Fatima, Centenary 2017
Updated: May 24, 2018
This year marks the centenary, the 100th anniversary of our Lady’s apparitions at Fatima Portugal. For me it has an added significance. My father was born on May 13, 1917, and I received my first Holy Communion on May 13, 1956. I like to think that my Father was born at the very time our Lady had sweetened the air from which he took his first breath on this earth.
What was the world like in 1917?
The Blessed Virgin Mary came in 1917 at a time when man had forgotten God. Seven years before in 1910, Portugal was wracked by a godless revolution which succeeded in overthrowing the Catholic monarchy, assassinated King Carlos and son Alfonso, the heir apparent, and in its place a revolutionary government, made up principally of Freemasons and members of Protestant sects who immediately began to persecute the Catholic Church and to secularize Portuguese society.
Churches were desecrated. The Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon together with other bishops was exiled. Seminaries were closed, priests and religious were forbidden to wear the cassock or the religious habit in public;
All Church properties were eventually secularized;
Divorce was legalized, and only civil marriage was recognized;
The Grand Orient of Free Masons, as they were known, boasted that in a few years there would be no more priests left in Portugal.
By 1917 Europe was convulsing from the First World War, which Pope Benedict XV described as the “suicide of Christendom”. Christian nations were killing each other. Germany, under Kaiser Wilhelm, had also declared war also on tiny Portugal which she quarantined a German ship in her ports, and many of Portugal’s young men were already dying in the trenches. By the time it was over the War would exact a heavy price—17 million killed and 20 million seriously wounded or permanently maimed.
These tremendous losses suffered seemed like utter madness in light of what was at stake. There were no moral or religious principles at stake. Only the small country of Belgium had its freedom, its sovereignty to lose. No, this was a war fought for the petty and selfish interests of nations greedy for expansion.
The violence of WWI was destroying much of what remained of an already fractured Christendom. The already torn fabric of Christian civilization was further shredded, creating a vacuum that would be very soon be filled by Marxist and Masonic revolutionaries who were determined to wipe out what remained of any traces of Christian culture that stood in their way to seize power.
Three years earlier in 1914 Pope St. Pius X had tried hard to avert the war, and when all his efforts proved futile he is said to have died of a broken heart in August of the same year.
On March 17, 1917—two months before the Fatima apparitions began–Czar Nicolas I of Russia abdicated under pressure by Bolshevik-Leninist revolutionaries, and in November 1917 the bloody Bolshevik revolution broke out in Moscow, eventually spreading like hydra engulfing almost half the people of the world. In the weeks the followed, the entire Imperial Romanov family—Czar Nicholas, the Czarina Alexandra, and their five children were all murdered in Catherinburg.
On May 5, 1917—just eight days before the apparition–Pope Benedict XV began a novena and asked the Faithful of the world to pray especially to the Mother of Christ, the Queen of Peace for the War’s end. In that pastoral letter on peace he asked that the invocation, “Queen of Peace be inserted in the Litany of Loretto.
On the eighth day of the novena– 13th of May—during this time of tremendous and social upheaval that our Lady appeared to the shepherd children offering mankind the cure for all these moral and social evils that would lead, if unchecked, to the ruin of countless souls.
She revealed to the children the desire of her Immaculate Heart which she wanted the whole world to hear: pray–especially the Rosary–repent and turn back to God; or the world would face a horrible chastisement. She also asked the children to make sacrifices for the conversion of sinners, and make reparation.
The Angel of Portugal
Many do not know that although the BVM appeared to them on May 13, 1917, the year before they experienced the appearance of what the children described as a “young, beautiful man seemingly made of light” who was identified himself as the “Angel of Peace”, presumably St. Michael the Archangel who is called that in the O.T.; identifying himself to them also as the “guardian angel of Portugal”.
Francisco Marto was 8 years old, his sister Jacinta, just 6; their cousin Lucia dos Santos was 9. All together the angel would appear to them three times—in the Spring, Summer and Fall of 1916. The angel began by making the highest, most sublime act any rational creature can make. He knelt profoundly on the ground making an act of adoration, reciting three times as the children repeated it after him, “O my God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love Thee. I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love Thee.”
In the summer of 1916 that followed, the Angel again appeared to the children and encouraged them to pray and make sacrifices, to be prepared to suffer as a way of drawing down peace on the country.
In the autumn the children again saw the Angel as they were out looking after their sheep. This time he appeared holding a chalice in his hands, above which was suspended a host from which drops of blood were falling into the chalice. The Angel left the chalice suspended in the air and prostrated himself before it in adoration before the Real Presence. “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.”
Here the Angel was teaching the children two powerful truths:
The Angel taught them that all sin, before it offends man, is an infinite offense against the perfect goodness and love of God who made us.
The greatest of all offenses against God, besides the destruction of innocent human life as was happening in the War, was the outrages of sacrilege against His divine presence in the most Holy Eucharist. For these the children were taught to make reparation—to make up for or repair by their own humble acts of adoration and love. It is this part of the message that often falls silent.
The angel then gave to Lucia the host in the traditional way—on the tongue, and to Francisco and Jacinta the chalice to consume the precious Blood whilst saying: “Take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, horribly outraged by ungrateful men. Repair their crimes and console your God.” Then prostrating himself again in adoration the angel disappeared.
The children did not tell anyone about these visits of the Angel, feeling an interior necessity of keeping silent about these events.
And so on May 13, 1917—just eight days after Pope Benedict XV had asked the Faithful of the world to pray especially to the Mother of Christ to avert this horrible tragedy, the Queen of heaven and earth appeared to these three illiterate shepherd children.
May 13 was a beautiful Sunday morning that year. After the three had attended Mass in their little parish Church in Fatima, they took their sheep to the Cova da Iria, a pasture in the grassy little valley among the trees where the grass was now growing green and fresh, the new grass that sheep especially like. The sun was bright, the sky without a cloud to be seen, the children had had their simple lunch, said their prayers, and were running and playing about.
Then out of what seemed nowhere a bright flash in the sky. They were frightened and began to run for cover, then before them atop a small Holm oak tree a Lady clad in white with her hands joined in prayer appeared before them. As Lucia described her, “a lady, clothed in white, brighter than the sun, radiating a light more clear and intense than a crystal cup filled with sparkling water, lit by burning sunlight.”
The lady assured them not to be afraid; they would not be harmed. She pointed to the sky and said: “I come from heaven.” Lucia then asked her what she wanted: “I have come to ask you to come here for six months on the 13th day of the month, at this same hour. Later I shall say who I am and what I desire. And I shall return here yet a seventh time.”
Lucia then asked if they too would go to heaven and she was told “yes”. She and Jacinta would go to heaven, but Francisco would first need to say many rosaries.
The Lady then asked them if now they would be willing to do what the angel had first taught them–namely reparation: “Are you willing to offer yourselves to God and bear all the sufferings He wills to send you, as an act of reparation for the conversion of sinners?” Lucia as spokesman for all three readily agreed: “Then you are going to have much to suffer, but the grace of God will be your comfort.”
Lucia recounted that at the same moment as she said these words, the Lady opened her hands and streamed a “light” on the children which allowed them to see themselves in God, and all three felt a deep consolation of being loved by God. The Lady finished with a request: “Say the Rosary every day, to bring peace to the world and the end of the war.” With that she began rising into the air, moving towards the east until she disappeared.
Indeed they would have much to suffer for no one would believe them. The children faced disbelief from their own families. Lucia’s mother especially would not budge, and even beat the young girl for lying. The local pastor would not believe them. They were ridiculed and even spat upon by some neighbors and were jailed and at one point were threatened with death by the atheistic, Masonic civil authorities if they did not confess that it was a hoax. Yet throughout it all they remained steadfast to their story.
Again on June 13, the feast of St. Anthony of Padua to whom the local parish Church was dedicated, the Lady appeared to them again. She told them to continue coming on the 13th of each month. “I want you to come on the 13th of next month, to pray the Rosary every day, and to learn to read. Later, I will tell you what I want.” Again Lucia asked Mary to take them to heaven and was reassured in this way: “I will take Jacinta and Francisco shortly; but you will stay here for some time to come. Jesus wants to use you to make Me known and loved. He wishes to establish the devotion to My Immaculate Heart throughout the world. I promise salvation to whoever embraces it; these souls will be dear to God, like flowers put by Me to adorn his throne.” “Am I to stay here alone”, asked Lucia? Mary replied: “No, my daughter. Are you suffering a great deal? Don’t lose heart. I will never forsake you. My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God.
As our Lady appeared to them between May and October she imparted to them a prophetic secret in three parts which they guarded zealously.
The first part referred especially to the frightening vision of hell [the subject of the next conference], the coming of another War if people did not repent, and finally the prediction of the immense evil to come upon humanity from Russia’s abandoning of Christianity and embracing the errors of Communism. In 1917 no one could have imagined all of this—not even some of the greatest political minds.
The second part of the secret concerned our Lady’s request that Russia be consecrated to her Immaculate Heart so that the spreading of her errors would cease. Although there has been controversy as to whether or not this has been fulfilled, it is generally agreed that it has, when Pope St. John Paul II, together with the world’s bishops, consecrated the whole world including Russia in 1984. Sr. Lucia was certain that the consecration had been made in fulfillment of the request.
The third part or “Third Secret” was known only to the children and then later given to Pope Pius XII by Sister Lucia in the 1950’s. It is widely held to refer to the attempted assassination attempt on the life Pope JP II in 1981. The content of this third secret remains the subject of controversy with many challenging whether the secret was revealed in its entirety. Many believe that it warned of the dismantling and destruction of the Liturgy as well as the dissidence within Church with theologians, bishops, and cardinals compromising the doctrine of the Faith especially by wrongful pastoral practices which undermine the doctrine of the Faith.
The very time the world was about to cannibalize itself in the destruction of WWI and the rise of the red tide of Communism which would keep half of the world in political slavery for half a century–perhaps the most awesome heavenly intervention since biblical times, now the holy Mother of God not only makes her presence felt among us, but she entrusts her message to simple, illiterate children. Why would she come to a place like Fatima, and entrust such an important message to youngsters, and poor shepherd children at that?
When the Savior came among us he chose not the power centers of the world, the great palaces of kings and emperors, but the humility of a cave in so backwater a place as Bethlehem, so here his mother comes to a sleepy little farming village called “Fatima” which most people never heard of.
She appears to illiterate children, who hardly understand anything. When she told them to pray for Russia, they thought that “Russia” was a woman’s name and not a country.
Could it be that children are entrusted with this awesome message precisely because they are children? A child knows how small he is. Everything is bigger and stronger than he is. The child is not tempted to think he is God or center of the universe, that is, unless he is raised by indulgent parents who lead him to think he is. And usually indulgent parents are themselves self-indulgent and self-centered. And so the reason that children are chosen, and poor, simple children at that.
And it is not coincidence that our Lady appears and entrusts the message to shepherd children. The coming of the Messiah was first announced by the angels to simple shepherds on a hillside tending their sheep.
Shepherds enjoy a special role in the plan of our salvation. Even in the O.T. the prophets describe almost 700 years before, that the Messiah would be like a shepherd—a good shepherd feeding his flock, gathering the lambs in his arms. Most shepherds are simple if not from a poorer class, they know they have little, but they keep watchful care over their flock, remaining for hours in silence and solitude as they graze. Shepherds are not distracted by the sounds and lure of a busy world not to hear or to see what God reveals to them.
The shepherd develops a beautiful affection for these helpless little creatures whose eyesight is so poor they are almost blind. That is why they easily get lost. But nature compensates by giving them a very keen sense of smell for the shepherd and a keen sense of hearing the shepherd. When they are first born the shepherd holds them close to his heart…Some of the great saints started out as Shepherds: David, St. Patrick, St. Pius V. Also the visionaries of LaSallette: Maximin, and Melanie.
Our Lady appeared to the Shepherd children because she knew that like most simple children—they have no reason, no motive to lie. When children are lying it is very easy to cross examine children and get them mixed up so that they change their stories and then are caught. Here with the shepherd children they would simply tell what they saw and heard, and they would say the same thing over and over again, even when they didn’t understand everything, as they presumed “Russia” was a woman’s name and not a place. While young children can lie, they haven’t quite learned the sophisticated art of elaborate and masterful deception. That comes only with a false education and a false sense of self-importance. However much the children at Fatima were interrogated separately and then even threatened with death by being boiled in oil by the political authorities, they simply repeated what they had seen and heard. The rest would depend on others to trust and believe them. And the most believing would be those simple, unsophisticated types—hard working types– who themselves are honest, and can easily unmask dishonesty in others.
The message was entrusted to simple shepherd children to make sure that the message is God’s and not ours. The were incapable of making up something like this.
Also, the children and not the power brokers of history are entrusted with the message to challenge and summon our own faith which is hope of things unseen.
“Unless you become like little children” our Lord tells us, “You cannot enter the Kingdom of heaven.” In the physical natural world of bodies to grow or mature means you get bigger and older. In the world of the spirit it means just the opposite. When you mature in the spiritual or the interior life you grow younger, more dependent on God, more inclined to innocence, simplicity, purity of heart. To become childlike does not mean you go backwards and become immature. No you go forward, and in the end it is return to the place from which you came. For our true final end is God and God is also our origin and our beginning. “And the end of all our exploring is to return to the place from which we came and to know it for the first time.” [T.S. Eliot]
“And he took a little child, put him in their midst; and taking him in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me…’”