On this 25th day of our devotion, we summarily contemplate the six visits of our heavenly mother, Our Lady at Fatima, and her message. A good number of us know that the apparition of Our Lady of Fatima, approved by the Holy See, is the best known of the 20th century, particularly for the third secret that Mary revealed to the three shepherds at Cova da Iria (Portugal) and transcribed by Sister Lucia on January 3, 1944. Below, is a presentation of the seven curiosities that every Catholic should know about this apparition:
- The Virgin appeared 6 times in Fatima to the three children: In the days of the First World War, the shepherdess Lucia dos Santos said she had experienced supernatural visits from the Virgin Mary in 1915, two years before the well-known apparitions. In 1917, she and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto, were working as shepherds in the flocks of their families. On May 13 of that year, the three children witnessed an apparition of the Virgin Mary who told them, among other things, that she would return for the next six months on the 13th day. The Blessed Virgin also revealed to the children, in the second apparition, that Francisco and Jacinta would die early and that Lucia would survive to tell of the apparitions to the world. In the third apparition, on July 13, the Virgin reveals to Lucia the “Secret of Fatima.” On the sixth and last apparition, on October 13th, in front of thousands of pilgrims who arrived in Fatima (Portugal), the so-called “Miracle of the Sun” took place, in which, after the apparition of the Virgin Mary to the shepherds Jacinta, Francisco, and Lucia, one could see the sun shiver, in a kind of “dance”, as reported by those who were there. Above all, she predicted that the war would end, and it ended the following year.
- Francisco and Jacinta died young, Lucia became a religious sister: A Spanish flu epidemic hit Europe in 1918 and killed about 20 million people. Among them were Francisco and Jacinta, who contracted the disease that year and died in 1919 and 1920, respectively. On her part, Lucia entered the convent of the Doroteias Sisters. On June 13, 1929, in the convent chapel in Tuy, Spain, Lucia had another mystical experience in which she saw the Holy Trinity and the Blessed Virgin Mary. The latter said to her: “The moment has come when God asks the Pope, in union with all the bishops of the world, to make Russia’s consecration to my Immaculate Heart, promising to save her by this means” (cf. S. Zimdars-Schwartz, “Meeting with Mary,” pg. 197). On October 13, 1930, the Bishop of Leiria (now Leiria-Fatima) proclaimed the authentic apparitions of Fatima.
- Sister Lucia wrote the secret of Fatima 18 years after the apparitions: Between 1935 and 1941, under the orders of her superiors, Sister Lucy wrote four memoirs of the events of Fatima. In the third memoir – published in 1941 – she wrote the first two parts of the secret and explained that there was a third part that heaven did not yet allow her to reveal. In the fourth memory she added a sentence at the end of the second part of the secret: “In Portugal, the dogma of faith, etc., will always be preserved”. This phrase was the basis of much speculation, they said that the third part of the secret referred to a great apostasy. After the publication of the third and fourth memoirs, the world turned its attention to the secret of Fatima and to the three parts of the message, including the request of the Virgin for Russia to be consecrated to her Immaculate Heart through the Pope and the bishops of the world. On October 31, 1942, Pius XII consecrated not only Russia, but also the whole world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. What was missing, however, was the participation of the world’s bishops. In 1943, the Bishop of Leiria ordered Sister Lucia to write the third secret of Fatima, but she did not feel free to do so until 1944. It was placed in a closed envelope in which Sister Lucia wrote that it should not be opened until 1960.
- The third part of the Fatima secret was read by several Popes: The secret remained with the Bishop of Leiria until 1957, when it was requested (along with copies of other writings by Sister Lucia) by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. According to Cardinal Tarcísio Bertone, the secret was read by Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI. Pope John Paul II, for his part, asked for the envelope containing the third part of the ‘secret’ after the assassination attempt he suffered on May 13, 1981. After reading the secret, the Holy Father realized the connection between the assassination attempt and Fatima: “It was the hand of our Blessed Mother who guided the trajectory of the bullet”, he detailed. It was this Pope who decided to publish the third secret in the year 2000.
- The keys to the secret: repentance and conversion: The then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI), Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, pointed out that the key to the apparition of Fatima is the call to repentance and conversion. The three parts of the secret serve to motivate the individual to repent and do so in a forceful way.
- The first part of the secret is a vision of hell: The first part of the secret – the vision of hell – is the most important for many, because it reveals to individuals the tragic consequences of lack of regret and what awaits them in the invisible world if they do not convert.
- The second part of the secret is about devotion to the Immaculate Heart: In the second part of the secret, Maria says: “You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wants to establish devotion to my Immaculate Heart in the world.” After explaining the vision of hell, Our Lady spoke of a war caused, according to Sister Lucia’s considerations, by the incorporation of Austria to Germany.
Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Culled from “J. do Marchi, Temoignages sur les apparitions de Fatima.”
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PS: Have you prayed your Rosary today?