The Children Examined Again Evening of October 13, 1917

At seven o’clock, on the evening of October 13, Dr Formigao continued his methodical questioning of the children. He had no desire to punish them in their weariness, because if the day had substantiated their claims and exalted them in joy, it had also wilted them with its many emotional trials. Zealous strangers and frantic friends had been at them since the hour of rising. They were sleepy and tired, bewildered and strained, and it seemed to the wise priest almost as cruel to press them further, as it was essential to question them now while their impressions were still fresh. They must have no time alone for private counsel and possible conspiracy. He believed them all right; wholeheartedly he had rejoiced at the manifestations of the day. And yet, as a conscientious sleuth – or devil’s advocate – he could not permit his own affection to hinder his objectivity. He was able to interview each of them, alone, and with calm deliberation.

The first witness was Lucia.

“Did our Lady appear again today in the Cova da Iria?”
“Yes”
“Was she dressed as on the other occasions?”
“She was dressed in the same way.”
“Did Saint Joseph and the Holy Child appear?”
“Yes.”
“Did anyone else appear?”
“Our Lord appeared and blessed the people and our Lady of the two cards.”
“What do you mean by our Lady of the two cards?”
“Our Lady appeared dressed like Our Lady of Dolours but without the sword in her heart, and our Lady dressed – I don’t quite know how, but I think it was Our Lady of Mount Carmel.”
“They all came at the same time, did they not?”

Dr Formigao explained to us: With my presentiment of the truth of the apparitions, I confess that it was with trepidation that I asked this question, purposely giving it an affirmative form. Although it would not have been, strictly speaking, impossible for the children to have had a simultaneous vision of the three Images of the Blessed Virgin, it would clearly have created a serious difficulty.

“No. First I saw Our Lady of the Rosary, then Saint Joseph and the Holy Child. After that I saw our Lord, then Our Lady of Dolors and at the end what I think was Our Lady of Mount Carmel.”
“Was the Holy Child standing or being carried by Saint Joseph? ”
“He was being carried by Saint Joseph.”
“Was He already a big child?”
“No. He was little.”
“How old would He have been?”
“About a year.”
“Why did you say that the Lady at one moment seemed to be dressed like Our Lady of Mount Carmel?”
“Because she had two things hanging from her hand.”
“Did they appear on the oak tree?”
“No, they appeared near the sun, after the Lady had disappeared from the oak tree.”
“Was our Lord standing?”
“I only saw Him from the waist.”
“How long did the apparition on the oak tree last? Long enough to say the Rosary?”
“I don’t think it was as long as that.”
“Did the figures you saw in the sun last long?”
“No, only a short time.”
“Did the Lady say who she was?”
“She said that she was the Lady of the Rosary.”
“Did you ask what she wanted?”
“Yes.”
“What did she say?”
“She said that we were to amend our lives and not offend our Lord any more because He was too much offended already, and that we were to say the Rosary and ask pardon for our sins.”
“Did she say anything else?”
“She said that a chapel was to be built in the Cova da Iria.”
“Where was the money to come from?”
“I think it would be what was left there.”
“Did she say anything about our soldiers who were killed in the war?”
“No, she said nothing about them.”
“Did she tell you to tell the people to look at the sun?”
“No.”
“Did she say that the people were to do penance?”
“Yes.”
“Did she use the word penance?”
“No. She said we were to say the Rosary and amend our lives and ask pardon of our Lord, but she did not use the word penance.”
“When did the sign in the sun begin? Was it after the Lady disappeared?”
“Yes.”
“Did you see the Lady come?”
“Yes.”
“Where did she come from?”
“From the east.”
“And the other times?”
“I didn’t look the other times.”
“Did you see her go?”
“Yes.”
“In which direction?”
“To the east.”
“How did she disappear?”
“Little by little.”
“What disappeared first?”
“Her head. Then her body, and the last thing I saw was her feet.”
“When she went did she go with her back toward or away from the people?”
“With her back toward the people.”
“Did she take long to go?”
“Only a short time.”
“Was she surrounded by any light?”
“I saw her in the middle of brilliant light. This time, too, she was blinding. Sometimes I had to rub my eyes.”
“Will our Lady appear again?”
“I don’t think so; she said nothing about it.”
“Will you return to the Cova da Iria on the 13th?”
“No.”
“Will our Lady do any miracles? Cure any sick people?”
“I don’t know.”
“Didn’t you ask her anything?”
“I told her today that I had various petitions to give and she said she would grant some and not others.”
“Did she say when she would grant them?”
“No.”
“Under what title is the chapel of the Cova da Iria to be?”
“She said today that she was the Lady of the Rosary.”
“Did she say that many people were to go there from all parts?”
“She didn’t say that anybody was to go.”
“Did you see the signs in the sun?”
“I saw it going round.”
“Did you see signs on the oak tree?”
“No.”
“When was the Lady the most beautiful, this time or on other occasions? ”
“She was the same.”
“How long was her dress?”
“It fell below the middle of her legs.”
“What colour was our Lady’s dress when she was near the sun? ”
“The mantle was blue and the dress white.”
“And our Lord and Saint Joseph and the Holy Child?”
“Saint Joseph’s was red and I think our Lord and the Child wore red too.”
“When did you ask our Lady to make the people believe in her apparitions?”
“I asked her several times. I think the first time I asked was in June.”
“When did she tell you the secret?”
“I think it was the second time.”

After the careful questioning of Lucia, Dr Formigao turned his attention to Jacinta in a separate interview.

“Apart from our Lady,” he asked her, “whom did you see today when you were in the Cova da Iria?”
“I saw Saint Joseph and the Holy, Child.”
“Where did you see them?”
“I saw them near the sun.”
“What did the Lady say?”
“She said that we were to say the Rosary every day and that the war would end today.”
“To whom did she say this?”
“To Lucia and to me. Francisco didn’t hear.”
“Did you hear her say when our soldiers would come back?”
“No.”
“What else did she say?”
“She said that a chapel was to be built in the Cova da Iria.”
“Where did the Lady come from?”
“From the east.”
“And where did she go when she disappeared?”
“She went to the east.”
“Did she go away backward facing the people?”
“No, she turned her back to the people.”
“Did she say that she would come back to the Cova da Iria? ”
“She said before that it was the last time she would come, and today, too, she said it was the last time.”
“Did the Lady say anything else?”
“She said today that we were to say the Rosary every day to Our Lady of the Rosary.”
“Where did she say that people were to say the Rosary?”
“She did not say where.”
“Did she say that they were to go to the church?”
“She never said that.”
“Where do you like to say the Rosary best: here, at home, or in the Cova da Iria,”
“In the, Cova da Iria.”
“Why do you like to say it there?”
“I don’t know.”
“With what money did, the Lady say the chapel was to be built?”
“She said a chapel was to be built, but I don’t know about the money.”
“Did you look at the sun?”
“Yes.”
“Did you see the signs?”
“Yes.”
“Did the Lady tell you to look at the sun?”
“No.”
“Then how did you see the signs?”
“I turned my eyes to the side.”
“Was the Holy Child on the right or the left of Saint Joseph? ”
“On the right.”
“Was he standing or being carried? ”
“He was standing.”
“Did you see Saint Joseph’s right arm?”
“No,”
“How tall was the Child? Did His head come up to Saint Joseph’s chest? ”
“He didn’t reach Saint Joseph’s waist.”
“How old do you think the Child was?”
“The age of Deolinda Neves.” [ A child of about two years.]

The weary but patient Francisco was the last to be interviewed:

“Did you see our Lady this time?” Dr Formigao asked.
“Yes.”
“What Lady was she?”
“She was the Lady of the Rosary.”
“How was she dressed?”
“She was dressed in white with a rosary in her hand.”
“Did you see Saint Joseph and the Holy Child?”
“Yes.”
“Where did you see them?”
“By the sun.”
“Was the Child being carried by Saint Joseph or was He standing? Was He big or little?”
“He was little.”
“Was He the size of Deolinda Neves?”
“Yes, He was just her size.”
“Did the Lady hold her hands?”
“She had them joined.”
“Did you only see her on the oak tree or by the sun as well?”
“I saw her near the sun too.”
“Which was the brighter, the sun or the face of the Lady?”
“The Lady’s face was brighter; she was white.”
“Did you hear what the Lady said?”
“I heard nothing that she said.”
“Who told you the secret; was it the Lady?”
“No, it was Lucia.”
“Will you tell it?”
“No.”
“You are afraid of being beaten by Lucia if you tell it, aren’t you?”
“No.”
“Then why don’t you tell it? Is it a sin?”
“Perhaps it is a sin to tell the secret.”
“Is the secret for the good of your soul, and Jacinta’s and Lucia’s soul?”
“Yes.”
“Is it for the good of Father Ferreira’s soul?”
“I don’t know.”
“Would the people be sad if they knew?”
“Yes.”
“From which side did the Lady come?”
“From the east.”
“And did she disappear in the same direction?”
“Yes, she went to the east.”
“Did she go backward?”
“She turned her back to us.”
“Did she go slowly or quickly?”
“Slowly.”
“Did she walk as we do?”
“She didn’t walk. She just went without moving her feet.”
“What part of the Lady disappeared first?”
“The head.”
“Did you see her easily this time?”
“I saw her better than last month.”
“When was she most beautiful, now or the other times?”
“As beautiful now as last month.”

Doctor Formigao returned to his seminary at Santarem. His journey had been fruitful and his faith was high. He had himself observed phenomena as clearly miraculous, to his sober judgment, as an ocean poured into a teacup. For the weary and charming little girls and boy, who had championed their Lady with brave love through their months of trial, he felt nothing but fatherly affection. There was only one unhappy collision between their testimony and apparent truth: both Lucia and Jacinta had quoted the Blessed Virgin as having said, on October 13, “The war will end today.”

The war had not ended that day, and the Mother of all truth, as any Catholic theologian must believe the Virgin to be, is not capable of falsehood. Obviously then either the children had offended truth or were innocently mistaken in this very crucial item of their testimony. As a responsible priest, Dr Formigao was unable to shrug the discrepancy away. It gave him no rest, and consequently, six days later, on the 19th of the month, he returned to Aljustrel. He arrived in the afternoon and paused for a while on that part of the road that faced the site of the apparitions.

Dr Formigao’s narrative continues:

In the Cova da Iria there were a few pious women saying the Rosary near the oak tree. The latter, reduced to a mere trunk a few inches high, was surrounded with branches of wild plants and flowers. The devotion of the pilgrims who wished to have a souvenir of the Virgin’s pedestal had almost entirely annihilated it though everything else was in the same state as on the eve of the last apparition. I then went to the house of the Marto family where I found the three seers undergoing an interrogation from the Reverend Lacerda, parish priest of Milagres, director of the weekly paper, The Leiria Messenger, and also chaplain to the Portuguese Expeditionary Force. Home on leave for a short time, he wished to see the children of Aljustrel before going back to France. He was accompanied by another priest from Leiria and the parish priest of Fatima.

Actually, viewing the general scene in the Marto household, Dr Formigao suffered a shock. His little friends had reached an advanced state of physical and mental exhaustion. Badgered and haunted for days by droves of thoughtlessly curious people, they were no longer equal to the serious accommodation of pertinent questions.

Lucia was especially exhausted by her ordeal. She was completely worn out. Her fatigue was such that she could not respond with care and attention to the detail required. Her answers were almost mechanical at times, and she was frequently unable to recall incidents of the apparitions, which had certainly never been the case before. I felt that if the children were not spared the pain and fatigue of these endless inquiries, that their health would be seriously undermined.27

[27. Father Lacerda regretfully recognised the same fact: “Jacinta’s mother did not receive me with open arms. At my request for permission to question her daughter she hesitated, and only after I had told her that I wanted to tell the soldiers in France about the apparitions of our Lady did she consent. Senhora Olimpia had every justification for her attitude. So many people had appeared in Aljustrel on the pretence of seeing the children that they no longer knew how to reply. Some people had been there to try and surprise the children into contradictions. The children’s father took up the same attitude and reproached us, as priests, for doubting the children’s word.”]

Any prudent review of the situation suggests the children should have been taken away from Aljustrel, at least temporarily, and allowed the sanctuary of anonymity in some section of the country where they were not known. Dr Formigao, seeking to be merciful, still felt himself in duty obliged to question them once more. He began with Lucia:

“On the 13th of this month our Lady said that the war would finish on that same day? What were the words she used?
“She said: “The war will end today. You can expect the soldiers very shortly.’ ”
“But listen, Lucia, the war is still going on. The papers give news of battles after the 13th. How can you explain that if our Lady said the war would end that day?”
“I don’t know; I only know that I heard her say that the war would end on that day.”
“Some people declare that they heard you say that our Lady had said that the war would end shortly. Is that true?”
“I said exactly what our Lady had said.”
“On the 27th of last month I came to your house to speak with you. Do you remember?”
“I remember seeing you here.”
“Well, on that day you told me that our Lady had said that on the 13th of October she would come with Saint Joseph and the Holy Child and that afterwards the war would end, not necessarily on the 13th.”
“I can’t remember now exactly how she put it. She might have said that, or perhaps I did not understand her properly.”
“On the 13th did you tell the people to look at the sun?”
“I don’t remember doing that.”
“Did you tell them to shut their umbrellas?”
“In the other months I did; I don’t remember about this last time.”
“Did you know when the sign in the sun was going to begin?”
“No.”
“Did you look at it?”
“Yes, it looked like the moon.”
“Why did you look at the sun?”
“I looked because the people said so.”
“Did our Lady say that she would pray to her Divine Son on behalf of the soldiers who had been killed in the war?”
“No, Father.”
“Did she say that the people would be punished if they did not amend their lives?”
“I can’t remember if she said that; I don’t think so.”
“On the 13th you did not have any doubts about what the Lady had said. Why have you these doubts now?”
“I remembered better on that day, it was nearer the time.”
“What was it that you saw about a year ago? Your mother said that you and some other children had seen a form wrapped up and hidden in a cloth. Why did you tell me last month that it was nothing?”
Lucia could not reply clearly to this.
“Did you run away that time?”
“I think I did.”
“On the 11th of this month you did not want to tell me that our Lord would appear and give His blessing to the people. Was it because you thought I would laugh at you like other people had done, and say it was impossible? Or was it because there were many other people there at the time and you did not want to say it in front of them? Do you know that Jacinta has told me everything?”
To this there was no coherent reply.
“When did our Lady tell you that there would be these apparitions on the 13th of October?”
“It was the day that she appeared at Valinhos, or on another 13th. I can’t remember well.”
“Did you see our Lord?”
“I saw the figure of a man; I think it was our Lord.”
“Where was this figure?”
“It was near the sun.”
“Did you see it bless the people?”
“I didn’t see it, but our Lady said that our Lord would come to give His blessing to the people.”
“If the people knew the secret that our Lady told you, would they be sad?”
“I think they would be about the same.”
Francisco was the next to be questioned.
“Did you see our Lord bless the people on the 13th of this month?” Dr Formigao asked.
“No, I saw our Lady.”
“Did you see Our Lady of Dolors and Our Lady of Mount Carmel?”
“No. Our Lady was the one I saw down below [on the tree]. She was dressed the same.”
“Did you look at the sun?”
“Yes.”
“Did you see Saint Joseph and the Child Jesus?”
“Yes.”
“Were they near to or far from the sun?”
“They were near.”
“Which side of the sun was Saint Joseph?”
“On the left side.”
“And on which side was our Lady?”
“On the right side.”
“Where was the Child Jesus?”
“He was near Saint Joseph.”
“On which side?”
“I didn’t notice which side.”
“Was the Child big or small?”
“Small.”
“When our Lady was over the oak tree did you hear what she said to Lucia?”
“No.”
“Did you hear the sound of her voice?”
“No.”
“Did it seem as if she were not speaking?”
“Yes.”
“Did you see her lips move?”
“No.”
“Did you see her laugh?”
“No.”
“Did you see the signs in the sun? What were they?”
“I looked and saw the sun going round; it looked like a wheel of fire.”
“When did the signs begin, before or after our Lady disappeared from the oak tree?”
“When our Lady disappeared.”
“Did you hear Lucia tell the people to look at the sun?”
“I did. She gave a shout when she told the people to look at the sun?”
“Was it the Lady who told her to tell the people to look at the sun? ”
“Yes, the Lady pointed toward the sun.”
“When did she do this?”
“When she disappeared.”
“Did the signs begin at once?”
“Yes.”
“What colours did you see in the sun?”
“I saw very pretty colours: blue, yellow and others.”
Jacinta was questioned while she and Dr Formigao were walking from Aljustrel to Fatima.
“On the 13th of this month did you see our Lord near the sun and Our Lady of Dolors and Mount Carmel?”
“No.”
“But on the 11th of this month you said they would appear?”
“Yes, I did. Lucia saw the other Lady. I didn’t.”
“Did you see Saint Joseph?”
“Yes. Lucia said that Saint Joseph gave a blessing.”
“Did you look at the sun?”
“Yes.”
“And what did you see?”
“I saw it red and green and other colours, and I saw it going around.”
“Did you hear Lucia tell the people to look at the sun?”
“Yes. She told them in a very loud voice. The sun was already going round.”
“Did the Lady tell her to tell the people?”
“The Lady said nothing about it.”
“What did the Lady say this last time?”
“She said: ‘I have come here to tell you that people must not offend our Lord any more because He is very much offended and that if the people amend their lives the war will end, and if not the world will end.’ Lucia heard better than I did what the Lady said.”
“Did she say that the war would end on that day or shortly?”
“Our Lady said that the war would end when she arrived in heaven.”
“But the war has not ended.”
“But it will end, it will.”
“When will it end?”
“I think it will end on Sunday.”

Dr Formigao was having trouble. This question of the war’s end was an unfortunate contradiction. The clash of fact and prophecy remained. The good priest, having himself been present at the miraculous manifestations above the Cova da Iria, was obliged to accept the children’s story as generally true. As to the stubborn hurdle provided by this single contradiction, there was only one reasonable explanation: the children were mistaken. Certainly no one had declared them infallible, and in their present state of nervous exhaustion it appeared to Dr Formigao that they should not be expected to marshal their talents and recollections like adults on trial for their lives.

Seven years later, during the official inquiry conducted in July of 1924, in the peaceful surroundings of the convent at Vilar, Lucia attempted to look back at this obstinate contradiction:

I think our Lady said this: “People must be converted. The war will end today and the soldiers can be expected soon.

But afterwards, at home, Jacinta said that our Lady had put it this way. “People must be converted. The war will end within a year.” I was myself so preoccupied with all the petitions that people had asked me to place before our Lady that I could not give all my attention to her words.

It should be noted that neither at the age of ten nor at seventeen did Lucia respond in the manner calculated to be “popular”; the evidence accrues that she was being truthful to the best of her ability and, almost certainly, mistaken. Our own persuasion is that the declaration closest to the truth was made by Jacinta on that thirteenth of October while she was walking with Dr Formigao along the road from Aljustrel to Fatima. When asked what our Lady had said on this last occasion, she replied, “I have come here to say that men must not offend our Lord any more because He is already very much offended, and that if they amend their lives the war will end.

This agrees with the thoughtful conclusions of Dr Fischer, the famous German priest and authority on Fatima, who has given close and conscientious study to all the available facts and testimony.

Dr Formigao made one more trip to Aljustrel for the purpose of questioning the children. This occurred on November 2, of the same year, and we present the record of these final conversations not because we think them to be of capital importance, but rather because it reveals once more the simplicity and earnest candour of the three little seers. The quality of obliging frankness was so marked in them that it remains the sturdiest stone on which the story of Fatima rests.

Dr Formigao questioned Jacinta first:

“On which side of the sun,” he asked her, “did the Child Jesus stand when you saw Him on the 13th of October?”
“He stood in the middle, at the right side of Saint Joseph; our Lady was on the right side of the sun.”
“Was the Lady you saw near the sun different from the one you saw on the oak tree?”
“The Lady I saw near the sun had a white dress and a blue mantle. The one I saw on the oak tree had a white dress and mantle.”
“What colour were the feet of the Lady who appeared on the oak tree?”
“They were white; I think she wore stockings.”
“What colour was Saint Joseph’s dress and the Child’s.”
“Saint Joseph’s was red and I think the Child’s was red, too.”
“When did the Lady reveal the secret?”
“I think it was in July.”
“What did the Lady say the first time she appeared in May?”
“Lucia asked what she wanted and she said we were to go there every month until the last month, when she would say what she wanted.”
“Did Lucia ask anything else?”
“She asked if she would go to heaven and the Lady said yes. Then she asked if I would go to heaven too and our Lady said yes again. Lucia asked then if Francisco would go, and the answer was yes, except that he would have to say many Rosaries.”
“Did the Lady say anything else?”
“I don’t remember anything else.”
“What did the Lady say the second time, in June?”
“Lucia said: ‘What do you want?’ and the Lady replied: ‘I want you to learn to read.'”
“Did Lucia ask anything else?”
“She asked about the sick people and sinners. The Lady said that she would make some better and convert them, but not others.”
“Did the Lady say anything else?”
“On that day she didn’t say anything else.”
“What did the Lady say in August?”
“In August we didn’t go to the Cova da Iria. You mean what did the Lady say at Valinhos? Lucia asked her if she was to bring Manuel and the Lady said she could bring everybody.”
“What else?”
“She said we were to make two andors and to take them to the feast of the Rosary, I and Lucia with two girls dressed in white; and that Francisco and three other boys were to carry the other.”
“Anything else?”
“I can’t remember.”
“What did the Lady say in October?”
“Lucia said: ‘What do you want?’ and she replied: ‘Do not offend our Lord any more because He is very much offended.’ She said that He would pardon our sins if we wanted to go to heaven. She said also that we must say the Rosary and that we could expect our soldiers back very soon and the war would end that day. She said that we were to build a chapel and I don’t know if she said ‘to the Lady of the Rosary’ or just that she herself was the Lady of the Rosary.”

Dr Formigao then turned his attention to Lucia, in this way:

“Did the Lady wear stockings? Are you sure of this?”
“I think they were stockings, but they might not have been.”
“You said once that the Lady wore white stockings. Were they stockings or were they feet?”
“If they were stockings, then they were white, but I am not sure if they were stockings or her feet.”
“Was the dress always the same length?”
“The last time it seemed longer.”
“You have never told the secret nor even said that the people would be sad if they knew. Francisco and Jacinta said they would be sad. If you cannot say this how can they say “I don’t know if they ought to say that the people would be sad. Our Lady said that we were not to tell anybody anything, so I cannot say anything.”

And, finally, to Francisco:

“On which side did the Child Jesus stand when you saw Him near the sun?”
“He stood nearer the sun, on its left side, but on the right side of Saint Joseph.”
“Was the Lady you saw near the sun different from the one over the oak tree?”
“The Lady I saw near the sun looked the same as the one I saw below.”
“Did you see our Lord bless the people?”
“I didn’t see our Lord.”