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Divine Providence
Pastoral letter of José Alves Correia da Silva, the Bishop of Leiria,
concerning the formal recognition of the cult of Our Lady of Fatima
October 13th, 1930

Internet adaptation by

Dr. Wojciech Kosek

thanks the help of Sir Nuno Prazeres,

WAF international Secretariat,

www.worldfatima.com

See also [1]:

A. M. Martins, R. Fox (red.), Documents on Fatima & Memoirs of Sister Lucia. Pictorial Documentary & Historical Update, third edition, Alexandria, 2002, p. 285-291.

Divine Providence, that rules and directs all creatures, has for man, who is endowed with an immortal soul, special regard and kindness.

Just as a good head of a family cannot, because he never ought to, abandon his wife and children, so too, the infinitely good God, Who has created us out of His own free will and goodness, cannot abandon us. Both history and experience have proved this.

What tenderness the Lord had for His chosen people who at times were so ungrateful …. How He defended them against their enemies; how He preserved them in the practice of the true religion despite their idolatrous tendencies! Even while chastising how. He showed Himself as a tender, loving Father….

When the happy hour of Redemption arrives, the very Son of God descends from Heaven into this world, assumes human nature, and dies on the Cross to redeem us, to save us!…

And even after His death, He remains with us thus fulfilling His promise: Behold I shall be with you unto the consummation of the world.

Mary our Mother

In this work of Redemption and Salvation, Our Lord wanted His Mother to be associated with Him. Let us just reflect upon Our Lord’s agony on Calvary.

Like the father that spends his life in working for his children, Jesus had given us all without measure and without reserve. He gave us His doctrine and with it light and life. He gave us grace and resurrection. He instituted the Sacraments as so many other means of sanctification. But His love was not yet satiated. Now that He is about to die, He wishes to dispose of what remains with Him, He wishes to make His last will. But He has only His dear Mother. It is She that He bequeaths to us! What a solemn moment. All mankind are His heirs; the gentiles, represented there by the Roman soldiers; the Jews, by the inhabitants of Jerusalem who has come to witness His death; the sinners by the two crucified thieves; and the just by the holy women who accompanied Jesus to the heights of Golgotha.

John, the only Evangelist, is the one that is charged to put down in writing Our Lord’s words.

Jesus pardons the repentant thief. He forgives his executioners: Father, forgive them….. And then He exclaims: Behold thy Mother!

And Mary most holy, the Virgin pure, the Treasure of Heaven and earth, the hand –maid of the lord, receives us as her children, brought forth in the immense pains of Calvary!

Prostate before Our Lady we cannot but say with our holy Mother the Church, with the Christians of all times: “Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, hail our life, our sweetness and hope! To thee we cry, poor banished children of Eve, to thee we send up our sights, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears! Hail!”

Fulfilling Jesus’ bequest, we see her with the Apostles waiting for the descent of the Holy Spirit; we see her praying with the primitive Christians and participating in their afflictions.

And how loving a mother has she been throughout all these ages!….

Even though it were possible to count the sands of the sea and the stars in the heavens, it would yet not be possible to count the gifts which the Virgin most holy has showered upon souls.

Look at the number of charitable institutions spread throughout the world, placed under her protection. Count the innumerable churches and shrines raised in her honour, the offerings of grateful individuals and nations, for benefits received … And without going very far, without leaving our own dear Motherland, it is enough to point to the chapels and churches and monuments of glory, raised by the faith of our forefathers, so many of them, in honour of our dearest Heavenly Mother, the Sovereign Lady of Portuguese lands.

But above all, it is in calamitous times, when her children or nations are about to perish, victims of their ingratitude and of their sins, when as the prophet says, “I called and you did not answer, I spoke and you did not hear,” in such times of peril it is that Mary calls men to do penance, as at La Salette and, lately at Fatima.

Mediatrix of all graces

In times past, Jeremias threatening the Hebrew people in the name of Yahweh had exclaimed:

“I will suddenly speak against a nation and against a kingdom, to root out, and to pull down and to destroy it. If that nation against which I have spoken shall repent of their evil, I also will repent of the evil that I have thought to do to them.”

This care and zeal of our Heavenly Father and of our Mother in coming to us to inspire us, to speak to us, is most natural. Could we perchance admit that a kind father will not speak with his son? Or that a mother will have no love for him whom she bore in her womb and whom she nursed? Sometimes it is the mute language, but none the less persuasive, of a silent action of the father, or the tears which freely flow from the eyes of the mother; …. at other times, it is the prudent advice or the severe warning that guides us on the path of duty; again, it is the parental smiles that encourage us or the threats that frighten us.

Now if earthly parents bestow on us so much care and attention, is the love of our Heavenly Father, to Whom everything is possible – not superior – the Father Who watches over the birds of the air and clothes the lilies of the fields?

Who of us has not felt within himself the workings of grace, - those good thoughts and holy inspirations that illumine our minds…. those generous sentiments and pious impulses which incite our will to do good?

It is God, our kind Father in Heaven, Who speaks to us….

How often do not these divine lights deter us from falling into some criminal action. How often do they not remove us from occasions that would otherwise be our ruin?….How often have sorrow and remorse made us feel ashamed of some deed of our past life and in the midst of afflictions and tears there has arisen within us the hope of regeneration, the bright vision of the reward which God has promised to those who fight the good fight and preserve to the end!…

All these are inspirations which divine goodness grants us directly or through the mediation of Our Blessed Mother.

Miracles, Prophecies, Visions

Besides these graces there are others which are very rarely granted to a particular soul, not so much for its own utility as for the good of religion, of peoples, of nations, of a community.

These are the gifts of miracles, prophecies and supernatural visions. These gifts, bestowed almost always on saints, do not by themselves sanctify the persons thus favored, because holiness demands an effort, a continuous cooperation on our part with God’s grace, but they profit a corporate body and at times the whole world.

It was this that Our Lord wished to signify when He asked His Father in Heaven to work the great miracle of Lazarus’ resurrection as a proof of His divine mission.

But since it is human to err on account of great intellectual weakness and very limited knowledge, the Church never imposes visions as a matter of Catholic faith upon us but demands strict proofs to permit belief in them for our instruction and edification though merely with human credence.

We must remember that, however great the impatience of men may be, our holy Mother the Church is never in haste. Especially in such delicate matters she matches on through the ages slowly and majestically, aided by the Holy Ghost, with the consciousness of her perpetuity, listening to all, appreciating everything, so that she may give her verdict according to the wise laws which her Founder has given her.

Jesus has, in this matter as in everything else, taught us how to proceed, cautioning us against false prophets.

“By their fruits you shall know them. Do men gather grapes of thorns or figs of thistles? A bad tree cannot yield good fruit.”

And to His own teaching He applies the same principles saying: “If I do not the works of my Father, believe Me not. But if I do, then you may know and believe that the Father is in Me and I in the Father.”

To determine the truth in the matter of visions, prophecies and other supernatural manifestations, we must examine the qualities of the persons favoured with those gifts, if any personal, material interest moves them, if the doctrines they present are or not in conformity with the teaching of Holy Mother the Church, if the object which actuates those favoured with visions is good and supernatural.

The Apparitions of Fatima

The above considerations are made on account of the well-known “case” of Fátima.

On May the 13th, 1917, three children of the parish of Fátima, Vicariate of Ourém of our diocese, were tending a flock of sheep in a place known as Cova da Iria. The oldest of them, Lucy de Jesus, was 10 years old, Francisco 9, and Jacinta 7. Francisco and Jacinta were brother and sister, and Lucy was their cousin. None of them knew how to read or to write.

It was about noon, and according to their custom, the children recited the five decades of Our Lady’s Rosary.

After finishing their prayers, they occupied themselves in building a little house of loose stones when suddenly there was a flash of lightning, vivid and bright. Though the sky was clear and cloudless, the children, dreading a thunder-storm, began to gather their flocks of sheep, in order to go home.

However, on reaching the site where the springs of water now are, there was again a flash of lightning, and a few steps away the children were surprised to see standing on a small tree, upon the site where now stands the poor, small Chapel of the Apparitions, a lady of incomparable beauty, clothed in a dress of purest white, a gold-bordered mantle covering her head and the greater part of her body. Her face, of heavenly beauty, was calm and serious, with a tinge of sadness. From her joined hands there hung a beautiful rosary ending with a Cross. From her whole person there spread out rays of light with a splendour more brilliant than that of the sun.

The children came nearer and there followed a dialogue between the Lady and the eldest of the children, during which the Lady invited them to come there on the 13th day of every month until October.

As evidence of the children and many other people shows, there were six Apparitions, one on the 13th of each month, except in August when the Apparition was seen a few days later, because the administrative authority had imprisoned the children in Ourém.

The Lady told them that her home was Heaven, confided to them a secret which they were not to reveal to anyone, taught them a short ejaculation, recommended the recitation of the Rosary, advised Lucia to learn how to read, insisted on the necessity of prayer and penance to end the war, asserted that Our Lord was much angered on account of the sins of men- above all, the sins of the flesh – ordered that a chapel be built there in her honour and declared that she was the Lady of the Rosary …..

Investigation of the events

As the crowds were increasing extraordinarily on each occasion, and as the diocese of Leiria, canonically erected in that year, was being then administered by His Eminence the Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon, Dom Antonio Mendes Belo, of happy memory, His Grace the Archbishop of Mitilene, now Bishop of Vila Real and then Vicar–General of the Patriarchate, ordered an inquiry into the occurrences.

On our taking charge of the diocese as its Bishop in 1920, we could not ignore what had taken place and therefore, by our order of the 6th of May, 1922, we appointed a Committee of priests to freely take evidence in favor of or against the events and to submit to us the report. Two members of this Committee were called by God to His presence, but the others continued the work. Recently they submitted a lengthy report which we have examined with care.

We wish here to thank the Rev. Fathers who constituted the Committee, and particularly the Rev. Canon of the Patriarchal See of Lisbon and distinguished Professor of the Seminary of Santarém, Dr. Manuel Nunes Formigão Junior, who worked on the Committee, with indefatigable zeal, worthy of imitation, as he does in everything that concerns the worship of God and the honour of our Lady.

Our holy Mother the Church having entrusted to our care the New Diocese of Leiria and it being our duty as Bishop, to care for the faithful entrusted to us and following the example of the Venerable Prelates in such cases, after having attentively studied the events during 10 years we have now resolved to give our decision declaring, however, that to the Holy See we humbly submit our judgment.

The Marvellous episodes of Fatima

Referring to the small number of the wise, the powerful and the noble among the Christians of the primitive Church, St. Paul adds: “Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God. It is due to him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, as well as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord’.” (1 Cor 1:27-31)

History upholds these observations with facts. The Apostles chosen by Our Lord to preach Christian doctrine to the whole world were fishermen; St. Gregory VIII, the champion of the liberty of the Church, belonged to a poor peasant family; St. John of Arc who liberated France, and Blessed Bernadette de Soubirous, the happy seer of Lourdes, were poor shepherdesses.

At Fátima it is the same. The place chosen for the apparitions is stony without any attractions whatsoever. Portugal is rich in beautiful spots, verdant lands, superb panoramas. Cova da Iria, besides being a real cove, had nothing attractive about it. The children who saw the Vision were humble creatures from our mountain-lands, modestly dressed, without instruction, not knowing how to read and with but a rudimentary religious knowledge.

They were not nervous, but affable and loving in the midst of their rough surroundings, fond of the family, obedient to their parents, happy! …

One cannot discern in them any self-interest or the spirit of vanity. They rejected the alms or presents which people wished to give them. And when we decided to take upon ourselves the direction of the works and the religious movement, they honorably handed over to us, in their original species, the money and the objects of value which the people would leave on the site of the Apparitions.

Their parents were poor and today they continue in the state in which they were before. They worked for their living and they continue to do so today. In no way have their lives been altered after the lapse of 13 years.

The children, when questioned jointly or separately, answered with the same precision, without noticeable contradictions, the different questionnaires, whether official or private, to which then had once declared.

They say noting against faith or morals, according to the word of the Apostle: “No man speaking by the Spirit of God saith anathema to Jesus.”

Finally, the two younger children, brother and sister, contracted influenza which carried away so many in the whole world and both died edifying deaths, while Lucy, the only surviving child, freely and voluntarily, without coercion, after receiving the consent of her mother embraced the religious life.

It is necessary likewise to consider the circumstances which accompanied the visions.

The favored children were young, rustic and poor. We must have proofs in order to believe their statements.

According to these children, the “Lady” would appear to them on a small holm-oak (azinheira), stunted and scrawny as trees generally are in these stony places; and hundreds, nay thousands of persons, whose truthfulness we cannot doubt, saw a column of smoke, which like incense would envelope the tree during the apparitions. This phenomenon, which cannot be humanly explained, was repeated several times.

This reminds us of the exclamations in the Canticle of canticles which our Holy Church applies to the most holy Virgin: “Who is she that goeth up by the desert, as a pillar of smoke of aromatical species, of myrrh and frank – incense and of all the powders of the perfumer?”

The solar phenomenon of the 13th of October, 1917, described in the papers at the time, was something marvellous and caused a great impression upon, those who had the happiness to witness it. The children had previously announced the day and the hour in which it would occur. The news spread quickly over the whole of Portugal and despite the copious rains that day, the thousands who had assembled at the hour of the final Apparition (October 13, 1917), witnessed all the manifestations of the sun paying, as it were, its homage to the Queen of Heaven and earth more brilliant than the sun in its zenith.

This phenomenon which no observatory has registered and, therefore, was not a natural one, was observed by persons of all social ranks and classes, believers and unbelievers, journalists of the principal Portuguese dailies and even by persons kilometers away, all of which eliminates the idea that it was a collective illusion.

The argument of persecutions

The argument of persecutions, which are a sign that the works are of God, was not wanting either in the case if the Apparitions of Fátima.

No one was persecuted more than Jesus, and the Church has suffered contradictions in all ages.

A countless multitude of Saints suffered martyrdom in the midst of astounding torments.

St. Peter of Alcantara would say to St. Theresa, that one of the greatest punishments in the world was the one she had suffered, that is, the contradictions of well-mentioned people.

The holy Prophet Jeremias says: “I am become a laughing stock all the day, all scoff at me.”

The seers of Fátima were imprisoned by the authorities who threatened to cast them into a cauldron of boiling oil.

It is common knowledge that the authorities did all they could to prohibit the pilgrimages, creating difficulties of access, while certain publicists were ridiculing and scoffing at the ardent faith of the good Portuguese people.

The belief in the Apparitions resisted all the violence’s which, after all, but served to increase religious fervour and to propagate the graces and favours which Our Lady showered on those who invoked her.

And let it not be said that Fátima is an invention of the clergy, for if the government with all the power and prestige at its disposal did not succeed in vanquishing faith in Our Lady of Fátima, how could our humble clergy despoiled by the revolution of all the possessions which Christian piety had given to the Holy Church for her maintenance – the clergy so often persecuted and calumniated – in such a diocese as Leiria, the smallest and poorest, have the power to create a religious movements at Fatima which today has extended to the whole of Portugal and is so consolingly developing in so many foreign countries?

Besides this, His Eminence the Cardinal Patriarch Dom Antonio Mendes Belo, prohibited the clergy from encouraging or taking part in any religious manifestation relating to Fatima, and gave rise prescriptions which we too upheld for some time after our entry into this diocese.

Remarkable spread of the devotion to our lady of Fatima

But let us return to the Divine Master’s sentence quoted above: “Even if you will not believe Me, believe the works.”

Devotion to Our Lady of Fátima spread rapidly, as we have said, in this diocese and in the whole country and today is extending to all parts of the world not only among Catholic nations, but among Protestant and even pagan ones.

The sweetly sad gaze of the most holy Virgin – loving us as our Mother, though sad on account of our sins, is spreading over the whole world, elevating hearts and reviving the faith.

The multitudes in many thousands, from all parts, composed of persons belonging to all classes, without advertisement of any attractions, hasten to Fatima, after long journeys beset with the greatest possible difficulties and discomforts.

Where has one seen such multitudes meet in the best of order and profound respect as at Fátima? And it is not once alone that it happens- the movements is continuous, constant, increasing year after year.

The voice of the people answers the Voice of God.

The sick go there with so many sacrifices, so much trouble…. How many marvellous cures have been wrought through the intervention of the most holy Virgin. And what a spirit of resignation do the sick manifest even when they have not obtained the cure of their physical ills!

And while the infirm of body come to Fátima in thousands, greater still is the number of the morally afflicted. Our Lady is the health of the sick and the refuge of sinners. How many wayward hearts have found pardon there! How many of those who had abandoned the faith of their fathers or were indifferent to it, found it again there!

Oh! If the confessionals of Fátima were not rigorously sealed with the sacramental seal – ever inviolable – what marvels of grace would they not be able to recount to us!

Blessed and praised be the Mother of Mercy.

Let me yet consider another point.

Many of you have known the site of Cova da Iria, barren and lifeless. You have also seen the buildings under construction, which naturally require vast expenditures. Yet up to now not a single subscription has been started, not a single alms asked for, no appeal, private or public, made to the charity of the faithful. The alms have been spontaneously offered and almost all anonymously. How great is the force of faith!

How prodigious is the power of the most holy Virgin who draws the multitudes to a barren mountain and in a few years transforms the lifeless place into a magnificent center of piety, into a most amazing miracle of the religious life of our times!…

Recognition of the Apparitions and official Approbation of the devotion

In virtue of what we have explained, and of other matters which we omit for brevity’s sake, invoking humbly the Divine Spirit, and placing our confidence in Mary most holy, after accepting the opinions of the Consulters of our Diocese, we have the pleasure.

  • First, to declare as worthy of credence the visions of the children in Cova da Iria, Parish of Fátima, of this Diocese, on the days between the 13th of May and October, 1917;
  • Secondly, to permit officially the devotion of Our Lady of Fátima.

It now remains for us, beloved children in Our Lord, to warn you that if the favour the Virgin most holy has bestowed upon us is a great source of joy and consolation to us, our duty to reciprocate her goodness is even greater.

The experience of years has shown that “the eyes of God are open and His ears attentive to supplications in this place” but it is necessary that by the purity of our life, by observance of he Commandments of God and the Precepts of the Church, by respect and submission to instructions of the Apostolic See, we show ourselves to be perfect Catholics, for “not every one that saith, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven but he who does the will of My Father, Who is in Heaven, he shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Our holy Mother the Church, referring to the Mystery of the Incarnation of the Divine Word, exclaims: “Oh, the gift worthy of eternal gratitude! God made Himself known to us in a visible manner in order that in beholding Him we may burn with love for the invisible beauties.”

In a special manner we do recommended to our beloved Diocesans the love of Our Lord in the Most Holy Eucharist, devotion to the most holy Virgin, to St. Joseph, to the holy souls in Purgatory, the daily recital of at least five decades of the Rosary, flights from sins of the flesh, from immodest fashions and immoral reading, the practice of penance on which Jesus so much insisted and of which the Virgin, Our Lady, spoke so much, charity towards all our brethren and principally towards the sick and the poor.

If we do this the words of the Prophet may well be applied to our Motherland: “For if you will order well your ways, I will dwell with you in this place in the land which I gave to your fathers from the beginning and for evermore.”

This Pastoral Letter of ours shall be sent to all the Rev. Parish priests that they may read and explain it to the faithful in the customary way.


[1]  You can see also:

http://users.stargate.net/~ejt/fatapp.htm

http://www16.us.archive.org/stream/ ThisApocalypticAge/ ThisApocalypticAge_djvu.txt