What Happened at Fatima?
To the casual observer or the individual who has never before heard of the Church-approved apparitions at Fatima, Portugal, the events may at first seem shocking, even unbelievable. Yet, the apparitions – and their culmination with the Miracle of the Sun was witnessed by more than 70,000 and testified to by even secular journalists. Not only that, but events predicted at Fatima did come to pass in the years after the visions.
While not shown in the film, Lucia dos Santos and Jacinta and Francisco Marto’s first Heavenly visitor wasn’t a Heavenly lady, but a snowy, brilliant, translucent figure who identified himself as the Angel of Peace and the Guardian Angel of Portugal. According to Catholic Church teaching, in the hierarchy of angels, certain angels have been given the task of guarding particular cities, principalities and nations.
The angel’s appearance wasn’t revealed by Lucia until 1937.
The angel’s first visit occurred in the spring of 1916. On that visit, the angel taught the three shepherd children to pray.
“My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love you,” taught the angel. “I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope, and do not love you.”
During the angel’s second visit, in the summer, he encouraged the children to pray and offer sacrifices for reparation for sin. On his third and final visit, in the fall, he brought the children Holy Communion.
Thus catechized in prayer, reparative suffering, and having received Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist, the children were spiritually prepared for the visitations that would begin the following spring.
May 13, 1917
On the morning of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, the three visionaries, Lucia (10), Francisco (9), and Jacinta (7) led their flock of sheep from Aljustrel, proceeding north to the slopes of the Cova da Iria.
The children had been praying a shortened version of the Rosary, saying only the beginning part of each prayer. They were surprised by what they thought to be lightning and a strange light in the sky.
Near a holm oak, they saw a woman dressed in white, shining brighter than the sun, with rays of light coming from her.
During the visit, the woman asked the children if they were willing to offer themselves to God and bear all the sufferings He wills to send as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and of supplication for the conversion of sinners. The children agreed to do so.
June 13, 1917
On her second visit, the Heavenly lady said that her son, Jesus, wanted to establish in the world devotion to her Immaculate Heart.
July 13, 1917
During this visit, the three children were entrusted with three secrets. The first was a vision of Hell. The very truths that a generation has trouble believing are the truths that Our Lady allowed those willing to listen to see.
The second was a prediction about the end of the war and a warning about another World War, and the role of Russia. The third secret was a vision of an assassination attempt on the life of the Pope, which wasn’t revealed publicly until the Jubilee Year 2000.
Our Lady also established the First Saturday devotion, encouraging the faithful to receive Holy Communion every 1st Saturday of the month for five consecutive months for reparation.
August 13, 1917
In the government’s attempt to silence the children and the messages of Fatima, the children were abducted, thrown into a prison cell, and interrogated under the threat of death by the administrator Senhor Santos.
The children were not swayed by the threats, but told the truth about the apparitions and were eventually released.
As a result of the abduction, the children were not at the Cova for the August apparition. Those gathered at the Cova reported hearing thunder and seeing a flash of lightning in the clear sky. A light cloud appeared to hover above the holm oak tree.
The lady appeared to the children six days later in Valinos saying that many souls go to hell because they have no one to sacrifice or pray for them.
September 13, 1917
During this visit, the Heavenly lady encouraged the children to pray the Rosary for the end of the war. Reportedly 30,000 people attended this apparition.
October 13, 1917
By October, the events at the Cova had been reported far and wide. As a result, some 70,000 people filled the countryside to observe the predicted miracle.
During this visit, the lady identified herself as the Lady of the Rosary and asked the children to continue to pray the Rosary daily.
Lucia stated that during Mary’s final visit, they were given three visions of Mary. In the first, she appeared with the Holy Family. Mary appeared to the right of the sun. To the sun’s left, St. Joseph appeared holding the Christ-child in his arms, both tracing the Sign of the Cross with their hands.
Lucia stated that Mary also appeared as Our Lady of Sorrows and as Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Many of those gathered saw the sun spinning in the sky, and then saw it break loose and zig-zag toward the earth, looking as if it would fall upon the people. Those gathered fell to the ground praying for mercy. Even secular and government newspaper reports tell of the Miracle of the Sun.
After the Apparitions
Following the apparitions, the seers’ lives were never the same. Pilgrims desired to see the children, to ask them questions or for prayers, and to have them bless objects. Both Francisco and Jacinta contracted the Spanish flu and died within a year of one another. Lucia entered the school of the Sisters of St. Dorothy in Vilar, near Oporto, in the north of Portugal. On October 24, 1925, she entered as a postulant. She made her first vows on October 3, 1928, and her perpetual vows on October 3, 1934, receiving the name Sister Mary of the Sorrowful Mother.
In 1946, seeking a more contemplative life, she entered the Carmelite convent of St. Teresa in Coimbra, making her profession on May 31, 1949 and taking the name Sister Maria Lucia of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart.
In the years that followed, the predictions made by Our Lady did come to pass. World War I ended, but was followed by the more horrific Second World War. Russian Communism did spread its errors throughout the world, but eventually the country was Consecrated to Mary’s Immaculate Heart and the Berlin Wall and Communist Russia collapsed without fighting. And the assassination attempt on the life of Pope John Paul II, on May 13, 1981 failed.
Believing that it was Our Lady’s hand that guided the bullet’s path, Pope John Paul II gave to the then-Bishop of Fatima the bullet which had remained in the vehicle after the assassination attempt. By the Bishop’s decision, the bullet was later set in the crown of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima.
After a long illness, Sister Lucia died on February 13, 2005 at the age of 97.
The Third Secret of Fatima – that of the assassination attempt – was finally revealed to the universal Church in 2000, the same year that Francisco and Jacinta Marto were beatified.
The messages of Fatima – prayer, repentance, self-sacrifice, reparation, and peace – are messages that the war-ravaged world needs today, perhaps now more than ever.