this isn’t a research paper.
Of course, the most famous is the last visit of Mary to Fatima on October 13, when the sun danced and spun.
As early as July 1917 it was claimed that the Virgin Mary had promised a miracle for the last of her apparitions on October 13, so that all would believe. What happened then became known as the “Miracle of the Sun”. A huge crowd, variously estimated between 30,000 and 100,000, including newspaper reporters and photographers, gathered at the Cova da Iria. The incessant rain had ceased and there was a thin layer of cloud. Lúcia, seeing light rising from the lady’s hands and the sun appearing as a silver disk, called out “look at the sun”. She later had no memory of saying this. Witnesses later spoke of the sun appearing to change colors and rotate like a wheel. Witnesses gave widely varying descriptions of the “sun’s dance”. Poet Afonso Lopes Vieira and schoolteacher Delfina Lopes (with her students and other witnesses in the town of Alburita), reported that the solar phenomenon was visible up to forty kilometers away. However, the phenomenon was not visible in other parts of the globe.
This isn’t a call for greater devotion to Mary or a call to join the Church in recognizing the importance of the saints. This is, simply, me attempting to illuminate the impossible in our world. God can reveal Himself in many ways, usually they’re small. Sometimes, however, they are more spectacular than we can imagine.
Today isn’t about discerning whether the visions were real (though the Catholic Church did declare them “worthy of belief” after a canonical inquiry). Today is about searching for God in the small things. Today is about seeking repentance.
I am humbled by the beauty in creation. We take the natural world for granted because, somehow, it’s become mundane. It lacks importance. It isn’t filled with the noise of society. When I walk the Appalachian Trail, I lose my wifi signal. But, perhaps, I gain something greater. I boost God’s signal. In the silence of the wilderness–whether you just sit under a tree, swim in a lake, or stroll through the woods–God is there.
Don’t mistake me, He’s in the city and the bustle of rushing kids to school, struggling to remain calm in rush hour traffic, and while you’re watching your favorite baseball team win one game out of ten.
I just think that sometimes, we lose our connection to Him and the best way to regain it is through silence.