Apparitions of the Virgin Mary at Fatima, Portugal

In 1917, the Virgin Mary appeared to three children - Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta - on the outskirts of their village, Fatima. Mary predicted and warned about World War II and the spread of Communism.

The Miracle of the Sun was witnessed by over 70,000 people.

The Catholic Church approved the apparitions, and today Fatima is one of the most visited Marian shrines in the world.

The Angel of Peace

The three young visionaries of Fatima were tending to their sheep when, in 1916, the so-called "Angel of Peace" appeared to them. Soon after, the children began experiencing apparitions of the Virgin Mary, whom they called The Lady of the Rosary.

The apparitions of Mary began in May, 1917, a year after the angel of peace had appeared to give the children communion.

Lucia would later describe the Virgin as "a lady, clothed in white, brighter than the sun, radiating a light more clear and intense than a crystal cup filled with sparkling water, lit by burning sunlight."

The Fatima Secrets

The apparitions were taking place during the time of World War One. As in Medjugorje, Mary gave several secrets to the Fatima visionaries. Thus, history has proven the authenticity of Fatima.

Mary told the three visionaries: "This war is going to end; but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the pontificate of Pius XI. When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that he is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine, and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father…To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays. If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she 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. In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me and she will be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world."

As a fulfillment to this prophecy, the nighttime skies over much of Europe were seen to glow inexplicably in 1937. Shortly after, World War II broke out, followed by the spread of communism from Russia to various countries throughout the world. Only after John Paul the Second consecrated Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1984 did communism die out in Eastern Europe, including in Yugoslavia where the Medjugorje apparitions were already taking place.

The Miracle of the Sun

The most profound miracle at Fatima was the Miracle of the Sun. Mary had told the children that she would perform a miracle in hopes that the skeptics would believe in the apparitions. So, on October Thirteenth, 1917, over seventy thousand people showed up despite a terrible downpour. The three children began to experience their apparition. As the rain fell harder and the field turned to mud, the onlookers huddled beneath a sea of umbrellas. Then, toward the end of the apparition, Our Lady performed her promised miracle.

The thick storm clouds suddenly parted and there, hovering like a dull gray disk that could be looked at directly, was the sun.

An atheistic reporter commented on the event: "One could see the immense multitude turn towards the sun, which appeared free from clouds and at its zenith. It looked like a plaque of dull silver and it was possible to look at it without the least discomfort. One might have thought an eclipse 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 - yes, the sun 'danced'!"

Many of the onlookers were terrified that the sun would crash down upon them. Then, as the sun returned to normal, each person in the crowd realized that they were completely dry despite being soaked from the rain just minutes before.

The Third Secret

Although scheduled to be revealed in the nineteen-sixties, the Vatican waited until the year 2000 to disclose the third part of the Fatima secret. Following is Lucia's account of the Third Secret.

"We saw an Angel with a flaming sword in his left hand… it gave out flames that looked as though they would set the world on fire; but they died out in contact with the splendor 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 were going up a steep mountain, at the top of which there was a big Cross of rough-hewn trunks… 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… and in the same way there died one after another the other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious, and various lay people... 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."

The common interpretation of the Third Secret of Fatima was that it depicted Communism's persecution of the Church. Indeed, not long after the apparitions at Fatima, communism spread throughout the world and millions of faithful were martyred.

Some believe, however, that this secret instead portrays an alleged time in the near future when Catholicism will be nearly destroyed. There are numerous Catholic prophecies that foresee a time when the Church is persecuted to the point of near-extinction and the Pope will be exiled from Rome. Many of these are similar in nature to the Third Secret of Fatima. The Catholic seer Maria Steiner made a similar prophecy in the eighteen-hundreds: "I see the Lord as He will be scourging the world and chastising it in a fearful manner so that few men and women will remain. The monks will have to leave their monasteries, and the nuns will be driven from the convents, especially in Italy. The holy Church will be persecuted, and Rome will be without a shepherd. But the Lord showed me how beautiful the world will be after this awful punishment."

The true miracle of Fatima continues to this day. Our Lady's message has been promulgated throughout the world and millions visit the shrine every year. Many pilgrims come to Fatima in search of signs and healings. Others make the journey to do penance.

Like in Lourdes, the torchlight procession at Fatima is a solemn experience. During the procession, the statue of the Blessed Mother is removed from its case and carried through the massive courtyard. This statue contains the bullet from the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul the Second, which coincidentally occurred on the anniversary of the first Fatima apparition. The Pope credits the Blessed Mother with saving his life. He had just leaned down to kiss a miniature statue of Our Lady of Fatima that a little girl was wearing around her neck, when the shots were fired, narrowly missing his head.

Fatima and Islam

It is no secret that the September Eleventh attacks were carried out by Islamic fundamentalists. These young Muslims had warped their religion into a justification for mass murder. Even in the midst of such a horrendous tragedy, Our Lady's plan for mankind is shining through.

Far back in history, the Muslims once occupied Portugal. The village of Fatima was given the Islamic name of well-loved Princess Fatima who lived in a nearby castle. Princess Fatima died at an early age, just after converting to Catholicism. Like most Muslim-born girls, this princess had been named after the beloved daughter of Islam's founder. Mohammed once said of his daughter, "Fatima is the most blessed woman in heaven after the Virgin Mary."

In fact, the Blessed Virgin Mary is mentioned more than thirty times in the Koran. Muslims believe in Mary's Immaculate Conception and the Virgin Birth of Christ. In the Koran, when Mary is born, her mother says: "And I consecrate her with all of her posterity under Thy protection, O Lord, against Satan!" Angels are pictured as accompanying the Blessed Mother and saying: "Oh Mary, God has chosen you and purified you, and elected you above all the women of the earth."

Nearly half a century ago, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen wrote the following. "I believe that the Blessed Virgin chose to be known as Our Lady of Fatima as a pledge and a sign of hope to the Moslem people, and as an assurance that they, who show her so much respect, will one day accept her divine Son, too. Mary is the portal for Moslems to accept Christ."

The Continuation of Fatima

As predicted by Mary to the children, Francisco died just eighteen months after the apparitions ended. He and his sister Jacinta became saints in the year 2000. The youngest of the visionaries, Jacinta, passed away after much suffering. Not only did she predict her own death, she also embraced her torment as a sacrifice for sinners.

The oldest of the seers, Lucia was told by Mary that she would live to see the Triumph of Mary's Immaculate Heart. After a long life in Portugal as a Carmelite nun, Sr. Lucia passed away in 2005. She had reportedly echoed John Paul the Second in saying that Medjugorje is the continuation of Fatima. Lucia's passing in regards to Our Lady's promise means that Mary's Immaculate Heart has already triumphed over the evil she warned about, which many would argue was Communism or the Soviet Union. Furthermore, Mary's triumph may well refer to the Medjugorje apparitions.

Many theologians see the present-day Medjugorje apparitions as a continuation of Fatima. According to the Medjugorje visionary Ivan, "Our Lady told one of the other visionaries that what she began in Fatima, she is going to complete in Medjugorje."

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The Consecration of Russia

Although some people argue that Our Lady's message at Fatima was not heeded, the consecration of Russia was in fact completed and this was affirmed by Sr. Lucia.

Our Lady never said that there would be "instant" peace after the consecration. Many believe that the turmoil our world now faces is leading up to that period of peace -- a "purification" if you will.

Some would argue that Russia was, in fact, converted as Our Lady promised... It was converted from Communism to relative freedom. Its conversion is ongoing. Our Lady never said that Russia would be converted to Catholicism. She said, simply, that it would be converted, which happened right after the legitimate consecration.

Our Lady said in Medjugorje that what she began in Fatima, she would complete in Medjugorje. So, it can be theorized that the "period of peace" may come about through the secrets and messages of Medjugorje.

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