The Three Fatima Visionaries - Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta
Three Children Receive a Heavenly Visit
On October 13, 1917, a crowd of 70,000 people gathered at a spot in Portugal known as the Cova da Iria, a large field located in the town of Fatima.
They had come because of a series of Heavenly visions reported by three children. Their names were Lucia dos Santos, Francisco Marto and his sister, Jacinta Marto. Lucia was their cousin.
The first happened while the children were tending their familys' sheep, and it had occured six months earlier. A woman suddenly appeared to the children and, when they asked who she was, she answered, "I am of Heaven."
These apparitions occured each month, always on the 13th day.
A Vision of Hell
This Heavenly visitor had conversations with the children, who them of the need to pray the Rosary and to lead pure lives. Lucia was just 10, Francisco was nine and Jacinta was seven.
During her July visit, the children reported that this woman showed them a vision of hell, which seemed to be located in the center of the earth. The sight of the demons and the souls of the damned terrified the children. Before showing them them hell, though, the beautiful woman from Heaven assured them they wouldn't be going there.
A photo of the children, taken just after this reported vision, shows the three of them with a look of horror on their faces.
During this July encounter, the woman spoke about the ongoing World War I, which she said would end. But, if people continued offending God, a much worse war would happen. She was referring to World War II. She also named Pope Pius XI, and said this would occur during his pontificate.
The lady from Heaven asked for prayer, penance and for the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart. She said this action would usher in an era of peace.
The Mother of God also requested that Catholics practice the First Saturday devotion, in which they attend Mass, go to confession, pray the Rosary and mediate upon the 15 mysteries of the Rosary. This should be done on the first Saturday of every month for five consecutive months, in reparation for the sins of our time.
The Children Suffered Greatly
Many people in Fatima didn't believe the story of the apparitions. Among them was Lucia's own mother, who punished her severely for "lying."
The mayor of Ourem, the municipality in which the town of Fatima was located, was rapidly anti Catholic and vehemently opposed to the idea of Heavenly visitations. He used his influence to have the children seized from their parents, arrested and thrown into jail. He personally threatened to have them boiled in oil if they didn't recant their story.
However, despite this threat, and the fact they were alone in a jail cell, they stuck by their story and refused his demands.
The Famous Miracle of the Sun
News of the apparitions spread throughout Portugal. The little visionaries were telling people a miracle would take place on October 13 at a spot chosen by the woman from Heaven. This brought crowds of believers, non believers and confirmed skeptics to a place known as the Cova da Iria.
By all accounts, there was a drenching rain and everyone who came to witness the predicted event was soaked. Many people saw the branches of a nearby tree bend when the woman was said to visit.
Only the three seers were privileged to communicate with Mary, the Mother of God, who had come to them from Heaven to warn them of World War I, the spread of communism and an impending crisis in the Catholic Church.
However, everyone there witnessed what is now known as the "Miracle of the Sun," a phenomenon for which there is no rational, scientific explanation. This was widely reported by the international news media, and covered by journalists, not all of whom were Catholic.
What happened, according to those present, was that the sun appeared to detach itself from its normal position and the sky. It seemed to dance around and leave a trail colored like a rainbow. Then it seemed to plummet to earth.
It appeared as if it was going to crash into the onlookers, but, instead, it returned to the sky. The action of the sun also dried the rain-soaked ground, as well as the onlookers.
The Portuguese newspaper Illustracao Portugueza even featured a headline that said "The Miracle of Fatima."
Below Photo: Wikimedia Commons Public Domain Image
Photos of the Crowd Gathered at the Cova d'Iria
This appeared in the newspaper Illustracao Portugueza, which ran shortly days after the visions. The people in the crowd are watching what is now known as the "Miracle of the Sun."
The Aftermath of the Miracle
News of the Fatima apparitions spread quickly throughout the world. Catholics began a new devotion to Mary under the title of Our Lady of Fatima. A number of Catholic parishes that came into being in the early years of the 20th century were named after the Fatima apparitions.
Jacinta and Francisco died of a viral infection in 1918. The Heavenly visitor had told them this would happen, and that she'd take them to Heaven, but that Lucia would live longer. Lucia died on February 13, 2005 at age 97. Her life had been spent in a Carmelite cloister, with little contact with the outside world.
There is still controversy over whether the nation of Russia has been properly consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, as Our Lady of Fatima had requested. This was supposed to have been done in conjunction with all the bishops of the world.
Various popes, including Pope John Paul II, consecrated the world in 1984. Although it was said he intended to name Russia, it's been reported that he was swayed from his plan by influential people, who convinced him this wasn't necessary.
Father Nicholas Gruner, a priest from the Diocese of Hyberadad in India, has established an apostolate in Canada to promote the message of Fatima and to request the consecration be done, with the world's bishops, specifically mentioning Russia.
Once this is done, according to Father Gruner, the world will then enjoy a period of peace. He recently sent a petition to Pope Francis asking him to consecrate the country of Russia on October 13, 2013.