Ninety nine years ago today, on 13th October 1917, a miracle took place. Witnessed by more than 70,000 people at the place of it’s occurrence, as well as many thousands more within a 25 mile radius, the crowds included devout Catholics, nominal Catholics, agnostics and atheists – regardless of their belief or lack of it, all present witnessed what took place.

They were there because this event had been foretold months in advance – the place, the date and even the time of the miracle were already well-known. The place was the Cova da Iria, in Fatima, Portugal. The day was the final appearance of the Blessed Virgin Mary to three young children.

On that day, they saw the sun dance in the sky, changing colour repeatedly before finally seeming to fall from it’s orbit and descend toward the earth. Many there thought it was the end of the world. Within ten minutes, the miracle was over, and everything was as it had been before. Well, almost everything. The ground, sodden following days of heavy rain, was perfectly dry, as were the clothes of those present. And the people had changed, never to be the same again. Not only had there been a miracle of nature; there had also been a miracle of grace.

This was the final appearance of a series of six, beginning in May that year, always on the 13th day of the month apart from August, as the children had been arrested – that month, it took place on the 19th. That day the Lady from Heaven identified Herself as ‘the Lady of the Rosary’. In every single appearance, she had asked that the Rosary be prayed ‘for peace in the world and for the end of the war’.

She had shown the children a terrifying vision of Hell; She had revealed the wish of God that devotion to Her Immaculate Heart be established in the world, telling the children “if what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved”. And She had foretold of the horrors of persecution of the Church which would take place throughout the 20th Century, when the blood of many Martyrs would be spilled. Later, She would appear again to request the Communions of Reparation on the first Saturdays of five successive months, and the Consecration of Russia to Her Immaculate Heart. That collegial Consecration would eventually be made by St John Paul II on 25th March 1984 in Rome.

The entire message of Fatima is one of prayer and reparation; it is summarised in the closing words of the Blessed Virgin at Her final appearance – “Do not offend the Lord our God any more, for He is already too much offended”. It is a message of motherly concern and mercy from She whom the Church calls the ‘Mother of Mercy’.

To encourage us to pray for poor sinners is itself merciful, and it inculcates a spirit of mercy. And to offer a sure and effective means to save souls from Hell is, too, merciful. The Immaculate Heart of Mary is a motherly Heart, a Heart filled to overflowing with the very Love of Christ Himself; it was this Immaculate Heart which gave flesh to the Sacred Heart of Her Son – and this Heart is the very Fount of Mercy.

Today, as we remember the appearances of the Lady of the Rosary at Fatima ninety nine years ago, may our thoughts be stirred not only by the occurrence of a predicted and spectacular miracle; as well as this, may our hearts be moved to heed the message She brought to humanity, the miracle being the divine seal of approval on that message. If we do this, then the miracle will have achieved it’s purpose.

Our Lady of Fatima, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, pray for us; may Your Immaculate Heart be our refuge and the way that will lead us to God.