In a skeptical, secular age, Fatima remains a miracle


National Post, 10 May 2017

The Virgin Mary told the children that she would provide a sign at the last apparition on October 13, 1917. Some 70,000 people gathered in a downpour. After the apparition, which only the children could see, the “Miracle of the Sun” occurred, where the sun appeared to change colours and “dance” in the sky.

Do divine interventions in history belong only to the biblical period, and then only as fantastic tales intended to make a general point? Or do they accompany us through history?

This Saturday, May 13th, the Catholic world will mark the centenary of the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary to three shepherd children at Fatima, Portugal. Pope Francis will travel to Fatima for the celebrations, during which he will declare two of the children, who died early, to be saints. (The third lived to be 97 and died in 2005; the examination of her life for possible canonization is still underway.)

The Catholic Church is extremely cautious about claims that Jesus or Mary has appeared somewhere, but is open to the possibility. After rigorous investigation, most such claims are dismissed, but some are approved as authentic. The Fatima apparitions are in the latter category, and have enjoyed papal favour. Pope Paul VI visited Fatima on the 50th anniversary in 1967; John Paul II went three times; Benedict XVI visited in 2010, and now Francis.

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