There have been many articles, pamphlets, books and even a movie about Our Lady of Fatima; however, I would like to mention just one aspect which I find very pertinent to the people of today and especially to our young people. This pertains to the first of the three secrets; i.e., the Vision of Hell.
The 100th anniversary of the “Miracle of the Sun” is on October 13th of this year; therefore, I have been doing a lot of reading about the many, many aspects of this remarkable event. The most noteworthy element is the huge number of people who witnessed the miracle. Usually, when we read of miracles happening, they are witnessed by a handful of devout Catholics. This miracle was witnessed by a crowd of at least 50,000 to 70,000 people, and some estimate the number even higher. In addition the crowd included not only many skeptics but those who had previously ridiculed the upcoming miracle in secular newspapers.
How did the crowd become so large? It looks like Our Blessed Mother planned it that way. She started out in the spring of 1917 with three children reporting apparitions of an angel, then on May 13, 1917, there appeared apparitions of the Virgin Mary at the Cova da Iria in Fatima, Portugal. These visions occurred on the 13th of each month following, with the crowds growing larger each month. The children described the vision as "The Lady more brilliant than the Sun." Only the children (Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco) could see and hear the Virgin Mary although the others saw an apparition. The children reported to all that on October 13 the Lady would reveal her identity and perform a miracle "so that all may believe." Newspapers reported the prophecies, and more and more people began visiting the area.
The children’s accounts were true but controversial, drawing intense criticism from both local secular and religious authorities. A provincial administrator briefly took the children into custody and even emotionally tortured them because he believed the prophecies were politically motivated. He told them they would be boiled in oil if they did not tell him they were lying. They were willing to die rather than claim they were lying.
Finally, on October 13th the “Miracle of the Sun” occurred. The three children saw a panorama of visions. Father John De Marchi, an Italian Catholic priest and researcher, wrote several books on the subject which included descriptions by witnesses who had seen a miracle created by Our Blessed Mary. According to the secular press, after a period of rain the dark clouds broke and the sun appeared as an opaque, spinning disc in the sky. It was significantly duller than normal, and it cast multicolored lights across the landscape, the people, and the surrounding clouds. The sun then careened towards the earth before zig-zagging back to its normal position. Witnesses reported their previously wet clothes became "suddenly and completely dry, as well as the wet and muddy ground that had been previously soaked because of the rain that had been falling," Photographers recorded the event mostly showing the faces of the onlookers as they witnessed the miracle.
The three children were Lucia Santos and her cousins, Jacinta and Francisco Marto. The children were close companions and had very little association with other children. They were all shepherds who would take their families’ sheep each day to graze in the pastures and return in the evening. They and their families were practicing Catholics.
In the spring and summer of 1916, nine-year-old Lucia Santos and her younger cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto were herding sheep at the Cova da Iria near their home village of Aljustrel in the parish of Fatima, Portugal. They later said they were visited three times by an apparition of an angel. They said the angel, who identified himself as the "Angel of Peace" and "Angel of Portugal", taught them prayers, to make sacrifices, and to spend time in adoration of the Lord.
After the appearance of the angel they became even more devout and much more prayerful, constantly seeking to do penance for all sinners. They would give away their lunches to the needy and they took on hardships as penance for the conversion of sinners.
While they were still young children, Francisco and Jacinta died from the Spanish flue which killed many all over the world. Lucia became well-educated and lived as a Carmelite nun where she continued to write about the visits with Our Holy Mother. She died in 2005 at the age of ninety-seven.
The Three Secrets:
The published memoirs of Lucia Santos in the 1930s revealed two secrets which she claimed came from the Virgin, while the third secret was to be revealed by the Catholic Church in 1960. The controversial events at Fatima gained fame due partly to elements of the secrets, prophecy and eschatological revelations allegedly related to the Second World War and possibly more global wars in the future, particularly the Virgin's request for the Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
This was a vision of hell, which Lucia said the children experienced on July 13, 1917. This vision had a tremendous effect upon the children. The Virgin Mary opened her hands and rays of light seemed to penetrate the ground, and the children saw what looked like a sea of fire. Immersed in this fire were devils and souls with human forms as if they were burning, transparent coals floating in the conflagration. They were falling on every side amidst shrieks of pain and despair. The devils were distinguished by their horrible likeness to unknown animals.
This was a recommendation for devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary as a way to save souls and bring peace to the world. It predicted an end to the Great War (WW l), but predicted a worse war if people did not cease offending God. This second war would be presaged by a night illuminated by an unknown light, as a "great sign" that the time of chastisement was near. To avert this, Mary would return to ask for the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart and the establishment of the First Saturdays Devotion.
If her requests were heeded, Russia would be converted, and there would be peace; if not, Russia would spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. She ended with a promise that in the end, the Immaculate Heart would triumph. If the Holy Father would consecrate Russia to Mary a period of peace would be granted to the world.
There is continued debate in the Church regarding the fact the Holy Father consecrated the whole world to Mary rather than consecrating only Russia.
On January 25, 1938 (during solar cycle 17), bright lights, an aurora borealis, appeared over the northern hemisphere, including places as far south as North Africa, Bermuda and California. It was the widest occurrence of the aurora since 1709. People in Paris and elsewhere believed a great fire was burning, and fire departments were called. Sister Lucia indicated that it was the sign foretold and so apprised her superior and the bishop in letters the following day. Just over a month later, Hitler seized Austria and eight months later invaded Czechoslovakia.
The third secret was a vision of the death of the Pope and other religious figures. There is still controversy over this third secret as described by Lucia. The secret is still in review. Many believe the secret was fulfilled on May 13, 1981 when an assassination attempt was made on Pope John Paul ll in St. Peter’s Square by a Turkish gunman.
Results of Fatima:
In 1930 the Catholic Church officially recognized the apparition events as "worthy of belief" and granted a papal indulgence to pilgrims visiting Fatima. In 1935 the bodies of the child visionaries, Jacinta and Francisco, were reinterred in the basilica. Pope Pius XII granted a Canonical Coronation of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima on May 13, 1946. In the 21st century, pilgrimage to the site takes place year-round. The principal pilgrimage festivals take place on the thirteenth day of each month, from May to October, on the anniversaries of the original apparitions. The largest crowds gather on May 13 and October 13, when up to a million pilgrims have attended to pray and witness processions of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima, both during the day and by the light of tens of thousands of candles at night.
What have we learned from Fatima?
One of the things we learned, which we seem to have ignored, is the real existence of Hell. It is almost indescribably horrible. There is nothing on earth we can even compare to it, with the exception of fire. We almost need to envision it as the children did. We seem to forget this is not a temporary place and it is not just for a select few of very hardened criminals. One of the children said she saw souls falling into Hell like snowflakes in a winter storm.
It was here our Heavenly Mother taught the little ones the prayer, ”O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fire of hell, lead all souls to heaven, especially those who are most in need of your mercy.” This prayer has been added to each decade of the rosary.
The teachings in our churches today seem to ignore hell and imply everyone who believes in Jesus will be saved. This is not true! When readings for Matthew recounting the "Parables" of the Sower, The Wheat and Weeds, The Mustard Seed and the Net, etc., contain verses of the Lord and his Kingdom, but also of fire, the wicked, and the blazing furnace, to name a few. Yet in most sermons following these readings, not one word is mentioned about the aforementioned. To make matters worse, the priest often goes on to explain each single parable could signify something different. For example, the "Weeds" are not unrepentant sinners, but simply "sins", and all the weeds would be burned away by a purifying fire in purgatory upon everyone's death. This “word play” changes the entire interpretation of the scripture. Now, according to their interpretation, there are no sinners who burn in hell, but only sins, and all sins will be purified in purgatory in the end. So there is no hell and no people going to hell. It's all good, nothing to worry about, stay the course.
Our young people, who are not receiving adequate instructions in the home or in the church, are living and growing like the weeds in the Bible. This candy coating of scripture, this infection of Universalism, will not only lead people astray, but straight into Satan's arms.
Lucia of Fatima, who lived for 87 years after the last vision, stated, “The Most Holy Virgin is very sad because no one paid any attention to her message, neither the good nor the bad.”
We need to not only pray the rosary every single day, but to teach our children and grandchildren the truth as our Holy Mother, Mary, taught the children of Fatima.