THE HISTORY OF FATIMA
In the last issue we recounted the history of the July 1917 apparitions of Our Lady. After July 13 the devil realized the importance of these apparitions so he started to attack them with open fury. Just how far he went in his attack even during the apparitions you will see in this article. Although we have published this information before, it seems that we should publish this account now at this point of our continuing history of Fatima. To help you understand how men could so violently oppose Our Lady of Fatima and Her message of maternal love and concern for us we offer here a brief background at the start of this episode.
The message of Fatima is most significant and important for the salvation of souls. However, the message of Fatima and Our Lady's appearance there, is also very important for the correct ordering of human society in this world. As Our Lady of Fatima pointed out, if mankind would listen to Her message, then the peaceful ordering of individuals, families, cities and countries and in fact the whole world, would be achieved. Such a claim for peace through all levels of society and throughout the whole world could only be achieved if enough individuals at every level of society cooperated in the plan. And this plan could only succeed if it were based on the designs of the Creator of mankind, Who has appointed Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of mankind, as King of kings and Lord of lords (Apoc. 19:16). Jesus is King, not only of individuals but also of societies and the whole world. Therefore if this plan of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is Queen of Heaven and of earth, is to work, mankind must acknowledge the sovereign Kingship of Christ over all mankind. Thus one can understand that the prince of this world, as Jesus Christ referred to the devil, would not accept easily the destruction of his kingdom here on earth. Nor would the peace plan from Heaven be accepted by those men, associations and secret societies whose power and ill-gotten riches would be lost if the peace plan from Heaven were put into effect.
One day the three were discussing what the Lady had told them on Her third and most recent visit — the message that was to be kept a secret until She Herself gave the word to pass it on to others.
“How awful to know that unless people change their lives there’ll be another war!” said Jacinta sadly. “Lucia, I think about this so much!”
“So do I,” put in Francisco. “And about Russia, too. Lucia, the Lady said She wants this country consecrated to Her Immaculate Heart so that it can be converted. Does that mean it’s a wicked country now?”
The child shook her head. “I don’t know. But I remember what the Lady said: ‘If people listen to My requests, Russia will be converted and there will be peace. If not, she will scatter her errors throughout the world, provoking wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated’.”
“It doesn’t sound as though it was a very good place,” muttered Jacinta. “Probably only a few people there ever say the Rosary.”
“But why?” cried Francisco. “Don’t they know how much happier they’d be if they’d love Our Lady?”
These words made Lucia start. What a change had come over Francisco — and over Jacinta and herself as well! Only a little while ago they had prayed chiefly from a sense of duty. There had been but a small amount of love in their prayers, or joy. Now, what a difference!
Because the Lady had stretched out Her hands to them and warmed them with wonderful rays, they longed to pray as much as possible and to suffer for sinners. And it was impossible to think that they could ever again let a day go by without saying the Rosary!
“Maybe other people could have this grace, too, if only they would ask the Lady for it,” thought the little girl. “Even the people in Russia. Oh, how wonderful that would be!”
Lucia’s thoughts were wiser than she knew. In July, 1917, there was really great need that the Russian people should recite the Rosary devoutly, for within three months Communism was to sweep over the land and cause untold misery to millions. In a lesser degree this was true of other European countries — including Portugal, where since 1910 atheists had been in firm control of the government.
Atheists! One of these was the Administrator or Chief Magistrate of Ourem (the nearest town of any size to Fatima), and when word was brought to him of the miraculous happenings in the Cova, he was beside himself with rage.
“You mean that some peasant youngsters are setting themselves up as prophets?” he roared. “What nonsense! Don’t waste my time or yours with such fairy tales!”
Respectfully the Administrator’s assistants informed him that the events at Fatima could not be ignored. Some two or three thousand people had gone to the Cova da Iria for the Lady’s appearance in July. Possibly three times this number would be on hand in August, for the apparitions had been given wide publicity in the newspapers. Everyone was interested.
“Well, I’m not interested,” said the Administrator bluntly. “You know I don’t believe in God. Then why should I believe in silly visions that tell me to say the Rosary?”
“Perhaps you should be interested,” suggested an assistant slyly. “After all, Fatima is in territory under your control. If there’s any disturbance there next month…”
“Yes, several thousand people could make trouble if they became excited,” put in a deputy. “It wouldn’t look well, sir, if the government in Lisbon found out that you hadn’t taken precautions.”
The Administrator snorted. “Well, what do you want me to do?”
The deputy and the assistants swiftly agreed on one point: the Administrator must order the children of Fatima and their fathers to appear before him at Ourem. Being of peasant stock, these simple folk would be much afraid of any officer of the law. With a little coaxing they could be made to confess that the whole affair was a fraud, that the parish priest had ordered them to begin a shrine that would rival the famous grotto at Lourdes and thus bring both pilgrims and prominence to Fatima.
“You see, sir, there’s nothing more to it than this,” explained the assistant. “These peasants wanted to make some extra money. So, when the priest promised them a share in what future pilgrims would leave…”
“Exactly!” broke in the deputy. “I’ve always felt that religion is a cleverly organized business. Now I know it. The sooner we can close every church in Portugal, as we have done with the convents and seminaries, the sooner we can have an extra source of income and less taxes for ourselves. That’s the way it is in a really up-to-date country.”
The Administrator’s crafty eyes lit up. “I do believe you’re right,” he said. “If we can do something up here in the hills to kill religion…”
“And we can, sir. Every little bit helps.”
“Of course. Go, order these stupid children and their fathers to come to Ourem. Let them see that we understand their little game.”
So a message was dispatched to Aljustrel (the hamlet on the outskirts of Fatima which was fast becoming famous), announcing that Antonio dos Santos, father of Lucia, and Manuel Marto, father of Francisco and Jacinta, must appear before the Administrator of Ourem at noon on Saturday, August 11. And they were to bring the children with them.
Surprisingly enough, Manuel Marto was far from fearful over the unexpected summons. From the very beginning he had believed in the Lady, and now he calmly announced that he would go to Ourem and answer whatever questions the Administrator cared to ask. But he would not bring Francisco or Jacinta. They were too young to make such a tiring trip. Besides, it was utter nonsense that mere children should be made to appear before an officer of the law.
“Leave Lucia at home, too,” he advised his brother-in-law. “After all, what harm has the child done?”
But Lucia’s mother would not hear of this. “The girl goes with you,” she informed her husband. “Silly little fool! Didn’t she start this whole affair in the first place?”
Lucia was most unhappy that she had to go to Ourem — six miles away — without her cousins. And even though her father arranged for her to ride a donkey, the trip was not an easy one — especially in the August heat. In fact, because of the steep and winding road, the little girl fell from the donkey’s back three times, bruising and cutting herself on the stony ground. Yet when the time came for her to tell her story to the Administrator, she spoke up bravely. Yes — there was a heavenly Lady in the Cova. She would appear for the fourth time on Monday, August 13. So far Her message had been that people must change their lives, say the Rosary and make sacrifices for sinners.
“Nonsense!” shouted the Administrator. “There is no Lady. And you must give me your solemn promise not to go to the Cova on Monday. Come, now — hurry up!”
Lucia looked imploringly at her father, at her uncle, knowing only too well that they could do little for her. Then, folding her hands, she spoke in a firm but respectful voice:
“I can’t promise not to go.”
“Because the Lady said we were to be there, and we have to obey her. After all, She comes from Heaven.”
In vain the Administrator threatened, coaxed, threatened again. He could not obtain the promise he desired so much. Nor could he force from Lucia the smallest part of the secret which the Lady had confided to her on July 13.
“Well, why don’t you do something?” he cried finally, turning to the father and uncle who had been standing by, silent witnesses to his futile efforts. “After all, this stubborn child is yours — not mine!”
Antonio dos Santos and Manuel Marto shrugged their shoulders. What could they do? Lucia had her faults, but telling lies was not one of them — or breaking promises, either. Besides, weeks ago others had tried to make the girl change her story. There had been scoldings, beatings, even several interviews with the parish priest. All to no avail.
Abruptly the Administrator gave in and ordered the three peasants to leave his office. But as he followed them to the door, he shook a warning finger at Lucia.
“If you don’t tell that secret, it will cost you your life!” he bellowed. “Remember that!”
As the door closed behind the visitors, however, an evil scheme began brewing in the Administrator’s mind.
“That stubborn little girl wouldn’t give me her promise not to go to the Cova,” he thought. “That means she and the others will be there on Monday. They’ll pretend the heavenly Lady came and talked to them once more, and thousands of stupid people will go into hysterics. But,” and there was a cruel gleam in the Administrator’s eyes, “it could be a different story — if the children were kept away from the Cova by force!”