On May 13, 1917, Our Lady appeared to three children: Lucia Santos (10) and her cousins Francisco (8) and Jacinta (7) Marto. The children lived in Fatima, a rural community in the mountains of western Portugal.
After Sunday Mass that day, the children set out with their flocks to the Cova da Iria (“valley of peace”), which is now the site of the magnificent basilica in Fatima. After lunch, they saw what seemed to be a flash of lightning. Shortly after that, they saw, on a small holm-oak tree, a lady dressed in white, more brilliant than the sun. She identified herself as coming from heaven. She wanted the children to return to this site for six consecutive months, on the same day and time. She said she would tell them later who she was and what she wanted.
The Lady did ask the children if they were willing to offer themselves to God, and Lucia, answering for the three of them, said “yes.” The children were told that they would suffer much, but God Himself would be their comfort.
At the conclusion of the apparition, the Lady asked the children to pray every day for peace. Then she serenely rose and drifted away to the East, until she disappeared. Thus began a series of appearances in Fatima by the Blessed Virgin Mary, culminating in the “miracle of the sun” on October 13, 1917.
Thirty years ago, on May 13, 1981, an assassin attempted to kill Blessed John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square. He credited Our Lady of Fatima for the sparing of his life. It was later revealed that this event was the fulfillment of Our Lady’s prophecy to the Fatima children given in July 1917.
Today, 94 years after the Blessed Virgin Mary’s first appearance in Fatima, the universal Church celebrates the memorial of Our Lady of Fatima. May Our Lady’s message of prayer (especially the Rosary), penance, and peace resonate throughout the Church and take deeper root in our own hearts.
God our Father,
you give joy to the world
by the resurrection of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Through the prayers of his mother, the Virgin Mary,
bring us to the happiness of eternal life.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.