The Lady promised to come back on July 13, 1917. Word was getting around Fatima that the mysterious holy Lady was appearing to the shepherd children. Many faithful Catholics were hoping that it was the Blessed Mother who was coming to their village. Some just didn’t know what to think. A good number of others still mocked the whole idea. So it was that a mishmash of people flocked to the Cova on that warm July day, wanting to see for themselves. About four thousand people showed up! This was abundantly more than were ever there in that once quiet field. The interest in the supernatural happenings was spreading like wildfire.
Every time the holy Lady came was important and exciting, but on this visit, she would give the young visionaries vital instructions about offering reparation to Jesus for offenses made against the Immaculate Heart of Mary. She would also reveal three momentous and amazing secrets. One of them was very scary.
The familiar flashes of light appeared, and suddenly the heavenly Lady was there, right over the holm oak tree, as usual. Lucia quickly spoke up to ask again what the Lady wanted of her.
“I want you to come here on the thirteenth of next month, to continue to pray the Rosary every day in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary, in order to obtain peace for the world and the end to the war, because only she can help you.”
Lucia asked the Lady to tell them who she was and asked her to work a miracle so that everyone would believe.
The Lady replied, “Continue to come here every month. In October, I will tell you who I am and what I want, and I will perform a miracle for all to see and believe.” She then added, “Sacrifice yourselves for sinners, and say many times, especially whenever you make some sacrifice: O Jesus, it is for love of You, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
The Lady had told them so much in this visit. She would reveal to them who she was in four months and would also work a miracle “for all to see and believe”! It was very exciting, but four months seemed such a long way away to the young visionaries. Waiting would be hard.
They now knew another important prayer, though. They would begin to pray it when they made sacrifices. We can pray that prayer too. We can commit it to memory and pray it as often as we can. “O Jesus, it is for love of You, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
But now something perhaps even more incredible was about to happen.
The First Secret: the Vision of Hell
As the Lady was finishing the prayer, she opened her hands again, and mysterious holy light radiated out. The light was not as it had been in the past. It seemed to open the earth! It revealed a very terrifying scene as the children were shown a vision of hell! It was only for a brief moment that they saw the fires of hell, the ugliest demons, and the poor charred and transparent burning souls of people suffering tremendously.
Lucia would later explain that she and her cousins were extremely thankful that the Lady had already promised that they would be going to heaven. Lucia said, “This vision lasted but an instant. How could we ever be grateful enough to our kind heavenly Mother, who had already prepared us by promising, in the first Apparition, to take us to heaven? Otherwise, I think we would have died of fear and terror.”
As devastating as it was for them to see this vision, the children now had absolutely no doubt about the reality of hell. This certainty and every horrifying detail they witnessed would help them greatly when they prayed for sinners. After seeing the vision, the little shepherds did not want anyone to have to go to hell! In fact, little Jacinta would often cry out, “Oh, hell! Hell! How sorry I am for the souls who go to hell! And the people down there, burning alive, like wood in the fire!” Needless to say, Jacinta began to offer more sacrifices for sinners. She was a powerful little prayer warrior.
The Second Secret: Devotion to Mary’s Immaculate Heart
The children remained kneeling and looked up to the Lady in their sadness over having seen the vision of hell. The Lady said to them:
You have seen hell where souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace.
The war is going to end; but if people do not cease in offending God, a worse one will break out during the pontificate of Pius XI. When you see a night illuminated by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that he is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine, and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father.
The young cousins took it all in. The heavenly Lady continued to tell them about many things, including another war that might start, terrible sufferings, and more. She said to prevent it:
I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays. If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated.
The holy Lady told the children about scary things, but it was important for them to know and to learn how the bad things could be prevented — even the war could be prevented! Plus, their prayers and sacrifices could prevent people from going to hell. The Lady added a most hopeful message. She said, “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she will be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.”
The Lady taught the young visionaries a new prayer to pray at the end of each decade of the Rosary. It is known as the Fatima Decade Prayer. She said, “When you pray the Rosary, say after each mystery: O my Jesus, forgive us; save us from the fire of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need.” You might have heard this prayer, or you might already pray it yourself when you pray the Rosary.
The modern-day version is slightly different but holds the same meaning. It is: “O my Jesus, forgive us our sins; save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to heaven especially those in most need of Thy mercy.” When we pray this prayer, we are asking Jesus to help everyone get to heaven, especially those most in need. This simple prayer underscores our duties to care for others and to pray for others. It is so important for us to understand the need to help others because our culture tells us to care only about ourselves and to do only what feels good to us. This mentality is contrary to God’s way. We can pray that God will grant us the graces we need to be more loving to others.
The Third Secret is Revealed but Kept Secret
While the children were with the holy Lady, she revealed to them what is known as the Third Secret of Fatima. The young shepherds were instructed to keep this vision a secret. When Lucia grew up and was a nun, she wrote down the secret when the bishop of Leiria asked her to do so. The heavenly Lady had told her to do so as well. This is what Lucia wrote:
At the left of Our Lady and a little above, we saw an Angel with a flaming sword in his left hand; flashing, it gave out flames that looked as though they would set the world on fire; but they died out in contact with the splendor that Our Lady radiated towards him from her right hand: pointing to the earth with his right hand, the Angel cried out in a loud voice: “Penance, Penance, Penance!” And we saw in an immense light that is God: “something similar to how people appear in a mirror when they pass in front of it” a Bishop dressed in White “we had the impression that it was the Holy Father”. Other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious going up a steep mountain, at the top of which there was a big Cross of roughhewn trunks as of a cork-tree with the bark; before reaching there the Holy Father passed through a big city half in ruins and half trembling with halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met on his way; having reached the top of the mountain, on his knees at the foot of the big Cross he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him, and in the same way there died one after another the other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious, and various lay people of different ranks and positions. Beneath the two arms of the Cross there were two Angels each with a crystal aspersorium in his hand, in which they gathered up the blood of the Martyrs and with it sprinkled the souls that were making their way to God.
It was quite a vivid vision, rich with meaning and symbolism. The young visionaries couldn’t possibly understand its full meaning at that moment. However, the children realized and accepted that they must heed the message of “Penance, Penance, Penance,” which the angel stated was essential.
The children learned a lot from the Holy Lady in this visit. They committed their lives to taking on penances and making sacrifices to help save souls. They also offered prayers for the Holy Father. We, too, can pray to be more generous with our time and our prayers for others and for the Holy Father, our pope.
Editor’s note: This article is from a chapter in Our Lady’s Message to Three Shepherd Children and the World, which is available from Sophia Institute Press.