Who is Our Lady of Fatima and what is the story of her apparitions?

On Aug. 3 and 4, St. Peter Catholic Church, under the guidance of Father Joseph Levine, above, will have the honor of a visit by Our Lady of Fatima, represented by her International Pilgrim Virgin Statue. It is a very special privilege because this year we celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima. Chronicle photo/file

On May 13, 1917, the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ, appeared to three shepherd children from a poor family in the poor parish of Fatima in rural Portugal. The children were Lucia dos Santos and her two cousins, Francisco Marto and Jacinta Marto.

The Virgin appeared standing on a small holm oak in a field called the Cova D’Iria. She was bathed in a radiant light, brighter than the sun, rather like the Lord in his Transfiguration. She did not yet identify herself as the Virgin Mary, but said that she came from heaven, asked the children to come for six months in succession on the 13th of the month.

She promised the children that they would go to heaven and asked them to offer themselves to God and bear all the sufferings he sent them, as an act of reparation for sins and for the conversion of sinners.

The children answered that they were willing to do so. She then opened her hands, communicating to them a light so intense that it penetrated their hearts and the inmost depths of their souls, making them to see themselves in God. Finally, she asked them to pray the rosary every day to obtain peace in the world and the end of the war.

On June 13, the Virgin repeated her requests and revealed to the children her Immaculate Heart encircled by thorns, which represented the sins of humanity.

The apparition of July 13 was perhaps the most dramatic, apart from the final vision. Once again she renewed her requests. Lucia asked her to perform a miracle that everyone might believe and the Virgin promised to do so in October. Then she gave to the children the famous three secrets of Fatima, which included a vision of hell and prophecies regarding the spread of the ‘errors of Russia’.

On August 13 the children had been kidnapped and imprisoned by the mayor of the municipality of Vila Nova de Ourem, but the Virgin appeared to them in a different place on August 15. She continued to urge them to pray and make sacrifices for sinners. She said, “Many souls go to hell, because there are none to sacrifice themselves and to pray for them.”

On October 13 she told the children, “I want to tell you that a chapel is to be built here in my honor. I am the Lady of the Rosary. Continue always to pray the Rosary every day. The war is going to end, and the soldiers will come home soon.” She concluded, looking very sad, “Do not offend the Lord our God any longer, because He is already deeply offended.”

There followed the miracle of the sun, one of the greatest recorded miracles in history. Before describing the miracle a bit of background is necessary.

The apparitions had become known immediately because Jacinta could not contain her excitement and told her parents. From there word spread throughout the country. Thousands of people began coming to the Cova D’Iria to be present during the apparitions on the 13th of each month, though only the children saw Our Lady.

In 1917, however, Portugal labored beneath an atheistic government that was persecuting the Church. As a result, the reaction of the civil authorities was hostile, skeptical, and mocking. For their part, Church authorities maintained a distant reserve.

As a result of all this, when Oct. 13 arrived, a crowd of about 70,000 believers and skeptics alike were on hand to witness the events of the day. The skeptics were looking forward to seeing the supposed hoax exposed. The believers were anticipating the promised miracle. The weather was miserable, as it had been raining continually until midday, when the Virgin was accustomed to appear.

At the conclusion of the apparition, the Virgin, bathed in the light of God, opened her hands so that as she returned to heaven, the light from her hands projected onto the sun itself. As by an interior impulse Lucia called to the people to look at the sun.

The people looked to the sun and, as confirmed by the account in the secular, anti-Catholic, Lisbon newspaper “O Seculo”: “Before the astonished eyes of the crowd … eagerly searching the sky, the sun trembled, made sudden incredible movements outside all cosmic laws — the sun ‘danced’ according to the typical expression of the people.” Indeed the sun began to change colors, whirl about it its place, and then it appeared to move towards the earth as though it were going to burn it with its rays.

The ‘dance’ of the sun at Fatima was not witnessed just by those present, but was seen more than 10 miles away. Afterwards, the crowd, which had been standing all morning in the rain, found that they were dry.

For more information about the visit of the Pilgrim Virgin Statue, visit the Facebook page 'St. Peter Catholic Church, The Dalles.

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