The children thoroughly enjoyed their days together playing and praying. Sometimes the girls would skip and dance in the sunshine to Francisco’s flute, and other times, Jacinta would gather wildflowers and throw the petals into the air, as she had seen the girls do in Corpus Christi processions.
Being outside so often in God’s beautiful creation gave Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta much time to ponder His goodness in their lives and to pray — especially to offer reparation, as the angel had instructed them, for those who had offended God. The children worshiped God in St. Anthony’s, their parish church, along with their families, but they also worshiped God in His “outdoor cathedral” in nature as they prayed each day. Their commitment to prayer can indeed inspire us all to praise and glorify God everywhere — not just in church.
On May 13, 1917, the young shepherds took their sheep to the grazing spot in the Cova da Iria (or Cove of Irene, which means “peace”). While the sheep happily nibbled at the grass, the cousins sat in a shady spot to eat their lunches. After rushing through a Rosary, they were just about to begin a game when the sky lit up with intensity as if by a huge bolt of lightning. Though there was no sound of thunder following the flash, the children quickly jumped into action to round up their sheep. They knew that it was dangerous to be out in an open field during a thunderstorm.
Another bright flash occurred, and suddenly a beautiful Lady all dressed in white appeared to the children. She was standing above a holm oak tree. Lucia would later say that the Lady appeared more radiant than the sun and radiated a beautiful crystal light. The children looked at her in awe. Before they could even think or wonder, the beautiful Lady put their minds at ease. She said, “Do not be afraid. I will do you no harm.” The oldest cousin, Lucia, knew in her heart that the heavenly Lady was not referring to any kind of fear that they might have had of her, because they were not afraid of her in the least. Lucia knew that the Lady was speaking of their initial fear of getting caught in a thunderstorm.
They observed her appearance as she stood before them on the tree. She seemed to be about seventeen years old. Her mantle and tunic seemed to be made out of light. A little ball of light hung from a cord around her neck, and near the bottom of her tunic was a star. The luminous holy Lady held resplendent rosary beads, and the crucifix on the rosary seemed to be illuminated to the greatest degree, giving off a dazzling glow.
The Beautiful Lady is From Heaven
The cousins might have recalled that the Angel of Peace had put their minds at ease as well the prior year. He had also told them not to be afraid. Lucia immediately felt prompted to ask the beautiful Lady a question. She had a feeling that she already knew the answer, but she wanted to be certain.
“Where are you from?” Lucia asked.
“I am from heaven,” the holy Lady answered.
Now that Lucia knew that the Lady was from heaven, she wanted to ask another question. Meanwhile, Francisco and Jacinta watched and listened attentively. Francisco could not hear the Lady.
“What do you want of me?” Lucia asked the Lady. The Lady answered right away. “I have come to ask you to come here for six months in succession, on the thirteenth day, at this same hour. Later on, I will tell you who I am and what I want. Afterward, I will return here yet a seventh time.”
Lucia, who always wanted to please God, decided to ask an important question that seemed to be burning on her heart.
“Shall I go to heaven too?”
The Lady answered Lucia that she would indeed go to heaven one day. Lucia wanted to know about her younger cousins, Francisco and Jacinta, too. The holy Lady assured Lucia that they would also go to heaven, but that Francisco would need to pray many more Rosaries first.
The Lady had something to ask the children but was very patient as Lucia asked her more questions. She wanted to know where her two friends who had died were. The Lady explained that one was in heaven and one was in purgatory. Lucia and her cousins knew that purgatory is a place where souls who are waiting to get to heaven go. They had learned this in their catechism lessons. We, too, learn in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven” (no. 1030). Purgatory is a place for souls to wait while getting ready to see God. It is where they are purified so that they can finally be eternally joyful in heaven forever and ever. Purgatory is not a punishment as much as it is a gift of God’s mercy.
A very good way to achieve holiness so that we can hope to go straight to heaven and possibly not need the purification of purgatory is through our everyday duties as Christians. Many of the saints have said that it is far better to work out our salvation while here on earth, by leading holy lives, following God’s laws, and doing penance. If we sin, we should immediately seek forgiveness and make a good confession.
The saints have also said that the greatest suffering felt in purgatory is the longing for God. We know, however, that the souls in purgatory will be purified and will eventually see God in heaven. There will be much rejoicing when they reach heaven! We can all pray for the souls in purgatory and offer sacrifices for them so that they can get to heaven sooner.
The Holy Lady Has a Special Request
Lucia had finished asking the beautiful Lady the questions that were on her heart. Now the Lady would ask all three cousins if they would accept a holy mission from heaven. She asked, “Are you willing to offer yourselves to God and bear all the sufferings He wills to send you, as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and of supplication for the conversion of sinners?” The children heartily agreed to do this. Of course, they could not see into the future. They did not know what kinds of sufferings God would send them. But they loved God and knew already that they could trust the holy Lady from heaven, so they did not hesitate to say yes. The Angel of Peace had helped to prepare their hearts for this holy mission when he had visited them.
The Lady then told Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta that because they had accepted this immense mission, there would be much to suffer, but she also reassured them that God would see them through it all and that His grace would be their comfort.
Suddenly, a bright, glorious heavenly light shown on the children and all around them as the holy Lady opened her hands. Lucia would describe it later in this way:
Our Lady opened both her hands for the first time, communicating to us a light so intense that, as it streamed from her hands, its rays penetrated our hearts and the innermost depths of our souls, making us see ourselves in God, Who was that light, more clearly than we see ourselves in the best of mirrors. Then, moved by an interior impulse that was also communicated to us, we fell on our knees, repeating in our hearts: “O most Holy Trinity, I adore you! My God, my God, I love You in the most Blessed Sacrament!”
Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta continued to pray that beautiful prayer of adoration and remained kneeling in the transforming holy light from the Lady. They were at peace. The visit from the holy Lady would come to an end soon, but first she would ask something more of the children.
“Pray the Rosary every day to obtain peace in the world, and an end of the war,” the Lady instructed. The children were more than happy to oblige her in this request.
But can you even imagine what the shepherd children were thinking after being entrusted with two great missions from the holy Lady in one day? They were asked to offer themselves to God and accept and bear all of the sufferings that He would give them “as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and of supplication for the conversion of sinners.” On top of that, the Lady asked them to pray the Rosary every day to obtain peace in the world and even an end to war! World War I was raging at that time. Surely, at seven, nine, and ten years old, the cousins would not think of themselves as being capable of stopping a war. No. But the holy Lady from heaven said it, so it must be true. God’s powerful graces illuminated the children’s hearts and minds, preparing them for the great mission that was entrusted to them.
Then, as quickly as the holy Lady had appeared over the holm oak tree after the two flashes of holy light, she disappeared from the children’s sight into the clear cerulean sky.
Can you imagine receiving such a special mission from a holy Lady who came down from heaven? The children were awestruck but completely at peace. They began to think about how they had previously rushed through their prayers and Rosaries every day, eager to play their games. They decided that they would pray more fervently and would no longer rush their prayers. After all, the holy Lady was counting on them!
Praying for the Conversion of Sinners
After the visit from the beautiful Lady, the children remained very prayerful. The Lady hadn’t requested secrecy, but Lucia sensed that it was best not to share about the miraculous visit from the Lady who came from heaven. Lucia asked her younger cousins to keep it a secret. Jacinta tried her best to keep it a secret but as soon as she saw her mother, Olimpia, later that day, she couldn’t contain her excitement. She thought she would burst if she didn’t tell her! She told her mother everything — blow by blow!
Olimpia thought that Jacinta must have imagined all of it. How could it be true? But, Jacinta’s father, Ti Marto, thought about it all and decided that Jacinta was telling the truth. After all, Francisco wholeheartedly agreed with the story, and Ti Marto recalled that the Blessed Mother had appeared to other people in the past.
Not everyone believed that the story was true, however, and the children were mocked and made fun of. When Lucia’s mother heard the news, she got very angry. Maria Rosa did not believe it could be true that a Lady came down from heaven, and she was extremely upset with her daughter for making up such a story that would embarrass the whole family.
It might not have occurred to the children right away, but the sufferings that the holy Lady had spoken about when she asked, “Are you willing to offer yourselves to God and bear all the sufferings He wills to send you, as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and of supplication for the conversion of sinners?” had already begun.
It was hard for all three of the children not to be believed and even to be ridiculed. Lucia especially felt awful to be scorned by her own mother and to be poked fun at by her siblings. Jacinta told Lucia that she was very sorry that she caused her such pain because she didn’t keep the secret and had told about the Lady’s visit. Lucia forgave her immediately. The children offered up their sufferings for the conversion of sinners.
Editor’s note: This article is from a chapter in Our Lady’s Message To Three Shepherd Children and the World, which is available from Sophia Institute Press.