Why did the Blessed Virgin appear on
13th of the month to the shepherd children at Fatima? She
was seen from May through October of 1917on this date, except in the month of August
when the children were detained and jailed. Is
there any meaning attached to this particular day?
13th in the Portuguese Past
1383 the Portuguese king Fernando I
(Ferdinand I) died, leaving
no male heir, as his sons passed
1380 and 1382. His only
daughter, the Princess
Beatrice, was married to
the king of Castile,
Juan I 1, and she became a claimant to the throne. Beatrice was
years old when she married, only a matter of months before her fathers
death. Her mother Queen Leonor assumed the regency in her daughter and
During this time, two Portuguese gentlemen would figure prominently in the future of Portugal. One was the late king's half brother Joćo who had been made Grand master of the Order of Aviz, 2 nineteen years before Fernando breathed his last. The other was a young general named Nuno Alvares Pereira , a descendant of Charlemagne. He had joined the army at 13 years of age, and as a young man, was impetuous and brave. He soon demonstrated himself a good leader.
After the first act of hostilities in December 1383, merchants of Lisbon acclaimed Joćo defender of the realm and he became the leader of those opposing the regency. With Nuno's help he took Lisbon and certain other cities. The Castilian king entered Portugal occupied Santarem, forced Leonor to abdicate the regency, and took control of the country.
The Castilian army met resistance, and were defeated at the hands of Nuno's smaller army on April 6, 1384 at the Battle of Atoleiros. 3 King Juan himself crossed the territory of Portugal and laid seige to Lisbon in May, and blockaded the port. Hemmed as it was, Lisbon couldn't hope for relief, since the army wasn't big enough to intervene. The seige was hard on the people and they were to suffer from famine, but the Castilian army was also short of food, owing to harassment from Nuno. An epidemic broke out in their ranks, forcing King Juan to withdraw in September. In late 1384 and early 1385, Nuno was able to subdue most of the cities siding with Castile.
The Portuguese were successful in getting some reinforcements from England, about 600 men, mostly veterans of the Hundred Years War, who landed on Easter. The English included some longbowmen.
On April 6, 1385 ― one year after the Battle
of Atoleiros ― the council of the kingdom declared
Joćo, the king of Portugal.
As Joćo I, he nominated Nuno
as the Protector and 2nd Constable of Portugal,
in effect, the head of the armies.
differing narratives of what happened following the 13th, but what will be
summarized here was mostly taken from an account that was more detailed and
having maps of battleground tactics.
Coming from the north, the Castilian king chose not to clash with Nuno on the steep north side but started to go around the hill. His scouts told him the south side was a gentler slope so that's where he decided to attack.
The Portuguese maneuvered to meet them on that side, and constructed some obstacles for the foe. About six in the evening, the Castilians initiated the battle. The French cavalry charged full force, but their attack was largely nullified by the arrows of archers, and pits and ditches. Their losses were heavy. Support was late coming and the knights who didn't perish were made prisoners. At this point the main force entered the fray.
Their line was great in number but was disorganized by the squeezing effect of the creeks. They advanced uphill and were squashed by those behind them and the Portuguese defensive works. A rain of arrows from the longbowmen, fell into their ranks. Dismounted knights had to break their long lances4 to fight alongside infantrymen. The losses were heavy on both sides, especially among the students who held off armored knights on horseback trying to flank the Portuguese. Another flank attack was described as being more successful but only briefly.
An hour into the battle, at sunset, the Castilian situation had become desperate. When the king's standard bearer fell, Castilian troops at the back thought the king had been killed, and the demoralized soldiers panicked and began to flee. The king, who was indeed alive, ran to save himself. The Portuguese pursued those running away, and victory was theirs at Aljubarrota, a victory the Pope described as miraculous.
In his battle
report, King Juan said his men were tired from the march, and that would
seem to be true, but one may wonder of the Portuguese whether they were not
as well fueled for fighting as they would've been otherwise, for fasting
means going without food.
From the Batalha monastery, devotion to the Rosary spread throughout Portugal. In gratitude for another victory, that at Valverde in Castile, Nuno started to construct the monastery and shrine of "Our Lady of the Scapular of Mount Carmel" near Lisbon. From his young years, Nuno was devoted to Mary, her Brown Scapular and the Rosary, all part of the Fatima message, yet to come, centuries off in the future. He is, in fact, known as the "Precursor of Fatima."
Nuno himself adds to the historical significance of the August 13th in Portugal: by his spirit as a person and his actions. He gave wealth away to help the poor, knelt in battle to pray 5 and fed the hungry of the Castilian opposition out of his own pocket. There's a story that one time his hunger was such that "he traded his horse for six loaves of bread," but then gave the loaves to some knights in search of food.
Part of his epitaph read: "His worldly honors were
countless, but he turned his back on them. He was a great
Prince, but he made himself a humble monk." He died in poverty
on Easter Sunday 1431 as the priest was reading to him the Passion of
Christ. Just as he read Christ's words from the Cross, "Behold thy
mother," Nuno left this world. In tribute to his life,
XV beatified him in 1918, and Pope Benedict
XVI canonized him Saint Nuno Alvares Pereira on April 26. 2009, in St. Peter's Square.
These historical events of the 13th, fit appropriately to Fatima. On the 13th of August 1385, they sought Mary's protection and asked her intercession. Her very coming to Fatima makes manifest her protective and intercessory role, for the world and for us. The dedication of the cathedrals to her on a May 13th, also dovetails to Fatima, in that the Brown Scapular is not only a sign of Mary's protection but also a sign of our dedication to her. It personalizes dedication. Thus, what happened in Portugal centuries ago, continues in our time.
A 13th in the BibleA 13th of a month is also found in the Bible, in the Book of Esther, where the Jews were scheduled for execution of the 13th of the month of Adar, and Esther saves them. Esther is among the Old Testament persons who are types of Mary, who included Judith, Rachel, Deborah, Sarah and Miriam, the sister of Moses. The Dictionary of Mary draws this comparison: Esther went before the king at the risk of her life to plead for her people, and her charm and beauty saved both them and herself. "Hence, Esther is a type of Mary who won God's love by the splendor of her goodness, drew Him into her heart, and saved her people from the devil by the Redeemer whom she bore, while she became Queen of the World in the process."
In 4:16 Esther says, Go, and gather together all the Jews whom thou shalt find in Susan, and pray ye for me. Neither eat nor drink for three days and three nights: and I with my handmaids will fast in like manner, and then I will go into the king, against the law, not being called, and expose myself to death and to danger. Note the words pray and fast. In Chapter 14 we read that Esther, fearing the danger at hand, had recourse to the Lord. She laid away her royal garments and clothed herself in those of weeping and mourning. Instead of ointments, and I imagine sweet scents, she put ashes and dung on her head, and humbled herself with fasting. In places of rejoicing, she put her torn hair. And she prayed.
In summary Esther asked the
Jewish people for fasting and for prayer in an effort to save them.
herself did likewise, and even more, she made sacrifices of pleasantness by
the ashes and perhaps camel manure that she put upon her head.
At Fatima Mary asks for prayer, specifically the Rosary, and for
She seeks our salvation from the punishment of sin.
In an analogy, not all
points need be alike, but there needs to be enough of a similarity to draw a
comparison. There are points of similarity, for us to see a parallel between
the roles of Esther and Mary: beauty, being a queen, prayer, sacrifice and
The star is there for a
purpose, and a reason that makes sense, is that Mary's directing us to that
story of Esther in the Bible and its Scriptural lesson. The star would then
reinforce what the date signals to us.
Note: The above picture was taken of the National Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Fatima, when it was brought to St. Mary's Catholic Church, Metamora, Illinois, in 2009 by its escort Bill Sockey. Rev. Don Roszkowski is the pastor there and has a First Saturday Mass with prayer and devotions, including a procession in the church. The previous pastor Rev. John Verrier also observed First Saturday and was noted for praying a Hail Mary after his homily.
Copyright © 2006 - John Riedell - All