The Children of Fatima
In 1917, Our Lady appeared to three shepherds, Lucia dos Santos, 10, Francisco Marto, 9, and Jacinta Marto, 7, at Fatima, Portugal. The messages She gave there were destined to be spread right around the world, and were to affect millions of people. Our Lady gave a “Peace Plan from Heaven” to the three children, and God performed “the Miracle of the Sun” in order to convince everyone that the warnings and pleadings came from Him, through Our Lady.
Why did Our Lady choose to give this message of such grave importance to three children? Who were these children, what were they like? The first question is answered by Jesus Himself. “Let the children be, and do not hinder them from coming to me, for of such is the Kingdom of God. Amen I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God as a little child will not enter into it” (Luke 18:15-17). God showed us, through the three, how children accept the kingdom of God. The children of Fatima, as we shall see, had the capacity to not only accept wholeheartedly the sufferings God would send them, but they would also live as Our Lady of Fatima asked, and asks us all to live. Theirs is a perfect example of how to fulfill the Fatima requests.
A recent picture of Lucia, who saw Our Lady at Fatima. She is now a Carmelite nun. Our Lady has also appeared to her in the convent to give her further messages for world peace and the salvation of souls.
Lucia, born on March 22, 1907, was the oldest of the seers, but the youngest in a family of seven children. Lucia’s parents, Antonio and Maria Rosa, were farmers and sheep owners, and they owned several tracts of land in the district. Antonio, although fond of wine and disliking work, had strong religious convictions, and would lead the family Rosary every night after supper. Later on, when her family began to mock Lucia, her father proved to be her only advocate, as she explains. “He was the only one who never failed to show himself to be my friend, and the only one who defended me when disputes arose at home on account of me.” After the apparitions, Lucia’s father became very ill and died suddenly. The grief Lucia felt at his loss was so great that she thought she herself would die as well. This suffering, however, she offered to God as Our Lady had taught her to do.
Maria Rosa was a devout and good Catholic. She was one of the few people in the village who could read, and she loved reading the stories of the saints. She was, says Lucia, “always very serious, and everybody knew that what she said was like Scripture and must be obeyed without more ado. I never knew anyone to say a disrespectful word in her presence, or show her any lack of consideration.” In her Memoirs, Lucia says that she was cuddled, caressed and fussed over by her whole family when she was a child. If the older ones fought over her, Maria Rosa would pluck Lucia away, and kiss and cuddle her herself, or give her to her father, who was equally affectionate towards her.
Lucia says that she remembers being aware of everything she did, even before she could walk. The first words she spoke were the often repeated “Ave Maria”, Hail Mary. Lucia went wherever her sisters went, and they went to the many social activities in the district: “My mother, knowing that I repeated everything I heard like a parrot, wanted them to take me with them everywhere they went. They were, as we say in our locality, the leading lights among the young people. There was not a festival or a party that they did not attend. At Carnival time, on St. John’s Day and at Christmas, there was certain to be a party … We were invited to almost all the weddings for miles around, for if they did not invite my mother to be matron of honor, they were sure to need her for the cooking.”
Maria Rosa was an extremely charitable woman, and very popular. She was an example to her family and to the whole village. She would teach catechism to all the children who wanted to learn. She had her daughters teach other girls how to sew and weave. Often if someone in the village was sick, Maria Rosa would be sent for to nurse them. She would go clean their house, cook meals and tend the children. Many times, the children were sent to her own home to be cared for. Many of the people who worked in the field would ask her if they could leave their children in her yard while they went to work. The good woman never refused. She had two grown daughters, one a weaver, the other a seamstress, at home all day, so why not? This meant that the two girls wasted a lot of time, having to run outside every few minutes. Then Lucia took over. She was given the task of entertaining them, much to their delight. Lucia had a gift for story-telling, a motherly attitude, and the children loved her.
She would tell them stories by the hour, stories from the Bible and the lives of the saints. She would even teach them how to prepare the yarn for weaving; how to set the wooden winder spinning to wind it into balls; how to roll it into spools; how to string it on the skeiner to make it into skeins; and how to guide the balls of yarn as the warp was prepared on the frame.
When Lucia was young, it was the custom to prepare the children for First Communion when they were nine or ten. Lucia, however, always with her mother or sisters, learned her catechism along with the older children. By the time Lucia was six, Maria Rosa decided that she knew enough catechism to receive her First Holy Communion. Caroline, Lucia’s sister, brought Lucia to the Church to receive First Communion instruction from the priest. The day before the great day the priest called Lucia to him tested her and shook his head, saying that although she could answer all the questions, she was still too young. Lucia’s heart broke, and she burst into tears, burying her head in his lap. Father Cruz, a visiting priest, came out and asked the reason for her tears. She told him, and he examined her on her catechism. Father Cruz finally persuaded the parish priest, Father Pena, to allow Lucia to have her First Communion the next day. What joy Lucia felt! “Off I went, clapping my hands with delight, and running all the way home to give the good news to my mother”. Maria Rosa immediately prepared her for her First Confession. It was so important that she be as pure as possible in order to receive Jesus. Lucia was almost walking on air when she came from the confessional. She went to the altar of Our Lady of the Rosary to say her penance, and, “I asked Her with all the ardor of my soul, to keep my poor heart for God alone. As I repeated this humble prayer over and over again, with my eyes fixed on the statue, it seemed to me that she smiled and, with a loving look and a kindly gesture, assured me that she would. My heart was overflowing with joy, and I could scarcely utter a word … That night … I was so happy that I could not sleep, and it seemed the hours would never pass!” Her sisters stayed up that night to make her a white dress and a wreath for the next day.
The great day finally dawned. Lucia put on her beautiful white dress, and went to her parents for their blessing. The words her mother spoke just before Lucia left for Mass were to make such an impression on her that she hears echoes of it even to this day: “Above all, ask Him to make you a saint.”
Lucia Recalls Her Actual First Communion
“Once the Missa Cantata began and the great moment drew near, my heart beat faster and faster, in expectation of the visit of the great God who was about to descend from Heaven, to unite Himself to my poor soul. The parish priest came down and passed among the rows of children, distributing the Bread of Angels. I had the good fortune to be the first one to receive. As the priest was coming down the altar steps, I felt as though my heart would leap from my breast. But he had no sooner placed the Divine Host on my tongue than I felt an unalterable serenity and peace. I felt myself bathed in such a supernatural atmosphere that the presence of Our Dear Lord became as clearly perceptible to me as if I had seen and heard Him with my bodily senses. I then addressed my prayer to Him:
“O Lord, make me a saint. Keep my heart always pure for You alone.
“Then it seemed that in the depths of my heart, our dear Lord distinctly spoke these words to me:
“‘The grace granted to you this day will remain living in your soul, producing fruits of eternal life.’
“I felt as though transformed in God.
“It was almost one o’clock before the ceremonies were over, on account of the late arrival of priests coming from a distance, the sermon and the renewal of the baptismal promises. My mother came looking for me, quite distressed, thinking I might faint from weakness. But I, filled to overflowing with the Bread of Angels, found it impossible to take any food whatsoever. After this, 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.”
The Fatima Crusader