Six Apparitions of Our Lady in 1917
13 May 1917
On 13 May 1917, Lucia, aged 10, along with her cousins Francisco and Jacinta, aged 8 and 7 respectively, took their flocks out to pasture on the small area known as the Cova da Iria, not far from their home village of Aljustrel, in the parish of Fatima.
After lunch and recitation of the rosary, according to the very brief method they had devised, so they could get on sooner with their games, 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, “there before us on a small holmoak, a Lady all dressed in white. She was more brilliant than the sun, and radiated a light more clear and intense than a crystal glass filled with sparkling water, when the rays of the burning sun shine through it.”
This is how she recounted it in her memoirs, published by the Postulation Centre for the Causes of Francisco and Jacinta under the title, Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words, (July 2007, vol I, p. 174).
Our Lady asked the children to return to the Cova da Iria, as the place was called (the words mean, ‘hollow of peace’) on the 13th day of each month, at the same time, until October. She asked them for prayer, particularly daily recitation of the rosary, and sacrifices in reparation for sin, and told them they would go to heaven.
The Blessed Virgin 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, who alone spoke with Our Lady, replied, “Yes, we are willing”. The response was: “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 Our Lady opened her hands and communicated a light so intense that “its rays penetrated our hearts and the innermost depths of our souls, making us see ourselves in God who was that light” At the end of this first apparition, Our Lady said: “Pray the Rosary every day, in order to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war.” (Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words, pp. 175, 176). This request to pray the Rosary every day was repeated during each of Our Lady’s six apparitions.
The children returned each month as requested, apart from August, when Our Lady appeared to them on the 19th at a place called Valinhos near their village of Aljustrel, because they had been kidnapped by the local Administrator on the 13th.
13 June 1917
About fifty people turned up at the Cova da Iria on 13 June, 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”; the children then saw her Immaculate Heart encircled by thorns which pierced it, “outraged by the sins of humanity and seeking reparation”.
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
During the July apparition, in response to Lucia’s request the Blessed Virgin promised that 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”. She also taught them a prayer for making sacrifices for the conversion of sinners and in reparation for sins against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Then came the revelation to the children in three parts, which they were told to keep secret.
Our Lady opened her hands and the children saw “as it were a sea of fire”—it was the fearsome vision of hell, described by Lucia in graphic detail. Explaining that that was where the souls of poor sinners went, Our Lady said that “to save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart.”
This was followed by the second and prophetic element of the secret. Our Lady continued, “If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace. The war [World War I] is going to end; but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out [World War II].
To prevent this, Our Lady asked for the consecration of Russia together with the First Saturdays Communion of Reparation. These first two parts of the secret were finally written down in Lucia’s Fourth Memoir, in October 1941. Mary said that if her requests were heeded, Russia would be converted, and there would be peace; if not, Russia would spread its errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good would be martyred and the Holy Father would have much to suffer. But she also promised that in the end, her Immaculate Heart would triumph, the Pope would consecrate Russia to her, leading to its conversion, and a period of peace would be granted to the world.
At the direction of Pope John Paul II, the text of the third part of the secret, which mainly concerns the persecutions suffered by the Church and the Holy Father during the twentieth century, was finally revealed by Cardinal Ratzinger, together with his Theological Commentary, on 26 June 2000. A photo of the original text of the third part of the secret, together with detailed supporting documentation, is included in Appendix III of the current edition of vol I of Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words (pp. 199-233). And it can also be seen on-line at:
At the conclusion of the July apparition, Our Lady taught the seers the prayer that is said at the end of each decade of the Rosary: “O my Jesus, forgive us our sins …”
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 in circulation.
Our Lady appeared on 19 August at Valinhos, at about 4 o’clock in the afternoon, because, as mentioned above, on the thirteenth the children had been kidnapped by the mayor of Ourem. Having heard that they had been given a secret in the previous month, he threatened to kill them in a vat of boiling oil if they did not reveal it to him. The children manifested their heroic virtue by preferring to choosepossible death rather than disobey Our Lady.
During the August apparition at Valhinos, Mary said to the children: “Go again to the Cova da Iria on the 13th and continue to say the Rosary every day.” She also renewed her appeal for prayer and asked the children to “make sacrifices for sinners; for many souls go to hell, because there are none to sacrifice themselves and pray for them.”(Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words, p. 180).
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 affected them. They even knotted some pieces of old rope around their waists as a form of mortification.
13 September 1917
Before this apparition, a number of seminarians and priests mingled with the large crowd. One of the priests who was present that day, and who was very favourably impressed by what he saw, was Mgr. John Quaresma, later a member of the bishop’s canonical inquiry into the events at Fatima. Witnesses testified that they experienced phenomena similar to those at earlier apparitions, such as the sudden freshening of the atmosphere, or that they saw the sun becoming paler until the stars could be seen, or saw points of light resembling “flower petals” which fell, disappearing as they came near the earth.
After the customary flash of light, they saw Our Lady on the holmoak tree. In reply to Lucia’s question as to what she wanted, Mary said: “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. St 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 began to rise and disappear towards the east.
After the apparition, the children were examined by a priest who was a professor at the local seminary, Dr. Manuel Formigão, and who had been present at the apparition. He later drew up a psychological profile in which he maintained that the children were sincere, acting in good faith, and apparently not telling lies or deceiving themselves. When the new bishop of Leiria, Bishop Correia da Silva, was installed in 1920, he wrote to him expressing his support for the reality of the apparitions.
13 October 1917
On 13 October, about 70,000 people from all over Portugal were present at the Cova da Iria, when the Blessed Virgin told the children that she was the “Lady of the Rosary” and asked for a chapel to be built there in her honour. The great crowd then saw the promised miracle, as the sun—looking like a dull grey disc that could be looked at directly quite easily—became visible as the black clouds parted; then itbegan to whirl and gyrate like a gigantic Catherine wheel, throwing out shafts of multicoloured light, before plunging towards the earth, until, after about 10 minutes, it resumed its normal appearance and place in the heavens.
Other people witnessed the solar miracle from a distance thus ruling out the possibility of any type of collective hallucination. Prior to this stupendous solar miracle, the people had been completely drenched with continuous heavy rain that had turned the Cova da Iria into a sea of mud. When the sun resumed its normal place in the sky, “everyone noticed that their clothes and the entire Cova da Iria were completely dry.” (Francis Johnston, Fatima the Great Sign, p. 52).
Thus the miracle foretold by Our Lady in July 1917 had taken place, and so the children’s accounts of her apparitions were vindicated.
And while the vast crowd at Fatima was experiencing the miracle of the sun, the children alone saw the series of apparitions of the Holy Family which Our Lady had foretold the previous month. They saw St Joseph and the Child Jesus appearing to bless the world, and this was followed by an apparition of Jesus and Mary, with her being shown as “Our Lady of Sorrows.” Finally they saw Mary as Our Lady of Mount Carmel. This last point became clear because of the way Mary was carrying the brown scapular, which Lucia in her innocence described as the “two cards.”