A timeline of the conditions that prevailed in Portugal at the turn of the 20th century began with the assassination of Don Carlos the King of Portugal in 1908. That was followed by the overthrow of the government in 1910 by a group of anarchists and Freemasons with the primary objective to eradicate Catholicism in Portugal within two generations.
By 1914 all of Europe was engaged in what was proclaimed to be the “War that would end all Wars.” World War I would have a devastating effect on all of Christendom, so much so, that Pope Benedict the XV called it the suicide of Europe.
The Angel of Portugal
In the spring of 1916, three shepherd children, Jacinta Marto (7), her brother Francisco Marto (8), and cousin Lucia Santos (10) had their first supernatural encounter as they were looking after their sheep one day. They saw a dazzlingly beautiful young man, seemingly made of light, who told them he was the Angel of Peace. He invited them to pray with him. (See Angel prayers)
Later on in the summer, the Angel again appeared to the children and encouraged them to pray and make sacrifices as a way of drawing down peace on their country. In the autumn, the children again saw the Angel as they were looking after the sheep. He appeared before them holding a chalice in his hands, above which was suspended a host from which drops of blood were falling into the chalice. The Angel left the chalice suspended in the air and prostrated himself before it in prayer. He taught them a prayer of Eucharistic reparation.
He then gave the host to Lucia and the chalice to Francisco and Jacinta, saying, “Take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, horribly outraged by ungrateful men. Make reparations for their crimes and console your God.” Then he prostrated himself again in prayer before disappearing. The children did not tell anyone about these visits of the Angel, feeling an interior necessity to keep quiet about these events.
In the spring of 1917 the Pope, in a desperate plea to the Mother of God, reached out to Mary to help bring peace with the following prayer:
“So let this loving and devout appeal rise toward Mary, the Mother of Mercy who is omnipotent by grace…. Let it bring to Her ears the anguished cries of mothers and wives, the lament of innocent children and the sighs of every generous heart. May her most tender and benevolent concern be touched, and may she grant the peace that we request for this troubled world.”
As a demonstration of his concern, on May 5th, 1917, one week before the first appearance of the Mother of God in Fatima, he would add to the Litany of Loreto the invocation, “Queen Of Peace, Pray for us.” He would also begin a novena to Her that ended on the 12th of May. This would not be the first time nor the last that The Mother of God would respond to a Pope’s plea for help as related to the Fatima apparitions.
On the Sunday of May 13th, 1917, the Pope was in Rome conferring episcopal ordination on a young priest by the name of Eugenio Pacelli who would later become Pope Pius the XII; He would play a significant role in the century-long story of Fatima and would become known as the Pope of Fatima. Meanwhile, at the same time, Our Lady appeared for the first time to the three shepherd children in the Cova da Iria, a piece of property owned by one of the seer’s family where the shrine of Our Lady Fatima in Portugal stands today. All three of the children could see Our Lady. Jacinta and Lucia could hear her as well, but only Lucia spoke to Our Lady.
The First Apparition
During the first apparition on May 13th, 1917, Our Lady said to the children, “Don’t be afraid.” Lucia asked, “Where are you from?” Our Lady said, “I am from heaven… I came to ask you to come here on the 13th of each month for the next six months. Later I will tell you who I am and what I want. Then I will return here a seventh time.” Lucia asked, “Will I go to heaven? “Yes.” And Jacinta? “Yes.” “And Francisco?” “Also, but he has to pray many Rosaries.” Then Lucia asks about some young girls who had recently died from their area. “The second girl Amelia,” Our Lady said, “She will be in Purgatory until the end of the world.” Then the beautiful Lady dressed in light asked the children, “Do you wish to offer yourselves to God for the reparation for sins for which he is offended and for the conversion of sinners?” Lucia instantly answered for all, “Yes we do.” Our Lady said, “Then you are going to have much to suffer, but the grace of God will be your comfort.” Lucia recounted that at the same moment She said these words the Lady opened her hands and streamed a “light” on the children that allowed them to see themselves in God. The Lady finished with a request. “Say the Rosary every day to bring peace to the world and the end of the war.” With that She began to rise into the air, moving towards the east until She disappeared.
The Second Apparition
The second apparition took place on June 13th, 1917, at which time Lucia asked, “what do you want from us?” She asked them again to return here on the 13th of next month and to pray the rosary every day. Lucia then asked, “Will you take us to heaven?” “I will take Jacinta and Francisco to heaven soon. But you will stay some more time. I want you to learn to read and write. Jesus wants to use you to make me known and loved. He wishes to establish devotion to my Immaculate Heart in the world.” Lucia appeared saddened. “Don’t be sad. My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God.” She showed them an image of the Immaculate Heart with thorns all around it.
The Third Apparition
The third apparition was on July 13th, 1917. “I want you to come here on the thirteenth of next month, to continue saying the Rosary every day in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary to obtain peace in the world and the end of the war because only She can avail you.” Lucia then asked, “will you tell us who you are?” Our Lady answered her,
“In October I will say who I am, what I want, and I will perform a miracle so everyone will see so they will believe.” At that point, the ground opened up beneath them, and She showed them a prophetic vision, and then said to them, “You have seen hell, the place where poor sinners go. In order to save them, God wants to establish devotion to my Immaculate Heart in the world. If they do what I tell you, many souls will be saved and there will be peace. The war will come to an end. But if they do not stop offending God, in the reign of Pius XI a worse war will begin. When you see a night illuminated by an unknown light, know that it is the great sign that God gives you that He will punish the world for its crimes by means of war, hunger and persecutions against the Church and the Holy Father. To prevent it I will come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart and the Communion of Reparations on the First Saturdays. If my requests are fulfilled, Russia will convert and there will be peace. If not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, promoting wars and persecutions of the church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, and many nations will be annihilated. Finally, my Immaculate Heart will Triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she will be converted, and the world will be given a certain period of peace. In Portugal, the dogma of the Faith will be always preserved. Do not tell this to anyone except Francesco.”
Then She taught them an invocation to be said after each decade of the Rosary, “O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to heaven especially those in most need of thy mercy.”
The vision was divided into three parts; the first part involved the vision of Hell. The second part had to do with prophesy of another war if people didn’t heed her request and the conversion of Russia. The third part of the vision had to do with the persecution of the church and the assassination of the Holy Father. This vision is what became known as the three secrets of Fatima. Sr. Lucia published the first two parts of the vision in her memoirs after being asked to by the Bishop and after Our Lady gave her permission. The third part, however, Lucia did not receive permission from Our Lady to release it to the public at that time.
The Fourth Apparition
The fourth apparition took place in August of 1917. As August 13th approached, the story of the apparitions had reached the anti-religious secular press, and while this ensured that the whole country knew about Fatima, it also meant that many biased and negative reports were circulating. The children were kidnapped on the morning of the 13th by the Mayor of Vila Nova de Ourem, Arturo Santos. They were interrogated about the secret, but despite his threats and promises of money, they refused to divulge it. In the afternoon they were moved to the local prison and threatened with death but determined that they would die rather than reveal the secret.
Late in the afternoon on August 19th, Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta were together at a place called Valinhos, near Fatima, when they again saw Mary, who spoke to Lucia saying, “Go again to the Cova da Iria on the 13th and continue to say the Rosary every day.” Mary also said She would perform a miracle in October, so all would believe and that if they had not been kidnapped it would have been even greater. Looking very sad, Mary then said, “Pray, pray very much, and make sacrifices for sinners; for many souls go to hell because there are none to sacrifice themselves and pray for them.” With that, She rose into the air and moved towards the east before disappearing.
By now the children had thoroughly absorbed Mary’s plea for prayer and penance and did everything they could to answer it. They prayed for hours while lying prostrate on the ground and went as long as they could without drinking in the burning heat of the Portuguese summer. They also went without food as a sacrifice for sinners to save them from hell, the vision of which had so profoundly affected them. They even knotted some pieces of old rope around their waists as a form of mortification, not removing them day or night.
The Fifth Apparition
The fifth apparition took place on September 13, 1917. A very large crowd began to converge on Fatima from all directions. Around noon the children arrived. After the customary flash of light, they saw Mary on the holm oak tree. She spoke to Lucia saying, “Continue to pray the Rosary in order to obtain the end of the war. In October Our Lord will come, as well as Our Lady of Dolours and Our Lady of Carmel. Saint Joseph will appear with the Child Jesus to bless the world. God is pleased with your sacrifices. He does not want you to sleep with the rope on, but only to wear it during the daytime.”
Lucia then began to put forward the petitions for cures. “Yes, I will cure some, but not others. In October I will perform a miracle so that all may believe.” Then Our Lady began to rise as usual and disappeared.
The Sixth Apparition
The sixth apparition occurred on October 13, 1917. The prediction of a public miracle caused intense speculation throughout Portugal and a journalist, Avelino de Almeida, published a satirical article on the whole business in the anti-religious newspaper, O Seculo. People from other parts of the country descended by the tens of thousands on the Cova despite the terrible storm that lashed the mountain country around Fatima on the eve of the 13th. Many pilgrims walked barefooted, reciting the Rosary as they went, all crowding into the area around the Cova. By mid-morning, the weather again turned bad and heavy rain began to fall.
The children reached the holm oak around noon and then saw the flash of light as Mary appeared before them. For the last time, Lucia asked The Lady what She wanted. “I want to tell you that a chapel is to be built here in my honor. I am the Lady of the Rosary. Continue always to pray the Rosary every day. The war is going to end, and the soldiers will soon return to their homes.”
Again Lucia made requests for cures, conversions, and other things. Our Lady’s response was: “Some yes, but not others. They must amend their lives and ask forgiveness for their sins.”
Sister Lucia told tells us that at this point Mary grew very sad and said, “Do not offend the Lord our God any more, because He is already so much offended.” Then, opening her hands, She made them reflect on the sun and, as She ascended, the reflection of her own light continued to be projected on the sun itself. After She disappeared, the people witnessed the great miracle which had been predicted; the children saw the visions foretold during the September apparition.
The Great Miracle of the Sun
The greatest miracle to occur since the Resurrection is also the only miracle ever precisely predicted in date, time of day, and location. Although it is popularly known as “The Miracle of the Sun,” October 13, 1917, has come to be known as “The Day the Sun Danced.” A great deal more took place. The solar phenomena included the dancing of the sun, its fluctuations in color, its swirling and its descending toward the earth. There was also a stillness in the leaves of the trees in spite of howling winds, the complete drying of the rain-soaked ground, and the restoration of clothes all wet and covered with mud so that, as eye-witness Dominic Reis, put it, “They looked as though they had just come back from the cleaners.” Physical cures of the blind and the lame were reported. There were countless public confessions resulting in conversion that attest to the authenticity of what they saw.
The miracle is reported to have been seen from as far as 15-25 miles away, thus ruling out the possibility of any collective hallucination or mass hypnotism. Doubters and skeptics had become believers. Even O Seculo’s chief editor, Avelino de Almeida, now reported affirmatively and stood by his story later on in spite of harsh criticism.
The Deaths of Francisco and Jacinta
An influenza epidemic swept through Europe in the autumn of 1918 following the war, and both Jacinta and Francisco fell ill. Francisco recovered somewhat and there were hopes that he might become well, but he realized that he was destined to die young as Our Lady had foretold, and his condition worsened again. He offered up all his sufferings as a way of consoling God for the sinfulness and ingratitude of mankind and in supplication for the conversion of sinners. He became so weak that eventually he could not even pray. He received his first Holy Communion and on the next day, April 4, 1919, he died.
Jacinta was confined to her bed during the long winter months, and was struck down with bronchial pneumonia, while developing a painful abscess in her chest. She was moved to the hospital in Ourem in July 1919 where she underwent the painful treatment prescribed for her, but without much effect. She returned home in August with an open wound in her side. It was decided that another attempt should be made to treat her, and so in January 1920 she was taken to Lisbon, where she was diagnosed as having purulent pleurisy and diseased ribs. In February, she was admitted to the hospital, where she underwent another painful operation to remove two ribs. This left her with a large wound in her side that had to be dressed daily, causing her great agony. On the evening of February 20, 1920, the local priest was called to hear her confession, but he insisted on waiting till the next day to bring her Holy Communion despite her protests that she felt worse. As Mary had foretold, she died that night alone and far from her family. Her body was returned to Fatima and buried with that of Francisco until both were later moved to the Basilica built at the Cova da Iria.
In 1919, a small private chapel was built at the location where Mary appeared to the children. The first Mass was celebrated there in 1921. One of the additions to the chapel was a wooden statue of the Blessed Mother carved by José Ferreira Thedim. Despite numerous issues (such as the chapel being destroyed by dynamite in 1922), the statue remains outside a rebuilt replica of the chapel (Caplina) behind glass, resting on a podium at the exact location of the oak tree at which Our Lady appeared for the apparitions.
Later Apparitions to Sister Lucia
The new bishop of the restored diocese of Leiria decided it was best if Lucia was removed from Fatima, both to spare her from the continual questionings she had to endure and to see what affect her absence would have on the numbers coming as pilgrims. Her mother agreed to her being sent away to school, and she left in May 1921 in great secrecy for Porto, where a school run by the Sisters of St. Dorothy was situated. Later she became a sister in this congregation before joining the Carmelites.
On December 10, 1925, while at the Dorothean Convent in Pontevedra, Spain, Lucia had another apparition of the Blessed Mother, this time with the Child Jesus. She had returned to ask for the Communions of Reparation we now call the First Saturday Devotion, as she said she would during her July 13,1917 apparition at Fatima. Mary told Lucia to announce that she promised to provide at the hour of death, the graces necessary for salvation to those who, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months, confessed, received Holy Communion, recited five decades of the Rosary, and kept her company while meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary for fifteen minutes, with the purpose of making reparation to her.
On June 13, 1929, Our Lady returned again as Sister Lucia was at prayer in the convent chapel at Tuy, Spain. This time she appeared alongside a representation of the Holy Trinity. Mary spoke to her saying, “The moment has come in which God would like the Holy Father, in union with all the bishops of the world, to make the consecration of Russia, promising to save it by this means.”
By 1930 The Apparitions at Fatima were approved by the local bishops and the Catholic culture of Portugal was preserved. On January 25, 1938, a strange light filled the skies of northern Europe. It was described as a particularly brilliant display of the Aurora Borealis, but Sr. Lucia realized it was the “unknown light,” spoken of by Mary during the July 13,1917 apparition. It meant punishment for the world was close, principally through the Second World War, because it had not turned back to God. In 1940 Pope Pius XII wrote his encyclical Saeculo Exeunte, which was the first time an official document from a Pope referred to Fatima. He met with Sister Lucy on multiple occasions in Rome, which had an influence on his 1942 dedication of the whole world, including Russia, to Mary’s Immaculate Heart. On May 13th, 1942, the 25th anniversary of the events in Fatima, the Cardinal Patriarch of Portugal Cardinal Cerehiera used the word miracle to describe the profound transformation that had taken place in that country. Not only did our Lady promise that the Dogma of the faith in Portugal would be preserved, it also kept them out of the Spanish civil war and the Second World.
There exists a Catholic ritual that involves the Canonical Coronation of Images. Popes may issue a Bull by which they command that a particular image, statue, or other icon be “crowned” with a physical crown, tiara, or halo of stars. There is a book published by the Vatican with instructions on the prayers required when the image is crowned, either by the Pope himself or by an emissary sent by him. In 1946, Pope Pius XII authorized a Canonical Coronation of the wooden statue at Fatima carved by Thedim. While a papal legate made the trip to Portugal to actually place the crown on the statue’s head (calling her “Queen of the World”), the Pope spoke in a radio address to those gathered, calling Mary “Lady and Queen of Angels and Saints, Patriarchs and Prophets, Apostles and Martyrs, Confessors and the Virgins … the Queen of the heavens and the earth, glorious, dignified Queen of the universe: Regina Caelorum.”
The Second World War had ended and Sr. Lucia felt she wasn’t doing enough to promote or spread devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. She seriously thought about leaving the convent. She was visited by an American Layman named John Haffert who had an idea to help spread the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. In 1947 the Blue Army was created and Sr. Lucia was certain this was a grace sent by God. The International Virgin Pilgrim Statue begin touring the USA the same year.
For Pope Pius XII, what began on the day of his episcopal ordination continued to play a part in his life twenty-nine years later. Pius’ life intertwined with this devotion so much that he was known as the “Pope of Fatima.” Pius XII is also known as being the most recent Pope to have made an infallible ex-cathedra statement when he reaffirmed the Assumption of Mary as dogma in 1950. Even this has a tie to Fatima. In the days leading up to proclaiming it, Pius had witnessed on three occasions, in the Vatican Gardens, the same miracle of the sun that was seen in Fatima years before. He took this as validation of the proclamation. As if in confirmation, he saw it a fourth time, a week after making the proclamation, but never again. He admitted to going back into the gardens to see if it would recur. The coronation of the statue may still have been on his mind when he wrote the 1954 encyclical on the Queenship of Mary, Ad Caeli Regnum.
Just eleven days before Pius’ death, the last bishop he appointed was ordained on September 28, 1958 was the newly appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Kraków, Carol Wojtyla. (St. John Paul II.)
Pope Paul VI was the first pope to travel to Fatima on the 50th anniversary in 1967.
St. John Paul II was elected to the papacy in 1978. The Blue Army was elevated to a Pontifical Association of the Faithful by Pope John Paul II in the late 1970’s and was henceforth called the World Apostolate of Fatima.
On May 13th, 1981, while touring St. Peter’s Square during the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, St. John Paul II was bending over looking at a girl who was wearing a pin of our Lady of Fatima when he was gunned down. The bullet entered him miraculously avoiding any major organs and abruptly taking a sharp turn before exiting his body. The Pope was later quoted as saying that there was one hand guiding the gun and another guiding the bullet. He was rushed to the hospital, and after losing a lot of blood and near death, he was spared.
Forty days later on June 24th, 1981 the Feast of St. John the Baptist, Our Lady began to appear to six children in a Soviet Bloc country of Yugoslavia in a small hamlet called Medjugorje. She appeared under the title of Queen of Peace and told them that She was there to let them know that “God exists.” At the same time, upon recovering, the Pope asked for the Third Secret of Fatima, and after a study of it, he was convinced that it was he who was the subject of it. At the same time, Sr. Lucia, upon hearing of the assassination attempt, immediately thought the same. In the hospital, he thanked Jacinta for praying for him and offering her suffering for the bishop dressed in white. Following his recovery, he would make his first pilgrimage to Fatima one year to the date on May 13th, 1982. One million pilgrims joined him as he thanked Our Lady for sparing his life and had the bullet embedded into the crown that rested upon the head of Our Lady’s statue in Fatima, the same crown that Pius XII had placed on her head. In 1984 he would have the statue flown to Rome and amongst collegial union with the world’s bishops would consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Lucia said that this consecration was accepted from Heaven and from that point forward we began to see the quiet implosion of the former Soviet Union, with the Berlin Wall coming down in 1989 and in 1990, the removal of the Red Flag of the hammer and sickle over the Kremlin in Red Square.
On May 13th, 1991, on the tenth anniversary of his assassination attempt, St. John Paul II made his second pilgrimage to Fatima to thank Our Lady for the peaceful transformation that had occurred in the world.
St. John Paul II’s third visit to Fatima was in the Millennial year 2000 when he beatified the two young children, Jacinta and Francisco. The bodies of the two young children were moved to the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary in Fatima.
St. John Paul II during the millennial year assigned Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone in his capacity as undersecretary of the Congregation of the Proclamation of Faith to meet with Sr. Lucia to determine whether the text of the Third Secret was authentic. During his time as Secretary, he met with Sr. Lucia on three separate occasions. The pope made the decision to release to the public for the first time the “Third secret of Fatima.” Cardinal Bertone said the decision to release the third secret of Fatima was made in order to avoid the “apocalyptic interpretation,” that was spreading especially toward the end of the millennium.
On February 13th, 2005 Sr. Lucia died at the age of 98. Forty days later Pope John Paul II died in Rome. The two spiritual warriors would be ever joined eternally and remembered for their heroic efforts in the battles of the end of the Second Millennium. Cardinal Bertone officiates at Sr. Lucia’s funeral at the Carmelite Convent in Coimbra Portugal.
In 2006 Sister Lucia’s body is entombed in the basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary in Fatima along the side of her two beloved cousins.
Pope Benedict the XVI would write the theology of the Third Secret in the appendix of a book called the “Last Secret of Fatima” in which he wished to publish any material that hadn’t been published on Fatima through his Secretary State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
In a homily delivered during his 2010 apostolic journey to Portugal on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the beatification of blessed Jacinta and Francisco Pope Benedict XVI told us: “The substance of the Fatima message is not directed to particular devotions, but precisely to the fundamental response, that is to ongoing conversion, penance, prayer and the three theological virtues: faith, hope and charity.” (Fatima For Today, p 231)
Pope Francis consecrated his Pontificate to Our Lady of Fatima and on May 13th, 2017, the 100th Anniversary of the Fatima century Pope Francis made a pilgrimage to Fatima and canonized the two young Shepherd children, Jacinta & Francisco. They became the youngest canonized saints in the Catholic Church outside of martyrs.
A final aspect of the Fatima apparition came to light in 1981 when Sister Lucia wrote to Msgr. (later Cardinal) Carlo Caffara at the Vatican to thank him and to assure him of prayers for the founding of the John Paul II Institute on Marriage and the Family. In the letter she also related something she heard from Our Lady: A final battle will signal the end of the period in which we now struggle. Sister Lucia recounted Our Lady’s words as follows:
“The final battle between the Lord and the reign of Satan will be about marriage and the family. Don’t be afraid, … anyone who works for the sanctity of marriage and the family will always be fought and opposed in every way, because this is the decisive issue. … However, Our Lady has already crushed its head.”