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Pope Francis uses incense as he venerates the original statue of Our Lady of Fatima in St Peter's Square (CNS)

98 years ago, Our Lady appeared to Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco for the first time

According to the diocese of Leiria-Fátima, Pope Francis plans to visit Fatima in 2017, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Our Lady’s apparitions to three shepherd children.

98 years ago, Our Lady appeared to Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco for the first time. It’s not a trivial matter that she appeared on May 13. May is the month dedicated to Our Lady, but furthermore she appeared at Fatima on the thirteenth of every month for six months and confided three secrets in the children as well as asking them to make known her requests, that we were to offer a daily rosary and make reparation for our sins. Many people pour a lot of energy into analysing the content and profound implications of the three secrets, without getting equally excited about the requests that Our Lady made.

In the rural countryside of Fatima, the Queen of Heaven made a request to each and every one of us that we offer a daily rosary and make atonement for our wrong-doings.

The Miracle of the Sun occurred on October 13, which is the month dedicated to the rosary. Our Lady entrusted the rosary to St Dominic in the 13th Century. During the descent of the Holy Spirit, Our Lady was the thirteenth person in the room. Also, ‘m’ is the 13th letter in the English alphabet. This might be coincidence, or it may owe to England’s Catholic days, when the letter ‘m’ for Mary was placed at number 13 in the series of letters because it honoured Our Lady, the thirteenth witness to the descent of the Holy Spirit.

St John Paul II credited Our Lady with the miracle that saved his life – after he was shot three times by Mehmet Ali Agca on May 13 1981.

Miraculously surviving the gun blast, the Polish Pope later placed the bullet into Our Lady’s crown at the shrine in Fatima on May 13 1982. St John Paul II could have chosen another day, but he decided on May 13 because it is the feast of Our Lady of Fatima.

It would appear that Our Lady has a method of marking her presence on our earthly calendars. It’s a system that uses a certain number and one day a month. If so, the number is 13, and the day is the thirteenth of every month. The sad irony is that most of us are conditioned to think of the number 13 as an unlucky number.  www.catholicherald.co.uk

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