May 13 is the 105th anniversary of the appearance of the Blessed Virgin Mary to three children, Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco, at the Cova da Iria in Fatima, Portugal. Sr. Lucia died on February 13, 2005. St. Jacinta and St. Francisco died during the Spanish Influenza Epidemic and were canonized on May 13, 2017. The visions were formally approved by the bishop of Leiria, Portugal, as “worthy of credence,” however, as private revelations, none of the Christian faithful are required to believe in these apparitions.
On May 13, 1917, while tending sheep, the three children had a vision. Sr. Lucia described it like this, “We beheld a Lady all dressed in white. She was more brilliant than the sun and radiated a light more clear and intense than a crystal glass filled with sparkling water, when the ways of the burning sun shine through it.” She requested that the children return to that spot every month for six months. She told them that they would go to heaven and asked if they were willing to bear sufferings in reparation for sin and the conversion of sinners. She told them, “Pray the rosary every day, in order to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war” (World War I was going on at this time).
In June, Lucia asked her to take the children to heaven, and the Blessed Mother said, “I will take Jacinta and Francisco soon. But you are to stay here some time longer. Jesus wishes to make use of you to make me known and loved. He wants to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart.” In July, the Lady promised that she would reveal her identity in October and perform a miracle, and she also told them something that they weren’t yet allowed to share. Sr. Lucia revealed the first two parts of the secret in her memoirs, written between 1935 and 1944, and the final part in a sealed letter that was eventually passed to the Holy Father. Pope St. John Paul II had the letter brought to Sr. Lucia in April of 2000 to confirm that it was the same letter. In May, Pope St. John Paul II revealed the final part of the secret.
The first part was a vision of hell, and then she told them that God wishes to save poor sinners from hell through devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. She said that the war (World War I) would end, but that another war would start, and that Russia would spread her errors throughout the world. She asked for Russia to be consecrated to her Immaculate Heart so that it could be converted and there could be a time of peace. There would be much suffering, but “in the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.”
On March 25, 1984, Pope St. John Paul II, united with the bishops of the world, consecrated all men and women to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, while specifically mentioning Russia, and Sr. Lucia personally confirmed, in a letter to the Holy Father, that “it has been done just as Our Lady asked.” The third part of the secret was a vision of the suffering and deaths of many clergy, religious, and faithful. As Archbishop Bertone said, “She (Lucia) repeated her conviction that the vision of Fatima concerns above all the struggle of atheistic Communism against the Church and against Christians, and describes the terrible sufferings of the victims of the faith in the twentieth century.”
To conclude our story of Fatima, however, the children were arrested and weren’t allowed to come to the site on August 13th, but the Lady appeared to them a few days later. She asked that a chapel be built there. In September, a large crowd gathered with the children, and our Lady said that she would appear with St. Joseph and with the Lord in October.
On October 13, she said, “I am the Lady of the Rosary. Continue always to pray the rosary ever day. The war is going to end, and the soldiers will soon return to their homes.” Lucia told everyone to look at the sun, and many people present, though not everyone, reported seeing the sun change colors, spin, and dance in the sky, and the children saw a vision of St. Joseph, the Child Jesus, and our Lady. For more information, see Jimmy Akin’s articles, “Getting Fatima Right,” and “Secret No More,” and Sr. Lucia’s memoirs, Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words.
In 1925, our Lady appeared to Sr. Lucia again and asked her to promote the Five First Saturdays devotion. Our Lady asked that people go to confession, receive Holy Communion, say a rosary while meditating on the mysteries and with the intention of making reparation for sins, for five first Saturdays in a row. To those who do this, she promised to assist them at the hour of death with all the graces necessary for the salvation of their souls.
Currently, there’s a lot of fear about war and the end of the world. Some doubt that Our Lady’s requests have been fulfilled because there are still wars in the world, and some connect Fatima to reports about a coming “three days of darkness” and “the Illumination of Conscience.” Whether these other reports are true or not, and they haven’t been approved by the Church, the message of Fatima stands. We ought to pray for conversion, offer ourselves to the Lord through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and stay close to the Eucharist and the sacrament of Confession. The Lord “will not leave you orphans” (Jn 14:18), and He “is with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20).
Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.