|Between May and October 1917, Our Lady appeared six times to three young
Portuguese children in a field called the Cova de Iria, near the small
village of Fatima, about seventy
miles north of Lisbon. The children who received the apparitions had been brought up in an
atmosphere of piety. They were Lucia dos Santos, aged ten, and her two younger cousins
Francisco and Jacinta. They tended sheep together and often would kneel in the open field to pray the Rosary.
Our Lady of Fatima
first apparition took place around noon on Sunday, May 13, 1917 when a brilliant
flash of lightning drew the attention of the children. A beautiful Lady appeared clothed in white
and asked the children to return the thirteenth of each month. In these apparitions, Mary asked the
children to pray the Rosary daily for the conversion of sinners and asked for devotion to her
Immaculate Heart. She asked for prayer, penance and the consecration of Russia to her
Immaculate Heart. She also spoke of observing the first Saturdays of each month by going to
confession and receiving Holy Communion to make reparation to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.
On the day of the final apparition, October
13, 1917, she identified herself as "Our Lady of the Rosary" and the dramatic
episode of the dance of the sun took place, witnessed by a crowd of
seventy-thousand people, in which the sun seemed to tumble from the sky. After a lengthy diocesan
inquiry, a declaration of the Bishop of Leiria, in whose diocese these apparitions occurred,
approved the devotion to Our Lady of Fatima in 1930. The young visionary Francisco had died on
April 4, 1919 and his sister Jacinta on February 20, 1920. The sole survivor, Sister Lucia,
lived many years as a professed Carmelite nun, before her death on February 13, 2005.
|The first structure to be built on the
location of the apparitions was a small archway which was soon
replaced by a tiny chapel over the spot of the apparitions. When
this first chapel was destroyed by dynamite in 1922, a second chapel
was built and near to it the Pavilion of the Sick.
The foundation stone for the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary was laid on October 13, 1928 and the finished structure
was solemnly consecrated by Cardinal Cerejeira, the Patriarch of Lisbon, on October 6, 1953. In the colonnade of the Basilica, there
are fifteen altars, in honor of the mysteries of the Rosary.
On October 31, 1942, in honor of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the apparitions, the Supreme Pontiff, Pope Pius
XII (1939-1958) solemnly consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. His Papal Legate, Cardinal Masella, crowned the
statue of Our Lady of Fatima on May 13, 1946, the three-hundredth anniversary
of the consecration of the nation of Portugal to Mary Immaculate.
On the occasion of the fiftieth Anniversary
of the apparitions, on May 13, 1967, His Holiness Pope Paul VI (1963-1978) went to Fatima on a pilgrimage of prayer and peace. On
that occasion, he published an Apostolic Exhortation, Signum Magnum, in which he invited "all members of the Church to
consecrate themselves to Mary Immaculate and to put this pious act into concrete action in their daily lives."
Pope John Paul II offered Mass in Fatima on May 13, 1982, to give thanks for Mary's
intercession in saving his life a year earlier. He reminded the
faithful that "the message of Fatima is a call to conversion and
repentance, the nucleus of the message of the Gospel." He
re-consecrated the world to Mary's Immaculate Heart and called all to
prayer, especially the Rosary.
Rev. Matthew R. Mauriello
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