May – Month of Blessed Mother: History of Apparitions in Fatima

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According to tradition, we pay special homage to the Blessed Virgin during May. This month we will share stories about Marian apparitions and her maternal love.

Let’s start with Fatima–a town in Portugal where a series of apparitions took place between 1915 and 1917. Here, Mary appeared to three Portuguese shepherds: Lucia Santos, Jacinta Marto, and Francisco Marto. The Catholic Church formally recognized the appearances and revelations at Fatima as miraculous in 1930, also pronouncing them free from doctrinal error.

The Fatima revelations were a merciful response of the Mother of God to the challenges of the 20th century. They began in the time of World War I, which distressed the whole world on an unprecedented scale for the first time in history. In her message, Mary showed the horrific consequences of universal sin–hatred and division, arrogance and injustice, contempt for human dignity–but also pointed out the way to rectify them: universal repentance and unceasing prayer. The most famous of the apparitions occurred in 1917, and there were three mysterious parts to the revelations (“the secrets of Fatima”).

The first mystery was a vision of hell revealed to the children. They saw the suffering of unrepentant sinners deprived of God’s grace and were profoundly frightened by this.

The second mystery foretold the imminent end of WWI and the threat of the outbreak of WWII. The Blessed Mother also spoke of the threats of communism, hunger, numerous deaths, persecution of the Church, destruction of entire nations, and of Russia’s special role in the history of the mankind at the turn of the millennium. She made clear that war resulted from sin. Additionally, she prophesied that if humanity did not stop sinning, an even worse war would take place (WWII).

The third mystery concerned the persecution of Christians in the 20th century and the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II. The end of the third mystery is quite frightening because it speaks of an angel setting the world on fire. At the time of the revelations the Virgin warned about the world’s final destruction. However, devotion to Mary and her Immaculate Heart could alter this dreadful outcome. Let us remember the Victorious Woman from the Revelation of St. John the Theologian: “A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.” (Revelation 12: 1) When there was an attempt on the pope’s life, the only thing that saved him was the fact that he looked back at a girl in the crowd holding the image of Our Lady of Fatima. After some time, Pope John Paul II would offer to Mary a golden rose with the bullet that struck him.

The Guardian Angel of Portugal appeared to the children three times to prepare them to meet with Mary. At the time of the third revelation, the angel held in his hand the chalice over which was the host–the Body of Christ. Lucia received the host while Francis and Jacinta drank from the chalice. The latter symbolized suffering as both would endure great hardship soon after the revelation. Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco persevered through many trials. They were compelled to renounce their supernatural experiences but refused to do so even under threat of violence.

Francisco and Jacinta died as children. In 1935, during the exhumation of Jacinta’s remains, it was stated that her face was uncorrupted. During their beatification, Pope John Paul II described Jacinta as a “little sacrificial soul” and Francis as a “little mystic.” Lucia became a Carmelite sister in Coimbra, Portugal and lived to be 90. Lucia’s spirituality was remarkable for her enduring love, dedication, and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. In a message to Jacinta, the Mother of God revealed one of her most ardent desires: “Tell everyone that God gives grace through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Tell them to ask for mercy from her, and that the Heart of Jesus wants to be revered together with the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Ask them to pray for peace through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Lord will give peace to the world through her.” When Lucia was asked about the miracles and revelations she said, “Miracles and mysteries are not important. We need to focus on the messages of the Mother of God. Live the Ten Commandments. That’s what’s important.”

Mary miraculously confirmed the truth of the revelations so that all those who doubted the children’s testimony would believe. The last revelation was a visible sign of her presence which took place before many thousands of people. For 10 minutes the sun spun like a wheel, emitting bright multi-colored flashes. 70,000 people witnessed the event! Later it was deemed the “miracle of the Sun” or “dance of the Sun.”

The way of salvation that Our Lady of Fatima shows us through the three children can divert humanity from destruction. The path is repentance and continuous prayer. The central message of Our Lady of Fatima was “penance.” She reminded the world of the need to renounce evil and atone for the damage caused by our sin. This is the key to understanding the other part of the mystery, for everything revolves around the need for repentance. Mary commanded us to pray the rosary daily, meditating on our Lord’s life, death, and Resurrection, which she saw with her own eyes. She called for dedicating this daily rosary to the conversion and forgiveness of sinners. To this day, every evening in Fatima Square, thousands meet to light candles and pray the rosary together.

May the mystery of Fatima give us hope in the world, we pray to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. May she protect us, her children.

By Halyna Vasylytsia

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