Summary: Our Lady of Fatima Shrine, Portugal is a pilgrimage shrine dating from the 1917 apparitions of the Virgin Mary to three shepherd children. It is significant for its call to conversion, the consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the recitation of the rosary, prayers for world peace and the three heavenly secrets were revealed there.
Lúcia Santos and her two cousins, Jacinta and Francisco Marto (see image) were three shepherd children to whom Our Lady appeared at Fatima in Portugal on the 13th day of six consecutive months starting on 13th May 1917.
Patrick Duffy tells the story.
Lúcia described the vision as “brighter than the sun” and said the lady told them three secrets, asked them to do penance and make sacrifices to save sinners. The children then began to wear tight cords around their waists, abstained from drinking water on hot days and did other works of penance. The lady told them to say the Rosary every day, and that saying the Rosary was the way to ‘personal peace and world peace.’
On 13th August, the provincial administrator, believing these apparitions were politically disturbing, intercepted and jailed the children and tried to get them to confess the secrets. That month the children reported that they saw Our Lady at nearby Valinhos.
The miracle of the sun
On 13th October, with a crowd of 70,000 people gathered, there appeared to be a fast and whirling movement of the sun that bystanders called “dancing” and these phenomena were visible for up to forty kilometres away. Even The New York Times of 17th October 1917 reported the event.
Official Church approval
After a canonical enquiry the visions of Fatima were officially declared “worthy of belief” in October 1930 by the Bishop of Leiria-Fátima.
The three secrets of Fatima
The first secret, as described by Lucia, was a frightening vision of hell which made them tremble, but lasted only an instant.
The second was the instructions of Our Lady on how to save souls from hell – there would be war but if people did penance and if the Pope consecrated Russia to her Immaculate Heart, although there would be martyrs and the Holy Father would have much to suffer, Russia would be converted and a period of peace would be granted to the world.
The third secret appears to have been a rather confused call for more penance, but seems also to have contained a vision that was interpreted as “a bishop dressed in white like the Holy Father on his knees at the foot of a big cross being killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him”. This third secret was withheld by the Vatican until June 2000 and was for a time the focus of some controversy, but this has now died down. (See P.S. below)
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said the “secrets” of Fatima give us hope in the midst of world torn by greed, selfishness and war. Satan will not triumph and his evil plans will be thwarted by the Immaculate Heart of Mary. There may be suffering in the near future, but if we cling tightly to Jesus and His mother, we will remain victorious.
(See P.S. below for a fuller explanation and application of the ‘secrets’ of Fatima’.)
Bls Francisco and Jacinta
Less than two years later, in 1919, Francisco (left) died of influenza in his family home. He was 11. He was buried in the parish cemetery and re-buried in the Fatima basilica in 1952.
Jacinta (right) died the next year of influenza in Lisbon. She was just 10. During her illness she offered her suffering for the conversion of sinners, peace in the world and the Holy Father. She was re-buried in the Fatima basilica in 1951. In a public ceremony at Fatima on 13th May 1989 Pope John Paul II declared both Francisco and Jacinta venerable and returned there to beatify them on 13th May 2000. Jacinta is the youngest non-martyred child ever to be beatified.
Lúcia joins the Dorothean convent
Lúcia moved to Oporto in 1921 and at 14 was admitted as a boarder in the School of the Sisters of St. Dorothy in Vilar. She reported seeing Our Lady again in 1925 at the Dorothean convent at Pontevedra, Galicia (Spain), when she said she was asked to spread the First Saturday Devotions. She also reported that a subsequent vision of the Christ Child himself repeated this request.
In October 1925, she became a postulant in the Dorothean convent in Tuy, Spain, just across the northern Portuguese border, made her first vows there on 3rd October 1928 and her perpetual vows on 3rd October 1934, receiving the name Sister Mary of the Sorrowful Mother. In 1946 she returned to Portugal and visited Fatima incognito. Lúcia wrote six memoirs while she was with the Dorothean sisters.
Transfer to the Carmelites at Coimbra
In March 1948 Lúcia transferred to the Carmelite convent of St. Teresa in Coimbra and made her profession as a Discalced Carmelite on 31th May 1949, taking the name Sister Maria Lúcia of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart and she lived at Coimbra until her death in 2005. The third secret was to have been revealed in 1960, but when the Vatican didn’t reveal it, journalists and other enquirers found it difficult to have access to her. This may have been due to the enclosed life of the Carmelites, but it is was also ‘believed’ that she was under an order of silence from the Vatican.
Visits to Fatima
Lúcia returned to Fatima on the occasion of four pilgrimages there by a Pope, all on 13th May. The first of these visits was by Pope Paul VI in 1967. Pope John Paul II visited three times: first in 1982 (in thanksgiving for surviving the assassination attempt the previous year), then in 1991, and finally in 2000, when Lucia’s cousins Jacinta and Francisco were beatified. On May 16, 2000 she unexpectedly returned to Fatima, to visit the parish church.
Death and influence
Lúcia was not seen in public after the Catholic Church’s publication of the third secret in the year 2000. She had been blind and deaf for some years prior to her death of cardio-respiratory failure, due to her advanced age. This came on 13th February 2005. The 13th day of the month had been the date of the apparitions. The day of her funeral, February 15, 2005, was declared a day of national mourning in Portugal; even campaigning for the national parliamentary election scheduled for Sunday, February 20, was interrupted.
On the third anniversary of her death, 13th February 2008, Pope Benedict XVI announced that in Lúcia’s case he was waiving the five year waiting period prescribed by ecclesiastical law before opening a cause for beatification, thus putting her on a fast track for canonisation, as was done for Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II.
P.S The third Secret and it’s interpretation
In 2000, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Later Pope Benedict XVI) clarified the signs and symbols found in the Marian apparitions
May 13, 2017 marked the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparitions at Fatima. For the past century individuals around the world have developed theories meant to decipher the hidden message of the three “secrets” of Fatima. Sister Lucia said herself that, “the interpretation belonged not to the visionary but to the Church.” It is up to the Church to interpret the various signs and symbols of Our Lady of Fatima to give the faithful a clear guide in understanding what God wants to reveal to us.
The Church did exactly that in the year 2000 when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote a lengthy theological commentary and interpretation of the famous “Third Secret.” He was charged with the task of clarifying the signs and symbols found in the visions of Our Lady, and made some striking discoveries.
Here are five surprising revelations found in the “Third Secret” of Our Lady of Fatima as interpreted by Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI).
1. Penance, Penance, Penance
“The key word of this third part is the threefold cry: ‘Penance, Penance, Penance!’ The beginning of the Gospel comes to mind: ‘Repent and believe the Good News’ (Mk 1:15). To understand the signs of the times means to accept the urgency of penance – of conversion – of faith. This is the correct response to this moment of history, characterized by the grave perils outlined in the images that follow.”
The central message of Our Lady of Fatima was “penance.” She sought to remind the world of the need to turn away from evil and repair the damage done by our sins. This is the “key” to understand the rest of the “secret.” Everything revolves around the need for repentance.
2. We Have Forged the Flaming Sword
“The angel with the flaming sword on the left of the Mother of God recalls similar images in the Book of Revelation. This represents the threat of judgement which looms over the world. Today the prospect that the world might be reduced to ashes by a sea of fire no longer seems pure fantasy: man himself, with his inventions, has forged the flaming sword. The vision then shows the power which stands opposed to the force of destruction—the splendour of the Mother of God and, stemming from this in a certain way, the summons to penance.”
This particular part of the apparition tends to be the most distressing. It appears that God may strike us all down with a “flaming sword.” However, Cardinal Ratzinger makes the point that the “flaming sword” would be something that we create (like the atomic bomb) as opposed to any fire that comes down from heaven. The good news is that the vision records the flaming sword “died out in contact with the splendour [of] Our Lady” in connection to the call of “Penance, Penance, Penance.” The Blessed Mother has the final say and her radiance can stop any cataclysm.
3. The Future Is Not Set in Stone
“The importance of human freedom is underlined: the future is not in fact unchangeably set, and the image which the children saw is in no way a film preview of a future in which nothing can be changed. Indeed, the whole point of the vision is to bring freedom onto the scene and to steer freedom in a positive direction … [The vision] is meant to mobilize the forces of change in the right direction.”
Contrary to popular belief, the intense visions granted by Our Lady of Fatima are not a preview of what will come to pass. They are a preview of what could happen, if we do not respond to Our Lady’s call to penance and conversion of heart. We still retain our free will and are urged to use it for the good of all humanity.
4. The Blood of Martyrs is the Seed of the Church
“The concluding part of the ‘secret’ … is a consoling vision, which seeks to open a history of blood and tears to the healing power of God. Beneath the arms of the cross angels gather up the blood of the martyrs, and with it they give life to the souls making their way to God … As from Christ’s death, from his wounded side, the Church was born, so the death of the witnesses is fruitful for the future life of the Church. Therefore, the vision of the third part of the ‘secret,’ so distressing at first, concludes with an image of hope: no suffering is in vain, and it is a suffering Church, a Church of martyrs, which becomes a sign-post for man in his search for God.”
It is true that the vision contains much suffering and peril, but it is not in vain. The Church may have to suffer much in the coming years, and this should come as no surprise. The Church has undergone persecution ever since the crucifixion and our suffering in the present time will only produce good effects in the future.
5. Take Heart. I Have Overcome the World
“‘My Immaculate Heart will triumph.’ What does this mean? The Heart open to God, purified by contemplation of God, is stronger than guns and weapons of every kind … The Evil One has power in this world … he has power because our freedom continually lets itself be led away from God. But … the freedom to choose evil no longer has the last word … the word that prevails is this: ‘In the world you will have tribulation, but take heart; I have overcome the world’ Jesus said in John 16:33). The message of Fatima invites us to trust in this promise.”