Our Lady of Fátima Nossa Senhora de Fátima, is a title referring to the Virgin Mary, based on apparitionsreported to be experienced by three shepherd children at Fátima. The three children were Lúcia Santos and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto.
The apparition is also referred to as Our Lady of the Rosary (a term first used in 1208 for the reputed apparition in the church of Prouille), because the children said the apparition called herself the “Lady of the Rosary”. A combination of these titles is also seen, i.e. Our Lady of the Rosary of Fátima (Nossa Senhora do Rosário de Fátima).
The events at Fátima gained fame due to elements of secrets, prophecy and eschatology, particularly with regard to World War II and possibly more World Wars in the future. Chief among these is also the alleged urgent need for the Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The reported apparitions at Fátima were officially declared worthy of belief by the Catholic Church.
Three Portuguese children, Lucia dos Santos, Jacinta Marto, and Francisco Marto, were young and without much education when they reported the apparition of Our Lady of Fátima in 1917. The local administrator initially jailed the children and threatened that he would boil them one by one in a pot of oil. The children were consoled by the other inmates in the jail, and then led the inmates in praying the Rosary.
With millions of followers and Roman Catholic believers, the reported visions at Fatima gathered respect. After a canonical enquiry, the visions of Fátima were officially declared “worthy of belief” in October 1930 by the Bishop of Leiria-Fátima. Popes Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI voiced their acceptance of the supernatural origin of the Fátima events. John Paul II credited Our Lady of Fátima with saving his life following an assassination attempt on the Feast of Our Lady of Fátima, 1981. He donated the bullet that wounded him to the Roman Catholic sanctuary at Fátima, Portugal and it was placed in the crown of the Virgin’s statue.
Fátima prayers and reparations
Many Roman Catholics recite prayers based on Our Lady of Fátima. Lúcia later said that, in 1916, she and her cousins had several visions of an angel calling himself the “Angel of Portugal” and the “Angel of Peace” who taught them to bow with their heads to the ground and to 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.” Lúcia later set this prayer to music and a recording exists of her singing it. It was also said that sometime later the angel returned and taught them a eucharistic devotion now known as the Angel Prayer.
Lúcia said that the Lady emphasized Acts of Reparation and prayers to console Jesus for the sins of the world. Lúcia said that Mary’s words were “When you make some sacrifice, say ‘O Jesus, it is for your love, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.’” At the first apparition, Lúcia wrote, the children were so moved by the radiance they perceived that they involuntarily said “Most Holy Trinity, I adore you! My God, my God, I love you in the Most Blessed Sacrament.” Lúcia also said that she heard Mary ask for these words to be added to the Rosary after the Gloria Patri prayer: “O my Jesus, pardon us, save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need.”
In the tradition of Marian visitations, the “conversion of sinners” is not necessarily religious conversion to the Roman Catholic Church, for that would be the “conversion of heretics or apostates who are ‘outside the church and alien to the Christian Faith’ according to Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical on the Unity of the Church, Satis Cognitum”. Conversion of sinners refers to general repentance and attempt to amend one’s life according to the teachings of Jesus for those True Catholics who do profess the faith truly, but are fallen into sins. Lúcia wrote that she and her cousins defined “sinners” not as non-Catholics but as those who had fallen away from the church or, more specifically, willfully indulged in sinful activity, particularly “sins of the flesh” and “acts of injustice and a lack of charity towards the poor, widows and orphans, the ignorant and the helpless” which she said were even worse than sins of impurity.
An estimated 70,000 people assembled to witness the last of the promised appearances of the Lady in the Cova da Iria on October 13, 1917. The widely reported miracle of the sun was a factor that led to Fátima quickly becoming a major centre of pilgrimage. Two million pilgrims visited the site in the decade following the events of 1917. A small chapel – the Capelinha - was built by local people on the site of the apparitions. The construction was neither encouraged nor hindered by the Catholic Church authorities. On May 13, 1920, pilgrims defied government troops to install a statue of the Virgin Mary in the chapel, and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was first officially celebrated there in January 1924. A hostel for the sick was begun in that year. In 1927 the first rector of the sanctuary was appointed and a set of Stations of the Crosswere erected on the mountain road. The foundation stone for the present basilica was laid the next year.
1930 was the year both of official church recognition of the apparition events as “worthy of belief” and the granting of a papal indulgence to pilgrims visiting Fátima. In 1935 the bodies of the visionaries Jacinta and Francisco were reinterred in the basilica. The coronation of the statue of Our Lady of Fátima there in 1946 drew such large crowds that the entrance to the site had to be barred.
Today pilgrimage to the site goes on all year round and additional chapels, hospitals and other facilities have been constructed. The principal pilgrimage festivals take place on the thirteenth day of each month, from May to October, on the anniversaries of the original appearances. The largest crowds gather on 13 May and 13 October, when up to a million pilgrims have attended to pray and witness processions of the statue of Our Lady of Fátima, both during the day and by the light of tens of thousands of candles at night.