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Our Lady Of Fatima… Apostle Of The Immaculate Heart: The Life Of Lucia Dos Santos

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By FR. SEAN CONNOLLY

(Editor’s Note: This is the eleventh in a series of articles on the one hundredth anniversary of our Lady’s apparitions at Fatima. Fr. Connolly is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York. Part eleven, because of its length, will appear in two separate issues of The Wanderer.)

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So far in this series of articles published in commemoration of the centenary of our Lady’s apparitions at Fatima, we have reviewed the historical context of the Fatima event, the three apparitions of the Angel of Peace, the six apparitions of the Mother of God, and the lives of Saints Francisco and Jacinta.
We will now review the life of the eldest of the three little visionaries, Lucia, whose mission in spreading our Lady’s message would continue for almost a century after the last apparition at Fatima when the famed “Miracle of the Sun” occurred.

The Little Shepherdess

Lucia de Jesus dos Santos was born on Holy Thursday, March 28, 1907, and was baptized two days later on Holy Saturday. She was the youngest of the seven children of Antonio dos Santos and his wife, Maria Rosa. She grew up in the little hamlet of Aljustrel in the village of Fatima along with her two younger cousins Francisco and Jacinta. She was regarded as an exceptional child, known for her phenomenal memory and ability to entertain.
Being highly intelligent, she was able to learn the catechism well enough to be able to receive her First Holy Communion at the young age of six, even though the privilege was usually reserved to ten year olds. (1)
She was gifted in holding the attention of the other children by her affection and resourcefulness — one of her early companions recalls: “Lucia was a lot of fun and we loved to be with her because she was always so pleasant. We did whatever she told us to do. She was very wise, and she could sing and dance very well; and with her we could spend our whole day singing and dancing.” (2)
Lucia’s father, Antonio, was like any of his class — a hard worker who performed his religious duties but also one who liked to spend time at the tavern among friends and leave the children completely in the care of his wife. (3) He did make mistakes, however, as Lucia recalled in her memoirs: “My father had fallen into bad company, and let his weakness get the better of him; this meant the loss of some property.” (4)
This was a source of great stress and anxiety for Lucia’s mother, Maria Rosa. Four of her older daughters were gone from home and Lucia had to be in the fields tending the sheep, so all the housework fell upon her and she could afford no distractions that could adversely affect the family. (5) She was thus predisposed to deny the authenticity of the apparitions of our Lady to her daughter.
Lucia not only had to suffer from the mockery and scorn of the villagers over her claims, but also the ridicule and disbelief of her own mother which was so fierce that she even began to feel she should not return to the Cova da Iria when our Lady promised to return.
Lucia did, however, always persevere in joining her cousins for the apparitions. Lucia recalled in her memoirs:
“Poor mother! . . . Truly she was right to judge me unworthy of such a favor and therefore to think I was lying. By a special grace from Our Lord, I never experienced the slightest thought or feeling of resentment regarding her manner of acting towards me. As the Angel had announced that God would send me sufferings, I always saw the hand of God in it all.” (6)
Lucia remained very faithful to her mother despite her disbelief. After the apparitions had ceased, Maria Rosa became sick to the point the family thought she was dying. In prayer, Lucia had promised a sacrificial devotion which pilgrims to Fatima imitate to this day — she processed on her knees to the little chapel built on the site where our Lady appeared:
“I had promised the Most Blessed Virgin that, if she granted me what I asked, I would go there for nine days in succession, together with my sisters, pray the Rosary and go on our knees from the roadway to the holmoak tree; and on the ninth day we would take nine poor children with us, and afterwards give them a meal. We went, then, to fulfill my promise, and my mother came with us. ‘How strange!’ she said. ‘Our Lady cured me, and somehow I still don’t believe! I don’t know how this can be!’” (7)
The disbelief of Lucia’s mother continued throughout the remainder of her life. It was out of humility that she never dared to confess that she was a true believer in the apparitions because she thought it was too great a thing to happen in her family. (8)
In addition to this tremendous source of stress and disappointment, Lucia had to suffer the death of her father Antonio, who died very suddenly of double pneumonia. But perhaps the greatest suffering of all was the death of her two little cousins, Francisco and Jacinta. When they fell ill, Lucia visited them constantly and comforted them with the most tender affection and prayerful care.
It was Lucia’s mission in life to spread the message of Fatima which is why our Lady asked her to learn to read and write. After constant distractions from pilgrims seeking access to her, in 1921 the bishop of Leiria arranged that Lucia should go for her education to the Dorothean Sisters of Vilar, near Porto. This was carried out with the utmost secrecy to assure Lucia of her privacy.

Life As A Religious Sister

In 1928 Lucia formally entered the religious community of the Dorothean Sisters, taking the name Maria das Dores, Mary of the Sorrowful Mother. While a member of that religious community she received a series of additional revelations from Heaven in prayer. These mystical experiences were connected with our Lady’s words in the apparition of July 13, 1917 back in Fatima. It was then that the Mother of God foretold another world war and the coming evils of Communism, which she said would begin in Russia and spread throughout the world causing wars, persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father.
To prevent these evils from happening, our Lady said she would come back again and ask for two things: the Five First Saturdays devotion with its Communion of Reparation as well as the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart. (9)
The Blessed Virgin Mary returned to Lucia on December 10, 1925 while she was a postulant of the Dorothean Sisters at their convent in Pontevedra, Spain. At the behest of her spiritual director she wrote an account of the vision in the third person which details the request of the Five First Saturdays devotion:
“On December 10, 1925, the most holy Virgin appeared to her, and by her side, elevated on a luminous cloud, was a child. The most holy Virgin rested her hand on her shoulder, and as she did so, she showed her a heart encircled by thorns, which she was holding in her other hand. At the same time, the Child said:
“ ‘Have compassion on the Heart of your most holy Mother, covered with thorns, with which ungrateful men pierce it at every moment, and there is no one to make an act of reparation to remove them.’
“Then the most holy Virgin said:
“ ‘Look, my daughter, at my Heart, surrounded with thorns with which ungrateful men pierce me at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude. You at least try to console me and say that I promise to assist at the hour of death, with the graces necessary for salvation, all those who, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months, shall confess, receive Holy Communion, recite five decades of the Rosary, and keep me company while meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary, with the intention of making reparation to me’.” (10)
Lucia would have difficulty fostering the spread of this devotion due to the skepticism of her superiors. Their concern in seeking to verify the authenticity of this vision was that they saw they no great need for such a devotion, as many Catholics were already receiving Holy Communion and praying the rosary on the first Saturdays of the month. In response to this, our Lord would appear again.
Two months after the first vision to Lucia in her convent at Pontevedra, the Christ Child appeared again on February 15, 1916 and said to her:
“It is true, my daughter, that many souls begin the Five First Saturdays, but few finish them, and those who do complete them do so in order to receive the graces that are promised thereby. It would please me more if they did Five with fervor and with the intention of making reparation to the Heart of your heavenly Mother, than if they did Fifteen, in a tepid and indifferent manner.” (11)
Despite its importance, the message of the Five First Saturdays was slow in spreading on account of the doubts of Lucia’s spiritual director. Heaven was providing Lucia assistance in overcoming these obstacles. Though people may have already been receiving Holy Communion and reciting the rosary on the first Saturdays, the Lord Jesus made explicit His request that this devotion be carried out with more fervor and be based upon His request that it be done of on five first Saturdays consecutively.
Lucia received another revelation from Heaven at Pontevedra on December 17, 1927 which came in the form of a locution, that is, an interior voice. She was praying before the tabernacle in her convent chapel asking for guidance as to how she could answer all of the inquiries of her superiors on this devotion that so needed to be spread, while at the same time protecting the secret imparted to her and her cousins during the July 13 apparition of 1917.
In prayer, the Lord Jesus made her hear very distinctly these words: “My daughter, write what they ask of you. Write also all that the most holy Virgin revealed to you in the Apparition, in which she spoke of this devotion. As for the remainder of the Secret, continue to keep silence.” (12)
While still a novice with the Dorothean Sisters, Lucia was transferred to a convent in Tuy which was also in Spain. It was here where she was to receive a further understanding of the Five First Saturdays Devotion in another locution from the Lord. Her spiritual director was questioning her further about the devotion, both to better understand and to ensure the authenticity of its message before he could permit it to be made public. He would ask her: “Why should it be five Saturdays and not nine or seven in honor of the sorrows of our Lady?” (13)
In the middle of the night between May 29 and 30, 1930, while in chapel before the Lord in the tabernacle, the following was revealed to her by the Lord:
“Daughter, the motive is simple. There are five kinds of offenses and blasphemies spoken against the Immaculate Heart of Mary: blasphemies 1) against her Immaculate Conception; 2) against her perpetual virginity; 3) against her divine maternity, refusing at the same time to accept her as the Mother of mankind; 4) by those who try publicly to implant in the hearts of children an indifference, contempt, and even hate for this Immaculate Mother; and 5) for those who insult her directly in her sacred images.” (14)
Furthermore, the Lord told Lucia it was His own Mother who asked for these acts of reparation in order to move Him to “forgive those souls who have the misfortune of offending her.” (15) He also, with condescension and solicitude, informed Lucia that those who could not accomplish all the requirements of this devotion on Saturdays could do so on the following Sunday if their priest were willing to make allowances for just reasons. (16)

FOOTNOTES

1) Randall Sullivan, The Miracle Detective (New York: Grove Press, 2004), p. 173.
2) John de Marchi, The True Story of Fatima: A Complete Account of the Fatima Apparitions (Constable, New York: The Fatima Center, 2009), pp. 9-11.
3) Ibid., p. 9.
4) Lucia dos Santos, Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words: Sister Lucia’s Memoirs 20th Edition (Fatima Postulation Center, 2016), pp. 80-81.
5) Andrew Apostoli, Fatima for Today: The Urgent Marian Message of Hope (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), p. 201.
6) Dos Santos, p. 91.
7) Dos Santos quoted in Apostoli, p. 202.
8) Carmel of Coimbra, A Pathway Under the Gaze of Mary: Biography of Sister Maria Lucia of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart (Washington, N.J.: World Apostolate of Fatima, USA, 2013), p. 233.
9) p. Apostoli, pp. 147-148.
10) dos Santos, p. 194.
11) Ibid., p. 196.
12) Ibid.
13) Ibid., pp. 193-194.
14) Quoted in Apostoli, p. 157.
15) Ibid.
16) Ibid.

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