|JACINTA MARTO OF FATIMA (March 11, 1910–February 20, 1920)|
The bodies of these two children, brother and sister, who saw Our Lady at Fatima were buried side by side in the special tomb prepared for them by the Bishop of Leiria in the little cemetery of Fatima.*
Their epitaph reads:
“Here rest the mortal remains of Francisco and Jacinta,
“To whom Our Lady appeared.”
Their immortal souls must surely be sharing the eternal bliss of the saints, with Mary their Mother, in the beatific vision.
Lucia, the eldest of the three children who received Our Lady’s favours at Fatima, had most to suffer. She was subjected to constant questioning wherever she went. At home, her mother had little sympathy for her. In the village, in church, at school, to which she went to learn to read as Our Lady had asked her, people stared and pointed at her, and whispered about her. Her one consolation was the company of Jacinta and Francisco, but, as we have seen, this was soon taken from her. Then, for her own sake, it was decided that she must leave Fatima. On June 16, 1921, the year after Jacinta’s death, she made her final visit to all that was dear to her-the church, the field of Cova, her homestead and its sheep. After a few hours sleep that night, she rose before dawn and quietly left Fatima. She was accompanied by her mother and a friend. At Leiria she said good-bye to them. It was the end of her childhood.
She went to a school for girls, the Asilo de Vilar, at Porto, which was conducted by the Sisters of St. Dorothy. There she was not to tell anyone who she was, or whence she had come. She was forbidden to speak of the visions at Fatima. She was given a new name, Maria des Dores (Mary of Dolours). Her school days were hard and full of trials, but she gradually came to understand her vocation.
In October, 1926, she left her native land and entered the novitiate of the Sisters of St. Dorothy, at Tuy, Spain. She was clothed with the habit of that institute, and on October 3, 1934, made her final profession. Her name in religion linked her old and new life. It was Mary Lucia of Dolours. She has returned to Fatima once since her leaving home in 1921. It was a week after the solemn ceremonies marking the pilgrimage of thanksgiving, May 20, 1946. Once more she visited her old home and that of her cousins. Once more she retraced her journeyings over the Serra and verified the places of Our Lady’s visits. Her final visit was to the grave of Jacinta and Francisco. She then returned to her convent.
Soon after, her long standing desire was granted. She entered the Carmelite Convent at Coimbra, Portugal, some sixty-two miles from Fatima. Her new name as a Carmelite is Sister Lucia of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
So Lucia, who not only saw Our Lady at Fatima, but spoke to her, lives the hidden and humble life of an enclosed contemplative, and has disappeared from the sight and notice of the world.
* In April, 1951, their remains were removed to the church built above the Cova.
THE SHRINE OF FATIMA
While the simple faithful, impressed by the miracle of October 13, 1917, accepted the reality of the apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima and began to make pious pilgrimages to the field of Cova da Iria, the enemies of religion were moved to fury by them. Within a fortnight they held a burlesque procession of Our Lady at Santarem, the capital of the district. The local authorities, far from preventing them, gave them every encouragement. The secular press carried on a campaign of ridicule against the reborn devotion of the people to Our Lady of the Rosary. Many good people, while revolted by the ridicule and scoffing of the unbelievers, were hesitant about the whole affair. Many, nevertheless, came to the Cova on pilgrimage. Pious hands soon erected a rough chapel over the place of the apparitions. As the months went by, the numbers of pilgrims to Fatima multiplied, in spite of many obstacles placed in their way by the government officials. The opposition reached its climax on March 6, 1922, when this chapel was blown up with dynamite. A curious fact recorded by a recent authority is that the bomb which was meant to destroy the remains of the tree of the apparitions was the only one which failed to explode.
THE REAL BEGINNING
Far from ending the devotion of the devout Catholics to Our Lady of Fatima, this outrage only fanned it to greater fervour. The next week the parish priest of Fatima led a pilgrimage of reparation from his church to the field and offered Mass there in the open, near the ruins of the chapel. On May 13 following, there came what was really a spontaneous national pilgrimage of 50,000 people from every part of Portugal. October 13, the same year, saw another gathering of many thousands. Similarly, on May 13, and October 13, 1923, there were great pilgrimages to Fatima. The civil authorities did all they could to prevent these gatherings, but in vain.
THE ATTITUDE OF THE CHURCH
As we have already seen, the parish priest of Fatima was slow to move in the matter of the reports of the strange happenings at the field of Cova da Iria. He went to the field for the first time on the occasion of the last apparition and miracle of October 13, 1917. He immediately brought the whole matter officially to the notice of the Church authorities at Lisbon. Then he was instructed by his superiors to make a careful investigation into the facts and collect all evidence available. He was given the assistance of a neighbouring pastor in this work. While the latter completed his report in two weeks, it was not until eighteen months later, in April, 1919, that the local parish priest, prudently waiting for the first excitement to subside, submitted his report.
Only after the bomb outrage of March, 1922, did the Bishop of the diocese of Leiria, in which the parish of Fatima was included when this diocese was reconstructed in January, 1918, take any official action. In May, 1922, he set up a Commission to make a thorough enquiry and to sift all the evidence both for and against the supernatural character of the events of Fatima in 1917. After eight years this Commission completed its report, and finally submitted it to the Bishop on April 14, 1930. It was not until he had given it further consideration for six months that finally he gave official canonical recognition to the devotion of Our Lady of the Rosary at Fatima. In a magnificent Pastoral Letter upon the visions at Fatima he gave his formal verdict in these words:
“In consideration of the facts which we have set forth and having heard the reverend consultors of our diocese, humbly invoking the Holy Spirit of God and relying upon the protection of most holy Mary: We deem well:
To declare worthy of credence the visions of the children at Cova da Iria, in the parish of Fatima of this diocese, on the thirteenth day of the months from May to October, 1917; to give official permission for the cult of Our Lady of Fatima.”
GROWTH OF POPULAR DEVOTION
Long before this official recognition of the reality of the visions at Fatima, the Catholic people of Portugal began the series of pilgrimages to Fatima, which are now a feature of their national life. Special reference should be made to the great occasion of May 13, 1938. The Bishops of the country had made their annual retreat together at Fatima. On this day they rededicated their several dioceses to Mary Queen of Heaven and Mediatrix of all graces, and formally thanked her for her special protection of their country in the two preceding years, in which war had reached its very borders, but had not touched it. Nearly half a million people were present on this great occasion. Fifty altars were erected for the celebration of Mass by the hundreds of priests present; over 65,000 people received Holy Communion. During the years which have since passed there has been a steadily increasing pilgrimage to Fatima, and popular interest and devotion has been aroused throughout the whole world by the publication of many accounts of favours granted by Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima.
THE MIRACULOUS SPRING
A cause of anxiety to the authorities when they discovered the increasing numbers of pilgrims to the Cova was the lack of water. No spring was known to exist within a radius of several miles. However, in 1926 a beginning was made to dig a dam in the centre of the depression to store rain water. Those digging soon came upon rock, and when they began to blast it away water gushed up. It has never failed since. It is now collected in a vast concrete cistern underground and serves the needs of multitudes of pilgrims, and is said to have been a source of healing to the sick.
In 1942 the silver jubilee of the apparitions of Our Lady to the children at Fatima was marked by a series of widespread and fervent religious celebrations. These opened in March, and were closed on October 31, with the historic broadcast by his Holiness Pope Pius XII, in which he bade the people of Portugal to place all their confidence in Mary and reminded them of their great debt of gratitude to her.
THE LESSON OF FATIMA
“I AM THE LADY OF THE ROSARY, I HAVE COME TO WARN THE FAITHFUL TO AMEND THEIR LIVES AND ASK PARDON FOR THEIR SINS. THEY MUST NOT CONTINUE TO OFFEND OUR LORD -ALREADY SO DEEPLY OFFENDED. THEY MUST SAY THE ROSARY.”
These words of Our Lady addressed to the children of Fatima should ring throughout the whole world. We should endeavour to lead lives of more generous service of God. We must detach our hearts from this world of passing things by penance, self-denial, and raise them to God in prayer.
Since “all the benefits which the Redeemer merited for us are distributed by Mary His Mother, on whose recommendation Her Son, with full accord, pours forth His gifts,” it is fitting that we should approach the throne of grace through Mary. In the recitation of the Rosary we meditate with Mary upon the mysteries of our redemption. This is the reason why the Rosary, well said, has been a source of grace to countless souls of every grade in the Church for centuries. This too, is the reason why Our Lady herself insisted upon its recitation.
Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco took this lesson to heart. May this brief account of Fatima and its message be the means by which others not only may learn of the wonderful events which took place there, but also be led by Our
Lady, as the three children were, to a more perfect service of her Divine Son.
THE APPARITIONS OF THE ANGEL
It was not until 25 years after the apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima that ecclesiastical authority permitted publication of the fact that the three children to whom Our Lady appeared had been previously favoured with visions of an angel. Lucia, at the time, was eight, and had never learned to read and has but the vaguest idea of time and dates. It was in the summer of 1916, when the three children had the first of the supernatural favours which were to prepare them for some more wonderful things in the following year.
They were pasturing their sheep in a field belonging to the Santos family, not far from the home of Francisco and Jacinta. The time, about midday, when having finished their lunch and their abbreviated midday Rosary, they saw the figure, as it were, of a youth, about fourteen or fifteen, that was dazzling bright like clear crystal in the sunlight.
His greeting reassured them: “Do not be afraid, I am the Angel of Peace. Pray with me.” He knelt, and then bowing his forehead to the ground said:
“My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love Thee! I beg pardon for those who do not believe, nor adore, nor hope, nor love Thee.” Moved by grace the children imitated him, and his words burnt themselves into their memories. When away, unobserved, minding their sheep on the lonely hillsides they often repeated this form of prayer.
A SECOND VISIT
Some months later the same heavenly visitor came a second time. The children were in Lucy’s garden, near the well. This time he told them that “the holy hearts of Jesus and Mary have plans of mercy in regard to you.” He instructed them to “continually offer up prayers and sacrifices.”
A MYSTERIOUS COMMUNION
On the third great occasion, in late September or early October, 1916, this heavenly visitant appeared once more to the children at the foot of the Cabeco hill, the scene of his first coming. They had been repeating the prayer he taught them when once more he stood before them with a chalice in his hands and above it appeared a Host from which drops of blood were flowing. While the chalice remained mysteriously suspended in the air the Angel knelt beside the children and repeated three times with them a prayer of adoration, offering and reparation:
“O Most holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, I adore You with my whole heart and I offer You the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for all the outrages by which He is offended. By the infinite merit of His Most Sacred Heart, through the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I pray for the conversion of poor sinners.”
He then gave the Host to Lucia, and the contents of the chalice to Francisco and Jacinta with the words: “Receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, which is horribly outraged by ungrateful men! Repair their sins and console your God.”
In accordance with the decree of Urban VIII, we declare that in speaking of the events, prodigies and miracles of Fatima, we wish to speak of them in the sense in which Ecclesiastical Authority approved them on October 13, 1930, without desiring in any way to anticipate the decision of the Holy See.
The author acknowledges invaluable assistance from the organizers of the International Pilgrimage of Our Lady of Fatima in the preparation of this seventh edition. June, 1951.