What the Angel Wanted
The covered well behind Lucy’s house, like so many miniature locales in Portugal, had its own name, the arniero. There the sound of a splash of water indicated someone has dropped a tin bucket down into the well to draw up a cool refreshing drink.
This day the leaves of the trees around the well cast shadows down on the small figures of Jacinta, Francisco and Lucy as they played the games that children play — games made up on the spur of the moment, full of laughter and scoldings and shouts of triumph.
The summers are hot in Portugal. The heat of the day could be so intense that our three little shepherds were sometimes compelled to take the sheep home before noon and not take them out again until early evening. On this day it was the height of summer, several months after Lucy, Francisco and Jacinta had first seen the Angel on the hill above Aljustrel. Today the children had gone to pass the noon hour at the well down the hill from Lucy’s house.
Later, much later, in her adult years, Sister Lucy would write in her memoirs:
“We went to spend the siesta hours in the shade of the trees which surround the well. Suddenly we saw the same Angel right beside us.”
Jacinta, then Francisco, then Lucy stared in wonder at the Angel before them, who was brighter than the sun.
Then the light of the Angel dimmed just enough for them to see the figure of a beautiful fourteen-year-old youth, no longer transparent.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“Pray, pray very much. The holy Hearts of Jesus and Mary have designs of mercy on you.” Lucy looked very guilty, and Jacinta very ashamed.
“Offer prayers and sacrifices constantly to the Most High,” the Angel said.
Lucy regaining her composure somewhat, said, “How are we to make sacrifices?”
The Angel said, “Make of everything you can a sacrifice and offer it to God as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication for the conversion of sinners. You will thus draw down peace upon your country. I am its Angel Guardian, the Angel of Portugal. Above all, accept and bear with submission the suffering which the Lord will send you.”
Once again, as at the first appearance of the Angel at the Cabeco, Francisco did not hear the words spoken, and it was with difficulty that he understood them when they were told to him.
The three children watched in perfect stillness as the Angel disappeared.
“At the second apparition of the Angel, down by the well,” Lucy wrote, “Francisco waited a few moments after it was over then asked ...”
“You spoke to the Angel. What did he say?”
“Didn’t you hear?”
“No. I could see that he was talking to you. I heard what you said to him but what he said to you I don’t know.”
As the supernatural atmosphere in which the Angel left us had not yet entirely disappeared, I told him to ask Jacinta or myself the next day.
But he wanted to know right away.
“Jacinta, you tell me what the Angel said.”
“I’ll tell you tomorrow,” she said weakly. “Today I can’t talk about it.”
Francisco lay awake in bed that night, thinking it all over, lips moving in prayer, eyes filled with memories of the noon hour.
Poor Francisco. He did not sleep well that night. He kept thinking about the Angel and what he could have said to his cousin. But the next day, in the street in the morning, Lucy and Francisco walked and talked. Lucy told him all that the Angel had said. But still Francisco was full of questions:
“Who is the Most High? What is the meaning of ‘The Hearts of Jesus and Mary are attentive to the voice of your supplications’?”
Lucy gave him an explanation, but he remained deep in thought for a while; silent and pensive. Then he asked another question. But Lucy, too, needed time before she could speak further. Her mind was not yet free of her own thoughts and questions. So she told him to wai t until the next day.
On the hillside next morning Francisco followed and badgered Jacinta. Jacinta was very firm in her response.
“Listen! We shouldn’t talk much about these things.”
As Sister Lucy would write, “When we spoke about the Angel, I don’t know what it was we felt.”
Jacinta said, “I don’t know how I feel. I can no longer talk, or sing, or play. I haven’t enough strength for anything.”
“Neither have I,” said Francisco. “But what of it. The Angel is more beautiful than all this. Let’s think about him.”
Even at their very young age these three illiterate children were beginning to sense the very great mission for which they had been singled out.
The Angel, to get their attention, had used the same words that the voice of God Himself had uttered to Elias on Mount Horeb. They are recorded in the Book of Kings. “What are you doing Elias?” It was the same with the seers of Fatima. “What are you doing?” the Angel had asked them. “Pray, pray much.”
The Angel’s second visit in 1916 was to teach Lucy, Francisco and Jacinta a lesson about making sacrifices. A very great responsibility for children so young.