It's a major miracle that you've probably never heard of.
On Sunday, Oct. 3, 1847, more than 2,000 people in Ocotlán, Mexico saw a perfect image of Jesus Christ crucified that appeared in the sky for more than 30 minutes.
Approved by the Archdiocese of Guadalajara in 1911, the phenomenon is known as the “Miracle of Ocotlán” and took place one day before an earthquake that killed 40 and left the town in Jalisco State in ruins.
Before the start of Mass at the cemetery of the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception – presided over by the parochial vicar, Father Julián Navarro – two white clouds joined together in the northwest sky, where there appeared the image of Christ.
Those present and in nearby towns were deeply moved, made acts of contrition, and cried out begging, “Lord, have mercy!” This apparition of Christ was called “the Lord of Mercy” and in his honor, in September 1875, a new parish church was blessed, consecrated and dedicated to him.
Also among the faithful who witnessed the miracle were Father Julián Martín del Campo, pastor of the community, and Antonio Jiménez, the town's mayor. Both of them sent letters to their respective superiors telling what had happened.
After the miracle, a record of the event was written down with 30 eye-witnesses attesting. Fifty years later, in 1897, by order of the then-Archbishop of Guadalajara, Pedro Loza y Pardavé, another record of the event was made, with 30 additional persons including five priests.
On Sept. 29, 1911, the Archbishop of Guadalajara at that time, José de Jesús Ortiz y Rodríguez, signed a document validating the apparition of Jesus Christ at Ocotlán, and the devotion and veneration given by the people of that area to the venerated statue of our Lord of Mercy located in the shrine of the same name.
“We must acknowledge as an historical fact, perfectly proven, the apparition of the blessed image of Jesus Christ Crucified…and that it could not have been the work of an hallucination or fraud, since it happened in broad daylight, in the sight of more than 2,000 people,” the cardinal said.
He also stated so that the Lord of Mercy would never be forgotten, the faithful must “gather together in whatever manner possible, after purifying their consciences with the holy sacraments of Penance and
Holy Communion and solemnly swear in the presence of God, for themselves and their descendants, that year after year they will celebrate the October 3 anniversary.”
After its approval and to comply with the provisions of the Archbishop of Guadalajara, in 1912 they began public festivities in honor of the Lord of Mercy, recalling the Miracle of 1847. The celebrations currently last 13 days, from Sept. 20 to Oct. 3.
Later, in 1997, Saint John Paul II sent his Apostolic Blessing to the people of Ocotlán on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the miracle.This article was originally published May 19, 2016.