Jacinta and Francisco Marto are pictured with their cousin Lucia dos Santos (right) in a file photo taken around the time of the 1917 apparitions of Mary at Fatima, Portugal.
Jacinta and Francisco Marto are pictured with their cousin Lucia dos Santos (right) in a file photo taken around the time of the 1917 apparitions of Mary at Fatima, Portugal.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal. And, to mark this special centennial, the Catholic Standard is sponsoring a once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage to the holy site on the exact date of the famous “miracle of the sun.”

We will be in Fatima on Oct. 13, exactly 100 years to the very day that Our Lady performed the miracle she promised she would perform so that the world would believe and listen to her message of penance and reparation and atonement for sins.

From May until October, 1917, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to 10-year-old Lucia dos Santos, and her two cousins, Jacinta Marto, aged 7, and Francisco Marto, aged 8. She  appeared on the 13th day of every month, and asked the youngsters to pray the rosary and make sacrifices in honor of God.

Despite opposition from their families and parish priest, threats from government officials and being arrested by the police, Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco never waivered in their faith and trust in the lady whom they described as “brighter than the sun.”

Every month they beheld Our Lady. It was during these apparitions that she said, “People must amend their lives and ask pardon for their sins. They must not offend our Lord any more, for He is already too much offended.” She urged the children to pray the rosary every day to obtain peace in the world. She asked for First Saturday devotions that are popular in many of our parishes. She also taught the children this prayer that we say after each decade of the rosary” “O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who have most need of your mercy.”

She promised them that she would perform a great miracle in October that would convince skeptics and lead the faithful closer to God.

On Oct. 13, 1917, Our Lady told Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco that she was the “Lady of the Rosary” and that she wanted a church built where she appeared. Then, the sun began to spin in the sky, turn different colors and looked like it was falling toward earth.

People could look at the sun without hurting their eyes and could see it move in the sky, almost like a comet or meteor. The event became known as “the miracle of the sun” and newspapers printed pictures of the sun spinning and moving around the sky.

By the way, while the estimated 70,000 people who were present witnessed the miraculous dancing sun, Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco had a vision of Jesus, St. Joseph and Mary as Our Lady of Sorrows and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.

The Catholic Standard will be in Fatima at the exact location and at the exact time where this miracle occurred 100 years ago.

Jacinta and Francisco lived only a couple of years after the apparitions – as Our Lady predicted. They both died of the flu. Pope Francis announced this month that the two holy children will be canonized as saints. The postulator for Francisco and Jacinta’s cause has noted that when they are canonized, the two seers will be the youngest saints in the history of the Catholic Church who were not child martyrs.

Lucia became a nun, and died in 2005. Sister Lucia wrote down everything she could remember about the visions. She also reported that a year before they saw Our Blessed Mother at Fatima, an angel appeared to the three children. The Blessed Virgin Mary also appeared to Sister Lucia in 1925, 1926 and 1929.

By the way, Pope Francis has decreed that there will be a plenary indulgence for us faithful who make a pilgrimage to Fatima and participate in a celebration or prayer dedicated to the Blessed Virgin.

To make this a pilgrimage to truly honor the Most Blessed Virgin, after our visit to Fatima, Catholic Standard pilgrims will travel to the Marian shrines of Guadalupe and Zaragoza, Spain, and to the healing springs of Lourdes, France.

Guadalupe, in the ancient Kingdom of Castile, is an 800-year-old shrine and monastery dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and one of the most important Marian shines of the medieval ages. The veneration of Mary there has been credited with the Spaniards reclaiming their land from Moorish occupation. Also, it was at this monastery that Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand authorized Christopher Columbus’s first voyage, and it was at this monastery that Columbus prayed in thanksgiving after his safe return from what is now the Americas.

Zaragoza is home to the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar, reportedly the first and oldest apparition site of Our Lady in the world. Tradition says that Our Lady appeared to St. James there while she was still alive and living in Jerusalem. St. James, according to tradition, reported that Our Lady told him to build a chapel there and that “it will stand from that moment until the end of time in order that God may work miracles and wonders through my (Mary’s) intercession.”

While in Spain, we will also have free time to explore the city of Madrid. Then, we will cross the Pyrenees Mountains into France and travel to Lourdes. It was in Lourdes that Our Lady appeared to St. Bernadette in 1858. The Blessed Virgin revealed a healing spring, requested that the faithful come in procession and identified herself as the Immaculate Conception.

While in Lourdes, we will visit the shrine built where the Blessed Virgin appeared. We will also visit the home and parish of St. Bernadette, participate in a Eucharistic procession, attend a blessing of the sick and have the opportunity to experience the healing waters. There will also be an evening torchlight procession in honor of Our Lady in which we can participate.

The entire pilgrimage will be our way to celebrate the Blessed Virgin Mary in a special way. We will sing hymns and offer prayers and have processions. We will hail and venerate her for her unique role in God’s plan of salvation. The priests accompanying our pilgrimage will offer daily Mass and hear our Confessions.

Why should you join us on this pilgrimage? Because the Church wants us to experience the graces and blessings that come to us from following the example of Mary.

In all of her famous apparitions – such as at Fatima and Lourdes where we will visit and pray – Mary encourages the faithful to do what God tells us to do. With Mary as our role model, we can draw closer to Christ because, as she said, “my soul magnifies the Lord.” (Luke 1:46).

As we make our pilgrimage to the Marian shrines, we will look to Our Lady for consolation and guidance. And in doing so, we will be faithful to what Jesus Himself, speaking to us through St. John, commanded from the cross when he told us to “behold your mother.” (John 19:27). On this pilgrimage, we will indeed “behold our mother.”

Please consider joining us on this very special pilgrimage. For more information, call Unitours at 800-777-7432.