27 Fatima Apparitions
During the twentieth century, Our Lady began to explain a means to fight the evils of our days. She made known to three shepherd children from Fatima, Portugal the desire of Jesus to make her known and loved in the world by devotion to her Immaculate Heart. Fatima has been thoroughly researched and promulgated by the Church and is one of the most well-known apparition sites of the Virgin Mary. Its inclusion in this compilation will focus on flowers in the events of Fatima and triumph.
In the early twentieth century, Fatima was mostly a farming community north of the capital, Lisbon. The Virgin Mary appeared to three shepherd children who ranged in age from six to nine. Lucia Santos was the eldest of the three visionaries. In her family, she was the youngest child with a strict and devout mother and less attentive father. She was a natural leader with a good memory. Lucia would organize games with the other village kids and was clever. She knew her catechism well because of formation by her mother and the parish church. Her education was limited, however, because there were no primary schools in the village at that time. Children would spend their days playing innocent games and performing family chores or responsibilities. Lucia was especially close to Jacinta and Francisco Marto who were her first cousins in the village. They were the sixth and seventh children of Olimpia and Ti Marto. Francisco was about two years older than Jacinta and how they loved playing the games Lucia suggested. When Lucia was given the responsibility of shepherding the family sheep to grazing land every day, Francisco and Jacinta missed Lucia so much, they asked their parents if they could accompany Lucia with their own sheep. Permission was given, so the three spent their herding days singing, dancing, playing games and saying a quick form of the rosary.
Jacinta was just six in 1916. She was a lively and exuberant girl. She loved the flowers that carpeted the grazing lands. Lucia describes how Jacinta relished the flowers: “My cousin (Jacinta) went one day with her mother to a First Communion ceremony in which some of the youngest children strewed flowers before the Blessed Sacrament. After that she would often leave us at our play to gather armfuls of flowers which she would throw at me in the same way. When I asked her why she did it, she said she was doing what the angels did.” Other times Jacinta would pick bouquets of flowers of every hue to put into her hair or to weave into garlands for Lucia.
One afternoon in the spring of 1916, an angel came in from the East in marvelous light. He said, “Fear not! I am Angel of Peace. Pray with me!” With his head bowed low to the ground, he said a prayer of reparation three times: “My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love You. I ask forgiveness for those who do not believe, nor adore, nor hope, nor love You.” He told the children to pray this often and then he departed.
After some weeks the angel came a second time and exhorted the children to pray. In this apparition he said, “Offer up everything within your power as a sacrifice to the Lord in an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended; and of supplication for the conversion of sinners. Thus invoke peace upon our Country. I am her Guardian Angel; the Angel of Portugal. Above all, bear and accept with submission the sufferings that the Lord may send you.”
The Angel came a third time after the summer of 1916 had passed and he brought the Blessed Sacrament. He held a chalice in one hand and a Host that dripped blood into the chalice with his other hand. He let go of the chalice and Host and they remained suspended in mid-air! Then he knelt deeply in prostration to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and proclaimed this prayer three times: “Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, I adore You profoundly, and I offer You 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 His Most Sacred Heart and through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg the conversion of poor sinners.” Then the angel stood up and clasped the chalice and Host. He took the Host and extended It to Lucia. To Jacinta and Francisco, he offered the chalice to drink saying, “Take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, horribly outraged by ungrateful men. Make reparation for their crimes and console your God.” After the Eucharist, the angel took leave of them.
These visits gave the children great peace and made them more aware of a great purpose they had beyond the innocent games they were used to. They took prayer more seriously and were becoming acutely aware of sins against belief in the Eucharistic Lord. They carried on their days of shepherding with prayer and had discussions about Jesus in the tabernacle, his Passion, and what the words the Angel said meant. Jacinta and Francisco asked Lucia many things and looked to her for answers and leadership since she was the most knowledgeable of the three on spiritual matters, but most of the things they wondered seemed beyond their years to understand. Lucia said of this time, “The value of sacrifice was for the first time clear. Suddenly we knew its appeal to God and its power to convert sinners. From that moment we began offering to Him all that mortified us, all that was difficult or unpleasant, except that we did not then seek extra sacrifices and penances as we later learned to do. We did, however, spend hours and hours prostrated on the ground, repeating and repeating the prayer the angel taught us.”
In May of 1917 flowers were bursting open all over the countryside. There was a clear blue sky on the afternoon of Sunday, May 13th when the Queen of the May visited her children.
Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco had finished their lunch and said the rosary. The kids were engaged in making stone castles when they noticed a flash of lightning. They were surprised because the weather was warm and clear. When they perceived a second flash, they started to get the herd of sheep and head for safety. They halted abruptly when they saw a beautiful lady dressed in white standing over a holm oak tree but not touching the uppermost foliage. She immediately told them not to be afraid. Lucia asked where she was from, she replied, “I am from Heaven.” Lucia asked what she wanted. Our Lady asked them to return every month on the 13th at the same time and location for six months and that she would tell them their mission. Lucia asked Our Lady more questions and she replied to every inquiry. Before she left, a wonderful light emanated from Our Lady’s hands and shone on the children. Lucia described, “This light penetrated us to the heart and its recesses. It allowed us to see ourselves in God, Who was that light, more clearly than we see ourselves in a mirror.” Then she reminded them to pray the rosary every day for peace in the world and for an end to the war (World War I). She then rose in the air and disappeared in the east surrounded by a brilliant light. After the visit, the children’s first concern was for the sheep, but all were fine. Next, they couldn’t deny how wonderful they felt. There were in wonderment at the visit and felt joy, but also the beginnings of a responsibility to the lady’s request to pray and sacrifice more for the conversion of sinners. Lucia wanted to keep the visit a secret from their families. She persuaded Francisco and Jacinta keep silent about the occurrence, but Jacinta couldn’t stop herself from telling her mother. Mrs. Marto didn’t believe Jacinta’s story, although Jacinta tried over and over again to convince her. Finally, with some exasperation Mrs. Marto insisted Jacinta tell the whole family including her father and uncle what had taken place. Not deterred, the exuberant way she related all the events was somewhat convincing, especially to her dad. Jacinta described how the lady held a beautiful gold rosary in her hands and how when she went back to heaven “it seemed that the doors closed with such speed that her feet were almost caught outside. Heaven was so pretty…there were so many wild peonies,” Jacinta enthused.
Soon it was the talk of the village. Lucia was surprised when her older sister asked if they had seen Our Lady at the Cova da Iria. Lucia’s mother heard the gossip, too. Mrs. Santos didn’t question for a moment the veracity of the claim, she immediately assumed Lucia was mistaken. Her mother’s disbelief and the parish priest’s doubt was part of the cross that Lucia had to bear. It was part of what Our Lady told her at the first meeting, “…you are going to suffer a great deal, but the grace of God will be your comfort.”
The day on which the second apparition was to take place June 13, 1917 coincided with a great feast in the village, the celebration of the feast of Saint Anthony. Most villagers were going to the festivities in their best attire to enjoy food, music and camaraderie. Maria Rosa (Lucia’s mom) hoped the celebration would distract her daughter from her fanciful thoughts. However, Lucia intended to be at the Cova as Our Lady had asked. Lucia invited some of her friends from her First Communion class to be there with her, Jacinta, and Francesco. In addition, a small gathering of adults from neighboring communities gathered to be present. Our Lady came, just as was anticipated. During the second apparition, Our Lady taught Lucia the Fatima prayer that she wanted to be said after every decade of the Rosary. It is “O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need.” Lucia was so ravished by Our Lady’s grace that she asked Our Lady to take them to Heaven. Our Lady responded, “I will take Jacinta and Francisco soon. You, however, are to stay here a longer time. Jesus wants to use you to make me known and loved. He wants to establish the Devotion to my Immaculate Heart in the World. I promise salvation to those who embrace it and their souls will be loved by God as flowers placed by myself to adorn His throne.” Our Lady made a beautiful promise in this statement. It sums up everything this compilation of flower accounts throughout history has emphasized. The Virgin Mary wants to be known and loved because she is our mother who only wants the best for us, Heaven. She wants to be able to place our souls before the throne of God just as we may place flowers before the tabernacles of our churches; all for the glory of God.
Lucia suffered derision from her family after the second apparition. Curious Portuguese from many diverse communities came to ask the children about the apparitions and made nuisances of themselves in the process. In their curiosity to see Lucia, they trampled down the family garden. Mrs. Santos was beside herself. She bemoaned having these problems at her age and besought the parish priest to urge Lucia to confess and be free of Satan’s influence. Lucia experienced profound doubt about whether God was behind the apparitions or Satan. Between the 2nd and 3rd apparition, Lucia agonized about being deceived and longed for peace to return to her and her family. The only time she felt comfort was at the Cova da Iria site of apparition. Maria Carreira (also known as Maria da Capelinha which translates to Maria of the Chapel) was an early local proponent of the apparitions. She was an older mom figure. She suffered from illness, but experienced profound peace at the apparition site. She would often spend hours with Lucia, Jacinta, and Francesco praying the rosary and saying the prayers of reparation. Maria Carreira witnessed all that happened to the holm oak tree during the apparitions and it was she that took steps to decorate the tree with ribbons and flowers to honor Our Lady’s heavenly perch.
As the thirteenth of July grew closer, Lucia resolved not to go again to the Cova to see the Lady, but mystical tugging at her heart drew her and her cousins there again. A large number of people were present when the children had the third apparition. At this apparition, Our Lady’s hands opened and shone light that penetrated into the earth. To the children’s horror, they saw fire engulfing grotesque forms that had been human. They saw demons and lost souls mixed in the conflagration and heard cries that were monstrous in their pain and despair. The onlookers heard Lucia gasp in terror. The vision of hell ended and then Our Lady said, “You have seen hell, where the souls of sinners go. To save them, God wants to establish throughout the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart…” The vision of hell was the first part of a three-part secret that Our Lady revealed only to the children at that time. The essence of the revelation was that sinners were going to hell by obstinate rejection of the goodness and authority of God. She said that a war worse than World War I would break out if people didn’t quit offending God by rejecting Him. Finally, the children saw that many people would be martyred for the faith if atheism and disbelief continued to spread throughout the world. The good would be martyred including priests, bishops and even the Pope because of hatred and the rejection of God.
Then when all the forms of governance throughout the world that reject God by oppression and persecution of the faithful have played out their miserable course, She promised “…In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she shall be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.” The triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary has not yet come to pass. In one sense we all prepare for triumph for our own individual soul, but this statement made one hundred two years ago expresses some greater event that many have prayed for, dedicated their time and effort to achieving, and that still awaits us.
The children suffered very much as a result of knowing that secret and not being able to tell anyone what it was. Due to the gravity of the scene they were shown of hell, Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco undertook many, many penances. Frequently they gave their lunches away and would eat green acorns or other things they would scrounge while shepherding. They would suffer thirst or tie a rough rope around their waists to offer those discomforts up to Our Lord. Most of all they prayed a great deal, especially the Rosary.
So many people were talking about the apparitions and the secret, that the local secular government officials were becoming involved, especially the Mayor. He wanted to interrogate the children. To achieve this, the three were tricked into taking a ride with him. The Mayor’s henchmen threatened the children with death unless they divulged the secret that Our Lady told them. None of the children breached the trust Our Lady had in them and they prepared to give their lives to protect the secret. They were baseless threats though, and the children were returned to their homes, but the abduction had a consequence.
In the meantime, a larger crowd had gathered at the Cova da Iria for the August apparition than in July. When word came that the police had taken the children, some in the crowd were outraged. However, a rumble of thunder dissipated the angry reaction and then the signs that accompanied Our Lady’s arrival appeared. The crowd saw a flash of lightning and a little white cloud came to rest on the top of the holm oak tree, stayed a moment and then rose in the air and disappeared. As people looked around, they saw every hue of color displayed on the faces of others, on their clothes, and on the ground. The trees seemed not to have branches or leaves, but were covered with flowers; every leaf appeared as a flower. This brief heavenly moment passed, but was discussion material for days to come.
The fourth apparition to the children took place unexpectedly on Sunday, August 19th at a different location than the Cova da Iria. Our Lady appeared again at the top of a slightly taller holm oak tree. At this meeting Lucia expressed how difficult it was for people to believe that she was appearing and she asked Our Lady for some grace so that all would believe that she was appearing. Our Lady responded, “In October, I will perform a miracle so that everyone may believe in the apparitions. If they had not taken you to the town (meaning detention by the Mayor), the miracle would be even greater. St. Joseph will come with the Holy Child to bring peace to the world. Our Lord will come to bless the people. Our Lady of the Rosary and Our Lady of Sorrows will also come at that time.” In every apparition, Lucia asked for cures for the people that requested. Our Lady responded in kind to each question. She finished her visit exhorting, “Pray! Pray a great deal and make sacrifices for sinners, for many souls go to hell for not having someone to pray and make sacrifices for them.”
One of the children wanted to keep the small branch of the holm oak tree that Mary stood on during the visit, so they broke it off. Lucia stayed with the sheep at the grazing site, but Jacinta and Francisco rushed off with the branch to tell their families about the latest apparition. On the way to their house, they passed Lucia’s home. When Jacinta exclaimed to Lucia’s mom that they had just seen Our Lady at a different grazing site, Mrs. Santos replied harshly, “My, what little liars you turned out to be! As if Our Lady would appear to you wherever you go!”
Jacinta insisted, “But we did see her…see here, Our Lady had one foot on this twig and the other on that one.”
Maria Rosa replied, “Give it to me. Let me see.” As Maria Rosa took the branch from Jacinta, her face changed from disapproval to wonder. She smelled the branch, “What does this smell of? It is not perfume, it’s not incense, nor perfumed soap; it’s not the smell of roses nor anything I know, but it is a good smell.” The rest of Lucia’s family gathered around to hold and smell the branch. Our Lady lovingly gave Lucia a small gift that day to quell her mother’s opposition to what Lucia was experiencing, a fragrant branch touched by her heavenly feet.
Jacinta and Francisco then went to show their family the branch. Their father was in the kitchen when Jacinta entered smiling and said, “Look, Father, Our Lady appeared to us again, at the Valinhos! We’ve saved this branch that her feet touched.”
As she came in, a magnificent fragrance wafted into the kitchen. Mr. Marto asked to see it, but by the time he held the branch, the fragrance was gone. Mr. Marto concluded that Our Lady needn’t convince him with a miracle, his faith already had.
The children performed as many sacrifices as their strength allowed. They chose to be thirsty for much of that hot August. Their sacrifices were heroic and selfless. The extreme penances they undertook during the time of the apparitions and after when Jacinta and Francisco contracted the influenza that eventually took their lives is hard to understand. As with Our Lord’s sorrowful passion and in the lives of so many saints, the level of sacrificial suffering is unfathomable, but therein lies the mystery of the cross and redemptive suffering.
The September 13th apparition was similar to the preceding ones. Our Lady asked that all pray the rosary every day for the end of the war (WWI). She said that in October there would be a miracle so that all would believe. She indicated that donation money should be used to build a chapel. The witnesses at the apparition site that day reported that the air suddenly cooled during the time of the apparition. Some noticed the sun dimmed so much that many could see stars in the sky despite the mid-day time of the apparition and many saw a shower of iridescent flower petals that disappeared before touching the ground.
There was abundant anxiety on the part of the villagers before the October apparition. The community was divided with believers and those who thought the whole thing was a hoax. One thing was certain, many people from all of Portugal were going to see for themselves. Rain started falling the evening of October 12th and a thick fog formed. It didn’t deter the pilgrims that made their way on foot to the Cova da Iria. The crowd that gathered was estimated at 70,000.
The lightning flashed and the children prepared to see Our Lady. When she appeared Lucia asked the question, “What do you want of me?”
Our Lady responded, “I want them to build a chapel here in my honor; I am the Lady of the Rosary. Continue to say the rosary every day. The war will end and the soldiers will return home soon.”
Lucia inquired about healing the sick. Our Lady said, “Some will be healed, others not! They must amend their lives and ask for forgiveness for their sins. Offend not Our Lord any more, for He is already much offended!” Our Lady opened her hands to reveal brilliant shafts of light. She rose into the air and pointed to the sun. Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco saw good Saint Joseph dressed in white holding the Infant Jesus, who was clothed in red. The Holy Infant and Saint Joseph each raised their hand in blessing and made the sign of the cross three times over the crowd. The Virgin appeared again dressed in blue and white as The Lady of the Rosary. Lucia then saw Our Lord dressed in red and white robes as the Divine Redeemer blessing the world. Beside the Divine Redeemer, the Virgin appeared again as Our Lady of Sorrows. Finally, Our Lady appeared dressed in the brown robes of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
The crowd didn’t see the apparitions of Jesus, Mary and Joseph that the children saw. Instead the rain had suddenly stopped, the overcast layer of clouds had parted and they saw the appearance of the sun change into a dull silver plate that started to spin and throw off shafts of light. Lustrous colors of all the hues of the rainbow were cast off as the sun spun with great speed in the sky. Then the orb appeared to wobble as it revolved! Next, it burst out of its place in the sky. It “danced” about and continued to bathe the crowd in unimaginable colors. The crowd was awestruck. The display continued for about ten minutes. Then the sun appeared as a fireball that was headed right for the earth. At this point the crowd was in terror. No one doubted the end of the world was at hand. There were screams and prayers rising from the mass of people. Then, just as quickly as it was about to fall to the earth, it returned to its place in the sky shining in its natural state. A wave of relief rose up from each witness. Truly, they had just witnessed the miraculous. An added grace was that their rain-drenched clothing and gear was now dry. Secular Portuguese newspapers carried accounts of the miracle from reports at the scene. Their eyewitness accounts give us descriptive and compelling evidence as to the magnitude of the miracle at the concluding apparition.
The armistice that ended World War I was signed November 11, 1918. As Our Lady prophesied, Francisco died soon after from the influenza on April 4, 1919. Jacinta died alone in a Lisbon hospital on February 20, 1920. The Fatima apparitions were approved by the Church on October 13, 1930. Lucia went on to the consecrated life. She became a Carmelite sister and lived much of her life in Coimbra, Portugal. Sister Lucia continued to have apparitions from Our Lady and one vision of the Holy Trinity.
On May 12, 1965 the golden rose was bestowed on shrine of Our Lady of Fatima on behalf of Pope Paul VI. Pope John Paul II was mortally linked to the Fatima revelations when he was shot at Saint Peter’s square on May 13, 1981. While he was recuperating from the gunshot wounds in the hospital, he asked for the Fatima documents. He credited the Virgin of Fatima for preserving his life. He visited Fatima the next year, May 12-13, 1982 to thank Our Lady of the Rosary’s “motherly hand which guided the bullet’s path” and preserved his life. He gave one of the bullets intended to kill him to the Bishop that oversees the Fatima shrine, and he placed the bullet into the Virgin’s crown on the statue of Our Lady of Fatima.
An act of collegial entrustment of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary was made by Pope John Paul II and the world’s Bishops on March 25, 1984. John Paul II beatified Francisco and Jacinta on May 13, 2000 at the shrine at Fatima. Sister Lucia was in attendance for the ceremony at the age of 93. The Pontiff and Sister Lucia visited together on that poignant occasion.
The month after the beatification ceremony, in June 2000, the Vatican revealed the third part of the secret that Our Lady told the shepherd children on July 13, 1917 and it regarded martyrdom of the faithful and the clergy including the Pope. On February 13, 2005, Sister Lucia died at her Carmelite convent in Coimbra, Portugal at the age of 97. Less than two months later, on April 2, 2005, Pope John Paul II died on the eve of the Feast of the Divine Mercy. The last page of the Fatima book would seem to be nearly closed except for the matter of the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the important role we play in that triumph.