Before sunrise on the thirteenth, the people were praying and singing. I came very early myself, and managed to get close to the oak tree, which was now little more than a stripped trunk of a tree, although I had decorated it with ribbons and flowers the evening before. For myself, I felt very sad that this was to be the last of Our Lady's visits, but like everyone else, I was longing to see the promised miracle.
I remember how it was that day, how difficult for the children for a while. There was a priest whom I did not know, and this priest had spent the whole night here. Just before noon, when I began to notice him, he was saying his Breviary. When the children arrived then, dressed as though for their first Communion, this priest asked them directly what time Our Lady would appear.
"At midday, Father," Lucia said.
And then the priest looked at his watch and said to Lucia,
"Listen, it is midday now. Are you trying to tell us that Our Lady is a liar? Well, child? Well?"
He was aggressive, this priest, and impatient with the children, and very suspicious. In a few minutes he looked at his watch again.
"It is past noon now," he said derisively. "Cannot all you people see that this is just a delusion? That it is nonsense? Go home, everyone, go home!"
He began to push the three little children with his hands, but Lucia would not go. She was very close to tears, yet full of faith.
"Our Lady said she would come, Father," Lucia said firmly, "and I know that she will keep her promise."
As to the miracle of Fatima about to occur, we have no obligation to guess. The documentation is thorough and complete. Through several pages to follow, the author will attempt less to describe the events than he will offer in testimony the responsible records of responsible witnesses.
Close to the stripped and wretched little oak, at the chill and sunless noontime of a soggy day, the children wait. The girls seem fragile and pathetic in their fancy clothes. Francisco's Sunday suit hangs wet and baggy on his little frame. The strong denunciations by the unnamed priest still echo with the timbre of his rage. Lucia's father and mother are near, and many of their friends are close at hand. Ti Marto stands in watchful readiness, though his wife, Olimpia, is somewhere in the jumble of the crowd. Dr. Formigao maintains his vigil; Maria da Capelinha is here—pious, of course, and nervous, wishing perhaps to light another candle, or to hang just one more pretty ribbon in hope it will entice the Lady to appear.
The rain continues, and by the official government time it is well past one o'clock. But by sun time it is precisely noon when Lucia looks to the east. "Jacinta," she says softly, "kneel down." Then more strongly she calls, "Our Lady is coming; I have seen the lightning."
The children kneel, as do countless numbers of the faithful; but the people as yet have been stirred by no great happening. The faces of the children are mirrors of ecstasy, yet what they see is not for other eyes to know, except through the testimony of the children themselves.
Their Lady stands in unearthly beauty above the bright flowers and rain-wilted ribbons of silk that affectionate hands have fixed there in her honor. But flowers fade and sunlight pales, and every natural glory of earth withdraws its poor pretensions in her company, if we can believe her witnesses.
Now we find that by God's gift, it is almost impossible not to believe.
"What do you want of me?" asks Lucia.
The dialogue, read this way, does not seem inspired. From May to October it has been much the same. But there is this significant difference. It is Heaven and earth concerned with goodness, rather than with skills. There is no call for Dante, or for Shakespeare, or for any modern literary hand.
"I want to tell you that a chapel is to be built here in my honor. I am the Lady of the Rosary. Continue always to pray the Rosary every day. The war is going to end, and the soldiers will soon return to their homes."
There is a reverent silence. Lucia then explains, "I have many petitions from many people. Will you grant them? "
"Some yes, but not others."
This Lady of the Rosary, who is God's Mother, is gentle, but she is serious. She has never smiled. She is asking for penance. She is talking in terms of Heaven and Hell—a blunt and terrifying equation that so many have comfortably forgotten. She speaks as though after 1900 years, a cross still weighs upon the shoulders of her Son: "People must amend their lives and ask pardon for their sins. They must not offend Our Lord anymore, for He is already too much offended!"
"And is that all you have to ask?" Lucia inquires.
"There is nothing more."
The Miracle of the Sun
Now the Lady of the Rosary takes her last leave of her three small friends. She rises slowly toward the east. The children behold how she turns the palms of her gentle hands to the dark sky over them, and now, as if this is a signal, the rain has stopped; the great dark clouds that have obscured the sun and depressed the solemn day, are suddenly burst apart; they scatter; they are rent like a bombed rainbow before the eye, and the bold sun hangs unchallenged in its place, a strangely spinning disc of silver.
Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco are beholding their Lady. From her upturned hands strange rays of light are rising, as though to assault and make dim the light of the sun itself.Lucia cries out a single time, "Look at the sun!"
But she has no recollection later of having called this out to the crowd. The Lady of the Rosary is no longer ascending. She stands in glory to the right of the sun, and her light is such that the great fixed star is by comparison pallid and weak. For a moment she is gowned in white, precisely as the children have known her each time she has appeared above the stubby oak. Yet as quickly, and as strangely then, she is wearing a mantle of blue, and with her, in fidelity to the promise she has made, is St. Joseph, with the Christ Child in his arms. St. Joseph is robed in red, and he appears to lean from the clouds, holding the Child who also is dressed in red.
These visions are brief and they succeed one another rapidly. Three times St. Joseph has traced the sign of the cross above the people. St. Joseph fades away, and Christ appears at the base of the sun. He is cloaked in red. With Him stands His Mother. She is gowned now in neither white nor blue, but as Our Lady of Sorrows, gazing on the earth. She has not the traditional sword in her heart. This the children clearly note, and are later able to recall. Christ gives his blessing to the people, and then, as this vision passes, there is one that Lucia alone is privileged to see: Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Remember, this is Lucia speaking; this is the privileged sight of three, quite different from the shocking and indisputable phenomenon that is witnessed by the crowd.
It seems strange, recounting here in simple words, such prodigies as this. There can be no attempt to describe the impact of this experience on the children. They have themselves no more succeeded in this than they have managed fully to convey a picture of the Lady whose beauty was more than the senses, unaided, could properly comprehend.
But what of the crowd who did not see the Christ Child, or His Mother, or St. Joseph in the sky? Here the record pursues the skeptic; and inexorably, if he does not flee from the evidence, it will defeat him. The miraculous hand falls heavily. Like stones, the signs of God will be laid before you now to build a house of faith.
When Lucia cried, "Look at the sun!" the people responded. The rain at that moment had stopped; the sun was clearly seen. There was no cloud to obscure it, yet it did not strain the eyes of any man to look on its unveiled light. The people could see that the sun was strangely spinning. It began to revolve more rapidly, more frighteningly. It began to 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. People are crying:
"I believe! I believe!"
They are shrieking, "Jesus, save us!"
They are crying, "Miracle!"
They are begging, "God forgive us our sins!"
They are praying, "Mary, save us!"
This is, of course, not our story to tell. It is the story of the seventy thousand people who were there. It appears more prudent to call them in witness, than to belabor the subject ourselves. We will start with our friend, Ti Marto, who is not an excitable man:
We looked easily at the sun, which for some reason did not blind us. It seemed to flicker on and off, first one way, then another. It cast its rays in many directions and painted everything in different colors—the trees, the people, the air and the ground. But what was most extraordinary, I thought, was that the sun did not hurt our eyes. Everything was still and quiet, and everyone was looking up. Then at a certain moment, the sun appeared to stop spinning. It then began to move and to dance in the sky until it seemed to detach itself from its place and fall upon us. It was a terrible moment.
Among our friends, Maria da Capelinha has told us pretty much the same thing:
The sun turned everything to different colors—yellow, blue and white. Then it shook and trembled. It looked like a wheel of fire that was going to fall on the people. They began to cry out, "We shall all be killed!" Others called to Our Lady to save them. They recited acts of contrition. One woman began to confess her sins aloud, advertising that she had done this and that.... When at last the sun stopped leaping and moving, we all breathed our relief. We were still alive, and the miracle which the children had foretold, had been seen by everyone.
It must be admitted that this was not an afternoon of celestial fireworks enjoyed by simple and unlettered people predisposed to accept any flash of lightning as the Lord's own signal. The 70,000 witnesses included believers and non-believers, pious old ladies and scoffing young men. Hundreds, from these mixed categories, have given formal testimony. Reports do vary; impressions are in minor details confused, but none to our knowledge has directly denied the visible prodigy of the sun's unscheduled behavior in the sky. The special reporter for the Lisbon daily, O Dia, had this to report in the edition of October 17, 1917:
At one o'clock in the afternoon, midday by the sun, the rain stopped. The sky, pearly grey in color, illuminated the vast arid landscape with a strange light. The sun had a transparent gauzy veil so that the eyes could easily be fixed upon it. The grey mother-of-pearl tone turned into a sheet of silver which broke up as the clouds were torn apart and the silver sun, enveloped in the same gauzy grey light, was seen to whirl and turn in the circle of broken clouds. A cry went up from every mouth and people fell on their knees on the muddy ground....
The light turned a beautiful blue, as if it had come through the stained-glass windows of a cathedral, and spread itself over the people who knelt with outstretched hands. The blue faded slowly, and then the light seemed to pass through yellow glass. Yellow stains fell against white handkerchiefs, against the dark skirts of the women. They were repeated on the trees, on the stones and on the serra. People wept and prayed with uncovered heads, in the presence of a miracle they had awaited. The seconds seemed like hours, so vivid were they.
In the journal, O Seculo, which we have previously described as Portugal's most influential newspaper—pro-government in policy, and avowedly anticlerical, the following extract was published under the by-line of Avelino de Almeida:
From the road, where the vehicles were parked and where hundreds of people who had not dared to brave the mud were congregated, one could see the immense multitude turn toward the sun, which appeared free from clouds and in its zenith. It looked like a plaque of dull silver, and it was possible to look at it without the least discomfort. It might have been an eclipse which was taking place. But at that moment a great shout went up, and one could hear the spectators nearest at hand shouting: "A miracle! A miracle!"
Before the astonished eyes of the crowd, whose aspect was biblical as they stood bareheaded, eagerly searching the sky, the sun trembled, made sudden incredible movements outside all cosmic laws—the sun "danced" according to the typical expression of the people.
Standing at the step of an omnibus was an old man. With his face turned to the sun, he recited the Credo in a loud voice. I asked who he was and was told Senhor Joao da Cunha Vasconcelos. I saw him afterwards going up to those around him who still had their hats on, and vehemently imploring them to uncover before such an extraordinary demonstration of the existence of God.
Identical scenes were repeated elsewhere, and in one place a woman cried out: "How terrible! There are even men who do not uncover before such a stupendous miracle!"
People then began to ask each other what they had seen. The great majority admitted to having seen the trembling and the dancing of the sun; others affirmed that they saw the face of the Blessed Virgin; others, again, swore that the sun whirled on itself like a giant Catherine wheel and that it lowered itself to the earth as if to burn it in its rays. Some said they saw it change colors successively....
Another, and entirely responsible witness of the great event in the Cova da Iria, was Dr. Almeida Garrett, of Coimbra University, who in response to a request by Dr. Formigao, recorded the following:
I was looking at the place of the apparitions, in a serene, if cold, expectation of something happening, and with diminishing curiosity, because a long time had passed without anything to excite my attention. Then I heard a shout from thousands of voices and saw the multitude suddenly turn its back and shoulders away from the point toward which up to now it had directed its attention, and turn to look at the sky on the opposite side.
It must have been nearly two o'clock by the legal time, and about midday by the sun. The sun, a few moments before, had broken through the thick layer of clouds which hid it, and shone clearly and intensely. I veered to the magnet which seemed to be drawing all eyes, and saw it as a disc with a clean-cut rim, luminous and shining, but which did not hurt the eyes. I do not agree with the comparison which I have heard made in Fatima—that of a dull silver disc. It was a clearer, richer, brighter color, having something of the luster of a pearl. It did not in the least resemble the moon on a clear night because one saw it and felt it to be a living body. It was not spheric like the moon, nor did it have the same color, tone, or shading. It looked like a glazed wheel made of mother-of-pearl. It could not be confused, either, with the sun seen through fog (for there was no fog at the time), because it was not opaque, diffused or veiled. In Fatima it gave light and heat and appeared clear-cut with a well-defined rim.
The sky was mottled with light cirrus clouds with the blue coming through here and there, but sometimes the sun stood out in patches of clear sky. The clouds passed from west to east and did not obscure the light of the sun, giving the impression of passing behind it, though sometimes these flecks of white took on tones of pink or diaphanous blue as they passed before the sun.
It was a remarkable fact that one could fix one's eyes on this brazier of heat and light without any pain in the eyes or blinding of the retina. The phenomenon, except for two interruptions when the sun seemed to send out rays of refulgent heat which obliged us to look away, must have lasted about ten minutes.
The sun's disc did not remain immobile. This was not the sparkling of a Heavenly body, for it spun round on itself in a mad whirl. Then, suddenly, one heard a clamor, a cry of anguish breaking from all the people. The sun, whirling wildly, seemed to loosen itself from the firmament and advance threateningly upon the earth as if to crush us with its huge and fiery weight. The sensation during those moments was terrible.
During the solar phenomenon, which I have just described in detail, there were changes of color in the atmosphere. Looking at the sun, I noticed that everything around was becoming darkened. I looked first at the nearest objects and then extended my glance further afield as far as the horizon. I saw everything an amethyst color. Objects around me, the sky and the atmosphere, were of the same color. An oak tree nearby threw a shadow of this color on the ground.
Fearing that I was suffering from an affection of the retina, an improbable explanation because in that case one could not see things purple-colored, I turned away and shut my eyes, keeping my hands before them to intercept the light. With my back still turned, I opened my eyes and saw that the landscape was the same purple color as before.
The impression was not that of an eclipse, and while looking at the sun I noticed that the atmosphere had cleared. Soon after I heard a peasant who was near me shout out in tones of astonishment: "Look, that lady is all yellow!"
And in fact everything, both near and far, had changed, taking on the color of old yellow damask. People looked as if they were suffering from jaundice, and I recall a sensation of amusement at seeing them look so ugly and unattractive. My own hand was the same color. All the phenomena which I have described were observed by me in a calm and serene state of mind, and without any emotional disturbance. It is for others to interpret and explain them.
You may be assured the quotations here supplied from the testimony of actual witnesses represent the general impression of the countless number of people we have interviewed. Looking back, there does seem to be an oversupply of doctors. It should be made clear that Dr. Garrett is not a physician, but a university professor. Dr. Formigao, as earlier explained, is a priest, and his doctorate was gained in philosophy, at Rome. Both are teamed, responsible men. But in consideration of whether or not the great commotion at Fatima that day represented the work of Heaven, or a general optical illusion, it is comforting to call as a witness Dr. Domingos Pinto Coelho, who happened to be, of all convenient things, an eminent eye specialist. The following is from his report in the newspaper Ordem:
The sun, at one moment surrounded with scarlet flame, at another aureoled in yellow and deep purple, seemed to be in an exceedingly fast and whirling movement, at times appearing to be loosened from the sky and to be approaching the earth, strongly radiating heat.
On the evening of that same October 13, Father Manuel Pereira da Silva wrote to his friend and colleague, Canon Pereira de Almeida (don't let the confusion of baptismal and surnames defeat you), the following description:
The sun appeared with its circumference well defined. It came down as if to the height of the clouds and began to whirl giddily upon itself like a captive ball of fire. With some interruptions, this lasted about eight minutes. The atmosphere darkened and the features of each became yellow. Everyone knelt even in the mud....
The impressions of Father da Silva are especially interesting because he had been bitterly and outspokenly skeptical of the entire affair. Faith then hit him with such impact that he vowed, perhaps in reparation for his cynicism, never again to indulge his happy taste for wine. Whatever his motive, it was a promise the good father kept.
While writing this book we met Senhor Alfredo da Silva Santos, who was attending a retreat for professional men. Knowing that Senhor Santos had been present on the day of the solar prodigy, we asked what he was able to recall.
On the day before (he told us), I was in the Cafe Martinho, in Lisbon, when my cousin, John Lindim, from Torres Novas, entered and said to me:
"Everyone is going to Fatima tomorrow. There seems to be something extraordinary in the air, and we are all full of curiosity to know what it is all about."
"I will go with you," I told him.
We made our arrangements, and went in three motor cars on the early morning of the 13th. There was a thick mist, and the car which went in front mistook the way so that we were all lost for a time and only arrived at the Cova da Iria at midday by the sun. It was absolutely full of people, but for my part I felt devoid of any religious feeling. When Lucia called out: "Look at the sun!" the whole multitude repeated: "Attention to the sun!" It was a day of incessant drizzle but a few moments before the miracle it stopped raining. I can hardly find words to describe what followed. The sun began to move, and at a certain moment appeared to be detached from the sky and about to hurtle upon us like a wheel of flame. My wife—we had been married only a short time—fainted, and I was too upset to attend to her, and my brother-in-law, Joao Vassalo, supported her on his arm. I fell on my knees, oblivious of everything, and when I got up I don't know what I said. I think I began to cry out like the others. An old man with a white beard began to attack the atheists aloud and challenged them to say whether or not something supernatural had occurred.
"Well," we asked him, "truthfully now—do you think it could have been a case of collective suggestion?"
He laughed and shook his head. "No," Senhor Santos said, "the only collective thing I can remember that day was the rain that soaked all of us through to our bones."
Actually, this hypothesis of mass hallucination suffers decisive defeat from an incontrovertible fact: the phenomenon was observed not only at Cova da Iria, but by people who were substantial distances away from there, and by no means in receptive spiritual moods. The Portuguese poet, Alfonso Lopes Vieira, observed the bright display from a distance of nearly 25 miles.
On that day of October 13, 1917 (Senhor Vieira recalls), without remembering the predictions of the children, I was enchanted by a remarkable spectacle in the sky of a kind I had never seen before. I saw it from this veranda....
An interesting document has been left by the late Father Inacio Lourenco, a priest from Alburitel, a village about eleven miles from Fatima. We have ourselves taken the trouble to verify his recollections with many of his surviving parishioners, and especially with the school teacher, Dona Delfina Lopes, to whom he refers. Here is Father Lourenco's report:
I was only nine years old at this time, and I went to the local village school. At about midday we were surprised by the shouts and cries of some men and women who were passing in the street in front of the school. The teacher, a good, pious woman, though nervous and impressionable, was the first to run into the road, with the children after her.
Outside, the people were shouting and weeping and pointing to the sun, ignoring the agitated questions of the schoolmistress. It was the great Miracle, which one could see quite distinctly from the top of the hill where my village was situated—the Miracle of the sun, accompanied by all its extraordinary phenomena.
I feel incapable of describing what I saw and felt. I looked fixedly at the sun, which seemed pale and did not hurt the eyes. Looking like a ball of snow revolving on itself, it suddenly seemed to come down in a zigzag, menacing the earth. Terrified, I ran and hid myself among the people, who were weeping and expecting the end of the world at any moment.
Near us was an unbeliever who had spent the morning mocking at the simpletons who had gone off to Fatima just to see an ordinary girl. He now seemed to be paralyzed, his eyes fixed on the sun. Afterwards he trembled from head to foot and lifting up his arms fell on his knees in the mud, crying out to Our Lady.
Meanwhile the people continued to cry out and to weep, asking God to pardon their sins. We all ran to the two chapels in the village, which were soon filled to overflowing. During those long moments of the solar prodigy, objects around us turned all the colors of the rainbow. We saw ourselves blue, yellow, red, etc. All these strange phenomena increased the fears of the people. After about ten minutes the sun, now dull and pallid, returned to its place. When the people realized that the danger was over, there was an explosion of joy, and everyone joined in thanksgiving and praise to Our Lady.
The evidence mounts that for the devout, the pagan, and the coolly in-between, it must have been an exciting afternoon. Decide as you will whether the power of God or the faulty eyesight of 70,000 is responsible for this chapter of contemporary history. Believe only that we, who are reporting it here, lived for more than seven years within sight of the Cova da Iria, and have yet found no one to confound or deny with just reason, the events of this memorable day.
Perhaps less dramatic than the visible acrobatics of a heavenly body ninety million miles removed from earth, was another phenomenon we have not yet emphasized. In that hectic noontime, while the great star hung in cloudless clarity, the people, who had been drenched and soggy with the pelting, unremitting rain, were suddenly and completely dry—their shoes and stockings, their skin and their clothes.
We'll quote from a pastoral letter on the apparitions written in 1922 by D. Jose Alves Correia da Silva, the bishop of Leiria:
The solar phenomenon of October 13, described in newspapers of the time, was of a most marvelous nature and caused the deepest impression on those who had the good fortune to witness it.
The children had foretold the day and the hour at which it would occur. The news spread rapidly throughout Portugal, and in spite of bad weather, thousands and thousands of people congregated at the spot. At the hour of the last apparition they witnessed all the manifestations of the sun which paid homage to the Queen of Heaven and earth, more brilliant than the heavenly body itself at its zenith of light.
This phenomenon, which was not registered in any astronomical observatory, and could not, therefore, have been of natural origin, was witnessed by people of every category and class, by believers as well as unbelievers, journalists of the principal daily papers and even by people miles away, a fact which destroys any theory of collective hallucination.25 At seven o'clock, on the evening of October 13, Dr. Formigao continued his methodical questioning of the children. He had no desire to punish them in their weariness, because if the day had substantiated their claims and exalted them in joy, it had also wilted them with its many emotional trials. Zealous strangers and frantic friends had been at them since the hour of rising. They were sleepy and tired, bewildered and strained, and it seemed to the wise priest almost as cruel to press them further, as it was essential to question them now while their impressions were still fresh. They must have no time alone for private counsel and possible conspiracy. He believed them all right; wholeheartedly he had rejoiced at the manifestations of the day. And yet, as a conscientious sleuth—or devil's advocate—he could not permit his own affection to hinder his objectivity. He was able to interview each of them, alone, and with calm deliberation. The first witness was Lucia.
"Did Our Lady appear again today in the Cova da Iria?"
"Was she dressed as on the other occasions?"
"She was dressed in the same way."
"Did St. Joseph and the Holy Child appear?"
"Did anyone else appear?"
"Our Lord appeared and blessed the people and Our Lady of the two cards."
"What do you mean by Our Lady of the two cards?"
"Our Lady appeared dressed like Our Lady of Dolors but without the sword in her heart, and Our Lady dressed—I don't quite know how, but I think it was Our Lady of Mount Carmel."
"They all came at the same time, did they not?"
With my presentiment of the truth of the apparitions, I confess that it was with trepidation that I asked this question, purposely giving it an affirmative form (Dr. Formigao told us). Although it would not have been, strictly speaking, impossible for the children to have had a simultaneous vision of the three Images of the Blessed Virgin, it would clearly have created a serious difficulty.
"No. First I saw Our Lady of the Rosary, then St. Joseph and the Holy Child. After that I saw Our Lord, then Our Lady of Dolors and at the end what I think was Our Lady of Mount Carmel."
"Was the Holy Child standing or being carried by St. Joseph?"
"He was being carried by St. Joseph."
"Was He already a big child?"
"No. He was little."
"How old would He have been?"
"About a year."
"Why did you say that the Lady at one moment seemed to be dressed like Our Lady of Mount Carmel?"
"Because she had two things hanging from her hand."
"Did they appear on the oak tree?"
"No, they appeared near the sun, after the Lady had disappeared from the oak tree."
"Was Our Lord standing?"
"I only saw Him from the waist."
"How long did the apparition on the oak tree last? Long enough to say the Rosary?"
"I don't think it was as long as that."
"Did the figures you saw in the sun last long?"
"No, only a short time."
"Did the Lady say who she was?"
"She said that she was the Lady of the Rosary."
"Did you ask what she wanted?"
"What did she say?"
"She said that we were to amend our lives and not offend Our Lord anymore because He was too much offended already, and that we were to say the Rosary and ask pardon for our sins."
"Did she say anything else?"
"She said that a chapel was to be built in the Cova da Iria."
"Where was the money to come from?"
"I think it would be what was left there."
"Did she say anything about our soldiers who were killed in the war?"
"No, she said nothing about them."
"Did she tell you to tell the people to look at the sun?"
"Did she say that the people were to do penance?"
"Did she use the word penance?"
"No. She said we were to say the Rosary and amend our lives and ask pardon of Our Lord, but she did not use the word penance."
"When did the sign in the sun begin? Was it after the Lady disappeared?"
"Did you see the Lady come?"
"Where did she come from?"
"From the east."
"And the other times?"
"I didn't look the other times."
"Did you see her go?"
"In which direction?"
"To the east."
"How did she disappear?"
"Little by little."
"What disappeared first?"
"Her head. Then her body, and the last thing I saw was her feet."
"When she went did she go with her back toward or away from the people?"
"With her back toward the people."
"Did she take long to go?"
"Only a short time."
"Was she surrounded by any light?"
"I saw her in the middle of brilliant light. This time, too, she was blinding. Sometimes I had to rub my eyes."
"Will Our Lady appear again?"
"I don't think so; she said nothing about it."
"Will you return to the Cova da Iria on the 13th?"
"Will Our Lady do any miracles? Cure any sick people?"
"I don't know."
"Didn't you ask her anything?"
"I told her today that I had various petitions to give and she said she would grant some and not others."
"Did she say when she would grant them?"
"Under what title is the chapel of the Cova da Iria to be?"
"She said today that she was the Lady of the Rosary."
"Did she say that many people were to go there from all parts?"
"She didn't say that anybody was to go."
"Did you see the signs in the sun?"
"I saw it going round."
"Did you see signs on the oak tree?"
"When was the Lady the most beautiful, this time or on other occasions?"
"She was the same."
"How long was her dress?"
"It fell below the middle of her legs."
"What color was Our Lady's dress when she was near the sun?"
"The mantle was blue and the dress white."
"And Our Lord and St. Joseph and the Holy Child?"
"St. Joseph's was red and I think Our Lord and the Child wore red too."
"When did you ask Our Lady to make the people believe in her apparitions?"
"I asked her several times. I think the first time I asked was in June."
"When did she tell you the secret?"
"I think it was the second time."
After the careful questioning of Lucia, Dr. Formigao turned his attention to Jacinta in a separate interview.
"Apart from Our Lady," he asked her, "whom did you see today when you were in the Cova da Iria?"
"I saw St. Joseph and the Holy Child."
"Where did you see them?"
"I saw them near the sun."
"What did the Lady say?"
"She said that we were to say the Rosary every day and that the war would end today."
"To whom did she say this?"
"To Lucia and to me. Francisco didn't hear."
"Did you hear her say when our soldiers would come back?"
"What else did she say?"
"She said that a chapel was to be built in the Cova da Iria."
"Where did the Lady come from?"
"From the east."
"And where did she go when she disappeared?"
"She went to the east."
"Did she go away backward facing the people?"
"No, she turned her back to the people."
"Did she say that she would come back to the Cova da Iria?"
"She said before that it was the last time she would come, and today, too, she said it was the last time."
"Did the Lady say anything else?"
"She said today that we were to say the Rosary every day to Our Lady of the Rosary."
"Where did she say that people were to say the Rosary?"
"She did not say where."
"Did she say that they were to go to the church?"
"She never said that."
"Where do you like to say the Rosary best; here, at home, or in the Cova da Iria,"
"In the Cova da Iria."
"Why do you like to say it there?"
"I don't know."
"With what money did the Lady say the chapel was to be built?"
"She said a chapel was to be built, but I don't know about the money."
"Did you look at the sun?"
"Did you see the signs?"
"Did the Lady tell you to look at the sun?"
"Then how did you see the signs?"
"I turned my eyes to the side."
"Was the Holy Child on the right or the left of St. Joseph?"
"On the right."
"Was he standing or being carried?"
"He was standing."
"Did you see St. Joseph's right arm?"
"How tall was the Child? Did His head come up to St. Joseph's chest?"
"He didn't reach St. Joseph's waist."
"How old do you think the Child was?"
"The age of Deolinda Neves." (A child of about two years.)
The weary but patient Francisco was the last to be interviewed. "Did you see Our Lady this time?" Dr. Formigao asked.
"What Lady was she?"
"She was the Lady of the Rosary."
"How was she dressed?"
"She was dressed in white with a rosary in her hand."
"Did you see St. Joseph and the Holy Child?"
"Where did you see them?"
"By the sun."
"Was the Child being carried by St. Joseph or was He standing? Was He big or little?"
"He was little."
"Was He the size of Deolinda Neves?"
"Yes, He was just her size."
"Did the Lady hold her hands?"
"She had them joined."
"Did you only see her on the oak tree or by the sun as well?"
"I saw her near the sun too."
"Which was the brighter, the sun or the face of the Lady?"
"The Lady's face was brighter; she was white."
"Did you hear what the Lady said?"
"I heard nothing that she said."
"Who told you the secret; was it the Lady?"
"No, it was Lucia."
"Will you tell it?"
"You are afraid of being beaten by Lucia if you tell it, aren't you?"
"Then why don't you tell it? Is it a sin?"
"Perhaps it is a sin to tell the secret."
"Is the secret for the good of your soul, and Jacinta's and Lucia's soul?"
"Is it for the good of Father Ferreira's soul?"
"I don't know."
"Would the people be sad if they knew?"
"From which side did the Lady come?"
"From the east."
"And did she disappear in the same direction?"
"Yes, she went to the east."
"Did she go backward?"
"She turned her back to us."
"Did she go slowly or quickly?"
"Did she walk as we do?"
"She didn't walk. She just went without moving her feet."
"What part of the Lady disappeared first?"
"Did you see her easily this time?"
"I saw her better than last month."
"When was she most beautiful, now or the other times?"
"As beautiful now as last month."
Doctor Formigao returned to his seminary at Santarem. His journey had been fruitful and his faith was high. He had himself observed phenomena as clearly miraculous, to his sober judgment. For the weary and charming little girls and boy, who had championed their Lady with brave love through their months of trial, he felt nothing but fatherly affection. There was only one unhappy collision between their testimony and apparent truth: both Lucia and Jacinta had quoted the Blessed Virgin as having said, on October 13, "The war will end today."
The war had not ended that day, and the Mother of all truth, as any Catholic theologian must believe the Virgin to be, is not capable of falsehood. Obviously then either the children had offended truth or were innocently mistaken in this very crucial item of their testimony. As a responsible priest, Dr. Formigao was unable to shrug the discrepancy away. It gave him no rest, and consequently, six days later, on the 19th of the month, he returned to Aljustrel. He arrived in the afternoon and paused for a while on that part of the road that faced the site of the apparitions.
In the Cova da Iria (runs Dr. Formigao's narrative) there were a few pious women saying the Rosary near the oak tree. The latter, reduced to a mere trunk a few inches high, was surrounded with branches of wild plants and flowers. The devotion of the pilgrims who wished to have a souvenir of the Virgin's pedestal had almost entirely annihilated it though everything else was in the same state as on the eve of the last apparition. I then went to the house of the Marto family where I found the three seers undergoing an interrogation from the Reverend Lacerda, parish priest of Milagres, director of the weekly paper, The Leiria Messenger, and also chaplain to the Portuguese Expeditionary Force. Home on leave for a short time, he wished to see the children of Aljustrel before going back to France. He was accompanied by another priest from Leiria and the parish priest of Fatima.
Actually, viewing the general scene in the Marto household, Dr. Formigao suffered a shock. His little friends had reached an advanced state of physical and mental exhaustion. Badgered and haunted for days by droves of thoughtlessly curious people, they were no longer equal to the serious accommodation of pertinent questions.
Lucia was especially exhausted by her ordeal (Dr. Formigao had written). She was completely worn out. Her fatigue was such that she could not respond with care and attention to the detail required. Her answers were almost mechanical at times, and she was frequently unable to recall incidents of the apparitions, which had certainly never been the case before. I felt that if the children were not spared the pain and fatigue of these endless inquiries, that their health would be seriously undermined.26 Any prudent review of the situation suggests the children should have been taken away from Aljustrel, at least temporarily, and allowed the sanctuary of anonymity in some section of the country where they were not known. Dr. Formigao, seeking to be merciful, still felt himself in duty obliged to question them once more. He began with Lucia: "On the 13th of this month Our Lady said that the war would finish on that same day? What were the words she used?
"She said: 'The war will end today. You can expect the soldiers very shortly.' "
"But listen, Lucia, the war is still going on. The papers give news of battles after the 13th. How can you explain that if Our Lady said the war would end that day?"
"I don't know; I only know that I heard her say that the war would end on that day."
"Some people declare that they heard you say that Our Lady had said that the war would end shortly. Is that true?"
"I said exactly what Our Lady had said."
"On the 27th of last month I came to your house to speak with you. Do you remember?"
"I remember seeing you here."
"Well, on that day you told me that Our Lady had said that on the 13th of October she would come with St. Joseph and the Holy Child and that afterwards the war would end, not necessarily on the 13th."
"I can't remember now exactly how she put it. She might have said that, or perhaps I did not understand her properly."
"On the 13th did you tell the people to look at the sun?"
"I don't remember doing that."
"Did you tell them to shut their umbrellas?"
"In the other months I did; I don't remember about this last time."
"Did you know when the sign in the sun was going to begin?"
"Did you look at it?"
"Yes, it looked like the moon."
"Why did you look at the sun?"
"I looked because the people said so."
"Did Our Lady say that she would pray to her Divine Son on behalf of the soldiers who had been killed in the war?"
"Did she say that the people would be punished if they did not amend their lives?"
"I can't remember if she said that; I don't think so."
"On the 13th you did not have any doubts about what the Lady had said. Why have you these doubts now?"
"I remembered better on that day, it was nearer the time."
"What was it that you saw about a year ago? Your mother said that you and some other children had seen a form wrapped up and hidden in a cloth. Why did you tell me last month that it was nothing?"
Lucia could not reply clearly to this.
"Did you run away that time?"
"I think I did."
"On the 11th of this month you did not want to tell me that Our Lord would appear and give His blessing to the people. Was it because you thought I would laugh at you like other people had done, and say it was impossible? Or was it because there were many other people there at the time and you did not want to say it in front of them? Do you know that Jacinta has told me everything?"
To this there was no coherent reply.
"When did Our Lady tell you that there would be these apparitions on the 13th of October?"
"It was the day that she appeared at Valinhos, or on another 13th. I can't remember well."
"Did you see Our Lord?"
"I saw the figure of a man; I think it was Our Lord."
"Where was this figure?"
"It was near the sun."
"Did you see it bless the people?"
"I didn't see it, but Our Lady said that Our Lord would come to give His blessing to the people."
"If the people knew the secret that Our Lady told you, would they be sad?"
"I think they would be about the same."
Francisco was the next to be questioned.
"Did you see Our Lord bless the people on the 13th of this month?" Dr. Formigao asked.
"No, I saw Our Lady."
"Did you see Our Lady of Dolors and Our Lady of Mount Carmel?"
"No. Our Lady was the one I saw down below (on the tree). She was dressed the same."
"Did you look at the sun?"
"Did you see St. Joseph and the Child Jesus?"
"Were they near to or far from the sun?"
"They were near."
"Which side of the sun was St. Joseph?"
"On the left side."
"And on which side was Our Lady?"
"On the right side."
"Where was the Child Jesus?"
"He was near St. Joseph."
"On which side?"
"I didn't notice which side."
"Was the Child big or small?"
"When Our Lady was over the oak tree did you hear what she said to Lucia?"
"Did you hear the sound of her voice?"
"Did it seem as if she were not speaking?"
"Did you see her lips move?"
"Did you see her laugh?"
"Did you see the signs in the sun? What were they?"
"I looked and saw the sun going round; it looked like a wheel of fire."
"When did the signs begin, before or after Our Lady disappeared from the oak tree?"
"When Our Lady disappeared."
"Did you hear Lucia tell the people to look at the sun?"
"I did. She gave a shout when she told the people to look at the sun."
"Was it the Lady who told her to tell the people to look at the sun?"
"Yes, the Lady pointed toward the sun."
"When did she do this?"
"When she disappeared."
"Did the signs begin at once?"
"What colors did you see in the sun?"
"I saw very pretty colors: blue, yellow and others."
Jacinta was questioned while she and Dr. Formigao were walking from Aljustrel to Fatima.
"On the 13th of this month did you see Our Lord near the sun and Our Lady of Dolors and Mount Carmel?"
"But on the 11th of this month you said they would appear?"
"Yes, I did. Lucia saw the other Lady; I didn't."
"Did you see St. Joseph?"
"Yes. Lucia said that St. Joseph gave a blessing."
"Did you look at the sun?"
"And what did you see?"
"I saw it red and green and other colors, and I saw it going around."
"Did you hear Lucia tell the people to look at the sun?"
"Yes. She told them in a very loud voice. The sun was already going round."
"Did the Lady tell her to tell the people?"
"The Lady said nothing about it."
"What did the Lady say this last time?"
"She said: 'I have come here to tell you that people must not offend our Lord anymore because He is very much offended and that if the people amend their lives the war will end, and if not the world will not end. Lucia heard better than I did what the Lady said."
"Did she say that the war would end on that day or shortly?"
"Our Lady said that the war would end when she arrived in Heaven."
"But the war has not ended."
"But it will end, it will."
"When will it end?"
"I think it will end on Sunday."
Dr. Formigao was having trouble. This question of the war's end was an unfortunate contradiction. The clash of fact and prophecy remained. The good priest, having himself been present at the miraculous manifestations above the Cova da Iria, was obliged to accept the children's story as generally true. As to the stubborn hurdle provided by this single contradiction, there was only one reasonable explanation: the children were mistaken. Certainly no one had declared them infallible, and in their present state of nervous exhaustion it appeared to Dr. Formigao that they should not be expected to marshal their talents and recollections like adults on trial for their lives.
Seven years later, during the official inquiry conducted in July of 1924, in the peaceful surroundings of the convent at Vilar, Lucia attempted to look back at this obstinate contradiction:
I think Our Lady said this: "People must be converted. The war will end today and the soldiers can be expected soon."
But afterwards, at home, Jacinta said that Our Lady had put it this way. "People must be converted. The war will end within a year." I was myself so preoccupied with all the petitions that people had asked me to place before Our Lady that I could not give all my attention to her words.
It should be noted that neither at the age of ten nor at seventeen did Lucia respond in the manner calculated to be "popular"; the evidence accrues that she was being truthful to the best of her ability and, almost certainly, mistaken. Our own persuasion is that the declaration closest to the truth was made by Jacinta on that thirteenth of October while she was walking with Dr. Formigao along the road from Aljustrel to Fatima. When asked what Our Lady had said on this last occasion, she replied, "I have come here to say that men must not offend Our Lord anymore because He is already very much offended, and that if they amend their lives the war will end."
This agrees with the thoughtful conclusions of Dr. Fischer, the famous German priest and authority on Fatima, who has given close and conscientious study to all the available facts and testimony.
Dr. Formigao made one more trip to Aljustrel for the purpose of questioning the children. This occurred on November 2, of the same year, and we present the record of these final conversations not because we think them to be of capital importance, but rather because it reveals once more the simplicity and earnest candor of the three little seers. The quality of obliging frankness was so marked in them that it remains the sturdiest stone on which the story of Fatima rests. He questioned Jacinta first.
"On which side of the sun," he asked her, "did the Child Jesus stand when you saw Him on the 13th of October?"
"He stood in the middle, at the right side of St. Joseph; Our Lady was on the right side of the sun."
"Was the Lady you saw near the sun different from the one you saw on the oak tree?"
"The Lady I saw near the sun had a white dress and a blue mantle. The one I saw on the oak tree had a white dress and mantle."
"What color were the feet of the Lady who appeared on the oak tree?"
"They were white; I think she wore stockings."
"What color were St. Joseph's dress and the Child's."
"St. Joseph's was red and I think the Child's was red, too."
"When did the Lady reveal the secret?"
"I think it was in July."
"What did the Lady say the first time she appeared in May?"
"Lucia asked what she wanted and she said we were to go there every month until the last month, when she would say what she wanted."
"Did Lucia ask anything else?"
"She asked if she would go to Heaven and the Lady said yes. Then she asked if I would go to Heaven too and Our Lady said yes again. Lucia asked then if Francisco would go, and the answer was yes, except that he would have to say many Rosaries."
"Did the Lady say anything else?"
"I don't remember anything else."
"What did the Lady say the second time, in June?"
"Lucia said: 'What do you want?' and the Lady replied: 'I want you to learn to read.'"
"Did Lucia ask anything else?"
"She asked about the sick people and sinners. The Lady said that she would make some better and convert them, but not others."
"Did the Lady say anything else?"
"On that day she didn't say anything else."
"What did the Lady say in August?"
"In August we didn't go to the Cova da Iria. You mean what did the Lady say at Valinhos? Lucia asked her if she was to bring Manuel and the Lady said she could bring everybody."
"She said we were to make two litters and to take them to the feast of the Rosary, I and Lucia with two girls dressed in white; and that Francisco and three other boys were to carry the other."
"I can't remember."
"What did the Lady say in October?"
"Lucia said: 'What do you want?' and she replied: 'Do not offend our Lord anymore because He is very much offended.' She said that He would pardon our sins if we wanted to go to Heaven. She said also that we must say the Rosary and that we could expect our soldiers back very soon and the war would end that day. She said that we were to build a chapel and I don't know if she said 'to the Lady of the Rosary' or just that she herself was the Lady of the Rosary."
Dr. Formigao then turned his attention to Lucia, in this way:
"Did the Lady wear stockings? Are you sure of this?"
"I think they were stockings, but they might not have been."
"You said once that the Lady wore white stockings. Were they stockings or were they feet?"
"If they were stockings, then they were white, but I am not sure if they were stockings or her feet."
"Was the dress always the same length?"
"The last time it seemed longer."
"You have never told the secret nor even said that the people would be sad if they knew. Francisco and Jacinta said they would be sad. If you cannot say this how can they say it?"
"I don't know if they ought to say that the people would be sad. Our Lady said that we were not to tell anybody anything, so I cannot say anything."
And, finally, to Francisco:
"On which side did the Child Jesus stand when you saw Him near the sun?"
"He stood nearer the sun, on its left side, but on the right side of St. Joseph."
"Was the Lady you saw near the sun different from the one over the oak tree?"
"The Lady I saw near the sun looked the same as the one I saw below."
"Did you see Our Lord bless the people?"
"I didn't see Our Lord."