The Virgin Mary appeared to three peasant children: Lucia Santos, Jacinta, and Francisco Marto. During her visits, she delivered secret messages to the children, to be revealed at later dates. These became known as the “Three Secrets of Fatima.”
The secrets are exceptional because they contained predictions that have come true.
Our Lady’s first secret was a vision of hell. Her second secret predicted the end of World War I and the arrival and spread of Communism. It also predicted the end of Communism and the victory of the Church, which we have observed in Russia. A sign was promised in the heavens, which occurred on January 25, 1938, with the appearance of the aurora borealis.
The Third Secret has been the subject of great speculation because it was not revealed until June 26, 2000. Church officials widely believe the Third Secret predicted the assassination of Pope John Paul II, although this conclusion remains controversial to some.
The appearance of Our Lady of Fatima, and the following miracles, were unique because they were widely recorded and documented. The most famous miracle was the Miracle of the Sun, which was seen by no less than 30,000 people, including newspaper reporters and photographers. Some estimates place the number of witnesses as high as 100,000.
In the miracle, the sun was said to dance in the sky, change colors, and rotate like a wheel. It did not harm the eyes of those who saw it and the phenomenon was reported simultaneously by observers from as far as nearly 25 miles away.
Following the appearance of Our Lady of Fatima, an estimated two million pilgrims flocked to the site for the next two years and built a chapel there, despite government opposition.
Of the three children who saw the Virgin Mary, only Sister Lucia survived childhood. Francisco and Jacinta died in 1919 and 1920, respectively. Sister Lucia entered a convent, lived quietly, and rarely spoke of the event; though she composed her memoirs in the 1930s and 40s, which have since been widely published.
Our Lady called for the conversion of hearts as part of her apparition. Several prayers have been derived from her message, including the now famous “Fatima Prayer,” said at the end of each decade of the Rosary.
“O my Jesus, pardon us, save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those most in need of thy mercy.”