SISTER Lucia dos Santos, one of the visionaries of Fatima, passed away last month at the age of 97, finally joining her cousins in heaven.

In her memoirs, Sr. Lucia recounted her experiences from 1917 to the apparitions of Jesus when she entered the Carmelite convent.

The story of Fatima started in 1915 when an angel appeared while Sr. Lucia and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto were tending sheep.

But it was on May 13, 1917 when the Virgin Mary appeared before the children and asked them to meet her every 13th of the month for six consecutive months. After encountering disbelief even from their own families and pressure from the government to stop the alleged nonsense, the Virgin promised to perform a miracle for everyone to see.

Dancing sun

On Oct. 13, 1917, about 70,000 people gathered to witness the promised miracle despite the heavy rain. Suddenly, the sun appeared spinning three times in the sky for 10 minutes, as if it would collide with the earth, throwing shafts of colored light. According to witnesses, they were able to see the sun directly without shielding their eyes.

After the sun stopped “dancing,” the muddy ground and the pilgrims’ wet clothes turned dry, confounding non-believers present. The anti-clerical Masonic newspaper, O Seculo, reported that the sun “resembled a flat plate of silver and it was possible to stare at it without the least discomfort. It made strange and abrupt movements, outside of all cosmic laws.” About 215 cures took place in 13 years since the Virgin appeared.

Prophecies fulfilled

It was during the third apparition that the children received the “secrets of Fatima.”

According to Sr. Lucia, the secret was divided into three parts. The first part was about the existence of hell. The Blessed Virgin showed the children a glimpse of hell—demons and souls floating and shrieking in a sea of fire. The second “secret” prophesied the rise and fall of communist Russia, the end of World War I, and the beginning of a new war.

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Sr. Lucia recalled the Virgin saying: “If people did not repent and mend their ways, a worse one (war) will break out during the Pontificate of Pius XI.”

According to the secret, God would illumine the night with an unknown light as a sign that He would punish man, by means of war and famine, for their sins.

On the nights of Jan. 24 and 25, 1938, a fiery light illuminated Europe and the United States, alarming fire stations and breaking radio communications. Scientists later explained the lights to be a form of the Aurora Borealis, a display of lights that regularly appears above the northern regions of the Earth.

Sr. Lucia believed this occurrence to be the God-given sign of the coming war. World War II began in the Pacific on Dec. 8, 1941, the feast of Immaculate Conception, and ended on Aug. 15, 1945, the feast of the Assumption.

To finally fulfill the request of the Blessed Virgin in the wake of an impending nuclear war, Pope John Paul II notified all bishops to consecrate Russia on March 25, 1984. Two months after, on May 13, the anniversary of the first apparition of Fatima, a massive explosion eliminated two thirds of the Soviet Union’s Northern Fleet. From 1985 to 1991, the world witnessed the gradual dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Meanwhile, Sr. Lucia dispelled rumors that Russia has not been successfully consecrated and the threat of war is still imminent.

“The consecration desired by Our Lady was made in 1984, and has been accepted in heaven,” said Sr. Lucia in an interview with Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone and Fr. Luis Kondor, postulator for the cause of Blessed Francisco and Jacinta, in Nov. 17, 2001.

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Third secret

While the first two parts pertain to past events, the third part was believed to be apocalyptic.

For a time, Sr. Lucia withheld the secret from authorities since “she had intuition that before 1960 it would not be understood.”

The Vatican kept the contents of the third secret until May 13, 2000, the beatification day of Francisco and Jacinta, when Pope John Paul II decided to publish it.

According to the third secret, “a bishop dressed in white,” together with faithful Catholics, will be assassinated by a group of soldiers. The Vatican interpreted the bishop as the Pope and the faithful Catholics as the great number of Christians martyred for the faith. The assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II was interpreted as the fulfillment of the message.

“In the end, prayer is more powerful than bullets, and faith more powerful than armies,” explains the document The Message of Fatima: The Third Secret, by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Although Sr. Lucia confirmed that all of the secrets had been revealed, skeptics still believe that the Vatican is concealing important messages in the light of the 9/11 attack and the tsunami calamity.

“Everything has been published, there are no more secrets,” said Sr. Lucia to Archbishop Bertone, confirming the interpretations made by the Vatican in 2000.

Ecumenical significance

Fatima now known for apparitions, is also a place important to Muslims. The place was named by then occupying Moors after the daughter of Mohammed, Oureana, whose Islamic name was Fatima. She was buried on a hill in the place, thus giving it the name Fatima.

The significance of the place to both religions sparks hope that the apparition speaks of messages of unity.

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According to the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen, the Lady appeared in Fatima calling not only the conversion of Russia but also for unity with Islam. The Koran dedicates a chapter on the Virgin, titled “Maryam,” and Muslims also believe that Mary virginally conceived Jesus and that she was immaculate and sinless. Mohammad speaks of Mary as the woman occupying the highest place in heaven, and after her is his daughter, Fatima.

Prince Ali Pahlavi, heir to the Shah of Iran and a descendant of Mohammed through his daughter Fatima, is among the believers of this ecumenical message.

“Mary can bring Christianity and Islam together,” writes Prince Pahlavi, in his book La Fille d’ Imran. “In Koran, Mary as a virgin is comparable to Mohammed.”

Life of holiness

During the second apparition, the Blessed Virgin apparently told Sr. Lucia that Jacinta and Francisco would die soon but that she would live long to establish a devotion to the Immaculate Heart. The impending death did not worry Jacinta and Francisco because they were assured of heaven. For her part, Sr. Lucia did not complain about the burden of establishing devotion in a sinful world. She lived a life according to God’s will, enduring sufferings and pressure.

Sr. Lucia’s only consolation is the assurance given her by the Blessed Virgin that she will eventually join her cousins.

Although not all believers have the privilege of an apparition, the Blessed Virgin, nevertheless, asks the people to stop committing sins, and to amend their lives according to God’s plan.

“The invitation of Mary in these apparitions is to live a life of holiness,” Prof. Aguido Jalin of the Institute of Religion told the Varsitarian.

And one of the ways to do this is through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin. With reports from www. zenit.com and John Haffert’s Too late?

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