Book By Superior Raises Fatima Mystery: Did Lucia Have Visions Up To Her Death?
A new booklet by the superior at the convent where Sister Lucia dos Santos spent her final decades reveals previously unknown details about the famous Fatima seer's life and raises new questions about the extent of her mysticism -- with indications that visions or at least unusual experiences remained with the cloistered nun into her final years.
Speaking of Lucia's cell in Coimbra, where the seer lived for more than fifty years, the superior, Sister Maria Celina de Jesus Crucificado, asks, "How many times did Our Lady appear there? We still don't know. But one day I witnessed something which showed me with what simplicity she approached both the supernatural and ordinary everyday life. It was in the year 2003, on May 26, I went with her to the lower choir in order to take a photograph of her with the image of the Immaculate Heart of Mary which had just been given to us.
"When I had taken the photograph, Sister Lucia continued to gaze at the image," writes the superior. "I did not disturb her. Then, turning to me, she exclaimed: 'Our Lady is crying!' I think that, thanks to her extraordinary purity, her 'ingenuousness,' she who had been the recipient of so many visions that no one else had seen thought at that moment that I, too, could see what she saw."
Thinking Lucia's statement was a question, Sister Crucificado says she at first replied that the statue was not weeping -- whereupon the Fatima seer, who died in February of 2005 at 97, "looked 'caught out,' so to speak, like a child whose mother finds her stealing jam! I thought I should not ask any questions."
Entering the order of Carmelites in 1948 after a stint at another convent, Sister Lucia, whose baptismal name was Lucia Rosa Santos, and who at the first convent had been known as Sister Maria das Dores, donned a habit like the garments worn by the Blessed Mother during the apparition of October 13, 1917. She would remain in those garments for the next half a century.
According to the superior, the seer [above, left] was both a humorist and spark plug -- unafraid to venture outdoors during the dangerous civil war in Spain and once issuing a few slaps on the street to a boy who was taunting the sisters. "Her heart appeared impervious to fear," writes Sister Crucificado, adding that on a journey to check on other sisters from whom no one had heard, she led soldiers in the singing of the Rosario da Aurora as danger surrounded.
In those cloistered years, it is revealed, Sister Lucia humbly tended to everything from beehives to kitchen supplies and the larder.
For many years she also watched over a small niche at the entrance to the infirmary where there was a white statue of Mary.
Although interested in affairs of the world, says the superior, Sister Lucia rarely discussed them and did not seem affected by them, nor with modern technology.
"She was offered an electronic typewriter when she was already over seventy years of age, and had no difficulty in learning how to use it," notes Sister Crucificado. "It is a computerized machine which, however, was never connected to the internet. Contrary to what has been stated, Sister Lucia never worked with a computer, and never visited a 'site.' She was very interested, asked questions, but ended saying, 'My machine is better than this!'"
It was starting around 2000 -- and indeed the time when her precious cousins and fellow seers, Jacinta and Francesco Marto, were beatified (and the third secret revealed) that the remaining seer began to become especially weak, often pushed about in a wheelchair. She also became forgetful -- except when it came to the Fatima message, about which her memory, says Sister Crucificado, "was as clear as ever."
Sister Lucia was upset, says the superior, by speculation about the third secret before it was revealed and aggravated with the debate that came after.
"Because of the polemics that were stirred up by certain groups who were not happy with the text of the third secret, a special envoy from the Holy See came to hear Sister Lucia herself say that she had nothing more to reveal," says the nun. "One day I said to her, 'Sister Lucia, people are saying that there is yet another secret!' She replied, 'If they know that there is another secret, let them reveal it! I know of no other! Some people are never satisfied. Take no notice!'"
It was the week of her 97th birthday that the famed visionary began to complain of great pain in her legs and was accompanied during the night by a younger sister, whom she often made laugh, says Sister Crucificado. There was a fainting spell and a "new, painful, and difficult phase." She became hoarse and yet at Christmas in 2004 still mustered the strength to hold a statue of the Child Jesus, as was her custom. Cold, an electric blanket was used to keep the seer warm. She took her final food on January 28, 2005, and on February 8 began to receive oxygen, along with the intravenous feed upon which she had been placed.
In those final days, says the superior, Sister Lucia "made countless affectionate gestures to the statue of Our Lady of Fatima which Pope John Paul II had sent to her in December 2003 and made the Sign of the Cross several times before the same image."
There were moments when she would squeeze a fellow sister's hand. "Then she would say, slowly: 'Our Lady! Our Lady! Angels! Angels! Heart of Jesus! Heart of Jesus!"
On February 10, she revealed that she had been offering her sufferings for the Holy Father.
At midnight on February 13, a sister brought the image of Mary to the seer's lips, Lucia kissed it, and for the remainder of the night passed beads of the Rosary through her feeble hands as the fellow nun recited it. The local bishop was summoned and prayed for Lucia to be received in the arms of Jesus and Mary, as well as her deceased cousins.
"It is impossible to describe the atmosphere of peace that we lived at that time," writes Sister Crucificado. "Yes, at that moment her eyes, which were closing to this life, were opening to the Eternal Light of God. Then, quite suddenly and unexpectedly, those eyes which had so often contemplated the Invisible opened wide! She looked at all the sisters. Then she turned to the right and gazed into my eyes. I cannot describe the depth of that look. It was deeply moving. I placed the Crucifix on the right side, after which she closed her eyes. It was her farewell."
Death came to the most famous Marian seer in the world at 5:25 p.m. on Sunday the 13th in that cell which as Sister Crucificado says "keeps secrets that we shall know only in Heaven."
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