It was the first time since Christ’s resurrection that God, in order to confirm the truth of the apparition, performed such a spectacular miracle at an announced time and place.
Appearing to the children of Fatima, the Holy Mother announced a great sign at the end of the Fatima apparitions. She said that she would work a great miracle so that everyone would believe.
Mary told Lúcia, Francisco, and Jacinta about the miracle three months prior to its fulfillment, and indicated that the exact place and time of its occurrence would be October 13, 1917 in Cova de Iria. Antagonistic towards the Catholic Church, the mass media refused to believe in the apparitions, so they advertised the announcement energetically, hoping to discredit and make the faithful and the Catholic Church the subject of ridicule.
We must remember that in 1910, that is, seven years before the Holy Mother’s apparitions in Fatima, the Masons took power in Portugal. The authorities had determined to destroy the Catholic Church over the course of two generations.
In their struggle against God the new authorities announced that Catholicism was the greatest enemy of mankind, the opiate of the people, and that was why it was important to obliterate it.
They began a cruel persecution of the Church, with repression of both the religious and the laity. Many of them incurred a martyr’s death. The primate of Portugal, as well as the most intolerable bishops and clergy were exiled.
In 1915 they designated Lisbon as the atheist capital of the world. After the assassination of King Carlos I and his immediate heir, the Prince Royal Luis Phillippe, the king’s younger son Manuel became king and reigned for two years before he, along with many members of the royal family, escaped to Gibraltar, and subsequent exile in England. It was in exactly this environment, when all of Europe was the scene of the bloody conflict of the First World War and the Communists had seized power in Russia, that the Lord God in extraordinary fashion called on peoples’ consciences through the apparitions of the Holy Mother at Fatima.
It was on May 13, 1917 that Mary appeared for the first time to the three small children: ten-year-old Lúcia, nine-year-old Francisco, and seven-year-old Jacinta.
As the rumors of the apparitions spread throughout the entire country, masses of people began travelling to Fatima. The atheistic authorities, uneasy about the burgeoning event, arrested Jacinta, Francisco, and Lucia. Threatening them with horrific torture, they tried to coerce them to testify that there were, in fact, no apparitions. But the children remained resolute, and after a few days they were released.