Fatima the Film

If you haven’t seen it, you should. 

For those who don’t know the story, Fatima is a small town in Portugal, current metroplex population about 12,000 permanent residents. I write “permanent” as the area entertains 6-8 million visitors per year. The attraction is the basilica that was erected in commemoration of the Marian apparitions which occurred there in 1917. It is there that the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to three children for six consecutive months beginning in May. In the final visit she produced the so-called Miracle of the Sun as promised earlier in order to validate her identity. The children were Lucia dos Santos (age 10 at the time) and her younger cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto. Of the three children, Lucia commands the most attention in the film. I wish to point out that while all three children could see Mary, Francisco was unable to hear her speak.

The events at Fatima have been thoroughly studied and declared worthy of belief by the Vatican.

The film is centered around elderly Sister Lucia relating the events to a skeptic who is writing a book on the apparitions. Lucia began life as a nun at age 14. She died in 2005 at age 97.

I like the film because it not only preserved the sanctity of what took place but also weaved into the story the social anxiety that the apparitions caused and the stress they brought upon the children and their families. World War I was in progress at the time. And while the conflict took place outside the boundaries of Portugal, its sons were actively engaged in battle and many casualties were sustained. The overthrow of Portuguese King Manuel in 1910 paved the way for the First Republic that was the functioning government at the time. The Republic was marked by deep Catholic resentment and anti-clerical laws which placed the Church under state control. At the time of the apparitions, Fatima was 99% Catholic. 

The apparitions were received as lies at first. But, when the children refused to retract their stories crowds began to flock to the apparitions site, tendering personal requests for the children to act as intermediaries to Mary. When the requests were not honored, resentment and mockery grew, and the children and their families underwent much social abuse. Still, crowds gathered at the apparition site to the point that Lucia’s father’s crops were damaged. The local government, under pressure from the central government in Lisbon, was instructed to squelch the crowds and their frequent rosary prayer riots. In the film, Lucia’s mother is threatened by local government if she did not force the children to admit to their lies. The social unrest caused by the apparitions resulted in the closure of the community’s only church. The children missed the August 13 apparition (Mary appeared on the 13th of each month) for they were under arrest for interrogation. A psychiatrist sent from Lisbon examined them and found them to be of sound mind. Mary appeared to Lucia later that month. The local priest and area bishop were also unsuccessful in getting the children to recant.

The promised miracle took place on the final visit, October 13. In the presence of a crowd estimated at 70,000 people the sun was observed to dance in the sky and then take a frightening fall to earth, only to return to its normal position. The film depicts the gathered crowd dispersing in fright.

Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta

In the second apparition Lucia was given three secrets by Mary. One was a vision of hell, another warned of an even greater war if man didn’t repent (World War II?) and the third has not been publicly revealed. Lucia (then Sister Lucia) disclosed the third secret in confidence in 1960. It is now closely held by the Vatican. Many scholars think it was a prophecy of the 1981 assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II. The fact that the attempt took place on the 64th anniversary of the first apparition lends some credence to the theory. Continued Vatican silence has an ominous tone to it.

In my take on Fatima there was a fourth secret that has completely passed under the radar screen of Fatima scholars and was glossed over in the film as well. This fourth secret gives insight into the nature of life in the afterlife as well as lucidly illustrate the command the spiritual world has over the material realm.

First, the fact that there was an apparition is telling on its own. It indicates that identity survives death. Based on the numerous Marian apparitions that have occurred since the first century we can conclude that appearance is malleable, adjusting to the culture, beliefs  and iconography in the location in which the apparition occurs. Secondly, the fact that young Francisco could see yet not hear the Virgin is also telling. Either there were no pressure fluctuations in the surrounding air (as is the case in normal speaking) or, there were fluctuations but Francisco’s nervous system was blocked from receiving them. If there were no pressure fluctuations, a neural equivalent of Mary’s voice (and the message it delivered) had to have been imposed on the brains of Lucia and Jacinta. Thirdly, the fact that no one in the large crowd of observers could see Mary is also noteworthy. In one possible explanation, Mary was in a real body; one that reflected light and registered when placed on a weight scale but the sight organs of the onlookers were preventing from receiving the reflected light. Or, there was no reflected light and the neural equivalent of Mary’s image was imposed on the brains of the three child visionaries. It has to be one or the other.

Finally, there is the so-called Miracle of the Sun. Here we discover that Mary is a rascal. The sun absolutely did not dance in the sky and plunge to the earth that day. The only people to observe the erratic behavior were those at the apparition site. No one in the other parts of the globe where it was still daylight on noon, October 13, 2017 (say from the Midwest USA to Western China) reported unusual sun activity. There were no atmospheric disturbances reported either such as those that would most certainly occur if the sun fell from the sky. The onlookers and the three visionaries were made to believe that the sun performed a dance that day. It never happened.

So, the point of the film is to reveal the spirit world’s loving concern for the earthly realm and, more subtly, the many ways of communicating its concern by manipulating the human senses. The Fatima movie is well worth your time. An important message was delivered to the world in May-October, 1917. There is no question about it. As you watch and become immersed in the socioreligious aspects of the apparitions, also use the experience to understand the many ways the spirit world has control over us earthlings. Be wary of those fleeting thoughts that ramble through your mind in the day to day. You do not know from whence they come and may contain something of importance to you.

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