medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
The Telegraph has many more interesting details.
looks like she's headed for Phyllis' list, for sure.
Sister Lucia De Jesus Dos Santos
Sister Lucia De Jesus Dos Santos, who died on Sunday aged 97, was the last of
the three children said to have seen apparitions of the Virgin Mary outside
the Portuguese town of Fatima in 1917.
Although the Roman Catholic Church is extremely wary of private revelations,
several popes have indicated their personal acceptance of the authenticity of
the appearances; in 1983, John Paul II beatified the two other children
involved. Nevertheless, some commentators, usually outside the Church, have
continued to question the authenticity of the miracles, while a tiny minority
of Catholics has cast doubts on elements which have periodically been made
On six occasions between May and October 1917, Lucia claimed, the Virgin Mary
appeared to her and her cousins, Jacinta and Francisco Marto, while they
tended the family sheep. She urged them to pray the rosary daily for world
peace and to bear their daily hardships as a sacrifice to ensure that sinners
A crowd of 50,000 arrived at Fatima on October 13 1917, the date of the final
apparition - at which the Virgin had promised a "miraculous sign so that all
may believe". Thousands claimed that they saw the sun turn red and spin
violently on its axis, though others suggested they had merely witnessed an
Exactly six months earlier, the Virgin had made her first appearance to the
children as they played after lunch on a rocky slope. Seeing a flash of white
light over a holm oak tree, they feared a thunderstorm, and were shepherding
the flock downhill when they met a lady by the tree "shining white, brighter
than the sun", as Lucia recorded in her memoirs.
Announcing that she was from heaven, the Virgin said that she would appear to
them for six successive months, at the same place and on the same day each
month, revealing her identity during the final vision.
Subsequently, she confided a terrible vision of hell "where poor sinners go",
showing blackened souls floating in a fiery pool. If humanity did not repent,
warned the Virgin, a second, more terrible war would break out.
This was the first of the Three Secrets of Fatima. The second predicted that
Russia would return to Christianity and, in 1944, while gravely ill, Lucia
sent a sealed envelope containing the contents of the Third Secret of Fatima
to the Vatican, with strict instructions that it should not be opened before
The then Pope, John XXIII, announced that the secret did not concern him, and
it mouldered in the Vatican vaults for a further 40 years. This prompted
rumours that it contained an awful vision of the apocalpyse or referred to
problems in the Church since the second Vatican Council. Such speculation even
led a former Trappist monk to hijack an Aer Lingus plane in 1981, threatening
to blow it up unless the secret was revealed.
When, in 2000, the Church finally disclosed that the secret consisted of an
allegorical vision showing a bishop clad in white, who had been shot and was
stumbling across a field strewn with corpses to reach the Cross, many were
disappointed. Rumours of an undisclosed "third part of the third secret"
abounded; but the Church suggested that the vision was a prophecy of the
assassination attempt on John Paul II in St Peter's Square by a Turkish gunman
in 1982; John Paul II himself attributed his salvation to the Virgin of
Fatima, declaring "one hand fired and another hand guided the bullet away".
The next year, he placed the bullet in the crown of the Virgin of Fatima, the
image of the Virgin in the Portuguese town; and, in 2000, the Pope beatified
Francisco and Jacinta Marto, thus placing them on the path to sainthood. Both
had died in childhood, as predicted by the Virgin during the 1917 apparitions.
But she had told Lucia that her mission was to remain on earth to spread the
Fatima message of prayer, penance and life conversion.
The seventh and last child of Antonio Dos Santos and Maria Rosa e Rosa, Lucia
Dos Santos was born on March 22 1907 at Aljustrel, a hamlet of Fatima. Her
earliest memories included learning the Hail Mary as her mother taught the
prayer to her elder sister. Though her father was somewhat slack in his
religious duties, Lucia's mother catechised and taught the Bible stories to
most of the village children.
On feast days and festivals, Lucia's sisters would dress her in hats adorned
with gold beads and fringed shawls and bring her to dances, where she would
sing for the crowds. If there were a shortage of female partners, she would
dance the waltz. However, on making her First Holy Communion at the age of
seven, Lucia renounced such worldly pleasures, preferring instead to meditate
on spiritual matters. She had plenty of opportunity when sent, that year, to
shepherd the family sheep on land in Fatima. Soon she had her first vision of
an angel, a rather blurred apparition resembling, she told her family,
"somebody wrapped up in a sheet"; the description drew much teasing from her
While watching over the family sheep with her cousins the following year,
Lucia saw another angel, this time resembling "a boy of great beauty, about 14
years old, whiter than snow, transparent as crystal when the sun shines
through it". Announcing that he was "the Angel of Peace", the apparition
taught the children prayers, showing them a vision of a chalice above which he
held the Eucharist, which was dripping blood. He revealed, in two subsequent
visions, that Jesus and Mary had special plans in store for them.
Despite this, it came as a shock when, on May 13 1917, the Virgin Mary
appeared to the children over the oak tree. Before ascending to heaven, she
opened her hands towards them and, Lucia later wrote, streams of light issued
from her hands and appeared to pierce the children's chests. Having announced
her reappearances, the Virgin asked for a church to be built on the Cova da
Iria, the spot at which she appeared. She added that the First World War, then
in its penultimate year, would soon end.
News of the apparitions spread quickly. Although Lucia had urged silence,
six-year-old Jacinta found it impossible to say nothing. As Lucia suspected,
trouble followed: all the children were interrogated together and separately
by priests and a psychologist. Lucia was severely scolded by her mother, who
threatened to beat her unless she confessed that the apparitions were a lie.
Shortly before the apparition in August, the regional adminstrator kidnapped
the children and, in a series of separate interviews, threatened to boil them
alive in oil if they did not deny the apparitions. When this failed, he cast
them for a night into the county jail, where Francisco led the prisoners in
prayer and Jacinta danced the fandango with a thief. The children interpreted
these hardships as the suffering predicted for them by the Virgin Mary.
In the meantime, pilgrims were appearing at Fatima before the monthly
apparitions, begging the seers to ask the Virgin for favours. Some 50,000
people were present on October 13 for the final vision, on a rainy morning. At
about 1 pm the children arrived, and Lucia told the crowds to put away their
umbrellas. Suddenly she shrieked "Look at the sun!", and members of the crowd
later testified that it changed colour, and began to turn on its axis as
though dancing, as it hurtled towards the earth. Lucia later revealed that,
while the crowd witnessed the sun change colour, the seers witnessed visions
of the Virgin Mary and also Jesus and Joseph in the sky.
Within five years, Lucia was the only seer still alive, and had gone, at the
Virgin's suggestion, to learn to read and write at the village school. In
1923, her mother smuggled her out of Fatima and into the convent school of the
nuns of the Institute of St Dorothy at Oporto. To disguise her identity, the
nuns re-named her Maria das Dores.
By 1925, Lucia had entered their novitiate at Pontevedra, over the border in
Spain, where she saw fresh visions of the Virgin and Child Jesus. In one, Mary
told Lucia about a spiritual exercise she had mentioned at Fatima involving
the faithful attending Mass on the first Saturday of each month for five
consecutive months in order to offer prayers and sacrifice for the conversion
of Russia. Later, the Child Jesus appeared to Lucia in the convent's backyard
when she was taking out the rubbish, and urged her to spread this devotion
throughout the world.
In 1929 the Virgin Mary instructed Lucia to tell the Pope about this and to
ask him to say a special prayer, in union with every Catholic bishop in the
world, consecrating the entire world - but especially Russia - to her
immaculate heart. Only thus, said the Virgin, would Russia be prevented from
spreading its errors (Communism).
When a letter from the Bishops' Conference of Portugal failed to elicit a
papal response, Lucia's bishop and her spiritual confessor urged her to write
a personal letter to Pope Pius XII. Despite strong misgivings, she complied,
signing herself "the least of the daughters of the Church"; and, in 1942, the
Pope made the consecration. However, he failed to ask the other Catholic
bishops in the world to unite with him in prayer. In 1984, John Paul II
repeated the consecration in Rome in union with the world's bishops. For years
malcontents speculated that the consecration was incomplete; but in 1989,
months after the fall of the Iron Curtain, Sister Lucia announced that
"heaven" had accepted the Pope's 1984 consecration.
Since taking her final vows in 1928 Lucia, now known as Lucia de Jesus, had
tried to keep a low profile in the convent, though she was constantly besieged
by visitors. She wrote four separate accounts of the 1917 visions to satisfy
her bishop and spiritual director, who guessed correctly that Lucia was
suppressing the full story. In a letter attached to her fourth memoir,
finished in December 1941, Lucia told her bishop that she had finally told
all, and felt like a "skeleton stripped bare and put on exhibition in the
museum of the world".
In March 1948 Sister Lucia transferred from the Institute of St Dorothy to the
Convent of Carmel at Coimbra, Portugal, by special permission, and though
never seen by the public, she would sometimes reply to written requests for
prayer. In response to the deluge of questions and requests regarding Fatima,
in 2000 Lucia wrote a 354-page book, Appeals of the Fatima Message,
summarising the visions and their message.
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