This went on until the 19th of August. It was a Sunday and I went to Mass as usual. Afterwards I saw Lucia's father in the square. Lucia was playing there, too. I thought I would take the opportunity to try and straighten things out. People had warned me to be careful of him because he was often drunk and had been heard to say if he could catch me in the Cova he'd soon put things right, etc. So I went up to him and saw at once that he was sober. After greeting him I said:
"I think you are annoyed because I go on to your ground at the Cova and put flowers there. I have come to ask your permission to go there." And he answered:
"Put as many flowers as you like; what I don't want is tabernacles on my land. Someone has already asked me, and I wouldn't give permission on account of the children getting into those crowds. If they're lying then they can look after themselves; and if they're not—well, then it doesn't matter what happens, crowds or no crowds." I thought he was taking it well, all things considered, and I had confidence in Our Lady.
"Someone told me," he continued, "that you took a lot of money away from my land, but I don't want it."
"Nor do I," I said."
"What are you going to do with it, then?"
"I don't know. Perhaps I'd better have Masses said for the intentions of the people who gave it." At that moment the idea came into my head to ask Lucia to ask Our Lady what she wanted done with the money. She told me not to worry, and that on the day of the next apparition in September she would ask about it. That was a great weight off my mind.
Maria had no way of knowing that day, how promptly an answer would come. On that very Sunday, the children went to the Cova da Iria to say the Rosary, after Mass in the Fatima church. There were several others who came along, among them Lucia's sister, Teresa, her husband, and a gentleman from nearby Moita whose name was Senhor Alves. A good man, the Senhor had asked the children to be his guests at lunch when they had finished with their prayers. No one objected to this kind invitation except Lucia's mother, who complained that her daughter's pre-occupation with such a gay program might cause her to neglect pasturing the sheep in the cool, late afternoon. Lucia, however, was back in Aljustrel on time, with Francisco, Jacinta, and their oldest brother, John. Jacinta was called into the house by her mother, while the others went off with the sheep.
They chose this day the little property called Valinhos. It belonged to one of Lucia's uncles and is not much farther from Aljustrel than a man can hit a golf ball. It is just a flat and green field, rimmed with rocks, lovely and wild with flowers in the summer.
It was about four o'clock when Lucia first noticed the strange atmospheric changes in the air that had preceded the earlier apparitions in the Cova da Iria. There was a sudden freshening of the air. The hard glare of the sunlight died. There was, unscheduled, and contrary to the fair afternoon, a dramatic flash of lightning.21 Our Lady, Lucia thought; who else could it be? The freshened air whipped anxious hope alive. Francisco stood still, his large eyes wide with expectation. He did not speak. He only waited. His brother, John, looked puzzled, uncertain, until Lucia spoke with sudden excitement.
"John—please go get Jacinta! Our Lady's coming—please!"
There was no action from John. He wanted to see this wondrous, celebrated Lady, too. He had no intention of being cheated out of that.
"I'll give you money, John—here. Take this and there will be more when you come back. I have to have Jacinta here."
A practical fellow, John pocketed the money first, then sprinted for home and his little sister. His mother met him at the door.
"All this excitement? Why?" Olimpia wanted to know.
"Lucia wants Jacinta to go to Valinhos, Mama—right away. It's important. Very important, Mama."
"Lucia is a priest or something? She must always have her sacristan?"
"It isn't that, honest. Lucia says she has seen signs Our Lady is coming. She gave me money, even. Here, look; just to come for Jacinta."
Just how impressed Olimpia was at this moment has not been recorded. But she did say to her son, "Go with God, my boy; Jacinta is at her godmother's house." And her own curiosity took her after them toward Valinhos. However, she delayed on the way and did not arrive in time. As for John, he has testified that his only tangible profit was the cash in his hand. He saw no miraculous Lady, although he later professed to have heard some strange sound like a rocket's ascent, when Lucia at the conclusion of this apparition, called out, "Look, Jacinta—she's going away!"
But for the privileged children, here, in the plain field called Valinhos, it was gloriously real. A few moments after Jacinta's arrival, their Lady appeared above a tree a little taller than the holm oak at the Cova da Iria. Beholding her, they went into ecstasy. And, as always, it was only Lucia who spoke in that flat, repeated formula that never seems equal to these great occasions.
"What do you want of me?"
And Our Lady's unvarying first reply: "Come again to the Cova da Iria on the thirteenth and to continue to say the Rosary every day."
Again Lucia requested the Lady to bring to these hills a miracle so that all would know she came from Heaven. Please do this, she requested, since they were so tired and so punished from being disbelieved.
"I will," the Lady promised. "In the last month, I will perform a miracle so that all may believe. "
"Yes," said Lucia, "yes"; then remembering the request of Maria da Capelinha, she asked, "What are we to do with the offerings of money that people leave at the Cova da Iria?"
"I want you to have two litters made," the Lady instructed, "for the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. I want you and Jacinta to carry one of them with two other girls. You will dress in white. And then I want Francisco, with three boys helping him, to carry the other one. What is left over can be used to help towards the construction of a chapel that is to be built here."
Lucia accepted these instructions humbly and thankfully, then fervently asked for the cure of the sick who had begged her intercession.
"Some I will cure during the year," the Lady said; then gazing down at them, she added, sadly, "Pray, pray very much. Make sacrifices for sinners. Many souls go to Hell, because there are none to sacrifice themselves and to pray for them."
That was all, and the Lady left them, rising in the air—moving steadily, steadily toward the east until she was gone, or at least unseen, in the distant sky.
Ordinarily, in the Cova da Iria, when the people in heedless hunger for souvenirs, had grasped and torn at the leaves and twigs of the little oak, the children had challenged their bad manners and reproved them. But today, at Valinhos, they were the ones who, for reasons of their own, cut from the tree and carried away the branch on which their Lady's white mantle had rested. Jacinta and Francisco gained possession of the precious branch, and leaving Lucia and John to care for the sheep, they hurried home in triumph. At the Santos house, standing in front of the door with their neighbors, they found Lucia's mother and her sister, Maria dos Anjos, who has described this scene for us:
Jacinta, all excited, rushed up to my mother and said, "Oh, Aunt, we saw Our Lady again! We saw her at Valinhos!"
"Ah, Jacinta," my mother said, "when will these lies ever end. Do you have to be seeing Our Lady all over creation? Wherever you go?"
"But we saw her," Jacinta insisted, then held forth the branch she was holding in her hands. "Look, Aunt, please—this is where Our Lady put one foot, and here is where the other foot was."
"Let me see it, let me see it," my mother said.
She took the branch and held it close to her face. Puzzled, she said, "What smell is this? It is not the smell of roses, but it is very lovely. What could it be?"
Naturally, we were all curious. All of us smelled the branch, and all of us found the scent of it very pleasant. After a while my mother took it inside and placed it on a table.
"It had better stay here," she told us, "until we are able to find someone who can tell us what it is."
But that evening, I remember, we could not find the branch when we wanted it. We did not know who had taken it. Still, I remember that my mother was impressed, and I think it was from then on that she began to be kinder to Lucia. My father softened, too, so that both of them defended Lucia from then on, when others tried to torment her. Leave Lucia in peace, they used to tell us, for what she says might after all be true.
Actually, there was never a mystery of the missing branch. The adroit and agile Jacinta took it without apology when her aunt's back was turned, and brought it home to her parents, for whom she had intended it all along. Ti Marto recalls that late afternoon:
That afternoon I had made an inspection of the land and around sunset I started home. I was almost there when a man came up to me and said, "Well, Ti Marto, I see that the miracle business is going well."
"What do you mean?" I said.
"Why, Our Lady has just appeared again to your little ones and Abobora's girl. I tell you, Ti Marto, there is something special about your Jacinta. She wasn't with the other two at first, and it was only when they called her, that Our Lady appeared."
To this I did not know what to say. I merely walked into my own yard to think it over. My wife was not there. I walked into the kitchen then and sat down. Then who should come in but Jacinta, looking gay as a bird, and she is carrying a branch, about so big, in her hands.
"Papa! Papa!" she said. "Our Lady appeared to us this afternoon at Valinhos."
Even while she was saying this I could smell a more beautiful essence than I can describe. I reached for the branch and said to Jacinta, "What is this?"
"It is the branch Our Lady stood upon," she said.
I raised it to my face, but, strangely now, the smell of it was gone.
The children's love for God and His Mother was sustained by grace and multiplied by grace through many weeks of trial. I grant it is not easy to believe that children of their years would deliberately annihilate self and the sensory appetites which mature and heroic saints have chosen as the steepest but briefest ascent to God. Yet believe it, for Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta did willingly accept this ladder of pain.
"Pray, pray very much," the Mother of God had said.
"Make sacrifices for sinners. Many souls go to Hell because no one is willing to sacrifice themselves and to pray for them."
The statement was unadorned. It remained uncompromised by further explanation. "Do this," the Lady was saying. "It is a great and good and loving thing to do. It will please God who is Love."
They became, of their free will, co-redeemers with Christ. The vision of Hell that they had seen in July was not erased from their minds. They prayed incessantly. They sought new sacrifice. For hours at a time, in the Cabeco where first the angel had appeared to them, they addressed to God the angel's prayer:
"Oh, my God I believe, I adore, hope and I love Thee. I ask forgiveness for those who do not believe, nor adore, nor hope, nor love Thee."
Until, too long prostrated on the ground, the pain exceeded their endurance, they would rise, and with fervor undiminished begin the Rosary, never forgetting, between the decades, the prayer their Lady had prescribed:
"Oh, my Jesus, forgive us our sins, and deliver us from the fire of Hell. Take all souls to Heaven especially those who are most in need."
In secrecy, and without service to vanity, they practiced mortifications which seem to emulate the almost legendary self-denials of the Fathers of the desert. They wished to jam the gates of Heaven with people who might otherwise not find the way. Only God could tell you to what extent they succeeded.
Lucia, who alone of the children has survived, has been modest in describing these penances. Her manuscripts, written under obedience, place the accent of heroism on Jacinta, but they clearly enough illumine the activities of all.
Long periods of thirst provided an almost constant mortification. In the scorching summer of the serra, when through the bright hours of the day the heat hangs like a hot stove everywhere, they abstained from taking any water.
Once, returning from the Cova da Iria, they passed a pond belonging to a family named Carreira. It was a dirty pool of water where some women washed their clothes and others brought their animals to drink. Jacinta was weak from ordeal: her throat and her lips were parched.
"My head aches so, Lucia; I'm terribly thirsty, I think I'll take some of this."
"Not from here, Jacinta, please. My mother forbids it, anyhow. She says it might make me ill. We can go and get good drinking water."
"I don't want to drink good water." The little girl was determined. "If I must drink something I will take this water and offer it to our Lady."
The refusal of fresh fruit, with its nourishment and thirst-killing juices, was another means of self-denial. Lucia tells of Jacinta accepting grapes and figs from her mother, concealing, rather than consuming them, then giving them to children they met along the road. And finally, there was the penitential cord that each child wore.
This practice began when Lucia found a length of abandoned rope. Experimenting with it, as a child will, and wrapping it around one arm, she noted the pain its tension brought. She thought about this for a little while, then spoke to the others.
"This is something we could use as a sacrifice," she said.
"We can knot cords like this and wear them around our waists."
It may not seem to many a happy thought, but it is a documented record of Fatima that a tightened cord around each of their waists was a daily chastisement. Even at night they did not spare themselves until Our Lady, during the September apparition, told them they must not wear the cords to bed.