To fully understand the Miracle, we must understand Fatima in its relation to what Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, called “the absolute importance of history.” In 1984, after admitting he had read the Third Secret, he was asked why it was still not released. His response revealed that the Third Secret possesses the following “six themes” (mysteriously correlating with the same number of times Our Lady appeared at Fatima):
1) It is in accord with Divine Revelation, 2) It demands a radical call to conversion and penance, 3) It refers to the absolute importance of history, 4) It alerts the Church and the world to the dangers threatening the faith, the life of the Christian and therefore the world, 5) It is integral to the importance of the last times, and 6) Although it could be mistaken for sensationalism, it is nevertheless a religious prophesy corresponding to Scripture and confirmed by many other Marian apparitions.
Might these six themes of the Third Secret direct our attention to one or more of the “six signs” of the last times, given by Christ Himself? They, too, fall within the realm of “the absolute importance of history,” for “salvation history” centers on two things: The Incarnation of Christ, when Our Lord came to offer Redemption and Mercy, and His Second Coming, when He will come as Just Judge.
Our Lady in the Modern Age
“The intervention of God in human history through the Fatima events was predicted in the Bible,” explained Father Joseph de St. Marie, Professor of Theology, Pontifical Faculty of Saint Theresa, Rome, “and is God's definitive response to the revolt of many nations and peoples away from the revelation and rule of Jesus Christ. The revolt against God is the ‘mystery of iniquity’ of which Saint Paul speaks, saying that it is already in operation.”
Within this context, consider the Great Revolt of the “modern age.” Of great import to the Church and the faithful, each heinous step of this Revolt occurred two hundred years apart, the last of them coinciding with Our Lady's appearances at Fatima: the revolt of Luther (1517), the foundation of Freemasonry (1717), and the birth of Bolshevism (1917).
Note also how the Great Revolt against the Church, which began in 1517, is comprised of three distinct parts – just like its antidote, the Great Secret of Fatima. Thus the first step of the Revolt marks the 16th century as “the epoch of humanism and also of the Lutheran drama, of the Protestant revolt. Humanism was a cultural movement admittedly, but it was also a return to paganism under the color of culture. As for Luther, he was at the very beginning of the division of Christian Europe. He was the great divider: ‘Gott ist im Himmel, du bist auf Erden.’ (‘God is in His Heaven; you are on earth.) Between heaven and earth, Luther establishes an impassable abyss. He denies all mediations. In the end, Luther, who talks so much about Christ, denies the mediation of Christ's Humanity. A fortiori, he denies the mediation of Christ's Mother, His Co-Redemptrix.” Herein lies the essential significance of the 16th Century: “The affirmation of man, of rupture between heaven and earth by the denial of the mediations which unite them: Christ, Mary and first of all the Church. Such is the beginning of the revolt of modern times against God.”
To this first revolt, the Church ultimately responded through the hierarchy at the 1570 Council of Trent. Still, the evil continued to spread into the 17th century. Heresy insidiously spread throughout Christendom, finally reaching France, “the eldest daughter of the Church.” Although condemned as a heresy, Jansenism rippled throughout the country, which explains the French bishops’ resistance to St. Louis de Montfort’s apostolate of True Devotion to Jesus through Mary. The Jansenist crisis, however, led to a worse one.
Near the end of the 17th century, Our Lord attempted to save the Church and France by His direct intervention via the Sacred Heart apparitions at Paray-le-Monial, France. Jesus asked for reparation to His Sacred Heart, especially in the form of the Nine First Fridays, and He also sent a special request to the King of France. Above all, as He offered His Divine Mercy, He spoke of the ingratitude of sinners which would soon demand His Justice.
St. Margaret Mary revealed, “Our Lord showed Himself to me covered with wounds, His body all bleeding and His Heart torn with grief; He seemed overcome with fatigue. I threw myself at His feet, filled with a great fear, and I dared not say a word to Him. He said to me : 'Behold to what I am reduced by My chosen people whom I had called to appease My justice, and they persecute Me in secret. If they do not mend their ways I will punish them severely; I will withdraw the good, and the rest I will devote to My just wrath, which will flame up against them.’” 
Beginning with the Rue-de Bac in Paris (1830), Our Lady also appeared at Blangy (1840), LaSalette (1846), Lourdes (1858), Pontmain (1871), Pellevoisin (1876), and Knock, Ireland (1879). With the very first Marian apparition of modern times, Our Lady gave the world the “Medal of the Immaculate Conception,” with its inscription, “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have resource to thee.” At each of the apparitions, She always showed Herself the Mother of Mercy and the Mediatrix of All Graces.
Although 1917 marked the third year in which the world suffered from the first universal war, Our Lady did not again come to earth until the third part of the Great Revolt was imminent. The Secrets of Fatima, “in their known contents,” allow us to reasonably deduce that the Virgin came to warn the Church that mankind had entered a critical juncture in history – specifically, the “revolt” [literally, “apostasy”] that must come first, as foretold by St. Paul. It is this last Revolt that possesses the ability to lead the entire world into the age of great distress among all nations, thus initiating an even greater, three-fold chastisement, prophesied by St. Luke in his eschatological discourse and by St. John in the Apocalypse.
Bolshevism, arising in 1917, completed the “trinity of errors” of the “modern age.” As we have already seen, the first part of the Great Revolt consists of philosophical error (which departs from the Church’s philosophy of scholasticism). From this error sprang the other two - theological ambiguity and political-social secularism. “And let it be noted; at the very moment when, as a consequence of the Bolshevik victory, the 'Red Dragon' emerged at one extremity of Europe in Leningrad, which then was still Petrograd, at the other extremity of Europe, at Fatima…there appeared the 'Woman Clothed with the Sun', the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Such was the miracle of October 13, 1917, the Miracle of the Sun, a miracle which calls for an entire book to itself...But, dear friends, this sun is the symbol of Christ.”
The Effects of Divine Mercy
Foretold three months in advance, witnessed by 70,000-100,000 people, the astounding Miracle of the Sun marks Fatima as unique amongst all Church-authenticated Marian apparitions. The “Great Sign,” given on October 13, 1917, majestically summarizes everything Fatima means in regard to Divine Mercy and Justice.
“Among the effects of Divine Mercy,” said St. John Eudes, “we must enumerate three principal realities, which in turn embody numberless effects. The first is the Incarnation of the God-Man; the second, his Mystical Body, namely Holy Church; the third is the Mother of the God-Man, namely the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. These constitute three admirable masterpieces of Divine Mercy.” Possessing theological and Mariological depths which no one could hope to fully explore, these three principal masterpieces nevertheless resonate throughout the Fatima revelations. They are manifested in the Great Secret (in three distinct parts) and the Great Miracle (in three marked phases). Conversely, the Great Revolt’s three parts utterly oppose these holy realities.
The whole night and morning of Oct. 12-13, 1917, a “thin, persistent rain fell, wetting the fields, muddying the ground, and penetrating with its cold humidity” all those making their way to Fatima. No doubt, Heaven had many reasons for sending this permeating rain, which might be summed up as a chance to offer penance for the conversion of sinners and a “sensible sign” of the graces God wishes to dispense through the hands of the Immaculate One.
Appearing at solar noon, Our Lady revealed Who She is and what She wanted: “I want a chapel to be built here in My honor, for I am the Lady of the Rosary. Continue to say the Rosary every day. The war will end soon and the soldiers will return to their homes.” Lucia said she had many things to ask of the Lady, “to heal some sick people, and to convert some sinners, etc.” To this general request, the Virgin gravely responded: “Some, yes; others, no. People must amend their lives and ask pardon for their sins.” Growing sadder, She said, “Do not offend the Lord our God any longer; He is already deeply offended.” 
“Then, opening Her hands, Our Lady made them reflect on the sun and, as She ascended, the reflection of Her own light continued to be projected on the sun itself.”  Here, as with other manifestations at Fatima (like the mysterious pillars of incense arising, three times, from the holmoak tree upon which Our Lady stood ), we recognize an incredible Mariophany. In Heaven – as Sr. Lucia would later write - the Virgin remains “a living tabernacle, a Monstrance, a living Temple, the permanent abode of the Most Holy Trinity.”  Surely those words of Sr. Lucia’s grant an awesome glimpse into the “lights about this mystery” (the Holy Trinity) that she was not permitted to reveal.
At the precise moment Our Lady cast her own light upon the sun, the drenching rain suddenly stopped, the brooding clouds dispersed, and the sky became clear. Many witnesses, both poor and rich, uneducated or cultured, believers or scoffers, testified to what happened next. First among them is the faithful Ti Marto, the father of Blessed Jacinta and Blessed Francisco: “We looked easily at the sun, which did not blind us. It seemed to flicker on and off, first one way and then another. It shot rays in different directions and painted everything in different colors…What was most extraordinary is that the sun did not hurt our eyes at all. Everything was still and quiet; everyone was looking upwards…”
Perhaps most astonishing is the report published in “O Seculo,” the anti-Catholic, Masonic daily paper of Lisbon, Portugal, written by none other than the paper’s Editor-in-Chief, Avelino de Almedia. We must give credit to this man, who honestly reported what he witnessed:
“…one could see the immense multitude turn toward the sun, which appeared at its zenith, coming out of the clouds.”
“It resembles a dull silver disc, and it is possible to fix one’s eyes on it without the least damage to the eye. It does not burn the eyes. It does not blind them. One might say that an eclipse was taking place.”
“An immense clamor bursts out, and those who are nearer to the crowd hear a shout: ‘Miracle! Miracle!’ Prodigy!...Prodigy!' ”
“The attitude of the people takes us back to biblical times. Stupefied and with heads uncovered they watch the blue sky. Before their dazzled eyes the sun trembled, the sun made unusual and brusque movements, defying all the laws of the cosmos, and according to the typical expression of the peasants, ‘the sun danced…’”
Fifteen days later, he enumerated previously omitted details: “What did I see at Fatima that was even stranger? The rain, at an hour announced in advance, ceased falling; the thick mass of clouds dissolved; and the sun – a dull, silver disc – came into view at its zenith, and began to dance in a violent and convulsive movement, which a great number of witnesses compared to a serpentine dance, because the colors taken on by the surface of the sun were so beautiful and gleaming.” 
Another witness, Dr. Almeda Garrett, described “a disc, with a clear cut rim, luminous and shining, but which did not hurt the eyes. I do not agree with the comparison which I have heard made in Fatima – that of a dull silver disc. It was a clearer, richer, brighter color, having something of the lustre of a pearl. It did not in the least resemble the moon on a clear night because one saw it and felt it to be a living body…It looked like a glazed wheel made of mother-of-pearl.”
“A Wheel of Fire”
Mesmerized by the three-fold “dance of the sun,” witnesses explained it in similar terms: “It seemed like a wheel of fire which was going to fall on the people,”(Maria Carreira)…“it spun like a firewheel,” (Maria do Carmo Marques da Cruz Menezes)…“it spun round upon itself in a mad whirl,” (Dr. Almeida Garrett)…“It came down as if to the height of the clouds and began to whirl giddily upon itself like a captive ball of fire.” (Fr. Pereira da Silva)… “At a certain moment, the sun seemed to stop and then begun to move and dance.” (Ti Marto)…“However, the sun stops, only to begin the strange dance again after a brief interruption, whirling upon itself, giving the impression of approaching or receding.” (Dr. Pereira Gens of Batalha) As witnesses testified, the “dance of the sun” was repeated three times.
“Then suddenly, one heard a clamor, a cry of anguish breaking from all the people. The sun, whirling wildly, seemed to loosen itself from the firmament and advance threateningly upon the earth, as it to crush us with its huge and fiery weight. The sensation during those moments was terrible.” (Dr. Almeida Garrett) …“At a certain moment, the sun seemed to stop and then began to move and dance until it seemed that it was being detached from the sky and was falling on us. It was a terrible moment.” (Ti Marto) “It suddenly seemed to come down in a zig-zag, menacing the earth. Terrified, I ran and hid myself among the people, who were weeping and expecting the end of the world to come at any moment.” (Fr. Lourenco, who witnessed the Miracle as a schoolboy.) Perhaps most telling of all, as we shall later see, is the testimony of Baron de Alvaiazere, “The sun at its zenith whirled upon itself; it detached itself in descending towards the right, all the while whirling with sudden movements never seen before, to the right and the left; having almost arrived at the horizon line, it went back up to the zenith on the left, tracing a sort of winding ellipse as it went.”
“We have seen the Sign of God!” the crowd cried in joy and thanksgiving, “spontaneously using the most exact biblical term, which also evokes the mysterious prophecy of the Apocalypse…A great sign appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun…(Apoc. 12:1)”
The Meaning of the Miracle: Sign of Mercy and Justice
Because the topic is so deep and vast, it is difficult to briefly summarize the Great Miracle’s “sensible expression of mystery.” Therefore, only those points that still relate to the present and the future shall be outlined. It is first necessary to recall topics already addressed in this essay - the Great Revolt, in three parts, against the Church, the Great Secret in three parts, and the Great Miracle in three phases. In addition, there are many other factors to take into account:
- The revelations of the Sacred Heart at Paray-le-Monial, stressing the necessity of mankind’s repentance and reparation for sin and the Lord’s desire to grant us Divine Mercy rather than chastisement;
- The opening lines describing the Third Secret Vision (“an Angel with a flaming sword in his left hand” );
- The Book of Esther itself, which “centers on secrets and revelations, a plot among nations against one kingdom and the elect, prayer and sacrifice, and the final triumph of the Queen;”
- In the Old Testament of the Hebrew text, Esther’s birth name, Hádássah, referred to myrtle, a star-shaped flower. The word myrtle shares the same etymological root as myrrh (“bitter”). The Hebrew text relates that Esther (in Persian, “star”), who became queen of Persia, changed her name to Hester, which translates to “hidden star” or “hidden [meaning of the] star.” Together, the various philological traces of Esther’s name also indicate “hidden bitter star.” 
- “Thus, in addition to all else it means to the Church, the Star of Esther may also symbolize the ‘hidden star’ which The Apocalypse names as Wormwood.”
- Too, there is the Hebrew name for The Book of Esther (Megillat Hester), which translates to “revelation [of that which is] hidden” or “hidden revelation” but also “hidden revelation of the star.” This is another trace to The Apocalypse.
- The themes found in The Book of Esther suggest it is a figure type for The Apocalypse, reinforcing Sr. Lucia’s statement that the Third Secret of Our Lady of Fatima may be found in the Gospels and Chapters 7-12 of The Apocalypse.
- At Fatima, Our Lady made use of the great Star of Heaven (the sun) as a reminder of God’s greatness but also as an image of the end of the world.
Fr. R. Gerald Culleton writes, “The period of great distress coincides with the ‘Major Apostasy’ of 2 Thess. 2:3 and with the end of the ‘Time of the Gentiles.’ After describing the destruction of Jerusalem, Jesus said: ‘And Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles until the times of the nations to be fulfilled.’ (Luke 21:24) The great distress brought physical death to many on earth, but like the days of the flood (see 1 Peter 3:20), many found repentance before death and washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb, and an innumerable crowd remained faithful to Him until death (Apoc. 7: 9-14).” 
At present, the world is already chastised with a terrible terrestrial calamity -the Great Revolt, which still runs its course. Its three parts directly link to the reasons Our Lady came to Fatima, the Great Secret’s three distinct parts, and the Great Miracle’s three-fold dance.
As for the celestial calamity foretold in The Apocalypse, it also seems prefigured in the “dancing” Star of Heaven, which advanced and receded three times before its final, soul-shaking tumble. The Scriptures are clear that the sun or its light indicate God’s Grace, His Presence, His Glory and Justice, or the glory of the just.  Symbol of the Sun of Justice, the sun at Fatima was shaken from its heavenly moorings, revolving like “a captive ball of fire,” suddenly plunging to the very horizon line, and finally “tracing a sort of winding ellipse as it went” back to its zenith – suggesting the path of an asteroid in the heavens. Was the sudden fiery plummet, so like a “wheel of fire,” the sensible sign of the celestial chastisement of The Apocalypse’s “bitter” star, Wormwood? Did it portend Our Lady of Akita’s warning that came exactly 56 years later to the day, “Fire will fall from the sky…”?
Each of us must make this heartfelt pray our own: “I must ardently desire to have Him as my Savior, Whom I am unable to withstand as my Judge.” The Church [that is, Her human element] and the world still have a choice between repenting and asking for God’s Mercy or remaining obstinate in sin and facing His Wrath. Each of us can do our part, following and spreading the whole truth about Fatima and the meaning of its magnificent Miracle. We must pray, sacrifice and work for the happy day of the collegial consecration of Russia to the Virgin’s Immaculate Heart. Through it all…
"Look to the Star! Call Mary!" (St. Bernard of Clairvaux)
Marianna Bartold, founder of Keeping It Catholic (http://www.keepingitcatholic.org), is the author of "The Age of Mary" Catholic, Internet-Based Study Guides, and "The Return of the King" (The Lord of the Rings) Catholic Study Guide. She is also the author of the Keeping It Catholic Home Education Guide books (Volumes I and II), the original homeschool editor of Sursum Corda Magazine, and the founding publisher of The Catholic Family's Magnificat! Magazine.
The article above, "Fatima's Miracle of the Sun: The Meaning of the Great Sign," was published in the October 2008 issue of Catholic Family News. All Rights Reserved by the author.
 Frère Michel de la Sainte Trinité, The Whole Truth about Fatima: Science and the Facts (Vol. 1). [Buffalo, NY: Immaculate Heart Publications, 1989 English translation copyright by the author]: p.181
 Ibid., p. 262
 Jesus Magazine, November 11, 1984 issue, p. 79.
 Lk. 21: 10-11, Mt. 24: 7, 11, 14. The Holy Bible: Douay-Rheims Version. [Rockford, IL: TAN Books and Publishers, 1899 edition photographically reproduced].
 Father Joseph de St. Marie ( Professor of Theology, Pontifical Faculty of Saint Theresa, Rome), “Our Lady of Fatima is the Fulfillment of Biblical Prophecy” [http://www.worldenslavementorpeace.com/e1cp2.asp]
 “The Hour of Reparation,” Home with God website. [http://our.homewithgod.com/sacredheart/sacred4/]
 John Vennari, The Permanent Instruction of the Alta Vendita [Rockford IL: TAN Books and Publishers; Copyright 1999 by the author): p. 14.
 Ibid., p. 38
 Father Joseph de St. Marie, loc. cit.
 Henri Gheon, “The Secret of Saint Margaret Mary,” Secrets of the Saints. (Image Books: 1963) Republished on the Catholic Information Network (CIN) website. [http://www.cin.org/sstmargm.html]
 2 Thess. 2
 Dr. Peter Chojnowski, “The Miracle of the Sun as Proclamation of the Universal Queenship of Mary,” Catholic Family News, November 2007: p.16
 Fr. Joseph de St. Marie, loc. cit.
 St. John Eudes, “Divine Mercy Mirrored in Mary’s Heart,” excerpted from The Admirable Heart of Mary, Part Five, Chapter I.
 Frère Michel de la Sainte Trinité, op. cit., p. 287.
 Sr. Lucia, FATIMA in Lucia’s Own Words [Imprimatur Fatima, 13 Maii 1976, + Albertus, Episc. Leir. Edited by Fr. Louis Kondor, SVD; Introduced by Dr. Joaquin M. Alonso, CMF; Translated by the Dominican Nuns of Perpetual Rosary; Postulation Centre, Fatima, Portugal]: pp. 172-173
 Frère Michel de la Sainte Trinité, op. cit., p. 260.
 Sr. Lucia, “Letter on the Rosary,” April 12, 1970. Published by S. Martina dos Reis, Uma Vida: pp. 372-373. Cited in Frère Michel, WTAF (Vol I): p. 284.
 Frère Michel de la Sainte Trinité, The Whole Truth about Fatima: The Secret and the Church (Vol. II). [Buffalo, NY: Immaculate Heart Publications, English translation copyright 1989 by the author]: pp.461-500
 Frère Michel de la Sainte Trinite, op. cit., p. 292.
 Ibid., pp. 323-324.
 Ibid., p. 336.
 Ibid., p. 337-338.
 Ibid., p. 339.
 Ibid. , p. 343.
 Ibid., p. 340.
 Ibid., p. 356.
 The Message of Fatima, issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, June 26, 2000. Vatican website. [http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20000626_message-fatima_en.html]
 “Our Lady of Akita.” [http://www.holymothermary.org/apparitions/akita.htm]
 Marianna Bartold, “Hidden Revelations: The Star of Esther and the Secrets of Fatima,” Catholic Family News, May 2008. Also available on the Net [http:www.keepingitcatholic.blogspot.com/]
 Marianna Bartold, “Fatima: The Signs and the Traces of Hidden Things,” Catholic Family News, June 2008. Also available on the Net [http:www.keepingitcatholic.blogspot.com/]
 Marianna Bartold, “Our Lady of Akita and the Third Secret of Fatima,” Catholic Family News, September 2008. Also see Online Etymology Dictionary. See Myrrh: O.E. myrre, from L. myrrha, from Gk. myrrha, from a Sem. source (cf. Akkadian murru, Heb. mor, Ar. murr "myrrh"), from a root meaning "was bitter." See also Myrtle: c.1400, from O. Fr. mirtile, from M.L. myrtillus, dim. of myrtus "myrtle tree," from Gk. myrtos, from same Sem. source as Gk. myrrha (see myrrh). [http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?l=m&p=26]
 Bartold, loc. cit. Also available on the Net [http:www.keepingitcatholic.blogspot.com/]
 Mark Fellows, Fatima in Twilight [Niagara Falls, U.S. and Canada: Marmion Publications, 2003]: p. 295
 Frère Michel de la Sainte Trinite, op. cit., p. 364.
 Rev. R. Gerald Culleton, The Reign of Antichrist: A Sourcebook of Catholic Prophecies About “The Man of Sin.” [Rockford, IL: TAN Books and Publishers, 1974; originally issued in 1951]: pp. 6-7
 Ps. 19:4-7; Matt. 17:2; Matt. 13:43.
 “Our Lady of Akita,” loc. cit.
 Prayer of St. Ambrose