As August 13th approached, the story of the apparitions had reached the anti-religious secular press, and while this ensured that the whole country knew about Fatima, it also meant that many biased and negative reports were circulating. The children were kidnapped on the morning of the 13th by the Mayor of Vila Nova de Ourem, Arturo Santos. They were interrogated about the secret; but despite his threats and promises of money, they refused to divulge it. In the afternoon they were moved to the local prison and threatened with death but determined that they would die rather than reveal the secret.
On August 19, Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta were together at a place called Valinhos, near Fatima, late in the afternoon, when they again saw Mary, who spoke to Lucia: “I want you to continue going to the Cova da Iria on the 13th and to continue saying the Rosary every day. In the last month, I will perform a miracle so that all may believe.”
Looking very sad, Mary then said: “Pray, pray very much, and make sacrifices for sinners; for many souls go to hell because there are none to sacrifice themselves and pray for them.” With that she rose into the air and moved towards the east before disappearing.
By now the children had thoroughly absorbed Mary’s plea for prayer and penance, and did everything they could to answer it. They prayed for hours while lying prostrate on the ground and went as long as they could without drinking water in the burning heat of the Portuguese summer. They also went without food as a sacrifice for sinners to save them from hell, the vision of which had so profoundly effected them. They even knotted some pieces of old rope around their waists as a form of mortification, not removing them day or night.
September 13, 1917
On September 13 very large crowds began to converge on Fatima from all directions. Around noon the children arrived. After the customary flash of light they saw Mary on the holm oak tree. She spoke to Lucia: “Continue to pray the Rosary in order to obtain the end of the war. In October Our Lord will come, as well as Our Lady of Sorrows and Our Lady of Carmel. Saint Joseph will appear with the Child Jesus to bless the world. God is pleased with your sacrifices. He does not want you to sleep with the rope on, but only to wear it during the daytime.”
Lucia then began to put forward the petitions for cures, to be told: “Yes, I will cure some, but not others. In October I will perform a miracle so that all may believe.” Then Our Lady began to rise as usual, and disappeared.
October 13, 1917
The prediction of a public miracle caused intense speculation throughout Portugal, and the journalist, Avelino de Almeida, published a satirical article about it in the anti-religious newspaper O Seculo. People from other parts of the country descended by the tens of thousands on the Cova despite the terrible rains that lashed the mountain country around Fatima on the eve of the 13th. Many pilgrims walked barefooted, reciting the rosary as they went, all crowding into the area around the Cova. By mid-morning the weather again turned bad and heavy rain began to fall.
The children reached the holm oak around noon and then saw the flash of light as Mary appeared before them. For the last time, Lucia asked what she wanted: “I want to tell you that a chapel is to be built here in my honor. I am the Lady of the Rosary. Continue always to pray the Rosary every day. The war is going to end, and the soldiers will soon return to their homes.”
Again Lucia made requests for cures, conversions and other things. Our Lady’s response was: “Some yes, but not others. They must amend their lives and ask forgiveness for their sins.”
Sister Lucia tells us that at this point Mary grew very sad and said: “Do not offend the Lord our God any more, because He is already so much offended.” Then, opening her hands, she made them reflect on the sun and, as she ascended, the reflection of her own light continued to be projected on the sun itself. After she disappeared, as the people witnessed the great miracle which had been predicted, the children saw the visions foretold during the September apparition.
The Great Miracle Our Lady Had Predicted
The greatest miracle to occur since the Resurrection is also the only miracle ever precisely predicted as to date, time of day and location. Although it is popularly known as “The Miracle of the Sun” and October 13, 1917 has come to be known as “The Day the Sun Danced,” a great deal more took place. The solar phenomena included the dancing of the sun, its fluctuations in color, its swirling and its descending toward the earth. There were also the stillness in the leaves of the trees in spite of howling winds, the complete drying of the rain soaked ground, and the restoration of clothes all wet and covered with mud so that, as eye-witness Dominic Reis put it, “they looked as though they had just come back from the cleaners.” Physical cures of the blind and the lame were reported. The countless unreserved public confessions of sin and commitments to conversion of life attest to the authenticity of what they saw.
The miracle is reported to have been seen from as far as 25 miles away, thus ruling out the possibility of any type of collective hallucination or mass hypnotism. Doubters and skeptics had become believers. Even O Seculo’s chief editor, Avelino de Almeida, who had written satirically before, now reported affirmatively, and stood by his story later on in spite of harsh criticism.