Now the devil, no doubt alarmed by heaven's interventions in Portugal, decided to enlist human cooperation in his efforts to thwart them. After the terrible visions and prophecies of July 13th, in which hell and its works were exposed, the troubles from without intensified, especially for Lucia. As if the persecutions in her own home were not enough, the "freethinking" government officials -- who, however, were not free to admit either the truths of the Catholic faith or the possibility of divine intervention in human affairs -- began to turn their baleful gaze upon the children and the events at the Cova da Iria.
Chief among these was Arturo Santos, the administrator of Vila Nova de Ourem, the county in which Fatima was located. In The True Story of Fatima, the excellent account by Fr. John di Marchi based on his personal interviews of witnesses to the Fatima events, we have some background facts on Arturo Santos:
Arthur Santos was by training a tinker, or tin smith. His formal education had been slight, his ambitions large. A self-propelled and intrepid young man, he became the editor of the Ouriense, a local gazette in which his antimonarchical and anti-religious opinions were expressed with bitter zeal, and likely enough, some talent. In any case, with the advent of the Republic in 1910, Arthur Santos, at the age of twenty-six, was a man of consequence. After being elected to the Masonic Lodge of Leiria, the bustling Senhor founded a separate lodge in his native Vila Nova de Ourem, and was, before long, mayor or administrator of the county. This carried with it the corollary titles of President of the Chamber and Judge Substitute of Comarca. Wearing all these honours, with their companion authority, Senhor Santos was the most feared and influential man in his section of Portugal.
As an avowed atheist, Senhor Santos could only view the events in the Cova da Iria as a threat to civic order and the republican cause, so on about the 11th of August, he summoned Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco and their fathers to appear before him. Ti Marto, the father of Jacinta and Francisco, refused to bring the children, though he appeared himself; but Lucia's family thought it would serve her right to have to appear in front of the administrator. Lucia's Second Memoir:
As for me, what hurt me most, was the indifference shown me by my parents. This was all the more obvious since I could see how affectionately my aunt and uncle treated their children. I remember thinking to myself as we went along: "How different my parents are from my uncle and aunt. They risk themselves to defend their children, while my parents hand me over with the greatest indifference, and let them do what they like with me! But I must be patient," I reminded myself in my inmost heart, "since this means I have the happiness of suffering more for love of You, O my God, and for the conversion of sinners." This reflection never failed to bring me consolation.
The administrator interrogated Lucia in the presence of her father, her uncle and several others, sparing neither promises nor threats to force out of her the secrets that had been confided to her, all to no avail. He finally dismissed the child with a threat to kill her if necessary, and sent her home.
But Senhor Santos was not through yet. On the 13th of August -- the day the next apparition was to take place -- he personally appeared at the Marto home. He wanted, he said, to see these wonders at the Cova himself, and decided to take the children there in his own carriage, with a stop at the house of the local parish priest, Fr. Ferreira, on the way.
But from the priest's house, the carriage did not go to the Cova. Instead, it took the children to Senhor Santos' house. Now began an ordeal that was to last for several days. The administrator imprisoned the children in his house, where he subjected them to promises, bribes, and threats to get them to reveal the secrets they had heard from the Lady. Not even the threat of being thrown into a cauldron of boiling oil could move them. The administrator eventually threw them into the public jail, alongside actual criminals; but even this did not break them.
Nevertheless, it was a real trial, especially for little Jacinta. In her First Memoir, Lucia describes her torments:
I went over and drew her close to me, asking her why she was crying."Because we are going to die," she replied, "without ever seeing our parents again, not even our mothers!" With tears running down her cheeks, she added: "I would at least like to see my mother.""Don't you want, then, to offer this sacrifice for the conversion of sinners?""I do want to, I do!" With her face bathed in tears, she joined her hands, raised her eyes to heaven, and made her offering: "O my Jesus! This is for love of You, for the conversion of sinners, for the Holy Father, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary!"
Lucia goes on:
Next, we decided to say our Rosary. Jacinta took off a medal that she was wearing around her neck, and asked a prisoner to hang it up for her on a nail in the wall. Kneeling before this medal, we began to pray. The prisoners prayed with us, that is, if they knew how to pray, but at least they were down on their knees. Once the Rosary was over, Jacinta went over to the window and started crying again."Jacinta," I asked, "don't you want to offer this sacrifice to Our Lord?""Yes, I do, but I keep thinking about my mother, and I can't help crying."As the Blessed Virgin had told us to offer our prayers and sacrifices also in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we agreed that each of us would choose one of these intentions. One would offer for sinners, another for the Holy Father and yet another in reparation for the sins against the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Having decided on this, I told Jacinta to choose whichever intention she preferred. "I'm making the offering for all the intentions, because I love them all."Among the prisoners, there was one who played the concertina. To divert our attention, he began to play and they all started singing. They asked us if we knew how to dance. We said we knew the "fandango" and the "vira." Jacinta's partner was a poor thief who, finding her so tiny, picked her up and went on dancing with her in his arms! We only hope that Our Lady has had pity on his soul and converted him!
Meanwhile, at the Cova da Iria, the appointed time for the apparition came. A large crowd had gathered, but the children were not there. Fr. di March provides the testimony of a witness:
As before, I arrived very early at the Cova and sat down near the little tree where Our Lady had appeared. I went in spite of the fact that many people had tried to frighten me out of going. There were rumours it was the devil who came, and that he would wait until many people had come, then open the earth and swallow us all. A woman from Caterina had told me this, but I was not afraid. With so much praying going on, I decided, nothing so evil could happen. I asked Our Lady to guide me according to the divine will of her Son, and then I went.
The crowd this day was even greater than it had been in July. Oh, there were many, many more. Some came on foot and hung their bundles on the trees. Some came on horses. Some on mules. There were bicycles too, and everything else, and on the road there was a great noise of traffic.
It must have been around 11 o’clock when Maria dos Anjos, Lucia’s sister, got there. She had some candles with her that she expected to light when Our Lady came to her sister and her cousins. All around the tree, the people were praying and singing hymns, but when the children did not appear, they began to get impatient. Then someone came from Fatima and told us they had been kidnapped by the mayor. Everyone began talking at once; there was great anger, and I don’t know what would have happened if we hadn’t heard the clap of thunder.
It was much the same as the last time. Some said the thunder came from the direction of the road and others said it came from the tree. To me it seemed to come from a long way off. But wherever it came from, the thunder was a shock to the people. Some of them began to shout that we would be killed. We all began to spread out, away from the tree, but, of course, no one was hurt in any way. Just after the clap of thunder came a flash of lightning, and then we began to see a little cloud, very delicate, very white, which stopped for a few moments over the tree, and then rose in the air until it disappeared. As we looked around, we began to notice some strange things we had observed before and would see again in the months to follow. Our faces were reflecting all the colours of the rainbow—pink and red and blue and I don’t know what. The trees suddenly seemed to be made not of leaves, but of flowers. The ground reflected these many colours, and so did the clothes we wore. The lanterns that someone had fixed to the arch above us looked as though they had turned to gold. Certainly Our Lady had come, I knew, even though the children were not there.
But the people's anger had been kindled against the civil authorities, and against Fr. Ferreira, whom they suspected of having a hand in the children's disappearance. When the children were finally set free and returned home -- on the feast of the Assumption -- Ti Marto played a significant role in calming the people's wrath and preventing violence.
And the children, having faithfully endured their trials, were to be consoled for having missed their appointment with the Lady at the Cova. On August 19th, they received a heavenly visitation. From Lucia's Fourth Memoir:
I was accompanied by Francisco and his brother John. We were with the sheep in a place called Valinhos, when we felt something supernatural approaching and enveloping us. Suspecting that Our Lady was about to appear to us, and feeling sorry lest Jacinta might miss seeing her, we asked her brother to go and call her. As he was unwilling to go, I offered him two small coins, and off he ran.Meanwhile, Francisco and I saw the flash of light, which we called lightning. Jacinta arrived, and a moment later, we saw Our Lady on a holmoak tree.
What favor Jacinta must have enjoyed with Our Lady, since she waited to appear until the child arrived. Lucia continues:
"What do you want of me?"I want you to continue going to the Cova da Iria on the 13th and to continue praying the Rosary every day. In the last month, I will perform a miracle so that all may believe."
At this point, Fr. di Marchi mentions a detail that does not appear in Lucia's memoirs, and whose source he does not name, although he mentions earlier in the book that he had personally interviewed Sr. Lucia. He records that Our Lady said the following:
If they had not taken you to the town (meaning Ourem), the miracle would be even greater.
Of this detail, Francis Johnston offers the following commentary in his book Fatima: The Great Sign:
And here we have one of the most solemn lessons in the entire story of Fatima. How great would the miracle have been if the children had not been kidnapped? Would it have been of longer duration? Would it have been seen all over Portugal? Perhaps over Spain or even France, bringing incalculable benefits to the Fatima apostolate and the cause of world peace? We shall never know. All we do know is that the actions of one evil man, Arturo Santos, have endangered the lives of everyone living today. And this underlines a deep truth, frequently ignored today. Each sin committed in the world adversely affects everyone else, just as each merit gained favorably affects all others.
Lucia's memoir continues. She asked the Lady:
"What do you want done with the money that the people leave in the Cova da Iria?""Have two litters made. One is to be carried by you and Jacinta and two other girls dressed in white; the other one is to be carried by Francisco and three other boys. The money from the litters is for the 'festa' of Our Lady of the Rosary, and what is left over will help towards the construction of a chapel that is to be built here.""I would like to ask you to cure some sick persons.""Yes, I will cure some of them during the year."Then, looking very sad, Our Lady said: "Pray, pray very much, and make sacrifices for sinners; for many souls go to hell, because there are none to sacrifice themselves and pray for them." And she began to ascend as usual towards the east.
And so in August of 1917, from the center of the maelstrom of war, famine, death and pestilence he had loosed upon the earth, Satan reached out a claw and with it tried to slam shut the portal between heaven and earth that had opened up at Fatima. But he only succeeded in moving the door a few inches. Still, he was not through. The struggle was far from over.