For the newest version of this post: “A Mysterious Cloud and a Rain of Flowers”
By the time of Our Lady’s Fifth Visit to Fatima on September 13, 1917, nearly 30,000 people had gathered at the Cova da Iria. While waiting for noon to arrive, Lucia led the Rosary for the crowd. At noon, a certain phenomenon announced the arrival of Our Lady to many in the crowd.
Again drawing from various sources, but especially from Frère Michel de la Sainte Trinité we read:
Among the numerous testimonies describing the marvels which Our Lady wished to accompany Her coming, the most detailed is undoubtedly from Father John Quaresma, who later on became Vicar General of Leiria. He had come there incognito, in secular clothing with two other priests, Fathers Manuel do Carmo Gois and Manuel Pereira da Silva, in the same dress. All three surveyed the events from an elevation at the side of the Cova. In 1932, Msgr. Quaresma, in a letter to his colleague Msgr. Carmo Gois, recalls the prodigious event of September 13 in all its details:
“On a beautiful September morning we left Leiria in a rickety carriage drawn by an old horse, for the spot where the much discussed apparitions were to take place. Father Gois found the high point of the vast amphitheatre from which we could observe events without approaching too nearly the place where the children were awaiting the apparition. At midday (solar time) there was complete silence. One only heard the murmur of prayers.
“Suddenly there were sounds of jubilation and voices praising the Blessed Virgin. Arms were raised pointing to something in the sky. “Look, don’t you see?” “Yes, yes, I do…!” There was much satisfaction on the part of those who did. There had not been a cloud in the deep blue sky and I too raised my eyes and scrutinized it in case I should be able to distinguish what the others, more fortunate than I, had already claimed to have seen. With great astonishment I saw, clearly and distinctly, a luminous globe, which moved from the east to the west, gliding slowly and majestically through space. My friends also looked and had the good fortune to enjoy the same unexpected and delightful vision. Suddenly the globe, with its extraordinary light, disappeared. Near us was a little girl dressed like Lucia and more or less the same age. She continued to cry out happily: “I still see it! I still see it! Now it’s coming down!”
“It then began to approach the holm oak of the apparition. Then the sun’s brightness diminished, the atmosphere became golden yellow, like the other times. Some people even reported being able to distinguish the stars in the sky. Lucia began to speak …
“What does Your Grace want of me?”
“Continue to say the Rosary in order to obtain the end of the war. In October, Our Lord will come, as well as Our Lady of Sorrows and Our Lady of Carmel. Saint Joseph will appear with the Child Jesus in order to bless the world.”
Then, regarding the penitential practice of wearing the coarse rope around their waists, Our Lady told Lucia:
“God is satisfied with your sacrifices, but He does not want you to sleep with the rope. Wear it only during the day.”
The fourth Memoir adds:
“In October I will perform a miracle so that all may believe.”
Then Our Lady began to rise as usual, and disappeared.
AN AMAZING “RAIN OF FLOWERS”
During the time of the apparition the majority of the pilgrims had enjoyed a marvelous spectacle: they saw falling from Heaven a shower of white petals, or round, shining snowflakes which slowly descended and disappeared as they approached the ground. Here are a few testimonies:
“Very high up we saw little white forms like snow in the air, coming across from the east to the west. One could say they were doves, but we could clearly see that they were not birds. On the slope, to the west, stood Father Joaquim Ferreira Gonzalves das Neves, parish priest of Santa Catarina da Serra… I turned towards him and asked him if he saw something. He said no. I indicated the direction to him, and suddenly he declared that he saw also.”
It was an unheard of phenomenon, which the witnesses were not able to describe very well: “One might think they were stars”, declared Manuel Gonzalves, from the hamlet of Montelo. Others spoke of a rain of white roses, which vanished at the approach of the ground.
A MYSTERIOUS CLOUD
The Blessed Virgin wished to give the crowd gathered around the holm oak where She was appearing another sign of Her presence:
“A pleasant looking cloud formed around the rustic arch which dominated the little tree-stump. Rising up from the ground, it grew thicker and went up into the air until it was five or six metres high; then it disappeared like smoke that vanishes before the wind.
“A few moments later, similar curls of smoke were formed and disappeared in the same manner, and then a third time.”
“Everything happened as though some invisible thurifers were incensing the Vision liturgically. The three incensations together lasted the whole time of the apparition, that is from ten to fifteen minutes.”
In his letter approving devotion to Our Lady of Fatima, the Bishop of Leiria declared this phenomenon “humanly speaking inexplicable”.
THE LUMINOUS GLOBE GOES BACK UP TO HEAVEN
Not everything was over with yet. At the end of the Apparition, when the Blessed Virgin had finished transmitting Her message, Lucia exclaimed: “If you want to see Her, look over there! And she pointed with her finger towards the east. Then once again the luminous globe having an oval form could be seen, going up into the air and leaving the Cova da Iria in the direction of the east.
Here is the conclusion of Msgr. Quaresma’s account:
“After a few minutes, about the duration of the Apparitions, the child began to exclaim again, pointing to the sky: ‘Now it’s going up again!’ And she followed the globe with her eyes until it disappeared in the direction of the sun.”
“What do you think of that globe?” I asked my companion, who seemed enthusiastic at what he had seen. “That it was Our Lady”, he replied without hesitation. It was my undoubted conviction also. The children had contemplated the very Mother of God, while to us it had been given to see the means of transport which had brought Her from Heaven to the inhospitable waste of the Serra de Aire.
“I must emphasize that all those around us appeared to have seen the same thing, for one heard manifestations of joy and praise of Our Lady. But some saw nothing. Near us was a simple devout creature weeping bitterly because she had seen nothing.
“We felt remarkably happy. My companion went from group to group in the Cova and afterwards on the road, gathering information. Those he questioned were of all sorts and kinds and of different social standing, but one and all affirmed the reality of the phenomena which we ourselves had witnessed.”
THE MESSAGE OF THE SIGNS
Far from overwhelming the little seers with interminable discourses which they would not be able to remember, Our Lady showed an admirable pedagogy at Fatima. She contented Herself to humbly take up certain themes, all closely connected, and She repeated them from month to month, each time adding some new element. Thus on October 13 She repeats almost entirely, although in a different way, Her words of September 13. Thus it will be more fruitful to comment on Her last two messages at the same time…
Let us consider what constitutes the originality of this fifth apparition, that is the striking atmospheric signs which accompanied the coming of Our Lady and Her return to Heaven. To be sure, they were first and above all sensible proofs mercifully granted by Her, to convince still more the crowds of the faithful gathered in the Cova da Iria of the reality of Her presence. And in fact these signs would encourage innumerable pilgrims to return for the last rendezvous, to the point where there were almost twice as many, from 50,000 to 80,000!
But the miracles of Our Lord and the signs accomplished by Our Lady of Fatima are not only extraordinary facts which bear witness to their supernatural origin, they are also symbols rich in meaning, the sensible expressions of a mystery… Thus all the surprising marvels of September 13, which filled with joy all those who had the privilege of contemplating them were like a language, the discreet and veiled manifestation of the Immaculate Virgin who during this time appeared in brilliant light to Her three usual confidants. And first of all, this luminous globe which preceded the apparition…
THE IMMACULATE ONE CAME DOWN FROM HEAVEN
Yes, such 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. The sign was simple, and its meaning was obvious to all: “It was Our Lady who came!” exclaimed Father Gois. And Father Quaresma explained: “The little shepherds had seen the Mother of God Herself. To us it had been given to see the means of transport, if one may so express it, which had brought Her from Heaven to the inhospitable waste of the Serra de Aire.”
Frère Michel takes pains in his account to make clear that an essential function of the apparition was to emphasise the reality of the Blessed Virgin’s glorified body appearing there. Not some mystical appearance of a symbolic representation of Mary, but she herself. We need to bear this in mind in order to counteract the pernicious effects of modernism, which seeks always to undermine the physical reality of Jesus’s real presence and Mary’s as well.
Despite the modernists, at Fatima as at Lourdes, much evidence allows us to affirm that Heaven visited the earth, the Virgin Mary descended in person in Her risen body to appear to the three shepherds, to transmit Her message to them, and comfort the innumerable crowds with Her invisible presence. Then She went back up to Heaven, resplendent with Light, always towards the east from whence She had come.
This last detail, very well attested by the seers, is still another symbolic trait rich in biblical reminiscences: Does it not remind us of the Spouse in the Canticle of Canticles? “Who is She that cometh forth as the dawn, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army in battle array?” (Canticles 6, 9)
THE IMMACULATE ONE, ARK OF THE NEW COVENANT
During all the apparitions since June 13, 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 September 13, 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 biblical theophanies? Certainly, for from the giving of the law to Moses on Sinai to the Transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor, the cloud always appears in sacred history as the symbol and sensible expression of the divine Presence. But how can we explain the fact that a creature, even the most sublime, the Blessed Virgin, could manifest Herself in the glorious aura of a specifically divine attribute?
The answer is rich in mystical significance and is taught in the Gospel of St. Luke, by way of allusion but still quite clearly: through a series of hints that the exegetes have perfectly grasped, the Evangelist identifies the Virgin Mary with the Ark of the Covenant. This Ark, hidden under the Tent, was like a movable sanctuary, the place where Yahweh had fixed His residence, accompanying Israel in its wanderings; and the Cloud manifested His presence. As soon as the Ark was introduced, we read in the Book of Exodus, “the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” (Ex. 40:34-35) After the building of the Temple by Solomon, the Ark was solemnly carried in by the priests to the Holy of Holies. And finally, it is by the Cloud that Yahweh manifests that He is taking possession of His Temple, and establishes His abode there.
Now the symbolism is clear: by manifesting Herself in the cloud in each of Her apparitions, did not Our Lady wish to signify to us one of the most sublime aspects of Her mystery? In these three clouds observed on September 13 and October 13, which also remind us of the triple incensation in the liturgy, the Immaculate Virgin shows us that She is the Abode and the Temple of God, the Sanctuary of the Holy Trinity, and the Ark of the New Covenant. In addition to Her message, it seems that at Fatima the Virgin Mary wished to teach us, in an incomparable synthesis, and in both a sensible and symbolic manner, all the highest perfections of Her personal vocation, already chanted for many centuries by the liturgy of the Church: “Ark of the Covenant, pray for us!”
THE IMMACULATE ONE, DISPENSER OF A SHOWER OF GRACES
As for the gracious shower of rose petals or snowflakes, the significance can be grasped immediately. The symbolism is so natural that the expression “a shower of graces” has become commonplace. For example, we need only recall the beautiful words of St. Therese of the Child Jesus who, planning to spend her Heaven doing good on earth, said to her sister: “You’ll see, it will be like a shower of roses.”
At Rue du Bac, Our Lady had declared to St. Catherine Laboure: “Come to the foot of this altar. Here, graces will be poured out on everybody who will ask for them with confidence.” Is it not the same pressing invitation that Our Lady wished to express at the Cova da Iria, by the eloquent symbol of a preternatural rain? Unquestionably yes. And as if to encourage the pilgrims to come en masse to this blessed place, where she showered Her graces profusely, she renewed the same prodigy of this mysterious rain on May 13, 1918, and one more time, on May 13, 1924: this time Bishop da Silva of Leiria was at the Cova da Iria and could bear witness to it himself.
BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO HAVE NOT SEEN AND HAVE BELIEVED!
And yet, Msgr. Quaresma writes, “some people saw nothing at all.” “It seems that the proportion of those who saw nothing was about a third of the total”, Canon Barthas remarks. Did Our Lady wish to try their faith? It seems likely. Far from favouring only the believers, or those who intensely desired to finally see tangible proofs of the supernatural character of the events, many of them did not notice any extraordinary phenomenon that day. The privation of this consolation was a hard trial for them! It remained for them to have blind confidence in the words of Our Lady, and to continue firmly hoping to be more fortunate on October 13; for She had promised since July 13, and repeated this promise to the seers on September 13: “In October, I will perform a miracle so that all may see and believe.”
Carefully note Our Lady’s choice of words, “So that all may believe.”! Here is the Immaculate Mother of God affirming that Fatima is a message for all. That is, Fatima is not simply a private revelation that we may choose to ignore!
Please note: the above post quotes extensively from Frère Michel de la Sainte Trinité, whose books can be downoaded for free from archive.org, here:
The three links to archive.org should give you nice, clean readable text, unlike other links given previously. I downloaded them as epub files for mac and as mobi files for Kindle and highly recommend their readability. The Kindle version has a very good linked table of contents. I hope they will prove useful to you.
And also from two excellent ebooks by KIC, which I highly recommend:
Dear readers, I have treasured this time with you, and the opportunity to provide useful information about Our Lady of Fatima’s message for her children today as we approach the culmination of the minor chastisement. We are working to place every bit of information we have at your disposal, in hopes that it will be helpful to all of you in times to come.
May Our Lady of the Rosary, the Immaculata, Queen of Heaven, be our refuge and bring us safely to heaven!
~ by evensong for love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Queen of our hearts, Queen of the Holy Rosary, Queen of the Church!
Vouchsafe that I may praise thee, O Sacred Virgin, give me strength against thine enemies!