After the Apparitions
The Cost Of Heaven
It may well have been that the faithful, having observed at first hand the undeniable prodigies of October 13, felt some reason to believe that the enemies of religion in Portugal would, for at least a respectable little while, postpone their vicious and scandalous attacks against the Church. But it did not work out that happily.
The truth is that a kind of fury possessed the wilder of the anti-clericals. Through what magic or witchcraft the children’s promises had been fulfilled, they did not know. Yet it seems certain that if the world had split in half like an apple to splatter seeds on other planets, they would still not have been convinced. Their only reaction was to retaliate with new excesses of disrespect.
In the general area around Fatima, the focal point of undisciplined prejudice could be found at the Masonic Lodge at Santarem, a town not far away. Here the bigots, at the cost of some pain and planning, made plans for a mock-religious procession which would satirise and by some means, not exactly clear to themselves, expose the alleged wonders of Fatima as a fraudulent imposition on the gullibility of the people. Their plan, well conceived, was carried out with professional skill.
During the night of October 23, as duly recorded in the newspaper, Diario de Noticias, some gentlemen from Santarem (whose names, incidentally, are listed) joined with some other apostles of enlightenment from Vila Nova de Ourem, then continued on to the Cova da Iria. Here is part of the contemporary newspaper report:
With an axe they cut the tree28 under which the three shepherd children stood during the famous phenomenon of the 13th of this month. They took away the tree, together with a table on which a modest altar had been arranged, and on which a religious image (of our Lady) had been placed. They also took a wooden arch, two tin lanterns, and two crosses, one made of wood and the other of bamboo-cane wrapped in tissue paper.
These prize exhibits, including, as a footnote explains, a bogus version of the tree, were placed on exhibit in a house not far from the Seminary at Santarem, and an entrance fee exacted from those who wished to enter and be entertained at the widely advertised religious farce. One disappointment to the sponsors was the fact that not everyone, even among the Church’s active critics, agreed it was amusing. The profits from the exhibit were to be turned over to a local charity, but the beneficiaries said very politely, “Thank you; no.” Later, in the evening, a blasphemous procession was held.
The parade was headed by two men thumping on drums (a newspaper account reveals), while just behind it came the famous tree on which the Lady is said to have appeared. Next came the wooden arch, with its lanterns alight, then the altar table and other objects which the faithful had placed upon it at the Cova da Iria. To the sound of blasphemous litanies, the procession passed through the principal streets of the city, returning to the Sa da Band Eira Square, at which point it broke up.
Further research discloses that many of the demonstrators, less than satisfied with the appeal to bigotry they had attained, reorganised on a street not far from Sa da Band Eira Square, and were about to start parading anew when a woman, from a window above them, dropped a pail of water on their heads. She succeeded, less willingly, in drenching a local policeman as well, and the commotion in the street was considerable. A more substantial force of police then came along and dispersed the gathering.
The affair was a disgrace (the newspaper concludes). How is it possible that the authorities tolerate such a thing while at the same time refusing permission for the processions of the Church to which nearly the whole population belongs and whose ceremonies in no way offend the religious convictions of others?
The general reaction appears to have been one of revulsion, not only on the part of believing Catholics, but unanimously among all decent citizens. Literate and intelligent Catholics did not allow themselves to be intimidated by either hostile government policy or the unbridled bigotry and force of their Masonic antagonists. Protests came from all parts of the nation, and they are rather well typified by the following letter, written by Dr. Almeida Ribeiro, and dispatched to the government’s Minister of Interior:
As believers, and sons of a nation which has been made great by the faith of its warriors and the heroism of its saints; as citizens of a city which has been in the forefront of civilisation and culture, we strongly and earnestly protest against the scandalous processions tolerated by the public authorities, which, on the night of the 24th of this month passed through the streets of Santarem.
In this procession, which was worthy only of savages, the objects stolen from a place where people gather with the most pacific of intentions, were shamelessly exhibited. It took place in the presence of the whole population which, however, was disgusted at this degrading action on the part of a few people who can only be called pustules of society. The cross of our Redeemer… and the image of the Virgin who has presided over our destinies in all periods of our history, were held up to sacrilege and profanation.
The Litany of our Lady, whose name is the strength and comfort of our soldiers on the field of battle, was drunkenly intoned by the organisers of this satanic orgy.
There has not been in living memory such a repugnant attack on the faith of our people, directed against the traditions and dignity of a nation which prides itself on its respect for the beliefs of others.
It is impossible for us not to raise our voices against such flagrant provocation, and to repudiate this horrible parody with the greatest energy. Impossible not to make public our bitterness of heart in face of such an attack on the faith of our fathers and our own; an attack also on the honour of this city on the part of a few miserable youths.
If we did not publish our disclaimer, we should be considered at home and abroad as the most cowardly and unworthy of Portuguese.
We, therefore, proclaim blessed the cross of Christ which in other days rode the seas with our caravels when they went forth to conquer new worlds for the faith and for civilisation.
We also proclaim blessed the great Protectress of Portugal who, through the troubles and trials of our history has watched with maternal solicitude over our destiny, May God, forgive these impious men, destitute of all decent feeling, who blaspheme her adorable name, and may He withhold the punishment which would justly fall on a nation which consented to such crimes. Santarem, October 28, 1917.
Signed: “A Group of Catholics.”
Actually, of course, in their almost satanic desire to discredit Fatima as a shrine of hope and reparation, these fist-shaking and heaven-defying bigots did much to increase the local deposit of faith, to fortify the belief of the people in the miracle of the Cova da Iria, and to nourish that final and wonderful rebirth of religion in the Terra de Santa Maria.
But we have not yet run out of villains. A resourceful enemy of the Church, and a man devoted to heaving bricks at angels, real or imagined, was Senhor Jose Vale, editor of the Portuguese newspaper, O Mundo. A dedicated atheist and political anarchist, Senhor Vale was also an able and energetic pamphleteer, who set about flooding such places as Torres Novas, Vila Nova de Ourem and other neighbouring districts with some flaming samples of his talent. This gentleman’s freely distributed epistles shrieked with invectives, not only against the supposed apparitions, but with special venom against the Church in general, and those sly agents of Vatican wickedness, the Jesuits, in particular. Finally, at the Senhor’s instigation, all liberal-minded opponents of clerical hocus-pocus were invited on the following Sunday to assemble outside the Fatima church, there and then to unmask this pious comedy of the children and their fantastic Lady-in-the-Sky.
Senhor Vale, for this adventure in public enlightenment, had gathered many mischievous recruits, and it was a situation very alarming to Father Ferreira, the parish priest at Fatima. Prudently, the worried priest arranged for Mass to be said that Sunday in the Chapel of Our Lady of Ortigo, rather than at Fatima. Fearing as well that Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta might be molested by an unruly mob, he decided that they ought not to remain at Aljustrel in this critical time. Good fortune came to his assistance then, since it happened that a young noble known as Dom Pedro Caupers was staying at an ancient farm-estate, about four miles away. It was here the children were warmly received, along with certain members of their families.
Naturally then, with no one present in Fatima for himself or his followers to ridicule, the plans of Editor Jose Vale did not go as he had intended. The truth is that he did arrive at the parish church on the appointed hour, accompanied by Senhor Arthur Santos, the mayor, some strong-arm guards and a variety of friends, but the only one his marching and hooting delegates were able to find there was Senhor Francisco da Silver, the parish official. The scuttling of Editor Vale’s clever intentions could not have been more humiliating. But by no means a timid or thin-skinned man, the Senhor rallied his frustrated band for a march on the Cova da Iria, his aim being to stage a mock pilgrimage, and here, at least, he found no lack of audience.
One enterprising man from Lomba da Egua, a believer in the apparitions, and a great disbeliever in Senhor Vale, had prepared an unusual reception. Assembling a variety of donkeys, he had tied each one of them to a tree, and being a student of both donkeys and men, he had managed to place under the nose of each jackass a modest quantity of a certain liquid that caused them to bray with loud and comic effect just when the “pilgrimage” arrived.
We did our best to annoy them (Maria da Capelinha has testified), and they knew it very well. When I arrived with two of my neighbours at 11:30 that morning, we hid near the place where the Chapel of Penance was later to be built. Three men, who were our friends, had climbed an oak tree to watch the demonstrators. One of the demonstrators then began to preach against religion, and every time he said something especially offensive, we would answer, “Blessed be Jesus and Mary!” A boy, perched in another tree, began to say the same thing in response to their insults, and they became so furious at us that they sent two of their guards down after us, but we ran away through the trees and they could not find us.
Then after a while the men and the boys who had been to Mass at the Ortigo chapel came by, and seeing what was happening in the Cova da Iria, they began to shout all kinds of things at the speakers and the guards. “Country bumpkins! Fools!” the demonstrators shouted back. They sent their guards after our people again, but not one did they catch. We just kept running away and jeering and laughing at them as hard as we could. After a while they went off in the direction of Fatima, and we never saw or heard anything of them again.
The author, although having lived at Fatima for a considerable number of years, must rely on the records and on the gospel sincerity of his older friends and companions for a faithful picture of those early years with which we are here concerned.
Devotion did grow and multiply at the little shrine in the Cova da Iria. Senhora Maria da Capelinha was, of course, a primary witness, since her life, from the first apparition until the day of her recent death, was motivated almost exclusively by her love for Our Lady of Fatima
After that day on which the sun danced (she has told us) there was an endless procession of people to the Cova, especially on Sundays and on the 13th day of each month. The people came from all around—all kinds of people, really. The men came with their sticks and bundles on their shoulders, and the women came carrying children. Even the old and infirm came faithfully, and all of them would kneel near the tree where our Lady had appeared. A remarkable thing, but no one ever seemed weary or tired when he was here. It was, from the beginning, a place that gave strength. Here, at this holy place, mark you, nothing was ever sold, not a cup of wine or of water—nothing! And, oh, what good times those were for true prayer and true penance. Often we would weep with emotion.
Telling us of this place where her own heart and hopes had found an enduring home, Maria da Capelinha would sometimes have tears of great and remembered joy running down her cheeks.
Here there were many tears and prayers for our Lady, Father, and when there were plenty of people, we would sing our favourite hymns. All of us, it seems, did so much penance with such joy of heart, that I believe if I had died just then that our Lady would have taken me straight to heaven. Surely those days are long gone, but I cannot help myself from wishing to live them again.
People went home contented from the Cova because our Lady always heard their prayers. Truly, recalling those times I can think of no one saying that our Lady had not responded to prayer. All who came, it seems, came with faith, or else, if they did not have it at first, they found it here.
One day a man who had come a long way was standing there soaked with the rain. I went up to him and asked him if there were any ill effects. “No,” he told me, “I am every bit all right and have never passed such a happy night as this. I have come and yet I do not feel at all tired. I am so happy in this place.” I remember this because, apart from the rain, it was winter, and terribly cold, and this man had passed the whole night in the open air, since there was no shelter for him.
Another time a group of gentlemen and ladies came with Padre dos Reis do Montelo, who has since become a parish priest at St. Sebastian’s in Lisbon. Later I found that they had been to a christening and a dinner nearby and had only come here through curiosity, since they did not believe one little bit in all they had heard. But they stayed awhile, listening to those of us who did believe, praying around the table where the lighted candles were. Suddenly Father Reis took off his hat and began responding to the Rosary we were saying. When it was finished, I heard same one say—and I think it was Father Reis: “Even if Rome never approves this, I shall always believe that something extraordinary happened here.”
And yet Maria da Capelinha, for all this happiness, was not content. Of grave concern to her, as well as to Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco, was the fact that work had not yet been started on the chapel requested by our Lady.
There had been no lack of alms. The faithful, although few of them had more than meagre means, left food by the little tree, with the intention that it be sold to provide some of the necessary money for a chapel. Others left coins of varying value, and some left objects of gold and silver. Support for the simple project was full-hearted and most willing.
But there were other obstacles to fulfilment of the Lady’s request. First of all there was the vigilant opposition of the civil authorities in the area, and beyond that, as a discouraging hindrance, there was the indifference and indeed the hostility toward their intentions of Father Ferreira, the parish priest.
As we know by now, Maria da Capelinha was custodian of the alms box, an honour by no means lined with joy. Faithfully every day Maria gathered the coins left on the table, and marketed, for the purpose of acquiring additional cash, the food that was left there, along with occasional items of greater value. In all, it became with time a considerable deposit of cash—the entire amount in the personal safekeeping of this pious woman, and, of course, there was yet no sign of a chapel. The tongues of the unsaintly began in their very human fashion to wag up a substantial scandal. It was said without timidity, that the Carreiras, of Moita, had known how to use their opportunity.
My daughters (Maria de Capelinha recalls for us) went out to work by the day in the fields, and those who worked with them used to taunt them if they had new dresses or shoes. The people began to murmur, and so I went to the priest and asked him to take charge of the money because I was tired of the criticism. Then Father Ferreira took me to his office and showed me a letter from the Cardinal Patriarch which said that the money was to be kept carefully by some reliable person (but not the children’s parents) until further notice. This time I went home in a happier state of mind.
But the persecutions went on and this upset me a great deal. One day I heard a sermon by the parish priest of Santa Catherina on All Souls’ Day. He said from the pulpit that people who looked after the money for festas were always criticised and that there were always evil tongues ready to wag. But we must suffer such persecutions patiently for our Lord’s sake as He had suffered for us. From that time I determined to bear my trouble.
It was not long, however, before another worry came up. A man from the mayor—the one we called the Tinker—came to the house with a notice for my husband to appear at the tribunal. We and the neighbours thought that it would be about the money:
“Be careful, Ti Manuel,” they said to my husband. “Think out what you’re going to say!”
“I needn’t do that!” said he.
Although we didn’t know for certain, we were nearly sure that it would be about the money, and when he arrived at the town hall the people in the office asked him:
“What do you want?”
“The mayor sent for me and I have come to find out what he wants.”
“Where do you come from?”
“From Moita, near Fatima.”
“Ah, yes,” put in the mayor, who was sitting there, too.
“Then you are Senhor Carreira?” My husband replied that he was.
“Then you live near the Cova da Iria?”
“Do you go there often?”
“I have been there.”
“What do you do there?”
“I do what the others do.”
“Do you see our Lady, too?”
“No, sir, I haven’t seen her up to now.”
“Then what do you do there?”
“I go with the other people.”
“What do they say?”
“I don’t know. Some say one thing, some another.”
“There must be plenty of money left there?”
“I don’t know, sir.”
“Don’t you see it, then? Don’t you know anything about it?”
“I know nothing about it sir.”
“Who keeps this money?”
“I don’t know, sir.”
“You seem to be a very ignorant man!”
“That I am, sir!”
Behind the mayor was Senhor Julio Lopes, from the tribunal, and he nodded to my husband approving the way he was talking and telling him to go on. My Manuel kept on pretending he knew nothing and returned home very pleased at having got the better of the mayor. But our troubles didn’t end here.
One day—it was a Sunday—my eldest son came back from Mass and said to me:
“Mother, listen; I have just been talking to Joao Nogueira and he told me that the regedor intended to come here to see father again about that money. I don’t know if he was joking, but I don’t think so because he spoke seriously. You had better think out what you’re going to say when he comes.”
“I shall tell him it was stolen,” I said promptly.
“Then you should have said something about it before or he will know you’re lying.”
“Then I shall go and make a complaint now,” I said.
At this moment Jose Alves’ wife came along and I pretended to be very upset. When she asked me what was the matter I said:
“They’ve stolen our Lady’s money….”
“Stolen it? But didn’t you keep it safely somewhere?”
“No, I kept it in a tin tinder a stone in the garden.” The woman seemed surprised but she believed me:
“Well, it serves you right for being such a fool;”
“Yes,” I said, with my hands in front of my face.
Shortly afterwards Antonio Joaquim’s wife came along and I played the same game with her, pretending to be upset and telling her the story of the tin under the stone.
“You were asking for it, weren’t you!” she said. (The next door family were known not to be very reliable.) And she went away.
This happened in the morning and by nightfall everyone in Moita knew that our Lady’s money had been stolen. I felt my ears burning! Some days later Senhor Alves’ wife came back and said:
“You were lying weren’t you! The money wasn’t stolen. I could see you were only pretending to be upset.”
Then I told her everything. Sometimes one has to lie!
Some time passed, and when I saw that there was no more danger from the authorities in Ourem, I went to the priest and asked for his permission to begin building the chapel. I told him that we intended to put the statue of our Lady in it, and the gifts which the people brought which were often spoiled by the rain as things were at present. Father Ferreira answered as if he didn’t care one way or the other, and finally said that he didn’t want to have anything to do with it.
“If we build it with the money we have shall we be doing anything wrong?”
“I don’t think so,” he replied.
He spoke like this because he didn’t want it to be said later that he had ordered the chapel to be built. He had orders from the Cardinal Patriarch not to take any part in the affair. For myself, I had heard enough and I went home happy. I told everything to my Manuel and he went and spoke to Lucia’s father, because he was the owner of the land.
Lucia’s father gave his permission and said we could make it any size we liked. All the same he was very upset, and with good reason. The people spoiled everything so that nothing would grow there. They spoiled the trees cutting branches—big branches, not twigs—right and left until there was nothing left growing near the tree of the apparitions. When he saw people going by with branches in their hands he knew that they had come from his property. When the little tree disappeared they began to attack the big ones and if my Manuel had not protected them with thorn bushes the big trees in the Cova would not be there now.
The chapel took more than a month to build and everyone wanted to have a finger in the pie. Some wanted it one way, some another. Each one had his own idea, the more so because no priest would have anything to do with it. It became so difficult that I went and spoke to the mason, who was a man from Santa Catherina, a very good religious man and clever at his work.
“Don’t worry about it, woman,” he said to me. “If this is God’s work there’s bound to be trouble at the beginning.”
It was a dear little chapel when it was finished but it was not much more than a depository because it had nothing inside. No priest would come and bless it, and it was only much later that this was done by Dr. Marques dos Santos. It had a little covered balcony in front, very tiny—with six people it was full. It was later enlarged to the size it is today.
It was a considerable time before the little chapel was graced with an image of the heavenly Lady it was built to commemorate. Most of a year went by before it arrived at Fatima, concealed among farm tools in a crude wooden cart. As the price of caution, there was further delay before it was moved to the Cova da Iria, but in the interval it was blessed by the obliging but hardly enthusiastic Father Ferreira. Finally, on May 13,1920, the statue was brought to the chapel, and the people came with joy to behold its rather great beauty. Among those who came was Lucia, now a girl of thirteen, who stood reverently above the opened packing case, and wept without shame or self-consciousness, and by now, of course, in 1920, her little cousins had gone to that reigning Queen of Heaven who had called them in fulfilment of her promise.
But what had happened to the children after the wonders of October, 1917? The story of Fatima moves along, and for Francisco and Jacinta, it is nearly done. If it is not evident now, it will be made abundantly clear that Jacinta, at the age of seven, was a kind of earthbound angel, whose virtues, even when told with deliberate restraint, will sound to many like pious exaggerations.
Let’s think then for a little while of Francisco, who at the time of the great October events, was nine. He was enrolled in the village school at Fatima and he was not a model pupil. Indeed, in the declared opinion of his male instructor, Francisco was something of a dolt, and whether through personal dullness or sheer disinterest, he made few academic strides. Our own belief is that he could have presented his instructor with a rather original excuse for his failings—a preoccupation with God.
Francisco was a truant. He went to school as seldom as possible, and in this, at least, he was a great success. But unlike most truants of the author’s acquaintance and recollection, he did not practice the compensations of truancy: light larceny, sloth, or forbidden adventure. Francisco spent most of his time in church. Giving his heart to his Lady and her Son, he prayed virtually without rest, and if he was, in the favour of heaven, the least of the children, he did not resent his humble place, for it was glory enough for Francisco to have been included at all. He was a brave little boy, and he was a fair-minded, good little boy, dragging his limping nature after him with heroic acts of will.
He was now, of course, with his little sister and their cousin, a valid celebrity to many. It was a distinction he shunned with proved consistence. He held only one abiding ambition which he disclosed one day to two visiting ladies who had posed that classic question so often presented by adults to little boys: What do you want to be when you grow up?
“Do you want to be a carpenter?” he was asked.
“Surely you would like to be a doctor?”
“No, not that, either.”
“Then I know what you would like to be—a priest! Then you could say Mass all the time and you could preach.”
“No, madam; I don’t want to be a priest.”
“Well, then, what do you want to be?”
“I don’t want to be anything. I want to die and go to heaven.”
Ti Marto, who was present at this interview, has reported the incident to us. To this prudent, perceptive parent, the simple, automatic response of his son to this question of personal ambition was a crowning proof of his sincerity.
There is no evidence of childish self-dramatisation in Francisco’s daily devotion. His interior life was not only intense, it was very much his own. We get only glimpses, from the observations and chance discoveries of Lucia.
One day, Lucia recalls, when she was tending sheep with her cousins, she realised that Francisco had been missing for a considerable time. Fearing that for some reason he might be lost, she sent Jacinta in search of him, and though his sister wandered all over the pasture, calling his name in her thin, clear voice, there was no response. Lucia herself then, truly concerned, staged a systematic search. She found Francisco behind a stone wall, prostrate on the ground. When she touched his shoulder gently, and even when she shook him, he did not seem aware of her presence. Only when she shouted, “Francisco—what are you doing?” did he respond. He seemed to be dragging himself from the stupor of heavy sleep, or from a trance.
“Are you all right?” Lucia asked him.
“Yes,” he said. “I began saying the prayer of the angel; then—well, I started thinking, that’s all.”
“You didn’t hear Jacinta calling and calling you?”
“I never heard her,” he said. “I never heard anything.”
Lucia has made it clear that his desire for heaven and his love of God and the Lady were the guiding motives of Francisco’s few concluding years. His repeated acts of contemplative prayer were never staged for effect. They were for himself alone, and for the objects of his love. At odd times, Lucia recalls, he would disappear. On another occasion, at lunchtime, they missed him, and Lucia found him in secret prayer, behind a tall rock that had screened him from their view.
“Francisco,” she said, “come and have your lunch”
“Please, let me be,” he said. “You have yours with Jacinta, then call me when it is time for the Rosary.”
“But what have you been doing?”
“I’ve been thinking of God,” he said with almost tearful sincerity. “I’ve been thinking of our Lord and of all the sins that have made Him unhappy. Oh, Lucia, if only I could comfort Him.”
If this dialogue appears a bit unreal for a nine year old, there is nothing we can do to change it. This is the faithful record of Francisco Marto’s years of grace.
Lucia’s memoirs, sketching for us with such a certain, affectionate hand, the virtues of her cousins, are understandably bare of praise for herself. The truth is that they all advanced in virtue. Their heroic self-denials were secret and were continued by Jacinta and Francisco until their separate days of death. The simple and unsophisticated people of the region who believed in them came with problems and petitions as to saints already canonised, and while there is no overwhelming documentation to support such a claim, it does appear quite likely that within their own lifetimes the sacrifices and prayers of these children did purchase miraculous results.
In Fatima the village church is not far from the primary school and it became the practice of the children on their way to school to kneel and meditate before the Blessed Sacrament, referred to most always, and without affectation, as the “Hidden Jesus.” Jacinta and Francisco, with their foreknowledge of death, seemed to feel themselves exempt from the dull routine of books. Consequently they would often remain before their Hidden Jesus for many, many hours. Even here, the villagers and the visitors to town would give them no rest. They would hover close to the children, pleading with them to place their petitions before the Virgin Mother.
“They seem always to guess where we are,” Jacinta said, “and they will not let us talk with Jesus.”
But this pursuit of the children occurred not only in church.
We were met one day (recalls Lucia) by a poor woman who knelt down before Jacinta begging her to request from our Lady a cure of the terrible disease with which she was afflicted. Jacinta, seeing the sick woman in such a pitiful way, tried to help her to her feet but could not. She then knelt down next to the woman and prayed three Hail Marys with her. “Our Lady will cure you,” she promised the woman, and then instructed her to get up. Day after day she kept praying for the woman until she was cured and came back to give thanks to our Lady.
There have been many indications of the value of Jacinta’s intercession while she was still alive, as witness this incident referred to in Lucia’s memoirs:
One of my aunts (Victoria), who lived in Fatima, had a son who was a real prodigal. I don’t know why, but he had some time before abandoned his father’s house and nobody knew what had become of him. In great affliction of mind my aunt came one day to Aljustrel to ask me to pray to our Lady for this son and, unable to find me, she put her request to Jacinta, who promised to comply. After some days, he came home and asked his parents’ forgiveness, and later went to Aljustrel to recount his misfortunes. Having spent all that he had stolen—according to his own story—he had been arrested and imprisoned in Torres Novas. He eventually managed to escape, and hid himself among some unknown hills and pine woods. Thinking that he was completely lost, he was seized with a sudden terror of the wind and darkness, and as a last resort fell on his knees and prayed. He declared that after a few moments Jacinta appeared and, taking him by the hand, led him on to the road which leads from Alquidao to Reguengo, making signs to him to continue on that way. At daybreak he found himself on the road to Boleiros, and recognising exactly where he was he went straight to his parents’ house, overcome with emotion.
Now he had declared that Jacinta had come to him and that he recognised her perfectly. I asked Jacinta whether she had in fact been there with him. She answered no, and that she did not even know those hills and pine woods, where he had been lost.
“I only prayed,” she said, “and asked our Lady very much to help him, because I was so sorry for our Aunt Victoria.” This was her answer. How, then, can the fact be explained? God alone can answer.
Francisco, according to Lucia, at about this same time secured through his selfless prayers, the freedom of a man arrested for a grievous crime which, presumably, he did not commit. So strong was the evidence against the alleged felon, however, that it was not a promising task.
“Listen,” Francisco said to Lucia and Jacinta when informed of the unhappy gentleman’s case, “you two go to school and leave me alone with Hidden Jesus.”
It does seem, examining the record, that the boy had a way with him, and we should perhaps include here the success of Lucia’s prayers in behalf of her mother, who became gravely ill at this time. It is her sister, Maria dos Anjos, who has supplied us with these details:
Our mother was so ill that we thought she would die. She had long attacks of breathlessness, and the doctor said she suffered from her heart. It was a great sorrow to us because we had just lost our father. It was then that I said to Lucia, who was sitting on a bench by the hearth:
“Listen, Lucia, father is dead and if mother dies we shall be orphans; if you really saw our Lady, ask her to make mother better.”
Lucia didn’t reply but she got up and went to her room and put on a thick woollen skirt because it was winter and raining hard, and went off in the direction of the Cova da Iria. When she came back she was carrying a handful of earth and told my sister, Gloria, to make an infusion with it for mother. She had also made a promise to our Lady to return there with her sisters and go on the knees from the street to the chapel for nine days running, and during the same time to feed nine poor children.
Gloria prepared the infusion and gave it to mother.
“What sort of tea is this?” she asked.
“It’s made of flowers,” we said, and she drank it all.
Then the attacks gradually began to get less and she no longer suffered from breathlessness, but breathed easily and well. And her heart also improved, and within a very short time she was able to get up.
She was able to work again after this and did not seem like an old woman. We began at once to go to the Cova to fulfil the promise. For nine days, after supper—because in the daytime we had to work, and also we didn’t want to be seen—we went on our knees from where the main gate is now to the little chapel. Mother also came with us, but she walked behind.
As for Francisco, a rather good glimpse of him has been provided by a former schoolmate, now a priest, who is the current director of the Seminary of Leiria:
I had the good fortune to attend the same school as Francisco Marto, from February to June of 1917. Francisco distinguished himself from the others by reason of his humility and kindness, virtues which, however, caused him much suffering, thrown as he was among companions under the influence of a teacher without Christian formation. He was very backward at his lessons, and was still in the lowest form, a misfortune which drew upon him the strictures of his teacher and schoolfellows. It is obvious, however, that he was occupied with the sublime thoughts which the angel had brought to birth in his mind, and that he cared little or nothing for the ordinary instruction of the school Francisco would humbly bow his head and, we may be sure, with his soul united to God, received the censures of his master and companions.
At the break which we had at midday he would eat his lunch and stay quietly with a few other boys until the teacher gave the sign for them to go into school again. I remember playing with him and enjoying it because Francisco was always pleasant and friendly with everyone.
In the evening he went his way and I mine which was in the opposite direction, and for this reason I do not know how he passed the rest of the day. From February to May, the life of Francisco in the school at Fatima was more or less as I have described and such was the attitude of his teachers and fellows toward him. In the last half of May the news of the apparitions spread through the village, and the attitude of the school toward him began to alter somewhat. The teacher, a good professor but a bad educator, took advantage of Francisco’s scant interest in his lessons to dub him a fraud and a liar. He never ceased to point out his defects, I don’t know whether with the intention of shaming him into greater efforts, or to induce us to take his part against the little seer.
We, mere children as we were, naturally followed the teacher’s lead, and often joined him in humiliating poor Francisco. The worst of it was that our words were sometimes translated into actions, and he sometimes had to spend the recreation period pinned against the wall unable to free himself from the ill treatment meted out to him by certain stronger boys among us. This all took place during the last half of May and the whole of June. After the long vacation I entered the seminary and lost touch with the seers….
Another burden borne patiently by Francisco was the denial to him of his treasured Hidden Jesus until the day before his death. In 1917, during the peak period of the apparitions, both Jacinta and Francisco had made their first confessions, an occasion remembered very well by Ti Marto:
About that time, it must have been after the second apparition, I took the two of them to the church to make their confessions. I went with them to the sacristy and said to Father Ferreira:
“Father, here are my two children; they want to go to confession. Your Reverence can ask them any question you like.” (I confess that I put a little malice into those words!) Then the priest replied:
“These things (the apparitions) do not belong to confession, my friend!”
“That’s true,” I said, “and if they don’t belong I needn’t bring them here again.”
But the children made their confession, though Father Ferreira thought they should wait another year for Holy Communion.
The next year, in May, they went back to be examined in the catechism.
Jacinta answered well, but Francisco got muddled somewhere in the Creed—I can’t remember where—and so in the end Jacinta was allowed to make her Communion while Francisco could not. He went home in tears, but there was nothing to be done!
From the day of his Lady’s visit to the Cova da Iria on October 13, 1917, until the morning of Francisco Marto’s death, a little less than eighteen months had passed. He must, by then, have recited all the Rosaries she had asked of him.
He first fell ill around the middle of October, 1918, together with Jacinta, his other brothers and sisters and his mother, all victims of the malignant influenza epidemic of that winter. Ti Marto alone of the family was spared, and he began, in his faithful way, to operate within the stricken household what he called his “hospital.”
When my wife went down with it too (he has rather recently recalled), I had all I could do taking care of the lot of them, going about my own work at the same time, and running all the errands as well. It kept a man on his toes, I can tell you, but God’s hand always seemed close enough to help me. I never had to beg from anyone, and somehow there was always money enough.
Francisco, along with Jacinta, seemed from the beginning to realise clearly that this illness was less a burden or punishment than a passport to heaven. If one could sift with the author through the inundating weight of evidence, he would realise that never for a moment was the supernatural out of their thoughts. For a period of two weeks, after being stricken, these youngest members of the family appeared to rally against the disease. But a relapse set in, and for Francisco, at least, it was so severe that he could move neither hand nor foot.
But unlike other victims of illness, they found the question of death or recovery robbed of its mystery. Our Lady appeared to them and dissolved any possibility of a riddle with her simple statement that she would come for Francisco first and for Jacinta not long after that. Their dry and fevered lips cracked under the strain of their smiles: There was no dirge for them, but only joy in their Lady’s words. They waited anxiously for Lucia’s next visit to their beds.
“Oh, Lucia,” Jacinta revealed to her, “our Lady was here. She came to us both. She is going to take Francisco very soon, and she had a question for me.”
“What was the question, Jacinta?”
“She asked would I like to convert more sinners, and I told her yes I would—yes, yes, I would. She said then that I must go to two hospitals, but not to be cured. I am to make further sacrifice for the love of God, and to atone for the sins of people against our Lady’s Immaculate Heart. That is what she told me, Lucia.”
“And you—you will not be with me when I go wherever it is that I must go. My mother will take me there, and I will have to remain alone.”
[The Final Days of Francisco]
Of Francisco’s illness, his mother has told us this:
He took any medicine we gave him and he was never difficult. What it was he liked, or what it was that he did not like, he would not say. Just take them all—milk if I gave it, an egg if I offered that. The meanest medicines he swallowed without making a face. He was so good and cheerful that we kept feeling he was getting better, but he always smiled and told us it was no use—our Lady was coming to take him to heaven, he would say.
In January, for the second time, his condition improved—so much so that he was able to leave his bed and go out for brief periods. It made us all very hopeful, but did not seem to impress Francisco. He always told us the same thing—that we must not be deceived, and that our Lady was coming for him.
During this brief space of time when Francisco was sufficiently repaired to go on short walks by himself, his one destination was the Cova da Iria. Here, for as long as his slight store of strength would permit, he would kneel in ecstatic recollection of the Lady of the apparitions, who was to him not only the solace of his present trial, but the patroness and guarantor of the paradise he had glimpsed.
Ti Marto, looking back, recalls it was clear that some knowledge or certainty illumined the mind of his son. He was much too happy to be engaged in some marathon stage-play for which he had neither the talent nor the strength. Ti Marto became convinced that the boy would die as he so confidently and repeatedly declared. This assurance he reported to Francisco’s godmother who, in the country tradition, wanted to make a pledge of the child’s own weight in wheat should he be cured.
Thus his seeming rally from his illness did not last. He was soon back in bed and his condition grew rapidly more grave. The influenza ravaged him, and fever shrivelled and parched him like an old apricot left baking in the sun. His cheerfulness, and the smile that hovered everlastingly on his cracked lips were an agony for his parents to watch.
Lucia, of course, was better able to understand this tonic joy of hope and love that had conquered her cousin’s physical misery. Better than his parents she knew the source of Francisco’s unfailing happiness. She came faithfully each day to visit with him and with Jacinta.
“Do you suffer very much, Francisco?”
He nodded his little head. “But I do it for our Lord and our Lady,” he said. “I wish I could suffer even more, Lucia, but honestly, I can’t. Is the door closed tight?”
Lucia looked around and assured him it was. He searched then feebly but effectively among the bed-clothes until he was able to draw forth the penitential cord he had been wearing for these many, many months.
“I can’t manage it any more, Lucia. Please take it from me before my mother finds out.” He passed the coarse length of rope to his cousin who folded it and carefully kept it from the chance view of anyone entering the room. A little later on she was to accept a similar cord from the dying Jacinta, and secretly, before her own departure to the convent at Vilar, burn them in an open field consistent with the inviolate practice of all three children never to dramatise their penances and never to cheapen with pious display their love for God and His Mother.
“Lucia,” the boy said, and she turned to him again, the cord out of sight. “I haven’t much time, Lucia. Jacinta must pray very hard for sinners and for you, because you are not so lucky to be going with us. Our Lady has said that you will have to remain for many years. Pray for the Holy Father, Lucia—do you hear?”
“‘I hear, Francisco,” she said, and quietly, devotedly, remained sitting next to him.
In the fourth and most recent of her memoirs, in which Lucia, under obedience, treats of these secret things, she has interestingly emphasised that while Jacinta’s every effort seemed directed at the solitary object of converting sinners and salvaging souls from hell, the primary motive of Francisco was the direct consolation of God and of our Lady, who had seemed to him so very sad.
Lucia’s visits continued through the spring. It was the beginning of April now.
We were always glad to see Lucia come into the house (Olimpia Marto recalls), because it was beyond the gift of anyone else to liven the days of my Jacinta. My little girl would pass hour after hour with her hands held over her face, as if to hide what she was thinking, and when I would ask her what was on her mind, she would answer, “Nothing.” But it was different, always different when Lucia came. It was her way, it was her gift to bring happiness. Like a sweep of sunshine she was, and I knew that when she was with Jacinta there were no secrets between them. They would talk and talk for hours and yet never a word of what was said were we able to catch. As soon as anyone came near, their voices would stop, and it was to all of us a great mystery.
“What was Jacinta telling you?” Olimpia would ask when Lucia was about to go home. “What were you saying to Francisco in his room?”
But there was never a violation of their most intimate common possession, the secrets told them by their Lady. Lucia would simply smile in her amiable way and go on.
Alone, the sick children prayed almost without ceasing, adding Rosary to Rosary in an unending attempt to polish each remaining hour. And then at last, in his final days, Francisco found himself unable to pray. Concentration was too difficult.
“Mother, I can’t pray; my head keeps going around and around until I do not know what I am thinking.”
“Pray with your heart then, dear,” Olimpia would advise. “It will be enough for the Lady to understand.”
His condition grew worse. The mucus thickened in his throat, and his fever, though it seemed hardly possible, rose higher; he was without ability to take any food; he weakened and weakened as death came crowding near.
“Father,” he said to Ti Marto, “I want to receive Holy Communion before I die.”
“Of course you will, son, and I will go see to it right now.”
With something less than crowning confidence, Ti Marto set off for the presbytery. Once before, Francisco, as a candidate for first Communion, had been denied his “Hidden Jesus” by Father Ferreira. But at just this time Father Ferreira was away, and in his place was Father Moreira, of Atouguia, who consented at once to come to the boy.
“On the way back to the house,” Ti Marto tells us, “we said the Rosary. I remember it very well because I had forgotten my beads and had to count the Aves on my fingers.”
Meanwhile Lucia had been hastily summoned at Francisco’s request. As his prime confidante he needed her perhaps more than any living person. This is her own account now. Lucia speaks:
He had asked his mother and the rest of the family to leave the room because he wanted to tell me a secret. When they had gone he turned to me and said, “I am going to confession now, Lucia, and then I shall die. I want you to tell me if you have seen me commit any sin, and then I want you to ask Jacinta if she saw me commit any, either.”
“Well,” I said to him, “you were sometimes disobedient to your mother when she told you to remain at home. Sometimes you ran off to be with me; other times you ran off just to hide.”
“I know,” he said, “I did do that. Now go ask Jacinta if she remembers anything else.”
I went in to see Jacinta who listened to me gravely and gave the matter some thought.
“You can tell him,” she said, “that before our Lady ever appeared to us he stole a tostao (about a penny) from Jose Marto, of Casa Velha, and that when the Aljustrel boys threw stones at the boys from Boleiros, he threw them too.”
I went back and gave her message to Francisco and he told me, “I have confessed those already but I will confess them again. Perhaps it is because of those sins that our Lord is so sad. I will never commit them again. I’m very sorry for them.”
Joining his hands, he then said the prayer we had learned so well from our Lady: O my Jesus, forgive us and deliver us from the fires of hell; take all souls to heaven, especially those who are most in need.” He then turned to me and very solemnly asked, “Lucia, will you pray to our Lord, too, and ask Him to forgive me my sins?”
“Certainly I will,” I told him, “but if our Lord had not forgiven them already, Francisco, our Lady would not have told Jacinta the other day that she was coming to take you to heaven so soon.”
It was at this time that Father Moreira arrived with Ti Marto and heard Francisco recite those little sins that loomed so large in his own mind and his fervent heart. Ti Marto, standing well aside, continued to worry whether or not the priest would give the Eucharist to his son, since he feared that Francisco in his present weakness might do less than well with the catechism questions the priest would be required to ask. But it had all gone well, he learned from the priest, and to both of them Father Moreira was able to say:
“Tomorrow I will bring our Lord.”
On the radiant spring morning of April 3, 1919, the fields of the serra were rich with flowers, and the bright day glad with the singing of birds. Francisco tried vainly to raise himself in bed when he heard the tinkling of the little bell announcing the priest’s arrival with the Sacred Host. Strength failed him, and he fell back weakly.
“You can receive our Lord lying down,” he was assured.
The priest then, wishing peace to this house and all who lived within its walls, placed the body of Christ on the tongue of the little boy who loved Him so well.
Francisco died on the following morning, at ten o’clock, when strong sunlight was pouring through the open windows of his room. It is said that his shrunken face glowed with a kind of rapture, and that with sweet willingness, and in the absence of pain, he went to his Lady and to Jesus Christ our Lord.
He was buried the following day in the little cemetery at Fatima, just across the road from the parish church. There was a nice procession. Four boys were dressed in white, and they carried the little coffin. Several men in green capes preceded the surpliced priest and gave a dressed-up touch to the occasion. Behind these, weeping, walked Lucia, and with her the members of the Marto family, all save Jacinta, herself too ill to attend.
There was at first no monument to mark his grave except a simple cross placed there by Lucia’s hand.
[The Final Days of Jacinta]
It is not easy to write about the final days of Jacinta. She simply does not sound like a child of eight or nine. A non-Catholic, not perceiving the force of love that drove her, nor familiar with the divine mysteries made clear to this child by angelic insight, might well dismiss her as a precocious and prattling little thing with no apparent design to her ceaseless mouthings other than to set a pall of gloom upon the everyday activities of everyday, normal people.
More truly, and much more fairly, Jacinta is a joyous person, and yet, at the same time, whether we like it or not, a duly commissioned prophetess of penance. Here was a miniature Joan of Arc, standing at last against the stake of burning love; here was a child more of heaven than of earth, and we will be wise to mark for our own instruction all that she has said.
For one who in the beginning had been so gay, and almost, we might say, over-cute, the rapid inroad of spiritual experience on her personality is unmistakable.
After the apparitions (Lucia has written), I never saw her drawn by any childish enthusiasm for frills and fancies. She was always serious, modest and kind, and seemed to carry the presence of God into all her actions in a manner more usual to people of advanced age and virtue. If children were not attracted to her as they were to me, it was perhaps because she did not know so many songs and stories, or perhaps because she was so serious for her age. If in her presence a child, or even a grown-up, did or said anything unseemly, she would say, “Don’t do that because it offends God and He is so much offended.”
Through the spring and much of the summer that followed Francisco’s death, his little sister suffered greatly. After a siege of bronchial pneumonia, a punishing form of pleurisy set in. An abscess formed in the delicate membranes of her chest cavity, and there was an agony of unrelenting pain. Except for a few brief days of reprieve, she had not been able to leave her bed since October of the year before. Lucia came to be with her not only every day but for every moment and every hour she could contrive.
“I keep thinking of Francisco,” Jacinta would tell her cousin again and again, “and of how much I would like to be with him.”
But it is clear that Jacinta was living through a drama of which the world knew nothing. This made it no less real, but rather more terribly and intimately a problem to be met. Lucia’s memoirs reveal unmistakably how the sorrowing child, as though she could pay the world’s debts by herself, was bowed with thoughts of war and evil, suffering and horror, and the pit of hell which awaited the lost.
“So many people will die and go to hell,” she said to Lucia. “So many houses will be destroyed, so many priests will be killed. Listen, Lucia, I will be all right, you see, because I am going to heaven, but when you see that light of which our Lady told us, Lucia—then you must come to heaven, too.”
Very sensibly Lucia reminded her that one doesn’t take a train to heaven as to Lisbon. The choice of the time or the means, she explained, is never one’s own.
“Yes, I know,” Jacinta agreed. “That is true, of course, but don’t you be afraid. I will pray very hard for you when I am in heaven; I will pray for the Holy Father, too, and for all the priests, and ask God that the next terrible war will not come to Portugal.”
“Do you suffer much?” Lucia asked.
“Very greatly,” the child conceded, “but don’t cry, Lucia, please—because, really, I don’t mind. Just don’t tell anyone else, especially Mother, because I don’t want her to worry.”
Jacinta, in the months of her illness, had been reduced from exuberant, bounding health to a state of pathetic frailty. Life clung as thinly as breath, and the local doctor, examining both her condition, and the limited facilities of her home, advised that she be sent without delay to the hospital at Vila Nova de Ourem, a few miles away.
[Jacinta Goes to the Hospital]
The little girl did not protest, for the reason that she knew she was going, anyhow. “You will go to two hospitals,” she had been told by her Lady, “not to be cured, but to suffer more for the love of God, and for the conversion of sinners, and to make reparations for the offences against my Immaculate Heart.”
Does this seem a cruel and unnecessary burden for the power of heaven to set upon a shrivelled, powerless, dying child? Jacinta did not think so. She understood very clearly this reverse-gravity of divine Love. In joyous imitation of her Saviour she accepted her Lady’s directive, knowing beyond the wisdom of prudent and self-protecting men that the heart can best ascend to the Father of Christ when it is weighted with a cross.
“Your mother will take you to the hospital,” the Lady had told her, “and then you will have to stay there alone.”
The prospect of separation from her family and from Lucia was more punishing to her than the pressure of physical pain, however great.
“If only you could come with me,” she said to her cousin. “How dreadful, really, to go without you. Perhaps it will be so dark in this hospital that I will not be able to see, Lucia, and in the darkness, too, I will have to be alone.”
Early in July her thin little body was raised by her father, and placed as tenderly as possible on the family donkey’s back. Her mother made the journey to Vila Nova de Ourem with her. She was at the hospital for a period of two months, and though the treatments were radical and severe, they brought no visible benefit. It was a time of actual martyrdom, relieved by nothing but the two brief visits that Lucia was able to make.
And yet I found her happy as ever (Lucia has revealed), suffering willingly for the love of God and the Immaculate Heart of Mary—for the Holy Father, too, she offered her sufferings, and for all the sinners of the world. She was doing that which she wanted most to do, and it was of these things that we spoke.
By the end of August it all seemed depressingly hopeless. The hospital treatment was useless, and the expense to Jacinta’s family was much beyond their very limited means. It was decided the child should come home. By now, in her side, she carried an open wound that required its being attended and dressed each day, not so much with the object of any cure, but to prolong such life as remained. After a while, in the rather primitive surroundings of home, the wound became infected, and Jacinta weakened and wasted day by day. At about this time she was visited by her warm friend, Dr. Formigao, who had come from Santarem to see her, and this is the priest’s reaction to what he saw:
Jacinta is like a skeleton and her arms are shockingly thin. Since she left the local hospital where she underwent two months’ useless treatment, the fever has never left her. She looks pathetic. Tuberculosis, after an attack of bronchial pneumonia and purulent pleurisy, is undermining her enfeebled constitution. Only careful treatment in a good sanatorium can save her. But her parents cannot undertake the expense which such a treatment involves. Bernadette, the peasant girl of Lourdes, heard from the mouth of the Immaculate Virgin in the cave of Massabielle, a promise of happiness not in this world, but in the next. Has our Lady made an identical promise to the little shepherdess of Fatima, to whom she confided an inviolable secret?
Great as the child’s trials must have been in this period, her eagerness for further sacrifices failed to falter. Her courage and resolution appear to have been almost fantastic.
“When I am alone,” she explained to Lucia, her only confidante, “I get out of bed to say the prayer of the angel. Trouble is I can’t get my head on the floor any more: I tumble over when I try to do it and for this reason I have to say the prayer on my knees.”
Lucia, moved with pity, and wishing to help her little friend, went quietly with this information to Father Ferreira, who reacted with the firm direction that Jacinta must not attempt any more to get out of bed, but must be satisfied to continue her assaults on heaven from a prone position.
“But won’t our Lord mind that?” Jacinta asked when she heard of the priest’s directive.
“Our Lord wants us to do what our pastor says,” Lucia explained and her cousin seemed satisfied.
Jacinta, after her return from the hospital at Vila Nova de Ourem, managed to attain a certain amount of mobility. On occasional winter mornings, with a reserve of strength gained through the night, she was permitted to attend the weekday Mass in the parish church at Fatima, which was closer to her home than the Cova da Iria, an area now forbidden her.
“Don’t come with me to Mass today, Jacinta,” Lucia would sometimes advise. “You just aren’t strong enough, and it isn’t a Sunday.”
But the child, drawn on by that Hidden Jesus of whom she spoke so often, would persist, and go along on those spindly legs. Returning, she would be utterly exhausted, and obliged to fall into bed. Apart from these limited ventures to church, she was not allowed out-of-doors in winter. Lucia, however, remained with her almost constantly, in intimate sharing of that very private world these two possessed. They held no secrets from one another, but talked of the sacrifices they had made and their hard-won reparations to God as other children might discuss the playing of games or the dressing of dolls.
“Do you know why Jesus is so sad, Lucia? Because our Lady has explained how much He is offended and still nobody cares; they just go on with the same old sins.”
Recounting to her beloved Lucia, in their order and number, the sacrifices she had made in atonement for the sins of others, was not by any interpretation a boastful indulgence for Jacinta. First of all, no one else knew about these private chalices of sought-for-pain. Besides, both girls were actively and intelligently in the business of goodness. There was a serious and divinely ordained enterprise to be carried on, so that their counsels comprised a kind of essential inventory:
“I was thirsty, Lucia, and I didn’t drink, and so I offered it to Jesus for sinners. In the night I had pains and I offered our Lord the sacrifice of not turning over in bed, and for that reason I didn’t sleep at all. What sacrifices have you been able to make?”
Lucia’s memoirs, replete with the fiery self-annihilations of her cousin, fail to list with anything approaching an equal candour the gifts to God made by herself. This is understandable and as it should be, yet we would be reading the evidence badly not to conclude that Lucia was in full partnership. The seriousness with which she regarded their joint pursuit of virtue is underlined in many ways, and that she could see an occasional imperfection amid all the glow of her precocious cousin’s sanctity is evident.
One day (she has written), Jacinta’s mother brought in a milk pudding and told her to take it.
“I don’t want it, mother,” Jacinta said, then pushed it away.
My aunt tried hard to persuade her, but finally went away discouraged, so that when we were alone I said to Jacinta, “Well, this time you disobeyed your mother and you didn’t offer to God the sacrifice you could have made.”
When Jacinta heard this she burst into tears, and then she said, while I was wiping the tears away, “Oh, Lucia, I forgot this time.
Quickly she called back her mother and asked her pardon, explaining that she would take whatever her mother offered her. The milk pudding was brought back, and Jacinta took it without any sign of repugnance. Afterwards she said to me:
“Lucia, you don’t know how hard that was to take!”
Some of the dialogue between them, reads coldly, seems almost too pious for print; yet it exists in the faithful record made by Lucia herself, and it is necessary here to complete the portrait of Jacinta.
Lucia, who was old enough, and for that reason eligible, frequently attended daily Mass and received Holy Communion, a privilege that never failed to fill her little cousin with rapturous wonder.
“Lucia, have you been to Holy Communion today? Then please come close to me won’t you? You have our Hidden Jesus in your heart. Sit here. Sit close, Lucia. I don’t know how it is, but I can feel our Lord inside of me, too, even though I have not received Him. And though I cannot see Him or hear Him, I still understand what He wants.”
Lucia, listening with tender understanding, took from her prayer book a picture of the Chalice and the Host. The sick child seized it and kissed it with passion.
“This is our Hidden Jesus, Lucia, and how I love Him, and how I long to receive Him as you do. Will I be able to go to Communion in heaven, Lucia? Because, if I could, I would go every day.”
Always in her thoughts and always at the surface of her speech was that Immaculate Heart of Mary of which the Lady had spoken. There were no doctrinal difficulties or confusions of meaning to impede her absolute devotion to Mary, the Queen of Heaven. Here the dying child is entirely explicit.
“I shall go to heaven very soon, Lucia, and you must stay to explain to people how God wants to establish devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary all over the world. And when you speak of this to people, Lucia, don’t be afraid to tell exactly what is true. Tell everyone that God gives us His grace through His Mother’s Immaculate Heart, which He wants to hold close to His own Sacred Heart. The people must ask for peace through Mary’s Immaculate Heart, because that is the way God wants it, and that is what our Lady herself has told us!”
Love, perhaps more than fever, was consuming the fragile remains of Jacinta Marto.
Toward the end of December, 1919, Jacinta confided to Lucia that she had been privileged with another visitation.
[Jacinta's Final Mission]
“Our Lady told me that I am going to another hospital, this time in Lisbon, and that I shall never see you again, Lucia—you, nor my father, nor my mother. She has told me that I will have to suffer much, and die alone, but that I must not worry or be afraid, because this time she is coming to take me home to heaven with her.”
Most punishing to Jacinta was the thought of dying alone, unattended by the ones she loved. For reasons not clear—considering all the pain she had cheerfully borne—this final penance rested more heavily than all the rest. Lucia recalls finding her one day kissing a simple picture of our Lady and beseeching aloud:
“Darling Mother in heaven, must I die alone?”
Lisbon, though less than a hundred miles away, seemed to the child like the farthest end of earth. Perhaps to her parents and sisters and brothers it seemed equally remote, for when she announced to them that she was going to the great capital city, they declared it, at least among themselves, as the wildest of nonsense. Why Lisbon, after all? The hospital treatment at Vila Nova de Ourem had been utterly useless, and there appeared to be very little wisdom in repeating a first mistake on an even grander scale. And there was the question of the fantastic expense that would be involved, for in Lisbon, surely, in their grand establishment for the sick, the authorities would not be content with the humble fees charged at Vila Nova de Ourem.
The family was wrong. Events confounded them, and contrived fulfilment of the Lady’s prediction. One day an automobile—an item rarely seen in Aljustrel, stopped before the pale stucco home of the Marto’s, and out of it stepped their priestly friend, Dr. Formigao. With the clergyman were the famed Lisbon physician, Dr. Enrico Lisboa, and Senhora Lisboa. We quote now from Dr. Lisboa’s own recollections of that day:
In the middle of January, 1920, we went for a run to the Cova da Iria in order to try out the new motor car which we had recently bought. On our way through Santarem we went to pay our respects to Dr. Formigao, who we knew could tell us all about Fatima and the events of which he had been a witness. Dr. Formigao whom we had not known personally before, but who has been our intimate friend ever since, had the kindness to accompany us to Fatima on that occasion and it was through him that we came to know Jacinta and Lucia.
After a visit to the Cova with Lucia, in whose company we prayed the Rosary with unforgettable faith and devotion, we returned to Fatima, where we spoke to Jacinta and the mothers of the two seers. They told us about Francisco, who had been a victim of the widespread epidemic of pneumonia influenza which had swept with such tragic results through Europe. He had, we learned, realised his only wish since the apparitions, which was to go to our Lady. He refused all help and advice from the people who knew him in his life, and desired only death, with the least possible delay.
Little Jacinta was very pale and thin, and walked with great difficulty. The family told me she was very ill, which they hardly regretted, because Jacinta’s only ambition also was to go to our Lady, whose will it was that she should die in the same way as Francisco.
When I censured them for their lack of effort to save their daughter, they told me that it was not worth while, because our Lady wished to take her, and that she had been interned for two months in the local hospital without any improvement in her condition.
I replied that our Lady’s will was certainly more powerful than any human efforts, but in order to be certain that she really wished to take Jacinta, they must not neglect any of the normal aids of science to save her life.
Impressed by my words, they went to ask the advice of Dr. Formigao, who supported my opinion in every respect. It was therefore arranged on the spot, that Jacinta should be sent to Lisbon and treated by the best doctors in one of the hospitals of the capital.
Ti Marto had listened with sober respect to the learned physician’s recommendation. Where the money was to come from he had no idea, but he went, anyhow, to tell Jacinta that a decision had been made.
“Jacinta,” he explains having said, “we are going to arrange for you to go to a hospital in Lisbon.”
“Yes, Father,” she said, and it could certainly not have been any surprise.
“It has to be done, child; it must be done. Otherwise people will say that we neglected to give you the proper care. And perhaps, after you are treated at Lisbon, you will be better.”
“Papa, dear,” Ti Marto recalls his daughter saying, “if I should recover from this illness, you may be sure I would get another. When I go to Lisbon, Papa, it means goodbye.”
She was a wretched sight that day, by her father’s testimony. Her little heart was enlarged, and her digestive organs by now were ruined. She was resigned to this last of her journeys, and had only one request—that she be allowed, before leaving the serra for good, to make one last visit to the Cova da Iria.
I arranged to take her there on a friend’s donkey (her mother has told us) because I knew she could not have managed to walk. On the way she asked to stop just once, and began by herself to say the Rosary. Weakly she picked a few flowers to put in the chapel at the Cova, and then was helped back on the donkey. At the Cova she just knelt down and prayed.
“Mother,” she said to me, when she struggled up from her knees, “when our Lady went away she passed over those trees, and afterwards she went into heaven so fast I thought her feet would get caught.”
Ti Marto went about making provision for his daughter’s trip to Lisbon and her hospitalisation there. He would accept financial assistance from no one, however slight his current resources, but there were other details with which, in his inexperience, he could not cope. A young nobleman from Vila Nova de Ourem, the Baron Alvaiazere, had become the family’s good friend, and it was through the Baron that arrangements were made for Jacinta, her mother and her brother, Antonio, to be met by friends in the great capital city.
I went to see Baron Alvaiazere (Ti Marto has explained), and I told him what train they would be taking. “Antonio will tie a white handkerchief to his wrist,” I said, “so that the ladies who are coming to meet the train will know who they are.”
That night I gave my wife instructions for the following day.
“When you get on the train,” I said, “you must ask the other people to excuse you, because your little girl is very sick and it is only because of this that she has an unpleasant smell. Be very careful that Jacinta does not lean out of a window when another train is passing, and when you are going through the Rossio tunnel (the approach to Lisbon), don’t forget to have Antonio tie on the handkerchief.”
Unquestionably the most punishing of Jacinta’s experiences was the forced separation from Lucia, who recalls the bitter day: ‘
It nearly broke my heart to have her go. Jacinta stayed a long while in my arms, holding very close to me, and then she said, “We shall never see each other again! Pray for me, Lucia; pray for me very much, until I can go to heaven, and then I will pray and pray for you. Never, never tell our Lady’s secret to anyone, not even if they say they are going to kill you, Lucia. Love Jesus very much and love our Lady’s Immaculate Heart, and do not forget your sacrifices for sinners.”
Jacinta’s mother has described the trip to Lisbon: We went to the station in a mule cart with my eldest son, Antonio. During the journey Jacinta stood nearly all the time by the window looking through the glass. In Santarem a lady came to the train and gave her some sweetmeats, but Jacinta wouldn’t eat anything.
We knew nobody in Lisbon, and it was for this reason that Baron Alvaiazere and my husband had arranged for some ladies to meet us. They were to recognise us by the white handkerchiefs tied to our arms. But when we got out of the train, Antonio, who knew how to read, went off to see something outside the station and I lost sight of him.
“Antonio, Antonio,” I shouted out….
And then a few moments later he appeared again with the three ladies, who came up to us. They took us out of the station, and we went to various institutions but nobody would take us in. When we were nearly tired out from walking we came to an orphanage run by a holy nun who opened her doors to us, and could not have given us a better welcome. I stayed there with Jacinta for over a week, and then went back to Fatima.29 Jacinta, in spite of weakness and physical pain, found contentment and joy in the orphanage on the Rua da Estrela, in Lisbon. Mother Godinho, the superior, was a woman of vast understanding and charity. The children of the house, with every good reason, called her “Madrinha,” or godmother, a term quickly adopted and employed by Jacinta herself. This house, in which the desperately ailing child and her mother, rejected by all other institutions, took final sanctuary, adjoins the Chapel of Milagres; there is a raised choir from which one can see the tabernacle and assist at Mass, celebrated in those distant days by an old and very deaf priest. The privilege was to Jacinta a boundless joy. The gift of being under the same roof sheltering Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament was as wildly beyond her hopes as, in her humility, she believed it to be in excess of her merits.
She went to the altar (her mother recalls) either in my arms, during the little while I was there, or else she was carried by the mother superior. I remember her saying to me before I left for home, “Oh, mother, I want to go to confession.”
That day we went very early to the Estrela church, and when her confession had been heard she was like an angel with happiness.
“What a good priest that was,” she said to me. “He asked me so many things.”
I kept saying to myself how much I would give to know what the good Father had asked her to give her this happiness, but of course it is not anyone else’s business what happens in confession.
Every moment permitted her was spent by Jacinta in the choir of the chapel. Sitting quietly on her little chair, for she was not allowed to kneel, she would remain with her eyes fixed on the tabernacle in prayer and meditation. If, below her in the chapel, she heard frivolous conversation, or observed in anyone an attitude of imperfect respect, she would mention this to Mother Godinho, not that she chose to be a tattler or a scold, but because she was horrified by any lack of reverence. Gravely she explained that our Lady was always made unhappy when people did not respect the Blessed Sacrament.
The wise superior did all she could to accommodate the unusual fervour of this child, without taxing her dwindling strength. To give her all the sun and air she could, she obliged Jacinta to sit at an open window overlooking the Estrela gardens. Here at least she could see the green of the trees, and watch the antics of the birds, and the companionship of the wise and gentle nun did much to repair the bitter loss of Lucia, whom Jacinta missed more than all the members of her family.
I soon began to realise that a little angel had come into my house (says Mother Godinho). Although I had long wanted to see the privileged children of Fatima, I never imagined that I would have the good fortune to shelter one under my roof.
We had some twenty to twenty-five children in the asylum. Jacinta was friendly with them all but she preferred the company of a little girl about her own age to whom she would give little sermons. It was delightful to hear them, and hidden behind the half-open door, I assisted at many of these conversations.
“You mustn’t lie, or be lazy or disobedient, and you must bear everything with patience for love of our Lord, if you want to go to heaven.” She spoke with such authority; hardly like a child.
During the time she was in my house she must have received a visit from our Lady more than once. I remember on one occasion she said:
“Please move, dear Mother, I am waiting for our Lady,” and her face took on a radiant expression.
It seems that it was not always our Lady in person who appeared, but a globe of light such as had been seen in Fatima, because we once heard her say:
“This time it wasn’t like it was in Fatima, but I knew it was she.”
That these later appearances of our Lady to Jacinta were not mere hallucinations, is rather strongly supported by the child’s conversations with Mother Godinho. The wisdom and understanding displayed by this unlettered ten-year-old, lacking anything more than the bare rudiments of religious instruction, would have been almost impossible if the knowledge were not directly infused. The nun was so deeply impressed, that she recorded the following in her own hand. It is Jacinta, speaking of sin:
“The sins which cause most souls to go to hell are the sins of the flesh.”
“Fashions will much offend our Lord. People who serve God should not follow the fashions. The Church has no fashions. Our Lord is always the same.”
“The sins of the world are very great.”
“If men knew what eternity is, they would do everything to change their lives.”
“People are lost because they do not think of the death of our Lord, and do not do penance.”
“Many marriages are not of God, and do not please our Lord.”
On the war:
“Our Lady said that the world is full of war and discords.”
“Wars are the punishments for sin.”
“Our Lady cannot at present avert the justice of her Son from the world.”
“Penance is necessary. If people amend their lives, our Lord will even yet save the world, but if not, punishment will come.
The reference here (Mother Godinho has written) is to a great punishment of which she spoke in secret, and was revealed in her last days. But there is nothing to prevent its revelation now.
Jacinta said that our Lord was profoundly outraged by the sins and crimes which were committed in Portugal, and for this reason a terrible social cataclysm threatened our country and particularly the city of Lisbon. A civil war, or Communist revolution would be unchained, which would be accompanied by sacking and violence, and devastation of all kinds. The capital would be converted into an image of hell. This threatened punishment should be revealed little by little and with due discretion.30
Jacinta, on priests and rulers: “You must pray much for sinners, and for priests and religious. Priests should concern themselves only with the things of the Church.”
“Priests must be very, very pure.”
“Disobedience of priests and religious to their superiors displeases our Lord very much.”
“Pray, Mother, for rulers.”
“Heaven forgive those who persecute the Church of Christ.”
“If the government would leave the Church in peace and give liberty on, it would have God’s blessing.”
On Christian virtues: “Mother, fly from riches and luxury.”
“Love poverty and silence.”
“Have charity, even for bad people.”
“Do not speak evil of people, and fly from evil speakers.”
“Mortification and sacrifice please our Lord very much.”
“Confession is a sacrament of mercy, and we must confess with joy and trust. There can be no salvation without confession.”
“The Mother of God wants more virgin souls bound by a vow of chastity.”
“I would gladly go to a convent, but I would rather go to heaven.
“To be a religious, one must be very pure in body and mind.”
“Do you know what it means to be pure?” I asked her.
“Yes, yes, I know. To be pure in body means to be chaste, and to be pure in mind means not to commit sins; not to look at what one should not see, not to steal or lie, and always to speak the truth, even if it is hard.”
“Doctors do not know how to cure people properly, because they have not the love of God.”
“Who taught you these things?” I asked her.
“Our Lady, but some of them I thought out myself. I love to think.”
There is evidence that the dying, emaciated Jacinta in these happiest of her living days received from her Lady not only moral wisdom but actual glimpses into the future, and that she possessed for a while the gift of prophecy. Mother Godinho one day asked Senhora Olimpia, during a visit to the orphanage: “Would you like your daughters Florinda and Teresa to enter the religious life?”
“Heavens no!” that honest and uncomplicated woman exclaimed, and the discussion seemed at an end.
A little while later, however, Jacinta, who had heard none of the conversation between the women, confided to Mother Godinho with great seriousness: “Our Lady would like my sisters to be nuns, although my mother would not approve. That is why she will take them both to heaven before very long.”
If this was an “irresponsible” attempt at prophecy it proved amazingly accurate, since shortly after Jacinta’s own death her sisters, Florinda, seventeen, and Teresa, one year younger, followed her to the grave.
Jacinta also assured Mother Godinho, who had long expressed a wish to visit the Cova da Iria, but was faced with almost impossible obstacles in the form of her daily duties, that her desire would be fulfilled as soon as she (Jacinta) died. It happened precisely that way. Circumstances having prevented her burial in Lisbon, it became necessary for Jacinta’s body to be accompanied to Vila Nova de Ourem, and the family vault of Baron Alvaiazere. Assigned to this task unexpectedly, by her own superiors, was Mother Godinho, who was able that same day to journey the brief way to Fatima, and pray at the Cova with Lucia at her side.
It is difficult to know the full extent of Jacinta’s prophecies. One of the two doctors who treated the child in Lisbon asked her to pray for him when she got to heaven. She courteously agreed, but then, as though in afterthought, looked at him gravely. “You, too, will be going to heaven, Doctor, and very soon,” she said. The physician died shortly thereafter.
As for the other doctor attending her, she predicted not only his own imminent demise, but the death of his daughter as well. Strangely, the records contain no complaints that she was a dangerous character to have around.
Another time, according to Mother Godinho, Jacinta was listening to an excellent sermon by a priest of high standing and exemplary reputation. Jacinta alone was unimpressed and turned to the nun with the grave prediction: “That priest will turn out badly, Mother, even though you would not think it now.”
Not long after this the unfortunate priest abandoned the cloth and lived in open scandal.
As to the operation she was to undergo, its outcome meant little or nothing to the child. Amid the hopes and prayers of others, she dictated a letter to Lucia, declaring very simply that our Lady had appeared to her, and had revealed the day and hour of her death.
Jacinta’s glad days with Mother Godhino had not been many. Less than two weeks had passed when Dr. Lisboa, in desperate hope of saving her life, succeeded in having her interned in Lisbon’s Estafania Hospital. The kind nun accompanied the child to the ward and received the censure of both doctors and nurses for having accepted a tubercular patient in the orphanage. On a hygienic or medical basis, this criticism was likely justified, but it should be kept in mind that Mother Godinho alone had acted with charity toward this ailing child, who had been rejected by every one else.
Jacinta was merely one of many in the ward. There were no special attentions. There was no Hidden Jesus to fill her with consolation at each trying day’s beginning, although Jacinta does seem to have managed, in her very own fashion, to have given the devil some bad hours even here. Among the visitors and nurses who came to the ward there were many whose manner of dress seemed to Jacinta both flamboyant and immodest.
“What is it all for?” she solemnly intoned. “If only they knew what eternity really was!” And of those doctors whose science openly discounted belief in God: “Poor things,” she would say, “how changed they would be, if they knew what awaited them.”
Within this period she revealed that our Lady had once again appeared to her, emphasising anew the prevalence in the world of those sins of luxury and carnality that cost the loss of so many souls. Penance, Jacinta said, was what the Queen of Heaven was asking in reparation of those sins.
Dr. Castro Freire, the child specialist, operated on Jacinta February 10, 1920. Her suffering was intense for the reason that in her condition nothing more radical than local anaesthesia was possible. But the result was clinically rather good, with two ribs being extracted from her left side, leaving a wound in which a grown-up’s hand could be comfortably inserted. Jacinta was an accommodating and stoic patient, and though the required daily dressings of the great wound in her side were a frightful agony, her only cries were repetitions of her beloved Lady’s name.
Mother Godinho was able to lighten Jacinta’s loneliness with daily visits to the hospital ward, and Dona Maria Castro, a patient of Dr. Lisboa, came regularly to the child’s bedside. Ti Marto himself, in his anxiety, made one brief call at the hospital, but was so beset with the illness of his other children in Aljustrel that he was obliged to hasten back to where his help was needed more.
Jacinta, in at least those recorded times when Mother Godinho was with her, bore her sufferings with the understanding and resignation of a saint, explaining quite calmly to the woman at her side, “We must be willing to suffer if we want to go to heaven.”
Her Lady did not desert her. At the conclusion of her most terrible suffering she was able to confide in Mother Godinho, “I am much better now, thank you. Our Lady said that she would come to take me almost right away, and that there will be no more pain.”
And in fact (Dr. Lisboa affirms), with this apparition, there in the middle of the ward, her pain completely disappeared and she began to be able to play and enjoy certain distractions. She liked to look at holy pictures, one among them in particular—given me later as a souvenir of Our Lady of Sameiro, which she said most closely resembled the Lady of the apparitions. I was told several times that Jacinta wished to see me, but as my professional duties were heavy and Jacinta was apparently better, I unfortunately put off my visit until too late.
It does not appear that these last apparitions were in any way wispy or vague, for Mother Godinho, choosing a place to sit at the bedside, heard Jacinta protest with anxiety, “Not there, Mother, please; that is the place where our Lady stood.” 31 Jacinta Marto, an almost certain saint of God, died on the Friday before Ash Wednesday, 1920 And Dr. Lisboa’s deposition is as follows: On the evening of that 20th of February, at about 6 o’clock, Jacinta said that she felt worse and wished to receive the sacraments. The parish priest (Dr. Pereira dos Reis) was called and he heard her confession about 8 o’clock that night. I was told that Jacinta had insisted that the Blessed Sacrament be brought to her as Viaticum but that Dr. Reis had not concurred because she seemed fairly well. He promised to bring her Holy Communion in the morning. Jacinta again asked for Viaticum saying that she would shortly die and, indeed, she died that night, peacefully, but without having received Holy Communion.
A young nurse, named Aurora Gomes, was the only person present. There was neither drama nor excitement at the moment of death. The nurse held to her solitary vigil while the hours moved on. The other children in the ward continued their sleep without disturbance. Only in the morning was it generally known that Jacinta had died, and Dr. Lisboa fills out the record for us here:
When I was told what had occurred during the night, I spoke to Dona Amelia Castro, who came every day to my consulting room for treatment to her eyes, and she obtained from certain members of her family a white first Communion dress used by poor children, and money to buy a blue silk sash. Jacinta was thus laid out in our Lady’s colours according to her wish.
As soon as her death became known, various people sent money for the expenses of the funeral, which was fixed for the following day, Sunday, at noon, the body to be taken to one of the cemeteries of Lisbon.
When the coffin left the hospital mortuary, it occurred to me that it might be wiser to have the body deposited in some special place, in case the apparitions should later be confirmed by the ecclesiastical authorities, or the general incredulity on the subject be overcome. I, therefore, proposed to have the containing Jacinta’s body deposited in the Church of the Holy Angels until its removal to some vault could be arranged.
I then went to see my good friend, Dr. Reis, the parish priest, who however demurred at the idea of the body remaining in his church owing to certain difficulties. However, with the help of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament, some of whose members happened to be in the sacristy at the time, Dr. Reis was persuaded to give his permission to let the body remain there. Soon afterwards it arrived and was placed humbly on two stools in the corner of the sacristy.
The news spread rapidly and soon a sort of pilgrimage of believers in Fatima began, the faithful bringing their rosaries and statues to touch Jacinta’s dress and to pray by her side. All this profoundly disturbed Dr. Reis who was averse to his church being used for what might well be a false devotion, and he protested energetically by both word and action, thereby surprising those who knew him as a most kind and courteous priest.
It had finally been decided that the body should be taken to a vault in Vila Nova de Ourem, and matters were accordingly arranged. This involved a delay of two days. The funeral was scheduled for Tuesday. The body would be taken from the Holy Angels Church to the Rossio Station. Thence, by train, it would go to Vila Nova de Ourem.
Meanwhile the body remained in the open coffin which again caused serious anxiety to Dr. Reis who feared an intervention on the part of the sanitary authorities 32 and he continued to be worried by the stream of visitors, which he avoided only by locking the coffin in an office. At last Dr. Reis, in order to avoid the responsibility of the open coffin and the pilgrims, deposited the body in the confraternity room above the sacristy, and handed the key to the firm of undertakers, Antonio Almeida and Co., who had been engaged for the funeral. Senhor Almeida remembers to this day, and in great detail, what passed on that occasion. In order to satisfy the innumerable requests to visit the body, he remained in the church during the whole day of February 23, accompanying each group of pilgrims—whose numbers were strictly limited—to the room above, in order to avoid any unseemliness which might occur.
He was deeply impressed by the respect and devotion with which the people approached and kissed the little corpse on the face and the hands, and he remembers very clearly the live pinkness of the cheeks and the beautiful aroma which the body exhaled.33 At last, on February 24, at 11 in the morning, the body was placed in a leaden coffin which was then sealed. Present at this act were Senhor Almeida, the authorities, and several ladies, among them Senhora Maria Pen a (who died recently), who declared in the presence of various people who can testify to it today, that the body exhaled a beautiful aroma of flowers as the coffin was being sealed. Owing to the purulent nature of the disease, and the length of time that the body remained unburied, this fact is remarkable.
In the afternoon, which was wet, the funeral took place on foot, in the company of a large crowd. The coffin was finally laid in the vault of Baron Alvaiazere in Vila Nova de Ourem.
I remember that on that day the General Annual Conference of St. Vincent de Paul took place, and that I excused my late arrival on account of the work of mercy which had claimed my attention, namely, the burial of one of the seers of Fatima. These words provoked an outburst of mirth on the part of the assembly, composed, as may be imagined, of some of the most prominent Catholics of the capital, among them the Cardinal Patriarch himself, who joined in the laugh at my expense. Later he became a great admirer of Fatima, and declared that his great desire was to celebrate Mass in the Cova da Iria before he died.
It is interesting to record these curious facts, showing as they do the great reluctance on the part of the great majority of clergy, and certain of the laity in Portugal to believe in the events of Fatima. There were a few believers, among them Dr. Formigao, who assisted at the apparitions and bore witness to them by means of the written and the spoken word; also holy old Father Cruz whom I have seen in Fatima ever since my first visits there, and who was the first priest I heard in a Lisbon church publicly exhorting the people to pray to Our Lady of the Rosary at Fatima, at a time when the general run of the clergy were afraid to give public utterance to any shred of belief they might have in the revelations!
After all these years it is a great consolation to me to have been instrumental in arranging that Jacinta, in her last illness, should have been under the care of the best doctors and nurses in a Lisbon hospital. Thus the odious calumny, which has been spread abroad, namely, that the Catholics brought about the deaths of the two younger children in order that they should not be able to contradict Lucia’s affirmations, can be most emphatically repudiated.
In Aljustrel, where the Marto family was already burdened with illness, the news of Jacinta’s death fell heavily. Ti Marto, trying to care for everyone, had been taxed with multiple trials to the limit of his strength and ingenuity.
After my Jacinta’s operation (he has told the writer), I received a letter that said my little girl was all right. For this reason I was happy and encouraged, and I got someone to write a letter for me to Baron Alvaiazere, telling him how well our little one was, and thanking him along with all the good people who had tried to help in so many ways. But after about ten days a letter came back from the Baron, and it requested that I go to see him at once at Vila Nova de Ourem. Well, I went there to his house, and the Baron, a kind man, first told his servants to give me some food. He waited, and then he brought out a letter he had only recently received, and this letter told how my Jacinta, even though the operation had gone well, was dead.
It was a blow, and I did not know what to say. After a while I looked up to him and said, “Is there anything I must do that I have not done?”
“Nothing, Senhor Marto,” he said to me; “there is nothing.”
That is the way it happened and how it was. I had to go home and tell the family the terrible news, and then in a few days another letter came to me from the Baron, this letter explaining how I must go again to Vila Nova de Ourem to meet the train that was bringing back the body to be placed in Baron Alvarazere’s family vault.
I went, of course, but when I saw the people gathered around the coffin that held my Jacinta—well, I just broke down, and I cried, believe me, as I have never cried before or since. It seemed such a sad, sad waste for her to have gone off all the way to Lisbon only to die without us, all alone.”
For more than fifteen years the body of Jacinta rested in the tomb at Vila Nova de Ourem; or until, in September of 1935 the bishop of Leiria approved a plan providing for the remains of Jacinta to be placed beside those of Francisco in the churchyard at Fatima, where a special tomb had been erected. But before Jacinta’s body was taken from the Alvaiazere vault, her coffin was opened and, to the prayerful wonder of all, her face was seen to be perfectly preserved. The incorrupt flesh of God’s good servants, as we know, are frequently, although by no means necessarily, regarded as a sign of sanctity. A photograph was taken of Jacinta’s remains and a copy of it sent to Lucia who, in 1935, was a Dorothean lay-sister. Lucia’s grateful reply to the bishop was as follows:
I thank you for the photographs with all my heart. It is impossible to express how much I value them. From Jacinta’s body I almost wanted to tear off that shroud and see the whole of her. I was so anxious to see the rest of the body that I forgot it was a photograph at which I was looking; such was my happiness at seeing again the most intimate friend of my childhood.
I have a great hope that our Lord may concede her the halo of sanctity for the honour of our Blessed Lady. She was a child only in years and already knew how to show God and our Lady her love by means of sacrifice….
Jacinta was placed beside her brother in the quiet churchyard at Fatima, and on their tomb these simple words were inscribed:
HERE LIE THE MORTAL REMAINS
FRANCISCO AND JACINTA
TO WHOM OUR LADY APPEARED
Not until April 13, 1951, when the stately basilica rising above the Cova da Iria was finally completed, were their bodies moved—now to rest, perhaps until the end of Christian time, above that wild and rocky field where first their Lady said to them, “Do not be afraid.”
[Lucia's New Life]
We return now to Lucia, whose age, at the time of Jacinta’s death, was one month less than thirteen years. Any opportunity for normal, unspectacular adolescence had already been denied her. She was, at least in Portugal, a nation-wide celebrity. Subject to the overwhelming and ceaseless attention of those who believed in her, she was also the target of skilful enemies who most emphatically did not believe, and were, moreover, determined to expose her as a fraud.
In Aljustrel the circle of affection was narrowing. Lucia’s father had died, and although Senhor Santos had been neither a model parent nor an heroic defender of the faith, there is no mention of his failings in his daughter’s recollections. “My dear father” it is her charitable choice to say, because she loved him. Properly and most decently forgotten are his bouts with the bottle, and forgiven, if not entirely forgotten, his frequently obscene references to the business of the apparitions.
How sad I felt when I was left alone (she has written). Within a short time I lost my dear father, and then Francisco and Jacinta. Whenever I could, I went to the Cabeco, and there, hiding behind the rocks and alone with God, I poured out my heart in tears to Him.
Lucia must be judged in the light of an almost faultless charity and modesty. She is not the heroine of her own memoirs, having deliberately assigned that role to Jacinta. She emerges from her memoirs as a true personality only where obedience to the bishop has obliged her. But there are things that we who have known the adult Lucia can affirm so easily: her wholesome gaiety and lack of pietistic sham, her practicality and unobtrusive gifts for leadership, her homely face and the joyous, searching eyes that have looked on Christ our Lord. But truthfully, in this excellent friend of our Lady, there is no mystical pretension.
Naturally she was saddened by the deaths of Francisco and Jacinta. Even though their deaths had been foreordained by the Lady in Light, Lucia’s loneliness was bleak and hard to bear. She had no other confidants. The tremendous secrets imparted by their Lady were more difficult to carry alone. Lucia was, and of necessity remains, a strange citizen of the world, for the reason that she has seen so clearly beyond our natural boundaries, and knows from intimate and live experience what others know only through faith. How great have been the privileges of this nun who is now in the middle years of her life? Surely we can’t say, because it is impossible to know. How great, we might ask with equal wonder, were those gifts enjoyed on a mountain top by Peter, James and John?
The Church understandably, in those first years of emotional and spiritual excitement at Fatima, remained aloof, if not officially hostile, to the claims of the children and the clamour of those multiplying thousands who believed the phenomena observed above the Cova da Iria to be the unmistakable work of God. But slowly, and with mounting effect, the pressure of continuing evidence obliged the Church officials to observe events more closely.
The diocese of Leiria, of which Fatima is a part, was restored in 1918, although the first bishop to establish his episcopate there was his Excellency Dom Jose Alves Correia da Silva, consecrated May 15,1920. He took office in August of that year.
Dom Jose, a just man, didn’t quite know what to make of Fatima. It was hard to resist one’s own persuasion to believe. The sincerity of the children, both living and dead, was difficult to doubt, since they had stood with almost supranatural bravery in the storm of hostile ridicule and cross-examination. Any fair assessment of their testimony and behaviour carried a fair man to that one inescapable conclusion regarding them: crazy, perhaps, but surely not insincere. And the evidence of October 13,1917, witnessed by 70,000 men, women and children of mixed emotion and religious conviction? One was obliged to await respectfully and even reverently further evidence, in prayerful prudence, and in hope of our Lady’s direction, without, of course, imperilling the dignity of the Church, or committing its official hand.
One thing clear to the bishop was that Lucia, the surviving witness, should be removed from Aljustrel. This would facilitate not only a more thorough investigation of those great events in which she had played the leading role, it would as well relieve the beleaguered child of the endless questioning and badgering to which she was being subjected almost daily. The bishop hoped further, that his measure would test the sincerity of the ever-increasing line of pilgrims who were making their way to the Cova da Iria, since it was suspected by many that the prestige of this child alone, rather than any fair measure of true faith, was drawing the crowds to the shrine. If the child’s mother would agree, the bishop decided, it would be wise to place Lucia in some boarding school where she would not be known, and where, for this very reason, no one would speak to her of Fatima.
Lucia’s mother, hearing of this proposal, was avid for acceptance. Lucia herself—though with certain understandable misgivings, was equally willing. They went together to the bishop’s house in Leiria.
“This is entirely secret,” said Dom Jose to Lucia, “and for that reason you must tell no one where you are going.”
“Yes, my lord.”
“In the college you must not tell your identity to any one.”
“No, my lord.”
“And you must not speak again about the apparitions of Fatima.”
“No, my lord.”
It was June 13, a day of pilgrimage. Returning, along the steep road from Leiria, Lucia could see the tired, glad faces of the faithful who had been that day to the Cova da Iria. She drew her kerchief more carefully around her face, and unknown to them, she wept—not in distressed or stifled resistance to the bishop’s disposition of her case (for in all honesty she welcomed and approved the solution) but because her youth was over, and a curtain was falling rapidly on this scene of her remembered joys.
There were cruel details attached to her departure. Obedience to the bishop required that it be revealed to no one, not even to her closest relatives and friends. Even Maria da Capelinha, the gallant champion of the children and their Lady from the day of the first apparition, was excluded from her confidence. For this reason Lucia was obliged to say goodbye to places, instead of to people.
On her last day in Aljustrel she walked the brief distance to the Cabeco, where first the angel had appeared to, Jacinta, Francisco and herself. She climbed the slope past the olive trees and the crooked oaks in oppressive heat. The field was wild with beauty. Rock roses were fat with bloom and the throb of the crickets filled the day. Lucia did not stop for sight or sound, but hastened into the shade of the rough, tall-standing stones where an angel had fed them the living Christ from a chalice that he was able to leave suspended in the air. She fell on the ground and remained there for an hour, repeating with whispered love, and in the rhythm of a sobbing she could not control, the angel’s prayer:
“My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love You. I ask forgiveness for those who do not believe, nor adore, nor hope, nor love You.”
And then, with equal fervour, the angel’s prayer to the Holy Trinity:
“Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, I adore You profoundly, and I offer You the most precious body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifference by which He is offended. and by the infinite merits of His most Sacred Heart, and through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg the conversion of poor sinners.”
Here in these paragraphs, if we pause for just a moment to reflect, is the essential meaning and purpose of Fatima. It should be kept in mind that this is a simple, and, we sincerely hope, an unpretentious book that should be of equal value to people of vast or little education. These two paragraphs of prayer are for rulers and beggars, philosophers and illiterates; they are for popes and peasants, cardinals and clowns. The question to ask is simply: who is speaking? And unless this story of Fatima is an unspeakable sham and a hoax, it is God who speaks!
Why is it God?
Well, because, by basic Catholic definition, an angel is a messenger of God. It was an angel who said to a Jewish maiden in whose womb reposed the living Christ, “Hail, -full of grace, the Lord is with thee” almost two thousand years ago. It is an angel now, in the span of our own time, who brings to the children of Aljustrel an equal gift, and underlines with almost commanding emphasis that Jesus longs to be not only with Mary, but with any and all of us who will have Him. There in terrifying clarity is the infinite breadth of His charity.
The message of Fatima is as plain as it is profound. Search these paragraphs of prayer again, and mark their powerful simplicity. The angel, as you will recall, is teaching the children to pray in a manner pleasing to God. The first of these prayers begins with the declaration, “I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love You”—simple and yet complete acts of faith, hope and love, or charity, if you will, since the two are the same. That is how one becomes a friend of God, by believing in Him and serving Him, by hoping in Him and loving Him. There is no obligation here for a man to build bridges or write books, or slay dragons or rip the skin off his toes. This, quite simply is the formula for Christian friendship: to believe, to hope, and to love. And having attained God’s friendship, we are invited to share with Christ our Lord the redemption of the world by asking the Father to pardon those who neither believe, nor hope, nor love.
The second prayer, addressed to the Trinity, alerts us to a decent humility, as it repeats the fundamental teaching of the Church that Christ alone is an offering equal to the majesty of the Power we have offended by sin. As God has given Himself to us, we give Him back to the Father in love and reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifference by which He has been offended. And the angel asks us to pray, not through our own merits, but through the merits of the Sacred Heart, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, for the conversion of all poor sinners.
What interpretation can there be, except that this is what God wants of us? We must not expect Him to jump on our toes and shriek His message into each of our faces. We must provide at least some minimum of faith as a token of co-operation with Him. In considering the evidence of Fatima, let us not seek to be smart in any sophisticated way, for it will only defeat us. Let us seek instead, with Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco, to be obedient and good, and the wisdom of God will cling to us then, whatever our talents may be.
It was this intimate presence of God that Lucia, lying prostrate on the rough ground of the Cabeco, felt most clearly. Her joy therefore has ever since been deeper and more durable than any passing trial or momentary sadness. She rose slowly, almost reluctantly from the hallowed earth, and walked from the Cabeco to that other field close by, that is known as Valinhos, where in August of 1917, as a reward for their constancy in prison, the Virgin had appeared to Lucia and her cousins. She paused here for a while in reverent recollection of her Lady’s unwavering friendship, and then, on this last of her days within the area of home, she walked on to the Cova da Iria. At this rather late hour the small white chapel was deserted. It was June now, in the year 1920. Only days before had the faithful been emboldened to place within the tiny chapel an image of our Lady. Of course it was not dressed in the light of heaven. It was just a statue made of stone—senseless and cool as a ten-cent brick. Its value, for Lucia, was in its reverent, if totally unsuccessful, imitation of a beauty beyond comprehension. It spoke of faith and of love—and that was, really, all that any one could ask. She continued to pray.
At two o’clock on the following morning, while the village slept, Lucia Santos left Aljustrel and the parish of Fatima, to which she would not return for many years. Her mother went with her as far as Leiria to meet the morning train bound for Oporto, on the north coast of Portugal. It would be a journey of perhaps one hundred and fifty miles, and from Oporto, it was no distance at all to the convent at Vilar, where a new life would begin.
[The Statue in the Chapel]
The statue in the little chapel at the Cova da Iria was acquiring an interesting history of its own. As earlier disclosed in this narrative, it arrived in Fatima on May 13,1920, but rather sheepishly, like some contraband, hidden under farm tools in an ox cart. The reason, of course, was the fear of its being confiscated or destroyed by the civil authorities, or by those venturesome hoodlums the authorities sometimes encouraged. To know its history a little better we will have to go back a bit with the recollections of Maria da Capelinha:
Hardly a month had passed since the completion of our little chapel, when a gentleman named Senhor Gilbert arrived from Torres Novas and asked me, with some excitement in his voice, who had built this chapel. I did my best to explain to him how it had come about by the sacrifices and savings of the people who believed in our Lady’s appearances here, but he still looked disappointed and upset.
“My trouble is,” he explained to me, “that I promised very solemnly to help as much as I could with the first building raised on this spot. I would have given a great deal of money for building a chapel here, believe me. Why, just one month ago there was not a single stone disturbed, and now I find that the work is already done.”
I sympathised with him, of course; I told him it was a shame, but if he wanted so badly to do something, I said—well, he could contribute toward the building of a statue. “Is that right?” he said.
The idea seemed to please him very much. He said he would speak to his own parish priest in Torres Novas, and if there were no objections, he would have a statue made. This Senhor Gilbert was a great help, believe me, because it was not long before he came back and told me his pastor had no complaints about a statue, and that he would go right ahead with the arrangements.
This was a good way back—before Jacinta had gone to the hospital in Lisbon even, but this man was very sincere. He came with a sculptor several times to question the children about how our Lady had looked. Other times he came to talk with Dr. Formigao, who was such a smart, good man, and such a fine friend to the children’s families. All in all it took a long time for the statue to be made. Meantime, some people came from the Quinta da Cardigo and offered us an image of Our Lady of the Rosary to place in the chapel. I said—well, it was very kind of them, but the least we could do was wait until we heard from Senhor Gilbert. It would not be fair, I said, to overlook Senhor Gilbert after all his efforts and good intentions.
I did not guess wrong, for Senhor Gilbert was a man in whom you could believe. Sure enough, the first part of May, we hear the statue is now in his house in Torres Novas, and that somehow or other it was going to get to the Cova da Iria by the 13th of May, the third anniversary of our Lady’s first appearance.
Well, it got here, all right, in an ox cart, but for a while it was not brought to the Cova, because of rumours we kept hearing that the Freemasons were planning to blow up our little chapel and kill us all. Meanwhile it was kept in the sacristy of the church, where Father Reis, who was taking Father Ferreira’s place, blessed it himself.
That the fears of our Lady’s good friends were not unjustified, will be made clear by a description of the events that followed. In Lisbon, during that April of 1920, some of the more unbridled opponents of Fatima, learned that a great pilgrimage to the alleged “holy place” was being organised in Torres Novas for Ascension Day. The alarming news was that a commemorative statue was to be set up in the Cova da Iria by all the allied forces of stubborn superstition. Not only did the foolish faithful intend to pour out of Torres Novas, but other idiots were to journey in wholesale lots from Lisbon by motor car, horse, and by foot. Swarms of children dressed as angels would be marching on Fatima, along with multitudes of clergymen, including, of course, the sly, subversive Jesuits. Indeed, by these reports, the forces of reaction were to stage such a parade as had never been seen by intelligent eyes before. This situation was so provoking that it prompted a letter addressed to Senhor Arthur Santos, the mayor of Vila Nova de Ourem, whose authority, as we know, extended to Fatima. Dated April 24,1920, it reads:
Through our mutual friend, Senhor de Sousa, it has come to our knowledge that reactionary demerits in your county are preparing to canonise the deceased seer of Fatima, and so continue the disgusting religious exploitation of the people which has been set in motion. We beg you, therefore, to inform us as to what stage these manoeuvres have reached in order that we, the government, and your good self, may take such precautions as seem advisable to neutralise this shameless Jesuitical trick.
Certain that we may rely on your valuable help in this matter, we are dear Sir,
Julio Ben to Ferreira,
Secretary of the Exterior.
The mayor’s help could be relied on.34 On the 30th of the month all the regedors [constables] of the county received the following circular: For reasons of public security, you are asked to appear in the County Hall on Thursday next, May 6. The meeting took place as arranged, and after full discussion the mayor was satisfied. On the next day, the 7th of May, Arthur Santos received a telegram from the Civil Governor of Santarem, Dr. Jose Dantas Baracho:
To the Mayor of Vila Nova de Ourem
Minister Interior, decided repetition Fatima arranged for this month must be prevented. Notify organisers of procession or other religious manifestation under law which will be applied in case of non-co-operation. Disobedience to be answered for in court, after legal notice given. His Excellency determines this matter to be brought directly my attention without intermediary.
Jose Dantas Baracho, Civil Governor.
The zealous mayor lost no time, and on that same day sent instructions to his regedors:
By order H.E. Minister Interior, Fatima repetition arranged for 13th inst. to be prevented. Kindly supply at once names organisers and propagandists in your district in order that law may be applied in case of disobedience.
Suspecting, however, that his orders might not be fulfilled with proper zeal by those assistants, Arthur Santos decided to ask for troops from Santarem, and his request was promptly fulfilled.
To the Mayor of Vila Nova de Ourem
Armed municipal guard will be placed at your disposal, occupy strategic points, prevent transit Fatima procession.
Jose Dantas Baracho, Civil Governor.
And on the 12th, another telegram:
To the Mayor of Vila Nova de Ourem
According agreement made here yesterday force commandment will only prohibit religious manifestation on the spot. Strong armed guard dispatched locality.
Jose Dantas Baracho, Civil Governor.
For a valid account of the frustrated pilgrimage of May 13,1920, there is no better account than the one provided by Dr. Formigao in the first published book:
The Marvellous Events of Fatima.
I arrived at Vila Nova de Ourem early in the morning on May 13 last. It was pouring with rain and a thunderstorm was in progress at the same time.
When I left Lisbon there were alarming rumours about Fatima, and people said that it was useless to attempt to go there because there were official orders to prevent transit through Vila Nova de Ourem.
For this reason, many people who had arranged to come with me did not in fact leave Lisbon, but I took a chance on it and came to see for myself how much truth there was in the reports.
On arrival I saw two ladies, one young and attractive and the other older but distinguished looking, both of whom I knew slightly. Poor things, in that torrential rain! But they did not complain, and were full of faith and enthusiasm. Their Only fear seemed to be that they might be prevented from arriving at the place of the apparitions.
With great difficulty we made our way to a little inn in front of the church, and there we rested until daybreak, because it was quite impossible to get rooms.
Very early in the morning we heard a troop of horses passing, and ran to the window where we saw a squadron of Cavalry of the Republican Guard which was proceeding at a gallop in the direction of Fatima. The rumours were not, then, without foundation. We asked a servant what was in the air, but received the same reply. Nothing but rumours… rumours. But there were infantry, cavalry, machine-guns, and I know not what besides.
A general offensive seemed to be in progress, but against what, in the name of God! No one knew, said the woman One thing was certain; from Ourem no one could go to Fatima. Transport was available and in great demand at $40.00 a cart, but all were eventually dispensed with to the intense annoyance of the owners, good Republicans all. They could not see why peaceful citizens should be prohibited from an excursion which suited them so well.
In Tomar. it seemed. the same prohibition was in force, also in several other districts whose authorities had forbidden the departure of vehicles
While we were talking, a young man, owner a of a printing press in Lisbon, and shortly afterwards Dr. da Fonseca, a lawyer, who was defending a client in the local court, came up to us. We asked them if they knew anything. No more than we did apparently. People were being allowed to go as far as Fatima but no further. At about that time the rain stopped and I went out into the road where I watched the passage of carts and cars, trucks, foot-folk and horsemen—a regular excursion!
I wondered to what purpose all the prohibitions had been. I had expected to see nobody and yet here was this constant stream of men, women and children.
There were huge charabancs drawn by mules, filled with people roaring with laughter, laughing apparently at the mayor whom I could see in the middle of the road looking uncomfortable in a straw hat with a forced smile on his lips. There were carts decorated with flowers… motor cars blowing their horns, grand looking carriages, modest dog carts… men and women on foot, soaked to the skin and covered with mud, dripping with water, but happy, smiling. All this unfolded before me like a long cinema film. Where did all these people come from? From all parts, but mostly from Torres Novas I was told. And what was the mayor doing flitting about in his straw hat? What new development was about to unfold? It was all most entertaining!
I wanted to go to Fatima with all speed but there was Mass to be thought of. After Mass, I lunched in great haste and set off on the steep road which winds uphill from Ourem to Fatima.
Coming the other way was a car travelling at speed, in which I caught a glimpse of rifles, fanning out menacingly. It was the mayor and his escort! “He’s up to no good,” observed a lad pedaling uphill on a bicycle. After climbing for an hour and a half we neared Fatima, and the rain began to fall again. At last we entered the little square facing the church. Everywhere we saw carts, carriages and cars parked. A great crowd of people, numbering thousands, was blocking the square and the church
In the middle of the road a force of infantry and cavalry of the Republican guard was preventing the people from passing, or completing the remaining one and three quarter miles which separate Fatima from the Cova. I asked some bystanders whether anyone had in fact passed. Until midday, I was told, everyone had gone through, but then the mayor had arrived and forbidden it.
I asked the commandant whether one might go through, but he informed me politely that he had allowed people to pass until the mayor had given orders to the contrary. He was very sorry, but he had to obey orders. I went back and mingled with the enormous crowd which was gathered inside the church and on the porch, sadly commenting on the affair, and unable to understand what threat to public order could possibly exist in the Cova da Iria and not in Fatima, since the people were the same. It was perfectly ridiculous, everyone agreed.
Many people tried to get through the fields without being seen, climbing walls and other obstacles, and managed to arrive at the place of the apparitions, counting themselves fortunate to kneel there and say the Rosary. Perhaps it was this which put the government in peril!
Inside the church at Fatima, Father Cruz was delivering sermons and leading the Rosary, while many people were going to confession. A blind woman who had come at the cost of much sacrifice from Aveiro was leaning on the arm of a friend in the pouring rain which had begun again. She made no complaint, but on the contrary entrusted herself with great faith to God, and began walking toward the church.
A bearded individual, who told me he was a doctor, was explaining the providential reasons for the prohibition, to a crowd which had gathered round him. According to him, people had begun to turn the place into a sort of fair with music, etc., and obviously our Lady did not want this. She had appeared in a deserted place precisely because she wanted to be loved and venerated in spirit and truth, without accompaniments more reminiscent of the less edifying festas. Prayer and penance alone were what she wanted, therefore by this prohibition the authorities were all unconsciously satisfying the desires of our Lady!
The rain began to fall torrentially again, and everyone tried to find shelter underneath carts or on the porch of the church, which was already crammed to capacity.
At this moment I saw a Republican guard dealing out blows right and left on some peaceful peasants who were sadly surveying the scene from under their umbrellas. surprised by the entirely unexpected attack, they fled without knowing why they had been set upon. Somebody went up to the guards to ask the reason for this They complained that a man had tried to force a way through, and that when they prevented him he threatened them, and in the confusion that followed, the innocent suffered with the guilty as is the way of the world.
After this explanation, and order having been restored, I began to talk to some peasants and prudently advised them not to make any attempt to pass, adding that there would be great merit in obeying orders however unjust, provided there was nothing against conscience in doing so. Then one of the guards said to me with the utmost sincerity:
“If you only knew, sir, how I dislike this duty. I obey orders because I have to, but believe me, I hate it in my heart. I am religious myself, and I cannot understand why these poor people should be prevented from going to the Cova to pray. It’s enough to upset a man. I have a sister whose life was saved by Our Lady of Fatima!”
As he said this a drop of water rolled down his cheek, most certainly not from the rain which poured and dripped from his waterproof hood.
After this I went to the presbytery whose veranda, designed in the old Portuguese style, was being assaulted by those trying to find shelter from the weather. Here I saw one of the ladies who had been my companions in the morning, and she confided to me in a whisper that she was going to find her way to the Cova by a secret path through the fields. I saw her set off in the soaking rain and mud, delighted at the idea that she was going to get the better of the modern Herods in the government.
At last our coachman warned us that the road was bad, and that we ought to leave soon. We performed our last devotions, said our farewells and returned to Ourem, and thence to our home.
At the station, white we were waiting for the train, we met many people from different parts of the country who were returning home as we were. We saw the blind lady from Aveiro with a companion from Oporto, both of whom, in spite of being soaked to the skin, and in poor health, were none the less in splendid spirits. I saw a friend who was a jeweller in Lisbon, and many other people from the capital.
A respectable business man, apparently a Republican, poured forth his invective upon the mayor of Ourem because he prevented the progress of the countryside and obstructed legitimate trade.
“He’s a fool,” he exclaimed. “Just think of how much the cab men of To mar and Torres Novas must have lost today!”
Senhor Arthur Santos, the mayor of Vila Nova de Ourem and its surrounding precincts, was not without his admirers, and accordingly, two days later, received this communication:
The Portuguese Federation of Free-thought tenders you its profound sympathy in the action, so well in accord with Republican sentiments and free-thought, which you have taken with regard to the pretended miracle of Fatima whereby Jesuit and clerical reaction are trying to exploit popular ignorance. Certain that you will appreciate the extent of our admiration for your manner of procedure, we remain,
Most faithfully yours,
To this epistle, on June 5th, His Honour replied:
To the Portuguese Federation of Freethought
Largo do Intendente, 45. Lisbon.
I acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 15th and thank you for your congratulations which are however unmerited.
On May 13, thanks to the foresight of the Republican government, under that great patriot and illustrious citizen, Antonio Maria Baptista, reaction suffered a complete reverse, while the projected parade, whereby the ignorance of illiterate people was to be exploited once again, was brought to nothing, together with the new attack which was being prepared against the Republic.
However, these authentic enemies of the Republic and promoters of Fatima are not yet entirely disarmed, for they propose to transfer with all their pomps, the body of an unfortunate child and pretended intermediary of the Virgin, who did in Lisbon, to another tomb. They also still make use of a so-called seer, Lucia, an ailing child of thirteen years, in order further to exploit the ignorance of the people.
But such absurd projects can have no effect while a government such as we have at present, and associations such as the Federation of Freethought, fulfil their august mission, which is to combat lies and defend liberty.
The mayor also wrote to the regedor of Fatima:
I beg to inform you that in future no religious parade of any kind may take place in your parish without the knowledge of my administration. Kindly notify the parish priest and the promoters of any religious manifestation of my orders and inform me personally of any incident of a superstitious nature which may occur in connection with the so called miracle of Fatima.
Meanwhile the faithful patrons of our Lady, prizing dearly the statue donated by Senhor Gilbert, suspected with good reason that serious hazards lay before them. Maria da Capelinha continues her informal history of both the statue and the shrine:
We were so afraid of some profanation, but at the same time we were longing to be able to venerate a- statue of our Lady in the very place where she had appeared. One day Senhor Gilbert came and said that he thought it would be a good idea to veil over the niche so that people would think the statue was already there. Then we could see if anything untoward happened. So I put a veil over the niche and everyone thought that our Lady was behind it. Nothing at all happened. So Senhor Gilbert brought the statue and put it in the niche.
Months passed, and there began to be new rumours that the statue was to be stolen and the chapel burned down. So we thought it would be better to take the statue to my home and bring it to the chapel every morning. It must have been about the end of October, when my husband brought our Lady to our home in Moita. We arranged a little altar in the sitting room, and put the statue on it with two oil lamps burning.
We were perfectly right to be afraid, for on March 6 of the next year we heard a terrible explosion during the night. The Freemasons had placed four bombs in the chapel, and a fifth by the tree where our Lady appeared. The roof was blown off, but the bomb by the tree did not explode.
We wanted to repair the chapel at once but the bishop said we were not to do so till he gave permission. This made us very sad. It depressed us very much to see the chapel in such a state and we didn’t like to stay by it. We used to go there, say our prayers, and come away again. The people used to come to our house instead and pray by the statue. Among them were Dr. Marques and Dr. Formigao. People used to kneel by the door and pray. There were always people there and our Lady answered them just the same, so that people would have more faith. I was very happy to have the statue of our Lady in my house. But now, Father, it upsets me to see people getting worse and worse.
On the 13th, a great many people gathered to take the statue in procession to the Cova da Iria. We had no andor for the statue but everyone wanted a turn at carrying it. There were many promises to do this, and so each one carried it a little way. We sang and prayed as we went, and when we arrived there, we spent the afternoon at our devotions and had a procession; then we returned to my house. Oh, what happy times those were! As our Lady passed, the people knelt in the road as they do for the Blessed Sacrament. It was beautiful in those days to see so many people thinking only of holy things. There was so much prayer, in fact we would spend a whole day from early morning onward in our Lady’s company.
Many came to fulfil their promises and light candles; others came to ask for certain graces, but everyone went away happy.
A poor woman from Tomar took earth away from here to make infusions and cure sick people because in those days there was no water. They dug up the earth near the tree and rubbed the sick with it. Some people ate it and were better afterwards. Sometimes, even ladies would rub it on their well-dressed little children without minding the dirt!
In Alqueidao there was a girl who had been paralysed for seven months. Her parents did not have her treated, and she was very poor. One day Our Lady of Fatima appeared to her and told her that she would cure her if her mother would go to the Cova and take some earth from under the oak tree and eat some of it during a novena. It all happened as our Lady had said, and the girl was perfectly cured.
Another time I saw a man from Torres Novas in tears near the big oak tree. I went and asked him what was the matter, arid he told me his story. He had had an open wound in the leg for twenty-four years which was always full of pus and prevented him from working or even moving. The wound absolutely refused to heal, and he said to me:
“My wife came to Fatima and took away some earth to make an infusion to wash my wound with. I did not want her to do this because the wound needed cleanliness and the mud would certainly make it worse. But my wife, who had great faith, said that many people had been cured with the earth, and although I had no faith at all in God nor any religion, she insisted so much, that at last I let her have her way. Every day for nine days she washed the wound with that mud and each day it healed a little more, until at the end of the novena it was perfectly cured. I burst into tears, took off the bandages and came here on foot although I couldn’t move before!”
Another time it was a consumptive from Tomar, also an unbeliever. His wife told him that they would go to Fatima or at least make a novena and drink an infusion of the earth under the tree where our Lady had appeared. But he wouldn’t hear of anything of the kind. His wife insisted so much that in the end he consented to drink the infusion, though without faith or devotion. In spite of this, our Lady cured him, and in a few days he was strong and healthy again.
From this time people came every day to get the earth for their sick. We dug it up in spoonfuls, and the people took it away in their handkerchiefs or in paper bags. On the 13th we would give out two or three sackfuls of earth from an open trench by the tree of the apparitions. At night we filled up the trench again with earth from somewhere else.
A series of seemingly miraculous cures that sheer cynicism and derision could not dispel, did much to increase devotion at the Shrine of Fatima in those early days.
They came from everywhere with their afflictions and their miseries (Maria da Capelinha tells us). Even before Jacinta died, and before the chapel was even begun, I remember them coming with their troubles and their sicknesses. It was the time of the influenza that was so bad, and one day Friar David, from St. Caterina’s came to give the first sermon ever delivered at the Cova. Everyone was so worried about the influenza and so many were already afflicted. We took our own saints in the procession—St. Lucy, I remember, Our Lady of the Rosary, and other statues. Friar David, a wise and good man, looked at the people then.
“This is all very well, my children,” he said, “but such a devotion is worth nothing without the important thing—amendment of life!”
Yes, Jacinta herself was there that day, very weak with her sickness, and the people were weeping in sorrow over this epidemic. Our Lady heard the prayers they offered, Father, because from that day on, we had no more cases of influenza in our district. From then on, as you might expect, the devotion grew greater, and after the chapel was built, there were thousands and thousands who came, even though there was not one drop of water in the place for them.
This lack of water continued until October 12, 1926, when the bishop of Leiria made his first visit to the Cova da Iria. Seeing the total aridity of the place, the bishop assigned to Senhor Carreira, the husband of Maria da Capelinha, the chore of opening a well.
At first (by Maria’s account) we thought of trying to open it about eighty yards from the chapel, near a fig tree, but in the end it was the suggestion of Senhor Jose Alves that was followed. Dr. Marques dos Santos the prior of St. Caterina’s was there, along with the Vicar of Olival.
“I am sure it is no use digging a well at this spot,” Jose Alves said.
“Then where would you suggest?” the Vicar asked him.
“Right there,” Jose replied, and he pointed to the place where the Cova was deepest. “Even after a month without rain, your reverence, there is always some moisture and some reeds growing there.”
Well, the work began, and when we had hardly worked half a day, we hit rock.
“What happens now?” the priests wanted to know.
“Now we blast the rock,” was our reply, and we went to get the things we would need. Afterwards the water came up with great abundance, even though we did not finish the well. It remained like that, unfinished, until the following year.
Whether or not this water appeared in the Cova da Iria miraculously, it would have been difficult to dissuade the people of the serra from their conviction that another wonder had risen in their midst.
They came here (Jose Alves testifies) with their bottles and their pitchers which they filled and took home for their sick to drink and to wash their wounds in. Everyone had the greatest faith in our Lady’s water, and she used it to cure their wounds and their pains. Never did our Lady perform so many miracles as at that time. I saw people with terrible legs that were running with pus, but when they washed themselves with the water they were able to leave their bandages behind, because our Lady had cured them. Other people knelt down and drank that earthy water, and were cured of serious internal diseases.
It does seem, examining not this fragment of evidence, but the total record, that Mary the Queen of Heaven, does have a way of scoffing at the hygienic fears of the meticulous, working her wonders with elements that would almost certainly, on a natural level, bring nothing but further infection and new complications to people already sick. Understandably, at the Cova da Iria, those officials responsible for the public health, became in time seriously alarmed. In July of 1927, a new mayor of Vila Nova de Ourem, Senhor Antonio Pavilon, sent this communication to the regedor of Fatima:
My attention has been called by the Subdelegate of Public Health in this county, to an open ditch of water which Manuel Carreira of Moita has dug in the Cova da Iria. This water is used by persons suffering from exterior and interior diseases in such a manner that I have resolved to call the said Carreira, with yourself as intermediary, before the administration of this county, and call upon him to cover this ditch which is an immediate danger to public hygiene. Will you kindly inform me without delay as to what can be done in this case?
Mayor Pavilon, however, had reason to know that this particular regedor was a gentleman strongly disinclined to interfere in the matter. For this reason he travelled to Fatima himself, taking with him the Sub-delegate of Public Health, Dr. Joaquim Francisco Alves. They visited the Cova da Iria, and then had a talk with the local pastor, Father Ferreira, who recalls the conversation:
“The place is disgusting,” Dr. Alves declared. “It must be covered over at once. It’s a disgrace to the parish.”
“Faith never hurt anyone,” I replied. “It is already a miracle that such dirty, impure water has not once done any harm to those who drink it.”
But neither the seriously worried mayor, nor the sub-delegate, was in the business of miracles. They impressed on Father Ferreira that if the well was not covered promptly he would be held accountable for any illnesses that occurred through this neglect. Father Ferreira said nothing, but was distressed by the affair. After all, if the town regedor did not dare offend the religious sensibilities of the people, how was he, their parish priest, to persuade them they were doing anything wrong? Consequently, a whole year later, Mayor Pavilon found himself submitting once more, an official reminder to the Sub-delegate of Public Health:
It appears that the well in the Cova da Iria continues to remain open, constituting a menace to public health and sanitation, in view of the fact that the said water is full of dirt and microbes. I, therefore, request your advice on the matter, and await your suggestions for the destruction of this ditch, which I am determined to effect as soon as possible.
Eventually, and perhaps quite properly, the bishop of Leiria directed that the well be deepened and covered. This work was carried out under the supervision of the mayor, Father Ferreira, and the Sub-delegate, Dr. Alves, who had heard alarming reports that the water had been poisoned. In time, however, and for reasons not clear to us, Dr. Alves declared the water to be entirely drinkable. Excepting only the Chapel of the Apparitions, the fountain that rises above the well is the oldest of the structures we are able to see today within the Sanctuary of the Cova da Iria.
Let’s not make the mistake of assuming them ten cents a dozen in this or any year, but the author himself has been present at almost every conceivable kind of physical cure at Fatima. We who have had the privilege of living close beside the Cova da Iria do not face the problem of merely believing in Mary’s powers of intercession. By God’s infinite gift we are enabled to know them, and to understand the actual slightness of physical prodigy when it is placed against the harvest of souls our Lady has come to gather for her Son.
Lucia Santos, the principal witness to the events this book describes, is today a Carmelite nun, living without distinction from her sisters in religion at Coimbra, Portugal. The cloistered life, embracing the hard rule of Carmel, has been her glad choice, not a chore assigned, and she is as happy there as one can be on this side of a paradise already glimpsed, then torn from the favoured visionary like the stubborn strings of a heart. Sister Lucia, the Carmelite, is a reflective and mature woman in her forties. Wise in ways that surpass our unaided understanding, she has remained as plain as country bread and as gay as the laughter of the blessed. Her personality (considering always our Lady’s guarantee to her of heaven) supports the hardy maxim that there is no such thing as a gloomy saint.
Naturally the story of Fatima cannot be concluded while Lucia lives, nor while that part of the “secret” to be revealed in 1960 is still undisclosed. Like the mayor of Vila Nova de Ourem, we are anxious to know what that disclosure will prove to be, though for different reasons.
Lucia’s life away from Aljustrel began on June 17,1921, with her journey to the convent school the bishop of Leiria had prescribed for her. She was then fourteen, and early one morning, as Mass was beginning, she entered the chapel of the Dorothea nuns at Vilar, Portugal. Not betraying her presence there, she knelt in reverent silence, beholding the tabernacle before her and rejoicing to be where she wanted most to be—beneath the roof that sheltered the Hidden Jesus and herself.
It was not otherwise a day of triumph. After this first Mass she was taken to see the mother superior, a cultivated lady who did not react to the occasion with any display of joy. It was taxing enough for this woman to suppress automatic groans of dismay as she examined Aljustrel’s most celebrated citizen. Poor Lucia, whom the Lord had not designed in the routine patterns of beauty, just stood there—rough-handed, ungainly, and all but frankly ugly, with her thick lips and her obstinate expression. To the chaplain of the convent, present at the interview, the mother superior remarked under her breath: “What a strange creature from the hills!”
The chaplain did not argue.
We can be certain Lucia understood the dismal impression she made, for whether polished and primped by her mother for attendance at a party, or windswept and smudged by a train ride, with her thick hair standing straight as sticks, Lucia was intelligent, deeply sensitive, and unfailingly alert Her gifts for comedy, kindliness, and light-hearted nonsense were not resources she could demonstrate in her own behalf like a trained comedienne. This was a side of the child that only her friends or her family could have explained to the shocked superior. Her humility was from the beginning genuine. Very likely in the presence of the reverend mother she felt like one of the rocks in the convent wall. She was aware that at Vilar she would be treated with scant consideration and no distinction. Actually such identity as she already possessed was abruptly taken away.
“When you are asked your name,” the superior instructed her, “you are to say Maria das Dores.”
“Yes, Reverend Mother.”
“And when you are asked where you have come from you are to say that you have lived near Lisbon.”
“Yes, Reverend Mother.”
“You are not to speak of the events at Fatima to anyone. You are to ask no questions and to answer none.”
“No, Reverend Mother.”
These blunt commands so readily obeyed, were not transgressed in the length of Lucia’s residence at the school. She was, of course, a student at Vilar, and not a professed candidate for acceptance into religious life; even so, never once in these four years did she attempt deliberately to emerge from the obscurity of convent life. The wishes of her superiors were fulfilled with an ungrudging willingness that matched her fidelity to the secret of the Virgin Mother. How much of her ungoverned time was spent in meditation or at formal prayer we cannot know, but it is certain that heaven assisted her. Years later, when the hour arrived for revealing at least part of her carefully guarded secret, she performed this duty with artless simplicity—rocking the Catholic world with her bombshell of prophecy, yet with none of the posture or pride toward which a prophetess might be tempted. Her consistency of character from the first apparition to the present day has been an endorsement of her wholesome reliability. Speaking of those years in the convent school at Vilar, she states very simply:
“I lived exactly as one of the others.”
More than the others, however, she had surrendered her own identity. The sister portress, in reply to inquiries concerning the famous Lucia Santos of Fatima, was able to say without mental reservation:
“We have no one known as Lucia here.”
Lucia as such had disappeared. The pleasant, obliging, and somewhat homely girl was to her classmates simply Maria das Dores, from somewhere close to Lisbon. Along with the others she went daily to classes and prepared for the primary examinations. It was here alone that an unadvertised exception was made because Lucia as Maria das Dores, could not sit for these final tests, the use of an assumed name being forbidden. We do not know, but we sincerely doubt, that this caused her any distress.
The four years at Vilar moved along without any mention of Fatima. No letters were allowed to reach her unread, nor did the vigilance of her superiors permit her to come in contact with any religious pictures or objects that could suggest to her the apparitions or the growing devotion at the shrine. But toward the end of these school years the arrival of a new superior altered the situation to some degree. This lady was more than intrigued. Observing the plain, unassuming girl on whom it was alleged such heavenly favour had fallen, she determined to obtain from the bishop of Leiria a reversal of his decision that the subject of Fatima not be mentioned in Lucia’s presence. She was, moreover, successful, although her first inquiries did not gain much response. Lucia seemed not only reluctant to speak, but clearly defensive in this matter. The new mother superior, with her eager efforts unrewarded, then said to the girl, “I suppose you have forgotten all about what happened at Fatima, haven’t you?,”
Blushing deeply, with her glance cast down, Lucia said promptly, “Forgotten, Mother? But I am always thinking of it.”
Her sincerity did not escape the nun. Her development, and especially her spiritual growth, had already attracted the attention of others. Her utter candour, cordiality and lack of sham had done much to dispel the earlier suspicions of many. Meanwhile her true and deep desire to be a Carmelite had awakened. With thrilled avidity she read the life of Saint Therese of Lisieux, a modern daughter of Carmel, and confided her enchantment to the new superior.
“You are not strong enough for the austerities of the Carmelites, child,” she was advised. “Choose another Order.”
Lucia did not dissent from this, nor did she reveal her disappointment. Shortly thereafter, she declared her intention to be a Sister of Dorothea, and when asked why she wished to enter religion at such an early age, she answered simply, “So that I may go more often to chapel.”
This uncomplicated reason was entirely true, but it was also a modest mask for the deepest desires in her heart. Her superior, not completely convinced, said to Lucia, “You are still too young and would be wise to wait for a while.”
She waited faithfully and without complaint. She waited so long and in such silence that it was concluded by the Reverend Mother that her desires had been momentary and superficial, betraying a lack of true vocation. But the Mother General of the Dorothea Order, discreetly withdrawn from direct contact with Lucia, had been carefully watching her development. One day she asked Lucia’s superior if the child had ever again expressed a wish to enter religious life. Hearing that she had not, she decided to question the girl herself.
“Maria das Dores, have you abandoned all thought of entering religion?”
Lucia raised her eyes to meet the glance of this important woman.
“Never, Mother, not for one moment have I forgotten, except—”
“Except what, my child?”
“That I was told to wait—and have waited.”
Lucia entered the Dorothea novitiate at Tuy, Spain, in 1925, for the commanding reason that Portuguese convents were at that time forbidden by law to receive candidates to the religious life. Having formally entered the Dorothea novitiate, it did seem as though Lucia had abandoned forever her preference for the cloistered life of Carmel. The author, however, has learned from a priest very close to Lucia that on the eve of her profession as a Dorothea, she revealed to him her hidden but live desire to be a Carmelite. This is further supported by Lucia’s sister, Maria dos Anjos, who claims to have had long knowledge of Lucia’s yearning.
In Spain she entered into total obscurity. At home, with her whereabouts unknown, a malicious rumour began to prosper that she had disappeared through the slick and crafty manoeuvres of a political faction dominated by the Church. Supporting this slander was a popular and widely circulated report that the deaths of her cousins, Francisco and Jacinta, had not been natural, but were the result of a determination to keep them from denying the alleged miracles at the Cova da Iria. One day Senhor Arthur dos Santos, the energetic mayor of Vila Nova de Ourem, summoned Lucia’s mother to his presence.
“Where is your daughter?” he demanded. “What is she doing?”
Maria Rosa, who in earlier crises appears to have been a hand-wringing lady of some instability, was this time equal to her task.
“My daughter is where she wants to be,” she said, “and where I want her to be. I will not say anything more.”
The subject was closed and Maria Rosa at last had found a fair degree of inner peace. She felt no longer abused nor imposed upon by make-believe angels and virgins. She felt that Lucia was where she belonged, in a convent, out of trouble. She was herself very much relieved.
In Spain, as a novice, Lucia knew nothing of the developments at Fatima. As at Vilar, the subject was proscribed. Not one of the medals or pictures that circulated so freely everywhere was allowed to reach her hands. No mention was made of the growing devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. If the pilgrims, in ever increasing numbers were crowding the hills of Serra da Aire, it was not for her to rejoice. She simply did not know. This sadness was unrelieved until a Jesuit priest, arriving at the convent, persuaded himself that Lucia was entitled to know the truth about Fatima. She listened without emotional display while he told of the increasing devotion at the shrine, of the vast increase of faith, and of the flowering of love for Lucia’s Lady. Blushing just a little the young novice said very simply to the priest:
“I thought it would be like that.”
Shortly thereafter Lucia saw for the first time a statue of Our Lady of Fatima in one of the convent corridors; later, in the chapel, she found a medal, struck with a similar image, that had been left on one of the benches. This much and no more did she know about Fatima, since she asked no questions directly.
On the great day of her profession as a Sister of Dorothea at Tuy, Lucia was interviewed by a priest from Fatima and she asked him if many pilgrims still journeyed there. Fearing that a truthful answer might tempt the newly professed nun to vanity, he was evasive, and Lucia, displaying for the first time her genuine feelings, said decisively to the priest:
“But people should go there, Father, as a sign of their gratitude to our Lady and their love for her.”
Lucia was professed as a nun on October 3, 1928. Her mother was there, having brought from Aljustrel the one gift that Lucia was willing to accept—a hive of bees, a simple, home-made contraption fashioned of cork that would supply the community with honey.
The years at Tuy were blessedly happy. Her convent life was based upon exact fulfilment of the rules, a deep devotion to prayer and meditation and, consistently, in her hours of recreation, an unfailing display of humorous good temper. Seek as you will here, you will find no evidence of long jawed piety. At the Christmas festivals, her friends recall she was always the busiest at planning the plays and designing scenes, always among the most spontaneous of impromptu singers, witty, often comic, and forever herself. The passing of the years have not changed Sister Lucia as much as they have brought to her maturity and fulfilment.
One day, from the city of Tuy, she ventured across the international bridge to the Portuguese town of Valenca to do some necessary shopping with another sister. They were stopped on the street by some people who recognised their habits.
“You are Dorotheas, aren’t you? Have you come from Tuy?”
“Yes, Madame,” said Lucia.
“We are going there ourselves,” one woman said. “We want to see Lucia, the seer of Fatima.”
“She is there, isn’t she?”
“No, Madame,” Lucia said politely, “she is in Portugal.”
Disappointed, the woman sighed, then looked hopefully at Lucia.
“But if she were in Tuy, Sister, would we not be able to see her?”
“And how would we go about it?”
“Well, just by looking at her, Madame, as you are looking at me.”
Reference is made to the several appearances of our Lady to Lucia in the convent at Tuy.35 We are by no means certain of this, but it does seem probable that the first of these heavenly favours was granted in the following incident. Frequently, to test Lucia’s sincerity and humility, the superior, with feigned severity, would assign the young religious candidate to the most repugnant tasks her own imaginings were able to provide. One day, and perhaps with misgivings, she sent Lucia to empty an especially nauseous cesspool. Certainly the girl was no plumber, and the task was new, yet she went without protest or hesitation to undertake the chore. After a time, though covered with filth, Lucia returned to the mistress of the house, her face transfigured with joy. The superior fell back, not in recoil from the clinging evidence of the work just done, but from the unearthly rapture on Lucia’s face.
“What is the matter?” she demanded. “What has happened to you, child?”
“Our Lady,” said Lucia, in humble victory, “has just appeared to me.”
There isn’t much more to be said now of Sister Lucia, the author’s friend. Through her proven character, and aided by her sisterly co-operation, we know that what this book reports is true. And that, you may be sure, is the only virtue to which it dare pretend.
Sister Lucia was received into the Order of Mount Carmel on May 13,1948, the thirty-first anniversary of our Lady’s appearance above the little oak tree, in the Cova da Iria near Fatima.
The Church Speaks
During the five years which followed the apparitions, the ecclesiastical authorities maintained their prudent reserve.
On May 3,1922, two years after the restoration of the diocese of Leiria, Dom Jose Alves Correia published a pastoral letter from which we extract the following passages:
In this diocese of Leiria, there can be no fact connected with our holy religion to which our pastoral action is, or could be, indifferent.
Practically every day, but more especially on the 13th of each month, great numbers of people go to Fatima. These people are drawn from every social category, and they go there to thank Our Lady of the Rosary for the benefits they have received through her mediation. It is well known that in 1917 a series of phenomena occurred there, witnessed by thousands of people of all kinds and foretold by some unlettered children to whom, it was affirmed, our Lady had appeared and made certain recommendations. From that time there has never ceased to be a flow of pilgrims to the place.
Of the three children who said they were favored by the apparitions, two died before our appointment to this diocese. We have questioned the remaining seer several times.
Her story and her replies are always simple and sincere; in them we can find nothing contrary to faith or morals. We ask, could this child, now 14 years old, exercise an influence which could explain such a continuous concourse of people? Could her personal prestige alone draw such multitudes of human beings? Could any precocious qualities in her attract vast crowds to herself alone? It is most improbable that such could be the case, since we are dealing with a child of most rudimentary education, and without instruction of any kind.
Moreover this child has now left her native place, and has not been seen there again; yet the people go in ever-increasing numbers to the Cova da Iria.
Could one explain it perhaps by the natural beauty or picturesqueness of the place? On the contrary, it is a lonely and deserted spot, without trees or water, far from the railway, almost lost in the serra, and destitute of scenic beauties.
Do the people go there because of the chapel perhaps? The faithful have constructed a tiny cell, so small that it is impossible to celebrate Holy Mass inside, and in the month of February of this year some unfortunate people—may our Lady forgive them—destroyed the chapel with explosives during the night, and set fire to it.
We have advised against its reconstruction for the moment, not only with the idea of further attacks in mind, but also to test the motives which draw so many people to the place.
And yet, far from diminishing in numbers, the crowds are ever greater.
The ecclesiastical authority has delayed its decision, and the clergy have abstained from taking part in any manifestation. Only lately have we permitted low Mass to be celebrated, and sermons to be given on the occasions of the great popular pilgrimages.
The civil authorities have employed every means in their power, not excluding persecution, imprisonment, and threats of all kinds, to stop the religious movement in the place. But all their efforts were in vain, and no one can say that the Church authorities have in any way encouraged faith in the apparitions; the exact contrary is the case.
In answer to the demand implied in this letter, the bishop nominated a commission to study the case and set up the canonical inquiry, among whose members were Dr. Formigao and Dr. Marques dos Santos.
In October, 1926, the diocese of Leiria commemorated the seventh centenary of St. Francis of Assisi. The apostolic nuncio, who was present at the ceremonies, visited Batalha, and later the place of the apparitions, in company with the bishop. The first impressions of Monsignor Nicotra, communicated to the Holy See, are not on record, but what is certain is that three months later, on January 21, 1927, the privilege of a votive Mass was conceded to Fatima.
On the 26th of July of the same year, ten years, that is, after the apparitions, the bishop presided for the first time at an official ceremony in the Cova da Iria, after the erection of the Stations of the Cross on the road from Leiria to Fatima.
Before the visit of the nuncio, two prelates had visited the Cova da Iria, among them the archbishop of Evora and the primate of Braga. Later came all the bishops of the mother country and her islands and colonies, among them the bishop of Portalegre, who was the first to allow our Lady to be invoked under her new title in his diocese. When in Rome he had verified the fact that Our Lady of Fatima was venerated there, and that the Holy Father had distributed holy pictures of her to the students of the Portuguese College. He returned full of zeal for our Lady’s new apparitions in his country, and said: “I must not be less Catholic than the pope!” He thereupon organised an imposing pilgrimage, and was the first bishop to celebrate pontifical high Mass in the Cova da Iria. So time passed until the commission set up by Dom Jose Alves Correia announced the results of its work. The bishop then published a new pastoral letter in October 1930, which contained the following memorable paragraphs:
In virtue of considerations made known, and others which for reason of brevity we omit; humbly invoking the Divine Spirit and placing ourselves under the protection of the most Holy Virgin, and after hearing the opinions of our reverend: advisers in this diocese, we hereby: 1. Declare worthy of belief, the visions of the shepherd children in the Cova da Iria, parish of Fatima, in this diocese, from the 13th of May to the 13th of October, 1917. 2. Permit officially the cult of Our Lady of Fatima.
Nothing further was needed. The pilgrimages to the Cova da Iria grew to immense proportions, not only from Portugal but from both hemispheres and almost every corner of the earth. Fatima was to call down upon Portugal an immensity of grace, and for Christendom at large has come to symbolise the spiritual war against Communism and to be the focal point of the new crusade.
The apostolic nuncio presided at the first Portuguese national pilgrimage on May 13, 1937, at which it is calculated some half million pilgrims were present. The second national pilgrimage took place on May 13,1938, and was the fulfilment of a promise made by the Portuguese episcopate if our Lady should deliver Portugal from the Communist menace which caused the terrible civil war in Spain, and which was waged in places only a few yards from her soil.
The 13th of October, 1939, marked one of the most glorious pages in the history of the great new Marian shrine. The cardinal patriarch of Lisbon presided at the pilgrimage to implore peace for Portugal.
From the 8th to the 13th of April, 1942, on the occasion of their second national congress, the Juventude Catolica Feminine (Girls’ Catholic Youth Movement) organised the triumphal journey of the statue from the Chapel of the Apparitions, to Lisbon and back again to the Cova da Iria by the 13th of May, where another notable national pilgrimage took place to celebrate the silver jubilee of Fatima. In October of the same year, the Holy Father, Pius XII, broadcast in Portuguese his famous consecration of the human race to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
The Pope Speaks
Venerable Brethren and Beloved Children: Bless the God of Heaven and glorify Him before all the living, because He has shown you His mercies. Once again, in this year of grace, you climbed the holy mountain of Fatima, taking with you the heart of all Christian Portugal. There in that oasis fragrant with faith and piety, you laid at the feet of your Virgin protectress the tribute of your love, your homage and your gratitude for the immense benefits which you have lately received; you also made your humble supplication that she would continue her protection of your country at home and overseas, and defend it from the great tribulation by which the world is tormented.
We, who as common Father of the faithful, make our own the sorrows as well as the joys of our children, unite ourselves with all the affection of our heart with you, to praise and exalt the Lord, giver of all good; to thank Him for the graces of her by whose hands you receive the divine munificence and this torrent of grace. We do this with the greater pleasure, because you, with filial affection, have desired to associate the Jubilee of Our Lady of Fatima and our own episcopal consecration, in the same Eucharistic solemnities. The Blessed Virgin Mary and the Vicar of Christ on earth are profoundly dear to the Portuguese. They have had a place in the most faithful heart of Portugal from the dawn of her nationhood; from the time when the first re-conquered lands, nucleus of the future nation, were consecrated to the Mother of God as the Terra de Santa Maria and the newly constituted kingdom was placed under the protection of St. Peter.
The first and greatest duty of man is gratitude. There is nothing so pleasing to God as a soul grateful for the graces and benefits received; in this you have a great debt toward the Virgin Mother and patron of your country.
In a tragic hour of darkness and distress, when the ship of the state of Portugal, having lost the guide of her most glorious traditions, and driven off her course by anti Christian and anti-national currents, seemed to be running for certain shipwreck, unconscious of present or future dangers whose gravity no one could humanly foretell; in that hour, heaven, which foresaw these dangers, intervened, and in the darkness light shone; out of chaos order reigned; the tempest abated and Portugal the Faithful can pick up her glorious part as a crusading and missionary nation. All honour to those who have been the instruments of Providence in this glorious enterprise!
But glory and thanksgiving first and foremost to the Blessed Virgin, Queen and Mother of this land, which she always aided in its hours of tragedy, and in this most tragic of all, made her protection so manifest, that in 1934, our predecessor, Pius XI (of immortal memory), attested in an apostolic letter, Ex officiosis Litteris, to the extraordinary benefits which the Mother of God had recently accorded to Portugal.
At that time the promise of May, 1936,36 against the Communist peril, had not yet been made. This peril came so fearfully close, loomed up so unexpectedly, that no one could have affirmed with certainty that the marvellous peace which Portugal has enjoyed, and which in spite of everything is immeasurably less ruinous than the present war of extermination, could be maintained. Today further benefits can be added to those mentioned. The atmosphere of miracle in which Portugal is enveloped, has been transformed into innumerable prodigies, many physical, and those yet more marvellous miracles of grace and conversion which flower in this springtime of Catholic life, and which promise to bear abundant fruit. Today with even greater reason, we must confess that the Mother of God has accorded you the most real and extraordinary blessings. The sacred duty of thanksgiving is all the more incumbent upon you.
That you have done this during the present year we are well aware. The official homage must have been agreeable to heaven and also the sacrifices of children, the prayer and penance of the lowly and humble. The welcome given to our Lady during her pilgrimage to the capital of the Empire during the memorable days of last April was, perhaps, the greatest demonstration of faith in the eight centuries of your history as a nation. Also the national pilgrimage of the 13th of May, heroic day of sacrifice, when in cold and rain hundreds of thousands of pilgrims came to Fatima on foot to pray, and give thanks, and make reparation. Among these the enterprise and vigorous-example of Catholic youth were apparent; there were the Eucharistic crusades of children who told the Mother of God that they had done what she desired-prayers, sacrifices, Communions in thousands—and therefore prayed: Our lady of Fatima, it now rests with you. Say but one word to your divine Son, and the world will be saved and Portugal delivered from the scourge of war. The precious crown of gold and jewels, and more important, of pure love and sacrifice which you offered to your august protectress as a symbol and sign of your eternal gratitude; this and other most beautiful demonstrations of piety which, with the zealous help of the episcopate, have been so fertile in all parishes and dioceses in this Jubilee Year, show the gratitude of the faithful Portuguese people, and satisfy the debt which they owe to their heavenly Queen and Mother.
Gratitude for the past is a pledge of confidence for the future. God demands our gratitude for His benefits, not because He needs our thanks, but because our recognition of His goodness prompts Him to further generosity. For this reason it is right to trust that the Mother of God, in accepting your thanksgiving, will not leave her works incomplete, and will faithfully continue to be your protectress as in days past, and preserve you from greater calamities.
But, in order not to presume upon her goodness, it is necessary that each one, conscious of his responsibilities, should make every effort to be worthy of the singular favour of the Virgin Mother, and as grateful and loving children, deserve her maternal protection more and more.
We must obey her maternal counsel as given at the Cana wedding, and do all that Jesus desires us to do. And she has told everyone to do penance and turn away from sin, which is the principal cause of the great chastisements which Eternal Justice sends upon the world. In the midst of this materialised and pagan world, in which the way of all flesh is corrupted, we must be the salt of the earth and the light, preserving and illuminating; we must carefully cultivate purity, and reflect the holy austerity of the Gospels in our lives; and, at all costs, as the gathering of Catholic youth affirmed in Fatima, openly live as sincere and convinced Catholics. More yet; filled with Christ, we must diffuse around us the sweet fragrance of Christ, and by assiduous prayer, particularly the daily Rosary, and by the sacrifices with which God inspires us, obtain for sinners the life of grace and eternal salvation.
You will then most confidently invoke the Lord and He will hear you; you will call on the Mother of God, and she will answer: ‘I am here.’ Then the watchman of the city will not keep watch in vain, because the Lord will keep guard and defence, while the house, which is built upon a secure foundation, will be fortified by the Lord. Happy are the people whose King is God and whose Queen is the Mother of God. She will intercede with God and bless her people with peace, which is the compendium of all good.
But you cannot be indifferent (indeed who could be so? ) to the vast tragedy which torments the world. Rather, the more you are privileged by her mercies for which you give thanks today, the more securely will you place your confidence in the future under her protection, the more tragic will seem to you, the fate of so many nations torn by the greatest calamity of history.
Terrible manifestation of divine justice! Let us adore its greatness! Yet we must not doubt the divine mercy, because Our Father in Heaven does not forget us, even in the days of His wrath.
Now that the fourth year of war has dawned more threateningly than ever, with the spread of the conflict, now more than ever can our trust rest only in God; and, as mediator by the throne, in her name whom one of our predecessors in the First World War ordered to be invoked as Queen of Peace, let us invoke her again, for only she can help us. She whose maternal heart was moved by the ruin of your country and so wonderfully came to its aid; she, saddened by her foreknowledge of this terrible tragedy by which God’s justice punishes the world, had already indicated in prayer and penance the road to salvation. She will not now deny us her maternal tenderness nor her most efficacious protection.
Queen of the most Holy Rosary, Help of Christians, and Refuge of the human race, Conqueror in all the great battles of God, we humbly prostrate ourselves, certain of obtaining mercy and finding grace and opportune help in the present calamity. We do not presume on our merits but only on the immense bounty of your maternal heart. To you, to your Immaculate Heart, we as common father of the great Christian family, as vicar of Him to whom was given all power in heaven and earth and from whom we receive the charge of so many souls redeemed by His precious blood; to you, to your Immaculate Heart in this tragic hour of human history, we confide, we consecrate, we deliver, not only Holy Church, the mystical body of your Jesus which bleeds and suffers in so many parts and is in so much tribulation, but also the whole world, torn by discord, burning in the fires of hate, victim of its own iniquity. May you be moved by so much ruin, material and moral, so much sorrow, so much agony of fathers, mothers, wives, brothers and sisters, of innocent children, cut off in the flower of their lives, so many bodies destroyed in the horrible carnage, so many souls tortured and agonised, so many in danger of eternal loss.
Mother of Mercy, obtain from God both peace, and above all, those graces which can convert evil hearts in a moment of time and which prepare, conciliate, assure true peace. Queen of Peace, pray for us and give peace to the world at war, that peace for which the peoples sigh, peace in the truth, the justice, the charity of Christ! Give peace from armed warfare and in souls, so that the Kingdom of God may develop in tranquillity and order.
Extend your protection to unbelievers and those who still lie in the shadow of death; give them peace, and let the sunlight shine upon them so that they may repeat before the one Saviour of the World: Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of good will!
To peoples separated by error and discord, namely, those who profess your singular devotion, where there was no house that did not display your holy icon, today hidden perhaps until better days, give them peace, and lead them again to the only flock of Christ under the true and only Shepherd. Obtain peace and complete liberty for the Holy Church of God. Stem the waves of paganism and materialism, and kindle in the faithful love of purity, the practice of a Christian life, and apostolic zeal, that the people who serve God may increase in merit and in numbers.
Finally, as the Church and the whole human race were consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, so that placing in Him all its hopes, it might have a pledge of victory and salvation, thus from today may they be perpetually consecrated to your Immaculate Heart, O Mother and Queen of the world, that your love and protection may hasten the triumph of the Kingdom of God, and that all generations of mankind, at peace with themselves and with God, may proclaim you blessed and with you may intone, from pole to pole, the eternal Magnificat of glory, love and thanksgiving to the Heart of Jesus where alone may be found truth, life and peace.
‘In the hope that these our supplications and prayers may be favourably heard by the divine bounty; to you, beloved cardinal patriarch, venerable brethren and clergy, that grace from on high may ever render your zeal more fertile; to the president of the republic; to the illustrious head of the government and his ministers and authorities, that in this singularly grave and difficult hour, heaven may continue to assist them in their activities in favour of peace and the common good; to all our beloved children in Portuguese territory at home and overseas, that the Blessed Virgin may confirm what she has deigned to operate in you; to all and each of the Portuguese as a pledge of celestial grace, we bestow with all our paternal love and affection our apostolic benediction.
Rome had recognised and blessed the apparitions to the shepherd children of Aljustrel. Henceforth Fatima was to spread throughout the world.
Some four years passed and the World War came to an end. Portugal, which had been visibly protected by the Blessed Virgin, and saved almost miraculously from the horrors which almost every other European nation suffered, sought to give public expression to the generally felt gratitude.
The women of Portugal contributed precious stones from among their jewels to make a crown for the statue which had been venerated in the Chapel of the Apparitions since the beginning.
Knowing that Pope Pius XII had followed with the greatest interest and approval the resurgence of religion in Portugal—a resurgence so obviously connected with the apparitions of Fatima—the episcopate decided to ask the Holy Father to send a legate to the solemn coronation ceremony.
On May 10, 1946, Cardinal Benedetto Aloisi Masella arrived and was received with all the honour due to a pontifical legate. His first words were broadcast throughout the country:
The Holy Father Pius XII, gloriously reigning, loves this country and is deeply interested in its affairs. He sends me to you, beloved Portuguese children, with the most worthy mission of crowning Our Lady of Fatima, our Mother and our Queen.
It is a pontifical legate who has come to tell you that the Holy Father unites with you in the impressive homage which you will pay to the Blessed Virgin during these days.
The ceremony, which will take place next Monday, will certainly draw down upon your beloved country the choicest blessings of God.
It is for me an immense satisfaction to see the affection and regard with which you have received the legate of the Supreme Pontiff. I will, as is my duty, make known to His Holiness, the noble sentiments with which you have received me accompanied by such a great manifestation. I am sure that the Holy Father will feel the deepest satisfaction.
At this moment I would like to express my most sincere and profound gratitude to His Excellency the President of the Republic, present in his representative, to His Eminence the cardinal patriarch, to the bishops here present, the ministers of state, the civil and military authorities, and to all of you, together with my warmest wishes for the prosperity of your beloved country.
On the 13th of May about 800,000 people awaited the Cardinal in the Cova da Iria. He arrived in company with many bishops and other eminent persons.
We find it impossible adequately to describe what we can justly call the most memorable day in the history of Christianity in Portugal. Fatima was not only the altar of Portugal, it was the altar of the world.
The words of the pope were broadcast to the pilgrims of Fatima and the Portuguese, at home and overseas, directly after the coronation ceremony:
Venerable Brethren and Beloved Sons and Daughters: Blessed be the Lord God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Father of mercies and God of all consolation, who comforts us in all our tribulation. Blessed also, she whom He appointed Mother of Mercy, our Queen and our beloved Advocate, Mediatrix of all graces, and dispenser of all His treasures.
When, four years ago, amid the turmoil of the most deadly war history has yet seen, we ascended this holy mountain in spirit with you for the first time, to join our thanks with yours for the immense benefits accorded you by Our Lady of Fatima, it was a magnificent occasion to mingle our prayers of filial confidence to the Immaculate Queen and Protector of Portugal, and pray that she would complete that which she had so marvellously begun.
Your presence today in this sanctuary, in such immense numbers that they can hardly be calculated, is an affirmation that the Immaculate Virgin Queen, whose maternal and compassionate heart conceived the prodigy of Fatima, has superabundantly heard your prayers.
Ardent grateful love has brought you here and, wishing to present her with a concrete expression of it, you symbolised and condensed the same into a precious crown—fruit of so much generosity and sacrifice—which by the hand of our cardinal legate we have just placed upon the head of the miraculous statue. It is a symbol to attest your love and gratitude to your Heavenly Queen, and brings to your minds the love and benefits without number which the Virgin Mother has accorded to her Terra de Santa Maria Eight are the centuries of benefits. The first five under the emblems of Santa Maria de Alcobaca. Santa Maria da Vitoria and Santa Maria de Belem, in the epic struggles for nationhood against the Crescent, and in the discovery of new islands and continents where your great men planted the cross of Christ side by side with the national flag. The last three centuries came under the special protection of the Immaculate One whom the monarch of the restoration, united in assembly with the whole nation, acclaimed patron of his realms and possessions, offering her his crown as an especial tribute of vassalage, with an oath to defend even to the death the privilege of her Immaculate Conception. He trusted, according to his own words, with great confidence in the infinite mercy of our Lord, and through our Lady, Patron and Protectress of our realms and possessions, of whom by our honour we confess ourselves to be vassals and servants, may we be defended and guarded from our enemies, with great increase of these realms to the glory of Christ our God, and to the exaltation of our Holy Catholic Roman Faith, the conversion of the heathen and the downfall of heretics.
The Virgin most Faithful did not betray the trust which had been placed in her. It is enough to reflect on these last decades, on the crises surmounted and the benefits received. Enough to lift up the eyes and see the Cova da Iria transformed into a fountain flowing with supernatural grace; to see the physical prodigies and the even greater moral miracles, the torrents which flow from here over all Portugal and then, bursting all frontiers, spread to the whole Church and the world. How is it possible not to give thanks—or, rather, how is it possible to give thanks worthily?
Three hundred years ago, the monarch of the restoration laid his royal crown at the feet of the Immaculate Virgin, proclaiming her Queen and Patron. Today it is all of you who act, the people of the Terra de Santa Maria, together with the shepherds of your souls and with your government.
To the ardent prayers, to the generous sacrifices, to the Eucharistic solemnities, to the thousand acts of homage which your filial love has suggested to you, you have added the precious crown, and with it have girded the brow of Our Lady of Fatima, here in this blessed oasis impregnated with the supernatural, where in a concrete manner you experience her marvellous protection, and where you all feel nearer her Immaculate Heart filled with immense tenderness and maternal solicitude for you and for the world. Most precious crown, symbol of love and gratitude!
This great concourse, the fervour of your prayers, the thunder of your acclamations, the holy enthusiasm which vibrates in your hearts; and, finally, the sacred rite which in this moment of incomparable triumph has just been performed, call to our mind another multitude innumerable, other cries of homage yet more ardent, another solemn and eternal hour, the endless day of eternity when the glorious Virgin, triumphantly entering the heavenly homeland, through the nine choirs of angels, was raised even to the throne of the most Holy Trinity, who placed upon her brow the triple diadem of glory. There she was presented to the court of heaven, seated at the right hand of the Immortal King of Ages and crowned Queen of the Universe.
And the King saw that she was truly worthy of such honour, glory and empire, because she was more filled with grace, more holy, more beautiful, nearer to the divine, incomparably more so, than the greatest saints and sublimest angels, separately or together. This because she is mysteriously related in the order of the hypostatic union with the Blessed Trinity, with Him who is in essence the Infinite Majesty, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. She is the first-born Daughter of the Father and pure Mother of the Word, beloved Bride of the Holy Ghost, because Mother of the Divine King, of Him to whom from her maternal womb the Lord God gave the throne of David and everlasting Kingship in the House of Jacob. He alone proclaimed to have received all power in heaven and earth, He the Son of God, decrees for His Mother all the glory, power and majesty of His Kingdom.
Because she is associated as Mother and Helper of the King of Martyrs in the ineffable work of human redemption, she is also, forever, most powerfully associated in the distribution of grace and divine redemption. Jesus is King of the eternal ages by nature and by conquest. By Him, with Him, and under Him, Mary is Queen by grace, by her divine relationship, by conquest and by singular election. And her kingdom is vast, vast as that of her divine Son, because from her dominion none is excluded. So the Church salutes her as Lady and Queen of Apostles and Martyrs, of Confessors and Virgins, acclaims her Queen of Heaven and earth, most glorious and worthy Queen of the Universe—’Regina Caelorum’: most worthy Queen of the world—’Regina mundi’: the light shining amid the tears of this exile. ‘Hail, Holy Queen! Mother of Mercy, Hail! Our life, our sweetness and our hope.’ It is precisely this royalty that you have known not only in the more obvious benefits, but also in the innumerable blessings of that maternal heart which you praise and proclaim today.
The most terrible war which the world has seen, threatened for four long years to cross your frontiers, but thanks to our Lady in her throne and heavenly watchtower, here in the center of your country, you were protected; the war was not allowed to touch you except in such ways as might the better cause you to realise the calamities from which you were preserved.
You have crowned her Queen of Peace and of the world, which may thus be helped to find peace and to rise again from the ruins. And so this crown, symbol of love and gratitude for the past, as of faith and loyalty for the present, becomes also a message of hope for the future.
By crowning the statue of Our Lady of Fatima, you signed, as it were, a document of faith in her supremacy, a loyal submission to her authority, a filial and constant correspondence to her love. You did yet more; you enlisted as crusaders in the conquest and re-conquest of her kingdom which is the Kingdom of God; that is to say, you bound yourselves before heaven and earth to love her, to venerate her, to serve her, to imitate her in order that you might better serve the Divine King; and, at the same time, you bound yourselves to labor that she might be loved and venerated and served all around you, in the family, in society, in the world.
In this decisive hour of history in which the kingdom of evil employs all its forces with devilish cruelty to destroy faith and morals and the Kingdom of God, the children of Light and children of God must employ every means, and unite wholeheartedly to defend them, that they may not be lost in a ruin incomparably greater and more disastrous than all the material ruin caused by the war.
In this struggle there must be no neutrals, no indecisive ones. There must be an enlightened, convinced and fearless Catholicism in its faith and works, in private as in public, one hundred per cent Catholic, in the words of the great gathering of Catholic Youth in Fatima four years ago.
In the hope that our prayers will be favourably heard by the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and that the hour of her triumph and the triumph of the Kingdom of God may be hastened; as a pledge of celestial grace, to you venerable brethren and to all your clergy, to the president of the republic and the illustrious head of the government and his ministers, to all the civil and military authorities and. to all of you beloved sons and daughters, pilgrims of Our Lady of Fatima, with as many as are united to you in spirit in Portugal, at home and overseas, we bestow, L with all paternal affection and love our apostolic blessing.