As August 13, 1917 drew near, knowledge of the Fatima apparitions had already become widespread all throughout Portugal. The 3,000 to 5,000 people who had been present at the Cova da Iria for the July 13 apparition of Our Lady had spread word about it to their families, friends, and neighbors – especially concerning the announcement of the great miracle promised for October 13. And now, thousands were preparing to make their way to Fatima for Our Lady’s fourth appearance.
Because of this, the liberal Masonic press spared no opportunity to denounce the apparitions at Fatima and to spread falsehoods concerning the three shepherd children. When these tactics could not sway the masses of pilgrims, who faithfully traveled great distances in order to be present when Our Lady appeared, the press strongly pressured the local authorities to take action.
Fatima’s local authority was the Administrator (mayor) of the district of Vila Nova de Ourém, Artur de Oliveira Santos, an anti-clerical fanatic and prominent Freemason (as well as founder and president of a new Masonic lodge in Ourém). With tremendous political power – i.e., all administrative, political and sometimes even judicial power being centered in his hands – he became the most feared and influential man in his section of Portugal. He ruled in a tyrannical fashion, imposing restrictions on churches and religious services on his slightest whim. Still, he could not think of what explanation he could provide to his political colleagues if open manifestation of religion – in contradiction to his hopes of building a godless republic – flourished in his own county.
Confident that his immense power and the cringing spirit of the people would enable him to quickly crush this new religious fad in the beginning, he was determined to bring the heavy fist of “the law” down upon the three seers. Thus, he decided to end the popular piety resulting from the apparitions at Fatima, through whatever means necessary – first by intimidation, and then by brute force. He was determined to get the three children to reveal the Secret of Fatima, thereby discrediting them since they claimed to have promised Our Lady that they would not to tell anyone its content.
Interrogation by the Administrator
So to initiate his plan, on August 10 the Administrator ordered Manuel Marto and Antonio dos Santos, the fathers of the three children, to present them for trial at the Ourém City Hall on the next day at noon. The parents of Jacinta and Francisco refused to subject their two young children to the journey of about nine miles (with the only means of transportation being either to walk or ride a donkey) and appearing before a court, so Manuel Marto went alone to speak on their behalf. Antonio dos Santos and his wife, however, were determined that their daughter, Lucia, answer for herself.
Thus, on the morning of August 11, Lucia went to the Marto home to say goodbye to Jacinta, who told her: “If they kill you, tell them that Francisco and I are just the same as you, and that we want to die too. I’m going right now to the well with Francisco, and we’ll pray hard for you” (emphasis in the original). Antonio then put Lucia on the back of a burro and they set off. During the journey, Lucia fell off the donkey three times.
When they arrived at Ourém, they met with the Administrator, who gave a vigorous reprimand to Manuel Marto for having come alone. Then he demanded that Lucia tell him the Secret that Our Lady had confided to the children, and promise never to return to the Cova da Iria again. (Our Lady had asked them to return to the Cova on the 13th day of each month, May through October, at the same appointed time.) Lucia refused to tell him the Secret and to make such a promise. Finally, at the conclusion of the interrogation, he said to Lucia, “If you don’t tell that secret, it will cost you your life!” Then Lucia, her father, and Manuel Marto returned to Aljustrel.
Recalling her experience with the Administrator, Sister Lucia later wrote:
“At the Administration office, I was interrogated by the Administrator, in the presence of my father, my uncle, and several other gentlemen who were strangers to me. The Administrator was determined to force me to reveal the Secret and to promise him never again to return to the Cova da Iria. To attain his end, he spared neither promises, nor even threats. Seeing that he was getting nowhere, he dismissed me, protesting however that he would achieve his end, even if this meant that he had to take my life” (first emphasis in the original, second is mine).
On the morning of August 13, the Administrator arrived at the Marto home and convinced the children’s fathers that he desired to “attend the miracle” with them, and that together they would first go to see the parish priest at Fatima. He also insisted that the children should ride with him in his carriage. Though the children and their parents had misgivings about this arrangement, they complied.
In Fatima, at the request of the Administrator, the parish priest consented to interrogate Lucia again. On this occasion he accused her of inventing the entire story. Then after a few questions, the Administrator interrupted and quickly had the three children get back into his carriage. They resumed their journey; but upon reaching the main road, he cracked the whip and made the horse bolt off down the road in the opposite direction – to Ourém, instead of the Cova da Iria.
Lucia quickly realized that they were heading in the wrong direction and protested. The Administrator attempted to calm them by saying that they were going first to meet with the priest at Ourém. Also, the multitude of pilgrims making their way to the Cova began to recognize the Administrator’s carriage and its passengers, so he wrapped a rug over the children to prevent the people from seeing them.
Thus, the children had been kidnapped. The Administrator’s plan was twofold. First, by preventing the children from being at the Cova da Iria at the appointed time, he thought that nothing out of the ordinary would happen there and that the large crowd gathered for the apparition would conclude that it was all a fake. Second, he intended to personally terrorize the children into revealing the Secret. Thus, he believed he had achieved his first goal, and only the second remained.
Once they reached the Administrator’s house, he locked them in a room, telling them that they would not be let out until they had revealed the Secret. However, they were given lunch by the Administrator’s kind wife, who saw that they lacked for nothing that day. The children then spent the night in loneliness and prayer, beseeching Our Lady that they might have the strength to remain faithful to Her always.
Our Lady Comes to the Cova
Meanwhile, on this day, between eighteen and twenty thousand people had gathered at the Cova da Iria to await the arrival of Our Lady. Though the seers were not present, there occurred, at the time that Our Lady was due to appear, a number of supernatural manifestations. Since these same manifestations had been observed by the crowd at the previous apparitions, this convinced many people – even unbelievers – that She had arrived.
Maria Carreira (also known as Maria da Capelinha, or “Maria of the Chapel”), one of the most important witnesses of the Fatima apparitions since coming to the Cova for the apparition of June 13, gave the following account:
“All around the tree, the people were praying and singing hymns, but when the children did not appear, they began to get impatient. Then someone came from Fatima and told us they had been kidnapped by the Mayor [Administrator]. Everyone began talking at once; there was great anger, and I don’t know what would have happened if we hadn’t heard the clap of thunder.
“The thunder was a shock to the people. Some of them began to shout that we would be killed. We all began to spread out, away from the tree, but, of course, no one was hurt in any way.
“Just after the clap of thunder came a flash of lightning, and then we began to see a little cloud, very delicate, very white, which stopped for a few moments over the tree, and then rose in the air until it disappeared.
“As we looked around, we began to notice some strange things we had observed before and would see again in the months to follow. Our faces were reflecting all the colors of the rainbow – pink and red and blue … The trees suddenly seemed to be made not of leaves, but of flowers. The ground reflected these many colors, and so did the clothes we wore. The lanterns that someone had fixed to the arch above us looked as though they had turned to gold. Certainly Our Lady had come, I knew, even though the children were not there.”
Thus, everything happened outwardly as though Our Lady had come. Her presence was demonstrated by several signs, including the clap of thunder, which were observed by a great majority of the pilgrims.
So, contrary to what the Administrator believed would happen, the first part of his plan failed. Our Lady did visit the Cova even though the children were not there, and several miraculous phenomena were observed by a large audience. Our Lady knew that the children had been kidnapped, but She appeared anyway – because She said She would, and because Her presence, even though unseen, would thwart the Administrator’s plan to discredit the apparitions at Fatima.
So, the three children missed out on seeing Our Lady in August? What happens to the children as the Administrator implements the second part of his plan: to terrorize them into revealing the Secret? Stay tuned for the next installment of this article (Part II).
Who cannot see the parallel with our own times when the Freemasonic forces persecute the Catholic Church? As we saw in this article, only Our Lady of Fatima can help us. We must rely on our Blessed Mother when we are in desperate situations, like the three children found themselves in. We must also be courageous and steadfast in the Faith as was Jacinta, Francisco and Lucia.
Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!
 Sources: The Devil’s Final Battle, Chapter 2, “The Long Opposition Begins”, pp. 10-12 (for the single-book version vs. the online double-book, see pp. 13-16); Father John de Marchi, I.M.C., The True Story of Fatima, Chapter VII, “Fourth Apparition”, pp. 36-39; Mark Fellows, Sister Lucia: Apostle of Mary’s Immaculate Heart, Chapter 16, “Kidnapped – August 1917,” pp. 73-75; Frère Michel de la Sainte Trinité, The Whole Truth About Fatima, Vol. I: Science and the Facts, (Buffalo, Immaculate Heart Publications, 1989), pp. 214-225.
 Frère Michel, op. cit., p. 217.
 The Devil’s Final Battle, p. 11 (or single-book version, p. 15); emphasis mine.
 Frère Michel, op. cit., p. 218.
 Mark Fellows, op. cit., p. 74.
 Mark Fellows, op. cit., pp. 74-75.