Lucia dos Santos: Part II (Witness of Fatima)

Last week I provided EWTN’s short summary of the life of Lucia dos Santos, the eldest of the seers of Fatima and the only to live into adulthood, indeed she lived to be almost 98 years old and only departed from this world in 2005. This week, I would like to write a few words about Sr. Lucia as witness of Our Lady of Fatima. Next week, I will write about her as Our Lady’s messenger.

As witness of Our Lady of Fatima she is also witness to a way of life that has nearly disappeared from the world. In 1917, when the Virgin Mary appeared to the 10 year old Lucia there were still large parts of the world that were nearly untouched by industrialization. Not only did the larger part of the world population live in rural areas, following ways of life rooted in the cultivation of the land (it was only after World War II that the majority of the population of the United States came to live in urban areas), but very large areas were largely untouched by machines and still had yet little or no experience of telephones, electric lights, radios, and automobiles. That was the world in which Lucia grew up, though she died in the age of the computer. Today, the television, cell-phone, and computer have reached into even the most remote areas of the world.

The first years of Lucia’s life were a life of poverty, but sufficiency, and of great simplicity. She grew up in a small village where everyone knew each other and that was not foreign to village vices of gossip and alcoholism. Her own mother was over severe, while her father seemed to struggle with a drinking problem. Yet she grew up in a world of close-knit intact families and in her writing there is never a word of harshness or criticism of either her mother or father, but only of gratitude towards them and for the richness of the childhood she was given. She also grew up in a village where the Catholic faith was believed and taught and, such as it is among sinful human beings, lived.

In 1917, when the Virgin appeared in Fatima, the world was rent asunder by the brutal violence of the First World War and the nation of Portugal was not only a participant in that war, but was internally deeply divided by the politics of a bitterly anti-Catholic government. For all that, the parish of Fatima and the hamlet of Aljustrel, were scarcely touched by these problems. Life there was pretty much as it had been for many generations, certainly as long as anyone could remember. It was by no means a paradise, such does not exist any longer in this world, but it was a place where life was deeply rooted in created nature, redeemed by the Blood of Jesus Christ.

The result of all this, as far as Sr. Lucia is concerned, is that she was one of the most ordinary, healthy, down to earth persons anyone could ever meet. That is what shines through in all her writings and is also the testimony of those who met her at various stages of her life.

So many of us now have been so cut off from the natural world, so removed from a world in which Catholic faith was simply the way things were, while at the same time so immersed in artificial environments of television and cyber-space, so caught up in a turmoil of internal thought, imagination, and emotion, that our perception of reality and of ourselves has been badly distorted. The obvious and evident is often hidden from us, while we now take for granted all sorts of things that, were we really to examine them carefully, are utter nonsense.

All this was foreign to Sr. Lucia. We have a very hard time really seeing things as they are; she was a person who truly saw and reported things as they were. We could say that her rootedness in the soil of her native land is something that we are badly lacking and something we need. It also makes her a powerful witness to the supernatural. There can be no question of mental illness in her regard, nor was she given to flights of fancy. She was well catechized for in the Catholic faith, but her mind was not filled with all sorts of strange ideas.

Further, her mother’s severity was focused on one particular, that her children should always speak the truth. This caused Sr. Lucia untold suffering because her mother was convinced that she was lying about having seen the Lady from heaven and could not tolerate that a daughter of hers should lie about such a serious matter.

Yet, Lucia was indeed, in this respect her mother’s daughter; she had indeed learned the lesson and her conscience was very sensitive to the least details when it came to the speaking truly.

As a result the truthfulness of her character stands as unimpeachable evidence to the veracity of her account.

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Fr. Joseph Levine graduated from Thomas Aquinas College and after a long journey was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Baker, Oregon. He currently serves as pastor of St. Peter Catholic Church in The Dalles on the Columbia River.