Since 1917, Fatima has been one of the most important Marian shrines in the world. Beginning May 13 of that year, a luminous figure of a woman all in white, “brighter than the sun” appeared to three young shepherd children, Lucia Santos and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto, as they were tending their sheep in the Cova da Iria. When Lucia asked her who she was, she said “I am from Heaven.”
The lady wore a white mantle edged with gold and held a rosary in her hand and she urged the children to do penance, say the Rosary every day and devote themselves to the Holy Trinity in order to bring peace and an end to the world war that was raging at that time.
She urged the children to return on the 13th day of the following month; the children experienced a total of six visits from the apparition, from May to October 13.
During her appearances she revealed that the children would suffer and that Francisco and Jacinta would go to heaven soon while Lucia would live many years to spread her message. When she made her last appearance on October 13 more than 70,000 people had gathered. As the astonished crowd watched, the sun became different colors and moved toward earth in a zigzag motion that became known as the dance of the sun. This Miracle of the Sun was seen over an area of 600 square miles.
Within three years of the Apparitions, Francisco and Jacinta died during a flu epidemic while Lucia became a Carmelite nun. Pope John Paul II beatified two of the children, Jacinta and Francisco, on May 13, 2000. Sr. Lucia was present for the ceremony. She lived to age 97 and died in 2005.
Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of Fatima
The Blessed Virgin was given the title Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of Fatima based on the apparitions experienced by the three children.
The site of the apparitions quickly became a major pilgrimage center; two million pilgrims visited in the decade after the events of 1917. A small chapel was built and by 1927 the foundation was laid for the present basilica. In 1930 Fatima received official church recognition of the apparitions and pilgrims were granted a papal indulgence. Today millions of pilgrims flock to the site and pilgrimage festivals are held on the thirteenth day of the month from May through October.
Pope Francis Planning to Visit Fatima in 2017
Pope Francis plans to travel to Fatima in 2017 to mark the 100th Anniversary of the Apparitions. While his travel dates are not set yet, the country is already preparing for Centennial celebrations. When the Holy Father received a statue of Our Lady of Fatima in 2014 he invited the crowd present to meditate on the gaze of Mary. The Pope said of Mary’s gaze,