A short history about the apparitions and the great miracle in Fatima.

The Three children of Fatima

Above; the three children of Fatima; Lucia, 10 and her two cousins Francisco, 9, and Jacinta, 7 and below Jacinta in the arms of a soldier in the crowd of 70,000 people on the 13th of October after they had seen the Sun dancing in the sky.

The crowd of 70,000 who saw the Sun dancing in the sky on the 13th of October 1917.
The crowd of 70,000 who saw the Sun dancing in the sky

The crowd of 70,000 who saw the Sun dancing in the sky on the 13th of October 1917

Brief History

This article is about the series of apparitions of St Michael the Archangel and Mary the Mother of Jesus to young shepherd children in the area of Fatima, Portugal during the years 1915 to 1917 as they were minding their parents sheep. The apparitions in a sense began in 1915 when St Michael the Archangel appeared above the trees in a vague or blurred way to Lucia and her three friends Teresa Matias, Maria Rosa and Maria Justino as they had begun to pray the Rosary while minding the sheep. Lucia described the event as follows; “there before our eyes, we saw a figure poised in the air above the trees; it looked like a statue made of snow, rendered almost transparent by the rays of the sun”. As they finished their prayer the figure disappeared. Lucia said nothing to her family but her two friends were not as silent so when Lucia's mother asked her about it Lucia told her “it looked like a person wrapped up in a sheet! you couldn't make out any eyes or hands on it”. Lucia's mother became annoyed at the reports and Lucia's sisters hurt her with many cutting words about the man “in a sheet”. This event happened three times then at that time (1916) Lucia, (10 years) then started minding the sheep with her two little cousins Francisco (9 years, and Jacinta (7 years) Marto in the picture above.

Apparitions of St Michael the Archangel

One day when they were minding the sheep it was drizzling rain so they took shelter among the rocks in the place called the Cova da Iria. As the three of them were playing “pebbles” there was a strong wind that “shook the trees” they looked up startled to see what was happening because it had been an unusually calm day when they saw the same figure coming towards them from over the Olive trees. They described him as “a young man of about 14 or 15 years, whiter than snow, transparent as crystal when the sun shines through it, and of great beauty”. As he drew closer he said to them “Do not be afraid! I am the Angel of Peace. Pray with me.” Kneeling down with his forehead touching the ground he made them repeat this prayer;

“My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love You! I ask pardon of You for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love You”

Rising he said “Pray like this. The Hearts of Jesus and Mary are attentive to the voice of your supplications”. His words were engraved so deeply on their minds that later they would often spend long periods of time prostrate and praying like the Angel until sometimes they fell over exhausted. Lucia told Francisco and Jacinta to keep it secret and they did. Some time passed and one day in the summer of the next year the three were playing near their well when suddenly the Angel appeared beside them and asked them “What are you doing? Pray, pray very much! The most holy Hearts of Jesus and Mary have designs of mercy on you. Offer prayers and sacrifices constantly to the Most High”. Lucia asked “How are we to make sacrifices?” He replied “Make of everything you can a sacrifice, and offer it to God in reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication for the conversion of sinners. You will then draw down peace on your country. I am its Angel Guardian, the Angel of Portugal. Above all accept and bear with submission the suffering the Lord will send you.” One day a considerable time later they had been kneeling down among the rocks with their heads to the ground saying the prayer “My God I believe, I adore... ...who do not love You” over and over again when an extraordinary light shone about them, they sprang up and beheld the Angel holding a Chalice in his left hand with the Host suspended above from which drops of Blood fell into the Chalice. Leaving the Chalice suspended in the air the Angel knelt beside them and made them repeat many times this prayer;

“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 with which He Himself is offended. And , through the infinite merits of His most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary I beg of You the conversion of poor sinners.”

He then rose up and gave the Sacred Host to Lucia and shared the Blood from the Chalice between Jacinta and Francisco saying as he did so “Take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, horribly outraged by sinful men! Make reparation for their crimes and console your God”. He then repeated the prayer “Most Holy Trinity....” three times and then disappeared.

Apparitions of Mary the Mother of the God–Man, Jesus Christ.

The apparitions of Saint Michael were also a preparation for the series of apparitions of Mary the mother of Jesus which began on the 13th of May 1917. The children were in the fields minding the sheep when Mary appeared to them from above a small Holmoak tree. They said they saw “a beautiful Lady from Heaven”. Mary asked them – Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta to meet her in the same place on the 13th of each month for the next six months until October. Our lady promised the children that she would obtain a very big miracle for everyone to see on the 13th of October. A crowd of 70,000 gathered, on that wet and dismal day, to see the promised miracle. Mary announced her identity: she was Our Lady of the Rosary, and she told them three “secrets”. It had been raining all morning and then the amazing miracle happened. The rain suddenly stopped and the sun came out. The sun seemed to be veiled with transparent gauze which enabled everyone to look at it without difficulty. The grayish tint began changing as if into a shining silver disc, that was growing slowly until it broke through the clouds. And the silvery sun, still shrouded in the same grayish lightness of gauze, was seen to rotate and wander within the circle of receded clouds! At first it seemed to start spinning and dancing in the sky and then it began to plunge rapidly towards the earth. The crowd was terrified. They got down on their knees in the mud thinking they were finished and started begging God for Mercy. After a moment the sun stopped and returned to its normal position and then, twice more, repeated the same manoeuver. The people cried out as the Sun seemed to rapidly descend on them. All the people were weeping and praying bareheaded. These were seconds, moments, that seemed like hours. Later, people found that their clothing, which had been soaked in the downpour, and the ground was quite dry.” Yet the event evidently was not just a local phenomenon or explainable as mass delusion because people who knew nothing about it saw the sun dancing in the sky from many miles away.

13 May 1917

On 13 May 1917 the three children took their flocks out to pasture on the small area known as the Cova da Iria. After lunch and the rosary they suddenly saw a bright flash of something like lightning, followed quickly by another flash in the clear blue sky.

They looked up to see in Lucia’s words, “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 children stood there amazed, bathed in the light that surrounded the apparition, as the Lady smiled and said: “Do not be afraid, I will not harm you.” Lucia as the oldest asked her where she came from.

The Lady pointed to the sky and said: “I come from heaven.” Lucia then asked her what she wanted: “I have come to ask you to come here for six months on the 13th day of the month, at this same hour. Later I shall say who I am and what I desire. And I shall return here yet a seventh time.”

Lucia then asked if they would go to heaven and she was told yes, she and Jacinta would go to heaven, but Francisco would need to say many rosaries first. The Lady then said: “Are you willing to offer yourselves to God and bear all the sufferings He wills to send you, as an act of reparation for the conversion of sinners?” Lucia as spokesman for all three readily agreed: “Then you are going to have much to suffer, but the grace of God will be your comfort.”

Lucia recounted that at the same moment as she said these words the Lady opened her hands and streamed a “light” on the children which allowed them to see themselves in God. The Lady finished with a request: “Say the Rosary every day, to bring peace to the world and the end of the war.” With that she began to rise into the air, moving towards the east until she disappeared.

The children got together and tried to think of ways they could make sacrifices, as the Lady had asked, resolving to go without lunch and to pray the full rosary. Francisco and Jacinta received more support from their parents than Lucia, but the attitude of the local inhabitants was sceptical and even derisory; the children had much to suffer, just as the Lady had told them.

13 June 1917

About fifty people turned up at the Cova da Iria on June 13, as the three children assembled near the holmoak tree where the Lady had appeared. The children then saw a flash of light followed immediately by the apparition of Mary, as she spoke to Lucia: “I want you to come on the 13th of next month, to pray the Rosary every day, and to learn to read. Later, I will tell you what I want.”

Lucia asked Mary to take them to heaven and was reassured in this way: “I will take Jacinta and Francisco shortly; but you will stay here for some time to come. Jesus wants to use you to make Me known and loved. He wishes to establish the devotion to My Immaculate Heart throughout the world. I promise salvation to whoever embraces it; these souls will be dear to God, like flowers put by Me to adorn his throne.” This last sentence is found in a letter written in 1927 by Sr. Lucia to her confessor.

Lucia was sad at the first part of this reply, saying: “Am I to stay here alone?” Mary replied: “No, my daughter. Are you suffering a great deal? Don’t lose heart. I will never forsake you. My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God.”

One of the witnesses to this apparition, Maria Carreira, described how Lucia then cried out and pointed as Mary departed. She herself heard a noise like, “a rocket, a long way off,” and looked to see a small cloud a few inches over the tree, rise, and move slowly towards the east until it disappeared. The crowd of pilgrims then returned to Fatima where they reported the amazing things they had seen, thus ensuring that there were between two and three thousand people present for the July apparition.

13 July 1917

On 13 July the three children assembled at the Cova and again they saw the indescribably beautiful Lady over the holmoak. Lucia asked what she wanted, and Mary replied: “I want you to come here on the 13th of next month, to continue to pray the Rosary every day in honour of Our Lady of the Rosary, in order to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war, because only she can help you.”

Lucia then asked her who she was and for a miracle so everyone would believe: “Continue to come here every month. In October, I will tell you who I am and what I want, and I will perform a miracle for all to see and believe.”

Lucia made some requests for sick people, to which Mary replied that she would cure some but not others, and that all must say the rosary to obtain such graces, before continuing: “Sacrifice yourselves for sinners, and say many times, especially when you make some sacrifice: O Jesus, it is for love of You, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”

The vision of hell

Lucia later revealed that as she spoke these words, Mary opened her hands and rays of light from them seemed to penetrate the earth so that they saw a terrifying vision of hell, full of demons and lost souls amidst indescribable horrors.

This vision of hell was the first part of the “secret” of Fatima, and was not revealed until much later. The children looked up to the sad face of the Blessed Virgin, who spoke to them kindly:

“You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace. The 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.”

At this point the second part of the secret of Fatima ends and the third part begins with the words, “In Portugal the dogma of the faith will always be preserved ... “ The first two parts of the secret only became publicly known in 1942. The third part of the secret has only recently been publicly divulged, in June 2000.

Mary specifically told Lucia not to tell anyone about the secret at this stage, apart from Francisco, before continuing: “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.” After assuring Lucia that there was nothing more, Mary disappeared off into the distance.

August 1917

As 13 August approached, the story of the apparitions had reached the anti-religious secular press, and while this ensured that the whole country knew about Fatima, it also meant that many biased and negative reports were circulating. The children were kidnapped on the morning of the 13th by the Mayor of Vila Nova de Ourem, Arturo Santos. They were interrogated about the secret; but despite his threats and promises of money, they refused to divulge it. In the afternoon they were moved to the local prison and threatened with death but determined that they would die rather than reveal the secret.

On August 19, Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta were assembled at a place called Valinhos, near Fatima, late in the afternoon, when they again saw Mary, who spoke to Lucia: “Go again to the Cova da Iria on the 13th and continue to say the Rosary every day.” Mary also said she would perform a miracle, so all would believe, and that if they had not been kidnapped it would have been even greater.

Looking very sad, Mary then said: “Pray, pray very much, and make sacrifices for sinners; for many souls go to hell, because there are none to sacrifice themselves and pray for them.” With that she rose into the air and moved towards the east before disappearing.

By now the children had thoroughly absorbed Mary’s plea for prayer and penance, and did everything they could to answer it. They prayed for hours while lying prostrate on the ground and went as long as they could without drinking, in the burning heat of the Portuguese summer. They also went without food, as a sacrifice for sinners, to save them from hell, the vision of which had so profoundly effected them. They even knotted some pieces of old rope around their waists as a form of mortification, not removing them day or night.

13 September 1917

On September 13 very large crowds began to converge on Fatima from all directions. Around noon the children then arrived, and after the customary flash of light, they saw Mary on the holmoak tree. She spoke to Lucia: “Continue to pray the Rosary in order to obtain the end of the war. In October Our Lord will come, as well as Our Lady of Dolours and Our Lady of Carmel. Saint Joseph will appear with the Child Jesus to bless the world. God is pleased with your sacrifices. He does not want you to sleep with the rope on, but only to wear it during the daytime.”

Lucia then began to put forward the petitions for cures, to be told: “Yes, I will cure some, but not others. In October I will perform a miracle so that all may believe.” With that she rose, moved to the east, and disappeared.

13 October 1917

The proclamation of a public miracle caused the most intense speculation throughout Portugal, and the journalist Avelino de Almeida, published a satirical article on the whole business in the anti-religious newspaper O Seculo. People from other parts of the country descended, in their tens of thousands, on the Cova, despite the terrible storm that lashed the mountain country around Fatima, on the eve of the 13th. Many pilgrims went barefooted, reciting the rosary as they went, all crowding into the area around the Cova, as by midmorning the weather again turned bad and heavy rain began to fall.

The children reached the holmoak around noon, and then saw the flash of light as Mary appeared before them. For the last time, Lucia asked what she wanted: “I want to tell you that a chapel is to be built here in my honour. I am the Lady of the Rosary. Continue always to pray the Rosary every day. The war is going to end, and the soldiers will soon return to their homes.”

Again Lucia made her requests, being informed that people must amend their lives, and ask forgiveness of their sins, if they wanted healings or conversions. She reported too that Mary grew very sad and said: “Do not offend the Lord our God any more, because He is already so much offended.” Then rising into the air and opening her hands towards the sun, growing more brilliant as she did, she disappeared, being replaced by various visions seen only by the children.

First Saturday Devotion

The desire for a First Saturday devotion revealed by the Blessed Virgin Mary to the three children at Fatima in 1917. On December 10, 1925, the Virgin revealed more details about the devotion to Sister Lucia, the only seer still alive and at that time a cloistered nun. From that time, the devotion has spread throughout the world on the day (Saturday) that the Church has traditionally honoured the Blessed Virgin. There is no distinct confraternity for this devotion, though many apostolates incorporate it into their devotional program.


To establish devotion (in accordance with God’s wishes) to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and to make reparation for...

  1. Attacks upon the reality of Mary’s Immaculate Conception
  2. Attacks against her the reality of Mary’s Perpetual Virginity
  3. Attacks upon Mary’s Divine Maternity and the refusal to accept her as the Mother of all mankind
  4. Those who try to publicly implant in children’s hearts indifference, contempt and hatred for Immaculate Mary
  5. For those who insult Mary directly in her sacred images.


The devotion involves the following practices on five consecutive first Saturdays with the specific intention of making reparation for the offenses (above) against the Blessed Virgin.

  1. Go to Confession (within 8 days before or after the first Saturday)
  2. Receive Holy Communion
  3. Recite five decades of the Rosary
  4. “Keep me company for fifteen minutes while meditating on fifteen mysteries of the Rosary” (separate from the Rosary itself) (Preferably done in the presence of the Lord in the Tabernacle or at Exposition)


  1. The Virgin Mary’s assistance at the hour of death with the graces necessary for salvation for those who practice the devotion.
  2. Salvation of souls and peace as a result of promoting of the Devotion to the Immaculate Heart.

The 3 Secrets

The First secret

The first secret was a terrible vision of Hell

“Our Lady showed us a great sea of fire which seemed to be under the earth. 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 falling back on every side like sparks in a huge fire, without weight or equilibrium, and amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear. The demons could be distinguished by their terrifying and repulsive likeness to frightful and unknown animals, all black and transparent. This vision lasted but an instant. How can we ever be grateful enough to our kind heavenly Mother, who had already prepared us by promising, in the first Apparition, to take us to heaven. Otherwise, I think we would have died of fear and terror.”

The Second secret

Our Lady said “You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace. The 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 shall be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.”

The Third secret

Bishop da Silva of Leiria suggested to Sr Lucia to write down the third secret in September 1943 and she wrote it down on the 3rd of January 1944. She was afraid to reveal its contents and that is why there was a delay in writing. Bishop da Silva kept it in his posession until 1957 and then sent it to Rome. The Secret was made public on the 13 th May 2000 which was 83 years after the first apparition of our Lady to the children in the Cova da Iria in Fatima and 19 years after Pope John Paul was shot on the same day in Rome in 1981. Sister Lucia wrote
J.M.J. (JMJ means Jesus, Mary and Joseph)
The third part of the secret revealed at the Cova da Iria–Fatima, on 13 th July 1917. I write in obedience to you, my God, who command me to do so through his Excellency the Bishop of Leiria and through your Most Holy Mother and mine. 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.”

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