|Our Lady of Fatima|
On May 13, 1917, in a field called Cova da Iria near the Portuguese village of Fatima, "a beautiful lady from Heaven", shining like the sun and standing on a cloud over a beech tree, appeared to three children: Lucia Dos Santos (age 10) and her two cousins, Francisco (9) and Jacinta Marti (7). Lucia saw and heard the Madonna and spoke with her. Jacinta also saw and heard her, but did not speak, and Francisco only saw the Virgin. The radiant being spoke with the children for several minutes, and asked them to meet her again at the same place on the 13th of each month until October. Then, she promised, she would identify herself.
The Madonna reappeared six times in all, and the reports of the events drew increasing crowds of spectators. About 50 persons attended on June 13, and nearly 70,000 were present on October 13. Many witnesses saw a bright cloud over the beech tree, but only the three children could see and hear the woman.
At the behest of a group of political activists and doubters who wished to "put an end to the nonsense," the civil prefect of Outrem seized, interrogated and threatened the children for two days in the hope of forcing a confession of fraud from them. Though the children had been prevented from meeting the Madonna on August 13, she appeared to them on August 19 at Valinhos, near the site of her first appearance. The Madonna then told them that she would appear a final time on October 13, and then produce a miracle.
On that day the Madonna transmitted the prophecy known as the Secret of Our Lady of the Rosary. It was a rainy day, but newspaper journalists who were eyewitnesses reported that the rain stopped suddenly and the sun reappeared. In the words of A. Garret, a professor at Coimbra University, the sun looked like "a burnished wheel cut out of mother of pearl. This disc spun dizzily around... It whirled upon itself with mad rapidity, then advanced, blood red, towards the Earth, threatening to crush us with its weight." Terrified spectators fell to their knees in prayer. The sun returned to normal, then twice again repeated the prodigy. In addition, the rain-soaked clothes of the audience dried out during the brief time of the solar phenomenon.