The Appearances of the
The flash of light that commenced the first apparition looked like lightning to Lucy. She told her younger companions, Francisco and Jacinta, that they should hurry home and take with them the flock of sheep they were tending, before a thunderstorm began.
A second flash of light soon followed, and this time, the children suddenly saw a Woman standing on a small holm-oak, only a few feet away. She seemed to Lucy to be about 18 to 20 years old, wearing a white gown embroidered with gold. She radiated brilliant clusters of light, and Her face was supernaturally beautiful.
Sister Lucy's fourth memoir gives this account of the opening dialogue with Our Lady:
"Do not be afraid. I will do you no harm."
"Where is Your Grace from?"
"I am of Heaven."
Sister Lucy asked what was wanted from her.
"I have come to ask you to come here for six months in succession, on the 13th day, at this same hour.
"Later on, I will tell you who I am and what I want.
"Afterwards, I will return here yet a seventh time."
On the subject of Heaven, Sister Lucy then asked:
"Shall I go to Heaven too?"
"Yes, you will."
"She will go also."
"He will go there too, but he will have to say many Rosaries."
The Virgin then gave a glimpse of Her purposes when She asked the children:
"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 conversion of sinners?"
When they indicated their willingness, the Virgin told the children:
"Then you are going to have much to suffer, but the grace of God will be your comfort."
The memoir then describes the extraordinary effect as Our Lady opened Her hands, radiating "a light so intense … its rays penetrated our hearts and the innermost depths of our souls, making us see ourselves in God … more clearly than we see ourselves in the best of mirrors."
Then, moved by an interior impulse which was communicated to them, they fell on their knees and said together:
"O Most Holy Trinity, I adore Thee. My God, my God, I love Thee in the Most Blessed Sacrament." The first moments passed, and Our Lady added:
"Recite the Rosary every day in order to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war."
Lucy asked whether the war would still last a long time, or if it would soon end.
"I cannot tell you yet, as I have not yet told you all that I want."
At the end of their conversation Our Lady began to rise serenely, going up towards the east until She disappeared in the immensity of the sky. The light which surrounded Her seemed to open a path for Her among the stars, and for this reason the children said sometimes that they had seen Heaven opening.
When they returned to the same place a month later, the children were accompanied by a small group of followers who had heard reports of the first apparition. The group said the Rosary together, and the same lightning-like flash appeared, followed by the Blessed Virgin's appearance standing on a cloud resting on the holm-oak. All could see the tree bending a little, as if someone were standing on it. Our Lady was visible only to the three children.
Lucy asked Our Lady "Your Grace what do You want of me?"
"I wish you to come here on the 13th of next month, to pray the Rosary every day, and to learn how to read.
"Later I will tell you what I want."
This time, Lucy asked the Virgin to take her and her companions to Heaven, and she received this reply:
"I will take Jacinta and Francisco soon, but you, Lucy, are to stay here some time longer. Jesus wishes to make use of you in order to make Me known and loved. He wishes to establish in the world devotion to My Immaculate Heart. To whoever embraces this devotion, I promise salvation; those souls will be cherished by God, as flowers placed by Me to adorn His Throne."
"Am I to stay here alone?" Lucy asked painfully.
"No, My daughter. Are you suffering a great deal? Do not lose heart, I will never forsake you! My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God."
Lucy, in her Memoir writes:
"It was at the moment when She pronounced those last words that She opened Her hands and communicated to us, for the second time, the reflection of that immense light. In it we saw ourselves as submerged in God.
"Jacinta and Francisco appeared to be in the part of that light which elevated itself to Heaven, and I in the part which spread itself on earth.
"In the palm of the right hand of Our Lady there was a Heart surrounded by thorns which seemed to pierce it. We understood that it was the Immaculate Heart of Mary, outraged by the sins of humanity, which pleaded for reparation."
By mid-summer, word of the apparitions had spread widely, and the three children, as they said their Rosary in preparation for Our Lady's visit, were surrounded by about 5,000 onlookers. The children saw the usual flash of light and then saw Our Lady on the holm-oak
Again Lucy asked, "What does Your Grace want of me?"
"I want you to come here on the 13th of next month and to continue praying the Rosary every day in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary, in order to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war, because only She can help you."
Here Our Lady referred to Herself in the third person. Lucy asked Her to tell them who She was, and to work a miracle so that everyone would believe that She was appearing to them.
"Continue to come here every month.
"In October I will tell you who I am and what I want and I will perform a miracle for all to see and believe."
Lucy made some requests to which Our Lady replied that it was necessary to pray the Rosary in order to obtain these graces throughout the year. And She continued:
"Sacrifice yourselves for sinners, and say many times, especially when you make some sacrifice: O my Jesus, it is for love of Thee, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary."
As Our Lady spoke these words, She opened Her hands once more, as She had done during the two previous months.
This time the light did not fall on the children but on the ground between them and Our Lady. In this light the children could see below the face of the earth. They saw the fires of hell.
Lucy describes this vision of hell:
"The rays of light seemed to penetrate the earth, and we saw as it were a sea of fire. Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form, like transparent burning embers, all blackened yet like 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 huge fires, without weight or equilibrium, amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear. (It must have been this sight which caused me to cry out, as people say they heard me.) The demons could be distinguished by their terrifying and repellent likeness to frightful and unknown animals, black and transparent like burning coals."
Here, in her Third Memoir, Lucy added:
"That vision lasted only a moment, thanks to our Good Mother of Heaven, Who, at the first apparition, promised to bring us to Heaven. Without that, I think we would have died of terror and fear.
"Terrified and as if to plead for succor, we looked up at Our Lady, Who said to us, so kindly and so sadly:"
"You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world 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 reign of Pius XI.
"When you see a night illuminated 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, persecutions 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 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. … 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 our sins, save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need."
The horrifying vision of hell followed by the promise of peace through Her Immaculate Heart constitute the first two parts of a three-part secret which Our Lady communicated to the children that day.
The words of the Virgin quoted above were set down by Sister Lucy in several of her memoirs. Sister Lucy, with the approval of her bishop, revealed the first two parts of the Secret in 1941. By a letter written in mid-October 1943, His Excellency Don José the Bishop of Fatima, gave the formal written order to Sister Lucy to write down the third part of the Secret. Sister Lucy, from October to the end of December, experienced unspeakable anguish and was not able to bring herself to write this part of the Secret down. Each time she took up her pen to do so she found herself incapable of writing. This mysterious impediment, Lucy explained, "was not due to natural causes."
On January 2, 1944, Our Lady appeared to Sister Lucy in the infirmary at Tuy to tell her to write down the Secret … in conformity with what had been asked of her.
On January 9, 1944, Sister Lucy wrote to Bishop da Silva: "I have written what you asked me; God willed to try me a little, but finally, this was indeed His will: (the text) is sealed in an envelope and it is in the notebooks …"
Sister Lucy feared so much for the safety of this envelope that she would not entrust it to the post office nor any ordinary messenger. It was not until June 17, 1944, when Archbishop Manuel Ferreira da Silva came on behalf of Bishop José Correia da Silva, she discreetly handed him the notebook and the envelope, which contained her writings concerning the Third Secret.
On December 8, 1945, Bishop José placed the envelope sealed by Sister Lucy in a larger envelope, also sealed with wax, on which he wrote in his own hand: "This envelope with its contents is to be given to His Eminence Don Manuel, Patriarch of Lisbon, after my death."
Our Lady asked that this third part of the Secret be made known to the faithful at the latest by 1960. Like the first two parts of the Secret, it is clear, and easy to understand. Like the second part of the Secret, it is prophetic. We know that from Cardinal Ottaviani who tells us he read it and it is a prophecy of the future. Many Fatima experts believe that we are now living through the Third Secret.
On June 26, 2000, Cardinal Ratzinger and Archbishop Bertone published photographically four handwritten pages, 62 lines long, written by Sister Lucy, and taken from her notebooks. these four pages described a vision Sister Lucy had. However, this June 26 document did not include the letter Sister Lucy wrote to the bishop, which contained the actual words of Our Lady in the Third Secret. Neither does the interpretation of that vision given by Cardinal Ratzinger and Archbishop Bertone refer to the line "In Portugal the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved, etc.", which Sister Lucy has clearly indicated is part of the Third Secret.
Furthermore, Father Alonso, the first official Fatima archivist, and the second Bishop of Fatima assures us that the Third Secret itself is only a single sheet of paper. The actual text is about 25 lines long.
The scheduled rendezvous with Our Lady did not occur on the appointed 13th day of August because the children had been kidnapped on that morning by the hostile civil authorities in an attempt to frighten the children into denying the appearances of Our Lady. For several days they were imprisoned with common criminals. The angry officials even threatened the children with death by being boiled in oil. The threat proved useless against the three children, confident of the Heavenly reward promised them. Two days later, they were released unharmed.
Meanwhile on August 13, at the Cova, 15,000 onlookers had gathered. Let us listen to one of the witnesses at the Cova:
"Around the holm-oak, we prayed, we sang hymns of the Church. But the little ones were late in coming, and everyone began to get impatient. Thereupon, someone came from Fatima saying that the Administrator had taken the children away.
"There arose then a disturbance, and I do not know what would have happened if, suddenly, a clap of thunder had not made itself heard. The clap of thunder was more or less similar to that of the preceding time.
"At the clap of thunder there followed lightning, and at once we began to notice a small cloud, very pretty, white in color, very light, which hovered some moments over the holm-oak, then rose towards the sky, and disappeared in the atmosphere.
"While looking around us, we observed a strange thing, which we had already seen the previous time, and which we were going to see again in the future. The faces of the people had all the colors of the rainbow: pink, red, blue ... The trees did not appear to have branches and leaves but only flowers; everything seemed laden with flowers, and every leaf appeared to be a flower. The ground was covered with squares of different colors. Clothes were also of every color of the rainbow. The two lanterns attached to the arch appeared to be made of gold."
Briefly, everything had happened outwardly as if the apparition had taken place. Our Lady, it was obvious, had not missed the rendezvous. And She had manifested Her presence by imposing signs, witnessed by most of the pilgrims present that day.
Manuel Goncalves, from the hamlet of Montelo, testified to Canon Formigão on October 11: "There were many extraordinary signs … almost all those who were there saw them."
Sister Lucy relates the unexpected apparition which came to shower them with an immense joy:
"I felt that something supernatural was approaching and enveloping us. Suspecting that Our Lady was going to appear to us, and feeling sorry that Jacinta would not be there to see Her, we asked her brother John to go and get her. An instant after Jacinta arrived, Our Lady appeared.
"What does Your Grace want from me?"
"I want you to continue going to the Cova da Iria on the 13th, that you continue praying the Rosary every day. On the last month, I will perform a miracle so that all may believe. If they had not taken you to the city, the miracle would have been greater. Saint Joseph will come with the Child Jesus, to give peace to the world. Our Lord will come to bless the people. Our Lady of the Rosary and Our Lady of Sorrows will come also."
Looking very sad, Our Lady also said:
"Pray, pray very much and make sacrifices for sinners, for many souls go to hell because they have no one to make sacrifices and pray for them."
And then, as usual, She began to ascend towards the east.
By September, accounts of the visions had raised such widespread interest, the children had to make their way through a large throng to reach the apparition site. Many voices joined their recitation of the Rosary before the Virgin appeared. As before, She stood over the holm-oak, visible only to the children.
Father John Quaresma, who later became Vicar General of Leiria, describes the apparition:
"Once again at midday there was complete silence. One only heard the murmur of prayers. Suddenly there were sounds of jubilation and voices praising the Blessed Virgin. Arms were raised pointing to something in the sky. 'Look, don't you see?' 'Yes, yes, I do …!' There was much satisfaction on the part of those who did.
"There had not been a cloud in the deep blue sky and I too raised my eyes and scrutinized it in case I should be able to distinguish what the others, more fortunate than I, had already claimed to have seen. With great astonishment I saw, clearly and distinctly, a luminous globe, which moved from the east to the west, gliding slowly and majestically through space.
"The globe then began to approach the holm-oak of the apparition. Then the sun's brightness diminished, the atmosphere became golden yellow, like the other times. Some people even reported being able to distinguish the stars in the sky."
Lucy again asked Our Lady, "What does Your Grace want of me?"
"Continue to say the Rosary to obtain the end of the war. In October Our Lord will come, as well as Our Lady of Sorrows and Our Lady of Carmel. Saint Joseph will appear with the Child Jesus to bless the world."
The Blessed Virgin also added:
"In October I will perform a miracle so that all may believe."
"St. Joseph will appear with the
Child Jesus to bless the world."
Witnesses at the Cova described what they saw:
"During the time of the apparition the majority of the pilgrims had enjoyed a marvelous spectacle. They saw falling from Heaven a shower of white petals, or round, shining snowflakes which slowly descended and disappeared as they approached the ground. It was an unheard of phenomenon, which the witnesses had difficulty describing. Some described them as stars, and others as a rain of white roses which vanished as they approached the ground."
The Blessed Virgin wished to give the crowd gathered around the holm-oak where She was appearing, another sign of Her presence:
"A pleasant-looking cloud formed around the rustic arch which dominated the little tree stump. Rising up from the ground, it grew thicker and went up into the air until it was five or six meters high; then it disappeared like smoke that vanishes before the wind.
"A few moments later, similar curls of smoke were formed and disappeared in the same manner, and then a third time. Everything happened as though some invisible thurifers were incensing the Vision liturgically. The three 'incensations' together lasted the whole time of the apparition, that is from ten to fifteen minutes."
The Bishop of Leiria, in his letter approving devotion to Our Lady of Fatima, declared this phenomena "humanly speaking inexplicable."
The expectation of a miracle attracted a crowd of over 70,000 to the apparition site on October 13.
"We left home quite early, expecting that we would be delayed along the way. Masses of people thronged the roads. The rain fell in torrents … Once we arrived at the Cova da Iria, near the holm-oak, about 1:00 p.m., moved by an inner impulse, I asked the people to shut their umbrellas and say the Rosary."
Up on the road, sheltered in their automobiles, all those who did not have the courage to venture into the claylike mire of the Cova witnessed a stupefying spectacle. At a given moment, this confused and compact mass of people shut their umbrellas, uncovering themselves in a gesture of humility and respect, while the rain continued to soak them and flooded everything.
At about 1:30 p.m., local time (noon, solar time), Our Lady appeared over the holm-oak, placing Her feet over the silk ribbons and flowers piously laid there the night before. This time Lucy seemed to fall into an ecstasy, her face becoming more and more beautiful and taking on a rosy tint.
Lucy again asked, "What does Your Grace want of me?"
"I want a chapel to be built here in My honor. I am the Lady of the Rosary. Continue to say the Rosary every day. The war will end soon and the soldiers will return to their homes."
The Blessed Virgin continued, looking very sad:
"People must amend their lives and ask pardon for their sins. They must not offend Our Lord any more for He is already too much offended."
Just as on September 13, the crowd could see the same cloud forming around the holm-oak, going up in the air before it disappeared.
As Our Lady ascended up into the sky, Lucy shouted: "She's going! She's going! … Look at the sun!"
It was at this precise moment that the crowd witnessed the extraordinary spectacle of the "dance of the sun". The rain had suddenly stopped, the clouds were quickly dispersed and the sky was clear.
Here is Ti Marto's account of the event:
"We looked easily at the sun, which did not blind us. It seemed to flicker on and off, first one way and then another. It shot rays in different directions and painted everything in different colors — the trees, the people, the sky and the ground. What was most extraordinary was that the sun did not hurt our eyes at all. Everything was still and quiet; everyone was looking upwards. At a certain moment the sun seemed to stop and then began to move and to dance until it seemed that it was being detached from the sky and was falling on us."
While the crowd witnessed this amazing miracle, the three seers witnessed the fulfillment of Our Lady's promises of August 19 and September 13.
Sister Lucy describes what they saw:
"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 Sorrows. Our Lord appeared to bless the world in the same manner as St. Joseph had done.
"This vision also vanished, and I saw Our Lady once more, this time as Our Lady of Carmel."
To everyone's astonishment, when the apparition was over, all these people, who were soaked by the rain and kneeling in a mire of mud, found themselves and their clothing to be dry and clean within moments of the Miracle of the Sun. Likewise the mud on the ground had dried instantly and completely.
God Himself had surely placed His Divine Seal of authenticity on the Message of Our Lady of Fatima. Virtually everyone who witnessed these events regarded them as miraculous, including those who described themselves as "non-believers" and atheists.