Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Fatima Candle - Part One

Since I have started this blog, my greatest source of inspiration for topics to write about has been found in my mailbox. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am on the mailing list for lots of conservative and Religious Right organizations like Concerned Women for America and the American Family Association of New York.

But from an atheist perspective, some of the most interesting pieces of mail that comes to my house are addressed not to me, but to my late father, who was a Catholic. He would donate money occasionally to the Association of Marian Helpers, and from there his name and our address ended up on the mailing list for countless Catholic organizations. For about eight months my parents lived with my wife and kids in our house, as they had sold their house during the summer of 2002 and awaited the building of their new apartment in a senior citizen housing development in the Town of Oyster Bay. What we initially expected to be just a couple of months dragged on into the spring of 2003. As a result of their lengthy stay with us, to this day we still get Catholic groups mailing various solicitations to my father at our address.

A few days ago there arrived in our mail box a solicitation from an organization called America Needs Fatima. Inside was a letter from a Robert Ritchie with a small red candle sealed in the upper right corner of the first page. In the letter, Mr. Ritchie asks that the candle be sent back (along with a suitable donation) so that all of the candles that are returned can be melted into one large candle that will be sent to the exact spot in Portugal where three Portuguese children allegedly had visions of the Virgin Mary for some five months in the year 1917.

I had heard of the Fatima visions though did not know the details. So, like any curious person, I decided to read about it on the Internet. I will not recount the story here in detail. In a nutshell, the Virgin Mary allegedly appeared to three young Portuguese shepherds once a month from May to October of 1917 and instructed them to do penance and pray the Rosary every day. The visions attracted outside attention and thousands of people began to flock to the Fatima, culminating in what is known as the Miracle of the Sun, in which the sun reportedly radiated various colors and danced around the sky. This fantastical event is said to have been witnessed by upwards of 70,000 people.

Catholics, such as the aforesaid Mr. Ritchie, believe that a miracle occurred at Fatima and he proclaims that “America urgently needs the prophetic messages of Our Lady at Fatima. And that’s why the goal of America Needs Fatima is to win the heart and soul of our nation for Mary by spreading Her glorious Fatima message. Our Lady’s admonitions, requests, and warnings - as witnessed at Fatima - can only serve to help America achieve a clear direction and a great purpose.”

In addition to lighting a great candle at Fatima, Mr. Ritchie hopes to use the proceeds from the money raised to send Mary’s picture to some 2,500,000 homes because “friends, neighbors, and loved ones will view the beautiful photograph of the Virgin Mary and their hearts will be softened.”

Ritchie provides the following as an example of the miracles that can happen from having a picture of the Virgin Mary in one’s home:

“It happened to a lady whose husband beat her, refused to go to confession, and lived openly in sin.

This good lady did everything to get her husband to go to confession. Yet one day, as she again entreated him to go to confession, she gave him a picture of Our Lady.”

The next day, Ritchie reports, the wife beater went to confession. Proof, he claims, of how important it is to have a picture of the Virgin Mary in everyone’s home. Of course, there is no mention of whether or not the remorseful husband reverted to his wife beating ways afterwards.

As a skeptic, I of course deny that the Virgin Mary ever appeared to three Portuguese children in 1917. With respect to the “Miracle of the Sun” allegedly witnessed by some 70,000 people, I do not have the background to explain what could cause such an event. But what I find strange about this so-called miraculous event is that Catholics who believe in the Fatima visions are apparently untroubled that the Virgin Mary would appear to three children in the Portuguese countryside in order to spread her message of peace instead of directly addressing the leaders of the Allied and Central powers that were engaged at the time in the bloody conflict known to us today as World War One.

38 comments:

Stardust said...

But what I find strange about this so-called miraculous event is that Catholics who believe in the Fatima visions are apparently untroubled that the Virgin Mary would appear to three children in the Portuguese countryside to in order to spread her message of peace instead of directly addressing the leaders of the Allied and Central powers that were engaged at the time in the bloody conflict known to us today as World War One.

Excellent point...great post once again.

Stardust said...

From Wikipedia:

Kevin McClure claims that the crowd at Cova da Iria may have been expecting to see signs in the sun, as similar phenomena had been reported in the weeks leading up to the miracle. On this basis he believes that the crowd saw what it wanted to see. Kevin McClure stated that he had never seen such a collection of contradictory accounts of a case in any of the research he had done in the previous ten years

Scientists suggest that what was seen is a sun dog:
A sun dog or sundog (scientific name parhelion) is a relatively common atmospheric optical phenomenon associated with the refraction of sunlight by small ice crystals that make up cirrus or cirrostratus clouds. Sundogs typically appear as a bright and colorful patch in the sky at a position 22 degrees or more to the left and/or right of the sun. They are a halo. Other common associated phenomena, collectively called "ice halos," are the circumzenithal arc, upper tangent arc, parhelic circle, and lower tangent arc. There are many other named ice halo phenomena that can be seen given optimal conditions.

Most Protestant religions reject that this miracle happened, while evangelicals believe it happened but it was satan that caused the visions of the children and the claimed "miracle."

Tommy said...

Thanks Stardust. When I'm at work, I plan to provide a link to the Wikipedia article, which I referred to when writing the post.

I'm also thinking of printing my post and mailing it to the America Needs Fatima organization. That should encourage them to stop mailing nonsense to my house.

Stardust said...

tommy - I didn't know that catholics could be so "evangelical" before my husband and I had our experience with "Father Finegan". I hope you have more luck with making them stop sending you stuff than we had with Mr. Finegan.

Sirkowski said...

What a waste of money. I bet this guy is gonna buy a nice house.

Anonymous said...

I also received a Fatima candle from Mr. Ritchie from America Needs Fatima and I am so happy with this group.

The miracle of the sun at Fatima in 1917 is the only miracle foretold to happen at a certain place and time and witnessed by multitudes. The Blessed Mother said she would perform this miracle on 3 occasions in 1917, before the actual miracle took place.

She also foretold the end of WW1 and the coming of WW2 as well as the expansion of Russian Communism, which had not even conquered Russia at the time of her apparition.

You atheists can do all the explaining you want, but deep down, you know you are wrong.

Tommy said...

So tell me anonymous, it was more important for the Virgin Mary to appear to three children in the Portuguese countryside rather than the leaders of the states that were butchering each other during WWI.

You are the deluded one my friend.

Anonymous said...

So, Tommy, you deny the Fatima miracle of the sun that was witnessed by 70,000 people? The prophecies of the Virgin Mary in 1917 foretold exactly what happened in the 20th century. You cannot deny this unless you deny a public fact. She appeared to three innocent shepherd children and delivered her message to them exactly becuase they were innocent and would not distort the message nor deny it like you are. Do you really think the world leaders of the time would listen to Our Lady? Fat chance. It's amazing what people like you will deny to justify the truth known as such.

Tommy said...

To Mr. Anonymous, I wrote in Part 2 of this post, why shold I believe that what appeared in the sky in Portugal was a miracle, when the day before thousands of people in Flanders Field were butchered in a botched attack on the German lines?

You have a really skewed idea as to what constitutes a miracle. That is the whole point of my post, that people like you make a natural phenomenon out to be some kind of god given miracle when thousands of men were getting slaughtered on the battle field some thousand miles away from the event.

Anonymous said...

So, Tommy, you deny the miracle of the sun?

Edward Koestner said...

It seems like Tommy cannot face the facts.

Tommy said...

To the last two commenters, see Stardust's second comment above.

Oh, and I worshipped Mary before she was a virgin.

Edward Koestner said...

Blasphemers suffer terribly in this life and hellfire for all eternity.

Tommy said...

Ooooooooh, I'm sooooo scared!

Edward Koestner said...

Tommy, you are a coward. Deep down, you know you are wrong. Convert while there is time.

Ice halos and sundogs have nothing to do with the miracle of the sun in Fatima, in 1917. The sun actually rolled about in the sky for 10 minutes. It was raining before the miracle, yet both the ground and people's clothing dried up without anyone getting burned or harmed by the heat.

Tommy said...

Yeah, right, I'm a coward.

The fact that you are trying to frighten me with the threat of burning in hell for all eternity tells me how morally bankrupt you are.

Go lock yourself in your room and pray your rosary 10 times for penance you superstitious fool!

Cid Lancaster said...

On the contrary, Edward is being charitable towards you, Tommy, by admonishing the sinner, which is one of the 7 spiritual works of mercy. My suggestion is you thank him for being so candid.

Anonymous said...

In the Gospel, Our Lord Jesus Christ mentions Hell 15 times.

Tommy said...

Yeah, well, the Bible is not the word of God, the god of the Bible does not exist, Jesus was not born from a virgin and he did not rise from the dead. You can shout "sinner" and "blasphemy" at me all you want, but you're the ones who are in thrall to medieval superstition. 600 years ago you would have been cheering on innocent people being burned at the stake for heresy and witchcraft.

Tommy said...

Since it is unclear to me if you read Part Two of the series, here is its concluding paragraph:

In my two part series on Noah’s Ark, I described God’s unleashing of a destructive flood as punishing humanity the Rube Goldberg way. The Fatima visions could be described as God trying save humanity the Rube Goldberg way. It takes quite a feat of mental compartmentalization for ardent Catholics to believe that the Virgin Mary’s alleged appearance to children in rural Portugal was a beautiful and miraculous event while hundreds of thousands of young men were killed on the battlefield of Flanders. Why didn’t the Virgin Mary appear to General Haig and General Ludendorff, or Lloyd George and Kaiser Wilhelm? Why didn’t the Miracle of the Sun happen over Passchendaele on October 12, thereby potentially saving the lives of thousands of people, rather than dazzling tens of thousands of people a day later in a country far removed from the conflict? A Supreme Being who makes the sun dance around in the sky does not impress me. A Supreme Being who stops the pointless slaughter of tens of thousands of human beings? Now that would be a miracle that deserved remembering with a candle.

Ted Ranger said...

First you said the miracle of the sun didn't happen. Now you say it doesn't impress you. I've heard this type of rejection of miracles before. No matter how great the miracles are, you and your type would not beleive them. You have made yourself a god. How sad. Come down off your pedestal and worship the True God.

Edward Koestner said...

Tommy, will you reverse your thinking if you learn of a miracle that saved thousands from certain death?

Robert Ritchie said...

Please send me the full name and date of death of your father so we pray for his soul at Mass, and have his name removed from the mailing list. Thank you.

Robert Ritchie said...

I've made a perpetual prayer intention for your father.

Empiricist said...

I am ultimately an empiricist (just like the name says, heh), and one of the reasons I still consider myself Catholic is Fatima. I've done a great deal of research on Fatima and the evidence that a non-human intelligence was present there is highly compelling.

The sundog theory just doesn't cut it. Many of the observers were educated, urbane types who were there to disprove the event and would have been able to differentiate between a common astronomical phenomenon and something extranatural. If 700 people had seen this, I'd be more likely to agree that this was mass-hysteria or misinterpretation of a rare but common occurrence. But 70,000 people? At some point, it strains credulity to say that something supernatural didn't happen at Fatima.

There were also a number of predictions made by the Lady at Fatima that came true. One such prediction was that two of the children involved would die soon. That occurred, and the deaths were far from suspicious. They came as a result of a plague that swept the area. Again, this would be quite an eerie cooincidence if this prediction was a hoax that just happened to come true...

The whole thing was documented indepth by the Catholic Church, which was at first skeptical but then began to believe the whole thing. The Church has always sported highly intelligent clergymen and one of them was assigned to write up the little known details of the lives of the children. One of the girls, Jacinta, died a slow and painful death in the hospital. She said that the Lady from Fatima would appear in her hospital room to comfort her. Once one of her nurses decided to stand in the spot where the Lady was supposedly standing. A look of agony came over Jacinta's face as she did so. Now, does anyone think a dying little girl would have any reason to continue to purport such a hoax at that point, and with no witnesses other than a single nurse?

Again, it is a huge, huge mistake for the Catholic Church not to gather up these facts in an empirical way and present them to the world. Fatima serves as very compelling evidence that a non-human intelligence interacted with mankind less than a century ago and basically endorsed the idea of a Christian God as taught by the Catholic Church. You'd think that the Church would want as many people to know about this as possible. The fact that so few know about it is one of the Church's greatest failings in my opinion.

Robert Ritchie said...

America Needs Fatima has compiled these facts and has made them widely available. Am willing to send for free. 888-317-5571 or www.tfp.org

Tommy said...

Ted, my point was that people like you get all woozy over these claims of miracles that have no practical application.

If the so-called Miracle of the Sun really was some apparition conjured by God, then it would not impress me when that same God could have had the Virgin Mary try to stop the slaughter going on hundreds of miles away on the Western Front.

If a stain appears on a wall underneath a highway overpass, Catholics present it as some kind of a miracle from God.

Since none of us were in Portugal when these alleged events happened, none of us can say for certain what happened. I am certain that there are explanations for all of them that do not require a supernatural agent.

There is nothing you can say to me that will convince me I am wrong. Anyone who has to resort to threats of hell or eternal damnation has already lost the argument as far as I am concerned.

There is only one thing that could convince me I am wrong, and that is if the Virgin Mary appeared to me herself. But I am not holding my breath.

Ted Ranger said...

Read about Alfonse Ratisbone, wealthy banker and rabid anti-Catholic who Our Lady appeared to and converted in an instant. You probably won't read it, but it's readily available in book form and on Internet sites. Meanwhile, I pray Our Lady appears to you. She is Mother of Mercy and appears to many who insult her, and they have converted.

Saint Alfonso de Ligouri's book Glories of Mary has dozens of these documented miracles. Not to mention countless miracles at Lourdes, France, and Genazzano, Italy.

She steals souls who otherwise go to hell from the claws of the devil.

Anonymous said...

Alphonse sees a brilliant light in the side chapel, the Chapel of the Archangels. It's as if all light has been concentrated at that one spot.

And in the center of the light, Alphonse sees the Blessed Mother. She is standing on the altar: "tall, brilliant, full of sweetness and majesty." She is so blindingly beautiful that, after one glance at her face, he casts down his eyes. Repeatedly he tries to raise his eyes again, to behold that beautiful face. But he cannot. He can't raise his eyes past the level of her hands, which are outstretched, with light streaming from her fingers -- just as in the image on the Miraculous Medal.

But her hands are very expressive. To Alphonse, they speak of "all the tenderness of the Divine Pity."

With one hand, she gestures to him to approach. He does so, on his knees. After he has advanced a few paces, she gestures again, as if to signify: "Enough--that's good!"

Then, as he gazes on the light streaming from her fingers, he receives the gift of Infused Knowledge. Faster than thought, he understands all: his own profound sinfulness (especially the enormity of Original Sin); God's infinite love and mercy toward poor sinners, revealed in the Incarnation and Crucifixion; the beauty and truth of Catholicism; the reality of Christ's Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament.

A Jewish agnostic reared in a skeptical milieu, he has never even heard the term "Original Sin"; now he instantly knows what it is, more profoundly than if he'd been studying the subject for years.

The entire experience takes mere moments.

The Baron de Bussieres returns from his conference with the friars. He looks around the nave. Where is Ratisbonne? Finally, he spots the young man: slumped, kneeling, with his head against the altar rail in the Chapel of the Archangels.

The baron approaches. Once, twice, a third time, he taps Alphonse on the shoulder. No response. Finally Alphonse is roused. He turns toward the baron "a face bathed in tears," clasps his hands together, and exclaims, "Oh! How that gentleman has prayed for me!"

"That gentleman" is the Comte de la Ferronays, whom Alphonse has never met. No one has told Alphonse that the Comte had been praying for him. Rather, it has just been revealed to him...in the same supern "That gentleman" is the Comte de la Ferronays, whom Alphonse has never met. No one has told Alphonse that the Comte had been praying for him. Rather, it has just been revealed to him...in the same supernatural light wherein he has received infused knowledge of Catholic Truth.

De Bussieres is stunned. He begs Alphonse to explain himself, but Alphonse cannot. He is sobbing too hard, murmuring between sobs, "How happy I am! How good God is! How unbelievers are to be pitied!"

The baron helps Alphonse outside and into his carriage. He takes him to the Hotel Serny, where Alphonse is staying, and loosens his cravat so he can breathe. But Alphonse is still sobbing, clasping his Miraculous Medal, murmuring thanks to God. At last he turns to the baron, embraces him, and with a face "presque transfiguree" says: "Take me to a confessor! When can I receive baptism, without which I can no longer live?"

"What has happened?" exclaims the baron. "What have you seen?"

"That," says Alphonse, "I can reveal only on my knees and to a priest."

So...the baron takes him to the Gesu, the Jesuit mother-church, to see Pere de Villefort. There, Alphonse tries to explain himself, but he is still sobbing so hard that he is unintelligible. At last he calms down, takes the Miraculous Medal from his neck, holds it up, and cries: "Je l'ai vue! Je l'ai vue!"

Then, as the baron and the priest listen in amazement, Alphonse recounts the whole story. He concludes with an enigmatic statement that strikes his listeners forcefully: "Elle ne m'a rien dit, mais j'ai tout compris!"

"She spoke not a word, but I understood all."

Eleven days later, Alphonse is baptized at the Gesu. Everyone who is anyone is there, for the news of Alphonse's conversion has caused a sensation. (His family is renowned throughout Europe.) Attendees strain to catch a glimpse of the young convert, but he is oblivious. All he cares about is baptism...and then, the Holy Eucharist. He is so overcome by the experience of receiving the Eucharistic Lord that he has to be sustained by de Bussieres, his baptismal sponsor, while returning from the altar to his place.

The following month, the Vatican holds a canonical process to investigate the circumstances surrounding Alphonse's conversion. After lengthy investigation and many depositions, it concludes that his sudden conversion was entirely miraculous -- an act of God wrought through the powerful intercession of the Virgin.

Tommy said...

See my new post The Fatima Challenge by clicking on the link to the homepage for my blog.

dlaz109 said...

First, I am a devout Catholic. Second, I hope that you would consider me well educated as I have been an attorney for the last 25 years. Therefore, I put the following query to you. It has been well documented that people within a 20 mile radius of Fatima observed the miracle of the sun. Certainly, these people could not know that Sister Lucia pointed at the sun or the time she pointed at the sun, like the crowd of 70,000in her immediate vicinity could. Witnesses were interviewed ranging from devout Catholics to atheists within that 20 mile range, all who reported seeing the sun spin and fall. Given that they had no way of knowing when the miracle would start as signaled by Sister Lucia, or that the miracle would involve the sun, could you please provide a natural and scientific explaination for how people 20 miles from Fatima experienced the miracle?

Tommy said...

dlaz, I wasn't there so I can speak to what these people claimed to have seen. There are natural explanations for what they could have seen.

What was miraculous about it? What did it accomplish? As I wrote in Parts 1 and 2 of this post, if "God" really wanted to pull off a miracle, why not have had it take place on the battlefields of Europe where tens of thousands of soldiers lives could have been saved?

Face it, the god you worship does not exist and no "miracle" took place at Fatima.

Anonymous said...

The prophecies were not realized until after the events took place. This myth was debunked decades ago.

Anonymous said...

Fatima has had too many coincidences. People did not injure their eyes. 3 peasant children were foretold of some event and maintained steadfast for months after severe questioning by civil and church authorities, Sun appeared at the correct time and after rains ceased. Many thousands of people of various beliefs and intelligence saw what was unusual whatever it was. Newspaper reporters there were anxious to debunk the story but were objective enough to headline the event, no counter stories in the press or from eye witnesses have been recorded even after decades later some of the crowd may still be alive to reaffirm the event. Etc

Anonymous said...

Tommy where is that link entitled
The Challenge of Fatima?

Anonymous said...

Tommy where is that link entitled
The Challenge of Fatima?

Anonymous said...

Tommy Oh Tommy Where are you?

Anonymous said...

Hi Tommy, I found your articles very interesting especially because I am a questioning Catholic. And I think you are very mature in discussing these issues, which is a huge plus. When you ask why God would reveal the secrets to the children instead of the leaders, however, there is a Bible verse (Matthew 11:25): "Father, ... to you I offer praise; for what you have hidden from the learned and the clever you have revealed to the merest children", which is along the lines of Jesus Christ being born of a low status (rather than a king), Him preaching, living among "low-status" peasants, and sacrificing for others. (instead of being a prince with an easy life)

In any case, I think God/Mary appearing to delivering the message to the leaders directly would defeat the purpose of the message: (1) It would literally make the leaders act on what's prophecized, not what they decide to do on their will (2) Leaders already have power of all different kinds -- it would add to their conceit/disbelief/abuse. (3) Despite Catholics' own debates about the Miracle of the Sun, the event has changed a lot of lives; it was recorded on newspapers such as New York Times, captured on photos -- if there was any actual dispute as to if the miracle occurred, I believe there should have been a huge backlash against the Catholic Church, which doesn't seem to have been the case for Portugal, where the event took place.

Great posts! You have some awesome points/arguments.