Portugal, Fátima: The Three Secrets of Fátima and the Apparitions

In the canon of Catholic Marian apparitions, few have garnered as much attention, both scholarly and popular, as the apparitions of Our Lady of Fátima in Portugal. Witnessed by three shepherd children—Lúcia Santos, and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto—the events took place between May 13 and October 13, 1917. Here are some fun facts about these remarkable events, explored with the depth and precision of a Catholic scholar.

Fact 1: The Day of the First Apparition Coincides with the Feast of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament

Historical Context

The first apparition occurred on May 13, 1917, a date that coincides with the Feast of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament. This is noteworthy because the apparitions, in essence, emphasized the importance of prayer, particularly the Rosary, and penance, which align with the Eucharistic devotion represented by the feast.

Theological Significance

The Catechism of the Catholic Church highlights the importance of the Eucharist as the “source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC, 1324). In the apparitions, Our Lady encouraged prayers for the conversion of sinners, an act that finds its culmination in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, where Christ gives himself for the salvation of mankind.

Fact 2: The Miracle of the Sun Was Witnessed by Thousands

Historical Context

On October 13, 1917, during the final apparition, a remarkable event known as the Miracle of the Sun occurred. It was witnessed by around 70,000 people, including believers, skeptics, and journalists. The sun appeared to “dance” in the sky and change colors, even descending towards Earth before ascending back into its normal position.

Theological Significance

The event is significant not only for its miraculous nature but also because it serves as a divine affirmation of the authenticity of the apparitions. Miracles are considered by the Church as signs that “prepare one to faith and demonstrate that the truth” (CCC, 156).

Fact 3: Jacinta and Francisco Were Canonized by Pope Francis

Historical Context

Pope Francis canonized two of the visionaries, Jacinta and Francisco Marto, on May 13, 2017, the centennial anniversary of the first apparition.

Theological Significance

Canonization in the Catholic Church signifies that a person lived a life of heroic virtue and is worthy of universal veneration (CCC, 828). Their canonization affirms the importance and authenticity of the apparitions and the messages they conveyed.

Fact 4: Lúcia Became a Carmelite Nun

Historical Context

The oldest of the visionaries, Lúcia, lived until 2005 and became a Discalced Carmelite nun. She continued to experience private revelations, although these were not subject to the same level of ecclesiastical approval as the original apparitions.

Theological Significance

The Carmelite Order has a particular devotion to contemplative prayer, aligning well with the messages of prayer and penance given at Fátima. The Catechism emphasizes that contemplative prayer is “the simple expression of the mystery of prayer” and is a “gaze of faith fixed on Jesus” (CCC, 2713).

Fact 5: The Three Secrets of Fátima

Historical Context

The most intriguing aspects of the Fátima apparitions are the “Three Secrets.” These were visions given to the children that Lúcia later wrote down and were eventually revealed to the public.

  1. First Secret: A vision of Hell.
  2. Second Secret: The end of World War I and the prediction of another war.
  3. Third Secret: A vision of the death of a “bishop in white,” commonly interpreted as the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in 1981.

Theological Significance

The secrets align with Catholic understanding of eschatology, penance, and prayer. They serve as a sobering reminder of the Church’s teachings on the reality of Hell and the need for conversion (CCC, 1035). The second and third secrets show the significance of the Petrine Ministry and the sufferings of the Church (CCC, 881-882).


The apparitions of Our Lady of Fátima have captivated the Catholic world for over a century, offering profound messages for spiritual growth and conversion. They also emphasize universal teachings of the Church, such as the importance of the Eucharist, prayer, and penance, thus serving as a vibrant embodiment of Catholic theology.

The events in Fátima have been carefully scrutinized and authenticated by the Church, not merely as folklore but as genuine mystical phenomena that accord with the deposit of faith. Indeed, the messages of Fátima continue to be a light for the Church, inviting Catholics to deeper conversion and a more fervent embrace of the Gospel.

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Note: While content aims to align with Catholic teachings, any inconsistencies or errors are unintended. For precise understanding, always refer to authoritative sources like the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Always double-check any quotes for word-for-word accuracy with the Bible or the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

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