What makes the Story of Fatima so fascinating and endearing, and a powerful teaching tool? It is because Fatima is a story, and a true story. Why is that?
A real story gives us a world to explore, rather than a path through it. A real story puts us in touch with persons, with a drama, and examples of truth and heroism. The facts it contains are not just formulae, equations and propositions. They make us care. This is why God reveals His Word in a Story—The Greatest Story Ever Told. The Bible is a true story, the story of Salvation History. The Divine Wisdom—that is, Jesus Christ—used stories in teaching the Gospel. Fatima itself is, above all, a story but it is not a parable. In this history, we see the hand of God, as telling stories is His modus operandi.
The Fatima story did not begin on May 13, 1917, the date of the first apparition, and it is far from ending, even now. The Fatima story, in a real sense, begins from all eternity, in the mind of God. It appears in the dawn of creation, when God proclaims to the Serpent, called the devil and Satan, “She shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel” (Gen.3:15).
The story of Fatima also appears, says Sr. Lucia, in the Gospel and the Apocalypse (Book of Revelation), Chapters 8 to 13. Pope John Paul II invoked the powerful imagery of Apocalypse 12:1-4, applying it to Our Lady’s apparition there in his homily in Fatima on May 13, 2000: “And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars: And being with child, she cried travailing in birth, and was in pain to be delivered. And there was seen another sign in heaven: and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads, and ten horns: and on his head seven diadems: And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to be delivered; that, when she should be delivered, he might devour her son.” In a later installment, we will explore Our Lady as the Woman of Revelation, clothed with the sun. Today, we begin to explore the Fatima Story with a look at Portugal, the Land of Holy Mary.
As one becomes more familiar with the Fatima story, one gets the sense that every detail is providential, instructive and prophetic. Our Lady chose to appear in a nation, a region and a village that was imbued with Catholic culture. She chose to come to a Catholic village in the hillsides of Portugal, rather than the sophisticated atmosphere of the big city. In the Divine Providence, Our Lord chose to manifest Himself first to the shepherds as they watched their flock in Bethlehem, Our Lady chose to manifest herself to the little shepherd children of Fatima.
The children of Fatima played, laughed and danced like children everywhere. Their lives revolved around the Church, her festivals, her truths, and her culture. Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco, as many young children of the region, were charged with the care of sheep. Jacinta, in particular, loved to sing. Lucia was an intelligent girl and a natural leader. Francisco, a thoughtful and quiet young boy would play the flute while Jacinta and Lucia sang. Sr. Lucia, many years later recalled the songs they sang: “We loved to sing too. Interspersed among popular songs—of which, alas! We knew quite a number.” Among the favorites Lucia mentioned was Salve Nobre Padroeira. It sings of the protection of the Virgin Mary as the patroness of Her people of predilection, the little nation of Portugal.
This popular Portuguese hymn, which the children sang often–a favorite of Jacinta–demonstrates the Portuguese devotion of centuries to the Blessed Virgin Mary. As Frère Michel points out, “in spite of conquest by foreigners and a more and more suffocating Masonic domination, [Portugal] had remained unshakably faithful to its Heavenly Patroness, until the eve of the great miracle of 1917.”
It is for good reason that Our Lady chose Portugal as the most important and most spectacular of her apparitions. Portugal had distinguished herself as no nation has, through a long, rich history of Consecration and faithful Devotion to the Mother of God. Long before Our Lady graced the Cova da Iria with her presence, Portugal was the “Land of Holy Mary.”
On August 13, 1385, on the eve of battle against the powerful Castilian forces, Blessed Dom Nuno Alvares Pereira, a figure long since revered by the Portuguese people, brought his troops to the plateau of Fatima. There, Alvares and his troops solemnly vowed that if the Blessed Virgin would give them the victory, he would build a great monastery in her honor and make a pilgrimage of thanksgiving to the sanctuary of Our Lady of Oliveira. Canon Barthas relates:
“On the next day, August 14, Vigil of the Assumption, the great victory of Aljubarrota assured the independence of the country for two centuries, and consolidated the foundation of the new dynasty. For Portugal, this victory could be compared to the deliverance of Orleans by Joan of Arc. Pope Boniface IX, in his bull of February 1391, did not hesitate to describe the victory as miraculous, given the crushing superiority of the Spanish forces.”
The king kept his promise. He and his knights marched on foot to the sanctuary of Our Lady of Oliveira: a distance of 150 miles. The king constructed a church and splendid monastery, and called it Our Lady of Victory.
A few years later, on May 13, at the request of King João I, Pope Boniface IX ordered all Portuguese cathedrals dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Through the miraculous intervention of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Portugal was delivered from the Castilian invasion, which marked the ascendancy of Portugal in international prominence, leading Crusades, great maritime achievements, and bringing the Gospel to the New World. Portugal attributed its great success to its staunchly Catholic royalty, ruling under the protection of Our Lady, Queen of Portugal.
FATIMA AND THE CRUSADES
Frère Michel, in his unparalleled three-volume work on Fatima, gives the following account:
“According to the words of an ancient ballad, Fatima owes its Arabic name to an episode in the reconquest of Portugal which took place in this era. Fatima, the daughter of a powerful Moslem prince, was captured by a Crusader, Gonçalo Hermingues. When the Christian knight asked the king for her hand in marriage, she converted and was baptized under the name Oureana, from which the village of Ourem took its name. ‘But the beautiful princess died young, and a heartbroken Don Gonçalo gave his life to God in the Cistercian abbey of Alcobaça.’ Not long after, the abbey founded a small priory in the neighbouring mountains; Brother Gonçalo was sent there and took with him the remains of his dear Fatima. The place took and kept her name.”
There are no coincidences with Heaven, particularly in regard to the Message of Fatima. With the Islamic incursion into Europe in our day, courtesy of the liberal European governments, difficulties are sure to come. Our Lady has promised an era of peace to the world, and no doubt this presages an eventual conversion of the Muslims to the One True Faith. Various saints prophesied this, and the symbolism of the name “Fatima” seems to anticipate it.
CONSECRATION TO THE IMMACULATE
In 1646, Portugal once more reclaimed her national independence from Spain, and John IV ascended the throne on December 1. Eight days later, on December 8, Portugal consecrated herself to the Immaculate Conception and the restoration of the monarchy. Spain fought on in a protracted battle. Portugal won a continual string of victories, which was a remarkable feat for little Portugal, with an underfunded military against powerful Spain—a clear sign of Our Lady’s continual protection.
By this solemn act of Consecration to the Immaculate Conception, Portugal, faithful to its own tradition, once more distinguished herself as the “Land of Holy Mary.” We can easily see why Our Lady has chosen little Portugal for her great message to the World, and the greatest miracle since the Holy Ghost descended upon the Church on Pentecost Sunday, prophesied in St. John’s Apocalypse. Portugal dedicated itself to the Immaculate Conception, two-hundred years before Blessed Pope Pius IX infallibly defined it!
Frère Michel recounts in part this admirable vow: “And if anyone dares to attempt anything against our promise, oath and vassalage, we will consider him from this moment as no longer belonging to the nation and we wish him to be driven from the kingdom; and if he is king (which may God avert), may the divine malediction and ours fall on him and may he no longer be counted among our descendants; we vow that he be cast out and stripped of the throne by the same God who gave us the kingdom and raised us up to the royal dignity.”
Furthermore, the King commanded that an inscription should be engraved in marble or some other stone above the gates of towns, recalling this oath of the King and the Cortes in honor of the Mother of God, “preserved from original sin.”
THE 1931 CONSECRATION OF PORTUGAL:
A FORESHADOWING OF THE TRIUMPH OF THE IMMACULATE
Many people are not aware that Our Lady already gave the world a glimpse, a prelude, of what the Triumph of Her Immaculate Heart will be like. She did this in Portugal after the Portuguese bishops consecrated that nation by name to the Immaculate Heart, on May 13, 1931.
Our Lady used Portugal to demonstrate on a national level what She will do worldwide when the Pope, in union with the world’s bishops, consecrates Russia to Her Immaculate Heart.
There was the two-fold miracle of peace as a result of the Consecration. Portugal was preserved from the Communist terror, especially from the Spanish Civil War, which was raging next door. Portugal was also preserved from the devastation of World War II.
This Catholic Renaissance was of such a magnitude that, in 1942, the bishops of Portugal declared in a collective Pastoral Letter: “Anybody who would have closed his eyes twenty-five years ago and opened them now would no longer recognize Portugal, so vast is the transformation worked by the modest and invisible factor of the apparition of the Blessed Virgin at Fatima. Really, Our Lady wishes to save Portugal.”
Let us recognize the fact: No other nation exist whose very foundation is so closely linked with the cult and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Our Lady of Fatima gives her solemn pledge of love and assistance to little Portugal as a reward for Portugal’s faithfulness to Our Lady. She tells the seers: In Portugal, the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved, etc. This appears at the beginning of the Third Secret, which we know speaks of apostasy infiltrating the human element of the Church.
Portugal receives Our Lady’s assurance of her protection in these troubling times. This fortunate nation has the assurance of Blessed Mary that she will preserve them during this trial. Frère Michel rightly proclaims: “For if the text of the solemn vow always to defend the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was wiped off the gates of the towns by the liberal government of the nineteenth century or the sectarian freemasons of the revolution of 1910, the Virgin Mary did not forget it, and it is Her ‘most faithful nation’ that She chose to manifest to the world the mercy of Her Immaculate Heart. To this nation it was promised, in the midst of the great trial to come, to preserve intact all the dogmas of the faith.”
—Sister Maria Lucia of the Immaculate Heart. Fatima in Lucia's Own Words: The Memoirs of Sister Lucia, the Last Fatima Visionary [KIC. Kindle Edition, June 3, 2015]
—Frère Michel de la Sainte Trinité. The Whole Truth About Fatima, Volume I: Science and the Facts [Translated by John Collorafi, 1983]; and Volume III, The Secret and the Church [Immaculate Heart Publications, Fort Erie, Ontario, 1989]