A short documentary explores the 100 Years of Fatima

In May 1917, Our Lady appeared to three shepherd children, Lucia Santos (9 years old) and her cousins Jacinta (8) and Francisco Marto (6) in the Cova de Iria fields right outside of Fatima, Portugal. Our Lady appeared to the three children the 13th of each month around noon for six consecutive months from May to October. During her apparitions, she revealed the “Three Secrets of Fatima” to the children. The first secret revealed the horrifying reality of Hell. The Blessed Virgin pleaded that all people make acts of sacrifice and prayer to save souls from going to Hell. The second secret prophesied the outbreak of World War II. The third secret was written down by Lucia, the last living seer, and is thought to be the prediction of the 1981 attempted assassination of Pope Saint John Paul II. Today, the bullet with which the pope was shot lies inside the crown of the Lady of Fatima statue at the shrine. Saint John Paul II attributed his survival to the direct intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. He later went to visit Fatima where he gave thanks to Our Lady and met with Sister Lucia.  

Throughout the apparitions, the Blessed Virgin repeatedly stressed the importance of praying the Rosary daily, wearing the Scapular of Mount Carmel, and of performing acts of sacrifice.  On October 13, 1917, Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta were surrounded by a crowd of 70,000 people waiting to see if Our Lady would really appear. On that day, Lucia once again asked what she wanted from her. The Virgin told her that she desired that a chapel be built in that very spot and that people continue to say the Rosary every day. Then she launched a ray of light towards the sun stopping the rain and causing the sun to turn and dazzle, projecting its rays in all directions. Many people wept and prayed, for they had just witnessed a miracle.

In the 100 years since the apparition, Fatima has attracted thousands of pilgrims from all over the world, including myself and my two dear friends, Clare Kossler (’17) and Ann Gallagher (’17). We had the opportunity to travel to Fatima and behold the shrine for ourselves. Apart from wanting to visit the shrine ourselves and make our own pilgrimage, we also wanted to capture what Fatima meant to people in this centennial celebration. Thus, we decided that we would create a short book and documentary about Fatima’s history, focusing on what Fatima means to people today. Having a camera in hand can dramatically affect one’s experience, so in order to make our own pilgrimage appropriately, we entered the area with cameras closed and our eyes wide open.

It was a very surreal experience to be walking on the grounds where Our Lady appeared to the three children only 100 years ago. The shrine and the area itself consist of mostly white tones in a large sweeping space. It is simple, clean, peaceful, and beautiful. The actual shrine is in a medium sized alcove close to the basilica where the statue of Our Lady of Fatima resides, presenting a loving look as people pray. Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta are all buried in the Basilica of Our Lady of Fatima, adjacent to the shrine.

Each person or group we interviewed gave a different personal reason for visiting the shrine, yet they shared a common desire: to love Our Lady more. We asked a young Spanish mom and her five kids (ages 10 months to about 10 years old) why they traveled to see and pray at Fatima. She replied that her husband had a very strong devotion to Our Lady of Fatima and would always pray to her. She then went on to explain that even though he had passed away in December 2016, they knew that they could all be united to him by praying to Our Lady, and that one day they could be truly reunited with him in Heaven. This family was full of joy and seemed very peaceful and confident.

Other interviewees explained that although they had been to the shrine many times, they never grew tired of it because, as they put it, why would going to see your own mother ever get old or less exciting? Felipe, a Portuguese woman in her late twenties, told us that even though she is directly related to Francisco and Jacinta, she does not use that fact to make her more devoted to Our Lady. She explained that she is devoted to Our Lady because she chooses to be and because she herself wants to grow in love for her.

Felipe ended her interview by saying that there is no sky like the sky of Fatima. Her artistic words hold merit because the sky of Fatima is unique in an almost indescribable way. It is clear and white during the day and full of warm shades of blue and yellow as the sun goes down. I could not help but imagine what it would have looked like with the rays of sunshine dancing above the viewers’ heads back in October of 1917. I am very grateful to the Center for Ethics and Culture for supporting our trip to Fatima and for allowing us to capture the beautiful simplicity and strong devotion there in order to spread devotion to Our Lady and her words.

On May 12-13 2017, Pope Francis will be the fourth pontiff to visit the Marian shrine and the first to celebrate its 100 years.

Crystal Avila is a senior studying Film and Television. She plans to have the short documentary about Fatima completed in the next 2 months and looks forward to sharing it. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about her trip and findings from Fatima please contact her at cavila3@nd.edu