A Story of Our Lady of Fatima
Brother Ernest, C.S.C., 1957
On a hot May day in 1917, three little shepherds were watching their sheep in a hollow in the mountains of Portugal called Cova da Iria. The sky above them was a clear blue. Not the smallest cloud could be seen anywhere. The sun beat straight down, for it was noon. Then a familiar sound was heard. The bell in the village church was ringing for the Angelus.
The three children: Jacinta, a girl of seven; Francisco, her brother, a lad of nine; and Lucia, a girl of ten, at once knelt and began to say the rosary together.
But this was such a beautiful day, and the children did not want to take the time to say the rosary as they should. So they simply said: “Our Father, Hail Mary, Hail Mary, Hail Mary, Glory be.” Then they were ready for the first decade. It took them just about two minutes to finish the whole rosary in this new style!
Suddenly, there was a great flash of light, brighter than lightning. The children looked up and all around them.
“Might be a big storm coming. Let’s get the sheep together and go home,” said Francisco. The girls agreed, and soon they and the sheep were scampering down the slope towards home. When they reached the foot of the hill they saw a second great flash. It was brighter than the first. They stopped; very much afraid.
“Look!” said Lucia, pointing toward a little oak tree.
There they saw a beautiful young lady. She was dressed in a white gown, gathered together at the neck by a gold cord. Over her head draped a fine white veil. The children were about to run when they heard a sweet voice say: “Be not afraid! I am not going to hurt you.”
Then the shepherds drew near. They noticed the lovely lady had her hands joined as in prayer, and a pearl rosary fell from her fingers.
“Where did you come from?” Asked Lucia.
“I came from heaven.”
“And why did you come here?”
“I came to ask you to come here for six successive months, on the thirteenth of each month, at this same time. In October I shall tell you who I am and what it is I wish.”
Lucia then asked the lady if they would go to heaven. They were happy when she told them they would.
“Children, always say the rosary with devotion.” said the lady, and then she left them.
“We must not tell anyone about the lady. No one will believe us.” Said Lucia.
To this the others agreed. Then they got their sheep together and went home, even though it was much too early.
But Jacinta thought her mother would punish her for coming home, so she told about the lady!
“You are lying to me!” Shouted the mother.
Mrs. Marto, Jacinta’s mother, ran at once to Lucia’s home and reported all the children had told her. Lucia had not said a word to her mother, who seemed stunned at the story.
“Tell me, Lucia, are my children lying?”
“No, they are not. It’s all true!”
“Don’t you say another word about this, Lucia,” said her mother as she ran out the door.
Lucia’s mother, Maria, hurried to the pastor and told him the story. He tried to calm her, but the woman insisted her daughter was lying to her. She then hurried home and gave Lucia a sound thrashing. But that did not change Lucia’s mind.
June 13 was a fair day, but the children did not care about that. It was the day the lady promised to come to see them again, and so they went to the appointed spot. There were about sixty other people waiting.
The children knelt down and began to say the rosary. When it was finished, they stood and brushed the dust from their clothes.”The lady is coming!” cried Lucia and ran down the hill to the little oak. The others followed.
Yes, it was the lady. She was dressed just the same, and she seemed pleased to see them.
“What do you want me to do?” begged Lucia.
“I want you to come here on the thirteenth of next month; to recite the rosary every day.” Then she added something the children had never heard before. “After the Gloria Patri of each decade, you will say; ‘O my Jesus, forgive us our sins! Save us from the fires of hell! Lead all souls to heaven (see note), especially those in most need of thy mercy.”
[Note: In the original Story, the prayer here makes reference to the souls in purgatory, a common error of the time. The prayer presented here is the one that is usually and everywhere said in the English language.]
“I want to ask you to take us to heaven,” said Lucia pleadingly.
“Francisco and Jacinta I will soon take. You must remain. Jesus wants you to make me known and loved. He wants to establish in the world the devotion to my Immaculate Heart.”
On July 13, the children were again waiting for the lady. This time there were about five thousand others waiting too. The lady told the children that she would work a great miracle in October so that all would believe she had appeared there. She also showed them a vision of hell, and it was so terrible that the children said they would have died of fear if the lady had not told them they were to go to heaven.
“If people do what I tell you, many will be saved, and peace will come. I promise to help at the hour of death with the graces for their salvation, those who on the first Saturday of five consecutive months shall confess and receive Holy Communion, say five decades of the rosary and keep me company for fifteen minutes while meditating on one or more mysteries of the rosary with the intention of making reparation to me,” said the beautiful lady as she began to glide away toward the east.
Now the administrator of the town began to turn against the children. He was not a good man. He had no use for religion or the Church. He made the parents of Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco bring them to court. There he tried his best to make them tell him a secret the lady had told each of them when she appeared to them in July.
When they would not tell him, he got very angry and sent them away!
But on the morning of August 13, Arturo, the Administrator, came to the Marto cottage in a fine carriage.
“I want you to ride with me to the miracle,” Arturo said, trying to be pleasant.
“We can very easily walk,” Lucia told him.
“You must stop at the priest’s house first, and you will be late for the lady unless you ride with me,” Arturo insisted.
The children finally accepted the ride, and they all set out for the priest’s house.
When they were finished there and were back in the carriage, the Administrator drove off with them to his home instead of to the Cova!
Once the ugly man had the children in his own house he told them he would have them boiled in a vat of oil. He called the jailer to take Jacinta first. And after a few minutes he came back and asked who would be next. It was then Francisco’s turn. That left Lucia alone.
“I’ll never tell you,” said Lucia.
“Away with her!” shouted Arturo.
Lucia was shoved into an empty room. But there, kneeling in prayer, were little Jacinta and Francisco! They had not been boiled as the jailer said they had!
On August 15, the children were back home, safe and sound. They had been kept away over the thirteenth so they could not see the lady on that day. But they still believed in her. After Mass on the Sunday following, Lucia, Francisco and his brother John took the sheep out to the pasture. Suddenly Lucia felt the lady was coming. She sent John in haste to get Jacinta. Scarcely had she arrived then the lady appeared.
“Go to the Cova da Iria on the thirteenth of next month. Pray very hard. Make many sacrifices for sinners.” Then the lady was gone.
On September 13, more than 30,000 people were crowded into the Cova to see what would happen. Suddenly a white globe was seen moving through the sky toward them. Then a thin white vapor began to form above the little oak, and white flowers began to fall from the clear blue sky. The lady appeared to the children. All saw Lucia’s lips move, but no one heard a word she said!
During the late afternoon of October 12, a storm broke over Fatima. Soon all the roads were thick with mud. But through it and the heavy rain came 70,000 people to witness the great miracle the lady had promised for that day.
When Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta arrived at eleven-thirty, Lucia began the rosary aloud, and all of the others answered her.
Exactly at noon, Lucia stopped praying.
“Here she comes! She is coming!”
All saw a white vapor, like incense, form around the children and rise into the wet air. But they could not see the lady.
“I am the Lady of the Rosary. I want you to tell them to build a chapel here, and to continue to say the rosary every day.”
Then all saw the clouds part, and the sun appear like a great disk of white fire. But the children saw a vision of the Holy Family. Next Our Lady appeared as Our Lady of Sorrows, and beside her stood Jesus. He made the sign of the cross over the people. Finally, Our Lady came again as Our Lady of Mount Carmel. She was crowned, and the Infant Jesus stood on her knee.
But while the children were enjoying the three wonderful visions, all of the others were seeing something they would never forget. The sun began to spin around as if it were a piece of fireworks. Then it stopped for a minute or so, only to begin again with more fury. Great streamers of various colors trailed from it. Then it plunged straight at the crowd!
Screams arose! Some shouted to Our Lady to save them. Others made acts of contrition out loud. For ten minutes the sun spun and danced. Then it began to ascend once more to its place, and shone brilliantly. The great miracle was over! No one now doubted the appearance of Our Lady of Fatima. Many began, from that day, to live more Christian lives.
A Story of Our Lady of Fatima, by Brother Ernest, C.S.C., 1957.