On May 13, the Church celebrates the anniversary of the appearance of Mary to three shepherd children in the town of Fatima, in Portugal, in 1917. Between May 13 and October 13 of that year, Mary appeared six times to brother and sister Francisco, 8, and Jacinta, 6, and their cousin Lucia, 9.

On May 13, 1917, the three children were in the field when they saw a “woman all in white, more brilliant than the sun.” She told the children, “Please don’t be afraid of me, I’m not going to harm you.” When Lucia asked her where she came from, she told them, “I come from Heaven.” Our Lady wore a white mantle, edged with gold, and carried a rosary. She asked the children to pray and devote themselves to the Holy Trinity, and “to say the Rosary every day, to bring peace to the world and an end to the war.”

Over the course of her appearances, Mary revealed that the children would suffer, especially from the unbelief of their families, and that the two young children, Francisco and Jacinta, would be taken to Heaven, but Lucia would live longer, to spread the message of devotion to the Immaculate Heart.

When she appeared for the last time, Mary told Lucia, “I am the Lady of the Rosary.” That day, 70,000 people turned out to witness the apparition, because Mary had promised that she would show the people the apparitions were true. The crowd saw the sun make three circles, moving around the sky in a zigzag movement, that left no doubt about the truth. By 1930, the Bishop had approved of the apparitions and the message, and the Church has declared them authentic.

Our Lady told the children about her concerns that the world would face war, starvation, and persecution of the Church in the 20th century if people did not make reparations for sin. She told the children, and the Church, to pray and offer sacrifices to God so that peace may be spread across the world.

Our Lady of Fatima also revealed three prophetic “secrets.” The first two were revealed earlier, referring to the vision of hell and the souls languishing, the request for an ardent devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the prediction of the Second World War, and finally the prediction of the damage Russia would do by embracing Communism and rejecting Christianity.

The third secret was revealed in 2000 — “The good will be martyred; the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated.” This has been interpreted to include the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in 1981, which happened on May 13, the 64th anniversary of the apparitions.