My mission is not to tell the world of the material chastisements that are yet to take place if we do not amend. No, my mission is to tell everyone that we are in danger of going to hell if we do not amend.
— Sister Lucia Dos Santos, visionary of Our Lady of Fatima
If you’re a Catholic, and the Blessed Virgin Mary came to earth and delivered a message from her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, that we should repent of our sins and pray the Holy Rosary every day, would you?
One hundred years ago on May 13, that’s exactly what happened in the rural town of Fatima in Portugal.
On the 13th of the month from May to October, our Lady appeared to three shepherd children at Cova de Iria, Fatima, and imparted messages, instructions, and prophecies for the salvation of the world. And on her last apparition, there was a miracle that was the most spectacular manifestation of divine power since Christ’s Resurrection.
The miracle of the sun
On October 13, 1917, after half past one in the afternoon, before an estimated 70,000 people gathered at the site of the apparitions, and also witnessed in the surrounding area, storm clouds suddenly cleared, and the sun danced in the heavens while enveloping everyone and everything in a golden hue.
Then the fiery orb plunged toward earth, causing panic and terror, before returning to the sky. Afterward, the crowd and the ground, drenched and muddy from several hours of downpour, were suddenly dry, as if there it had not rained at all.
This event was recounted by dozens of eyewitnesses, including non-believers like Avelino de Almeida, editor-in-chief of O Seculo, the liberal, anti-clerical newspaper of Lisbon. Almeida wrote two days after the event:
“From the road, where the carriages were crowded together and where hundreds of persons had stayed for want of sufficient courage to advance across the muddy ground, we saw the huge crowd turn towards the sun which appeared at its zenith, clear of the clouds. It resembled a flat plate of silver, and it was possible to stare at it without the least discomfort. It did not burn the eyes. It did not blind. We would say that it produced an eclipse.
“Then a tremendous cry rang out, and the crowd nearest us were heard to shout: ‘Miracle! Miracle!… Marvel!… Marvel!’ Before the dazzled eyes of the people, whose attitude transported us to biblical times, and who, dumb-founded, heads uncovered, contemplated the blue of the sky, the sun trembled, it made strange and abrupt movements, outside of all cosmic laws, ‘the sun danced’, according to the typical expression of the peasants …”
If this happened today, it would fill YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, CNN and other media. After all, how many times do we have an utterly inexplicable event in the heavens happening the very day it was promised to three children three months before?
Who cares about Fatima?
So why aren’t the Fatima apparitions, especially the last in October 1917, widely known, not even among Catholics?
Pope Francis will mark the event with a visit to Fatima on May 12-13 this year. Yet so many believers, even in a devoutly Marian nation like the Philippines, aren’t even aware of our Lady’s appearance, let alone her messages, a century ago.
This writer has been giving presentations on Fatima over the past few months to various audiences mostly in Metro Manila, from Marian devotees and parish groups, including one near Lipa, to college students at the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila University.
Most people were clueless about Fatima, and hardly any knew about the Miracle of the Sun. Even middle-aged parishioners found the presentation eye-opening, especially regarding our Lady’s messages and instructions, which aren’t much discussed even in parishes. Just think: When was the last time your parish held a talk on Fatima?
Yet that is a Vatican-affirmed apparition of the Blessed Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, where she delivered messages from God, warning of man’s transgressions, the coming chastisements if people do not repent and reform, and the ways to obtain salvation and mitigate the terrible prophecies.
Most important, even or especially for those who don’t care about the Four Last Things — Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell — our Lady expressed clearly and showed vividly the danger of eternal punishment for souls who fail to repent.
In the first of three secrets she imparted to the three child visionaries — Jacintha Marto, turning 7 that year; her brother Francisco, turning 9; and their cousin Lucia Dos Santos, turning 10 — our Blessed Mother presented a terrifying vision of Hell, in which demons and souls were tormented in a sea of fire.
As stressed by Sister Lucia, who died in 2005 at age 97, more than the apocalyptic events warned by our Lady, it is the reality of Hell that is Mary’s most crucial message for all humanity, along with the means to be saved: repentance, reparation, and prayer.
Pay heed and be saved
At this point, many readers, even Catholics, might have turned the page or clicked another article. God, hell, sin, prayer, and Mary don’t get much attention in our time. Material things and everyday concerns now count more than religion and the afterlife.
People are also hard of believing the supernatural, even with tangible evidence. For instance, corpses of countless Christian saints remain incorrupt decades after death. Yet despite many such remains on display in Europe, like those of Pope John XXIII (died 1953) and Padre Pio (d. 1968), Europeans have long been losing the faith.
This turning away from God and religion, making even the faithful ignore Fatima, is precisely what our Lady warned of a century ago. Hence, for salvation’s sake, this column shall recount the apparitions and messages of Mary and other saintly men and women — including prophetic visions seeming to come true in our time.
We pray many will pay heed and be saved.
(A Joyous New Year to all!)