The third apparition of Our Lady of Fatima

This Saturday 13 July is the anniversary of Our Lady’s third apparition to the little shepherds of Fatima, Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta. This apparition is significant for the content of Our Lady’s message, known to all those even remotely familiar with the events of Fatima — the children’s vision of hell, the prayer of reparation to be recited after each decade of the Rosary, the five first Saturdays, etc. It was also the first apparition witnessed by large crowds of people — a feature common to all subsequent apparitions until the Miracle of the Sun on 13 October 2017. For readers of the Voice of the Family Digest, especially those who may not yet have read a full account of this apparition, we present the following extract from one of the first (and also one of the best) books on the subject: Our Lady of Fatima by Fr William Thomas Walsh (Doubleday, 1954), chapter VIII.

[O]n this particular thirteenth of July, in 1917, there was something unusual afoot in all the villages and fields of the Serra. Even before the children arrived within sight of the Cova da Iria they must have become aware of it. For all over the mountains and beyond people had been hearing, by the mysterious grapevine that disperses news so thoroughly and so fast in country places, of what had taken place on the feast of Saint Anthony [13 June]. An astonishing number had made up their minds to be on hand for the next apparition. Maria Carreira had come again from Moita, bringing her crippled son, her incredulous husband, and all her daughters. Among the most fervent believers was another resident of Moita, one José Alves, who had told the Prior of Fatima to his face that his theory about diabolical intervention was nonsense. For who had ever heard of the devil inciting people to pray?

When Ti Marto [Francisco and Jacinta’s father] arrived (for he had decided to take the day and see what his children were up to) the crowd was so dense that it took him a long while to elbow his way through to where Jacinta stood with Francisco and Lucia. Portuguese crowds are orderly and well behaved as a rule, but this one troubled him a little. “The power of the world!” he reflected philosophically. He still chuckles when he remembers some of the of the richly dressed and adorned persons who had arrived “from who knows where”, ladies in long skirts and wide-brimmed “picture hats, gentlemen with fancy vests, very high collars and derbies”. Ti Marto found them ridiculous. “Ai, Jesús! They were fine gentlemen who came to laugh and to make fun of people who didn’t know how to read handwriting. But it was we who had the laugh on them. … Ui! Poor little wretches! They didn’t have any faith at all. Then how could they believe in Our Lady?” Most of the people, however, were peasants of the Serra, the women generally barefoot, with black shawls over their heads, the men wearing their Sunday suits, and great hobnailed boots. And among them Ti Marto encountered his wife and Maria Rosa [Lucia’s mother]. It may be that his Olimpia [Francisco and Jacinta’s mother] had been listening to that last tense conversation of the three children in the bedroom of her house. For no sooner had they scampered away, all their sorrow turned to relief, than she hurried to her brother’s house to tell Maria Rosa what had occurred. “Ai, Jesus! the heavens seemed once more to be crashing down about the tired head of Lucia’s mother. After all she had been through, to think that the silly cachopa [puppy] was going off to keep a tryst with the devil! Arming themselves with some holy candles and a supply of matches, the two women started for Cova da Iria, evidently with some notion of exorcising the evil spirit if he should turn up there again. They were too late to head off the children, if that was their intent; however, there they were, clutching their candles and ready to light them if need be. And with them were some 2,000 to 3,000 other persons, devout or curious, waiting to see what would happen.

The children, in the centre of the throng, were now reciting the Rosary and gazing with expectancy toward the east. They paid no attention to a rude woman who was berating them as impostors. Jacinta and Francisco did not even see their father as he took his place beside them, ready to help them if necessary. Ti Marto was looking at Lucia. Her face had a death-like pallor. He heard her say:

“Take off your hats! Take off your hats, for I see Our Lady already!” 

He saw something like a small cloud descend upon the azinheira [holm oak tree]; and suddenly, as the sunlight became dimmer, a cool fresh breeze blew over the hot Serra. Then he heard something that sounded to him, he says, “like a horse-fly in an empty water-pot”; but neither he nor Maria Carreira nor any of the rest, except the children, could distinguish any words.

By this time, all the stimuli of the sensory world — the crowd, the sun, the breeze, all the trivialities of space and time — had fallen away from the three young mystics as some supernatural force descended upon and drew them up into that white radiance where once more, with inexpressible joy, they saw the Lady glide to the top of the little tree.

Vocemecê que me quere?” asked Lucia as before. “What do you want of me?”

“I want you to come here on the thirteenth day of the coming month, and to continue to say five decades of the Rosary every day in honour of Our Lady of the Rosary to obtain the peace of the world and the end of the war. For she alone will be able to help.”

Lucia said, “I wish to ask you to tell us who you are, and to perform a miracle so that everyone will believe that you have appeared to us!”

“Continue to come here every month,” answered the Lady. “In October, I will tell you who I am and what I wish, and will perform a miracle that everyone will have to believe.”

Here Lucia thought of some requests that various people had asked her to present. “I don’t remember just what they were,” she wrote in 1941. But it is believed that one of them was for the cure of Maria Carreira’s crippled son; and the Lady is said to have answered that she would not cure him, but would give him a means of livelihood if he would say his Rosary every day. What Lucia now recalls is her insistence on the daily use of the beads to gain graces during the year.

“Sacrifice yourselves for sinners,” she repeated, “and say many times, especially when you make some sacrifice:

“‘O Jesus, it is for your love, for the conversion of sinners and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.’”

As the Lady spoke the last words, she opened her lovely hands as before, and poured down from them the revealing and penetrating radiance that had warmed the hearts of the children on the previous occasions. But this time it seemed to pass into the earth, disclosing beneath — and these are Lucia’s words, written in 1941:

“[A] sea of fire; and plunged in this fire the demons and the souls, as if they were red-hot coals, transparent and black or bronze-coloured, with human forms, which floated about in the conflagration, borne by the flames, which issued from it with clouds of smoke, falling on all sides as sparks fall in great conflagrations — without weight or equilibrium, among shrieks and groans of sorrow and despair which horrify and cause to shudder with fear.

“The devils were distinguished by horrible and loathsome forms of animals frightful and unknown, but transparent like black coals that have turned red-hot.”1

The children were so frightened that they would have died, they felt, if they had not been told they were all going to heaven. After gazing in fascinated horror at the gruesome spectacle which not even Saint Teresa has described more fearfully, they raised their eyes as if in desperate appeal to the Lady who stood gazing down on them with sombre tenderness.

“You see hell, where the souls of poor sinners go,” she said at length. “To save them God wishes to establish in the world the devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If they do what I will tell you, many souls will be saved, and there will be peace.

“The war is going to end. But if they do not stop offending God, another and worse one will begin in the reign of Pius XI.

“When you shall see a night illuminated by an unknown light, know that it is the great sign that God gives you that He is going to punish the world for its crimes by means of war, of hunger, and of persecution of the Church and of the Holy Father.

“To prevent this, I come to ask the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart and the Communion of reparation on the first Saturdays. If they listen to my requests, Russia will be converted and there will be peace. If not she will scatter her errors through the world, provoking wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated.

“In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and it will be converted and a certain period of peace will be granted to the world.

“In Portugal, the dogma of the Faith will always be kept.

“Tell this to no one. Francisco, yes, you may tell him.2

“When you say the Rosary, say after each mystery:

“‘O my Jesus, pardon us and deliver us from the fire of hell. Draw all souls to heaven, especially those in most need.’”

The Lady then told the children a final secret which has never been revealed, and which Lucia will not disclose until the Queen of Heaven herself commands her to do so. She has never told it even to her confessors.

In the long moment of silence that followed, the crowd seemed to sense the apocalyptic solemnity and tenseness of a communication on which hangs, perhaps, the fate of the entire human race. Not a sound could be heard anywhere. The children, the crowd, the wind, all were silent as death. Finally Lucia, as pale as a corpse, ventured to ask in her high thin voice:

“Do you want nothing more of me?’

“No, today I want nothing more of thee.”

With a last affectionate but overpowering glance, the Lady passed as usual toward the east — so Lucia concludes the tremendous story of the third apparition — “and disappeared in the immense distance of the firmament.”

As the children left of gazing eastward and stared, wan and shaken, at one another, the people began to press around them, all but suffocating and trampling them in their eagerness to ask all manner of questions.

“What did she look like?” “What did she say?” “Why do you look so sad?” “Is it the Blessed Virgin?” “Will she come again?”

“It’s a secret,” said Lucia. “It’s a secret.”

“Good or bad?”

“Good for some, for others bad.”

“And you won’t tell us?”

“No, sir. It’s a secret and the Lady told us not to tell it.” 

Ti Marto picked up his daughter Jacinta, and elbowed his way to the edge of the crowd, the child clinging to his neck. Stragglers followed them, still pelting them with questions. And Lucia and Francisco kept saying:

“It’s a secret. It’s a secret.”

Someone offered to take them home in an automobile. Ti Marto consented, and the children rode for the first time in one of the strange horseless monsters they had seen occasionally rumbling along the road from Ourem to Leiria. They were not in a mood to enjoy a new experience. But they were grateful for the ride, for all three were exhausted.


  1. Sr Lucia, Memoir IV; also III, in almost the same words. ↩︎
  2. At the first apparition on 13 May 1917, Francisco had not been able to see Our Lady until she told him, through Lucia, to take out his Rosary and start praying. From then on, Francisco was able to see Our Lady, though still could not hear her clearly. ↩︎