Our Lady of Fatima Centenary
On 13 May 1917, three children were shepherding their little flock in the Cova da Iria, parish of Fatima, town of Vila Nova de Ourém – today the diocese of Leiria-Fatima. They were called: Lucia de Jesus, aged 10, and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto, aged 9 and 7. About midday, after praying the Rosary, they were amusing themselves building a little house of stones scattered around the place where the Basilica now stands.
Suddenly they saw a brilliant light, and thinking it to be lightning, they decided to go home. But as they went down the slope another flash lit up the place, and they saw on the top of a holmoak (where the Chapel of Apparitions now stands), “a Lady more brilliant than the sun”, from whose hands hung a white rosary.
The Lady told the three little shepherds that it was necessary to pray much, and she invited them to return to the Cova da Iria during five consecutive months, on the 13th day at that hour. The children did so and the 13th day of June, July, September and October, the Lady appeared to them again and spoke to them in the Cova da 0a.
On the 19th of August, the apparition took place at Valinhos, about 500 metres from Aljustrel, because on the 13th the children had been carried off by the local Administrator to Vila Nova de Ourém.
At the last apparition, on October 13, with about 70,000 people present, the Lady said to them that she was the “Lady of the Rosary” and that a chapel was to be built there in her honour. After the apparition all present witnessed the miracle promised to the three children in July and September: the sun, resembling a silver disc, whirled on itself like a wheel of fire, then seemed about to fall upon the earth.
Afterwards, when Lucia was a Religious Sister of Saint Dorothy, Our Lady appeared to her again in Spain (10 December 1925 and 15 February 1926, in the Convent of Pontevedra, and on the night of 13/14 June 1929, in the Convent of Tuy), requesting the devotion of the five first Saturdays (to pray the Rosary, meditate on the mysteries of the Rosary, receive the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Communion, in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary), and the Consecration of Russia to the same Immaculate Heart, This request had been announced by the Apparition on 13 July 1917, in what is called the “Secret of Fatima”.
Years later, Sr Lucia related that, between April and October of 1916, an Angel had appeared to the three seers on three occasions, twice in the Cabeço and once at the well in the garden behind Lucia’s house, who exhorted them to prayer and penance.
Since 1917, pilgrims have come to the Cova da Iria in thousands upon thousands from all parts of the world, at first on the 13th of each month. later during the summer and winter holidays, and now more and more all the year round.
Saint John Paul II had a great devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. The late Pope said he believed that it was through the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima that he had survived the near-fatal attempt on his life on 13 May 1981.
For more information and the latest news from the Shrine visit the official Fatima site: www.santuario-fatima.pt