There’s a thin veil that separates us from the world beyond our gaze and it may be stranger than we imagine. We hear about it in near-death experiences (NDEs), in stories about visits and signals passed on from the dead to the living, and in the tales of visitations from both aliens and angels. It’s the latter I’m going to talk about here, specifically the event known as The Miracle of Fatima where 3 children claimed to have been visited by the Virgin Mary.
In the book Dimensions, Jacques Vallee, the famed scientist featured in Steven Spielberg’s classic Close Encounters of the Third Kind, took a close look at the facts surrounding the Miracle of Fatima. Vallee has a much different take on the story than the one told in religious circles. He writes that what many see as a visit by the Virgin Mary, he views as something closer to a UFO encounter with an alien being. Sound like crazy talk? Hear him out.
What Really Happened at Fatima?
You may already know the back story of the Miracle of Fatima. In 1917, in Fatima, Portugal, three children “found themselves caught in a glowing light…and in the center of the light they perceived a little woman who spoke to them, begging them to return every month to the same spot.” The children said the woman was the mother of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and return they did.
Over a number of months, the three children claimed to have a series of encounters with Mary who shared with them messages from God, missives like “pray the Rosary each day to bring peace to the world and to bring an end to the war.” As the months ensued, the number of people who joined the children grew to the hundreds and then the thousands. And here’s where the story gets a little stranger.
When the children would address Mary, no one else present could see who they were talking to. No one else could hear Mary’s response. But when they looked to the sky above the children, various witnesses reported seeing “a weird disk…emitting a bright flash…turning rapidly…plunging in zig-zag fashion.” Others heard the buzzing of bees, a sound associated with many modern-day UFO-sightings. One witness saw “a luminous globe spinning through the clouds…the globe rose and disappeared into the sun.” Vallee sums it up this way:
The events at Fatima involve luminous spheres, lights with strange colors, a feeling of “heat waves”—all physical characteristics associated with UFOs. They even include the typical falling-leaf motion of the saucer, zig-zagging through the air. They also encompass prophecy and a loss of ordinary consciousness on the part of the witness.
The crowd at the Our Lady of Fatima apparitions, Fatima, Portugal, October 13, 1917. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
What You Experienced at Fatima Depended on Your Faith
The accounts of what happened at Fatima, depend on who you talk to. While some spoke of a visitation by a UFO-like airship, according to a priest who witnessed the event, the spinning globe “was a heavenly vehicle that carried the Mother of God from her throne above to this forbidden wasteland.” But not all had this same sense of a divine presence.
Years later, an American writer named John Haffert went back and talked to some of the Miracle of Fatima witnesses. One commented that “even today, whenever there is lightening, I remember it, and I am afraid.” Another man, who would go on to become a priest, said that after witnessing the event “people ran to the two chapels in the village which were soon filled to overflowing…when we realized the danger was over, there was an explosion of joy.”
People were “afraid” and sensed “danger”? This does not sound like the friendliest of heavenly visitations. But maybe it wasn’t a visit from Mary, after all. There has always been a parallel between those who claim to have witnessed angels or divine beings, and those who encounter aliens, or in times past, fairies. These entities often appear out of nowhere and disappear just as quickly. They defy rationale or scientific explanation. They leave an indelible impression on those who experience them, sometimes good, sometimes not.
Another Strange Story from Christianity: The Stigmata of St. Francis
The Miracle of Fatima is not the first time that an event in Christian history has been ascribed to something religious when the real cause may be even stranger. Take the story of St. Francis of Assisi, the monk whom the current pope chose as his namesake. Best known for founding the Franciscan religious order and for his love of animals, St. Francis also received the stigmata—marks and wounds on the body that correspond to what Jesus experienced on the cross.
How did St. Francis receive the wounds? They did not appear spontaneously. As told by the Christian History Institute, St. Francis “saw a vision of a six-winged seraph (angelic being) embracing a crucified man, and the crucified man seemingly pierced Francis’s body.” Afterward, Francis then “carried on his body what appeared to be wounds on his hands, feet, and side…wounds that would periodically bleed.”
The stigmatic event was apparently witnessed by a Brother Leo, a friend and personal secretary to St. Francis. According to the Brothers and Sisters of Penance of St. Francis, a Catholic Church association whose members model their lives after St. Francis, the event included some odd details:
Brother Leo, greatly marveling, lifted up his eyes to heaven and beheld a torch of most intense and glorious fire, which seemed to descend and alight upon the head of St Francis; and from the flame there seemed to issue forth a voice which spake with him, but Brother Leo knew not the words which were spoken.
Brother Leo would later write down his account of the events, describing a spinning light that came down from the heavens. In his words, “in the center of that bright whirlpool was a core of blinding light that flashed down from the depths of the sky.” The beams of light from this “whirlpool” caused the injuries to St. Francis.
Is there a connection between the events described at the Miracle of Fatima and Brother Leo’s account of the stigmata of St. Francis? Were both events, in the words of author Blake Crouch, “a manifestation of the mind as it attempted to visually explain something our brains haven’t evolved to comprehend?” Something strange happens that is beyond our understanding and the mind races in to try and fill in the blanks.
Then again, maybe these visitations from the heavens were meant to be personal experiences, whose true meaning and essence could only be construed by the direct participants. It may all come down to our own relationship with, and image of, the Divine. In the case of Fatima, the children did see and hear Mary—but for everyone else, it was just bright lights and noise. One person’s Virgin Mary becomes another person’s ET.