By John C. Preiss
In the third apparition, the presence of the Angel was still more intense. For several days, even Francisco did not dare to talk. He said later on: “I love to see the Angel, but the trouble is that later on, we are incapable of doing anything. I could not even walk any more. I didn’t know what was the matter!”
It was a grace so sublime, and so intimate, that Francisco, all absorbed in God, did not have a clear consciousness of the mystical grace that he had received and felt in a confused way. Once the first few days were over, and we had returned to normal, Francisco asked: “The Angel gave you Holy Communion, but what was it that he gave to Jacinta and me?” “It was Holy Communion, too,” replied Jacinta, with inexpressible joy. “Didn’t you see that it was the Blood that fell from the Host?” Francisco replied: “I felt that God was within me, but I did not know how!”
From this moment on, we had begun to offer God everything that mortified us, but without looking to impose particular penances on ourselves, except to pass entire hours prostrated on the ground, repeating the prayer which the Angel had taught us.… We remained prostrate a long time, sometimes repeating these prayers even to the point of exhaustion.
Afterwards, when we prostrated to say that prayer, Francisco was the first to feel the strain of such a posture; but he remained kneeling, or sitting, and still praying until we had finished. Later he said: “I am not able to stay like that for a long time, like you. My back aches so much that I can’t do it.” (Fatima is Forever, Fr. Robert J. Fox)
However, God Himself would send His willing children the most fruitful sacrifices. The trials that would overwhelm Lucia’s family coincided almost exactly with the time of the first few apparitions. Little by little, her home life grew unhappy. This was all the more painful for Lucia because, until then, she had known great joy in her family, whom she tenderly cherished and who cherished her in return.
Sister Lucia notes:
Although I was only a child, I understood perfectly the situation we were in. Then I remembered the Angel’s words: “Above all, accept submissively the sacrifices that the Lord will send you.”
At such times, I used to withdraw to a solitary place, so as not to add to my mother’s suffering by letting her see my own. This place, usually, was our well. There, on my knees, leaning over the edge of the stone slabs that covered the well, my tears mingled with the water below and I offered my suffering to God. Sometimes, Jacinta and Francisco would come and find me like this, in bitter grief. As my voice was choked with sobs and I couldn’t say a word, they shared my suffering to such a degree that they also wept copious tears.
These difficult trials did not leave the shepherd children overwhelmed, however; the angel had told the children about these sufferings and had invited them to offer them in reparation for sins, for the consolation of God, and for the conversion of sinners.
The children received a very special grace, and the words of the angel had entered their souls in a profound way. As Sister Lucia explains:
These words were indelibly impressed upon our minds. They were like a light which made us understand Who God is, how He loves us and desires to be loved, the value of sacrifice, how pleasing it is to Him and how, on account of it, He gives the grace of conversion to sinners. It was for this reason that we began, from then on, to offer to the Lord all that mortified us.
Through these three apparitions, the angel taught the humble shepherd children how to pray and offer their sacrifices. Francisco and Jacinta were deeply touched and grew in the spiritual life. The angel also prepared them for what was to come. For Sister Lucia, the apparitions of the angel remained the most important parts of the message of Fatima. Sister Lucia wrote: “The message is more a new light to shine in the midst of darkness. Great is the Lord, immense in His mercy, eternal in His love! I believe in Thee, I adore Thee. I trust and I love Thee! For Thee I live!”