The first apparition of Our Lady to three shepherd children occurred on May 13, 1917, in the small village of Fatima in Portugal. She appeared six times to Lucia, 9, and her cousins Francisco, 8, and his sister Jacinta, 6, between May 13, 1917, and Oct. 13, 1917.
She appeared to the children who were in the field tending the family sheep. “I am the Angel of Peace,” she said. Our Lady exhorted them to accept the sufferings that the Lord allowed them to undergo as an act of reparation for the sins that offend Him, and to pray constantly for the conversion of sinners.
This happened during the time of the First World War, when Europe experienced the most horrific and powerful forms of warfare yet seen. It was a year before the Communist revolution would plunge Russia and later Eastern Europe into six decades of oppression under militant atheistic governments.
Our Lady appeared as “a woman all in white, more brilliant than the sun” saying “Please don’t be afraid of me, I’m not going to harm you.” Lucia asked her where she came from and she responded, “I come from Heaven.”
The apparition wore a white mantle edged with gold and held a rosary in her hand. The woman asked them to pray and devote themselves to the Holy Trinity and to “say the rosary every day, to bring peace to the world and an end to the war.”
She also revealed that the children would suffer, especially from the unbelief of their friends and families, and that the two younger children, Francisco and Jacinta, would be taken to Heaven very soon, but Lucia would live longer in order to spread her message and devotion to the Immaculate Heart.
In the last apparition the woman revealed her name in response to Lucia’s question: “I am the Lady of the Rosary.”
That same day, 70,000 people had turned out to witness the apparition, following a promise by the woman that she would show the people that the apparitions were true. They saw the sun make three circles and move around the sky in an incredible zigzag movement in a manner that left no doubt in their minds about the veracity of the apparitions.
By 1930, the bishop had approved of the apparitions and they have been approved by the Church as authentic.
Our Lady of Fatima revealed three prophetic “secrets,” the first two of which were revealed earlier and refer to the vision of hell and the souls languishing there, the request for an ardent devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the prediction of the Second World War, and finally the prediction of the immense damage that Russia would do to humanity by abandoning the Christian faith and embracing Communist totalitarianism.
The third “secret” was not revealed until 2000 and referred to the persecutions that humanity would undergo in the last century: “The good will be martyred; the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated.” The suffering of the popes of the 20th century has been interpreted to include the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in 1981, which took place on May 13, the 64th anniversary of the apparitions. The Holy Father attributed his escape from certain death to the intervention of Our Lady: “It was a mother’s hand that guided the bullet’s path and in his throes the pope halted at the threshold of death.”
Adapted by A.J. Valentini from: C. (n.d.). Our Lady of Fatima. Catholic News Agency. Retrieved May 4, 2021, from https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/saint/our-lady-of-fatima-485