Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sister Lucia's Memoirs of Fatima

I really enjoyed reading Sister Lucia's Memoirs about Fatima. I had very low expectations, but it was surprisingly a page-turner! I loved hearing about three ordinary children's lives, in a small rural village with a very religious but simple upbringing. Lucia started tending a flock of sheep by herself when she was seven years old. When I think about today's 7-year-olds and their maturity level, this is astounding. Her family life included shared hard work, prayer and play. Every night they'd knit around the fire and sing: "Seeing as my sisters, during some of the seasons of the year, had to work in the fields during the day, they'd sew and knit in the evening. After supper and the prayer that followed, recited by my father, work would begin. Everyone had a task: my sister Maria would go to the loom; my father would fill her heels; Teresa and Gloria would sew; my mom would knit; Carolina and I, after cleaning the kitchen, were occupied by removing (tailor) tacks, sewing on buttons, etc.; my brother, to spread sleep, would play the harmonica, and we'd sing several songs. Neighbors would come, quite a few times, to keep us company and they would say that, although we didn't let them sleep, they felt happy and all their worries would go away from just watching the fun we'd have." (p. 73 Portuguese version) Lucia would take care of her neigbors' little children on her patio, while their mothers worked in the fields. She'd entertain them with games and catechesis, she'd "teach them doctrine" as she put it. She and her sisters would get dressed up from time to time and help out at dances or celebrations. I liked the way she described a cousin's wedding, where all the women of the village got together and cooked for the reception. That seems to me the way it should be, not catering and thousands of dollars spent on luxury weddings.
     Lucia's friendship with Francisco and Jacinta is most endearing. She didn't especially like them at first (they were younger), but they insisted on following her everywhere. I liked finding out that they were normal kids, reminding me that saints are human and sinners also! (Something I tend to forget...) They played just like normal kids and even fought just like normal kids. Jacinta would sulk if she didn't get her way. Instead of praying the rosary at their lunch break in the fields with their sheep, they'd say the words "hail Mary" and "our Father" on each bead so they could get right to playing.
     Of course, after the apparitions of the angel and of Mary, they prayed the whole rosary. It was very interesting to hear the story of the apparitions, how they felt afterwards, how it impacted their lives and the lives of their families. It was amazing how much they suffered: Lucia with the rejection of her family and Jacinta and Francisco with their illnesses, but how they accepted their suffering. "Some neighbors commented, one day, with my aunt and mother, after having spent some time in Francisco's room, 'It's a mystery that we can't understand. They're children like all others, they don't say anything, yet being near them you feel something different from the rest.' [...] It doesn't surprise me that people had these feelings, since they're used to finding, in everyone, only the material aspect of a short and fleeting life. Now, the mere sight of these children raises their thinking to the Mother of Heaven, with Whom they say they have a relationship; to eternity, where they see themselves going soon, so joyful and happy; to God, Who they say they love more than their own parents; and also to hell, where they say people will go, if they continue to sin. Materially speaking they are, as was said, children like all others. However, if these good people, so used to only the material aspect of life, knew how to elevate their spirit a bit, they'd see without difficulty, that in them there was something that quite distinguished them." (p. 189 Portuguese version)

This book had that same indescribable tone of the few saint's writings I've read. It's marked by extreme humility, and by humility I mean acceptance of one's self and conditions in life. "On these trips I didn't always find esteem and care. Next to the people that admired me and thought I was a saint, there were always others that would insult me and call me hypocrite, visionary or sorceress. It was our good God adding salt to the water, so that it wouldn't corrupt. In this way, thanks to this Divine Providence, I passed through fire without getting burned, and without getting to know that little bug called vanity that usually corrodes everything. On these occasions, I'd often think: Everyone is wrong: I'm neither a saint, as some say, nor a liar, as others say; only God knows what I am." (p. 112 Portuguese version) These memoirs are also marked by obedience to God and his Church and by a certain peace and acceptance that is difficult to explain. I DEFINITELY recommend reading this book!

JPII prays at Fatima in 1982, thanking Our Lady of Fatima
for her intercession in saving him from his bullet wound

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