Our Lady of Fatima-The Miraculous Medal Shrine
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Our Lady of Fatima

Our Lady of Fatima

In 1917, with World War I devastating Europe, the Blessed Mother appeared in Fatima, a tiny village of central Portugal, to deliver her message of prayer, conversion, reconciliation, and sacrifice to the world through three young children. Today, the Church recognizes this influential series of apparitions and commemorates them on May 13, the feast of Our Lady of Fatima. But there is a second very important date celebrated in connection with Fatima. October 13 is also widely celebrated as the anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun, when tens of thousands of townspeople, public officials, journalists, photographers, and clergy witnessed visions that continue to amaze and inspire Marian devotees more than a century later.

Mary first appeared to Lucia de Santos and her cousins, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, on May 13, 1917, as they tended sheep in a field called the Cova de Iria. The children later reported seeing a ball of light near an oak tree, which they approached to see the image of a beautiful lady. They later described the woman as “brighter than the sun, shedding rays of light clearer and stronger than a crystal goblet filled with the most sparkling water and pierced by the burning rays of the sun.” She told them she had come from heaven and instructed them to return to the field on the 13th of each month for the next six months, after which she would reveal herself to the children.

Hearing Lucia’s account of this first apparition, her mother consulted a parish priest, who recommended that the girl be allowed to return to the field. The priest asked for the girl to be brought to him afterward so he could question her. The Blessed Mother appeared to the children six times from May to October (and a seventh time to Lucia alone). During these episodes, she held rosary beads, identified herself as Our Lady of the Rosary, and instructed the children to pray the Holy Rosary every day for the conversion of sinners and world peace.

Mary said that God wanted the world to have devotion to her immaculate heart, and she insisted upon penance out of concern for the fate of humanity, asking, “Would you like to offer yourselves to God to accept all the sufferings which He may send to you in reparation for the countless sins by which He is offended and in supplication for the conversion of sinners?” Lucia later reported that Mary revealed three secrets to her: the first being a vision of hell, the second a prediction of the end of the war, and the third that the consecration of Russia would lead to an era of peace. Four popes have since consecrated Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

As word of the apparitions spread through Fatima and surrounding communities, thousands of people began to follow the children into the field to catch a glimpse of the Blessed Mother or witness her miracle. These gatherings culminated on October 13, 1917, when a crowd estimated in various accounts of 30,000 to 100,000 experienced the Miracle of the Sun or the Miracle of Fatima. Witnesses testified they saw extraordinary solar activity, specifically the sun dancing in the sky and careening toward earth. They reported seeing the sun emit multicolored rays of light. The visions lasted about 10 minutes and followed a period of overcast rain. Afterward, witnesses reported that their clothing and the ground had suddenly dried.

The power of the Miracle of Fatima and the Blessed Mother’s messages to the three children continue to resonate with devotees from around the world. Some four million pilgrims visit Fatima each year.