In this essay, I will argue that apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, and the following Miracle of the Sun, famous miracles that were officially declared worthy of faith by the Catholic Church should not be believed. In 1917 three young shepherd children from Fatima, Portugal witnessed few apparitions of Virgin Mary, who talked to them and shown them visions. The issue was widely spread, which lead to gathering a crowd of few tenth of thousands of believers near Fatima, who witnessed the other apparition that is referred to as the Miracle of the Sun. The major things I doubt, are that the children had seen anything miraculous at all; that what the children had actually seen was the image of the Lady, Jesus and other saints; that all the crowd that reported to see the Miracle of the Sun have physically seen something, and that all the crowd that witnessed the apparition have actually seen something of a miraculous nature.
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I doubt that the children had seen anything miraculous at all. In other words, they made everything up. Imagine, three young shepherd children (aged ten, nine and seven), from the deserted rural region in the Portuguese mountains in the second decade of the 20th-century. They have not a trace of a classical education. Probably, they can read a little bit. This assumption applies to Hume’s third statement. Tomka notes that in the middle of 20th-century “illiteracy was still wide-spread in Portugal (44%)” (Tomka 364). As a rule, the rural society is very religious, especially in the Southern Europe. So the children’s education, probably, was majorly based on religious values and texts. “Lucinda begins her description of her childhood by noting that the first thing she learned was the Hail Mary” (Bennet 102).
All the children tend to have a vivid imagination that was evoked by the miracles described in The Holly Bible and during sermons in a local church. The boring deserted landscape that surrounded them, as well as sheep, was not much of an exciting company. So the three children made up a small game for themselves. They imagined angels, saints appearing, and the words they would tell them. If the children would read the fairytales and stories, they probably, would imagine elves and unicorns, but the primary source of supernatural and miraculous was the Bible, so the children imagined angels. A good argument for the fact that initially the apparitions were only a game, is that the oldest of them, Lúcia, who was considered a leader, ordered the others to keep everything in secret, but the youngest, Jacinta, got into the game too much and told her family about the apparitions as a truth.
The reason why children did not tell everyone that it was only a game after the story was revealed and widely spread, is because they did not want to be laughed at, and that religious matter was taken too seriously within the rural society and children got their meaningfulness and fame. The last issue is an answer to the important counterargument: what about “”You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Kohlenberger 120) that is usually interpreted as “you shall not tell lies”? They were religious children and followed the Commandments. Of course, they were afraid to go to hell, but they got into the game too deep. They were afraid to lose their newly gained importance, and they were afraid to get seriously punished by adults once the truth was revealed.
I doubt that what the children actually had seen was the image of the Lady, Jesus, and other saints. To argue that, it would be good to mention that Fatima is surrounded by the arid mountainous landscape. The region is characterized by dry and warm weather from the mid spring to the mid fall. The three children spend the majority of their summer time wandering in the arid mountains, gazing at the bright cloudless skies and the horizon. It is entirely possible that they have experienced some visual hallucinations due to the irritation of their eyes by the bright light; or have seen mirages that, due to their young age, were not familiar with them much.
Sudden complex visual hallucinations also can be explained by Charles Bonnet Syndrome that in some cases affects children (Chaudhuri and Vanathi 1584). The children or even one of them could overheat or get a sunstroke, and others could just be impressed by what he or she “sees” and “hears” in his hallucinations as they listen to him and take it as a truth. This assumption applies to Hume’s first statement. You can say that the children were locals and should get used to mirages and the danger of overheating, but the truth is that even adult experienced persons can be confused by mirages sometimes, or get overheated. Speaking about the things they “heard,” the issues I have discussed in the previous paragraph are also applicable here.
I doubt that the entire crowd that reported to see the Miracle of the Sun have physically seen something. I argue that because it is simple to imagine the enormous crowd of believers getting to the place for few days, maybe weeks, meeting each other on the way, discussing, expecting a miracle. Finally, when they got to the outskirts of Fatima they saw how many of them are expecting the godly apparition and the sight of this significant amount of accomplices raised the faith in their minds that they should see the miracle. Besides, since the apparition was widely announced many reporters were present. This fact, on one hand, in the mind of an average believer was taken as a supportive issue for the miracle to appear, and on the other hand, believers wanted the miracle to be documented so everyone could witness the Godly presence.
Though, all these accumulated emotions, all this desire to see the proof, to share the proof with others, all the expectation, all the faith, together with hot weather and a long time standing in the sun, staring at the bright skies led to a group hallucination started by a shout of Lúcia, one of the small “prophets”. This assumption refers to the second Hume’s statement. You still can ask what if it wasn’t a hallucination? Besides, it was witnessed by educated and respected people like the Columnist Avelino de Almeida (De Marchi 144) and Dr. Domingos Pinto Coelho (De Marchi 147). And I will argue that despite the presence of many photographers, no actual picture of the “sun dance” was taken. The journalists reported on the miraculous light and sun extreme movements, but on the photographs there is only the crowd staring at the sky. This fact can be applied to Hume’s fourth statement. There is only one unclear picture of the sky that can barely be taken as a proof. The other strong argument is that no outstanding sun activity was noticed by the scientists that day. And I am not speaking about the fact of collapsing of all the Solar system if the Sun would act as described by the majority of witnesses. Besides there were believers who did not see anything miraculous that day.
I doubt that the entire crowd that witnessed the apparition actually have seen something of a miraculous nature. I argue that because many documented optical illusions of a scientific nature thus look godly and prodigy-like, are explained through the means of physics. The discussed Miracle of the Sun was observed in the mountains, in the morning when the sky was covered by the thin layer of clouds, and the air was humid after the instant rain. These are exceptionally good conditions for such atmospheric optical phenomena like crepuscular rays, light pillars, sun dogs, cloud iridescence, earthquake light, halos, and glories. There also is a description of the mathematical modeling of the special visual effects caused by the sunlight going through the vibrating charged ice crystals (Wirowski 282) that explains the Miracle. The counterargument for this statement is that there were people in the crowd, even the believers who did not see any prominent sun activity in the sky that day. The explanation I can provide is that, probably they got too tired to watch by the time the “miracle” occurred, or they had some visual problems, or they were looking the other way.
I have argued that apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, and the following Miracle of the Sun should not be believed. I have confirmed this claim because all the mention pieces of evidence of the stated miracles can be easily doubted when the widely known facts are applied to them, as I have demonstrated in the essay above.
Bennett, Jeffrey S. When the Sun Danced: Myth, Miracles, and Modernity in Early Twentieth-century Portugal. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 2012. Print.
Chaudhuri, Zia, and Vanathi, Murugesan. Postgraduate Ophthalmology, Vol. 2. New Dehli, India: Jaypee Brothers Medical Publishers. 2012. Print.
De Marchi, John. The Immaculate Heart: The True Story of Our Lady of Fatima. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Young, 1952. Print.
Kohlenberger, John R. The Contemporary Parallel Bible: New King James Version, New International Version. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2005. Print.
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Tomka, Béla. A Social History of Twentieth-Century Europe. New York, NY: Routledge, 2013. Print.
Wirowski, Artur. “Modeling of the Phenomenon Known as “the Miracle of the Sun” as the Reflection of Light from Ice Crystals Oscillating Synchronously.” Journal of Modern Physics 3.3 (2012): 282-289. Print.