In 1913 at Fatima in Portugal, three children are believed to have seen the Blessed Virgin Mary appear to them in what became known as the Apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima. This year, Catholics throughout the world are commemorating the event’s Centennial. Locally, the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine (38 Cathedral Place) will hold a special service at 12:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 13. The community is invited to attend.
The three to whom the Blessed Virgin reportedly appeared were poor children of sheepherders. One, Lúcia Santos, was nine-years-old at the time and died in February 2005. The other two, her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto, died in childhood during an influenza epidemic that ravaged Europe in the years after World War I. Lúcia, went on to become a Carmelite nun.
The apparitions took place for six straight months between May and October 1917. The visions reported by the three children were of a “luminous Lady” who eventually told them that she was “the Lady of the Holy Rosary.” Mary’s messages to the children chiefly concerned a call to prayer, conversion from sin and to offer individual sacrifices in order to obtain world peace.
The story of Fatima also includes the three famous “secrets” that were entrusted to the children. Two of the secrets were revealed in the early 1940’s. The first was a vision of thousands of souls suffering in hell. The second was that the First World War would end, but that a second would come soon. The second secret also revealed the damage that Communist Russia would do in the world if allowed to go unchecked. The final secret was revealed in the year 2000 and had to do with the suffering that the Church would undergo, especially her leaders. The attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II on May 13, 1981 – the 64th Anniversary of the Apparitions – has been interpreted as the fulfillment of this secret.
“While Marian apparitions are not part of what the Church would call the “have to” beliefs for Roman Catholics, they nonetheless have captured the devotional life of the faithful. Fatima, especially, has become important due to the message Mary made against the backdrop of World War I and how much of what she asked for and the secrets she told the children have come to pass,” said Father Tom Willis, rector of the Cathedral Basilica.
The Roman Catholic Church declared the apparitions at Fatima worthy of the faithful’s veneration in 1930. Pope Pius XII, in 1946, gave papal approval to the apparitions and called on Catholics around the world to be devoted to the prayer of the rosary and to trust in Mary’s promise that we will be guarded against the attacks of Satan when our lives are fully devoted to God.
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