Friday, May 13, 2011

Fatima's Miracle of the Sun, the Star of Bethlehem, and the Pillar of Fire

May 13th, Feast of Our Lady of Fatima
On October 13th, 1917, in the presence of as many as 100,000 people (both believers and non-believers) who had gathered near Fatima in Portugal, according to eyewitness accounts, the sun began to dance in the sky and then appeared to fall toward the earth before once again returning to its normal size and place in the heavens.
This wondrous phenomenon, popularly known as “The Miracle of the Sun” (O Milagre do Sol), occurred after a downfall of rain which had left the people and the ground soaking wet. However, after the miraculous event, witnesses reported that their wet clothing became “suddenly and completely dry, as well as the wet and muddy ground that had been previously soaked because of the rain that had been falling.” According to the Italian priest and Fatima-scholar, De Marchi, “Engineers that have studied the case reckoned that an incredible amount of energy would have been necessary to dry up those pools of water that had formed on the field in a few minutes as it was reported by witnesses.”
What exactly occurred during this Miracle of the Sun? Is it reasonable to conclude that the sun itself literally danced?    [due to an error in the blogspot website, this article had to be re-posted -- several comments were lost; I will try to reproduce them in some form]

The Miracle of the Sun – not a change in the sun
We refer our readers to an earlier article in which we discuss the nature of the Star of Bethlehem. In that post, we concluded that the “Bethlehem Star” was not an actual star (i.e. it was not a burning ball of gas many times the size of earth), but was a new phenomenon created (much as the Pillar of Fire was created to lead the Israelites out of Egypt). This point is affirmed in various ways by several of the Fathers of the Church (including St. John Chrysostom and St. Augustine), and by Fr. Cornelius a’ Lapide.
Likewise, it does not seem at all likely that the sun itself “danced” or “fell towards the earth” or “grew in size” or “changed in color.” Indeed, it would seem that such events would be devastating not only for the planet of earth, but for many other planets in our solar system. Moreover, although the Miracle of the Sun was witnessed by individuals several miles away from Fatima, it was not witnessed around the world.
However, neither would it be rational to conclude that the event was nothing more than a “mass hallucination” – considering that there were between 30,000 and 100,000 people who witnessed the event (and some from as many as 18 kilometers away), it would be very hard to explain this miracle as nothing more than a mental phenomenon. Still, we do admit that some persons (both among believers and non-believers) present in the field that day saw nothing unusual at all.
Therefore, it seems most likely that the sun itself did not dance or move from its place in the solar system, but that a new mass was formed in the sky and filled with an intense light. This illuminated mass also seems to have produced an intense heat. Still, the eyes of some were held from witnessing this real event – whether by demons or the divine will, we know not. This newly created atmospheric ball was moved (it seems) by angels and is most closely comparable to the Pillar of Fire or (perhaps) to the Star of Bethlehem.
A miracle of biblical proportions
Positing the creation of this illuminated mass of particles – likely gathered from dust and the air, almost in the manner of an extremely dense cloud – the Miracle of the Sun does not in any way lose its miraculous and wondrous qualities. Rather, we see the immediate parallels between Fatima and the Pillar of Fire, and perhaps even the Star of Bethlehem.
Consider the Scriptural descriptions of these two: And the Lord went before them to shew the way by day in a pillar of a cloud, and by night in a pillar of fire: that he might be the guide of their journey at both times.  There never failed the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, before the people. (Exodus 13:21-22)
And the angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, removing, went behind them: and together with him the pillar of the cloud, leaving the forepart, Stood behind, between the Egyptians' camp and the camp of Israel. […] And now the morning watch was come, and behold the Lord looking upon the Egyptian army through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, slew their host. (Exodus 14:19-20,24)
The Wise Men speak of the Star to Herod, then it goes before them to Bethlehem: Where is he that is born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to adore him. […] And behold the star which they had seen in the east, went before them, until it came and stood over where the child was. And seeing the star they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. (Matthew 2:2,9-10)
To claim that the Miracle of the Sun which occurred at Fatima on 13 October 1917 did not alter the sun but instead was the creation of a new illuminated atmospheric mass is by no means to downplay or reject the wondrous nature of the event. Rather, it is to recognize that Fatima is among those greatest of modern miracles, for it recalls the central events of salvation history – the exodus from Egypt and the nativity of our Savior. A reasoned approach to the Miracle of Fatima tells us that the sun itself did not dance or move, but we also can see the immediate biblical parallels which our Lady has evoked (especially, with the Pillar of Fire). This was truly a miracle of biblical proportions.
Eyewitness accounts of the Miracle of the Sun
“Then, suddenly, one heard a clamor, a cry of anguish breaking from all the people. The sun, whirling wildly, seemed all at once to loosen itself from the firmament and, blood red, advance threateningly upon the earth as if to crush us with its huge and fiery weight. The sensation during those moments was truly terrible. […] All the phenomena which I have described were observed by me in a calm and serene state of mind without any emotional disturbance. It is for others to interpret and explain them. Finally, I must declare that never, before or after October 13 [1917], have I observed similar atmospheric or solar phenomena.” – Dr. Jose Maria de Almeida Garrett
“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 newspaper Ordem
“I feel incapable of describing what I saw. I looked fixedly at the sun, which seemed pale and did not hurt my eyes. Looking like a ball of snow, revolving on itself, it suddenly seemed to come down in a zig-zag, 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.” – Rev. Joaquim Lourenço, describing his boyhood experience in Alburitel, eighteen kilometers from Fatima.
A video of original images from that day


Dismas said...

So glad this article reappeared. It's given me a new perspective regarding the Miracle of the Sun. I never realized I viewed this event in such a finite way. Somehow, I always thought of it as a special blessing meant specifically for those in attendance that day. Until now, I never viewed this miracle from an eternal biblical perspective.

Thanks for making this event much more personal and reminding me that God's blessings are meant for all, for all eternity.

Marco da Vinha said...

I recall hearing somewhere that there were believers that did NOT see the miracle, and unbelievers that DID see.

Anonymous said...

God introduces the 3D video game.?
I guess miracles aren't rational, but I don't see why it couldn't have been sort of a mass "hallucination" phenom meant for whoever needed it. The Tower of Babel builders one day just all couldn't understand each other. Couldn't be explained. But what do I know.

Philip Maguire said...

How do you explain the drying of the ground and the clothes of the people if it was a mass hallucination? Was the rain then a hallucination, too?

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Philip Maguire and Perri,
It is quite certain that this was no mere hallucination. As Philip M. mentioned (and as I stated in the article) there are simply too many external elements of the event for it to be a purely mental phenomenon.

This is why I would argue that angels gathered matter from the air (after the manner of a very dense cloud) and filled this with light and heat ... such that it looked like the sun.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Mark of the V.,
I too have heard that some did not see the miracle (even among believers). -- I mentioned this in the article.

I suspect that demons somehow blinded certain individuals (even some believers) in order to induce some level of doubt. This would, of course, have been allowed by divine providence (I do not know why, but I trust that God has his reasons).

JORGE said...

The fact that the "miracle" happened at the exact time and day that was predict, in itself is unexplanebla, Also the fact that the soaked, mudded ground was dried up in 10 was calculaded that it would take the energy of a 10 mega ton bomb to produce the same energy to dry up the and reason go together.

Anonymous said...

Forgive me, I didn't mean hallucination. I meant when God causes people see things others don't, like Bernadette saw Mary at Lourdes and no others did. Like on the road to Emmaus, Jesus there talking with them but they didn't know it was Him.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

No worries ... I like connecting the Sun Miracle with Emmaus more than with Lourdes -- since, Mary also appeared at Fatima in a way that only the children saw. The Sun however was witnessed by nearly all the people who were there.
Peace! +

Exupery said...

What do you think about the views of OSB Stanley JAKI (theologian and physicist) ?
In his book "God and the Sun at Fatima", 1999, he tries to explain the "miracle" by a rare natural atmospheric phenomenon. Its meteorological arguments are not at all convincing (I am a retired scientist too).
Finally he reduces the miracle to the fact that the meteorological event was precisely predicted for noon!
About his thesis Wikipedia write: "Jaki believed that the event was natural and meteorological in nature, but that the fact the event occurred at the exact time predicted was a miracle." A very little one !
I think it's rather pitiful...

Dave said...

Today my wife and a pilgrimage group of thirty returned home after the October 13th anniversary. Believe me, our statue of Our Lady of Fatima and the three children has taken on a new significance in my life. To become closer to Jesus, revere Mary. Holiness is in the air in Fatima. I ope that the serenity I acquired will endure.

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