On 13th May 1917, three children were watching their sheep in a valley called the Cova da Iria, near the town of Fatima, in Portugal. They were ten-year-old Lucia dos Santos, and her cousins, nine-year-old Francisco and seven-year-old Jacinta Marto.
A flash of lightning suddenly startled them. The children thought a storm was coming, so they quickly began herding their sheep toward home. A second flash made them look around. They saw a beautiful young woman standing above a small oak tree. “Don’t be afraid,” she called reassuringly. “Come closer.” The woman wore a robe and mantle of white, with gold trim. Her hands, joined in prayer, were holding a rosary. She shone with a light that was brighter than the sun. Lucia asked the woman, “Who are you? What do you want?” She answered, “I am from heaven. Come here on the thirteenth of each month for five months.
On 13th October, I will give a sign that will make everyone believe.” The Blessed Mother kept her promise. The children saw her once more on 13th June and 13th July. The mayor of the nearby town of Ourem didn’t like this story of a heavenly lady appearing to children. On the morning of 13th August, he offered Lucia and her cousins a ride to the Cova, where they were supposed to meet the lady again. But once he had them in his car, he brought them to the police station instead, and kept them in custody for two days. He couldn’t outsmart the Blessed Virgin, though. She simply appeared to the children several days later!
A priest of the diocese questioned Lucia about the visions. How many times had they seen the Blessed Virgin? How long did she stay with them? What did she look like? Lucia answered all the questions. The priest also knew that Mary had told the children a secret. But he did not pressure Lucia to tell him what it was. Lucia told the priest a little prayer that Mary had taught them: “My Jesus, forgive us our sins. Save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of your mercy.” The Blessed Virgin again visited the children at the Cova on 13th September.
On 13th October 1917, 70,000 people came to the Cova to witness the miracle that Mary had promised. It was a rainy day. But Lucia asked the people to close their umbrellas. The rain stopped. Mary appeared to the children. Suddenly, the clouds left the sky and the sun came out. The crowds saw it spinning and shooting out flames like a fireworks display. One by one the sun took on all the colours of the rainbow. This happened three times and the scene lasted for ten minutes. Then the sun seemed to fall from the sky toward the earth. The people fell to their knees. Many thought it was the end of the world. They wept and asked forgiveness for their sins. Suddenly the sun stopped its fall and returned to its normal colour and its usual place in the sky.
While the sun had been spinning and changing colours, only Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta had seen Mary appear as Our Lady of the Rosary, with St. Joseph beside her holding the Child Jesus. Then Jesus alone appeared and blessed the crowd. Mary also appeared as Our Lady of Sorrows and then dressed as Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Mary told the children what she wanted: She asked that people pray the rosary and change their lives. They should ask forgiveness for sins. She also asked that a chapel be built at the Cova da Iria. The chapel was begun in 1919. Together with Lourdes, Fatima has become the most popular place of pilgrimage for Christians.
In December 1918, both Francisco and Jacinta became very sick with the flu. In those days they didn’t have the medicines we have today, and Francisco’s illness turned into pneumonia. He died on 4th April 1919. A few months later, Jacinta’s sickness developed into pleurisy, a disease which seriously affected her lungs. She underwent surgery, but died on 20th February 1920. Lucia entered the convent in 1928, becoming a Sister of St. Dorothy. In 1948 she transferred to the Carmelite monastery in Coimbra, Portugal. As of the date this book was printed, she is still living there as a Carmelite nun.
Our Lady came to Fatima as a loving mother. She wants us to be truly happy and reminds us that this can only happen when we live as Jesus taught.
Let’s pray the rosary often, thinking about the lives of Jesus and Mary.
Our Lady of Fatima pray for us.