Angels of Fatima
In the midst of the horrors of the First World War, God blessed the world with a beautiful gift. A spectacular message about the importance of adoration to God was brought to Fatima, Portugal by the angel whose appearances in 1916 prepared three children for the coming of the Mother of God in 1917.
October 13 of 2011 marked the 94th anniversary of one of the most widely-known Marian apparitions in history – the final appearance of Mary to three shepherd children – Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco. For six months, always on the 13th day of the month, the Blessed Virgin had appeared to the children with the hopeful message that the rosary would bring about world peace.
This miracle began in the spring of 1916 as the children were tending to their sheep and playing as children do in the family olive orchard. In the words of Lucia herself, as written in her memoirs some 20 years after the event:
“We went on that occasion to my parents’ property, which is at the bottom of the Cabeco, facing east. It is called Chousa Velha.
“About the middle of the morning it began to drizzle and we climbed up the hill, followed by our sheep, in search of a rock that would shelter us. And so it was that we entered for the first time into that blessed place. It is in the middle of an olive grove that belongs to my godfather, Anastacio. From there one can see the village where I was born, my father’s house, and also Casa Velha and Eira da Pedra. The olive grove, which really belongs to several people, extends as far as these places.
“We spent the day there, in spite of the fact that the rain had stopped and the sun was shining in a clear sky. We ate our lunch and began to say the Rosary. After that we began to play a game with pebbles. We had only been at it a few moments when a strong wind began to shake the trees and we looked up to see what was happening, since it was such a calm day. And then we began to see, in the distance, above the trees that stretched to the east, a light whiter than snow in the form of a young man, quite transparent, and as brilliant as crystal in the rays of the sun. As he came near we were able to see his features. We were astonished and absorbed and we said nothing to one another. And then he said:
‘Do not be afraid. I am the angel of peace. Pray with me.’
“He knelt, bending his forehead to the ground. With a supernatural impulse we did the same, repeating the words we heard him say:
‘My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love You. I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope, and do not love You.’
“After repeating this prayer three times the angel rose and said to us:
‘Pray in this way. The hearts of Jesus and Mary are ready to listen to you’.
“And he disappeared. He left us in an atmosphere of the supernatural that was so intense we were for a long time unaware of our own existence. The presence of God was so powerful and intimate that even among ourselves we could not speak. On the next day, too, this same atmosphere held us bound, and it lessened and disappeared only gradually. None of us thought of talking about this apparition or any pledge of secrecy. We were locked in silence without having willed it.”
In that initial encounter, a great light approached the children from the east. The light was whiter than snow in the form of a young man. The man was transparent – like crystal.
The angel’s first words to the children: “Do not be afraid.” This angel performed one of the primary tasks of angels – that of God’s messengers. The peace and happiness which flowed through the children as a result stayed with the children long after the angel disappeared. Next words: “I am the Angel of Peace.” The angel then invited the children to pray, saying, “Pray with me.” This represents another function of the angels – to assist us in prayer. Prayers of the angels help to draw us into the presence of God.
The angel went on to teach the children a prayer that stayed with them the rest of their lives: “O my God, I believe; I adore: I hope, and I love you. I beg your pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope, and do not love you.” After the angel left, the children spent hours repeating the prayer until they had memorized it. The angel then knelt down, prostrating himself – a lesson in humility and reverence for us.
This was the first of the appearances of the angels to the children. It would be followed by two more visits. The second apparition took place in the summer of 1916. It was after lunch – an angel appeared next to them at a cistern outside of Lucia’s house in the back garden. The angel again called them to prayer. The third apparition took place while the children were in the field tending to sheep. This time the angel appeared with a chalice and bread.
Mission of the Angels? To prepare the children for the appearance of Mother Mary. On the 13th of each month at about the same time from May until October, 1917, Mary appeared to the three children. Lucia described the apparition as “a lady, clothed in white, brighter than the sun, radiating a light more clear and intense than a crystal cup filled with sparkling water, lit by burning sunlight.” Mary set forth a simple request – “I have come to ask you to come here for six months of the 13th day of the month, at this same hour. Later I shall say who I am and what I desire. And I shall return here yet a seventh time.”
Mary continued, “Say the Rosary every day, to bring peace to the world and the end of the war.”
The intense effect that the apparition of the Angel had on the children was quite different from the more serene experience of the Virgin the following year. Lucia states,
“I don’t know why, but the apparitions of our Lady produced in us effects quite different from the angel’s visitations We felt in both instances the same intimate happiness, peace and joy, but instead of the physical prostration the angel imposed, our Lady brought a feeling of expansion and freedom; and instead of this annihilation in the divine presence, we wished only to exult in our joy. There was no difficulty of speech when our Lady appeared; there was rather on my part a desire to communicate.
“This difference can perhaps be explained in this way. The angels of whatever choir share in common with God a spiritual nature, unmixed with matter. The goodness of their being, filled with the divine justice according to the degree of glory granted to each, radiates that holiness unmediated, though proportioned to the capacity of human beings to experience it. Not without reason Scripture shows how easily an angel appearing to men can be confused with God Himself (Rev 19:10, 22:9). When our Lady appears, however, although her glory is greater than that of the highest seraphim her human nature cloaks that glory in the familiar, just as did Our Lord’s human nature, even after the Resurrection.”
The appearances of Mary continued as promised. The sixth and final apparition occurred on Oct. 13, 1917 with approximately 70,000 people from across Europe attending despite a horrific rain storm. Mary had told the children that she would perform a miracle in hopes that the skeptics would believe in the apparitions. The crowd witnessed what has become known as “The Miracle of the Sun.” On that day, the sun appeared to stand still, then spin in the sky before falling toward Earth and returning to its place in the heavens. Because of the heavy rains earlier in the day, the ground and the crowds were soaked; but after the Miracle of the Sun, everything was dry again.
A reporter, who was a professed atheist, reported on the event:
“One could see the immense multitude turn towards the sun, which appeared free from clouds and at its zenith. It looked like a plaque of dull silver and it was possible to look at it without the least discomfort. One might have thought an eclipse was taking place. But at that moment a great shout went up and one could hear the spectators nearest at hand shouting: “A miracle! A miracle!” Before the astonished eyes of the crowd, whose aspect was Biblical as they stood bareheaded, eagerly searching the sky, the sun trembled, made sudden incredible movements outside all cosmic laws – yes, the sun ‘danced’!“