Everyone who had been drawn to the spot, whether by faith or by simple curiosity, or even by hope of seeing a pitiful fiasco, saw the strange and terrible dance of the sun. Catholics and Atheists aloe, Free Thinkers, scoffers, good and bad ~ all who had eyes to see the heavens, testify to the truth of what the children had to tell. Poor men, rich men, professional men, town folk and country folk, men and women, old and young ~ they all saw. One white-haired sceptic, grown old and hard in his incredulity, saw and believed. He was seen and recognized by the correspondent of a Lisbon newspaper as he recited in a stentorian voice the "Believe in God" from beginning to end. He was seen as with tearful visage, his hands stretched to Heaven, rapt like a prophet, he cried with all his strength:
"Virgin of the Rosary, save our Portugal!"
Unbelief and skepticism received a mortal blow in Portugal that day. The press had been mockingly announcing the forthcoming miracle long before, confident that the affair would be a miserable failure. The same correspondent who was none other than the proprietor of the important Lisbon daily, Il Seculo witness the conversion of the old sceptic. The very morning of the event, he had written a scathing column. The tone of the article he wrote after the event was very much different. As to what he saw himself, he only mentioned the beginning of the miracle, and thereafter he described it fro0m the other spectators' point of view, avoiding with obvious nervousness any confirmation or denial of the rest of the story. Nor did he dare to deny the supernatural character of the happening. Here is the hear of his statement, which appeared in the Monday morning issue of October 15th:
"We assisted at a spectacle unique and incredible for one who has not been a witness. From high on the road, where vehicles were packed together and where there were hundreds of people who lacked courage to get down into the mud, we saw an immense crowd turn towards the sun, which showed itself through the clouds at full noon. The sun reminded me of a plaque of pale silver and it was possible to regard it full in the face without the slightest unease. It did not burn, it did not blind. One would say that it was an eclipse. The suddenly breaks of a colossal clamor and we hear the nearest spectators crying:
"Miracle! Miracle! Marvelous! Marvelous!
"To the astonished eyes of the people, whose attitude takes us back to Biblical times and who, full of fear, with uncovered heads, regard the cure of the sky, the sun trembled and underwent brusque movements, never before seen, and outside of all cosmic laws. The sun danced according the the typical expression of the peasants."
The long cautiously-worded article ended with this conclusion:
"It remains to competent persons to pronounce on the 'dance macabre' of the sun which today, at Fatima, has made the Hosannahs burst from the breasts of the faithful and which has naturally impressed ~ witnesses worthy of faith have assured me ~ Free Thinkers and other persons who are disinterested in religion and who had come to this henceforward celebrated place."
Meagre and cautious as this admission of Il Seculo was as to the extraordinary events at Fatima, it was considered as a betrayal of the Free Thinkers' cause by the rest of the anti-religious press. But the weak tirade they kept up dwindled into silence. Whatever interpretation was given to the phenomena, there was no doubt about the facts themselves. They were too cosmic and too hugely objective to be denied. Portugal accepted the sign. The press abandoned the conflict.
The Free Thinkers' associations tried other ways of demonstration ~ meetings and even an elaborate satiric carnival. But they did so under the protection of the militia for the indignation of the public was aroused. On the political front, a much more stubborn reaction on the part of the revolutionary elements took place. But finally in 1926, the anti-religious government, fruit of sixteen bloody revolutions in sixteen years, collapsed. The country by then was completely ruined and appealed to the League of Nations for financial help. A loan was granted on condition that the administration of the country be turned over to a major power. In its last eternity, faced with loss of its independence, the country turned to a university professor, Doctor Salazar, who had come forward with a plan of economic rehabilitation. He proved to be the savior of his country. Without violence, or any demonstration of force, he put down the elements of disorder, and restored peace. Without resorting to further foreign loans, he extricated the country from bankruptcy and restored prosperity. Foreign observers spoke of the transformation of Portugal under his rule as the Portuguese miracle." Catholicism, hitherto persecuted, flourished. Yet absolute liberty of religion was left by the law to all philosophical and religious opinions. In spite of this, the Free Thinkers' organizations went out of existence for lack of supporters. Scarcely is a handful of enemies of religion to be found in the land.
But the people do not give the credit to Salazar for this, nor would he take the credit. They ascribe it all to the merciful goodness of Our Lady of Fatima, to whom they have built an immense cathedral. They flock in hundreds of thousands to the scene of the apparitions in great pilgrimages every year.
And most remarkable of all, while Spain went through its bloody was from 1936 to 1939, and when subsequently the whole of Europe was swept from end to end with fire, sword, famine and disease. Portugal remained a heaven of peace in a world which had forgotten what peace was like.
The message of Fatima indicated the way of peace to Portugal. The salvation of Portugal shows the way of peace to the whole world.