I grew up in a parish where our priest had a deep devotion to Our Lady of Fátima, and tender love for the three shepherd children (known as the “seers” or “visionaries”): Lucia, Jacinta, and Francesco. I remember a framed black and white image of the children, placed at the feet of the Blessed Mother’s statue, just left of the sanctuary.
I have known a couple of priests with a deep devotion to Our Lady of Fátima, not to mention she was very dear to Saint Pope John Paul II. The devotion of these men piqued my interest in the story of Fátima and moved me to ask: “Why is Fátima significant out of all the Marian apparitions?”
Do you have men and women in your life whose devotions have moved you to inquire or learn more?
Our Lady’s appearances were first announced by an Angel one year prior, to the oldest of the three children, Lucia, and a few of her friends (who you don’t see in the movie). The actual visits of the Blessed Mother with the title of “Our Lady of the Rosary” were to Francisco, Jacinta, and Lucia in a field known as the “Cova da Iria” near Fatima.
Our Lady appeared six times between May 13 and October 13, 1917, to the three small children. The final apparition on October 13 included “The Miracle of the Sun” witnessed by more than 70,000 people. Sister Lucia (one of the seers) later described this event in the following way:
“The sun began to spin rapidly like a gigantic circle of fire. Then it stopped momentarily, only to begin spinning vertiginously again. Its rim became scarlet; whirling, it scattered red flames across the sky. Their light was reflected on the ground, on the trees, on the bushes, and on the very faces and clothing of the people, which took on brilliant hues and changing colors. After performing this bizarre pattern three times, the globe of fire seemed to tremble, shake, and then plunge in a zigzag toward the terrified crowd. All this lasted about ten minutes. Finally, the sun zigzagged back to its original place and once again became still and brilliant, shining with its everyday brightness.”
Visit this favorite of mine for a full retelling of the apparitions: America Needs Fatima.
Released in late August this year, “Fátima” the movie provided a renewed interest and catechesis on the significance of Our Lady’s visits to the children. True to those visits, here’s what I learned as I watched the movie (enthralled and tears running down my cheeks):
1. Mary asks us to pray the Rosary daily and to be devoted to her Immaculate Heart.
Our Lady appeared six times to the children. Her requests were sincere: to pray the Rosary for world peace, for the end of World War I, for sinners, and the conversion of Russia. Our Lady’s reference to the Rosary, conversion of sinners, and her Immaculate Heart were consistent with every visit.
The first appearance on May 13:
Mary told the children: “I am of Heaven.” When asked, she promised all three children would go to heaven, though Francisco would have to say “many rosaries” to get there.
The second appearance on June 13:
During this visit, Mary showed Lucia, Jacinta, and Francesco her Immaculate Heart, pierced with thorns representing the sins of mankind. Lucia asked Mary for the healing of a sick person, which Mary said would be granted with his conversion.
Mary explained to Lucia that she would be on earth much longer than Jacinta and Francesco. She explained to Lucia: “Jesus wishes to make use of you to make me known and loved,” Mary told her. “He wants to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. I promise salvation to those who embrace it, and God will love those souls like flowers placed by me to adorn His throne.”
The revelation of the Immaculate Heart image was not shared until Lucia entered the Carmelite convent in 1923.
The third appearance on July 13:
Our Lady continued to encourage the recitation of the Rosary. Lucia made many healing requests. Mary told Lucia that those seeking healing should pray the Rosary, and they would receive the graces.
During this visit, Mary also showed the children a vision of hell, so they would know where poor sinners would go and understand; both why they would pray and sacrifice for souls, and why devotion to the Immaculate Heart would be so important.
Thus the Blessed Mother told the children that God wished for them to establish devotion to the Immaculate Heart, including Russia’s consecration to her heart and a First Saturday devotion.
The fourth appearance on August 19 (it did not happen on the 13th because the police had abducted the children):
She asked the children to continue to pray the Rosary every day. At this apparition, Mary said a great miracle would occur at her last apparition (October 13). She instructed the children to have portable stands made to honor Our Lady of the Rosary. Mary also asked the children to pray and sacrifice for sinners.
The fifth appearance on September 13:
Mary encouraged the children to continue to pray the Rosary to end the war. She shared that in October, when she would visit them, Jesus would come to as the Child Jesus with Saint Joseph. Jesus would appear on Calvary, blessing the world as well. Our Lady of Sorrows and Our Lady of Mount Carmel would appear too.
The sixth and final appearance and the Miracle of the Sun on October 13:
Our Lady requested that a chapel be built there where she was visiting the children in the “Cova da Iria” in her honor. She revealed to them that she is the Lady of the Rosary. She encouraged the children to continue to pray the Rosary every day. She explained that the war was going to end, and the soldiers would soon return home.
The miracle of the sun occurred on this day. Three different scenes took place that included the different visits from Jesus, St. Joseph, Our Lady of Sorrows, and Our Lady of Mount Carmel indeed happened as well.
While these visits were taking place, the onlookers experienced the dancing of the sun. It was said that individuals saw the miracle of the sun some twenty-five miles away. Seventy thousand people saw the miracle of the sun the day.
Our Lady of the Rosary is still inviting us to pray the Rosary every day and honor her sorrowful and immaculate heart.
2. Our response to God impacts those around us, especially our families.
The children welcomed Our Lady’s visits and were obedient to her instructions, though it came with much heartache.
As you watch the movie, you’ll notice how the children’s obedience to Mary’s requests impacts the community and especially their families. This is most visible in Lucia’s family, really challenging and difficult things happen.
The authorities intimidate her parents, and her father’s crops are trampled by the faithful who have come to see the seers and the Virgin Mary. The trampling of crops causes the family to lose significant income, so they send away Lucia’s older sister to work to bring in income for the family.
Lucia’s perseverance in holding to the fact that the Blessed Mother was appearing caused incredible frustration in her mother: Maria Rosa Santos. The movie tells us her mother did not believe her until October 13: “The Miracle of the Sun,” or some refer to as “the time the sun danced.” On October 13, Mary revealed herself fully as Our Lady of the Rosary and performed a The Miracle of the Sun “for all to see and believe,” as she told the children.
Lucia’s faithful response to Mary did not come only with difficulty; it also brought increased devotion to her family. Lucia’s mother became very sick. The family thought she was going to die. In the movie, Lucia runs to the Cova da Iria and begins to pray the Rosary, crawling on her knees the whole night, to heal her mother. Her father sees this and joins her.
3. Francesco couldn’t hear the Blessed Mother.
Francesco, unlike Lucia and Jacinta, couldn’t hear what Mary was communicating when she would visit. His sister Jacinta and cousin Lucia would have to tell him the conversations after Our Lady would leave them. I found this interesting.
In the film, he expressed worry about this. I wonder if that was the case in real life. When reading more about Francesco, I learned that he was a peaceful and kind little boy.
I wonder if he needed more purification to be in greater union with God before hearing Our Lady directly. The only thing that brings me to wonder this is that Mary said herself the Francesco would need to pray many Rosaries before going to heaven.
4. The children were persecuted.
Many did not believe the children. We even see in the movie that their family members didn’t believe for some time. They were mocked, especially by the anticlerical and masonic city authorities, including the press.
The authorities went so far as kidnapping the children to interrogate them intensely. The mayor, in particular, wanted to catch them in a lie. The message of Fatima was threatening to all that the regime stood for.
5. Mary didn’t want the children to hurt themselves, but to suffer for the conversion of souls.
Mary asked the children to help sinners by making sacrifices. She said:
“Sacrifice yourself for sinners, and say many times, especially whenever you make some sacrifice: “O my Jesus, it is for love of Thee, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
The children made many reparations, including wearing ropes around their waists as a sacrifice for sinners. At the fifth appearance on September 13, Mary said to the children: “God is pleased with your sacrifices, but He does not want you to sleep with the ropes; wear them only during the day.”
Our Lady showed such motherly care in this. I have read outstanding accounts of how Jacinta carried out this request, to make sacrifices: drinking milk when she did not like milk—not telling her mother when she didn’t feel well—getting up during the night to pray sinners, etc.
October is the Month of the Rosary
There is so much to learn from Our Lady’s appearances in Fatima, as well as the lives of the three shepherd children. What stands out to me the most is the importance of prayer and uniting our hearts with the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and how she desires us to honor her son Jesus in this way.
Will you join me in reciting the Rosary every day? If not every day, will you begin by praying it on the 13th of every month?
October is the Month of the Rosary. So, it’s the perfect time to commit ourselves to pray the Rosary. In case you missed it, here’s a little bit about my journey with the Rosary.