A brief chronology about Fatima.
The history of Fatima can be divided into three groups: the apparitions of the Angel in 1916, the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary from May to October 1917, and the additional apparitions in which Our Lady requested the Reparation of the First Saturdays.
The Children of Fatima
The story of Fatima really begins in the year 1916 when 3 children—Lucy, a girl of 9, Francisco, a boy of 8, and Jacinta, a little girl of 6 years old received the visit of an Angel in order to prepare them to the apparitions of Our Lady the following year.
An answer of Our Lady
On May 13, 1917, the children did not know the confused condition of the world. They had not heard the voice of Pope Benedict XV, who had addressed himself to the Mother of Mankind, asking the Blessed Virgin Mary to look upon the world in tears, to sympathize with the wailing of innocent children, the anguished cries of mothers and wives. This was the day on which the Queen of Heaven had decided to answer the Holy Father’s plea.
About noon, the children were startled by a sudden flash of lightning. Looking up, they saw no sign of a storm. The sky had never been so beautiful, nor the valley more peaceful. Again came the flash.
Fearing now that a sudden storm would overtake them, they ran in the direction of the little cave. As they turned, they were startled to see a beautiful lady standing in one of the little oak trees nearby. “Do not be afraid. I will do you no harm,” said the beautiful lady. Unafraid, Lucy questioned:
Where is Your Grace from?
I am of Heaven.
Shall I go to Heaven?
Yes, you will.”
Then, thinking of her companions:
Also, but he will have to say many rosaries."
Indeed, Francisco became an inspiration to the others. One day the girls were so busy playing that they did not think of Francisco until lunch time. “Francisco,” they called, “Are you ready to eat lunch with us?” “No, I don’t want any lunch.” Later they asked what he was doing, “I was thinking of Our Lord, Who is sad because of so many sins. How I wish I could make Him happy!” Another time they called him to play, and he simply held up his rosary. “Oh, say that later.” “Now, and later too,” answered the boy. “Don’t you remember that Our Lady said I would have to say many rosaries?”
Mary’s Immaculate Heart
In June Our Lady came again. She asked for daily sacrifice. Then, opening the hands which had always been folded in prayer, she revealed her Immaculate Heart, surrounded with thorns, pierced and bleeding. Although Our Lady said nothing about her Heart on this occasion, the children understood that her Heart was pierced and bleeding because of sin, and that Our Lady wanted reparation for sin.
On July 13 the children saw Our Lady again. This time, after repeating the message of prayer and sacrifice, she suddenly opened her hands, and great shafts of light seemed to pour out of them and pierce the earth. The earth opened, revealing to the eyes of these innocent children, the terrible pit of Hell. There, Lucy tells us later; they could see the souls of the damned cast about like sparks in a great fire. They could hear the cries of pain and eternal remorse and could distinguish the devils by the nauseous forms they had taken of unknown animals.
“You have seen Hell,” Our Lady explained, “where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart.”
Then, in a frightening summary, Our Lady foretold what would happen to the world if men did not stop offending God, told how God was going to punish the whole world by means of war, hunger, persecution of the Church and of the Holy Father. “I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, and the Communions of Reparation on the first Saturdays.”
She told how punishment would not come if her requests were granted, but threatened further punishment if men refused to listen:
If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, Russia will spread her errors throughout the world, promoting wars and persecution of the Church; the good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated.”
Then the Lady added, “In the end My Immaculate Heart will triumph!”
Our Lady gave the children a prayer that she asked them to say before making a sacrifice, “O Jesus, this is for love of Thee, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
Again in August Our Lady mentioned Hell, telling the children, “Pray very much, and make sacrifices for sinners, for many souls go to Hell because they have no one to pray and sacrifice for them.”
Hell and War
In the weeks that followed, the children could not stop thinking about the terrible vision of Hell. Little Jacinta would sit and think for hours at a time. “How sorry I am for the souls that go to Hell... the people there, alive, burning as wood in the fire. Lucy, why do people go to Hell?” And Lucy would explain. “Lucy, you must tell Our Lady to show everybody Hell; then no one will sin anymore.”
It seems that God gave to this little girl a special power of vision, opening her eyes to many a picture of the future woes of the world.
On one occasion, as the three sat near the entrance to the cave of the Cabeco, looking out over the valley below, Jacinta suddenly cried, “Don’t you see all those roads and lanes and fields, covered with people crying from hunger?”
In the last months of her sickness, she told Lucy one day:
I was thinking of sinners, and the war that is to come... So many lives will be lost, and almost all will go to Hell. So many houses will be destroyed, and so many priests will be killed. If men ceased offending God, the war would not come, and such great numbers would not go to Hell.”
Many times she was given a vision of the Holy Father. For example, one day as she rested near the old well, she said to the others:
He was kneeling before a table, holding his face in his hands, and he was crying. Outside, there were many people; some were throwing stones at him, others were swearing at him and saying many ugly words to him. How pitiful it was! We must pray for him.”
On August 13th the apparition did not occur because the Administrator of the local district who was also president of the Municipal Council had captured and took the shepherd children to Vila Nova with the intention of forcing them to reveal the secret of the messages from Mary.
They were imprisoned in the district and the municipal jail. They were offered the most valued gifts if they would reveal the secret. The young visionaries responded, “We will not say it even if the whole world was given to us.” They were taken to jail. The prisoners advised, “Reveal the secret to the Administrator. Who cares if that Lady doesn’t want you to?” “Oh no,” Jacinta responded with liveliness, “I would rather die first!” The three children prayed the rosary with the prisoners before a medal Jacinta hung on the wall. The Administrator commanded that a pot of boiling oil be prepared. He threatened the children, saying that they would be boiled in it if they did not obey him. Even though the children believed what was told them, they did not reveal anything.
On August 15, the Feast of the Assumption, they were taken out of jail and returned to Fatima.
A sign so great
It is not hard to imagine that as the word of happenings at Fatima gradually spread to the other towns and villages of Portugal, and was reported in other parts of Europe, there were many who refused to believe that Our Lady appeared to the world in such a forgotten place as Fatima.
So it was that in September of 1917, Our Lady said to the children, “In October I will perform the miracle so that all may believe.”
Miracle of the Sun
In spite of the rain and the mud, all the roads to Fatima were crowded on the days before the 13th of October. Everyone wanted to see Our Lady. Shortly before noon Our Lady came for the last time. Hearts overflowing with love, the children listened to her last message, “They must amend their lives and ask pardon for their sins. Do not offend the Lord our God any more, for He is already too much offended!”
Then was seen the great miracle of the sun, during which the sun turned blood red and began to dance in the heavens; it even began to leave the sky and throw itself into the crowd of over 70,000 people who watched in terrified wonder. All thought that the end of the world had come. Everyone was crying and weeping, “Holy Virgin, take us not in our sins!” When the sun finally returned to its place, everyone knew that Heaven had indeed come to earth. They turned to the children of Fatima with the one question, “What does Our Lady want us to do?”