THE STORY OF FATIMA
On a cool spring day in 1916, Lucy dos Santos, age 9, and her cousins, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, ages 8 and 6 respectively, took their parents’ sheep to pasture in a place not far from their homes in the mountain village of Fatima, Portugal, about 90 miles north of Lisbon. It started to drizzle, and the children sought shelter in a nearby cave. Suddenly across the field, a white globe of light appeared, moving over the open space toward the cave. The three children stared in awe as they saw in the center of the light a beautiful young man in flowing white garments.
The stranger began to speak: “Fear not. I am the Angel of Peace. Pray with me.”
Kneeling on the ground, he bowed low and recited this prayer three times, with the children repeating it after him:
“O my God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love Thee. I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love Thee.”
In mid-summer, as the children were together, the Angel came again, and said,
“Pray! Pray a great deal. The Hearts of Jesus and Mary have merciful designs on you. Offer prayers and sacrifices continually to the Most High. Make everything you do a sacrifice, and offer it as an act of reparation for the sins by which God is offended, and as a petition for the conversion of sinners. Bring peace to our country in this way . . . I am the Guardian Angel of Portugal. Accept and bear with submission all the sufferings the Lord will send you.”
The Angel came again in the fall of that same year, this time bearing a golden chalice in one hand and a Host above it in the other. The amazed children noticed that drops of blood were falling from the Host into the chalice. Presently the Angel left both suspended in mid-air and prostrated himself on the ground, saying this beautiful prayer:
“Most Holy Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—I adore Thee profoundly. I offer Thee 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 indifferences whereby He is offended. And through the infinite merits of His Most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of Thee the conversion of poor sinners.”
Such was the prelude to one of the most remarkable messages ever to be given from Heaven to Earth—the “peace plan” of Our Lady of Fatima.
THE LADY “MORE BRILLIANT THAN THE SUN”
On Sunday, May 13,1917, slightly more than a year after the Angel’s first visit, the children were pasturing their flocks as usual. This time they were in a rather barren hollow, known as the Cova da Iria (Hollow of Irene), which was about a mile from their homes. It was noon of a clear, sunny day, when suddenly a flash of lightning cut the air—then another. Fearing a storm, the children quickly gathered the sheep to get them home.
Then their glances fell upon a small holm-oak tree directly in their path. A dazzling light hovered over the topmost branches, when—wonder of wonders—what should they behold but the form of a lovely lady standing atop the tree in the light, her feet hidden in a shimmering cloud. She was like the Angel, only far more beautiful. She wore a long white dress, and the mantle over her head and shoulders reaching to her feet was edged in burnished gold. Her hands were joined before her breast, and from the right hand hung an exquisite rosary of white pearls. As Lucy later described her,
“She was a lady more brilliant than the sun.”
After telling the children not to be frightened, the vision said:
“I come from Heaven. I want you to come here at this same hour on the 13th day of each month until October. Then I will tell you who I am and what I want.”
She also told them to say the Rosary every day, and to bear all the sufferings God would send them.
In June the Lady appeared again. There were about 70 people present, though only the children could see the apparition. She told the youngsters that many souls go to Hell because they have no one to pray and make sacrifices for them. She said Francisco and Jacinta would soon leave the world for Heaven. Holding out her heart surrounded by thorns which pierced it from all sides, Our Lady told Lucy:
“God wishes you to remain in the world for some time because He wants to use you to establish in the world the devotion to my Immaculate Heart. 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.”
THE CHILDREN SEE HELL
During her appearance in July, Our Lady, in answer to Lucy’s plea, promised that in October she would work a great public miracle so that all might believe and know who she was. Again the Mother of God told the children to sacrifice themselves for sinners and to say many times, especially when making a sacrifice, this prayer:
“O my Jesus, I offer this for love of Thee, for the conversion of poor sinners, and in reparation for all the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
As she spoke these words, Our Lady stretched out her hands, and bright rays came forth which seemed to penetrate into the earth. All at once the ground vanished, and the children found themselves standing on the brink of a sea of fire. As they peered into this dreadful place, the terrified youngsters saw huge numbers of devils and damned souls. The devils resembled hideous black animals, each filling the air with despairing shrieks. The damned souls were in their human bodies and seemed to be brown in color, tumbling about constantly in the flames and screaming with terror. All were on fire within and without their bodies, and neither devils nor damned souls seemed able to control their movements. They were tossing about in the flames like fiery coals in a furnace. There was never an instant’s peace or freedom from pain.
Looking with compassion at the pale and trembling little ones, the vision spoke to them:
“You have seen Hell, where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world the devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If people do what I tell you, many souls will be saved and there will be peace.”
THE VISION FORETELLS WORLD WAR II AND COMMUNISM
“The war [First World War, then raging] is going to end. But if people do not stop offending God, another and worse one will begin [in the reign of Pius XII]. When you shall see a night illuminated by an unknown light [January 25, 1938], know that this is the great sign that God gives you that He is going to punish the world for its many crimes by means of war, hunger, and persecution of the Church and the Holy Father.”
“To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart and the Communion of Reparation on the five first Saturdays. If my requests are granted, Russia will be converted and there will be peace. If not, she will scatter her errors throughout the world, provoking wars and persecution of the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, and various nations will be destroyed . . . But in the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph, the Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, Russia will be converted, and a certain period of peace will be granted to the world.”
The Lady asked that this message be kept secret until she gave permission to reveal it.
THE CHILDREN ARE JAILED
The apparitions rapidly were creating so much excitement that the atheistic civil authorities became alarmed. At the next scheduled appearance of the Lady, August 13th, though more than 15,000 people were waiting in the Cova, the atheistic mayor of Ourem, under whose jurisdiction Fatima belonged, had the children kidnapped and placed in jail. In spite of his threats to have them burnt alive in boiling oil, the children refused to reveal the secret given to them. Fearing violence from the people, the mayor released Lucy and her cousins the next day. Near the village of Valinhos on August 19th, the Lady appeared to the children again. She told them she was greatly displeased by the action of the mayor. As a result, the miracle promised for October would not be as impressive as originally planned.
More than 30,000 people were present in September, and saw a shower of mysterious white petals fall to within 10 feet of the ground before dissolving into the air. Many also saw the globe of light bearing the Lady come to rest atop the tree, and the branches bend as though someone were standing on them. Later, they saw the cloud depart into the east, from whence it had come.