In preparation for the Society of St. Pius X’s pilgrimage to Fatima, here is an extract from the book Fatima, A Spiritual Light for Our Times, by Fr. Karl Stehlin. The lives of the three children who saw the apparitions remain an example for each of us.
Lucy’s long life was entirely dedicated to making Fatima known.
She had been chosen to be the principal witness of Our Lady before the whole world, and for this purpose she received specific virtues from Our Lady. It is important to analyze these special qualities of Lucy and consider how her life became a living revelation of the message of Fatima. As Lucy was to live almost a century as a religious and messenger of the Immaculate Heart of Mary to the world, her life was entirely different from that of her cousins.
Let us first recall some facts and testimonies, and afterwards see how they are a part of the “spirituality of Fatima” which we have to live if we want to be faithful to the Immaculate Heart.
From the time of the apparitions, Lucy was the one who suffered the most. One would expect that the privilege of such an intimacy with Our Lady would make the life of the seer a constant joy and thrilling happiness. For Lucy it was the contrary: the apparitions became a source of constant sorrow and humiliation inflicted on her by those whom she loved most: her own family and former friends who mostly followed the negative outlook of the parish priest. Such was her life in the years following the apparitions, during which she had to undergo many cross-examinations. The greatest suffering for her was the frequent accusation that she had lied: “While there were some who admired me and considered me a saint, there were always others who heaped abuse on me and called me a hypocrite, a visionary and a sorceress. This was the good Lord’s way of throwing salt into the water to prevent it from going bad. Thanks to this Divine Providence, I went through the fire without being burned, or without becoming acquainted with the little worm of vanity which has the habit of gnawing its way into everything. They are all mistaken. I’m not a saint, as some say, and I’m not a liar either, as others say. Only God knows what I am.”
At the end of the first interrogation for the canonical process she was asked a final question: “Are you quite certain that the Blessed Virgin really appeared to you?” She responded with this firm and solemn declaration: “I have the certitude that I saw her and that I am not mistaken. Even if they were to kill me, nobody could make me say the contrary.”
In June of 1921, Lucy left Fatima definitely, first for college and afterwards to enter religious life. Upon arriving at college, she was introduced to others under a different name, and was obliged “never to say anything to anyone regarding the events at Fatima.”
For four years, day after day, she had to carry the very heavy cross of obedience to this command.
Although it was easy for her to keep silence regarding herself, it was no doubt a heavy burden to be forbidden to speak of Fatima. It was also a sorrowful trial for Lucy that she knew nothing of what was going on at home in Fatima, for she was now totally separated from her family and heard from them very infrequently.
However, in her letters at that time to her family, we find a simple, courageous, humble, modest and thankful soul. Expressions of thanksgiving for the education she was receiving and the good example of the superiors are frequent. Canon Barthas writes that she was not free of imperfections, but if she realized that she had hurt anyone, she would immediately ask pardon very gently.
Her calm bearing and balance was especially striking, and she always kept an even temper. There was nothing of the neurotic about her, or even of the nervous or sentimental. One of her directors declared: “I only saw her weep once, and that was when she thought of her home town.”
In 1923, when enrolling in the girls association "The Daughters of Mary", she received an extraordinary grace: “After six years of real trials, it was on this day August 26, 1923, that Our Lady for the first time came back to visit me. This was when I entered the Daughters of Mary. She said that she agreed to be my true Heavenly Mother, since I had left my earthly mother for the love of her. Again she recommended to me prayer and sacrifice for sinners, saying that a great number are damned because they have no one to pray and sacrifice for them.”
Although she was completely successful in hiding the fact that she was the seer of Fatima, she could not conceal her tender devotion towards her Heavenly Mother. Her Mother Superior wrote: “On numerous occasions the sisters came to tell me that she had something extraordinary with Our Lady, because when she spoke of her, she was always different from other people, and people noticed that she had an extraordinary love for the Most Holy Virgin.”
In October of 1925, she entered the congregation of the Dorothean sisters, where she continued her life of simplicity and perfect obedience.
Up until 1929, the majority of her fellow sisters were unaware that she was the seer of Fatima. Her daily duties were simple, and her spirituality was to put into practicing the message of Our Lady by living the religious rule perfectly and giving herself entirely to the Holy Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Of the important revelations she had during this time, she faithfully and patiently “made them known” to her superiors and spiritual directors. What made her suffer the most was the general refusal to accept and to realize the requests of Our Lady, and what filled her with joy and thanksgiving was the adherence and zeal of those who propagated the devotion to the Immaculate Heart and afterwards made efforts to have Russia consecrated.
All the apparitions and revelations presented in the following chapters touched Sr. Lucy’s inner being.
She wrote letter after letter and received visits from high members of the hierarchy and many priests. But even when she experienced a lack of trust or refusal, in the midst of these immense sufferings she always maintained her role, faithfully and constantly passing on heaven’s requests and messages to the ministers of Our Lord, even when those messages consisted of awful threats and announcements of the worst calamities. To pray and sacrifice herself for these intentions was the rule of her whole life!
When Jacinta’s body was transferred to the cemetery of Fatima in 1935, the local bishop ordered Sr. Lucy to write a biography of Jacinta. Her answer reveals the degree of her spiritual life. She firmly declares that she wrote “solely and exclusively for the glory of Jesus and the Blessed Virgin,” and she continues, “I now take up this work, in spite of the repugnance I feel, since I can say almost nothing about Jacinta without speaking either directly or indirectly about my miserable self. I obey, nevertheless, the will of Your Excellency, which, for me, is the expression of the will of God. I begin this task, then, asking the most holy Hearts of Jesus and Mary to deign to bless it, and to make use of this act of obedience to obtain the conversion of poor sinners, for whom Jacinta so generously sacrificed herself.”
She made the same declaration for all the other memoirs and public writings; she never wrote anything of her own initiative, but always and only on the express order of the bishop. She always had an extreme reluctance and repugnance to write, especially when it came to writing down the secrets. When she was ordered to write down the Third Secret, she even fell into a mysterious and dangerous illness.
Sr. Lucy was always a humble religious. In 1948, she obtained the papal indult to enter the Carmelite order. The testimony of the nuns was unanimous all her life long: “She was very cheerful and very simple. Her conduct was always dignified and reserved in responding to the affability with which she was received everywhere,” testified the Mother Superior of Tuy. The numerous priests who knew her well were equally unanimous that there was nothing extraordinary in her appearance, words, or expression. She was always moderate and well balanced. “She does not like to speak about the apparitions. When she is obliged to do so, she does it with naturalness, with modesty, but with assurance.... She is endowed with a very faithful, rapid, extraordinary memory. ...She shows great docility to the orders of her superiors, in which she always recognized the divine authority.” (Canon Galamba)
In all her trials, humiliations and constant sufferings her refuge was always the Immaculate Heart: “The Immaculate Heart of Mary is my refuge, especially in the most difficult hours. There I am always secure. It is the heart of the best of mothers; it is always attentive and it watches over the least of her children. How this certainty encourages and strengthens me! In her I find strength and consolation. This Immaculate Heart is the channel by which God makes the multitude of His graces pour into my soul. Help me to be grateful to her and to correspond to such great mercies.
...Our Lord told me a few days ago: “I desire very ardently the propagation of the cult and the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, because this Heart is the magnet which draws souls to Me, the fire which makes the rays of My light and My love shine over the earth, and the inexhaustible well causing the living water of My mercy to pour over the earth.”
“...Do not think I am sad, that I cannot go there. I offer this sacrifice with pleasure, because with this we save souls, and I always remember the great promise which fills me with joy: ‘I will never leave you alone. My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way which will lead you to God.’” I believe that this promise is not for me alone, but for all souls who wish to take refuge in the Heart of their Heavenly Mother, and let themselves be led along the paths traced out by her. ...It seems to me that such are the intentions of the Immaculate Heart of Mary: to make this ray of light shine before souls once more, to show them once more this harbor of salvation, always ready to welcome all the shipwrecked of this world.”
One can say that her life was an explanation of the great means of salvation in the latter times: Mary's Immaculate Heart!
The life of Sr. Lucy in Carmel was one of self-immolation and continuous spiritual suffering. From 1950 onwards, one can find such statements in her letters as “I am pained that the consecration of Russia has not been done as Our Lady requested it.” In 1955, Sr. Lucy was reduced to silence, and without the express permission of the Holy See, no one could meet and speak with her. As long as she was able, she had spoken and written about the trials to come.
Although she was not allowed to reveal the third part of the secret, Sr. Lucy now realized that the prophecies announced in it were to be fulfilled before her eyes. Even if the disastrous realities of the Second Vatican Council and its reforms were directly concealed from her, through the visits of her relatives (amongst whom were also priests) she could sense the “diabolic wave which overflows the whole world,” and many times she spoke about “the last and final battle between the devil and Our Lady,” about the strategy of the devil “to overcome souls consecrated to God.” Knowing that the hierarchy of the Church had turned away from the requests of Our Lady, she said: “We should not wait for an appeal to the world to come from Rome on the part of the Holy Father to do penance. Nor should we wait for the call to penance to come from our bishops, nor from the religious congregations.”
She not only foretold chastisements but also gave important means to overcome the forthcoming calamities: “That is why now, it is necessary for each one of us to begin to reform himself spiritually. Each person must not only save his own soul but also all the souls that God has placed on our path.”
Before being reduced to absolute silence in 1974, Sister Lucy still had permission to write a certain number of letters. All of these letters address the crisis in the Church and a diabolical disorientation. She exhorts her correspondents to fidelity and vigilance against the diabolical powers at work in the world, destined to cause many people to lose the faith. In order to remain faithful, it is necessary to remember the requests of Our Lady at Fatima: to pray and make sacrifices for the conversion of poor sinners, to faithfully continue the daily recitation of the Rosary, to persevere in devotion to the Immaculate Heart, and to accomplish acts of penance. This would be the hidden life and immolation of Sr. Lucy until her death.
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Source: A Spiritual Light for Our Times, by Fr. Karl Stehlin, SSPX