Let us go back in time to the spring of 1916. The world was in turmoil. A World War was devastating Europe. Bodies were strewn all over the farmlands of France and Germany. The winter had been hellish, slowing troop movement to a virtual standstill. Because of the terrible weather, soldiers of both sides were pinned down in foxholes for months at a time; all in feeble attempts to control small patches of land. Mustard Gas, the Agent Orange of the early 20th Century, was ripping out the lungs of those who breathed it in. Humanity had absolutely no regard for his brother and sister. In Russia, a monster was being created which would cast its hideous, godless shadow over the entire world. The Bolsheviks were not involved in the World War. They were too busy destroying their own brothers and sisters, in purges that would parallel the outrages of Adolph Hitler and his gang of perverts some 20 years later.
The tiny country of Portugal was having its own problems, mostly financial. They had only established a republic some 6 years before, which had not quite worked. In the hundred years prior to the creation of the republic, Portugal had lost most of its colonies in South America. No one knew how to run the government wisely, and so the country fell into chaos and disorder. In a very brave, but very unwise move in 1916, they declared war on Germany, and sent troops into France to fight the Huns. The effect of this on the home front was disastrous.
We mentioned that the history of the country was filled with tales of kings making pledges and committments to Our Lord Jesus and Our Lady. The attitude of the new leaders of Portugal was just the opposite, not unlike those of other newly formed republics. They equated the Church with the Monarchy. Portugal had thrown the Monarchy out in 1910, and was now persecuting the Church, in an attempt to throw it out of the country.
We can’t help but wonder why Our Heavenly Family bothers with us. We continue to make the same mistakes, commit the same outrages that began with the murder of Abel by Cain. Thank Jesus for His Mother Mary. She is so touchable. It’s that one teardrop she sees falling from the eyes of a mother whose baby has been killed, whose husband has been dragged off, screaming into the night, never to be seen again. It must be these outrages against humanity, which have gone on since the dawn of creation, that propels her into action. We had great need of Our Lady’s help in 1916. There were no kings left in Portugal to plead the cause of the people. So, it was up to the mothers to pray to Our Lady for peace. She heard these prayers, and answered them, as only she could.
A great plan was conceived in Heaven. It began to make itself known in a very small way to three little shepherds in the remote little farming village of Aljustrel, in the spring of 1916. It was still early in the season, the rainy time, before the weather warmed up. That morning, Lucia dos Santos, and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto, had led the sheep to the loca de Cabeco to graze. The ground and the grass were wet from the morning rain. They could feel the moisture on their feet, through their little sandals. Drizzle began to fall gently from the sky. The children ran up a hill to a cave where they could shelter themselves and their sheep until the rain stopped. They ate their lunch in the cave; and although the rain stopped, and the skies cleared, they stayed there, playing a game with pebbles.
The early afternoon was very calm, very still. The children became mesmerized by the game they were playing. Suddenly, a powerful blast of wind ripped through the trees, bending the branches as it whipped around the little cabeco, breaking the still of the day. The children snapped out of their lethargy. They jumped up like a shot, looking around frantically to find out what was causing the abrupt change in weather. All at once, their eyes zeroed in on a bright light off in the distance, approaching them. It drew closer to their little cave. As it moved closer, it became larger. They could make out the transparent figure of a person. Their hearts pounded. They were too frightened to speak. Closer and closer the vision came, until it was almost on top of them.
It was a beautiful young man. His long mane of blonde hair blew in the breeze. There was a sensitivity about him, almost contradicted by a forceful strength. His eyes were cobalt blue. When he looked at the children, they could feel his stare to the depths of their souls. While they were frightened of this majestic figure before them, they couldn’t take their eyes off him. He spoke to them.
“Do not be afraid. I am the Angel of Peace.”
From this title by which the angel called himself, we can be fairly certain it was the beloved of Mary, St. Michael the Archangel. Although the angel never actually called himself by the name of the Prince of the Heavenly Hosts, scripture and the Litany of St. Michael gives him the title, “Angel of Peace” among many other equally important honors. It has also been handed down in Church tradition and Marian devotion that wherever Our Lady is, St. Michael is sure to be found close by.
The Angel continued: “Pray with me”. He prostrated himself on the ground, and said the following prayer.
“My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love You. I ask forgiveness for those who do not believe, nor adore, nor hope, nor love You.”
The children, in a state of shock, followed suit. They put their heads to the cold stone, and repeated what they heard the Angel say. He repeated the prayer three times. They did the same. Then he stood up again. He seemed to be nine feet tall. He looked at them. “Pray in this way”, he told them. “The Hearts of Jesus and Mary are ready to listen to you.” Then he took his leave. A gust of wind followed him as he turned into a bright light again, becoming smaller and fainter as he drew away from them. Finally, he was gone.
SILENCE The sound of silence was so strong, it completely overpowered them. They looked at each other. No one said anything. They were dumbfounded. For the rest of the day, they thought of nothing else. They didn’t play anymore. They stayed off by themselves, each separated from the other. Every now and then they would look at one another. They were incredulous. It was never even considered by any of the three that they tell anyone what had happened. It was too intimate. They quite honestly didn’t even know how to describe it. There were no words.
The plan was in motion. Ponder in your hearts for a moment the words of the Angel. “I ask forgiveness for those who do not believe, nor adore, nor hope, nor love You.” Who was he talking about? Was it the leaders of this country who had rejected Our Lord Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, His Mother Mary, and all things the people had always held dear? Were they trading Jesus in for something better, and if so, what? The words fit the pattern of what the official attitude of the country towards the Church had become. They certainly had stopped loving Jesus. Adoring Him was out of the question, and they seemed to have lost Hope in the ability of their God to provide for His children. But whatever they had hoped to receive in return for their betrayal was not forthcoming. The government of Portugal continued to be extremely poor, up until the present time. Judas got 30 pieces of silver for his treachery. These wretches did not even get that.
The second apparition of the Angel set the tone for what was to come a year later. We were in serious times. There was a great urgency for return to prayer, penance, sacrifice and mortification. It was the summer of the same year, 1916. Portugal, and especially the Sierra, where the children lived, became unbearably hot. The flocks were brought out in the pre-dawn hours to graze while there was still a cool breeze in the air. Later, they would be kept out of the hot rays of the sun until evening, when the weather cooled off again.
During this time Lucia and her cousins tended sheep in back of Lucy’s house, near the well. It was here that the Angel came to them a second time. It was the lunch hour. All the sheep had been put away to protect them from the hot sun. The children were sitting under some trees near the well. The angel did not make an entrance the way he had the first time. One moment, they were alone; the next, he was there. His manner was one of impatience.
“What are you doing?” he said. “Pray! Pray! The hearts of Jesus and Mary have merciful designs for you. Offer your prayers and sacrifices to the Most High.”
Lucy asked him “How are we to make sacrifices?”
The Angel responded “In every way you can, offer a sacrifice to the Lord, in reparation for the sins by which He is offended and in supplication for sinners. Thus you will bring peace to our country. I am its Guardian Angel, the Angel of Portugal. Above all, accept and bear with patience the sufferings which the Lord will send you.”
The Lord gave the children very important messages through the Angel. For one thing, it was determined that they would be sacrificial lambs. They were required to suffer and do penance for the sins of many others. When the Angel asked them to “above all, accept and bear with patience the sufferings which the Lord will send you”, the message was reminiscent of that given to Bernadette at Lourdes, when Our Lady told her “I cannot promise you happiness in this world, but in the next”.
In another part of his message to the children, he told them “In every way you can, offer a sacrifice to the Lord…. in supplication for sinners.” We can’t help thinking of “The Little Way” of St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower. She never did anything spectacular in the world. When she died, nuns in her own community didn’t know who she was. But in her life story, “Autobiography of a Soul”, she tells us that everything she did, every little thing, she offered as a sacrifice to Jesus for the conversion of sinners.
It was after this second apparition by the Angel that we learn that Francisco had never heard the words of the Heavenly visitor. As in the previous vision, the children were completely stunned by what had happened. They couldn’t talk about it. Francisco had a burning desire to know what had been said. First he asked Lucia. She was not able to talk. She told him to wait until the next day, or ask his sister, Jacinta. Francisco went to his sister. She, too, was unable to put into words how the Lord had touched her in the deep recesses of her soul. She told him to wait until the next day.
The next day, Lucia told him what the Angel had said in both apparitions. He didn’t understand all the big words that were used. Lucia explained their meaning as best she could. His tiny heart was filled with love of Jesus and the Angel. He thought of nothing but the Angel and his visit.
From that time on, the children prayed all the time. They found themselves shying away from the other children of the village. They had been just like the others before the Angel’s apparition. Now, their entire beings were taken up with matters of the spirit.
In the Autumn of 1916, the Angel of Peace, Blessed Michael the Archangel, visited the children once more, in a most dramatic way. They were at the Loca de Cabeco again, caring for their sheep. Suddenly, he appeared above them, holding a Host in one hand, and a Chalice in the other. Drops of Blood fell from the Host into the Chalice. He looked at them with an expression that was gentle, yet serious. This was a very important visit.
The Angel prostrated himself on the ground, leaving the Host and Chalice suspended in mid-air. He began to pray.
“MOST HOLY TRINITY, FATHER, SON AND HOLY GHOST, I ADORE YOU PROFOUNDLY AND I OFFER YOU THE MOST PRECIOUS BODY, BLOOD, SOUL AND DIVINITY OF JESUS CHRIST, PRESENT IN ALL THE TABERNACLES OF THE WORLD, IN REPARATION FOR THE OUTRAGES, SACRILEGES AND INDIFFERENCE BY WHICH HE IS OFFENDED. AND BY THE INFINITE MERITS OF HIS MOST SACRED HEART AND THROUGH THE IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY, I BEG THE CONVERSION OF POOR SINNERS”
He remained in the prostrate position for a time; then rising, he took the Host and Chalice into his hands. He gave the Host to the older of the three, Lucia, and the Blood of Our Lord Jesus to Francisco and Jacinta. As they drank from the Chalice, he said “Take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, horribly outraged by ungrateful men. Repair their crimes and console your God.”
After this, the Angel prostrated himself on the ground once more, and repeated the prayer he had said to the Trinity at the beginning of the Apparition. The children prostrated themselves, and prayed with him. Then the Angel rose, and looked at the children. They could feel a tingling inside of them. They were not sure if it was because of the unwavering stare of the Angel, or the burning of the Eucharist they had received inside their bodies.
After what seemed an eternity, but was actually a matter of seconds, the Angel slowly disappeared. The wind whistled through the Loca de Cabeco. It was beginning to get cold, but the children could not feel it. They were flushed by the Eucharist inside them and the Angel’s presence. They stared for a long time into space. They could not speak.
We have to stop here again to try to understand the full impact of what the Angel was saying in his prayer, and what was really happening. We mentioned that in his first two apparitions, he prayed regarding “those who do not believe, nor adore, nor hope, nor love You.” In this apparition, He used words such as “outrages, sacrileges and indifference”. The Lord was angry. Mankind was on the verge of The Lord’s Wrath. He had reached the proverbial “Last Straw” with us. Tribulation was on its way.
What you have just read is but a short excerpt from the chapter on Our Lady of Fatima from Bob and Penny Lord’s book, “The Many Faces of Mary Book I.”