Most Catholics are familiar with the story of Our Lady of Fatima, or at least have heard of it. Here’s a quick refresher course on what happened:
On May 13, 1917, three children were tending a flock of sheep near the town of Fatima, Portugal. The children were Lucia dos Santos (age 10) and her cousins Francisco (age 9) and Jacinta Marto (age 7). The children had finished praying a rosary and were starting to play when they saw a brilliant light. Thinking it was lightning, they began to head toward home. Suddenly they saw another flash, this one illuminating the whole area, and that’s when they saw, standing over a small holmoak tree, “a lady brighter than the sun” with a white rosary hanging from her hands.
The beautiful lady asked the children to pray for peace and to make sacrifices for the conversion of sinners. She also requested that they return to this same spot on the 13th of each month for five consecutive months.
During these subsequent appearances, the Blessed Mother requested frequent recitation of the Rosary, increased devotion to her Immaculate Heart, daily acts of reparation and sacrifice, and prayers for the conversion of Russia. At the October 13th appearance, she revealed herself as “Our Lady of the Rosary.”
During Our Lady’s last appearance on October 13, 1917, over 70,000 people who had gathered at the now infamous apparition site witnessed a spectacular solar event, commonly called the “The Miracle of the Sun.” Witnesses described the sun as “spinning,” “dancing,” “trembling,” zig-zagging and even careening toward them at times. Reportedly, the phenomenon did not hurt anyone’s eyes, and the wet clothes and ground from previous rain showers quickly and inexplicably dried up in a matter of minutes. The Catholic Church officially recognized this occurrence as a miracle on October 13, 1930.
The final component of the Fatima story is “The Secret,” a message from Our Lady to the children that actually consisted of three parts. The first two were revealed in 1941 in a document written by Lucia, and consisted of (1) a terrifying vision of hell and (2) a prediction that while World War I would soon end, another, more devastating war would occur if mankind did not stop offending God and if Russia did not convert. The third secret remains more controversial in that while the Vatican officially made it public in the year 2000 and declared that it pointed to the assassination attempt of Pope John Paul II, some believe that it is not the “real” secret or at least not the full secret and that the Vatican is hiding the true message, which they believe describes apostasy, satanic infiltration of the Church, and the end of the world.
As today is the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, it would benefit all of us to reflect on the happenings at Fatima, their historical impact, and their relevance to us today. To that end, here are some helpful resources:
And be sure to check out this trailer for the 2009 movie, The 13th Day, a critically acclaimed film distributed by Ignatius Press that the National Catholic Register calls "the best film ever made about Fatima--the most beautiful and effective, as well as one of the most historically accurate."