100th Anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima
What is an Apparition?
An apparition is a charismatic gift granted by God for some greater purpose of His than the benefit of the one receiving it. It says nothing necessary about the sanctity of the recipient(s); although God usually chooses simple and good Christians, often children, who will readily accept and do His Will. Generally, it can be understood as an external vision, created by some means of God, to represent the holy person depicted. It would not necessarily have to be the person him or herself. Only Christ and Our Lady (possibly St. Joseph, according to St. Francis de Sales and others who hold that he was taken to heaven body and soul), could actually appear in their bodies. All others, and even they, could appear by some representation accessible to the human senses. In such a way God appeared by means of angels to Abraham and to Moses.
According to St. Thomas Aquinas, this manner is the ordinary cause of mysticism and apparitions. In the case of Fátima it is clear that something more than an intellectual vision took place, an external apparition accompanied by indications of the actual presence of Our Lady. This latter cannot be conclusively determined. However, it reasonably follows from the descriptions of the events and especially from the sense of Her Presence continued to be felt there to this day. As a fruit of the events, and of the fidelity of the three children to the message of Fátima, Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta grew in holiness and became mystics in the proper sense.
In the message of Our Lady at Fatima, she asked world to pray for peace and to especially ask for this grace through the recitation of the holy rosary. She told the children that God was much offended and they should make reparation to Our Lord by the sacrifice of their sufferings offered in union with the passion of Christ. And she taught them the prayer that is so familiar to us all, "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 thy mercy.."