HISTORY of OCTOBER 1917
Some 70,000 people filled the Cova da Iria during the final apparition on October 13, 1917, when Lucia heard the woman in white say, “I am the Lady of the Rosary. I want you to tell them to build a chapel here, and to continue to say the rosary every day.” The crowd didn’t see the Lady, but they saw the “miracle of the sun,” which appeared to roll and bounce across the sky, radiating colors. Despite this spectacular event, the Fatima apparitions did not become widely known for many years.
As the Lady foretold, Francisco and Jacinta Marto soon died in the flu pandemic—Francisco in 1919, when work on the chapel began; Jacinta in 1920, when the first cedarwood statue was installed there on May 13. Gilberto Fernandes dos Santos, a merchant from Torres Novas, some 20 miles southeast, funded the statue and questioned the children about Our Lady’s appearance, so that sculptor José Ferreira Thedim could replicate it. When civil authorities forbid its transfer to Fatima, the donor’s father smuggled it out of Torres Novas in an oxcart.1
In 1925, while a postulant with the Sisters of St. Dorothy in Pontevedra, Lucia dos Santos saw Our Lady again, her heart visible and pierced with thorns, saying, “I promise to assist at the hour of death, with the graces necessary for salvation, all those who, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months, shall confess, receive Holy Communion, recite five decades of the Rosary, and keep me company for fifteen minutes while meditating on fifteen mysteries of the Rosary, with the intention of making reparation to me.” Two years later, Lucia saw Jesus appear, asking her to reveal more of Our Lady’s 1917 messages — the first two “secrets of Fatima.” The seer then announced that the Fatima apparitions had predicted Russia “will scatter her errors throughout the world” but “in the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph, the Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, Russia will be converted, and … peace will be granted.” She also announced the threat of another world war to be heralded by a great light.
After a lengthy investigation, the Bishop of Leiria approved devotion to Our Lady of Fatima in 1930. The Fatima messages with their anticommunist revisions gained publicity in Europe during the Spanish Civil War and in the United States during and after World War II. By then, two more prophecies had been fulfilled: the spread of Russian communism and the great light before a great war (the sky-wide aurora of January 25, 1938, seen as far south as Portugal; Germany invaded Poland September 1, 1939).
On May 13, 1947, the Archbishop of Evora crowned a new image of Our Lady of Fatima, a copy of the first, and sent it on a “pilgrimage” around the world, galvanizing Marian devotion along the way. Some 200,000 faithful greeted the Pilgrim Virgin of Fatima on her arrival in Buffalo, NY, in December. In a year’s time, some 3 million Americans had seen her, and her mission continued through the century, with more traveling replicas made to satisfy demand. First Saturday devotions gained currency in Catholic communities everywhere.
In 1948, Sister Lucia transferred to the Order of Discalced Carmelites in Coimbra, Portugal, where she died in 2005.
On May 13, 1981, Mehmet Ali Hagca shot Pope John Paul II in crowded St. Peter’s Square. Just then the pontiff bent to examine a girl’s Fatima medal, causing the bullets to miss his head and chest. One year later, the Pope visited the sanctuary in Fatima, where he left a would-be assassin’s bullet in thanks to Our Lady for saving his life. On May 13, 2000, Pope John Paul II beatified Francisco and Jacinta Marto. That same year, he published the “third secret” of Fatima: Lucia’s vision of the martyrdom of a pope-like “Bishop dressed in white” with other Catholics. In 2002, Pope John Paul II added the feast of Our Lady of Fatima to the Catholic Church calendar as an optional memorial for May 13.
VIDEO DOCUMENTARY (FILM CLIP):
Michel de la Sainte Trinité, “Part 2, Chapter 2,” The Whole Truth About Fatima, Volume II, www.catholicvoice.co.uk/fatima2/ch2-2.htm.