The Apparitions of Fatima, whose centennial is celebrated this year, can be understood in the logical framework of two cycles: the angelical and the Marian.
The angelical cycle, so called because of the apparitions of the Angel of Portugal in Spring, Summer and Fall, 1916, is believed to be the preparation, a pedagogic itinerary for the encounters that would come the next year with Our Lady.
In these apparitions, the Angel of Portugal, as he presented himself on the second apparition, introduced the Three Little Shepherds to the life centered in God, through adoration, and asked them for prayers and sacrifices, themes that are constant in all the apparitions.
The Marian cycle is constituted of six apparitions of Our Lady in 1917.
In her first apparition, May 13th, 1917, Our Lady asks Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco to return to that place, Cova da Iria, every 13th, for six months in a row, at the same hour.
She asks them also to pray the Rosary every day to obtain the end of the war and peace for the world.
A month later, already with about half a hundred people, the Three Little Shepherds receive again the request to pray the Rosary. She tells them to learn how to read.
At this same moment, they learned that Francisco and Jacinta would have a short life and that Lucia was assigned to make known, in the world, the love to the Virgin and the devotion to her Immaculate Heart.
At the third apparition, July 13th, in the presence of an imprecise number of people (among 2.000-3.000 or 4.000-5.000), Our Lady reaffirms her request of the daily recitation of the Rosary «in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary» to obtain the end of the war and peace for the world, and promises that in October She will perform a miracle and say who she is.
It is during this apparition that Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco had a vision of hell and that Our Lady announced that the war is going to end but that another worse new world conflict will start during the papacy of Pius XI (1857-1939), if humanity do not cease offending God.
Our Lady tells the three children that to prevent this war She will come to Fatima to ask for the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart and the Communion of Reparation on the first five Saturdays, promising the conversion of Russia.
One should keep in mind that the Russian revolution started in February 1917 with the overthrow of the monarchy of the tsar Nicholas II, followed in October by the Bolshevik takeover, setting up the communist regime and a radical antitheist program.
On August 13th, thousands of people gather in Cova da Iria (around 15.000-18.000 people, although some documents refer only about 5.000). The Shepherds didn’t appear on that day for they were taken to Ourém where they were interrogated and stayed until August 15th.
On August 19th, back home, the Lady appears for the fourth time in a different place called Valinhos and only in the presence of the three children. This apparition is marked by the request of prayer for the sinners and by the first indication about a chapel to be built using part of the donations left in Cova da Iria.
In the fifth apparition, again in Cova da Iria, in September 13th, in addition to the reinforcement of the request of the prayer of the Rosary, Our Lady announces that in October Our Lord will come, Our Lady of Sorrows and of Mount Carmel and Saint Joseph with Baby Jesus, to bless the world.
A multitude averaging between 50.000 and 70.000 people accompanies the Three Little Shepherds in October 13th, when Our Lady presents herself as «Our Lady of the Rosary» and announces the end of the war in the near future (the First World War was going on [1914-1918]).
At the end, raising towards the sky, Lucia tells that the promise made the last month was kept: next to the sun, St. Joseph with the Child Jesus, blessing the world, and Our Lady dressed in white with a blue mantle. When this apparition disappeared, Our Lord, again with a blessing gesture, and Our Lady of Sorrows, and then Our Lady of Carmel.
The promise of the performance of a miracle was also kept, which became known as the Miracle of the Sun, witnessed by thousands of people who rushed to this place.
That day, after a torrential rain, the sun bursted in the firmament, spinning in the sky zigzagging and with multicolor lights. The statements of that time refer to several miraculous cures among those who were present.
In that last apparition to the three seers, Our Lady expressed her desire that a small chapel is to be built in her honor in that exact spot.