John-Paul I, the Pope of the Secret
1. The Immaculate and the angel
IT was at the request of the Holy Office that the Bishop of Leiria, Msgr. José da Silva, sent the Third Secret to Rome in 19571. His auxiliary bishop, Msgr. Joao Venancio, had suggested that he open the envelope before relinquishing possession of it, and that he retain a photocopy of the Secret. Alas, as had already happened in 1944 when Sister Lucy had given him permission to read it, Msgr. da Silva, through pusillanimity, categorically refused to acquaint himself with its contents.
Msgr. Venancio handed the precious document to the Apostolic Nuncio to Lisbon, with immense regret, as though he had a premonition that Our Lady’s ultimate Secret would be ignored and despised in Rome.
Deeply conscious of the extraordinary character of the Fatima revelations, it distressed him that they were not given more consideration by the theologians and authorities of Holy Church. In his letter of December 30, 1959 to the Secretary of Vatican II’s Ante-Preparatory Commission, he observed: «Generally speaking, it seems that amongst professional theologians and even a fair number of bishops, there reigns the greatest contempt towards all private revelations. Does not this betoken a fundamental contempt for God who is supremely free in the dispensation of His gifts and in His manner of communicating with souls?2» An admirable protest, which was to remain unanswered.
THE DAYS OF PRAYER OF OCTOBER 12 AND 13, 1960.
After May 13, 1960, the new Bishop of Leiria3, Msgr. Joao Venancio, noting that John XXIII had not published the Secret, took a courageous decision: without soliciting the authorisation of the Holy See, he launched an appeal to all the bishops of the world, inviting them to organise days of prayer and penance on October 12 and 13, in union with the pilgrims to the Cova da Iria, in a spirit of reparation and consecration to the Holy Hearts of Jesus and Mary. In this way he hoped to sway Heaven, to stem the disappointment of the faithful and, by implication, to force the Vatican to abandon its silence. For the Pope had still not pronounced officially on the subject of the Third Secret4.
Here is the full text of the letter he sent to every Catholic bishop in the world:
«Fatima, May 17, 1960.
«On this day of the first anniversary of Portugal’s official consecration to the Holy Hearts of Jesus and Mary, may one of your most humble brothers in the episcopate be permitted to address Your Excellency and present a request to him.
«As Bishop of Leiria, I am entrusted with the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima, and in recommending myself on this title and on this office which is so heavy for me, I venture to open my heart to you and to hope for your cooperation.
«The anxiety of the whole world before the fragility of peace and, even more still, the anguish that grips farsighted Christians before the menace of the expansion of communism, sufficiently explains the numerous appeals that come to me from all sides, urging me to intensify the movement of prayer and penance born at the Cova da Iria, especially in view of the conversion of Russia and peace.
«Still under the powerful emotion of the spectacle of the immense penitent crowd that gathered in Fatima last May 13, and more conscious than ever, for my part, of the responsibilities which His Eminence Cardinal Lercaro recalled that day to all the pilgrims in his homily; faced with such a clear message given by the Most Holy Virgin forty-three years ago, I have resolved to ask the people of my diocese, and the other pilgrims who will come to Fatima next October 12 and 13, for a special effort of prayer and penance, in view of a more perfect return to God.
«I will ask all those who can really do so to end the pilgrimage on foot, to cover at least the last few kilometres reciting the Rosary, and to spend the entire night from the 12th to the 13th adoring the Most Holy Sacrament, in reparation for so many sins, a cause of affliction to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Heart of Our Sorrowful and Immaculate Mother.
«But how could the intervention alone even of a million pilgrims, burdened with their own spiritual miseries, sufficiently compensate for the great evil that is triumphing in the world, and the indifference of a multitude of Christians themselves, who neglect to have recourse to the Saviour and His Blessed Mother?
«Hence it occurred to me to solicit the help of my brothers in the episcopate. Perhaps it will seem to you opportune, Excellency, to pass on my humble request to your people, and to suggest to them similar exercises of prayer and penance, in union with all the pilgrims of Fatima. In this way, next October 12 and 13 would be veritable world days of prayer and penance, helping to obtain the triumph of the cause of God.
«At Fatima, as Cardinal Lercaro recalled, Our Lady has crowned the centuries-old history of Her merciful interventions by asking that there be consecrated to Her Immaculate Heart the world, evil as it is, and particularly Russia, whose errors are spreading everywhere and whose persecutions cause such anguish to the Church.
«May we not hope that, when pontiffs, priests and the faithful from everywhere join with one heart and with renewed fervour in the consecrations already accomplished by the Sovereign Pontiff, they will contribute to lifting the obstacles that may have prevented these solemn acts from obtaining their full efficacy, for the conversion of Russia, so dear to the Mother of God, and the attainment of a true peace?
«I should be very grateful to Your Excellency, should it not seem inconvenient to you, if you would arrange for somebody to send me, for the common edification, a short account of what you manage to accomplish, along these lines, in your diocese.
«May Your Excellency deign to pardon the simplicity with which I have let my heart dictate this letter, and please accept my sentiments of profound respect and of complete union in the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.
«John, Bishop of Leiria.5»
This letter by Msgr. Venancio was a profession of faith in the indubitable authenticity of the Fatima revelations, whose extreme importance for the salvation of the world in peril he maintained. One may regret, however, that he did not accurately represent Heaven’s request6 concerning the consecration of Russia:
«May the Holy Father deign to make, and order the bishops of the Catholic world likewise to make, a solemn and public act of reparation and consecration of Russia to the Most Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, and may His Holiness promise, in return for the end of that persecution [in Russia], to approve and recommend the practice of the devotion of reparation.7»
At least Msgr. Venancio had let it be understood that not everything necessary had been done, in the Church, to satisfy Our Lady’s requests and obtain Russia’s conversion.
About three hundred bishops responded to his appeal. This was scarcely fifteen per cent of the world episcopate. Nevertheless their letters indicated that, in numerous countries, people would be uniting themselves with the ardent supplications of the pilgrims in Fatima. «Support came from all sides», noted the Abbé Richard. «I can pick out San Salvador, Columbia, Nicaragua, Cuba, Argentina, Peru, Venezuela, Mexico, Ireland, Canada, the United States, Rhodesia, Australia, South Africa, India, Reunion Island, Lebanon, the ex-Belgian Congo, Cayenne, Gabon, Madagascar; in France, Cambrai, Bayeux and Lille, and the missionary or exiled bishops of China and elsewhere.8»
At the Cova da Iria, the ceremonies of October 12 and 13 took place under a terrible storm, as though Heaven itself wished to impose a harsh penance on the faithful.
«On the evening of October 12», recounted Father Simonin, «the torch procession took place in driving rain. The bad weather continued all through the night. On the morning of the 13th, at the moment of the general Communion Mass celebrated at 6:30 by the Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon at the high altar of the basilica, the storm redoubled its violence and the wind seemed to want to carry everything away, while the rain battered the pilgrims who had not been able to find a place in the Basilica or in the outside galleries. Nevertheless, forty-eight thousand of the faithful, many of whom had stayed up all night in prayer, exposed to the rain and wind, received Communion inside the basilica and on the drenched esplanade...
«At 9:30, a statue of Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, which now stands above the colonnade of the basilica, was blessed and inaugurated by His Excellency the Bishop of Leiria in the presence of four hundred Belgian and Dutch pilgrims led by the Superior General of the Montfortians, and Montfort Fathers of various nationalities, notably the Rev. Fr. Hupperts and the teachers at the Montfortian Apostolic School, which has been operating for several years at the Cova da Iria.
«Around 10:00, the esplanade was already starting to fill up again with pilgrims in compact groups saying the Rosary, now buffeted by a strong north-westerly wind which, fortunately, was gradually going to disperse the clouds. The sun finally appeared in a serene sky, when the statue of Our Lady of Fatima left the Capelinha in procession to take its place, around 11 o’clock, near the basilica’s outside altar, at the top of the monumental flight of stairs. At that moment, the number of pilgrims could be estimated at around 300,000 or 400,000. Many had come on foot, often barefoot, and the first-aid station must have treated nearly 1,500 people whose feet had been injured by the long, rough journey to the Cova da Iria.
«The wind continued to blow violently right up to the end of the ceremonies, giving the officiants of the pontifical Mass a fair bit of trouble and disrupting the sound of the loud-speakers.»
After the Eucharistic blessing of 500 sick people sheltering under one of the colonnade’s galleries, «all the prelates present renewed the consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, using a formula composed by Pope Pius XII. The two Cardinals and the bishops surrounding them gave their blessing to the crowd of pilgrims.9»
These days of prayer and penance failed to meet with any truly favourable response from high Roman authorities. However, as we shall see, the Immaculate Heart of Mary was not insensible to the supplications and sacrifices of the pilgrims at the Cova da Iria and of the many faithful throughout the world who had united themselves to them.
NIKITA KHRUSHCHEV DISARMED?
Not without reason, in his letter of May 17, 1960, did Msgr. Venancio take alarm at the expansion of communism and the threats of war. At that time it was becoming increasingly apparent that the foreign policy of peaceful coexistence inaugurated by the head of the Soviet government, Nikita Khrushchev, along with all his propaganda trips abroad and the summit meetings he was advocating, were but a tactic to disarm and dominate the West. The objective of the political and economic struggle of the Soviet leaders had remained unchanged: world hegemony by an atheistic and persecuting communism.
The President of the USSR Council of Ministers was waging a war of nerves at the international level, using as his main diplomatic weapon his successful launches of satellites and intercontinental rockets. To reduce his adversaries to a state bordering on panic, he would alternate between declarations of peace and threatening speeches, passing successively from a reassuring détente to an alarming tension.
On January 14, 1960, he declared before the Supreme Soviet: «We already possess some fearsome weapons. Those we are working on are of unimaginable power. The Soviet army currently possesses hardware and firepower unequalled to this day. Should anyone be foolish enough to attack us, ourselves or any other socialist state, we would be in a position literally to wipe him or the aggressors from the face of the earth.10»
During his journeys abroad, he would show himself smiling, engaging and convivial, and then suddenly his face would harden over and become terrifying. After his visit to France in the spring of 1960, the magazine Missi stated:
«Distant, disdainful and scowling, such was Khrushchev when confronted with the treasures of the cathedrals of Rheims and Rouen. Before the journalists, he made a highly out-of-place, not to say blasphemous, allusion to Our Lord. After explaining that Jesus Christ and he were in agreement on many points as Jesus Christ was a sort of communist, he stated, as though it marked the profound rift between the two doctrines, that he disagreed with Christ when the latter said that one should offer the left cheek when someone struck the right: “As for me, when someone strikes my cheek, I lash out, I lash out and knock off his head.”11»
The ambitions of the Chinese communists who sought to supplant the USSR in the struggle against American imperialism and their objections against the Soviet diplomacy of “peaceful coexistence” led Khrushchev to toughen his policy. When, at the beginning of May 1960, he revealed that a U-2 spy plane belonging to the American secret services had just been shot down over Soviet territory, it was in order to indulge in a public display of scandal against aerial espionage, to threaten the Americans with reprisals and to demand an apology from President Eisenhower. He thus torpedoed the Paris Conference on disarmament, in which the “big four” were to take part.
During the summer, pursuing his policy of nuclear threats against the United States, he allowed Fidel Castro to strengthen his communist dictatorship in Cuba12.
In the autumn, he went in person to the General Assembly of the United Nations. When he failed in his attempt to obtain a debate on a plan for immediate disarmament, his reply, on Tuesday, October 11, was aggressive and thunderous. Reporting on this session the next day, Le Figaro ran this front page headline: «On the day before his departure from New York, new and noisy threats from Mr. K: “Disarm or risk a conflict from which the USSR will emerge victorious”.»
Had not Khrushchev publicly declared to his adversaries that day: «Our patience is at an end […]. If war breaks out, it will affect the whole world. We are not afraid of war. If it is forced upon us, we will fight and we will win, whatever the sacrifices. But the casualties will be enormous and it is you who will bear the responsibility for them.
«If we continue the arms race, there will be war and we will win it, and many of you will no longer be here. You want to hear nice words, but you are deluding yourselves. You do not want to hear the truth and to wake up to the threat weighing on the world. If you want to compete with us in the arms field, we will beat you. Our economy is flourishing, we produce missiles like sausages, in a mass production line […]. The arms race will lead to a showdown and, in this war, we will crush you.»
Now in this month of October 1960, at the very time when their President was seeking to terrorise the world, the Soviets suffered some catastrophic setbacks to their aerospace and nuclear experiments. On October 17, Le Figaro informed its readers: «Why has Mr. K stayed behind in New York? Waiting for an unprecedented Soviet experiment in the rocket field. Three attempts, three failures.»
The most tragic accident was going to occur several days later, on October 24, at the Tyuratam base, near Baikonur in Kazakhstan. It was there that Marshal Mitrofan Nedelin, Commander-in-Chief of the Soviet Rocket Forces and Vice-Minister of Defence, met his death.
The scale of this disaster was revealed in 1965 by the publication of Notebooks of a Secret Agent, written by Colonel Oleg Penkovsky, a high ranking official in the Soviet Secret Services, who ended up working for the West. But in the Soviet Union it was only in 1989 that, for the first time, the truth about the death of Marshal Nedelin was published. In a long article published in the Russian weekly newspaper Ogoniok13, which was highly committed to perestroika, Alexander Bolotin described the appalling disaster based on his personal memories and some disturbing testimonies.
Here, summarised in riveting terms, are the circumstances of the disaster: «The Russians», writes Christophe Courau, «were getting ready to proceed with the first trial of the R-16 missile, a completely new rocket with a strictly military application, known by NATO as the SS-7. Once equipped with a nuclear warhead, the missile must represent the most state-of-the-art weapon in the Soviet strategic armament which also possesses the “Bomb” […].
«On October 23, on platform 41, everything was ready. Under the direction of Marshal Nedelin, Commander of the Force for Strategic Missiles, the whole State Commission had turned out. But the weather was not good and it was necessary to postpone the launch until the following day.
«Now this series of delays, for this was not the first, risked annoying “Mr. K”.
«Thus it was that, on October 24, around 18:30, the Marshal showed his impatience with the teams responsible for filling the tanks. Everyone was under pressure and, in violation of the security procedures, Nedelin left the command bunker and sat on a wooden chair at the foot of the rocket, surrounded by his senior staff in order to assist with the final preparations. Some of them were aware of the danger, but there was no question of disputing orders whose execution KGB agents had the job of ensuring...
«Suddenly, at 18:45, there was an explosion. Gigantic balls of fire reduced the firing range and the spectators to ashes. The rescue teams were unable to intervene due to the heat of the fire. The few survivors who sought to escape became stuck in sheets of molten tar, were overtaken by the flames and died writhing in agony. The scene can be viewed on an archive film produced by Videocosmos.14»
To quote James E. Oberg, an American expert, a million pounds (around 450,000 kg) of kerosene and liquid oxygen were ignited that October 24, 1960, giving rise to a fireball that was visible hundreds of kilometres away.
«According to the witnesses», continues Christophe Courau, «it seems that there was an initial delay in the rocket launch. The first stage ignition had not worked. Nedelin therefore demanded an immediate fix. But the Russian ignition system is very simple. Too simple. As soon as the first stage is fired up, a timer is set in motion to control the second stage ignition. And there is no way of stopping the launch process. A detail which, under the stress of the the repair work, everyone seems to have forgotten. At the programmed hour, the second stage was effectively set in motion and everything exploded.
«It was Mikhail Kouzmitch Yanguel, the engineer in charge of the project, who informed Khrushchev of the disaster. He picked up the kremliouka (a special telephone connected to the Kremlin) to explain to the Soviet number one, who had just returned from the United States a week ago, the circumstances of the accident. Furious, the latter asked him by what miracle, he, the chief engineer, was still alive. Answer of the interested party: “While everyone was on the platform, I wanted to smoke a cigarette and relax. I went down to the command bunker for a moment. The explosion happened just afterwards…”
«There still remained the necessity of concealing the accident from the Americans. The problem was that it was impossible to hide Nedelin’s death. So Pravda published a press release reporting the demise of the Marshal and his collaborators in an aeroplane accident. However, the American U-2s which take off from Pakistan to land in Sweden, fly over the Tyuratam base. And the Americans spotted traces of the explosion.
«In the Pentagon, there was much speculation over the number of victims involved. In fact, 165 people died, all of them military personnel. 55 officers lie in a cemetery created on the outskirts of Leninsk, near the space centre. One can still see a monument erected in their memory. As for the soldiers and technicians, some of them were buried in a common grave at the base, while others were buried at Dniepropetrovsk, in Ukraine.
«It is said that if Khrushchev removed his shoe at the United Nations and banged his desk with it, it was because he was furious at this setback. But the incident at the United Nations took place on October 12, 1960, twelve days before the accident at Baikonur. In fact his outburst was motivated by another failure, that of the launch of the first probe to Mars two days earlier. He had received the information just before he left his lodgings to rejoin the United Nations… where he was counting on announcing to the world a new success of Soviet science.»
According to Baudouin Huygens, Khrushchev was advised of this setback in the middle of a United Nations session:
«A Soviet marshal entered the USSR box and whispered a few words in the ear of “Mr. K”. The latter turned red, then pale, became highly agitated, took off one of his shoes and rapped his desk violently several times with it. This extraordinary “turn” created an uncommon turmoil. The president of the session broke his hammer beating the gong, but still failed to restore order. “Mr. K” then got up and left the chamber, followed by his whole Soviet delegation, declaring, “The most important thing which happened today is that the president’s hammer broke: this is the beginning of the disintegration of the United Nations.”
«The western intelligence services quickly came to know the facts and laughed scornfully at the hysterical fury of “Mr. K” who, at the United Nations, had been robbed of the theatrical effect he hoped to produce by revealing the scientifico-technical exploit and the Soviet military power that flowed from it. The author of these lines himself learned of the accident back in 1961. But it could not be reported in the West, for the USSR would have able to work out the origin of the “leaks” and cut off the channels used to pass information to the free world.15»
It is remarkable that the Soviets suffered these reversals in Russia itself and precisely in October 1960, at the very moment when a great number of bishops and members of the faithful were addressing ardent supplications to Our Lady of Fatima for the peace of the world in great peril.
Clearly one must connect these grave setbacks suffered by the Soviet leaders with the days of prayer, penance and reparation organised by Msgr. Venancio. The Most Blessed Virgin, touched by the devotion and sacrifices of Her children, disarmed, with the light emanating from Her right hand, the Angel of Extermination who was about to set light to the world.
Thus was fulfilled in 1960 the inaugural vision of the Third Secret, a vision that we are now going to ponder in order to understand its marvellous riches, thanks to the exegetical, mystical and historical commentaries published by the Abbé de Nantes and by Brother Bruno de Jésus.
OUR LADY’S BRILLIANT LIGHT EXTINGUISHES THE FLAMES OF THE ANGEL OF EXTERMINATION.
«After the two parts which I have already explained, we saw, to the left of Our Lady,…»
«The Virgin Mary», remarks the Abbé de Nantes, «is always there, so humble, so retiring that one might forget Her at the very moment when Her most secret thoughts are going to be revealed to us. Let us not take our eyes off Her.»
«... a little higher up, an Angel with a flaming sword in his left hand; it flashed and gave off flames that looked as though they would set the world on fire;»
This vision is linked to the prophecies in the second part of the Secret, specifically to the announcement of the chastisements due to commence, and which did occur, «in the reign of Pius XI»:
«When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that He is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine and persecutions against the Church and the Holy Father.»
The Abbé de Nantes writes:
«Mistress of campaigns, Queen of battles as depositary of the divine powers, the Virgin Mary announces the Second World War even before the first is over! She knows and declares in 1917 what will happen in 1938 because She is “from Heaven”! She knows how obstinate men are in defying God’s power by insulting Her, and this at the very time when She is seeking to save them all. She knows that God will not tolerate it!
«On the morning of Wednesday, January 26, 1938, Western Europe was indeed able to register an unexplained atmospheric phenomenon, one which formed the chief topic of conversation from Norway to Portugal, from England to Rumania, in North Africa and in America, from Canada to Mexico.» It was that «unknown light» announced on July 13, 1917, although astronomers insisted on describing it as an aurora borealis16.
Now «this light of an unknown nature which looked like it was going to set the world on fire, on the night of January 25 to 26, 1938, was merely the “glint” of the flaming sword that the Angel held in his left hand. The vision of hell has taught us what the Devil’s fire is like. This latter vision teaches us that the Angels in Heaven have themselves also received “flaming swords” not only, for example, to defend the entrance to the earthly paradise (Gn 3:24), but also to execute the chastisements decreed by God.
«Far from escaping into the “a-temporal”, here we see ourselves caught up again in that anguish which has been ours ever since this warning of 1938, a warning that has never left us, knowing as we do that we have still not obeyed the Blessed Virgin’s requests. Reading this text, which is neither in Greek nor Hebrew, everyone understands that this Angel, standing to the left of Our Lady, has only to make the slightest gesture for the whole world to burn.17»
Brother Bruno’s commentary is highly biblical: «This Angel reminds us of the Cherubim posted in front of the Garden of Eden after God had cast Adam out: “He banished the man, and in front of the Garden of Eden He posted the Cherubs and the flame of a flashing sword to guard the way to the Tree of Life.” (Gn 3:24)
«The Angel is positioned close to Our Lady, at Her service since the beginning of Sacred History (Gn 3:15) and indeed right to the end: “Then war broke out in Heaven: Michael and his Angels fought the Dragon. And the Dragon fought back with his Angels, but they were defeated and driven from Heaven.” (Ap 12:7-8) From that very Heaven in which Saint John has just seen shining out the great “sign” of the “Woman” clothed in the sun, crowned with stars, and with the moon beneath Her feet.
«It is he, Michael, the “Angel of Portugal” who, in 1916, prepared the three seers for the apparitions of the Queen of the Angels. But he no longer performs the office of Angel of Peace, nor of Angel of the Eucharist, as in 1916, since he holds in his hand a sword.18»
This sword, remarks Brother Bruno19, represents the chastisement of those who hide their idolatry under Christian appearances: «The sword, the sword! It is sharpened and polished! Sharpened for slaughter, polished to flash like lightning…» (Ez 21:13-15)
«It flashed and gave out flames that looked as though they would set the world on fire;»
«The reason for this chastisement appears far graver than it was at our origins, because the salvation promised to our first parents was this very Virgin who was to give birth to a Saviour. So is the crime committed against Her, against Her Immaculate Heart, unforgivable? One might think one was witnessing in advance the miracle of the sun falling towards the earth!
«So, after the flames of hell contemplated in the first part of the vision of July 13, will this fire also “set the world on fire”? and create hell on earth as a punishment for Pius XI’s refusal to act upon the requests of the Immaculate Heart of Mary?
«Yes, that is what it did: by means of the Second World War, a war “worse” than the first, but this time set alight “in the reign of Pius XI” and through his own fault.20» However, Our Lady exercises an extraordinary control over this fire:
«But these flames were extinguished on contact with the brilliant light that Our Lady radiated against them with Her right hand»…
Here the vision expresses with unrivalled power the Mediation of Her who showed Herself at the rue de Bac, rays of light streaming from Her merciful hands to spread Her graces, and then called Herself at Lourdes “the Immaculate Conception”. On October 13, 1917, She would show the extent of Her rule by shaking the sun with a motion of Her hands and then arresting its fall.
«In Fatima, on July 13, 1917», remarks Brother Bruno, «“the brilliant light that Our Lady radiated towards the Angel” therefore acted against his sword like “the shield of the Faith” with which Saint Paul armed his Ephesians: “Always carry the shield of the Faith, so that you can use it to put out the burning arrows of the Evil One.” (Ep 6:16) But here, “the burning arrows” are those of an avenging fire, which does not come from the Evil One, but from the Angel of Extermination, the Angel of Judgment, a fire extinguished by the rays of glory which Our Lady radiated from Her right hand.21»
We can see an illustration of the vision, and even its first fulfilment, when Portugal was preserved from the Second World War owing to her national consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on May 13, 1931. «There can be no doubt», Cardinal Cerejeira stated publicly, «that it was due to the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Our Lady that it pleased Providence to preserve us from the war, in readiness for which the invasion forces were already massing on the Franco-Spanish border.22»
One recalls President Salazar’s ardent prayers in those dramatic hours23. «When Hitler announced the date of his invasion of Portugal», writes Father Fernando Leite, «our head of government spent the whole night on the telephone to Generalissimo Franco trying to convince him not to allow the German troops to pass through Spain, and, at the same time, he was continuously saying the Rosary. He spent the night with one hand on the telephone and the other on his Rosary. And the miracle happened. May we not be permitted to state, therefore, that we were saved from war by the Rosary?24»
The Virgin Mary would intervene again against the flames issuing from the Angel’s sword, a symbol of war, when Pius XII consecrated the Church and the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, on October 31, 1942. This consecration would obtain the end of the war, as Lucy explained in a letter to the Bishop of Gurza on February 28, 1943: «The Good Lord has already shown me His satisfaction with the act performed by the Holy Father and several bishops, even though it was incomplete in respect of His desire. In return He promises to end the war soon. The conversion of Russia is not for now.25»
Any historian may observe that, as a matter of fact, the months which followed this solemn act of consecration effectively marked the great turning point of the war, leading to a complete victory by the Allies26.
Thus the Most Blessed Virgin Mary is all-powerful in extinguishing the avenging fire of the Angel of Extermination. How many times has She not intervened at the prayer of Her children, to preserve the world from the terrible chastisement of war or to halt the threatening conflagration!
Such was the case in the month of October 1960, as we have previously related. But Her maternal intervention and protection were also manifest at other dramatic moments: in 1975, in Portugal27, or again at the height of “Deadline 1983”, when Western Europe was menaced by a Soviet invasion28.
THE ANGEL’S THREEFOLD CALL TO PENANCE
Disarmed by the Immaculate, instead of setting fire to the world with the sword held in his left hand, «the Angel, pointing to the earth with his right hand, called out in a loud voice:
“Penance, Penance, Penance!”»
Brother Bruno’s commentary is wholly inspired by the biblical symbolism: «In Chapter 8 of the Book of the Apocalypse, John sees and hears “an Eagle flying high overhead and calling out in a powerful voice: Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth.” (Ap 8:13) The “earth” denotes Palestine, the Holy Land, and is a figure of the Church.
«In Chapter 12, following the victory of Saint Michael the Archangel and his Angels, a voice cries out in Heaven: “Woe to you, earth and sea, because the Devil has gone down to you in a rage, knowing that his days are numbered.” (Ap 12:12)
«This is exactly what Sister Lucy said to Father Fuentes on December 26, 1957: “Father, the Devil is currently engaged in a decisive battle against the Virgin.”
«However, here it is not “woe” that is announced to the earth (i.e. to the Church) and to the sea (i.e. to the world), but grace in return for “penance”.29»
«The Angel of Fatima speaks “in a loud voice”, like that of John the Baptist, “the voice of one who cries in the wilderness” (Mt 3:3): “Do penance!” (Mt 3:2) On pain of hell fire: “Every tree that fails to produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown on the fire.” (Mt 3:10; Lk 3:9)
«When Jesus appeared, He said exactly the same: “Do penance!” (Mk 1:15; Mt 4:7), but He interposed Himself between the fire and sinners by “proclaiming a year of the Lord’s grace” (Lk 4:19). Now Jesus is the fruit of Mary’s virginal womb, and the “splendour” that issues from Mary’s right hand to counter the flashing sword in the Angel’s left hand, emanates from the Sacred Heart of this most loving Son.30»
At the Cova da Iria, on October 13, 1917, immediately after the final apparition, Lucy echoed the Angel’s stirring appeal which she had heard three months earlier.
While the crowd was still amazed and overwhelmed by the fall of the sun, relates Dr. Carlos Mendès, «I took Lucy in my arms to carry her to the road. Thus my shoulder was the first platform from which she preached the message that Our Lady of the Rosary had just confided to her. With great enthusiasm and great faith, she shouted: “Do penance! Do penance! Our Lady wants you to do penance. If you do penance, the war will end...”
«She appeared inspired... It was really impressive to hear her. Her voice had certain intonations, like the voice of a great prophet.31»
That very evening, Canon Formigao questioned Lucy about the exact words used by Our Lady:
«“Did She say She wanted people to do penance?” – “Yes.” – “Did She use the word penance?” – “No. She said we must say the Rosary, correct our sins, and ask Our Lord for forgiveness, but She did not speak of penance.”32»
We now understand, since the disclosure of the Third Secret, that it was the vision of July 13 that inspired Lucy’s words: her prophet-like intonations had imitated those of the «Angel pointing to the earth», i.e. the Church.
The Portuguese country folk, as soon as they started going to the Cova da Iria, responded to Lucy’s appeal. Maria Carreira’s truly moving testimony should be reread: «Ah, what wonderful times those were for penance […]. People did so much penance and always with great joy.33»
In organising the pilgrimage exercises and ceremonies, Msgr. da Silva did not change its spirit or specific character. He wanted, on the contrary, to preserve these. Canon Barthas was edified by this:
«The Portuguese Catholics, who have such great love for the two shepherd children who have already departed for Heaven, take pains to imitate their zeal for penance. Those who have taken part just once in the pilgrimages for the thirteenth of the month cannot express their admiration for the penitential character of these pious multitudes. Many pilgrims make their whole journey, or at least part of it, on foot. Before they reach the Capelinha, great numbers of them cover the last few hundred metres on their knees, or else they go round the Capelinha like this as many times as they have promised.34»
«It is remarkable», he went on to observe, «that the Portuguese people have understood the penitential character of Our Lady’s demands. It is an extraordinary sight these crowds of pilgrims travelling on foot along all the country’s roads, most of them barefooted; these parish or diocesan groups making pilgrimages that last four days or more, feeding themselves only on bread and water; these members of the faithful kneeling in mud and even in water to receive Communion; these human masses of several hundreds of thousands of pilgrims, going to sleep under the heavenly vault for scarcely three or four hours before assisting at the two Masses, the public one and that of the sick, lasting at least three hours, and taking part standing, either in the rain or in the burning sun, etc.
«The good and pious bishop, Msgr. José da Silva, the pilgrimage organiser, suffered horribly from leg ulcers originating from his time in prison during the persecutions. He confided to us: “I offer my sufferings for the Fatima pilgrimage, that it may always remain a pilgrimage of penance.”35»
The threefold appeal of the Angel of Fatima complements and continues the messages of the great nineteenth century apparitions. We remember what Saint Bernadette said, echoing the words of Our Lady after the apparition of February 24, 1858: «Penance! penance! penance!» This must also be one of the themes of the secrets of La Salette. Questioned about their content, Pope Pius IX replied to the Rev. Fr. Giraud: «You wish to know the secrets of La Salette? Well, here they are: “Unless you do penance, you will all perish!”36» As for Cardinal Fornari, he said: «We have in our religion all that is necessary for the conversion of sinners. When Heaven employs such means as the apparition and miracles of La Salette, the evil must be very grave.37»
This continuity between these revelations was underlined by Msgr. da Silva in his pastoral letter for the canonical approbation of the Fatima apparitions, dated October 13, 1930: «The voice of Mary, which calls men to penance, becomes particularly loud in times of calamity, when Her children or the nations, victims of their own ingratitude and sins, are close to perishing, and when the prophetic words are verified: “I called and you would not answer” (Is 65:12). This is what happened at La Salette, at Lourdes, and finally at Fatima.
«In times past, Jeremiah had uttered this threat against the Hebrews in the name of Yahweh: “Presently I shall declare to a people and a kingdom that I shall pluck it up, knock it down and destroy it; but if this people repents of its iniquity because of my threats against it, then I shall repent of the evil that I had intended to do it.” (Jr 18:7)38»
SISTER LUCY’S PRESSING RECOMMENDATIONS
Penance is an element of the Fatima message that is primarily linked to the first part of the Secret: the vision of hell, which reveals the atrocious torments endured by the damned for eternity39.
Sister Lucy warns us that, without a life of renunciation and sacrifice, no one can save his soul or help his neighbour to salvation. Let us quote the letter she wrote to a seminarian who had doubts about his vocation, a letter published by Father Antonio Maria Martins without any indication of its date. One will remark not only the vigour of her exhortations, since she saw «souls falling into hell as though into a whirlpool», but also the wisdom of her advice:
«Consider in what state you would like to appear before God at the hour of your death, whether God sends this to you speedily or whether He grants you long years of life. If you would like to appear before the Divine Presence as a simple Christian, and if God wants nothing else from you, and if your director tells you that God wants nothing else from you, then I would advise you to go to your mother and to help her in the fields and to conduct yourself as an exemplary Christian. There is a need for good people in the world.
«But if God makes you feel the contrary and if, at the hour of your death, you would be happier to appear before Him as a fervent missionary, surrounded by numerous souls saved by your intervention, then strive to conquer the temptation. The grace of God will not be lacking to you, nor the protection of your good Mother in Heaven.
«Otherwise, if you let yourself be conquered by the temptation, consider that are taking the first step down to hell, and it will be difficult for you climb back up. No path to Heaven presents greater difficulties along the way than that of a failed vocation.
«That is why, I say again to you, follow the advice of your spiritual Father in everything, for God will grant him abundant light to tell you what He wants of you […].
«Do not allow yourself to be deceived. You will never find in the world the slightest spark of the happiness that you will enjoy in the religious life. And, in the secular life, you will also have to struggle against countless temptations, which are certainly more violent and more frequent, since, as Saint Peter warned us, the devil prowls around us like a roaring lion who wants to devour us. The passions, unchecked by the mortification continually practised in the religious life, are keener, and occasions for sin offer themselves more frequently and more boldly. And, in one state of life as in the other, it is necessary to fight until victory if one wishes to be saved and not be exposed to the danger of falling into hell.
«You still lack the strength that is given to us in the religious life by the example of so many holy companions who, in the fight, are winning victories. I say in the fight because all souls are troubled by the tempests raised by our enemies. Of this I have certain proof in the countless letters that have come into my hands from people of every rank and position40. Saint Paul himself admits that, after having been raised to the third Heaven, he still felt within himself an impulse for evil. Do not be surprised at this, for the Holy Scripture itself proves to us time and time again that the life of the just man is a spiritual combat.
«Hold fast to Our Lord who, for love of us, wished also to suffer temptation. Embrace the means He left to us to conquer it, that is, prayer: stay awake and pray not to succumb to temptation.
«Have recourse with great confidence to our good Mother in Heaven for She wishes to help you. Surrender yourself to Her Immaculate Heart and you will emerge victorious […].
«Do not be surprised if I talk to you so much about hell. It is a truth that it is necessary to recall frequently at the present time, because people forget it: souls fall into hell as though into a whirlpool. Why then? All the sacrifices that you must make so as not go there and to prevent many others from falling into it – will you not find them well worth it?41»
Sister Lucy constantly returned to this theme in her correspondence. To a young male religious she wrote in 1942:
«Strive to snatch a great number, the greatest possible number, of souls from hell. To fall into it, yes indeed, is a real disaster!... An eternity of misery which one may well lament in this life and in the next. The misfortunes of this world are sometimes great and they frighten and appal us, but everything passes like the grass in the fields, whereas eternity, the miserable eternity of so many millions and millions of souls, will never pass away.42»
Sister Lucy could never forget the affliction of her Most Holy Mother at the sight of so many souls falling into hell. She told Father Umberto Pasquale43 how deeply affected and overwhelmed she still was by it:
«What has remained most engraved in my mind and heart was the sadness of this Lady when She showed us hell!
«If the vision of hell had lasted a moment longer, we should have died of fear and terror. And yet there was one thing that struck me even more, and that was the sorrowful expression on Our Lady’s face! Were I to live for a thousand years, it would always be engraved in my heart.44»
The Virgin Mary’s sorrow could only revive in Her faithful messenger’s soul a thirst for the salvation of souls.
When the holy nun wrote, on March 29, 1942, to a fervent seminarian, whose vocation has since been confirmed, it was to encourage him in his life of sacrifice and to fan the flames of his apostolic zeal. Here is her letter:
«I was happy to hear that things are going well for you and to know that you had made a conquest for Heaven. Use every means at your disposal to win many, a very great number.
«There is a very great necessity to save souls, great numbers of souls, and to make reparation for so many and such numerous sins which are currently drawing down upon us so many and such numerous chastisements. Souls that should be the lightning conductors of nations and mankind, are in fact the magnet that is drawing down upon us the Divine Justice, on account of their negligence, their half-heartedness and their pursuit of creature comforts. May you never be of their number.
«Embrace a life of sacrifice and total self-abnegation on behalf of God and souls, and you will be happy in this life and in the next. Be closely united with Christ crucified so that you may eventually rise with Christ glorified. Do not let a single soul be lost through your fault. Immolate yourself on the altar of God’s love, for His sake and for souls. Correspond to the high plans that God has for you and rejoice in the practice of sacrifice. Aim for the heights of holiness and do not rest when you have attained this. Show your good heart and be grateful to the Lord for the graces He has granted you and pray for me.45»
That same day, Sister Lucy wrote to a male religious:
«I ask our good Mother in Heaven that, if it be for the glory of God, She may relieve you of these headaches, but if God and our Mother in Heaven do not will this, then be courageous in suffering generously for Him who was crowned with thorns out of love for us and to save us. Be happy to suffer with Him and for Him.
«Offer Him everything in reparation for the many sins which, at the present hour, are drawing down upon us so many and such great chastisements. God counts on chosen souls, but what if they should refuse!... It is not enough for a single soul here or there to immolate themselves. It is necessary that the number fixed by God be complete. We are passing through the hour of Justice. If reparation and amendment are wanting, there will be chastisement, suffering and sorrow.46»
It is true, Portugal was preserved at that time from war, but this “miraculous peace”47 had to be earned by the conversion of souls and by expiation. To the “fervent seminarian”, the seer had written on November 27, 1940: «In your prayers, pray for me, pray for Portugal which is still so grievously offending God and our dearest Mother in Heaven. Let us hasten to obtain, through our poor sacrifices and our prayers, her complete conversion.48»
In August 1941, in her Third Memoir, Sister Lucy revealed «that the prayers and penances performed in Portugal had not appeased Divine Justice, because they had not been accompanied by contrition or conversion»49. Canon Galamba was very struck by this: he understood that, even in Portugal, «penance had only been realised in part»50.
In this same text, she defined her mission as follows: «I believe that God simply wished to make use of me to remind the world of the necessity there is of avoiding sin and making reparation for offences against God through prayer and penance.51»
At the end of 1942, in answer to the Bishop of Gurza, her former confessor, who had recommended that she offer sacrifices for the black children in Africa, she replied: «I am disposed to do so if Your Excellency recommends it; but, to tell the truth, I do not feel interiorly moved by God to perform sacrifices for them. I feel called to sacrifice myself specially for our nation, perhaps because it seems to me that the crimes of rebellious hearts, which resist and despise divine graces, offend God more than the sins of the ignorant who do not love God because they do not know Him.52»
We discover the themes of the Third Secret, notably the stirring appeal to penance, in the letter which the seer addressed to Father Umberto Pasquale on November 1, 1943. Sister Lucy had these very much in mind as, a fortnight earlier, Msgr. da Silva had given her an order to commit the Secret to writing. Here is her letter to this Italian Salesian, the novice master for Portugal, and such a devotee of Fatima that he was preparing a book on its message.
«According to what you tell me, you were a little disappointed by His Grace’s very brief reply.
«His Most Reverend Excellency gave you a good reply and, speaking to me personally on September 15 regarding many requests of the same kind, he told me that he was obliged to resort to negative responses, for otherwise I would have to abandon the religious life to become a writer. From which God preserve me! Where would I find the education and ability needed for that? I am but a poor woman, more and more ignorant of the things of the world, and I aspire only to the things of Heaven, by the grace of God.
«But that you may no longer concern yourself about this, I will tell you that Our Lady, at the Cova da Iria, said nothing that directly relates to this question. However, there is one detail on this subject to be found in the life of Jacinta: it is related by a lady who says she heard it in Lisbon. Perhaps it was revealed to Jacinta there...
«As you know, at the Cova da Iria, Our Lady complained of the many sins that so greatly offend God, and on more than one occasion She asked for prayer and penance in reparation. She required us to do penance and She announced various punishments that would befall us if men did not change their lives. However, She did not speak of any particular kind of sin. But how can we doubt that the sin of impurity is one of the principal sins that led Our Lady to speak to us with such bitter sorrow in Her final apparition? And also to make this other request: “Pray! Pray very much and make sacrifices for sinners, for many souls go to hell because they have no one to make sacrifices for them.”
«These souls who are damning themselves for eternity are, without doubt, in most cases, the victims of that poisonous leprosy which is currently infecting a large part of humanity. Is it not also true that, back in the Old Testament, this was the sin that several times provoked the Lord’s punishment?
«Nevertheless, blinded by passion, mankind refuses to listen to God’s voice which cries out in their ears in so many ways and by so many means.
«I say that this voice cries out, yet Sacred Scripture and the Imitation of Jesus Christ say that God speaks in secrecy and solitude. Today, it seems to me that the Lord does cry out, but that, even when He does so, He is not listened to. Do you not hear the cry of God calling mankind to voluntary penance by refraining from sin, to repentance and prayer that they may obtain mercy?
«This war that is spreading over the world like a punishment of Divine Justice, does it not seem to you that it seeks to destroy humanity? But men, obstinate in evil, do not wish to change.
«Do we not hear God’s cry when the Pope challenges the world in so many ways, asking men in their blindness to open their eyes to the light, to turn back from their deviant behaviour and the road to perdition?
«Again, is it not God who cries out in man’s heart by means of so many tragedies, famines and sicknesses, through the death, distress and sorrow that tear it asunder, as though He were telling each person that the cause of all this is the sin of immorality?
«Oh! Who will obtain for us the grace that God should be heard? The principal source of all the tears which stream down so many faces is found in sin; but even those who weep refuse to recognise this.
«I know not why I say these things. Of what goes on in the world I know nothing, thank God, and I am happy in my ignorance.53»
After the Second World War, when the Fatima revelations started to become known outside Portugal, Sister Lucy was frequently questioned about Heaven’s demands. She had already written down the Third Secret which remained sealed at the Bishop’s House in Leiria. But it was not her mission to reveal it to the faithful herself. So she did not refer explicitly to the Angel’s triple call.
At that time she was able to talk about the devotion of reparation. She had not yet been forbidden to propagate it.
To Mother Henrietta Malheiro, she wrote: «Thank you very much for your letter which gave me great pleasure, especially because of the love you show towards our dear Mother in Heaven. Yes, it is so necessary that loving souls make reparation for the many outrages inflicted on Her by Her ungrateful children, and that they seek to obtain for them a ray of light that may open their eyes to the truth and to the only thing that can make them happy.55»
On August 12, 1946, John Haffert questioned her with an eye to establishing the Blue Army statutes and fixing the obligations of its member.
«What is Our Lady’s principal request?
– And what do you mean by sacrifice?
– By sacrifice, Our Lady said that She meant the faithful accomplishment of each person’s daily duty of state.
– But isn’t the Rosary important?
– Yes, for we must pray in order to obtain the strength to be able to fulfil our daily duty.56»
Sister Lucy had already explained to her spiritual directors57, for example to Father Gonçalves in her letter of May 4, 1943, what the penance requested by Heaven was: «Our Lord desires that souls be made to understand that the true penance He now desires and demands consists above all in the sacrifice that each must impose on himself in order to fulfil his own personal religious and material duties.58»
Referring also to Our Lady’s requests at Her first apparition and the graces she herself received on that May 13, 1917, Sister Lucy stated how salutary it is for souls to «drink from the cup of sacrifice»:
«Putting up with any sacrifices that are asked of us in our day-to-day lives becomes a slow martyrdom which purifies us and raises us up to the level of the supernatural, through the encounter of our soul with God, in the atmosphere of the presence of the Most Holy Trinity within us. We have here an incomparable spiritual richness! Anyone who has understood this lives in Light; in this Light, which is not from the sun nor from the stars, but comes to us from the source from which every other light springs and receives its being. It is a living Light, which both sees and penetrates as it enlightens, and causes us to see what it wishes to show to us. It is the living Light of God.59»
Favoured with wholly special graces, Sister Lucy desired, for her part, to lead a more mortified life by answering her primary and divine vocation: to be a Carmelite60. She opened her heart on this matter to Pope Pius XII, in 1947, when she directly asked him for permission to leave the Congregation of the Dorothean Sisters to enter the Carmel:
«Most Holy Father, I would like to live in greater austerity. I would wish to be less well known. I would love not to be surrounded by attitudes of veneration that fill me with confusion.61»
On entering her Carmelite cell for the first time, in Coimbra, on March 25, 1948, Sister Mary Lucy of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart would doubtless have had the impression of seeing one of the scenes from the vision of the Third Secret again, namely the «large Cross of rough-hewn trunks» on top of the «steep mountain».
Let us read what she confided to Father Gonçalves several years later, on November 9, 1954.
«Reverend Father Superior,
«I know not where this letter will find you, and I do not even know if you will still be there. But God willing, you will be.
«Our Reverend Mother told me that you had come to our convent door, but at such an awkward time that it was not possible to speak to you since we only have one parlour. You clearly saw that there had just arrived the family of a postulant, who was going to enter. It is a pity that you could not come back after that; I would have loved to have greeted you, seeing you that were going so far away.
«But it is necessary, in order that our immolation be complete, that we all be marked with the sign of the Cross of the Lamb.
«Saint John said that he saw in Heaven a multitude which followed the Lamb everywhere. On earth, I think, the Lamb has a similar retinue which follows Him, bearing the standard of the Cross out of love, until the day that it may be incorporated into the eternal phalanxes and sings the hymn of victory.
«I do not know whether you have ever entered a Carmelite cell. It is a pity that you could not have come on one of those occasions when the Cardinals enter them and allow others to do so. You might then have seen what is its best adornment: a single large Cross of wood standing out against the whiteness of the main wall.
«When I had the happiness of entering the Carmel, I was taken to my cell and, on entering it, I spent a while contemplating the large bare Cross that opened its arms to me. Our Reverend Mother Prioress asked me:
– Do you know why this Cross here has no figure on it?
«And without giving me time to reply, she added:
– It is so that you may crucify yourself on it.
«What a beautiful idea, to be crucified with Christ! How it fills me with delight in the folly of the Cross! It is here that the secret of my happiness lies: no longer to love or desire anything, unless it be to love and to suffer out of love.62»
Sister Mary Lucy of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart, separated from the world by the grilles of her Carmel, was not however to forget Our Lady’s message and the Angel’s exhortation.
Let us listen to the Dominican Bishop, Msgr. da Louis Palha, Apostolic Administrator of Conceiçao da Aragualo, in Brazil, recounting his conversation with the seer, which probably took place at the end of the Forties:
«The providential meeting in Rome with Msgr. Ferreira de Souza, Archbishop of Sisico and Director General of Charities, allowed me to obtain a letter of introduction to the Mother Prioress of the Carmel.
«I cannot hide the emotion I felt on finding myself in the presence of her whom the maternal bounty of Mary, Queen of the Rosary, had chosen as the messenger of the many wonderful things contained in the Fatima apparitions. “This is she, Sister Mary Lucy of the Immaculate Heart”, the Mother Prioress said to me, gesturing to the nun kneeling at her side, right in front of me. Thinking only of the responsibility, of the office I fulfil in the Holy Church, in the foreign missions, I gave them the blessing of the Rosary. I was made me sit down. They remained kneeling.
«Sister Lucy seemed to me to be a person of great integrity, with a strongly marked character, who knows what she wants and what she is saying, and says it in a convincing manner, rather like a witness. I noticed that with her one finds not so much an attitude of profound humility, but something even greater. It was her effortless simplicity, along with a charming kind of “supernatural naturalness” that struck me so forcefully. There is something about simplicity that is more exquisite, more precious than humility. It does not give rise to any self-attention, any self-regard. It presents itself as it is, without further argument, just as the Good Lord has made us.
«Having remarked on the Rosary I was wearing as the chain of my Apostolic Administrator’s cross, Sister Mary Lucy did not let this pass without making a joyful allusion to it, displaying an interest that touched me greatly.»
Msgr. Palha recounted to her the words that Pius XII had said to him a few days earlier, when he received him in audience at Castel Gandolfo: «My son, there is only one thing necessary, holiness.» And Sister Lucy immediately took the opportunity to talk of the message of Fatima: «The penance involved in fulfilling one’s duty of state to perfection, this is what Our Lady demands. There are souls who think of extraordinary great mortifications and self-flagellation, and feeling themselves incapable of these things, they lose heart. When Our Lady demands penance, She is talking of the exact accomplishment of one’s duty of state: that is where holiness lies.63»
On May 14, 1953, Sister Lucy received an American, Martin F. Armstrong, in the Carmel parlour. It seems that he wanted to obtain a «special message» from her for the peoples of the United States. This made the Mother Prioress laugh, and even the seer it seems. «No», she told him, «Our Lady has not communicated to me any special message for the people of the United States. She has never mentioned the name of your country.»
As Mr. Armstrong insisted, Sister Lucy, after a moment’s reflection, replied: «I have nothing to say that is extraordinary or sensational. And what I do have to say will not be judged very clever or popular, I fear. One of the things particularly asked for by Our Lady was modesty in one’s clothing. It seems to me that there is not a lot of modesty in the lives of the women of your country. But modesty would be a good sacrifice to offer Our Lady. If the Catholics of your country could form a league to spread modesty in clothing, that would greatly please Our Lady.64»
The correspondence of Sister Lucy already published shows that she never stopped insisting on the necessity of penance, self-amendment and conversion. In a letter, the addressee and date of which are unknown to us, she emphasised the gravity, too often overlooked or neglected, of certain sins:
«Let us strive to avoid the sin of impurity, and we must employ every means in our grasp to achieve this. It is an offence to God and that should be enough for us to want to avoid it, and all the more because this vice, out of all the vices which the powers of darkness have incited in this world of sin, is the most shameful and the most repugnant! The most shameful but not the most grave.
«Acts of injustice and a lack of charity towards the poor, widows and orphans, the ignorant and the helpless, are a thousand times more serious and offensive in God’s eyes, and yet people pay no attention to these, whereas they should give them far more attention for they are often the beginning and cause of the disorientation of a great many souls, leading them to plunge into the mire! How many times do those who stand up proudly against impurity, peacefully sleep the sleep of the unjust, laying their heads on the purse of Judas!!!
«Consider now what Jesus Christ said and the way that He dealt with the Magdalene, the Samaritan woman, the woman taken in adultery, etc: “Woman, has no one condemned you?” – “No one, Lord.” – “Well, neither do I condemn you either; go in peace and sin no more.”
«As for injustice, jealousy, ambition and calumny, here are the words of Jesus: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you shut the Kingdom of Heaven against men; for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you who devour the property of widows on the pretext that you have to make long prayers! On this account, your judgement will be the more severe.” (Mt 23:13-14) “Woe to the world on account of scandals! Scandals indeed there must be, but woe to the man by whom the scandal comes! It would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Mt 18:6-7)
«If we refuse to turn back, how can we expect God and Our Lady to save us?!! I know well that God’s mercy is greater than any human wretchedness and malignity; but I also know that He demands our co-operation, our self-amendment [Sister Lucy underlined this word] and our repentance! He was also grieved and manifested His concern when He said: “If the salt loses its savour, by what shall it be made salty again?”65»
Had the hierarchy known and listened to the Angel’s appeal, had they preached this «self-amendment» which is so necessary, what graces might not they have obtained for the Church and for the world! For the divine gift of peace is not tied solely to the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary66, it also depends on our conversion.
Blessed Jacinta expressed this in a gripping manner on October 19, 1917, in answer to Canon Formigao’s questions: «Our Lady said that if people mend their ways, the war will end, but if they do not mend their ways, it is the world that will end.67» One would think one was listening to Our Lord’s warning: «Unless you do penance, you shall all perish.» (Lk 13:3)
During 1955, in his conversations with Sister Lucy, John Haffert noticed that she found that «the world was slow to accept Heaven’s message»68.
The seer confided her heavy concerns to Father Umberto Pasquale with whom she had been in correspondence since the beginning of the Forties: «In the last meeting we had with her, in the Carmel parlour», he recounts, «we heard from her own lips this pained observation: “What I can tell you is that the world has not yet received the Fatima message.”69»
At the end of 1958 or the beginning of 1959, she was unexpectedly questioned one day about the Third Secret, probably by a personal friend or someone in her family:
«So what will happen in 1960? Around here everyone is gripped with fear.»
And Lucy exclaimed: «Fear? But fear of what?
– I don’t know.
– No one should be afraid without seeing and knowing why.» And she concluded with this saying: «Act well towards God and have no fear.70»
It would be useful to reread Sister Lucy’s conversation with Father Augustine Fuentes on December 26, 1957, published in the preceding volume71. For now that we know the visions of the Third Secret, we have a better understanding of the confidences that the seer made to this man of God who was preparing to take on the role of postulator for the beatification causes of Jacinta and Francisco Marto.
«Father», she told him, «the Most Holy Virgin is very sad because no one has attached any importance to Her message, neither the good nor the bad. The good continue on their way, but without giving any importance to the message. The bad, not seeing the punishment of God actually falling upon them, continue their life of sin without even caring about the message. But believe me, Father, God will chastise the world and this will be in a terrible manner. The punishment from Heaven is imminent.
«How little time there is, Father, before 1960 arrives, and what will happen then? It will be very sad for everyone and there will be no cause for rejoicing if the world does not pray and do penance beforehand. I am not able to give any other details because it is still a secret. According to the will of the Most Holy Virgin, only the Holy Father and the Bishop of Leiria are permitted to know it, but they have chosen not to do so, so that they would not be influenced. This is the third part of the Message of Our Lady which will remain secret until 1960.»
Of what imminent punishment was Sister Lucy speaking? If it was atomic war, then the World Days of Prayer and Penance on October 12 and 13, 1960, organised by the Bishop of Fatima, averted it. For the world certainly came within a hair’s breadth of atomic war at the beginning of the Sixties, particularly in October 1962, when the Soviets were installing offensive missiles in Cuba, but in the end Khrushchev backed down and lost face. Let us say it again, the Immaculate, touched by the supplications of the Fatima pilgrims, halted, through the brilliant splendour of the rays emanating from Her right hand, the conflagration with which the Angel of Extermination was threatening the earth.
However, Sister Lucy was probably thinking of another chastisement, more terrible still, which took place at the beginning of the Sixties as we shall see in a subsequent chapter, as a result of the reform of the Church undertaken by Pope John XXIII, a chastisement represented in the visions of the Secret by the «large city half in ruins».
Let us quote two more extracts from this conversation:
«Father, let us not wait for an appeal to come from Rome, on behalf of the Holy Father, calling on the whole world to do penance; nor let us wait for it to come from our bishops in their dioceses, nor from the religious congregations. No. Our Lord has already made frequent use of these means and the world took no notice. That is why each of us must now begin his own spiritual reform. Each person must not only save his own soul, but also every soul that God has placed on his path.»
It is extraordinary that a Carmelite nun should have given such a warning even before the death of Pius XII. From 1957, Sister Lucy spoke as if she foresaw the breakdown of every authority, including that of the Holy Father. She knew, it is true, the providential means that Our Heavenly Father had given to the pastors of the flock that they might preach a true reform of the Church, the classic reform, in both her head and her members. This was to be the disclosure to the world of the Angel’s threefold call to penance. Yet, in 1957, this Secret had already been ignored by both Msgr. da Silva and Pius XII, who had refused to read it.
«There are two means to save the world», said Sister Lucy to Father Fuentes, «prayer and sacrifice. And thus there is the Holy Rosary. Look, Father, the Most Holy Virgin in these last times in which we live has given a new efficacy to the recitation of the Holy Rosary, to such an extent that there is no problem, no matter how difficult it is, be it temporal or above all spiritual, in the personal life of each one of us or of our families (be they families living in the world or religious communities), or even in the life of peoples and nations… there is no problem, I say, however difficult it may be, that we cannot solve through the prayer of the Holy Rosary. With the Holy Rosary we will be saved, we will be sanctified, we will console Our Lord and obtain the salvation of many souls. And therefore let us have devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, our Most Holy Mother, seeing Her as the seat of mercy, kindness and pardon, and as the sure door by which we may enter Heaven.72»
Such is the Blessed Trinity’s plan of infinite mercy for our time: God wishes to grant us everything through the maternal mediation of the wonderfully kind Heart of His Most Holy Mother. Now the publication in 1960 of the Third Secret, revealing in its inaugural vision the power of the Immaculate, would have been an opportune reminder to the world of this Divine Wish which lies at the origin of all the clauses of the “new covenant” in Mary73 revealed at Fatima on July 13, 1917.
SISTER LUCY, SHUT OFF IN COIMBRA
It was in the pontificate of Pius XII that Sister Lucy’s voice began to be stifled on orders coming from the Holy See. In 1959, Pope John XXIII renewed and reinforced these measures in order to sequester Our Lady’s messenger in her Carmel.
«In his diary for November 19, 1959”, indicates Msgr. Capovilla, “John XXIII, after having received the new Bishop of Leiria-Fatima, noted: “Interesting talks with the Cardinal Secretary of State and the young Bishop of Fatima, Joao Pereira Venancio. We spoke at length about the seer of Fatima, today a good nun in Coimbra: the Holy Office will take care of everything and keep it on the right lines.”74»
The orders given by the Holy Office were such that even her former confessor and director, Father José Aparicio, a true man of God, was unable to obtain permission to talk to her in 1960.
This Jesuit, whom she venerated, had left in 1938 for Brazil where he had been successively rector, novice master and finally superior of the Vice Province of North Brazil75. In 1960, he had come back to Portugal to take part on August 15 in the celebration of the centenary of the foundation of the Jesuit novitiate in Soutelo. «The venerable old man», writes Father Martins, «then suffered the greatest disappointment of his life: he was unable to speak with Sister Lucy.76»
It is true, he had learned, as soon as he arrived in Portugal, that in that year of 1960 only members of her family could visit her, for «her superiors had forbidden her to receive any one else». However, he was still hopeful of seeing her. One of his letters, dated August 7, testifies to this:
«Tomorrow or later, I will go to Coimbra. I will not be able to speak with Sister Lucy because she has been sequestrated. By order of the Holy Office in Rome, she may not communicate with anyone. The bishop considers that he does not have the authority to let the Sister talk. But I am ready for any eventuality and I will go and spend several days at our apostolic school (Cernache), 7 km from Coimbra. There I will wait until she calls me.77» However, she did not call him. And on his return to Brazil, Father Aparicio would remark to a correspondent: «I was unable to speak with Sister Lucy because the archbishop could not grant permission to meet her. The conditions of isolation in which she lives were imposed by the Holy See. Consequently, no one can speak with her without a permit from Rome. The archbishop has only a very limited number of these permits.78»
In 1962, Marie de Freitas, the international secretary of the Blue Army who lived in Fatima, wrote an article entitled: “Sister Lucy… the invisible”! «More and more», she noted, «visits to Sister Lucy remain forbidden.» And she added: numerous are «the dignitaries of the Church summoned to Rome for the Vatican II Council who expected, as they passed through Coimbra, to be able to spend a moment in conversation with the seer of Fatima… It was not possible, however.»79
If the Holy See took such measures, it was clearly to prevent the seer repeating to anyone the declarations she had made to Father Fuentes, just when the deadline, announced for many a long year, had arrived for the Third Secret to be revealed to the world .
(1) Toute la vérité sur Fatima, vol. 3, p. 320 sq.
(2) Acta et documenta concilio oecumenico Vaticano II apparando, series I, vol, 2, pars 2, p. 599.
(3) Msgr. da Silva died on December 4, 1957 and his successor, Msgr. Venancio, was officially appointed bishop of Leiria on September 13, 1958.
(4) We will not repeat here the communiqué issued by the Portuguese press agency in Rome, Agencia Nacional de Informaçao, on February 8, 1960, a communiqué quoted, analysed and critiqued in Toute la vérité sur Fatima, vol. 3, p. 386 sq.
(5) Ibid., p. 402.
(6) All the more so as, in publishing the letter addressed to the bishops in the Voz da Fatima, i.e. the sanctuary’s monthly journal, of July 1960, he had used these sentences from the Secret as an epigraph: «I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to My Immaculate Heart and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays. If My requests are heeded, Russia will be converted and there will be peace. If not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions against the Church.»
(7) Toute la vérité sur Fatima, vol. 2, p. 294.
(8) L’Homme nouveau, November 6, 1960.
(9) L’Homme nouveau, November 6, 1960.
(10) Pravda, January 15, 1960.
(11) Missi, no. 240, May 1960, p. 179.
(12) The crisis would become more serious two years later, in October 1962, when Soviet missiles were installed in Cuba. Michel Heller observes that «never had one come so close to world war» (L’utopie au pouvoir, Calmann-Lévy, 1982, p. 479).
(13) No. 16, April 1989.
(14) Christophe Courau, “En Urss, les 165 morts cachés de Baïkonour”, Historia, May 2000. In quoting this article, we have altered certain dates which appeared to be erroneous.
(15) Europrospections no. 42, February 1985, p. 11. Baudouin Huygens thinks that the explosion of the R-16 missile took place not on October 24, but on October 12. And, according to him, it was the news of this disaster that was communicated to Khrushchev at the United Nations session.
(16) Toute la vérité sur Fatima, vol. 2, p. 421 sq.
(17) CRC no. 369, August 2000, p. 4-7.
(18) CRC no. 368, June-July 2000, p. 19.
(19) Résurrection no. 12, p. 4.
(20) CRC no. 368, p. 19.
(21) CRC no. 368, p. 19.
(22) M. C. de Bragança, Le lendemain de Fatima, Lisboa, 1958, p. 25.
(23) This was probably in December 1940, when Hitler informed General Franco of his decision to launch an attack on Gibraltar. The operation was fixed for January 10, 1941, and Hitler had planned to occupy the Lusitanian ports in order to prevent an English landing. Cf. Toute la vérité sur Fatima, vol. 2, p. 272.
(24) “Salazar e Nossa Senhora”, Mensagem de Fatima, no. 82, July-August 1971, p. 4.
(25) Toute la vérité sur Fatima, vol. 3, p. 48.
(26) The demonstration of this may be reread, ibid., p. 107-108.
(27) Infra, chap. 5.
(28) “L’écheance... 1983: plus que deux ans, deux ans encore”, CRC no. 172, December 1981; CRC no. 369, August 2000, p. 9-10.
(29) CRC no. 368, p. 20.
(30) CRC no. 370, September 2000, p. 3.
(31) Toute la vérité sur Fatima, vol. 1, p. 297.
(33) Ibid., vol. 2, p. 212 sq.
(34) Barthas, Le message de Fatima, Fatima Publications, Toulouse, 1971, p. 72.
(35) Barthas, Ce que la Vierge nous demande, Fatima Publications, Toulouse, 1966, p. 67.
(36) Quoted in “Le Secret de La Salette”, CRC no. 324, July-August 1996, p. 11.
(37) Ibid., p. 8.
(38) Documentaçao critica de Fatima, volume 2, Santuario de Fatima, 1999, p. 265.
(39) Cf. Toute la vérité de Fatima, volume 2, p. 17 sq.
(40) Sister Lucy wrote: «… de pessoas de toda a classe e posiçao.» These are the same words found in the Third Secret: «… cavalheiros e senhoras de varias classes e posiçoes.»
(41) A. M. Martins, Cartas da Irma Lucia, Porto, 2nd ed. 1979, p. 120-122.
(42) Fernando Leite, Jacinta de Fatima, Apostolado da oraçao, 1999, p. 202.
(43) Father Umberto Pasquale had several conversations with Sister Lucy both before and after she entered the Carmel. In an article published in L’Osservatore Romano for May 12, 1982, he stated: «I have been the confidant of the seer of Fatima since 1939, when she was still a Dorothean Sister at Tuy, until today. I have received 157 letters from her. I have met and visited her several times in my capacity as the confessor of a community of nuns at the College of Sardao, near Porto, and then later on at the Carmel in Coimbra. She was kind enough to look on me as a member of her family for having assisted her mother and for having got her nephew into the Salesians as well as two of her second cousins, nephews of Jacinta and Francisco.»
(44) Quoted by Umberto Pasquale, Eu vi nascer Fatima, Salesianas, 1993, p. 30 and 140.
(45) Quoted by A. M. Martins, Fatima, caminho da paz, Braga, 1983, p. 79-80.
(46) Ibid., p. 89-90.
(47) Toute la vérité sur Fatima, vol. 2, p. 271 sq.
(48) A. M. Martins, op. cit., p. 80.
(49) Mémoires de soeur Lucie, p. 115.
(50) Ibid., p. 123.
(51) Ibid., p. 116.
(52) A. M. Martins, op. cit., p. 77.
(53) Umberto Pasquale, op. cit., p. 146-148.
(54) Walsh, Our Lady of Fatima, Macmillan, 1949, p. 282; Notre-Dame de Fatima, Amiot-Dumont, 1953, p. 235.
(55) A. M. Martins, Fatima et le Coeur de Marie, Téqui, 1986, p. 77.
(56) J. Haffert, Russia will be converted, Washington, 1954.
(57) Her letter to the Bishop of Gurza, dated February 28, 1943, may be reread in Toute la vérité sur Fatima, vol. 3, p. 19-20.
(59) Sister Lucy, Calls from the Message of Fatima, Secretariado dos Pastorinhos, 2000, p. 131.
(60) Regarding her Carmelite vocation and her entrance into the Carmel, cf. Toute la vérité sur Fatima, vol. 3, p. 154 sq.
(61) Quoted by the journal A Voz of June 22, 1959.
(62) Quoted in A. M. Martins, Documentos de Fatima, Porto 1976, p. 447.
(63) Msgr. Palha, “J’ai vu Lucie, la voyante de Fatima”, L’appel du Coeur Douloureux et Immaculé de Marie, no. 78, April-June 1978, p. 11.
(64) Martin F. Armstrong, Fatima pilgrimage to peace, New York, 1954, p. 171-172.
(65) Quoted by A. M. Martins, Fatima, caminho da paz, Braga, 1983, p. 88-89.
(66) Toute la vérité sur Fatima, vol. 2, p. 178 sq.
(67) Documentaçao critica de Fatima, vol. 1, Santuario de Fatima, 1992, p. 142.
(68) J. Haffert, Encontro de testemunhas, Lisboa, 1961, p. 99.
(69) Pasquale, op. cit., p. 149. This conversation probably took place in the mid Fifties, at any rate before 1967, the year of the first edition of his book Eu vi nascer Fatima.
(70) Quoted by Martins dos Reis, O milagre do sol e o Segredo de Fatima, Salesianas, Porto, 1966, p. 135.
(71) Toute la vérité sur Fatima, vol. 3, p. 336 sq. This account, «albeit a literary arrangement», specifies Father Alonso, «certainly corresponds in its essentials to what Father Fuentes heard from Lucy during his visit on December 26, 1957» (ibid., p. 369).
(72) Toute la vérité sur Fatima, vol. 3, p. 336 sq.
(73) Supra, p. 13 sq.
(74) Msgr. Capovilla, Famiglia Cristiana, no. 48, Nov. 1997.
(75) In 1950, passing through Portugal, Father Aparicio visited Sister Lucy in her Carmel in Coimbra. Then again in 1951. He died a holy death in Brazil on May 21, 1966.
(76) O padre Aparicio, Braga, 1986, p. 163.
(77) Ibid., p. 164.
(78) Letter of November 24, 1960, ibid.
(79) “Soeur Lucie… l’invisible”, L’appel de Notre-Dame, no. 29.