A hundred and one years ago at Fatima in Portugal, there occurred an apparition of Mary, called the Miracle of the Sun, which is said to be the largest attested miracle in modernity, witnessed by 75,000 people.
Whether or not one is Catholic — or sympathetic to Marian devotions — it is striking that this apparition seems to mark the end of one era and the beginning of the new. The old world has died; modernity is born.
The Fatima seers, who speak from the perspective of the old world, prophesied wars (World War I and II), apostasy, and scandals in the Church. Presumably, the fate of Russia was at stake since it was prophesied that Russia would fall into atheism and the Church would lose its honor.
Some Catholics argue that the old religious world that has been lost ought to be restored. The traditional rites and sacraments, together with ecclesiastical teachings and the preaching of the Gospel, offered people disciplines and instructions for leading holy and good lives. Others welcome the so-called secular movements (e.g., socialism and feminism) that are perceived to have displaced the old hierarchies and to have ignited crisis and critique.
With regard to the miracle of the Sun — and Marian apparitions, generally — skeptics point to the ideologically slanted messages that come to seers and visionaries through Mary. If the mother of God does appear to people, what accounts for the sometimes sectarian and partisan quality of her inspired ideas? Or, shall we concede that Marian messages are filtered through the beliefs of her visionaries and seers rather than being transmitted verbatim or reproduced with a documentary accuracy?
The faithful who take seriously Marian apparitions, by contrast, claim that the messages are sound and creditworthy. Like the prophets of old, Mary issues warnings while advising repentance. To her seers, she offers hopeful remedies (e.g. praying the rosary) and promises for the renewal of faith and the wellbeing of the world.
Whatever one’s position in regard to Fatima and Marian visions, the Miracle of the Sun is a phenomenon to contend with. Can this miracle witnessed by so many be justified by naturalistic causality or explained away as the consequence of collective hysteria? Or did the veil open between heaven and earth on that day, Oct 13, 1917, one hundred and one years ago?
I am linking to a couple of videos about the Miracle of the Sun and to some discussions and critiques of the Catholic Church with regard to the Fatima prophecies and the three secrets involved. It is debated whether the third secret given at Fatima has actually been revealed. There is also a possible fourth secret. I link also to an article about another Marian apparition, given to Agnes in Japan, which occurred on Oct 13, 1973, on the anniversary of Fatima.
General Book on Fatima: Our Lady of Fatima Paperback – October 1, 1954
by William T. Walsh
Article about Vatican Deception, documentary on Fatima: Vatican Deception Documentary : Fatima