In the summer of 1916, Lucia dos Santos and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto were tending their families' flock of sheep. The children were from the village of Aljustrel, in the parish of Fátima, Portugal. They were leading their flock to nearby Couza Velha and a cave at Cabeço, when a strong wind shook the trees and then a light appeared. As the light drew near they saw a young man in a shining, flowing robe. "Fear not, I am the Angel of peace. Pray with me." The Angel taught them the following prayer: "My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love you! I ask pardon of You for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love you." He then said, "Pray this way. The Hearts of Jesus and Mary are attentive to the words of your prayers." The second appearance a few weeks later he identified himself as the Angel of Portugal and urged them to pray and sacrifice, for Portugal had just entered World War I. It was late September when the Angel, believed to be Michael the Archangel, appeared a third time. He gave Lucia communion, and to Francisco and Jacinta, who had not yet made their first communion, he offered a chalice for them to drink.
On Sunday May 13, 1917, the three children attended Mass at the parish church in Fátima, and then set out with their flocks. Lucia was now age 10, Francisco, nearly 9, and Jacinta 7. They decided to graze them on land belonging to Lucia's family at Cova da Iria, near Aljustrel. They were tending their sheep when they were startled by a flash of light. Fearing a storm, they ran under a holm oak or carrasqueira. A second flash of light was even brighter, and frightened, they ran again, until they suddenly stopped in amazement in front of a small evergreen called the azinheira. For there stood the most beautiful Lady they had ever seen. In Lucia's own words, "she was a Lady dressed all in white, more brilliant than the sun, shedding rays of light clearer and stronger than a crystal glass filled with crystalline water and pierced by the burning rays of the sun."
She held a Rosary in her right hand. "Do not be afraid. I will not harm you." They felt peaceful in her presence, and Lucia asked her where she was from. "I am from Heaven."
The three children asked if they would also be going to Heaven one day, and she said yes, but with gentle reproach, Francisco would first have to say many rosaries. She asked them to return to the same spot on the same day for the next six months and then she would identify herself. She then asked them a difficult question:
"Do you wish to offer yourselves to God to endure all the sufferings He may send you in reparation for sins and for the conversion of sinners?" With childlike faith they heroically said yes. "Then you will have much to suffer. But the grace of God will strengthen you and be your comfort."
She then opened her hands and from her palms came two streams of light which in Lucia's words, "made us see ourselves in God more clearly in that light than in the best of mirrors." The children then prayed in her presence, and then she said,
"Say the Rosary every day, to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war." She then glided towards the east and disappeared in the sunlight.
On June 13, 1917, Mary appeared on the Feast of St. Anthony at Cova da Iria and instructed, "I want you to come here on the thirteenth day of the coming month and recite five decades of the Rosary every day, and to learn to read."
She then spoke to Lucia: "I will come soon for Jacinta and Francisco. You will remain on the earth for a long time. God wishes to guide you to make me known and loved, to establish throughout the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. I promise salvation to those who embrace devotion to my Immaculate Heart. Lucy became sad and said, "Am I to stay here alone?" Mary responded, "No, my daughter. Are you suffering a great deal? Don’t lose heart. I will never forsake you. My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God."
During the third apparition at Cova da Iria on July 13, 1917, Mary revealed the three secrets of Fatima. She opened her hands and rays of light pierced the very heart of the earth, and the children were given the first secret, a vision of hell, described in Lucia's own words: "A sea of fire; and plunged in this fire were the demons and the souls, as if they were red-hot coals, transparent and black or bronze-colored, with human forms, which floated about in the conflagration, borne by the flames which issued from it with clouds of smoke, falling on all sides as sparks fall in great flagrations - without weight or equilibrium, among shrieks and groans of sorrow and despair which horrified and caused us to shudder with fear. The devils were distinguished by horrible and loathsome forms of animals frightful and unknown, but transparent like black coals that have turned red-hot."
She then gave them the second secret: "You have seen hell, where the souls of sinners go. To save them God wishes to establish in the world the devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If people do as I shall ask, many souls will be converted and there will be peace. This war (World War I) is going to end, but if people do not cease offending God, not much time will elapse and during the Pontificate of Pius XI another and more terrible war will begin. When you shall see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign from God that the chastisement of the world for its many transgressions is at hand through war, famine, persecution of the Church and of the Holy Father."
"To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart and the Communion of reparation on the First Saturdays. If my requests are heard, Russia will be converted and there will be peace. If not, she will spread her errors throughout the entire world, provoking wars and persecution of the Church. The good will suffer martyrdom; the Holy Father will suffer much; different nations will be annihilated."
"In the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph."
The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and it will be converted and a period of peace will be granted the world."
Mary then revealed a third and final secret. Sister Lucia had written down the secret in 1944, and it was taken to the Vatican in 1959. There was hope that the secret would be released on January 3, 1960, but both Pope John XXIII and later Pope Paul VI decided not to release the third secret. Forty years after the planned release of the Third Secret of Fatima, the Vatican internet site released text as the third secret of Fatima on June 26, 2000.
Mary gave the children a prayer to say after each decade of the Rosary:
"Oh, my Jesus, forgive us our sins. Save us from the fires of hell,
and lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need of your Mercy."
Our Lady then disappeared over the horizon. The crowd remained in silence, sensing the solemnity of the occasion, when nothing less than the fate of the entire human race was at stake. On the night of January 25, 1938, the strange illumination of light appeared, serving as a harbinger of World War II, which began the following year.
On August 13, 1917, the children were kidnapped by the chief magistrate of the county, Arthur Santos, in an effort to quell
the growing publicity of Fatima. However, his effort backfired, as this only infuriated the crowd that had gathered for the
Our Lady appeared privately to the children on Sunday, August 19 in a hollow known as Valinhos, on the northern slope of Cabeço, about halfway between the cave and Aljustrel. She said, "I want you to continue to go to Cova da Iria on the thirteenth day and to continue to recite the Rosary every day. In the last month I will perform the miracle so that all shall believe." Then, looking very sad, Our Lady said, "Pray, pray very much, and make sacrifices for sinners; for many souls go to hell because they have no one to sacrifice and pray for them."
A crowd of 30,000 gathered on September 13, 1917 at Cova da Iria, and they were astonished when a luminous globe of light suddenly appeared in the cloudless sky. Our Lady told the children: "Continue to say the Rosary to bring about the end of the war." Then she said that Our Lord would also come and she would identify herself and perform a miracle in October.
The night of October 12, 1917, a terrible storm and winds descended on Fatima and the surrounding areas. Nonetheless,
70,000 brave souls withstood the onslaught to be present for the day of the miracle.
The Lady appeared at Cova da Iria in the rain on October 13, 1917 over the azinheira. "I have come to tell you to build a chapel here in my honor.
"I am the Lady of the Rosary."
Her face became graver as she continued, "Let them offend our God no more, for He is already much offended."
The three children then saw a vision of the Holy Family: Mary was standing by St. Joseph who was holding the Child Jesus.
St. Joseph then made the sign of the cross and blessed the crowd three times, as did the Holy Child.
Then the crowd of 70,000 saw the Miracle of the Sun, as described by William Thomas Walsh (Image Doubleday, New York, 1954): "The sun stood forth in the clear zenith like a great silver disk which, though bright as any sun they had ever seen, they could look straight at without blinking, and with a unique and delightful satisfaction. This lasted but a moment. While they gazed, the huge ball began to "dance" - that was the word all the beholders applied to it. "Now it was whirling rapidly like a gigantic fire-wheel. After doing this for some time, it stopped. Then it rotated again, with dizzy, sickening speed. Finally there appeared on the rim a border of crimson, which flung across the sky, as from a vortex, blood-red streamers of flame, reflecting to the earth, to the trees and shrubs, to the upturned faces and the clothes all sorts of brilliant colors in succession: green, red, orange, blue, violet, the whole spectrum in fact. Madly gyrating in this manner three times, the fiery orb seemed to tremble, to shudder, and then to plunge precipitately, in a mighty zigzag, toward the crowd, causing widespread panic. This had lasted about ten minutes, perhaps. Then all saw the sun begin to climb, in the same zigzag manner, to where it had appeared before. It became tranquil, then dazzling. No one could look at it any longer. It was the sun of every day."
A little chapel was constructed in 1919 in the place of the apparitions of 1917 at Cova da Iria, now the site of the Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima.
The great influenza epidemic struck Europe and the entire world, and afflicted the two youngest children. Francisco received his first Communion April 3, 1919, and died the following day. Jacinta died February 20, 1920. Francisco and Jacinta Marto were canonized as Saints on May 13, 2017.
Lucia entered the Sisters of St. Dorothy at Vilar, near Porto, Portugal in 1921 and later became Sister Maria of the Sorrows. On December 10, 1925 in her convent in Pontevedra, Spain, Mary appeared to Lucia and further explained the Communion of reparation of the First Saturdays: "Look, my daughter, at my Heart surrounded with the thorns with which ungrateful men wound it by their blasphemies and iniquities. You, at least, try to console me, and announce that I promise to assist at the hour of death, with the graces necessary for salvation, all those who, on the first Saturdays of five consecutive months, confess, receive Holy Communion, recite the Rosary, and keep me company for a quarter of an hour meditating on its mysteries with the intention of offering me reparation."
Pope John Paul II in union with the Bishops consecrated Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on March 25, 1984.
How could little children in a rural town in Portugal predict the rise and fall of Russia in the Twentieth Century?!
Was the third secret related to the tragic death of Pope John Paul I on September 29, 1978?
Pope John Paul II believed the assassination attempt on his life on May 13, 1981 was related to the third secret.
Our Lady of Fatima is the first apparition of Mary approved as worthy of belief by the Catholic Church in the twentieth century, a time which has witnessed a number of reported appearances of the Virgin. Are we entering the end times prophesied by the Book of Revelation? While public revelation - the Bible - is a matter of faith, one does not have to accept private revelation, such as apparitions. However, one cannot ignore the healing miracles and profound effect of historical apparitions such as Guadalupe, Lourdes, and Fatima. For example, the historical impact of the appearance of Our Lady of Hope in Pontmain, France in January of 1871 cannot be denied, for it ended the fighting in the Franco-Prussian War! Mary leads us to her Son Jesus and expresses her love for her children on earth by urging us to pray, repent, fast, read Scripture, and receive the Sacraments. The following are major Apparitions of Mary approved by the Church.
|APPARITIONS OF MARY|
|Zaragoza, Spain||40||St. James the Great||Our Lady of the Pillar Basilica|
|Prouille, France||1214||St. Dominic||The Rosary|
|Aylesford, England||1251||Simon Stock||Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel|
|Guadalupe, Mexico||1531||St. Juan Diego||Tilma in Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe|
|Rue de Bac, Paris||1830||Catherine Labouré||Miraculous Medal|
|Lourdes, France||1858||Bernadette Soubirous||Healing Grotto; Basilica of the Immaculate Conception|
|Pontmain, France||1871||Eugene and Joseph Barbedette||Our Lady of Hope; La Basilique Notre Dame de l'Espérance de Pontmain|
|Knock, Ireland||1879||15 townspeople, Mary Beirne||Basilica of Our Lady of Knock|
|Fatima, Portugal||1917||Lucia, Francisco, Jacinta||Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary|
|Beauraing, Belgium||1932||5 children, Albert Voisin||Sanctuary of Notre Dame de Beauraing|
|Banneux, Belgium||1933||Mariette Beco||Healing Spring; Shrine of the Virgin of the Poor|
|Zeitoun, Egypt||1968||Population of Cairo, Egypt||Virgin Mary Coptic Orthodox Church, Zeitoun, Cairo, Egypt|
|Akita, Japan||1973||Sister Agnes Sasagawa||Warning to Repent or suffer Chastisement|
|Betania, Venezuela||1976||Maria Esperanza||Shrine of Our Lady of Betania|