The Miracle of the Rain
By Donal Anthony Foley

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This article appeared in the April 2003 issue of Catholic Family

The Miracle of the Rain by Donal Anthony Foley

It was a miserably wet and cold late October Saturday night in Fatima. The official season had finished on 13 October, the anniversary of the last apparition and the Miracle of the Sun. I had been there for a week with a group of pilgrims from England, as a guide, and we had enjoyed almost perfect weather. But now there was a change, and it began to rain steadily.

I dutifully made my way to the Sanctuary, umbrella in hand, as the time for the beginning of the procession approached and the rain seemed to be coming down even harder; I was certainly surprised to see a crowd, which I would estimate at something like 20,000 to 30,000, filling the space around the Capelhina and up on the Basilica steps, many with candles already lit. It was fascinating to watch this crowd as the ceremony began and the rosary was recited in various languages. It is very difficult for a non-Portuguese speaker to work out what is being said, such is the strangeness of this tongue, and so in between decades I had a chance to observe.

Many of the crowd had umbrellas, of all sorts and colors, and seeing this great mass of upturned shapes, highlighted under the powerful lights of the sanctuary, made me think immediately of pictures taken at the time of the Miracle of the Sun on 13 October 1917. Then many of the crowd of seventy thousand which had gathered also had umbrellas up to protect themselves from the rain, and only put them down at Lucia’s shout that the Lady was coming.

Now, this great phalanx of umbrellas also reminded me of those pictures you see of Roman legionaries putting their shields together over their heads to protect themselves from missiles. Fortunately, Portuguese rain is not quite so deadly! In fact the crowd was so tightly packed that many people were able to take advantage of this and shelter under the umbrella of their neighbor. Some though seemed quite unconcerned about the steadily falling rain, as the procession began, and we slowly made our way around the great oval of the sanctuary behind the illuminated cross and the statue of Our Lady, as it was carried by its teams of bearers.

During the week, the crowds for the procession had been quite small, but now the choruses for the great Marian hymns boomed out as sanctuary was filled with sound. The most striking thing about this great crowd was its diversity-country people in simple clothes, with weather-beaten faces, mingling with the well-off in expensive outfits; groups of students walking along next to uniformed “Bombeiros”-the Portuguese emergency services, some of whose members were due to give a concert later that night in the Pope Paul VI pastoral center. Similarly, the contrast between young and old, their faces illuminated under their umbrellas by the candles they held in their hands, made me realize that I was glimpsing what a truly Catholic culture should be like.

Finally, the great candlelit procession came to a close, as the last echoing refrains of the crowd died away and we reassembled near the Capelhina. The rain was still coming down, but most waited for the final blessing and dismissal. After the “goodnights” in various languages, including English, if I remember correctly, we came to the last blessing given in Latin. This was completely electrifying, and you could instantly understand why Latin was the universal language of the Church for two thousand years-it has a solidity and majesty which modern languages seem to lack. The priest’s voiced thundered out over the loudspeakers, blessing us in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and fortified with the Church’s benediction we made our way back to our temporary homes.

It is something of a miracle, the “miracle of the rain” that so many could turn out in such poor conditions in order to venerate Our Lady, and I think the one of the lessons here is that it is possible to re-create a genuine Catholic culture in the West, a new Christendom, but for that to happen, Mary and Fatima need to be given proper recognition, following the example set by Pope John Paul II. The recent Beatifications of Jacinta and Francisco, the revelation of the third part of the secret, and the Entrustment of the Church and the third millennium to Our Lady, indicate the importance of genuine Marian devotion for Catholicism. Now it is our job to make everyone else realize this.

© 2003, Donal Anthony Foley, All Rights Reserved

This article appeared in the April 2003 issue of Catholic Family

Marian Apparitions, the Bible, and the Modern World, by Donal Anthony Foley

Published by Gracewing Publishers - Foreword by Fr Aidan Nichols OP
Imprimatur from Bishop McMahon of Nottingham Diocese, England

This is an in depth investigation into the major Marian apparitions that have occured during the last five centuries. It relates them to secular happenings and important revolutionary events in Western history including the Reformation and the French and Russian Revolutions.

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