The youngest seer at the famous Fatima apparitions, Jacinta Marto, explained before her death why certain warnings of chastisement, at places such as Fatima, occur while others fail to materialize or are delayed.
At one point, in 1920, at age nine, the new saint told a nun who was frequently by her side, “Our Lady can no longer hold back the Arm of her beloved Son from the world. It is necessary to do penance. If people change their ways, Our Lord will still spare the world; but if they do not, the chastisement will come.”
Arrive it did — World War Two — after a great sign in 1938. “Wars are nothing but punishments for the sins of the world,” said Jacinta.
“If men do no change their ways, Our Lady will send the world a punishment the like of which has never been seen,” she explained a hundred years ago, thus confirming that a) the Lord does punish, not simply allow events to occur b) that improvements in morality can allay or even erase negative events, proving that prophecy is indeed conditional c) that is, prophecies of coming catastrophes are often snapshots of what could or would occur if the state of morality remained where it is at the time of the prediction.
“It will fall first… upon Spain,” the Blessed Mother had told the girl about the coming punishment, perhaps referring to the Spanish civil war that arrived in the 1930s before a great chastisement she’d warned about: World War Two.
At one point, Our Lady told Jacinta the city of Lisbon was in danger of “sackings, assassinations, fires, and devastation of all kind” — that the capital would be “changed into a veritable image of hell” — but that this prediction should be announced only “gradually and with due discretion.”
Equally intriguing: the area of Fatima was preceded by miracles and apparitions centuries before the famous twentieth-century ones.
As far back as the 1100s, an impoverished young girl from the nearby hamlet of Reguengo do Fetal spotted the apparition of a woman who told her to go home and look in her cupboard. When the girl did she found fresh bread where before there had been no food and a miraculous well was also revealed in the area.
That was in the Middle Ages — centuries before Columbus set out for America. And there’s more. In the 14th century — around 1380 — another miraculous spring was found near Aljubarrota and associated with a poor woman named Catarina Anes. According to historical accounts one day Catarina went to the forest on a mountain called Valle de Deus to search for firewood and when she did heard a voice. It was a woman who offered to help her and when Catarina later went to the top of the mountain as instructed and dug a hole, a spring of crystal-clear water was found. “Now go and tell the people of your village that here they will find a remedy for all their infirmities,” said the woman, who was apparently the Virgin Mary.
The vision was accepted by the local bishop. D. Pedro de Castillo, when a blind man washed his eyes in the water and regained his vision.
In the same vicinity around the same time a third marvel was recorded as a knight named Nuno was headed for Aljubarrota. He spotted a small church dedicated to Mary in what is today the county of Ourem. Getting off his horse, Nuno entered the church and knelt before the altar, invoking Mary before heading into a great battle between Portugal and the Castillian army, which outnumbered his force. After the prayers the knight marched to battle and while passing through the village of Fatima felt a heavenly presence. The horses suddenly lowered themselves as if to kneel and a number of knights claimed to see angels, including the Archangel Michael. Invoking him, they then went on their mission and claimed victory on August 15, feast of Mary’s Assumption.
It was in this very area in 1915, 1916, and 1917 that Lucia dos Santos would see a similar angel identified as the “Angel of Portugal” but thought by many to have been Michael.
In the 1400s a deaf girl from another nearby hamlet called Casal Santa Maria, which is about a mile and a half from Fatima, saw the Virgin Mary over a cluster of ortiga bushes. Mary smiled and made an odd request. She asked the girl, who could suddenly hear, for one of her lambs. It was a test of obedience. Suddenly the girl spoke as if deafness had never afflicted her. “I would have to have permission from my father,” she said. And Mary smiled as the girl scurried off to do just that.
Naturally her father was flabbergasted, amazed to hear his daughter speak. He told her that the Virgin could have the lamb and anything else she wanted. As news of the miracle swept the area, pilgrims came to see the formerly mute child and on one occasion found a wooden statue in the midst of the ortigas.
It was Mary holding the Christ Child, her cheeks rosy, her stare intent and straightforward. Full of fervor the townsfolk took the statue to the village but that night it disappeared. It was found back in the bushes at the spot Mary had chosen for a chapel.
A final hidden aspect: that there was a miraculous spring associated with Fatima.
“The first Mass at Cova da Iria was celebrated on October 13, 1921,” wrote Zsolt Aradi in Understanding Miracles. “On November 17, 1921, a spring began to flow at the site of the apparitions.” Holy Water is now gathered at a fountain.
[see: The Last Secret]