The Three Children of Fatima
On 13 May 1917 three shepherd children of Aljustrel, a village near Fatima, Portugal, were tending a small flock at the nearby Cova da Iria (in today's Diocese of Leiria-Fatima). They were Lucia de Jesus, aged 10, and her cousins, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, aged 9 and 7.
At about noon, after reciting the Rosary as they usually did, they started building a little house with stones. The basilica stands in this place today. Suddenly they saw a great light. Thinking that it was lightning, they decided to leave, but another flash lit up the clearing, and above a small holm oak (today the site of the Chapel of the Apparitions) they saw a "Lady brighter than the sun", from whose hands hung a white rosary.
The Lady told them that they should pray frequently and invited them to return to the Cova da Iria for five consecutive months on the 13th day. The children did so, and on 13 June, July, September and October the Lady appeared again and spoke with them. On 13 August the children were unable to come because they had been taken away by the mayor of Villa Nova de Ourem, to whose district Fatima belonged. The mayor threatened them in various ways to make them confess that they had lied. But they received an unexpected apparition on 19 August, while grazing their flock in the "dos Valinhos".
During the last apparition, 13 October, in the presence of about 70,000 people, the Lady told them that she was "Our Lady of the Rosary" and asked that a chapel be built in her honour on that site. After the apparition everyone present witnessed the miracle promised to the three children in July and September. The sun appeared as a disc that gave off various colours and could be looked at without difficulty, it spun like a fireball and looked as if it would fall to the earth.
Later, when Lucia was already a Dorothean sister, Our Lady appeared to her again in Spain (10 December 1925 and 15 February 1926 at the Convent of Pontevedra, and again during the night of 13-14 June 1929 at the Convent of Tuy), asking her for the devotion of the five First Saturdays (to pray the Rosary, to meditate on its mysteries, to confess and to receive Holy Communion in reparation for sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary) and for the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart. This request had already been made during the apparition of 13 July 1917 in the so-called "secret of Fatima".
Several years later, Lucia also revealed that between April and October 1916 an angel had appeared three times to them: twice in the Loca do Cabego and once at the well in the garden of her family house. In these apparitions the angel invited them to pray and do penance.
The Little Shepherds Of Fatima
Bl. Francisco Marto was born on 11 June 1908 in Aljustrel. He died a holy death on 4 April 1919 at his family home. Deeply sensitive and contemplative, he offered all his spiritual life and penance to "console the Lord". His mortal remains were buried in the parish cemetery until 13 March 1952, when they were taken to the basilica at the Cova da Iria and placed in the chapel to the right of the main altar.
Bl. Jacinta Marto was born in Aljustrel on 11 March 1910. After a long and painful illness she died a holy death on 20 February 1920 in Lisbon, offering all her sufferings for the conversion of sinners, for peace in the world and for the Holy Father. On 12 September 1935 her body was solemnly taken from the family tomb of Baron Alvaiazere in Ourem to the cemetery of Fatima and placed near the mortal remains of her little brother, Francisco. On 1 May 1951 Jacinta's mortal remains were placed with great simplicity in the tomb prepared in the basilica at the Cova da Iria in the side chapel to the left of the main altar.
The beatification process for the Fatima seers Francisco and Jacinta Marto began in 1952 and was finished in 1979. On 15 February 1988 the final documentation was presented to John Paul II and to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. They were declared "venerable" on 13 May 1989.
Lucia de Jesus was born on 22 March 1907 in Aljustrel. On 17 June 1921 she entered the College of Vilar (Porto), run by the Religious of St Dorothy. She was then sent to Tuy, where she made her perpetual profession on 3 October 1934. In 1948 she moved to Coimbra, where she entered the Carmel of St Teresa, taking the name of Sr Maria Lucia of the Immaculate Heart. On 31 May 1949 she made her solemn vows. Sr Lucia has returned to Fatima several times: May 1946; 13 May 1967; in 1981 to direct, at the Carmel, a painting of the Fatima apparitions; and on 13 May 1982 and 13 May 1991 for the two visits of John Paul II.
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