Our Lady of Fatima

Our Lady of Fatima

Our Lady of Fátima is a title given to the Blessed Virgin Mary as She appeared in apparitions reported by three shepherd children at Fatima in Portugal. These occurred on the 13th day of six consecutive months in 1917, starting on May 13. The three children were Lúcia Santos and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto.

On 13 May 1917, ten year old Lúcia Santos and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto were herding sheep at a location known as the Cova da Iria near their home village of Fátima in Portugal. Lúcia described seeing a woman “brighter than the sun, shedding rays of light clearer and stronger than a crystal ball filled with the most sparkling water and pierced by the burning rays of the sun.” Further appearances were reported to have taken place on the thirteenth day of the month in June and July. In these, the woman exhorted the children to do penance and Acts of Reparation, and to make sacrifices to save sinners. The children subsequently wore tight cords around their waists to cause themselves pain, performed self-flagellation using stinging nettles, abstained from drinking water on hot days, and performed other works of penance and mortification of the flesh. Most important, Lúcia said that the lady had asked them to pray the rosary every day, and that saying the rosary many times was the key to personal and world peace. This had particular resonance since many Portuguese men, including relatives of the visionaries, were then fighting in World War I. According to Lúcia’s account, in the course of her appearances, the woman confided to the children three secrets, now known as theThree Secrets of Fátima.

Thousands of people flocked to Fátima and Aljustrel in the following months, drawn by reports of visions and miracles. On 13 August 1917, the provincial administrator and anticlerical Freemason, Artur Santos (no relation to Lúcia Santos), believing that the events were politically disruptive, intercepted and jailed the children before they could reach the Cova da Iria that day. Prisoners held with them in the provincial jail later testified that the children, while upset, were first consoled by the inmates, and later led them in praying the rosary. The administrator interrogated the children and tried unsuccessfully to get them to divulge the contents of the secrets. In the process, he threatened the children, saying he would boil them in a pot of oil, one by one unless they confessed. The children refused, but Lúcia told him everything short of the secrets, and offered to ask the Lady for permission to tell the Administrator the secrets. That month, instead of the usual apparition in the Cova da Iria on the 13th, the children reported that they saw the Virgin Mary on 15 August, the Feast of the Assumption, at nearby Valinhos.

As early as July 1917 it was claimed that the Virgin Mary had promised a miracle for the last of her apparitions on 13 October, so that all would believe. What happened then became known as “Miracle of the Sun”. A crowd believed to number approximately 70,000, including newspaper reporters and photographers, gathered at the Cova da Iria. The incessant rain had finally ceased and a thin layer of clouds cloaked the silver disc of the sun. Witnesses said later it could be looked upon without hurting the eyes. Lúcia, moved by what she said was an interior impulse, called out to the crowd to look at the sun. Witnesses later spoke of the sun appearing to change colors and rotate like a wheel. Not everyone saw the same things, and witnesses gave widely varying descriptions of the “sun’s dance”. The phenomenon is claimed to have been witnessed by most people in the crowd as well as people many miles away. While the crowd was staring at the sun, Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta said later they were seeing lovely images of the Holy Family, Our Lady of Sorrows with Jesus Christ, and then Our Lady of Mount Carmel. They said they saw Saint Josep hand Jesus bless the people. The children were aged 10, 9, and 7 at the time.