Innocence, joy, and expectation, remained for Francisco and Jacinta, but for Lucia it did not. Doubt multiplied with every reference by her mother or Father Ferreira to the devil and his sharp connivance. On the eve of the great day, with the pilgrims coming from all sections of the mountainside, her despair had mounted to such proportions that she announced to her cousins her decision not to go to the Cova da Iria on the following day. The children were shocked; they looked betrayed; only their love for their Lady was able to rally them to defiance of Lucia, who had guided all their actions till now.
“We will go anyhow,” Jacinta said. “And if you’re not there to do it, I will speak to the Lady.”
Lucia said softly, “Why are you crying, Jacinta?”
“Why? Why do you think?” Her tears, as big as lemon drops, continued to fall. “Because you won’t come with us, that’s why.”
“I’m afraid to go.”
“But why be afraid? The Lady will expect you, Lucia.”
“I know that she will.”
Lucia had never really doubted that the Lady would be there. The question that held her in terror was not one of presence, but of identity. Who was the Lady? And by whom was she sent?
“If she asks for me, Jacinta, you tell her why I’m not there. Because I am afraid it is the devil who sends her to us!”
She turned from them and raced back to the seclusion of her own darkened room, away from her cousins’ tearful pleas, away from her own mother’s scolding and everlasting questions, away from Father Ferreira’s grim authority, away from the devils who plagued her days, and even invaded her dreams.
But on the next day, suddenly, like some dusty crepe raised from the corpse of hope, Lucia’s doubts were mercifully dissolved. She could not explain it, nor was she especially anxious to trace the source. The important thing was that faith and joy and hope were restored to her. Exactly when it was time to leave for the Cova da Iria, she ran, free of fear, to her cousins’ house.
“I’m coming!” she shouted. “I’m coming with you—wait!”
Olimpia Marto, the mother of Jacinta and Francisco, is today, in her eighties, a happily adjusted lady, free of all imagined care. She is by her very nature a genial assassin of gloom, and we are certain that in 1917 she was rarely, if ever, the victim of foolish fears.
Nonetheless, on this 13th day of July, with her youngest children gone from the house, she confessed her sudden terror. Long before noon the roads and lanes of the serra were crowded with pilgrims. It is likely that never before in her life had she seen an assemblage of so many people in one place. What if, among the thousands, there was one fanatic who might try to hurt her children? What if, among the thousands, there should prove to be, as Father Ferreira’s concern implied, one truly evil one? She ran in a kind of panic to Lucia’s mother.
“We must go after them, do you hear?” she pleaded with Maria Rosa. “We must go now, or perhaps we will never see them again!”
The more excitable, less optimistic Maria Rosa appears for some reason to have ridden this emotional storm with greater calm than her sister-in-law.
“Olimpia,” she said, “if our Lady really appears to them, she will look after them—no? And if not?” Here Maria Rosa shrugged her inability to deal with matters beyond her understanding, but her statement, as it stands, seems to be her first concession that there might, after all, be some truth in Lucia’s story. She decided to go with Olimpia to the Cova. To conceal their identities, they tossed their overskirts over their heads and approached the scene by a back road that was little used. Arriving there, they concealed themselves behind some rocks, each holding in her hand a blessed candle. “Because,” Olimpia has explained, “if we had seen anything evil, we were prepared to light them.”
Ti Marto also made this journey to the Cova da Iria, but in faith rather than fear, and openly, along the road where the press of the traffic was greatest.
This day I left home determined to see what would happen (he has told us). I could not believe the children were telling lies. How many times I had said to my sister-in-law, “Maria Rosa, if people say all this is just the invention of the parents, you and I know it is not true. We have never encouraged them one bit, and even Father Ferreira says it could be the work of the devil!”
But what a crowd of people were there that day. I could not see the children, because there were so many people in the Cova by the tree. I kept getting closer to them, and then I could see two men, one of them from Ramila, and the other from Fatima, trying to make a barrier around the children so they would not be crushed. These men saw me and grabbed my arm and they called to the crowd, “Here is the father, let him through!” And so, down by the oak tree, I got close to my Jacinta. Lucia, I could see a little way off. She was saying the Rosary and the people were responding aloud. When the beads were finished, she jumped up suddenly. “Close your umbrellas,” she called to the people who were using them to shade the strong sunlight. “Our Lady is coming!” She was looking to the east and I was too, but I could not see anything at first. But then I saw what looked like a little greyish cloud resting on the oak tree. The heat of the sun was suddenly less severe. A fine fresh breeze was blowing, and it did not seem like the height of summer. The people were silent, terribly silent, and then I began to hear a sound, a little buzzing sound it was, like a mosquito in a bottle. I could not hear any words, but just this buzzing. I have often thought that talking on the telephone must sound like that, though I have never talked on one. What is this buzzing? I asked myself. Is it near or far away?
This buzzing sound, referred to by Maria da Capelinha on the occasion of the June apparition, and here by Ti Marto in July, and by countless witnesses in the subsequent and more widely attended apparitions, is too well established by responsible testimony, to be shrugged away. Like the little globule, or ball of light, that so many have attested marked the arrivals and departures of God’s living Mother at the small oak tree, it is part of the Fatima story, and part of truth—a gentle inference from heaven, rather than a blow. Exactly why God chooses to draw His pictures dimly for some, and with the-powerful light of creation for others, we do not pretend to know.
But for Lucia and her cousins there was no dimness. Now, above the little tree, the Lady stood. Her beauty taxed their senses. To Jacinta and Francisco, who had never doubted, it was joy renewed. But to Lucia it was more than that. It was a confirmation. It was a homecoming for the heart and spirit. It was everything. It was the Light of God reflected in His Mother. It was knowledge. It was the end of doubt.
“Lucia,” Jacinta said, “speak. Our Lady is talking to you.
“Yes?” said Lucia. She spoke humbly, asking pardon for her doubts with every gesture, and to the Lady: “What do you want of me?”
(The reader will note, and we hope without impatience or fatigue, that there is no cleverness to this story. The dialogue is always much the same. The Lady speaks her message with a sameness that an able stage director would discard. And yet she gives to all the world the one prescription that the world most needs.)
“I want you to come back here on the thirteenth of next month,” the Lady said. “Continue to say the Rosary every day in honour of Our Lady of the Rosary, to obtain the peace of the world and the end of the war, because only she can obtain it.”
“Yes,” said Lucia, “yes.” She was braver now. Love had restored her. In her gladness she wished only to repair the damage of her recent distrust. “I would like to ask who you are,” she said to the Lady, “and if you will do a miracle so that everyone will know for certain that you have appeared to us.”
“You must come here every month,” the Lady said, “and in October I will tell you who I am and what I want. I will then perform a miracle so that all may believe.”
Thus assured, Lucia began to place before the Lady the petitions for help that so many had entrusted to her. The Lady said gently that she would cure some, but others she would not cure. “And the crippled son of Maria da Capelinha?” No, the Lady said, neither of his infirmity nor of his poverty would he be cured, and he must be certain to say the Rosary with his family every day.14 Another case recommended by Lucia to the Lady’s assistance was a sick woman from Atougia who asked to be taken to heaven. “Tell her not to be in a hurry,” the Lady said. (The tone here is almost like that of any harried mother importuned unreasonably.) “Tell her I know very well when I shall come to fetch her.” There is unquestioned sternness here, for at Fatima, time and again, our Lady made it unmistakably clear that she was speaking for a just and hideously wounded Christ, whose patience, if not exhausted by the sins of the world, had known such trial that even the Infinite had wearied. The Blessed Mother confided to Lucia and her cousins still another secret.15 “Make sacrifices for sinners,” she instructed them, “and say often, especially while making a sacrifice: O Jesus, this is for love of Thee, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for offences committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
As she spoke these words (Lucia tells us in her memoirs), the Lady opened her hands, as she had in the preceding months, but instead of the glory and beauty of God that her opened hands had shown us before, we now were able to behold a sea of fire. Plunged in this flame were devils and souls that looked like transparent embers; others were black or bronze, and in human form; these were suspended in flames which seemed to come from the forms themselves there to remain, without weight or equilibrium, amid cries of pain and despair which horrified us so that we trembled with fear. The devils could be distinguished from the damned human souls by the terrifying forms of weird and unknown animals in which they were cast.
Ti Marto, who was witnessing the actions of the children by the little oak tree in the Cova da Iria that day, recalls that Lucia gasped in sudden horror, that her face was white as death, and that all who were there heard her cry in terror to the Virgin Mother, whom she called by name.
The children were looking at their Lady in terror, speechless, and unable to plead for relief from the scene they had witnessed. Sadly, but kindly now, the Lady told them:
“You have seen hell, where the souls of sinners go. It is to save them that God wants to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If you do what I tell you, many souls will be saved, and there will be peace. This war will end, but if men do not refrain from offending God, another and more terrible war will begin.16 And when you see a night that is lit by a strange and unknown light, you will know it is the sign God gives you that He is about to punish the world with war and with hunger, and by the persecution of the Church and the Holy Father. To prevent this, I shall come to the world to ask that Russia be consecrated to my Immaculate Heart, and I-shall ask that on the First Saturday of every month Communions of reparation be made in atonement for the sins-of the world.
“If my wishes are fulfilled,” the Lady continued, “Russia will be converted and there will be peace; if not, then Russia will spread her errors throughout the world, bringing new wars and persecution of the Church; the good will be martyred and the Holy Father will have much to suffer; certain nations will be annihilated. But in the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she will be converted, and the world will enjoy a period of peace. In Portugal the faith will always be preserved. Remember, you must not tell this to anyone except Francisco.”
The third apparition was over.
“Is there anything more that you want of me?” Lucia had asked the Lady.
“No, my child; there is nothing more for today.”