I – A Letter From Dr Mendes To His Fiancée, written in September, 1917
When I arrived at Aljustrel, at the house of Francisco’s parents, I asked to speak to the children. Jacinta appeared and came up to me at once. She is very tiny, very babyish. I sat down so as to be able to see her better, and sat her down on a chest near me. Thus I was able to observe her at will. I must tell you at once that she is a darling – a little angel! She had a red handkerchief on her head, the points tied behind. It was rather torn and old, and her coat was not particularly clean, her skirt was full and wide in the local manner. I wish I could describe her face to you, but I fear I cannot do so adequately. I will try to do the best I can.
The kerchief served to emphasise her features. Her eyes are very dark and enchantingly vivacious, while her expression is really angelic, so extraordinarily sweet and kind that one is attracted in spite of oneself. She was so shy and timid that it was only with the greatest difficulty that I could make out her answers to my questions. After chatting for a while (I can imagine how you would have enjoyed it!), Francisco arrived. He carried his cap in his hand, and wore a very short jacket, the waistcoat open and showing his shirt, narrow trousers – in fact he is a little man in miniature. He has a splendid boyish face, and his expression is both lively and manly. He answered my questions with confidence, and then Jacinta, too, began to gain courage. Shortly afterwards Lucia arrived. You cannot imagine Jacinta’s joy when she saw her! She seemed to dissolve into laughter, and ran to her cousin never leaving her side again. It was a charming sight to see Lucia in the middle with Francisco on one side and Jacinta on the other, very close with her head against her cousin’s side.
Lucia is not very impressive to look at. I should say that she is very typical of the region. Her expression is lively, but for the rest she is ordinary-looking. She, too, was shy to begin with, but I soon put her at her ease, and she began to reply without any embarrassment. As I told you, I questioned the three of them separately. They all say the same thing without any alteration of the story. The principal thing which emerges, according to my own analysis, is that the Lady wishes the spread of devotion to the Rosary. All three children say that a Lady appeared to them, but they do not know who she is. After six appearances, on the 13th of October she will say who she is and what she wants. The naturalness and simplicity with which they tell one all this, is extraordinary and impressive. Lucia sees the Lady, speaks to her and hears her. Jacinta sees and hears, but does not address her. Francisco neither hears nor speaks, but sees her. The difference is very interesting, is it not?
To hear these children, to see their candour, and to observe them in general, makes such a remarkable impression on one that one is led to conclude that there is something in what they say. To be with them is an intensely moving experience. It is now my conviction that we are confronted with something outside mere reason. I await the next 13th [October] with growing impatience. I repeat that, near these children, one has a sense of goodness and loses one’s sense of time. There is an attraction which I cannot explain. The chief impression of the children seems to be of the Lady’s beauty. The boy, to express his admiration, said that she was “perfectly sweet.” I showed him your photograph and asked him if she were prettier than you. “Much more,” he said, “and the Lady was all dressed in white and gold.”
After this, the parents offered me some refreshments, and during that time I questioned them closely, too. They only know what the children tell them, and I don’t think their knowledge goes further than mine at present. Senhora Olimpia told me of her apprehensions because of the excitement which has been caused, and added: “If we were worthy of such a thing it might be all right, but just think, sir, my brother [Lucia’s father] is a tippler!” Then she told me all about the imprisonment of the children.
Later, we went with the children to the place of the apparitions in the Cova da Iria. The little tree has been reduced almost to nothing. Round what remains there is a stone wall, and over it an arch made of greenery. On the wall are pots of sweet basil and other flowers.
When we arrived, the three children knelt down and Lucia, who was in the middle, began to recite the Rosary. The recollection and devotion with which she prayed made a profound impression on us. The “offering” of the Rosary was interesting – “for the soldiers at the war.” The prayer which they say the Lady taught them is simple, and is as follows: “O Jesus, forgive us, and deliver us from the fire of hell. Take all souls to Heaven, especially those who are most in need.“
As if the pernicious propaganda of reactionaries were not enough, we now see a miracle trotted out in order further to degrade the people into fanaticism and superstition. There has been staged… an indecorous comedy in Fatima at which thousands of people have assisted, a ridiculous spectacle in which the simple people have been ingeniously deceived by means of collective suggestion, into a belief in a supposed apparition of the Mother of Jesus of Nazareth to three children jockeyed into this shameful spectacle for the commercial purposes of clerical reaction!
As if, however, the declarations of these poor little dupes who affirm they have seen a “Virgin” which, however, nobody else can see and hear, were not sufficient, it is affirmed, or rather invented, that the sun, at a certain hour on October 13, 1917, (on the eighth anniversary of the assassination of Francisco Ferrer) and in the height of the 20th century, was seen to dance a fandango in the clouds!
This, citizens, is a miserable attempt to plunge the Portuguese people once more into the dense darkness of past times which have departed never to return. The Republic and those citizens who are charged with the noble and thankless task of guiding it in the glorious paths of civilisation and progress, cannot consent to the degradation of the people into fanaticism and credulity, for this would be an unpardonable failing in their primal duty not only toward their country but to humanity as a whole. It is therefore our duty to demand from the public authorities the most energetic and immediate precautions against the shameless plan by which reaction seeks to plunge the people once more into medievalism….
What shall be our means of co-operation with those from whom we claim the action necessary for the end we envisage? An intensive and tenacious propaganda, which will raise the mentality of our citizens to the realms of truth, reason and science, convincing them that nothing can alter the laws of nature, and that the pretended miracles are nothing but miserable tricks to abuse the credulity which is the child of ignorance…
Let professors in the schools and colleges educate their pupils in a rational manner, liberating them from religious preconceptions as from all others, and we shall have prepared a generation for the morrow, happier because more worthy of happiness.
Let us, then, liberate ourselves and cleanse our minds, not only from foolish beliefs in such gross and laughable tricks as Fatima, but more especially from any credence in the supernatural and a pretended Deus Omnipotente, omniscient and omni-everything, instrument of the subtle imaginations of rogues who wish to capture popular credulity for their purposes.
Long Live The Republic! Down With Reaction! Long Live Liberty!
The following letter, dated July 24,1927, was received by Senhora Maria Rosa:
My Dearest Mother,
As I know that it is a great consolation to you to receive a letter from me, I am sending you this to encourage you and help you to offer the sacrifice of my absence to God. I understand very well how much this separation must mean to you, but I think that if we had not submitted to it voluntarily, God Himself would have done it for us. Do you remember how Uncle Manuel would not let his children go out of the house and in the end God took them all? For this reason, dear mother, offer this generously to the Blessed Virgin in reparation for the offences of her ungrateful children.
I would like to ask you to give me the consolation of embracing a devotion which I know is very pleasing to God, and was asked for by our beloved Mother in Heaven. As soon as I knew about it I wanted to practice it and get everyone else to do it, too. I hope, dear mother, that you will be able to tell me that you are practicing it, and to make it known to as many people as possible. You could never give me greater happiness than this. It consists only in doing what is written on this little holy picture: the confession can be made on another day, but I think the fifteen minutes (meditation) is what will worry you the most, although it is really very easy. Who cannot think about the mysteries of the Rosary? The Annunciation of our Lady and her humility at her great exaltation, calling herself a slave; the Passion of our Lord who suffered so much for love of us, and our Lady near Jesus on Calvary? Who could not pass fifteen minutes with our dear Lady, thinking about these holy things?
Goodbye, dearest mother. Try to console our Lady in this way, and get many others to do the same. This would give me a happiness that I could not explain.
I kiss your hand, and am your most loving daughter,
Lucia de Jesus.
During the July apparition our Lady confided a secret to the children, the two first parts of which were only divulged after the Second World War had broken out. The third part, sealed and written in Lucia’s own hand, is at present in the possession of the bishop of Leiria and will be opened only in 1960.
The first part of the secret concerns the vision of hell; the second part is of universal value and interest. In it, our Lady predicted the Second World War, which was to be preceded by a sign which Lucia recognised in the aurora borealis of the night of January 24, 1938. This phenomenon was witnessed in nearly all the nations of Europe, and was extensively referred to in the press.
In order to prevent this terrible scourge, our Lady would come to ask for the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart, and for the reparatory communion of the First Saturdays. The consequence would be the conversion of Russia and peace among the nations. If her desires were not complied with, “Russia would spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church; the good will be martyred and the Holy Father will have much to suffer. Various nations will be annihilated….” The fulfilment of this prophecy is the sad reality through which humanity is living at present, and the subject is of the utmost importance and merits our close attention.
Now a question: why did Lucia wait so long before making the prophecy known?
From the interrogations and depositions of Lucia we may deduce the following: On the 10th of December, 1925, our Lady appeared to her in her room with the Child Jesus and said: “Look, my daughter, at my heart, encircled with thorns, with which ungrateful men pierce it at every instant with their blasphemy and ingratitude. You at least, try to console me with the practice of the First Saturdays.”
Lucia immediately began to make this devotion known around her. There is a letter extant 37 (dated July 24, 1927), written to her mother, Maria Rosa, in which Lucia urges the practice of the devotion that our Lady made known to her.
37. A Letter From Lucia.
Lucia also declares:
“From 1925, I asked that the devotion of the reparatory Communion might be propagated, together with confession, the Rosary, and a quarter of an hour’s meditation, for five consecutive Saturdays. In order to realise this desire of our Lady, I requested the help of my confessor, Father Lino, and the Reverend Mother Superior, Maria das Dores Magalhaes.
By order of Reverend Mother, I wrote my former confessor in Oporto, Monsignor Pereira Lopes. As he did not reply, I spoke of our Lady’s wish [again by order of Reverend Mother] to a Jesuit Father who was then living in Pontevedra [at present in the “Broteria” in Lisbon], Father Francisco Rodrigues.
“In 1926, when I came from Tuy, I made our Lady’s request known to my confessor at that time, Father Jose da Silva Aparicio, superior of the Jesuits in that city (at present in Brazil, where he is Rector of the Jesuit House in Ceara Baturita). At that time our Lady had not yet made her demand about Russia. It was two years later , in the chapel of the Dorotheas, in Tuy, that our Lady came to request this consecration which was to be made by the Holy Father, in union with all the bishops of the world.
“In 1929, as Father Aparicio had relinquished his post of confessor to the community, I made our Lady’s desire about the consecration of Russia known to Father Francisco Rodrigues, who came to Tuy frequently on his way to Portugal. I also told Father Goncalves, who came to replace Father Aparicio. [He is at present superior of the Zambesi mission in the mission of Lifiege, Mozambique.] His Reverence made me write it down, and promised to work for the realisation of our Lady’s wishes. He also informed the bishop of Leiria and arranged that the matter should come to the knowledge of His Holiness the Pope [Pius XI].” 38
[38. Lucia does not remember the exact date on which this message was delivered to the Holy Father but recalls that her confessor told her that it had been graciously received and would be taken into consideration.]
As we see, therefore, Lucia had repeatedly spoken of the Second World War a long time before it broke out, although her requests went unheeded. When Pius XII took the helm of the Church, the world was already on the eve of the terrible conflagration. Lucia insisted once more, not on the consecration of Russia alone, but of all the world, with an especial mention of Russia. “In 1940 I wrote to the bishop referring to the failure to fulfil our Lady’s wishes. I wrote: ‘If the world only knew the moment of grace which is conceded and would do penance….’ In the letter which, by order of my spiritual directors, I wrote to the Holy Father in 1940, I exposed the exact request of our Lady and asked for the consecration of the world with especial mention of Russia.”
From this the following facts emerge: Pius XI did not make the consecration which our Lady had asked Lucia to make known. Pius XII, in his turn, did not consecrate Russia in October of 1942 in the original form which had been indicated, but as Lucia asked him in the direct letter of 1940. That is to say, he consecrated the whole world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary with an especial mention of Russia. “Especially those who profess singular devotion to you, where there is hardly a house that did not display your holy icon, today hidden perhaps, in expectation of better days.”
But since 1942 the sins and sorrows of men have dampened the earth with blood and tears. The Holy Father has suffered much, the good have been trampled, and in many instances, among so many nations, evil and godless men appear, by the measure of brutal power alone, to have been victorious. The errors of Communism, so prophetically foretold Our Lady of Fatima, have spread dangerously wide.
Finally, on July 7,1952, the Holy Father specifically consecrated the peoples of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. To these children of his paternal heart, either forbidden the practice of their chosen faith, or else, in the darkness of false propaganda, never having known the God who fixes the places of peoples and planets and stars, Pius XII concludes:
“In order that our and your prayers be more readily answered, and to give you an especial attestation of our particular affection, we, therefore, just as not many years ago we consecrated the entire world to the Immaculate Heart of the Virgin Mother of God, so now, in a most special way, we dedicate and consecrate all peoples of Russia to that same Immaculate Heart, in confident assurance that through the most powerful protection of Virgin Mary there may at the earliest moment be happily realised the hopes and desires which we, together with you and with all those of upright intention, have for the attainment of true peace, of fraternal concord and of rightful liberty for all:
“In the first place for the Church, so that, through the meditation of the prayer which we raise to heaven in union with you and with all Christian peoples, the saving Kingdom of Christ, which is “a Kingdom of truth and of life, Kingdom of sanctity and of grace, Kingdom of justice, of love and of peace” [Preface of the Feast of the Kingship of Jesus Christ] may triumph and be firmly established in every part of the world.
“And with suppliant appeal we pray the same most loving Mother that she may assist each and every one of you in the present calamitous circumstances and obtain from her Divine Son heavenly light for your minds, and for your souls that virtue and fortitude by which, with sustaining divine grace, you may be able victoriously to overcome impiety and error.
“Given at Rome, from St Peter’s, July 7,1952, the Feast of Saints Cyril and Methodius, in the fourteenth year of our pontificate.” Pius PP XII.
The common Father, in a moment of sorrow, seeing some of his children far from home and tragically separated from God, does everything possible to reunite them round himself, the faithful ones sharing in his sorrow and the others, though separated of their own free will, nevertheless remaining in his paternal heart notwithstanding their evil-doing.
The common Father of the Christian family confides, hands over, “not only Holy Church, the mystical body of Christ which bleeds and suffers in so many parts of the world, and is in so much tribulation, but also the whole world lacerated by discord, burning in great fires of hate, victim of its own iniquity.”39
[39. It is only in this order of ideas that the consecration of individuals, families or dioceses, can contribute to and hasten the conversion of Russia and the world.]
No, Pius XII could not have better interpreted the desires of our Lady and we, children of the Church, must unite in a crusade of prayer and penance, that, in the Holy Father’s own words, we may “hasten the triumph of the Kingdom of God so that all generations at peace among themselves and with God, may proclaim the blessedness of the most holy Virgin and with her intone from pole to pole the eternal Magnificat of glory and love and thanksgiving to the heart of Jesus, where alone may be found truth, peace and life.”
In world history, outside ordinary eclipses, nothing prodigious has been recorded of the sun, with the single exception of the biblical miracle of Joshua – the day’s standstill of sun and moon. This fact and no other marks Fatima with a stupendous singularity quite apart from the rest of the story.
The thousands of pilgrims, as we know, were caught in pouring rain, while gusts of wind swept the rocky hillsides. Suddenly, at midday, the heavens opened and the clouds drew back to the horizon, leaving the air pure and clear as a mirror. Such would be the case after prolonged and copious rain, when the air becomes more transparent than usual and appears to have been washed. At this moment the sun begins to pale, and it may be argued that the diminution of light could have been caused by mist or flakes of mist suspended in the air. After all those hours of rain and all that humidity, it would be logical to suspect that at least some fragments of mist would remain in the atmosphere. At first sight such doubts might be justified, since many witnesses describe the sun’s disc as being opaque, silvered, or like mother-of-pearl.
Yet we can admit without hesitation that the sun looked opaque, with a well-defined rim, and at the same time prove that there was no intervening mist. In fact, we can postulate this alternative: either the mist was light or it was dense. I define a “light” mist that which exists between zero and the extreme point at which the eye cannot, with impunity, be fixed on the sun. I call a “dense” mist that which exists from this point until there is complete occultation. Now it is certain that the first alternative must be excluded, for the sun appeared like mother-of-pearl on which the vision could easily be fixed. There remains, therefore, the second alternative. But if the mist were dense, the sun’s disc would not have been clearly defined. For, in fact, when a dense, damp fog veils it, there is formed in the surrounding atmosphere a kind of aureole or crown (not in the technical and astronomical sense of the word) which, so to speak, confirms the presence of mist. Yet all affirm that the sky behind the sun was perfectly clear. Now between this and a mist capable of dominating solar light, there would seem to be an excessive difference, one may say a contradiction: the sky a clean background and at the same time a mist obscuring the sun.
This opaqueness of the sun in a clear sky was but the beginning of events, for immediately there began to radiate from its center, thousands upon thousands of coloured monochromatic lights in sectors, which, in the form of spirals, began to whirl around the centre of the solar disc in such a manner that the sun itself seemed to turn on itself rather like a Catherine wheel, while the coloured rays spread out in a centrifugal movement covering the sky as far as the curtain of clouds, and turning everything various colours as if by magic. Such a spectacle of red, yellow, green and violet rays from the sun, spreading and sweeping over the sky, cannot be explained by any known laws, nor has such a thing been seen before.
Could it have been a rainbow? Obviously not, for the simple reason that a rainbow is usually stationary. Further, the rainbow is drawn on a vertical plane opposite the sun and does not originate in the solar disc itself, but in the opposite line of vision. The eye rests on the summit of a cone on whose base rests the plane of the arch. The solar rays, which are parallel and horizontal, radiate from behind the observer, not from the front, and with a penetrating action reflect themselves once or twice in the falling drops of water, returning to the eye with the dispersion of the iris. In the case under review, on the contrary, the phenomenon is one of radiation over the whole circle of the horizon with uniform and continuous movement. Certainly there can occur other prismatic effects in the atmosphere, but they are seen, as is well known, at dawn or sunset. The air then operates as a prism, dispersing the light in various coloured beams – those of the spectrum.
In the case of Fatima, it is extremely difficult to place such a phenomenon within a framework when outside the solar disc there was only limpid air without any reflecting agent, as with a rainbow, when along each monochromatic ray numberless drops of water renew the prismatic effect. In Fatima, as seen by motionless observers, the monochromatic sectors appeared to revolve and to subsist without any support. We must conclude that each coloured ray was maintained autonomously, with its origin in the solar body, the air providing no means to transmission. At an altitude of 42 degrees 44′ – that of the sun at midday in October – clear air, in some measure disturbed by wind, could not of itself cause a phenomenon of spectral dispersion of autonomous rotating rays.
The only comparable phenomenon is, perhaps, the aurora borealis. Professor Vercelli, in his book, The Air, quotes a description by Mr Herdel of an exceptional aurora which was seen in the state of Iowa on the night of May 14, 1921. Taking this account as a base for comparison, I note a great divergence between the two events. In Fatima, stable, compact, above all homogeneous. The aurora was variable, disordered, unstable. Further, it is proved that the zone of maximum occurrence of the aurora borealis is limited by a quasi-parallel running through North Cape – Northern Siberia – coast of Alaska – Hudson Bay – Labrador – Iceland and back to North Cape in Norway. We can then be nearly certain that on the 50th parallel the aurora cannot be seen – at least according to current theory.
The aurora borealis is caused by trajectories of electrons, or better, according to Vegard, by particles thrown off by the sun and diverted to the magnetic field of the earth. Then, coming in contact with the air, they give origin to the variegated lights which can be observed. The quasi-parallel trajectories which pass through the magnetic north are seen by us converging and diverging only by an effect of perspective. In substance, the aurora borealis are inherent in the terrestrial magnetic poles and thence to the hyper-boreal regions – hence their name.
In spite of all this, one cannot absolutely exclude the possibility of the aurora borealis being seen in low latitudes. In fact one was observed in Rome in 1938. but one fact alone distinguishes the Fatima phenomenon from this and other appearances of the aurora. The origin of the lights in Fatima was in the sun, from whence they sprang, whereas during the true aurora the sun is always invisible. Apart from this, the latitude of Fatima (39 degrees 36′) is even lower than that of Rome. Also the synchronizing, revolving movement of the sectors and their three stops at regular intervals (according to witnesses) is far from the irregular, disordered movements, the disappearance and reappearance of light as described in Mr Herdel’s account. Lastly, if there had been a true aurora borealis it would have been observed in some European observatory.
It now remains to examine the third phase of the phenomenon, that is to say the movement of the sun, which appeared to detach itself from the sky and to fall on the earth in a zigzag path. It can be affirmed that such a phenomenon is outside and against all natural and astronomical laws. It appears that with this final occurrence, all doubts as to the natural origin of the events, all skepticism on our part, must be laid aside.
At this point it would be well to refresh our motives for belief in such an unheard of incident. The number and nature of the witnesses exceed all requirements for verification. With twelve such, the law justifies the execution of a man. In this case, eyewitnesses numbered some 70,000.
To resume our study: first, we have the rotation of the sun and the various colours; secondly, a movement outside the normal daily path of the sun in the heavens. In the first case there would be a normal admiration such as would be excited by a first view of an aurora borealis. There would be no cause for terror. Yet, suddenly, without the intervention of any new factor, the multitude is seized with terror as if menaced by a cataclysm. Everyone feels threatened by imminent catastrophe. There is a sensation that the sun is about to fall on the earth; that it is being torn from the cosmic laws of its eternal path. Hence the invocations, the prayers, the cries of affliction, as in a universal cataclysm.
Observe well the second phase. It is not religious hysteria, nor a species of pentecostal fervour. It is sheer panic in the presence of Him who alone can dominate the forces of the universe. Contemporary accounts will show that it was not a case of suggestion, but that an objective vision was the cause of the panic which, when it had passed, left everyone perfectly calm, contented even, at having witnessed a prodigy which had been exactly foretold and anxiously awaited. How also could everyone have seen the danger pass at one and the same moment?
Of the historical reality of this event there can be no doubt whatever. That it was outside and against known laws can be proved by certain simple scientific considerations.
The “movement” of the sun is relative to the earth’s own. The orbit of the latter is nearly an ellipse of extremely small eccentricity. The daily transitional movement of the earth – even with its velocity of 18 miles a second – is projectively imperceptible. Much less would it be so during the ten minutes’ duration of the phenomenae; ten minutes are sufficient, as was the case in Fatima, for a generic qualitative observation, they would not suffice for the observation with the naked eye of a solar dislocation which can be known only in relation to the distances of the zodiac constellations.
Conclusion: The above-mentioned solar phenomena were not noted in any observatory. Impossible that they should escape the notice of so many astronomers and indeed the other inhabitants of the hemisphere. It must then be admitted that there is no question of an astronomical or meteorological phenomenon as we have already said. We are thus confronted with an inescapable dilemma. Either all the observers in Fatima were collectively deceived and erred in their testimony, or we must suppose an extra-natural intervention. Given the indubitable reference to God, and the general context of the story, it seems that we must attribute to Him alone the most obvious and colossal miracle of history.
A detailed account of Lucia’s first Communion appears in her memoirs. It took place when she was six years old, three years after the decree of Pope Pius X admitting small children to Holy Communion, and seems to have been attended by certain supernatural features and a promise of future sanctity. It is also interesting in the light of later events that her first confession was made to Father Cruz, S.J., who later became renowned for his sanctity, and was to be one of the most celebrated personages in Portugal, like Lucia herself.
The parish priest had decided that Lucia was too young to receive Holy Communion, although she had responded well to the catechism. Father Cruz, who happened to be giving a triduum, saw her in tears and, after examining her, personally intervened and secured a reversal of the decision of the parish priest, expressing his opinion that the little girl was perfectly ready and able to receive our Lord. After her confession she knelt before our Lady’s statue and [instructed perhaps by her confessor] prayed earnestly: “Please keep my heart pure for God.” It seemed to her at that moment that the statue smiled upon her and gave her a visible sign of assent. Again, before Mass on the following day, she knelt before the statue and prayed: “Make me a saint.” Once again she seemed to have a supernatural sign and certainty that her prayer had been heard. “I do not know,” she writes, “whether the facts I have written about my first Communion were a reality or a little girl’s illusion. All I know is that they had a great influence in uniting me to God all my life.” When she received our Lord she felt an “unalterable serenity and peace” and kept saying in her heart, “Lord, make me a saint. Keep my heart always pure – for You alone.” And she heard distinctly the reply: “The grace that I grant thee today will remain living in thy soul producing fruits of eternal life.” Although the Mass was very late in finishing, Lucia could not eat when she arrived home. Her spiritual experience had almost abstracted her from her senses and those around her noticed her recollection and absorption.
Though no attempt has been made in this volume to describe the fulfilment of our Lady’s promise to return to the Cova da Iria a seventh time, it can be said with certainty that the apparition did take place. It occurred June 18,1921, Lucia’s last day in Aljustrel before leaving for the convent school at Vilar. That evening, having left her home, and paying a last visit to the Cova da Iria, she is said to have seen our Lady standing at a spot now occupied by the lower steps of the basilica.
I wrote to Sister Lucia about this, but have not received a reply. I have, however, been assured by a priest very close to Lucia that she has confirmed the happening.
Several books on Fatima, including an early version of the author’s own, include with their accounts of the first apparition a sequence in which Francisco does not at first see the mysterious “Lady” with whom Lucia is speaking.
“I don’t see anything!” he is alleged to have complained. “Throw a stone at it, Lucia, to see if it is real!”
Lucia does not throw the recommended stone, but the Lady, in this version, advises Lucia, in regard to her doubting cousin, “Let him say the Rosary, and in this way he too will see me.”
Meanwhile Jacinta, worried for the welfare of anyone having journeyed all the way from heaven, says to Lucia, “Ask the Lady if she is hungry. We still have some bread and cheese.”
Francisco, by this account, is also worried by the errant behaviour of the sheep, which have wandered into someone’s garden, in another section of the Cova da Iria, there to consume forbidden peas. His concern is based on knowledge that his father will punish him for this, but his fear is quickly relieved by Lucia’s assurance that the Lady has guaranteed the sheep will not eat the peas.
Exactly how all this crept into the record, I do not know, but when I showed it to Sister Lucia in the first Portuguese version of my book, she very helpfully took a pencil and crossed the whole thing out.
By Lucia’s personal account they were too enrapt in the wondrous beauty of their Lady to entertain the least thought of the sheep. Further, there is no support for the assumption that Francisco failed to see the Lady from the first moment of her appearance.
One of the greatest auroras in history was seen between January 24 and 25, in 1938, over the whole of the earth reaching down from the north pole almost to the equator. This Great Aurora was unusually red in colour and dominated the news in Europe and in North America.
Scientists tried to explain it as a most unusual Aurora Borealis. It covered an area of 500,000 square km with a vertical extent of 400 km. The rays reached an altitude of 700 km and are accompanied by a strange noise “similar to the sound of burning grass or brush”. Millions of people in many countries saw it and feared the world was on fire and about to end. It caused massive radio and electronic disturbances around Europe and fire engines were called out as buildings seemed to be on fire, as they reflected the red glow of the sky.
Newspaper Accounts of the Event
“Northern lights down south” – [London Times, January 26, 1938, p. 12]
“Aurora borealis abroad” – [London Times, January 27, 1938] “From 6:30 to 8:30 pm the people of London watched two magnificent arcs rising in the east and west, from which radiated pulsating beams like searchlights in dark red, greenish blue and purple. …From an airplane the display looked like ‘a shimmering curtain of fire.’ …Police stations, fire brigades and newspaper offices all over the country were inundated by calls tonight asking, ‘Where is the fire?’ The phenomenon was seen as far south as Vienna, …[The phenomenon] spread fear in parts of Portugal and Lower Austria tonight, while thousands of Britons were brought running into the streets in wonderment. The ruddy glow led many to think half the city was ablaze. The Windsor Fire Department was called out in the belief that Windsor Castle was afire. …an ill-omen for Scotland. The lights were clearly seen in Italy, Spain and even Gibraltar. …firemen turned out to chase non-existent fires. Portuguese villagers rushed in fright from their homes, fearing the end of the world. …
“A huge hlood-red beam of light which scientists said was an Aurora Borealis of exceptional amplitude tied up telephone systems in parts of France tonight and spread anxiety in numerous Swiss Alpine villages. Emblazoned in the Northern sky the light brought thousands of telephone calls to Swiss and French authorities asking whether it was a Fire? War? or the End of the World?” [Grenoble, France, Jan. 25.]
“Northern lights disrupt radios in Maine, frighten Europeans” – [Maine Press Herald, January 26, 1938, p. 1]
“Aurora borealis startles Europe. People flee, call fireman” – [New York Times, January 26, 1938, p.25 ]
“Magnetic storms playing heck with news wires” – [Dallas Morning News, January 26, 1938, p.1 ]
“Aurora borealis cutting capers” – [Savanna Morning News, January 26, 1938, p. 1]
“Borealis over Tennessee valley” – [The Kansas City Star, January 27, 1938]
“Blame it on the sun” – [Rocky Mountain Herald, January 29, 1938, p.1 ]
“Europe upset at first aurora since 1709” – [Bismark Tribune, January 26, 1938, p.2 ]
“Aurora borealis glows in widest area since 1709” – [Chicago Daily Tribune, January 26, 1938, p.2 ]
“Northern lights give prize show” – [Boston Globe, January 26, 1938, p.1 ]
“Neon Lights in the sky: Display of aurora borealis viewed on two continents” – [Christian Science Monitor, January 26, 1938, p.1 ]
“Thousands of frightened Portuguese peasants rushed from their homes one night recently and pointed to huge shafts of blood, red, greenish, blue and purple light shimmering on the northern horizon. ‘It’s the end of the world!’ they cried….In London the luminous heavens also caused alarm. Half the city appeared to be ablaze Frantic citizens telephoned newspaper offices. ‘Where’s the fire?’ they asked. Out in Windsor fire engines clanged through the streets. ‘Windsor Castle is afire,’ everyone said….. In southwestern France, in the Alpine villages of Switzerland and along the Danube in Austria, the heavenly blaze brought thousands into city streets and country roads. ‘Fire?’ they asked one another. ‘War?’ ‘Doomsday?’…In Holland crowds awaiting the birth of Crown Princess Juliana’s baby hailed the celestial spectacle. ‘A good omen,’ they said. But in the lowlands of Scotland, men and women shook their heads. ‘Northern lights,’ they declared, ‘always spell misfortune for Scotland.’…The excitement spread across the Atlantic. Bermudians stared at the distant glow. In Canada, much closer to the phenomenon, the Canadian Press reported that ‘wire services throughout northern Ontario were disrupted,’ while radio transmission went dead.” [The Literary Digest, January 25th, 1938]
In America, the sighting of this light was testified by J.C. of Lincoln, Nebraska: “January 26th, 1938, I was walking across campus with 2 or 3 other faculty members of Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Indiana. We saw that Aurora Borealis, and stopped to watch. I don’t recall the colours, the night was very dark, but it was the first ‘Northern Lights’ I’d seen. I remarked about the Fatima prophecy, and wondered if this could be the Sign . . . Frightening!…World War II started not long after that.” (Letter to Divine Love, Vol. 24, No. 2-3, 1981, Fresno, California).
Looking at the “Northern Lights,” Sister Lucia knew that it was the great sign foretold by Our Lady on July 13, 1917, that the punishment of the world was at hand. In March 1938, Hitler invaded Austria, striking the match that was to set the world aflame. The lights referred to above appeared on the night of January 24-25, 1938. Hitler’s move upon Austria took place 45 to 48 days later.
That all this was not an empty threat is indicated by the fact that the Rev. Ferreira, priest of Fatima, felt obliged to publish in the Ordem, of Lisbon, and the Ouriense, of Ourem, a defence of his attitude. He wrote a letter to the editor entitled:
To Believers And Non-Believers:
Reluctantly as a Catholic priest, I beg to make known and to declare the following before all those who may know or hear rumour – infamous and damaging to my reputation as parish priest – that I was an accomplice in the imprisonment of three children in my parish who assert that they have seen our Lady. I make this statement on the authority of the parents and for the satisfaction of the 5,000 to 6,000 persons who came many miles and with great sacrifice to see and speak with them. I deny this infamous and insidious calumny, and declare before the whole world that I had nothing whatever to do, directly or indirectly, with this impious and sacrilegious action. The mayor did not confide his intentions to me. And if it was providential – which it was – that he acted secretly and without any resistance on the part of the children, it was no less than providential that the excitement to which this diabolical rumour gave rise was calmed, or the parish would certainly have had to mourn the death of its priest as an accomplice in the crime. That the devil did not succeed in this, was due certainly to the Virgin Mother. The mayor, after a protracted interrogation in their own houses, had the children brought to mine under the pretext of collecting more accurate information about the secret which they had refused to reveal to anyone. Then, at the time when he judged opportune, he ordered them into the carriage, and telling the parents that he was taking them to the Cova da Iria, in fact took them to Vila Nova de Ourem. Why did he choose my house from which to act? In order to escape the consequences of his action? In order that the people should riot, as they did, and accuse me of complicity? Or for some other reason? I do not know. I only know that I deny all responsibility in the matter, and leave judgment to God. No one can prevent a work of God. Thousands of eyewitnesses can attest that the presence of the children was not necessary for the Queen of Heaven to manifest her power. They themselves will attest to the extraordinary phenomena which occurred to confirm their faith. But now, it is not a trio of children, but thousands of people of all ages, classes and conditions who have seen for themselves. If my absence from the Cova, as parish priest, gave offence to believers, my presence as a witness would have been no less objectionable to unbelievers. The Blessed Virgin has no need of the parish priest in order to manifest her goodness and the enemies of religion need not tarnish their benevolence by attributing the faith of the people to the presence or otherwise of the parish priest. Faith is a gift of God and not of the priests This is the true motive of my absence and apparent indifference to such a sublime and marvellous event. This is why I have not replied to the thousand questions and letters, which have been directed to me. The enemy is not asleep, but like a roaring lion. The apostles were not the first to announce the Resurrection. I abstain from any narration of the above-mentioned facts on account of the length of this letter, and because the Press will most certainly have given its own accounts. I am, yours faithfully, Fr. Manual Marques Ferreira.
The First Secret: a vision of hell.
As she spoke these words, the Lady opened her hands, as she had in the preceding months, but instead of the glory and beauty of God that her opened hands had shown us before, we now were able to behold a sea of fire. Plunged in this flame were devils and souls that looked like transparent embers; others were black or bronze, and in human form; these were suspended in flames which seemed to come from the forms themselves there to remain, without weight or equilibrium, amid cries of pain and despair which horrified us so that we trembled with fear. The devils could be distinguished from the damned human souls by the terrifying forms of weird and unknown animals in which they were cast.
The Second Secret: the punishment and the means of avoiding it.
The Mother of God, then told them:
You have seen hell, where the souls of sinners go. It is to save them that God wants to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If you do what I tell you, many souls will be saved, and there will be peace. This war will end, but if men do not refrain from offending God, another and more terrible war will begin. And when you see a night that is lit by a strange and unknown light, you will know it is the sign God gives you that He is about to punish the world with war and with hunger, and by the persecution of the Church and the Holy Father. To prevent this, I shall come to the world to ask that Russia be consecrated to my Immaculate Heart, and I shall ask that on the First Saturday of every month Communions of reparation be made in atonement for the sins of the world.
If my wishes are fulfilled, Russia will be converted and there will be peace; if not, then Russia will spread her errors throughout the world, bringing new wars and persecution of the Church; the good will be martyred and the Holy Father will have much to suffer; certain nations will be annihilated.
But in the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she will be converted, and the world will enjoy a period of peace. In Portugal the faith will always be preserved, etc. Remember, you must not tell this to anyone except Francisco.
The Third Secret was not revealed when Fr De Marchi wrote this book. When Sister Lucia fell ill in late 1943, she feared that she would die and so under instructions from her superiors and Our Lady, she wrote down, on January 2, 1944, the Third Secret enclosed in a sealed envelope which was not to be opened until her death or before 1960.
The Third Secret was delivered to the Vatican, Pope John XXIII read it, but the contents were not disclosed. Vatican officials announced in 1960 that the secret would most likely remain absolutely undisclosed forever. In 1984, under instruction from Pope John Paul II, the then Cardinal Ratzinger [Pope Benedict XVI] revealed that the secret would remain undisclosed to avoid sensationalism, but that it revealed similar content to other Marian apparitions.
On June 26, 2000, the Vatican published the text of the Third Secret with commentaries by Vatican official, Cardinal Ratzinger of the Congregation of the Faith and Cardinal Bertone.
The publication came a month after Pope John Paul II had visited Fatima during the beatification ceremonies for Blessed Francisco and Blessed Jacinta.
Text of the Third Secret as published in 2000:
I write in obedience to you, my God, who command me to do so through his Excellency the Bishop of Leiria and through your Most Holy Mother and mine. After the two parts which I have already explained, at the left of Our Lady and a little above, we saw an Angel with a flaming sword in his left hand; flashing, it gave out flames that looked as though they would set the world on fire; but they died out in contact with the splendour that Our Lady radiated towards him from her right hand: pointing to the earth with his right hand, the Angel cried out in a loud voice: ‘Penance, Penance, Penance!’. And we saw in an immense light that is God: ‘something similar to how people appear in a mirror when they pass in front of it’ a Bishop dressed in White ‘we had the impression that it was the Holy Father’. Other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious going up a steep mountain, at the top of which there was a big Cross of rough-hewn trunks as of a cork-tree with the bark; before reaching there the Holy Father passed through a big city half in ruins and half trembling with halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met on his way; having reached the top of the mountain, on his knees at the foot of the big Cross he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him, and in the same way there died one after another the other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious, and various lay people of different ranks and positions. Beneath the two arms of the Cross there were two Angels each with a crystal aspersorium in his hand, in which they gathered up the blood of the Martyrs and with it sprinkled the souls that were making their way to God.
Since 1960 there has been world-wide speculation as to the secret, the delay in disclosure by Catholic authorities, and recently over interpretation of its message, and even if the text published is complete. Conspiracy theories abound.
However so, Our Lady of Fatima requires penance and prayer, specifically our devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, together with the devotions of the First Five Saturdays and the Rosary in reparation for sin and for the conversion of sinners. Furthermore, Our Lady requires specifically the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary by the Holy Father and all the bishops of the world to prevent the errors of Russia from spreading. If the Church and the faithful do not respond, then the Church will be afflicted by horrific persecution, on laity and hierarchy alike, from which their martyrdom will secure the redemption of many.
It is a considerable matter for debate over whether the angel’s sword is to come, or whether the angel’s sword refers to particular events in the late 20th century.