By Jim Dunning
(This article was originally published in "Irelands Own" magazine. The webmaster would like to gratefully thank the author, Jim Dunning, for his kind permission in reprinting it here.)
Lucia was born on 22nd March, 1907. In his very readable book, ‘The Message of Fatima’ the Jesuit priest, Father Martindale, describes her as ‘a small child all of quick-silver, always wriggling out of her mother’s arms and then running back to be cuddled.’ Though not attractive to look at , Lucia had a lively and engaging personality. She loved playing games and dancing and was both popular and looked up to by other children to whom she would tell stories, Her memory was prodigious, a faculty which would come in useful in later years.
When Lucia was ten, she and her two younger cousins were minding their sheep in a hollow near their homes called Cova da Iria, when Our Lady made her first appearance. It was 13th May, 1917. What is not generally known is that the children were ‘prepared’ to receive the Apparitions by the visitation of an angel the previous year. In the spring of 1916 they had taken their sheep to a different area where they took shelter from the rain under a rock. While there they saw an angel who described himself as the Angel of Peace. He taught them the prayer: ‘My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love Thee’.
In the summer the Angel appeared again while they were playing, saying: ‘What are you doing? Pray! Pray much! The hearts of Jesus and Mary have designs of mercy upon you. Constantly offer prayers and in every way you can, offer a sacrifice to the Lord as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended and for the conversion of sinners. Thus you will draw down peace for the fatherland. I am the Angel of Portugal. Accept and bear with submission the suffering the Lord is sending you.’
Francisco never heard any of the Angel’s words and had to rely on what Lucia and Jacinta told him. The Angel reappeared in the autumn, holding a chalice with a Host above it from which drops of blood fell into the cup. He left these suspended in the air and prostrated himself on the ground to pray, after which he rose and gave the Host to Lucia and the chalice to the other two, saying: ‘Take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, horribly outraged by ungrateful men. Make reparation for their crimes and console your God.’
The children never told anyone of the Angel’s visits and they were not revealed until Lucia wrote an account of them some years later. It was Lucia who played the major role during the subsequent Apparitions involving Our Lady. It was specifically to her that the Lady’s messages were delivered. When in June, 1917, Our Lady promised to take Francisco and Jacinta to heaven soon, she told Lucia: ‘But you must wait here still for some time. Jesus wishes to use you to make me known and loved. He wishes to establish in the world the devotion to my Immaculate Heart.’ Plaintively, the child asked: ‘Must I stay here alone?’ to which Our Lady replied: ‘No, my child; do not be sad because of this. My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God.’
Whenever Our Lady appeared to the children Lucia always asked her: ‘What do you want of me?’ Although she listened to her two cousins and frequently depended on them for moral support, she clearly understood that she herself was responsible for receiving Our Lady’s requests and taking any action that was called for. After Jacinta had given the game away by telling her family of their experience, it was Lucia who had to bear the brunt of the whole district’s interest. Maria Rosa, her own mother, refused to believe her and administered thrashings with a broomstick. The local children mocked her, to such an extent that she begged Our Lady to perform a miracle to prove to the people that she had appeared. She was greatly relieved to be told that her request would be granted in October. When the time drew near she was totally confident, even though she had no idea what form the miracle would take.
Surrounded by a crowd of 70,000, she spoke with the vision and afterwards, without knowing why, called out: ‘Look at the sun!’ Almost the whole crowd, including many who had turned up cynically expecting a complete fiasco, witnessed the extraordinary movements of the sun, which appeared to dance in the sky, and at one stage to fall towards the earth. People wept openly and fell to their knees in prayer.
|Sr Lucia of Fatima|
‘Did Our Lady appear again today?’
Did St. Joseph and the Holy Child appear?’
‘Did anyone else appear?’
‘Our Lord appeared and blessed the people.’
After establishing exactly what the children had seen, the Canon continued:-
‘Did the Lady say who she was?’
‘She said she was the Lady of the Rosary.’
‘Did you ask her what she wanted?’
‘Yes – she said we must amend ourselves and not offend Our Lord who was too much offended, and must say the rosary and beg pardon for our sins.’
‘Did she say anything else?’
‘She said a chapel must be built at the Cova da Iria.’
In later years Lucia must have been astounded at the size of the Basilica erected on the very site of the Apparitions and by the numbers of pilgrims who flocked there to do honour to her ‘Lady’. Although there were no more Apparitions at the Cova, Lucia was privileged to see Our Lady at least three more times after she became an adult. In 1925 she joined The Sisters of St. Dorothy in Spain and in 1948 transferred to the cloistered convent of the Carmelites at Coimbra in Portugal, where Sister Lucia just disappeared from view. Her role as a messenger was over.
If one follows the history of Fatima and its Apparitions closely Lucia emerges as the major figure. Her two cousins excite great sympathy over a comparatively short period of time. They had the benefit of affectionate parents. Lucia’s father was over fond of the bottle and his wife, though very devout, believed that good behaviour could only be guaranteed by the liberal use of a broomstick. Nevertheless, Lucia was loyal to her when chided with not making an effort to learn to read after being advised to do so by the Lady. She remained quiet when she could have pointed out that her mother had dismissed the proposal as unnecessary.
Lucia showed great strength of character in resisting all efforts to make her reveal the ‘Secret’. [Click here for more info on the Secrets of Fatima]She displayed humility when she might have taken pride over her part in bringing about the miracle of the sun. She gave Francisco and Jacinta continual support when they were ill, and showed selfless generosity in describing their virtues to others. When asked to write her Memoirs she was conscientious to a fault, displaying courage when the Devil seemed determined to interfere. She was dogged in trying to persuade the Church authorities to publish the Third Secret, but accepted the authority of her superiors, just as she accepted the role given her by the Mother of God.
Sister Lucia died, appropriately, on the 13th February, 2005, just a month short of what would have been her 98th birthday. The following day, thousands filed past her simple coffin in Coimbra’s cathedral. Portugal’s Prime Minister declared a national day of mourning. A fitting tribute to one who had patiently lived the life of a saint. No doubt she herself was already celebrating a joyful reunion with her two little cousins in heaven. A meeting presided over, surely, by Our Lady of the Rosary.
-Sister Lucia of Jesus, pray for us!
For more information on the visionary children of Fatima, see Blessed Francisco Marto and also Sister Lucia dos Santos. For more information on the events of Fatima, see The Miracle of the Sun
-Jim Dunning lives in the United Kingdom. His hobbies include watching rugby and writing short stories and religious articles.