Our Lady revealed October miracle could have been greater

By Donal Anthony Foley –

In this month of August we commemorate the centenary of fourth apparition of Our Lady to the Fatima children. This didn’t take place at the Cova da Iria, but near their home village of Aljustrel at a place called Valhinos. This was because they were kidnapped by the local administrator, Arturo Santos, a Freemason and the most prominent local figure.

Santos had become interested in what was happening at the Cova and he and his fellow non-believers were worried by the reports of crowds flocking to Fatima and the religious “fanaticism” this involved. Thus, he was determined to stamp out what he regarded as medieval nonsense in his area. Like nearly everyone else, he was also intensely interested in the secret, which had been given to the children the previous month.

Shortly before August 13, he interviewed Lucia, threatening her with death if she didn’t tell him the secret. But he was thwarted as she would say nothing. He then turned up on the morning of August 13 with an offer of a lift in a carriage to the Cova da Iria for the children. But, tricking their parents, he took them to his house in Vila Nova da Ourem, some seven miles away, for questioning.

Our Lady keeps her appointment

Meanwhile, at the site of the apparitions, a large crowd had gathered, having come on foot, horseback, bicycle and by car. People were praying and singing hymns around the holmoak tree where Our Lady had appeared the three previous months. Around noon, news was brought that the children had been kidnapped. Immediately a great commotion began, interrupted by a noise like a loud clap of thunder and a flash of “lightning.” As the crowd watched, a small white cloud settled over the tree before rising into the air and disappearing. Our Lady had kept her word, despite the abduction of the children.

Maria Carreira, one of the local faithful, who kept up the unofficial shrine around the holmoak tree, then described how everything about them began to reflect all the colors of the rainbow, and the leaves on the trees began to look like flowers. The crowd, estimated at between 5,000 and 6,000 on this occasion, realized that the Blessed Virgin had once again come, and they became angry with the Mayor and his henchmen for imprisoning the children; some wanted to vent their anger on them.

The children, meanwhile, had spent the morning at the Mayor’s house at Ourem being interrogated about the secret; but despite his threats and promises of money, they refused to divulge it. In the afternoon they were moved to the local prison and threatened with being put into a cauldron of boiling oil. But they were determined that they would die rather than reveal the secret. They were taken off one by one, fully expecting martyrdom, knowing the fearsome reputation of the Mayor, but eventually they were reunited in another room. Santos had one last attempt to break their resolve and threatened to throw them all together into the oil, but failing in this, he gave up and the children were taken back to Fatima.

The Mass for the Feast of the Assumption on August 15 had just finished there when it was realized that the children had been returned. The people were still angry with the Mayor, but Ti Marto, the father of Jacinta and Francisco, calmed them down by speaking with them and accepting Santos’ offer of a drink.

The apparition to the children occurs August 19

A few days later Lucia, Francisco and his brother, John, were with the sheep at Valinhos, when, at about 4 p.m., they noticed the characteristic changes in atmospheric conditions that indicated an apparition of Our Lady: the air became fresher, the sun dimmer and there was a flash of light. Lucia told John to go and get Jacinta. As she arrived there was another flash of light and they could see Mary on a different, slightly bigger, tree. Lucia again asked what she wanted and was told: “Go again to the Cova da Iria on the 13th and continue to say the Rosary every day.” She again promised a miracle in October, as she had first done on July 13, so that all would believe.

Then, according to Fr. John de Marchi, in his book, “Fatima from the Beginning”, which was based on extensive interviews and first published in 1950, Our Lady said, “If they had not taken you to the town (Ourem) the miracle would have been greater.”

This is one of the most mysterious aspects of the whole Fatima story – that the sinfulness of Santos and his cabal of unbelievers could have had such an impact on the size of the miracle. We have no way of telling just how big it would have been without the kidnapping, but it might possibly have been seen over a wider area in Portugal, or even as far away as Spain. This is the mystery of free-will, and surely gives some insight as to why it is proving so difficult for the Christian message to penetrate the consciousness of modern society. There is so much hostility and ill will towards the Church nowadays that the task of evangelization has become much harder than before.

Perhaps the best lesson we can take from what happened in August 1917, is to try and be as steadfast as the children in holding on to the faith, even if it means suffering, with the knowledge that sooner or later, Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart will triumph and a period of peace will be given to the world.

Donal Anthony Foley is the author of a number of Marian books and maintains a website at www.theotokos.org.uk.

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