They dropped the stones from their hands and looked about. They hadn’t expected lightning on a day so fair, but lightning, whether logical or not, meant to them a thunderstorm. Yet the trees were still. There was no wind. The sky was blue as it had ever been.
“But it could mean a storm,” Lucia said; “I think we’d better get ready to go home.”
They began to gather their things and look to the sheep, when suddenly another flash of light, strange and unexplained, held them in speechless wonder. Without volition of their own, they walked a few steps forward, and then, as though compelled, they turned their heads to the right.
They saw a Lady, and she was so beautiful that they were never after able to describe her in terms they believed fitting to her radiance and glory. The Lady was young—no more than sixteen years old, and she appeared to be standing on the topmost fragile leaves of a small oak tree, looking down at them with tender interest.
It was a Lady (Lucia has written), clothed in white, and brighter than the sun, radiating a light more intense and clear than a crystal cup would be, were it filled with sparkling water and lit with burning sunlight.
“Please don’t be afraid of me,” the Lady said to the children; “I’m not going to harm you.”
She looked at them a bit sadly, as though to reproach their lack of confidence. Lucia responded to this reassurance. Politely, but directly, she addressed the Lady.
“Where are you from?”
“I come from heaven,” the Lady said.
This seemed to the children entirely reasonable. They knew of heaven, both from their catechism and the visits of the angel. It simply was that they had never before been able to conceive that even heaven could produce anyone as radiantly beautiful as the Lady standing before them. They gazed in rapture. The Lady wore a white mantle of breathless purity. It was edged with gold and fell to her feet. In her hands the beads of a rosary shone like stars, with its crucifix the most radiant gem of all. Still, Lucia felt no fear. The Lady’s presence produced in her only gladness and confident joy.
“And what do you want of me?” Lucia was brave enough to ask.
“I want you to return here on the thirteenth of each month for the next six months, and at the very same hour,” the Lady said. “Later I shall tell you who I am, and what it is that I most desire. And I shall return here yet a seventh time.”9 Ah, but heaven must be great indeed, thought Lucia, to send as lovely a creature as this. Its gifts and wonders had to be beyond all wild imagining. “And shall I go to heaven?”
“Yes, you will,” the Lady said. “And Jacinta?”
“She will go too.”
“Francisco, too, my dear, but he will first have many Rosaries to say.” Here the Lady’s beautiful and compassionate glance rested for a little while on Francisco, and for reasons we are not qualified to fathom, it held a shade of sadness and disapproval. Somewhere in his little heart the Lady must have read a fault that others could not see.10 In joy they beheld the Lady, while Lucia in her own mind was already populating paradise with friends. She remembered two of her companions who recently had died. And of the Lady then, in her charity, she anxiously asked: “Is Maria Neves in heaven?”
“Yes, she is.”
“She is in purgatory,” the Lady said. That was sad, thought Lucia. Her eyes filled with tears. She looked once again to the Lady, as though there might be something they could do for Amelia. The Lady then asked them a question that concerned not only Amelia, but all the sons and daughters of earth.
“Will you offer yourselves to God, and bear all the sufferings He sends you? In atonement for all the sins that offend Him? And for the conversion of sinners?”
“Oh, we will, we will!” Lucia said for them all.
“Then you will have a great deal to suffer,” the Lady said, “but the grace of God will be with you and will strengthen you.”
As she pronounced these words, she opened her hands, and we were bathed in a heavenly light that appeared to come directly from her hands. The light’s reality cut into our hearts and our souls, and we knew somehow that this light was God, and we could see ourselves embraced in it. By an impulse of clear and exterior grace we fell to our knees, repeating in our hearts: “Oh, Holy Trinity, I adore You. My God, my God, I love You in the Blessed Sacrament.”
The children remained kneeling in the flood of this wondrous light, until the Lady spoke again of things that seemed to them strange.
“Say the Rosary every day,” she directed, “to bring peace to the world and an end to the war.”
Actually they did not know about war and peace. Amelia and Maria Neves were far more real, but they would obey, just the same; they would remember this, and the Lady seemed to know that they would. She was leaving them now. She was rising and passing from sight….
She began to rise slowly (Lucia has testified), moving to the eastward until she disappeared in the blaze of light that cut her path away and beyond our vision…
THE TRUE STORY OF FATIMA
Father John de Marchi, I.M.C,