Was the Miracle of Fátima really a Miracle?

Newspaper article showing lots of people staring at the sun and witnessing a supposed Miracle

What is perhaps one of the most officially well-recognised Catholic Miracles is what is known as the “Miracle of Fátima”. Vast numbers of people claim to have witnessed it.

Very briefly, the story is this.

On 13 October 1917, a very large crowd gathered in Fátima, Portugal. This was in response to a prophecy made by three shepherd children, Lúcia Santos and Francisco and Jacinta Marto. Their claim was that the the Virgin Mary would appear and perform miracles on that date.

Estimates are that roughly 30,000 to 40,000 turned up ready to see this miracle. Some claimed 100,000 were there, but the more reasonable estimate is probably closer to the truth.

Various local press reporters also attended and took pictures.

Here is the crowd …

The three children claimed they saw various visions of Jesus and Mary on the day, but nobody else saw that.

What many witnesses in the crowd report is that the Sun appearing to “dance” or zig-zag in the sky, careen towards the Earth, or emit multicolored light and radiant colors. According to these reports, the event lasted approximately ten minutes.

Here are a few examples …

“The sun, at one moment surrounded with scarlet flame, at another aureoled in yellow and deep purple, seemed to be in an exceedingly swift and whirling movement, at times appearing to be loosened from the sky and to be approaching the earth, strongly radiating heat.”―Dr. Domingos Pinto Coelho, writing for the Catholic newspaper Ordem.

“… The silver sun, enveloped in the same gauzy grey light, was seen to whirl and turn in the circle of broken clouds … 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 … 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.”―Reporter for the Lisbon newspaper O Dia.

“The sun’s disc did not remain immobile. This was not the sparkling of a heavenly body, for it spun round on itself in a mad whirl when suddenly a clamor was heard from all the people. The sun, whirling, seemed to loosen itself from the firmament and advance threateningly upon the earth as if to crush us with its huge fiery weight. The sensation during those moments was terrible.”

It is worth noting a couple of things.

To be specific …

  • Overall, the eyewitness testimony was actually a collection of inconsistent and contradictory accounts. Not all witnesses reported seeing the Sun “dance”. Some people only saw the radiant colors, and others, including some believers, saw nothing at all. It was clearly very a subjective personal experience that varied.
  • When it was later officially declared to be a miracle the official version became “The account” of what was seen. Anything that conflicted with that was ignored.

Did it Physically Happen?

All around the globe nobody noticed anything unusual, it was only seen at Fátima.

There were also many people there at Fátima who reported seeing nothing.

Is there a reasonable explanation for what was seen?

Indeed, yes there is.

You have a large crowd expecting a miracle, a vision. They were highly motivated to stare at the sun looking for a vision.

If you stare directly at the sun for a sufficient period of time, 5-10 minutes will do it, then you will indeed not only damage your eyesight, but you will see exactly what was reported – radiant colours and the sun dancing in the sky.

This is not simply an opinion, it is what happens to the human eye when exposed to the sun like that.

Paper: Solar retinopathy following religious rituals.

In 1988, a paper with the above title was published within the British Journal of Ophthalmology.

Here are a few extracts …

A 23-year-old nurse presented to the RVEE Hospital in June 1987 … While on a pilgrimage to Medjugorie she had stared at the sun for 10 minutes in the late afternoon of a hot summer’s day. While staring at the sun it went a deep green, surrounded by a gold rim, and when she looked away her vision was blurred …

… A 33-year-old woman presented to the RVEE Hospital in July 1987. She complained of a black spot in front of her right eye. In May 1987 she had been on a pilgrimage to Medjugorje. She had stared at the sun at 7.00 pm intermittently for a few minutes. While she was so doing, the sun had danced and changed colour from orange to black to white. When she looked away she noticed her vision was blurred, and there was a black spot in front of her right eye. Gradually with time her vision improved, but the black spot has persisted….

The paper then goes on to outline other similar cases, and then within the discussion section explains what was going on inside the eye and illustrates the damage that had been done with images.

The very simple explanation here is that yes, people at Fátima did indeed see the sun dance in the sky, and yes they did also see radiant colours.

There is nothing supernatural going on, this is what happens if you stare directly at the sun for long enough.

Hopefully I’ve thrown a bit of light upon a subject that has blinded many, which in the case of those that were there, is quite literal.

Meanwhile …here is Fátima today

Fátima, once a tiny obscure and unknown village, is now this …

Vast sums of money are in the mix here.

Something like 6 and 8 million people visit each year. Catholicism is never going to seriously admit that nothing supernatural happened, they are already too deeply invested in it.

Further Reading

Wikipedia Page – Miracle of the Sun

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