April 28, 2017


Centenary of Our Lady of Fatima

On this 100th anniversary of the first appearance of the Blessed Mother to three children at Fatima, Portugal, isn’t it time for you to renew your devotion to Our Lady of Fatima or start it for the first time?

Most Catholics believe that Mary has appeared to people at various times in history, and probably continues to do so. But the “big three,” if you will, that have special feast days, commemorate her appearances at Tepeyac in Mexico as Our Lady of Guadalupe, Lourdes in France and Fatima in Portugal.

The apparitions at Fatima occurred for the first time on May 13, 1917. Lucia dos Santos, 10, her cousin Francisco Marto, 9, and his sister Jacinta, 7, were watching over sheep in the Cova da Iria (Cove of Peace) when a beautiful young woman appeared over an oak tree. She told them that she was from heaven and asked them to pray the rosary daily. She also asked them to return to that place on the 13th day of each month for six months.

The children did return on June 13 and July 13, but were unable to do so on Aug. 13 because civil authorities jailed the children when they spoke about the apparitions. No matter. Mary appeared to them on Aug. 19 instead, and then on Sept. 13 and Oct. 13.

The most dramatic of the appearances occurred on Oct. 13, witnessed by an estimated 55,000 people at Fatima—plus 20,000 others as far away as 25 miles. The people were gathered at the cove on a rainy day, but then the sun came out and appeared to be spinning as it grew larger. It appeared to be about to fall on the Earth. Then it stopped, but the people discovered that, though they had been standing in the rain, their clothes were completely dry.

While the people were experiencing the miracle of the sun, the children saw a series of apparitions. First, St. Joseph appeared with the Christ Child. Then Mary appeared dressed in white with a blue mantel. Then she reappeared as Our Lady of Sorrows and then as Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. She told the children that she was “Our Lady of the Rosary,” and asked them to pray the rosary daily.

We don’t have to believe in such apparitions, but why not? The children were told things that they wouldn’t have known in a small village in Portugal. This was 1917 when World War I was raging, but before the Communist Revolution in Russia during that year. They were told the war would end, but that a worse war would occur while Pope Pius XI was pope. (He was elected in 1922.) They were told that Russia would “spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecution of the Church.”

During the apparition on June 13, Mary told Lucia to learn to read and write, but that Francisco and Jacinta would die soon. They did, from influenza, Francisco on April 4, 1919, and Jacinta on Feb. 20, 1920. Both suffered considerably before their deaths, but offered their sufferings for the conversion of sinners. Mary appeared to Jacinta three more times during her illness.

Lucia became a Carmelite nun, known as Sister Maria Lucia of the Immaculate Heart. She died on Feb. 13, 2005, at age 97.

In 1929, Sister Lucia had a vision of the Holy Trinity with Jesus on the cross and Mary at his side. Mary told her that the time had come for the pope, in union with all the bishops, to consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This was finally done on March 25, 1984. Some people insisted that St. John Paul II didn’t do it properly, but Sister Lucia twice affirmed that it had been done as Mary requested.

Today there is a magnificent shrine at Fatima. More than 4 million pilgrims visit it every year, especially on May 13 and Oct. 13. Since this is the centenary year of the apparitions, more people are expected.

Pope Francis will be there on May 13, at which time he will canonize Francisco and Jacinta. Popes Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI have all visited the shrine. John Paul visited it three times.

With Pope Francis, let us renew our devotion to God’s Mother under the title of Our Lady of Fatima.

—John F. Fink

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