20th Century: 1917, Our Lady of Fatima

The Catholic Church has officially endorsed the Fatima Message as worthy of belief since 1930. Five successive popes have publicly indicated their approval and belief in the validity and critical importance of the Fatima apparitions. Several popes have visited Fatima on solemn pilgrimage and Pope John Paul II has gone at least once in every decade of his pontificate. His Holiness has publicly credited Our Lady of Fatima for saving his life during the assassination attempt in 1981. The following year, while in Fatima to give thanks for Her intervention, the Pope stated that "the message of Fatima is more relevant and more urgent" today than even when Our Lady first appeared.

The Blessed Virgin told them that she had been sent by God with a message for every man, woman and child living in our century. Coming at a time when civilization was torn by WWI, she promised that Heaven would grant peace to all the world if her requests for prayer, reparation and consecration were heard and obeyed.

The Angel of Peace

The appearance of Our Mother was announced to the children in the spring of 1917 by an angel, who said,

"Fear not. I am the Angel of Peace. Pray with me."

Kneeling on the ground he bowed low and recited this prayer three times, with the children repeating it after him:

"O my God, I believe, I adore, I trust, and I love Thee. I beg pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not trust and do not loveThee."

The angel appeared again that summer, saying,

"Pray! Pray a great deal. The Hearts of Jesus and Mary have merciful designs on you. Offer prayers and sacrifices continually to the Most High. Make everything you do a sacrifice, and offer it as an act of reparation for the sins by which God is offended, and as a petition for the conversion of sinners. Bring peace to our country in this way ... I am the Guardian Angel of Portugal. Accept and bear with submission all the sufferings the Lord will sendyou."

Appearing again in the fall of that year, the angel held a golden chalice in one hand and a Host above it in the other. Drops of blood fell from the Host into the chalice. Leaving both suspended in mid-air he prostrated himself on the ground, saying this prayer:

"Most Holy Trinity - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - I adore Thee profoundly. I offer Thee the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifferences whereby He is offended. And through the infinite merits of His Most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of Thee the conversion of poor sinners."

On Sunday, May 13, 1917, The Blessed Mother appeared to the children as they were pasturing their sheep in a barren hollow known as the Cova da Iria (Hollow of Irene). At noon on this clear, sunny day flashes of lighting cut the air ... the children's glances fell upon an oak tree, where a dazzling light hovered over the topmost branches. Amidst the light a beautiful lady appeared, her feet hidden in a shimmering cloud. She wore a long white dress, and the mantle over her head and shoulders, reaching to her feet, was edged in burnished gold. Her hands were joined before her breast, and from her right hand hung a rosary of white pearls. Telling them not to be frightened, she said:

"I come from Heaven. I want you to come here at this same hour on the 13th day of each month until October. Then I will tell you who I am and what I want."

In June she appeared again, with about 70 people present, although only the children saw her. She told them that many souls go to Hell because they have no one to pray and make sacrifices for them. She said Francisco and Jacinta would soon leave the world for Heaven. Holding out her heart surrounded by thorns which pierced it from all sides, Our Lady told Lucy,

"God wishes you to remain in the world for some time because He wants to use you to establish in the world the devotion to my Immaculate Heart. I promise salvation to those who embrace it, and their souls will be loved by God as flowers placed by myself to adorn His throne."

During her appearance in July, Our Lady, in answer to Lucy's plea, promised that in October she would work a great public miracle so that all might believe and know who she was. Again the Mother of God told the children to sacrifice themselves for sinners and to say many times, especially when making a sacrifice,

"O my Jesus, I offer this for love of Thee, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary."

The heart of Our Lady's Message to the world is contained in what has come to be called the "Secret" which she confided to the three children during the apparition in July 1917. The Secret actually consists of three parts, the first two of which have been publicly revealed. The first part of the Secret was a horrifying vision of hell:

Lucia:"She opened Her hands once more, as She had done the two previous months. The rays [of light] appeared to penetrate the earth, and we saw, as it were, a vast sea of fire. Plunged in this fire, we saw the demons and the souls [of the damned]. The latter were like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, having human forms. They were floating about in that conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames which issued from within themselves, together with great clouds of smoke. Now they fell back on every side like sparks in huge fires, without weight or equilibrium, amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fright (it must have been this sight which caused me to cry out, as people say they heard me). The demons were distinguished [from the souls of the damned] by their terrifying and repellent likeness to frightful and unknown animals, black and transparent like burning coals. That vision only lasted for a moment, thanks to our good Heavenly Mother, Who at the first apparition had promised to take us to Heaven. Without that, I think that we would have died of terror and fear."

Our Lady:"You have seen hell, where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to My Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace."

The second part of the Secret specifically prophesied the outbreak of World War II and contained the Mother of God's solemn request for the Consecration of Russia as a condition of world peace. It also predicted the inevitable triumph of Her Immaculate Heart following Russia's consecration and conversion to the Catholic Faith.

Our Lady:"The war is going to end, but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the reign of Pius XI. When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given to you by God that He is about to punish the World for its crimes, by means of war, famine and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father. To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart and the Communion of reparation on the First Saturdays. If my requests are heard, Russia will be converted and there will be peace. If not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, provoking wars and persecution of the Church. The good will suffer martyrdom; the Holy Father will suffer much; different nations will be annihilated. But in the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, it will be converted, and some time of peace will be granted to humanity."

More than 30,000 people were present at the Cova da Iria in September, witnessing a shower of white petals falling to within 10 feet of the ground before dissolving into the air. Many also saw a globe of light bearing Our Lady come to rest atop the oak.

The Miracle of the Sun

On October 13, 1917, in the presence of 70,000 eyewitnesses, a miracle was worked in the sky above Fatima at the exact moment and in the precise spot that the children had announced earlier. Witnesses recounted that the sun appeared to actually "dance" in the sky and seemed to fall to the ground before resuming its normal place in the heavens.

An Eyewitness Account by Dr. José Maria de Almeida Garrett, professor at the Faculty of Sciences of Coimbra, Portugal:

"It must have been 1:30 pm when there arose, at the exact spot where the children were, a column of smoke, thin, fine and bluish, which extended up to perhaps two meters above their heads, and evaporated at that height. This phenomenon, perfectly visible to the naked eye, lasted for a few seconds. Not having noted how long it had lasted, I cannot say whether it was more or less than a minute. The smoke dissipated abruptly, and after some time, it came back to occur a second time, then a third time the sky, which had been overcast all day, suddenly cleared; the rain stopped and it looked as if the sun were about to fill with light the countryside that the wintery morning had made so gloomy. I was looking at the spot of the apparitions in a serene, if cold, expectation of something happening and with diminishing curiosity because a long time had passed without anything to excite my attention. The sun, a few moments before, had broken through the thick layer of clouds which hid it and now shone clearly and intensely."

"Suddenly I heard the uproar of thousands of voices, and I saw the whole multitude spread out in that vast space at my feet ... turn their backs to that spot where, until then, all their expectations had been focused, and look at the sun on the other side. I turned around, too, toward the point commanding their gaze and I could see the sun, like a very clear disc, with its sharp edge, which gleamed without hurting the sight. It could not be confused with the sun seen through a fog (there was no fog at that moment), for it was neither veiled nor dim. At Fatima, it kept its light and heat, and stood out clearly in the sky, with a sharp edge, like a large gaming table. The most astonishing thing was to be able to stare at the solar disc for a long time, brilliant with light and heat, without hurting the eyes or damaging the retina. [During this time], the sun's disc did not remain immobile, it had a giddy motion, [but] not like the twinkling of a star in all its brilliance for it spun round upon itself in a mad whirl.

"During the solar phenomenon, which I have just described, there were also changes of color in the atmosphere. Looking at the sun, I noticed that everything was becoming darkened. I looked first at the nearest objects and then extended my glance further afield as far as the horizon. I saw everything had assumed an amethyst color. Objects around me, the sky and the atmosphere, were of the same color. Everything both near and far had changed, taking on the color of old yellow damask. People looked as if they were suffering from jaundice and I recall a sensation of amusement at seeing them look so ugly and unattractive. My own hand was the same color.

"Then, suddenly, one heard a clamor, a cry of anguish breaking from all the people. The sun, whirling wildly, seemed all at once to loosen itself from the firmament and, blood red, advance threateningly upon the earth as if to crush us with its huge and fiery weight. The sensation during those moments was truly terrible.

"All the phenomena which I have described were observed by me in a calm and serene state of mind without any emotional disturbance. It is for others to interpret and explain them. Finally, I must declare that never, before or after October 13 [1917], have I observed similar atmospheric or solar phenomena."

While the miracle of the sun was taking place the children alone witnessed several remarkable visions. As Our Lady had previously promised, St. Joseph came with the Holy Family and he blessed the world. Our Lady appeared as the Mother of Sorrows, accompanied by her Divine Son, who also blessed the world. Finally, Lucy saw the Blessed Virgin dressed as Our Lady of Mount Carmel, crowned as Queen of Heaven and Earth, holding a brown scapular in her hand, with her infant Son upon her knee. In this sequence of visions Our Lady once again exhorts us to pray the rosary, for they represent the three Mysteries: Our Lady with the Holy Family, the Joyful Mysteries; Our Lady of Sorrow, the Sorrowful Mysteries; Our Lady Queen of Heaven, the Glorious Mysteries.

The Five First Saturdays

On the evening of Thursday, December 10, 1925, after supper, Sister Lucy dos Santos (at that time a postulant in the Dorothean house at Pontevedra, Spain) received a visit by the Child Jesus and the Virgin Mary in her convent cell, as promised in the July, 1917 apparition. Showing the young nun a heart surrounded by thorns, Our Lady said to her:

"See, My daughter, My heart surrounded by thorns which ungrateful men pierce at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude... Announce in my name that I promise to assist at the hour of death with all the graces necessary for the salvation, all those who, on the first Saturday for five consecutive months, shall confess, receive Holy Communion, recite five decades of the Rosary, and keep Me company for fifteen minutes while meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary, with the intention of making reparation to Me."

Consecration of Russia

Our Lady reappeared to Sister Lucy on June 13, 1929 at Tuy, Spain, when in a great and sublime vision representing the Blessed Trinity, She announced:

"The moment has come for God to ask the Holy Father to make, in union with all the bishops of the world, the consecration of Russia to My Immaculate Heart. By this means, He promises to save Russia."

When God sent Our Lady to convey His command that Russia be consecrated, it seems clear that He expected swift obedience from the Pope and bishops. The pastors of the Church, however, chose to delay and, on August 19, 1931, Our Lord Himself appeared to Sister Lucy in Rianjo, Spain and expressed His displeasure, saying

"Make it know to My ministers that, given they follow the example of the King of France in delaying My command, they will follow him also into misfortune.

Our Lord's warning is a grave one indeed, referring as it does to His command, through St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, to the King of France that he consecrate his nation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The King chose to ignore the command and thus condemned his dynasty and throne to the horrors of revolution, chaos and the guillotine.

The Blessed Virgin's request for the consecration of Russia remains one of the most controversial aspects of the entire Fatima Message. While several popes have undertaken consecrations of the world since the request was made public (including Pope John Paul II in 1982 and 1984), sadly, none of these have fulfilled the specific requirements of Our Lord and Our Lady's requests. In repeated visits to Sister Lucy, Heaven's King and Queen have insisted that it is Russia (and Russia only) that is to be the object of this public act of obedience and prayer. In addition, Our Lord and Our Lady have indicated that the Holy Father is to be joined in the act of consecration by all the Catholic bishops of the world on the same day and at the same time in their respective dioceses. Interestingly, only Pope Pius XII's consecration of the world in 1942 included substantial involvement of the bishops. Sister Lucy has written that this imperfect act of obedience, while not fulfilling Our Lady's Fatima request, nevertheless hastened the end of the Second World War, thus sparing the lives of tens of millions of souls.

In response to Sister Lucy's question why He would not convert Russia without the Holy Father consecrating that nation to His Mother's Immaculate Heart, Our Lord replied:

"Because I want My whole Church to acknowledge that consecration as a triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary so that it may extend its cult later and put the devotion of the Immaculate Heart beside the devotion to My Sacred Heart."

A Night "illumined by an unknown light"

On the night of January 25, 1938, Lucia (then a nun of the Carmelite Sisters of Coimbra, Portugal) stood at her convent window in Tuy, Portugal, and saw an ominous red glow that lit the entire sky. This light was seen throughout Europe and parts of Africa and Asia. Scientists tried to explain it as a most unusual Aurora Borealis. It covered an area of 500,000 square km with a vertical extent of 400 km. The rays reached an altitude of 700 km and were accompanied by a strange noise "similar to the sound of burning grass or brush". Millions of people in many countries saw it and feared the world was on fire and about to end. Looking at the 'Northern Lights,' Sister Lucia knew that it was the great sign foretold by Our Lady on July 13, 1917, that the punishment of the world - World War II - was at hand.

War in the reign of Pius XI

Ambrogio DAmiano Achille Ratti was elected as Pope Pius XI on February 6, 1922. In March 1938, 45 days after the unknown light was witnessed, in the reign of Pius XI, Hitler invaded Austria - beginning World War II.

The Third Secret

The last part of the Secret (often called the "Third Secret") has not yet been made public, but has been in the possession of the Holy See since 1957. It was under the direct order of her bishop and, with the assistance of Our Lady, that Sister Lucy dos Santos wrote the third part of the Secret down on January 2, 1944. Speaking to Sister Lucy, the Queen of Heaven told her that it was God's Will that she commit the Secret to paper and entrust it to her bishop and, through him, to Pope Pius XII. At that time, the Blessed Virgin also indicated that this part of the Secret was to be revealed to the Faithful no later than 1960. Upon learning that her bishop was unwilling to open the envelope containing the Secret, Sister Lucy "made him promise," in the words of Canon Galamba, "that the Third Secret would be opened and read to the world upon her death or in 1960, whichever would happen first" (Sr. Lucy remains alive today, 1998). If her bishop died first, it was agreed that the Secret would be confided to the Cardinal Patriach of Lisbon. Despite this agreement, the Secret was, in fact, delivered to the Vatican where it has remained undisclosed to the public.

Since 1960 when, after reading the Secret, Pope John XXIII decided not to reveal the contents publicly, there has been growing speculation concerning what it contains.

In a November 1984 interview Cardinal Ratzinger (Prefect, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) confirmed that, with the Pope's permission, he had read the Secret and that it concerns, in his words, "a radical call to conversion, the absolute gravity of history, the dangers threatening the Faith and the life of a Christian, and therefore the world." The Cardinal went on to explain that "if it is not published ... it is to avoid confusing religious prophecy with sensationalism. But the things contained in the Third Secret correspond to what has been announced in Scripture and are confirmed by many other Marian apparitions." In an interview by the author of the book The Ratzinger Report, Cardinal Ratzinger said that the Third Secret deals with de novissimis - Latin which translates into English as, dealing with the end times, or pertaining to the latter days, or about the final events.

All the popes since John XXIII, as well as a few Curia cardinals, have read the contents of Lucy's envelope. John Paul II is reported to have done so shortly after his inauguration in October 1978.

The Brown Scapular

In Her appearances at Fatima, and elsewhere to Lucia, the Blessed Mother repeatedly emphasized the necessity of praying the Rosary daily, of wearing the Brown Scapular of Mount Carmel and of performing acts of reparation and sacrifice.

The Brown Scapular is a sacramental, one of the many items set apart or blessed by the Church to inspire devotion and increase holiness (e.g., holy water, ashes, the sign of the cross). The Carmelite Order, to which the Scapular belongs, originated on Mt. Carmel in the Holy Land and the Scapular is itself a reflection in miniature of the habit which the monks wear as a sign of their vocation and devotion.

  The Scapular consists of two small pieces of brown wool connected by string and worn over the shoulders. The Scapular must be brown, rectangular in shape and made of 100 percent lamb's wool (symbolic of Jesus, the Lamb of God). The strings connecting the pieces of wool may be of any color or material and pictures on the scapulars are optional. The Scapular must, however, be worn over the shoulders, one part in front and one in back.

The Scapular devotion was born on July 16, 1251 when Our Blessed Mother appeared to St. Simon Stock, general of the Carmelite Order, in response to his heartfelt prayers for assistance. Holding the Scapular before him, Our Lady spoke, saying:

"Take this Scapular. Whosoever dies wearing it shall not suffer eternal fire. It shall be a sign of salvation, a protection in danger and pledge of peace."

This great promise was further magnified some eighty years later when the Queen of Heaven appeared to Jean Drèze (later Pope John XXII) and told him:

"Those who have been invested with this Holy Habit will be delivered from Purgatory the first Saturday after their deaths."

This great secondary promise attached to the Scapular is called the Sabbatine (Saturday) Privilege and is based on a decree issued by John XXII in 1322 (and re-confirmed 400 years later by Pope Paul V). In our own century, Pope Benedict XV, as a sign of his approval, granted a 500 day indulgence each time the Scapular is kissed.

At its essence, the Scapular is a prayer in which Our Lady draws us nearer to the Sacred Heart of Her Divine Son. For over seven hundred years, the promise of the Scapular has been proven theologically sound, confirmed by miracles.

Sr. Lucy, commenting on the scapular, has said "The rosary and the scapular are inseparable."

Other Messages from Our Lady of Fatima

As promised by the Blessed Mother, Francisco and Jacinta joined her in heaven. Francesco died from the flu in April, 1919, and his sister in February, 1920. Before she died, however, Jacinta revealed many of the statements made by Our Lady:

"More souls go to Hell because of sins of the flesh than for any other reason."

"Certain fashions will be introduced that will offend Our Lord very much."

"Many marriages are not good; they do not please Our Lord and are not of God."

"Priests must be pure, very pure. They should not busy themselves with anything except what concerns the Church and souls. The disobedience of priests to their superiors and to the Holy Father is very displeasing to Our Lord."

"Tell everybody that God gives graces through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Tell them to ask graces from her, and that the Heart of Jesus wishes to be venerated together with the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Ask them to plead for peace from the Immaculate Heart of Mary, for the Lord has confided the peace of the world to her."

Portions taken from: Our Lady of Fatima's Peace Plan from Heaven, Tan Books, 1983, 74th printing, March 1990. Nihil Obstat: Fintan G. Walker, Ph.D., Censor Librorum; Imprimatur: Archbishop Paul C. Shutte, January 1950.