Our Lady of Fatima, By Rev. Bernard O'Connor. Part 2.


Before the next month had passed the news of these events had spread far and wide throughout Portugal. The secular press was particularly hostile and bitter in its attacks upon the apparitions at Fatima. They were denounced as frauds perpetrated by the priests to establish a Portuguese Lourdes-a miracle and money factory.
Others were content to dismiss them as nothing more than delusions in the minds of the children. The Catholic Press did not defend them. It treated the whole controversy with marked reserve. The Government disapproved strongly of the whole business, and viewed it with alarm. At the time, Portugal was controlled by the violently irreligious, liberal, anti-clerical party which had brought about the revolution of 1910, which had dethroned the king, and had striven to deny God His right to the loyalty and service of the Portuguese people.
The civil administrator of the district of Fatima lived at Ourem, and was animated with a particularly bitter hatred of religion. After the gathering at Cova on July 13, he summoned the children and their parents to appear before him. While the father of the two younger ones, Francisco and Jacinta, went himself, he refused to take his children with him, as he claimed that they were too young. But Lucia appeared with her father. The administrator tried to get her to reveal the secret, and to promise not to return to the field of Cova again. She was unmoved both by his promises and the threats which followed them.


On the morning of August 13, the administrator went to the Marto home and saw the children there. After some argument with Lucia’s father, this official finally persuaded the three children to get into his car, saying that he would drive them to Cova. But he immediately drove off with them in the opposite direction, towards his own residence at Ourem. When Lucia protested, he told her that he was taking them to the parish priest at Ourem, and that, with his car, he would still have time to bring them to Cova. However, on arrival at Ourem, he locked them in a room and detained them there for three days, declaring that he would not free them until they revealed the secret. Promises were followed by terrifying threats. Jacinta, the youngest was especially lonely and terrified. She was yearning for her mother. “Don’t cry,” her brother said, trying to pacify her: “Let us offer all this to Jesus for sinners.” To his offering for their trials for the love of God, and for the conversion of sinners, Jacinta added: “And also for the Holy Father, and in reparation for sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
These three unlettered children remained unmoved in face of every questioning and argument. Whether taken together or separately, they always answered in the same way, and maintained the reality of what they had seen or heard, without contradiction worthy of note. Little Jacinta was sometimes puzzled and confused when pressed for details; Francisco had not noticed many of them: Lucia was always clear and definite about every detail of the Lady’s appearance and dress.
Meanwhile, some thousands of people had gathered at Cova da Iria awaiting the children and their vision. Twelve o’clock came and passed, but no children arrived. For a moment a small white cloud seemed to rest on the tree, but it quickly disappeared. The suspense was broken some time later by the arrival of a boy from the village, which was a good mile away, with the message that the children had been arrested by the administrator, and taken to Ourem. The crowd was furious. Many of its members rushed back to Fatima and made a noisy demonstration outside the presbytery. They had got the idea into their heads that their parish priest had a hand in the kidnapping of the children. They were in the mood for murder. The more stable members of the crowd shared the tranquil confidence of Lucia’s mother, who was reported to have said, when she was informed of the administrator’s action: “It’s all right. If they are liars, they deserve it. If they aren’t, Our Lady will protect them.”


The administrator, not making any headway with the children, finally released them on August 18. The Lady appeared to them the very next day when they were pasturing their sheep. But on this occasion they were not at Cova da Iria, but in the field of Valinhos, close to the village of Fatima. She complained of the ill-treatment that they had suffered. She told them that, as a consequence, the miracle promised for October would not be on such a grand scale. In reply to Lucy’s question regarding offerings which had been left at the Cova, the Lady said that they were to make two litters by which Our Lady of the Rosary would be greatly honoured.*
Once again there was an exhortation to prayer and penance:
“Pray, pray very much, make sacrifices for sinners. Remember that many souls are lost because there is nobody to pray and to make sacrifices for them.”


As the weeks passed, the news of the happenings at Fatima had spread further and further. The official action of the administrator had excited widespread comment. The tide of popular feeling was running strongly in favour of the supernatural character of the apparitions. When midday approached on September 13, it was calculated that the crowd gathered at Cova numbered more than twenty-five thousand. A wave of emotion swept over the crowd when Lucia, kneeling expectantly near the tree of the apparitions, told them to kneel and pray. In a few moments she cried: “She is coming!”
While the crowd did not see the vision, many of them, of different ages and education, declared that they saw a globe of light coming from the east to the west in the clear sky. The apparition again lasted about ten minutes. The Lady asked the children to continue saying the Rosary for the ending of the war. She urged them to come without fail on October 13, and promised that on that day she would appear, accompanied by St. Joseph and the Child Jesus. At the end, Lucia cried aloud: “She is going away now.” At the same moment a little child in the crowd exclaimed: “There it is again!” pointing to the luminous globe which crossed the sky slowly and disappeared.


By the time October 13 came around, Fatima and the events there were being discussed all over Portugal. Everyone who possibly could made his way to the little village, expecting either to see the end of the business in the failure of the promised miracle to appear, or to be a witness of a special intervention of God. While many good people were nervous and anxious, the children were steadfast in their confidence, that the Lady would not disappoint them. Before dark on the evening of October 12 a great crowd had already arrived at Cova. In spite of a continuous drizzle of rain, the crowd grew through the night. As noon approached on the next day, October 13, the number present was estimated at about seventy thousand people. The children came along just before midday. About noon they began to say their Rosary, as was their custom. Suddenly Lucia cried out: “She is coming. Kneel down everybody.” Her mother, too, spoke up: “Take a good look, child. Don’t make any mistake.” But there was no mistake. While the people, for the moment, neither saw nor heard anything, the children saw their beautiful Lady more radiant and beautiful than ever. Francisco said her face was brighter than the sun. Lucia, for her part, recalling the Lady’s promise that she would tell them who she was on this occasion, asked once more: “Who are you, and what do you want?”



She added that she wished a chapel to be built in the Cova to the honour of the Lady of the Rosary, and that, if people but amend their lives, the war would end soon. Then Our Lady fulfilled her promise to the children that she would bring with her St. Joseph and the Divine Child. First they saw St. Joseph and Our Lord as a child in his arms standing beside Our Lady. Then Our Lord appeared to them a grown man blessing the people, and Our Lady appeared at His side garbed as the Mother of Sorrows. Finally, Lucia saw Our Lady in a strange brown dress-the habit of Our
* This request has been faithfully carried out. At pilgrimages on the 13th of each month the statue of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima is carried through the crowds with great honour. A second statue is being borne around the world and being received with great devotion in the international Pilgrimage of Our Lady of Fatima. It visited Australia 1951.
Lady of Mount Carmel.* Then, as Our Lady was about to go away, she made a movement with her hand towards the sky.
Lucia, following the gesture, cried out: “Look at the sun!”



Suddenly the drizzle of rain ceased, and the sun shone out overhead. All eyes looked up, and could gaze on the sun without being dazzled. The sun had the appearance of a plaque of dull silver. The next instant it began to revolve, and throw out great shafts of coloured light-red, yellow, blue and green-which were reflected from the rain clouds, the hills, the rocks, the earth, and on the faces of the crowd. It seemed as if the sun was a giant catherine-wheel, and had been torn from its place in the heavens, and was sweeping down upon the earth. Suddenly this spectacle ceased. But the movement of the sun began a second time. Again the strange lights were given out; again the vast crowd was deeply moved with astonishment and fear. Again the movement of the sun ceased. But after a few moments it was repeated a third and last time. As this heavenly manifestation persisted, great numbers present had been moved to fear some imminent judgment, and had fallen on their knees to pray, making the act of contrition aloud. Just as suddenly as it had begun, this spectacle of the sun “dancing” passed. It had lasted altogether about twelve minutes, and was witnessed by every one of the tens of thousands present, as well as by others more than twenty-five miles away. Accounts of it appeared in the press all over Portugal.


Following upon the extraordinary events in Cova da Iria the three children to whom Our Lady had appeared, Francisco, Jacinta, and Lucia, were subjected to much embarrassment from the curiosity and, at times, hostility, of those about them. Naturally, they sought strength and consolation in each other’s company, when they often recalled together the great moments of their heavenly favours. They themselves took Our Lady’s messages very much to heart. While still remaining children and enjoying childish games and pastimes, they had many serious conferences together. Thus they determined to comply with Our Lady’s request for sacrifices for the conversion of sinners. They became most devout in reciting the Rosary themselves and had the custom of the family Rosary established in their own homes. They often gave up all or part of their lunches, feeding poor children with them. They undertook practices of penance. But they did not remain together for long. Francisco and Jacinta Marto were victims of the terrible epidemic of influenza which swept over Europe after the war of 1914–1918.


Francisco fell ill in December, 1918. After two weeks in bed he appeared sufficiently recovered to get up, and after a time paid one more visit to the field of Cova. It was his last, for he had a relapse. When the parish priest was called, he found the boy very ill. He hastened to finish his instructions for First Communion. The child was overjoyed when his pastor brought Our Lord to him on April 3, 1919. It was his first and last Communion, for he died the next day. He had not reached his eleventh birthday.


When Francisco was dying Jacinta lay ill in the next room. Hearing that her brother could not live much longer, Jacinta sent him this message: “Give my loving thoughts to Our Lord and to Our Lady; tell them that I am ready to suffer all that they wish, in order to convert sinners and to make reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.” Both she and Lucia were deeply moved at Francisco’s death. Her own illness ran a longer and more painful course. She had to be removed from her home to the hospital at Ourem, but after two months she was brought back, no better. While ill
* It is now generally understood that in this triple vision Our Lady would impress more deeply on our minds the title of Our Lady of the Rosary by recalling in the three successive scenes the three sets of mysteries of the Redemption, Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious, upon which we are to meditate when we say the Rosary. at home she sent for Lucia and confided to her that Our Lady had come to her again and had told her that she would join Francisco in heaven soon, but that she would have to go to hospital again and suffer much. She was to offer her sufferings for the conversion of sinners, in reparation for sins against the Immaculate Heart of Mary and for the love of Jesus.
It happened that a Lisbon specialist who came to Fatima soon afterwards saw the sick child, and suggested that she be brought to the capital for an operation. This was done, but it left her in great pain. She told a poor woman of the city who visited her that Our Lady had come to her once more and told her the day and the hour of her death. Four days later she asked for the last Sacraments. The parish priest heard her confession, but, in spite of her insistence, did not give her Holy Viaticum, as he did not consider that she was in danger of death that night. But within three hours she was dead. It was February 20, 1920. Jacinta was ten years old.