The Story of Fatima
It was in the tiny village of Fatima, Portugal, in 1917, that three young Portuguese shepherd children encountered the ‘Lady in white’ who has become known as Our Lady of Fatima.
The town bears an Arabic name meaning “high place” after a Moorish maid who, having fallen in love with the brave Knight Templar, Gonçalo Henriques, was converted to Christianity and baptized with the Christian name of “Oureana”. This name “Oureana” replaced the name “Fatima” that she had received at birth, in honor of the daughter of Mohammed.
The town and the Virgin Mary hold a special place in the minds and hearts of persons of many faiths. The story of how this tiny village grew into a destination for millions of pilgrims is impressive. At the time of the apparitions, Portugal was a socialist country that had placed severe restrictions on the Catholic Church and, indeed, had banned it over a period of time. It was in the middle of this highly charged atmosphere that the three simple shepherd children, Lucia dos Santos, age 10, Francisco Marto, age 8, and Jacinta Marto, age 6, were first visited by the Angel of Peace in 1916 to prepare them for the apparitions of the Queen of Heaven, Our Lady of Fatima, and receive Her Messages of hope and peace for the world.
First Apparition In the spring of 1916, Lucia dos Santos, Jacinta Marto, and her brother Francisco Marto, aged nine, were tending their family’s flock of sheep near their home at a place called “Loca do Cabeço.” After having lunch and saying their prayers, the three little children saw a figure coming toward them from above the olive trees, a young man about 14 or 15 years old, whiter than snow, transparent as crystal when the sun shines through it, and of great beauty. The figure identified himself as the Angel of Peace and told the children “Do not be afraid…Pray with me.” Kneeling down, he bowed down until his forehead touched the ground and made them repeat three times: “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!”
Then rising, he said, “Pray thus. The Hearts of Jesus and Mary are attentive to the voice of your supplications.” His words engrained themselves deeply in the minds of the children, and they spent long periods of time prostrate like the Angel, repeating the prayer he taught.
Second Apparition The second apparition of the Angel took place at the height of summer. The three little Shepherds were spending the siesta hours in the shade of the trees when, suddenly, the same Angel appeared again with the message that prayer and sacrifice would bring peace to their country: “What are you doing? Pray! Pray very much! The Hearts of Jesus and Mary have designs of mercy on you. Offer prayers and sacrifices constantly to the Most High. Make of everything you can a sacrifice, and offer it to God as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication for the conversion of sinners. You will thus draw down peace upon your country. I am its Angel Guardian, the Angel of Portugal. Above all, accept and bear with submission, the suffering which the Lord will send you.”
These words impressed deeply the three children. They were like a light that made them understand who God is, His love, the value of sacrifice and the grace of conversion of sinners. From then on, Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco began to offer to the Lord all of their daily sacrifices as mortifications.
Third Apparition The third apparition of the Angel occurred near the end of September or in October. The three little Shepherds were praying the Rosary when the Angel appeared, holding a chalice in his hands with a Host above it from which some drops of Blood were falling into the sacred vessel. Leaving the Chalice and the Host suspended in the air, the Angel prostrated himself on the ground and repeated three times the following prayer: “Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore You profoundly, and I offer You the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifference with which He Himself is offended. And, through the infinite merits of His Most Sacred Heart, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of You the conversion of poor sinners.” Then, rising, he once more took the chalice and the Host in his hands. He gave the Host to Lucia, and to Jacinta and Francisco he gave the chalice to drink, saying as he did so: “Take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, horribly outraged by ungrateful men. Repair their crimes and console your God.” Once again, he prostrated himself on the ground and repeated with the little Shepherds three times more the same prayer, “Most Holy Trinity…” Then he disappeared.
Apparitions of Our Lady
May 13, 1917 The three children were tending their sheep in a place called “Cova da Iria” when a flash of lightning drew their attention to a Lady standing on the top of a small holm oak tree. She was all dressed in white and more brilliant than a crystal glass filled with sparkling water when the rays of the sun shine through it. The Lady told them that she was from heaven and that she would appear there on six successive months, on the 13th day of each month at the same hour. Lucia asked our Lady if they would go to heaven and the Lady replied that all three of them would go to heaven, but that Francisco had to say many Rosaries. Then, Our Lady asked the children: “Are you willing to offer yourselves to God and bear all the sufferings He wills to send you, as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication for the conversion of sinners?” When the three little Shepherds responded that they were willing to follow her request, she said: “Then you are going to have much to suffer, but the grace of God will be your comfort.”
The Lady’s message for the children on that day was to pray the Rosary every day during the war. Then she began to rise serenely, going towards the east until she disappeared.
June 13, 1917 The children were present at the Cova da Iria with a number of other people and had finished praying the Rosary when the Lady, once again, appeared. She told Lucia that she should learn to read in order to fulfill her mission from Jesus. When Lucia asked her if she would take them to heaven, Our Lady replied: “I will take Jacinta and Francisco soon. But you are to stay here some time longer. Jesus wishes to make use of you to make me known and loved. He wants to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart.” She consoled Lucia with the thought that she would be forsaken and that the Lady’s Immaculate Heart would always be there for her. Then she opened Her hands and communicated to the little children some rays of light. The children saw themselves in this light, as it were, immersed in God. Jacinta and Francisco seemed to be in that part of the light which rose towards heaven and Lucia in that which was poured out on the earth. In front of the palm of Our Lady’s right hand was a heart encircled by thorns which pierced it. It was the Immaculate Heart of Mary, outraged by sins of humanity, and seeking reparation.
July 13, 1917 Word of the apparitions had spread and about 4000 people were present during the July apparition. The Lady promised to make known her identity and to perform a miracle for all to see in the future. She told the children: “Sacrifice yourselves for sinners, and say many times, especially whenever you make some sacrifice: 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.” Then, she opened her hands and showed the children a vision of hell which awaited unrepentant sinners. The three little shepherds saw a sea of fire and plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form, like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, floating about 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 the children and made them 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. That vision was captured, much later, by the celebrated artist Salvatore Dali in his famous painting “Vision of Hell.” The Lady told the children: “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.” She also said: “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 persecution 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 finished her speech with the following request: “When you pray the Rosary say after each mystery: O my Jesus, forgive us, save us from the fire of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those who are most in need.” Then she disappeared.
August 13, 1917 The news of the apparitions had reached the civil authorities and the children were under arrest by the regional administrator. This was in the context of the banishment of the Catholic Church by the civil authorities and followed an intensive effort by the Church authorities to suppress the children’s story. At one point the civil authorities threatened to boil the children in oil if they did not recant. They refused and offered to suffer the proffered punishment. The children were released after August 13th, and on August 19th, they once again saw the Lady at a place called “Valinhos.” Our Lady promised to make a miracle in the last month, so that all may believe. She told the children to use the money being left in the “Cova da Iria” by the people to build a chapel. They were also instructed to continue praying for the conversion of sinners with the following words: “Pray, pray very much, and make sacrifices for sinners; for many souls go to hell because there are none to sacrifice themselves and to pray for them.”
September 13, 1917 A crowd of about 30,000 people had gathered. Many people tried to reach the children, throwing themselves on their knees and begging the little shepherds to place their petitions before Our Lady. During the praying of the Rosary, Our Lady appeared and gave the following message: “Continue to pray the Rosary in order to obtain the end of the war. In October, Our Lord will come, as well as Our Lady of Dolors and Our Lady of Carmel. Saint Joseph will appear with the child Jesus to bless the world. God is pleased with your sacrifices. He does not want you to sleep with the rope on, but only wear it during the daytime.” She also promised: “In October I will perform a miracle so that all may believe.”
October 13, 1917 An estimated crowd of 70,000 people gathered in a rainstorm for the promised apparition. Among the crowd were many who did not believe and members of the secular press who were there to report on the event. During the praying of the Rosary, Our Lady appeared and made herself known as the Lady of the Rosary. She instructed the children to pray the Rosary every day and to build there a chapel in her honor. She also said: “Do not offend the Lord our God any more, because He is already so much offended.” Then she opened her hands and made them reflect on the sun, and as she ascended the reflection of her own light continued to be projected on the sun itself. During the miracle of the sun, many present fell in the mud and water, believing that the end of the world was taking place. Many later reported that despite being covered in mud, they were dry and free of mud when they arose. Rose petals fell from the sky only to dissipate upon being touched by those present. After Our Lady had disappeared into the immense firmament, the children beheld St. Joseph with the Child Jesus and Our Lady robed in white with a blue mantle beside the sun. St. Joseph and the Child Jesus appeared to bless the world, for they traced the Sign of the Cross with their hands. When this apparition disappeared, the children saw Our Lord and Our Lady of Dolours. Our Lord appeared to bless the world in the same manner as St. Joseph had done. This vision also vanished, making way for a vision of our Lady of Mt. Carmel.
After the Apparitions
During one of the apparitions Our Lady had told the children that Francisco and Jacinta would soon be brought home to heaven, but that Lucia would remain for a time to spread Our Lady’s message. On April 4, 1919, Francisco died of influenza, making his First Communion on his deathbed. He had been faithful to the wishes of Our Lady, saying many Rosaries each day and making many acts of self-denial in reparation for sins.
Jacinta also became ill during this time, and she too, after much suffering at the request of Our Lady, died alone in the hospital on February 20, 1920. Although buried in quicklime, when her body was exhumed on September 13, 1935, it was found to be incorrupt and her cause for canonization had begun. Both Francisco and Jacinta have been declared “Blessed” by Pope St. John Paul II the Great.
Lucia, who the Blessed Mother asked to make known her wishes, left Fatima in 1921 and entered an orphanage. In 1925, she entered the Convent of the Sisters of St. Dorothy and was professed in 1928 as Mary Lucia of Sorrows. In 1948, she became a Carmelite nun.
Lucia was asked by her spiritual director to put down in writing certain favors that she had received. On December 17, 1927, she asked Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament how she could accomplish this, since among these special graces were the secrets that Our Lady had confided to her at Fatima and which had not yet been revealed. Our Lord made known to her that she could reveal what the Blessed Mother had told her about devotion to her Immaculate Heart, but that she was to keep the rest hidden.
Later, at the request of the Bishop of Leira, she wrote her memoirs of Francisco and Jacinta. Then, in 1941, when preparing for the Silver Jubilee of the Apparitions of the Blessed Mother at Fatima, the Bishop asked her to write an exact account of all that she could, without omitting anything that could now be revealed. Lucia obeyed, and in 1942, many things connected with the visions were revealed for the first time, including details of the visions of the Guardian Angel of Portugal and Our Lady’s request for worldwide devotion to her Immaculate Heart.
Sister Mary Lucia joined her cousins in the arms of Our Lady on February 13, 2005.