On the Hill, There Stands an Angel
Fatima, Spring, 1916
The mysterious figure who had appeared above the trees to Lucy dos Santos and her two companions in 1915 returned once again in 1916. But this time the details of the figure were clearly defined,
and by 1916 Lucy’s companions were no longer Teresa Matias and her sister, but her two young cousins, Francisco and Jacinta Marto. Francisco was barely eight, and Jacinta a child of 6.
A different relationship existed between Lucy, Francisco and Jacinta. Lucy treated them with love, solicitude and endless patience — remarkable qualities for a child so young. It is almost as if she were acting as their mother. And they were a happy threesome, the sound of their laughter filled the fields.
“Around this time,” Lucy would write in her Memoirs, “Francisco and Jacinta sought and obtained permission from their parents to start taking care of their own flock.
“To avoid going to the serra with all the other shepherds,”
Lucy remembered, “we arranged to pasture our flocks on properties belonging to my uncle and aunt and my parents.”
The land owned by the Marto and the dos Santos families included the Cova da Iria, the field where the great events of 1917 would take place. But it was not to the Cova the three cousins went first, but rather to the east side of a little
hill known as the Cabeço, a name that simply means head or skull.
From there they could see the rooftops of Aljustrel, where they were born, their parents’ homes and the hamlets of Casa Velha and Eira da Pedra. It was around noon. Among the large grey lichen-spotted boulders, stones and pebbles scattered about the hill, the children played their favorite game of
“The dates I cannot set down with certainty because at that
time I did not know how to reckon the years, the months or even the days of the week,” said Lucy.
Raindrops punctuated their noon-hour Rosary prayers and dotted the stones amid the bleating sheep, and the squeals of children playing in the pathways of Aljustrel rose to the Cabeço.
By remembering the weather outside, Lucy, when writing her Memoirs, was able to indicate the season when each of the three apparitions of 1916 took place.
“Around the middle of the morning a fine rain began to fall, so fine it seemed like mist. We went up the hillside, followed by our flocks, looking for an overhanging boulder where
we could take shelter.”
Thus it was for the first time that the three shepherds entered what Sister Lucy would call ‘this blessed hollow’ among the rocks in the middle of an olive grove belonging to Lucy’s godfather, Anasacio.
“We spent the day there among the rocks in spite of the fact that the rain was over and the sun was shining bright and clear. We ate our lunch and said our Rosary.”
They had enjoyed their game of Pebbles for only a few moments when suddenly
the sound of the wind filled the trees, as if a storm were approaching. They looked up to see what was happening, for the day had been unusually calm.
A bright light above the trees moved toward them.
Then they saw coming toward them, above the olive trees, the figure in white that Lucy, Teresa Matias and her sister Maria Rosa had seen the year before.
“Jacinta and Francisco had never seen it before, nor had I ever mentioned it to them.”
The light began to take on human features.
“As it drew closer we were able to distinguish its features. It was a young man about fourteen or fifteen years old, whiter than snow, transparent as crystal when the sun shines through it and of great beauty.”
On reaching the three children the figure spoke.
“Do not be afraid, I am the Angel of Peace. Pray with me.”
Sister Lucy recalled, “Kneeling on the ground, he bowed down until his forehead reached the ground. Led by a supernatural impulse, we did the same, and repeated the words which we heard him say.”
“My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love Thee. I ask pardon for all those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and who do not love Thee.”
Jacinta and Lucy were spellbound. Together they answered, “My God,
I believe, I adore, I hope and I love Thee ...”
Francisco was bewildered. He could not hear the Angel’s words.
The Angel repeated the words three times then rose and gave them specific instructions.
“Pray thus. The Hearts of Jesus and Mary are attentive to the voice of your supplications.”
Then the Angel disappeared, as if dissolving into the air. It was
then that the words that had been spoken were told to Francisco. We can only imagine the effect this had on the children. But we have Lucy’s own words to give us an exact description:
“The supernatural atmosphere which enveloped us was so intense that
for a long time we were scarcely aware of our own existence, remaining in the same posture in which he had left us continually repeating the same prayer.” They were spent, dazed.
The physical weakness that overcame them was also very great. The presence
of God made itself felt so intimately and so intensely that the three children did not even venture to speak to one another. The next day they were still immersed in this spiritual atmosphere, which only gradually began to dissipate.
It did not occur to them to speak about the apparition, but neither did they consciously decide to keep it a secret.
“The very apparition itself imposed secrecy. It was so intimate that it was not possible to speak of it at all. The impression made upon us was all the greater, perhaps, in that it was the first manifestation we had experienced. The peace and happiness which we felt were great but wholly interior, for our souls were completely immersed in God.”
The three had remained prostrate in the field with the subdued sounds of the Angel’s prayer on their lips. From that day on the three would spend long periods of time repeating the words of the Angel until sometimes they fell, exhausted. The Angel of Peace, when he appeared in 1916, made a lasting impression on the young children. There was no indication he would return. But
testifying to the fact that these were normal, healthy children, it was not long before the desire to play
seeped back into their pious activity.