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A Look At The History Of Our Lady Of Fatima

By Father John Boeglin, Special To The Message

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the apparition of Our Lady to the three children at Fatima, Portugal, where the Blessed Mother appeared once each month from May 13 until Oct. 13, 1917.  On the continent of Europe World War I was raging.  This war would cost Europe an entire generation – more than 37 million people.

In 1917, the three children were Lucia dos Santos, age 10, and her two cousins, Jacinta, age 7, and Francisco Marto, age 9.  Lucia became a Carmelite nun later in life.  She wrote two books, recounting the events of Fatima, and gave many answers to questions concerning the apparitions.  She also confirmed that all the requests Our Lady asked of the Popes were completed by St. John Paul Il.  She lived a long life and died at age 97 on Feb. 13, 2005.  She died just two months before St. John Paul II on April 2.  Her cousins Jacinta and Francisco contacted Influenza in August 1918.  Francisco died on April 4, 1919.  Jacinta never got well, spending time in hospitals, and died Feb. 20, 1920.  On May 13, 2000, St. John Paul II beatified siblings Jacinta and Francisco at the Basilica of the Our Lady of Fatima.  Their bodies are buried in the Basilica.  Pope Francis traveled to Fatima to observe the 100th anniversary in May 2017, and he canonized Jacinta and Francisco Marto as Saints. 

The message of Fatima highlights many central truths and devotions of the Catholic faith; the Trinity, the Eucharist, penance, the Rosary, the existence of hell, and sacrifices for the conversion of sinners.  There is a special emphasis on the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which is a refugee of maternal love for us all and a sure path that leads us to God.  In the end, Mary’s Immaculate Heart will triumph because Mary is full of God’s grace and is all pure.  She has the heart of a mother who cares for her children and wishes them to be saved by her Divine Son, Jesus.

Although 2017 marks the centenary year, the Fatima apparitions began with the three apparitions of the Angel of Peace (also called the Angel of Portugal) in 1916 and extended beyond 1917 with subsequent apparitions given to Sister Lucia dos Santos in Pontevedra, Spain (1925-1927) and Tuy, Spain (1929).  It is through these apparitions that Our Lady asked this prayer be added to each decade of the rosary: “O My Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell.  Lead all souls to heaven, especially those in need of thy mercy.” 

Fatima is one of the most significant of the Marian apparitions.  Along with Guadalupe (Dec. 12) and Lourdes (Feb. 11), it is one of three Marian apparitions honored with feast days.  In 2002, Pope St. John Paul II added the May 13 feast of Our Lady of Fatima to the general Roman calendar.  May 13 was the first day of the apparition of 1917; and May 13, 1981, was the day when St. John Paul II survived an attempt on his life in St. Peter’s Square. St. John Paul II credited his survival to the intervention of Our Lady of Fatima. The assassin’s bullet that narrowly missed killing the pope is now inserted in a crown of Our Lady housed in the Fatima shrine.  Fatima is also linked with the collapse of Russian communism more than 25 years ago.  Even though the Church has approved certain appearances and honors them with feasts and celebrations, these are not to be accepted as articles of faith.

Whether it is a grotto in Lourdes, on a hill called Guadalupe, or in a field in Fatima, Mary’s bodily appearance proclaims the Resurrection of her Son.  Her apparitions share in the same Good News as that first Easter; to comfort grief, to build up faith, to take away doubt and to lift up our spirits.

During the month of May, we as Catholics honor our Mother in Faith.  Let us ask her to pray with us to her Son so that we may do the will of God!

Our Lady of Fatima, Pray for us!


Father Boeglin is pastor of Holy Family Parish in Jasper. Information for this article comes from resources provided by the Catholic Encyclopedia, EWTN, Magnificat Magazine and Our Sunday Visitor.