The Lady’s Third Appearance
The fame of the children spread beyond their parish to all the towns and villages of the serra, or mountain range. Whether true prophets, or gifted young charlatans, they had a public both pious and sensation-hungry, so that their next meeting with their Lady, scheduled for the 13th of July, would be attended like a bull fight in some far more populous center.
Innocence, joy, and expectation, remained for Francisco and Jacinta, but for Lucia it did not. Doubt multiplied with every reference by her mother or Father Ferreira to the devil and his sharp connivance. On the eve of the great day, with the pilgrims coming from all sections of the mountainside, her despair had mounted to such proportions that she announced to her cousins her decision not to go to the Cova da Iria on the following day. The children were shocked; they looked betrayed; only their love for their Lady was able to rally them to defiance of Lucia, who had guided all their actions till now.
“We will go anyhow,” Jacinta said. “And if you’re not there to do it, I will speak to the Lady.”
Lucia said softly, “Why are you crying, Jacinta?”
“Why? Why do you think?” Her tears, as big as lemon drops, continued to fall. “Because you won’t come with us, that’s why.”
“I’m afraid to go.”
“But why be afraid? The Lady will expect you, Lucia.”
“I know that she will.”
Lucia had never really doubted that the Lady would be there. The question that held her in terror was not one of presence, but of identity. Who was the Lady? And by whom was she sent?
“If she asks for me, Jacinta, you tell her why I’m not there. Because I am afraid it is the devil who sends her to us!”
She turned from them and raced back to the seclusion of her own darkened room, away from her cousins’ tearful pleas, away from her own mother’s scolding and everlasting questions, away from Father Ferreira’s grim authority, away from the devils who plagued her days, and even invaded her dreams.
But on the next day, suddenly, like some dusty crepe raised from the corpse of hope, Lucia’s doubts were mercifully dissolved. She could not explain it, nor was she especially anxious to trace the source. The important thing was that faith and joy and hope were restored to her. Exactly when it was time to leave for the Cova da Iria, she ran, free of fear, to her cousins’ house.
“I’m coming!” she shouted. “I’m coming with you—wait!”
Olimpia Marto, the mother of Jacinta and Francisco, is today, in her eighties, a happily adjusted lady, free of all imagined care. She is by her very nature a genial assassin of gloom, and we are certain that in 1917 she was rarely, if ever, the victim of foolish fears.
Nonetheless, on this 13th day of July, with her youngest children gone from the house, she confessed her sudden terror. Long before noon the roads and lanes of the serra were crowded with pilgrims. It is likely that never before in her life had she seen an assemblage of so many people in one place. What if, among the thousands, there was one fanatic who might try to hurt her children? What if, among the thousands, there should prove to be, as Father Ferreira’s concern implied, one truly evil one? She ran in a kind of panic to Lucia’s mother.
“We must go after them, do you hear?” she pleaded with Maria Rosa. “We must go now, or perhaps we will never see them again!”
The more excitable, less optimistic Maria Rosa appears for some reason to have ridden this emotional storm with greater calm than her sister-in-law.
“Olimpia,” she said, “if our Lady really appears to them, she will look after them—no? And if not?” Here Maria Rosa shrugged her inability to deal with matters beyond her understanding, but her statement, as it stands, seems to be her first concession that there might, after all, be some truth in Lucia’s story. She decided to go with Olimpia to the Cova. To conceal their identities, they tossed their overskirts over their heads and approached the scene by a back road that was little used. Arriving there, they concealed themselves behind some rocks, each holding in her hand a blessed candle. “Because,” Olimpia has explained, “if we had seen anything evil, we were prepared to light them.”
Ti Marto also made this journey to the Cova da Iria, but in faith rather than fear, and openly, along the road where the press of the traffic was greatest.
This day I left home determined to see what would happen (he has told us). I could not believe the children were telling lies. How many times I had said to my sister-in-law, “Maria Rosa, if people say all this is just the invention of the parents, you and I know it is not true. We have never encouraged them one bit, and even Father Ferreira says it could be the work of the devil!”
But what a crowd of people were there that day. I could not see the children, because there were so many people in the Cova by the tree. I kept getting closer to them, and then I could see two men, one of them from Ramila, and the other from Fatima, trying to make a barrier around the children so they would not be crushed. These men saw me and grabbed my arm and they called to the crowd, “Here is the father, let him through!” And so, down by the oak tree, I got close to my Jacinta. Lucia, I could see a little way off. She was saying the Rosary and the people were responding aloud. When the beads were finished, she jumped up suddenly. “Close your umbrellas,” she called to the people who were using them to shade the strong sunlight. “Our Lady is coming!” She was looking to the east and I was too, but I could not see anything at first. But then I saw what looked like a little greyish cloud resting on the oak tree. The heat of the sun was suddenly less severe. A fine fresh breeze was blowing, and it did not seem like the height of summer. The people were silent, terribly silent, and then I began to hear a sound, a little buzzing sound it was, like a mosquito in a bottle. I could not hear any words, but just this buzzing. I have often thought that talking on the telephone must sound like that, though I have never talked on one. What is this buzzing? I asked myself. Is it near or far away?
This buzzing sound, referred to by Maria da Capelinha on the occasion of the June apparition, and here by Ti Marto in July, and by countless witnesses in the subsequent and more widely attended apparitions, is too well established by responsible testimony, to be shrugged away. Like the little globule, or ball of light, that so many have attested marked the arrivals and departures of God’s living Mother at the small oak tree, it is part of the Fatima story, and part of truth—a gentle inference from heaven, rather than a blow. Exactly why God chooses to draw His pictures dimly for some, and with the-powerful light of creation for others, we do not pretend to know.