On May 13, 1917, around noon, Our Lady appeared for the first time to three little shepherds - Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco - who had taken their sheep to graze in a hollow covered with holm oaks and olive trees, known to the local people as Cova da Iria1. The Virgin asked the children to go to the same place on the thirteenth day of each month for six consecutive months. The message that the Lady will be telling them is a message of penance for the sins committed every day, the recitation of the Holy Rosary for the same intention and the consecration of the world to her Immaculate Heart. In each apparition, the sweet Lady insists on the daily recitation of the Rosary, and teaches them a prayer to be repeated many times, offering their works and especially small mortifications and sacrifices: O Jesus, for your love, for the conversion of sinners and in reparation for the offenses done to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
In August, Our Lady promised a public sign, visible to all, as proof of the truthfulness of these messages. At each apparition, Our Lady encouraged the children to pray for the conversion of sinners by offering sacrifices and praying the Holy Rosary. On October 13, the so-called prodigy of the sun took place. Tens of thousands of people, present in Cova da Iria, witnessed this extraordinary event; it was even seen by those who were many kilometers away from the place of the apparitions. Our Lady then declared to the children that she was Our Lady of the Rosary. She also told them: "It is necessary that men make amends, that they ask for forgiveness for their sins.... Let them no longer offend Our Lord, who is already too much offended".
Pope John Paul II, recalling his pilgrimage to Fatima, where he went "with the Rosary in his hand, the name of Mary on his lips and the song of mercy in his heart" to thank Our Lady for having come out alive from the attack suffered the previous year, pointed out that "the apparitions of Fatima, attested by extraordinary signs in 1917, are a point of reference and radiation for our century. Mary, Our Heavenly Mother, came to shake consciences, to illuminate the true meaning of life, to stimulate conversion from sin and spiritual fervor, to inflame souls with love for God and charity towards their neighbor. Mary came to help us, because many, unfortunately, do not want to accept the invitation of the Son of God to return to the Father's house.
"From her sanctuary of Fatima, Mary still renews today her maternal and pressing request: conversion to Truth and Grace; the life of the sacraments, especially Penance and the Eucharist, and devotion to her Immaculate Heart, accompanied by the spirit of penance ".
Today we can ask ourselves how we correspond to the frequent inspirations of the Holy Spirit to purify our souls, especially in sacramental Confession, how we make reparation for past personal sins and for those of all men, how we pray the Holy Rosary - especially in this month of May -, setting "ambitious intentions", asking that many friends and companions come back to Christ, walking humbly the prodigal son's way of return.