Over the last weeks of confinement at home, work continues for the writer. In fact, I have more time devoted to projects. Research for the book Lucia of Fatima, has turned up little known facts about Lucia dos Santos. One of these revelations stunned me.
In 1917, Lucia was only ten years at the time Our Lady appeared to her and younger cousins Jacinta and Francisco. All were simple peasant children who lived in the hill country of Portugal. From May to October, Our Lady appeared six times to the children. These apparitions were filled with messages, prayers, and a frightening vision of hell.
As I researched the story of Fatima, I came to rely on two books. Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words —her memoirs— was written under orders from her bishop. Pathway: Under the Gaze of Mary was written by Lucia’s Carmelite sisters who lived in a cloister with her for 57 years. It offered many intimate insights into the life of this remarkable woman.
There is one chapter on the apparitions. I have read many books on this subject and thought I knew all the important details. Wrong. On page 65, I learned that Lucia came to the brink of renouncing these visions. She gave up offering sacrifices and had decided not to attend the July 13th visit requested by the luminous woman in white robes.
After the June apparition, Lucia’s mother, Maria Rosa, was in great distress, certain that Lucia was lying. For weeks, Maria Rosa chastised Lucia about the visions, even hitting her with a broom. Lucia respectfully refused to recant her story. It was time to take her to the local priest. Although kind in his interrogation, Father Ferreira did not believe the story. He responded it could very well be the devil.
These words spiraled Lucia into deep turmoil. It felt like an arrow had pierced her heart. Many sleepless nights ensued, hours filled with nightmarish images of the devil clasping Lucia in his claws and trying to drag her to hell.
Lucia had an uncanny ability to hide tumultuous emotions that shook her inner being. After many weeks of this silent torment, she told Jacinta and Francisco that she would not be going to the July visit. She told them that the Lady was actually the devil.
Jacinta responded, “No it is not the devil! They say the devil is ugly and he’s down under the ground in hell. The Lady is beautiful! We saw her going up to heaven!”
Jacinta and Francisco began to offer many prayers and sacrifices for Lucia. On the night of July 12th, Lucia tossed and turned, determined to stay at home. Once again, supernatural forces took hold of her life.
She wrote, “Suddenly I felt compelled to go by a strange force, which I could not resist. I went on the path to my uncle’s house to see if Jacinta was still there. I found her in the bedroom with Francisco kneeling at the foot of the bed, crying.”
“Aren’t you going then?” I asked.
“Not without you! We don’t dare. Do come!” Jacinta said.
“’Yes, I am going,’” I replied. Their faces were filled with joy, and they set out with me.”
Those Carmelite sisters who wrote the book had their own interpretation of this frightening episode. As the oldest of the visionaries, Lucia felt the heavy weight of responsibility on her young shoulders and tried to ward off future visits. The Carmelites believed that the Blessed Virgin took this holy child under her protection and guided her away from devilish temptations.
In future posts, I will write more about surprises that come up in my research. Stay tuned!