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August 21, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – A new movie about Fatima, opening in theaters on August 28th, is expected to renew interest in the apparitions of our Blessed Mother to three shepherd children at Fatima, Portugal in 1917. Most Catholics know the story of the six apparitions, but how many recognize the full impact of the Fatima events including what happened after Mary’s visitation ended with the miracle of the sun in October? Over 70,000 witnessed the miracle, some many miles away and headlines all over the globe announced it. Other personal miracles of healing and conversion occurred at Fatima, but the miracle of the sun was for everyone, a public witness to the power of Mary’s intercession. It makes Fatima unique among the many appearances of Mary throughout history. 

Our Lady promised a miracle during the July apparition responding to Lucia’s request for “a sign” saying, “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.” During that same visit, Mary showed the three children a terrifying vision of hell and repeated her urgent plea to “pray for sinners.” The vision of hell and the promise of a miracle, so all might believe, did not occur during the same apparition by coincidence. Throughout history, Jesus has sent His Mother to warn her children to repent. The October miracle was to be a mass wakeup call for all people.  Mary wanted to show us the reality of sin’s consequences and magnify her message of repentance. Announcing the miracle ahead of time drew many to Fatima out of piety or curiosity or even to prove the message was a hoax.

As word of the visions spread, the Masonic government and secular press called it a Jesuit conspiracy and tried to stop it. Their debunking and threats actually helped to spread the message more widely and brought many people to the Cova de Iria, the site of the apparitions, for the October event. The devout, skeptics, scoffers, even atheists swarmed to Fatima. A pouring rain failed to suppress the tens of thousands gathered to witness the astounding moment when the sun, like a wheel of fire, danced and spun in the sky shooting out flashes of varying colors like a heavenly fireworks display. When the sun appeared to plunge toward the earth, most in the crowd feared it was the end of the world and fell to their knees. Some confessed their most hidden sins out loud and begged for forgiveness. When the apparition ended, everyone, despite being soaked and muddy minutes before, found themselves clean and dry.

But there is a lesser-known miracle of Fatima that also carries a message for the world, a miracle with a backstory. It begins with the Reconquista of the Iberian Peninsula from the Moors in the Middle Ages. In the 12th century, a Moorish Princess named Fatima was captured in battle by a Portuguese officer, Goncalo Hermingues. He fell in love with her and asked King Alfonso for permission to marry her that was given provided Fatima convert to Christianity. The couple lived happily for only a short time when Oureana, Fatima’s Christian name, died and Goncalo, in sorrow, entered a Cistercian monastery. Later, Goncalo was named superior of a neighboring community, where he built a chapel and relocated Fatima’s remains. The chapel became the site of the parish church of Fatima, the same parish where the Santos and Marto families would worship eight centuries later.

King Alfonso won independence for Portugal from Spain by making himself a vassal of the pope and offering annual tribute to Rome. But Alfonso was more than an astute politician; he was a man of faith and a friend of St. Bernard of Clairvaux. He built monasteries and placed Portugal under the protection of the Queen of heaven. And, in fact, according to legend, described by Fatima expert Mark Fellows, “for a long time the Kings of Portugal wore no crown, deferring their earthly royalty to the heavenly Queenship of Mary.” Several other Portuguese kings honored Our Lady as well. In the 14th century, King John I asked Pope Boniface IX to dedicate all the cathedrals in Portugal to the Blessed Mother, and a decree doing so was read in Lisbon on May 13th, a date coinciding with the first apparition at Fatima five centuries later. There are no coincidences in the heavenly calendar.

Portugal fell again under Spanish rule, but on December 8, 1646, King John IV declared independence and consecrated Portugal to Mary Immaculate as the nation’s patroness and protector. King John swore under oath to defend with his life Mary’s title of the Immaculate Conception. (Later, Portuguese school children would also recite an oath to defend the Immaculate Conception of Mary.) It would be two centuries before Pope Pius IX officially proclaimed the doctrine, but the Portuguese were already dedicated to the truth that Mary was free from original sin from the moment of her conception. Is it any wonder that Our Lady appeared in Portugal, a county whose pious people were so totally committed to her and where her message would be so universally welcomed by the simple peasants?

But the years immediately preceding Mary’s apparitions were anything but easy for Portuguese Catholics. In 1910, Freemasons fomented a bloody revolution, took power, and began to persecute the Church with draconian measures. They suppressed the religious orders, expelled the Jesuits, legalized divorce, made marriage no more than a secular contract, forbade religious habits and clerical dress, confiscated monasteries and convents, invited Protestant religions into the country, and made all religious holidays workdays. Magalhães Lima, Grand Master of the Portuguese Freemasonry, declared that within a few years no one would want to be a priest. Another Freemason, Afonso Costa, declared that the new law of separation of church and state would end the Catholic Church in Portugal in two generations. 

Catholics devoted to Fatima are aware of the period of the apparitions, but how many know what happened after the October miracle? Freemasons did not take their defeats lying down. They continued to oppose the events of Fatima even blowing up the first small chapel erected on the site. Nothing they did could quell the enthusiasm of the pilgrims thronging to the village. If government officials set up roadblocks, the people walked across the fields. If they threatened the people, the pilgrims ignored them. In fact, many police officials, pious men, sympathized with the crowds and had no stomach to confront them with violence. Our Lady was facing down the Masons.

Keep in mind that the events at Fatima were taking place without the help of the Church. The local bishop, understandably, forbade his priests to support the events from the very beginning, fearing a backlash from the government and uncertain that anything supernatural was taking place there. In 1922, the bishop established a commission to look into the events since the crowds continued to increase. In 1927, the privilege of a Votive Mass was finally conceded and the cult of Our Lady of Fatima was officially allowed.

The beginning of the 20th century was a time of chaos for Portugal. Things did not change overnight after Mary’s apparitions, but they improved enough that in February 1918, less than six months after the miracle of the sun, the Portuguese bishops wrote to Pope Benedict XV that the country’s situation was better under military leader Sidonio Pais, who annulled much of the worst legislation against Catholics. An apostolic nuncio was named to Lisbon and the Portuguese government sent a diplomat to Rome. When Pais, known as the “President-King,” was assassinated in December 1918, the people, strengthened by the apparitions, resisted a return to oppressive government through numerous social apostolates. And in 1926, a military triumvirate drove the Freemasons from power and set the stage for the rise of Catholic leader M. Oliveira Salazar, who established peace and order.

And so we come to the second miracle of Fatima. As the 20th anniversary of the angel’s first apparition approached, spring 1936, Portugal remained in a precarious situation. Spain was on the verge of civil war and Europe was ready to explode with Hitler on the rise remilitarizing Germany. At this dangerous juncture, the bishops of Portugal acted. In May 1936, while on retreat at the Cova da Iria, the bishops promised Mary to hold a national pilgrimage in May 1938 to consecrate the country to her Immaculate Heart if she would preserve the “Land of Holy Mary” from the threat of Communism.

Two months after this vow, the Spanish Civil War erupted with the Communist rebels massacring tens of thousands of Catholic clergy, religious, and laity — an attack on God reminiscent of the French Revolution. But in Portugal, peace reigned. The country was spared the devastations of both the Spanish Civil War and World War II and, and, according to the 1947 book, Our Lady of Light, enjoyed instead a “spiritual, moral, and material restoration” all in the space of less than one generation. The bishops fulfilled their promise in 1938 and it’s estimated that one of every 12 inhabitants of Portugal joined them at Fatima on May 13, 1938.
In 1942, the bishops of Portugal once again engaged in collective action by releasing a joint pastoral to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Mary’s apparitions. They implicitly recognized the “miracle” of Portugal’s transformation writing:

Is there even one truly Catholic Portuguese who does not recognize that our privileged situation is a reflection of that light brought to Fatima by our Lady, projected by her upon the souls of the three little shepherds, and by their means upon the whole world? … One who would have closed his eyes 25 years ago, and would open them now, would no longer recognize Portugal, so deep and so extensive is the transformation wrought by that humble invisible factor which we know as the apparitions of Fatima. (Our Lady of Light)

And that, in fact, is the second miracle of Fatima. With the whole world engaged in war, Portugal kept the peace. With a raging Communist assault on her very borders, Portugal was spared. In a “devastated, war-torn Europe … (Portugal was) the only country … where, in the year 1941, food rationing was unknown.” The country was truly under the protection of the Queen of Heaven. 

Our situation in the United States today resembles the world's descent into godless evil and chaos that marked the 20th century, the bloodiest in history. As we continue that horrible legacy with Marxist riots in many of our cities, isn't it time for our shepherds to imitate the Portuguese bishops by promising to defend the Immaculate Heart of Mary even to the death? Might we not expect to see the same miraculous protection of our country that the Portuguese experienced if we follow their path? Consider the impact if the bishops embraced the same promise as the Portuguese bishops in 1936. What a brilliant conquest for Mary. Imagine our shepherds leading tens of thousands of Catholics in a pilgrimage to the National Shrine calling on the Queen of Heaven to preserve us from the Marxist threat we face today. Let us pray to Our Lady of Fatima for such a blessing and our bishops to embrace Fatima.

Mary Ann Kreitzer writes from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and blogs at Les Femmes – The Truth.

Aug. 24, 2020 correction: This article now correctly states that the “Portuguese were already dedicated to the truth that Mary was free from original sin from the moment of her conception” whereas it had originally stated that the “Portuguese were already dedicated to Mary’s perpetual virginity…”