Lúcia, Francisco, & Jacinta squinting in the sunlight

(Originally posted on 2/20/2017 before Jacinta and Francisco Marto were canonized on May 13, 2017.)

Blessed Jacinta, Blessed Francisco, and Sister Lúcia are three child visionaries who witnessed apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Our Lady) at the Cova da Iria near their home in Alijustrel, a hamlet of Fátima, Portugal, on May 13, June 13, July 13, August 19, September 13, and October 13, 1917. They also previously witnessed three apparitions of the Angel of Portugal.

Jacinta Marto was born on March 11, 1910, and was age 7 at the first apparition of Our Lady. She followed Our Lady’s instructions and dedicated herself to prayer and sacrifice for the reparation of desperate sinners until she died during a pneumonia epidemic at age 9 on February 20, 1920.

Her brother Francisco Marto was born on June 11, 1908, and was age 9 at the first apparition. Although he couldn’t hear the Angel or Our Lady, he saw them and dedicated himself in deep empathy to easing the suffering of Jesus via sacrifice and near unceasing prayer for the reparation of sinners. He died during the same pneumonia epidemic at age 10 on April 4, 1919.

Their cousin Lúcia was born on March 28, 1907, and was age 10 at the first apparition. She spoke to Our Lady during the apparitions and understood Jacinta and Francisco would go to heaven “soon,” but her own mission on earth would last much longer. She became a nun, a writer, and a messenger to popes and to the world-wide Catholic Church. She died at age 97 on February 13, 2005.

Jacinta and Francisco were beatified on May 13, 2000, and their feast day is celebrated in the Catholic Church on February 20. The process of beatification of Sister Maria Lúcia of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart has begun.

Our Lady of Fátima confirmed her identity to the children as the Blessed Virgin Mary (Our Lady of the Rosary) during the last apparition on October 13, 1917.

Jesus’s mother has many names and wears a variety of images — Our Lady of Fátima, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Blessed Virgin MarySt. MaryBlessed Mother Mary, etc. The more I study these apparitions, the more I understand why Blessed Mother Mary wears many outfits and has a variety of names. It’s versions of the same identity viewed through different languages and cultures.

Which reminds me, Our Lady spoke to the children in their own language, that of Portuguese devout Roman Catholics in a country at war and whose 1910-established republic government was focused on oppressing religion and the monarchy. We need to translate this “language” into our own and apply it accordingly in our own lives. We should also remember that Our Lady was speaking to children, so she gave them some instructions that were age appropriate.

To back up a bit, I had planned to study St. Birgitta of Sweden next, but as I reached for her biography on my bookshelf, I got the message “maybe not so much right now.” So, I grabbed four other saintly biographies and spread them out on my coffee table for a few days. One by one, I put them away until I was left with the SHEPHERDS OF FATIMA.

After reading that one, I knew I needed another biography to cover the rest of Lúcia’s long life. Throughout my reading of both books, I had to stop many times as I was blown away by all the connections I shared with Lúcia. I became grateful for the earlier hint from my muse.

When I realized the 100th anniversary of the first sighting will be this year on May 13, well, then I understood my Muse was more like an editor handing me a juicy assignment.

THE SHEPHERDS OF FÁTIMA by M. Fernando Silva focuses on the children and their families and what was going on at the time of the sightings. A PATHWAY UNDER THE GAZE OF MARY: BIOGRAPHY OF SISTER MARIA LÚCIA OF JESUS AND THE IMMACULATE HEART by the Sisters of Carmel of Saint Teresa focuses on Lúcia’s life after the sightings. I highly recommend both.

Now I have to let you know my perspective on the Blessed Virgin Mary.

First off, I get really annoyed when people post on social media about a step they took either spiritually or in the areas of community service or moral activism, and then they’re all, “Everyone needs to do this same thing right now!”

I’m like, oh, good for you! But you have no idea where I am on my spiritual and moral journey. Don’t tell me what to do. I mean, invite me to an event if you want, but don’t assume I’m sitting around at home waiting for you to tell me what I “need to do.”

I also know that some people and denominations are not so much into the Blessed Virgin Mary. For instance, the Protestant Reformation, essentially, threw out the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Saints, and the Angels with the indulgences – money collected by unscrupulous clergy from desperate or grieving parishioners for intercessory prayers. (See my All Saints post for more info.)

The Episcopal Church is half catholic and half protestant. But clergy tend to lean closer to one way than the other. So, it can be difficult for parishioners to get a clear take on the Blessed Virgin Mary, or the Saints and Angels, for that matter.

To be clear, praying the Marian Rosary is a perfectly acceptable devotion in the Episcopal Church. The Rosary provides a way for us to mediate on the life of Jesus through His mother’s eyes. The Rosary doesn’t belong to any one denomination, it belongs to Mary. (See here for a how-to.)

Blessed Mother Mary attracts me like a magnet, perhaps because I’m named for her, or perhaps because she perceives a touch of destiny about me. This was a connection I recognized in my late twenties, but ignored because I was afraid of the power in having my prayers to Mary for intercession answered. I felt unworthy of her attention.

Yet, it was she I turned to in prayer for guidance during a Lenten sabbatical from writing in 2012. It was she who whispered (or directed angels to whisper, or asked her Son to whisper) the idea for this blog into my dreams.

The more I research and write for Saints and Recipes, the closer I get to the SaintsAngels, and Blessed Mother Mary; and through them, the closer I get to God. I now believe myself worthy of this connection, guidance, and protection. I’m overwhelmingly grateful for the spiritual gifts and assignments she sends me.

But it hasn’t been an easy road.

About a year after I started blogging, I began to see signs that God wanted me to leave my church where I worshiped and volunteered for near 20 years. I ignored these warnings and stayed longer than I should have for perfectly rational reasons. It was a difficult time. My confusion about what was happening was the worst part. It seemed as if I were no longer welcome, but I couldn’t understand how that could be.

Conditions worsened and Lent came around again in 2015. For Holy Week, I assigned myself many prayerful devotions including extreme cooking and gardening. On Holy Saturday afternoon, after a trip to the garden center, I took my house key out of my pocket to open the front door and saw that it’s chain was tangled in with my rosary. As I held it up to the light, I heard in my head, “It’s time to come home.”

Mary was drawing me to connect with her fully, to allow her to work through me, and to allow her love and guidance to wash over me. It was an overwhelming experience. I still cannot think about it without crying tears of grateful joy.

And yet.

I shared this experience with my rector and concluded, “She wants me to come home to her and accept my identity within her.”

He replied, “In time you will see that that is not so.”

Suffice to say, the anger this comment produced in me was the final heavy straw which fueled the courage I needed to walk away from my neighborhood congregation.

I transferred my family’s membership to another church where I feel accepted and appreciated. I wrote about this in my Visitation post on May 31, 2015. And then I stopped researching and writing about the saints. I focused instead on my spiritual journey in which I read books and articles, wrote, talked to folks, prayed, and listened. I discovered the answers to my questions and am no longer confused about what exactly happened and why. I’m emotionally stronger now than I have ever been in my life. I rebooted my study of the saints with St. Catherine of Siena on November 14, 2016.

My point is, I’m all about Blessed Mother Mary. You may not be, and I know there are other pathways to God. Please understand I’m not trying to tell you what to do here or how to pray. But in sharing the story of Fátima and the words of Our Lady, I will be doing that exact thing.

So, I would say if you haven’t bailed out and are still reading this post, you might have a touch of Marian destiny about you as well.

Lúcia dos Santos was the last child born into a family of seven who doted on her with great affection. Her Father, Antonio dos Santos, worked hard, sang often, and cared for his wife and children with a deep and abiding love. He also respected his wife and appreciated her take on many matters. (His respect for their local pastor, on the other hand, was not so much. We never really find out why, but we do know it was somewhat mutual.)

Her mother, Maria Rosa (Ferreira) do Santos, was a vital member of their community. She cared for her home and family’s livelihood with great competence, she raised and taught her children well, advised younger wives, traveled home-to-home to nurse the sick when needed, and shared the family’s food to all who begged at their door. She taught the village children their Catechism with Lúcia on her lap. In this way, Lúcia learned and understood the whole Catechism by age six.

At first, the local pastor wouldn’t let her receive her first Holy Communion with that class because she was too young. But a visiting priest came upon her sobbing in the church, questioned her on the Catechism, and told the local pastor Lúcia understood it better than most adults.

Her sisters stayed up all that night sewing her white dress. Her mother prayed and taught Lúcia how to make her first Confession and how to ask Jesus to make her a saint. Lúcia requested that the visiting priest hear her Confession, during which he told her to dedicate herself to the Blessed Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ. She asked how she should do that. He told her to pray at the foot of the nearby Our Lady of the Rosary statue. When she did so with complete sincerity, she was astounded to see that the statue seemed to wink at her. Receiving Holy Communion was an even more spiritually overwhelming experience. She felt like she was walking in a bright beam of God’s holy light for many days.

Lúcia attracted friends like no one else. They loved to hang out and play with her. She often had her friends pray the Rosary with her because her mother instructed her to do so every day. But she enjoyed game playing as well. So, she came up with the idea of speeding through the devotion by saying only “Hail Mary” and “Our Father” for each bead instead of reciting the full prayers.

In the summer of 1915, at age eight, Lúcia had her first sighting of the angel with three little girlfriends:

Around noon we ate our lunch. Afterward I invited my companions to pray the Rosary with me, and they happily agreed. We had hardly begun when right before our eyes we saw a figure that seemed to be suspended in air over the trees. It looked like a statue of snow that seemed transparent through the rays of the sun. — Shepherds, page 61

It happened again later that summer with the same three companions. They had difficulty describing what the angel looked like and since they were such young children, no one believed them, and some people made fun of them.

Later, Lúcia was tasked with shepherding the family’s flock of sheep. Her young cousins, Jacinta and Francisco, were sent by their mother with their own family’s flock as appropriate companions for Lúcia. They enjoyed being together, playing, sharing their midday meal, and praying the Rosary quickly so they could get back to their games.

One morning in the spring of 1916, they pastured the sheep and then sought shelter from a light rain among some rocks on a hill in a part of Lúcia’s parent’s land called Chousa Velha:

Then for the first time we entered into that blessed grotto. We spent the day there even though the rain had passed, and the sun had come out, beautiful and clear. We ate our lunch and prayed our Rosary. I don’t recall if we said it the way we did when we were anxious to play, saying only the words “Ava Maria” and “Our Father” on each bead. Our prayers finished, we began to play the game Pebbles.

We had been playing only for a little while, and then a strong wind started shaking the trees. We got up to see what was happening because the day was calm. Then we saw above the olive trees the figure I already spoke about walking toward us. Jacinta and Francisco had never seen it, and I had never told them about it.

As he approached us, we were able to distinguish the features: it was a youth about fourteen or fifteen years old, whiter than snow; transparent as crystal in the sunlight, so very beautiful. When he came near to us he said: “Don’t be afraid! I am the angel of peace. Pray with me.”

Kneeling on the ground he bowed down until his head reached the ground. He made us repeat these words three times: “My God! I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love you. I ask you pardon for all those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope, and do not love you.”

Afterwards, he got up and said: “Pray like this. The hearts of Jesus and Mary are attentive to the voice of your supplications.” — Shepherds 62-63

The angel disappeared. Then:

The supernatural atmosphere that enfolded us was so intense we almost weren’t aware of our own existence, remaining for a long time in the position in which he had left us, always repeating the same prayer. God’s presence made itself felt so intensely and intimately we didn’t even dare to speak to each other. The following day, we felt our spirits still enwrapped in this atmosphere, which disappeared very slowly.

From then on, we spent much time prostrated like the angel, repeating the words he said, until we became tired.

It didn’t occur to us to speak about this apparition, nor did we think of telling each other to keep it secret. The apparition itself imposed secrecy. It was so intimate, it was difficult to speak of it at all. Perhaps it made such a great impression on us because it was the first such manifestation. — Shepherds, 63

Although Francisco could see the apparitions, he couldn’t hear them. He asked many questions of his cousins after each encounter and was sometimes able to add his voice to their repeated responses or prayers.

The second apparition of the angel occurred at the end of July 1916:

Some time passed, and one summer day we had gone home for the siesta. We were playing on top of the well that my parents had in the yard that we called the Arneiro . . . Suddenly, we saw next to us the same figure, or the angel, as it seemed to me, and he said, “What are you doing? Pray much. The most holy hearts of Jesus and Mary have designs of mercy for you. Offer prayers and sacrifice constantly to the Most High!”

“How are we to sacrifice ourselves?” I asked.

“In everything you can, offer to God a sacrifice as an act of reparation for sins by which He is offended, and humbly beg God for the conversion of sinners. In this way, you will draw down peace on your country. I am its guardian angel, the Angel of Portugal. Above all, accept and bear with submission the suffering that the Lord will send you.”

Francisco waited a few minutes and then asked: “You spoke with the angel; what did he say to you?”

“You didn’t hear?”

“No. I saw him speak to you and I heard what you said to him, but I don’t know what he said to you.”

Since the supernatural atmosphere in which the angel had left us still lingered, I told him to ask me the following day, or to ask Jacinta.

“Jacinta, tell me what the angel said.”

“I will tell you tomorrow. Today I can’t speak.”

The next day, as soon as he came up to me, he asked me: “Did you sleep last night? I keep thinking about the angel and what he said.”

So, then I told him all that the angel had said in the first and second apparitions. But he seemed not to understand what the words meant, and he asked: “Who is the Most High? What does it mean to say: ‘The hearts of Jesus and Mary are attentive to your supplication?”

And having received an answer, he remained thoughtful, only to quickly interrupt with another question. But my spirit was still not completely free, and I told him to wait until the following day because at that time I still couldn’t speak. He waited happily, but didn’t lose the first chance to soon ask new questions that led Jacinta to say to him: “Look, we shouldn’t take much about these things.” — Shepherds, 65

The third apparition of the Angel of Portugal appeared in Lúcia’s parent’s olive grove called Pregueira around the end of September 1916. After they ate their lunch, they decided to pray in a cave on the other side of the hill near a place called Loca do Caeco above an area called Valinhos. They recited the Rosary. Then with their foreheads on the ground, they repeated the prayer the angel taught them, “My God I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love you . . .”:

I don’t know how many times we had repeated this prayer, and then we saw an unknown light shine over us. We got up to see what was happening and we saw an angel holding a chalice in his left hand. Above it a host was suspended, from which some drops of blood fell into the chalice. The angel left the chalice suspended in the air and knelt next to us, and had us repeat three times: “Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I adore you profoundly. I offer you the most precious Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles on earth, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges, and indifference with which he is offended. And through the infinite merits of his most Sacred Heart and of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I ask of you the conversion of poor sinners.”

Then he got up and took in his hands the chalice and the host. He gave to me the sacred Host, and he divided the Blood of the chalice for Jacinta and for Francisco, saying at the same time: “Take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, horribly insulted by ungrateful men. Make reparation for their crimes and console your God.”

Prostrating himself again to the ground, he repeated with us another three times the same prayers: “O Most Holy Trinity . . .” and then disappeared. We remained in the same position, always repeating the same words. When we finally got up, we saw it was already night and then it was time to go home.

Although he was profoundly impressed and immersed in this supernatural atmosphere, Francisco realized that night was approaching and thought to bring the flock home.

When a few days passed, and things had returned to normal, Francisco asked: “The angel gave you Holy Communion, but what did he give to me and Jacinta?”

“It was also Holy Communion,” answered Jacinta with unspeakable happiness. “Didn’t you see that it was the Blood that fell from the Host?”

“I felt that God was in me, but I didn’t know how!”

Then, prostrating himself on the ground, he remained for a long time with his sister, repeating the prayer of the angel; “Most Holy Trinity . . .” Shepherds, 66

When we spoke about the angel, I don’t know what we felt. Jacinta would say: “I don’t know what I feel. I can’t talk, sing, or play anymore, and I don’t have strength for anything.”

“Me too,” answered Francisco. “But what does it matter? The angel is more beautiful than anything else. Let’s think about him.”

In the third apparition the presence of the supernatural was even more intense. For some days, even Francisco didn’t dare to speak. He said afterward:

“I love to see the angel, but the worst part is that after we aren’t able to do anything. I couldn’t even walk. I don’t know what was wrong with me.”Shepherds, 68

Their simple life went on, no different on the outside than before except they were often observed having animated secret conversations.

On the morning of May 13, 1917, the children led their sheep to Cova da Iria a pasture with some trees owned by Lúcia’s parents. A flash of lightning drew their attention to a spot near a big holm oak tree. They saw:

a lady all dressed in white. She was more brilliant than the sun, and she radiated a light more clear and intense than a crystal glass filled with sparkling water, with rays of the burning sun shining through it. We were afraid of the lightning, but not of the Lady. Our Lady does not cause fear, but only surprise, peace, and joy.

We were so close that we were within the circle of light that surrounded her, or that she radiated. Then Our Lady said to us: “Don’t be afraid. I will not harm you.’”

It seems to me that Our Lady, by telling us not to be afraid, wanted to relieve our fear of what we supposed was an approaching thunderstorm, because we were used to seeing lightning only when there was a thunderstorm.

“Where do you come from?” I asked her.

“I am from heaven.”

“What do you want of me.”

“I have come to ask you to come here six months in a row, on the thirteenth day, at this same hour. Afterward, I will tell you who I am and what I want. Later on, I will come here for a seventh time.

“Will I also go to heaven?”

“Yes, you will go.”

“And Jacinta?”

“Yes, she also.”

“And Francisco?”

“Yes, he too, but he must pray many Rosaries. Do you wish to offer yourselves to God by bearing the sufferings he wills to send you, as an act of reparation for the sins that offend him, and to humbly beg for the conversion of sinners?”

“Yes, we want to.”

“Go then, you will have much to suffer, but the grace of God will be your comfort.”

Upon pronouncing these last words (the grace of God will be your comfort) she opened her hands for the first time, communicating to us a light so intense that as it streamed from her hands, its rays penetrated our hearts and the deepest recesses of our souls. It made us see ourselves in God, who was that light, more clearly than we see ourselves in the best of mirrors. Then moved by an interior impulse communicated to us, we fell to our knees and repeated deep within our hearts; “O Most Holy Trinity, I adore you, my God, my God, I love you in the most Blessed Sacrament.”

After a few moments, Our Lady added: “Pray the Rosary every day, in order to obtain peace for the world, and the end of the war.”

Then she began to rise serenely, going toward the east, until she disappeared in the immensity of space. The light that surrounded her seemed to open a path before her in the heavenly court of the stars, and so that is why we sometimes said that we saw heaven opening. — Shepherds, 76

The children promised each other to tell no one about Our Lady, but young Jacinta couldn’t help blurting it out to her mother, Olimpia, as soon as she saw her. Francisco had a difficult time admitting what Jacinta said was true, while at the same time keeping his promise. Ultimately, he resolved to not answer any more questions.

Lúcia had an even more difficult time of it as her mother was angry they should say such a lie. She demanded they immediately stop playing that game. Meanwhile, as word of the sighting spread, people began to show up.

The next apparition took place on June 13, 1917, the feast day of St. Anthony of Lisbon. There was usually a town festival including a dance for the children, so their families didn’t expect the three children to go to the Cova da Iria to wait for the Lady. But, they did:

Around 11:00 a.m., I left home and passed by the house of my uncle and aunt where Jacinta and Francisco where waiting for me. From there we went to the Cova da Iria to await the desired moment. All those people followed us, asking us a thousand questions. That day I felt overwhelmed with bitterness. I saw that my mother was distressed, and she wanted to compel me at all costs, as she said, to say that I had lied. I would have satisfied her wish if I could have done so without lying. From the cradle, she had instilled in her children a great horror of lying and severely punished anyone who told a lie.

She often said: “I always managed to have my children tell the truth, and now I have to let my youngest get away with this? If it were only a small thing . . . But a lie like this, that deceives so many people and brings them out here!” — Shepherds, 85

About 60 people followed and knelt with them when the light flashed by the holm oak. The people could discern a bright light and the sound of a low hum, like a gentle voice they couldn’t hear well enough to understand. Lúcia’s voice was clear to them:

“What do you want of me?”

I want you to come here on the thirteenth day of the next month, to pray the Rosary every day, and to learn to read. Afterward I will tell you what I want.”

I asked for a cure of a sick person.

“If he is converted, he will be cured within the year.”

“I would like to ask you to take us to heaven.”

“Yes, I will take Jacinta and Francisco soon. But you will stay here some time longer. Jesus wants to use you to make me known and loved. He wants to establish devotion to my Immaculate Heart in the world.”

“Will I stay here alone?” I asked with grief.

“No, daughter. And are you suffering much? Don’t be disheartened. I will never leave you. My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God.” At the moment, she said these last words, she opened her hands and communicated to us for a second time the rays of that immense light. In that light we saw ourselves immersed in God. Jacinta and Francisco seemed to be in the part of the light that was lifted up toward heaven, and I was in the part that spread over the earth. In front of the palm of Our Lady’s right hand was a heart surrounded by thorns that seemed to be piercing it. We understood that it was the Immaculate Heart of Mary, insulted by the sins of humanity, and which sought reparation.” — Shepherds, 86-87

Lúcia suffered the most from the harsh disbelief in the sightings from her mother, Maria Rosa, who sent her to the local pastor for questioning and scolding because she simply couldn’t believe anyone in her family could be worthy of a visit from heaven. Also, Maria Rosa couldn’t stand the disruption to their lives and the damage to their property caused by all the pilgrims to the site and those who sought to speak to Lúcia. The pastor listened to Lúcia’s description, asked her specific questions, and concluded:

It doesn’t seem to me to be a revelation from heaven. Usually, when these things happen Our Lord commands those with whom he communicates to give an account to their confessors or pastors. This child, on the contrary, keeps it to herself as much as she can. This could be a deceit of the devil. We will see what the future reveals to us. — Shepherds, 89

His response devastated Lúcia who had been keeping silent out of respect and devotion to her mother because she could not follow her repeated commands to admit it was all a lie. For many days, she suffered greatly as she began to believe Our Lady was a trick from the devil:

In this state of mind, I had a dream that increased the darkness of my spirit: I saw the devil laughing for having deceived me, and trying to drag me to hell. Upon seeing myself in his clutches, I began to scream so loudly, calling Our Lady, that I woke up my mother. She called me anxiously and asked me what was wrong. I don’t remember what I told her. I only remember that on that night, I couldn’t sleep anymore because I was so crippled with fear. That dream left my spirit in a cloud of true fear and anguish. My only relief was to be alone in some lonely corner to cry freely. — Shepherds, 93

Her doubt became so strong she determined not to go to the Cova da Iria in July despite consistent, tearful pleading and prayers from Jacinta and Francisco especially in the evening and night of July 12. But the next morning, Lúcia’s doubt had vanished:

When it was nearly time to leave, I suddenly felt that I had to go to the Cova. I was impelled by a strange force that I could hardly resist. So, I set out on the way and passed by the house of my uncle and aunt to see whether Jacinta was still there. I found her in her room with Francisco, kneeling by the foot of the bed crying.

“Aren’t you going?” I asked them.

“We didn’t dare to go without you. Come on, come.”

“Yes, I’m going,” I answered them.

Their faces lite up with joy and they left with me. So many crowds of people were waiting for us along the way that we managed to arrive there only with difficulty. — Shepherds, 95

Their mothers were so concerned for their safety among the two or three thousand people, that they concealed their identity and followed their children to the Cova da Iria. Jacinta and Francisco’s father, Manuel, also attended and later testified he saw a little pale gray cloud rest above the holm oak, the sun’s light lessen, and “a cool and refreshing breeze spring up.” The crowd silenced, and he heard a humming sound, “a buzzing like a fly in an empty pitcher.”

From Lúcia’s point of view:

Moments after having arrived at the Cova da Iria, next to the holm oak among a great crowd of people praying the Rosary, we saw the usual rays of light. Then Our Lady appeared on top of the holm oak tree.

“What do you want of me?” I asked.

“I want you to come here on the thirteenth day of next month, to continue to pray the Rosary every day in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary, in order to obtain peace in the world and an end to the war, because only she can help you.” — Shepherds, 98

Next the children witnessed a secret Lúcia eventual shared in three separate parts.

Part 1

“Sacrifice yourself for sinners, and say many times, especially when you make some sacrifice: ‘O Jesus, it is for love of you, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”

Upon saying these last words, once again she opened her hands as in the previous months. The rays of light seemed to penetrate the ground and we saw what looked like a sea of fire. Immersed in this fire were devils and souls with human forms, as if they were burning transparent coals, black or bronze, that floated in the conflagration. Carried by the flames that emerged from their very selves as clouds of smoke, they were falling on every side, falling into the big fire like chaff falling from wheat. They were falling on every side amidst shrieks and groans of pain and despair that horrified us and made up tremble with fear. (It must have been this sight that caused me to cry out, as the bystanders said they had heard.) The devils were distinguished by their horrible and loathsome likeness to unknown animals, but transparent like black live coals.

Frightened and as if to ask help, we got up and looked to Our Lady, who said to us with kindness and sadness: “You have seen hell, where the souls of poor sinners go; to save them, God wants to establish devotion to my Immaculate Heart in the world. If people do what I tell you, many souls will be saved and there will be peace. The war is going to end. But if people do not cease to offend God, another worse war will break out during the reign of Pius XI. When you see at night illuminated by an unknown light, know that this is a great sign that God gives you, and he is going to punish the world for its crimes by means of war, hunger, and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father.”

Part 2

“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, Russia 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 there will be granted to the world a time of peace.

The dogma of the Faith will always be preserved in Portugal. Do not tell this to anyone. To Francisco yes, you may tell him.– Shepherds, 99

Part 3

Lúcia had no intention of ever revealing the third part of the secret until she became seriously ill in 1943. She was a nun at this point and her bishop ordered her to write down the secret, so it wouldn’t die with her. When she recovered her health, she was physically unable to write down any words about this secret, even though she could write about other topics, until she received permission from Our Lady in a vision. She wrote on the envelope that the letter couldn’t be opened until 1960. It was made public in Fátima at the mass Pope John Paul II presided on May 13, 2000, in which Francisco and Jacinta were beatified. Here are the contents of the letter:

The third part of the secret revealed on July 13, 1917, at the Cova da Iria, Fátima.

I am writing as an act of obedience to you, my God, who asked it of me through His Excellency the Bishop of Leiria, and your and my Most Holy Mother.

After the two parts that I have already revealed, we saw on the left of Our Lady, a little higher, an angel with a sword of fire in his left hand; ablaze, it was sending out flames that seemed to be about to set fire to the world; these flames were extinguished by contact with the brilliant light which, with her right hand, Our Lady directed toward them. The angel, pointing with his right hand toward the earth, cried out in a loud voice; “Penance, penance, penance!”

And we saw in the immense light that is God: “something similar to how people see themselves in a mirror when passing in front of it,” a bishop dressed in white; “we had the impression that it was the Holy Father.” Various other bishops, priests, men and women religious were climbing a rugged mountain, at the top of which was a large cross, with rough beams as if it were made of cork oak with the bark still on. Before arriving at the top, the Holy Father passed through a great city, half in ruins, he was trembling, walking with an uncertain step, broken with pain and suffering, all the while praying for the souls of those whose bodies were strewn along the road. When he arrived at the top of the mountain, kneeling at the foot of the great cross, he was murdered by a group of soldiers who shot at him with bullets and arrows; thus, died also, one after the other, the bishops, priests, men and women religious, and various lay people, men and women of different classes and positions.

Under the two arms of the cross were two angels, each holding in his hand a crystal pitcher in which he gathered the blood of the martyrs that the angels then poured over the souls who were drawing close to God. — Tuy, January 1, 1944 Shepherds, 100

The children were greatly affected by this secret:

Jacinta took this matter of making sacrifices for the conversion of sinners very much to heart, so much so that she never lost any occasion to do so. Some children from two families in Moita would go begging from door to door. One day we met them as we were going along with our flock. Upon seeing them, Jacinta said to us, “Let’s give our lunch to those poor little ones for the conversion of sinners.”  — Shepherds, 103

Francisco seemed to be less impressed with the vision of hell, even though it left quite an effect on him. What most captivated him was God, the Most Holy Trinity, perceived in that immense light that penetrated the deepest recesses of the soul. Afterwards he said: “We were on fire in that light which is God, and we didn’t burn ourselves. What is God! It cannot be put in words. This is something we could never express! But how painful it is that he is so sad! If only I could console him!” — Shepherds, 104

The vision of hell deeply frightened Lúcia, but she found relief in Our Lady’s previous promise to take the children to heaven.

Things happened along the timeline to adhered to Our Lady’s words — A bright aurora borealis was witnessed by hundreds of thousands of people in the sky in Portugal on January 25, 1938. Hitler’s troops invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, beginning World War II. Portugal remained neutral throughout. Afterwards, although it played a vital role in defeating the Nazis, Russia spread its own oppression throughout nations.

Pope Pius XII consecrated the Russian people to the Blessed Virgin Mary on July 7, 1952.

Pope John Paul II survived a shooting attack on his life on May 13, 1981. The date was significant to him as it was the anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady of Fátima. He studied Lúcia’s description in her letter opened by Pope John XXIII in 1960. He believed himself to be the “Holy Father” mentioned in the third part of the secret and that Our Lady protected his life that day. So, he asked Sister Lúcia for more information.

About the visions, Lúcia maintained, “The interpretation is not a matter for the visionary, but for the Church.” But she responded within a letter she wrote to him on May 12, 1982:

The third part of the secret refers to the words of Our Lady: “If not, she (Russia) 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.”

The third part of the secret is a symbolic revelation that refers to this part of the message, depending on whether or not we accept what the message asks of us: “If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world . . .”

Because we have not heeded this call of the message, we can see for ourselves that it has been fulfilled; Russia has indeed invaded the world with her errors. And if we have not yet seen the end of this prophecy as an accomplished fact, we can see that we are moving quickly toward it, if we do not draw back from sin, hatred, vengeance, injustice that tramples on human rights, immorality, and violence.

Let us not say that God is punishing us in this way; but rather that we ourselves are responsible for the punishment. God merely warns us and calls us back to the right road, respecting the freedom that he has given us; hence it is we who are responsible.” — Shepherds, 104-105

Pope John Paul II consecrated the entire world to the Blessed Virgin Mary on March 25, 1984.

The Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989.

Pope Francis repeated the Consecration of the World to the Blessed Virgin Mary on October 13, 2013.

Back to the children in 1917 — August was a particularly difficult month for them as people poured into their town and home seeking answers about the sightings. The custom in their village was that visitors come right into the house. So, there was a constant parade of people standing around Maria Rosa’s kitchen wanting to speak with Lúcia. She had to keep calling Lúcia back from the pasture to deal with these people. If she didn’t speak to them, their presence in the small house prevented the family from preparing meals. One or two insistent folks could be dealt with, but it was a seeming never-ending stream of people.

Meanwhile, politicians from the new anti-religion Republic government were losing control of the situation as more and more people were drawn to Fátima in devotion to Our Lady and Jesus Christ.

A government administrator from Vila Nova de Ourem, arrived in Fátima on August 13, 1917, with the goal of squashing what he called religious fanaticism. I won’t name him, because he was cruel and deceitful to the children and their parents.

After questioning and bullying the children to try to get them to publicly announce that it had all been a lie, he offered to drive them in his car to the Cova da Iria because there were so many people in the way and it would be difficult for them to walk. They, and their parents, trusted him and they got in his car. He drove them three hours away to his home and office. Now, although his wife was kind to them, they were desperate to get back to their parents.

This idiot made them spend a night in jail with adult male detainees who did their best to cheer up the children with dancing, singing, and praying the Rosary with them. Jacinta was the most distressed at being separated from her mother.

AND THEN, the children were told that they would be boiled in oil if they didn’t admit their lies. One by one, each child believing they were heading towards a painful death, hugged each other and took that journey down the hall with their “executioner.” He shoved them into a waiting room where they ecstatically found each other again, alive and uncooked.

They were then offered pieces of gold if they would reveal the secret. This went on for a while until the administrator’s wife insisted they be driven home where the children’s fathers had harsh words with the administrator. Then they publicly offered to share a drink with him at the pub, as was socially expected in their village after an argument.


The children turned all their suffering during this experience over to God for the reparation of sinners, but were sad they missed being at the Cova da Iria on August 13. Those present and waiting for the children at noon witnessed a dimming of the sun’s light like a partial eclipse, a small gray cloud appearing above the holm oak, a flash of lightning and two booms of thunder.

But then, on August 19, something unexpected happened:

I had gone to tend the sheep with Francisco and his brother Joao in a placed called Valinhos. Feeling that something supernatural was approaching and enveloping us, we suspected that Our Lady had to appear to us. We felt sorry that Jacinta wasn’t there to see her, so we asked her brother Joao to go call her. Since he didn’t want to go, I offered him two coins for this, and he went running to get her. — Shepherds, 127

Now, it should be noted that Jacinta and Francisco’s parents and Lúcia’s father believed their children. But, in this case, Jacinta’s mother wanted her to rest from her ordeal, so she hadn’t sent her to the pasture with the others.

Joao found Jacinta, and they raced off to Valinhos without clear permission.

Meanwhile, Francisco and I saw the rays of light that we called lightning, and Jacinta arrived. An instant later we saw Our Lady over the holm oak.

“What do you want of me?”

“I want you to continue to go to the Cova da Iria on the thirteenth day and continue to pray the Rosary every day. In the last month, I will perform a miracle so that all may believe.”

“What do you want done with the money the people leave in the Cova do Iria?”

“Make two litters (a sort of bier or wooden framework to carry status in procession). You are to carry one with Jacinta and two more girls dressed in white; Francisco is to carry the other one, with three other boys. The money from the litters is for the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, and anything left over can be put toward the chapel that is to be built here.”

I then asked for the cure of some sick people. Our Lady answered that some of them would be cured during the year. The, looking very sad, she begged: “Pray, pray very much, and make sacrifices for sinners, for many souls go to hell because they have no one who will sacrifice themselves for them.” As on the previous occasions, she began to ascend toward the east, like somebody returning by the same road to the place they had come from.

On that day Joao also felt something extraordinary, but he couldn’t see Our Lady. After the apparition, Jacinta told her brother that she wanted to stay there the whole afternoon. He told her, ‘No, Mother didn’t want you to go with the sheep today, so you have to go back home.’ And to keep her spirits up, he accompanied her there.” — Shepherds 128

On the way to their house, Jacinta stopped at Lúcia’s home to tell her Aunt Maria Rosa that Our Lady had appeared again:

“Well, Jacinta, you’ve turned out to be quite the little liar! Imagining that Our Lady appears to you wherever you go!”

“But we really did see her!” the little girl protested. Then she showed my mother the small branch she was holding, and went on: “Look, Aunt, Our Lady was standing with one foot on this branch and the other on that one.”

“Give that to me! Let me see it!” Jacinta offered it to her and my mother sniffed it. “But what is this scent?” She continued to sniff it. “It’s not perfume . . . it’s not incense . . . nor soap . . . it’s not the aroma of roses, nor anything I know . . . but it’s a pleasing fragrance.” Then everyone wanted to smell it and they all found it very pleasant. Finally, my mother put it on the table, saying: “Leave it here. Someone will come along who will know what kind of an aroma it is.” But in the evening, we didn’t find the branch and we never knew what happened to it.

But there was no real mystery about the disappearance of the sweet-smelling branch. Hardly had my mother gone back to her household tasks than Jacinta slipped into the house and snatched it away to show to her parents. — Shepherds, 129-130

After this, Lúcia’s father became more vocal in his belief in the children’s testimony. They began to be interviewed by Church officials, who were amazed at how their stories never wavered from their previous accounts or from each other’s accounts.

At this point, the crowds of people had destroyed the crops growing in the field near the Cova da Iria and were becoming almost completely unbearable. Lúcia wrote what happened on September 13, 1917:

As the hour approached, I set out with Jacinta and Francisco, but amidst so many people, we couldn’t get through. The roads were packed with people. Everyone wanted to see and speak to us, and they did so without any human respect. Many people, from simple folk to ladies and gentlemen, managed to break through the crowd around us. They prostrated themselves and threw themselves on their knees before us, asking us to present their petitions to Our Lady. Others who could not get close to us called out from afar:

“For the love of God! Ask Our Lady to cure my son who is a cripple.”

Another: “Cure mine who is blind!”

Another: “Mine who is deaf!”

“To bring back my husband, my son, who went to war!”

“To convert me, a sinner.” — Shepherds, 132

Among the thousands, there were many considered to be “reliable witnesses” who saw visible signs of Our Lady’s presence such as a globe of white light appearing within the diminished sunlight. When the children were in place, Our Lady appeared to them:

“What do you want of me?”

“Continue to pray the Rosary to obtain the end of the war. In October, Our Lord will come, as well as Our Lady of Sorrows and Mount Carmel, and Saint Joseph with the Child Jesus to bless the world. God is pleased with your sacrifices, but he doesn’t want you to sleep with the rope; wear it only during the day.”

Lúcia said, “I was told to ask you for many things: the cure of some sick people, of a deaf mute.”

“Yes, some I will cure, but not others. In October, I will perform a miracle so that everyone will believe.”

I offered her two letters and a bottle of perfumed water. “They gave me these, if you would like them.”

They’re not very suitable in heaven!”

Then she went away toward the east, and I told the people to turn in that direction if they wanted to see her. — Shepherds, 134

(They had found a rope in the road and cut it into three pieces to wear on their wrists as a form of suffering they could offer for the reparation of sinners.)

As they tried to walk home, people crowded and jostled the children so much that they cried out. A Dr. Carlos De Azevedo Mendes, who admitted to being disappointed that he hadn’t seen anything happen, picked up Jacinta and carried her home. She assured him Our lady would return in October.

Things got even harder for Lúcia at home. The crowds of people destroyed the family’s crops and their pastures. They ended up having to sell their sheep which had made up a big part of their livelihood. They refused to accept any money related to the sightings as it was morally inappropriate to profit from the sightings whether they were real or not.

These difficulties and more caused Maria Rosa to continue to demand Lúcia admit she was lying while simultaneously remaining her devoted and caring mother. This was most likely Lúcia’s most difficult cross to bear as her mother refused to admit belief in the sighting throughout her whole life. Lúcia handled this and all other disappointments in her life by gratefully dedicating her suffering to Jesus Christ for the reparation of sinners.

October 13th was a Saturday and even though everyone in the area should have been working on the harvest, they couldn’t resist traveling to the Cova da Iria. It was raining, and the roads were muddy.

Having arrived at the Cova da Iria, near the holm oak, I was moved by an interior impulse. I asked the people to shut their umbrellas and say the Rosary. A little later, we saw the flash of light and Our Lady appeared on the holm oak.

“What do you want of me?”

“I want to tell you that a chapel is to be built here in my honor. I am the Lady of the Rosary. Always continue praying the Rosary every day. The war is going to end, and the soldiers will soon return to their homes.”

“I have many things to ask you: to cure sick persons, the conversion of sinners.”

“Some yes; others no. They must amend their lives and ask pardon for their sins. Do not offend the Lord our God anymore, because he is already so much offended.”

Then opening her hands, she made them reflect on the sun, and as she ascended, the reflection of her own light continued to be projected on the sun itself. This is when I cried out, “Look at the sun!”

My aim was not to call people’s attention there, because I was not even aware of their presence. I was moved to do so under the guidance of an interior impulse.

After Our lady disappeared into the immense expanse of the firmament, we saw beside the sun St. Joseph with the Child Jesus and Our Lady robed in white with a blue mantle. St. Joseph and the Child Jesus appeared to bless the world, for they traced the Sign of the Cross with their hands. A little later this apparition faded. I saw our Lord and Our Lady; it seemed to me it was Our Lady of Sorrows. Our Lord appeared to bless the world in the same manner as St. Joseph had done. This apparition also vanished, and I saw our Lady once more, this time resembling Our Lady of Carmel. — Gaze, 89-90

Now while the children were seeing the above apparition, the crowds of people saw, and many witnessed under oath the following:

Suddenly the rain stopped, the clouds parted like a curtain pulled back to let the rays of the sun through, which dried up all the mud and the soaked clothes of the crowd. This was sufficient to show a presence of the Blessed Virgin, but the miracle would be bigger and inexplicable. Three times the sun with its rays whirled on itself darting about with shades of yellow, blue, green, purple, and this phenomenon was observed from afar. The people took on the colors of the sun. At one point, the whole crowd started screaming, terrified, confessing aloud their sins, making acts of faith and asking for forgiveness. It seemed that the sun was loosed from the firmament and was coming toward the earth to burn all the people. — Gaze, 91

Later, the crowds and questions became even worse. People arrived desperate and angry that the war hadn’t ended immediately. Lúcia had no answers for them, she could only repeat the words of Our Lady. Her mother seeing they all needed a break from this constant flow of people seeking her daughter, agreed to send Lúcia to the village school so she could learn to read. Jacinta and Francisco attended as well, but they made no real effort to learn skills they knew they would not need, for Our Lady had promised to take them to heaven “soon.” Sometimes, Francisco veers off the path to school and spent the day in the church comforted by the presence of Jesus in the Tabernacle.

Lúcia learned to read. The war ended on November 11, 1918. Then a great famine swept through Europe. Next came the pneumonia epidemic.

Francisco and Jacinta suffered terribly. The medicines available at that time couldn’t really help them, and they were already physically affected by the lack of nutritious food. They also made a point of experiencing thirst and denying themselves their favorite foods as a form of suffering which they offered to Jesus for the reparation of sinners.

Lúcia wrote of a specific incident when Jacinta’s mother brought her a glass of milk and a bunch of grapes and begged her to consume any of it. Jacinta loved fruit with a passion, but she left the grapes alone and drank the milk which turned her stomach as a gift for her mother and as a sacrifice to Jesus for the reparation of sinners.

I wish I had been there peering in through her window, so I could shout, Eat the grapes, Jacinta! They’re good for you!

*sigh* Sometimes, children simply know better.

Francisco died at home on April 4, 1919. Jacinta died in the hospital on February 20, 1920. The epidemic claimed many lives including their sister Teresa in 1921 (no doubt, despite eating fresh grapes).

Lúcia’s beloved father died from double pneumonia on July 21, 1919, after taking to his bed less than 24 hours earlier.

Lúcia was devastated by these deaths. But she was not alone in her grief, and she knew her cousins and father were together in heaven with Jesus and Our Lady.

In 1921, Maria Rosa gave her permission to the Church to send fourteen-year old Lúcia to a boarding school run by the Sisters of Dorothy. She became a postulate in the Convent of Tuy, Spain, on October 24, 1925.

Her mother superiors wanted to protect Sister Lúcia from crowds, but they always seem to manage to let one more person in to talk to her as she went about her duties. Sister Lúcia wanted most of all to become a Carmelite, but was told often that the cloistered life would be too difficult for her as she was often sick.

As Sister Lúcia grew up, her faith matured as well. Her life experiences showed her that obedience to God and those standing in for God, such as clergy and her mother superiors, was more important than sacrifice.

She professed her temporary vows on October 3, 1928, and her perpetual vows on October 3, 1934. (October 3rd is my birthday, just saying. Oh, and have I mentioned I’m ¼ Portuguese?)

Over the years, Sister Lúcia’s duties varied — she was responsible for the care of the linens and the sacristy, teaching novices, teaching children the Catechism, and sourcing food and other necessities during the second war because she had a certain charm with border police and others in the community.

Sister Lúcia had a certain charm with everyone. Except perhaps the constant unexpected visitors showing up at all hours.

She loved recreation hour and laughed with her sisters often. She delighted them with stories from her childhood. One of her favorites was when she was a student and food was scarce. She and the other boarder students were forbidden to pick the fruit on the property. One girl couldn’t resist a ripe pear which she picked and ate on the spot. A sister teacher caught her and punished her.

The next day in solidarity with her friend, Lúcia arranged for a group of students to entertain the sister teacher during outside recreation time with a song and dance performance. One by one the girls slipped away, picked and ate a bunch of grapes, and returned to the “stage.” They consumed most of the harvest in this way.

Later, Lúcia knew they had to confess. She went first and was truly contrite in her confession.

Upon hearing the whole story, the priest said, “It’s not a sin since you girls aren’t being fed enough.”

The elder Sister Lúcia could not tell this story all the way though without laughing. (My grandmother used to tell us stories in this same way.)

While she enjoyed the companionship of her sisters, her duties, and the hours she could devote to prayer in the chapel, she wanted desperately to join the cloistered order of Mount Carmel dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and under her protection as Our Lady of Carmel. Sister Lúcia finally went over the heads of her mother superiors and bishops and wrote a letter to the pope asking for an answer to this Call.

She received Papal permission to be relieved of her Dorothean vows, so she could enter the Carmelite Convent of St. Teresa (of Avila) in Coimbra, Portugal, were she lived the rest of her long life. At age 32, Sister Lúcia made her Profession as a Discalced Carmelite on May 31, 1949.

Sister Lúcia’s mystical love for Jesus had matured with her years, and she wrote a letter to Him on this occasion:

Today is resumed, O Jesus, the ties of our oneness, our love, our encounter forever! Only in eternity will there be the consummated fulfillment and the ecstasy of infinity! Remain with me on earth and lead my steps by the straight path of Love, and if You see that I hesitate, support my weakness so that I do not fall.

You know the aspiration that You Yourself gave to me: To love you and sacrifice myself for Your love! On this day, as always, I pray You take that which is written on my heart, which You satisfy in me, a hunger for Your Love!

That in this love I offer myself to Your beautiful pleasure, for this I renew my offer to sacrifice, if You accept it for souls, especially for priestly souls. Lord behold me! Our Blessed Mother has guided me for this, which I propose to imitate and follow. She will help me, and with my gaze on her Immaculate Heart, I will search my faltering steps, my life obscured from the eyes of the world. That is why I am here to hide myself from the observance of the common life, without anything that I perceive. I will only try to attract Your eyes, so that they increasingly light my way. Lord, it makes me feel increasingly the abyss of my nothingness, the helplessness, the weakness of my deeper self, the misery that I have graduated, to strengthen me in the greatness of the firm hope in You! Always staring at the star to guide me through this – Maria! — Gaze, 324

Sister Lúcia was soon assigned the responsibility of rebuilding the convent as it had been occupied by soldiers during the war. The chapel had been stripped and turned into a stable for horses. She had a sharp eye for what needed to be done and the ability to contact the right person for the job. She also wrote letters requesting permits and seeking donations for the cause to great success. At one point, she invited some villages to sit in the chapel and describe to her in detail what it used to look like so that she could have it replicated.

She also wrote books, and responded to thousands of letters. She adapted well to modern ways. For example, she learned how to use an Olivetti memory typewriter at the age of 70 to ease her letter-writing tasks.

Sister Lúcia visited Fátima a few times over her long life.

She was there for the Papal Pilgrimage of Pope Paul VI on May 13, 1967. She became a friend to Pope John Paul II and attended his Papal Pilgrimages to Fátima on May 13, 1982, May 13, 1991, and finally on May 13, 2000, when he officially made public the contents of her letter describing the third secret and celebrated the Beatification of Jacinta and Francisco and the transfer of their remains into the Shrine of Fatima.

Also in 2000, Sister Lúcia published her last book and stopped responding to letters.

As her health and mobility declined over the next five years, she continued to instruct novices, assembly rosaries, sew, and be a cheerful light for all no matter what latest suffering her body was putting her through.

Her last few months on earth were filled with physical suffering, yet she gave all of it to Jesus for the reparations of sinners. Her beloved sisters nursed her constantly, especially in her final days. The day before she died, she received a letter commending her life from Pope John Paul II who was suffering his own final illness.

She died, surrounded by her sweet sisters whispering the Rosary on February 13, 2005. A PATHWAY UNDER THE GAZE OF MARY contains a beautiful account of her final days and hours. It was the first time I ever cried upon reading about a saintly death.

Speaking of reading and death, last week I spent many hours on the couch with Seven, our dying (I mean, we got the “how to know it’s time” talk from our veterinarian.) geriatric, hyperthyroid cat with Irritable Bowel Disease, laying my right hand on her in healing touch (Reiki), while reading Sister Lúcia’s biography or meditating with the book on my lap.

I also admit to much left-handed social mediaing to pass the time. Check out these left-handed photos:

On February 11, we started to notice improvement. “Is she getting better?” (February 11 is the date of the first apparition of Our Lady of Lourdes to St. Bernadette, just saying.)

“I dunno. Maybe?”

“Yeah, I think she’s getting better!”

On Monday, February 13, our veterinarian confirmed she was indeed better! It seems we were, along with excellent veterinary care and plenty of prayers from our friends on social media, handed another miracle — she made it through a flare-up of IBD symptoms even with her advanced age and hyperthyroidism.

Upon seeing Seven all perked up after many days of lethargy, one of the techs referred to her as a “miracle cat.” She didn’t already know that that’s what we’ve been calling Seven for over two years now.

Did you catch that date? February 13 is the feast day of Sister Lúcia of Fatima. And that’s why I cried when I got to the end of her biography.

Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore you profoundly and I thank you for the Apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Fátima, that revealed to the world the riches of her Immaculate Heart. By the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and through the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I implore You, if it should be for Your greater glory and the good of our souls, to glorify Sister Lúcia, one of the Shepherds of Fátima, by granting us the grace which we implore through her intercession. Amen.

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be. — Prayer for the Beautification of the Servant of God Sister Lúcia

To honor Sister Lúcia, Blessed Jacinta, and Blessed Francisco, let’s make something nutritious that includes plenty of juicy, sweet grapes:


1 ½ pounds boiled chicken, cut into ½-inch cubes, cooled

1 cup red grapes, halved

1 cup chopped celery

½ cup chopped onion

½ cup toasted walnuts, chopped

½ cup mayonnaise

¼ cup mustard

¾ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

Place all ingredients in a large bowl. Combine.

Chill in refrigerator, if desired. Serve with bread for sandwiches.

Bonus Material

On Cat and Statues

Right so, I’m including this story just because I love it. It took place while Sister Lúcia was still in the Dorothean convent in Spain where she liked to spend Thursday nights from 11:00 to midnight praying in the chapel:

One day, however, she asked Mother Provincial if she could make the Holy Hour that night. Mother told her that she could only make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament and then go rest. She thanked her and obeyed. When she entered the chapel, the superior of the house came, and a cat jumped inside. The superior recommended to Sister Lúcia not to leave the cat there alone, so she kept company with her Lord while the cat nestled. Only at midnight did the cat resolve to leave, so Sister Lúcia shut the door and took the key to the Mother Provincial, who was surprised and asked, “Sister, you have only just come?”

“Yes, I made the visit as you told me. But when I got to the chapel, the superior ordered me not to leave the cat that entered the chapel. And it has just come out now.”

The Mother Provincial smiled and so did the shepherdess. — Gaze, 292-293

Seven is not the only cat in this house through which I receive messages.

Early on as I was writing this post, I had to eat a messy sandwich. (Yeah, I love that “had to” also.)  But, I didn’t want to stop working on this post, so I held the sandwich in my left hand and, I looked for photos on Google with my right hand. I wanted an image of one of the statues of Our Lady of Fátima, but I didn’t want to emphasize the statue, because a statue is only a representation or a reminder and not an idol to be worshiped.

But, I really liked the image of Our Lady of Fátima and found a good photo to include. Then I noticed that some of the images popping up were from online stores that sold garden statues. Hmmmm

As this was going on, I heard some scuffling in the bedroom, then our cat Quilt came racing into my office and crashed into my Blessed Virgin Mary garden statue that was inside, along with my St. Anthony of Lisbon statue, to protect them from recent roof work. So, my cat knocked my Blessed Virgin Mary statue over and the left hand broke off.

Now, at this point I still had a messy sandwich in my left hand which I was trying not to spill onto my keyboard and I wondered, “What the heck is the message in that?!”

After I righted the statue and collected the broken piece for later gluing, I went into the bedroom and saw Quilt had also knocked over the tiny Blessed Virgin Mary statue with the missing hands my grandmother had given me when I was a child, as well as my icon of St. Anthony of Lisbon and Padua.

I thought the hand thing was significant and remembered this quote from Carmelite St. Teresa of Avila:

Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
no hands but yours,
no feet but yours,
Yours are the eyes through which to look out
Christ’s compassion to the world
Yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good;
Yours are the hands with which He is to bless men now.

Yup, that applies. But there’s something else . . .

And then it came to me. If the Blessed Virgin Mary is known throughout the world in different versions, there’s no reason why I can’t have more than one Blessed Virgin Mary garden statue.

My new Our Lady of Fátima statue has already arrived. I plan to create a lovely Mary’s Garden for its display on May 13 — 100 years to the day that Our Lady showed up for three children, and they showed up for her.

Second Bonus Material — Courtesy of Lent Madness Celebrity Blogger Rev. David Sibley:

The original Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, Russia, was destroyed by Stalin in 1931, intending to build the Palace of Soviets, which was to be the world’s tallest structure and home of the Soviet “legislature.” When World War II hit, and the money dried up for Stalin, that construction project stalled. Ultimately, Nikita Khrushchev turned the site into the world’s largest open-air swimming pool. After the Fall of Communism in Russia, funds to rebuild the cathedral that Stalin had torn down poured in, often from ordinary, faithful Orthodox Christians in Russia – including the donations of over a million Muscovites. The tallest Orthodox Church in the world, it was reconsecrated on August 19, 2000.

While it may not be a spot of profound natural beauty, or the greatest of church edifices in the world, the Cathedral is a testament to the faithfulness of so many Christians during the time Orthodox Christianity was fiercely persecuted by the Soviet State. That the Cathedral was rebuilt to its original form, nearly 70 years after it was destroyed, is a testament to the faith of ordinary people in trying times, and that alone makes it breathtaking.

August 19, 2000, was the 83rd anniversary of the children’s fourth sighting of Our Lady, the one with the tree branch with the delightful aroma.

Update: April 7, 2017

I’ve realized May 13, 2017, the 100th anniversary of the first sighting, is also my mother-in-law’s birthday and Mother’s Day Eve. Of course.

On March 23, 2017, American Magazine published:

Pope Francis will canonize two of the three Portuguese shepherd children—Jacinta Marto and her brother Francisco—to whom Our Lady appeared at the famous shrine in Fatima 100 years ago. Though the Vatican has not said so yet, it is likely that he will do so during his upcoming visit to that shrine on May 12 to 13.

The Vatican announced today, March 23, that the pope has opened the door to the canonization of the two children when he formally recognized the second miracle attributed to their intercession at a meeting with the Prefect of the Congregation for Saints, Cardinal Angelo Amato.”

Also on March 23, 2017, I did a happy dance once again marveling at how I’m not making this stuff up.

AND, I’m more devoted than ever to promoting the praying of the Rosary and making sacrifices in honor of Jesus for the reparation of sinners. There is a major POSITIVE world-wide shift on its way — we have to join in to make it happen.

I’ve discovered a wonderful Rosary meditation book called THE ROSARY WITH POPE FRANCIS. I love it and find it accessible to first timers and inviting to Episcopalians who may have issues with Roman Catholic dogmas, as I do. You can purchase it directly from the publishers, Pauline Books.

Update: May 3, 2017

Sad News:  On Wednesday of Holy Week, our miracle cat passed peacefully away. It turns out Seven’s third recovery from near death was a Lenten Miracle. I remain overwhelmed by God’s grace and how much He truly loves us. See Miracle Cats, Soul Mates, & Chocolate Brownies  where I managed to put some of my feelings into words.

Update: May 13, 2017

Pope Francis canonizes Jacinta and Francisco Marto. The Blesseds are now Saints. Here’s a photo montage from the three-hour ceremony: Canonization at Fatima. I’m overwhelmed.

(Originally posted on February 20, 2017 to Saints and Recipes on Blogger.)

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