By Moina Arcee, May 5, 2016 , edited August 25 2018
“First thing in the morning, a neighbor came and told me that Jacinta’s mother had said the child told her a most extraordinary thing. When I heard it, it gave me rather a shock, and I went straight to Lucia who was sitting under a fig-tree doing I forget what.
“‘Lucia,’ I said to her, ‘I heard that you saw Our Lady in the Cova da Iria. Is it true?’
“‘Who told you?’ Lucia gasped.
“‘The neighbors are saying that Jacinta came out with it to Olympia.’ Lucia thought for a while and then said to me: ‘And I told her so many times not to tell anyone!’
“I asked her why, and she said it was because she didn’t know if it was really Our Lady, though it was a beautiful lady.
“‘What did she say to you?’
“‘That she wanted us to go for six months running to the Cova da Iria and that she would tell us later what she wanted…’
“It seemed as if she didn’t want to tell me anymore, but I almost forced her to. I don’t think I ever saw Lucia so sad.”1
Later that day, when the children returned home with the sheep, they were greeted with mock applause by their neighbors, and taunts about their visit from Heaven. Worst of all, for Lucia anyway, was that Maria Rosa knew. Depressed over the changes in her family and their fortunes, still struggling to recover from a severe illness, and now stung by the laughter of Aljustrel, Maria Rosa bent her will to make her youngest daughter recant.
“One day, before I set out with the flock (Lucia wrote), she was determined to make me confess that I was telling lies, and to this end she spared neither caresses, not threats, nor even the broomstick. To all this she received nothing but a mute silence, or the confirmation of all that I had already said. She told me to go and let out the sheep, and during the day to consider well that she had never tolerated a single lie among her children, and much less would she allow a lie of this kind. She warned me that she would force me, that very evening, to go to those people whom I had deceived, confess that I had lied, and ask their pardon.”2
Surely all three remembered the beautiful Lady’s words: “You are going to have much to suffer, but the grace of God will be your comfort.” They offered their lot as a sacrifice and, far from feeling sorry for themselves, began offering other sacrifices throughout their day.
The Lady had told the children she would visit them on June 13. This was also a great feast day in Portugal: the feast of St. Anthony of Lisbon3, the patron saint of Portugal. St. Anthony was also the patron saint of the Fatima church, and every June 13 all the hamlets emptied into Fatima for a day of religious merry making: “High Masses, sermons, decorated carts, flagging of streets, rockets, bombs, and all the apparatus the Portuguese love.”4
There would be a colorful procession Lucia loved to be part of, music, feasting, and the giving out of “St. Anthony’s bread“: fine white loaves baked and wrapped, and placed in decorated ox carts by St. Anthony’s parish, where the poor and children could eat their fill and take the rest home.
Her oldest sister, Maria dos Anjos, remembers:
“Our mother knew well how Lucia loved the festa, and she hoped the whole story of the Cova da Iria would pass with it. ‘It is a good thing we are having St. Anthony tomorrow,’ she said, ‘and we mustn’t say anything to Lucia about going to the Cova. We must talk of nothing but the festa, so that by tomorrow she will have forgotten the other foolishness.’
“We were very careful to do what our mother told us, but of all our plans and preparations, Lucia seemed to take little notice. Except that once in a while she would remind us, ‘Tomorrow I’m going to the Cova da Iria; that is what the Lady told us we must do.’”5
Would Lucia go to the festa or to the Cova? On the morning of June 13 she rose at daybreak to take the sheep out. She dressed in her finest clothes, including a new pair of unscuffed shoes. Observing the care with which Lucia clothed herself, Maria Rosa breathed a sigh of relief, and perhaps said a prayer thanking St. Anthony for bringing her youngest daughter back to her senses.
Lucia soon returned home with the sheep, and found a group of people waiting outside her house. The strangers asked if she was going to the Cova da Iria. Lucia told them she was on her way to Mass, but would return home afterwards. The group decided to wait for her in the shade of a fig tree, where they were subjected to no small amount of sarcastic comment by Maria Rosa and her daughters. “My mother and my sisters persisted in their contemptuous attitude,” wrote Lucia, “and this cut me to the heart, and was indeed as hurtful to me as insults.”
After Mass Lucia rounded up Francisco and Jacinta, and with the group of strangers, headed for the Cova.
“All these people followed us (wrote Lucia), asking a thousand questions. On that day, I was overwhelmed with bitterness. I could see that my mother was deeply distressed, and that she wanted at all costs to compel me, as she put it, to admit that I had lied. I wanted so much to do as she wished, but the only way I could do so was to tell a lie. From the cradle, she had instilled into her children a great horror of lying, and she used to chastise severely any one of us who told an untruth.
“’I’ve seen to it,’ she often said, ‘that my children always told the truth, and am I now to let the youngest get away with a thing like this? If it were just a small thing…! But a lie of such proportions, deceiving so many people and bringing them all the way here!’
“After these bitter complaints, she would turn to me, saying: ‘Make up your mind which you want! Either undo all this deception by telling these people that you’ve lied, or I’ll lock you up in a dark room where you won’t even see the light of the sun. After all the troubles I’ve been through, and now a thing like this to happen!’ My sisters sided with my mother, and all around me the atmosphere was one of utter scorn and contempt.
“Then I would remember the old days (Lucia continued), and ask myself: ‘Where is all that affection now, that my family had for me just a short while ago?’ My one relief was to weep before the Lord as I offered Him my sacrifice…When Jacinta saw me in tears, she tried to console me, saying, ‘Don’t cry. Surely, these are the sacrifices which the Angel said that God was going to send us. That’s why you are suffering, so that you can make reparation to Him and convert sinners.’”7
What had happened to her life, young Lucia may have asked herself. Heaven had happened, and in the divine economy, Lucia was about to discover friends unlooked for…
* * *
Everyone finally reached the Cova. Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta walked up to the small holm oak tree and stopped before it. Lucia looked to the east. She saw an immense, beautifully blue sky, and nothing else.
“Which is the oak tree where Our Lady appeared?”
The question pulled Lucia from her thoughts. She looked at the speaker, Maria dos Santos Carreira, and then pointed: “This one.”
Maria looked at the holm oak tree. It was a strong young sapling, “very well shaped with regular branches,” she said later. She looked back to Lucia, but the girl had walked over to a large tree, and was sitting in the shade. Francisco and Jacinta followed and sat on either side of their cousin.
Maria Carreira and her family were parishioners of St. Anthony’s parish in Fatima. She had walked from Moita to the Cova with her crippled son, John, who hobbled up the hill on a stick. Maria had been ill for years. The doctors had given up on her, but yet she lived. A simple, pious peasant, Maria was one of the very few who believed early on that something special was happening at the Cova.1 She would become Lucia’s friend and ally.
Many of the people at the Cova had brought food, which they now ate. Someone offered oranges to the children, which they held but did not eat. The Rosary was prayed. Maria Carreira began The Litany of Loreto but Lucia interrupted, saying there wasn’t enough time for the prayer. Maria saw Lucia stand up, and call: “don’t you see the lightning? Our Lady must be coming!“
“The three children ran for the holm oak tree,” Maria remembered, “while the rest of us hurried after them, and knelt down on the stony ground. I watched Lucia raise her hands, as though in prayer. We heard her speak to someone, who, if there at all, was not visible. There was only one mysterious effect to support our impression of another presence there. We heard something like a small, small voice, but could not understand what it was trying to say.”2
“What do you want of me?” she asked the Lady.
“I wish you to come here on the 13th of next month, to pray the Rosary every day, and to learn to read. Later, I will tell you what I want.”
Lucia asked the Lady to cure a sick person she knew.
“If he is converted,” the Lady answered, “he will be cured during the year.
“I would like to ask you to take us to heaven,” Lucia blurted out.
“Yes,” replied the Lady. “I will take Jacinta and Francisco soon. But you are to stay here some time longer. Jesus wishes to make use of you to make me known and loved. He wants to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. I promise salvation to those who embrace it, and those souls will be loved by God like flowers placed by me to adorn His throne.4
“Am I to stay here all alone?” Lucia asked. Without Francisco and Jacinta, who would be her friends?
“No, my daughter. Are you suffering a great deal? Don’t lose heart. I will never forsake you. My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God.”
“As Our Lady spoke these last words,” Lucia said, “she opened her hands and for the second time, she communicated to us the rays of that same immense light. We saw ourselves in this light, as it were, immersed in God. Jacinta and Francisco seemed to be in that part of the light which rose towards heaven, and I in that which was poured out on the earth. In front of the palm of Our Lady’s right hand was a heart encircled by thorns which pierced it. We understood that this was the Immaculate heart of Mary, outraged by the sins of humanity, and seeking reparation.“5
The Lady said no more. Maria Carreira saw Lucia stand quickly, point to the sky, and cry out: “Look, there she goes! There she goes!” “We saw nothing,” Maria said, “except a little cloud a few inches from the tree which rose very slowly and went backwards, towards the east, until we could see it no more.”
“The children stayed, silently looking in that direction, until at last Lucia said: ‘There, now we can’t see her anymore. She has gone back into heaven, the doors are shut.’ We then turned towards the miraculous tree, and what was our admiration and surprise to see that the shoots at the top, which had been standing upright before, were now all bent towards the east, as if someone had been standing on them.”6
The small group returned to Fatima, praying the Rosary. They arrived just as the St. Anthony procession was starting. The newcomers were asked where they had come from. The Cova da Iria, Maria Carreira replied, adding: “and we were very glad we had gone there.”7
The children were pestered with questions about what happened. Most of the questions were not asked with good will. Realizing this, the children gave short answers, or said, “it’s a secret.” The Lady had not told them to keep her words a secret yet; she would do that at her next appearance, July 13. But Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta were still absorbed in the Lady’s presence, and at their young age, probably could not have articulated what had happened, particularly to a rather hostile audience.
Later, Jacinta would jubilantly tell her mother she was going to heaven soon. But Lucia kept Our Lady’s words to herself, pondering them in her heart. For she was not going to heaven with Jacinta and Francisco – at least not for a while. How long would it be? How could she be used to increase devotion to the exquisite heart of the Lady? Yet Lucia’s doubts and fears were accompanied by an increased devotion to that heart pierced with thorns, and the consolation of the Lady’s promise that she would never forsake her. Lucia pondered it all silently. Her vocation had begun.
De Marchi, op. cit., pp. 52-53.
2. First Memoir, p. 33.
3. Better known as St. Anthony of Padua, Italy, where Anthony spent the last few years of his short life. As Father Martindale puts it, “after all, he merely died in Padua, which anyone might do.” While visiting Portugal, Father Martindale attended, on June 13, an Exhibition honoring St. Anthony, of which he wrote: “Portuguese tradition likes St. Anthony to have been definitely plump. …in a book of Antonian ‘portraits’ I found at least one which was so jolly, so no-nonsense, so frankly fat, that my horrified friends simply would not let me bring it back with me.” (Father C.C. Martindale, Portuguese Pilgrimage, New York, Sheed And Ward, 1949, p. 51, emphasis in original.)
4. Martindale, op. cit., p. 36.
5. De Marchi, op. cit., p. 58.
6. They were not from Fatima proper, but the surrounding area; some had come as far as fifteen miles.
7. Second Memoir, pp. 65-66.
(The footnote numbers repeat themselves sequentially for parts one and two)
1. Another was Ti Marto, father of Francisco and Jacinta Marto. William Thomas Walsh relates that Maria Carreira first heard of the Fatima apparitions from her husband, who had heard it working next to Lucia’s father. Her original reason for visiting the Cova was the hope that the Blessed Virgin would cure her son John, who was a hunchback “with knees that crossed and knocked together as he walked.“ (Walsh, op. cit., p. 68)
2. De Marchi, o. cit., pp. 61-62.
3. When Father Ferreira questioned Lucia later, he wrote down that Our Lady told Lucia “to learn to read so I can tell you what I want.” Frere Michel deduces that Our Lady’s instruction was meant to prepare Lucia for the apparitions at Pontevedra and Tuy. See TWTAF, Vol. I, p. 169.
4. According to Fr. Kondor, this sentence was inadvertently omitted from Lucia’s account in her Memoirs of the June 13th apparition (Fourth Memoir, Note 14, p. 187).
5. The account of the second apparition is from Lucia’s Fourth Memoir, pp. 160-161.
6. De Marchi, op. cit., p. 63.
7. Ibid., p. 64.