Our Lady of Fatima and the Three White Doves

The depiction of Our Lady of Fatima sometimes includes three doves, and this symbolism has a fascinating story behind it. In 1946, Portugal celebrated its 300th anniversary of her consecration to the Immaculate Conception.  In order to manifest their great love for Our Lady of Fatima, the people wished to celebrate it with great pomp and grandeur. A great procession with the statue of Our Lady of Fatima was organized which began in Fatima at the Cova de Iria where she appeared to the three children and ended at the Church of Our Lady of Fatima in Lisbon, 70 miles away.  Men carried the statue on a platform the entire way on foot, with the changing of the “guard” in each city along the way.  In every city, massive crowds came to show their devotion with different festivities including all night adoration and concluding with Holy Mass in the morning before she began her journey again.

As a mark of honor and thanksgiving, six white doves were released into the air on December 1, 1946.  Three of them flew down to Our Lady’s feet and remained at Her feet during the whole journey to Lisbon. They refused to eat or drink and they ignored all the commotion and noise which attended the statue as she passed through the villages.  Rose petals were tossed at Our Lady and brushed against the doves, lights and thunderous fireworks blazed in the night skies, crowds pressed all along the path of Our Lady.  Once in a while, the doves would drift up a little off the statue, as to prove that they were not tied there.  This remarkable event became such a sensation that the local newspapers recorded all the details and aroused the interest of all of Portugal.

With the white doves still perched at Our Lady’s feet and still having refused to eat, the statue finally arrived in Lisbon at Our Lady of Fatima Church on December 5, in time for the great Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8.   It seems as if all of Portugal was wondering what the doves would now do, since they had reached the destination of great import.

On December 7 at 3:00 p.m., thousands of children were consecrated to the Blessed Mother.  There was an enormous evening candlelight procession at 9:30 p.m.  Masses were then offered throughout the night and the solemn High Mass was held in the morning.  While this Mass was progressing, there was a sudden fluttering of wings.  One of the doves flew to the Epistle side of the altar and the other to the gospel side.  As the bishop straightened to elevate the Consecrated Host, they alighted and folded their wings, one on each side, as if they were adoring the Host.

The third dove was still at Our Lady’s feet.  Then all of a sudden, at the moment of Holy Communion, the third dove flew up to the top of the crown of the statue.  As the bishop turned and held up Our Lord saying, “Ecce Agnus Dei” (“Behold the Lamb of God”), astoundingly, the dove spread its white wings and held them open.

It seems Our Lady held the doves at Her Feet, on this special occasion, so that they could give glory to God at Holy Mass, who, in turn, confirmed the glory that He has given to Our Lady – Our Lady of Fatima.

(Franciscan Handmaids of the Immaculate – United States)