THE TRUE STORY
“The Lady in the Light”
by the Rev Father John De Marchi, IMC, 1952.
Re-published by Patrimonium Publishing, 2016.
JULY 13, 1917: THIRD APPEARANCE OF OUR LADY
But for Lucia and her cousins there was no dimness. Now, above the little tree, the Lady stood. Her beauty taxed their senses. To Jacinta and Francisco, who had never doubted, it was joy renewed. But to Lucia it was more than that. It was a confirmation. It was a homecoming for the heart and spirit. It was everything. It was the Light of God reflected in His Mother. It was knowledge. It was the end of doubt.
“Lucia,” Jacinta said, “speak. Our Lady is talking to you.”
“Yes?” said Lucia. She spoke humbly, asking pardon for her doubts with every gesture, and to the Lady: “What do you want of me?”
[The reader will note, and we hope without impatience or fatigue, that there is no cleverness to this story. The dialogue is always much the same. The Lady speaks her message with a sameness that an able stage director would discard. And yet she gives to all the world the one prescription that the world most needs.]
“I want you to come back here on the thirteenth of next month,” the Lady said. “Continue to say the Rosary every day in honour of Our Lady of the Rosary, to obtain the peace of the world and the end of the war, because only she can obtain it.“
“Yes,” said Lucia, “yes.” She was braver now. Love had restored her. In her gladness she wished only to repair the damage of her recent distrust. “I would like to ask who you are,” she said to the Lady, “and if you will do a miracle so that everyone will know for certain that you have appeared to us. “You must come here every month,” the Lady said, “and in October I will tell you who I am and what I want. I will then perform a miracle so that all may believe.“
Thus assured, Lucia began to place before the Lady the petitions for help that so many had entrusted to her. The Lady said gently that she would cure some, but others she would not cure. “And the crippled son of Maria da Capelinha?” No, the Lady said, neither of his infirmity nor of his poverty would he be cured, and he must be certain to say the Rosary with his family every day.14 Another case recommended by Lucia to the Lady’s assistance was a sick woman from Atougia who asked to be taken to heaven. “Tell her not to be in a hurry,” the Lady said. [The tone here is almost like that of any harried mother importuned unreasonably.]
“Tell her I know very well when I shall come to fetch her.” There is unquestioned sternness here, for at Fatima, time and again, our Lady made it unmistakably clear that she was speaking for a just and hideously wounded Christ, whose patience, if not exhausted by the sins of the world, had known such trial that even the Infinite had wearied. The Blessed Mother confided to Lucia and her cousins still another secret:15
“Make sacrifices for sinners,” she instructed them, “and say often, especially while making a sacrifice: O Jesus, this is for love of Thee, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for offences committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
[14. If our Lady did not cure or enrich Maria’s son John, she at least ensured him a livelihood, since he is today sacristan of the Chapel of the Apparitions in the Cova da Iria.]
[15. This is the secret which was to cause the children so much suffering. Only after the death of Francisco (1919) and of Jacinta (1920) did Lucia reveal the first and second parts. As to the third part, only in 1960 shall we know what the Blessed Virgin told the children of Aljustrel. It is in the possession of the bishop of Leiria, written by Lucia, and placed in a sealed envelope. “It may seem,” she said later, “that I should have revealed these things sooner than I did and that their value would have been doubled. It might have been so if God had wished me to appear before the world as a prophetess, but such was not His Will. If it had been, He would not have ordered me to keep silence but to speak. I think our Lady only wished to make use of me to remind the world of the necessity of the avoidance of sin, and of reparation for so many offences against God by means of prayer and penance.”]
Lucia tells us in her memoirs:
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.
Ti Marto, who was witnessing the actions of the children by the little oak tree in the Cova da Iria that day, recalls that Lucia gasped in sudden horror, that her face was white as death, and that all who were there heard her cry in terror to the Virgin Mother, whom she called by name.
The children were looking at their Lady in terror, speechless, and unable to plead for relief from the scene they had witnessed.
Sadly, but kindly now, the Lady 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.16 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.
[16. Lucia recognised the sign of God in the extraordinary aurora borealis which illuminated the night sky on January 24-25, 1938. She was convinced that the world war was about to break out and did everything possible to hasten forward the recommendations of our Lady. But she was to be convinced that the hour of mercy had not yet arrived.]
“If my wishes are fulfilled,” the Lady continued, “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. Remember, you must not tell this to anyone except Francisco.“
The third apparition was over.
“Is there anything more that you want of me?” Lucia had asked the Lady.
“No, my child; there is nothing more for today.“
Ti Marto recalls:
In the Cova da Iria, we heard a great clap of thunder. The little arch that had been built to hold two lanterns trembled as though it was an earthquake. Lucia, who had been kneeling, got up very quickly with her skirts ballooning around her. She cried out, “There she goes, there she goes.” Then after a moment she quieted. “Now you can’t see her any more,” Lucia said. It was to me a great proof.
Now in the Cova the people crowded closer and closer to the children.
“When you were so frightened and sad, Lucia – what had the Lady said to you?”
“It is a secret,” she said truthfully.
“Is it a nice one?”
Lucia reflected, “For some people, yes,” she said. “For others, no.”
“Can’t you tell us what it is?”
“No, I could not. I could not possibly.”
The cool calm of the Lady’s presence no longer affected the day. Again the sun was glaring and pitiless. The people in a frenzy of interest, pious and vulgar, believing and impudent, prayerful and mocking, all pressed around the children, narrowing the circle, threatening to trample them, until they were rescued by Ti Marto and some others.
The children grasped with remarkable readiness, and held to themselves as their most precious possession, this insight to love and heroic sacrifice that their Lady had granted them. In the fields now, day upon arid and sun-blanched day, they chose to be by themselves. They led their sheep along paths but seldom travelled, and safely away from their critics, away from the endless questions and the crude, coarse comedy that seemed to them a blasphemy, they owned a world peculiarly their own.
“Jacinta,” Lucia asked one day, “what are you thinking of now?”
Jacinta looked up from where she was sitting. It was the sadness of her expression that had prompted the question.17
“I’m thinking of hell and of the poor sinners who go there,” Jacinta said. “Oh, Lucia, how sorry I am for all those souls. The people burning there like coals, I wonder – well why doesn’t our Lady show hell to those people who sin? If they could see it, wouldn’t they stop? Lucia, why didn’t you ask our Lady to show hell to them?”
[17. This conversation among the three children is a literal extract from Lucia’s Memoirs.]
“I didn’t think of it,” Lucia said, simply and sadly. She remained still, watching Jacinta, whose tears were flowing freely. She watched while her little cousin, moved with remorse, fell to her knees, repeating between her unfeigned sobs, the precise words of the prayer taught by the Lady:
“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.“
The sheep wandered quietly in search of grass amid the prickly weeds of the mountainside. Lucia and Francisco had joined Jacinta now. Prostrated on the ground they repeated endlessly:
“O my Jesus, forgive us and save us….“
Jacinta’s boundless zeal permitted her no rest. Looking tactfully at her cousin and her brother, she seemed to feel that with their fierce and heart-wrenching supplications, they could pierce the veil of heaven and, all by themselves, depopulate the pits of hell.
“Lucia! Francisco! We mustn’t stop our prayers to save poor souls! So many go to hell!” Her heart beat in endless pity for the damned, but her intelligence demanded reasonably to understand why people went to such a frightful and hideous place as they had seen.
“Lucia, what sort of sins do they commit?”
Lucia was not too much help. Frankly, she was not an expert. “I really don’t know, Jacinta. Missing Mass, I guess. Stealing, swearing, cursing….”
“Just for that they go there?”
“Well, I suppose so; it’s a sin.”
It was too much for Jacinta, who could not imagine in anyone, a folly or recklessness great enough to tempt the wrath of God. The dialogue continues, and it might assist the reader’s understanding of the children’s genuine zeal to know that this is not an approximate rendition by the author, but a verbatim extract from Lucia’s own scrupulous record. Now Francisco, dwelling on the remembered wonders of the June apparition, speaks to Lucia:
“Why did our Lady have a heart in her hand that poured out light that we knew was God? You were in the light that fell on the world, while Jacinta and I were in the light that shone up to heaven. Why?”
“Because,” Lucia told him, “you and Jacinta are going to heaven soon, and I am going to remain on earth for a time.”
“How long a time?”
“I don’t know – probably many years.”
“Did our Lady tell you that?”
“No, but I could tell from the light.”
“I could tell it, too,” Jacinta said eagerly, then added, with unqualified joy, “we’re going to heaven – oh, how wonderful, how lovely.” But then she stopped, and her thoughts were not for herself alone. Great pity welled in her with the realisation that heaven was not the destined home for everyone.
“You, Lucia – you’re going to stay here,” she said.
“Please, if our Lady permits you to, tell everyone of the horrors of hell. Make them stop their sins, Lucia.”
The hours of the morning passed. The dry earth baked like a biscuit. The dust lay heavy but undisturbed in the windless heat. Thirst tormented them, and there was no water.
“I’m thirsty,” Jacinta said, “but I am glad I can offer it for sinners.”
The hours of the afternoon were so mercilessly hot, that Lucia began to worry about these eager, but rather fragile, penitents in her charge. Their thirst was finally so punishing, that Lucia went to a nearby cottage and asked for water; yet when she returned with it there was a determined lack of customers.
“I don’t want it,” Francisco said firmly. “I want to offer my thirst for sinners.”
“But you need it,” Lucia said. “Both of you need it. Jacinta – you take it; be sensible.”
She might more easily have persuaded Jacinta to drink a pint of lava.
Lucia has written:
So I poured the water into a cavity in a big rock, so the sheep would be able to drink it, and then I went back and returned the jug to the woman in the cottage.
Other times, at the well in back of Lucia’s house, they sat in close communion, talking of their Lady and the wonders they had seen.
“Isn’t it wonderful, Lucia?” Jacinta asked. “The Lady said that through all your life her Immaculate Heart would be your comfort, and lead you to God. Do you hear what I said?”
Lucia nodded her head, agreeing that she had heard. But the tears were large, unmistakable on her cheeks. She turned to them both.
“I would so much rather go with you to heaven,” Lucia said.
Jacinta fell silent. It was something she could certainly understand. If, at the age of seven, she lacked ability to read in books, or to accomplish on a slate the least mysteries of arithmetic, she knew with a clarity beyond the science of many learned men, that death was not an end but a beginning. It meant a joyous passage into the keeping of God and His Mother. It was odd, though, she thought, how this Lady of Happiness was in so many ways a Lady of Sorrow, too.
“Lucia – do you remember how our Lady’s heart, when she showed it to us, was being pierced by thorns?”
“Surely, I do. It simply means that her heart is wounded by the sins of people, and she is asking them to be sorry, and to make up for their sins, so that God will not have to punish them too much. She can’t make people be good. They must themselves want to be good.”
Jacinta sighed. “The poor, poor Lady,” she said. “She asked that people go to Holy Communion to make up for sin. But how can I, Lucia, when I’m not allowed to go?”
“Father Ferreira,” Francisco said sadly, “he won’t let us.”
At other times, the better to concentrate on the things that filled their hearts, the children would separate, and it was on one of these occasions, while Jacinta sat alone, that she had a vision which disturbed her very much. When it had passed, and she was able to rouse herself, she called for Lucia, who was off a little distance, searching for wild honey with Francisco. Lucia returned, quite calm, and since it seemed to Jacinta impossible that she could be favoured with any experience that was not revealed to her cousin as well, she was puzzled.
“Lucia – didn’t you see the Holy Father?”
“You didn’t? Well, I don’t know how it happened, but I saw the Holy Father in a very big house. He was kneeling before a table. He had his hands held to his face and he was crying. I saw him get up and go to the door of the house, but when he got to the door there were a lot of people swearing horribly at him, and throwing stones. The poor Holy Father, Lucia – we must pray for him, too!”
Another place still favoured by the children, was the field called the Cabeco. It was not only the place where they had twice beheld the angel, but it had remained for them a secure, dependable shelter from the endless intrusions of curious people. Here, too, Jacinta had an experience not shared by her cousins. They had been prostrated on the ground, repeating and repeating the prayer of atonement taught to them by the angel, when suddenly Jacinta leaped up.
“Francisco! Lucia! Can’t you see all those streets and roads and fields that are filled with people? They are crying with pitiful hunger.18 And the Holy Father is in a church, praying to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Can’t you see him?” No, the others admitted, such a sight was not granted to them. There certainly appears not to have been any competitive striving for place or distinction among these three good friends of the Lord. The children were becoming famous. To some degree, beyond the parish of Fatima, they were venerated. Naturally, among the ignorant, there has always been a lively taste for hocus-pocus. Religious magic seems often to succeed where sound and ancient doctrine is neglected. It is easy to understand why Father Ferreira could not capitulate to the claims of these children. It is equally easy to see why the Church, officially, was obliged to ignore the events of Fatima as it would ignore the claims of the Hottentots to God’s private revelation. Meanwhile, however, the Marto household was doing a brisk trade in sheer curiosity.
[18. Perhaps the flight of the multitudes before the invading armies and the aerial bombardments of World War II. Perhaps the concentration camps of then and now?]
Ti Marto tells us:
Ladies kept coming to our house all dressed up in their fancy clothes and heaven only knows from where. They invaded our house and our privacy in such a way as would make you ashamed. Ugh! My! They were so curious. All they wanted to know was the secret. They would take Jacinta on their knees and keep bothering her with questions, tormenting her, never giving her any rest. A fine chance they had. You couldn’t get that secret out of my little girl with a corkscrew, believe me. They tried bribing her with presents when their pleading failed. All they did really was waste their own time and our time, too, since we had work to get done. Even our meals were disturbed.
Many fine gentlemen came to our house, but not to be kind or helpful. They came just to make fun of simple people like ourselves who could not read or write. Often it was the children who had the laugh on them. These proud people, poor things, they had no faith, so how could they believe in our Lady!
But when these cynical people came, it seemed as though the children knew beforehand what to do, and they would be off to hide before the people even put one foot in the door.
One day I was amused, I can tell you. A large family of curious people arrived in an automobile, and they came in, but like magic the children were gone. Lucia was under a bed and Francisco was hidden in the attic, like that, but my Jacinta, who had not been so quick, was caught. I remember that when these people had gone away, Lucia came out of her hiding place and said to Jacinta, “What did you tell them when they asked for me?”
“Why, I didn’t say anything, of course, Lucia. How could I? I knew where you were, and lying is a sin. But were they not silly people?”
Such questions they asked, I can tell you, Father. It was a shame some times. Like did our Lady have sheep and goats? Did our Lady eat cheese? These fancy people, with such questions as even ignorant ones wouldn’t ask.
The visiting clergy, it is recalled, were almost as much of a plague to the peace of the home, as were the graceless pryings of the uninstructed.
They kept questioning us and questioning us, and then, as if that were not enough, they would start all over, from the very beginning. Whenever we saw a priest coming, we did our best to escape, and when we were caught and had to oblige them, we offered it to God as one of our greatest sacrifices.
There were, of course, some pleasant exceptions to their dreary clerical callers, and the recollection of certain priests gives great happiness to Sister Lucia even now.
She has written:
One of them said to me: “You must love our Lord very much for all the graces and benefits He is giving to you.” His words were so gracious that I have never forgotten them and I have ever since then tried to say more or less constantly, “My God, I love You, and I thank You for the graces You have given me.”
They had other good friends, and needed them. Never was the biblical axiom – that prophets need not expect to prosper in their own backyards – more clearly underlined than in Aljustrel.
The worst trials fell to Lucia. Her mother’s brief solicitude, displayed on the day of the third apparition, did not last very long. This business of apparitions began to hit Maria Rosa where it hurt the most, in the stomach and the pocket. The family had always been poor. Their few plots of ground, much of it in the Cova da Iria, had been the source of their daily bread. At best, their supply of maize and beans and olives and acorns had been modest, but now, with swarms of pilgrims trampling the miserable acres of the Cova, it meant a grim farewell to their produce. People in their hob-nailed shoes, or blithely astride their donkeys and mules, not only destroyed the existing crops, but kissed to death any prospect of new planting in the wretched earth.
My mother did not spare my feelings. She was loud in her lamentations. “When you want something to eat.” she would tell me, “you had better ask your Lady!” And my sisters:
“You can have what comes from the Cova da Iria,” they used to tell me.
Sympathy and saintly endurance seem not to have been controlling traits in the Santos family. Lucia was hounded to such an extreme of timidity, that she dared not reach for a piece of bread at the table. Her older sisters, who ordinarily contributed to the family income from the receipts of their sewing and weaving, found themselves unable to pursue these profitable tasks. The daily swarm of visitors required the attention of some, and others were obliged to pasture the sheep while their celebrated sister was being interviewed.
A particularly unhappy episode is recalled by Maria dos Anjos:
One day a neighbour of ours, an elderly woman of about sixty, told our mother it was no wonder the children kept saying they had seen our Lady, because she had herself seen a woman giving Lucia a ten cent coin. Without wasting time or words, mother called Lucia and asked if this were true. Lucia said the woman had given her a five cent coin, not a ten cent one. Mother didn’t believe Lucia, and ended by beating her with the broom handle, saying those who told little lies were apt to tell big ones too. Soon after the beating, Jacinta came by and showed mother the ten cent piece that had been given to her and not to Lucia. By that time even Saint Anthony couldn’t take Lucia’s bruises away.
Maria Rosa’s cynicism and hasty justice were duplicated many times by other women in the parish. As if there were grace or profit in the act, they insulted Lucia whenever they met her, and if both the mood and opportunity could be joined, they did not hesitate to box her ears. A careful kick at Lucia’s retreating figure was not unusual.
Jacinta and Francisco had a better time of it, and mainly because of the vigilance, honour and kindness of Ti Marto, who would allow no one to threaten, or raise a hand to his children. Behind the secure protection of her father’s love, however, Jacinta longed for the dubious delight of being pummelled black and blue.
“I wish my parents were like yours,” she told Lucia.
“Then I could get beaten, too, and I would have another sacrifice to offer our Lord.”
As the 13th of August approached, all Portugal knew the story of Fatima, although in a variety of versions, some pious, and many profane. The anti-religious press was especially fond of this fairy story that drifted down from the lonely uplands of the Serra da Aire. It was tailored to the talents of the more “enlightened” editorial writers, and so replete with comic possibilities, that almost any working journalist, three paragraphs deep in his daily stint, could shine like a new Voltaire.
If the facts were distorted, it made little difference.
“What facts?” they wanted to know. These children [how many were there, anyhow?] were the puppets of the Jesuits. Not the Jesuits? Well, then, the clergy in general, or the pope, in particular – luring ignorant and unwary people to the Cova da Iria, in order to fleece them of their money. They didn’t have any money? Well, then, of their political allegiance, so that the humane fabric of the enlightened Republic could be sabotaged to the advantage of Rome and reaction.
The press enjoyed its jolly excursions. The Freemasons were delighted. All loyal supporters of the reigning “New Order” found the increasing humour of the situation as savoury as six angels boiled in a soup.
Less amused than most freethinking citizens was Senhor Arthur Santos, the mayor of Vila Nova de Ourem, the county in which Fatima belonged. He could afford to laugh less than others, because the responsibility of dealing with all this rosary-rattling hysteria was his.
Arthus Santos was by training a tinker, or tin smith. His formal education had been slight, his ambitions large. A self-propelled and intrepid young man, he became the editor of the Ouriense, a local gazette in which his antimonarchical and anti-religious opinions were expressed with bitter zeal, and likely enough, some talent. In any case, with the advent of the Republic in 1910, Arthur Santos, at the age of twenty-six, was a man of consequence. After being elected to the Masonic Lodge of Leiria, the bustling Senhor founded a separate lodge in his native Vila Nova de Ourem, and was, before long, mayor or administrator of the county. This carried with it the corollary titles of President of the Chamber and Judge Substitute of Comarca. Wearing all these honours, with their companion authority, Senhor Santos was the most feared and influential man in his section of Portugal.
Since he professed not to believe in God, Senhor Santos was in no position to believe in a Virgin Mother as someone likely to appear either in heaven or on top of an oak tree, for the amusement of the ignorant bumpkins of his own community. Either someone was crazy, or there was a wilful attempt to undermine the civic power. The danger was apparent in the fact that some of his constituents already believed there were miracles astir, and he could not imagine what explanation he could provide his political colleagues if this anti-republican witchcraft continued to thrive in his own county. He gave instructions therefore, that those involved in this sham be brought to the City Hall and, for our enlightenment, we have Ti Marto’s own account:
My brother-in-law, Antonio, had received the same summons to appear with his daughter at the Town Hall of Ourem on August 11, at noon. They both came to my house that morning, while I was eating my breakfast, and the first thing Lucia asked me was, “Are Jacinta and Francisco coming?”
“Now, what would two small children like that be doing there at the Town Hall, Lucia?” I said. “I’m going down to answer for them myself.”
Well, the next thing I knew, Lucia had rushed inside, and we could hear Jacinta saying to her, “If they’re going to kill you, tell them that Francisco and I are just the same as you, we believe the same thing, and we wished to be killed, too.”
And my little one meant it, but never mind now. I left with Lucia and her father. On the way Lucia fell off the donkey three times, and Antonio, who was full of fear of the mayor, went rushing ahead, so as not to be late. When Lucia and I finally got to the square, we saw Antonio waiting there.
“What happened?” I said to him.
He was all excited. “The door was locked,” he said.
“There’s no one there.” But it wasn’t noon yet, anyhow, so we waited.
After a while we tried the Town Hall. It was still closed. Someone came along about then and told us the mayor didn’t work there any more, so we were taken to him, and the first thing the mayor demanded of me was:
“Where is the child?”
“What child?” I said.
I waited. He didn’t seem to know that there were three children, but, of course, in a while, he caught on.
“Now, look, sir,” I told him, “it’s more than nine miles distance to our village and the little children couldn’t walk it. No, sir, and they’re not used to the donkey, either.” I felt like adding a whole lot more, but I was wise enough to hold my tongue. Oh, he was very annoyed, but a lot I cared. He began to question Lucia then, trying to get the secret out of her. A fine chance he had. She wouldn’t tell him a word. Then the mayor turned to my brother-in-law.
“You people in Fatima,” he said to Antonio, “do you believe this stuff?”
“No, sir,” Antonio said, “we believe it’s just women’s talk.”
I interrupted then. I said to the mayor, “I’m right here, your Honour, and I believe everything my children say.”
He looked at me. “You do? You believe it?”
“Yes, I do,” I said.
Well, everyone standing around began to laugh, but it made no difference to me. There were reporters there from the newspapers, and they said they were going to write it up. After a while they let us go, but right up to the end the mayor kept threatening Lucia. He even said that if she didn’t reveal her secret, he would have her killed. I said to him then, as we were leaving, “If you send for us, I know that we’ll have to come, but please remember we have our own lives to lead!”
It was Lucia’s first interview with the civil authorities, and if it was not a pleasant one, she at least escaped unscathed. At home Jacinta and Francisco did not have this comforting assurance. They wept by the well in Lucia’s yard, and when they saw her, finally, they rubbed their eyes, as though gazing at some youthful Lazarus.
“Lucia! Lucia!” Jacinta sobbed. “Your sister told us they had killed you!”
In her grief, Jacinta appears to have overlooked the Lady’s assurance that when death came calling so early, it would be for Francisco and herself.
The mayor, a resourceful, energetic fellow, had only begun his work of suppression. If there was a local bandwagon, bound for heaven, it was his intention to spill it in the first available ditch; and he chose as the time most opportune, the day for which the fourth apparition was scheduled.
Ti Marto’s record continues:
On the morning of August 13 – it was a Monday – I got a summons to come home from my work at once. All right, I went. There were a lot of people outside my house, but I was used to that by now. I went inside and was washing my hands. My wife was sitting there. She was nervous and upset and all she did was point to the living room. “All right,” I said, “I’ll go in there. Why such a fuss?” So I walked inside still using a towel, and who should I see but the mayor himself. Even then, I suppose, I wasn’t very polite to him, because I saw that a priest was there, too, and I went first to shake hands with the priest. Then I said to the mayor, “I did not expect to see you here, sir.”
He was a great actor, that man. “I thought that after all I would like to go to the miracle today,” he said. What’s this? I asked myself, but the mayor went on, “I thought that we would all go together in my carriage. We will see, and then believe, like Saint Thomas,” he said.
I watched him closely now, because I could see he was nervous. He kept looking around before he said, “Aren’t the children coming? It is almost time for the apparition.”
“There is no need to call them,” I said. “They will be ready when it is time to go.”
Just then they came into the room, the three of them, looking no different, and the mayor invited them to go in his carriage. That wasn’t necessary, the children told him.
“It will be better that way,” the mayor insisted. “No one will bother you on the way and, besides, I want to stop off at Fatima to see Father Ferreira.”
So what could we do? We went along – myself, the children, and Lucia’s father. The mayor went in to see Father Ferreira at the presbytery, then in no time at all he called down, “Send the first one up.”
“The first what?” I said.
His tone was different now. He was full of authority.
“Send Lucia!” he said.
“All right,” I said. No use getting in too much trouble.
“Go ahead, Lucia.” And she went into the house, supposedly to talk to Father Ferreira. My own two children stood there on the steps, while I was with Antonio, Lucia’s father. It was just a trick, this business of talking to the pastor,19 because when it was time for Jacinta and Francisco to go in, the mayor said, “It doesn’t matter now. We can all get started.” Well, it was a smart trick, all right, because I hadn’t noticed the mayor’s carriage moving closer all the time to the steps where the children were standing. First thing I knew, the mayor had them seated with him. Francisco in the front, and the two girls in the back. The horse went off at a lively trot. For a while it looked as though they were going to the Cova da Iria, but when they got to the main road the horse was whipped suddenly and they were off, racing toward Ourem. And there was nothing I could do.
[19. Ti Marto is mistaken on this point. Lucia was in fact questioned by the parish priest at the request of the mayor, according to the Canonical Inquiry. “Who taught you to say the things which you are saying?” Father Ferreira asked. “The Lady I saw in the Cova da Iria.”]
“Those who go about spreading such lies as you are doing will be judged and will go to hell if they are not true. More and more people are being deceived by you.”
“If people who lie go to hell then I shall not go to hell, because I am not lying and I say only what I saw and what the Lady told me. And the people go there because they want to; we do not tell them to go.”
“Is it true that the Lady told you a secret?”
“Yes, but I cannot tell it. If your Reverence wants to know it, I will ask the Lady, and if she allows me to, then I will tell it to you.”
The mayor said: “These are supernatural things. Let us go.” He got up and went out of the room, obliging the children to enter the carriage in the presence of their fathers
The horse and carriage moved briskly along the road to Vila Nova de Ourem. Lucia turned to the mayor and said, “Where are you taking us? This isn’t the way to the Cova da Iria.”
We have no precise report on the conversation that followed, except that the mayor, in uneasy possession of his kidnapped cargo, attempted to calm them. He was merely taking them to Ourem, he explained, to see the parish priest there, after which, he insisted, they would be returned to the Cova by automobile. He appears to have been a nervous and unskilled liar. Along the road now, people began to recognise first the mayor’s carriage, and then its unwilling passengers. Just how noisy or conspicuous they were, we do not know, but in any event the mayor did feel obliged to cover all three with a carriage rug on the floor to keep them out of sight.
An hour or so later, they arrived at the mayor’s house. He shut them firmly in a room, and advised them they would not be freed until they confided their precious secret to him. Precisely why His Honour, the mayor, wanted to pry the children loose from their secret, remains a mystery. After all, he was a man of avowed disbelief in the supernatural. What value could another of their imaginative discourses have for him? Except, of course, that the secret might prove so ridiculous that its publication alone would dissolve the band of faithful who had come to believe in the incredible but lively legend of the three little prophets and their Lady.
Alone, the children appraised their situation. “If they kill us,” Jacinta said, “it won’t matter much; will it? Because we’ll all go straight to heaven.”
A willing, and perhaps even an eager martyr by now, Jacinta was a bit ahead of schedule. Actually, the balance of this afternoon was not unpleasant. The mayor, if less kindly and conscience-ridden than Pontius Pilate, had a wife whose sympathies belonged to his victims, rather than himself. She managed to free them from the room where they were confined, and to feed them generously, offering her own children as companions for the afternoon. Later, in the terrifying hours they were to know, she brought them books and toys, and did all in her limited power to soften their brutal ordeal.
Back at the Cova da Iria, of course, the children’s appointment with their Lady was not kept. But for evidence that the Queen of Heaven appeared on time, we offer the testimony that Maria da Capelinha has provided:
As before, I arrived very early at the Cova and sat down near the little tree where our Lady had appeared. I went in spite of the fact that many people had tried to frighten me out of going. There were rumours it was the devil who came, and that he would wait until many people had come, then open the earth and swallow us all. A woman from Caterina had told me this, but I was not afraid. With so much praying going on, I decided, nothing so evil could happen. I asked our Lady to guide me according to the divine will of her Son, and then I went.
The crowd this day was even greater than it had been in July. Oh, there were many, many more. Some came on foot and hung their bundles on the trees. Some came on horses. Some on mules. There were bicycles too, and everything else, and on the road there was a great noise of traffic.
It must have been around 11 o’clock when Maria dos Anjos, Lucia’s sister, got there. She had some candles with her that she expected to light when our Lady came to her sister and her cousins. All around the tree, the people were praying and singing hymns, but when the children did not appear, they began to get impatient. Then someone came from Fatima and told us they had been kidnapped by the mayor. Everyone began talking at once; there was great anger, and I don’t know what would have happened if we hadn’t heard the clap of thunder.
It was much the same as the last time. Some said the thunder came from the direction of the road and others said it came from the tree. To me it seemed to come from a long way off. But wherever it came from, the thunder was a shock to the people. Some of them began to shout that we would be killed. We all began to spread out, away from the tree, but, of course, no one was hurt in any way. Just after the clap of thunder came a flash of lightning, and then we began to see a little cloud, very delicate, very white, which stopped for a few moments over the tree, and then rose in the air until it disappeared. As we looked around, we began to notice some strange things we had observed before and would see again in the months to follow. Our faces were reflecting all the colours of the rainbow – pink and red and blue and I don’t know what. The trees suddenly seemed to be made not of leaves, but of flowers. The ground reflected these many colours, and so did the clothes we wore. The lanterns that someone had fixed to the arch above us looked as though they had turned to gold. Certainly our Lady had come, I knew, even though the children were not there.
Then when all these signs had disappeared, the people started for Fatima. They were shouting out against the mayor and against Father Ferreira, too.20 They were against anyone connected with the imprisonment of the children.
[20. See Appendix.]
It was not a happy time for the just and temperate Ti Marto. Robbed, at least temporarily, of his children, and already, because of his independence, in disfavour with the powerful mayor, he walked on toward the Cova da Iria, and he has described for us the disturbance he found:
“Let us go to Ourem and protest!” some of the people were saying. “Let us go and beat them all up! Let us speak to the priest, because it is his fault, too. Let us go now and settle with the mayor!” I thought to myself that in a way they were right, but they had worked themselves into a temper of such violence that I feared what they might do. I began to shout at them: “Be quiet! Take it easy! There is no reason to injure anyone! Whoever has done something evil will be punished. This affair is in the hands of God!” But they wouldn’t take any notice of what I said. They went on in their anger toward Fatima. As for me, I went to my house, and found my wife in tears. Olimpia was not easy to console. Her sobs continued, her fears multiplied. She had rushed with her bad tidings to Maria Rosa, the mother of Lucia, but that strange and difficult-to-fathom lady seemed more pleased than grieved to know a crisis had finally arrived.
“If they are lying,” said Maria Rosa, “it will teach them a lesson, and if they are not, our Lady will look after them.”