Getting to know our Lady of Fatima

It is a great honor for St. Joseph the Worker parish to have been named the Diocese of Oakland's official pilgrimage site for the Fatima Centennial (1917-2017). The apparitions of Our Blessed Mother to three young shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal, began from May to October of 1917.

As we prepare to celebrate this special series of events in our parish it helps for us to have a little background and so for the next few months we will be getting to know our Lady of Fatima with some historical background and stories compiled by Fr. Joseph Previtali, a priest from the Archdiocese of San Francisco, and Adjunct Instructor of Dogmatics, St. Patrick's Seminary, Menlo Park.

PART II: Fr. Prevatali: To understand Our Lady of Fatima, we must understand the situation of the world 100 years ago. In 1914, the Great War had begun in Europe. World War I, as we call it now, brought untold devastation to the world, with the newest weapons technologies being wielded unto the lowest depths of human moral depravity. Millions of men, on all sides, were mowed down in the trenches by machine guns, only to gain or lose a few yards on the battlefield.

Pope Benedict XV, through the promotion of the Holy Rosary, and Blessed Charles of Austria, the Holy Roman Emperor, through peace negotiations, sought a swift end to the senseless violence to no avail. Europe was in the process of losing her sanity and her soul. At the same time, the Bolshevik Revolution was brewing in Russia throughout most of 1917, which would become the first Communist country in the history of the world. Russia became Communist on November 8, 1917. Our Lady of Fatima had appeared to the children for the final time one month earlier, on October 13. The ceasefire of World War I was called on November 11, 1918. With Russia Communist and Europe shell-shocked by unprecedented violence, God had brought light into the darkness through the loving presence of His Mother.

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Part III: We have the tendency to view human history as if God has no part in our affairs. This comes from the custom in our schools of discussing human affairs from a purely secular point of view for fear of offending people of different faiths. However, effects of Our Lady on our history are so clear that to ignore them is to distort reality until it appears irrational. The motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary is real and historical and it is the means through which Jesus Christ wishes to save us. He has made us His brothers and sisters, children of His Mother. The saints tell us that Christ wishes to triumph over the darkness of sin and evil especially through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Our Lady of Fatima is part of this history. The story of Our Lady of Fatima begins in the spring of 1916 with three shepherd children. Lucia dos Santos, nine years old, was with her cousins, Francisco Marto, age eight, and Jacinta Marto, age six. Lucia tells us what happened in her own words:

"We went on that occasion to my parents' property, which is at the bottom of the Cabeco, facing east. It is called Chousa Velha. "About the middle of the morning it began to drizzle and we climbed up the hill, followed by our sheep, in search of a rock that would shelter us. And so it was that we entered for the first time into that blessed place. It is in the middle of an olive grove that belongs to my godfather, Anastacio. From there one can see the village where I was born, my father's house, and also Casa Velha and Eira da Pedra. The olive grove, which really belongs to several people, extends as far as these places.

"We spent the day there, in spite of the fact that the rain had stopped and the sun was shining in a clear sky. We ate our lunch and began to say the Rosary. After that we began to play a game with pebbles. We had only been at it a few moments when a strong wind began to shake the trees and we looked up to see what was happening, since it was such a calm day. And then we began to see, in the distance, above the trees that stretched to the east, a light whiter than snow in the form of a young man, quite transparent, and as brilliant as crystal in the rays of the sun. As he came near we were able to see his features. We were astonished and absorbed and we said nothing to one another. And then he said: 'Do not be afraid. I am the angel of peace. Pray with me.'

"He knelt, bending his forehead to the ground. With a supernatural impulse we did the same, repeating the words we heard him say: ‘My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love You. I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope, and do not love You.' "After repeating this prayer three times the angel rose and said to us: 'Pray in this way. The hearts of Jesus and Mary are ready to listen to you.'

"And he disappeared. He left us in an atmosphere of the supernatural that was so intense we were for a long time unaware of our own existence. The presence of God was so powerful and intimate that even among ourselves we could not speak. On the next day, too, this same atmosphere held us bound, and it lessened and disappeared only gradually. None of us thought of talking about this apparition or any pledge of secrecy. We were locked in silence without having willed it."

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Part IV: AS LUCIA RELATED, the children were deeply affected by this apparition from the heavenly messenger:

"I don't know why, but the apparitions of our Lady produced in us effects quite different from the angel's visitations We felt in both instances the same intimate happiness, peace and joy, but instead of the physical prostration the angel imposed, our Lady brought a feeling of expansion and freedom; and instead of this annihilation in the divine presence, we wished only to exult in our joy. There was no difficulty of speech when our Lady appeared; there was rather on my part a desire to communicate."

The three little shepherd children had encountered a celestial being who, in his purely spiritual nature, communicated to them something of the awesome holiness and transcendence of Almighty God.

"His words sank so deeply into our minds that we never forgot them, and ever after we used to spend long periods on our knees repeating them, sometimes until we fell down exhausted."

Later that year of 1916, in the summer, the children received a second apparition from the angel, as they were playing in the heat of day. Lucia relates:

"Suddenly we saw the same angel near us.

'What are you doing? You must pray! Pray! The hearts of Jesus and Mary have merciful designs for you. You must offer your prayers and sacrifices to God, the Most High.'

"'But how are we to sacrifice?' I asked."

'In every way you can offer sacrifice to God in reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication for sinners. In this way you will bring peace to our country, for I am its guardian angel, the Angel of Portugal. Above all, bear and accept with patience the sufferings God will send you.'

The children were again deeply affected by the magnificence and awesomeness of the holiness of God, communicated through the Angel of Portugal. Francisco could only see the apparitions but he could not hear the words spoken either by the angel or by Our Lady the next year. Try as he might, he could not get the girls to tell him what the angel had said, so overcome were they by the holiness of the encounter.

"The Angels' words sank deeply into our souls like a gleaming torch, showing us Who God is, what is His love for us, and how he wants us to love Him too; the value of sacrifice and how it pleases Him; how He receives it for the conversion of sinners. That is why from that moment we began to offer Him whatever mortified us."

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Part V: THE CHILDREN RECEIVED a third apparition from the angel in September or October of 1916. Once again, the children were out in the pasture with their flocks at the place where they had seen the angel before, called "The Head" (Cabeço in Portuguese). At this holy place, they were inspired to remember the instruction of the angel about the necessity of prayer, and so they began to pray the prayer he had taught them: "My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love You. I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope, and do not love You." Lucia tells us what happened as they were praying:

"After we had repeated this prayer I don't know how many times we saw the shining over us a strange light. We lifted our heads to see what was happening. The Angel was holding in his left hand a chalice and over it, in the air, was a host from which drops of blood fell into the chalice. The Angel leaves the chalice in the air, kneels near us and tells us to repeat three times:

'Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore You profoundly, and I offer You 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 by which He is offended. And by the infinite merits of His most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg the conversion of poor sinners.'

Then, most extraordinarily and by a great miraculous gift of God, the angel gave to the children their First Holy Communion.

"After that he rose, took again in his hand the chalice and the host. The host he gave to me and the contents of the chalice he gave to Jacinta and Francisco, saying at the same time, 'Eat and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ terribly outraged by the ingratitude of men. Offer reparation for their sakes and console God.'

"Once more he bowed to the ground repeating with us the same prayer thrice: 'Oh, Blessed Trinity etc.' and disappeared. Overwhelmed by the supernatural atmosphere that involved us, we imitated the Angel in everything, kneeling prostrate as he did and repeating the prayers he said."

They didn't know it at the time, but the visits of the angel to the children in 1916 were preparing them for the visits of the Mother of God in 1917.

As we celebrate The Fatima Centennial at St. Joseph the Worker thru November 26, 2017, it helps for us to have a little background, and so for the next few months we will be getting to know our Lady of Fatima with some historical background and stories compiled by Fr. Joseph Previtali, a priest from the Archdiocese of San Francisco, and Adjunct Instructor of Dogmatics, St. Patrick's Seminary, Menlo Park.

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Part VI: AS THE CHILDREN OF FATIMA, instructed by the angel, passed the autumn and winter months of 1916-1917 in prayer and penance, Europe fell deeper into blind and senseless war, with the United States soon to enter the fray on Good Friday of 1917. Meanwhile, with the death of the demonic Rasputin and the abdication of the eviscerated Czar Nicholas II, the foundations of Russia were crumbling quickly, allowing an opening for the Communist revolution. On April 15, 1917, Easter morning in the Julian Calendar, Vladimir Lenin returned to Russia.

One bright light in the darkness was Blessed Charles II of Austria, who became Holy Roman Emperor at the end of 1916. Blessed Charles would do his best in 1917 to achieve peace in Europe and an end to the war, to no avail. Eventually, left without a state by the Treaty of Versailles, he would die in 1922 in exile on the Portuguese island of Madeira. Fifty years later, his body was found incorrupt and he was beatified by the Catholic Church in 2004. The cause for the canonization of his devoted wife, Zita, is also in process.

Charles and Zita prayed the Rosary together daily. Pope Benedict XV, who denounced the Great War from its beginning in strong and eloquent preaching and writing, also turned to the Holy Rosary as the instrument for bringing peace to the world. He had especially asked for the children of the world to pray for peace, a plea which reached the shepherd children of Fatima through their faithful local priests. Lucia added three Hail Mary’s for the intentions of the Holy Father to their daily Rosary.

On May 5, 1917, the Month of Our Lady, Pope Benedict XV solemnly directed that the title "Queen of Peace" be added to the Litany of Loreto. In that act of his supreme and universal authority as Shepherd of the Flock of Christ on Earth, he invoked the Mother of God, omnipotent by grace," and entrusted to her special intercession the peace of the world. Eight days later, she came, in person, to bring peace.

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Part VII: MAY 13, 1917, BEGAN a glorious spring Sunday in the heart of rural Portugal. Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta attended Holy Mass at their parish church in the morning and then had taken their flocks to pasture in the little grassy valley among the hills, called the "Cova da Iria." They played as children do, as the sheep fed on the grass. They had their lunch and then began to pray the Rosary in their shortened form of it, saying only the first words of the two parts of the prayers.

They were then startled by what Lucia described as "lightning in a clear sky." They thought a storm must be approaching and debated returning to town with their sheep. "And we began to go down the slope driving the sheep towards the road," Lucia explained. "When we were half-way down, near a holm oak tree, we saw another flash of lightening, and after a few steps we saw on a holm oak a lady dressed in white, shining brighter than the sun, giving out rays of clear and intense light, just like a crystal goblet full of pure water when the fiery sun passes through it. We stopped astounded by the Apparition. We were so near that we were in the light that encircled her, or which she radiated, perhaps a meter and a half away."

The lady's face was brilliant with a dazzling white. Lucia described her beautiful countenance as "not sad, not happy, but serious." Her hands were joined in prayer and a Rosary hung from her right hand. Her voice was low, musical, and gentle.

"Please don't be afraid of me, I'm not going to harm you."

Lucia asked the lady, "Where are you from?"

"I come from heaven."

Lucia was not afraid or overcome, but filled with great peace and confidence. "And what do you want of me?"

"I want you to return here on the thirteenth of each month for the next six months, and at the very same hour. Later I shall tell you who I am, and what it is that I most desire. And I shall return here yet a seventh time."

"And shall I go to heaven?"

"Yes, you will."

"And Jacinta?"

"She will go too."

"And Francisco?"

"Francisco, too, my dear, but he will first have many Rosaries to say."

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Part VIII: AFTER OUR LADY EXPLAINED that Francisco would have to pray many Rosaries before he could enter Heaven, she looked at him for some moments, her face filled with great compassion tinged with a little sadness. Then Lucia began to remember some deceased people in her life and asked about them.

"Is Maria Neves in heaven?"

"Yes, she is."

"And Amelia?"

"She is in purgatory. Will you offer yourselves to God, and bear all the sufferings He sends you? In atonement for all the sins that offend Him? And for the conversion of sinners?"

"Oh, we will, we will!"

"Then you will have a great deal to suffer, but the grace of God will be with you and will strengthen you."

Then the Lady from Heaven opened her hands and the radiance grew, seeming to penetrate into the souls of the children. Lucia relates:

"We were bathed in a heavenly light that appeared to come directly from her hands. The light's reality cut into our hearts and our souls, and we knew somehow that this light was God, and we could see ourselves embraced in it. By an interior impulse of grace we fell to our knees, repeating in our hearts: 'Oh, Holy Trinity, we adore You. My God, my God, I love You in the Blessed Sacrament.'"

This light from the Blessed Mother was so powerful and pervasive that it gave the children a deep knowledge of themselves, great increasing their spiritual maturity, in accord with the calling that they had received from Our Lady to offer themselves as victim souls in reparation for the sins of the world that offend God so grievously. Lucia explains that this self-knowledge was so intense that it made them "see [themselves] in God more clearly in that light than in the best of mirrors."

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Part IX: THE CHILDREN REMAINED KNEELING in the radiance of the precious light. Everything Our Lady had told them up until now had concerned their own personal salvation and vocation. Then she spoke again:

"Say the Rosary every day, to bring peace to the world and an end to the war."

The children certainly had very little and probably no knowledge of World War I, in which Portugal was not involved. Here Our Lady had revealed to them the Message of Peace she had brought from Heaven: that through the Holy Rosary the war would be brought to an end. She also revealed to them that they, little shepherd children in rural Portugal, were called to be the key instruments of the proclamation of this Message of Peace.

This was not a new way of operating for God, of course, as indeed St. Paul explains to us (1 Corinthians 2:28-29), "the base things of the world, and the things that are contemptible, hath God chosen, and things that are not, that he might bring to naught things that are: That no flesh should glory in his sight."

After communicating to them her Message of Peace, the Lady from Heaven departed. "After that she began to rise slowly in the direction of the east, until she disappeared in the immense distance. The light that encircles Her seemed to make a way amidst the stars, and that is why we sometimes said we had seen the heavens open."

Lucia, correctly perceiving the future difficulties, attempted to convince Francisco and Jacinta to keep the apparition a secret. Seven-year old Jacinta, however, could not contain her joy. She told the whole story to her mother, who dismissed it as fancy, and then to her father, who carefully questioned Francisco and her. Manuel Pedro Marto, a man firm in his Catholic faith and rooted deeply in the land over which he toiled daily, thus received the dignity of being the first believer in the reality of the apparition of Our Lady of Fatima.

"From the beginning of the world Our Lady has appeared many times in various ways," he reasoned. "If the world is wicked, it would be much more so but for many such happenings. The power of God is great. We don't know what this is, but it will turn out to be something."

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Part X: THE SUFFERING OF THE THREE LITTLE SHEPHERD CHILDREN of Fatima began almost immediately after the first apparition. The Lady had told them, "You will have much to suffer."

For Lucia, the suffering began in her own home. Her parents, especially her mother, refused to believe the story about the Lady and scolded and threatened her to give up the story. Her mother, who was religious, believed that she was making up tales about sacred things. She brought Lucia to the parish priest, who tried also to dissuade her from believing such things. Lucia's father was an irreligious man, who felt that religion was nonsense for women. He was indifferent to the story of the apparition. In the midst of this opposition from her parents and priest and other trusted adults, Lucia was strong and peaceful.

The three children offered up these sufferings — the ridicule and incredulity of the adults — as the Lady had instructed them: for the conversion of sinners. They began to offer voluntary sacrifices, as well, going without lunch or water when they were out in the fields with the sheep. All of this was the beginning of their obedience to the vocation of love to which the Lady had invited them.

At the instruction of two visiting priests, they began to pray daily for the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XV, who was suffering greatly and had asked the world for prayers for peace. They added three Hail Mary's for him to their daily Rosary for peace, which they prayed faithfully in obedience to Our Lady.

Meanwhile, the war raged on in Europe, even though the month of May brought a lull in the hostilities, as the Queen of Peace came from Heaven with her message of peace. On the very day of her first apparition, a young papal diplomat named Eugenio Pacelli was consecrated bishop in the Sistine Chapel in Rome. Archbishop Pacelli, the new Papal nuncio in Bavaria, would bring to the German government later in the year the rebuffed offer of peace negotiations of Pope Benedict XV.

The same Archbishop Pacelli would become Pope Pius XII, the first pope to consecrate the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, in obedience to Our Lady of Fatima! Amidst the darkness of war, there were still so many signs of the triumph of her Immaculate Heart!

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PART XI: THE LULL IN THE HOSTILITIES continued into June. On the 13th of the month, the children returned at midday to the Cova da Iria to receive the second promised apparition of the Lady. About fifty people joined with them to witness the event. It was the great feast of St. Anthony of Padua, greatly celebrated in Portugal, where he was born. In Portugal, the feast of St. Anthony is the feast of children because of his devotion to the Child Jesus. Lucia's parents had hoped that the St. Anthony festivities would distract her from her appointment with the Lady from Heaven, but Lucia was faithful.

Lucia tells us what happened:

"After having said the rosary with Jacinta and Francisco and other people who were present, we saw again the reflection of light nearing us, (we used to say it was lightning), and following, Our Lady on the holm oak as in May.

'Please tell me, Madam, what it is that you want of me?'

'I want you to come here on the thirteenth of next month. I want you to continue saying the Rosary every day. And after each one of the mysteries, my children, I want you to pray in this way: O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fire of hell. Take all souls to heaven, especially those who are most in need. I want you to learn to read and write, and later I will tell you what else I want of you.'

'Will you take us to heaven?'

'Yes, I shall take Jacinta and Francisco soon, but you will remain a little longer, since Jesus wishes you to make me known and loved on earth. He wishes also for you to establish devotion in the world to my Immaculate Heart.'

'Must I remain in the world alone?'

'Not alone, my child, and you must not be sad. I will be with you always, and my Immaculate Heart will be your comfort and the way which will lead you to God.'

The moment she said the last words, opening her hands, She transmitted to us, for the second time, the reflection of that intense light. In it we felt we were submerged in God. Jacinta and Francisco seemed to be in that part of the light which was rising to Heaven, and I in the part spreading over the earth. In front of the palm of Our Lady's right hand was a heart encircled with thorns which appeared to pierce it. We understood it was the Immaculate Heart of Mary offended by the sins of mankind, craving reparation."

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Part XII: THE JUNE APPARITION CONCLUDED in the same manner as the first one in May, with Our Lady departing towards the east, from which she had come, and disappearing into the "immensity of heaven." The upper leaves of the little holm oak tree remained for several hours stretched and bent towards the east.

The pattern of the communication of Our Lady with the children remained the same as before: she conversed with Lucia, who could both see her and hear her. St. Jacinta could see her and hear her. St. Francisco could only see her and could not hear her.

The 50 or so persons present at the June apparition were a consolation to the three children. The onlookers knew something special had happened. None of them saw Our Lady, but Maria Carreira reported hearing a faint sound, "like the buzzing of a bee," from the top of the tree when Lucia reported that Our Lady was speaking to her. Others noticed the brief dimming of the sun's light and the bending of the branches and leaves of the tree. Other saw the "lightning" and a little gray cloud that came and went as the apparition did.

Despite these gifts of consolation, the children were faced with a great deal of suffering from the incredulity of those closest to them. Their mothers especially were alarmed by the apparitions, as the intensity of the situation was now increasing. Their parish priest, Father Manuel Ferreira, suspected that the apparitions might be real but of demonic origin. On June 14, he closely questioned the children and concluded that they were not lying about the apparitions. When he suggested that they might be from the devil, the children indignantly rejected the idea. In the end, the careful priest could not make up his mind about the origin of the apparitions, even as he concluded that the children were telling the truth.

The doubt of Fr. Ferreira would become a month-long spiritual and emotional trial for Lucia, who greatly respected the authority of her pastor. Her heart would be eased at the next month's apparition, in which Our Lady would reveal to her a great secret. "In my second account I have already described in detail the doubt which tormented me from 13 June until 13 July," Lucia wrote, "and how it disappeared completely during the Apparition on that day."

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Part XIII: IN JUNE OF 1917, THE MADNESS OF WORLD WAR I reached new levels as Douglas Haig prepared what would become the disastrous Passchendaele Offensive. On June 26, Archbishop Pacelli presented his credentials as new papal ambassador to Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg in Berlin. In his meeting a few days later with the German Kaiser Wilhelm, he presented a personal letter to the Kaiser from Pope Benedict XV, pleading for a greater effort for peace. The Kaiser responded with irrational outbursts of anger towards the Holy Father. The grim truth was that Wilhelm was no longer really running Germany, nor was Bethmann-Hollweg. General Erich Ludendorff, who would become the main supporter of Adolf Hitler's rise to power in Munich, was two weeks away from being the effective ruler of Germany.

The only cool head involved in the war was that of Blessed Charles II, the Holy Roman Emperor. His own peace negotiations with Germany and France (through his wife's brothers) were precarious at best and would later fail. It was becoming quite clear that the only solution to the Great War would be obedience to the message of Our Lady in Fatima. She had said in May, "Say the Rosary every day to obtain peace for the world, and the end of the war."

July 13, 1917, was the day on which the German Chancellor was forced to resign, leaving power in the hands of General Ludendorff, who was entirely committed to the war. It was also the day of Our Lady's third apparition in Fatima. Lucia, suffering her internal doubts, was under great pressure from her mother and almost did not go to meet Our Lady. She had confided her doubts to St. Jacinta, who, filled with holy simplicity and supported by her devout father and brother, convinced her at the last minute to be faithful to Our Lady. On the morning of July 13, Lucia was filled with great peace and kept her midday appointment joyfully.

When the three children arrived at the Cova da Iria, they found at least two thousand people waiting there, including their own parents. Their mothers were deeply distraught over all the commotion. Together the large crowd recited the Holy Rosary.

Manuel Marto, the father of Francisco and Jacinta, was already deeply convinced of the truth of the apparitions and he was present to protect the children. He never took his eyes off them the entire time. He reported seeing Lucia go pale immediately before she cried out that Our Lady was coming. Then he saw "something like a small cloud" come down upon the small holm oak tree. He felt a cool and refreshing breeze in the mid-July heat and he heard a sound which he described as a "like a horse-fly in an empty water pot."

Then Our Lady revealed to the children what would become the most controversial part of the Message of Peace given in Fatima.

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Part XIV: IN THE JULY APPARITION, the children continued to be instructed in their vocation as victim souls, offering reparation for the sins of the world. Our Lady instructed them:

"Make sacrifices for sinners, and say often, especially while making a sacrifice: O Jesus, this is for love of Thee, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for offences committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary."

After teaching them this manner of offering sacrifices, she showed the three little children a vision of Hell, where the souls of unrepentant sinners go when they die. In this, she was teaching them the urgency of offering their sacrifices for the conversion of sinners who would otherwise fall into eternal damnation. Lucia relates the vision:

"As Our Lady spoke these words she opened her hands once more, as had during the two previous months. The rays of light seemed to penetrate the earth, and we saw as it were a sea of fire.

"Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form, like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, floating about in the conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames that issued from within themselves together with great clouds of smoke, now following back on every side like sparks in huge fires, without weight or equilibrium, amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear. (It must have been this sight which caused me to cry out, as people say they heard me do).

"The demons could be distinguished by their terrifying and repellent likeness to frightful and unknown animals, black and transparent like burning coals, terrified and as if to plead for succor, we looked up at Our Lady, who said to us, so kindly and so sadly:

" 'You have seen hell, where the souls of poor sinners go. It is to save them that God wants to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If you do what I tell you, many souls will be saved, and there will be peace.' "

Part XV: AFTER SHOWING THE CHILDREN A VISION of Hell, Our Lady then instructed them concerning some specific details of history and Divine Providence, explaining especial-ly that the Great War was like a self-inflicted punishment for the sins of the world:

"This war will end, but if men do not refrain from offending God, another and more terrible war will begin during the pontificate of Pius XI. When you see a night that is lit by a strange and unknown light [This cosmic event, prophesied here by Our Lady, occurred on January 25, 1938, one and a half years before the beginning of World War II, with what is called the "Great Aurora." The event was re-ported in newspapers across the world on January 26, 1938 and was documented in scientific journals.], you will know it is the sign God gives you that He is about to punish the world with war and with hunger, and by the persecution of the Church and the Holy Father.

"To prevent this, I shall come to the world to ask that Russia be consecrated to my Immaculate Heart, and I shall ask that on the First Saturday of every month Communions of reparation be made in atonement for the sins of the world. If my wishes are fulfilled, Russia will be converted and there will be peace; if not, then Russia will spread her errors throughout the world, bringing new wars and persecution of the Church; the good will be martyred and the Holy Father will have much to suffer; certain nations will be annihilated. But in the end my Im-maculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she will be converted, and the world will enjoy a period of peace. In Portugal the faith will always be preserved..."

The remaining part of Our Lady's words to the children at this point in her Third Apparition form what is commonly called the "Third Secret" or "Third Part of the Secret" of Fatima. The vision of Hell is considered the "First Secret" or "First Part of the Secret" and the prophecy of the eventual triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is considered the "Second Secret" or "Second Part of the Secret." The Third Part of the Secret was not revealed to the public until the year 2000, when, after the beatification of Francisco and Jacinta in Fatima on May 13, the first Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, it was published by Pope St. John Paul II through his doctrinal office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Part XVI: LUCIA RELATES THE THIRD PART OF THE SECRET OF FATIMA:

"After the two parts which I have already explained, at the left of Our Lady and a little above, we saw an Angel with a flaming sword in his left hand; flashing, it gave out flames that looked as though they would set the world on fire; but they died out in contact with the splendour that Our Lady radiated towards him from her right hand: pointing to the earth with his right hand, the Angel cried out in a loud voice: Penance, Penance, Penance!'. And we saw in an immense light that is God: 'something similar to how people appear in a mirror when they pass in front of it' a Bishop dressed in White 'we had the impression that it was the Holy Father'.

"Other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious going up a steep mountain, at the top of which there was a big Cross of rough-hewn trunks as of a cork-tree with the bark; before reaching there the Holy Father passed through a big city half in ruins and half trembling with halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met on his way; having reached the top of the mountain, on his knees at the foot of the big Cross he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him, and in the same way there died one after another the other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious, and various lay people of different ranks and positions. Beneath the two arms of the Cross there were two Angels each with a crystal aspersorium in his hand, in which they gathered up the blood of the Martyrs and with it sprinkled the souls that were making their way to God."

Lucia herself gives us the interpretive key for understanding the Third Part of the Secret: "The third part of the secret refers to Our Lady's words: 'If not [Russia] will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred; the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated' (13-VII-1917).

"The third part of the secret is a symbolic revelation, referring to this part of the Message, conditioned by whether we accept or not what the Message itself asks of us: 'If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, etc.

"Since we did not heed this appeal of the Message, we see that it has been fulfilled, Russia has invaded the world with her errors. And if we have not yet seen the complete fulfilment of the final part of this prophecy, we are going towards it little by little with great strides. If we do not reject the path of sin, hatred, revenge, injustice, violations of the rights of the human person, immorality and violence, etc.

"And let us not say that it is God who is punishing us in this way; on the contrary, it is people themselves who are preparing their own punishment. In his kindness God warns us and calls us to the right path, while respecting the freedom he has given us; hence people are responsible."

PART XVII: THE THIRD PART OF THE SECRET WAS RECORDED in writing by Lucia in 1944 and entrusted in a sealed envelope to the Bishop of Leiria. In 1957, the Bishop of Leiria gave the envelope to the Secret Archives of the Holy Office at the Vatican for purposes of greater safekeeping. Two years later, Pope St. John XXIII read the contents of the Secret and chose not to reveal it. In 1965, Pope Blessed Paul VI read the Third Part of the Secret and chose not to reveal it. One imagines that the events prophesied therein strengthened both saintly popes as they suffered much for the Church and the world during their tumultuous pontificates.

After the assassination attempt against him on the anniversary of the First Apparition, May 13, 1981, Pope St. John Paul II asked to read the contents of the envelope, which now included a translation of the Secret in Italian. St. John Paul II then undertook to consecrate the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, as had been done by Pope Blessed Pius XII (Eugenio Pacelli, the peace-seeking diplomat during the Great War and the Pope who suffered World War II) in 1950.

St. John Paul consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on Pentecost in 1981, less than a month after he was shot. About his assassination attempt, he said, "a mother's hand that guided the bullet's path", enabling "the Pope in his throes" to halt "at the threshold of death," thus crediting Our Lady of Fatima with saving his life. On May 13, 1982, he placed the assassin's bullet in the crown of Our Lady's image at the Shrine in Fatima. Then, on that same day, he repeated the consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and he repeated it again, more solemnly and explicitly, in St. Peter's Square on March 25, 1984.

On October 13, 2013, Pope Francis consecrated again the whole world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

It seems certain that the Church in the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century has been living in the time of the Third Part of the Secret of Fatima. It is more certain that in the end her Immaculate Heart will triumph.

After having communicated the intense realities and prophecies contained in the Secret, Our Lady enjoined on the children absolute confidentiality:

"Remember, you must not tell this to anyone except Francisco."

Indeed, Lucia only revealed the Secret to the proper Church authorities and that only with Our Lady's command later to do so. Then the Blessed Mother continued lovingly to teach her children:

"When you pray the Rosary, say after each mystery: O my Jesus, forgive us, save us from the fire of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those who are most in need."

Here she taught the children the "Fatima Prayer," which is so wonderfully common in the recitation of the Holy Rosary in the Church today.

"Is there anything more that you want of me?"

"No, I do not want anything more of you today."

"Then," Lucia explained, "as before Our Lady began to ascend towards the east, until she finally disappeared in the immense darkness of the firmament."

The possession of the Secret of Fatima was a great trial for the three children. Everyone seemed to be trying to get them to reveal it, against the command of Our Lady. The staggeringly supernatural character of the Secret must not be missed. The children had likely never heard of Russia and the Bolshevik Revolution, in which the errors of Communism would triumph in Russia and begin to be spread throughout the world, was still five months away.

PART XVIII: AS JULY GAVE WAY TO AUGUST in 1917, the three little shepherd children of Fatima were already deeply engaged in suffering persecutions for the salvation of the world.

The local political authorities now were interested in ensuring that the Message of Our Lady would not be able to shed its light in the darkness of the falling West. Arturo da Oliveira Santos was the Administrator of the Council of Ourem, seven miles from Fatima. He was like the mayor of the area in which the children lived. The 33-year old Administrator had left the practice of the Catholic faith and was deeply involved in Freemasonry, which he had joined in 1910, the year of the anti-Catholic revolution in Portugal. Administrator Santos hated the Catholic Church.

Shortly before the expected arrival of Our Lady on August 13, Administrator Santos sent notice to the fathers of the three children that he wanted to question them about the purported supernatural apparitions, which he viewed to be disturbing the public peace. On August 11, Manuel Marto, refusing to send his children on the relatively long journey to Ourem, appeared before the Administrator on their behalf. Lucia's father, who had never believed the apparitions, journeyed the seven miles with his daughter riding a donkey, from which she fell three times along the way. The young Lucia must have understood by her three falls that she was being conformed to the Way of the Cross.

The wicked Administrator interrogated the 10-year old Lucia intensively about the secret of the apparition, threatening in the presence of her father and Mr. Marto to kill her if she did not reveal it. After she refused, even in the midst of threats to her life, he let her go. The next day, the Administrator visited the children at their homes, demanding that they not go to the Cova da Iria for the expected apparition on the following day. The children refused, in the midst of threats, for the Blessed Mother had commanded them to come to the Cova on the 13th of the month. The Administrator suggested that they all speak with the parish priest the following morning, the day of the apparition.

On August 13, the children were driven by the Administrator himself, along with their parents, to the house of their parish priest, Father Ferreira. It seems that the parish priest had been overcome by the threats of the authorities, for he scolded the children when they arrived, calling them liars and threatening them with condemnation to Hell. The children had been promised Heaven by Our Lady and they remained at peace and resolute that they must visit the Cova to receive her.

With the failure of this last attempt of abusing the authority of their parish priest, Administrator Santos flew into a diabolic rage. He seized the children, securing them in the cargo hold of his wagon, covered them with blankets so that they could not be seen by pilgrims on the way, and, cracking the whip over his horse, drove them nine miles to the municipality jail at Vila Nova de Ourem some nine miles away. For the first time since she had visited them, the children would not be able to keep their appointment with the Lady from Heaven.

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PART XIX: OUR LADY'S APPARITION ON AUGUST 13 was scheduled to take place, as she had promised and fulfilled three times before, at 12 noon. At the midday hour, the children were in the custody of the evil Administrator in Ourem. Six thousand people had assembled at the Cova da Iria to await the fourth apparition of Our Lady. As at the previous apparitions, at midday the external signs of her arrival appeared.

Warren Carroll paints the picture for us in his excellent little history of 1917, Red Banners, White Mantle: " A faint murmur, like very distant thunder, was heard; then something came like a white shadow, glimmering, gossamer, floating down upon the little tree where all the apparitions had occurred. But this time there was no one there to recognize or greet the Lady; a moment later the wraith-like cloud rose again from the tree and faded into the sky. As the bemused people looked about, they found themselves and all the surrounding earth and foliage bathed in brilliant rainbow colors."

What a profound image of the wickedness of the age! The Mother of God had come to visit and no one was there to receive her!

Had the wicked Administrator defeated the Mother of God?

He certainly had not defeated her three little shepherd children. Amidst the trials of their imprisonment, Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta maintained the truth of the apparitions of Our Lady. They had been thrown into the common room of the town jail, amidst the general population of the local criminals. There, in that very dangerous and unseemly environment, they knelt down on the floor and began to recite the Holy Rosary. Many of the prisoners (children, also, of the Lady, let us not forget!) knelt down to join them in prayer.

After the Rosary, when the seven-year old Jacinta cried for her mother, the prisoners sang and danced for her to cheer her up. History records that at least one thief was permanently converted by his experience with the three children of Fatima. The three holy children had turned their hellish prison into a sanctuary of heavenly love. The Blessed Mother visited Portugal on August 13 not only in her own person at the Cova, but also in the holiness of her children in the prison of Ourem.

PART XX: THE THREE CHILDREN HAD NOT YET SUFFERED their greatest trial. Later in the afternoon, the Administrator called them before him for questioning, threatening them with the death penalty - to be burnt alive in a cauldron of boiling oil - if they did not tell him the secret. He interrogated each child separately, telling each that the others had already suffered an agonizingly painful death. It seems that the children believed him. They were seven, nine, and ten years old. They held firm.

The children were kept in prison for the vigil of the feast of the Assumption, and then, on the feast of Our Lady's great triumph in her glorious resurrection, they were released on August 15. Their parents had been deeply worried about them, since no one had been able to tell them where the children were being held.

The Administrator had them driven back to Fatima and left on the steps of the rectory. Here they were seen as the people, who had just come from Mass for the holy day of obligation, were trying to determine from Francisco and Jacinta's father where the children were. When the children arrived, the parishioners expressed their anger to the driver and then to the Administrator when he arrived later in the day. The parishioners were also angry with Father Ferreira for his complicity with the evil deeds of the Administrator.

Both Father Ferreira and the Administrator begged Manuel Marto, the holy father of Jacinta and Francisco, to help quell the anger of the crowd. No doubt they feared for their lives. Manuel Marto, filled with magnanimity, raised his voice of reason to the angry crowd: "Behave yourselves! Some of you are shouting against [Father Ferreira], some against the Administrator, some against the Regidor. Nobody is to blame here. The fault is one of unbelief, and all has been permitted by the power of One above!"

As Warren Carroll aptly observes, "The world was at war; but Manuel Pedro Marto - and the Blessed Virgin Mary - wanted no war in Fatima." Thus behave the children of the Queen of Peace, bearing her Message of Peace.

PART XXI: THE QUEEN OF PEACE DID NOT LONG DELAY her August visit to the children. On Sunday, August 19, Lucia and Francisco were pasturing their sheep around 4:00 in the afternoon. Jacinta was not with them. At that moment, Lucia saw the preparatory signs of the apparition and begged her brother, John, to go fetch Jacinta. She even paid him a few pennies for the errand after he initially refused. As Francisco and she waited for Jacinta, they saw the characteristic light descend this time upon a little bush. They were in the place where twice they had received the visit from the Angel of Peace the previous year. At the moment Jacinta arrived, Our Lady appeared. Lucia greeted her with her customary obedient humility:

"What do you want of me?"

"Come again to the Cova da Iria on the thirteenth of next month, my child, and continue to say the Rosary every day. In the last month I will perform a miracle so that all may believe."

"What are we to do with the offerings of money that people leave at the Cova da Iria?"

"I want you to have two ardors (platforms for the carrying of statues in procession) made, for the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. I want you and Jacinta to carry one of them with two other girls. You will both dress in white. And then I want Francisco, with three boys helping him, to carry the other one. The boys, too, will be dressed in white. What is left over will help towards the construction of a chapel that is to be built here."

We see here how Our Lady approves of and loves public processions and devotions in her honor. Having received these instructions, Lucia then asked for the cure of some sick people. "Some I will cure during the year."

Then Our Lady looked sadly at them, encouraging them in their vocation as victim souls: "Pray, pray very much. Make sacrifices for sinners. Many souls go to hell, because no one is willing to help them with sacrifice."

We see here how the salvation of many people depends on our personal fidelity to grace. Our Lady departed from the children, then, in her usual manner, towards the east. The children brought home branches from the bush upon which Our Lady had appeared.

Manuel Marto always remembered the beautiful odor emanating from those branches, calling it "magnificent." Even Lucia's unbelieving mother could not deny the beauty of the odor of sanctity contained by the branches.

Several days later, the children found a large rough rope in the lone street in Aljustrel. They cut pieces of the rope to wear around their waists, against the skin, to offer the discomfort as a sacrifice for the conversion of sinners, as Our Lady had urged them to do.

A week earlier, on August 12, one day before Our Lady appeared without welcome at the Cova, Pope Benedict XV had sent a peace proposal, with a detailed and specific plan for a gradual end to the war, to all of the warring powers. It was met with unqualified approval only by Emperor Charles and King Ferdinand of Bulgaria. The other powers received the proposal, in the words of Warren Carroll, "as Arturo da Oliveira Santos had handled the Fatima children: questioned, locked up, threatened, and finally dismissed with contempt."

The insane, diabolical war went on. One wonders how many of the souls of the dying soldiers were saved at the last moment by divine grace through the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, due to the sufferings of three little shepherd children of Fatima.

PART XXII: THE MOST FAMOUS MARIAN SHRINE IN MOSCOW is the Chapel of the Iberian Virgin. The czars had always gone to pray there prior to their coronations. General Lavr Georgevich Kornilov, commander-in-chief of the decimated Russian army, went to pray before the Iberian Virgin late in the month of August 2017 before addressing the 2,400 delegates of the Moscow State Conference of the Provisional Government. In that address, he began to build the will of the Russian people for the defeat of Communism and the establishment of just order and lasting peace in Christian Russia.

It is not a mere coincidence of history that the Virgin Mary had chosen the Iberian Peninsula for her apparitions by which she wished to save the people who honored her in Moscow under her Iberian title. "If they listen to my requests, Russia will be converted and there will be peace," she had said. "If not, she will scatter her errors throughout the world, provoking wars and persecutions of the Church."

General Kornilov was a courageous patriot and a devoted son of Our Lady, but he was not a gifted politician nor a skilled military strategist. Within two weeks, his plans to defeat the Communist Revolution failed, largely due to opposition from the Provisional Government. Before dying for his country, he begged all Russians: "The solemn certainty of the doom of this our country compels me in these terrible times to call upon all her loyal sons to save their dying native land. All within whom a Russian heart still beats, all who believe in God, go into the churches and pray to Our Lord for the greatest possible miracle, the salvation of our dear country." Reflecting on these dying words, Warren Carroll writes: "Kornilov's own prayers, unanswered, were soon stilled in this world by his death; but the prayers he asked for are offered to this day, in Russia and by all who hear and heed Our Lady of Fatima." General Kornilov was arrested on September 14.

On September 13, the German high command replied to Pope Benedict XV with no mention of the restoration of Belgium, which they had conquered at the start of the war. With the refusal to restore Belgium, the Germans ensured that the papal peace initiative was dead. On the same day, Douglas Haig launched yet another British bombardment, preparing the way for another futile assault on the Germans near Passchendaele. And on the same September 13 of 1917, the Communists, having survived the efforts of the heroic lion-hearted Kornilov, gained for the first time a substantial majority in the Petrograd Soviet. The downfall of Western Civilization - in Germany, in England, in Russia - was well on its way.

Part XXIII: ON THAT SAME FATEFUL SEPTEMBER 13 of 1917, the Mother of God came again to the three little shepherd children at the Cova da Iria near Fatima in Portugal. Despite the criticism and scorn the apparitions had received in the press, some 30,000 people were present for the September apparition. The crowd prayed the Rosary together, while awaiting the promised midday apparition. Among them were a number of priests, including Father Joao Quaresma and Father Manuel da Silva.

Father Quaresma writes: "To my great astonishment I saw clearly and distinctly a luminous globe that moved from the east toward the west, slowly and majestically gliding down across the distance. 'What do you think of the globe?' I asked of my friend…'That it was Our Lady,' he replied without hesitation. It was my conviction also. The little shepherds looked on the Mother of God herself; to us was granted the grace to see the carriage that transported her." Father Quaresma reports that many others had seen the luminous globe.

Lucia greeted Our Lady, as she always did, with her generous words of open obedience: "What do you want of me?"

"Continue the Rosary, my children. Say it every day that the war may end. In October Our Lord will come, as well as Our Lady of Sorrows and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Saint Joseph will appear with the Child Jesus to bless the world. God is pleased with your sacrifices, but He does not want you to wear the cords to bed. Keep them on during the day."

One cannot fail to be cut to the heart by the tender love of God for his dear children, expressed here through His Mother. This love inspired the children to perform their bodily penances with joy and willingness. We are called to imitate their generosity, for our own salvation.

Lucia then presented her petitions, teaching us to pray likewise to Our Mother: "I have the petitions of many for your help. Will you assist a little girl who is deaf and dumb?" "She will improve within the year." "And the conversions that some have asked to have brought about? The cures of the sick ones?" "Some I will cure, and some I will not. In October I will perform a miracle so that all may believe."

Part XXIV: BY THE END OF SEPTEMBER, VLADIMIR LENIN, who had returned to Russia at the beginning of 1917 from his exile in Switzerland, had been in hiding in Finland for more than two months. He was a fugitive from an arrest order given after the failed Communist uprising in July. He would become in a short time the father of the Communist Revolution in Russia.

His words, written from Helsinki at the end of September, reveal his diabolical ambition: "The Bolsheviki can and must take the state power into their hands…An insurrection must rest on a turning point in the history of a growing revolution, when the activity of the leading ranks of the people is greatest and when the waverings in the ranks of the enemies and of the weak, half-hearted, undecided friends of the revolution are greatest. In Russia there are still great resources both material and spiritual for a truly revolutionary way; there are 99 chances out of 100 that the Germans will at least give us a truce. And to secure a truce at present — this means already to conquer the whole world."

Warren Carroll describes dramatically the world situation at the end of September, 1917: "Across a continent, across a cosmos, across the immense wreckage of Western Christian civilization, they faced each other, the ultimate surviving antagonists of the apocalyptic year 1917: the girl-woman all in radiant white, with the lovely voice and the gentle, serious mien, Queen of Heaven and earth, Mother of God, who had promised that her Immaculate Heart would one day prevail in Russia and bring peace to all the world; and Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov called Lenin, with his jarring voice and his whip-crack laugh and his bald bullet head and his mighty brain, ready to take Russia and the whole world for himself and his atheist, materialist creed, certain that the time had come for him to strike and to win."

And yet, in the mystery of Divine Providence and Divine Love and Divine Mercy, Carroll reminds us, the Mother of God, the Iberian Virgin, had come to the three shepherd children in Portugal even to save the soul of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov in Finland. "Yet he too was her son, though he had put her out of his life since the days he had cherished the traditional Russian Christmas as a child, and the currents of her love and, above all, the lover of her Son Who is God, thrust ceaselessly against the iron bars of his heart."

Part XXV: ON OCTOBER 12, 1917, VLADIMIR LENIN, still in hiding in Finland, published his famous article, "The Crisis is Ripe," in which he argued that the time had come for the Communist Revolution in Russia for the Communist Revolution, which would then spread throughout the whole of Europe, decimated as she was by war. "We are on the threshold," Lenin wrote, with a mad confidence, "of a world proletarian revolution."

The evil revolutionary genius Lenin, with his knowledge of the destruction of civilization brought about by the Great War, understood how vulnerable the Christian West had become to a total re-ordering along atheistic and materialist lines. The following day, Our Lady appeared for the final time to the three children in Fatima.

The night of October 12 and the morning of October 13 saw a downpour of rain in Portugal and across Europe. The same rain that covered the trenches at Passchendaele covered the 70,000-plus pilgrims who came that morning to the Cova - on foot, in carts, and even in automobiles - to wait in the thick mud.

So many young men had died in the muddy trenches of Europe during the almost three years of war, some of them losing their lives not by the bullets of a machine gun but by the suffocation of drowning in the filthy mire. The pilgrims of the Cova on October 13 were a kind of heavenly counterbalance to the hell of the trenches.

One wonders how many souls of the fallen soldiers were delivered from Purgatory on October 13 through the sufferings of the pilgrims, no doubt offered in reparation in their pious hearts. However, not all hearts present at the Cova that day were pious. Among the large crowd were many of the skeptics, who continued to ridicule the children and question their truthfulness.

When noontime arrived, and Our Lady did not come, the skeptics, including a priest, ridiculed the children about the lack of punctuality of Our Lady. "Away with all this!" the priest exclaimed. "It is an illusion." The parents of the children even had been warned by neighbors not to go to the Cova in case the promised miracle did not occur. It was a dangerous environment for the three little shepherd children of Fatima. They were not afraid. Neither was Manuel Marto, the father of Francisco and Jacinta.

It is very important to understand that many persons present at the Cova that day did not have faith or piety and were not expecting or hoping for a miracle. Indeed, they would have preferred nothing more than to prove that the apparitions of Fatima were a hoax. These wicked men and women prove that the events of October 13, 1917, cannot be understood in facile psychological categories of mass hysteria or hallucination. They would become, by their skepticism, the most important witnesses to the miracle that Our Lady had promised to work to prove the truthfulness of her apparitions.

Part XXVI: AS THE SUN REACHED ITS HIGH POINT — true midday — sometime after noon, Our Lady appeared as she had promised. Lucia shouted to the crowd, "Put down your umbrellas!" They obeyed her, despite the rain. Then her face flushed and was seen as if transfigured. Francisco and Jacinta also stood rapt in attention at the arrival of Our Lady.

Then Lucia greeted Our Lady with her customary obedience: "What do you want of me?"

"I want a chapel built here in my honor. I want you to continue saying the Rosary every day. The war will end soon, and the soldiers will return to their homes." "Yes. Yes." Then Lucia made bold to ask: "Will you tell me your name?" "I am the Lady of the Rosary."

We see here Our Lady identify herself specifically and primarily with the Holy Rosary. We must pray the Holy Rosary every day for our own salvation and for the salvation of the world. It is a great privilege to pray the Holy Rosary.

Lucia then made her petitions known: "I have many petitions from many people. Will you grant them?" "Some I shall grant, and others I must deny. People must amend their lives and ask pardon for their sins. They must not offend our Lord any more, for He is already too much offended!"

The last apparition of Fatima recapitulates the original instruction of the Angel of Peace: "Penance! Penance! Penance!"

Lucia then asked: "And is that all you have to ask?" "There is nothing more."

Then Our Lady opened her hands and Lucia saw light streaming up from her hands to the sky. The rain had stopped but the sky was still dark, the sun obscured by dark rain clouds. Suddenly, the sun burst through the clouds and appeared to the crowd as a soft spinning disk of silver. A kind of blue window opened in the clouds, through which the spinning sun was seen.

"Look at the sun!" Lucia cried. The crowd of 70,000 raised their eyes to the heavens and witnessed the miracle promised by Our Lady.

PART XXVII: AT THIS POINT IN THE FINAL APPARITION, we are in the presence of the deep apocalyptic meaning of the apparitions of Fatima. The children and the crowd both witnessed marvelous wonders. Lucia tells us what the children saw in the blue window in the sky:

"After our Lady had disappeared into the immense distance of the firmament, we beheld St. Joseph with the Child Jesus and Our Lady robed in white with a blue mantle, beside the sun. St. Joseph and the Child Jesus seemed to bless the world, for they traced the Sign of the Cross with their hands. When, a little later, this apparition disappeared, I saw Our Lord and Our Lady; it seemed to me to that it was Our Lady of Sorrows. Our Lord appeared to bless the world in the same manner as St. Joseph had done. This apparition also vanished, and I saw Our Lady once more, this time resembling Our Lady of Carmel."

Thus the promise of Our Lady had been fulfilled. She had said in September, "In October Our Lord will come, as well as Our Lady of Sorrows and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Saint Joseph will appear with the Child Jesus to bless the world."

One can meditate for a long time on the significance of this final vision received by the children. Certainly one notices the presence of the Holy Family, so important for the breakdown of the family in the past 100 years, and the strong protection of St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church. One also notices the particular emphasis on the role of Our Lady in the Passion and Death of Our Lord, which we must imitate in our own lives, and of her Brown Scapular of Carmel, which we must wear with great purity of heart and mind. Additionally, Lucia alone saw the vision of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel to show her that she must enter the Carmelite Order.

As the children were seeing the vision of the mysteries of faith, the crowd of 70,000 witnessed a startling miracle. Warren Carroll describes it thus: "From the time it had broken through the clouds, the sun, unlike any other time they had ever seen it high in the sky, could be looked upon directly, with joy and without pain. Then it began to dance, then to whirl violently, then to fling off brilliant streamers of colored light, like a fireworks display. Then it seemed to plunge, zigzagging towards the earth. Thousands of people cried out and sank to the ground in terror, crying to Jesus and Mary for help." Indeed, they thought the world was ending. Carroll continues:

"The sun climbed back up to its normal place in the sky. Its dance, ejection of the streamers of colored light, and descent and return had occupied, altogether, about ten minutes. It is the greatest, most abundantly recorded miracle in history since Jesus Christ walked the earth and founded His Church."

Twenty-five miles away from the Cova, the poet Alfonso Lopes Vieira saw the miracle from his own house. Father Ignacio Lourenco was a nine-year old boy at the time and he saw the miracle from 10 miles away at his school in Alburitel. The event was reported even in the anti-Catholic newspapers of Portugal. The deep apocalyptic urgency of the Message of Peace had been delivered to the world through the language of nature in the Miracle of the Sun.

PART XXVIII: O SECULO, THE PRO-GOVERNMENT and anti Catholic newspaper in Lisbon reported the following about the Miracle of the Sun:

"From the road, where the vehicles were parked and where hundreds of people who had not dared to brave the mud were congregated, one could see the immense multitude turn toward the sun, which appeared free from clouds and in its zenith. It looked like a plaque of dull silver, and it was possible to look at it without the least discomfort. It might have been an eclipse which was taking place. But at that moment a great shout went up, and one could hear the spectators nearest at hand shouting:

'A miracle! A miracle!' "Before the astonished eyes of the crowd, whose aspect was biblical as they stood bareheaded, 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. "Standing at the step of an omnibus was an old man. With his face turned to the sun, he recited the Credo in a loud voice. I asked who he was and was told Senhor Joao da Cunha Vasconcelos. I saw him afterwards going up to those around him who still had their hats on, and vehemently imploring them to uncover before such an extraordinary demonstration of the existence of God. "Identical scenes were repeated elsewhere, and in one place a woman cried out:

'How terrible! There are even men who do not uncover before such a stupendous miracle!'" People then began to ask each other what they had seen. The great majority admitted to having seen the trembling and the dancing of the sun; others affirmed that they saw the face of the Blessed Virgin; others, again, swore that the sun whirled on itself like a giant Catherine wheel and that it lowered itself to the earth as if to burn it in its rays. Some said they saw it change colors successively...."

O Dia, another newspaper of Lisbon also reported on the miracle: "At one o'clock in the afternoon, midday by the sun, the rain stopped. The sky, pearly grey in colour, illuminated the vast arid landscape with a strange light. The sun had a transparent gauzy veil so that the eyes could easily be fixed upon it. The grey mother-of-pearl tone turned into a sheet of silver which broke up as the clouds were torn apart and the silver sun, enveloped in the same gauzy grey light, was seen to whirl and turn in the circle of broken clouds. A cry went up from every mouth and people fell on their knees on the muddy ground... The light turned a beautiful blue, as if it had come through the stained-glass windows of a cathedral, and spread itself over the people who knelt with outstretched hands. The blue faded slowly, and then the light seemed to pass through yellow glass. Yellow stains fell against white handkerchiefs, against the dark skirts of the women. They were repeated on the trees, on the stones and on the serra. People wept and prayed with uncovered heads, in the presence of a miracle they had awaited. The seconds seemed like hours, so vivid were they."

Part XXIX: THE SAINTLY MANUEL MARTO, FATHER OF FRANCISCO AND JACINTA, gives us his account of the Miracle of the Sun: "We looked easily at the sun, which for some reason did not blind us. It seemed to flicker on and off, first one way, then another. It cast its rays in many directions and painted everything in different colors -- the trees, the people, the air and the ground. But what was most extraordinary, I thought, was that the sun did not hurt our eyes. Everything was still and quiet, and everyone was looking up. Then at a certain moment, the sun appeared to stop spinning. It then began to move and to dance in the sky until it seemed to detach itself from its place and fall upon us. It was a terrible moment."

Another of the earliest believers, Maria de Capelinha, recounts for us her experience: "The sun turned everything to different colours -- yellow, blue and white. Then it shook and trembled. It looked like a wheel of fire that was going to fall on the people. They began to cry out, "We shall all be killed!" Others called to our Lady to save them. They recited acts of contrition. One woman began to confess her sins aloud, advertising that she had done this and that.... When at last the sun stopped leaping and moving, we all breathed our relief. We were still alive, and the miracle which the children had foretold, had been seen by everyone."

The testimony of Dr. Domingos Coelho was recorded in the newspaper, O Ordem: "The sun, at one moment surrounded with scarlet flame, at another aureoled in yellow and deep purple, seemed to be in an exceedingly fast and whirling movement, at times appearing to be loosened from the sky and to be approaching the earth, strongly radiating heat."

Fr. Manuel Pereira da Silva wrote in a letter to his friend: "The sun appeared with its circumference well defined. It came down as if to the height of the clouds and began to whirl giddily upon itself like a captive ball of fire. With some interruptions, this lasted about eight minutes. The atmosphere darkened and the features of each became yellow. Everyone knelt even in the mud...."

Part XXX: SENHOR ALREDO DA SILVA SANTOS, WHO WAS NOT A BELIEVER in the apparitions, drove to the Cova that day from Lisbon in an automobile. Here is his testimony:

"We made our arrangements, and went in three mo-tor cars on the early morning of the 13th. There was a thick mist, and the car which went in front mistook the way so that we were all lost for a time and only arrived at the Cova da Iria at midday by the sun. It was absolutely full of people, but for my part I felt devoid of any reli-gious feeling. When Lucia called out: 'Look at the sun!' the whole multitude repeated: 'Attention to the sun!' It was a day of incessant drizzle but a few moments before the miracle it stopped raining.

I can hardly find words to describe what followed. The sun began to move, and at a certain moment ap-peared to be detached from the sky and about to hurtle upon us like a wheel of flame. My wife---we had been married only a short time -- fainted, and I was too upset to attend to her, and my brother-in-law, Joao Vassalo, supported her on his arm. I fell on my knees, oblivious of everything, and when I got up I don't know what I said. I think I began to cry out like the others. An old man with a white beard began to attack the atheists aloud and challenged them to say whether or not something supernatural had occurred."

This is the aforementioned testimony of the poet, Alfonso Lopes Vieira, who witnessed the miracle from 25 miles away: "On that day of October 13, 1917, without remembering the predictions of the children, I was enchanted by a remarkable spectacle in the sky of a kind I had never seen before. I saw it from this veranda...." And the aforementioned Fr. Ignacio Lourenco describes what it was like to see the miracle as a 9-year old schoolboy from 10 miles away:

"I was only nine years old at this time, and I went to the local village school. At about midday we were surprised by the shouts and cries of some men and women who were passing in the street in front of the school. The teacher, a good, pious woman, though nervous and impressionable, was the first to run into the road, with the children after her. "Outside, the people were shouting and weeping and pointing to the sun, ignoring the agitated questions of the schoolmistress. It was the great Miracle, which one could see quite distinctly from the top of the hill where my village was situated---the Miracle of the sun, accompanied by all its extraordinary phenomena. "I feel incapable of describing what I saw and felt. I looked fixedly at the sun, which seemed pale and did not hurt the eyes. Looking like a ball of snow revolving on itself, it suddenly seemed to come down in a zigzag, menacing the earth. Terrified, I ran and hid myself among the people, who were weeping and expecting the end of the world at any moment. "Near us was an unbeliever who had spent the morning mocking at the simpletons who had gone off to Fátima just to see an ordinary girl. He now seemed to be paralyzed, his eyes fixed on the sun. Afterwards he trembled from head to foot and lifting up his arms fell on his knees in the mud, crying out to our Lady.

"Meanwhile the people continued to cry out and to weep, asking God to pardon their sins. We all ran to the two chapels in the village, which were soon filled to overflowing. During those long moments of the solar prodigy, objects around us turned all the colors of the rainbow. We saw ourselves blue, yellow, red, etc. All these strange phenomena increased the fears of the people. After about ten minutes the sun, now dull and pallid, returned to its place. When the people realized that the danger was over, there was an explosion of joy, and everyone joined in thanksgiving and praise to our Lady."

THE QUEEN OF HEAVEN HAD FULFILLED HER PROMISE and provided a miracle to prove the truth of her Message of Peace. The apocalyptic character of the miracle – those witnessing it thought the world was ending, indeed – revealed the urgency of her mes-sage of repentance, the offering of sacrifices for the conversion of sinners and reparation for sins, and the daily recitation of the Holy Rosary. In many ways, we can say that the Miracle of the Sun is the great punctuation mark on the apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima.

One detail is quite interesting from the October apparition. Recall that, while the people were witnessing the Miracle of the Sun, the children were seeing the vision of the Child Jesus, Our Lady, and St. Joseph. In that vision, the Child Jesus and St. Joseph together blessed the world. It was revealed later to St. Jacinta that the blessing of St. Joseph brought the end to World War I. It was also revealed to her that the War would have ended in 1917, but that, as a punishment for the imprisonment of the children, it was permitted to go on one year more, ending on November 11, 1918. The ways of God and the ways of men are often so different. The events of Fatima reveal this to us in clear focus.

After the Miracle of the Sun and the final apparition, the three shepherd children returned to the duties of their ordinary lives. Francisco and Jacinta knew that Our Lady would take them to Heaven soon and so they prepared intensely for that moment. Lucia knew that she would live a long while longer in order to spread devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary throughout the world. Our Lady had told her to learn to read and write for this purpose.

The three children prayed the Rosary constantly and offered everything in their lives as sacrifices in reparation for sins and for the conversion of sinners. In many ways, they had become public figures in Catholic Portugal, and many of the faithful, including many priests, sought to visit them as they visited the Cova da Iria. The children became living embodiments of the message of Our Lady of Fatima.