THE STORY OF FATIMA
|Senhor and Senhora Marto, the parents of Jacinta and Francisco, two of the children who saw Our Lady at Fatima.|
Events Before the Second Apparition of Our Lady at Fatima
The three children of Fatima — Lucy who was ten years old, and her two cousins Jacinta and Francisco, who were seven and nine years old, had promised Our Lady that they would go to the Cova da Iria on June 13 to see Her again, as She had asked them to on May 13, 1917 when She had first appeared.
On June 13, the people of the area would be celebrating the feast of the most popular saint in Portugal — Saint Anthony. The parish church at Fatima was named after him. On his feast day there would be a Missa Cantata (a High Mass with singing), a fervent sermon, and a colorful procession, music, fireworks and feasting, and distribution of St. Anthony’s bread for the poor and the children.
Maria Rosa knew how much her youngest daughter Lucy loved those fresh white loaves, the gaiety of the fiesta, the colors, the music, the fireworks. She was hoping that the fiesta would distract the children from going to the Cova da Iria. Still convinced that Lucy was being untruthful about having seen Our Lady, her mother and older sisters were confident that St. Anthony would restore her to truth and obedience. On June 12, they enlarged upon the attractions of the next day, for Lucy’s benefit. Lucy was silent, and when they pressed her for an answer, she replied firmly, “I am going to the Cova da Iria. That is what the Lady wants.” But her mother doubted this. “We’ll see if you’ll leave the fiesta to talk with that Lady!” said Maria Rosa.
Jacinta and Francisco’s mother Olimpia was inclined to agree with her sister-in-law. She could hardly believe, from past experience, that Jacinta and Francisco would forego all the fun of the fiesta for an imaginary Lady. Her husband found himself in a more difficult position when his little daughter Jacinta begged him to go along to the Cova da Iria. He did not want to expose himself to ridicule, nor to offend his children by refusing to go with them. He remembered fortunately that he had to buy a couple of oxen at a fair in a nearby village next day, so he would have to miss both the fiesta and the apparition. Olimpia decided to go with him to buy the oxen. When their mother asked them if they would like to go to the fiesta of St. Anthony, Jacinta and Francisco replied that they were going to the Cova da Iria to see the Lady. They told their mother that Our Lady is more beautiful than St. Anthony.
Maria Rosa, on the other hand, did all she could to discourage Lucy from returning to the Cova da Iria. She talked it over with Father Ferreira, the parish priest, who advised prudently, “Let them go if they persist, and see what happens. Then bring them to me and I will question them.”
The children took their sheep out to graze early on the feast of St. Anthony, as did all the shepherds of the hamlet of Aljustrel, in order to bring them back to the enclosure and be on time for the Missa Cantata at ten in the neighboring village of Fatima. After pasturing their sheep at Valinhos, the children went to an early Mass at Fatima and returned home to dress in their Sunday clothes, as everyone wore their Sunday best on St. Anthony’s day.
“Will you wait for us?” Jacinta asked Lucy.
“Well, not just now,” Lucy said, and explained she had promised to go to Fatima to meet some children who had made their First Communion with her. “But I will see you there, Jacinta, and we will go to the Cova.”
When Lucy’s mother saw her daughter was wearing her Sunday clothes, she had a hope that she was going to the fiesta after all. But Lucy, with her cousins, believed that the Lady, more than St. Anthony, deserved the honor of their Sunday best. At Fatima, Lucy met the companions with whom she had made her First Communion. About fourteen of them decided to go with her to the Cova da Iria. Father De Marchi, an expert on Fatima, later interviewed one of them who related: “About fourteen of us who had made our First Communion with Lucy joined together and decided to go with her to the Cova da Iria …We were in a group, already to go, when Lucy’s brother Antonio, came up to us and said, ‘Don’t go to the Cova, Lucy. If you promise not to, I’ll give you some money.’ And Lucy looked back at him and said, “Money? I don’t care about the money. What I want is to see the Lady’.”
The story of the apparition of Our Lady on May 13th, a month earlier, had spread all over the mountains, and a large number of people had taken the trouble to get up before dawn to walk over the hills to accompany the children to the Cova da Iria. Lucy wasn’t happy at the idea of having a crowd of strangers accompany her and her two cousins to the Cova da Iria, but she told them that if they would wait till she returned from the eight o’clock Mass, they might follow her if they chose. They waited patiently for two hours or more under the fig trees near the house. Their presence was not very agreeable to Maria Rosa and her elder daughters, who made unkind remarks to Lucy about the gathering of people and the folly of the children.
Lucy related: “Around eleven o’clock, I left home and called at my uncle’s house, where Jacinta and Francisco were waiting for me. Then we set off for the Cova da Iria, in expectation of the longed-for moment. All those people followed us, asking a thousand questions. On that day I was overwhelmed with bitterness. I could see that my mother was deeply distressed, and that she wanted at all costs to compel me, as she put it, to admit that I had lied. I wanted so much to do as she wished, but the only way I could do so was to tell a lie. From the cradle, she had instilled into her children a great horror of lying, and she used to chastise severely any one of us who told an untruth.
“‘I’ve seen to it,’ she often said, ‘that my children always told the truth, and am I now to let the youngest get away with a thing like this? If it were just a small thing…! But a lie of such proportions, deceiving so many people and bringing them all the way here’!”
Lucy said that at this time, “My sisters sided with my mother, and all around me the atmosphere was one of utter scorn and contempt. Then I would remember the old days, and ask myself: “Where is all that affection now, that my family had for me just such a short while ago? My one relief was to weep before the Lord, as I offered Him my sacrifice.”
When Lucy reached the Marto house, Jacinta saw she was crying, and she said, “Don’t cry! Surely these must be the sacrifices that the angel said God was going to send us. That is why you suffer — and to make reparation to Him, and to convert sinners!”
Lucy, Jacinta and Francisco walked down the road and out over the fields to the Cova da Iria. There they found awaiting them another group of people, some simply curious, others devout, from hamlets far and near, about fifty people in all.
Many people of the hamlet of Aljustrel where the children lived, thought their story of the apparition of Our Lady was childish nonsense, but from the time of the June apparition onwards, the children had unconditional support from Senhora Maria Carreira, who for many years was later known as Maria da Capelinha (Maria of the Chapel), as she was the first caretaker of the original shrine which was begun there. When she heard of the May 13 apparition, she took it seriously. Her son John was crippled, and she thought the apparition might be true, and that Our Lady might return the following month and cure him.
Maria Carreira gave the following account of the events just before the June 13 apparition: “I had decided once and for all to go to the Cova da Iria on the thirteenth of June. On the evening before I said to my children: ‘What if we don’t go to the fiesta of St. Anthony tomorrow but to the Cova da Iria instead?’ ‘What for?’ they asked. ‘No, we’d rather go to the fiesta.’ Then I turned to my crippled boy, John. ‘Do you want to go to the fiesta or with me?’ ‘With you, mother,’ he said. So on the following day, before the others started for the fiesta, I came here with my John, who hobbled along on a stick.’
After Maria Carreira and her son reached the Cova da Iria, a few other people from nearby villages began to arrive. Maria Carreira goes on to relate:
“Then came some women from Boleiros, and I asked them if they had come away from the fiesta. ‘People laughed at us,’ they said, ‘but we didn’t take much notice. We’ve come to see what happens here, and on whose side the laugh will be.’ Then more people came and at last, about eleven o’clock, the children to whom Our Lady had appeared, with some little friends and people from quite far away, Torres Novas or Outeiro, I can’t remember which. We all went to the holm oak, and Lucy stopped about three yards in front of it, and looked towards the east. It was very quiet, and then I asked her: ‘Which is the oak tree where Our Lady appeared?’ ‘This one,’ she said, putting her hand on it. It was a bush about a meter high, a new strong sapling. It was very well shaped with regular branches. Lucy went a little further away and began looking again in the direction of Fatima, and then went again into the shade of the big tree. It was very calm and still. Lucy sat down near the trunk, and Jacinta and Francisco sat on either side.”
Our Lady Appears
The people said the Rosary while they waited. Lucy knew the time Our Lady would appear, and when she saw the lightning that was the first sign of Our Lady’s arrival, she stood up and called out to Jacinta, “Don’t you see the lightning! Our Lady must be coming!” Maria Carreira gives the following account: “The three children ran for the holm oak tree, while the rest of us hurried after them, and knelt down on the stony ground. I watched Lucy raise her hands, as though in prayer. We heard her speak to someone, who was not visible. There was only one mysterious effect to support our impression of another presence there. We heard something like a small, small voice, but could not understand what it was trying to say.”
Lucy describes the June 13 apparition of Our Lady: “As soon as Jacinta, Francisco and I had finished praying the Rosary, with a number of other people who were present, we saw once more the flash reflecting the light which was approaching (which we called lightning). The next moment, Our Lady was there on the holm oak, exactly the same as in May.
‘What do you want of me?’ I asked.
‘I wish you to come here on the 13th of next month, and to pray the Rosary every day. And after each of the Mysteries, my children, I want you to pray in this way: “O my Jesus, forgive us and deliver us from the fire of hell. Take all souls to Heaven, especially those who are in most need.” I want you to learn to read and write, and later I will tell you what else I want of you.’
I asked for the cure of a sick person.
‘If he is converted, he will be cured during the year.’
‘I would like to ask you to take us to Heaven.’
‘Yes. I will take Jacinta and Francisco soon. But you are to stay here some time longer. Jesus wishes to make use of you to make Me known and loved. He wants to establish in the world devotion to My Immaculate Heart.’
‘Am I to stay here alone?’ I asked, sadly.
‘No, my daughter. Are you suffering a great deal? Don’t lose heart. I will never forsake you. My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God’.”
Lucy’s account continues: “As Our Lady spoke these last words, She communicated to us the rays of that same immense light. We saw ourselves in this light, as it were, immersed in God. Jacinta and Francisco seemed to be in that part of the light which rose towards Heaven, and I in that part which was poured out on the earth. In front of the palm of Our Lady’s right hand was a heart encircled by thorns which pierced it. We understood that this was the Immaculate Heart of Mary, outraged by the sins of humanity, and seeking reparation.”
Lucy in her account said that the three children felt moved by God to keep this part of the apparition a secret. (In the apparition of July 13, however, Our Lady told them a secret which She explicitly told them to keep a secret.)
In her memoirs Lucy says: “I think, on that day, the main purpose of this light was to infuse within us a special knowledge and love for the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
As the apparition faded from view, the Lady, still surrounded by light, arose effortlessly from the holm oak tree and glided swiftly toward the east till the children could no longer see Her. Some of the people present noticed that the leaves on the top of the tree were drawn in the same direction, and it was several hours before they gradually returned to their usual position. Lucy remained looking in the direction Our Lady had gone. Maria Carreira Heard her say: “Now She can’t be seen any more. Now She is entering heaven. Now the doors are being shut.”
Now, as in all the apparitions, only Lucy spoke directly to Our Lady. Jacinta, as before, was able to hear and to see the Lady as Lucy did, but Francisco could not hear Her voice, although he saw Her. Father De Marchi commented on this: “Why this was so, we have no idea, since God dispenses His gifts for reasons of His own.”
Maria Carreira gives this comment: “One day, I met Jacinta and Lucy and asked Lucy why it was that Our Lady spoke only with her, but not with her cousin. ‘It’s because Jacinta’s shy,’ Lucy told me. ‘If she would only speak to Our Lady, I know Our Lady would speak to her.’ Jacinta then looked at us both, and all she did was smile.”