This blog post was written by Samuel Vasquez, a Catholic Program Consultant with Journeys, in commemoration of Our Lady of Fatima, which is celebrated on May 13.
The Story of Fatima
Between May 13 and October 13, 1917, near the village of Fatima, three Portuguese children–Francisco and Jacinta Marto and Lucia dos Santos, their cousin–witnessed the apparition of Our Lady on six occasions. The Great War had been raging, since 1914. This was the most savage conflict that the world had ever seen. In Russia, the Bolshevik Revolution would usher in an atheistic Communist regime that would murder tens of millions of its own citizens and eventually engulf nearly half the world’s population. It was in this historical context that God condescended to Earth to provide the remedy to all the evils in the world through the message of Our Lady of Fatima.
Our Lady promised that a miracle would occur on October 13th of 1917. Over 70,000 people flocked to the Cova on a rainy day. Our Lady appeared at noon and at around 2 p.m. Lucia pointed to the sun. An eyewitness wrote: “the sun’s disc did not remain immobile . . . it spun round on itself in a mad whirl when suddenly a clamor was heard from all the people. The sun, whirling, seemed to loosen itself from the firmament and advance threateningly upon the earth as if to crush us with its huge fiery weight. The sensation during those moments was terrible” (Dr. José Almeida Garrett).
The Secrets of Fatima
Mary asked the children to pray the rosary for the end of World War I, the conversion of sinners and Russia. She also gave the children three secrets. Lucia revealed the first secret in 1927, which concerned devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The second secret was a vision of hell and the third secret was only made public in 2000. It spoke of a “bishop in white” who is shot. Pope John Paul himself linked this vision to the attempt on his life in St. Peter’s Square on May 13, 1981, the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima.
The Children of Fatima
In the first apparition, Mary asked the children: “Will you offer yourselves to God, and bear all the sufferings He sends you? In atonement for all the sins that offend Him? And for the conversion of sinners?” They all responded affirmatively. Mary offered the children a glimpse of hell during the third apparition. They were deeply affected by this terrifying vision, Jacinta in particular. She became deeply convinced of the need to save sinners through prayer and sacrifice. She practiced severe self-mortifications, having an almost “insatiable hunger for immolation.” Both Francisco and Jacinta died as a consequence of the Spanish Flu pandemic.
After the prophesied deaths of Jacinta and Francisco in 1919 and 1920 respectively, Lucia entered the Institute of the Sisters of St. Dorothy in 1925. She would continue to receive private revelations concerning the message of Fatima. In 1946, she entered the cloister of Carmel in Coimbra, Portugal. She was present in Fatima in 1982 when Paul John Paul II came to the Shrine on May 13th to give thanks for the saving of his life during the assassination attempt of May 13th 1981. Sister Lucia had the joy of attending the beatification of her cousins in Fatima in 2000. She died in 2005 and Pope Francis canonized Francisco and Jacinta on October 13, 2017.
The Message of Fatima
The message of Fatima is very simple: people go to hell because they continue to sin and offend God without repentance. Most of those who are damned are lost because of sins of the flesh. Poor sinners are lost because they have no one to pray and sacrifice for their conversion. The children reported that the number of souls falling into hell was like snowflakes falling in a snow storm. The world needs much prayer and sacrifice for the salvation of souls. Many souls can and will be saved through devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. “Pray, pray very much. Make sacrifices for sinners. Many souls go to hell, because no one is willing to help them with sacrifice” (Our Lady, August 19th 1917).
In Fatima, you can visit the Sanctuary of Fatima and the Capelinha: Chapel of the Apparitions as well as the parish church where the children were baptized. In the basilica are the tombs of Saints Francisco and Jacinta. You can also see the Cova da Iria, the site of the apparitions. Each year the shrine welcomes millions of pilgrims from around the world. In the evening, you can take part in a beautiful candle lit procession. Not too far from Fatima are the villages of Aljustrel and Valinhos – birthplace of the three visionaries. There you can visit their homes, as well as the place where the Angel of Portugal first appeared to them. In Ourem, you can see the Administrator’s House and the Jacinta Marto Memorial. The house has a permanent exhibit about Fatima at the time of the apparitions.