I worked last night and am very tired, but I did not want the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima to pass without notice. I am sharing a summary of the visions shared by Gene Masters, a good friend and fellow parishioner at All Saints Catholic Church, that Gene passed on to the email list of the Nicodemus Club. Another excellent account of the Fatima visions can be found in the book A Woman Clothed With the Sun edited by John Delaney. Finally, if you have not yet seen the movie “Fatima” which came out last year, it is worth it. It is not sappy at all, like too many religious films, but is a well acted, well scripted, and beautiful telling of the story of the visions and visionaries of Fatima, Portugal.
In the middle of 1916 in Portugal, three children were tending sheep in a pasture near the poor village where they lived. The oldest, Lucia, 10, was in charge, and Francisco and Jacinta — brother and sister — helped. They were raised in faithful homes, and often would spend their time praying the rosary while they watched the sheep. Several times during that summer, they were visited by an angel while they were in the fields, and the angel taught them a prayer to the Trinity.
They added this prayer to their devotions, and the next year, on this date in 1917, a bolt of lightening caught their attention as they tended the sheep. When they looked in that direction, they saw a brilliant figure, a woman described by Lucia as “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.” The lady, Mary, asked the children to pray for the conversion of sinners and for an end to the war, World War I, which was devastating Europe at the time. She asked the children to return to the site on the 13th of every month.
Mary visited the children on the 13th of June and July, but by the end of the summer, their stories had drawn much attention. On August 13, authorities prevented the children from going to the fields, but Mary appeared to them on August 19 instead. On September 13, the Lady asked the children to pray the rosary, and to pray for an end to the war. In her last appearance, on October 13, she identified herself as Our Lady of the Rosary, and again asked for prayer and repentance.
On the day of the last appearance, a crowd nearing 70,000 gathered with the children to witness the appearance, though only the children could see Mary. In her first appearance, Mary told the children that they would witness a sign in the heavens during that last visit, and the whole crowd saw the phenomenon: the sun seemed to dance in the sky and fall toward the earth.
Mary also shared three “secrets” with the children that have been revealed over time. In the first secret, the children witnessed a vision of hell. In the second, Mary asked for the conversion of sinners, and especially communist Russia, and told of another phenomenon in the heavens that would precede a second great war. (In the month before Hitler seized Austria, an occurrence of the aurora borealis covered most of Europe — it was the widest display in 200 years, and people in Paris called the fire department because they thought a huge fire had broken out in the city).
The third secret was sealed until 1960 and was finally revealed by the Vatican in 2000. It told of a vision in which the children saw a figure like the pope killed by soldiers. They also saw many other of the faithful killed in persecution. Pope John Paul II interpreted the secret to refer to his survival of an assassination attempt (which happened on this date in 1981), and to the many persecutions and wars of the 20th century. Within two years of the apparitions, the two younger children, the brother and sister Francisco and Jacinta, died of the Spanish influenza. Lucia died on February 13, 2005.
In the end, Mary’s message at Fatima is a call for Christians to convert and repent of their sins, and to pray, “I have come to exhort the faithful to change their lives, to avoid grieving our Lord by sin, to pray the rosary,” Mary told the children. She also asked for a special veneration to her Immaculate Heart, which was fulfilled by Pope John Paul II when he consecrated the whole world to Mary’s Immaculate Heart.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.