Lucia of Fatima, Part I: Marian Genius

Editor’s note: The following, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the apparitions at Fatima, come from Jonathan and Clara Fleischmann. This is Part I of a four-part series. Parts I and II were originally published by Missio Immaculatae Magazine and are edited and reprinted here with the authors’ permission. Read Part II and Part III.

Introducing Lucia

Lucia de Jesus dos Santos, also known as Lucia of Fatima, or by her religious name, Sr. Maria Lucia de Jesus e do Coração Imaculado (Maria Lucia of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart), OCD, was born on March 28, 1907, in Aljustrel, a parish of Fatima, Portugal. She was the seventh [1] and youngest child of António Santos and Maria Rosa. They were hardworking and happy peasants, not poor, as they had good fertile land and a sizeable herd of sheep. Lucia was a loved and almost spoiled little girl, as she relates in her memoirs:

It seems to me … that our dear Lord deigned to favor me with the use of reason from my earliest childhood. I remember being conscious of my actions, even from my mother’s arms. I remember being rocked, and falling asleep to the sound of lullabies. … I was the youngest, and I remember how they used to squabble, because they all wanted to hold me in their arms and play with me. On such occasions none of them ever succeeded, because my mother used to take me away from them altogether. If she was too busy to hold me herself, she would give me to my father, and he also would fondle me and cover me with caresses.

The first thing I learned was the Hail Mary. While holding me in her arms, my mother taught it to my sister Carolina, the second youngest, and five years older than myself. My two eldest sisters were already grown up. My mother, knowing that I repeated everything I heard like a parrot, wanted them to take me with them everywhere they went. … Since my sisters had to have me always with them, they took as much trouble in dressing me up as they were wont to do for themselves. As one of them was a dressmaker, I was always decked out in a regional costume more elegant than that of any other girl around. … You would have thought sometimes, that they were dressing a doll rather than a small child. [2]

Lucia recalls that her first six years were spent “amid the warmth of such affectionate and tender caresses.” She relates, however, that the temptations of the world were already becoming strong for her: “The world was beginning to smile on me, and above all, a passion for dancing was already sinking its roots deep into my poor heart.” But the good Lord showed His special mercy toward her. She would receive her First Holy Communion already at the age of six, and this event would shape her life, turn her heart toward God, and enkindle in her a desire for solitude, which would eventually draw her to the Carmelite Order. This came about with the help of her earthly mother.

I often heard my mother say: ‘I don’t know how those people enjoy running about chattering from house to house! As for me, there’s nothing as good as just staying at home for a nice quiet read! These books are full of such wonderful things! And as for the lives of the saints, they’re simply beautiful!’ … [M]y mother was accustomed to teach catechism to her children during the summer at siesta time. In the winter, we had our lesson after supper at night, gathered round the fireside, as we sat roasting and eating chestnuts and a sweet variety of acorns. [3]

Since Lucia knew her catechism already at the age of six, her mother sent her together with her sister to the parish priest for confession. Lucia recalls the event in her memoirs:

When I had finished, I noticed that everyone was laughing.

My mother called me to her and said: ‘My child, don’t you know that confession is a secret matter and that it is made in a low voice? Every one heard you! There was only one thing nobody heard: that is what you said at the end.’

On the way home, my mother made several attempts to discover what she called the secret of my confession. But the only answer she obtained was complete silence.

Now, however, I am going to reveal the secret of my first confession. After listening to me, the good priest said these few words:

‘My child, your soul is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Keep it always pure, so that He will be able to carry on His divine action within it.’ [4]

Lucia asked her confessor what she ought to do. He told her to kneel down before Our Lady and ask for her help to prepare Lucia for her first Holy Communion. Kneeling before the statue of Our Lady of the Rosary:

… with my eyes fixed on the statue, it seemed to me that she smiled and, with a loving look and kindly gesture, assured me that she would. My heart was overflowing with joy, and I could scarcely utter a single word. [5]

Before her first Holy Communion, when her mother gave Lucia her blessing, Lucia recalls her mother saying, “Above all, ask Him to make you a saint.”

Her words made such an indelible impression on my heart, that they were the very first that I said to Our Lord when I received Him. Even today, I seem to hear the echo of my mother’s voice repeating these words to me. … I ran to kneel before the altar of Our Lady to renew my petition. There I remained in contemplation of Our Lady’s smile of the previous day, until my sisters came in search of me. … [After receiving Holy Communion,] I felt myself bathed in such a supernatural atmosphere that the presence of our dear Lord became as clearly perceptible to me as if I had seen and heard Him with my bodily senses.  I then addressed my prayer to Him:

‘O Lord, make me a saint.  Keep my heart always pure, for You alone.’

Then it seemed that in the depths of my heart, our dear Lord distinctly spoke these words to me:

‘The grace granted to you this day will remain living in your soul, producing fruits of eternal life.’

I felt as though transformed in God. … I, filled to overflowing with the Bread of Angels, found it impossible to take any food whatsoever. After this, I lost the taste and attraction for the things of the world, and only felt at home in some solitary place where, all alone, I could recall the delights of my First Communion. Such moments of seclusion were rare indeed. [6]

Lucia lived a busy life, surrounded not only by her immediate family but also by children Lucia’s mother took in from time to time and of whom Lucia was left in charge, as well as girls who had come to learn weaving and dress-making from Lucia’s mother. When Lucia turned seven, her mother wanted her to take over the chores of her older sister Carolina and look after the sheep. Her father and her sisters objected, not wanting to part with her. But her mother was determined:

The care of our flock was then given to me. News that I was beginning my life as a shepherdess spread rapidly among the other shepherds; almost all of them came and offered to be my companions. I said ‘Yes’ to everybody, and arranged with each one to meet on the slope of the serra. Next day, the serra was a solid mass of sheep with their shepherds, as though a cloud had descended upon it. But I felt ill at ease in the midst of such a hubbub. I therefore chose three companions from among the shepherds, and without saying a word to anyone, we arranged to pasture our sheep on the opposite slopes. [7]

Visits from Our Lady

When Lucia’s cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto began shepherding the flock of sheep of their parents, Lucia joined up with them. Sometime in the spring of 1916, in the company of her two small cousins, she would see an angel. Interestingly, before Lucia had joined her cousins, she had seen the angel on several occasions, although he did not make himself fully known to her. The apparition came as “a cloud in human form, whiter than snow and almost transparent” [8].

The children had found shelter from the rain in a cave, the Cova da Iria. As the white shape drew nearer, they were able to more clearly distinguish his features. He told them his name – he was the Angel of Peace – and taught them the prayer: “‘My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love You! I ask pardon of You for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love You!’ Having repeated these words three times, he rose and said: ‘Pray thus. The Hearts of Jesus and Mary are attentive to the voice of your supplications.’ Then he disappeared” [9].

In the height of summer that same year, the angel appeared again, urging the children to pray and make sacrifices constantly to the Most High:

‘Make of everything you can a sacrifice, and offer it to God as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication for the conversion of sinners. You will thus draw down peace upon your country. I am its Angel guardian, the Angel of Portugal. Above all, accept and bear with submission, the suffering which the Lord will send you.’ [10]

The angel appeared one more time, teaching them a prayer: “Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore You profoundly, and I offer You the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifference with which He Himself is offended. And, through the infinite merits of His most Sacred Heart, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of You the conversion of poor sinners.” He gave the children Holy Communion, saying, “Take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, horribly outraged by ungrateful men. Repair their crimes and console your God” [11].

Finally, on May 13, 1917, the children saw what they took to be flashes of lightning, and “there before us on a small holm oak, we beheld a Lady all dressed in white. She was more brilliant than the sun, and radiated a light more clear and intense than a crystal glass filled with sparkling water, when the rays of the burning sun shine through it.” She requested that the children come for six months in succession on the thirteenth day, at that same hour. She also asked if the children were willing to offer themselves to God and bear all the sufferings He would sent them, as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and of supplication for the conversion of sinners. The children said they were willing, and Our Lady replied:

‘Then you are going to have much to suffer, but the grace of God will be your comfort.’

As she pronounced these last words ‘…the grace of God will be your comfort’, Our Lady opened her hands for the first time, communicating to us a light so intense that, as it streamed from her hands, its rays penetrated our hearts and the innermost depths of our souls, making us see ourselves in God, Who was that light, more clearly than we see ourselves in the best of mirrors. Then, moved by an interior impulse that was also communicated to us, we fell on our knees, repeating in our hearts:

‘O most Holy Trinity, I adore You! My God, my God, I love You in the most Blessed Sacrament!’ [12]

Our Lady asked the children to recite the rosary every day; she told the children they would go to heaven; she answered some questions about some friends of Lucia’s; and then she left. She appeared again on the thirteenth of June, when she told Lucia that she would have to stay on earth after Jacinta and Francisco had left for heaven. “Jesus wishes to make use of you to make me known and loved. He wants to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart” [13]. Our Lady returned on the thirteenth of July, when the children saw a vision of Hell. Our Lady warned there would be a war during the pontificate of Pius XI, but the war could be prevented if Russia was consecrated to her Immaculate Heart. Our Lady said:

I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays. If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing 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 will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she will be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world. In Portugal, the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved; etc. […] [14] Do not tell this to anybody. Francisco, yes, you may tell him.

When you pray the Rosary, say after each mystery: O my Jesus, forgive us, save us from the fire of Hell. Lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who are most in need. [15]

Our Lady fulfilled her promise, appearing in 1929 to Lucia, when Lucia was a Dorothean sister, asking for the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart. This was not done, and the Second World War ensued.

On August 13 at the Cova, Our Lady requested a chapel to be built on the apparition site. On September 13, Our Lady said she would perform a miracle the next time she came, on October 13. She also said, “In October Our Lord will come, as well as Our Lady of Dolours and Our Lady of Carmel. Saint Joseph will appear with the Child Jesus to bless the world” [16]. Of the apparition on October 13, Lucia relates:

After Our Lady had disappeared into the immense distance of the firmament, we beheld St. Joseph with the Child Jesus and Our Lady robed in white with a blue mantle, beside the sun. St. Joseph and the Child Jesus appeared to bless the world, for they traced the Sign of the Cross with their hands. When a little later, this apparition disappeared, I saw Our Lord and Our Lady; it seemed to me that it was Our Lady of Dolours. Our Lord appeared to bless the world in the same manner as St. Joseph had done. This apparition also vanished, and I saw Our Lady once more, this time resembling Our Lady of Carmel. [17]

Significantly, with the apparitions came tribulations, as Our Lady had predicted. Lucia’s life, which up until then had been almost idyllic, became increasingly difficult. The immense crowd of inquisitive and intrusive people trampled the crops of her family in the Cova da Iria, having little or no care for the privacy of the family, and Lucia’s father spent much of his time hiding away from the people, leaving Lucia’s mother to deal with them alone. Lucia’s father had to struggle to provide his family with sustenance from the poorer fields he also owned, which gave little yield relative to the effort he had to put out. Lucia’s mother had several bouts of sickness, and her health gradually deteriorated with the stress and hardship the family was experiencing.

Eventually, Lucia’s father died. This was a severe hardship for Lucia:

My God! My God! … I never thought You had so much suffering in store for me! But I suffer for love of You, in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary, for the Holy Father and for the conversion of sinners. [18]

Indeed, Lucia felt acutely in her heart the sacrifices her family had to make because of her apparitions, wishing that she could have suffered them alone and that they would not have affected her family. When asked to write a detailed account of her mother, Lucia wrote:

This is what matters most: to possess eternal life in the presence of God and in the possession of his immense Being.

I hope that God, in his great mercy, has already granted to my parents this great grace, and that, from there, already in full possession of the Truth, they will help me to undertake this task, too, for the glory of God; and that my mother will again take my hand – as she used to take it when, as a little girl, she held me on her lap and took my hand to make me make the sign of the redeeming Cross of God our Savior on my forehead – and help me to guide the pen to write on the paper what God wants me to record of the times when I had the happiness of living with her and receiving from her such wonderful teaching, such good and affectionate example, always inspired by a living faith, hope, and love. [19]

Lucia’s mother would doubt the veracity of the apparitions until her death, although the worry that her doubts caused both herself and Lucia softened in the end. When she was dying, Lucia’s mother wrote to Lucia asking her to come to see her, a desire that would not be granted to Lucia, despite supplication to both her superiors and her bishop. When Lucia’s mother asked to talk to Lucia on the telephone, to at least be allowed to hear her voice, this also was denied her. Only later was Lucia told by her sister that her mother then asked to be moved to Lucia’s old room, to die there. Lucia writes:

When my mother heard this further refusal, she said between sobs:

‘This is the last drop the Lord kept for me at the bottom of the chalice and which I had yet to drink on earth. I’ll drink it for love of Him.’ …

At the time, my superiors kept these last two details from me. I only learnt of them much later on when my sister Teresa paid me a visit and told me about them. …

Yes, I thank God for the good and holy mother He gave me, while at the same time I mourn bitterly over so many others who deliver their children to death even before they are born. ‘Thou shalt not kill’ is what we are told in God’s Law (Ex. 20, 13).

I am the last of the seven children that God gave to my parents; if that had been their attitude, I would not be here today. [20]

Notes

[1] While Lucia is sometimes referred to as the sixth child of her parents, she typically referred to herself as the seventh child. This is on account of a stillborn child her mother bore preceding Lucia.

[2] Second Memoir, Fatima in Lucia’s own words, Vol. I, ed. by Fr. Louis Kondor, SVD., Postulation Centre, Fatima, Portugal, 9th edition, 1995, pp. 52-53.

[3] Ibid., pp. 53-54.

[4] Ibid., pp. 55-56.

[5] Ibid., p. 56.

[6] Ibid., pp. 56-57.

[7] Ibid., pp. 59-60.

[8] Fourth Memoir, Fatima in Lucia’s own words, Vol. I, p. 150.

[9] Ibid., p.151.

[10] Ibid., pp. 151-152.

[11] Ibid., pp. 152-154.

[12] Ibid., p. 158.

[13] Ibid., p. 161.

[14] This “etc.” was written by Lucia herself, in her memoir, and it presumably represents the part of the secret that she was not yet at liberty to reveal at the time she wrote the memoir – the so-called “Third Secret of Fatima” – to which we will return in the third part of this series.

[15] Ibid., pp. 162-166.

[16] Ibid., p. 168.

[17] Ibid., pp. 168-170.

[18] Second Memoir, Fatima in Lucia’s own words, Vol. I, p. 90.

[19] Sixth Memoir, Fatima in Lucia’s own words, Vol. II, ed. by Fr. Louis Kondor, SVD., Postulation Centre, Fatima, Portugal, 3rd edition, 2004, p. 50.

[20] Ibid., p. 195.

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