To a world embroiled in a war that would leave Western civilization in ruins, and at the outset of a century in which God’s place in society would be rashly and self-confidently spurned, a message from Heaven came to the tiny, unknown town of Fatima. One hundred years ago, in the very heart of nature, to three little children peacefully pasturing their family’s sheep in the fields, the Mother of God delivered a message gravely needed for our time.
On the 13th day of the month, from May to October 1917, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta, who were ten, nine, and seven years old. Through these humble and simple children, Heaven provided Earth a warning of dangers to come that could lead to the destruction of the world and the ruin of countless souls. In a prophetic secret, Our Lady gave the children a frightening vision of Hell, and foretold the coming of the Second World War, the rise of Communist Russia, and the persecution of the Church. To draw the world from this ruinous course and to bring about a lasting peace, she called for the Rosary to be prayed daily, for acts of penance, and for the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart. With these dire warnings and urgent requests, the Mother of God also gave a promise of hope: “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.”
All of this was reported by the shepherd children. The message of Fatima—without any propaganda or publicity—spread by word of mouth and crossed the frontiers of Portugal. The irresistible flow of pilgrims increased more and more in response to this message of hope. During the last apparition, on October 13, 1917, a crowd of 70,000 gathered at the Cova da Iria, where Our Lady had appeared to the children. She promised a great miracle that day so all would believe. As the crowds raised their eyes to Heaven in prayer, they would witness the promised miracle, confirming everything the children had said. They saw the sun dance.
Gathered in the Cova were the devout, the curious, and the scoffers, as well as journalists seeking to unmask what they deemed a hoax. The day was terribly gloomy, an allegory for a world immersed in war and losing its way. Everyone was soaking wet, had mud at their feet, and were chilled to the bone on account of the torrents of rain that had been falling throughout the night and right up until noon, the moment of Our Lady’s appearance.
The children saw the flash of light and Our Lady appeared on the holm oak tree, as she had during the previous apparitions. Lucia began her conversation with the Blessed Virgin with her usual question: “What do you want of me?” Our Lady replied: “I want a chapel to be built here in my honor. I am the Lady of the Rosary. Continue always to pray the Rosary every day. The war is going to end, and the soldiers will soon return to their homes.” Lucia then presented Our Lady with petitions on behalf of others: “I have many things to ask of you: to heal some sick people and to convert some sinners.” The reply was simple and direct: “Some, yes; others, no. People must amend their lives and ask pardon for their sins.” Then growing sadder, Our Lady said: “They must not offend Our Lord any more, for He is already too much offended.” Lucia inquired lastly: “Do you want anything more?” “Nothing more,” came the reply.
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