The Story of Fatima
Our Blessed Mother appeared to three simple shepherd children six times in 1917 at Fatima, Portugal in order that they could warn the world of upcoming trials and tribulations. The three children were Jacinta Marto, age 7, her brother Francisco Marto, age 9, and their cousin Lucia Dos Santos, age 10.
A year earlier in 1916, Lucia was out tending her father’s sheep and was in the company of her cousins Jacinta and Francisco. After having lunch and praying the rosary, they proceeded to play jacks in a cave when a brilliant Angel appeared to them and said, “Fear not! I am the Angel of Peace. Pray with me!”
The Angel knelt on the ground, bowed very low, and began to pray the pardon prayer. The children imitated him and repeated his words: “My God, I believe, I adore, I trust, and I love Thee. I beg pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not trust, and do not love Thee.” The Angel repeated this prayer three times, then arose and said before he disappeared, “Pray this way. The Hearts of Jesus and Mary are attentive to the voice of your supplications.”
The Angel appeared again to them in the summer and said, “What are you doing? Pray! Pray a great deal! The Hearts of Jesus and Mary have designs of mercy for you! Offer unceasingly to the Most High prayers and sacrifices!”
Lucia asked him, “But how are we to sacrifice ourselves?”
The Angel replied, “Offer up everything within your power as a sacrifice to the Lord in an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended; and as supplication for the conversion of sinners. Thus invoke peace upon your country. I am her Guardian Angel, the Angel of Portugal. Above all, accept and bear with submission the sufferings that the Lord may send you.” (Note that this is the Angel teaching the children to offer their daily suffering with Our Lord.)
When autumn came, the Angel appeared to them again, this time holding a chalice in his hand. A host hovered above it from which blood dropped into the chalice. The Angel left the chalice and Host suspended in midair and prostrated himself on the ground saying, "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 the Tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the sacrileges, outrages and indifferences by which He Himself is offended. And by the infinite merits of His Most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of Thee the conversion of poor sinners." (Pay close attention to this: on this third visit to the children, the Angel was teaching them Eucharistic reparation through Holy Communion!)
After reciting this prayer, the Angel arose. Taking the chalice and Host, he gave the Host to Lucia and the contents of the chalice - Holy Communion - to Jacinta and Francisco while saying, “Take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, horribly outraged by ungrateful men. Make reparation for their crimes and console your God.”
Before disappearing, the Angel once again prostrated himself on the ground and repeated with the children three times the prayer he had just taught them.
The children’s response to the messages of sacrifice and suffering are key to understanding the Message of Fatima and its critical importance for our time. Sister Lucia said, “These words were indelibly impressed upon our minds. They were like a light which made us understand who God is, how He loves us and desires to be loved, the value of sacrifice, how pleasing it is to Him and how, on account of it, He grants the grace of conversion to sinners.”
The Angel said “Above all, accept and bear with submission the suffering which the Lord will send you.” Sister Lucia said that from then on she and her little cousins began to offer up to God whatever mortified them, that is, whatever happened contrary to their will. They did so “without, however, seeking out other forms of mortification or penance [. . .]” except that they continually said the reparation prayer that the Angel taught them. This is like the “Little Way” to spiritual perfection taught by St. Therese of Lisieux: rather than perform special acts of penance and mortification, simply accept from God's loving hand whatever happens to us each day that goes contrary to our will. However, the Angel asked the children to offer up this daily suffering specifically in reparation for sin and for the conversion of sinners.
The First Marian Apparition
The following spring, on May 13, 1917, the three children took their flocks out to pasture in the Cova da Iria (a field belonging to Lucia’s family) when two bright flashes of something like lightning out of the clear blue sky startled them. Lucia describes what the children then saw above a holm oak tree: “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."
The Lady smiled and said, “Do not be afraid, I will not harm you.”
Lucia asked from where she came and what she wanted.
The Lady pointed to the sky saying, “I come from heaven. I have come to ask you to come here for six months on the 13th day of the month at this same hour. Later, I shall say who I am and what I desire. And I shall return here yet a seventh time.”
Lucia asked if they would go to heaven. The Lady told her that she and Jacinta would go to heaven, but Francisco would need to say many rosaries first. Then she said, “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 conversion of sinners?” Lucia, with the approval of the other two children, agreed to this offering of their daily suffering, and the Lady continued, “Then you are going to have much to suffer, but the grace of God will be your comfort.” As she said this, the Lady opened her hands and a stream of light on the children allowed them to see themselves in God. The Lady finished, “Say the rosary every day, to bring peace to the world and the end of the war.” The Lady then rose up into the air, moving east, until she disappeared.
The Second Apparition
On June 13, 1917 the three seers were joined by about 50 people as they awaited the Lady’s next promised visit. Again, the children saw a flash of light followed by the apparition of Mary. She said to Lucia, "I want you to come on the 13th of next month, to pray the Rosary every day, and to learn to read. Later, I will tell you what I want."
When Lucia asked her to take them to heaven, Mary said, "I will take Jacinta and Francisco shortly; but you will stay here for some time to come. Jesus wants to use you to make Me known and loved. He wishes to establish the devotion to My Immaculate Heart throughout the world. I promise salvation to whoever embraces it; these souls will be dear to God, like flowers put by Me to adorn his throne."
Sad upon hearing these words, Lucia replied, "Am I to stay here alone?"
Mary answered her before she departed to the east, "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."
The Third Apparition
On July 13 1917 the beautiful Lady once again appeared to the children. When Lucia asked what she wanted, she said, “I want you to come here on the 13th of next month, to continue to pray the Rosary every day in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary, in order to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war, because only she can help you."
Lucia asked who she was and if she would perform a miracle so that all present would believe. The Lady replied, "Continue to come here every month. In October, I will tell you who I am and what I want, and I will perform a miracle for all to see and believe."
Lucia asked the lady to fulfill requests people had asked of her for sick people, and Mary replied that some would be cured, but not others, and that all must say the rosary to obtain such graces.
She added, "Sacrifice yourselves for sinners, and say many times, especially when you make some sacrifice, ‘O Jesus, it is for love of Thee, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.’"
When Mary spoke these words, She opened her hands and rays of light from them seemed to penetrate the earth so that they saw a terrifying vision of hell, full of demons and lost souls amidst indescribable horrors. The children reported seeing lost souls falling into the fire like leaves in autumn, and souls burning alive like logs in a fire. (This is referred to as the first of the Three Secrets of Fatima.)
With a sad expression on Her face, the Blessed Mother said to them kindly, "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.”
(The Second Secret begins:) Mary then tells them, "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."
The Third Secret begins with the words, "In Portugal the dogma of the faith will always be preserved [. . .]." However, Mary asked for the rest of the message to be kept secret until a much later date (ultimately revealed in 2000).
After telling the children not to reveal the Secret yet, Mary said, "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."
The Fourth Apparition
On August 13, there was a large crowd assembled at the apparition site, but the children were prevented from attending at the request of the Mayor of Vila Nove de Ourem, Arturo Santos. In spite of intense interrogations by the Administrator, the children held their ground and refused to reveal the Secret, despite temptations of delicacies, money, gold, and threats of being fried to death in a vat of oil.
On August 19, the children saw Mary, who said, “Go again to the Cova da Iria on the 13th and continue to say the Rosary every day."
Mary also said she would perform a miracle so that all would believe.
Looking very sad, Mary added, "Pray, pray very much, and make sacrifices for sinners; for many souls go to hell, because there are none to sacrifice themselves and pray for them." With that, she rose into the air disappearing into the east.
The Fifth Apparition
On September 13 a very large crowd had gathered. Again, after the flash of light, Mary appeared to the children and said, “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 (Sorrows) 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 to wear it during the daytime."
Lucia spoke to Mary on behalf of people who had asked for cures and Mary responded, "Yes, I will cure some, but not others. In October, I will perform a miracle so that all may believe." With that she rose, moved to the east, and disappeared.
The Sixth and Final Public Apparition
On October 13, 1917, a crowd estimated at about 70,000 found their way to the Cova due to reports that a great miracle would occur. The children had to be guided to the holm oak tree because of the converging crowds.
They saw the flash of light, and Mary appeared before them. Lucia asked what she wanted, and she responded, “I want to tell you that a chapel is to be built here in my honor. I am the Lady of the Rosary. Continue always to pray the Rosary every day. The war is going to end, and the soldiers will soon return to their homes."
As before, Lucia told the Blessed Mother the petitions people had requested of her, to which She responded, "Some, yes; others, no. People must amend their lives and ask pardon for their sins." Then she grew sadder and said, "They must not offend Our Lord any more, for He is already too much offended."
Lucia then asked, “Do you want anything more?” to which Mary responded, “Nothing more.”
Rising into the air and opening her hands towards the sun, she pointed towards the sun with light emanating from Her hands. At the same time, the clouds parted and the sun appeared as a dull grey disk, pale as the moon.
To the left of the sun, the children saw Saint Joseph from the chest up, holding the Child Jesus. Together they made the Sign of the Cross three times over the world. To the right of the sun, Our Lady was dressed in the blue and white robes of Our Lady of the Rosary. Lucia was given the privilege of seeing Our Lord dressed in red as the Divine Redeemer, from the chest up, blessing the world. Beside Him stood Our Lady dressed now in the purple robes of Our Lady of Sorrows. Finally, She appeared clothed in the simple brown robes of Mount Carmel.
The Miracle of the Sun
As the crowd watched, they did not see all the visions to which the children were favored, but they were able to gaze directly at the sun as it faded and glowed in varying ways. It gave off amazing shafts of colorful light in innumerable directions, making the sun spin and dance. Suddenly, it appeared to zig-zag downward, hurtling toward the people. Many were seen screaming out in terror, many begging for mercy, others praying the Act of Contrition. As suddenly as it had appeared to be falling toward them, the sun swerved back into its orbit and reclaimed its normal place. The rain had stopped and everything, including the muddy ground, was dry. The miracle had indeed occurred as was promised.
• Remember that there was well over 70,000 witnesses at the miracle of the sun at the Cova, as well as thousands more in the surrounding towns and countryside for miles and miles.
• Initially, witnesses’ cloths were soaking wet and muddy. After the miracle of the sun, onlookers said their cloths were clean, dry, and looked like they had been freshly laundered.
• So, If you ever doubted that Mary, Mother of God, is not our mother too… She is the Queen of heaven and is still doing everyone’s laundry!
It is also important to understand that these three shepherd children were your average, every-day kids, doing what normal kids did in those days (mainly shepherding and other chores, playing games, music, singing, dancing and so on). They also had the same kind of family issues some of us have today. Jacinta and Francisco had very loving and supportive parents that stayed with and protected them once word of the apparitions got out. However, Lucia’s family turned against her. They tried to force her to tell the town she was lying. Her parents and siblings mocked and ridiculed her and treated her like dirt. Her mother was concerned about their family image while her dad was an alcoholic.
Our Holy Mother had told the children that the two younger ones would be in heaven soon. True to Her word, Francisco died on April 4, 1919 at age 11, and Jacinta died on February 20, 1920 at age 9. Lucia entered the Dorothean convent to learn to read and write as instructed by Our Lady and later became a Carmelite nun. She died at age 97 in the year 2005.
Before she died, little Jacinta revealed little-known but remarkable statements made by Our Lady. Here are a few of them:
- “Pray much for those who govern! Woe to those who persecute the religion of Our Lord! If the government left the Church in peace and gave freedom to the holy Faith, it would be blessed by God.”
- “The sins of the world are very great.”
- “If men knew what eternity is, they would do everything to change their lives.”
- “The sins that lead more souls to Hell are the sins of the flesh.”
- “Fashions that will greatly offend Our Lord will appear. People who serve God should not follow fashions. The Church has no fashions. Our Lord is always the same.”
- “Men are lost because they do not think of the death of Our Lord and do not do penance.”
- “Many marriages are not good; they do not please Our Lord and are not of God.”
- “Priests must be pure, very pure. They should not busy themselves with anything except what concerns the Church and souls. The disobedience of priests to their superiors and to the Holy Father is very displeasing to Our Lord.”
- ”The Blessed Mother can no longer restrain the hand of her Divine Son from striking the world with just punishment for its many crimes.”
- “Tell everybody that God gives graces through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Tell them to ask graces from her, and that the Heart of Jesus wishes to be venerated together with the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
Private Apparitions and Messages to Lucia
On December 10, 1925, in her cell at the convent in Pontevedra, Spain, Sister Lucia saw an apparition of Mary with the Child Jesus and a heart encircled with thorns. Mary told Lucia, "See, my daughter, My heart surrounded by thorns which ungrateful men pierce at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude.” Mary instructed that she would assist at the hour of their death, with all the graces necessary for the salvation of their souls, all those who would make reparation on the first Saturday of each month for five consecutive months. On these first Saturdays, they were to make a good confession, receive Holy Communion, recite five decades of the rosary, and keep Her company by meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the rosary, all with the intention of making reparation for the sins committed against Her Immaculate Heart.
On June 13, 1929, Sister Lucia saw another apparition while alone in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the convent chapel at Tuy (Spain). She was given an amazing understanding of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament with a vision of the representation of the Holy Trinity. As Lucia tells it, “I had sought and obtained permission from my superiors and confessor to make a Holy Hour from the eleven o'clock until midnight, every Thursday to Friday night. Being alone one night, I knelt near the altar rails in the middle of the chapel and, prostrate, I prayed the prayers of the Angel. Feeling tired, I then stood up and continued to say the prayers with my arms in the form of a cross. The only light was that of the sanctuary lamp. Suddenly the whole chapel was illumined by a supernatural light, and above the altar appeared a cross of light reaching to the ceiling. In a brighter light on the upper part of the cross, could be seen the face of a man and his body as far as the waist; upon his breast was a dove of light; nailed to the cross was the body of another man. A little below the waist, I could see a chalice and a large Host suspended in the air, onto which drops of blood were falling from the face of Jesus Crucified and from the wound in His side. These drops ran down on the host and fell into the chalice. Beneath the right arm of the cross was Our Lady and in her hand was her Immaculate Heart. Under the left arm of the cross, large letters, as if crystal clear water were running down upon the altar to form them, appeared proclaiming, "Grace and Mercy." I understood that it was the Mystery of the Most Holy Trinity which was shown to me, and I received lights about this mystery which I am not permitted to reveal."
Our Lady then said to me: "The moment has come in which God asks the Holy Father, in union with all the Bishops of the world, to make the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, promising to save it by this means. There are so many souls whom the justice of God condemns for sins committed against Me, that I have come to ask reparation: sacrifice yourself for this intention and pray."
The Fatima apparitions were approved by the Church in 1930.