The Apparitions of the Angel
In 1916, as World War I devastated Europe, three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal, were visited three times by an angel while out tending their sheep. The first apparition took place in the spring of 1916. Lucia dos Santos, age 9, and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto, ages 8 and 6, had taken shelter from the rain in a small cave, where they ate their lunch, prayed a truncated version of the Rosary, and played games. Then a strong wind blew, and a figure with the appearance of a young man approached them, introducing himself as the Angel of Peace. Kneeling down with his forehead to the ground, he invited the children to pray with him, saying, “My God, I believe in Thee, I adore Thee, I hope in Thee and I love Thee. I ask pardon for all those who do not believe in Thee, do not adore Thee, do not hope in Thee and do not love Thee.” After repeating this three times, he told them, “Pray in this way. The Hearts of Jesus and Mary are attentive to the voice of your supplications.”
The next apparition occurred during the summer. The angel reappeared, beseeching the children to pray and offer sacrifices in reparation for sins and for the conversion of sinners. He identified himself as the Guardian Angel of Portugal and instructed the children “above all [to] accept and bear with submission all the suffering the Lord will send you.”
The angel appeared for the final time in the fall. In his hand he held a chalice, over which hung a Host, dripping blood. Kneeling, he said three times with the children: “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 in the world, in reparation for all the outrages, sacrileges and indifferences whereby He is offended. And through the infinite merits of His Most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of Thee the conversion of poor sinners.” Then he administered the Sacred Host to Lucia and the Precious Blood to Francisco and Jacinta. Through his instructions about prayer and sacrifice, the angel prepared the children for the future apparitions of Our Lady.
Our Lady of Fatima Apparitions
The First Apparition
Beginning in May 1917, Our Lady appeared six times to Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta. In the first apparition on May 13, the children saw a flash of light, after which appeared above a holm oak a beautiful woman clothed in white garments, shining forth brilliant rays of light. “I am from Heaven,” she told the children, and asked them to return to that spot at the same time for the next five months. She then asked: “Do you wish to offer yourselves to God, to endure all the suffering that He may please to send you, as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and to ask for the conversion of sinners?” When the children responded positively, Our Lady told them, ”You will have to suffer a lot, but the grace of God will be your comfort.” Promising to identify herself later, she requested that they recite the Rosary daily to bring about peace and the end of the war before disappearing.
The Second Apparition
On June 13, accompanied by a small crowd, the children saw another flash of light and the Lady reappeared above the holm oak. Again Our Lady instructed the children to return next month and to recite the Rosary daily, adding that after each decade they should recite this prayer: “O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fire of hell. Take all souls to heaven, especially those who are most in need.” She also told Lucia that She wanted her to learn to read and write. Lucia asked if She would take the three of them to Heaven, and Our Lady responded that Francisco and Jacinta would be taken soon, but she, Lucia, would remain on earth for a long time: “Jesus wishes you to make me known and loved on earth. He wishes also for you to establish devotion in the world to my Immaculate Heart.” She promised, though, that her Immaculate Heart would be Lucia’s comfort and would lead her to God. The apparition concluded with a vision of the Immaculate Heart of Mary: “a heart encircled with thorns which appeared to pierce it” because it was offended by the sins of mankind.
The Third Apparition and the Secret
Troubled by the doubts of those around her concerning the veracity of the apparitions, on July 13, Lucia asked the Lady about her identity and for a miracle. In response, Our Lady promised to reveal who She was and what She wanted in October, as well as to perform a miracle so that all might believe. The third apparition is considered one of the most important apparitions, as well as one of the most controversial, because Our Lady revealed what has come to be known as the Secret. Although there are three parts, only the first two have been revealed.
First the children saw a vision of Hell. The Lady told them, “You have seen hell, where the souls of poor sinners go. It is to save them that God wants to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If you do what I tell you, many souls will be saved, and there will be peace.” She then warned them about another, more terrible war, and to prevent it, asked for the consecration of Russia to Her Immaculate Heart as well as a devotion of Communion on the first Saturday of each month in reparation for sins (the second part of the Secret). She assured the children that if her requests were granted, “Russia will be converted and there will be peace. If not, she will scatter her errors throughout the world, provoking wars and persecution of the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, and various nations will be destroyed. But in the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, Russia will be converted, and a certain period of peace will be granted to the world.” The children were warned not to reveal the Secret to anyone but Francisco, who saw each of the apparitions but could not hear Our Lady’s words.
The Fourth Apparition
The next apparition took place after August 13 because the children were detained by civil authorities, confined, and threatened for several days in an attempt to make them deny their story, but they refused. Once more, on August 19, Our Lady appeared to the three children, requesting that they return the next month and continue to say the Rosary and offer sacrifices. She also revealed that she would perform a miracle in October, the last month of her apparitions.
The Fifth Apparition
More than 30,000 people gathered for the fifth apparition on September 13. Our Lady again repeated her earlier instructions to the children about praying the Rosary every day for the end of the war. She also told them: “In October Our Lord will come, as well as Our Lady of Sorrows and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Saint Joseph will appear with the Child Jesus to bless the world.” She reiterated her promise to perform a miracle at that time so that all might believe.
The Sixth and Final Apparition and the Miracle of the Sun
Despite the heavy rain on October 13, a crowd of over 70,000 people gathered for the final apparition. Our Lady appeared and identified herself as the Lady of the Rosary, asking once more that the Rosary be recited daily and a chapel be built at the spot in her honor. She then confirmed that the war would end soon and soldiers would return home. In response to Lucia’s request, She also promised to grant some cures and conversions, but cautioned that sinners needed to amend their lives and make reparations for their sins, as God was deeply offended. At this point, two different apparitions were witnessed, one by the children and the other by the crowd: The children saw a Lady dressed in white with a blue mantle beside the sun and St. Joseph holding the Child Jesus, who blessed the world. Then Our Lady of Sorrows appeared with Our Lord, who also blessed the world. Our Lady of Carmel concluded the vision.
Meanwhile, the crowd witnessed the Miracle of the Sun, in which the sun spun, danced and changed color, before appearing to fall out of the sky toward the terrified crowd, who cried out to God and wept. Tears turned to joy once the sun returned to its place, and the crowd, whose clothing had been completely dried, joined in thanksgiving and praise to Our Lady. The miracle was witnessed as far as 32 miles away, by Christians and atheists alike. In the following days, even secular newspapers reported on the miracle, confirming its standing as the most important miracle of the twentieth century.
Apparition to Lucia:
As foretold by Our Lady, Francisco and Jacinta died from influenza shortly after the conclusion of the apparitions, he on April 4, 1919, and she on February 20, 1920. Lucia learned to read and write from the Sisters of St. Dorothy and then joined the local Carmelite order. On December 10, 1925, the Child Jesus and Our Lady appeared to Lucia in her cell. Our Lady showed Lucia her Immaculate Heart, surrounded by thorns, and made the following promise: “To all those who, on five consecutive First Saturdays, confess, receive Holy Communion, recite the Rosary, and keep Me company for fifteen minutes while meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary for the reparation of sins, I promise to assist them at the hour of death with all the graces necessary for the salvation of their souls.”
100 Years Later
“In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.” One hundred years after the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima to the three young Seers, Her message of prayer and sacrifice remains as relevant today as it was in 1917. Like the recently-canonized Francisco and Jacinta Marto, as well as their cousin Sister Lucia, we too are called to pursue lives of virtue and holiness and to pray for peace and the salvation of souls. To this end, and in honor of the centennial of Our Lady of Fatima, individuals around the world have recognized Our Lady and Her message with devotional Fatima rosaries, books explaining the significance of Fatima for today, films exploring the circumstances surrounding the events of the 13th day on which Our Lady appeared each month and other Fatima products. May we grow in devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in accordance with Our Lady’s request. Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!