The year 2016 marks the centennial of the Apparitions of the Angel of Portugal to Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta. On three occasions in 1916, the three children were visited by this celestial messenger and profoundly transformed as a result.
The world was in chaos like never before. World War I was tearing Europe apart. The Mexican Revolution brought a string of horrors in its wake. Eugenicists such as Margaret Sanger were aggressively pushing birth control and forced sterilization.
With no human solution in sight, Pope Benedict XV appealed to heaven. He entreated all Catholics to invoke Our Lady under the title of Queen of Peace, adding this invocation to the Litany of Loreto.
His prayer did not go unheard. The Queen of Peace set in motion events that would change the world. In a tiny village in rural Portugal, she would send the Angel of Peace to three unknown children to prepare them for their providential mission.
Formed by Prayer
Lucia dos Santos, then nine years old, and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto, eight and six, respectively, had taken their sheep to a field near a rocky outcrop called Loca do Cabeço, not far from their village of Aljustrel. Lucia later wrote an account of that marvelous April morning:
We had been playing for a while when a strong wind shook the trees. Since it was a calm day, this made us raise our eyes to see what was happening. Then we began to see, well above the trees that covered the stretch of land to the east, a light whiter than snow in the shape of a transparent young man who was more brilliant than a crystal struck by the rays of the sun.
As he approached, we began to see his features. He was a young man of great beauty about fourteen or fifteen years old. We were surprised and ecstatic. We did not utter a word.
Once he drew near us, he said: “Fear not. I am the Angel of Peace. Pray with me.”
Kneeling down, he bowed forward until his forehead touched the ground. We imitated him, led by a supernatural inspiration, and repeated the words we heard him say: “My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love Thee. I beg Thee forgiveness for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope, and do not love Thee.”
After he had repeated this twice, he rose and said: “Pray thus. The Hearts of Jesus and Mary are attentive to the voice of your supplications.” Then he disappeared.
The three children were totally consumed with God’s presence by their contact with the angel. For a long time, none of them uttered a single word, as the marvelous circumstances demanded silence and profound reverence.
This first prayer of the Angel of Peace would forever be engrained in their hearts. For hours a day, Lucia and her cousins could be found prostrate and repeating this same prayer over and over again. Though they never uttered a word to anyone about the angel, their very souls were now marked with the spirit of serious prayer.
Purified by Suffering
The second apparition occurred in the summer of 1916 over the well at the house of Lucia’s parents, where the three children were playing. This is Lucia’s account of the angel’s words:
“What are you doing? Pray! Pray a great deal! The Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary have merciful designs concerning you. Offer prayers and sacrifices constantly to the Most High!”
“How must we sacrifice?” I asked.
“Offer God a sacrifice of anything you can as an act of reparation for the sins with which He is offended and as a supplication for the conversion of sinners. Draw peace upon your country by doing this. I am its guardian angel—the Angel of Portugal. Above all, accept and endure with submission whatever suffering the Lord sends you.” Then he disappeared.
Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta would now accept with resignation the mission God had in store for them. They would soon learn that it was to be a mission of suffering. The years that followed would be filled with intense physical sufferings. They would also have to endure suspicion, insults and calumnies from strangers, family and friends.
By accepting all of these hardships and offering them for the conversion of sinners, the children showed strength beyond their years. Through their sufferings, the three young shepherds became the most pure instruments of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.
Transformed by Divine Union
The third apparition occurred in the autumn of 1916, once again by the rocks of Loca do Cabeço. Here is what Lucia says about their last encounter with the angel:
As soon as we arrived there, we began to say the angel’s prayer on our knees, with our faces to the ground. “My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love Thee….” I do not know how many times we had said this prayer when we saw an unknown light shining over our heads. We rose to see what was happening, and we saw the angel bearing a chalice in his left hand. Drops of blood fell into the chalice from a Host suspended over it. Leaving the chalice and the Host suspended in the air, the angel prostrated himself beside us and said the following prayer three times:
“Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, I adore Thee profoundly and offer Thee the most precious Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the insults, sacrileges, and indifference with which He is offended. And through the infinite merits of His Most Sacred Heart and of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg Thee for the conversion of poor sinners.”
After this, rising up, he again took the chalice and the Host in his hand; he gave the Host to me and the contents of the chalice to Jacinta and Francisco to drink, saying: “Take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, who is horribly insulted by ungrateful men. Make reparation for their crimes and console your God.”
He again prostrated himself on the ground and repeated with us the same prayer three more times. “Most Holy Trinity. . . .” Then he disappeared.
Compelled by the supernatural force that enveloped us, we imitated the angel in everything, that is, prostrating ourselves as he did and repeating the prayers he said. The strength of God’s presence was so intense that it absorbed and annihilated us almost completely. . . The peace and happiness we felt were great, but intimate, as our souls were entirely concentrated on God.
The three shepherds were totally transformed by this last apparition of the angel. God took up His throne in their souls when they received Holy Communion from the Angel of Peace. This was the final preparation, to make way for the coming of the Mother of God the following year.
Queen of Angels
When Our Lady of Fatima appeared in 1917, the whole world soon knew of the apparitions. It was only years later that Lucia would relate the apparitions of the Angel of Portugal in 1916.
It is no coincidence that this Angel calls himself the Angel of Peace. But the peace the Angel refers to is not simply the absence of war, but as Saint Thomas defines it, “the tranquility of order.”
Neglect for God and His laws on a massive scale had left much of the world open to the influence of demons. The Angel of Peace visiting the three children was an act done not because of any virtue on their part, though they retained much of their innocence. No, the visit of the Angel came as an act of God’s goodness. Divine Providence sent an angel to the three shepherds to restore order in His creation.
In the year 2016, the action of the angels is more crucial than ever. Like Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta, we must be open to their influence. We must be formed by prayer. We must bear the cross and be willing to suffer. We must allow God’s power to transform us.
In this way, we best prepare for the centennial of Our Lady’s coming to Fatima. Let us confidently invoke the Queen of Angels to hasten the events that will lead to the triumph of her Immaculate Heart.