Two illiterate peasant children, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, were with their cousin Lucia dos Santos when “a Lady-Shining-More- Brightly-Than-The-Sun” appeared to them six times between 13th May and 13th October 1917.
Francisco and Jacinta both died young of influenza, the so-called Spanish Flu. Francisco died when he was 10 years old (1919), Jacinta when she was 9 years old (1920).
Both were beatified at Fatima in the year 2000 by Pope St. John Paul II.
Both are to be canonized at Fatima on Saturday 13th May by Pope Francis.
Sister Lucia died in her discalced Carmelite convent at Coimbra on 13th February 2005 aged 97. The cause for her eventual beatification has been opened.
Like Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta were remarkable in ways perhaps not always understood or admired by the secular world. They were innocent, uneducated, of great simplicity of soul, modest, plain, and unassuming.
Although present at all the apparitions, the two younger children did not hear everything that the Lady said to Lucia. Nor did they themselves speak with her. Lucia saw her, heard her, and conversed with her. Francisco and Jacinta saw her.
The plain marble slabs on their tombs at Fatima simply record their names: Francisco Marto to whom our Lady appeared. Jacinta Marto to whom our Lady appeared.
At the last apparition on 13th October 1917 the Lady finally identified herself: “I am the lady of the rosary”.
That same day was also the occasion of the so-called ‘miracle of the sun’. Something resembling a shining metal disk spun and ‘danced’ across the sky while emitting rays of variously coloured light. The spectacular display lasted for eight minutes and was seen by a crowd of 70,000 people.
The bishop at the time clarified that the miracle, though real, was not an astronomical phenomenon, i.e. it was not the actual sun which danced. (If the sun had truly left its place in the firmament, this world and indeed the whole solar system would have been wrecked.)
Various other phenomena of high strangeness occurred at all the Fatima apparitions. They are certainly intriguing, but for us the message which the Lady gave to the children is of course far more important than the accompanying phenomena.
The prophetic message of Fatima includes the following primary motifs: the real possibility of eternal damnation; the need for prayer, penance, and reparation; the errors which Russia would spread throughout the world; devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary; daily recitation of the rosary to obtain peace in the world; the ongoing martyrdom of the Catholic Church.
The above is only a brief outline of the essence of Fatima. The full story is more detailed and complex.
The Lady’s prophecies have been authenticated by verifiable historical events, past and present.
The ongoing martyrdom of the Church (what was once known as the Third Secret) is even more evident now in this century than in the 20th century.
It is abundantly clear that Russia has not yet been converted. (N.B. Lucia repeated what she had been told about Russia spreading her errors throughout the world without knowing that the word ‘Russia’ was a country. Initially she assumed that “Russia must be a very wicked lady”.)
It is also painfully clear that we still await the promised eventual triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.