The History Of Fatima
Continued from Issue 22
It is September 13, 1917. Lucy, Jacinta and Francisco, along with thousands of people await the promised appearance of Our Lady. The sun, a few seconds before a great fiery ball, grew strangely dim becoming little more than a pale yellow disc.
“They say this happens just before Our Lady appears to the children,” explained a young wife in awed tones. “She is so bright and beautiful that the sun becomes as nothing in Her presence.”
Half-realizing the wonder that was hidden from her own eyes, the young wife presently hazarded a guess as to what was happening. “The children are seeing the Lady now,” she whispered. “The boy hears nothing of what is said: the smaller girl hears but does not speak. But the older girl — oh, just look at her!”
Yes, as on previous occasions, ten-year-old Lucia was beside herself with joy. Her heavenly friend had come again, and now nothing mattered but making the best possible use of her visit.
“What do you want of me?” she asked.
The Lady's eyes were grave. “Continue to say the Rosary every day to bring about the end of the war. In the last month, in October, I shall perform a miracle so that all may believe in My apparitions. But if you had not been taken to Ourem, the miracle would have been far greater.”
Lucia clasped her hands eagerly. The same words which the Lady had spoken at Valinhos! “Saint Joseph is going to come with you next month?” she asked.
“Saint Joseph will come with the Christ Child to give peace to the world. Our Lord also will come to bless the people — and Our Lady of the Rosary and Our Lady of Sorrows.”
“Is God pleased with our sacrifices?”
“Yes, but He does not wish you to sleep with the rope. Wear it only during the day.”
Suddenly Lucia remembered the various petitions given to her. “Please there are some sick people who want to be cured — a girl who is a deaf mute …”
“In the course of the year she will be improved.”
“Will you help the other people?”
“Some I will cure, others not. Our Lord does not have confidence in them.”
“The people would like very much to have a chapel built here.”
“Use half of the money received so far for the stretchers. On one of them, place the statue of Our Lady of the Rosary. The other half should be set aside to help with the building of the chapel.”
“Many say that I am a swindler who should be hanged or burned. Please perform a miracle for all to believe.”
“Yes, in October I will perform a miracle so that all may believe.”
“Here are two letters for you … and a bottle of cologne.”
“None of that is necessary for heaven.”
Then, as on the previous visits, the Lady looked fondly at her little friends and began to rise into the air. Scrambling to her feet, Lucia pointed to the east.
“If you want to see the Lady, look over there!” she cried.
At once all eyes turned. Wonder of wonders! The shining globe, motionless for several minutes above the holm oak, was now gliding rapidly eastward and disappearing into the sky. Almost at the same instant a shower of white petals began to rain down upon the three little shepherds.
“Look! Flowers from heaven!” cried hundreds with one voice.
“Catch them! Catch them!” came a second chorus.
But although there was a mad rush forward, no one succeeded in catching even one petal. Just a few feet above the ground the mysterious white flowers had suddenly melted away into thin air!
“Friends, don't get excited,” observed a well-dressed gentleman, obviously from the city. “That was only a trick arranged by the children's parents.”
At this there was a horrified gasp from all sides. “A trick? Oh, no sir! Don't say such things!”
“Why not? People often arrange affairs like this to get free publicity. I know. I'm in the newspaper business.”
For a moment all was silence. Then an old farmer stepped forward, his gnarled hand pointed warningly at the stranger. “Don't you know that Our Lady's been here?” he piped shrilly. “That God sent the white flowers to show us that the Cova is now a holy place?”
The newspaperman laughed. “Well, good friend, if Our Lady has been here, and if this is a holy place, why didn't the parish priest come today on the pilgrimage? I was hoping to see him and ask him some questions, but they say he's not here.”
The old man looked steadfastly at the newcomer, then lowered his eyes. “Father Ferreira's very busy,” he muttered. “There are many things to do in a country parish like Fatima.”
“Oh, so he's really not here today?”
“But he's been here for the Lady's other visits?”
“;N-no. He's never come for any of the visits.”
At this the stranger laughed loud and long. Then he nodded good-naturedly. “Well, thank you, my friend. I guess I've seen enough to know what everything's about. I'll get back to the city now and write my story.”
But such a careless attitude caused the old farmer to issue a second warning. “Don't make fun of what goes on here, sir. This is a holy place. And our good priest loves the Blessed Virgin as much as anyone.”
“Then why doesn't he come here to pray with his people? Isn't he interested in the Lady? Doesn't he believe that the little ones see Her?”
The old man hesitated. Then he made the Sign of the Cross, slowly and devoutly. “Our pastor is being careful,” he said. “He knows that the enemies of the Church are waiting to criticize him even more than they have done.”
It was true. From the beginning, the Administrator of Ourem had insisted that there was nothing supernatural about the happenings in the Cova. Indeed, he continued to declare that the three little shepherds were conspirators in a scheme to make money for the parish church.
“One of these days they'll be charging admission to the Cova,” he sneered. “Wait and see.”
Father Ferreira, now a firm believer in the Lady's apparitions, felt that he could best deny such falsehoods by remaining away from the Cova on the days of the pilgrimages. Later, of course, when an official statement was forthcoming from the Bishop, it would be different.
There was not too long to wait for a special inquiry to begin. Two weeks after the Lady's fifth visit — on September 29 — a strange priest arrived at the dos Santos house. He was a learned professor from the seminary in Santarem, and he had come to question the three little shepherds as to the recent happenings in the Cova.
“I'd like to speak with Lucia first,” he informed the child's mother. “Is she here?”
The latter, surprised and flustered in the midst of her housework, shook her head. No, Lucia was not at home. She was at the Cova. But of course someone could go for her…
“That's all right,” said the visitor kindly. “If Lucia isn't here just now, perhaps I could talk to Francisco and Jacinta. They live in the neighborhood, don't they?”
Maria Rosa nodded, hastily excused herself, then ran breathlessly to the house of her sister-in-law. For many weeks strangers had been stopping by and asking for permission to speak with Lucia and her cousins. For the most part they were devout lay people who wanted to hear about the heavenly Lady from the children's own lips. But now a priest had come — and a learned professor from the seminary at that! Why, with such visitors surely the children would soon be considering themselves really important! And in a little while they would be well on the way to being completely spoiled!
“Holy Mother of God!” thought Maria Rosa frantically. “Why did I ever tell Lucia she might take the sheep to pasture? If I'd only kept her at home, there might never have been all this fuss about a heavenly Lady in the Cova…”
Regarding the HOLY ROSARY, Sister Lucy said: “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. She has given this efficacy to such an extent that there is no problem, no matter how difficult it is, whether temporal or above all, spiritual, in the personal life of each one of us, of our families, of the families of the world, or of the religious communities, or even of the life of peoples and nations that cannot be solved by the Rosary. There is no problem I tell you, no matter how difficult it is, that we cannot resolve by the prayer of the Holy Rosary. With the Holy Rosary, we will save ourselves. We will sanctify ourselves. We will console Our Lord and obtain the salvation of many souls.”
CONTINUED IN NEXT ISSUE