Through the shepherd children of Fatima, our Lady spoke to us who are living today.
Her words are just as pertinent today as they were in 1917. In fact, many parts of her message seem to be meant specifically for us. “If my requests are granted, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace” means infinitely more to us than it did to the world of 1917. At that time, Russia had just undergone a revolution and was so weak that she had been forced out of World War I. Who at the time, when the Allies were deeply embroiled in a war with Germany, could foresee that Russia would ever be a threat to the peace of the world? Now the fact is pounded home by each new day’s headlines.
That the message of Fatima is directed to us is also emphasised by the fact that much of the message did not become known until 1942.
MUCH OF THE MESSAGE DID NOT BECOME KNOWN UNTIL 1942
This latter fact has puzzled a great many people. It puzzled the Rev. Thomas McGlynn, O. P., and, in 1947, he had the opportunity to ask Lucia about it. Lucia is the one living survivor of the children of Fatima. When Father McGlynn had the privilege of interviewing her, she was a Dorothean Sister. Since then, she has joined the Carmelites.
“It seems,” Father McGlynn said to Lucia, “from the words of our Lady in 1917, that the war of 1939-1945 was threatened as a punishment for sin. But the warning was not generally known until 1942, after the punishment had begun. How is this explained?”
HOW IS THIS EXPLAINED?
Lucia replied that, in 1917, the people knew the important part of our Lady’s message, that is, that men must amend their lives, that they must not offend God, that He was already much offended.
In other words, our Lady let the people of 1917 know what she wished them to know at the time. They should have carried out her requests even though they did not know the punishment that awaited them if they failed.
Today, we not only know her requests, but we see that World War II was inflicted on the world as punishment for its sins. And we know that if we do not heed Mary’s requests, there will probably be a World War III.
WHAT DID HAPPEN AT FATIMA?
The three children were watching their flocks as usual. They were ten-year-old Lucia dos Santos and her two cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto, nine and seven respectively. They were in a natural depression among the hills which was called the Cova da Iria. They had said their Rosary, as was their custom, and they had begun building a stone playhouse.
Suddenly, a brilliant shaft of light pierced the air. Frightened, they looked about them. The sun shone brightly, and there was not a cloud in the sky. How could there have been lightning? Just the same, they decided that they had better go home. They gathered the sheep and started down the hill.
When they were halfway down, another shaft of light filled the air. Panicky, they turned toward the right, and there, standing above a small holm oak they saw a beautiful Lady.
“It was a Lady dressed all in white,” Lucia says, “more brilliant than the sun; shedding rays of light, clearer and stronger than a crystal glass filled with the most sparkling water, pierced by the burning rays of the sun.”
HER HANDS WERE JOINED IN AN ATTITUDE OF PRAYER
Her hands were joined in an attitude of prayer. From her right arm hung a string of pearly white beads ending in a cross of burnished silver. Her feet were bare and rested on a cloud that just touched the little evergreen.
“Do not be afraid,” the Lady said in a sweet voice, “I will not harm you.” (How similar to the first words spoken to the children of La Salette!)
The words and the voice were both reassuring, and Lucia summoned enough courage to ask, “Where are you from, Madam?”
“I am from heaven.”
“What do you wish of me?”
“I come to ask you to meet me here six months in succession at this same hour, on the thirteenth of each month. In October, I will tell you who I am and what I want.”
AM I GOING TO HEAVEN?
Francisco could see the Lady but he could not hear her, nor could he hear any of the subsequent apparitions. Jacinta could both see and hear the Lady, but Jacinta did not talk to her. All conversation during the series of apparitions were between the Lady and Lucia.
“And I, am I, too, going to heaven?” Lucia asked.
“Yes, you shall.”
“He, too, but first he must say many Rosaries.”
Father John De Marchi in The Immaculate Heart says that here the Lady’s beautiful and compassionate glance rested for a little while on Francisco. “For reasons we are not qualified to fathom, it held a shade of sadness and disapproval. Somewhere in his little heart the Lady must have read a fault that others could not see.
Lucia thought of two girls who used to come to her house to learn sewing from her sisters. Both girls had died only recently.
“Is Maria Nevers in heaven?”
“Yes, she is.”
The document gives three different versions of our Lady’s answer to this question: “She is in purgatory”; “She is still in purgatory”; and “She will be in purgatory till the end of the world.”
Many people have objected to the third version, but Lucia has insisted that it is the correct one. She says there is nothing strange about it; a person can go to hell for all eternity for missing Mass on Sunday.
The Lady then said to the children: “Do you wish to offer yourselves to God and endure all the suffering that He may chose to send you, as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and to ask for the conversion of sinners?”
“Yes, we do!” Lucia answered eagerly.
“Then you will have much to suffer, but the grace of God will assist you and always bear you up.”
She opened her hands. From each palm came a stream of light which shone on the children and seemed to penetrate to the depths of their souls. Moved by an inward impulse the children fell to their knees and prayed: “Most holy Trinity, I adore You! My God, my God, I love You in the Most Blessed Sacrament.”
The Lady spoke again. “Say the Rosary every day to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war.”
“She began to elevate herself serenely,” Lucia says, “going in the direction of the east until she disappeared in the immensity of space.”
THIS WAS NOT THE CHILDREN’S FIRST EXPERIENCE WITH THE SUPERNATURAL
This was not the children’s first experience with the supernatural. An angel, “the Guardian Angel of Portugal,” had appeared to them three times. On one occasion, as was mentioned in the preceding chapter, he had brought them Holy Communion. After each visit of the angel, they had felt heavy and tired. The Lady, however, left them with a feeling of lightness, of peace and of joy. After the Lady had disappeared, they knelt for a while having no desire to move or to speak or to do anything but meditate on the beautiful vision they had seen.
ONLY ONE THING CAN MAKE OUR LADY UNHAPPY, AND THAT IS SIN
After a time, they rose to their feet and began to look for the sheep. They found them grazing quietly on the grass.
They spent the rest of the afternoon in the fields talking about the wonderful visit from our Lady. Francisco, who had not heard anything, wanted to know everything the Lady had said. When told that he would go to heaven, but that he must say many Rosaries, he almost burst with happiness. “O my Lady,” he exclaimed, “I will say all the Rosaries you want.”
The children agreed that our Lady had seemed unhappy about something, and this was the only thing that marred their very great happiness. They were too young to comprehend fully the fact that only one thing can make our Lady unhappy, and that is sin. They were to realise this, however, before the series of apparitions was over. In 1846, Mary had wept because of the sins of the world; in 1917, sins were still making her very sad.
LUCIA’S MOTHER THOUGHT THE GIRL WAS LYING
The Lady returned every month as she had promised. The children underwent great suffering and had many occasions to remember her words, “Then you will have much to suffer.”
Lucia’s mother thought the girl was lying. The pastor of their church suggested the apparitions might be the devil. They had trouble with the authorities, just as Bernadette had had. The civil administrator of their district arrested the children and kept them in jail so that they missed the apparition scheduled for August 13. In that month, the Lady appeared to them on the 19th.
THEY GAVE THEIR LUNCHES TO POOR CHILDREN AND ATE BITTER ACORNS AND UNRIPE OLIVES
But these sufferings were not enough for them. They gave their lunches to poor children, and they ate bitter acorns and unripe olives. Each wore under his clothes a shaggy rope which itched and chafed. Our Lady had asked for sacrifices, and they delighted in thinking up new ones to offer her.
On June 13, the Lady told the children to “say the Rosary always.” To Lucia she said, “I want you to learn to read. Then I will tell you what else I want.
When Lucia asked that the three of them be taken to heaven, our Lady said: “I will take Jacinta and Francisco soon. But you must remain longer here below. Jesus will use you to make me better known and more loved. He wishes to establish throughout the world the devotion to my Immaculate Heart. I promise salvation to those who embrace it and their souls will be loved by God as flowers placed by myself as flowers to adorn His throne.”
“Then I am to stay here alone!” Lucia said, at the thought of being left behind.
“No, my child. You are suffering very much, but do not be discouraged. I will never leave you. My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God.”
Once more she parted her hands, and the children were enveloped by the light from her palms. Francisco and Jacinta were in a stream that went toward heaven, and Lucia was in a stream that spread over the ground. A heart surrounded by thorns was in front of the right palm. “We understood,” says Lucia, “that this was the Immaculate Heart of Mary, so offended by the sins of mankind, desiring reparation.”
“O JESUS, IT IS FOR YOUR LOVE…”
Four or five thousand people were on hand for the apparition of July 13. When our Lady appeared to the children, the crowd saw that the sun became dimmer and that a little cloud stood over the holm oak. The Lady told the children to continue to say the Rosary. “Say it with the intention of obtaining the end of the war. The intercession of the Blessed Virgin alone can obtain this grace for men.”
Lucia, thinking of her mother and all the people who doubted her story, said, “Will you please tell us who you are and perform a miracle so that everyone will believe that you really appear to us?”
“Continue to come here every month. In October I will tell you who I am and what I desire, and I shall perform a miracle so that everyone will have to believe you.”
Lucia requested the cure of some sick people. She was told that some would be cured and others not.
“Sacrifice yourself for sinners,” the Lady said, “And say many times, especially when you make any sacrifice: ‘O Jesus, it is for Your love, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.'”
THE VISION OF HELL
As our Lady said these words she parted her hands as she had done the two previous months. The light from her palms seemed to penetrate the earth. The children saw a great sea of fire. “In this sea,” says Lucia, “were immersed burning demons and souls in human forms, resembling live transparent coals. Lifted up into the air by the flames, they fell back on all sides like sparks in a conflagration, with neither weight nor balance, amid loud screams and cries of pain and despair which horrified us and shook us with terror. We could tell the devils by their horrible and nauseous figures of baleful and unknown animals, but transparent as the black coals in a fire.”
Pale with terror the children raised their eyes to our Lady for help.
“You have seen hell,” said the Lady, “where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, our Lord wishes to establish throughout the world the devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If people will do what I tell you, many souls will be saved and there will be peace in the world. The war is coming to an end, but if the offences against God do not stop, another and worse one will begin in the reign of Pius XI.
“WHEN YOU SEE A NIGHT ILLUMINED BY AN UNKNOWN LIGHT…”
“When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that it is the great sign that God gives you that He is going to punish the world for its crimes by means of war, of hunger and of persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father.
“To prevent this, I shall come back to ask the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays. If my requests are granted, Russia will be converted and there will be peace. If not, she will scatter her errors throughout the world, provoking wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred; the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated.
“BUT IN THE END MY IMMACULATE HEART WILL TRIUMPH.”
“But in the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me; it will be converted, and a certain period of peace will be granted to the world.
“In Portugal, the dogma of the faith will be kept always.”
These grave words, the Lady said, were not yet to be revealed to the world. The girls were to repeat them to no one except Francisco.
She then told them another secret which has not as yet been revealed. Lucia has written it down and delivered it to the bishop of Leiria.
THE AUGUST 13 EVENTS
On August 13, the children were in jail at Ourem. The civil administrator threatened to boil them in oil if they did not tell the Lady’s secret. Though badly frightened, they could not think of disobeying our Lady. In disgust, the administrator finally freed them. A large number of people, not knowing that the children had been kidnapped, went to the Cova for the scheduled appearance of the Lady. At noon, there was a loud clap of thunder. Then, according to an eyewitness:
“Right after the thunder came a flash, and immediately we all noticed a little cloud, very white, beautiful and bright, that came and stayed over the holm oak. It stayed a few minutes, then rose toward the heavens where it disappeared. Looking about, we noticed a strange sight that we had already seen and would see again. Everyone’s face glowed, rose, red, blue, all the colours of the rainbow. The trees seemed to have no branches or leaves but were all covered with flowers; every leaf was a flower. The ground was in little squares, each one a different colour. Our clothes seemed to be transformed also into the colours of the rainbow. The two vigil lanterns hanging from the arch over the holy spot appeared to be of gold.
“When the signs disappeared, the people were sure that our Lady had come, and, not finding the children, had returned to heaven. They felt that our Lady was disappointed…”
OUR LADY MADE IT PLAIN THAT HER PRINCIPAL CONCERN IS FOR SOULS
The August apparition took place on the 19th, while the children were tending sheep in a hollow called Valinhos. The Lady appeared over a holm oak slightly taller than the one in the Cova. “I want you to continue to come to the Cova da Iria on the thirteenth and to continue to say the Rosary every day,” the Lady told them.
“What do you wish us to do with the money and the offerings that the people leave at the Cova da Iria?” Lucia asked.
“Two litters should be made; you and Jacinta are to carry one with two girls dressed in white; Francisco is to carry the other with three boys also dressed in white robes. The money placed on the litters is for the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.”
Our Lady repeated her promise of a miracle. “In October, I shall perform a miracle so that all may believe in my apparitions. If they had not taken you to the village, the miracle would have been greater. St Joseph will come with the Baby Jesus to give peace to the world. Our Lord will also come to bless the people. Besides, Our Lady of the Rosary and Our Lady of Sorrows will come.”
Lucia asked for the cure of some sick persons and was told that some of them would be cured within the year. Our Lady made it plain, by her next words, however, that her principal concern is for souls.
“Pray, pray a great deal and make sacrifices for sinners,” she said gravely, “for many souls go to hell because they have no one to sacrifice and pray for them.”
“TO US HAD BEEN GIVEN THE GRACE TO SEE THE CHARIOT THAT HAD BORNE HER FROM HEAVEN”
Many of the people who were present for the apparitions of September 13 saw a luminous globe cross the sky and stop over the holm oak. Then later it rose and disappeared toward the sun. Monsignor John Quaresma, who was one of the many to behold this phenomenon, said: “The three little shepherds had seen the Mother of God herself; to us had been given the grace to see the chariot that had borne her from heaven to the barren and inhospitable hills of Aire.”
There was another unusual feature of this apparition. Many people saw white flowers which seemed to shower from the sky and disappear before they touched the ground.
While the crowd was seeing these things, our Lady was saying to the children, “Continue to say the Rosary to bring about the end of the war.”
She repeated her promise of a miracle the following month. Then she said, “God is content with your sacrifices, but does not wish you to sleep with the rope. Wear it only during the day.”
Someone had given Lucia a bottle of cologne with the request that it be presented to our Lady. It was probably the nicest gift a Portuguese peasant woman could think of. Our Lady graciously refused the gift, saying: “That is not necessary for heaven.”
AHEAD OF THE PROMISED MIRACLE, THE ROADS BECAME CLOGGED WITH PEOPLE MAKING THEIR WAY TOWARD FATIMA
In July, August, and September, our Lady had promised a miracle in October. Lucia had told a number of people about this promise, and the word spread rapidly through Portugal. Unbelievers scoffed at the idea and waited confidently for October 13. They were sure that there would be no miracle and that the entire story of Fatima would be exposed as a hoax. Those who believed talked the matter over excitedly. Think of it! A miracle promised in advance and in their own country of Portugal!
Several days ahead of the promised date, the roads became clogged with people making their way toward Fatima. “Nearby communities, towns and villages, emptied of people,” said the Lisbon newspaper O Dia.“… They came on foot, by horse or by carriage. They travelled the highways and the roads, between the hills and pine groves. For two days these came to life with the rolling of the carriages, the trot of the donkeys and the voices of the pilgrims.”
Lucia’s mother tried to get the girl to retract her story. Other people warned her that something very serious would happen if there were no miracle. It was said that there would be bombs in the crowd. The families of the children were very much frightened, but the children themselves were calm and serene.
“There will be a miracle, because our Lady promised it,” Lucia said.
On the night of the twelfth, a cold wind came out of the north bringing with it a chilling rain. This caused the most acute discomfort to the pilgrims who had to sleep in the open, but it did not dampen their ardour.
THE COLD RAIN DID NOT DAMPEN THE PILGRIMS’ ARDOUR
The next day was cold and rainy, but the pilgrims were not daunted. By 11:30, more than 70,000 of them had gathered at the Cova. They sang hymns, recited prayers and said the Rosary. Seldom has there been a more striking demonstration of faith. Our Lady must have been very much pleased with the Portuguese people that day.
A path had to be cleared through the throng for Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta. “Put down your umbrellas,” Lucia said. The word spread throughout the crowd, and all umbrellas were lowered. Lucia does not know now why she made this request.
At two o’clock wartime, noon sun time, Lucia saw the flash of light that always preceded our Lady’s appearances.
“Silence, silence, our Lady is coming,” Lucia cried.
Our Lady came out of the east and again stopped above the holm oak.
“Who are you, Madam, and what do you want of me?” Lucia asked.
“I am the Lady of the Rosary, and I desire a chapel built in my honour in this place.
“People must continue to say the Rosary every day. The war will end soon, and the soldiers will return to their homes.”
“I have so many things to ask you,” Lucia said.
“I will grant some of them, the others, no.”
“MEN MUST OFFEND OUR LORD NO MORE, AND ASK PARDON FOR THEIR SINS”
Assuming a sadder air, the Lady said, “Men must offend our Lord no more, and they must ask pardon for their sins, for He is already much offended.” It was the same as the message of La Salette but in different words: “If my people will not submit, I shall be forced to let go the hand of my Son. It is so strong, so heavy, that I can no longer withhold it.”
Our Lady stretched forth her hands, and the light again shone from her palms. She pointed toward the sun which seemed dim in comparison with the light from her hands. Then she seemed to disappear in her own radiance.
High up in the sky appeared a representation of the Holy Family. St Joseph held the Child Jesus on his left arm. To the right was the Blessed Virgin dressed in the blue and white robes of Our Lady of the Rosary. St Joseph and the Child Jesus made the Sign of the Cross over the world three times.
The vision faded, and then Lucia alone beheld our Lord dressed in red as the divine Redeemer. He blessed the world. Beside him stood Mary dressed in the purple robes of Our Lady of Sorrows.
In the third and last of those visions, Lucia saw the Blessed Virgin clothed in the brown robes of Our Lady of Carmelite.
The 70,000 pilgrims did not see any of this, but they were seeing something very spectacular. Our Lady did not forget that she had promised them a miracle.
THE MIRACLE OF THE SUN
The crowd heard Lucia shout, “Look at the sun!” (She does not remember saying this.) At that moment, the clouds parted suddenly and revealed the sun which looked like a phosphorescent disk. Everyone could look at it without blinking, although there was no fog and the clouds no longer obscured it.
The testimony as to what happened after that differs greatly. Most persons saw the sun spin about in the sky, throwing off rays of light in all directions like a gigantic pinwheel. This light, they say, was yellow, red, green, blue and violet successively. The people stood spellbound as they beheld this manifestation of God’s power.
Then the sun suddenly detached itself from the sky and plunged toward the earth. The terrified people thought they would be crushed by it. Most of them fell to their knees in the churning sea of mud.
“Save us, Jesus!” went up the cry from hundreds of throats. “Our Lady, save us!”
Many fervently said the Act of Contrition.
Just when it seemed certain that the world would be destroyed, the sun stopped its downward plunge and climbed back to its accustomed place in the sky. It again became the brilliant sun of every day.
Some witnesses declare that the sun spun in the sky, stopped for an instant, then spun in the other direction and that this process was repeated. Others say its spinning was one continuous motion with no stopping. Many are sure that the sun plunged toward them in a straight line; many are equally sure that it came toward the earth in a zigzag path. Estimates of the length of time the display lasted vary from a few seconds to twelve minutes.
When a number of people have seen a very important event, it is only natural to expect some variations in their stories. Carlos de Azevedo Mendez, however, has an account that is at complete variance with most of the others. Here is his version as told to Father McGlynn: “The rain stopped; the clouds split open into tatters – thin transparent strips. The sun was seen as a crown of fire, empty in the middle. It went round on itself and moved across the sky. It could be seen behind the clouds and in between them, rolling around and moving horizontally. Some cried, ‘I believe’; others ‘Forgive!’ The crowd prayed in terror.”
Senhor Mendez saw clouds, while practically all the others declare the sun spun around in a cloudless sky. For him the sun moved horizontally across the sky; for others it came rushing toward the earth. To him the sun was a crown of fire, empty in the middle, to others it was a disk. He did not see the coloured lights mentioned by others.
One woman to whom Father McGlynn talked did not see the sun at all. She saw nothing unusual except the sudden stopping of the rain. She was a rare exception. Practically everyone else in that crowd of 70,000 persons agree that something wonderful and awe inspiring happened to the sun although they do not agree as to the details of what happened. It seems that each person saw what God deemed best suited to his particular needs. The fact that impressions were so different ferestalls any interpretation if the miracle as a natural phenomenon. So does the fact that it was not registered on any scientific instruments anywhere.
Was it mass hypnosis? Did the people just think they saw the sun behave in such peculiar manner? This is rendered extremely unlikely by the fact that the rain had been pouring down until the minute the miracle occurred. In that cold drenching rain, a solar display is the last thing the people would have imagined.
If the mass hypnosis idea is rendered unlikely by the rain, it is rendered impossible by the fact that people as far as twenty miles away from the Cova da Iria saw the phenomena.
One of the best proofs of the reality of the miracle is the space given to it by the Portuguese newspapers. The intellectuals of Portugal were infected by the same materialism as their counterparts in other countries. They had declared that miracles were impossible. But there was no denying what they had seen with their own eyes. Page after page in the daily newspapers was devoted to the wondrous occurrence.
PAGE AFTER PAGE IN THE DAILY NEWSPAPERS WAS DEVOTED TO THE WONDROUS OCCURRENCE
Lucia dose Santos, a poorly educated ten-year-old girl, had announced three months in advance that a miracle would take place at noon on October 13, 1917, and that miracle had taken place. This was God’s sign that the message of Fatima was genuine, a message that should be studied and carried out by everyone.
“I shall perform a miracle so that all will believe,” our Lady had said to Lucia, and she had carried out her promise.
From: “The Woman Shall Conquer” by Don Sharkey, Prow Books/Franciscan Marytown Press, Libertyville, IL, 1954