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Catholic News Herald

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The sufferings of the three children intensified as their families, neighbors and even their pastor condemned them for making claims that Our Lady appeared to them. Their pastor told the people that the children’s claims were the “invention of the devil.” One of the few who believed the children replied to him saying, “There is praying at the Cova da Iria, and the devil does not like that.” “The devil, even, goes to the Communion rail,” countered the priest. Such was the persecution of the three seers.

Despite the condemnation and the sorrow it invoked, Jacinta and Francisco were the happiest children in the world. However, Lucia was filled with doubt and despair. Her mother constantly repeated the words of the pastor to her. Lucia understood that it was possible the apparitions were from the devil. That possibility disturbed her so much that she made up her mind not to go to the Cova da Iria again.

The eve of July 13, the day when they expected to see the Lady again, Lucia went to Jacinta and Francisco and told them of her decision not to go to the Cova the next day. This brought them to tears. They tried to convince her to go, but Lucia grew angry. She told her cousins, “No, I am not going. Look! If the Lady asks for me, tell her I am not going because I fear she is the devil.” At that Lucia left them.

The morning of July 13 arrived. Lucia felt the same doubt and confusion. However, she was interiorly compelled to go there when it was time to leave for the Cova. She could not ignore it. Once she decided to go, every doubt, every fear vanished. Her heart was transformed from sadness to joy. Upon arriving at her cousins’ house, she found both of them kneeling by the side of the bed, crying their eyes out. Realizing that Lucia had changed her mind, they jumped to their feet.

So off they went, the three of them, walking happily through the crowds of people that jammed the roads to the Cova. The three children could not hurry, because many people stopped them, asking them to speak to Our Lady and ask special favors for them.

THE THIRD APPARITION

At the Cova, they knelt and Lucia lead them in praying the rosary. When the rosary was over, Lucia stood up, looked towards the east and cried out, “Our Lady is coming!” The crowd saw something like a small greyish cloud hovering over the holm oak. The sun turned hazy and a refreshing breeze began to blow. It no longer felt like the height of summer. The crowd fell silent.

Like a loving mother bending over her sick child, wishing to strengthen and console the children in the truth of the apparitions, the beautiful Lady engulfed the three in her immense light and rested her loving eyes on Lucia. The girl could not speak for joy. Jacinta nudged her, “Lucia, go ahead, speak to her. She is already speaking to you.”

051217 FatimaSo Lucia, looking up towards Our Lady, her eyes filled with loving devotion, asked, “What do you want of me?”

“I want you to return here on the 13th of next month,” the Lady said. “Continue to say the rosary every day in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war; for she alone can save it.”

Lucia couldn’t help but think of what the pastor had said. She wanted to clear up the doubts in her mind. So she asked, “Will you please tell us who you are and perform a miracle so that everyone will believe that you really appear to us?”

“Continue to come here every month. In October, I will say who I am and what I desire and I will perform a miracle all shall see, so that they believe.”

Then Lucia spoke of the petitions of the people. Our Lady answered, “Some I will cure and others not. As to the crippled boy, I will not cure him or take him out of his poverty, but he must say the rosary every day with his family.”

Lucia told her of the case of a sick person who wished to be taken soon to heaven.

“He should not try to hurry things. I know well when I shall come for him.”

Lucia asked for the conversion of some people. The answer of the Lady was, as with the crippled boy, the recitation of the rosary. Then, to remind the children of their special vocation and to inspire them to greater fervor and courage for the future, the Lady said:

“Sacrifice yourselves for sinners; and say often, especially when you make some sacrifice: ‘My Jesus, it is for love of You, for the conversion of sinners and in reparation for sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.’”

“As Our Lady said these words,” Lucia described many years later, “She opened her hands again as she had done the two previous months. The light reflecting from them seemed to penetrate into the earth, and we saw as if into a sea of fire, and immersed in that fire were devils and souls with human form, as if they were transparent black or bronze embers floating in the fire and swayed by the flames that issued from them along with clouds of smoke, falling upon every side just like the falling of sparks in great fires, without weight or equilibrium, amidst wailing and cries of pain and despair that horrified and shook us with terror. We could tell the devils by their horrible and nauseous figures of baleful and unknown animals, but transparent as the black coals in a fire.”

All three children witnessed this. The crowd could see they were frightened. One person said the children turned deathly pale. Unable to bear these visions, they raised their eyes to Our Lady for help as Lucia cried out. “Oh... Our Lady!”

Our Lady then explained what they had seen: “You have seen hell – where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them God wants to establish throughout the world the devotion to My Immaculate Heart.

“If people will do what I tell you, many souls will be saved, and there will be peace. The war is going to end.

“But if they do not stop offending God, another and worse war will break out in the reign of Pius XI. When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that it is the great sign that God gives you, that He is going to punish the world for its crimes by means of war, hunger, persecution of the Church and of the Holy Father.

“To forestall this, I shall come to ask for the Consecration of Russia to My Immaculate Heart and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays.

“If they heed my request, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace. If not, she shall spread her errors throughout the world, promoting wars and persecutions of the Church; the good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated; in the end, My Immaculate Heart shall triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, which will be converted, and some time of peace will be given to the world.

“In Portugal, the dogma of the faith will be kept always.

“Do not tell this to anyone. To Francisco, yes, you may tell it.”

Lucia, seeing how Our Lady looked sad as well, wanted to do something heroic for her Lady. She asked, in childlike way, “Don’t you want anything else from me?”

“No; today I desire nothing else from you.”

At this point the crowd heard something like thunder, and a little grotto that had been set up to hold vigil lanterns shook as if there had been an earthquake. Lucia stood up quickly and exclaimed, “There she goes,” pointing up to heaven, then a few moments later, “She’s gone!” The small grey cloud witnessed by those present vanished.

Immediately, the inquisitive crowd surrounded them, asking, “What did the Lady say to make you look so sad?”

“It is a secret,” she responded.

“Is it something good?”

“For some, it is good; for others, it is evil.”

“Won’t you tell it?” they pressed.

“No, I cannot tell it,” she answered with convincing determination.

The people kept pushing so much that they almost smothered the children. Jacinta and Francisco’s father, Ti Marto, who had believed the children from the beginning, was frightened for their safety. He picked up Jacinta. Another relative took Francisco in his arms. A man from the village carried Lucia. The three men took the three visionaries safely home.

As was the case in all the heavenly encounters before, Lucia was the only one of the three to speak to Our Lady. Jacinta could see and hear Our Lady. Francisco was permitted to see but not hear her words. In previous apparitions, Our Lady taught them in a comforting, assuring way. This time, though, was different. They saw Our Lady but were also allowed to see into the revolting, foul and vile reality of hell. Her lesson to them was unlike her previous consoling ones.

She had prepared them the month before to begin conveying to the world God’s desire to increase devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in order to bring peace and end the war. Now the children were told what would come if God’s plan was not followed. Yet they were not permitted to tell anyone. That would come later.

Knowing this knowledge would only increase the children’s sufferings, she taught them that those sufferings would be meritorious. She gave them a simple prayer, “My Jesus, it is for love of You, for the conversion of sinners and in reparation for sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.” The children would endure far more suffering before Our Lady visited them again. This prayer, by taking refuge in the Immaculate Heart, was their sole source of comfort.

They did not know what was to come. They did not know what they were supposed to do with the knowledge given them. But they were now prepared to endure it all prayerfully and for the salvation of souls.

During this centennial anniversary of the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Fatima, Portugal, the Catholic News Herald is publishing a series of commentaries examining each of her six visits to the children, the messages given to them and how Fatima’s past prepared the future to receive God’s divine plan for peace. Father James Ebright, priest in residence at St. Michael the Archangel Church in Gastonia, is among those writing this series on behalf of the Te Deum Foundation, online at www.tedeumfoundation.org.