The Story Of Fatima
We continue below the account of the apparition of Our Lady of Fatima, which took place on July 13, 1917.
|Today, in the very place where the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to give Her message to the 20th century stands this beautiful shrine in Her honour. Since it was here that the Mother of God promised peace to humanity upon fulfillment of Her requests, Fatima is called the hope of the world.|
As the children left off gazing eastward and stared, pale and shaken, at one another, the people began to press around them, all but suffocating them in their eagerness to ask all manner of questions, some pious, others curious and others mocking.
Someone asked Lucia, “When you were so frightened and sad, what had the Lady said to you?”
“It’s a secret,” she replied.
“Is it a nice one?”
“For some people, yes. For others, no.”
“Can’t you tell us what it is?”
“No, I could not. I could not possibly.”
Ti Marto and some others rescued the children from the crowd, and someone offered to take them home in an automobile. Ti Marto consented and the children rode for the first time in a car. They were not in a mood to enjoy a new experience but they were grateful for the ride, for all three were exhausted.
Reaction of Lucia’s Family
The large crowds of pilgrims who gathered at the Cova da Iria for the apparitions were responsible for spoiling the land there, which Lucia’s family had used for growing vegetables. Since the majority of the visitors arrived in donkey carts or on horseback, their animals trampled on the crops and ate up whatever they could find. Lucia’s family was consequently very unsympathetic towards her. Lucia recalls in her memoirs: “My mother bewailed her loss: ‘You, now,’ she said to me, ‘when you want something to eat, go ask the Lady for it!’ My sisters chimed in with: ‘Yes, you can have what grows in the Cova da Iria’.”
Before the July 13th apparition, Lucia’s father had shrugged off the whole thing with some muttering about “women’s tales”. But his attitude changed to open hostility when he saw his ruined fields at the Cova. The ground was packed so hard by the feet of the crowds that it was no use cultivating it anymore. To make matters worse, Lucia’s sisters had to quit their employment of sewing and weaving, which had been earning some money for the family, and look after the sheep for Lucia when visitors came to see her about the apparitions. Now the family told Lucia that she and her visions had brought them all to the verge of starvation.
Lucia’s mother scolded her: “You made all the people go to the Cova da Iria.”
“We didn’t make them go,” said loyal Jacinta from the doorway. “They went there themselves!”
But Maria Rosa felt too strongly to listen to reasoning. There were days when Lucia feared to ask her for so much as a piece of bread, and went to bed hungry.
Her mother took her to see the parish priest for another interrogation, hoping each time that Lucia would admit that the story of the apparitions was a lie. But at the end he shook his head and said, “I don’t know what to say about all this.” So Maria Rosa still doubted, seeing that even the parish priest with all his learning said that he could make nothing of it.
Over time, other women in the parish came to share the attitude of Lucia’s mother, and they would scold Lucia and at times even boxed her ears or gave her a kick.
Jacinta and Francisco, on the other hand, thanks to the vigilance and kindness of their father, Ti Marto, had a better time of it. He would not allow anyone to threaten or raise a hand to his children.
“I wish my parents were like yours,” Jacinta said to Lucia. “Then I could get beaten too, and I would have another sacrifice to offer Our Lord.”
Lucia’s attitude toward her mother’s behavior toward her at that time is expressed by Lucia in her memoirs: “By a special grace from Our Lord, I never experienced the slightest thought or feeling of resentment regarding her manner of acting towards me. As the Angel had announced that God would send me sufferings, I always saw the hand of God in it all.”
Reflections of the Three Children on the July Apparition
The children grasped with remarkable readiness the insight that their Lady had given them to love God and their neighbor and to make heroic sacrifices for them. They were glad to be alone in the fields with their sheep, because then they were able to avoid the endless questions and coarse comedy that was directed towards them by others on account of the apparitions, and to more easily recollect themselves in prayer and the presence of God.
“Jacinta,” Lucia asked one day, “What are you thinking of now?” Jacinta looked up from where she was sitting. It was the sadness of her expression that had prompted this question.
“I’m thinking of hell and of the poor sinners who go there,” Jacinta replied. “Oh, Lucia, how sorry I am for all those souls. The people burning there like coals, I wonder — well, why doesn’t Our Lady show hell to those people who sin? If they could see it, wouldn’t they stop? Lucia, why didn’t you ask Our Lady to show hell to them?”
“I didn’t think of it,” Lucia said, simply and sadly. Jacinta asked the others to pray with her, and together they recited the prayer that Our Lady had taught them: “O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fire of hell, and lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who are most in need.” Jacinta remained on her knees for long periods of time repeating this prayer, and she would urge her brother and her cousin to do likewise.
“Francisco! Francisco! Are you praying with me? We must pray very much, to save souls from hell! So many go there! So many!” Sometimes she asked Lucia, “What are the sins people commit, for which they go to hell?”
“I don’t know! Perhaps the sin of not going to Mass on Sunday, of stealing, of saying ugly words, of cursing and swearing.”
“So for just one word, then, people can go to hell?”
“Well, it’s a sin!”
“It wouldn’t be hard for them to keep quiet, and to go to Mass! I’m so sorry for sinners! If only I could show them hell!”
In her memoirs Lucia explains that she has sometimes been asked if in any of the apparitions Our Lady pointed out to the children which kind of sins send the most souls to hell. When she was in the hospital in Lisbon, Jacinta mentioned that the sins which send the most souls to hell are sins of the flesh. Lucia says, “She had often questioned me on this matter, and I think now that when in Lisbon perhaps it occurred to her to put the question to Our Lady Herself, and that this was the answer she received.”
Lucia goes on to explain that the vision of hell filled Jacinta with horror to such a degree that every penance and mortification was as nothing in her eyes, if it could only prevent souls from going there. The children of Portugal love to dance and Jacinta in particular both loved this pastime and was good at it. After the July apparition, looking for sacrifices to offer Our Lord for the conversion of sinners, little Jacinta said to Lucia: “Now I’m not going to dance anymore.”
“Because I want to offer this sacrifice to Our Lord.” Jacinta recalled Our Lady showing them Her Immaculate Heart surrounded by thorns, and she asked:
“Lucia — do you remember how Our Lady’s heart when She showed it to us, was being pierced by thorns?”
“Surely I do. It simply means that Her heart is wounded by the sins of people, and She is asking them to be sorry, and to make up for their sins, so that God will not have to punish them too much. She can’t make people be good. They must themselves want to be good.”
The children spoke often among themselves about Our Lady’s message that God wished to establish in the world devotion to Her Immaculate Heart, and that to prevent a future war She would come to ask for the consecration of Russia to Her Immaculate Heart, and for the Communion of Reparation on the first Saturdays. Then Jacinta, who was too young to make her First Communion, would say, “I am so grieved to be unable to receive Communion in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary!” And she chose from the prayers that Father Cruz had taught them, this one: “Sweet Heart of Mary, be my salvation!”