A Miracle 70,000 People Saw: the Movie
The other night I watched a movie on Netflix called “Fatima,” directed by Marco Pontecorvo: a famous story about three children who claimed to see visions of the Virgin Mary. But what the children claimed to see is not the point of this post. It’s what 70,000 witnesses actually saw and experienced at Fatima, Portugual, on October 13, 1917.
The film tells the story in an even-handed way; believers are not portrayed as idiots and the people who don’t believe in the visionaries are not cast as cruel or repressive. The focus is on Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco (all less than ten years old) and the pressure on them to recant their story.
The children are the heroes of this story, sticking to the truth of their experience, in spite of parents, mayor, established church authorities, the Marxist press (ascendent at the time), all trying to get them to state in public that they were lying. The kids could not be swayed. The doctors, moreover, determined that they were perfectly normal, mentally and physically.
As the story unfolds, we are taken into the future, 2005, at a convent where Lucia resides, and there we watch how a critical investigator, played by Harvey Keitel, questions Lucia (she is now an old woman) and tries in a polite way to undermine her beliefs, but she is serenely unimpressed by his arguments. “Keitel’s” comments are interesting, as is the mystic cool of Lucia, who fought against an entire town when she was a child.
In May of 1917, the children first encountered a lady of supernormal luminosity and attractiveness who said she was from heaven. She had a message of prayer as the path to peace. The lady told the children to come back to the same spot every month for five times. The children undergo all manner trials as they return each month and carry on their private communications with their mysterious visitor, invisble to everybody else.
When reviewers write about this film, they invariably describe it as as “faith-based,” implying the story is for “believers” not for critical viewers. But this is to ignore what is really extraordinary about the true story. The three visionaries were not just fearless and unbending in their belief in the reality of the lady of light they saw and conversed with. The lady made two predictions.
First, she promised Jacinta and Francisco that they would soon join her in heaven, and indeed the two children were taken out by the 1918 epidemic while Lucia lived into her nineties.
But by far it was a second prediction that the “lady from heaven” made to the children that’s so interesting. The children, prompted by her parents, asked the Lady if she would produce some sign of her reality. The lady replied that on the 6th and her last monthly visit she would indeed provide a display that will make her reality fully manifest to all that were present.
This would seem to have been an experiment designed to make an impression on the public at large. The record of the prediction undoubtedly exists; something spectacular was going to happen at a specific time and place. Well, it was inevitable that on October 13, 1917, crowds of people from all over would gather at the Cova da Iria, the original scene of the alleged apparitions, ardent believers hoping for a miracle and ardent disbelievers ready to gloat and mock when nothing (they expected) would happen. 70,000 strong were waiting in the pouring rain and it had just passed noon, and some were all set to give up and leave.
But then “the crowd saw the clouds separate like two vast curtains rolled apart, and the sun appear between them in the clear blue.” Lucia is said to have cried out, “Look at the sun!” What the crowd then saw was “something stupendous, unheard of, almost apocalyptic. The sun stood forth in the clear zenith like a great silver disk (and began to spin). . . Madly gyrating in this manner three times, the fiery orb seemed to tremble, to shudder, and then to plunge precipitately, in a mighty zigzag , toward the crowd.” (See W. T. Walsh, Our Lady of Fatima)
Witnesses fell to their knees in awe and wonder, colored lights flashed, the air warmed and the drenched crowd and countryside was suddenly dry. After a few minutes the orb reversed course and rose back up into the sky with the same zigzag motion and disappeared into the sun. Skeptical reporters for major newspapers wrote up detailed accounts of the prodigy, which was witnessed by people miles away who reported unexplained healings.
None of this is covered in Pontecorvo’s film, although a scene of strange light effects is used but for the sake of esthetics, not for the scientific challenge it poses. Now consider a further detail that adds to the mystery. The “sun” is several times described as a “disk” and its terrifying descent toward the crowds and its ascent back up the sky is described in terms of a “zigzag” motion. John Keel and Jacques Vallee have noted the trademark zigzag motion of the Fatima sun dance phenomenon, which is characteristic of the way UFOs travel in space.
I myself had ocular proof of this zigzag phenomenon. On April 23, 1971, I (and two others) witnessed a light form signal us from the dome of our Lady of Pompei in Greenwich Village, and then take off, and in a fraction of a second I watched it zigzag north toward the Empire State Building where it vanished.
“Fatima” is a good movie, but the story is not merely “faith-based”; real facts are involved—facts that raise fascinating questions about the strange universe we inhabit. It seems that stories about unidentified visitors may be going mainstream. Signs of growing elasticity in the collective intellect are reason to celebrate.