The Full Story
THE TRUE STORY OF FATIMA
Father J. de Marchi, I.M.C., 1952.
Through no gift of the author’s, but by the divine power, this is one of the very great stories of modern times. The remarkable events occurring near Fatima, Portugal, in the months from May to October, 1917, gain significance and new meaning with every passing day; the friends and followers of Our Lady of Fatima, for whom this volume speaks, increase each year by numberless legion in prayerful certitude that what we are revealing here is true.
The author is a witness to this truth, having lived at Fatima for many years, and this plain book’s pretension to importance is that it is able to present for the first time to Americans the full and documented background against which God has written His own prescription for peace.
Much of this account is lovely and can be counted on to fulfil almost anyone’s story-book expectations, as it tells of the shepherd children, Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco. But it is also a divinely serious narrative recalling, to the likely discomfort of many, the reality of heaven and hell, and bringing to necessary attention other primary matters too often and too long placed out of mind. It is hoped that this book, in its completeness, will provide a kind of text on Fatima, and the author feels obliged, in the face of such ambition, to list the documents on which it has been based.
I have used the Portuguese newspapers of the period, especially the Seculo, the Diario de Noticias, and the Mundo, all at the time important pro-government journals, anticlerical in both policy and tone. They describe the drama of the reported apparitions from a purely secular, non-religious point of view, giving a graphic, if at times a somewhat tongue-in-cheek coloration to those initial pilgrimages to the field called the Cova da Iria, near Fatima, when it was first alleged that the Mother of God had appeared to three peasant children. It is worth noting that the Catholic Press at this time was hardly less sceptical.
A considerable portion of this book is based on the writings of the Portuguese priest, Dr. Manuel Formigao, whose first work on the subject, entitled Os Episodios Maravilhosos de Fatima (The Marvellous Events of Fatima), appeared in 1921. It is a faithful, painstaking account of the good priest’s many interviews with the children, and of the impression they made upon him.
In 1919, when Bishop Jose Alves Correia da Silva took possession of the newly restored diocese of Leiria, embracing, among other mountain villages, the parish of Fatima, he set up without delay a canonical inquiry into the apparitions, and the most important testimony supplied in the succeeding months and years were these:
The interrogations of the three children by their local pastor, Father Manuel Ferreira, after each of the apparitions from June to October, 1917. These interviews had been carefully recorded by Father Ferreira at the time, and provided a most valuable reference. It should perhaps be mentioned that the puzzled pastor, while performing this chore for posterity, believed in the apparitions no more than he believed in Santa Claus.
The official canonical questioning of Lucia followed in 1924. New information broadened the picture A letter written to his fiancée by Dr. Carlos Mendes on September 8, 1917, was helpful. (1) Many other witnesses appeared, testifying with amazing consistency to the human, if not the supernatural drama, described in this book. Lucia, during these years of close investigation, had entered the College of Vilar, at Oporto, Portugal, which was directed by the Congregation of Dorothean Sisters. Later she joined their community at Tuy, Spain, and it was here, as a lay sister, that she wrote her memoirs in obedience to the orders of the bishop of Leiria. One could not possibly overvalue these documents, which are four in number and were written in 1936, 1937, 1941 and 1942. The first of her memoirs is mainly a biography of her beloved cousin, Jacinta, granting to a serious student only the barest reference to the apparitions.
In the second of her memoirs we first find a detailed account of supernatural experience, and then, almost casually, in 1937, a first reference to the apparitions of the angel. After twenty years of total silence, this particular revelation did not fall lightly, but rather like a bomb.
Lucia’s third memoir was richer still. From it many new facts emerge, among them a reference to the famed aurora borealis of January 25, 1938, which in her own view was the sign preceding the outbreak of the second World War, foretold by our Lady in the apparition of June, 1917.
Finally, having been ordered by the bishop to set down a definitive and complete account of everything she remembered, Sister Lucia, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of that same year, 1942, after imploring the grace to write with precision and exactitude, began the fourth and most extensive of her memoirs, including all the circumstances and all the details of the apparitions of the angel as well as the more celebrated visits of our Lady to the Cova da Iria in 1917.
It might seem that such abundant assistance from the one most qualified to speak would have been sufficient for a critical history of the apparitions. Yet there still remained some points of obscurity that prompted a series of interviews with Sister Lucia by serious students of Fatima
Unquestionably the one marked virtue of the book you are about to read is that it has been checked for truth and exact detail by Lucia, the surviving seer of Fatima, who is today (having transferred from the Dorothean Order) a Carmelite nun, and appears almost certainly destined to be a saint of God. [Sister Lucia passed away in 2005. —Ed.] She is the author’s friend, and she has walked with him in that blessed countryside where once, within the lifetime of so many of us now living, she talked with Mary, the Mother of God.
1. A Letter From Dr. Mendes To His Fiancée, written in September, 1917, See appendix. (return)