|St. Mary Magdalene, one of the greatest penitents.|
On September 13th, the children were free to keep their appointment with the Lady in the Cova da Iria, hindered only by the immense crowds that gathered in eager anticipation -- thirty thousand souls, according to Fr. de Marchi. Lucia records in her Fourth Memoir:
As the hour approached, I set out with Jacinta and Francisco, but owing to the crowds around us we could only advance with difficulty. The roads were packed with people, and everyone wanted to see us and speak to us. There was no human respect whatsoever. Simple folk, and even ladies and gentlemen, struggled to break through the crowd that pressed around us. No sooner had they reached us than they threw themselves on their knees before us, begging us to place their petitions before Our Lady. Others who could not get close to us shouted from a distance:
"For the love of God, ask Our Lady to cure my son who is a cripple!" Yet another cried out: "And to cure mine who is blind!"...To cure mine who is deaf!...To bring back my husband, my son, who has gone to the war!...To convert a sinner!...To give me back my health as I have tuberculosis!" and so on.All the afflictions of poor humanity were assembled there. Some climbed up to the tops of trees and walls to see us go by, and shouted down to us. Saying yes to some, giving a hand to others and helping them up from the dusty ground, we managed to move forward, thanks to some gentlemen who went ahead and opened a passage for us through the multitude.
Among the tens of thousands of witnesses on September 13th was Msgr. John Quaresma, Vicar General of the Diocese of Leiria. Father de Marchi gives us an excerpt of a letter Msgr. Quaresma wrote about the events in 1932:Now, when I read in the New Testament about those enchanting scenes of Our Lord's passing through Palestine, I think of those which Our Lord allowed me to witness, while yet a child, on the poor roads and lanes from Aljustrel to Fatima and on to the Cova da Iria! I give thanks to God, offering Him the faith of our good Portuguese people, and I think: "If these people so humbled themselves before three poor children, just because they were mercifully granted the grace to speak to the Mother of God, what would they not do if they saw Our Lord Himself in person before them?"
Father de Marchi gives the following account of this shortest of the Fatima apparitions:So on a beautiful September morning we left Leiria in a rickety carriage drawn by an old horse, for the spot where the much-discussed apparitions were said to take place. Father Gois found the dominating point of the vast amphitheatre from which we could observe events, without approaching too nearly the place where the children were awaiting the apparition.
At midday there was complete silence. One only heard the murmur of prayers. Suddenly there were sounds of jubilation and voices praising the Blessed Virgin. Arms were raised pointing to something in the sky. "Look, don’t you see?"
"Yes, yes, I do...!" Much satisfaction on the part of those who do. There had not been a cloud in the deep blue of the sky and I, too, raised my eyes and scrutinised it in case I should be able to distinguish what the others, more fortunate than I, had already claimed to have seen.
With great astonishment I saw, clearly and distinctly, a luminous globe, which moved from the east to the west, gliding slowly and majestically through space. My friend also looked, and had the good fortune to enjoy the same unexpected and delightful vision. Suddenly the globe, with its extraordinary light, disappeared.
Near us was a little girl dressed like Lucia, and more or less the same age. She continued to cry out happily: "I still see it! I still see it! Now it's coming down...!"
After this, the Lady rose and departed.Now, while the beads were being told, the crowd could see the children rise from their knees and face to the east, and see the wonder come alive upon their faces. A moment while the children waited, watching, watching, their eyes on the oak tree now, their joy like a flame. They had fallen to their knees again, and people, close to Lucia, heard her say:
"What do you want of me?"
But for Lucia and her cousins there were no people. Their senses could not wholly accommodate the Queen of Heaven standing in gentle courtesy above them. There was room for nothing more. Neither smiling nor grave, the Lady gave her simple, direct, and unadorned instructions:
"Continue the Rosary, my children. Say it every day that the war may end."
"Is that all?"
No, there was more, because the Lady repeated all she had told them the month before, reminding them that in October they would see St. Joseph with the Holy Child. God Himself would be seen and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and Our Lady of Dolors would appear.
The Lady paused. Her triumphant beauty softened, her voice became more tenderly maternal.
“God is pleased with your sacrifices,” she said, “but He does not want you to wear the cords to bed. Keep them on only in the day.”
Lucia, whose eyes had been lowered during the Lady's statement of God's approval of their sacrifices, dared now to raise her glance.
"I have the petitions of many for your help," she said. "Will you assist a little girl who is deaf and dumb?"
"She will improve within the year," the Lady said.
"And the conversions that some have asked to have brought about? The cures of the sick ones?"
"Some I will cure," the Lady said, "and some I will not. Our Lord does not trust them all."
Lucia, obedient and satisfied, accepted this decision. She then remembered the desires of Maria da Capelinha and other pious women who had believed in the apparitions from the beginning.
"Would you like a small chapel to be built here with the money the people have left?" she asked.
"Yes; I would like a small chapel built in honour of Our Lady of the Rosary. But tell them to use only half the money for this. The other half is to be for the andors [litters] that you already know about."
Lucia’s thoughts turned inward to personal problems.
"So many believe that I am an impostor and a cheat," she said, "that they say I deserve to be hanged and burned. Will you please perform a miracle so that all of them can believe?"
"In October," the Lady said, repeating her earlier promise, "I will perform a miracle that will permit everyone to believe."
In the letter quoted above, Msgr. Quaresma noted that not everyone present received the privilege of witnessing anything out of the ordinary. Did Lucia's own mother, Maria Rosa, fall into this category? In her Second Memoir, Lucia records the following:
Since it seems Our Lord had, a month before, wished to give some visible sign out of the ordinary, my mother eagerly hoped that, on this day, such signs would be still more clear and evident. The good Lord, however, perhaps to give us the opportunity to offer Him yet another sacrifice, permitted that no ray of His glory should appear on this day. My mother lost heart once more, and the persecution at home began all over again.
But Lucia entertained no bitterness toward the family that laid such heavy crosses on her little shoulders:
[My mother] had indeed many reasons for being so upset. The Cova da Iria was now a total loss, not only as a fine pasture for our flock, but even as regards the eatables we had grown there. Added to this was my mother's almost certain conviction, as she expressed it, that the events themselves were nothing but foolish fancies and mere childish imaginings. One of my sisters did scarcely anything else but go and call me, and take my place with the flock, while I went to speak to the people who were asking to see me and talk to me.This waste of time would have meant nothing to a wealthy family, but for ourselves, who had to live by our work, it meant a great deal. After some time, my mother found herself obliged to sell our flock, and this made no small difference to the support of the family. I was blamed for the whole thing, and at critical moments, it was all flung in my face. I hope our dear Lord has accepted it all from me, for I offered it to Him, always happy to be able to sacrifice myself for Him and for sinners. On her part, my mother endured everything with heroic patience and resignation; and if she reprimanded me and punished me, it was because she really thought that I was lying. She was completely resigned to the crosses which Our Lord was sending her, and at times she would say, "Could it be that all this is God's work, in punishment for my sins? If so, then blessed be God!"
So the children, and especially Lucia, continued their way up the royal road to Calvary, carrying their crosses without complaint, and even looking for more ways to suffer for the sake of poor sinners. As for Maria Rosa, it remained to be seen whether her disappointment over not seeing any extraordinary signs would continue.