13 May 1917 was a beautiful Sunday in Portugal’s rugged Serra de Aire uplands. Sunshine bathed the olive groves. The fresh green of Springtime in the meadows and olive groves contrasted with the vivid red of poppy flowers. The happy voices of three children playing as they watched over their families’ flocks rang out in the clear air.
Suddenly, there was a rumble of distant thunder. Instinctively, the three children gathered their sheep to move the flock to the shelter of a small cave further downhill. As they raced to their task more thunder peeled and a flash of what appeared to be lightening frightened them. Then second flash followed, which seemed much closer than the first.
“A lady dressed in white, more brilliant than the sun, radiating a light that was clearer and more intense than a crystal cup filled with water and struck through by the fiery rays of the sun…”
Yet, the day was cloudless; the wind was still. Confused, they searched the sky for an answer. Then they saw a globe of light moving serenely from the east in their direction. The globe halted overhead, then alighted gracefully on a small holm oak tree. And out of that mysterious globe of light stepped forth a young woman. The children had no idea who she was. They were enthralled by her beauty and were somewhat apprehensive. Then a gentle and reassuring voice told them not to be afraid.
Here is Lucia’s description:
“A lady dressed in white, more brilliant than the sun, radiating a light that was clearer and more intense than a crystal cup filled with water and struck through by the fiery rays of the sun. Her face – indescribably beautiful – was neither sad nor happy, but serious, with an air of gentle reproach. Her hands were joined as if in prayer and were resting at her breast and pointing upward. A rosary hung from her right hand. Her clothes seemed to be woven of light. The tunic was white; her veil was white and edged with gold and covered the head of the Virgin and descended to her feet.”
The children were so close to Our Lady – a metre and a half away – that they were within the glow of the light that surrounded her.
The following words were exchanged:
Lucia: Where is Your Grace from?
Our Lady: I am from heaven (pointing to the sky).
Lucia: And what does Your Grace wish of me?
Our Lady: I’ve come to ask you to come here for six consecutive months, on the thirteenth day of each month, at the same time. Later I will tell you who I am and what I want. Then I will return here a seventh time.
Lucia: Will I go to heaven?
Our Lady: Yes, you will.
Lucia: And Jacinta?
Our Lady: Also.
Lucia: And Francisco?
Our Lady: Also, but he must say many rosaries.
Lucia: Is Maria das Neves already in heaven?
Our Lady: Yes, she is.
Lucia: And Amelia?
Our Lady: She will be in purgatory until the end of the world. Do you want to offer yourselves to God to endure all the sufferings He may be pleased to send you, in reparation for the sins by which He is offended and as an act of supplication for the conversion of sinners?
Lucia: Yes, we do.
Our Lady: Well then, you will have much to suffer. But the grace of God will be your support.
Lucia tells us what happened next:
“It was when saying these last words – ‘the grace of God’ – that she opened her hands for the first time, and they emitted a very intense light that penetrated our breasts, reaching the innermost part of our souls and making us see ourselves in God, who was that light, more clearly than we can see ourselves in the best of mirrors. Then, driven by a deep inspiration, we knelt down and recited within our hearts: ‘O Most Holy Trinity, I adore Thee! My God, my God, I love Thee in the Most Blessed Sacrament!’
“A moment later, Our Lady added: ‘Pray the rosary every day, to obtain peace in the world and to end the war.’ Then she immediately began to rise serenely towards the east until she disappeared into the far distance. The light that surrounded her was, so to speak, opening a way for her through the starry sky.”