On Non-Christians

Fátima: An Optical Illusion or a Miracle?

“It must have been 1:30 P.M. when there arose, at the exact spot where the children were, a column of smoke, thin, fine and bluish, which extended up to perhaps two meters above their heads, and evaporated at that height. This phenomenon, perfectly visible to the naked eye, lasted for a few seconds. Not having noted how long it had lasted, I cannot say whether it was more or less than a minute. The smoke dissipated abruptly, and after some time, it came back to occur a second time, then a third time

“The sky, which had been overcast all day, suddenly cleared; the rain stopped and it looked as if the sun were about to fill with light the countryside that the wintery morning had made so gloomy. I was looking at the spot of the apparitions 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 now shone clearly and intensely.

“Suddenly I heard the uproar of thousands of voices, and I saw the whole multitude spread out in that vast space at my feet…turn their backs to that spot where, until then, all their expectations had been focused, and look at the sun on the other side. I turned around, too, toward the point commanding their gaze and I could see the sun, like a very clear disc, with its sharp edge, which gleamed without hurting the sight. It could not be confused with the sun seen through a fog (there was no fog at that moment), for it was neither veiled nor dim. At Fátima, it kept its light and heat, and stood out clearly in the sky, with a sharp edge, like a large gaming table. The most astonishing thing was to be able to stare at the solar disc for a long time, brilliant with light and heat, without hurting the eyes or damaging the retina. [During this time], the sun’s disc did not remain immobile, it had a giddy motion, [but] not like the twinkling of a star in all its brilliance for it spun round upon itself in a mad whirl.

“During the solar phenomenon, which I have just described, there were also changes of color 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 had assumed an amethyst color. Objects around me, the sky and the atmosphere, were of the same color. Everything both near and far had changed, taking on the color 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 color.

“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.”

This is an eyewitness account of the Miracle of Fátima, also known as the Miracle of the Sun, by Dr. José Maria de Almeida Garrett, professor at the Faculty of Sciences of Coimbra, Portugal. Thousands of witnesses also saw this miracle.🐷 The Miracle of the Sun had been predicted only by three illiterate children, Lúcia dos Santos (10), and her cousins, St. Francisco (9) and St. Jacinta (7) Marto of Fátima, Portugal. They had been seeing apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the thirteenth day of each month since May until the October when the miracle occurred (although they missed August for reasons I will deal with later as they concern the subject of this essay). What happened was that the sun danced around in the sky changing different colors. At the same time all the rain which had previously been present dried up. The sun was also visible to the naked eye without damaging the retina, although there was no fog. Naturally, certain individuals sought to prove that it was a scientific phenomenon. This is perfectly understandable, as anyone should look to the physical to explain something before looking to the metaphysical. The Catholic Church approved this in 1930 and such miracles are not generally approved unless no scientific explanation can be discovered. I will attempt to prove in this post that there is no way to explain this miracle scientifically.

The first argument is that people do not all report to have seen the exact same thing. Some mention the sun turning different colors. Others say that it moved in zigzags. Others say that it looked like the sun would crash into the earth. The testimony which I have just shone mentions both the changing of colors and the sun appearing to be crashing into the earth. Now, eyewitness testimonies are not always exact on the details, especially when describing terrifying phenomena. For instance, when a bank robbery occurs, one person might remember the robber’s gray eyes and another his hoarse voice. Does that mean that the robbery did not happen? When the sun is moving in zigzags, it is reasonable, when one is maddened with terror, that some people might be afraid the sun might crash into the earth. Any journalist knows that when reports match up too closely, it is probably a conspiracy. What makes the most sense is that the Sun did indeed turn different colors and at the same time moved in a zigzag pattern in a manner that looked like it might crash into the earth. They were terrified and did not necessarily report all of the details. None of it necessarily strikes me as contradictory. Their fright is also the reason why there are no photographs. Cameras were big and bulky in those days and the cameramen were too busy running in terror to take the time to take a photograph. If they had not been too terrified but had still seen the Sun dancing, I imagine that they would have taken a photograph and seen later that the Sun was not dancing in it. Alternatively, if the cameramen had not seen the Sun dancing, there still might be a photograph of everyone running in terror.

Now, there is one manner of report that contradicts all of this—the report that some of the witnesses saw nothing whatsoever. I have yet to find a quote or primary source from one eyewitness who said he or she saw nothing out of the ordinary besides everyone panicking around him or her. The closest thing which I can find is the report that people were asking each other if they had seen anything. It is possible that there was some evidence from their faces that they did not see anything if people asked each other such a question. It is also very much possible that the people were seeing something so insane that they asked others if they were seeing the same thing to find out whether or not they were hallucinating. The description above refers to a “a clamor, a cry of anguish breaking from all the people” which was heard, suggesting that at least most people certainly did see it. Alfredo da Silva Santos of Lisbon describes his wife as having fainted and a man with a white beard running about, challenging atheists as to whether a supernatural event had occurred.🐮 Evidently, it looked as if the atheists had seen something. If you look, you will find many other quotes from eyewitnesses which describe the same thing—that everyone around them seemed to see an incredible phenomenon and panic.

Now, considering that this was all predicted by three children and actually came true, the most reasonable supposition for how this might come about naturally is that people were expecting and praying to see a miracle and therefore saw one due to mass hysteria and hallucination, because otherwise, if children were to predict a miracle and then a terrifying natural phenomenon were to occur just when they predicted the miracle, it would be the most statistically improbable thing in the history of the human race. Let us assume the theory of mass hysteria which would be caused by the children’s predictions. Generally, it is supposed that the crowds would be in a suggestive state on that account. However, think for a second. Would you really be in a suggestive state on the word of three children? Think of the scale of this mass-hallucination. There were thousands of people there. Try going into a church, claiming that you are hearing from God that there will be a sign in heaven in a few days in a certain place and see if they actually end up imagining they see a miracle. Believe me, hoping and praying for a miracle is not enough for thousands of otherwise sane persons to see the sun dancing around and changing colors, provided they are not all intoxicated on LSD. That is only considering the religious people in the crowd. Many atheists who came to mock also saw it, as already noted. A certain Alfonso Lopes Vieira, who was nearly twenty-five miles away described it: “On that day of 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….”🐮 If he did not even remember the children’s predictions and so could hardly be in a suggestive state. He may have subconsciously thought of them, but do you really think that that is enough for him to hallucinate? Fr. Ignacio Lorenco, who was eleven miles away describes much the same phenomenon, and speaks of people shouting and begging God to pardon their sins. Lorenco describes seeing at that time “an unbeliever who had spent the morning mocking at the simpletons who had gone off to Fátima 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.”🐮 I doubt this man was in a suggestive state. At that time, Lorenco was only nine years old.

Now let us discuss the motive. It would be supposed that Lúcia, the oldest of the three, the main seer in Fátima, and the one who lived past childhood, invented this story of the Lady appearing to them and then somehow used her influence on the younger two to get them to go along with it. It is certainly something which I can imagine some children of that age doing, if they are of the mischievous sort. However, it should be noted that it was St. Jacinta who first opened her mouth about it. According to Lúcia’s memoirs, she did not wish her to tell anyone. It was, however, Lúcia’s mother who was most earnest that she confess to lying (this was before the miracle). “One day, before I set out with the flock,” says Sr. Lúcia, “she was determined to make me confess that I was telling lies, and to this end she spared neither caresses, nor threats, nor even the broomstick. To all this she received nothing but a mute silence, or the confirmation of all that I had already said.”🐼 In other words, she was beaten with a broomstick and still did not deny that she had heard the message from the Blessed Virgin. Lúcia was then dragged before the priest, her mother commanding her to confess that she had lied, but Lúcia did not. The priest thought these apparitions were from the devil. At her age, it would seem hard on me to continue inventing these apparitions. Sr. Lúcia would not have made this story up, as when she originally wrote this, much of her family was still alive and could testify it to be true or false. However, if that is not evidence enough, know that they were abducted by the administrator in Fátima, Artur de Oliveira Santos. More specifically, they were put in prison with criminals and threatened death, if they did not tell the Secret which the Blessed Mother had entrusted to them. Nevertheless, none of them told him (this is why they missed the apparition in August), nor did they confess that they had made it up. I can hardly imagine anyone at all doing this for a lie, much less anyone of their ages. Even if Lúcia was mentally unstable and actually believed that she had seen the Lady, I could hardly see her influence going so far as to bring Francisco and Jacinta not to recant in a life-or-death scenario. Certainly Francisco was not much younger than she. Elder cousins do not have infinite power over what their younger relatives must do. St. Francisco and St. Jacinta died of the Spanish Flu (the last global pandemic) not long afterward, but still held that they had seen the Lady until their deaths. Lúcia, on the other hand, lived until February 2005 and died at ninety-seven. All that time, she held that she had seen the Blessed Virgin in 1917. That hardly sounds like a childish fancy, although perhaps insanity. However, to the best of my knowledge, none of her relatives ever noted her to be mentally unstable in any other way. Now, the Second Secret predicted World War Two. It is generally pointed out by skeptics that it was not put into print until 1941. It is supposed that it was written down until after the second world war had already begun. However, if Sr. Lúcia were insane (which is the only reasonable explanation I can come up with; I have already illustrated why I do not think she could have been lying), that would mean that Sr. Lúcia would have made up the Secret between 1939 and 1941 and actually believed she had heard it twenty-four years prior. That level of insanity is sure to be picked up by her family and the fellow nuns in her convent, and I imagine it ought to manifest itself in other ways that might be marked.

It is commonly pointed out that there is one sun and that it was in one place everywhere else in the world. I could not say exactly what happened, but that does not mean that a supernatural event did not occur, as it seems to me one evidently did from the arguments above. Perhaps God made light move in an unscientific and uncanny way or possibly bi-located it to actually make the sun be in more than one place at once. He does that with His own body every Mass after all. At any rate, if you will recall, it was raining that day, yet, if one puts any reliability whatsoever on thousands of eye-witnesses, all the rain stopped and immediately dried up at the time when the miracle occurred. I do not need to know much science to know how much energy it would take to dry up all the rain for miles around. Generally speaking, what ought to be left is a big, black crater somewhere.

Bonum Certamen Certemus

I am the Catholic of Honor


🐷Professor Almeida Garrett’s full account may be found in Novos Documentos de Fátima (Loyala editions, San Paulo, 1984)

🐮 Accessed July 24, 2020

🐼Sr. Lúcia dos Santos Fátima in Lúcia’s Own Words16th edition p. 50 (2007)

By The Chivalric Catholic

Hello, I am the Chivalric Catholic or the Catholic of Honor. I conform all my beliefs to the Magisterium founded by Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit. The short explanation of who I am is a teenager with nostalgia for the Middle Ages. I have a love for apologetics, honor, and literature (especially adventures). I believe it is important and honorable to respect my opponents in this. If anything I write is contrary to the Faith (after all, I have no degrees) please write to me and inform me.

3 replies on “Fátima: An Optical Illusion or a Miracle?”

Jeremiah 20:7-9.
7 You have seduced me, Yahweh, and I have let myself be seduced; you have overpowered me: you were the stronger. I am a laughing-stock all day long, they all make fun of me.
8 For whenever I speak, I have to howl and proclaim, ‘Violence and ruin!’ For me, Yahweh’s word has been the cause of insult and derision all day long.
9 I would say to myself, ‘I will not think about him, I will not speak in his name any more,’ but then there seemed to be a fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones. The effort to restrain it wearied me, I could not do it.


The theory that the pilgrims experienced a mass hallucination doesn’t hold water considering, as you pointed out, the atheists and skeptics witnessed the miracle themselves. I wonder how many of them converted to the Catholic faith because of this. Also, some Catholic theologians dismiss the miracle as being only a vision, since they’re skeptical about what physically happened without the entire world being affected by it. But God can hold the laws of nature in suspension if He wills since He established them. Anyway, Lucia said that a miracle would happen on that day. She said nothing about a vision. Everyone came to see if a miracle would take place. And they had no idea that it would involve the Sun. So, no self-fulfilling prophecy occurred.

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Yes. I actually read a science article which was arguing that it was an optical allusion as research to this article. This is similar to how people sometimes say that our Lord’s Resurrection was a hallucination. I somehow doubt that when I die, five hundred of my friends will hallucinate my resurrection.


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