Commentary about the Fifth Apparition of Our Lady in Fatima (by Fr. Stehlin)
The two last apparitions of Fatima are more concentrated to make the apparitions known and believed. They have visibly a more apologetic and pastoral character:the apologetic one is the proof of the reality of the apparitions, and the miracles are the confirmation from Heaven that Fatima is supernatural. Furthermore, the apologetic argument analyzes the miracles and comes to the conclusion that Fatima is not only supernatural, but amongst all similar supernatural phenomena, absolutely outstanding and unique: one of the most important apparitions of Our Lady in all of history, maybe THE most important.
The pastoral aspect is to bring the pilgrims closer to Our Lady, and to disclose somehow in a sensible manner HER greatness and essence to the hearts of the people. According to Saint Thomas, our reason reaches the essence of things through the senses and understands the invisible realities through visible symbols. This exactly is the “pedagogy of Fatima”: Our Lady knows Her children and wants to educate them by repeating the important lessons all over again throughout Her apparitions, by giving striking signs and symbols to enter deeper into Her mystery, and fostering with overwhelming miracles, the conviction about the reality and importance of Fatima.
Therefore in these last apparitions, the extraordinary signs have at least as much importance as the words and gestures of Our Lady. The miracles accomplished already since 13 August, but very specially witnessed by a great number on this 13 September, have first of all the apologetic role already mentioned: they were sensible proofs to convince the crowds of faithful gathered in the Cova da Iria of the reality of Her presence. In fact, these signs would encourage innumerable pilgrims to return for the last apparition, to the point where there were almost 100,000.
After the apparitions, these historical extraordinary events would convert millions of people and deepen their relationship with their heavenly Mother.
As the words of Our Lady are very similar to those of 13 October, let us concentrate on the spiritual meaning of the supernatural signs before and during the apparition.
1/ LUMINOUS GLOBE
After the apparition, Fr. Quaresma asked his companions, who seemed enthusiastic about what they had seen: “What do you think of that globe?”-
“That was Our Lady,” was the immediate reply.
This was indeed the clearest conclusion spontaneously drawn by all those who had seen the mysterious luminous globe “slowly and majestically gliding into space, going from east to west” to descend finally on the holm oak of the apparition, before going back into space, in the direction of the east.
This phenomenon may give an answer to a difficult theological question concerning all apparitions of Our Lady. In fact, many theologians assert that when the Holy Virgin appeared, Her body remained in Heaven, and there was only a sensible form representing Her on the spot of the apparition.
Here, on 13 September, it seems that Our Lady wishes to manifest, with splendor, Her coming on earth and Her return to Heaven, in an atmosphere of light and glory.
Another detail: the globe comes from the east and returns to the east. The holy Bible and the Church fathers are full of quotations about the spiritual meaning of the east. “East” in Latin is “oriens” which means offspring, originating, rising. From the east the sun rises, and from the east comes light into the darkness: therefore, the gates of Heaven are in the east, from where the Saviour came to redeem the world.
He Himself is “Oriens” – East – the eternal sun rising over the darkness of error and sin. Therefore, God wanted a miraculous star to appear in the east to bring the three kings to the newborn Lord, and to bring us “sitting in the tenebrous place and the shadows of death” to the light of truth and salvation.
Psalm 18 predicts the Saviour, that “he has set his tabernacle in the sun, and he, as a bridegroom coming out of his bride chamber, has rejoiced as a giant to run the way: His going out is from the end of Heaven, and his circuit even to the end thereof; and there is no one that can hide himself from his heat”. Visibly, Our Lord is compared to the sun itself coming from the far east (end of Heaven), going all over until the far west with incredible power (giant). Nobody can exist without His light and love (no one can hide himself from His heat).
In Fatima, the globe also makes its way from east to west, to return finally after the apparition and disappear in the horizon toward the east. Our Lady is “the tabernacle of the Most High”, “the Seat of Wisdom” out of which the eternal “Sun of Justice” comes. She is the “gate of Heaven”; through Her come all the rays of Her Son’s light into the world and to souls. He wants Her to “wander” from east to west, that means all over the world, inviting all nations, all people, and all generations to receive the light of truth. She comes from the east (“I am of Heaven”) into the dark and cold west, which means the world imprisoned in the darkness of error and the icy coldness of sin. She comes to us to open our minds, to enlighten our intelligence, to heat our cold hearts, and so takes us with Her back to the east: when our Heavenly Mother comes to us, She never returns to Heaven alone. So let us be fascinated at the sight of this wonderful globe, and be filled with immense desire: “Mother, take me with you to your eternal dwellings, at least in spirit!”
2/ THE CLOUD
During all the apparitions since 13 June, many witnesses had noticed a thin white cloud, very pleasant to look at, forming above the holm oak. It remained there for the whole duration of the apparition, before gently going up in the sky towards the east, before finally disappearing. In August, almost everybody could see it. The same phenomenon took place on 13 September, but in an even more lavish manner, since the unusual cloud formed and then disappeared three times in a row, during the ten minutes Our Lady had spoken to the children.
This mysterious cloud which enveloped the apparition, as if to manifest its presence while concealing it at the same time – does it not remind us once again of the great apparitions of the Most High in Holy Scripture? From the giving of the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai, to the Transfiguration of Our Lord on Mount Tabor, the cloud always appears in sacred history as the symbol and the sensible expression of the Divine Presence. But how can we explain the fact that a creature – even the most sublime one – could attribute to Herself this divine prerogative?
In the Old Testament, the cloud is often related with the Ark of the Covenant. This Ark, hidden under the Tent, was like a movable sanctuary, the place where God had fixed His residence, accompanying Israel in its wanderings; and the Cloud manifested His presence. As soon as the Ark was introduced, “the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (Ex. 40, 34). After the building of the temple by Solomon, the Ark was solemnly carried in by the priests to the Holy of Holies. When taking possession of His temple, God manifested His coming again by the Cloud, which filled the ministers of the sanctuary with so much awe, that they were unable to move.
In Fatima, Our Lady appears as the living “Ark of the Covenant”. As in the Old Testament the Ark and the temple were filled with a Cloud which symbolized the very presence of God, so in Fatima, the Cloud fills and surrounds the place where Our Lady appears. When SHE comes, God comes in Her and through Her: this is the deepest meaning of the Cloud in Fatima.
Understanding who She is and for what She comes is, again, an important lesson to understand: Our Lady never wants to be considered for Herself, She never wants to have the central place. When She appears, She directs us to the Most Holy Trinity whose sanctuary She is; She leads us to Her Son, and She fills us with the Holy Ghost, who penetrates and changes hearts.
It is significant that not one of the pilgrims saw Our Lady, yet all witnessed the miraculous cloud. Is it not an exquisite sign from Her, as She would say: “Don’t worry, my child, if you don’t see me with your eyes. You will see more, and realize deeper what I come for: you will be filled with God’s presence and the graces of my Divine Son”.
3/ A SHOWER OF PETALS OF ROSES
When Saint Therese of the Child Jesus was about to die, she said to her sister: “I will spend my Heaven doing good on earth,” and she explained: “You’ll see, it will be like a shower of roses”. It is clear, that this means “shower of divine graces” which, through the Saint’s intercession, God will abundantly send into the world.
In Fatima, Our Lady showed the miracle of the shower of rose petals several times: on 13 August and 13 September, but also on 13 May 1918, and once more on 13 May 1924. The bishop of Leiria was present at the Cova da Iria in 1924, and witnessed this miraculous event.
In 1830, Our Lady declared to Saint Catherine Laboure: “Come to the foot of this altar. Here, graces will be poured out on everybody who will ask for them with confidence”.
The shower of roses in Fatima is the same pressing invitation of Our Lady to come to Her Immaculate Heart, where the people will receive God’s graces so abundantly and so uncountable, as the flowers showering from Heaven were uncountable.
4/ ADMIRABLE FRUITS OF HER PRESENCE
These supernatural signs, events, and miracles all have certain qualities that are worthwhile to ponder: they are all grandiose, overwhelming, majestic, so as to provoke stupefaction, astonishment, amazement, and admiration in the hearts. Whoever experienced them, would momentarily and totally forget about himself and be fully absorbed in this grandiosity; his heart, habitually shut up in its narrow little world, would dilate and breathe in greatness. Our Lady wants to show us what would happen with us when we approach Her, when we allow Her to speak to us, and when we live in Her spiritual presence. In fact, what is one of the most distressing and common dangers amongst Catholics today? It is that they consider the truths of faith as boring and uninteresting; they perceive the holy liturgy and prayer life as a necessary evil, as a difficult burden and an unpleasant duty from which everybody would like to be rid of.
In Fatima, Our Lady offers us one surprise after another: and we can say, how one approaches the events of Fatima and, more precisely, whoever approaches the mystery of Her Immaculate Heart, will be surprised to discover first, that She is so incredibly “great”; he will admire all the many historical facts and events; he will finish by forgetting his own petty ego – and only with such a disposition is the motivation strong enough for him to despise the attractive world of sin and to follow the narrow path of salvation.
Another quality we can distill out of these miraculous events and manifestations is that they emanate an unearthly beauty and fill the heart with joy and peace. Witnesses abound to testify that the sight of the globe, the petals of flowers, and the cloud, were “pleasant”, “provoking joy and peace in the heart”. The pilgrim will find this peace and beauty in a striking manner when visiting the place where the Angel appeared the first and the third time (Loca de Cabeco) and also the place of the apparition on 19 August (Valinhos). Our Lady is “the beauty itself” and She wants to impart the brightness of Her purest Heart to everybody approaching Her. What a remedy in this world which cultivates junk, trash, and dirt, for which impurity and filth become a necessity, and where the children are surrounded by ugliness, monsters, and brutal, ferocious pictures. Whenever the devil attacks Our Lady, he wants to tarnish Her beauty: therefore, he tries to bring the same ugliness into the very sanctuaries, and to prevent people from finding peace for their eyes and souls when contemplating true beauty.
It was obvious, that the weeks between the 13 September and 13 October would be full of various emotions. There was no moment of relief for the children because of the innumerable visitors of all kinds: pious pilgrims, and curious, fanatical adversaries. Everybody wanted to see them and interrogate them, often tempting them with promises and threats, to make them reveal the famous secret.
Lucy, as the oldest, had to suffer particularly from these threats, and was accused by her own family to be the cause of ruin and disaster. Many times she was threatened that if the promised miracle did not take place, the fanatics would certainly kill them all. In this waiting period, so full of anguish, the children showed signs of an extraordinary confidence. Even the rumors of a bomb attack and other intimidations could not provoke any fear in their heart. Nobody should blame the fear of the good faithful and peasants: they knew that any fanatic enemy would be able to do the worst on the 13th of October without being punished by the masonic government. As a matter of fact, 4 years later, such a bomb would blow up the little chapel of the apparitions.
In spite of this agitated atmosphere, the children were filled with one thought expressed so beautifully by Francisco: “Are there many days left till the 13th? I’m longing for that day to come, so that I can see Our Lord again. … But listen! Will He still be so sad? I am so sorry to see Him sad that I offer Him all the sacrifices I can think of. Sometimes I don’t even run away from all those people just in order to make sacrifices”.