By Sr. Ma. Evangeline Yap, OP
Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8)
On 27 April 2000, in the Convent of Carmel of Saint Teresa in Coimbra, a meeting took place between Sister Maria Lucía of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart; Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, sent by Pope John Paul II; and Bishop Serafim de Sousa Ferreira e Silva, Bishop of Leiria-Fatima. Sister Lucía reread her own handwritten letter written in Portuguese which had been kept at the Vatican Archives since 4 April 1957. Sister Lucía, at 93, was lucid and at ease.
Lucía bore the weight of almost a century of reverential silence over the Secret of Fatima, revealing only what God had ordained through obedience to her superiors. Through two World Wars and eight pontiffs (from Pius X to John Paul II), Lucía finally disclosed and confirmed the authenticity of the envelope containing the solemnly guarded third part of the “secret” revealed at the Cova da Iria-Fatima on 13 July 1917.
Sister Lucía agreed that the third part of the “secret” was a prophetic vision, similar to those in sacred history. She was convinced that the vision of Fatima concerns above all the struggle of the atheistic system Communism against the Church and against Christians, and describes the terrible sufferings of the victims of the faith in the last century of the second millennium.
When asked: “Is the principal figure in the vision the Pope?” Sister Lucía replied that it was. She continued: “We did not know the name of the Pope; Our Lady did not tell us the name of the Pope; we did not know whether it was Benedict XV or Pius XII or Paul VI or John Paul II, but it was the Pope who was suffering and that made us suffer too”. In the “vision,” the Bishop dressed in white, that is, the Holy Father, is struck dead and falls to the ground. Sister Lucía fully agreed with the Pope’s claim (Pope John Paul II, 13 May 1994) that “it was a mother’s hand that guided the bullet’s path and in his throes, the Pope halted at the threshold of death”. The bullet found in the “Popemobile” after the attack of 13 May 1981 was encrusted in the crown of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal.
On the outside of the envelope containing the original letter, Sister Lucía had written that it could be opened only after 1960, either by the Patriarch of Lisbon or the Bishop of Leiria. When asked by Archbishop Bertone: “Why only after 1960? Was it Our Lady who fixed that date?” Sister Lucía replied: “It was not Our Lady. I fixed the date because I had the intuition that before 1960 it would not be understood. I wrote down what I saw; however, it was not for me to interpret it, but for the Pope.”
Sister Lucía was very happy that the Holy Father was going to Fatima for the beatification of Francisco and Jacinta. As a Carmelite nun since 1948, she dwelt in contemplation on the “holy mountain,” always “speaking the truth from her heart, kept her pledge come what may and stood firm forever.” (Psalm 15) She died on 13 February 2005 at the venerable age of 98, same year as the death of Pope John Paul II.
Sister Lucía wrote her memoirs of Fatima in four separate but interconnected episodes of “reminiscences” about the three little shepherds, Jacinta (7), Francisco (9), and Lucía (10); the Apparitions of the Angel and Our Lady; and the Secret. She acknowledged God’s infinite goodness in gifting her with excellent memory: “Where supernatural things are concerned, this is not to be wondered at, for these are imprinted on the mind in such a way that it is almost impossible to forget them.”
On 12 September 1935, the incorrupt remains of Jacinta were taken from Vila Nova de Ourem to Fatima. Lucía was “so enraptured” at seeing the photographs of her cousin and closest childhood friend. At the request of the Bishop, Lucía wrote her first memoir in less than a fortnight – from the second week of December 1935 to Christmas Day. It was her first long document which centered mainly on Jacinta.
Of the seven-year-old Jacinta, Sister Lucía wrote: “She was a child only in years. As to the rest, she already knew how to be virtuous and to show God and the most holy Virgin her love through sacrifice…” Jacinta had a great love for the Crucified Saviour and was inquisitive about the Hidden Christ in the small Host.
After the first apparition of Our Lady, Jacinta could not contain herself and exclaimed: “Oh what a beautiful Lady!” Although the three children promised to keep the apparition a secret, it was Jacinta who told the family everything that night. With tears in her eyes, she said that she just could not keep quiet.
The thought of hell made the biggest impression on Jacinta. Her thirst for making sacrifices for sinners seemed insatiable. Her love for the Holy Father was such that she always included him in her prayers and sacrifices. Jacinta suffered the most while in prison at Ourem after the annoying interrogations. After saying the Rosary with the prisoners, her love for dancing distracted her momentarily when a prisoner played the concertina. Later, she gave up dancing too to offer it as a sacrifice to our Lord.
Before her death, Jacinta was visited by Our Lady a few times and she told her she was going to two hospitals not to be cured but only to suffer. Our Lady revealed to her the day and hour of her death: 20 February 1920 at 10:30 p.m.
Lucía completed this memoir again in a fortnight, from November 7 to 21, 1938.
Born the youngest on 30 March 1907 to Antonio dos Santos and Maria Rosa, Lucía at age six made her First Communion. Her mother taught her catechism well enough. After her confession, she noticed that everyone was laughing. They all heard what she said to the priest! Her mother told her that Confession is a “secret matter and should be made in a low voice.” Upon receiving the Bread of Angels, Lucía prayed: “O Lord, make me a saint. Keep my heart always pure, for You alone.”
In 1916, the Angel appeared to Lucía, Francisco and Jacinta three times. He introduced himself as the Angel of Peace (the first time) and the Angel of Portugal (the second time), and told them to pray with him. The same Angel appeared the third time holding a chalice in his left hand, with the Host suspended above it, from which drops of blood fell into the chalice. After praying with the children, rising, he took the chalice and the Host in his hands, gave the sacred Host to Lucía and shared the Blood from the chalice between Jacinta and Francisco who had not yet then received their First Communion.
On the 13th of May 1917, Our Lady appeared to the three children at Cova da Iria and they agreed never to reveal to anyone the words of Our Lady. On the 13th of June, the feast of St. Anthony, several people followed them to the Cova. Lucía’s mother was deeply distressed and wanted to compel Lucía to admit that she had lied about having seen Our Lady.
Weeping bitter tears, Lucía was asked by Our Lady: Are you suffering a great deal? Don’t lose heart. I will never forsake you. My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God.” Lucía was summoned by the parish priest and interrogated calmly but she never revealed anything. Later, she began to doubt seriously for a month if the devil had tricked them into all this.
On the 13th of July, Lucía was resolved not to go to the Cova but a strange force impelled her to go. Amidst the crowd, with difficulty, they reached the place. That was the day Our Lady was to reveal the Secret and she told them: “Sacrifice yourselves for love of Jesus, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
The children suffered from the interrogations and in August 1917, the Administrator in Vila Nova de Ourem interrogated Lucía and even threatened to take her life. The three children were imprisoned at Ourem and forced to promise not to return to the Cova da Iria.
However, an apparition took place on August 19 after their return from Ourem. On the 13th of September, Our Lady told them: “God is pleased with your sacrifices but He does not want you to sleep with the rope on; only wear it during the day.”
To face the cross-examinations, including the ones from the priests, was one of the greatest sacrifices of the children. Later, the government forces joined the opposition against them and tried to keep the people away from the Cova da Iria.
After the apparitions, Lucía went to school. On the way to the boarding school, she and her mother went by the Cova da Iria to bid it a last farewell. Lucía entered the College of Porto in 1921 and there she received excellent moral and religious formation. In 1925, at the age of 18, she entered the Institute of St. Dorothy. She professed on October 1928. With the kind permission of Pope Pius XII, she transferred to the Discalced Carmelites, her first choice, on 25 March 1948.
Completed by the 31st of August 1941, this was meant to be a contribution to the book “Jacinta” but Lucía, by God’s design, inserted one chapter on the Vision of Hell and another on the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Earlier, in December 1940, a letter concerning the “secret” was dispatched to Pope Pius XII. Lucía felt that it was an opportune time to reveal two of the three parts of the “secret” namely the vision of Hell and the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The third part, written on 3 January 1944, was published on 26 June 2000.
With great realism, Lucía describes the vision of Hell thus:
“…a great sea of fire which seemed to be under the earth. Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form, like transparent burning ambers, all blackened or burnished bronze, floating about in the conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames that issued from within themselves together with great clouds of smoke, now falling back on every side like sparks in a huge fire, without weight or equilibrium, and amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear. The demons could be distinguished by their terrifying and repellent likeness to frightful and unknown animals, all black and transparent.”
After the vision of Hell, Our Lady said so sadly:
“You have seen Hell where the poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world the devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace. The war is going to end but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the pontificate of Pius XI. When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that He is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine, and persecution of the Church and of the Holy Father.
“To prevent 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 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 persecution 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.”
The vision on Hell had a lasting impression on the young Jacinta. She repeatedly recited the prayer that Our Lady had taught them: “O my Jesus! Forgive us, save us from the fire of Hell. Lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who are most in need.”
Jacinta’s spirit of mortification and penance surpassed her tender age. While in Lisbon, on her sickbed, Jacinta said that sins of the flesh offend God the most. Her love for the Immaculate Heart was like an “infused gift,” a great mystic grace.
Jacinta also saw a vision of the Holy Father:
“…in a very big house, kneeling by a table, with his head buried in his hands, and he was weeping. Outside the house, there were many people. Some of them were throwing stones, others were cursing him and using bad language.”
Lucía explained that she could not have revealed the secret beforehand because God had no such intention. God willed only to use her to remind the world that it is necessary to avoid sin, and to make reparation to an offended God by means of prayer and penance. Keeping silent has been a great grace to Lucía but Jacinta seemed to have an intimate understanding of the significance of the revelations.
Neither capricious nor vivacious, unlike his sister Jacinta, Francisco was quiet, calm and submissive by nature, a straightforward shepherd boy, a perfect “serrano” (mountain lad). Nothing enchanted him as much as the beauty of sunrise or sunset. He loved solitude and playing his flute. He often lost to Jacinta and Lucía in the games they played.
During the angelic apparitions, Francisco could see the Angel but never heard what he said, only what the girls said to the Angel. The apparitions of Our Lady plunged them into a gentle grip of peace and radiated a light that interiorly compelled them to keep silent. When told that he would go to Heaven, Francisco happily promised to say as many Rosaries as Our Lady wanted. Francisco seemed to have the gift of highest contemplation.
In the third apparition, the vision of Hell had the least impression on Francisco, unlike the powerful light of the Most Holy Triune God which penetrated their inmost souls. Jacinta and Lucía would often find Francisco kneeling and praying. He loved to stay with the Hidden Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. He appeared to think only of consoling Our Lord and Our Lady. Once he saw the devil, one of the beasts in hell, breathing out his flames. That really frightened him! When he became ill, Francisco always appeared joyful and content, knowing that in a short time, he would be in Heaven.
The divine atmosphere of the angelic apparitions was so intense that the three children could not speak, sing or play and this by itself imposed secrecy upon them. The Angel instructed them to “make of everything they can a sacrifice”. The force of the presence of God absorbed them and almost completely annihilated them. On the other hand, Our Lady’s apparitions had different effects on them. Though they felt the same intimate joy and peace, their enthusiasm was expansive but they still felt inspired to be silent.
Taking place on 13 May 1917, high up on the slope in Cova da Iria, a Lady dressed in white, more brilliant than the sun, told the children: “I want you to come here for six months in succession, on the 13th day, at the same hour. Later on, I will tell you who I am and what I want.” She further asked them, “Are you willing to offer yourselves to God and bear all the sufferings He wills to send you, as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and of supplication for the conversion of sinners?” They committed themselves to do so. As the pronounced her last words, Our Lady opened her hands, communicating an intense light and making them see themselves in God more clearly. She further said, “Pray the Rosary everyday, in order to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war.”
She began to rise serenely, going up towards the east until she disappeared in the immensity of space with the light that seemed to open up a path for her in the firmament.
It was during the third apparition that Our Lady showed the children the vision of hell. She also spoke of her wish to spread the devotion to her Immaculate Heart. In October, she said she would tell who she is, what she wants, and would perform a miracle for all to see and believe. In almost all the apparitions, Our Lady urged that they pray the Rosary in order to obtain the end of the war.
This apparition, on 13 October 1917, was very important since it is the day the Lady said she would perform a miracle, say who she is and what she wants.
Crowds of people thronged the roads on this day. The rains fell in torrents. Even on muddy roads, people knelt. Lucía told them to pray the Rosary. A little later, they saw a flash of light and Our Lady appeared on the holm oak tree. She said: “I want to tell you that a chapel is to be built in my honor. I am the Lady of the Rosary. Continue always to pray the Rosary everyday. The war is going to end, and the soldiers will soon return to their homes.”
Then opening her hands, she made them reflect on the sun and as she ascended, the reflection of her own light continued to be projected on the sun itself. Guided by an inner impulse, Lucía cried out to the people to look at the sun. After Our Lady had disappeared into the immense distance of the firmament, they saw St. Joseph with the Child Jesus and Our Lady robed in white with a blue mantle, beside the sun. St. Joseph and the Christ Jesus appeared to bless the world, for they traced the Sign of the Cross with their hands. When this apparition vanished, Our Lord and Our Lady of Sorrows appeared. Our Lord blessed the world. This apparition also vanished and Our Lady appeared once more, this time as Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
On 13 June 1929 in the chapel of her convent at Tuy, Spain, Sister Lucía had a vision of the Most Holy Trinity, together with Our Lady showing her Heart, as in the apparitions of June and July 1917. The Blessed Virgin asked for the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart under certain and well-defined conditions.
Our Lady said to Lucía:
The moment has come in which God asks the Holy Father, in union with all the Bishops of the world, to make the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, promising to save it by this means. There are so many souls whom the Justice of God condemns for sins committed against me, that I have come to ask reparation: sacrifice yourself for this intention and pray.
Later, in an intimate communication, Our Lord complained saying: “They did not wish to heed my request! Like the King of France, they will repent and do it but it will be late. Russia will have already spread her errors throughout the world, provoking wars, and persecution of the Church: the Holy Father will have to suffer much.”
On 26 June 2000, the best kept part of the “Secret” of Fatima was published with an appropriate commentary from the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. “Through this divulgence the Message of Fatima acquired an extraordinary actuality and value.” The Third Part was written by order of the Bishop of Leiria and the Most Holy Mother. It was initially kept in the custody of the same bishop and later for better protection in the Secret Archives of the Holy Office on 4 April 1957.
Undoubtedly the most prophetic apparition of recent times, Fatima heralds an urgent call to conversion and penance which echoes the heart of the Gospel. It is a symbolic revelation of the future of mankind who continues to defy God’s command to reject sin, hatred, revenge, injustice, violence and immorality, a generation awaiting a just, long-due punishment brought about by hard-hearted perpetrators themselves. Russia has not been totally converted and we have yet to see the “complete fulfilment” of this part of the prophecy, marching towards it “little by little with great strides”. God still calls and warns us in mercy and love.
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