The Blessed Mother appeared to the shepherd children not in Fatima but in Cova de Iria, a field owned by Lucia’s family. The children went there each day to tend sheep.
Cova de Iria now has a complex of buildings including two basilicas, an outdoor chapel that houses the place where the Blessed Mother appeared to the children, and many monuments and statues. Fatima welcomes four million visitors a year.
Our day began with Mass at a very small chapel, then continued to the massive and modern Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity. This has the greatest indoor seating capacity for large celebrations. Across the plaza is the Basilica of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, an older basilica which contains the bodies of the three shepherd children. A permanent outdoor altar stands on the plaza for major pilgrim Masses.
Before the Blessed Mother appeared to the children an angel, thought to be Michael the Archangel, appeared to them three times, preparing them to receive the Apparitions that were to come. The children were of peasant families; God chooses the lowly for great work.
The apparitions took place during the first World War, and are meant to show the world the way to peace through embracing faith in God and repentance for sin. The children were given a vision of hell, and entreated through the rosary to begin a movement of conversion and renewal in the church. The children were suppressed from talking about the appearances by parents, town people and even church and government officials. The Blessed Virgin appeared each month and crowds grew each month, growing to an apex for the miracle of the sun where everyone saw the sun dance and fall in the sky.
I have been deeply moved by my time here and spent time meditating on the these. I am not only impressed by the devotion of the pilgrims but the promise of Fatima in the effectiveness of faith and conversion to bring peace. There are constant Masses and prayers every day, as well as pilgrims who cross the plaza on their knees as they pray. Every night the rosary is prayed by many pilgrims and candles are carried in a grand procession.
We also went to Aljustrel, the village where the children lived. Lucia’s niece, now an old woman, greets pilgrims joyful that the message of Our Lady of Fatima continues 100 years later. A wonderful day.