The apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, Portugal, in 1917, to three young shepherds, were preceded and prepared by several visits from heaven as early as 1915. Here is a short history of all these apparitions, the messages from Mary and the events that followed :
From April through October, three young shepherds, Lucia dos Santos, age 10 (d. Feb. 13, 2005) and her cousins, Francisco Marta, age 9 (d. April 4, 1919) and Jacinta Marto, age 7 (d. Feb. 2, 1920), saw a figure similar to a statue of snow.
In the spring, summer and fall, an angel appeared to the children as they were watching their sheep.
On Sunday, May 13th, the three children took their flocks out to pasture on a small area known as the Cova da Iria (two miles from Fatima); they saw a “lady” near an oak tree, clothed in white, brighter that the sun, who asked them to come back there for six months, on the thirteenth day of the month at noon. They came back for the first time on June 13th. On July 13th, the Lady promised a great miracle “so everyone would believe.” She revealed three secrets to the children; two were released in 1941:
1) the vision of hell (a terrifying sea of fire full of demons and lost souls amidst indescribable horrors);
2) the end of the war (but, if people do not cease offending God, a worse one would break out under the Pontificate of Pius XI). On August 19th, the Virgin appeared to the children in Valinhos near the Cova da Iria. A few days earlier, on the 13th, the civilian authorities, fearful of the curiosity and fervor shown in the previous apparition, arrested the children who spent 24 hours in jail.
On September 13th: another apparition. On October 13th, the sixth and last apparition: The sun “danced” in front of 70,000 people. The Virgin told the children to return to God's commandments and to the Gospel. The righteous are invited to do penance for sinners, in order to preserve them from hell and obtain peace in the world and the conversion of Russia.
Over a period of three days, between October 30th and November 1st: Pius XII saw the sun dance in the sky in the Vatican Gardens.
May 13th: Paul VI visited Fatima for the fiftieth anniversary of the apparitions.
1982 and 1991 Pope John Paul II visited the shrine of Fatima
On May 13th, John Paul II visited the shrine for the first and tenth anniversaries of the attack made on his life on May13, 1981, from which he miraculously survived.
March 25th: John Paul II renewed the consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, at St Peter's Square in Rome, in front of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima.
From May 13th to October 13th, the Church celebrated the 80th anniversary of the apparitions. Four million visitors visited Fatima that year alone.
Adapted from Zenit