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The Children Arrested

On August 13, 1917, near the holm-oak in the Cova da Iria, some 10,000 to 20,000 people had gathered. The tree, by now, had a wooden ‘arch’ over it, put there by Maria Carreira. Myriad voices said the Rosary. People glanced about looking for the seers. Suddenly, a man came running into the midst of the crowd and began telling them something. The crowd reacted with horror, shock and outrage.

“Around the holm-oak we prayed, we sang hymns of the Church,” Maria Carreira would later recount. “But the little ones were late in coming, and everyone began to be impatient. Then someone came from Fatima saying that the Administrator had taken the children away.”

Then came the sound of a clap of thunder followed by a flash of lightning. The people pointed in different directions regarding where it came from. Some of the frightened people hurried away.

Maria recalled the scene: “At the clap of thunder there followed lightning and at once we began to notice a small cloud, very pretty, white in color, very light. The faces of the people had all the colors of the rainbow, pink, blue, red. The trees did not appear to have branches but flowers; everything seemed laden with flowers, every leaf appeared to be a flower. The ground was covered with squares of different colors. Clothes were also every color of the rainbow. The two lanterns attached to the arch appeared to be made of gold.”

Manuel Goncalves also remembered: “There were many extraordinary signs. In August almost all those who were there saw them ...”

Certainly Our Lady had come to the rendezvous. The cloud hovered for some moments over the holm-oak, then rose toward the sky and disappeared in the atmosphere.

Our Lady had kept Her appointment but the children were not there.

Some miles away from the Cova, in the office of the Administrator in Vila Nova de Ourem, a little after 1:30 p.m., Lucy, Jacinta and Francisco stood terrified as the man berated them ruthlessly, as if they were criminals.

“Who has taught you these things you are saying?”

“It is Our Lady I saw at the Cova da Iria,” said Lucy.

“Those who spread lies, who do so much evil ... will be judged and they will go to hell, if they do not tell the truth.”

Lucy responded with compelling clarity: “If those who lie are going to hell, then I shall not go to hell, because I do not lie and I say only what I saw and what Our Lady told me. And as for the people who go there, they go there because they wish to. We do not tell them to go.”

Here was a response to authority worthy of Joan of Arc or Bernadette, neither whom, armed with the confidence of the Holy Ghost, were intimidated or outwitted by their better-educated interrogators.

“Is it true that this Lady has confided a secret to you?”

“Yes, but I cannot tell it. If the parish priest wants to know it, I will ask Our Lady and if She gives me permission, I shall tell it to him.”

By the next day, August 14, the children were exhausted. On this day they were questioned by both the Administrator and a Doctor Antonio Rodrigues de Oliveira.

The children were forced to submit to nine interrogations within a few hours. The Administrator appealed to Dr. Oliveira to prove the children were hysterical or hallucinating. Not a single word of the doctor’s conclusions has ever been published.

The Administrator finally locked these three children in a jail cell. The bars banged closed behind the children, the sound reverberating until the discordant notes of men breathing and moaning in the dark overtook them. It need not be stressed that when the term ‘hardened criminals’ is used to characterize the men in the cell with the children, we are talking about a small town in Portugal in 1917.

The offenses in question might run the gamut from disorderly conduct and drunkenness to possibly breaking and entering. But it was enough that the men were grown adults and unknown to the children in the gloomy cell.

These three young children were paying a very high price for their loyalty to Our Lady. They did honor to themselves and to the Heavenly Mother who confided in them.

And now they had more to offer for the souls of sinners who had no one to pray and make sacrifices for them.

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