On the 13th of May 1917 three children reported on the first apparition of Our Lady of Fatima in Fatima, Portugal. The three children were nine-year-old Lucia Santos and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto.
On the 13th of May the children saw a lady “brighter than the sun, shedding rays of light clearer and stronger than a crystal goblet filled with the most sparkling water and pierced by the burning rays of the sun”. She asked them to devote themselves to the Holy Trinity and to pray “the Rosary every day, to bring peace to the world and an end to the war”. Jacinta told her parents about the sighting although she wasn’t believed, the children also said they were to return a month later on the 13th.
On the 13th June, the same date as the feast of St.Anthony, the lady revealed that Jacinta and Francisco Marto would be going to heaven soon whilst Lucia would live longer in order to spread her message and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The account of this meeting was only written down after the deaths of Jacinta and Francisco from the great influenza epidemic of 1918.
It was claimed that the Virgin Mary had promised a miracle for the last of her apparitions on October 13, so that all would believe. What happened then became known as the “Miracle of the Sun”. A huge crowd, variously estimated between 30,000 and 100,000. Lucia, seeing light rising from the lady’s hands and the sun appearing as a silver disc, called out “look at the sun”. Witnesses later spoke of the sun appearing to change colors and rotate like a wheel.
The site in Fatima is still a site of pilgrimage today, the largest crowds gather on the 13th of May and October were up to a million people gather to pray and witness processions of the statue. Pope John Paul II even credited Our Lady of Fatima with saving his life following an assassination attempt on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, 1981. He donated the bullet that wounded him to the Roman Catholic sanctuary at Fatima, Portugal and it was placed in the crown of the Virgin’s statue. Reports even indicate that the children could be canonised on the centenary of the original event next year.