This year marks the 100th anniversary of Our Lady’s apparitions at Fatima. One hundred years ago, as the Great War was ravaging Europe, Heaven chose three little shepherd children to be the conveyors of the Queen of Heaven’s message to the entire world. May 13, exactly one hundred years after Our Lady’s first visit to the children, Pope Francis visited Fatima, and there, canonized Francisco and Jacinta Marto, two of the seers.

Lucia dos Santos, aged 10, and her cousins, brother and sister Francisco, 9 , and Jacinta Marto, 7, had been visited in the spring of 1916 by the Angel of Peace. He taught them the prayer, “My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love You! I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love You.” They were instructed to “Pray thus”, before he vanished. That summer, they were visited by the Angel of Portugal, and that fall, by the Angel of the Eucharist. Each visit, the angel instructed them to pray and offer little sacrifices ( much akin to St. Therese of Lisieux’s Little Way). It was in this way that Heaven prepared the children for the Mother of God.

1917 Headlines

September 15 – Third battle of Ypres’ 2nd phase, London troops capture strong point

September 26 – British advance towards Passchendaele, advancing on a six mile front north of Ypres

October 7 – British repulse German attack near Ypres

October 13, 1917 The Miracle of the Sun

On October 13, the three shepherd children made their way to the Cova da Iria through pouring rain. Some seventy thousand people were there, waiting to see if, indeed, they would be witnesses to a miracle. Lucia requested for people to close their umbrellas and to begin to pray the rosary with them. Before long, the Lady appeared, and the crowd watched with breathless excitement. This final visit began with the mysterious Lady at last identifying herself – she was the Lady of the Rosary. She requested that a chapel be built there in her honor. She also requested the continuation of the daily recitation of the rosary; stating as well, that the war would end and the soldiers would soon be returning home. Lucia had a number of requests from the people. As before, Our Lady stated ‘some yes, but not others’. Her final request was for people to stop offending ‘the Lord our God, because He is already so much offended’.

Rising as she always did, she began to glide away. This time, however, she stopped before disappearing. Opening her hands, they reflected on the sun, and ‘as she ascended, the reflection of her own light continued to be projected on the sun itself’. Moved by an interior impulse, Lucia cried, “Look at the sun!”

The clouds had suddenly dispersed, and the people found themselves able to look at a silvery disk that was the sun. Three times the muted sun spun round on itself, spitting out multi-colored rays. The rays flew in all directions, illuminating the sky as far as the eye could see. Then, the sun appeared to detach itself from the sky and came plunging toward the crowd, before resuming its normal position and color. The incident had taken about ten minutes. Shaken by the experience, the crowd began to discuss what it was they had just witnessed. It was discovered that that was not the only miracle at Fatima. Their clothing, which was wet and dirty from kneeling in the mud, was perfectly clean and dry.

While the sun had been dancing about the heavens, the children were granted a vision of the Holy Family, where St. Joseph and the Child Jesus appeared to bless the world. Lucia was also favored with a vision of Jesus accompanied by Our Lady of Sorrows. In this vision, Jesus again, appeared to be blessing the world. She then saw Our Lady of Mount Carmel. When the crowd heard of these visions, they asked if they were all above the holmoak, as was Our Lady of the Rosary. The answer was no, they were in the sky alongside the dancing sun.

And so was brought to a close, the mysterious Lady’s apparitions at Fatima. Her message had been delivered, and it was up to the three children to spread it.

1917 Headlines

August 26 British capture over one mile of enemy positions at Hargicourt

September 1 In the Riga offensive, Germany takes the end of Russia’s northernmost front

September 9 The Third French offensive at Verdun ends

September 13, 1917

September 13 saw more than 25,000 people gathered to attend the Lady’s visit. Many came with intentions they wished the children to place before their heavenly visitor. It was a feat in itself for the three to get through the pushing, grabbing, desperate-for-a-brief-word-with-them crowd. When, at last, they reached the holmoak, they knelt down and began to recite the rosary. There was a flash of blue light, and the Lady once again appeared as promised. Again, she stressed the importance of the praying of the rosary for peace in the world and an end to the war. She went on to tell them that the following month she would be accompanied by ‘Our Lord…as well as Our Lady of Dolours and Our Lady of Carmel.’ Saint Joseph also, would come ‘with the Child Jesus to bless the world.’ Lucia mentioned the numerous requests of the crowds, requests for cures and conversions. Some, the Lady said would be granted, others not. Then, with a promise to perform a miracle in October ‘for all to believe’, she rose and disappeared.

1917 Headlines

July 16 Third Battles of Ypres (Passchendaele) begins

July 31 Major British offensive at Ypres is launched

August 1 Pope sends a note of Peace

August 11, 2017

As word of the apparitions at Fatima spread, so did people’s curiosity. This was especially troubling to the atheistic government leaders. Wishing to put an end to the devotion beginning to spread, the local government Administrator ordered the three children to appear before him, accompanied by their fathers. Francisco and Jacinta’s father felt they were too small for such a journey and left them home. Lucia had to testify alone. In vain the Administrator tried to get the ten year old to admit to lying. When that failed, he sought to get her to promise to never go to the Cova de Iria on the 13th again. Also, he attempted to coax from her the ‘secret’ revealed by the Lady the month before. All to no avail. But he was not about to be outdone.

August 13, 1917

On the morning of the 13th he arrived in Fatima. Lying, he stated his interest had been peeked, and he wished to take the children to the Cova in his automobile. Once they were on their way, however, he quickly turned around and sped the children to Ourem. For three days he kept the children prisoners. The first day, they were allowed to play with his children; his wife made sure to fix them lunch. However, when the niceties failed to bring about any change in their stance on things, all pleasantries were quickly dismissed. Eventually, they found themselves in prison, with other actual criminals. Even there, the little ones’ devotion won their fellow prisoners over. They even attempted to join the three in the praying of the rosary.

His best efforts having failed, the Administrator tried one final, desperate attempt to break the children. They were informed that a cauldron of boiling oil had been prepared in which to fry them if they didn’t share their secret. They came for Jacinta first. As she declared she could not divulge the secret, she was taken away. Francisco was taken next. Lucia was told her cousins had been burnt to death. Nevertheless, she remained steadfast, and went to meet her fate. The whole incident was nothing more than a ploy, and Lucia was astonished to find her cousins quite alive. At last, on August 15, they were returned home.

August 19, 1917

That Sunday, while with the sheep in Valinhos, Lucia and Francisco, accompanied by the boy’s brother, John, felt that the Lady was about to appear. They sent John off to get Jacinta. As soon as the girl arrived, the Lady appeared over a holmoak tree. The conversation was very similar to those of the previous months, with the Lady promising to perform a miracle in October ‘so that all may believe’.

1917 Headlines

June 15 U.S. passing Espionage Act

June 24 Germany’s Manfred von Richthofen (the Red Baron) takes command of a new fighter unit, one comprised of four mobile fighter squadrons, the birth of the ‘Flying Circus’

June 26 The first U.S. troops (1st Division) arrive in France

June 27 Greece joins the Allies

July 6 T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) and the Arabs capture Aquaba

July 11 General Pershing revises army request from 1,000,000 to 3,000,000 men

July 13, 1917

Surrounded by three to four thousand people, the three little shepherds once again ventured to the Cova in order to fulfill the request of the Lady. It did not take long for her to return, just as she had the previous two months. She began by repeating her request for the daily recitation of the rosary for peace in the world. Lucia, then, had a request of her own. She asked that the Lady tell them who she was, and to work a miracle for all to see. In turn, the Lady responded by telling her to ‘continue to come here every month’, and promised to fulfill both of the requests in October. She entreated that they offer sacrifices for sinners, teaching them a prayer to accompany all their sacrifices: ‘O Jesus, it is for love of You, for the conversion of sinners and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary’. Then, opening her hands, she shone a light which seemed to penetrate the earth, revealing hell. The terrified children felt they would have died from fright, had not the beautiful Lady been there with them. Once the vision ended, she sadly informed them of what it was they had seen. She taught them another prayer, one to be said between the mysteries of the rosary, after the Glory Be: ‘O my Jesus, forgive us, save us from the fire of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those who are most in need’. After that, she revealed to the children what is now referred to as the Three Secrets of Fatima.

1917 Headlines

May 28 General Pershing leaves the United States for France

June 4 Americans begin to register for the draft

June 7 British explode 19 large mines under the Messines Ridge, causing a joint explosion that ranks among the largest non-nuclear explosions of all time

June 13, 1917 Feast of St. Anthony (The 2nd Apparition)

Despite the children’s decision to keep the visit from the Lady a secret, little Jacinta could not keep quiet, and told her family everything that very evening. Of course, no one believed that such a story could possibly be true; and when Lucia’s mother heard about it, she was determined to get her daughter to confess she was lying. As a result, Lucia felt it best to not go to the Cova da Iria that June, and decided to attend the fair being held for the Feast of St. Anthony. Last minute, though, she had a change of heart, and joined her cousins on the way to the Cova.

As news of the supposed apparition had spread, some 70 people were with the children at the Cova, curious to see if there was anything to it. The little shepherds said the rosary, and once finished, saw the Lady approaching. Lucia asked what the Lady wanted of her. She again requested that the three come on the 13th of the following month. She also requested the Lucia learn to read. When Lucia asked for her and her cousins to be taken to Heaven, the Lady revealed that she would be taking Francisco and Jacinta soon, but that Jesus wished for her to “establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart”. Seeing that the girl was troubled at the thought of being left alone, she spoke words of comfort to her. Then, bathing the children in a Heavenly light, she showed them her Immaculate Heart, “encircled with thorns which pierced it…outraged by the sins of humanity, and seeking reparation”.

No one else saw the Lady the children spoke of. Some took that as proof the children were lying for attention. Others felt that something had indeed happened, and believed the three shepherds were telling the truth.

1917 Headlines

Feb. 1 Germany resumes unrestricted submarine warfare

Feb. 3 U.S. severs diplomatic ties with Germany

Mar. 15 Czar Nicholas abdicates due to Russian Revolution

April 6 U.S. Declares war on Germany

April 9-20 Neville Offensive (Second Battle of Aisne, Third Battle of Champagne)

April 16 Lenin arrives in Russia

May 13, 1917 A Sunday

While the world was in chaos, three shepherd children were busy tending their sheep. They were playing in the pasture called the Cova da Iria, when they were disrupted by a great flash of light. Fearing a thunderstorm would soon be upon them, and much afraid of lightning, they decided to gather the sheep and head home. Despite the blue sky, they wished to take no chances. Before they could begin to collect their flock, a second flash caused them to freeze. Their attention was drawn to a small holmoak tree. There, apparently atop the tree was “a Lady all dressed in white. She was more brilliant than the sun.” She spoke to the children, telling them not to be afraid. When Lucia, after learning the lady was from Heaven, inquired what she wanted, she requested that they return to that very spot, at the same hour, on the 13th of every month for six consecutive months. Later, she would tell them who she was, and what she wanted. Then, she too, asked them to pray very much, especially the Rosary, for peace and the end of the war. “Then she began to rise serenely, going up towards the east, until she disappeared in the immensity of space.” Lucia had been the only one to talk to her, as it would be on all the Lady’s visits. Jacinta heard everything. Francisco, however, had only seen, and begged to know what it was the Lady had said. The children decided it best to keep the visit to themselves, at least for the time being.

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