A few moments after arriving at the Cova da Iria, near the holmoak, where a large number of people were praying the Rosary, we saw the flash of light once more, and a moment later Our Lady appeared on the holmoak."What do you want of me?" I asked."I want you to come here on the 13th of next month, to continue to pray the Rosary every day in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary, in order to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war, because only she can help you.""I would like to ask you to tell us who you are, and to work a miracle so that everybody will believe that you are appearing to us.""Continue to come here every month. In October, I will tell you who I am and what I want, and I will perform a miracle for all to see and believe."I then made some requests, but I cannot recall now just what they were. What I do remember is that Our Lady said it was necessary for such people to pray the Rosary in order to obtain these graces during the year. And she continued:"Sacrifice yourselves for sinners, and say many times, especially whenever you make some sacrifice: O Jesus, it is for love of You, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary."As Our Lady spoke these last words, she opened her hands once more, as she had done during the two previous months. The rays of light seemed to penetrate the earth, and we saw as it were a sea of fire. Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form, like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, floating about in the conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames that issued from within themselves together with great clouds of smoke, now falling back on every side like sparks in huge fires, without weight or equilibrium, amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear. (It must have been this sight which caused me to cry out, as people say they heard me.) The demons could be distinguished by their terrifying and repellent likeness to frightful and unknown animals, black and transparent like burning coals. Terrified and as if to plead for succor, we looked up at Our Lady, who said to us, so kindly and so sadly:"You have seen hell, where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace. The war is going to end; but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the pontificate of Pius XI. When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that He is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine, and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father."To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays. If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; but if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated. In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she will be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world. In Portugal, the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved..."
It must have been at this point that the children received the "Third Secret," which would not be revealed publicly for eighty-three years. However, in obedience to the Bishop of Leiria, Lucia committed the Third Secret to writing in 1944 as follows (edited here for punctuation, spelling and paragraph breaks):
After the two parts which I have already explained, at the left of Our Lady and a little above, we saw an Angel with a flaming sword in his left hand; flashing, it gave out flames that looked as though they would set the world on fire; but they died out in contact with the splendor that Our Lady radiated towards him from her right hand. Pointing to the earth with his right hand, the Angel cried out in a loud voice: "Penance, penance, penance!"And we saw in an immense light that is God something similar to how people appear in a mirror when they pass in front of it: a Bishop dressed in white. We had the impression that it was the Holy Father. Other bishops, priests, men and women religious going up [sic] a steep mountain, at the top of which there was a big cross of rough-hewn trunks as of a cork-tree with the bark. Before reaching there, the Holy Father passed through a big city half in ruins; and half trembling with halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met on his way.
Having reached the top of the mountain, on his knees at the foot of the big cross, he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him; and in the same way there died, one after another, the other bishops, priests, men and women religious, and various lay people of different ranks and positions. Beneath the two arms of the cross there were two Angels each with a crystal aspersorium in his hand, in which they gathered up the blood of the martyrs, and with it sprinkled the souls that were making their way to God.
Then, after warning the children against telling anyone what they had seen and heard (except that the girls could tell Francisco, who was not able to hear what was said) the Blessed Mother gave the children what has come to be known as the Fatima Prayer, albeit in a somewhat different form than that which is now commonly used (at least in English):
"When you pray the Rosary, say after each mystery: O my Jesus, forgive us, save us from the fire of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those who are most in need."
Then the apparition ended. But the controversy over what happened that July 13th has not ended. The Third Secret has given rise to much speculation, all the more since the decision was made not to make the Secret public in 1960, the year it was assumed the Secret should have been revealed.
Why 1960? When she wrote down the Secret for the bishop of Leiria-Fatima, Sr. Lucia wrote on the outer envelope that it could only be opened after 1960. When asked why, and whether Our Lady had fixed the date, she replied: "It was not Our Lady. I fixed the date because I had the intuition that before 1960 it would not be understood, but that only later would it be understood. Now it can be better understood. I wrote down what I saw; however it was not for me to interpret it, but for the Pope." By the time the contents of the Secret were finally made public in 2000, on the occasion of the beatification of Francisco and Jacinta Marto, so much doomsday-scenario speculation had gone on about it, during the bloodiest century in human history, that it seemed almost anti-climactic.
So much so that a whole industry has grown up around the idea that the entire Third Secret has not been revealed, in spite of Sr. Lucia's categorical statement in 2001 that there are no more secrets. It doesn't make sense, it is argued, that the vision of the Holy Father being shot refers to the attempt on the life of John Paul II on May 13, 1981, as asserted in the theological commentary on the Third Secret. But that is a gross oversimplification of then-Cardinal Ratzinger's remarks. The vision, he said, contains the whole bloody history of the 20th century, "a century of martyrs," as well as the special role of the Pope in "the Via Crucis of an entire century". And, in view of the Communist connections of Mehmet Ali Agca, the Pope's would-be assassin, Ratzinger's reference to a comment Sr. Lucia made to John Paul II in a letter in 1982 should not be overlooked: "The third part of the 'secret' refers to Our Lady's words: 'If not, [Russia] will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred; the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated.'"
Which brings us to part two of the July 13th controversy: whether or not, in spite of Sr. Lucia's statements to the contrary, the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary has ever taken place. On December 2, 1940, Sr. Lucia wrote to Pope Pius XII, asking that he consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart, and order all bishops to do the same in union with him. She stated that Our Lady came to ask for this in 1929, and described the efforts that had been made to have it done. On October 31, 1942, Pius XII consecrated the world to the Immaculate heart. On July 7, 1952, he consecrated Russia to the Immaculate Heart, but without the participation of the world's bishops. Further acts of consecration follow in 1964, 1982 and 1983. John Paul II finally made the consecration as requested on March 25, 1984, yet it is still alleged that the consecration has not been properly made. Perhaps the strongest argument they have is the moral and economic mess that Russia is still in today, which seems to counter-indicate a change of heart on the part of the Russian people.
Concerning the consecration controversy, some observations:
-- The 1984 consecration is criticized for not having explicitly mentioned Russia. Yet it is plain from the text of the act of consecration that the 1952 act of Pope Pius XII, which does mention Russia by name, is incorporated by reference. That would be good enough in a legal document; it was clearly good enough for heaven, as subsequent events attested.
-- Our Lady promised that Russia would be converted, but she neither said when this would take place, nor promised that it would take place instantaneously. God is not on our schedule.
-- There is a danger of expecting too much. Our Lady never promised that the consecration of Russia would eradicate all evils from the earth. That will not happen this side of the Last Day. Furthermore, she did not say how long the "period of peace" that would follow the conversion of Russia would last.
-- Our Lady's promises at Fatima were conditional. God made His promised blessings dependent upon our repentance and conversion, which has not generally been forthcoming. The fact that we have not promptly heeded Our Lady's requests for repentance and conversion must be set down as a factor in the present state of world affairs.
-- We must not forget that more than half a century elapsed between the time Our Lady asked for the consecration (1929) and the time it was actually done (1984). That was more than half a century that Russia had to spread her errors throughout the world. The late date at which the consecration was done, coupled with the amount of damage done in the world by Russia's errors, has to have had an effect on the timetable.
-- Yet the cataract of disasters in the Communist world that led to the removal of the Soviet Union as a threat to world peace began almost immediately after the 1984 consecration. It's hard to believe that there is now a generation of adults who are not old enough to remember the Cold War; perhaps this is part of the reason for the disappointment over the "failure" of Russia to be converted. It is true that the seeds of failure had been sown in the Soviet system from the beginning. Nevertheless, the Soviet Union persisted for generations: by the time the Soviet era came to an end, one had to be quite old to remember back behind it. For those who do not remember the collapse of Communism, it is hard to overstate how breathtakingly sudden, swift and unexpected it was. I recall very clearly that late in 1989, one of my German language professors, who was from Germany and still had family stuck in the GDR, declared her belief that the Berlin Wall would never come down; just a few weeks later, down it came. In a few months, Germany would reunify, East Germany having voted itself out of existence; the following year, the Soviet Union would be no more. All of this was unimaginable just a few short years before, yet it all happened within seven years of the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart.
-- The words of Our Lady concerning the conversion of Russia make clear that it is not merely for the benefit of Russia that that nation must convert, but for that of the whole world. There can be no doubt that the implosion of the Soviet Union which immediately followed the 1984 act of consecration was of considerable benefit to the world and to the cause of world peace, whatever else might come after. As for the change of heart of the Russian people, surely the breaking of the shackles of Communism was a necessary first step. The Communists had to experience the failure and collapse of their precious system.
-- We do not know what calamities have been averted because of the 1984 act of consecration.
But we do have an inkling, 93 years later, of how three small shepherd children were drawn into the maelstrom of human history and, by means of their generosity of spirit and heroic sufferings, became instruments in God's great intervention. More suffering lay ahead.