Lúcia de Jesus Rosa Santos—"Sister Lúcia of Jesus and of the Immaculate Heart," better known as Sister Lúcia of Jesus (March 22, 1907 – February 13, 2005), was the central participant, along with her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto, in witnessing the appearance of the Virgin Mary in Fatima, Portugal. She received messages from "Our Lady of the Rosary" on the thirteenth day of each month from May through October, 1919, including a "miracle" involving the sun that was witnessed by thousands.
Ordered to keep silent about the content of her revelations, at age 41 Lucia became a Roman Catholic Carmelite nun until her death. She later received permission to write of her visions and the words spoken by "Our Lady." Her revelations are among the most famous visions in Christianity since biblical times, and Fatima today is a major pilgrimage site for Roman Catholics.
When Lucia's mother, Maria Rosa, was 21 years old in 1890, she married António Santos. Their children were: Maria dos Anjos, Teresa de Jesus Rosa, Manuel Rosa, Gloria de Jesus Rosa, Carolina de Jesus Rosa, Maria Rosa (died at birth), and Lucia de Jesus. Although peasants, the Santos family was by no means poor, owning land "in the direction of Montelo, Our Lady of Ortiga, Fatima, Valinhos, Cabeço, Charneca, and Cova da Iria."
Lucia was born on March 28, 1907, although the date was registered as March 22 in order to conform with the tradition of being baptized eight days after birth. While most historical accounts correctly refer to Lucia as Lúcia Santos, some of the more modern accounts refer to Lucia as Lúcia dos Santos. This confusion likely arose with the publication of her first book of memoirs, wherein the editor states that the parish register lists her father's name as Antonio dos Santos. Lucia confirmed that her family name is Santos in her fifth and six memoirs. She was described as "not a pretty child… (She had) two great black eyes which gazed out from under thick eyebrows. Her hair, thick and dark, was parted in the center over her shoulders. Her nose was rather flat, her lips thick and her mouth large." However, children loved Lucia. She was a great storyteller with a "gift for narration." According to her mother, Lucia repeated everything that she heard "like a parrot." During the summer, at siesta time, Maria Rosa gave her children and the neighbor’s children catechism lessons, especially around Lent. During the winter, the catechism lessons took place after supper around the fire.
Lucia's first communion came early, at six years of age, 10 being the usual minimum. The local Prior initially denied her from this, even though "she understands what she's doing better than many of the others," because she was too young. Lucia's priest, who eventually convinced the Prior to allow her to receive, was Father Cruz, a Jesuit missionary from Lisbon. He found Lucia distressed after being denied and inquired what was the matter. Having learned of the situation, he tested her on her catechism, and was satisfied that she was ready.
After her first confession, she prayed before the altar of Our Lady of the Rosary and reportedly saw it smile at her. Upon receiving the Eucharist, Lucia felt "bathed in such a supernatural atmosphere." Lucia's first communion left a deep impact on her. "I lost the taste and attraction for the things of the world, and only felt at home in some solitary place where, all alone, I could recall the delights of my First Communion."
Apparitions of an angel and Our Lady of Fatima
During the summer of her eighth year, Lucia claimed that she and her friends, Teresa and Maria Maitias, and Maria Justino, saw a white vision in a human form in the field where they tended sheep. The next spring, 1916, she and her cousins experienced three visits by the guardian angel of Portugal who directed them to pray: "My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love You. I ask forgiveness for those who do not believe, nor adore, nor hope, nor love You." The angel added that "the hearts of Jesus and Mary are ready to listen to you." In the second visit, the angel admonished them, saying: "What are you doing? You must pray! Pray! The hearts of Jesus and Mary have merciful designs for you. You must offer your prayers and sacrifices to God, the Most High." When Lucia asked, "But how are we to sacrifice," the angel reportedly answered, "In every way you can offer sacrifice to God in reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication for sinners. In this way you will bring peace to our country, for I am its guardian angel, the angel of Portugal. Above all, bear and accept with patience the sufferings God will send you."
In his third visit, the angel himself prayed three times, prostrating himself:
Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, I adore You profoundly, and I offer You the most precious body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifference by which He is offended. And by the infinite merits of His most Sacred Heart and through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg the conversion of poor sinners." and then gave them communion. They never spoke about these visions until after the visions of Our Lady of Fatima.
At ten, Lucia and her cousins, Jacinta and Francisco Marto, claimed to have witnessed visions of a lady, who later identified herself to Lucia as "Our Lady of the Rosary," in a hollow field known as the Cova da Iria, near the village of Aljustrel, about a mile from Fátima, Portugal.
Lightening preceded the visit even though the weather was fair, and the apparition of a lovely lady dressed in white descended atop an oak tree telling them "not to fear" and "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."
Only Lucia claimed to converse directly with her. Jacinta said she could usually hear her, but Francisco could only see her. "Our Lady of the Rosary" later identified herself as none other than the Virgin Mary herself. Among the messages Lucia supposedly relayed from the Virgin were the famous "Three Secrets of Fatima." The Catholic Church approved the visions as "worthy of belief" in the 1930s.
Persecution, kidnapping, and doubt
Lucia made her cousins Jacinta and Francisco swear to not reveal their special experience in the countryside. However, Jacinta could not keep quiet and she let slip to her mother that "Our Lady" had appeared to the children. Many incredulous queries followed and as the tale spread throughout their town and the countryside, many people came to question and ridicule the children. Even their families could not believe them, and when Lucia's mother mentioned that perhaps the devil was sending the visions, Lucia became paralyzed with fear. When, on the next thirteenth of the month, her cousins prepared to meet the "Lady" without her, the fear was lifted and she was liberated.
To force her to admit that the apparitions were merely a result of her imagination, Lucia's mother even beat her with a broom stick, but she would not recant the visions. She revealed that the "Lady" had shared a secret which must be kept. A barrage of questions, and bribes ensured by many in the village. The children were even kidnapped by the mayor of a neighboring town, who imprisoned them in his home overnight, attempted to bribe them, and—when they refused to tell him the secret—put them in prison with the common criminals. But the children's simple devoutness and willingness to suffer "so that others would be able to go to heaven" soon had the other prisoners singing and dancing to cheer up the children. Despite reported threats that he would boil each one in oil, the children kept faith in their vow of secrecy, and in the end, the mayor had to release them.
The children continued to visit the site each month on the thirteenth day at noon as they had been told to do. Soon, large crowds began to accompany them. Lucia asked the apparition for a miracle to convince the people of her visitations. On a rainy October thirteenth, the weather parted with lightening and bright lights that many could see, and some in the huge crowd reported seeing the "Lady of the Rosary" in white, followed by St. Joseph with the Christ Child in his arms, both dressed in red. The "Lady" was then transformed into a figure with a blue hood, whom Lucia said looked like "Our Lady of Mount Carmel."
Those who experienced phenomena reported that the sun was strangely spinning. One report reads: "It cast off beams of many-colored lights in all directions. Shafts of brilliant red came from the rim of the revolving star and fell across the earth, the people and the trees; and green lights came and violet and blue in mixed array. It is a story of wonder and of terror, too, as the great star challenges the discipline of all the ages it has known, and begins careening, trembling in the sky for seventy thousand witnesses to see. Now, horribly, it appears to plunge from its place in the heavens and fall upon the earth." Not all who were in attendance testified to this vision but many were convinced that God had indeed wrought a miracle that day. Eager pilgrims stripped the "holy" oak at the spot of all its limbs and bark, and it was later cut down altogether, whether by vandals or people hoping to profit from selling relics of the event.
Now world famous, the children were strictly questioned by Church officials, but by the time a formal inquiry was started in 1922, Francisco and Jacinta had died in the influenza pandemic. The veneration of "Our Lady of Fátima" was authorized in 1930 by the Bishop of Leiria, Portugal, and a shrine was established at the Fátima site.
Life in the convent
In March 1948, aged 41, Lucia joined the Carmel of St. Teresa at Coimbra. She lived in semi-seclusion in the Carmelite convent and wrote six memoirs during her lifetime. The first four were written between 1935 and 1941, and the English translation is published under the name Fatima in Lúcia's Own Words. The fifth and six memoirs, written in 1989 and 1993, are published in English under the name, Fatima in Lúcia's Own Words II. Additional writings include, 'Calls' From the Message of Fatima published in 2000, and Appeals of the Fatima Message, published in 2001.
She lived at the convent as a simple nun until her death at the age of almost 98. She died of cardio-respiratory failure, due to her advanced age. The day of her funeral, February 15, 2005, was declared a day of national mourning in Portugal.
Legacy: The secrets of Fatima
Lucia's visions, the miracle associated with it, and the so-called "Secrets of Fatima" constitute one of the most significant religious controversies of the twentieth century. The “secrets of Fátima,” were not revealed until the 1940s, when church officials disclosed two of them. The first was a vision of hell and the second was understood as prophesying the end of World War I, the beginning of World War II, and the rise and fall of Communism. The third secret was not revealed until the day of the beatification ceremonies for Francisco and Jacinta in 2000, when the Vatican indicated it had been a prediction of the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in 1981.
Earlier, accusations arose of a cover up of the message of Fatima by ecclesiastical authorities, including imposing an order of silence against Sister Lucia. Many believe the complete story of the revelations, especially the Third Secret, have not been fully revealed. Throughout her life, Sister Lucia gave no interviews or statements to the public without permission, but she continued to write private diaries and personal letters up until her death. When journalists sought out Lucia after the Vatican refused to release the Third Secret in 1960, they found it had become increasingly difficult to see her. She could not, from 1960 forward, receive any visitors except close relatives.
On November 15, 1966, Pope Paul VI revised the Code of Canon Law, striking down canons 1399 and 2318, which among other things had prohibited and penalized the publication of any material concerning any apparitions (approved or not) without beforehand obtaining a bishop’s imprimatur. After the revision, therefore, anyone in the Church was permitted to publish freely on Marian apparitions, including those at Fatima. On the 50th anniversary (May 13, 1967) of the first vision, Sister Lucia accompanied Pope Paul VI to the shrine at Fatima with about one million pilgrims. Yet Sister Lucia was still forbidden to reveal the Fatima Secrets. She remained under an order of silence until her death in February 2005, unable to speak freely about Fatima without special permission from the Vatican.
During the last years of her life, only Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) could grant the permission necessary for her to speak openly or to be visited. Even her confessor of many years, Father Aparicio, who had been in Brazil for over 20 years, was not permitted to see her when he visited Portugal.
Few doubt that Lucia Santos will one day be canonized as a saint in the Roman Catholic tradition.
- Fatima in Lúcia's Own Words II (1999), p. 9.
- John De Marchi, Fatima The Full Story, p. 31.
- William Thomas Walsh, Our Lady of Fatima, p. 11.
- Fatima in Lucia's Own Words I (2003), p. 67.
- Ibid.(2003), p. 72-73.
- Father John de Marchi, The True Story of Fatima. Retrieved October 19, 2007.
- Fatima.org, Church Approval and Attack on Fatima (1930-2004). Retrieved October 19, 2007.
ReferencesISBN links support NWE through referral fees
- De Marchi, Joao. Fatima The Full Story. AMI Press, 1986. ISBN 978-0911988703
- Haffert, John M. Deadline: The Third Secret of Fatima. 101 Foundation, Inc., 2002. ISBN 978-1890137496
- Santos, Lucia. Calls From the Message of Fatima. Ravengate Press, 2005. ISBN 978-0911218435
- — and Louis Kondor. Fatima in Lucia's own Words I. Ravengate Press, 2003. ISBN 978-0911218459
- —. Fatima in Lucia's Own Words II. Ravengate Press, 1999. ISBN 978-0911218381
- Walsh, William Thomas. Our Lady of Fatima. Image, 1954. ISBN 978-0385028691
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