As the faithful in the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland continue to cope with the implications of the coronavirus pandemic, it brings to mind the situation of the world 103 years ago when the Blessed Mother first appeared to three children near Fatima, Portugal.
Pope Benedict XV made repeated pleas for peace throughout World War I to no avail. Finally, he made a direct appeal to the Blessed Mother to intercede for peace in the world.
About a week later -- on May 13, 1917 -- Francisco, 9, and Jacinta, 7, Marto and their cousin, Lucia dos Santos, 10, – began to see monthly apparitions of Our Lady at Cova da Iria near Fatima until Oct. 13, 1917. On that day – the sixth apparition – the Miracle of the Sun occurred. By then, tens of thousands of people – a crowd estimated at 70,000 -- flocked to the site.
The day of the fist apparition, the three children took their flocks out to pasture in the area known as the Cova da Iria. After lunch and the rosary, they suddenly saw a bright flash of light, followed quickly by another flash in the clear blue sky.
They looked up to see, in Lucia’s words, “A lady, clothed in white, brighter than the sun, radiating a light more clear and intense than a crystal cup filled with sparkling water lit by burning sunlight.” She said, “Do not be afraid, I will not harm you. I come from heaven.” She asked them to come to the Cova for six months on the 13th day of the same hour
She ended the visit by saying, “Say the rosary every day to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war,” and began to rise serenely towards the east until she disappeared.
Mary asked the children to pray the rosary for world peace, for an end to WWI, for sinners and for the conversion of Russia. She gave them a three-part secret. Lucia wrote down the third part of the secret at the order of her bishop, but it was not divulged until 2000, just after the beatification of Jacinta and Francisco.
- The vision of hell
“The light seemed to penetrate the earth and 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 and burnished bronze, floating about in the conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames that issued from within themselves, together with great clouds of smoke, now falling back on every side like sparks in huge fires, without weight or equilibrium, amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear.” – Sister Lucia
- The request for the consecration of Russia
“To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays. If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world causing wars and persecutions of the Church. …” Our Lady of Fatima
- The call to penance
“At the left of Our Lady and a little above, we saw an Angel with a flaming sword in his left hand; flashing, it gave out flames that looked as though they would set the world on fire, but they died out in contact with the splendor that Our Lady radiated toward him from her right hand. Pointing to the earth with his right hand, the Angel cried out in a loud voice: ‘Penance, Penance, Penance!’ …” Sister Lucia
The Miracle of the Sun – during the October apparition
The greatest miracle to occur since the resurrection is also the only miracle ever precisely predicted as to date, time of day and location. It is known as “The Miracle of the Sun” and Oct. 13, 1917 has come to be known as “The Day the Sun Danced.” The miracle was viewed by 70,000 or more people at the Cova, and is reported to have been seen from as far as 25 miles away. Doubters and skeptics became believers.
More information on Fatima
The village of Fatima is named after a beloved Muslim princess who converted to the Catholic faith and married the Christian knight Goncalo Hermingues.
The three children were prepared for the apparitions by encounters with an angel dating back to 1915, when 9-year-old Lucia said she saw a figure dressed in white that was suspended in the air. In spring 1916, the Angel of Peace appeared to Lucia and her cousins, Jacinta and Francisco. The angel reappeared that summer, announcing himself as the Angel of Portugal. He returned for a third appearance that fall, with the Blessed Mother’s apparitions beginning the following spring.
Mary appeared to the children on May 13, June 13, July 13, Aug. 19, Sept. 13 and Oct. 13, 1917.
Francisco died of influenza on April 4, 1919, during the pandemic.
On April 29, 1919, the Chapel of Apparitions was built at the site of the apparitions.
Jacinta died on Feb. 20, 1920 of tuberculosis and bronchial pneumonia.
On June 13, 1920, the first statue of Our Lady of Fatima, sculpted by José Thedim according to Lucia’s description, was placed at the apparition site.
The Blessed Mother appeared a seventh time to Lucia on June 15,1921 and told her to follow the path the bishop wanted her to take. She went to a school in Porto led by the Dorothean Sisters and took the name Maria das Dores.
Lucia joined the Dorothean Sisters in Spain on Oct. 24, 1925. She saw the Blessed Mother and the Child Jesus appear in the convent chapel, where the requested the propagation of the First Saturday Communions of Reparation.
On Feb. 15, 1926, the Child Jesus appeared to her and asked what was being done to spread the First Saturday devotion.
Sister Lucia had a vision of the Holy Trinity in the convent chapel on June 13, 1929. Our Lady appeared and requested the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart by the Holy Father and all the bishops.
Bishop Jose Alves Correia da Silva opened an official inquiry into the events at Fatima on May 3, 1922 and on Oct. 13, 1930, he issued a pastoral letter approving the apparitions at Fatima.
Sister Lucia professed her final vows with the Sisters of St. Dorothy, becoming Sister Maria Lucia of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart. She wrote to Pope Pius XII on Dec. 2, 1940, asking him to consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart.
The bishop of Leiria made public the request for the First Saturday devotion.
On Oct. 13, 1942, a coronation of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima took place with a crown of jewels donated by Portuguese people, in thanksgiving for being spared during World War II.
Fearing that she was dying in September 1943, the bishop of Leiria ordered Sister Lucia to write the third part of the secret she received from the Blessed Mother. On Jan. 3, 1944, Our Lady appeared to Sister Lucia and gave her permission to write the third part of the secret. The contents were delivered to the bishop of Leiria for safekeeping.
Sister Lucia entered the Carmel of Coimbra, Portugal on March 25, 1948, where she remained until her death on Feb. 12, 2005. Her body was transferred from the Carmel to the Basilica of the Shrine of Fatima and laid to rest on Feb. 19, 2006 by the tombs of her cousins, Francisco and Jacinta.
More important dates in the Fatima timeline
1947 – Msgr. Harold V. Colgan co-founds The Blue Army with John Haffert and pledges it will oppose the Red Army of Communism.
January 1950 – The first issue of Soul magazine was published to spread the message of Fatima. A million signed pledges were buried at the Fatima Shrine.
July 7, 1952 – In special apostolic letter, Pope Pius XII consecrated the Russian people to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Aug. 17, 1959 – Pope St. John XXIII read the contents of the third part of the secret, but discerned it was not the right time to release it.
March 27, 1965 – Pope Paul VI read the contents of the third part of the secret and decided not to publish the text.
March 25, 1984 – Pope St. John Paul II consecrated the world (and implicitly Russia) to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, in union with the Catholic bishops of the world and some Orthodox bishops; Sister Lucia confirmed this consecration “was accepted by heaven” and fulfilled Our Lady’s request.
May 13, 1989 – Pope St. John Paul II declared Jacinta and Francisco “venerable.”
March 15, 1990 – the Vatican established diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, following a meeting between Pope St. John Paul II and President Mikhail Gorbachev.
May 13, 1991 – At Fatima, Pope St. John Paul II thanked Our Lady for the fruits of the 1984 collegial consecration and renewed the consecration of the world to her Immaculate Heart.
1990s - New Roman Catholic dioceses were erected in Russia.
May 13, 2000 – Pope St. John Paul II beatified Francisco and Jacinta, declaring them “Blessed.”
June 26, 2000 – The Vatican published the third part of the secret of Fatima.
Oct. 13, 2013 – Pope Francis consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary before the statue of Our Lady of Fatima that was flown to Rome for the occasion.
2016-2017 – The World Apostolate of Fatima celebrated the centenary of the apparitions at Fatima.
May 1, 2020 -- Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, joined the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops in renewing the consecrations of the two nations to the care of our Blessed Mother.
The Fatima prayers:
My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love Thee! I beg pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love Thee.
O Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore Thee profoundly. I offer Thee the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifference by which He is offended. By the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg the conversion of poor sinners.
Most Holy Trinity, I adore Thee! My God, my God, I love Thee in the Most Blessed Sacrament!
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.
Decade Prayer – to be recited after each decade of the rosary
O My Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need of Thy mercy.
A Solemn Act of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Most Holy Virgin Mary, tender Mother of men, to fulfill the desires of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the request of the Vicar of your Son on earth, I consecrate myself and my family to your Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart, O Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, and I recommend to you all the people of our country and all the world. Please accept my consecration, dearest Mother, and use me as you wish to accomplish your designs in the world.
O Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, and Queen of the World, rule over me, together with the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, my King. Save me from the spreading flood of modern paganism; kindle in my heart and home the love of purity, the practice of a virtuous life, an ardent zeal for souls, and a desire to pray the Rosary more faithfully. I come with confidence to you, O Throne of Grace and Mother of Fair Love. Inflame me with the same Divine Fire which has inflamed your own Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart. Make my heart and home your shrine, and through me, make the Heart of Jesus, together with your rule, triumph in every heart and home. Amen. -- Venerable Pope Pius XII
Much of the information above is excerpted from the World Apostolate of Fatima, U.S.A. – Our Lady’s Blue Army. To read an in-depth account of the miracle, its history and the lives of the children, accompanied by historical photography, visit bluearmy.com/the-story-of-fatima.