The morning of June 13 was as summery and bright as Saint Anthony himself might have ordered it. In the Marto house, Jacinta and Francisco were awake early. They had already made plans with Lucia to pasture the flocks as soon and as swiftly as possible, so that they would not be late for their date with the Lady at the Cova da Iria. They left the house, still munching their rapid breakfast of bread and cheese, and found Lucia already waiting.
“This morning,” Lucia explained, “we’ll take the sheep to Valinhos. It’s closest to hand, and the grass is very good just now.”
The flocks dined well on the grass of Valinhos, and as though to co-operate with the shining day and its great events, they went contentedly back to their corral. With most of the morning free, the children went home to dress in their finest Sunday clothes.
“Will you wait for us?” Jacinta asked Lucia.
“Well, not just now,” Lucia said and explained she had promised first to go to Fatima to meet some children who had made their first Communion with her. “But I will see you there, Jacinta, and we will then go to the Cova.”
Lucia dressed quickly, but with attention to detail. Standing in her new and unscuffed shoes, she carefully arranged her shawl at her shoulders and adjusted a dainty white kerchief on her head. Her mother, silently watching these embellishments, began to believe that they were in honour of the festa at Fatima; her inclination was to congratulate Saint Anthony on another of his routine miracles; and when Lucia did go off in the direction of Fatima, Maria Rosa sighed her relief. Her daughter, after all, was just like the rest. Things would be normal again. There would be an end to the family’s shame.
But Lucia was dressed for another kind of festa. With her cousins, she believed that the Lady, perhaps more than Saint Anthony, deserved the honour of their Sunday best. In Fatima she met the companions with whom she had made her first Communion, and began to exercise on them that effortless salesmanship which appears to have been part of her nature.
Years later we were able to interview one of her companions of that day – a Senhora Leopoldina Reis, who told us this:
About fourteen of us who had made our first Communion with Lucia joined together and decided to go with her to tic Cova da Iria. As usual, when Lucia proposed something, no one disagreed.
We were in a group, all ready to go, when Lucia’s brother, Antonio, came up to us and said, “Don’t go to the Cova, Lucia. If you promise not to, I’ll give you some money.” And Lucia looked back at him and said, “Money? I don’t care about the money. What I want is to see the Lady.” And we went on for about 300 feet, with Antonio still trying to stop us. He did not succeed, and while we continued on, I noticed Lucia becoming more serious and thoughtful all the while.
Perhaps it should be explained here that for all their troubles in their native Aljustrel the children were not without some unconditional support from this time on. Among the most zealous and faithful converts to the truth of Fatima, was Senhora Maria dos Santos Carreira, who died in 1949. For long years before we knew her, the name Carreira had given place to one by which she is more widely remembered, Maria da Capelinha (Maria of the Chapel). And like the good Ti Marto, father of Jacinta and Francisco, she will be our witness many times. On their way to the Cova da Iria, on that 13th of June, others who were either curious or devout, joined the procession of the children. Some had travelled ambitious distances afoot, and waiting at the place where now the gate to the sanctuary stands, were a group of women, among them our friend, Maria da Capelinha, who has given us this account:
I had decided once and for all to go to the Cova da Iria on the thirteenth of June. On the evening before I said to my children: “What if we don’t go to the festa of Saint Anthony tomorrow but to the Cova da Iria instead?”
“What for?” they answered. “No, we’d rather go to the festa.” Then I turned to my crippled boy, John. “Do you want to go to the festa or with me?”
“With you, mother,” he said.
So on the following day, before the others started for the festa, I came here with my John, who hobbled along on a stick. When we got here there wasn’t a soul about, and we went to the roadside where the children would come along. After a while a woman from Loureira arrived and was very surprised to see me there, as she thought I was ill in bed. She asked me:
“What are you doing here?”
“The same as you!”
She sat beside me and shortly after a man from Lomba da Egua arrived, and the conversation we had was much the same as before. Then came some women from Boleiros, and I asked them if they had come away from the festa. “People laughed at us,” they said, “but we didn’t take much notice. We’ve come to see what happens here, and on whose side the laugh will be.”
Then more people came and at last, about 11 o’clock, the children to whom our Lady had appeared, with some little friends and people from quite far away, Torres Novas or Outeiro, I can’t remember which. We all went to the holm oak, and Lucia stopped about three yards in front of it, and looked toward the east. It was very quiet, and then I asked her: “Which is the oak tree where our Lady appeared?”
“This one,” she said, putting her hand on it. It was a bush about three feet high, a new strong sapling. It was very well shaped with regular branches. Lucia went a little further away and began looking again in the direction of Fatima, and then went again into the shade of a big tree. It was very calm and still. Lucia sat down near the trunk, and Jacinta and Francisco sat on either side.
Those who had come a long way began to eat lunch and offered some to the children, who each accepted an orange which, however, they didn’t eat. I can still see the three of them with the oranges in their hands. Then a girl from Boleiros began to read aloud from a book of prayers which she had brought. As I was ill and feeling weak and tired, I asked Lucia if she thought our Lady would be long in coming. “She won’t be long now,” was her reply and she watched for the first sign of the Lady’s arrival. Meanwhile the Rosary had been said, and just as the girl from Boleiros was beginning the Litany, Lucia interrupted suddenly, explaining there would not be time to continue. She stood up now and called out to Jacinta, “Don’t you see the lightning? Our Lady must be coming!” The three children ran for the holm oak tree, while the rest of us hurried after them, and knelt down on the stony ground. I watched Lucia raise her hands, as though in prayer. We heard her speak to someone who, if there at all, was not visible. There was only one mysterious effect to support our impression of another presence there. We heard something buzzing like a small, small voice, but could not understand what it was trying to say.
But to Lucia, to Jacinta, and to Francisco, there was no mystery. Now, as once before, their total senses were surrendered to the Lady from heaven. She stood on the topmost branches of the little oak, gazing on them – maternal, loving, understanding, and yet, in a manner hard to explain, touched with exquisite sadness.
“Please tell me, Madam,” Lucia begged, “what it is that you want of me?”
“I want you to come here on the thirteenth of next month,” the Lady said. “I want you to continue saying the Rosary every day. And after each one of the mysteries, my children, I want you to pray in this way: O my Jesus, forgive us and deliver us from the fire of hell. Take all souls to heaven, especially those who are most in need.11 I want you to learn to read and write, and later I will tell you what else I want of you.“
[11. By Lucia’s interpretation, this refers to the souls in the greatest danger of condemnation. The prayer itself, in Portuguese, is as follows: O meu Jesus perdoai-nos, livrai-nos do fogo do inferno; levai todas as almas para o ceu, especialmente as que mais precisarem.]
Stunned though she was by the radiant light and beauty of the Lady, Lucia was not timid. As she has made so clear in her memoirs, the presence of the Queen of Heaven seemed to invite, rather than restrict, communication. Lucia interceded then for an afflicted person whose cause had been recommended to her, and the Lady replied that if this person was converted, she would be cured within the year. Now Lucia asked the question closest to her own heart:
“Will you take us to heaven?”
“Yes, I shall take Jacinta and Francisco soon, but you will remain a little longer, since Jesus wishes you to make me known and loved on earth. He wishes also for you to establish devotion in the world to my Immaculate Heart.“12
“Must I remain in the world alone?” Lucia asked.
“Not alone, my child, and you must not be sad. I will be with you always, and my Immaculate Heart will be your comfort and the way which will lead you to God.“
Lucia has written:
It was at this moment, that our Lady opened her hands and communicated to us once again the great light in which she was surrounded. In the light we could see ourselves, and it was just as if we were submerged in God Himself. Jacinta and Francisco seemed to be in that part of the light that represented heaven, and I was in the light which poured out over the earth. Our Lady’s right hand rested near a heart encircled with piercing thorns. And we understood clearly that this was the Immaculate Heart of Mary that called far reparation from men for all the sins that have sorrowed our Saviour and His Mother.
[12. This is the First Secret of the Fatima apparitions that Lucia revealed to her confessor. “On December 17th, 1927,” she has disclosed, “I prayed to our Lord, asking how I could be obedient to my confessor in regard to certain graces if, among them, was the secret of our Lady. Jesus, in a clear voice, permitted me to hear these words: My daughter, write what your confessor commands you to write, and also all that the Blessed Virgin revealed in the apparitions in reference to devotion to her Immaculate Heart. The rest of the secret you must continue to conceal.”]
Now, as in all the apparitions, only Lucia spoke directly to the Lady. Jacinta, as before, was able to hear and to see the Lady with facility equal to her cousin’s, whereas Francisco, absorbed like the others with the vision, could hear nothing. Why this was so, we have no idea, since God dispenses His gifts for reasons of His own.13
[13. Another report from our friend, Maria da Capelinha, may illuminate our Lady’s relations with the children of Aljustrel. “One day,” she said, “I met Jacinta and Lucia and asked Lucia why it was that our Lady spoke only with her, but not with her cousin. ‘It’s because Jacinta’s tongue-tied,’ Lucia told me ‘If she would only speak to our Lady, I know our Lady would speak to her- Jacinta then looked at us both, and all she did was smile.”]
To conclude the story of this second apparition, we will again quote Maria da Capelinha, who was there, and who has faithfully given us her complete impressions:
When our Lady left the tree, Lucia got up very quickly and, with her arm stretched out, cried: “Look, there she goes! There she goes!” We saw nothing except a little cloud a few inches from the tree which rose very slowly and went backwards, toward the east, until we could see it no more. Some people said: “I can still see it; it’s still there…” until at last no one could see it any more.
The children stayed, silently looking in that direction, until at last Lucia said:
“There, now we can’t see her any more. She has gone back into heaven, the doors are shut!” We then turned toward the miraculous tree, and what was our admiration and surprise to see that the shoots at the top, which had been standing upright before, were now all bent toward the east, as if someone had stood upon them. Then we began to pull off twigs and leaves from the top of the tree, but Lucia told us to take them from the bottom where our Lady had not touched them. I then noticed a beautiful spray of rosemary growing near and took a piece of that, too, as a souvenir.
Somebody suggested that we should say the Rosary again before going home, but others who had come a long way said that we could say the Litany now, and the Rosary on the way back to Fatima. There was someone there who had. a concertina, but I don’t remember hearing him play. After the Litany we all went back to Fatima with the children, praying as we went, and we arrived when the Saint Anthony procession was just starting. People saw us arrive, and asked us where we had come from. We replied, from the Cova da Iria, and that we were very glad we had gone there.
Sometime that afternoon, about four o’clock, the children returned to their homes. They did not walk alone, but were celebrities now, in a community not accustomed to bizarre events. They trudged on, weary at the end of the day, dusty in their Sunday clothes, without so much as a tin-plated halo to fortify their vast pretensions. A considerable crowd had followed them home, more amused than impressed, and the joking and the heckling were not cushioned with courtesy.
“Lucia, did the Lady dance on the top of the tree?”
“Haven’t you three gone to heaven yet?”
“Jacinta – that cat still got your tongue? Did the Lady speak with you? Are you a saint yet, Jacinta?”
It wasn’t easy. Most of it hurt. The irreverence was especially hard to bear. Jacinta, not equal to a noisy exchange of challenges, was quiet at home. The rapid questions overwhelmed her, and her brothers’ attempts at comedy cut deeply. Her troubled brows contracted and her lips compressed. She faced them all. Loyally she repeated the Lady’s insistence on the Rosary every day, and again she told them the Lady would return each month until October, when she would “say exactly who she was and what she wanted. But of the secret concerning devotion to the Lady’s Immaculate Heart, Jacinta spoke not a word; and with equal care she held secret the Lady’s assurance that death would come calling soon for Francisco and herself, with heaven beyond that no longer frightening door. It was a big day for such a very little girl.
Someone asked Jacinta then if the Lady she had seen was as beautiful as a girl whom all of them knew. Here Jacinta felt no reticence. Truth required no reflection at all.
“The Lady was much, much more beautiful,” she said.
“Like that statue of Saint Quiteria, Jacinta? With the cloak all covered with stars?” Jacinta smiled. Recollection of the Lady’s image enriched her. She could not explain to them, nor even to herself, the beauty or quality of this fundamental light in which the Lady had appeared. One was aware such beauty came directly from God, and yet it was the true flesh and image of a lady most real.
“No,” she said, “Saint Quiteria is nothing like her.”
“Was she like Our Lady of the Rosary?”
“Much, much more beautiful still,” Jacinta said. She tried to help them understand, but there was no fair example she could conjure for the occasion. They gathered closer now with that interest all children and most adults display in the pursuit of superlatives – the biggest, the best, the fiercest, the fairest, and so on. Jacinta could assist them no more. She dropped her glance and chewed thoughtfully at her lower lip. The Rosary, she said again (for this was very important), the Rosary should be recited with fervour every day; and the Lady, she explained, had also told them a secret.
Now the interest came truly alive. A secret? A secret? Yes, a secret, but Jacinta, bewildered, and watching them now, saw that unintentionally she had sharpened their appetites to rawness. And the questioning and the insistence and the ungracious intrusions began, hardly ever to stop while Jacinta lived. Only her father seemed to understand that a secret, to have any value, must be honoured as one.
Ti Marto has told us:
All the womenfolk wanted to know what the secret was, but I didn’t try to ask her about it myself. To me a secret is a secret, but I remember one time when some women came to our house for no other purpose than to get it out of her. These ladies were wearing a lot of gold jewelry of different kinds, and one of them said suddenly, showing her bracelets and a necklace to Jacinta, “Do you like these?”
“Yes, I do,” my daughter said. “Of course I do.”
“And would you like to have them?”
“Surely I would.” She was an honest child, Jacinta was, and she didn’t try to conceal her admiration for these things.
“Then tell us your secret!” this woman said, and with the others, she began to take off her fancy things and jangle them temptingly.
My little girl was horrified.
“Don’t! Please, don’t!” I remember she said. “I can’t tell you anything! I couldn’t tell you the secret if you gave me the whole world!”
From having tracked down her story and having labored over it at different times for seven years, we are convinced that if we know anything about Jacinta, it is this: she was valiant, and with her brother and her beloved cousin she had need to be. The evidence becomes more clear that the God who loved them enough to elect them to His special purposes was not going to spare them from the crucible of serious trial. This formula for sanctity was about to be placed on shoulders very frail.
Father Ferreira, the pastor of Fatima, himself had shoulders strong enough to wrestle a horse, but that was not what troubled him now. He began to suspect that he was scheduled for a catch-as-catch-can match with the devil, an opponent of proved and enduring talents. A sincere and dutiful priest, Father Ferreira simply didn’t know what to do with these three very small and difficult parishioners. They kept confounding every sane effort to rid them of their illusions. If one could conclude them to be crazy or irresponsible, Father Ferreira reasoned, it would reduce or even obliterate their blame. But there seemed to be a cool, even diabolic, calculation in their cunning. They were able to handle any and all inquisitors without once trapping themselves in the net of their lie. Obviously, great danger rested in their capacity to persuade ignorant and emotional people to accept them as bona fide seers. The dignity of his Church, in a nation already rife with religious scepticism, imposed a hard responsibility on any pastor whose sheep, however small, were displaying the guile of wolves.
Some days earlier, talking to Lucia’s mother, Father Ferreira had advised her to allow her daughter to visit the Cova da Iria on the feast of Saint Anthony, if the girl insisted, but he recommended too, that shortly thereafter she should conduct Lucia to the rectory where they would endeavour to bury this nonsense once and for all. As the father of Jacinta and Francisco, Ti Marto received similar instructions from the priest.
On the night before their scheduled interview with Father Ferreira, Lucia visited the Marto house. Exactly what would happen to them when they visited their pastor, Lucia did not know. Facing her mother’s accusations had been fierce enough, but she had never been obliged to face the challenge of anyone as overpoweringly important as Father Ferreira.
“What’s going to happen to us, Lucia?” the other children asked.
Lucia thought about it. “I don’t know,” she said, “but at home they are doing their best to frighten me. Are you going to the pastor’s house?”
“We have to,” Jacinta said. “Our mother was told to bring us.” For a while she tried to ponder what terrible punishments might befall. Then she turned to Lucia and Francisco. She was resigned, and no more than half-scared. “Why should we worry, anyhow?” Jacinta said. “If they beat us, or anything like that, we can suffer it for our Lord and, like the Lady says, for the conversion of sinners.”
According to Ti Marto:
On the next day, it was Maria Rosa who took both girls to see Father Ferreira, and I think she brought Francisco with her too. I remember when Maria Rosa came back she said to me, “Well, I took them to see the priest. He kept asking your Jacinta questions, but she wouldn’t tell him a thing. ‘You don’t seem to know anything,’ he said to her, ‘so you can sit down there, or run away; do anything you like.’ All your little Jacinta did was take out her Rosary and begin to say the beads while Father Ferreira questioned Lucia, who answered him very well. But every once in a while, while Lucia was talking, Jacinta would get up and remind Lucia that she must be sure to explain things properly. This was too much for Father Ferreira, who then said to Jacinta crossly, ‘When I was asking you questions, you didn’t know anything; you wouldn’t say anything, but now we can’t shut you up. Why don’t you speak for yourself?'”
The interview did not bring any satisfaction to the troubled pastor. All he had gained from Lucia was a restatement of the Lady’s beauty, and once again, the Lady’s recommendation of the daily Rosary. This was a little more than the reverend gentleman was willing to swallow. His reasoning told him that our Lady was not likely to journey down from heaven just to tell people they should say the Rosary. After all, the recitation of the Rosary was an almost general practice in the parish, and the world was full of places in greater need of such advice. And another thing disturbed him. The history of divine communication with individual souls was almost invariably marked by God’s further instruction that such sacred tidings be revealed by the chosen few to their confessors or parish priests. Contrary to this tradition, Lucia claimed to be holding some secret to herself. The devil, Father Ferreira became more and more convinced, was working with all his sly and ancient skill. Father Ferreira said aloud, for the first time:
“It could be the work of the devil!”
That was enough. The suggestion did it. For reasons unknown to us, Father Ferreira’s speculation placed a very real cloud between Lucia and her beloved Lady.
Lucia has written:
I began at the time to doubt, and to wonder if these manifestations of the Lady could be from the devil, trying to deceive me. I had always understood the devil brought with him all kinds of disorder and war, and it was true that since the Lady had first appeared there had not been any happiness or peace in my home. How terribly I suffered. Later I told Jacinta and Francisco of my doubts, but Jacinta would not hear of them. “No, no,” she said, “it couldn’t be the devil! People say that the devil is ugly and lives under the earth in hell, but that Lady was so beautiful, Lucia, and didn’t we see her go up into heaven?”
But such reassurance from the seven-year-old was not equal to banishing Lucia’s doubts. It became truly a trial of a soul in the darkest of nights. It was a violated kind of love that Lucia carried in her heart. The ardour for willing sacrifice and mortification had withered to apathy. Lucia travelled so close to despair, that she was tempted to end the whole affair with a false confession to her mother. A solitary lie could purchase peace, she now believed.
“Please, Lucia, don’t do it,” Jacinta and Francisco pleaded. “Can’t you see how terrible that would be?”
But Lucia saw nothing very clearly in this period. She was obsessed with notions of the devil, and her troubles were compounded by a dream.
Lucia told us:
In this dream I saw the devil laughing at his success with me and he was trying to drag me down to hell with him. Terrified by the nearness of his reaching hands, I began to scream and call for our Lady. I remember that my screams awakened my mother who came running in to me, wanting to know what it was. I can’t recall what I said to her, but I do know I was far too terrified to sleep again that night. The dream left a cloud of fear and apprehension in my soul.
Actually, the only moments of peace enjoyed by Lucia and her cousins were in the Cova da Iria, close beside the oak tree where their Lady had appeared. Here solace was sustained. Here too they had the comfort and companionship of Senhora Carreira (Maria da Capelinha) who joined them each day at their prayers. Maria, as we have said, was the earliest champion of Fatima. From the beginning, although weak with illness, she began to beautify the honoured place of visitation as well as she knew how.
Maria da Capelinha confided:
On the evening of the feast of Saint Anthony, when my daughters returned from the celebrations at Fatima, they said to me, “Well, mother, was it interesting today in the Cova da Iria?” I told them I was sorry they had not been there themselves. “Did our Lady appear?” they asked, and then I told them all that had happened on that 13th of June. My daughters said, “We must go there on Sunday,” and so we did. After a while we saw two people approach whom we knew had come from Lomba de Egua. We remained out of their sight so that we could watch them, and we could see them placing carnations on the branches of the little tree. After that we watched them kneel and say the Rosary, and we were very happy, because we knew, somehow, that it was a holy place. From then on, believe me, I always went to the Cova da Iria. If, at home, I had no strength, I knew that when I got to the Cova, I would be renewed; I would be almost like someone else. I began to clean up around the tree, removing the gorse and prickles and making a little path with a pruning saw. I hung a silk ribbon on one of the branches of the tree, and I continued to place flowers there. Yes, yes, it was always a holy place.
The fame of the children spread beyond their parish to all the towns and villages of the serra , or mountain range. Whether true prophets, or gifted young charlatans, they had a public both pious and sensation-hungry, so that their next meeting with their Lady, scheduled for the 13th of July, would be attended like a bull fight in some far more populous center.