The Magistrate

The village of Fátima belongs to the County of Ourém. At the time of the apparitions, the Administrator of the county, or Chief Magistrate, was Artur Oliveira Santos, a man of great political power. All administrative, political, and sometimes even judicial power was centered in his hands. Though he was a man of meager education, a tinsmith by trade, he had been in politics since his youth. A baptized Catholic, he had abandoned the Church at the age of twenty to join the Masonic Lodge of Leiria. Later, he founded a Masonic lodge at Ourém, and he was the head of this lodge.

What added to his power was the fact that he published a local newspaper by which he worked to undermine the faith of the people in the Church and the priests.

When he heard about the apparitions of Fátima, he realized the effects that these apparitions might have among the people. He realized, too, that if he allowed the Church to rise to new life in his county, he would be laughed to scorn by his friends and Masonic brethren. He counted on his immense power and the cringing spirit of the people to destroy this new religious fad in the beginning.

Although the citizens of the county did cringe in fear before this all-powerful magistrate, there was one man who had no fear when the good of his children and the good of the Church was threatened. In the interests of truth and justice, he would stand up boldly before anyone. This brave man was Jacinta and Francisco’s father.

"My brother-in-law and I had both been summoned to appear at the County House with Lúcia, at twelve noon, August 11th," Ti Marto reported. "Compadre Antonio and his daughter, Lúcia, arrived at my house early in the morning before I had finished my breakfast. Lúcia’s first question was ‘Aren’t Jacinta and Francisco going too?’ "

"Why should such little children go there?" Ti Marto replied, "No, I will answer for them."

Lúcia ran to Jacinta’s room to inform her cousin of the summons they had received. Lúcia feared she would be killed.

"If they kill you, tell them that Francisco and I are like you and that we want to die too!" Jacinta cried.

Lúcia and her father did not wait on Ti Marto, but went on ahead of him. Senhor Santos did not want to take a chance on being late and arousing the anger of the Magistrate. Lúcia rode the donkey, and as she rode along she thought how different her father was from Ti Marto and her other uncles.

"They put themselves in danger to defend their children, but my parents turn me over with the greatest indifference so that the officials can do with me whatever they wish. But patience!" Lúcia comforted herself, "I expect to have to suffer more for Thy love, O my God, and it is for the conversion of sinners."

Ti Marto walked to the County House alone. When he reached the square in front of the house, he saw Lúcia and her father waiting there.

"Has everything been settled already?" he asked, thinking they had finished their meeting with the Magistrate.

"No, the office was closed and no one was there."

It was some time before they discovered that they had come to the wrong building. Finally they came before the Magistrate.

"Where is the boy?" He shouted right away at Ti Marto.

"What boy?" Ti Marto said. He continues to tell us what went on: "He did not know that there were three children involved, and as he had sent for only one, I pretended that I did not know what he meant. ‘It’s six miles from here to our village,’ I told him, ‘and the children can’t walk that distance. They can’t even stay on a donkey.’ (Lúcia had fallen from the donkey three times in the journey.)

"I had a mind to tell him some more things; imagine, the children so small wanted in court!

"He flared up and gave me a piece of his mind. What did I care! Then he began to question Lúcia, trying to pry the secret out of her. But she didn’t say a word. Then he turned to her father, ‘Do the people of Fátima believe in these things?’

" ‘Not at all. All that is just women’s talk.’

"Then the Magistrate turned towards me to see what I would say.

" ‘I am here at your orders and I agree with my children!’

" ‘You believe it is true?’ he sneered at me.

" ‘Yes, sir, I believe what they say.’

"He laughed at me, but I didn’t mind. The Magistrate then dismissed Lúcia, at the same time warning her that if he did not learn her secret, he would take her life."

The interview ended and they left for home. Ti Marto thought he was through with the Magistrate. It wasn’t as easy as that. The Magistrate had only just begun to carry out of his plans. It was almost time for the next apparition and this all-powerful official determined to prevent it - at any cost.

"Monday morning, the 13th of August," Ti Marto recalled, "I had just begun hoeing my land when I was called home. As I entered the house I saw a group of strangers standing there, but that no longer surprised me. What did surprise me was to find my wife in the kitchen looking so worried. She didn’t say a word, only motioned me to go to the front room. ‘Why the hurry?’ I said, good and loud. But she kept waving me away. Still drying my hands, I went into the room, and who was there but the Magistrate!

" ‘So you are here!’ I said.

" ‘Yes of course, I want to see the miracle, too.’

"My heart warned me that something was wrong.

" ‘Well let’s go,’ he said, ‘I’ll take the children with me in my carriage. As Thomas said, ‘seeing is believing!’ ’

"He was uneasy and glanced about nervously.

" ‘Haven’t the children come home yet? Time is passing. You had better call them!’

" ‘They don’t have to be called. They know when they are supposed to bring back the sheep and get ready.’

"The children arrived almost at once and the Magistrate began urging to them to go in his carriage. The children kept insisting it was not necessary.

" ‘It’s much better,’ he repeated, ‘for we’ll get there faster and no one will bother us on the way.’

" ‘You all go to Fátima ,’ he proposed, ‘and stop at the rectory because I want to ask the children a few questions.’

" As soon as we got to the rectory, he shouted to us from the balcony, ‘Send up the first!’
" ‘The first? Which one?’ I snapped right back. I was upset by the feeling that something evil was going to happen.

" ‘Lúcia,’ he replied arrogantly.

" ‘Go ahead, Lúcia,’ I said to her." Ti Marto would remember this day well.

The Pastor was waiting in his office. He had changed his mind towards the apparitions. Now he considered them not the work of the devil, but plain lies that he would ask Lúcia about. The priest had no responsibility in these events, and he wanted to make sure that the Magistrate realized this.

So Lúcia was asked: "Who taught you to say the things that you are going around saying?"

"The Lady Whom I saw at the Cova da Iria."

"Anyone who goes around spreading such wicked lies as the lies you tell will be judged and will go to hell if they are not true. More and more people are being deceived by you."

"If one who lies goes to hell," answered the little girl, "then I will not go to hell for I don’t lie and tell only what I have seen and what the Lady has said to me. And as for the crowd that goes there, they go only because they want to. We don’t call anyone."

"Is it true that the Lady has confided a secret to you?"

"Yes, but I can’t tell it. But if Your Reverence wants to know it, I shall ask the Lady and if She gives me permission, I will tell you."

The Magistrate cut in, as his plans would be spoiled if Lúcia was allowed to return to the Cova to ask permission to tell the Pastor the secret.

"But those are supernatural matters," the Magistrate said.

"The whole thing was a hoax and sheer treachery on the Magistrate’s part," Ti Marto continued. "When it came time for my children to go in, he said, ‘That’s enough. You may go; or better, let’s all go, for it’s getting late.’

"The children started coming down the stairs. Meanwhile the carriage was brought right up to the last step without my noticing it." Senhor Marto reported, "It was just perfect for him, for in a moment, he lured the children into it. Francisco sat in front and the two girls in the back. It was a cinch. The horse started trotting in the direction of the Cova da Iria. I relaxed. Upon reaching the road, the horse wheeled around, the whip cracking over him, and he bolted away like a flash. It was all so well planned and so well carried out. Nothing could be done now."

In the carriage, Lúcia spoke up first, though timidly, "This is not the way to the Cova da Iria."

The Magistrate tried to make the children believe that he was first going to take them to see the Pastor of the church at Ourém to talk with him. As they rode away, the people along the road realized that he was stealing the children, and they threw stones at him. Immediately, he covered the children with a robe. When he reached his house, gloating over his success, he grabbed the children out of the carriage, pushed them inside and locked them in a room.

"You won’t leave this room until you tell me the secret," he warned them. They did not answer him a word.

"If they kill us, it doesn’t matter," Jacinta consoled the other two when they were alone, "We’ll go straight to Heaven."

Instead of an executioner with ax in hand, the wife of the Magistrate came and proved herself very kind to the three little children - She took them from the room, gave them a good lunch and let them play with her children. She also gave them some picture books to look at.

Meanwhile, rumors had spread through the village that the devil would appear this time at the Cova da Iria to cause the earth to open up and swallow all those who were there. In spite of the rumor, however, many persons traveled to the holy spot. Maria de Capelinha was among them. She gives an eye-witness account of what went on.

"I was not afraid. I knew there was nothing evil about the apparitions. My constant prayer as I walked along was, ‘May Our Lady guide me according to God’s Holy Will.’ The crowd at the Cova on August 13th was even larger than in July.

"About eleven o’clock, Lúcia’s sister, Maria dos Anjos, came with some candles to light to Our Lady. The people prayed and sang religious hymns around the holmoak. The absence of the children made the people very nervous. When they found out that the Magistrate had kidnapped the children, the crowd became terribly angry. There is no telling what might have happened, had it not thundered just then. Some thought the thunder came from the road; others thought that it came from the holmoak; but it seemed to me that it came from a distance. It frightened us all and many began to cry fearing we were going to be killed. Of course, no one was killed.

"Right after the thunder came a flash, and immediately, we all noticed a little cloud, very white, beautiful and bright, that came and stayed over the holmoak. It stayed a few minutes, then rose towards the heavens where it disappeared. Looking around, we noticed a strange sight that we had already seen and would see again. Everyone’s face glowed, rose, red, blue, all the colors of the rainbow. The trees seemed to have no branches or leaves but were all covered with flowers; every leaf was a flower. The ground was in little squares, each one a different color. Our clothes also seemed to be changed into the colors of the rainbow. The two vigil lanterns hanging from the arch over the holy spot appeared to be made of gold.

"When the signs disappeared, the people realized that Our Lady had come and, not finding the children, had returned to Heaven. They felt that Our Lady was disappointed and so they were very upset. Resentment grew in their hearts. They started towards the village, clamoring against the Magistrate, the Pastor and anyone they thought might have had anything to do with the arrest of the children."

Everything had been so beautiful, but the fact that the children could not be there for the apparition made the people seethe with anger and roar out, "Let’s go to Ourém to protest. Let’s go around and drench everything with blood. We’ll get hold of the Pastor, for he is just as guilty… And the Regedor, we’ll settle accounts with him."

Ti Marto, meanwhile, had gone to the Cova da Iria. He heard the shouting of the people grow louder and louder. And though he considered both the Pastor and the Magistrate guilty, he felt inspired to intervene in the tumult.

"Be calm, men, be calm!" He shouted with all his might. "Don’t hurt anyone. Whoever deserves punishment will get it. All this is by the power of God."

The following day, the Pastor wrote a letter to be published in the newspapers. It was published a few days later.

"The rumor that I was an accomplice to the sudden kidnapping of the children… I oppose as an unjust and evil calumny… The Magistrate did not tell the secret of his intentions to me…

"And if it was providential, for such it was, that the authority succeeded in taking the children away secretly and without resistance, no less providential was the calming of the crowds, excited by this devilish rumor. For otherwise the parish would have been mourning her Pastor today. Certainly, it was through the Virgin Mother that this snare of the devil did not strike him dead…

"The authority wanted the children to reveal a secret that they have told to no one… Thousands of witnesses say that the children’s presence was not necessary for the Queen of the Angels to manifest Her power at the Cova. These witnesses themselves will testify to the extraordinary occurrences which have now so deeply rooted their belief… The Virgin Mother does not need the presence of the Pastor to show Her kindness; and this itself should explain my absence and apparent indifference regarding a case so marvelous and sublime… "


The children spend the night of the thirteenth in loneliness and prayer, praying to Our Lady for the strength to remain faithful to Her always. When morning arrived, however, they were all taken to the County House where they were put through relentless questioning. The first to interrogate them was an old lady, who used all her cunning to learn their secret. Later, the Magistrate tried bribes, offering them shiny gold coins; he made all kinds of promises to them, and threatened them with every sort of punishment, but the children would not give in. This kept up all morning, broken only by lunch. They were put through the same inhuman "third degree" all afternoon. Finally, the Magistrate told them he was going to put them in jail and have them thrown into a tank of boiling oil.

When they reached the jail, poor little Jacinta began to cry her eyes out. Lúcia and Francisco tried to comfort her.

"Why do you cry, Jacinta?" Lúcia said.

"Because we are going to die without ever again seeing our parents. None of them have come to see us, neither yours nor mine. They don’t care for us anymore. I want to see my mother, at least."

"Don’t cry, Jacinta," Francisco interrupted, "we are offering this sacrifice for sinners."

Then the three raised their hands towards Heaven, repeating together, "My Jesus, all this is for love of You and for sinners. And in reparation for the offenses against the Immaculate Heart of Mary."

There were many men imprisoned in the jail at that same time. And not one of them, no matter how hard a criminal he might have been, could remain unmoved at the sight of the three little children. Each of the men took his turn trying to console the children or to change their minds about keeping the secret.

"Why don’t you tell it to him?" asked one.

"Why should you care?" put in another.

"Never," said Jacinta, "we would rather die."

The children did not seem to mind in the least being imprisoned in jail. But seven year old Jacinta could not accustom herself to the thought of dying without first seeing her mother. To distract her, the prisoners began singing, playing the accordion, and dancing. They tried to get the children to dance with them, and one very tall man picked up Jacinta in his arms and danced around with her. The thought of Our Lady flashed through her mind; dancing was not the right preparation for Heaven. So Jacinta made the man stop; she took the medal from around her neck, and asked the man to hang it from a nail on the wall.

Then she knelt with Francisco and Lúcia to say the Rosary. Embarrassed and ashamed, the prisoners also got on their knees. One man still kept his hat on. Francisco got up, went over to him, and said, "When we pray, we take our hats off."

The man took it off and dropped it on the floor. Francisco picked it up and laid it on the bench.

Soon, they heard steps outside. A guard entered. Looking at the children, he barked, "Come with me."

Again they were taken to the County House and put through the third degree. Jacinta was called in first.

"The oil is already boiling. Tell the secret… otherwise…"

Jacinta, like Our Lord before the judges, remained silent.

"Take her away and throw her into the tank!" yelled the inquisitor.

The guard grabbed her arm, swung her around and locked her in another room. Outside the Magistrate’s office, while awaiting their turn, Francisco said to Lúcia, "If they kill us, we shall soon be in Heaven. Nothing else counts. I hope that Jacinta does not get scared. I should say a Hail Mary for her." He took off his cap and said a prayer.

The guard, watching the children, was puzzled at the boy’s behavior.

"What are you saying?" he demanded.

"I am saying one Hail Mary for Jacinta, to give her courage." the boy replied.

The other guard came back and led Francisco into the Magistrate’s office. Grabbing hold of the boy, the Magistrate shouted, "Spit out the secret. The other one is already burned up; now it’s your turn. Go ahead, out with it."

"I can’t," Francisco replied, looking calmly into the eyes of the fierce Magistrate. "I can’t tell it to anyone."

"You say you can’t. That’s your business. Take him away. He’ll share his sister’s lot."

The boy was taken into the next room, where he found Jacinta, safe and happy.

Lúcia was convinced that they had been killed, and thinking that she was next to be thrown into the burning cauldron of oil, she trusted in her Heavenly Mother not to desert her, but to give her the strength to be loyal and courageous even as Francisco and Jacinta were.

Though Lúcia did tell the Magistrate something of what happened in the visions, even as she had told her parents and the Pastor, she kept the secret part to herself. It was a solemn promise to Our Lady, and she would rather die than break it. The Magistrate was not satisfied with this little bit. He wanted to know the secret.

After her inquisition, Lúcia too was locked in the room where the other two were. How happy they were that they had stayed so faithful to Our Lady.

The Magistrate did not yet give up. The guard came in to remind them that soon they would be thrown into the burning oil. The thought of being able to die together for Our Lady made them all the happier. The Magistrate finally admitted, after further fruitless questioning, that he could get nothing out of them. Then, afraid of what the enraged people might do, he himself took the children in his carriage to Fátima, hardly realizing that, that day, the Church was celebrating the Feast of the Assumption, for it was now August 15th.

When the people filed out of church, after attending Mass on the Holy Day, they came together in the yard. The one topic on all lips was what had happened to the children. As Ti Marto came out, they all asked, "Where are the children?"

"How do I know?" he replied, "Maybe they were taken to Santarém, the capital. The day they were kidnapped, my stepson, Antonio, went with some other boys to Ourém, and he saw the children playing on the veranda of the Magistrate’s house. That’s the last news I heard."

He had hardly said these words when someone shouted, "Look, Ti Marto, Look! The children are on the rectory balcony!"

Ti Marto later related his feelings, "I can’t say how quickly I got there and swept Jacinta in my arms. I couldn’t say a word. Tears ran down my face, wetting the child’s face. Francisco and Lúcia both threw their arms around me, saying, ‘Father, your blessing! Uncle, your blessing!’ (as the custom is in Portugal, when children return home after being away).

"A public official who worked for the Magistrate approached me. He shook, from head to foot. I never saw anything like it before.

" ‘Here you have the children!’ he said.

"I wanted to speak my mind but I restrained myself and remarked, ‘This might have come to an unhappy end. They wanted the children to contradict themselves, but failed to make them do so. Even if the officials succeeded, I would always say that the children spoke the truth.’ "

The people in the church-yard were in an uproar, shaking their fists, swinging their staffs. Everyone was restless. The Pastor left the church immediately, and went up the stairs into the rectory. Suspecting that Ti Marto was stirring up the people against him, he said in rebuke, "Senhor Manuel, you scandalize me."

"I knew not how to answer him then," recalls Ti Marto.

The Pastor went into the house. Ti Marto could not at the time realize the noble role the Pastor was playing that day. Ti Marto then turned to the crowd in the yard, and, still holding little Jacinta in his arms, he shouted, "Boys, behave yourselves! Some of you are shouting against the Senhor Prior, others against the Administrador, and still some against the Regedor. No one is to blame. The blame lies with lack of faith and all has been allowed by God."

The Pastor heard this and was very pleased, so he said from the window, "Senhor Manuel speaks very well; he speaks very well."

The Magistrate had gone to the inn. When he returned, he saw the crowd and Ti Marto in the balcony of the rectory. Then the Magistrate shouted at him, "Stop that, Senhor Marto!"

"All right; all right. There is nothing wrong."

The Magistrate then went into the Pastor’s office and called Ti Marto in.

The furious people had calmed down. Although the Pastor was innocent, the people believed that he had participated in kidnapping the children. But the generous Pastor let himself take part of the blame, so as to spare the Magistrate from the full fury of the people.

But in all the excitement, the prudent words of a man of faith had the power to keep the crowd below under control. It was a fine proof of the power of religion, and the Pastor did not miss his chance to point this out to the Magistrate.

"You must realize, Senhor Administrador," the Pastor said, "that religion is a necessity also."

As Ti Marto was leaving, the Magistrate turned to him, saying, "Senhor Marto, come and have a glass of wine with me."

"Don’t bother now, thanks." replied Ti Marto. However, he noticed a group of young men on the street, armed with staffs. It made him fear that they might clash with the Magistrate. It was better that everything end in peace, so he stood at the Magistrate’s side, thinking within himself that it might be wise to accept his invitation.

"I am grateful," the Magistrate said, realizing what Ti Marto was doing. The Magistrate felt safe.

"You ask the children if I did not treat them right." He said to Ti Marto.

"All right. All right… There’s no hard feelings. The people think more of asking questions than I do." Ti Marto replied. Just then the children came down the stairs and headed for the Cova da Iria without losing a moment. The people began to go home and the Magistrate and Ti Marto went to an inn.

Regarding their conversation over wine, Ti Marto later recalled, "The whole thing bored me very much, for he was trying to convince me that the children had told him the secret. ‘Very well, very well,’ I said, ‘They did not tell it to their father or mother, but they did tell it to you!’ "

With that the matter ended for the time being. It is important to note, however, that the interrogation of the children served one purpose that was providential. Since everything became a matter of official record, the Magistrate unwittingly made the existence of a secret revelation undeniable.