This year marks the 100th anniversary of the appearance of Mary to three young visionaries in the town of Fatima in Portugal. This report is excerpted from Fatima, 100 Years of Grace, by the World Apostolate of Fatima, U.S.A. – Our Lady’s Blue Army. If you would like to read an in-depth account of the miracle, its history and the lives of the children, accompanied by historical photography, visit giftshop.wafusa.org.
During World War I, Pope Benedict XV made repeated, but forlorn, pleas for peace. Finally, in May 1917, he made a direct appeal to the Blessed Mother to intercede for peace in the world. Just over a week later, Our Lady began to appear at Fatima, Portugal, to three shepherd children: Lucia dos Santos, age 10, and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto, ages 9 and 7. However, it was in the previous year, 1916, that the children had their first supernatural encounters with an angel as a means of preparing them to receive the Queen of Heaven.
The Angel of Portugal
In the spring of 1916, as the three shepherd children tended their sheep in a property called Old Chousa, a drizzling rain began to fall, so they climbed the hill to find shelter in the crevices of a rock. Suddenly a strong wind began to shake the trees. They looked up and saw coming toward them a dazzlingly beautiful young man, seemingly made of light, who told them, “Do not be afraid. I am the Angel of Peace. Pray with me.”
Kneeling on the ground, he bowed down until his forehead touched the ground and had them repeat three times: “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.”
Then, rising, he said, “Pray thus. The Hearts of Jesus and Mary are attentive to the voice of your supplications.” Leaving them absorbed in a supernatural atmosphere, the angel disappeared.
The angel appeared to them again later in the summer and in the fall, encouraging them to pray and to make sacrifices for the reparation of sin.
The first apparition of Mary
On May 13, 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 toward the east until she disappeared.
Mary continued to appear to the children throughout the months, and encouraged the children to pray the rosary for the reparation of sins and the conversion of Communist Russia. As word spread, large crowds gathered to witness and pray.
The children said they had been told 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