SPECIAL ISSUE: THE LIGHT IN THE NIGHT
“Calls from the Message of Fatima”
I. AN APPARENT DIGRESSION
IN ORDER TO CALL FOR THE REQUIRED CONVERSION
SISTER Lucy began writing this book, with the authorisation of the Holy See, in 1976, at a time when she was forbidden to reply in her correspondence to the slightest question concerning the apparitions and the requests of Our Lady. She begins, therefore, « by replying to the questions you have asked me about the atmosphere in the homes of the humble children who were chosen by God so that He might accomplish His mighty purposes through them » (Calls, p. 39).
Brother Francis is of the opinion that « she probably wrote these pages before writing her fifth and sixth Memoirs in which, by describing her father and mother, she presented so well and to the slightest detail the rural Christian life of Fatima at the time of the apparitions. » (JPI, p. 473)
« There was such a close bond between these two families that the children felt as much at home in the house of their aunt and uncle as in their own; with an equal pleasure they would eat in the two houses some of the fresh bread still warm from the oven, made into a sandwich with fresh sardines from Nazaré, or with slices of salted cod or sausage taken from the reserve that had been put aside for consumption in the course of the year. At other times, the filling consisted of pieces of game which provided a family feast at certain times in the year: wild rabbits caught in clever traps, partridges caught in the hay and in the wheat fields, thrushes caught in the snares set beneath the olive trees and laden with ripe olives.
« But the whole village was so united that it appeared to be one single family! Everyone knew which was the hole in the wall in which the mistress of the house put the key when she went out. If a neighbour needed anything, she knew that she could go in and look for whatever it was she wanted, faithfully returning it later on. What tended to happen most frequently was for the bread to run out sooner than expected; in which case, one would have recourse to one’s neighbour; then, later on, when the new batch had been baked, one would pay her back with some fresh warm bread straight from the oven. »
Irresistibly, one thinks of the first Christians at Jerusalem who owned everything in common (Ac 2.44).
Suddenly, the Third Secret comes to mind, furtively, when Sister Lucy describes « the little village of Aljustrel, which comprised no more than about thirty-three families, was situated in the Serra de Aire in the parish of Fatima, council district of Vila Nova de Ourem and the diocese of Leiria; at that time annexed to the Patriarchate of Lisbon. » She wonders: « I don’t know if there was anyone living there then, even amongst the very oldest inhabitants, who remembered having seen the red cassock worn by a Prelate. » Is this a reference to the patriarch of Lisbon that made her think of his cardinal’s “red cassock”, while that of bishops is violet?
Even more so, no one remembered having seen the “white” cassock of the « Prelate » that the small seers saw passing by, on 13 July 1917, « something similar to how people appear in a mirror when they pass in front of it” a Bishop dressed in White ».
« Like everyone else in the parish, the two families were poor, hard-working Christians, extracting all that they needed to live on from the cultivation of their own plots of land. Their homes had been blessed by the Sacrament of Matrimony; and their conjugal fidelity was absolute. They welcomed all the children that God chose to send them, not as a burden but as another gift with which God was enriching their homes, another life to prolong their own into the future, another flower to bloom in their garden, filling it with the perfume and joy of the many scents and shades of fresh smiling youth, another soul entrusted by God to their care so that, by guiding it in the ways of Heaven, it could become yet another member of the Mystical Body of Christ, yet another hymn of praise to eternal glory. » (Calls, p. 40)
Here one thinks of the apparition of 13 June 1917: « Jesus wishes to establish in the world devotion to My Immaculate Heart. To those who embrace this devotion I promise salvation; these souls will be favoured by God, like flowers placed by Me to adorn His throne. »
« Hence, they made sure to bring them to the baptismal font in order to wipe away the stain of original sin from their souls and make them Christians, children of God and heirs to the Kingdom of Heaven. The baptism (which had to take place no more than eight days after the birth) was a cause of great rejoicing for all the family. All came together to congratulate the parents who had been honoured by another gift from God.
« It was on their father’s knees and their mother’s lap that the children learned to pronounce the Holy Name of God, to raise their innocent little hands in prayer to their Heavenly Father and heard about that other Mother who, with the Child Jesus in her arms, welcomed them, too, with the same tenderness, because she is their Mother also, though much more powerful, holy and beautiful than the earthly mother who rocked their cradle. Thus, the light of faith grew so strong in these delicate, pure and innocent souls that it later illuminated their whole lives in all its meanderings.
« The parents were careful to send their children to the catechism classes in the parish church, in order to prepare them as well as possible for the great day of their First Communion. At home, they themselves were the children’s teachers, teaching them during the afternoon siesta and after the evening meal. It was usually the father who performed this task, while the mother was busy with the housework, tidying up the kitchen after the frugal supper. The parents were happy to see their little ones jumping up and down round the hearth listening to the stories which their smiling father delighted in telling them, while the chestnuts and sweet acorns from the holm oaks burst open among the embers where they had been carefully placed by an older brother in order to liven things up, causing the children to back away and end up laughing
« The parents felt very proud when, either during the catechism lesson or when the adults were being questioned prior to the fulfilment of their Easter duties, the parish priest called upon one or other of their youngest children to answer the questions to which the grown-ups either did not know the answer, or had forgotten it.
« The day on which each of their children made his or her First Communion was one of solemn and intimate rejoicing for all the family, for on that day God was once again visiting their home and uniting Himself in a true encounter with one of its members.
« It marked the return to God of the innocent soul that He had entrusted to them and with them they sang the hymn of thanksgiving:
O holy Angels sing with me
O holy Angels praise without end!
To give thanks I am not able,
O holy Angels, give thanks for me!
« In their homes there was no abundance of the earthly goods that the world sets such store by. However, with the little that was needed for each day, there was peace and unity, joy and love, the fruit of mutual understanding, mutual asking and granting of forgiveness for the inevitable shortcomings of human frailty.
« Thus everyone was happy; everyone was content, because everyone endeavoured to serve and give pleasure to his parents, brothers and sisters. In this way, the little went a long way because it was shared: everything belonged to everyone. » (p. 41)
Unexpectedly, she describes a memory that reveals her to us as being a predestined child. She recalls it to the glory of her mother without even realising that her account illustrates her own precocious virtue:
« Let me pause here to tell you a little incident which confirms the truth of what I have just said, and of which I preserve a happy memory, as I heard my mother tell it several times with great emotion. She knew that her youngest daughter [namely Lucy herself] was very fond of fruit. One day she noticed how the little one was carefully watching the first of the early figs ripening; as soon as she found one that was ripe, she picked it stealthily and ran back to the house to give it to her mother for her to eat. My mother, moved, took the gift into her hands, kissed her daughter and told her to keep the fig until the evening so that it could be shared with her father and the rest of the family! One fig among so many is nothing, but the love that accompanied the little piece that everyone got from the first fig that had ripened on their own fig trees that year was a great deal, and it was this that made everyone happy, instilling in them a feeling of joy and satisfaction. »
« THIS MIRROR OF LIGHT WHICH IS GOD »
How can it not be admitted that an ordinary child would have eaten the fruit! All of a sudden, from the mundaneness of everyday life, Lucy rises into the heights, as she follows St. Paul’s footsteps and quotes him:
« Herein lies the secret of happiness, on earth and in Heaven: in Love! God loved us and delivered Himself for love of us, writes the Apostle Saint Paul. God loves us and for love of us He is in our tabernacles, waiting for our humble return of love. And God is within us, since we are temples of the adorable Trinity: “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Co 3.16).
With this spirit of faith, and in spite of their lack of worldly knowledge, these admirable parents took the greatest care in safeguarding the innocence of their children lest anything should soil the whiteness of their infant souls. As the Divine Master Himself warns us: “See that you never despise any of these little ones, for I tell you that their angels in Heaven are continually in the presence of my Father in Heaven.” (Mt 18.10).
« Yes, my dear pilgrims, the Angels in Heaven always behold the face of Eternal Light, and in it – as in an immense mirror before which everything passes – everything is present, everything remains as if carved in indelible characters: the past, the present and the future. Everything that exists and was created by God: Heaven and Hell, the earth, the stars, the sun, the moon, worlds known and unknown, all animate and inanimate beings, absolutely everything, receives its being and life from the wish, the power, the knowledge and the wisdom of that Infinite Light which is God, the one and only Source from which is derived all life that exists, and of which every other light and life is no more than a tiny particle, a pale reflection, one of his sparks. Thus the Angels in Heaven, gazing into this mirror of light which is God, in Him, see all things, know all things, understand all things through their complete union with God and their participation in His gifts. » (Calls, p. 42)
This reminiscence of the Third Secret – still not disclosed when Sister Lucy wrote these lines – is obvious here. Let us take careful note that when Our Lady’s messenger seems only to be giving a simple catechism lesson, she is relating what she had seen: « this mirror of light which is God ». Then she returns to her theme as if she had been distracted.
« Forgive me for this digression. I let the pen put on paper what my heart was dictating. But it will be for your benefit, to confirm you in your faith »…
In her great “Secret” of 13 July 1917, Our Lady promised that « in Portugal, the dogma of the faith will always be preserved » But at the moment when she set out to write in 1976 after the death of Salazar and the Carnation Revolution, Sister Lucy must have seen that her little nation was sliding down the slope of apostasy, like the other Christian nations.
« … so that you do not allow yourselves to be deceived by those who deny the existence of God. They are wrong. Do not let them trick or deceive you, leading you astray on false trails which could well lead you to eternal damnation. But I will leave this subject for now and come back to it later, when I shall have another opportunity to clarify things of this kind for you.
Now, we will see that she can go on forever about this « immense Light that is God » without ever saying that she herself found herself plunged into it with her cousins during the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin. There is no better proof of her status as a seer than this silence. All the more so since she finds the entire Bible to describe this « Light that is God ».
This is how, in the universal apostasy, Our Lady keeps her promise. In the person of Sister Mary-Lucy of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart, « the dogma of the faith will always be preserved in Portugal »
« PENANCE, PENANCE, PENANCE »
She seems to come out of her ecstasy to return to the prosaic description of a dignified and honest Christian life. Comparing the simple and modest fashions of long ago with those of today, she recalls that after the original sin « Yahweh God made clothes out of skins for the man and his wife, and they put them on. » (Gn 3.21).
Then she comments:
« This sacred text shows us that God covered the bodies that had stripped themselves, through sin, of the garment of grace. For this reason, we must all clothe ourselves decently, modestly and with dignity. Those who appear indecently dressed are an incentive to sin, and so are responsible not only for their own sins but also for those that others may commit because of them. Reflect that fashion, if it is indecent – and we see that the world unfortunately follows it as if it were a law – is a snare of the devil, a clever trap in which the devil catches souls, in the same way as hunters catch game in the woods and fields. » (Calls, p. 45)
What strictness! Is Sister Lucy narrow-minded? Not at all! She only recalls the « Angel pointing to the earth with his right hand » and crying out in a loud voice: « Penance, Penance, Penance! »
« God did not give us clothing as an adornment in order to feed our human vanity and frivolity. No! He gave it to us as a protection against sin, as a sign of penance for sin committed, and a punishment for it, as well as to remind us of the laws of God which we are all obliged to obey. »
The word penance is going to crop up ten times in the following three pages, echoing, we now understand, the cry of the Angel of the Third Secret. Moreover, Sister Lucy feels the need to bring an Angel onto the scene. After referring to « another penance that God imposes on us as punishment for sin », namely, « the penance of work » which applies to everyone, « rich and poor, wise and foolish, superiors and subjects » – one finds the same attention that in the Third Secret is given to the ranks and positions of the various “lay people” on the path, behind the hierarchy, leading to the Cross –, Sister Lucy questions the “Fatima pilgrims” to whom she addresses herself, let us not forget:
« But do we, in fact, work in this spirit of penance? In other words, in reparation for our sins? In a spirit of reparation and charity for the salvation of our neighbour? If so, we are giving its full force to the first and greatest of the commandments: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind and you shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Mt 22.37 ;39).
And here is the intervention of the Angel:
« The Angel Raphael said to Tobit: “When you prayed, I brought a reminder of your prayer before the Holy One; and when you buried the dead I was likewise present with you.” (Tb 12.12). Will our work, too, be thus clothed with charity, and so worthy to be offered to the Lord as prayer?
« Dear pilgrims, if by the work we do, and the lives we lead, we can offer salutary penance to God; if we can by this means earn Heaven and win salvation, why would we want to be lost? » (Calls, p. 47)
BLESSED ARE THE SMALL
After a digression on the penance approved by the Angel Raphael in the Book of Tobit, a mere shadow of the Angel with the flaming sword of the Third Secret, Lucy writes: « However, now let us return to the family setting I was telling you about. » The passage is marvellously poetic:
« Initiated, as I have said, at an early age into the life of a shepherd, the children grew and developed in the pure air of the fields, breathing in the scent of the simple flowers of the serra, of the heather, rosemary and gorse that grow in the thickets, of the lavender and pine trees, of the eucalyptus that crown the hilltops, of the holm oaks, oak and olive trees lining the slopes, of the enormous chestnut trees and fruit trees that grow in the fields and orchards.
« In this oasis, the silence is broken only by the cheerful chirping of the birds which flit about among the treetops. They include the gentle voices of the turtledove and the hoopoe guarding their nests, the clucking of the partridges pecking about among the rocks in the middle of the wheat fields, then there is the swoop of the swallows, and the cuckoos which emigrate during the summer months; not to mention the swift flight of foxes and hares when someone beats the undergrowth, and the venturesome rabbits hidden in the hay.
« Touched by the fresh early morning breezes, the children live happily with the creaking of the heavy carts used to carry home the crops, the music of the labourers’ harmonicas, barrel organs and guitars, with the singing of the young men and women returning in groups from gathering olives or grapes, with the singing of the cocks in the chicken runs in the nearby villages and the church bell ringing out the Angelus.
« Surrounded by the enchantments of nature, their innocent souls live with a longing for the supernatural which their intuition, prompted by grace, tells them is even richer and more enchanting. Then, when the sun goes down behind the pine trees, they bring their bleating flocks back to their pens, after which they run and play close to their parents who with tenderness kiss them. In this way their pure souls shine like the light of the sun [this is how Lucy, Francisco and Jacinta saw themselves in God], and their smiling eyes are as clear as the crystal-clear water from a spring. Only Heaven holds out a greater hope for them: it is their faith which prompts them to look upwards, giving them a more genuine smile as they look forward to a more valuable treasure. Their souls pray; in their parents’ arms they rest peacefully at night, sleeping the undisturbed sleep of those who have no cares. » (Calls, pp. 47-48)
There then follows a lesson taught with authority :
« Now, she says to her “dear pilgrims” in exchange for having replied to your questions, let me ask you some: if your own homes were not better, were they at least as good as the two I have described? Has your home been blessed and established under the sacrament of Matrimony?
« Have you accepted and are you still willing to accept all the lives which God may wish to entrust to you? Remember that getting rid of them is against the law of God who has told us in the fifth commandment: “You shall not kill: and whoever kills shall be liable to judgement” (Mt 5.21).
« Do you keep your marriage vows, as you promised to one another before God? This, too, is required of you by the Law of God when it says: “Be chaste”. This comes in both the sixth and ninth commandments which Jesus explained as follows: “You shall not commit adultery” (...) “Everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mt 5.27-28) And God also says: “You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.” (Mt 5.33)
« Are you careful to bring your children to be baptised in order to make them Christians, remove from their souls the stain of original sin and make them heirs to the Kingdom of Heaven?
This too has been ordained for us by God: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptised will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” (Mk 16.15-16) In truth, this command of Our Lord imposes a great responsibility on parents. Those who put off having their children baptised are exposing them to the risk of finding the way to happiness barred to them, something far worse than if they were to lose possession of the whole world. » (Calls, pp. 48-49)
« THE SOULS THAT MAKE THEIR WAY TO GOD »
But here is another reminiscence of the last word of the Third Secret. After having recalled to her correspondents « the third commandment of the Law of God which requires us to observe Sundays and the Holydays of Obligation ». She explains:
« They are to be used to make our way to God by taking part in the Eucharistic Liturgy and other devotions, reading good books which will give us a better knowledge of God and of his Laws so that we can fulfil them better, and engaging in wholesome entertainment which will enable us to recuperate our physical and moral energies. » (Calls, p. 49)
Then follows advice concerning the educating of children, for « it is in their father’s arms and on their mother’s lap that little children, while still innocent, must learn to pronounce the Holy Name of God, to raise their pure little hands to Heaven in prayer, to smile their lovely childish smile at the images of their Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. » (Calls, p. 51)
The conclusion of this first chapter shows once again, the concern of passing on the lesson of the Third Secret by encouraging souls to « make their way to God »:
« Thus, every home must be the children’s first school where they will learn to know God and make their way to Him by means of the sacraments and prayer; where they will learn to prepare themselves for their First Communion, not only by being taught the precepts that embody the Law of God but also by having instilled into them that lively faith, firm hope and ardent charity which, when engraved in their souls at an early age, will abide there as a light to guide their steps throughout life. In this way, your children will be happy, and the Bread of Angels will be the food that strengthens them: “This is the bread that came down from Heaven; (...) he that eats this bread shall live for ever.” (Jn 6.58)
« When you read these lines, dear pilgrims, some of you may ask yourselves what they have got to do with the Message of Fatima or with the atmosphere in the two homes about which you have asked me questions. Let me tell you that they have a great deal to do with it because, since the Message as a whole is a call to keep the Law of God, I think that it will have been the fact that these families kept these divine laws, in spite of the inevitable weaknesses of human nature, that drew down upon them the gaze of the infinite mercy of God. »
These last words are the almost literal repetition of those of the « Guardian Angel of Portugal » during his second apparition, in August 1916: « The Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary have designs of mercy on you. »
The second chapter of this first part is devoted to the « Guardian Angel ».
Sister Lucy presents him in this manner:
« The description of the two homes makes it clear that they were solidly Christian. They were, however, very far from being able to put any mystical ideas into the minds of the children, or any exalted spirituality such as is evident in the Fatima Apparitions. Hence, what happened could only have come entirely from God. » (Calls, p. 52)
And this is how, with the stroke of a pen, the “critical” works of the learned Father Dhanis, still cited today by Cardinal Ratzinger as an “expert,” are sent to oblivion!
THE ANGEL WITH THE FLAMING SWORD
« Having replied to the first question, I shall now endeavour to reply to the second, which is the one that has been put to me most frequently: “Tell us, Sister, what exactly happened during the first apparitions about which little or nothing has been said?” »
Lucy had just reached ten years of age when her mother, in the spring of 1915, entrusted to her the tending of the family’s flock of sheep. At that time, Jacinta and Francisco had not yet obtained their parent’s permission to join their cousin. In order to flee the excessively boisterous band of small shepherds that wanted to accompany her to the heath, Lucy had chosen three companions, who are unimpeachable witnesses for us:
« It must have been in 1914 or 1915, shortly after I began to care for my parent’s flock of sheep, because I had already begun the life of a humble shepherd together with other children of the area, when we were surprised by an apparition that completely puzzled us. One day when we were on the slopes of the hill known as the Cabeço, we saw something like a white cloud in the shape of a human being, which had come down from the sky and was passing slowly in front of us, above the trees that stretched down to the valley at our feet, as if wishing to attract our attention and keep our eyes fixed on it. »
The apparition lasted the length of the recitation of the Rosary, which the children had just begun. Lucy related the scene in her Memoirs: « Some of the girls who were there told their parents what they had seen, but I said nothing beyond confirming, when asked, what the others had said. » Lucy was prudent! She would have said nothing on her own. So we can, we must believe the little which she consented to admit to confirm the testimony of her more talkative – too talkative! –companions. For, Lucy will learn what it costs “to have visions” and to be Heaven’s confidante.
« I have been asked many questions she continues in the “Calls”, about this apparition, which happened several times in different places. »
The first person to ask questions was her mother, Maria Rosa: « Listen, people say that you see I don’t know what over there. What did you see?
– I don’t know.
« And as I did not know how to explain myself, continues Sister Lucy in her Memoirs, I added: “It resembles a person draped in a sheet.” Then, wanting to say that I had not been able to distinguish its features, I said: “I couldn’t make out its eyes or hands.” My mother concluded by saying with a gesture of disdain: “Childish nonsense!”
« Some time later, we returned with our flocks to the same place, and the same thing occurred in the same fashion. My companions again talked about the event. After some time the same thing occurred once more. That was the third time my mother had heard about these matters from people outside, while I had not mentioned a single word at home. She then called me, very unhappy, and she asked me: “Let us see! What is it you see there?” “I don’t know, mama, I don’t know what it is.” Several persons began to make fun of us. » (quoted by Brother Francis, Fatima: The Astonishing Truth, vol. 1 of the English translation of Fatima, Intimate Joy, World Event, pp. 45-46.)
« My reply today is the same as it was then, she writes eighty years later, I do not know what it was nor what it meant. But I was left with an interior conviction which I do not wish to conceal, and which tells me that it was the Guardian Angel. Perhaps in that form and without speaking, he wished to make his presence felt and so prepare souls for the accomplishment of God’s designs. »
The « Guardian Angel » is the angel who named himself that way in the apparitions of 1916. When he exhorted the children to make sacrifices in order to draw down peace on their country, he said: « I am its Guardian Angel, the Angel of Portugal. »
But the Angel in 1915 above all announced the Angel of 1917, the Angel with the flaming sword of the Third Secret: « At the left of Our Lady and a little higher up we saw an Angel with a flaming sword in his left hand. »
Indeed, after an excursus through Sacred Scripture with which she intended to prove the existence of Guardian Angels, « created by God to serve, adore, praise and love Him », Sister Lucy comes to the apparition of the Angel of the Lord to the shepherds of Bethlehem on the day of the Nativity. But suddenly, she goes back in time:
« But already in the very first pages of Sacred Scripture the existence of Angels is affirmed when, after Adam’s sin, we are given a description of his expulsion from the garden of Eden: “Yahweh drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Gn 3.24) »
From this it can be seen that the vision of the Third Secret guides the thought and the pen of Sister Lucy
Taken from He is Risen n° 12, August 2003, p. 5-10