August 13, 1917: The Three Shepherds are Kidnapped!

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Mayor of Ourem

As word of the apparitions spread around the countryside, more and more people were coming to believe that something supernatural was happening in Fatima. While at the same time, those whose hatred for God and the Catholic faith were determined to put an end to these miraculous happenings once and for all…

The village of Fatima belongs to the County of Ourém. At the time of the apparitions, the mayor of Ourém was Artur Oliveira Santos, a man of tremendous political power. All administrative, political, and sometimes even judicial power was centered in his hands.

Though he was a man of little education, a tinsmith by trade, he had been in politics since his youth. A baptized Catholic, he had abandoned the Church at the age of twenty to join the Masonic Lodge of Leiria. Later, he founded a lodge at Ourém of which he was the head. What added to his power was the fact that he published a local newspaper by which he endeavored to undermine the faith of the people in the Church and the priests.

When he heard about the apparitions of Fatima, he realized the effects they might have among the people. He realized, too, that if he allowed the faithful in his area to reinvigorate their faith, he would be laughed to scorn by his friends and Masonic brethren. In his mind, there was only one answer to the excitement at the Cova… it must be stopped.

On August 13, 1917, as 15,000 people awaited the arrival of the Lady at the Cova da Iria, the mayor of Ourém did the unthinkable: he kidnapped the children.

He lured them into his carriage by telling them he would drive them to the Cova, but instead, he stole them away to the jail in Ourém, determined to discover the secret that the mysterious Lady was telling them.

First, he offered them candy and some money, but they refused. Then to incite fear in the children, he told them they would be fried alive in boiling oil!

A guard appeared, who in a fearsome voice called out to Jacinta: “The oil is boiling now: tell the secret, if you don’t want to be burned!”

“I can’t,” Jacinta said courageously.

“Take her away and throw her into the tank!” yelled the inquisitor. The guard grabbed her arm, swung her around and locked her in another room.

Then another guard came and led Francisco into the Magistrate’s office. Grabbing hold of the boy, he shouted, “Spit out the secret. The other one is already burned up; now it’s your turn. Go ahead, out with it.”

“I can’t,” he replied, looking calmly into the eyes of this new Nero. “I can’t tell it to anyone.”

“You say you can’t. That’s your business. Take him away. He’ll share his sister’s lot.”

Francisco was taken into the next room where he found Jacinta safe and happy.

Lucia was convinced that they had been killed and thinking that she was next to be thrown into the burning cauldron of oil, she trusted in her heavenly Mother not to desert her, but to give her the courage to be loyal and courageous, even as Francisco and Jacinta had been.

Thus, no matter how horrific the threats were, the children had refused to give away the secret or say that they were lying.

Meanwhile, in the Cova da Iria, the 15,000 people who had gathered were getting impatient at the absence of the children. It was then that they witnessed the clap of thunder and flash of light just as before. A small, white cloud hovered for a few moments over the holm-oak, then rose towards the sky and disappeared. The Lady had kept Her appointment as promised.

Maria da Capelinha who had been at the earlier apparitions gave an account of that day:

“As we looked around us, we noticed the strange thing which we had seen before and were to see in the following months; our faces were reflecting all the colors of the rainbow, pink, red, blue... The trees seemed to be made not of leaves but of flowers; they seemed to be laden with flowers, each leaf seemed to be a flower. The ground came out in colors and so did our clothes. The lanterns fixed to the arch looked like gold.”

Two days after the Lady’s appearance at the Cova, the children were released unharmed. Our Lady had shown Herself to be more powerful than the devious plans of the Mayor of Ourém. For it was because of the miraculous signs that day that thousands upon thousands of people went from distrust of the events at the Cova to belief.

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August 19, 1917: The Fourth Apparition

Since the three shepherd children missed their appointment with the Lady on the 13th, they received a special visit from Her on Sunday, August 19th. The fourth apparition did not take place at the Cova da Iria, but in a clearing called Valinhos near the children’s homes in the little village of Aljustrel.

After lunch, Lucia, together with Francisco and his elder brother John, left for Valinhos. This time, Jacinta was not with them.

Lucia later wrote about the unexpected apparition:

“I felt that something supernatural was approaching and enveloping us. Suspecting that the Lady was going to appear to us, and feeling sorry that Jacinta would not be there to see Her, we asked her brother John to go and get her. An instant after Jacinta arrived, the Lady appeared.” Once again, She appeared over a holm-oak tree.

Lucia asked, “What does your Grace want from me?”

"I want you to continue going to the Cova da Iria on the 13th, and to continue praying the Rosary every day. In the last month, I will work a miracle so that all may believe. If you had not been taken away to the City, the miracle would have been even greater. Saint Joseph will come with the Child Jesus, to give peace to the world. Our Lord will come to bless the people. Our Lady of the Rosary and Our Lady of Sorrows will also come.

Looking very sad, She also said:

“Pray, pray very much and make sacrifices for sinners, for many souls go to hell because they have no one to make sacrifices and pray for them.”

The Lady then took leave of Her little friends and began to rise towards the east.

After Our Lady left, the children broke off a small branch from the tree where Our Lady’s feet had touched it. When they returned home, Jacinta gave the branch to Lucia’s mother. Sniffing the branch, she was surprised that it was giving off a pleasing odor, one that no one in the house could identify.

It was a little gift from Our Lady, but a gift that helped take away some of the skepticism and doubt that Lucia’s own family had.

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