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Catholic News Herald

Serving Christ and Connecting Catholics in Western North Carolina

In the previous apparitions, Our Lady promised the children that the last time she would appear in Fatima, on Oct. 13, 1917, she would effect a miracle. She promised to do so because Lucía asked for a sign that everyone would see and believe.

This was one of the few revelations Lucía made regarding the content of the apparitions at that time. The children had repeated this promise so frequently that news of it had spread throughout Portugal. A miracle that all could see and experience was promised not years, decades or centuries later – it was imminent. People knew when and where to go because the three shepherd children announced it.

The anticipation of this momentous event, or lack of it, was weighing heavily on all. The miracle would confirm that the children spoke truthfully about the apparitions. The absence of the miracle would demonstrate that they had been deceived or, worse, that they had lied.

This was a time of joyful and hopeful eagerness for the children and those who believed them. They fully trusted Our Lady and had no worries or concerns.

For the Santos family and others who did not believe the visionaries, but were nonetheless concerned for the children’s safety, their apprehension grew as the day approached. Both the Santos and Marto families were threatened with severe penalties if this promise turned out to be a fraud.

For the unbelievers and the enemies of the Church, this was a time of celebration. They expected to be vindicated in their claims that this was a hoax fabricated by the Church, and their opportunity to discredit the Church with finality.

In the Santos home, Lucía’s siblings insisted that Lucía give up on what they called a “dream.” Her father scolded her repeatedly. Her mother told her there were bombs at the Cova da Iria in an attempt to frighten Lucía enough to not go there. Lucía’s mother was so panic-stricken by the thought of impending disaster that on the morning of Oct. 12, she insisted that Lucía go to confession, telling her it would be her one “before people kill us when the miracle doesn’t happen.” Very calmly and with great faith, Lucía replied, “If you want to go to confession, mother, I’ll go with you, but I’m not afraid. I am positive that the Lady will do what she promised.”

Some people in the town wanted to lock all three children in a room until they denied their story. Others wanted to take the children far away and leave them in a place no one could find them. The children were told that if they didn’t recant, their families would be attacked and killed.

Things were different in the Marto home. Nothing could shake the belief of Senhor Marto. He tells how the pastor of Porto de Mós came to their home a few days before Oct. 13. The priest wanted to make the children contradict themselves. “Listen, good girl,” the priest said to Lucía, “you are going to tell me that it is all an invention. Even if you don’t admit it, I’ll say it is, and I’ll have it spread everywhere, and you won’t escape either.” He made similar threats to Francisco and Jacinta. All three remained silent.

On the morning of Oct. 13, 1917, fear and panic prevailed in Fatima. A piercing cold rain was pouring from the heavens. Some people of wavering faith were pessimistic. They imagined that the glorious day promised by Our Lady and the children could not be miserable and dark. The weather, however, did not dampen the spirits of the tens of thousands of people who gathered in the Cova da Iria.

O Século, an anti-Catholic and Masonic-owned Lisbon newspaper, sent a reporter to observe the event. In the extensive article, he wrote, “At dawn, groups surged undauntedly and crossed through the villages, without stopping for a moment, breaking the early morning silence with their beautiful religious hymns. The delicate harmony of the women’s voices made violent contrast with their rustic appearance. The skies presaged a storm. Dark clouds loomed directly over Fatima. Nothing would stop the crowd converging from every road on towards the holy place. ... Sheets of rain, driven by a chilly autumn wind, whipped the faces of the pilgrims, drenched the roads, and chilled the people to the bone. While some sought shelter under the trees, against the walls or in scattered houses, others continued their march with impressive endurance.”

A professor from the University of Coimbra, Dr. Almeida Garrett, estimated the number of people at the Cova at over 100,000. Newspapers printed a more conservative estimate of 70,000. Paradoxically, the reporters provided historic, written accounts of an event they did not expect to happen.

Tí Marto accompanied the three children through the crowds and in the mud, keeping them safe and leading them to the Cova da Iria. “Make way for the children who have seen Our Lady,” shouted the faithful as the children came near.

Because of the Great War going on in the world, there existed a local time and a war time. Local time was determined by location. War time was synchronized to a different system to minimize the confusion that multiple time zones had caused. It was noon in Fatima, but, in war time, it was 1:30 p.m. Many people who came from other areas began to accuse the children of lying, saying that the Lady wasn’t coming as promised. As the crowd grew impatient, just then, Lucía glanced towards the east and said to Jacinta, “Kneel down; Our Lady is coming. I’ve seen the flash.” The hour of the apparition had arrived; the miracle that was promised had begun to take place, precisely at noon in Fatima.

“Silence, silence, Our Lady is coming,” Lucía cried out. The rain ceased, the sun began gradually to appear, and Our Lady came. Her feet, as always, rested upon the holm oak. The faces of the three children assumed their otherworldly expression and their eyes were fixed intent upon the Lady.

Lucía asked, “What do you want of me?”

“I want to tell you that they must build a chapel here in my honor; that I am the Lady of the Rosary; that they continue to say the rosary every day. The war will end and the soldiers will return to their homes soon,” Our Lady responded.

“I have many favors to ask. Do you wish to grant them or not?”

“Some I will! Others I will not! They must mend their lives, ask forgiveness for their sins. Offend not Our Lord anymore,” Our Lady continued, her face becoming very grave, “for He is already much offended.”

Lucía, knowing this was to be the last time she would speak to Our Lady, wanted to make sure that she received all the commands Mary wished to give her. She hoped to spend the rest of her life on earth fulfilling the desires of Our Lady. “Do you want anything else from me?” the girl asked.

“I desire nothing else.”

As Our Lady took leave of the children, She opened Her hands, which emitted a flood of light. While she was rising, she pointed towards the sun. The light gleaming from her hands brightened the sun itself.

“There she goes; there she goes!” Lucía shouted, not taking her eyes off the beautiful Queen of Heaven. Her words could barely be heard because there was a huge, immense cry of astonishment from the crowd. The sun was now pale as the moon. To the left of the sun, St. Joseph appeared, holding in his left arm the Child Jesus. St. Joseph emerged from the bright clouds only to his chest, sufficient to allow him to raise his right hand and make, together with the Child Jesus, the Sign of the Cross three times over the world. As St. Joseph did this, Our Lady stood in all her brilliancy to the right of the sun, dressed in the blue and white robes of Our Lady of the Rosary.

Meanwhile, Francisco and Jacinta were bathed in marvelous colors and signs of the sun, and Lucía was privileged to gaze upon Our Lord dressed in red as the Divine Redeemer, blessing the world, as Our Lady had foretold. Like St. Joseph, He was seen only from His chest up. Beside Him stood Our Lady, dressed now in the purple robes of Our Lady of Sorrows, but without the sword. Finally, Mary appeared again to Lucía in all Her ethereal brightness, but now clothed in the simple brown robes of Mount Carmel.

As the children stared enraptured by these heavenly visions, the crowd of thousands was amazed and overpowered by other miracles in the skies. The sun had taken on an extraordinary color. The words of eyewitnesses best describe these stupendous signs:

“We could look at the sun with ease,” Ti Marto testified; “it did not bother at all. It seemed to be continually fading and glowing in one fashion, then another. It threw shafts of light one way and another, painting everything in different colors, the people, the trees, the earth, even the air. But the greatest proof of the miracle was the fact that the sun did not bother the eyes.” He continued, “At a certain point, the sun stopped its play of light and then started dancing. It stopped once more and again started dancing until it seemed to loosen itself from the skies and fall upon the people. It was a moment of terrible suspense.”

“The sun cast different colors, yellow, blue and white. It trembled constantly. It looked like a revolving ball of fire falling upon the people,” Maria da Capelinha recounted later. “As the sun hurled itself towards the earth people cried out in terror, ‘We are all going to die here.’ Some begged for mercy, ‘Oh Jesus, save us! Our Lady save us!’ Many others made acts of contrition. At last the sun swerved back to its orbit and rested in the sky. ‘Everyone gave a sigh of relief.’”

Once this had finished, yet another miracle was manifested. The muddy ground, the wet clothes, and the drenched crowd were all perfectly dry – without any trace of the wet state they were in just moments earlier.

The miracle had come to pass at the hour and day designated by Our Lady.

Although this was the last apparition in the Cova, it also marked the beginning of the modern world. Satan began preparing for the great battle against Our Lady and the Church at that very moment.

The Russian Revolution that would quickly usher in Communism and cost millions of people’s lives had begun during the late summer of 1917. On Oct. 13, 1917, in Moscow, the very same day that Our Lady appeared for the last time in Fatima, there was an attack on a Catholic church. Maria Pavlovna, daughter of Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich, often called “Maria the Younger,” was teaching religion to a group of approximately 200 children in the Church of the Iberian Virgin. Without warning, revolutionaries entered the church, destroyed the icons and the sanctuary, desecrated the altar, and murdered most of the children. Maria was able to escape with her aides and some of the children. She went to the Royal Military Headquarters to get help and report this horrific incident to a family friend. She ran to his office and told him what had happened. “I know,” Lenin said. “I sent them.”

Also at noon on Oct. 13, 1917, Our Lord responded in Rome with the papal ordination of a bishop who would one day become a great pope. In the Sistine Chapel, Pope Benedict XV consecrated Monsignor Eugenio Pacelli as a bishop and, at the same time, elevated him to archbishop. Archbishop Pacelli was assigned as the papal nuncio to Munich. Lenin’s Communist revolutionaries, who were highly organized in Munich, published a list of 325 men whom they intended to kill. One of them was Archbishop Pacelli. An attempt was made on his life, and he credited Our Lady for saving him. On March 2, 1939, now Cardinal Pacelli was elected pope. The pontiff had great devotion to Our Lady. In 1951, he published the encyclical “Ingruentium Malorum,” promoting the rosary. In 1953, he published the encyclical “Fulgens Corona,” proclaiming a Marian Year to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Pope Pius IX’s apostolic constitution “Ineffabilis Deus” (which affirmed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception). And in 1954, he published his encyclical “Ad Caeli Reginam,” proclaiming the Blessed Virgin Mary as Queen of Heaven. Upon his election as pontiff, Cardinal Pacelli was the 12th pope to take the name Pius. Pope Pius XII stood strong as the vicar of Christ against the evils of Germany and Russia.

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.