This year marks the 100th anniversary of the appearance of Mary to three young visionaries in the town of Fatima in Portugal. This report is excerpted from Fatima, 100 years of grace by the World Apostolate of Fatima, U.S.A. – Our Lady’s Blue Army. If you would like to read an in-depth account of the miracle, its history and the lives of the children, accompanied by historical photography, visit giftshop.wafusa.org.
During World War I, Pope Benedict XV made repeated, but forlorn, pleas for peace. Finally, in May 1917, he made a direct appeal to the Blessed Mother to intercede for peace in the world. Just over a week later, Our Lady began to appear at Fatima, Portugal, to three shepherd children: Lucia dos Santos, age 10, and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto, ages 9 and 7. However, it was in the previous year, 1916, that the children had their first supernatural encounters with an Angel as a means of preparing them to receive the Queen of Heaven.
The Angel of Portugal
In the spring of 1916, as the three shepherd children tended their sheep in a property called Old Chousa, a drizzling rain began to fall, so they climbed the hill to find shelter in the crevices of a rock. Suddenly a strong wind began to shake the trees. They looked up and saw coming toward them a dazzlingly beautiful young man, seemingly made of light, who told them, “Do not be afraid. I am the Angel of Peace. Pray with me.”
Kneeling on the ground, he bowed down until his forehead touched the ground and had them repeat three times: “My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love you. I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love you.”
Then, rising, he said, “Pray thus. The Hearts of Jesus and Mary are attentive to the voice of your supplications.” Leaving them absorbed in a supernatural atmosphere, the angel disappeared.
The angel appeared to them again later in the summer and in the fall, encouraging them to pray and to make sacrifices for the reparation of sin.
The first apparition of Mary
On May 13, the three children took their flocks out to pasture in the area known as the Cova da Iria. After lunch and the rosary, they suddenly saw a bright flash of light, followed quickly by another flash in the clear blue sky.
They looked up to see, in Lucia’s words, “A lady, clothed in white, brighter than the sun, radiating a light more clear and intense than a crystal cup filled with sparkling water lit by burning sunlight.” She said, “Do not be afraid, I will not harm you. I come from heaven.” She asked them to come to the Cova for six months on the 13th day of the same hour
She ended the visit by saying, “Say the rosary every day to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war,” and began to rise serenely towards the east until she disappeared.
Mary continued to appear to the children throughout the months, and encouraged the children to pray the rosary for the reparation of sins and the conversion of Communist Russia. As word spread, large crowds gathered to witness and pray.
The children said they had been told a three-part secret. Lucia wrote down the third part of the secret at the order of her bishop, but it was not divulged until 2000, just after the beatification of Jacinta and Francisco.
- The vision of hell
“As she spoke these words she opened her hands. The light seemed to penetrate the earth and we saw, as it were, a sea of fire. Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form, like transparent burning embers, all blackened and burnished bronze, floating about in the conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames that issued from within themselves, together with great clouds of smoke, now falling back on every side like sparks in huge fires, without weight or equilibrium, amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear. The demons could be distinguished by their terrifying and repellent likeness to frightful and unknown animals, black and transparent like burning coals. Terrified and as if to plead for succor, we looked up at Our Lady, who said to us so sadly:
“You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace. The war is going to end; but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the pontificate of Pius XI. When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that He is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine, and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father.” – Sister Lucia
- The request for the consecration of Russia
“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 heeded, Russia will be converted and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred; the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated. In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me and she will be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.” – Our Lady of Fatima
- The call to penance
Obeying an order from her bishop, Sister Lucia wrote the last part of the secret on January 3, 1944. It was not made public until the year 2000, after the beatification of Jacinta and Francisco:
“At the left of Our Lady and a little above, we saw an Angel with a flaming sword in his left hand; flashing, it gave out flames that looked as though they would set the world on fire, but they died out in contact with the splendor that Our Lady radiated toward him from her right hand. Pointing to the earth with his right hand, the Angel cried out in a loud voice: ‘Penance, Penance, Penance!’ We saw an immense light that is God, something similar to how people appear in a mirror when they pass in front of it, a bishop dressed in white (we had the impression it was the Holy Father), and other bishops, priests and men and women religious going up a steep mountain, at the top of which there was a big cross of rough-hewn trunks as of a cork tree with the bark. Before reaching there, the Holy Father passed through a big city half in ruins, and half trembling with a halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met along his way. Having reached the top of the mountain, on his knees at the foot of the big cross he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him, and in the same way there died one after another the other bishops, priests, men and women religious, and various lay people of different ranks and positions. Beneath the two arms of the cross there were two Angels each with a crystal aspersorium in their hand, in which they gathered up the blood of the martyrs and with it sprinkled the souls that were making their way to God.”)
The Miracle of the Sun – during the October apparition
The greatest miracle to occur since the resurrection is also the only miracle ever precisely predicted as to date, time of day and location. It is popularly known as “The Miracle of the Sun” and October 13, 1917 has come to be known as “The Day the Sun Danced.” The miracle was viewed by 70,000 or more people at the Cova that day, and is reported to have been seen from as far as 25 miles away. Doubters and skeptics had become believers. Even the secular newspaper O Seculo’s chief reporter, Avelino de Almeida, who had written satirically before, now reported affirmatively, and stood by his story later on in spite of harsh criticism.
Fatima: a timeline
12th Century – The village of Fatima is named after a beloved Muslim princess who converted to the Catholic faith and married the Christian knight Goncalo Hermingues.
1915 – 9-year-old Lucia sees a figure in white suspended in midair
Spring 1916 – The Angel of Peace appears to Lucia and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco
Summer 1916 – The Angel of Peace appears a second time, announcing himself as the Angel of Portugal
Fall 1916 – The Angel of Peace appears a third time
May 13, 1917 – First apparition of Our Lady of Fatima at the Cova da Iria
June 13, 1917 – Second apparition of Our Lady of Fatima
July 13, 1917 – Third apparition of Our Lady of Fatima — three-part secret revealed to the children
August 13, 1917 – The Fatima shepherds are kidnapped by Administrator Arturo de Santos, a leading Freemason
August 19, 1917 – Fourth apparition of Our Lady occurs in Valinhos near the village of Aljustrel
September 13, 1917 – Fifth apparition of Our Lady of Fatima
October 13, 1917 – Sixth apparition of Our Lady of Fatima, Miracle of the Sun occurs before 70,000 witnesses in the Cova da Iria
Fall, 1918 – Francisco and Jacinta Marto contract the deadly influenza
April 4, 1919 – Francisco dies from influenza
April 29, 1919 – First Capelinha, “Chapel of Apparitions,” is built at the site of the apparitions
February 20, 1920 – Jacinta dies from tuberculosis and bronchial pneumonia
June 13, 1920 – The first statue of Our Lady of Fatima, sculpted by José Thedim according to Lucia’s description, is placed at the Capelinha
June 15, 1921 – Our Lady appears to Lucia a seventh time and tells her to follow the path the bishop wants her to take. She departs to a school in Porto led by the Dorothean Sisters, taking the name Maria das Dores
May 3, 1922 – Bishop Jose Alves Correia da Silva opens an official inquiry into the events at Fatima
October 24, 1925 – Lucia joins the Dorothean Sisters in Spain
December 10, 1925 – Our Lady and the Child Jesus appear to Sister Lucia in the convent chapel and request the propagation of the First Saturday Communions of Reparation
February 15, 1926 – The Child Jesus appears to Sister Lucia, asking what is being done to spread the First Saturday devotion
June 13, 1929 – Sister Lucia receives a vision of the Holy Trinity in the chapel. Our Lady appears and requests the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart by the Holy Father and all the bishops
October 13, 1930 – Bishop da Silva issues pastoral letter approving the apparitions at Fatima
October 3, 1934 – Sister Lucia professes final vows with the Sisters of St. Dorothy, becoming Sister Maria Lucia of Jesus and
the Immaculate Heart
September 13, 1939 – The bishop of Leiria makes public the request for the First Saturday devotion
December 2, 1940 – Sister Lucia writes to Pope Pius XII requesting the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart
October 13, 1942 – Coronation of Our Lady of Fatima statue with a crown of jewels donated by Portuguese people, in thanksgiving for being spared during World War II
September, 1943 – Bishop of Leiria orders Sister Lucia to write the third part of the secret, fearing she was dying
January 3, 1944 – Our Lady appears to Sister Lucia giving permission to write the third part of the secret. The contents are delivered to the bishop of Leiria for safekeeping
1947 – Msgr. Harold V. Colgan co-founds The Blue Army with John Haffert and pledges it will oppose the Red Army of Communism.
March 25, 1948 – Sister Lucia enters the Carmel of Coimbra, Portugal
January, 1950 – The first issue of Soul magazine is published to spread the message of Fatima. A million signed pledges are buried at the Fatima Shrine
July 7, 1952 – In special apostolic letter, Pope Pius XII consecrates the Russian people to the Immaculate Heart of Mary
August 17, 1959 – Pope St. John XXIII reads the contents of the third part of the secret, but discerns it is not the right time to release it
March 27, 1965 – Pope Paul VI reads the contents of the third part of the secret and decides not to publish the text
March 25, 1984 – Pope St. John Paul II consecrates the world (and implicitly Russia) to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, in union with the Catholic bishops of the world and some Orthodox bishops; Sister Lucia confirms this consecration “was accepted by heaven” and fulfills Our Lady’s request
May 13, 1989 – Pope St. John Paul II declares Jacinta and Francisco “venerable”
March 15, 1990 – the Vatican establishes diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, following a meeting between Pope St. John Paul II and President Mikhail Gorbachev
May 13, 1991 – At Fatima, Pope St. John Paul II thanks Our Lady for the fruits of the 1984 collegial consecration and renews the consecration of the world to her Immaculate Heart
1990s – New Roman Catholic dioceses erected in Russia
May 13, 2000 – Pope St. John Paul II beatifies Francisco and Jacinta, declaring them “Blessed”
June 26, 2000 – The Vatican publishes the third part of the secret of Fatima
February 12, 2005 – Sister Lucia dies
February 19, 2006 – Sister Lucia’s body is transferred from the Carmel to the Basilica of the Shrine of Fatima and laid to rest by the tombs of Francisco and Jacinta
October 13, 2013 – Pope Francis consecrates the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary before the statue of Our Lady of Fatima that is flown to Rome for this occasion
2016-2017 – The World Apostolate of Fatima celebrates the centenary of the apparitions at Fatima
The Fatima Prayers:
My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love Thee! I beg pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love Thee.
O Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore Thee profoundly. I offer Thee the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifference by which He is offended. By the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg the conversion of poor sinners.
Most Holy Trinity, I adore Thee! My God, my God, I love Thee in the Most Blessed Sacrament!
O Jesus, it is for love of You, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Decade Prayer – to be recited after each decade of the rosary
O My Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need of Thy mercy.
A Solemn Act of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Most Holy Virgin Mary, tender Mother of men, to fulfill the desires of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the request of the Vicar of your Son on earth, I consecrate myself and my family to your Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart, O Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, and I recommend to you all the people of our country and all the world. Please accept my consecration, dearest Mother, and use me as you wish to accomplish your designs in the world.
O Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, and Queen of the World, rule over me, together with the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, my King. Save me from the spreading flood of modern paganism; kindle in my heart and home the love of purity, the practice of a virtuous life, an ardent zeal for souls, and a desire to pray the Rosary more faithfully. I come with confidence to you, O Throne of Grace and Mother of Fair Love. Inflame me with the same Divine Fire which has inflamed your own Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart. Make my heart and home your shrine, and through me, make the Heart of Jesus, together with your rule, triumph in every heart and home. Amen. — Venerable Pope Pius XII
This is the full text of a special report that appeared in the May 2017 issue of the East Tennessee Catholic Magazine.