The Fifth Apparition of Our Lady of Fatima
Though the three shepherd children of Fatima were not present at the Cova da Iria on August 13, 1917 when about 20,000 people gathered to await the arrival of Our Lady, there occurred – at the customary time – the same supernatural manifestations observed by a great majority of the pilgrims during previous apparitions. Thus, the people were convinced that Our Lady had come nonetheless, and belief in the Fatima apparitions continued to grow.
Circumstances of the Apparition of September 13
On the morning of September 13, all the roads leading to Fatima were crammed with people. An immense throng of pilgrims were walking to the Cova da Iria, reciting the Rosary. By noon, there were 25,000 to 30,000 people waiting for the apparition.
Many had heard about the persecution of the three children by the Administrator of Ourém, and their courage in withstanding it. Others had heard of the atmospheric phenomena that occurred on August 13 despite the children not being present.
In her Fourth Memoir, Sister Lucia provides a moving account of the scene:
“As the hour approached, I set out with Jacinta and Francisco, but owing to the crowds around us we could only advance with difficulty.
“The roads were packed with people, and everyone wanted to see us and speak to us. There was no human respect whatsoever. Simple folk, and even ladies and gentlemen, struggled to break through the crowd that pressed around us. No sooner had they reached us than they threw themselves on their knees before us, begging us to place their petitions before Our Lady. Others who could not get close to us shouted from a distance …
“All the afflictions of poor humanity were assembled there. Some climbed up to the tops of trees and walls to see us go by. Saying yes to some, giving a hand to others to help them up, we managed to move forward, thanks to some gentlemen who went ahead and opened a passage for us through the multitude. …
“At last, we arrived at the Cova da Iria, and on reaching the holm oak we began to say the Rosary with the people.”
The multitude was almost finished praying the Rosary when the children saw the customary flash of light that would precede Our Lady’s arrival. After a few moments, an approaching globe of light was observed by many in the crowd, and then Our Lady appeared on the holm oak tree.
Regarding this phenomenon, one witness (a priest) relates:
“At noontime, silence fell on the crowd, and a low whispering of prayers could be heard. Suddenly, cries of joy rent the air, many voices praising the Blessed Virgin. Arms were raised to point to something above, ‘Look! Don’t you see?’ ‘Yes, I see it!’
“I, too, raised my eyes to probe the amplitude of the skies … There was not a single cloud in the whole blue sky, yet to my great astonishment, I saw clearly and distinctly a luminous globe, coming from the east to the west, gliding slowly and majestically through space. … Suddenly, the globe with its extraordinary light, disappeared before our eyes.”
Then there was a sudden cooling of the air; and the light of the sun dimmed, so much so that thousands of people could see the stars in the sky. The atmosphere also became a yellow-gold color, like it had during the previous apparitions.
Dialogue with Our Lady
Then Lucia began to speak with Our Lady:
“What do You want of me?”
“Continue to pray the Rosary to obtain the end of the war. In October Our Lord will come, as well as Our Lady of Sorrows and Our Lady of Carmel. Saint Joseph will appear with the Child Jesus to bless the world. God is pleased with your sacrifices. He does not want you to sleep with the rope on, but only to wear it during the daytime.”
“I was told to ask You many things, the cure of some sick people, of a deaf-mute…”
“Yes, I will cure some, but not others, because Our Lord does not trust them.”
“The people would like to have a chapel here.”
“With half the money make litters to be carried in procession on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary; the other half is for the chapel.”
Lucia then offered Our Lady two letters and a little bottle of perfumed water which had been offered by a man from the parish of Olival.
“I have been given these things. Do You want them?”
“Those are not needed in Heaven. In October I will perform the miracle so that all may believe.“
Our Lady then began to leave, ascending toward the east and disappearing as usual. Many saw the luminous globe ascending towards Heaven. As soon as it disappeared, the crowd swarmed upon the children, asking them countless questions. It was with great difficulty that the parents retrieved their children and brought them home, where hundreds more waited to ask the children even more questions.
Our Lady’s Repeated Themes
Rather than overwhelming the three children with lengthy discourses which they would not be able to remember, Our Lady contented Herself with taking up certain brief themes, all closely connected, and repeating them from month to month – especially since August – each time adding some new element. Here are two examples from the September apparition.
- “Continue to pray the Rosary to obtain the end of the war.”
Our Lady came to Fatima to reveal that She wills that we obtain the gift of peace, which She alone can grant, but She associates the obtaining of peace with the recitation of the Rosary, as one of its essential conditions.
By making this request in each of Her six apparitions – always in the same terms and with the same insistence – Our Lady demonstrates the importance of the Rosary and how pleasing it is to Her. Rather than being an optional devotion, it is “the most ordinary condition to infallibly obtain all the graces that we ask of Her.”
But Our Lady can only give us these graces in response to our humble and suppliant praying of many Rosaries. If She willed to appear at the Cova da Iria holding a rosary in Her hand, it was to show us that the Rosary is “the surest means, because it is the easiest and the humblest, of winning Her Heart and obtaining Her graces” (emphasis in the original).
However, Frère Michel notes an important lesson that we must remember:
“Heaven cannot grant true peace to the impious nations in revolt against it, to a proud world which refuses to implore Mary, the universal Mediatrix of God’s graces. More concretely, the conversion of hearts and the daily recitation of the Rosary are essential conditions for peace, imposed by God in His just Mercy.”
- “I will cure some, but not others, because Our Lord does not trust them.”
Our Lady insists that we understand that sin is a much greater evil than sickness, since sin leads souls to eternal damnation. We should be much more concerned with eternal salvation than the mere healing of the body. This statement also refers to those who pray to Our Lady with their lips but their heart is far from Her. At Fatima, Our Lady asks us “[t]o cease offending God, to amend our lives, to be converted, to faithfully recite the Rosary every day and ask Her with perseverance for the graces we need, and first of all the grace of our conversion”.
The Atmospheric Phenomena
As in the previous apparitions, there were atmospheric phenomena – sensible proofs granted by Our Lady to convince still more the crowds of faithful of the reality of Her presence. But this time there were more signs than ever, and the largest crowd was present – although it was “estimated that all these phenomena, which cannot be considered as having natural causes, were witnessed by [only] two-thirds of the crowd that had gathered at the Cova da Iria.”
In addition to the phenomena mentioned earlier, during the time of this apparition the majority of the pilgrims saw falling from the sky a shower of white petals (or round, shining snowflakes) which slowly descended and disappeared as they approached the ground.
Also, Fatima scholar Frère Michel de la Sainte Trinité tells of the thin white cloud – observed by many witnesses during all the apparitions since June 13 – which formed above the holm oak tree:
“A pleasant looking cloud formed around the rustic arch which dominated the little tree-stump. Rising up from the ground, it grew thicker and went up into the air until it was five or six meters high; then it disappeared like smoke that vanishes before the wind.
“A few moments later, similar curls of smoke were formed and disappeared in the same manner, and then a third time.
“Everything happened as though some invisible thurifers were incensing the Vision liturgically. The three ‘incensations’ together lasted the whole time of the apparition, that is from ten to fifteen minutes.
“In his letter approving devotion to Our Lady of Fatima, the Bishop of Leiria declared this phenomenon ‘humanly speaking inexplicable’.”
Symbolism of the Phenomena
These signs worked by Our Lady not only bear witness to their supernatural origin, they also are symbols rich in meaning.
- The Luminous Globe
The meaning of this sign was obvious to all: It was Our Lady who came. While the three children were privileged to see the Mother of God Herself, the pilgrims were allowed to see the “means of transport”. This sign is important because it demonstrates that when the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared at Fatima, She physically came. It was not a matter of Her risen body remaining in Heaven, and there being only a sensible form representing Her at the apparition site. She was actually there in Her glorified body!
- The Thin White Cloud
This cloud reminds us of the great biblical manifestations of God, in which the cloud appears as the symbol and sensible expression of the divine Presence – i.e., Moses receiving the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai and the Transfiguration of Jesus on Mt. Tabor.
Frère Michel tells us that the Blessed Virgin could manifest Herself in the glorious aura of a specifically divine attribute because, as St. Luke tells us, the Virgin Mary is identified with the Ark of the Covenant. “This Ark, hidden under the Tent, was like a movable sanctuary,” wherein God had fixed His residence while accompanying the Israelites in their wanderings in the desert; and the Cloud manifested His presence.
“[B]y manifesting Herself in the cloud in each of Her apparitions, did not Our Lady wish to signify to us one of the most sublime aspects of Her mystery? In these three clouds … the Immaculate Virgin shows us that She is the Abode and the Temple of God, the Sanctuary of the Holy Trinity, and the Ark of the New Covenant.”
In addition to giving us Her message, it seems that Our Lady wished to teach us – in both a sensible and symbolic manner – all the highest perfections of Her personal vocation.
- The Shower of Petals
The symbolism of this sign is also obvious, as illustrated by the common expression, “a shower of graces”. This reminds us of the well-known statement of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus. As she lay dying, she said: “I wish to spend Heaven doing good upon earth …. After my death, I will send down a shower of rose petals from Heaven.”
Likewise, Our Lady was indicating that graces would be poured out on everybody who would ask for them with confidence.
Today marks the 105th anniversary of this miraculous event!
In light of this important anniversary, current events make it impossible for even the willfully blind to continue ignoring the Message of Fatima. Our Lady’s dire warnings are materializing now with frightening speed.
As the world and Church descend into chaos, the daily news echoes the elements of the Fatima warnings which we have been allowed to know: war, famine, and persecutions against the Church. How soon will we see the outbreak of World War III, or our extermination by the godless forces assembling against us?
Unless we quickly bring about the fulfillment of Our Lady’s requests, we must expect to experience the full force of the “If not” portion of Her prophecies: the complete succumbing of the world to Russia’s errors; unimaginably destructive wars; widespread starvation; a ruthless and bloody persecution of the Church; and finally, the wrath of God wiping clean such evils from the earth by the annihilation of entire nations.
Heaven cannot grant true peace to the impious nations in revolt against God, to a proud world which refuses to implore Our Lady, Mediatrix of all graces. Our Lady of the Rosary is our only hope – only She can help us.
But we must live in accordance with Her Fatima Message. At Fatima, Our Lady told us that we must cease offending God, amend our lives and remain in the state of grace, pray the Rosary daily with devotion and ask Her with perseverance for the graces we need – especially the grace of conversion – wear the Brown Scapular daily, pray and make sacrifices for sinners, and pray for the Pope and the Consecration of Russia (see Our Lady of Fatima’s Five-Point Plan).
Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!
 Sources: Frère Michel de la Sainte Trinité, The Whole Truth About Fatima, Vol. I: Science and the Facts, (Buffalo, Immaculate Heart Publications, 1989), Ch. VIII, pp. 255-267; Mark Fellows, Sister Lucia: Apostle of Mary’s Immaculate Heart, Chapter 17, pp. 82-84; Father John de Marchi, The True Story of Fatima, Ch. VIII, pp. 47-49.
 Fourth Memoir, pp. 167-168; cited in Mark Fellows, pp. 82-83; and Frère Michel, pp. 255-256.
 Father de Marchi, p. 49.
 Fourth Memoir, pp. 167-168; cited in Mark Fellows, pp. 82-83; and Frère Michel, pp. 258-259.
 Frère Michel, pp. 261-262.
 Ibid., p. 297.
 Ibid., p. 304.
 Ibid., pp. 299-301.
 Ibid., p. 274.
 Ibid., p. 260.
 Ibid., pp. 263-264.
 Ibid., p. 265.
 Ibid. In a footnote (on p. 284), Frère Michel provides us an excerpt of a letter written by Sister Lucia, in which she wrote: “You, O Mary, are the first living temple of the Holy Trinity, in You abides the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. … And now that You are a living Tabernacle, a Monstrance, a living Temple, the permanent abode of the Most Holy Trinity, Mother of God and our Mother, pray for us poor sinners now and at the hour of our death.”
 Ibid., p. 266.