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Many do not know some fascinating and hidden things about Fatima -- despite how many times it has been hashed over and rehashed, seemingly without end.

Few know (although this we have reported) that mystical phenomena had occurred right there at Fatima, as well as nearby towns (including an apparition of the Archangel Michael), centuries before the famous 1917 appearances of Mary.

(One example: In the 1400s a deaf girl from another nearby hamlet called Casal Santa Maria, which is about a mile and a half from Fatima, saw the Virgin Mary over a cluster of ortiga bushes. Mary smiled and made an odd request. She asked the girl, who could suddenly hear, for one of her lambs. It was a test of obedience. Suddenly the girl spoke as if deafness had never afflicted her [see here]!

Others may not know that there was a miraculous spring associated with Fatima. No, we're not mixing it up with Lourdes.

"The first Mass at Cova da Iria was celebrated on October 13, 1921," wrote Zsolt Aradi in Understanding Miracles. "On November 17, 1921, a spring began to flow at the site of the apparitions." Holy Water is now gathered at a fountain.

In the 14th century around 1380 another miraculous spring had been discovered near Aljubarrota [about fifteen miles from Fatima] and associated with a poor woman named Catarina Anes. (According to historical accounts one day Catarina went to the forest on a mountain called Valle de Deus to search for firewood and when she did heard a voice, that of a woman offering to help her. Later, when Catarina went to the top of the mountain as instructed by the voice and dug a hole, a spring of crystal-clear water appeared. "Now go and tell the people of your village that here they will find a remedy for all their infirmities," said the woman, who was apparently the Virgin Mary; see: The Last Secret.)

But the chief miracle, of course, was that of October 13, 1917, "of such splendor that nothing like it has been recorded since ancient times," says the book. "No other apparition has been observed with such care by thousands of people in every walk of life, believers and unbelievers alike. A total of 70,000 people were there. They heard the thunder, saw the lightning, and noticed the parting of the clouds.

"As before, the apparitions were seen only by the children, and the messages were given to them alone. But while the children listened enraptured, the crowd witnessed something else. After the Rosary had been recited by the multitude, the dark sky opened, and the sun, appearing in a clear blue sky, suddenly began to tremble and shake, and turn about swiftly like a great wheel of fire, casting off long shafts of light which colored the earth [actual photo, right]. The spectacle continued for ten minutes and was observed at a distance of twenty-five miles. Then the sun broke loose from the sky and plunged downward through space directly over the people, who fell at once to their knees, crying for forgiveness for their sins. Only the miracle that appeared to Josue, when the sun stopped, can be compared to this unique miracle. Psychiatry knows of no mass suggestion and hallucination that can seize 70,000 people at once." Harsh skeptics, as always there are, found themselves convinced. Did the miracle point to some future event (the third secret ended up showing an angel ready to torch the world) or was it simply an affirmation of the apparitions (and resembling the Host, which was seen with an angel before Mary's first appearance)?

Since that time, miracles of the sun have been reported at a number of apparition and alleged apparition sites. Some of the most spectacular have occurred at Betania, Venezuela. But none have topped Medjugorje in Bosnia-Hercegovina -- where hundreds and often thousands (perhaps now, over the past thirty years, totaling in the millions) have watched the sun shoot out colorful striations of light, dance in the sky, move, plunge toward earth (a la Fatima), or turn into two "suns" since 1981, phenomena that have been reported on a daily basis since 1981 and remain reported there.

[resources: Understanding Miracles and The Last Secret

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