Fatima children: (left to right)
Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta
The story of Our Lady of Fatima is one of the most interesting in Church History. For those who are unfamiliar with the apparition of Our Immaculate Lady at Fatima, here are the basic features of the apparition along with her message:
- Mary appeared six times to three Portuguese shepherd children: the ten year old Lúcia Santos and her two younger cousins Jacinta (girl) and Francisco Marto (boy). These visions would repeat on the 13th day every month from May 13 1917 (first apparition) till October 13 1917 (last apparition). The initial message in May was that the children and the entire world should do penance in reparation for the world's increased sin. She also asked everyone to pray "one third of the Rosary" every day (i.e. five decades every day).
- In the third month of the visions, on July 13 1917, Mary revealed "Three Secrets" to the three children. Lucia and Jacinta "saw and heard" everything that Mary revealed, but Francisco only "saw" the visions that Mary depicted for them:
First Secret. A Vision of Hell: "You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go."
Second Secret. World War II and Consecration of Russia: "If people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the Pontificate of Pope Pius XI...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 shall be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world."
Third Secret. Persecution of the Church: The assassination of the Pope, many bishops, priests, religious and laity. (text of the vision is provided by the Vatican: Third Secret of Fatima)
- In the final apparition of October 13, 1917 Mary provided the "Miracle of the Sun" which was seen by about 70,000 people - Catholics, atheists, and journalists who had assembled on account of the rumor of a public miracle. Witnesses testified that the sun appearing to change colors and rotate like a wheel. The miracle 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 (symbolic of Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary), Our Lady of Sorrows with Jesus Christ (symbolic of Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary), and then Our Lady of Mount Carmel (symbolic of Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary).
- Although it had been raining, the miracle of the sun, dried the people and the ground.
- The miracle of the sun was seen even by those not present with the three children - people testified to having seen the "sun dance" even up to forty kilometers away from the site of the apparition. It was a localized phenomenon, but not tightly restricted to the children and the 70,000 gathered around them. It is difficult to allege that 70,000 people (including skeptical atheists) hallucinated all at the same time.
- Pope John Paul II was shot by an assassin on the anniversary of the first Fatima vision, May 13, 1981 in Saint Peter's square. The Holy Father attributed his survival to the hand of Our Lady of Fatima.
- Lúcia's cousins, Francisco (1908–1919) and Jacinta (1910–1920) died (as prophesied by Mary) shortly after in the Spanish Flu epidemic. On May 13, 2000 Pope John Paul II beatified Blessed Francisco and Blessed Jacinta.