When Our Lady appeared in 1917, the following year, she appealed to the children with her traditional message of reparation, penance, prayer and recitation of the Rosary. In her third apparition (there were six in all) she showed them a vision of hell and gave them another prayer to be recited after each decade of the Rosary: “O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell and lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of Your Mercy.”
Yet it reminds us that hell is very real and much as we would rather not dwell on the fact, there are people who choose to go there. Indeed, in her fourth apparition, Our Lady directed the children to pray and offer sacrifices for sinners because “You know that many souls go to hell because there is none who pray for them.”
On May 13, 1917, Lucia dos Santos, Francisco, and Jacinta Marto were, respectively, ten, nine, and seven years old. As we have said, the three children lived in Aljustrel, a hamlet of the township of Fatima.
After three apparitions of the Angel of Portugal in 1916, the children began to receive visits of a luminous Lady who later identified herself as “The Lady of the Rosary.” In Catholic language, “Our Lady of the Rosary” is the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God made man.
The apparitions took place on a small property belonging to Lucia’s parents called Cova da Iria, about a mile and a half from Fatima.
The three seers were playing at Cova da Iria on May 13, 1917 when they saw two flashes like lightning, after which they saw the Mother of God above a holm oak. She was, according to the description of Lucia, “a Lady dressed in white, more brilliant than the sun…” Her face, indescribably beautiful, was “neither sad nor happy, but serious,” with an air of mild reproach. Her hands, joined together as if she were praying, were resting at her breast and pointing upward. A rosary hung from her right hand.
The seers were so close to Our Lady – about a yard and a half away – that they stood within the light that radiated from her.
The conversation developed in the following manner:
Our Lady: Do not be afraid; I will not harm you.
Lucia: Where is Your Grace from?
Our Lady: I am from heaven–pointing to the sky.
Lucia: And what does Your Grace wish of me?
Our Lady: I have come to ask you to come here for six months in succession on the thirteenth day of each month at this same hour. Later I will tell you who I am and what I want. Afterward, I will return here a seventh time.
Lucia: And will I go to heaven, too?
Our Lady: Yes, you will.
Lucia: And Jacinta?
Our Lady: Also.
Lucia: And Francisco?
Our Lady: Also, but he must say many rosaries.
Lucia: Is Maria das Neves already in heaven?
Our Lady: Yes, she is.
Lucia: And Amélia?
Our Lady: She will be in purgatory until the end of the world. Do you wish to offer yourselves to God to endure all the sufferings that He may be pleased to send you, as both an act of reparation for the sins with which He is offended and an act of supplication for the conversion of sinners?
Lucia: Yes, we do.
Our Lady: Well then, you will have much to suffer. But the grace of God will be your comfort.
“It was upon saying these last words, ‘the grace of God…’ that for the first time she opened her hands, which emitted a most intense light that penetrated our breasts, reaching the innermost part of our souls and making us see ourselves in God, Who was that light, more clearly than we can see ourselves in the best of mirrors.
Then, driven by a deep inspiration, we knelt down and repeated inwardly: ‘O Most Holy Trinity, I adore Thee! My God, my God, I love Thee in the Most Blessed Sacrament.’”
“A moment later, Our Lady added, ‘Pray the rosary every day to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war.’
She immediately began to rise serenely toward the east until she disappeared far into the distance.
The light that surrounded her was, so to speak, opening her way through the starry firmament.”