THE WHOLE TRUTH ABOUT FATIMA
7. The breathtaking communion of saints
(Sunday, August 19, at “ Valinhos ”)
THE three to five thousand people present on July 13 at the Cova da Iria had made known everywhere, for the most part with faith and enthusiasm, the announcement of the great miracle promised by Our Lady on the following October 13, The powers that be and its organs of the press could not henceforth remain indifferent.
I. FREEMASONRY ENTERS THE PICTURE
“ A MISSION OF HEAVEN – COMMERCIAL SPECULATION ? ”
This was the title of the first article in the great republican and Masonic press on the events of Fatima. It appeared on July 23 in O Seculo, the great liberal daily of Lisbon, and evaluated the apparition of the 13th, in its own manner of course.
Caricatured and ironic elements, invented on all sides, were present in the picture they painted : “ The children intoned a funeral chant, made epileptic gestures, and fell into ecstasy. ” In spite of everything, the scope of the event and its effect on the masses were described very well : “ The event made such an impression that on that day, one could not find a single car to rent, although this city, as everybody knows, possesses carriages and taxis in abundance. A good number of stores were even closed… ” In the evening, numerous pilgrims returned to their homes traversing the villages and singing canticles and acclamations in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
“ The case would seem utterly ridiculous to us, and we would not have taken it seriously ”, the journalist of Torres Novas continues, “ had not the person we questioned merited our entire confidence… and if his declarations had not been confirmed by other people who relate the same thing… ”1
But testimony was of little importance, for the semi-official organ of those in power had to supply their readers with the solution of ‘ free thought ’. This was easily found : they had only to draw on the old arsenal of anticlerical propaganda… Here it is : They were looking to discover, as at Lourdes, a source of mineral water (sic), from which the clergy soon desired to draw substantial profits !
The important part is that the article in the Masonic journal concluded with a serious warning for the local authorities : “ The authorities have certainly heard about these events, and even if they knew nothing more about them, our information could serve them as a warning cry. ”
‘ THE TINSMITH ’ DECIDES TO INTERVENE
The authority in question at the time was Artur de Oliveira Santos, the Administrator of the Concelho or district of Vila Nova de Ourem. Placed at the head of a vast canton, formed from several parishes where there was no mayor, but only a regedor, a sort of subordinate municipal agent, the ‘ Administrator ’ enjoyed great authority.
Artur de Oliveira Santos, nicknamed ‘ The Tinsmith ’, because he directed the ‘ forge of progress ’ inherited from his father, was the perfect example of the sectarian and anticlerical fanatic, a carbon copy of the radical socialists in France at the time of ‘ little Father ’ Combes. Not overly cultured, but intelligent and energetic, very early on he launched out into politics, founding a small journal, The Voice of Ourem, as fiercely antiroyalist as it was anticlerical. An amusing detail, which gives us an insight into his personality, is that he went so far as to saddle his three children with the grotesque names of ‘ Victor Hugo ’, ‘ Liberty ’ and ‘ Democracy ’.
After the overthrow of the monarchy by the Revolution of October 1910, he became the henchman of the existing powers in this region, the people of which by an immense majority remained royalist and ardently Catholic, Having entered the Lodge of Leiria, he was promoted in 1913, at the age of 26, to the position of administrator of the concelho of Ourem, and before long, president of the municipal chamber and deputy for the judge of the district. Being himself founder-president of the Masonic Lodge of Vila Nova de Ourem, he was sure of the approval of his leaders and without any fear could exercise a veritable tyrannical power over the whole concelho. On the smallest pretext, he could arrest parish priests, forbid all acts of worship outside the churches or after sundown, forbid the ringing of bells, etc. In 1917, he was 30 years old.
Such is the man who, in the name of Liberty and Democracy, would intervene vigorously to try to put an end to the immense wave of popular piety aroused by the apparitions of Fatima : first by intimidation, and then by brute force…
THE SUMMONS OF AUGUST 11
On Friday, August 10, Manuel Marto and Antonio dos Santos received an order to appear with their children at the ‘ town hall ’ of Vila Nova, the next day at noon.
“ This meant that we had to make a journey of about nine miles, a considerable distance for three small children (Lucy relates). The only means of transport in those days was either our own two feet or to ride on a donkey. My uncle sent word right away that he would appear himself, but as for his children, he was not taking them. ‘ They’d never stand the trip on foot ’, he said, ‘ and not being used to riding, they could never manage to stay on the donkey. And anyway, there’s no sense in bringing two children like that before a court. ’ ”
The decision of Ti Marto was not without courage : “ I will go myself ”, he declared, “ and answer for them ! ” “ My father thought the opposite, ” Lucy continues. “ My daughter is going. Let her answer for herself. As for me, I understand nothing of these things. If she’s lying, it’s a good thing that she should be punished for it. ”
“ Next day (says Lucy), as we were passing by my uncle’s house, my father had to wait a few minutes for my uncle. I ran to say goodbye to Jacinta, who was still in bed. Doubtful as to whether we would ever see one another again, I threw my arms around her. Bursting into tears, the poor child sobbed : ‘ If they kill you, tell them that Francisco and I are just the same as you, and that we want to die too. I’m going right now to the well with Francisco, and we’ll pray hard for you. ’ ”
Ti Marto, Antonio, and his daughter all left together. Lucy was mounted on a donkey, and she fell three times during the journey. Antonio, hard pressed by the fear of the administrator, went on ahead with his daughter. The Tinsmith began by giving a vigorous reprimand to Ti Marto for having come alone. Here is Sister Lucy’s account :
“ At the Administration office, I was interrogated by the Administrator, in the presence of my father, my uncle, and several other gentlemen who were strangers to me. The Administrator was determined to force me to reveal the secret and to promise him never again to return to the Cova da Iria. To attain his end, he spared neither promises, nor even threats. Seeing that he was getting nowhere, he dismissed me, protesting however, that he would achieve his end, even if this meant that he had to take my life. ”2
For the first time, Lucy had testified before the authorities : she had kept her composure and stayed calm. However, this day was a rude trial for her…
“ I HAVE THE HAPPINESS OF SUFFERING MORE ! ”
“ What made me suffer most, was the indifference shown me by my parents. This was all the more obvious, since I could see how affectionately my aunt and uncle treated their children. I remember thinking to myself as we went along : ‘ How different my parents are from my uncle and aunt. They risk themselves to defend their children, while my parents hand me over with the greatest indifference, and let them do what they like with me ! But I must be patient ’, I reminded myself in my inmost heart, ‘ since this means I have the happiness of suffering more for the love of You, O my God, and for the conversion of sinners. ’ This reflection never failed to bring me consolation. ”
Lucy’s two companions, who suffered with her in all her sorrows, helped her with all their heart. During this time, she writes, “ they spent the day praying and weeping, in an anguish perhaps greater than my own… ” Their affection for their older cousin, who spoke to Our Lady in their name, was so profound and delicate ! In the evening, as soon as she returned to the house, Lucy ran to the well to meet them :
“ There were the pair of them on their knees, leaning over the side of the well, their heads buried in their hands, weeping bitterly. As soon as they saw me, they cried out in astonishment : ‘ You’ve come then ? Why, your sister came here to draw water and told us that they killed you ! We’ve been praying and crying so much for you ! ’ ”11
Yet the persecution unleashed against them had only begun. For the Tinsmith, the intimidation of August 11 was a setback ; now he had to find another way to prevent the day after next from being a new success for the apparitions…
II. THE EVENTS OF MONDAY, AUGUST 13
Since the previous day, “ innumerable masses of people were arriving from all directions ; vehicles of all types and sizes succeeded each other unceasingly. The cars and wagons stationed on the plateau, the long line of automobiles on the road, and the heaps of bicycles formed one of the most curious spectacles. ”
At Aljustrel, since Monday morning the seers were besieged from all sides :
“ They all wanted to see and question us, and recommend their petitions to us, so that we could transmit them to the Most Holy Virgin. In the middle of all that crowd, we were like a ball in the hands of boys at play. We were pulled hither and thither, everyone asking us questions without giving us a chance to answer anybody. In the midst of all this commotion, an order came from the Administrator, telling me to go to my aunt’s house, where he was awaiting me. My father got the notification and it was he who took me there. ”
THE ABDUCTION OF THE SEERS
The Tinsmith had indeed arrived at the Marto home around nine o’clock. He wanted to see the children. Olimpia, panicking, immediately called Manuel, who had left as usual to take care of his fields. Let us listen to his account, which shows the unbelievable effrontery of the sub-prefect, who this morning uttered practically as many lies as he did words…
“ ‘ So, Mr. Administrator, you’re here too, then ! ’ I said to him. ‘ That’s right ’, he answered, ‘ I too want to attend the miracle. ’ That made my heart beat faster. ‘ We’re all going together ’, he continued. ‘ I will take the little ones in my carriage… To see and believe, like St. Thomas, that is what I want. ’ Still, he appeared nervous. He looked around on all sides, and he said : ‘ So, aren’t the little ones around ?… It is getting late. It would be better to call them. ’ ‘ That is not necessary ’, I remarked. ‘ They are well aware of when they have to bring back the sheep, and prepare themselves to leave. ’
“ At that moment they came in, all three of them, looking just as usual, and the Mayor asked them to go in the carriage with him. The children kept saying that it wasn’t necessary. ‘ It will be better that way ’, he insisted, ‘ we can be there in a moment and nobody will bother us on the way. ’ I told him not to bother because the children could very well go alone. ‘ Then we’ll go to Fatima ’, he said, ‘ I have something to ask Father Ferreira. ’ And we went, Lucy’s father, myself, and the three children. ”
The archpriest of Porto de Mos was also present. He had in fact arrived at Aljustrel in the carriage with the Tinsmith himself, who had succeeded in persuading him that he too believed in the apparitions !
Around ten o’clock they arrived at Father Ferreira’s house. Was he too deceived, or was he acting this way simply to avoid trouble ? At the request of the Administrator, the priest consented to interrogate Lucy again. This is shown by the canonical process. On this occasion, Lucy would show a presence of mind and firmness in her replies worthy of Joan of Arc or St. Bernadette.
“ ‘ Who taught you to say the things which you are saying ? ’ ‘ The Lady I saw in the Cova da Iria. ’ ‘ Those who go about spreading such lies as you are doing will be judged and will go to hell if they are not true. More and more people are being deceived by you. ’ ‘ If people who lie go to hell then I shall not go to hell, because I am not lying and I say only what I saw and what the Lady told me. And the people go there because they want to; we do not tell them to go. ’ ‘ Is it true that the Lady told you a secret ? ’ ‘ Yes, but I cannot tell it. If your Reverence wants to know it, I will ask the Lady, and if She allows me to, then I will tell it to you. ’ ”
The scheming of the Tinsmith had succeeded perfectly. His carriage had been placed right at the foot of the stairway of the presbytery. Pretending to finish, he said : “ These are supernatural things… Let us go. ” In an instant, he had the three children get into his carriage, and the ruse had succeeded.
“ ‘ It was all very well arranged ’, said Ti Marto. ‘ The horse went off at a trot towards the Cova da Iria and I felt a certain relief, but when it got on to the main road, it made a sudden turn and the horse was whipped up and was off in a flash. ’
“ ‘ This isn’t the way to the Cova ’, said Lucy, in the carriage. Then the Mayor tried to calm the children by telling them that they were going first to Ourem to see the priest there and that they would come back by motor car.
“ On the way, people began to recognize the Mayor’s carriage and its passengers, so he wrapped them up in a rug to hide them from the curious eyes of the pilgrims who were by now flocking along the road towards Fatima.
“ An hour, an hour and a half, and the Tinsmith arrived in triumph at his house… ”
“ CERTAINLY, OUR LADY CAME ”
This time the Mayor believed he had carried the day. At the Cova da Iria, he thought, nothing would happen, and this would be the final fiasco !
But Our Lady would show Herself more powerful than all his manoeuvres, and for the immense crowd of pilgrims – today there were between eighteen and twenty thousand ! – the date of August 13 marked, on the contrary, their passage from doubt and distrust to belief. Maria Carreira arrived on the scene very early and gave this account.
“ If there were a lot of people in July, this month there were many, very many more. Some came on foot and hung their bundles on the trees, others came on horseback or on mules. There were many bicycles, too, and on the road there was a great noise of traffic. It must have been about 11 o’clock when Maria dos Anjos arrived, with some candles to light when Our Lady came.3
“ Round the tree, people were praying and singing hymns, but the children didn’t come and they began to get impatient. Then someone from Fatima came and told us that the Mayor had kidnapped the children. ”
THE THUNDER AND LIGHTNING.
“ Everyone began to talk at once and I don’t know what would have happened if we hadn’t heard the clap of thunder. It was much the same as the last time. Some said it came from the direction of the road, others from the tree ; to me it seemed to come from a long way off. Anyway, people had rather a shock and some of them began to cry out that we would be killed. Everyone began to spread out away from the tree but, of course, no one was killed.4
THE CLOUD AND THE MODIFICATION OF THE LIGHT.
“ After the thunderclap came the flash of lightning, and then we began to see a little cloud, very delicate, very white, which stopped for a few moments over the tree and then rose in the air and disappeared.5
“ As we looked around us, we noticed the strange thing which we had seen before and were to see in the following months ; our faces were reflecting all the colours of the rainbow, pink, red, blue… The trees seemed to be made not of leaves but of flowers ; they seemed to be laden with flowers, each leaf seemed to be a flower. The ground came out in colours and so did our clothes. The lanterns fixed to the arch looked like gold. ”
In short, everything happened outwardly as though the apparition had taken place. Our Lady clearly had not missed the rendezvous. She had manifested Her presence by stupendous, and even terrifying signs – the first thunderclap had aroused a moment of panic in the crowd –, and this time the signs were noticed by an immense majority of pilgrims. Manuel Gonçalves, from the hamlet of Montelo, could testify to Canon Formigao on October 11 : “ There were many extraordinary signs. In August practically everybody there saw them. ”
So much was this the case that within the crowd people began to say to each other : “ Certainly Our Lady came. What a pity that She could not see the children ! ” This only increased the anger of all these brave people, furious against those who had the audacity to deprive the Most Holy Virgin of Her usual confidants. Many set off for Fatima, shouting against those they believed were guilty or accomplices in their abduction : the Mayor, the ‘ regedor ’, and even… the parish priest !
III. IN PRISON AT OUREM
In the Tinsmith’s carriage, the three seers, Francisco in front, and Lucy and Jacinta in the back, were no doubt prepared for the worst. When they arrived, the Mayor “ shut them up in a room and declared that they would not get out until they had revealed the secret. ” Seeing that it was past noon, Francisco said to himself : “ Will Our Lady perhaps appear to us here ? ” But no ! She would not come…
Shortly after, they were taken back for lunch. Senhora Adelina Santos, the Tinsmith’s wife, treated them with kindness. After a good lunch, she let them play with her own children and even offered them some picture books to distract them. No doubt she wished to compensate in this way for the revolting injustice her husband had made them suffer. We also know that, without her husband’s knowledge, she had had her children baptized ! She also saw that the innocent prisoners lacked for nothing.
The day of August 14 was even more painful for them. According to Canon Galamba, they had to undergo nine interrogations in all ! The Tinsmith wanted to extort the secret from them at any price, certain that in it he would find the key to the ‘ clerical conspiracies ’ that, according to him, were behind it all.
First, an old lady tried to wrest it from them, but in vain. Then they were led to the Administrator’s office to be interrogated separately. “ He offered us money and showed us a watch with a golden chain ”, Lucy recalls. This was a new setback because the Tinsmith, all the same, had the honesty to recognize later on that he had not succeeded in surprising the children into contradicting each other.
Perhaps it was during this morning, or afternoon, that he called Dr. Antonio Rodrigues de Oliveira, a doctor from Leiria. Since he had not succeeded in discovering the ‘ clerical imposture ’, could he not at least accuse the children of hysteria or hallucinations ? The doctor assisted at several interrogations of the children and had them undergo a clinical examination. Although ‘ O Mundo ’ and other Masonic journals had immediately put forward this examination, “ what is certain ”, observes Costa Brochado, “ is that nobody up to the present day has seen a single word of the conclusions which the doctor arrived at. ” This simple fact is eloquent and does not need any commentary.
After new interrogations in the afternoon, the Tinsmith decided to use stronger weapons : to terrorize the children to finally obtain their confessions or at least declarations that he could make use of.
Then he had them led into the public prison. “ In this room, which was very badly lighted ”, Lucy recalls, “ were a great number of young thieves and other prisoners… They were polite with us. ”
“ LET US OFFER IT TO JESUS, FOR SINNERS ! ”
“ After we were put in prison (we read in the Memoirs), what made Jacinta suffer most was to feel that her parents had abandoned them. With tears streaming down her cheeks, she would say : ‘ Neither your parents nor mine have come to see us. They don’t bother about us any more ! ’6
“ ‘ Don’t cry ’, said Francisco, ‘ we can offer this to Jesus for sinners. ’ Then raising his eyes and hands to Heaven, he made the offering : ‘ O my Jesus, this is for love of You, and for the conversion of sinners. ’ Jacinta added : ‘ And also for the Holy Father, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary. ’ ”
“ WILL OUR LADY APPEAR TO US ANY MORE ? ”
As for Francisco, the most contemplative of the three, what hurt him the most was to have missed the rendezvous with Our Lady :
“ On that day, he could not hide his distress, and almost in tears, he said : ‘ Our Lady must have been very sad because we didn’t go to the Cova da Iria, and She won’t appear to us again. I would so love to see Her ! ’
“ While in prison, Jacinta wept bitterly, for she was so homesick for her mother and all the family. Francisco tried to cheer her, saying : ‘ Even if we never see our mother again, let’s be patient ! We can offer it for the conversion of sinners.
“ ‘ The worst thing would be if Our Lady never came back again ! That is what hurts me most. But I offer this as well for sinners. ’ Afterwards, he asked me : ‘ Tell me ! Will Our Lady not come and appear to us any more ? ’ ‘ I don’t know. I think She will. ’ ‘ I miss Her so much ! ’ ”
Then they were interrogated once more, separately.
THE CAULDRON OF BOILING OIL
“ Later (continues Lucy), we were reunited in one of the other rooms of the prison. They told us they were coming soon to take us away to be fried alive.7
“ Jacinta went aside and stood by a window overlooking the cattle market. I thought at first that she was trying to distract her thoughts with the view, but I soon realized that she was crying. I went over and drew her close to me, asking her why she was crying : ‘ Because we are going to die ’, she replied, ‘ without ever seeing our parents again, not even our mothers ! ’ With tears running down her cheeks, she added : ‘ I would like at least to see my mother. ’ ‘ Don’t you want, then, to offer this sacrifice for the conversion of sinners ? ’ ‘ I do want to, I do ! ’ With her face bathed in tears, she joined her hands, raised her eyes to Heaven and made her offering : ‘ O my Jesus ! This is for love of You, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary ! ’ ”
“ I’D RATHER DIE. ”
“ The prisoners who were present at this scene, sought to console us : ‘ But all you have to do ’, they said, ‘ is tell the Administrator the secret ! What does it matter whether the Lady wants you to or not ! ’
“ ‘ Never ! ’ was Jacinta’s vigorous reply. ‘ I’d rather die. ’ ”
THE ROSARY IN PRISON.
“ Next, we decided to pray our Rosary. Jacinta took off a medal that she was wearing round her neck, and asked a prisoner to hang it up for her on a nail in the wall. Kneeling before this medal, we began to pray. The prisoners prayed with us, that is, if they knew how to pray, but at least they were down on their knees.
“ Francisco saw that one of the prisoners was on his knees with his cap still on his head. Francisco went up to him and said : ‘ If you wish to pray, you should take your cap off. ’ Right away, the poor man handed it to him and he went over and put it on the bench on top of his own. ”
After this moving scene, Jacinta, who no longer wept during the interrogations, as Lucy points out, began sobbing as she thought of her mother.
“ She went over to the window, and started crying again. ‘ Jacinta ’, I asked, ‘ don’t you want to offer this sacrifice to Our Lord ? ’ ‘ Yes I do, but I keep thinking about my mother, and I can’t help crying. ’
“ As the Blessed Virgin had told us to offer our prayers and sacrifices also in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we agreed that each of us would choose one of these intentions. One would offer for sinners, another for the Holy Father and yet another in reparation for the sins against the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Having decided on this, I told Jacinta to choose whichever intention she preferred. ‘ I’m making the offering for all the intentions, because I love them all. ’ ”
The lesson should not be forgotten : along with the desire of Heaven, the constant thought of these three intentions, which remain for us today more urgent than ever, was the inexhaustible source from which the three children of ten, nine and seven found the courage to face death ! For there is no doubt that, in their candour, they took the threats of the Tinsmith literally.
“ WHAT BEAUTIFUL DISPOSITIONS FOR MARTYRDOM ! ”
With the greatest ingenuousness, Sister Lucy, who lets us see just how much she and her cousins believed the hour of their death had arrived, then relates the following charming episode. To listen to them, one would think one was right there in prison, witnessing the scene :
“ Among the prisoners, there was one who played the concertina. To divert our attention, he began to play and they all started singing ! They asked us if we knew how to dance. We said we knew the ‘ fandango ’ and the ‘ vira ’. Jacinta’s partner was a poor thief who, finding her so tiny, picked her up and went on dancing with her in his arms !
“ We only hope that Our Lady has had pity on his soul and converted him ! Now, Your Excellency will be saying : ‘ What fine dispositions for martyrdom ! ’
“ That is true. But we were only children and we didn’t think beyond this. ”
“ IF THEY KILL US, WE’LL SOON BE IN HEAVEN ! ”
Suddenly “ a guard appeared, who in a fearsome voice called out to Jacinta : ‘ The oil is boiling now : tell the secret, if you don’t want to be burned ! ’ ‘ I can’t. ’ ‘ So you can’t, eh ? ’ Then I’ll make you able to ! Come ! ’ ‘ She left immediately, without even saying goodbye ’ ”, notes Sister Lucy.
“ During Jacinta’s interrogation, Francisco confided to me with boundless joy and peace : ‘ If they kill us as they say, we’ll soon be in Heaven ! How wonderful ! Nothing else matters ! ’
“ Then, after a moment of silence : ‘ May God grant that Jacinta not be afraid. I will say an Ave Maria for her ! Then he took off his cap and prayed. The guard, seeing him in this attitude of prayer, asked him : ‘ What are you saying ? ’ ‘ I’m reciting an Ave Maria so Jacinta won’t be afraid. ’ The guard made a disdainful gesture and let him go on. ”
Shortly after, the guard came to look for Francisco, then Lucy. Always the same scenario. The Tinsmith made a third threat : all three of them would boil together ! Still he did not obtain the secret, or any kind of confession…8
THE RETURN TO FATIMA.
The next morning, after a final interrogation, he had to conduct the children back to Fatima. His manoeuvre had failed. When they arrived, the High Mass of the Assumption had just finished… Here are the testimonies written down by Father de Marchi :
“ Someone asked Ti Marto about the children, to which he replied : ‘ I know absolutely nothing. They may even have been taken to Santarem… Nobody knows where they are. On the day when they were taken, my stepson, Antonio, and some other lads went there [Ourem] and said they saw them playing on the veranda of the Mayor’s house. That was the last I heard. ’
“ The words were hardly out of my mouth when I heard someone say : ‘ Look, Ti Marto, they’re on the veranda of the presbytery ! ’ I hardly knew how I got there, but I rushed up and hugged my Jacinta… I just couldn’t speak… The tears poured down my face and made Jacinta’s all wet. Then Francisco and Lucia ran up to me, crying : ‘ Father, Uncle, give us your blessing ! ’
“ At that moment there appeared a funny little official, a man who was in the service of the Mayor, and he shook and trembled in the most extraordinary way. I had never seen anything like it ! He said : ‘ Well, here are your children. ’ ”
When the people saw that the three seers were on the front steps of the presbytery, and the Tinsmith had taken refuge in a neighbouring tavern, some boys began to arm themselves with sticks, and had it not been for the calming words and accommodating attitude of Ti Marto, no doubt there would have been an ugly incident !
The parish priest also, whom many parishioners suspected of collaborating with the Administrator since the abduction of the children, was violently taken to task. Had not the Tinsmith come to the presbytery this time also ? Although it was painful for the poor parish priest, the trickery of the kidnapper would have a most happy consequence in favour of the apparitions…
FATHER FERREIRA’S PUBLIC LETTER.
Threatened by some people, and accused on all sides, the parish priest of Fatima wished to justify himself publicly.
“ As a Catholic priest ”, he wrote, “ I must refute with all my power the unjust and insidious calumny that has been laid against me, and declare before the whole world that I took no part at all, whether directly or indirectly, in the odious and sacrilegious act which was committed by the sudden kidnapping of the three children in my parish who assert that they have seen Our Lady. ”, etc.
Until then the Catholic press had kept an almost excessive reserve on the events of Fatima. The editor of the great Catholic daily paper of Porto had even seen fit to justify the abduction of the seers. As for the liberal press, it had published accounts filled with errors and lies, and even contradictions. They strove to explain these facts both by clerical imposture and the thesis of the “ hallucination of the poor children ! ”
It was the letter of the parish priest of Fatima which, providentially, was to make the events known to a larger audience, in an objective manner. It appeared on August 17 in A Ordem, the Catholic daily of Lisbon, then shortly after in O Mensageiro, the weekly of Leiria, and finally in the dean of Oliva’s bulletin of Ourem, O Ouriense.
To exonerate himself and justify his apparent indifference in the eyes of the thousands of pilgrims, Father Ferreira had to bring up the facts. No doubt against his will, for he was thinking only of his own defence, many passages from his letter make an excellent apology for the apparitions in the Cova da Iria. They surely contributed to drawing a still greater crowd on September 13 :
“ Thousands of eyewitnesses can attest9 that the presence of the children was not necessary for the Queen of Heaven to manifest Her power. They themselves will attest to the extraordinary phenomena which occurred to confirm their faith…
“ The Blessed Virgin has no need of the parish priest in order to manifest Her goodness, and the enemies of religion need not tarnish the striking manifestations of Her benevolence by attributing the faith of the people to the presence or otherwise of the parish priest. Faith is a gift of God and not of the priests. This is the true motive of my absence and apparent indifference to such a sublime and marvellous event…
“ I will abstain from giving an account of the phenomena produced at the place of the apparitions… because the press has certainly published them sufficiently. ”
Whatever may have been the motives which moved the parish priest of Fatima to write this letter, at least it bears witness to the immense impression felt by all the pilgrims on August 13, at the sight of great signs which they had seen. Without his wishing it, the letter gave the event an even greater impact.
IV. THE APPARITION AT “ VALINHOS ”
On Sunday, August 19, after the parish Mass, the three shepherds, accompanied by a few people, left for the Cova da Iria to recite the Rosary there. In the afternoon, Lucy and Francisco, along with John, his slightly older brother, set out for Valinhos to pasture their sheep. Of all places of pasture it was the nearest and the most abundant in grass, midway in height between Aljustrel and the summit of the Cabeço.
THE UNEXPECTED ENCOUNTER.
Here is how Sister Lucy related the unexpected apparition, which filled them with an immense joy : “ Since at that time I still did not know how to count the days of the month, it is possible that I am mistaken, but I think it was the day we returned from Vila Nova de Ourem…10 I felt something supernatural approaching and enveloping us.11 Suspecting that Our Lady was about to appear to us, and feeling sorry that Jacinta was not there to see Her, we asked her brother John to go look for her. ”
“ What a pity, said Francisco, “ if Jacinta does not arrive on time ! ” John, however, wanted to remain, so that he too could see Our Lady ! Then Lucy, who had two coins on her, had an idea : “ I’ll give you money if you go and fetch Jacinta. Look, here’s something for you and you can have some more when you get back ! ” He left in all haste as Francisco called out to him : “ Tell her Our Lady is rushing over ! ” It was about four in the afternoon.
A marvellous detail, which moved Ti Marto very much when he heard it, was that Our Lady had patiently waited for his little Jacinta… “ In the meantime ”, Lucy continues, “ Francisco and I saw the flash of light, which we called lightning. Jacinta arrived, and a moment later, we saw Our Lady on a holm oak tree. ”12
THE DIALOGUE WITH OUR LADY
TOWARDS OCTOBER 13…
– What does Your Grace want of me ?
– I want you to continue going to the Cova da Iria on the 13th, and to continue praying the Rosary every day. In the last month, I will work a miracle so that all may believe. If you had not been taken away to the City13, the miracle would have been even greater. Saint Joseph will come with the Child Jesus, to give peace to the world. Our Lord will come to bless the people. Our Lady of the Rosary and Our Lady of Sorrows will also come.14
THE SOLEMNITY OF OUR LADY OF THE ROSARY.
– What do you want done with the money that the people leave in the Cova da Iria ?15
– Have two litters made. One is to be carried by you and Jacinta and two other girls dressed in white ; the other one is to be carried by Francisco and three other boys. The money from the litters is for the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.
What is left over will help towards the construction of a chapel that is to be built here.16
– I would like to ask you to cure some sick persons.
– Yes, I will cure some of them during the year.
[“ Then looking sad, Our Lady said:
– Pray, pray very much, and make sacrifices for sinners; for many souls go to hell because there are none to sacrifice themselves and pray for them.]
“ And She began to ascend as usual towards the east. ”
“ I OPENED MY EYES AS BEST I COULD. ”
John had been present at the apparition. That evening, he recounted to his mother : “ ‘ I saw Lucy, Francisco and Jacinta kneel down near the tree. Then I heard what Lucy said. When she said : ‘There She goes ! Look, Jacinta !’ I heard a clap of thunder similar to the firing of a gun. However I saw nothing. Still, my eyes still hurt me for having looked in the air so long. ’ John had nevertheless noticed the modification of the solar light. Some other people from around the area also say that they noticed it. John himself, revisiting the spot one day, said : ‘ I opened my eyes as best I could, but I saw nothing… I was not very wise ! ’ ”
Thus only Her three usual confidants had enjoyed the sight of the apparition. Francisco, who had been so afraid that he would no longer see Her, was overflowing with joy. “ Surely ”, he said, “ She did not appear to us on the 13th to avoid going to the Administrator’s house, since he is such a bad man. ” Jacinta also was so happy that she wanted to remain there with her companions for the rest of the afternoon. Francisco however wisely remarked to her : “ No, you must go, because our mother did not let you come here to day with the sheep. ” And to encourage her, he accompanied her all the way to the house. Their obedience was rewarded by a new prodigy.
“ THE ODOUR OF AN EXTRAORDINARY PERFUME ”
Before going back to Aljustrel, Francisco and Jacinta picked up a branch of the holm oak on which Our Lady had just rested her feet. They went back to the hamlet, with the precious branch in their hands, when they encountered Maria Rosa at the door, with some other people. Maria dos Anjos, who was present, described the scene to Father de Marchi :
“ Jacinta, all excited, rushed up to my mother and said : ‘ Oh, aunt, we saw Our Lady again !… at Valinhos ! ’ ‘ Ah, Jacinta, when will these lies end ? Now you have to be seeing Our Lady all over the place, wherever you go ! ’ ‘ But we saw Her ! ’ And showing the branch : ‘ Look, aunt, Our Lady put one foot on this branch and the other on this one. ’ ‘ Let me see, let me see, ’ said mother. When Jacinta gave it to her she sniffed and said : ‘ What smell is this ? It’s not scent and it’s not the smell of roses… nothing that I know. But it’s a good smell. ’ We all wanted to smell it and all found it very pleasant. Finally mother put it on the table and said : ‘ It had better stay here until we can find somebody who knows what it is. ’ In the evening we couldn’t find the branch and we never knew where she had taken it. ”
Jacinta had simply taken it to show it to her father in the evening, as he returned from the fields :
“ Then Jacinta came in looking as happy as anything, carrying a branch, about this size, in her hand. ‘ Listen, Father. Our Lady appeared again to us at Valinhos. ’ And as she came in, I smelt a most beautiful smell that I can’t describe. I put my hand out to take the branch and asked her : ‘ What have you got there ? ’ ‘ It’s the branch that Our Lady stood on. ’ I took it and smelt it, but the scent had gone. ”
AFTER THE APPARITION
In view of all these proofs, Ti Marto believed more and more firmly in the apparitions. Like the patriarch Jacob marvelling over the dreams of Joseph, “ he kept all this in his memory ”. No doubt Olimpia also believed in it, but without daring to avow it on her own, for she believed that the family was unworthy of such a favour. “ If only we were worthy ”, she declared, much distressed, to a visitor on September 7. “ But to think that my brother, Lucy’s father, does not even go to church, and that he drinks ! ”
“ My mother also began during this month to find a little more peace ”, Lucy relates. “ It seems to me that from this moment on ”, remarks Maria dos Anjos, “ our mother began to be shaken up, and our father also began to be less opposed to Lucy. ”17
V. THE MESSAGE OF AUGUST 1918
Heaven was not accustomed to accomplishing prodigies that made no sense. The manifestations of the Most Blessed Virgin at Fatima were no exception. The miracles there are never astonishing tours de force, but rather ‘ signs ’ that have a highly symbolic and mystical significance.
“ IN THE ODOUR OF THY PERFUMES ”
The phenomena of sweet-smelling fragrances are not rare in the lives of the saints. Nor is it surprising that Our Lady of Fatima, so prodigious in great signs, wished to manifest as well, the intoxicating sweetness of Her presence… Is there not a striking contrast between the terrifying phenomena of August 13, the thunder and lightning – reminding us of the storm in which God so often revealed His glory and power in the biblical theophanies – and these sweet effusions of a mysterious perfume, reserved to a few privileged souls ?
No doubt we must see and recognize in this one of the most celebrated attributes of the Holy Bride, the Immaculate Virgin Mary, which our liturgy, completely inspired by Scripture, proclaims. For the perfumes express in an incomparable manner the irresistible charm and splendour of Her perfections. “ Draw us, Immaculate Virgin, we shall follow Thee, in the odour of Thy perfumes ”, chants a Vespers antiphon of December 8. And Matins of the Blessed Virgin : “ As a chosen myrrh, You have spread a sweet perfume, Holy Mother of God ! ”
Here again, the praise which the Church addresses to the Virgin is only an echo of the praises that the divine Spouse addresses to His Bride, in the Canticle of Canticles : “ Come with me from Lebanon, my Bride !… How sweet is your love… much better than wine, and the fragrance of your perfumes better than any spice !… The scent of your garments is like the scent of Lebanon. ” (Cant. 4 :8,10-11)
TOWARDS OCTOBER 13…
For the second time, Our Lady renews Her promise : “ In October I will perform a miracle so that all may believe. ” And She adds an important bit of information, which Father Ferreira’s report has preserved : “ If you had not been taken to Aldeia – this is referring to the town of Vila Nova de Ourem – the miracle would have been greater. ” Yes, the crowd of brave pilgrims who had come on August 13 indeed had reason to be angry at the impious audacity of the Tinsmith. By this public act, acting in the name of the authority he held over a tiny part of the nation, he had affronted and outraged the Mother of God. Thus he contributed to drawing down upon his country a just divine punishment. Without this odious act, shamelessly committed by the competent public authority, would the great miracle of October 13 have been seen in all of Portugal ? It is quite possible. What a lesson ! What terrible responsibility for the unworthy authorities who deprive their people of the choice graces with which God wishes to fill them !
Another new element in this announcement for October 13 : here, in addition to a miracle, Our Lady promises a multiform apparition of the entire Holy Family.
THE FEAST OF OUR LADY OF THE ROSARY
AND THE DAWN OF THE PILGRIMAGE
Without Our Lady having asked for anything yet, neither an oratory nor a chapel, the pilgrims of August 13, in the enthusiasm of the extraordinary signs they had just contemplated, wished to manifest their gratitude. Maria Carreira had placed there a little table with flowers ; there they placed their offerings :
“ When the people in the Cova heard that the children had been imprisoned on that 13th of August, and when they saw those signs in the sky, you can’t imagine how much money poured on to that table. The people pushed so hard all round it that I thought at one moment that it was going to upset. They began to shout at me : ‘ Take the money, woman, take it and look after it ; see that you don’t lose any… ’ I had my lunch bag with me and began to put the money in that. ”19
Since nobody wished to take the responsibility, Maria Carreira was obliged to keep the money, which was repugnant to her and greatly disturbed her. On Sunday, August 19, coming out of Mass, she had told Lucy to ask Our Lady what was to be done with it. Thus it was in her name that Lucy asked the question : “ What are we to do with the money and offerings which the people leave in the Cova da Iria ? ”
The Blessed Virgin, always modest and moderate in Her demands, requested that there be solemnized the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, which is celebrated on October 7. She asked for very little : let them make two litters which would be carried in procession by the seers themselves, aided by other children like them. Let us remark, however, that if the parish priest of Fatima had granted Her request, however small it was, this would nevertheless have been a beginning of an official recognition of the apparitions… This would only take place in 1918.
At Lourdes, the Virgin Mary had requested : “ Let them come here in procession. ” At Fatima, although in an implicit manner, She expresses the same request, which already prefigures the ‘ worldwide route ’ of Her statue, carried in procession in almost all the countries of the world, and venerated by millions of pilgrims.
AND THE CHAPEL ?
However, when Lucy transmitted to Maria Carreira the response of the Queen of Heaven, the humble peasant who already cherished so much the blessed spot of the Cova da Iria was very disappointed :
“ ‘ Oh, Lucy ’, she lamented, ‘ I wish the money could have been for a chapel, don’t you ? ’ ‘ Yes, I do, but Our Lady told me that. We must do as She says. ’ ‘ Lucy, do ask Her on September 13 if we can make a chapel, will you ? ’ ”20
A BREATHTAKING MYSTERY : THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS
“ Pray, pray a great deal and make sacrifices for sinners ; for many souls go to hell because there are none to sacrifice themselves and to pray for them. ” These last words, which Our Lady pronounced looking very sad, were certainly the ones that made the most profound impression on the souls of the visionaries. It is the precious pearl that stands out in the message of this day.
But what an astonishing affirmation ! The eternal salvation of many souls really depends on our prayers and sacrifices ? It is so stupefying that many theologians try to interpret in their own way these disturbing words, to diminish their significance.21
As for ourselves, let us be content to show how this doctrine is in perfect conformity with the purest Catholic tradition. Pope Pius XII firmly recalls this truth in Mystici Corporis : “ There is an awesome mystery that we can never sufficiently meditate on : the salvation of many souls depends on the prayers and voluntary penances of the members of the Body of Christ. ” It is an unfathomable but also admirable mystery that such a close communion associates all the members of the human family with one another, for their salvation or for their loss. An oracle of Deuteronomy already expresses this will of God in all its force : “ For I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love Me and keep My commandments. ” (Dt. 5 :9-10)
Although the terrible part of this oracle was mitigated by the words of Ezekiel, who without denying family responsibility makes clear the role of individual responsibility, the second part, on the contrary, was reinforced by the message of the Gospel and the Pauline doctrine of the co-redemption : “ Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake ”, he writes to his dear Colossians, “ and in my flesh I complete what is lacking of the sufferings of Christ for His body, which is the Church. ” (Col. 1 :24) And this co-redemptive power conferred by Christ on the members of His body – in favour of their brothers, who are also redeemed – has no other measure than unbounded Love and the infinite price of the Blood of Jesus, our only and beloved Saviour : “ One just soul can obtain pardon for a thousand criminals ”, the Sacred Heart said to St. Margaret Mary.
Rather than making unending calculations, vainly seeking to fathom the mysteries of divine predestination and human liberty, to reconcile the role of personal merit and the communion of saints, it is better to imitate the wisdom of the three little seers, who believed in all candour the words of Our Lady : Yes, many souls go to hell because they have no one to pray and make sacrifices for them. And they set themselves courageously to draw out all the consequences that flow from this fact.
The first consequence is that the opposite is also true : “ Many souls can go to Heaven, thanks to our prayers and sacrifices. ” Here is an immense field of the apostolate open to every generous soul. Who can say henceforth that his life is useless, ruined, sterile, when the most beautiful, the most useful and the only important supernatural work is proposed to everybody by Our Lady, and with what insistence !
“ … MAKE SACRIFICES FOR SINNERS ! ”
Since the trials they had to bear were not equal to the measure of their thirst for saving souls, after August 19 the three little shepherds strove to find new sacrifices to offer to Jesus, “ for His love, for the conversion of sinners and in reparation for offences against the Immaculate Heart of Mary. ” Let us listen to these accounts of Sister Lucy :
“ LET’S GIVE OUR LUNCH TO THESE POOR CHILDREN ! ”22
“ Jacinta took this matter of making sacrifices for the conversion of sinners so much to heart, that she never let a single opportunity escape her. There were two families in Moita, whose children used to go round begging from door to door. We met them one day as we were going along with our sheep. As soon as she saw them, Jacinta said to us : ‘ Let’s give our lunch to those poor children, for the conversion of sinners. ’ And she ran to take it to them.
“ That afternoon, she told me she was hungry. There were holm oaks and oak trees nearby. The acorns were still quite green. However, I told her we could eat them. Francisco climbed up a holm oak to fill his pockets, but Jacinta remembered that we could eat the ones on the oak trees instead, and thus make a sacrifice by eating the bitter kind. So it was there, that afternoon, that we enjoyed this delicious repast ! Jacinta made this one of her usual sacrifices, and often picked the acorns off the oaks or the olives off the trees. One day I said to her : ‘ Jacinta, don’t eat that ; it’s too bitter ! ’ ‘ But it’s because it’s bitter that I’m eating it, for the conversion of sinners. ’
“ These were not the only times we fasted. We had agreed that whenever we met any poor children like these, we would give them our lunch. They were only too happy to receive such an alms, and they took good care to meet us ; they used to wait for us along the road. We no sooner saw them than Jacinta ran to give them all the food we had for that day, as happy as if she had no need of it herself. ”
“ WE WERE PARCHED WITH THIRST… ”
“ Jacinta’s thirst for making sacrifices seemed insatiable. One day… we encountered our dear poor children, and Jacinta ran to give them our usual alms. It was a lovely day, but the sun was blazing, and in that arid, stony wasteland, it seemed as though everything would burn up. We were parched with thirst, and there wasn’t a single drop of water for us to drink !
“ At first, we offered the sacrifice generously for the conversion of sinners, but after midday we could hold out no longer. As there was a house quite near, I suggested to my companions that I should go and ask for a little water. They agreed to this, so I went and knocked on the door. A little old woman gave me not only a pitcher of water, but also some bread, which I accepted gratefully. I ran to share it with my little companions.
“ Then I offered the pitcher to Francisco, and told him to take a drink. ‘ I don’t want to, ’ he replied. ‘ Why ? ’ ‘ I want to suffer for the conversion of sinners. ’ ‘ You have a drink, Jacinta ! ’ ‘ But I want to offer this sacrifice for sinners too. ’
“ Then I poured the water into a hollow in the rock, so that the sheep could drink it, and went to return the pitcher to its owner. The heat was getting more and more intense. The shrill singing of the crickets and grasshoppers coupled with the croaking of the frogs in the neighbouring pond made an uproar that was almost unbearable. Jacinta, frail as she was, and weakened still more by the lack of food and drink, said to me with that simplicity which was natural to her : ‘ Tell the crickets and frogs to keep quiet ! I have such a terrible headache. ’ Then Francisco asked her : ‘ Don’t you want to suffer this for sinners ? ’ The poor child, clasping her head between her two little hands, replied : ‘ Yes, I do. Let them sing ! ’ ”
“ THIS INSTRUMENT CAUSED US TERRIBLE SUFFERING. ”
“ Some days later, as we were walking along the road with our sheep, I found a piece of rope that had fallen off a cart. I picked it up and, just for fun, I tied it round my arm. Before long, I noticed that the rope was hurting me. ‘ Look, this hurts ! ’ I said to my cousins. ‘ We could tie it round our waists and offer it as a sacrifice to God. ’
“ The poor children promptly fell in with my suggestion. We then set about dividing it between the three of us, by placing it across a stone, and striking it with the sharp edge of another one that served as a knife. Either because of the thickness or roughness of the rope, or because we sometimes tied it too tightly, this instrument of penance often caused us terrible suffering. Now and then, Jacinta could not keep back her tears, so great was the discomfort this caused her. Whenever I urged her to remove it, she replied : ‘ No ! I want to offer this sacrifice to Our Lord in reparation, and for the conversion of sinners. ’ ”
“ Another day we were playing, picking little plants off the walls and pressing them in our hands to hear them crack. While Jacinta was plucking these plants, she happened to catch hold of some nettles and sting herself. She no sooner felt the pain than she squeezed them more tightly in her hands, and said to us : ‘ Look ! Look ! Here is something else with which we can mortify ourselves ! ’
“ From that time on, we used to hit our legs occasionally with nettles, so as to offer to God yet another sacrifice. ”
THE SPLENDOUR OF SANCTITY
In this beginning of September, several concrete facts dated with precision show to what degree of heroic perfection the three seers, so pious, so mortified, had already arrived. As soon as they could, they took refuge in their dear solitude of the Cabeço, completely filled with the memory of the Angel. “ How many prayers and sacrifices Jacinta offered to God in that place ! ” Lucy exclaims.
However, from day to day, the most painful trial was the almost uninterrupted succession of interrogations, especially as they often came from the worldly, the curious or fanatical adversaries who wanted to bother them for no reason.
“ IF THEY KILL US, WE’LL GO TO HEAVEN ! ”
The Tinsmith did not give up, and he hoped to find a way to put an end to the great movement of popular faith aroused by the apparitions. No doubt at the beginning of September, he sent three of his henchmen to threaten the seers again :
“ On a certain day, three gentlemen came to speak to us. After their questioning, which was anything but pleasant, they took their leave with this remark : ‘ See that you decide to tell that secret of yours. If you don’t, the Administrator has every intention of taking your lives ! ’ Jacinta, her face lighting up with a joy she made no effort to hide, said : ‘ How wonderful ! I so love Our Lord and Our Lady, and this way we’ll be seeing them soon ! ’
“ The rumour got round that the Administrator did really intend to kill us. This led my aunt, who was married and lived in Casais, to come to our house with the express purpose of taking us home with her, for, as she explained, ‘ I live in another district and, therefore, the Administrator cannot lay hands on you there. ’
“ But her plan was never carried out, because we were unwilling to go, and we replied : ‘ If they kill us, it’s all the same ! We’ll go to Heaven ! ’ ”
THE TESTIMONY OF A VISITOR, SEPTEMBER 7.
The author of the following fascinating account is Dr. Carlos de Azevedo Mendes : “ During July and August, we had heard about the apparitions at Torres Novas… At that time I was a young lawyer about to get married ; I had anything but apparitions on my mind.23
“ However, on September 7, with some friends, we decided to take a ride to Fatima. ” After a visit to the presbytery, he came to Aljustrel. “ The shepherds were in the fields. We could see them and talk with them. ” And the jurist returned home entirely conquered by their supernatural charm. What is most important is that on his return he wrote a long letter to his fiancée, relating in detail his visit to Fatima. This text, which was drawn up at once by a direct and also qualified witness, has considerable critical importance for us. First the visitor traces a very lively portrait of each of our seers :
“ Jacinta, so little, so timid, came near me. I was seated on a chest and set myself beside her. I assure you she is a little angel… Her head is enveloped in a handkerchief, with red flowers, whose corners are tied together in the back. The handkerchief is already old and worn. She wears a blouse, also somewhat worn, and her skirt, very large after the fashion of the country, is reddish in colour. There is the costume of our little angel.
“ I would like to describe her little face, but I don’t think I’ll be able to do so sufficiently. The way she wears her handkerchief makes her features stand out even more. The eyes are black, with a charming vivacity, and the angelic expression on the face has a goodness that seduces us – everything attracts us, I don’t know why. Since she was very intimidated, we had enough trouble hearing the little bit she said in answer to my questions.
“ After we had spoken for some time with her, chatting and even playing (don’t laugh !), Francisco arrived. He is already a little man, with a woollen cap upon his head, a very short vest, a waistcoat revealing his shirt underneath, and his tight pants. What a fine face for a child ! He has a lively glance and a mischievous form. He answers my questions with a detached air. Jacinta begins to warm up to us.
“ Soon, Lucy arrives in her turn. You cannot imagine Jacinta’s joy when she sees her ! Everything in her was alive with laughter ; she ran in front of her and did not leave her side. It was a beautiful picture…
“ Lucy does not have impressive traits, only her glance is lively. Her features are ordinary and usual for that region. At first she too was reluctant,24 but soon I put them at ease, and they answered without embarrassment and satisfied my curiosity… I interrogated all three separately.25 All three said the same thing without the least alteration. The principal thought that I deduced from everything they said is that the apparition wishes to spread devotion to the Rosary…
“ The natural air and ingenuousness with which they speak and relate what they saw are admirable and impressive… Francisco saw the Lady, but he does not hear Her…
“ To hear these children, to see them in their simplicity, to examine them on all points, impressed me in an extraordinary manner and led me to conclude that there is something supernatural in everything they say. To find myself with them struck me with a strong intensity. Today, my conviction is that there is an extraordinary reality there which our reason cannot grasp. What is it ? What is certain is that I was so content beside these children that I began to forget about time. There is an attraction there that I cannot explain… ”
Next they went to the Cova da Iria : “ All three knelt down. Lucy, who is in the middle, begins to recite the Rosary. The recollection and fervour with which she recites it impresses us. The intention of the Rosary is interesting : it is for the soldiers at the war. ” And at this point the doctor quotes the little prayer taught by Our Lady on July 13, which the children were therefore already reciting.
What our good jurist did not write back to his fiancée, and with reason, is vividly related by Sister Lucy in her Memoirs :
“ On arriving at the place, he knelt down and asked me to pray the Rosary with him to obtain a special grace from Our Lady that he greatly desired : that a certain young lady would consent to receive with him the sacrament of Matrimony. I wondered at such a request, and thought to myself : ‘ If she has as much fear of him as I, she will never say Yes ! ’ When the Rosary was over, the good man accompanied me most of the way home, and then bade me a friendly farewell, recommending his request to me again… ”
Disappointed by the apparition of September 13, he came back however on October 13 and was definitely convinced by the miracle of the sun.
“ Some time later (Lucy continues), he appeared again, this time accompanied by the aforesaid girl, who was now his wife ! He came to thank the Blessed Virgin for the grace received, and to ask Her copious blessings on their future. ”
“ I love God so much ! But He is very sad because of so many sins ! We must never commit any sins again… But what a pity it is that He is so sad ! If only I could console Him ! ” Francisco.
A MIRACULOUS CONVERSION, SEPTEMBER 12.
We have another proof of the extraordinary supernatural influence of the children at this time. Sister Lucy relates the moving story :
“ There was a woman in our neighbourhood who insulted us every time we met her. We came upon her one day, as she was leaving a tavern, somewhat the worse for drink. Not satisfied with mere insults, she went still further. When she had finished, Jacinta said to me : ‘ We have to plead with Our Lady and offer sacrifices for the conversion of this woman. She says so many sinful things that if she doesn’t go to confession, she’ll go to hell. ’
“ A few days later, we were running past this woman’s door when suddenly Jacinta stopped dead, and turning round, she asked : ‘ Listen ! Is it tomorrow that we’re going to see the Lady ? ’ ‘ Yes, it is. ’ ‘ Then let’s not play any more. We can make this sacrifice for the conversion of sinners. ’
“ Without realizing that someone might be watching her, she raised her hands and eyes to Heaven, and made her offering. The woman, meanwhile, was peeping through a shutter in the house. She told my mother, afterwards, that what Jacinta did made such an impression on her, that she needed no other proof to make her believe in the reality of the apparitions ; henceforth, she would not only not insult us any more, but would constantly ask us to pray to Our Lady, that her sins might be forgiven. ”
The Blessed Virgin was faithful to Her promise, and at least once wanted to show it to them in a visible manner. Their insistent prayers, and all their sacrifices, so generously accepted or chosen, were bearing abundant supernatural fruits. The sudden conversion of this hardened sinner was the proof. Our Lady could be pleased with Her three confidants. The next day, appearing for the fifth time at the Cova da Iria, She told them : “ God is pleased with your sacrifices. He does not want you to sleep with the rope on, but only to wear it during the daytime. ” “ Needless to say, we promptly obeyed His orders ”, Lucy comments. A marvellous dialogue, in which the ardent love and docility of the three seers shine forth, as they respond to the tender solicitude of their Mother in Heaven.
(1) Undoubtedly referring to the unusual atmospheric phenomena observed at the moment of the apparition.
(2) One must read, the interesting account of Ti Marto, who proved himself to be very courageous here, affirming resolutely that he believed the testimony of his children, while his brother-in-law Antonio ‘ copped out ’ : “ All these are old wives tales. ”
(3) Although the persecution of poor Lucy continued, this last detail shows that the dos Santos family at least envisaged the possibility of true apparitions of Our Lady.
(4) Other testimonies make it clear that there were two flashes of light and “ two strong claps of thunder which everybody heard ”.
(5) Other witnesses affirm more precisely that the cloud remained visible about ten minutes, as on July 13. Regarding this cloud, see also the testimony of Manuel Gonçalves : “ There was not the least bit of dust in the air. The cloud seemed to sweep the air clean. ”
(6) In reality, this was only partly true : granted, after hearing about the abduction, Maria Rosa had declared coldly : “ If they are telling the truth, Our Lady will take care of them ! ” But the Marto parents were very disturbed and immediately sent two of their older children to get news.
(7) In the presence of the children, the Tinsmith ordered a cauldron of boiling oil to be prepared, threatening to throw them in it if they would not reveal the secret. The three seers, in their simplicity, took the threat literally.
(8) A fact of decisive importance for critical purposes is that Artur de Oliveira Santos was never able to use any statement of the seers to discredit the apparitions… Nor did he deny the scene of the boiling oil, which some people questioned on the pretext that the first written testimony for this scene is from the canonical investigation, July 8, 1924. Later on the Tinsmith was stone silent on the subject of his action against Fatima. He died unhappily in Lisbon in 1955, without having shown any sign of repentance.
(9) Five or six thousand, he says later on, choosing the lowest of all the estimates.
(10) Indeed on this point she is mistaken, because Father Ferreira, in his written account of August 21, makes it clear that the apparition took place the preceding Sunday.
(11) She had also pointed out the usual phenomena which preceded the arrival of Our Lady : the light was dimmed, and already there was a first ‘ flash of light ’.
(12) On this spot was built the beautiful commemorative monument by the Hungarian exiles.
(13) Referring to the imprisonment at Vila Nova de Ourem.
(14) Here the Ferreira report says : “ Our Lady will come with an angel at each side. Our Lady of Sorrows will also come, surrounded by flowers. ” This prediction can also be understood in a conditional sense : Saint Joseph would have come, etc.
(15) The Ferreira interrogation, more directly and with greater charm adds : “ This money that you have, what do you want done with it ? ”
(16) Here Lucy probably attributes to Our Lady words which she did not speak until September 13. We will return to this point.
(17) Yet Maria Rosa still could not bring herself to believe : “ I used to think before that if there were just one other person who saw I anything, then I’d believe ; but now, so many people say they have seen something, and I still don’t believe ! ” This proves that between the recognition of extraordinary facts and the act of faith, there is a great leap to be made.
(18) Let us point out a coincidence in the dates which we think is providential : on August 19, the anniversary of his death, the Church celebrates the death of St. John Eudes, the first great Doctor of devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
(19) Cf. also Cant. 3 :6 : “ Who is this coming up from the wilderness, like a column of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all the fragrant powders of the merchant ? ”; 4 :16; 7 :9; 7 :14.
(20) Many critics think that Lucy is mistaken when, in her Memoirs, she places the request for a chapel here. The reasons are this precise recollection of Maria Carreira, as well as the fact that the Ferreira report of August 21 has no reference to it. As a matter of fact, it is probable that she did not ask this question until September 13.
(21) Thus Dom Jean-Nesmy himself, after several very illuminating remarks, feels obligated to add : “ No doubt, it is not difficult for God, who wishes the salvation of sinners, to find another way to save them, so that nobody is lost because of our cowardice. ” Lucie raconte Fatima, p. 218. Alas ! Our Lady did not say that, She even dared to affirm the exact opposite !
(22) Relying on the very uncertain order of the First Memoir, certain authors date this episode from the month of May or June. However, Sister Lucy in her Second Memoir gives the exact date : “ If I am not mistaken, it was also during this month that we acquired the habit of giving our lunch to our little poor children, as I have already described in the account about Jacinta. ”
(23) A doctor of jurisprudence, he later became mayor of Torres Novas, and deputy of the National Assembly and secretary of the corporate chamber.
(24) In her Memoirs, Lucy gives a humorous reason for the difficulty : “ If I am not mistaken, it was also during this month that a young man made his appearance at our home. He was of such tall stature that I trembled with fear. When I saw that he had to bend down in order to come through the doorway in search of me, I thought I must be in the presence of a German… My fright did not pass unnoticed by the young man, who sought to calm me ; he made me sit on his knee and questioned me with great kindness. ”
(25) “ Being a lawyer and doctor of jurisprudence ”, says Dr. Azevedo, “ I proceeded as though I were a prosecuting attorney. It was impossible to trip them up. ”