(This is the first in a series about the Fatima centennial.)
By the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Three children dancing, playing games, and laughing typified the three Fatima children, who herded sheep every day together. Their strongly Catholic parents said the rosary as a family, but these children, urged by their mothers, also said another rosary on their breaks.
These children from the Marto and Santos households happened to be from Portugal, a country known to love Mary. The Portuguese formed their children in the practice of honoring Mary through the holy rosary. The Santoses and the Martos stood out in this Portuguese custom, for they knew Mary, as she had done through their history, would protect them.
Who are these children, anyway? Lucia Santos, the eldest, nine years of age, joined the Marto children, Francisco, age eight and Jacinta, age six in herding sheep. Praying, playing and working forged in these three cousins an unbreakable bond.
However, they did enjoy, like most children, playing. In fact, they devised a way to shorten the Rosary by saying “Hail Mary” ten times and withholding the other part of the prayer. After all, they had the first two words, didn’t they?
We can all relate to these children in some way. Have we ever as a child or even adult shortened our prayers to play longer? Have we not played, fulfilled chores, or just watched little children play and work? Some of us have even had the blessing of seeing children pray and ask for more prayer!
The First Apparition
One day, in the spring of 1916, it began to drizzle, according to Lucia, and they climbed the hill, followed by their sheep, to search for a rock that would shelter them, a rock in the middle of an olive grove. Even though the rain stopped they decided to eat their lunch there and play a game with pebbles. Suddenly, only a few minutes later, a strong wind shook the trees and they all looked up to see what was happening, since it had been a calm day.
An astonished look appeared on their little faces: above the trees from the east…a bright light, a “light whiter than snow,” said venerable Lucia. In this light all three saw a figure of a young man who came close enough so that the children could see his features. They responded with awe and silence. He spoke, “Do not be afraid! I am the Angel of Peace. Pray with me.”
As he knelt, they followed him “with a supernatural impulse” and repeated the words they heard: “My God, I believe, I adore, I hope , and I love You. I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love You.” Imitating the Angel of Peace, the children repeated the prayer three times.
And, there that day, the Angel of Peace gave to the world what is now called, “The Pardon Prayer.” God, through the Angel of Peace, had forever changed Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta’s lives. They would one day become known as “the children of Fatima.” The children no longer shortened their prayer and peace came to Portugal.
Today? People come from all over the world to honor Mary, participate in Holy Mass, venerate the children and say the holy Rosary, as well as the “Pardon Prayer.”

Want to visit Fatima and Lourdes?
Father Michael Schemm is leading a trip to Spain, Lourdes, and Fatima Oct. 4-15. For more information about the trip, call 800-842-4842 or email susan@select-international.com

Statue to stop in diocese
The International Virgin Pilgrim Statue will visit Wichita for several days in May. During one of those days, the statue will be housed at the Our Lady of Fatima shrine, located on the motherhouse property of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary of Wichita in Colwich.