Interview with Michael O’Neill

The following is a transcript of my interview with Michael O’Neill “The Miracle Hunter” of Relevant Radio.
It was recorded on October 13, 2016 and broadcast on October 16, 2016.

O’Neill:
October 13th is one of those days that, just like May 13th, is one of the days that’s associated with Our Lady of Fátima. Of course, October 13th is the anniversary of the great Miracle of the Sun, the Fátima Sun Miracle. We’ve got someone today who is an expert in private revelation and he’s written a book, Refractions of Light, author Kevin Symonds. Welcome to the program today Kevin.

Symonds:
Hello Mr. O’Neill. Good to be with you today.

O’Neill:
Thanks for joining us, and of course, October 13th, what a fantastic anniversary for anybody who likes miracles and those miracles that have lots of witnesses. We’ve got 70,000 witnesses supposedly in this great sun miracle at Fátima. What are we talking about here, I think there’s a lot of speculation/debate about what happened that day. What is the Miracle of the Sun?

Symonds:
The Miracle of the Sun was a solar phenomenon that occurred on October 13th, 1917 in Fátima, Portugal. Three shepherd children, Francisco & Jacinta Marto and their cousin, Lúcia dos Santos, had claimed since May 13th of the same year that the Blessed Virgin had been appearing to them in a place called the Cova da Iria. The Cova was a patch of land between the towns of Aljustrel and Fátima and which was owned by Lúcia’s family. The family’s animals were allowed to graze there during the day, and were tended to by Francisco, Jacinta and Lúcia.

On May 13th, while tending to the flock, the children saw what Lúcia later described as a flash of lightning—though it was in broad daylight and no sign of bad weather. Suddenly, there was a beautiful Lady standing on a nearby azinheira, a little holm-oak tree. The Lady spoke to the children, requesting them to come to this location on the thirteenth day of the month for six months in succession. The children did as was requested, except in August of that year when they were kidnapped by the local Freemasonic mayor, Arturo dos Santos, in a plot to extract from the children what they had learned from the Lady.

One of the things that they had learned from the Lady during these apparitions was that she promised to perform a miracle in October. The miracle would serve, by and large, as proof that was offered by heaven to lend credibility to the claims of the children. It was specifically predicted that the miracle would be on October 13th, 1917. Word spread quickly of this claim, and, on the specified day there was no less than 70,000 people present (according to most authorities on the subject as you mentioned earlier).

The day itself was very rainy. The earth was soaked, as were peoples’ clothing. Despite this inconvenience, people came anyway, and, at the designated time around noon, the Blessed Virgin appeared. She spoke briefly to the children and then performed the miracle. Lúcia, who later wrote about what she experienced, said that there appeared in the heavens Our Lady, St. Joseph and the Child Jesus. Lúcia drew people’s attention to the heavens, and they noticed that the sun was not behaving according to cosmic laws.

Various accounts of the Miracle of the Sun exist. Some describe it one way, others another, and a few even said they saw nothing with the sun. Most of those that saw something agree on a basic description: the sun came out from the clouds and acted as if it was going to fall to the earth, this was often referred to as the “dance of the sun.” It scared not a few people. All, however, could also look upon the sun without it hurting their eyes. After it was over, people realized that both the earth and their clothes were dry.

O’Neill:
That’s really incredible. I guess I didn’t realize that when the visionaries looked to the sky they actually saw a vision of Mary prior to this event.

Symonds:
The three visionaries did, not the people there.[1] That was a result of the kidnapping of the children. The Miracle was supposed to be greater than what it in fact was but because the children had been kidnapped, Our Lady had said to them that the Miracle would not be as great. If I remember correctly, there was a statement as to how it exactly would have been greater and what the three children saw with respect to Our Lady, St. Joseph and the Child Jesus everybody would have seen had it not have been for their kidnapping.

O’Neill:
That’s so interesting. What about people who weren’t on the site itself? Of course, we had 70,000 people staring up at the sun and thinking it was spinning towards the earth or approaching the earth. What about people who were not nearby? Were there any reports of the sun doing anything out of the ordinary?

Symonds:
Yes, since October 13th, 1917, people have tried to understand what this solar phenomenon was and they gathered as many witnesses as were possible. Interestingly enough, it turned out that the phenomenon was not just restricted to the Cova da Iria. In a number of places outside of the Cova, other people reported seeing the same behavior of the sun. One famous account came from a priest in India who, at the time, was in Portugal. He later wrote from India about his experience and his testimony agrees with the general description of the phenomenon that I just mentioned a moment ago. Interestingly enough, there was also an observatory that existed at the time and it was consulted for any reports of strange occurrences, to which the reply was “nothing at all.” It was a regular day as far as they were concerned.

O’Neill:
So interesting. We have the witnesses on the site but people off the site didn’t necessarily see anything different going on. Now, we’ve heard skeptics and other people saying that this was a case of mass hallucination that maybe one person started shouting at the sun, shouting up saying “the sun is approaching” and then everybody got swept up in the fervor. What do we have to say about that?

Symonds:
Yes, there have been some who claim that the phenomenon was mass hallucination. There are three indications in particular that I would like to point out that question this assertion.

-1) First, there is the fact (mentioned earlier) that other people witnessed the Miracle of the Sun who were not present in the Cova da Iria. How could it be mass hallucination when other people saw the same phenomenon at some distance away?

-2) Secondly, there is something to be said for the fact that different people saw different things. If it was mass hallucination, wouldn’t everyone present have the same story? Also, it cannot be denied that even if they did not see the same thing (or anything at all), the earth and the clothes were dry—something that has not been explained to this day.

-3) Thirdly, we need to consider the fact that present in the Cova were many skeptics and atheists, a few of which were journalists who came with the expectation that nothing would happen. Their intention was to write up a story that would mock the cause of religion (which was then under heavy attack in Portugal by the liberal and freemasonic presses), and make people look like superstitious rubes or “country-bumpkins.” After the Miracle of the Sun, most of these journalists realized that they could not in good conscience write such a story. A famous example of this comes in the person of Avelino de Almeida of the newspaper O Século. He wrote up for the paper an article that has since become a standard piece of evidence for the Miracle of the Sun. I am not all too familiar with the details of his own life after the Miracle, but I believe it rattled his rationalistic mindset and that he was not quite the same afterwards.

O’Neill:
That’s so interesting that some skeptics have reconsidered what actually happened there. We’re talking today with Kevin Symonds. He’s an expert on Our Lady of Fátima and on private revelation, author of the book Refractions of Light. Kevin, when we look at…there’s been some attempts at scientific explanation. I’ve read some of these scientific journals and articles where they talk about crystals in the sky or some other exact perfect conditions that perhaps happened that day to give some sort of solar effect. What do we know about there, is there any merit to any of the scientific and pseudo-scientific studies that have come out about the Miracle of the Sun?

Symonds:
I would have to say that there’s not much merit to specifically the crystal thing that you mentioned because it still doesn’t explain how did three shepherd children, who were almost illiterate[2], know to be able to, you know, know enough to be able to point out a specific day and time and all that. That would be really straining it.

Over the years there have been some attempts at explaining the Miracle of the Sun that have been a little bit better than others. To the best of my knowledge, there is only one person who, in more recent times, made what some believe to be the best attempt at explaining the phenomenon. This person was the Benedictine monk Fr. Stanley Jaki…I am not sure how you say the last name. He was a professor at Seton Hall University in New Jersey and highly regarded for his efforts on Faith and Science. Coincidentally, he studied under Victor Hess who was one of the discoverers of cosmic rays. Father wrote a book that was researched and entitled God and the Sun at Fátima. The thesis of which, according to one who knew him, was that there may be “some sort of physical, scientific, or meteorological explanation” but that the event itself was “remarkably miraculous.” I personally find his thesis, as explained by this person, to be questionable, but, to be fair, I have not yet read the book and so reserve judgment until I read it. Father died in 2009 while visiting with friends in Madrid, Spain and I understand that his overall work is being employed in discussions currently taking place on the relationship of Faith and Science.

O’Neill:
Interesting. I’ve always kind of been a little shocked that they tried to come up with a scientific explanation for it because why haven’t people seen it on other days or how could they have predicted that that day, like you said, those children, with obviously no scientific background, would be able to predict such an event? I always find it pretty interesting that there’s been some sort of attempts, at least, to explain it scientifically.

Now when we look at the Miracle of the Sun, of course that caps months and months of apparitions of Our Lady of Fátima to the three shepherd children and it was a very significant event, but what did it mean both for the apparitions themselves and then for the world? What does the Miracle of the Sun mean for the Church and the world?

Symonds:
When God does something, it is not meaningless and without import. In my studies on Fátima I have come across some truly gifted writers as well as met some truly blessed people who understand the heart and soul of Fátima. Part of the message of Our Lady was to call wayward men back to the Gospel, to the Person of her Son. This prophetic message, and I here mean “prophetic” in the biblical sense, was also bound up with the fate of mankind if it did not give up its sin and convert.

John Haffert, the founder of the Blue Army of Our Lady of Fátima, once made what I consider to be a very astute observation. I believe it was in his book Meet the Witnesses where he wrote that just as mankind had harnessed the power of the atom to make the atomic bomb, so it was that God showed His greater power through the Miracle of the Sun. I remember reading this interpretation and being very impressed by it as it fit the message of Our Lady of Fátima so well, as, for instance, she predicted World War II which saw the use of the atomic bomb, harnessing the power of the sun, you know?

Haffert’s interpretation stands as a beautiful reminder that God is God and we are not. The Miracle of the Sun was a true miracle, one that we could spend a very long time trying to decipher, but the heart of it is there: return to God, convert, and amend our lives; as Our Lady said, Do not offend our Lord God no more! For He is already much offended.

O’Neill:
Oh that’s a great reflection there. We’re talking today with Kevin Symonds the author of the book Refractions of Light, and expert on Our Lady of Fátima. As far as I understand Kevin, you got an upcoming Fátima project yourself. Can you share with the audience a little bit about what you are working on?

Symonds:
Sure, as I just indicated, there’s so much about Fátima that we could spend a very long time to study it and barely scratch the surface.

Photo courtesy of Goya Producciones

Photo courtesy of Goya Producciones

Over the years, there have been various writers and others who have made attempts at understanding Fátima. Some of what they have written is very good while other interpretations are kind of questionable. These specific attempts have garnered much attention, and I believe that there is a strong pastoral and intellectual need to address some questions that have arisen, specifically on the famous third part of the secret of Fátima.

To this end, I would like to announce that my next book project is underway and tentatively entitled On the Third Part of the Secret of Fátima. I am happy to say that the work will be complete in time for the upcoming centenary. Information on this project, including how people can help, can be found on my web site (www.kevinsymonds.com).

O’Neill:
Wonderful. Well, that’s exciting. Looking forward to reading that book, and your other book Refractions of Light is about the best book out there as far as I’m concerned about how the Church judges private revelation and answers all those questions that people may have. We thank you so much for joining us on today’s program, Kevin, and look forward to having you on the show in the future.

Symonds:
Alright, thank you very much, it’s good to be with you.

O’Neill:
God bless. That was Kevin Symonds, author of the book Refractions of Light. Pick that book up if you’re interested in learning how the Church judges private revelation and miracles and also check out his web site (kevinsymonds.com) if you want to find out about his upcoming Fátima project.


[1] Clarification: Sr. Lúcia wrote in her fourth Memoir that when she drew attention to the sun it was because she saw the apparitions.

[2] Clarification: The children are said here to be “almost” illiterate because while none of the three could read in 1917, Lúcia’s mother, Maria Rosa, would read various faith stories and teach catechism.

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