Shortly after Sr. Lúcia of Fátima died ten years ago, I remember remarking to someone, “Her death means we will only now come to know of things about Fátima that were previously unknown.” Knowing the beautiful story of Fátima, its message, and the unfortunate controversies surrounding it, I also knew that there was a treasure to be uncovered. This treasure was guarded—and well—by Sister herself and intended by God to be known only after her death.
What is this “treasure?” This is the treasure of the interior life of Sr. Lúcia. In these ten years since her death, we have waited patiently for this treasure to be made manifest. I am happy to say that it is now becoming known in the book entitled A Pathway Under the Gaze of Mary published by the World Apostolate of Fátima, USA, Inc.
A Pathway Under the Gaze of Mary is destined to become an invaluable book in the literature on Fátima as it provides an in-depth look at Sister Lúcia herself. Previously, a gap existed in this area because Sister Lúcia was the source for most of what we know on Fátima. She only explained herself insofar as was necessary to spread Our Lady’s message or to clarify some aspect of it. Her humility would not allow for much else, but her death provided the opportunity to fill in this lacuna and allow for a fresh perspective on the message of Fátima.
Knowing of this gap in the literature, Lucia’s sisters in religion, the Carmelites of St. Teresa monastery in Coimbra, Portugal have stepped in to fill the gap. In 2013, the Sisters published the book in Portuguese under title Um Caminho Sob a Olhar de Maria. It is based upon public and private documents of Sr. Lúcia (among other sources) and provides an in-depth biographical—though not critical—look into Sister’s life and work written by the women who lived closely with Sr. Lúcia and knew her intimately.[i] Sr. Lúcia’s own words are distinguished from the commentary and narrative provided by the Sisters in italicized text.
For its part, A Pathway Under the Gaze of Mary can be divided into two sections. The first is Lúcia’s life from birth (1907) to her entrance to the Coimbra monastery in 1948. The second half encompasses 1948 to her death in 2005 and subsequent transfer of her remains to the Fátima basilica in 2006. Some 300+ pages of the 440 given to this book are devoted to the first half of Lúcia’s life and the rest are her life in the Carmel monastery.
The emphasis on the first half of Sr. Lúcia’s life can be a little off-setting to the reader. This is until one realizes that it is entirely consistent with the battle that was waged within Sr. Lúcia’s soul over her desire to become a Carmelite—a previously little-appreciated fact. The Carmelite Sisters do an excellent job in building up this drama, drawing from Sister’s own writings. This comes across as the Sisters making Lúcia’s entrance into Carmel the climax of the book and her life in it the falling action.
The theme chosen by the Carmelite Sisters for the book is fundamentally Marian, namely Our Lady’s “yes” (fiat) to the Archangel Gabriel. Just as Mary said “yes” to the Will of God, no matter what the cost, so too did Sr. Lúcia and this provides some excellent material for prayer, meditation and theological study. This theme begins with the “yes” of Lúcia and her two cousins to Our Lady’s request in May, 1917 to suffer for God. It then runs throughout all the events of Sr. Lúcia’s life and is specifically highlighted in several key moments by the Sisters, leaving no doubt as to an appropriate interpretation of events.
In choosing this theme, the Sisters are not creating a hagiography of Lúcia. In fact, the Sisters portray her in a very human way. I found myself laughing in some scenes from her life and then wanting to cry in others. The Sisters are careful to point out that though Sr. Lúcia was favored with intimate communications from heaven she still walked in the light of faith common to all in this valley of tears. Not only this, but that Lúcia also lived a simple life of prayer and sacrifice, never expecting special treatment as the “seer of Fátima.” Such moments are highlighted by the Sisters, making it easier for the reader.
In addition to the above, Lúcia is also shown as having lived the interior life of virtue to a heroic degree, demonstrating a powerful and attractive supernatural current that underlay Sister’s life, thoughts, and deeds. She was utterly devoted to the Holy Father and the conversion of poor sinners, praying as she was taught by the Angel of Portugal and fulfilling her promise to Our Lady. She offered up all her sufferings and mortifications for these ends and attained a high level of sanctity that is inspiring to read. One is struck by her simplicity but also her holiness.
In a sense, A Pathway Under the Gaze of Mary is “dangerous” because the reader is, at the same time, making an examination of conscience. This happens while he or she is drawn into an awareness of their own sinfulness and need for God’s mercy as seen through the life events of Sr. Lúcia. If the reader finds him or herself caught up within this dynamic, it should be welcomed as it draws him or her closer to the true message of Fátima, namely prayer and penance.
It is to be noted that A Pathway Under the Gaze of Mary also offers new insights into old controversies and has potential to start new ones. As I have written previously, one will learn that there was an interpretation of the vision of the third part of the secret and why Sr. Lúcia never revealed it. We see that there is discussion of the date of 1960 on the envelope containing said secret that calls into question the “official” narrative on the subject. We also learn that Sister was never really “silenced” by the Vatican and go deeper into what Our Lady meant when she said in 1917, “I shall appear here yet a seventh time.”
The reader, however, does a disservice first to God and then him or herself if this book is read in order to satisfy curiosity over more private revelations. In fact, the relative paucity of such material will cause nothing but disappointment to the curious. This is, dare I say, deliberate and reflects Sr. Lúcia’s own life and desires to escape such people in order to be with God—a facet admirably illustrated by the Carmelite Sisters. It is this dynamic of Sister’s interior life that provides the necessary context for many of the controversies surrounding Fátima. We owe a debt of gratitude to the Carmelite Sisters for clarifying it, as well as for the book itself.
Simply put, A Pathway Under the Gaze of Mary is intended to help people become saints by giving them the example of the beautiful soul of Sr. Lúcia. It is the story of a shepherdess transformed by grace under the gaze and protection of the Immaculate Heart of Mary who promised to be a refuge and the path that leads to God. These words, spoken by Our Lady to and for Sr. Lúcia, also speak to all who follow the path of prayer and penance as outlined in the message of Fátima. Everything else within this book is secondary, as it should be, to the context of Sister’s life and the obedience under which she lived faithfully for many decades.
In the end, if the reader picks up this book with a mind towards wanting to be holy, then he or she reads in a good spirit. A Pathway Under the Gaze of Mary will show them heights of holiness that are needed in a world where we are bringing punishment upon ourselves by not amending our lives and falling further into sin. Let us then follow the example of Sr. Lúcia and always give our “yes” to God and accept that which He sends us for our sanctification.
[i] It is also my hope that there will be efforts to have a critical edition of Sister’s life and perhaps even one or more volumes of Sister’s “collected letters” for the faithful.