(Church of Santa Maria dell’Orto, in Rome, Italy.)

Today, May 13, is the 103rd anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady of Fatima.  So, I invite you on a series of blog posts focusing on the Fatima apparitions which will come out on the 13th of each month for six months.

On May 13, the three children had taken their sheep to a part of of the Chousa Velha called Cova da Iria when they were alarmed by a sudden flash of light from the clear blue sky (literally, a bolt from the blue).  As they ran toward their sheep, they saw another flash of light and then a ball of light alighting on holm oak tree (called carrasqueira).  In the luminous ball was a beautiful lady.  Although they were terrified, the woman calmed their fears, telling them softly that she would not hurt them.  She told them she was from Heaven and that she wanted them to come to the Cova on the thirteenth of each month for six months and that she would tell them who she was in her last appearance and explain what she wanted of them.  The Lady told them that all three of them would go to Heaven although Francisco would have to say many Rosaries.  She asked them if they wanted to offer themselves to God and suffer for the reparation of sin and the conversion of sinners.  When they said yes, she told them they would suffer a lot but be strengthened by God’s grace; they were to say the Rosary for peace and the end of the war.  With this, the Lady glided toward the east until she was out of sight. (God-Sent, 109)

Our Lady’s first appearance must have been overwhelming, since her first words to the children were “Do not be afraid.  I will do you no harm.” (God-Sent, 112)  She is also described as being “more brilliant than the sun.” (Ibid)  During this visit, the Blessed Virgin asks three things of the three children: first, to come to the Cove “for six months in succession, on the thirteenth day, at the same hour.”  Second, she asks them, “Are you willing to offer yourselves to God and bear all the sufferings He wills to send you, as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and of supplication for the conversion of sinners?”  And third, she implores the children, “Pray the Rosary every day, in order to obtain peace for the world, and the end of war.” (Ibid, excerpted from Fatima, in Lucia’s Own Words by Sister Lucia)  These three requests, which the children accept, set the stage for Our Lady’s later apparitions.

Resources: God-Sent: A History of the Accredited Apparitions of Mary. Roy Abraham Varghese (Crossroad Publishing Company: NY), 2000.