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Saturday, 24 January 2015


An apparition of a lady dressed in white appeared to three shepherd children above an olive tree at the Cova da Iria near the Portuguese town of Fátima on May 13, 1917. The lady, later referred to as Our Lady of the Rosary, indicated that she was sent by God with a message of prayer, repentance and consecrations. Further appearances were reported on June and July 13th.

Lúcia Santos (left) with her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto, 1917

On August 13, 1917, the provincial administrator Artur Santos believing that the events were a fabrication of the church, imprisoned the children before they could reach the Cova da Iria. The children were threatened with a cauldron of boiling oil, but they insisted they were telling the truth. Eventually they were believed and were released.

By the fall of 1917, thousands of people were flocking to Fátima, drawn by reports of visions and miracles. Finally a large crowd gather during a cloud-burst in response to the children's claim that a miracle would occur on October 13, 1917. The incessant rain  ceased, the black clouds parted and the Sun broke through in a dull grey disc shape that could be looked at directly. As the Sun started whirling wildly then plunging dramatically towards Earth, there were various changes of color on the surroundings. Such was the heat emitted that in a space of ten minutes the people’s wet clothing was completely dried.  This  "miracle of the sun" was witnessed by an estimated 70,000 people.

Part of the crowd looking at the sun during the "Miracle of the Sun"

In order to mark the location of the apparitions, a wooden arch with a cross was initially constructed in Cova da Iria. Pilgrims began to visit the site, so the following year a chapel was built, which grew into a centre for Marian devotion.

On July 13, 1917, the Virgin Mary is said to have entrusted the children with three revelations. Two of the revelations were revealed in 1941 in a document written by the only survivor of the three children, Lúcia dos Santos, who had become a Carmelite nun. The first revelation was a vision of Hell.. In the second the Madonna prophezied the ending of the First World War but that another World War would follow. She also predicted the spread of communism with much persecution for believers but later the conversion of Russia.

In 1943, Lúcia fell ill with influenza and pleurisy, which had killed her cousins. At the suggestion of her bishop Lúcia wrote the the third revelation down. She sealed it in an envelope with instructions for tit to be revealed either in 1960 or after her death, at the discretion of the Holy See.

On a visit to Portugal for the beatification of the Fátima shepherd children Jacinta and Francisco (Lúcia was still alive at the time), Pope John Paul II made a declaration about the third secret revelation.  He announced that he believed it referred to the 20th century persecution of Christians that culminated in the failed assassination attempt on him on May 13, 1981, the 64th anniversary of the first apparition of the Lady at Fátima.

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