Today the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, the appearance of Mary to three Portuguese shepherd children on this date in 1917.
Nearly 80,000 visions of Mary have been claimed since the first in about 395, about 2200 of which have received official recognition by the Catholic Church. Apparitions have been reported in every continent on the planet, by people from all walks of life and of every age, and in places ranging from cities and churches to homes, caves, and fields.
This subject of Marian apparitions is one to which many people react with at least some level of embarrassment and deep skepticism. We live in a rational world where things like this seem to fall into the category of close encounters of the bizarre kind.
But the truth is the God continually reaches out to each of us, sometimes dramatically and sometimes in simple ways. Our God is a self-communicating God who continually speaks to us. Is it so strange or impossible to imagine that one of the vehicles God would use to communicate with us is Mary, whom he chose to be the mother of Christ? So perhaps, rather than suspicion, our stance should be one of openness to the possibility of God speaking to us through Mary.
Whether you believe it literally or view it allegorically or think is it simply a fairy tale, here is a brief account of the appearances at Fatima: