I shall now endeavor to reply to the second (question), which is the one that has been put to me most frequently: “Tell us, Sister, what exactly happened during the first apparitions about which little or nothing has been said?”
It must have been in 1914 or 1915, shortly after I began to care for my parents’ flock of sheep, because I had already begun the life of a humble shepherd together with other children of the area, when we were surprised by an apparition that completely puzzled us. One day when we were on the slopes of the hill known as the Cabeço, we saw something like a white cloud in the shape of a human being, which had come down from the sky and was passing slowly in front of us, above the trees that stretched down to the valley at our feet, as if wishing to attract our attention and keep our eyes fixed on it.
Some of the girls who were there told their parents what they had seen, but I said nothing beyond confirming, when asked, what the others had said. I have been asked many questions about this apparition, which happened several times in different places. My reply today is the same as it was then: I do not know what it was nor what it meant. But I was left with an interior conviction which I do not wish to conceal, and which tells me that it was the Guardian Angel. Perhaps in that form and without speaking, he wished to make his presence felt and so prepare souls for the accomplishment of God’s designs.
Until now, I have not wished to say any more about those apparitions than I needed to say in order to reply to the questions that were put to me. Today, however, I am doing so, not in order to confirm whether or not they were the Guardian Angel, but in order to tell you that Guardian Angels truly exist, and that they were created by God to serve, adore, praise and love Him. It is equally certain that God, in his abundant goodness and mercy has given each of us an Angel to accompany us, help and guard us.
I tell you this categorically, not simply because it was given to me to see; if such were the case, my words would not be very convincing. I am telling you what God has revealed to us in the sacred pages of the Old and New Testaments. You are free not to believe in what I myself say, but you cannot doubt the Word of God contained in Sacred Scripture. So let’s have a look at some of the passages in which God reveals to us this truth about Guardian Angels.
When Moses was crossing the desert, leading the People of God to the Promised Land, the Lord said to him: “Behold, I send an angel before you, to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place which I have prepared. Give heed to him and hearken to his voice, do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression; for my name is in him” (Ex 23:20-21).
And the sacred text also tells us what happened to Jacob when, in obedience to his parents’ wishes and in order to escape the foreseeably violent reaction of his brother Esau, he set off for Paddan-aram: “He came to a certain place, and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, ‘I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your descendants; and your descendants shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and by you and your descendants shall all families of the earth bless themselves’” (Gen 28:11-14).
I have heard various commentators on Sacred Scripture say that God communicated with the Patriarchs of old by means of dreams, as He spoke to the Prophets by means of visions. It must have been so, because if the dreams were mere dreams, there would have been no reason to attach such importance to them, neither would people have come to realize how, in fact, they were fulfilled in the life of Jacob.
We find the same thing in the life of St Joseph and the Three Wise Men, as the Gospel tells us. When the Wise Men had departed “An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt” (Mt 2:13-14).
As regards the Wise Men, the same Evangelist describes what happened: “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?’… Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star appeared; and he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him bring me word’… When they heard the king they went their way… and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshipped him…. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way…. Then Herod sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under” (Mt 2:1-12; 16).
Wise and studious men such as the Wise Men would not be inclined to believe in mere dreams or allow themselves to be guided by them. Hence, I believe that what they received were not so much dreams as true revelations of the supernatural. All the more so because dreams, as compared with revelations, are of less value than the night as compared with the day. In fact, whereas dreams leave in us a confused and vague memory of whatever it was we dreamt about, revelations are engraved indelibly in our spirit and leave a clearer memory even than of an ordinary conversation one has had with another person.
A certainty of this kind must have been engraved in the minds of the Wise Men and of St Joseph. Otherwise, they would not have attached so much importance to the dream, forcing Our Lady to get up in the middle of the night and set off for a foreign country with a tiny child in her arms, and without giving her time to make any preparations or secure some means of transport.
In addition to the events just described, Sacred Scripture describes many others which prove to us the existence of Angels and how God sends them, sometimes as messengers, at other times as helpers or as guardians and defenders. Here are some passage from the sacred pages: “Jacob went on his way and the angels of God met him; and when Jacob saw them he said, ‘This is God’s army!’… And Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day…. Jacob asked him, ‘Tell me, I pray, your name.’ But he said, ‘Why is it that you ask my name?’ And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life was preserved’” (Gen. 32:1-2; 24, 29-30).
One day when Our Lord was talking to his disciples, he said to them: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven” (Mt 18:10).
And St. Luke, describing the events surrounding the annunciation and the birth of the divine Word and his precursor John the Baptist, refers to several interventions by Angels: “While Zechariah was serving as a priest before God when his division was on duty… there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call him John’” (Lk 1:8; 11-13).
“In the six month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin… and the name of the virgin was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with your… Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God…. The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God’” (Lk 1:26-28; 30, 35)
When the time had run its course, Mary’s Son was born in the city of David called Bethlehem: Now, in that region “There were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, ‘Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord….’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!’” (Lk 2:8-11, 13-14).
But already in the very first pages of Sacred Scripture the existence of Angels is affirmed when, after Adam’s sin, we are given a description of his expulsion from the garden of Eden: “He (God) drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life” (Gen 3:24).
All the passages of Sacred Scripture which I have mentioned, and many others, prove to us that Angels really exist and also the purpose for which God created them, which is exactly the same as the purpose for which He created us: “To serve Him, praise Him, adore Him and love Him.”
With this conviction, then, let us sing with the psalmist: “Because you have made the Lord your refuge, the Most High your habitation, no evil shall befall you, no scourge come near your tent. For he will give his angels charge of you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone” (Ps 91/90:9-12).
Bearing these truths in mind, it will not seem so strange to us that God should have once again chosen to make use of one of his Angels in order to address to us yet another call to obey his law and remember the end for which we were created.