THE STORY OF FATIMA(Continued from Issue Number Eight)
We continue below the account of the apparition of Our Lady of Fatima which took place on June 13, 1917.
What the Bystanders Noticed During the Apparition
Some of the bystanders noticed that the light of the sun seemed dimmer during the apparition, although the sky was cloudless. Others noticed that the top of the holm oak tree appeared to bend and curve just before Lucia spoke, as if under a weight. As Maria Carreira described, many people could hear a small voice but they could not understand what was being said, when Our Lady was speaking to Lucia. She also explained that many people noticed the leaves on the top of the tree being drawn in the same direction as Our Lady traveled when She left. When Lucia announced that Our Lady was going away, Maria Carreira notes that: “We saw nothing except a little cloud a few inches from the tree which rose very slowly and went backwards towards the east, until we could see it no more.”
After the Apparition
After Our Lady had gone, there was great excitement among the crowd. Though they hadn’t seen the Lady, they had seen evidence that something extraordinary had occurred. Some began asking questions of the children, others discussed with each other what had happened. People were examining the little tree and some were plucking the top leaves off for relics or souvenirs, till Lucia asked them to only take the lower leaves which Our Lady had not touched. Maria Carreira gathered some of the rosemary, which grew all about the tree, and was thinking already of making a shrine there.
The crowd broke up into small groups and went off in various directions, some reciting the Litany of Our Lady, and others praying the Rosary.
It was not until about four o’clock that Lucia and her companions were able to set out for Aljustrel, followed by a considerable crowd, mostly of people who had been curious about the apparition but who didn’t have much faith or respect, and who were more amused than impressed. They pestered the children with questions.
“Lucia, did the Lady dance on the top of the tree?”
“Haven’t you gone to Heaven yet?”
“Jacinta — that cat still got your tongue? Did the Lady speak with you? Are you a saint yet, Jacinta?”
The children did not like this kind of questioning. The irreverence was especially hard to bear.
At home, Jacinta was quiet. She didn’t know how to handle the rapid questioning, and her older brothers’ attempts at comedy distressed her. She repeated the Lady’s insistence on the Rosary every day, and she told them again that the Lady would return each month until October, when She would say who She was and what She wanted. But Jacinta kept silent about the secret concerning devotion to Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart. When they asked her how beautiful the Lady was, she could find no suitable example to express to them the extraordinary beauty of the heavenly visitor. Jacinta repeated what Our Lady had requested — that the Rosary should be recited with fervor every day. When they asked if there was anything more, Jacinta said, “The rest is a secret.”
“Oh, a secret! A secret! Tell us the secret!” they exclaimed. But nothing could persuade either Jacinta or Francisco to do that. Only their father seemed to understand that a secret had to be kept. Ti Marto gave the following account to Father De Marchi:
“All the womenfolk wanted to know what the secret was, but I didn’t try to ask her about it myself. To me a secret is a secret, but I remember one time when some women came to our house for no other purpose than to get it out of her. These ladies were wearing a lot of gold jewelry of different kinds, and one of them said suddenly, showing her bracelets and a necklace to Jacinta, “Do you like these?”
“Yes I do,” my daughter said. “Of course I do.”
“And would you like to have them?”
“Surely I would.” She was an honest child, Jacinta was, and she didn’t try to conceal her admiration for these things.
“Then tell us your secret!” this woman said, and with the others, she began to take off her fancy things and jangle them temptingly.
My little girl was horrified.
“Don’t! Please, don’t!” I remember she said. “I can’t tell you anything! I couldn’t tell you the secret if you gave me the whole world!”
When Lucia arrived at home after the apparition on June 13th, she was not well-received by her family, who were already convinced that she had become a liar. Her insistence that Our Lady had appeared to her a second time only increased her mother’s indignation and feeling of annoyance towards her. Maria Rosa felt that her daughter had deceived all those people into making fools of themselves by going to the Cova da Iria to be present at the appearance of an imaginary Lady.
The Children Reflect on the Apparition
When Our Lady appeared, Francisco saw her, as Lucia and Jacinta did, but he did not hear what She said. Lucia in her memoirs relates the discussion between the children when they were by themselves after the crowd had left them on their way home from seeing Our Lady:
“At the second Apparition on June 13, 1917, Francisco was deeply impressed by the light which, as I related in the second account, Our Lady communicated to us at the moment when She said: ‘My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way which will lead you to God.’ At the time, he did not seem to grasp the significance of what was happening, perhaps because it was not given to him to hear the accompanying words. For this reason, he asked later:
‘Why did Our Lady have a Heart in Her hand, spreading out over the world that great light which is God? You were in the light which went down towards the earth, and Jacinta was with me in the light which rose towards Heaven!’
‘That is because you and Jacinta will soon go to Heaven,’ I replied, ‘while I, with the Immaculate Heart of Mary, will remain for some time longer on earth.’
‘How many years longer will you stay here?’ he asked.
‘I don’t know. Quite a lot.’
‘Was it Our Lady who said so?’
‘Yes, and I saw it in the light that She shone into our hearts.’
Jacinta confirmed the very same thing, saying:
‘It is just like that! That’s exactly how I saw it too!’ He remarked sometimes: “Those people are so happy just because you told them that Our Lady wants the Rosary said, and that you are to learn to read! How would they feel if they only knew what She showed to us in God, in Her Immaculate Heart, in that great light! But this is a secret; it must not be spoken about…’.”
Francisco was full of joy at the idea of going to Heaven, and he repeated ecstatically, “Jacinta and I are going to Heaven soon! Heaven! Heaven!”
The two younger children ran home happily, while Lucia, more thoughtful, went on her way alone to her own house.
In her memoirs Lucia related: “From that day onwards, our hearts were filled with a more ardent love for the Immaculate Heart of Mary. From time to time, Jacinta said to me: ‘The Lady said that Her Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God. Don’t you love that? Her Heart is so good! How I love it!’”
Events Before the July 13th Apparition
After the apparition of Our Lady on June 13th, 1917, which was the second apparition of Our Lady to the three children Lucia, age ten, and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco, seven and nine years old, Lucia ventured to ask her mother to send her to school, since the Lady had told her to learn to read and write. Not everyone in the Portuguese village of Aljustrel had an education at that time, so it was not an ordinary thing Lucia was asking for.
“School indeed!” exclaimed Maria Rosa. “A lot it matters to Our Lady whether the likes of you can read and write!”
The following morning, Maria Rosa took her daughter to see the parish priest, who had asked Lucia’s mother and the parents of Jacinta and Francisco, to bring the children to him for questioning. “And this time you are going to tell him the truth!” Lucia’s mother said, for she still believed that her daughter was lying, and that the apparitions of Our Lady were only a story the children had invented. Maria Rosa was angry and did not once glance behind at Lucia on the way to the parish church, or speak to her. Maria Rosa stopped at the Marto cottage to unburden her heart to her friend Senhora Olimpia Marto. And Lucia had a few words with her cousin Jacinta. Lucia was weeping bitterly.
“Don’t cry!” said the younger girl. “I will call Francisco, and while you are gone we will pray for you.”
Before going to the rectory to talk to the priest, Maria Rosa and Lucia went to Mass in the parish church of St. Anthony. At Mass, Lucia recalled Our Lady’s words: “You will have much to suffer.” How well the Lady had known! In her memoirs Lucia related: “During Mass, I offered my suffering to God. Afterwards, I followed my mother out of the church over to the parish priest’s house, and started up the stairs leading to the verandah. We had climbed only a few steps, when my mother turned around and exclaimed:
“Don’t annoy me anymore! Tell the Reverend Father now that you lied, so that on Sunday he can say in the church that it was all a lie, and that will be the end of the whole affair. A nice business, this is! All this crowd running to the Cova da Iria, just to pray in front of a holm oak tree!”
Without more ado, she knocked on the door. The good priest’s sister opened the door and invited us to sit down on a bench and wait a while. At last, the parish priest appeared. He took us into his study, motioned my mother to a seat, and beckoned me over to his desk. When I found that His Reverence was questioning me quite calmly, and with such a kindly manner, I was amazed. I was still fearful, however, of what was yet to come. The interrogation was very minute and, I would even venture to say, tiresome. His Reverence concluded with this brief observation:
“It doesn’t seem to me like a revelation from Heaven. It is usual in such cases for Our Lord to tell the souls to whom He makes such communications to give the confessor or parish priest an account of what has happened. But this child, on the contrary, keeps it to herself as far as she can. This may also be a deceit of the devil. We shall see. The future will show us what we are to think about it all.”
The possibility that the apparitions could have been a deception of the devil had never occurred to Lucia or her mother, and they were alarmed when they heard of this idea. Lucia says in her memoirs:
“How much this reflection made me suffer, only God knows, for He alone can penetrate our inmost heart. I began then to have doubts as to whether these manifestations might be from the devil, who was seeking by these means to make me lose my soul. As I heard people say that the devil always brings conflict and disorder, I began to think that, truly, ever since I had started seeing these things, our home was no longer the same, for joy and peace had fled. What anguish I felt! I made known my doubts to my cousins.”
“No, it’s not the devil!” replied Jacinta, “not at all! They say that the devil is very ugly, and that he’s down under the ground in hell. But that Lady is so beautiful, and we saw Her go up to Heaven!”
Francisco was of the same opinion and nodded approval when his sister continued to encourage Lucia with: “Look here! We don’t have to be afraid of anything. That Lady will always help us. And She is such a friend of ours!”
The parish priest’s suggestion that the apparitions might be a deceit of the devil increased the irritation of Lucia’s mother towards her daughter. From then on she often scolded Lucia, and sometimes added blows and kicks. Lucia’s older sisters shared her mother’s point of view. Lucia felt like an outcast in her own home. She was tempted to say that she had been lying, and so put an end to the whole thing.
“Don’t do that!” exclaimed Jacinta and Francisco. “Don’t you see that now you are going to tell a lie, and to tell lies is a sin?”
Of this episode, Lucia writes in her memoirs: “While in this state of mind, I had a dream which only increased the darkness of my spirit. I saw the devil laughing at having deceived me, as he tried to drag me down to hell. On finding myself in his clutches, I began to scream so loudly and call on Our Lady for help, that I awakened my mother. She called out to me in alarm, and asked me what was the matter. I can’t recall what I told her, but I do remember that I was so paralyzed with fear that I couldn’t sleep any more that night.”
Francisco and Jacinta looked forward with joy and eager expectation to July 13th, when Our Lady had promised to appear again at the Cova da Iria. With every reference by her mother to the words of Father Ferreira, the parish priest, that it might be a deception of the devil, Lucia’s doubts increased. Finally, on July 12th, Lucia announced to her cousins that she had decided not to go to the Cova da Iria the next day.
“We’re going,” her cousins answered. “The Lady said we were to go.”
“And if you’re not there to do it, I will speak to the Lady,” Jacinta said. But she was so upset that she started to cry.
“Why are you crying, Jacinta?” Lucia asked.
“Because you don’t want to go!”
“No. I’m not going. Listen! If the Lady asks for me, tell Her I’m not going, because I’m afraid it may be the devil.”
Our Lady Appears July 13th, 1917
On the following day, when it was nearly time to leave, as Lucia recalls in her memoirs: “I suddenly felt I had to go, impelled by a strange force that I could hardly resist. Then I set out, and called at my uncle’s house to see if Jacinta was still there. I found her in her room, together with her brother Francisco, kneeling beside the bed, crying.
“Aren’t you going then?” I asked.
“Not without you! We don’t dare. Do come!”
“Yes, I’m going,” I replied.
‘Their faces lighted up with joy, and they set out with me.’
Francisco told Lucia that they had been praying for her all night. The children set off by the zig-zag path across the two and a half miles of dusty terrain between Aljustrel and the Cova da Iria. It was July and the weather was oppressively hot.
All over the mountains and beyond, people had been hearing of what had taken place on the feast of St. Anthony, a month before. An astonishing number had made up their minds to be on hand for the next apparition. One of the most fervent believers in the apparitions was Jose Alves from Moita, who had said to the parish priest, in reply to his theory of diabolical intervention, “who ever heard of the devil inciting people to pray?”
Ti Marto, the father of Jacinta and Francisco, had decided to take the day off to see what his children were up to. When he arrived at the Cova da Iria, the crowd was so dense that it took him a long while to elbow his way through to where Jacinta stood with Francisco and Lucia.
Ti Marto made the following observation: “There were fine gentlemen who came to laugh and to make fun of people who didn’t know how to read handwriting … they didn’t have any faith at all. Then how could they believe in Our Lady?”
Most of the people, however, were peasants of the Serra, the women generally barefoot, with black shawls over their heads, the men wearing their Sunday suits, and great hobnailed boots.
As the people waited for Our Lady to appear, Lucia was leading the prayers of the Rosary, and the crowd was responding aloud. Ti Marto relates: “When the beads were finished, she jumped up suddenly. ‘Close your umbrellas,’ she called to the people who were using them to shade the strong sunlight. ‘Our Lady is coming!’ She was looking to the east and I was too, but I could not see anything at first. But then I saw what looked like a little greyish cloud resting on the oak tree. The heat of the sun was suddenly less severe. A fine fresh breeze was blowing, and it did not seem like the height of summer. The people were silent, terribly silent, and then I began to hear a sound, a little buzzing sound it was, like a mosquito in a bottle. I could not hear any words, but just this buzzing.”
Our Lady Speaks
Our Lady appeared. Lucia’s first question to Her was, “What do you want of me?”
Lucia records the apparition in her memoirs as follows:
“I want you to come here on the thirteenth of the next month, to continue to pray the Rosary every day in honour of Our Lady of the Rosary, in order to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war, because only She can help you.”
“I would like to ask you to tell us who you are, and to work a miracle so that everybody will believe that you are appearing to us.”
“Continue to come here every month. In October, I will perform a miracle for all to see and believe.”
‘Then I made some requests, but I cannot recall now just what they were. What I do remember is that Our Lady said it was necessary for such people to pray the Rosary in order to obtain those graces during the year. And She continued:
“Sacrifice yourselves for sinners, and say many times, especially whenever you make some sacrifice: O Jesus, it is for love of You, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
‘As Our Lady spoke these last words, She opened her hands once more, as She had done during the two previous months. The rays of light seemed to penetrate the earth, and we saw as it were a vast sea of fire, in which were, plunged, all blackened and burnt, demons and souls in human form like transparent embers. Raised into the air by the flames they fell back in all directions, like sparks in a huge fire, without weight or poise, amidst loud cries and horrible groans of pain and despair which caused us to shudder and tremble with fear. The demons were distinguished by the horrible and repellent forms of terrible unknown animals, like embers of fire black yet transparent. This scene lasted an instant, and we must thank Our Heavenly Mother who had prepared us beforehand by promising to take us to Heaven with her; otherwise I believe that we should have died of fear and terror.’ Our Lady said:
“You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If people do what I tell you, many souls will be saved and there will be peace. The war is going to end; but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the pontificate 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 persecution of the Church and of the Holy Father.
“To prevent this, 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 of the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated. In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to Me, and she will be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world. In Portugal, the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved…
“Do not tell this to anybody. Francisco, yes, you may tell him.
“When you pray the Rosary, say after each mystery: 0 my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fire of hell, and lead all souls to heaven, especially those who are in most need.”
‘After this, there was a moment of silence, and then I asked’:
“Is there anything more that you want of me?”
“No, I do not want anything more of you today.”
“Then, as before, Our Lady began to ascend towards the east, until she finally disappeared in the immense distance of the firmament.”
As Our Lady began to ascend towards the east, there were various phenomena which the bystanders noticed, and which are described by Ti Marto in his account to Father De Marchi: “In the Cova da Iria, we heard a great clap of thunder. The little arch that had been built to hold two lanterns trembled as though it was an earthquake, Lucia, who had been kneeling, got up very quickly, with her skirts ballooning around her. She cried out, ‘There she goes, there she goes!’ Then after a moment she quieted. ‘Now you can’t see her anymore,’ Lucia said.”