Our Lady of Fatima
“The Miracle of the Sun” Feast: May 13
STORY In the year of the Lord 1646, the King of Portugal, John IV consecrated the Royal Crown to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Since that time no Portuguese sovereign has ever donned the crown.
On another amazing note, the national flag of Portugal bears symbols of the seven sacraments and the Five Wounds of Christ. The red half of the flag stands for the Blood of Christ, and the green half, the Hope of Christ.
These signs of faith make it understandable as to why God would single out Portugal to receive the greatest Marian apparition of the 20th Century. It would occur in the little town of Fatima, where Our Lady appeared to three shepherd children, and gave them the greatest message of our time.
Lucia Santos (9), Francisco Marto (8), and Jacinta Marto (6), were cousins and spent their days together shepherding the flocks of their families.
Every country is given a special guardian angel, and the children discovered this first- hand as the Angel of Portugal appeared to them three times throughout the year of 1916. He taught them to pray and make sacrifices, and gave them Holy Communion, which was the First Communion of Francisco and Jacinta.
The Angel taught them a special 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." This prayer was repeated three times. Then the Angel said, "Pray in this way. The hearts of Jesus and Mary are ready to listen to you."
Another core message came in the second apparition. The Angel appeared and asked:
"What are you doing? You must pray! Pray! The hearts of Jesus and Mary have merciful designs for you. You must offer your prayers and sacrifices to God, the Most High."
"But how are we to sacrifice?" Lucia asked. "In every way you can offer sacrifice to God in reparation for the sins by which he is offended, and in supplication for sinners. In this way you will bring peace to our country, for I am its guardian angel, the Angel of Portugal. Above all, bear and accept with patience the sufferings God will send you.” These visits were preparation for when Mary the Mother of God appeared to the children on six different occasions, from May to October of 1917.
Our Lady first appeared to the children while they were tending their sheep. Lucia recounts:
"We were bathed in a heavenly light that appeared to come directly from her hands. The light's reality cut into our hearts and our souls, and we knew somehow that this light was God, and we could see ourselves embraced in it. By an interior impulse of grace we fell to our knees, repeating in our hearts: "Oh, Holy Trinity, we adore You. My God, my God, I love You in the Blessed Sacrament."
Our Lady asked them, “Will you offer yourselves to God, and bear all the sufferings he sends you? In atonement for all the sins that offend him? And for the conversion of sin- ners?”
The children responded, "Oh we will! We will!”
Our Lady also instructed, ”Say the Rosary every day, to bring peace to the world and an end to the war."
The children were supposed to keep this all a secret, but the youngest, little 7 year-old Jacinta, told her family of the beautiful Lady they had seen. Their families didn’t believe them, nor the parish priest. Despite this, the children remained adamant that they were telling the truth and returned to the place called “Cova da Iria" the following month to receive the second apparition.
The second appearance of Our Lady happened on the feast of St. Anthony of Padua (patron of Portugal, as he was born in Lisbon). Our Lady gave the children this prayer to say and write down: "O my Jesus, forgive us our sins , save us from the fire of hell. Take all souls to heaven, especially those who are most in need.”
Back home, the children claimed to have experienced another vision, and their respective families grew more concerned. The parish priest was extremely skeptical and warned them that the devil himself might be behind these visions.
Francisco and Jacinta were fortunate because their family eventually believed what they claimed was happening to be true. Lucia was not so lucky, as her mother, Maria Rosa, disbelieved her daughter until the day she died. The third apparition came July 13. This is when Our Lady promised that a miracle would happen in October to help people believe. Our Lady also showed the children a vision hell. Lucia recounts: “We saw as it were a sea of fire. Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form, like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, floating about in the conflagration.... amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear.... we looked up at Our Lady, who said to us, so kindly and so sadly: 'You have seen hell, where the souls of poor sinners go. It is to save them that God wants to establish in the world devotion to my Im- maculate Heart. If you do what I tell you, many souls will be saved, and there will be peace. This war will end, but if men do not refrain from offending God, another and more terrible war will begin... When you see a night that is lit by a strange and un- known light, you will know it is the sign God gives you that he is about to punish the world with war and with hunger, and by the persecution of the Church and the Holy Father.’"
The war she predicted was World War II, and the light she described is documented as having appeared on January 28, 1938.
Our Lady continued, "To prevent this, I shall come to the world to ask that Russia be consecrated to my Immaculate Heart, and I shall ask that on the First Saturday of every month Communions of reparation be made in atonement for the sins-of the world. If my wishes are fulfilled, Russia will be converted and there will be peace; if not, then Russia will spread her errors throughout the world, bringing new wars and persecution of the Church; the good will be martyred and the Holy Father will have much to suffer; certain nations will be annihilated. But in the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph."
By August, the news of the visionaries had generated a huge buzz. Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta were surrounded by people waiting to follow them to the apparition site. Everyone wanted to know what was happening, including the Portuguese government, which at the time was under the influence of Freemasonry and was very anti-Catholic. The leader of the regime claimed that Catholicism would be eradicated within two generations. The government seized upon this opportunity with the apparition to discredit the Church and corrupt people’s faith.
Before the children set out to meet Our Lady, a man named, Arthur Santos, told them that the parish priest wanted to see them before they went to the Cova da Iria. It was all a ruse, as he was connected to the civil authorities and took the children to be interrogated at district headquarters in the neighboring town, Ourem.
To intimidate the children into saying that they had been lying about the apparitions, they were locked in a cell, threatened, and bribed, but all to no avail. Finally the three were told they would be boiled to death in oil, and one by one were removed to be “killed." Lucia had to see her two cousins taken away, which was terrifying, but they all kept their faith and remained secure that they would all see Jesus and Mary in heaven.
The children were beyond relieved to find out they were’t really going to die, and after showing no signs of cracking under pressure, they were released two days later on the Feast of the Assumption. It was bittersweet, as they were happy to go home, but sad because they had missed their appointment with Our Lady.
On August 19th they were tending flocks in a different field than usual, when Our Lady appeared.
On this visit she requested the construction of a chapel. She also exhorted them, "Pray, pray very much. Make sacrifices for sinners. Many souls go to hell, because no one is willing to help them with sacrifice."
Another month rolled by, and Our Lady appeared on the 13th of September. Here she reaffirmed her promise for the miracle in October, and told them, "Continue the Rosary, my children. Say it every day that the war may end.”
Finally, the long-awaited month of the miracle arrived. One the eve of October 13th it began pouring rain that lasted through the night. Despite the muddy conditions the following morning, at least 70,000 people travelled to the Cova da Iria to witness the promised miracle.
As expected, Our Lady appeared to the three children.
Lucia asked her, "Will you tell me your name?" Our Lady responded, "I am the Lady of the Rosary." She also said, "People must amend their lives and ask pardon for their sins. They must not offend our Lord any more, for he is already too much offended!"
Then the miracle took place. Lucia cried, “Look at the sun!”
The sun began to shine brilliantly, and turned to look like a fiery disc, spitting flames and different colors while dancing in the sky. People were able to look directly at this phenomenon without any damage to their eyes. Spectators soon realized their soaking wet clothes became bone dry, as did the ground around them, which had been puddled with water from the heavy rainfall (engineers later claimed that for the ground to dry at that rate would have been akin to a miracle, because the amount of energy it would have taken to do so in that timeframe would not have been present naturally). The spinning sun then looked as if it would cascade to the earth, and people cried out in fear, begging God’s mercy. Then the sun resumed its normal place in the sky. This was seen up to 25 miles away. It’s noteworthy that testimonies of what happened that day are consistent, regardless of being reported from Catholic or secular sources. This spectacular event was aptly named, “The Miracle of the Sun.”
Here is an eye witness account from a priest named Fr. Ignacio Lorenco:
"I feel incapable of describing what I saw and felt. I looked fixedly at the sun, which seemed pale and did not hurt the eyes. Looking like a ball of snow revolving on itself, it suddenly seemed to come down in a zigzag, menacing the earth. Terrified, I ran and hid myself among the people, who were weeping and expecting the end of the world at any moment. Near us was an unbeliever who had spent the morning mocking at the simpletons who had gone off to Fatima. He now seemed to be paralyzed, his eyes fixed on the sun. Afterwards he trembled from head to foot and lifting up his arms fell on his knees in the mud, crying out to Our Lady.
Meanwhile the people continued to cry out and to weep, asking God to pardon their sins. We all ran to the two chapels in the village, which were soon filled to overflowing. During those long moments of the solar prodigy, objects around us turned all the col- ors of the rainbow. We saw ourselves blue, yellow, red, etc. All these strange phenomena increased the fears of the people. After about ten minutes the sun, now dull and pallid, returned to its place. When the people realized that the danger was over, there was an explosion of joy, and everyone joined in thanksgiving and praise to Our Lady."
This miraculous event marked the end of the apparitions for the three children to experience together. Soon Francisco and Jacinta would die of illness, offering their suffering for poor sinners with brave hearts. Lucia, received one more apparition of Our Lady be- fore she left for boarding school, and there Our Lady encouraged her to dedicate her whole life to God. Lucia did this, becoming one of the Dorathean Sisters and later a Carmelite. The place of the apparitions remains hallowed ground. There is a modern Capelhina "little chapel" marking the site where Our Lady of the Rosary appeared to the Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta in the Cova da Iria. A statue of Our Lady of Fatima is enclosed in a glass case exactly where she appeared over 100 years ago. Here, Mass is celebrated daily, and millions of pilgrims have come to pay homage to Christ, Our Lady, and the witness that the three saintly shepherd children gave in order to bring us the message of Fatima.