Fatima: What happened afterwards

A Pathway under the Gaze of Mary: Biography of Sister Maria Lucia of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart O.C.D.

by the Carmel of Saint Teresa, Coimbra, Portugal

(World Apostolate of Fatima, €25; available from publishers at www.bluearmy.com )

Donal Anthony Foley

A Pathway under the Gaze of Mary is a biography of Sr Lucia of Fatima. Running to some 19 chapters and covering all aspects of her life, it was written by the fellow Carmelite Sisters of Sr Lucia, who came to know her so well during the nearly six decades she lived with them in Coimbra, Portugal.

A Pathway under the Gaze of Mary quotes extensively from her memoirs and thus gives us a very good insight  into exactly what happened when Our Lady appeared to the three little shepherds. But the book is also valuable for the way that it reveals many little-known aspects of her life, some of them based on oral testimony, and others on her letters and other writings, as contained in the archives of the Coimbra Carmel and those of the Sanctuary of Fatima. Thus it gives us a very full picture of her as a person, and a valuable understanding of her spirituality, and intensely prayerful and penitential life.

The first half of the book describes her life as a child, through the apparitions of Our Lady in 1917, and then her experiences in religious life, including the difficulties over the request for the consecration of Russia.


The second half looks at her further experiences as a Dorothean Sister, including her efforts to make known the three parts of the Fatima secret, before her move to join the Carmelites in 1948. It then examines her subsequent life in Carmel and her encounters with some recent Popes, in the years before her death in 2005.

However, at the outset, it must be said that the ‘problem’ with Fatima is that the true meaning and message given by Our Lady has been obscured by a focus on the third part of the secret, which some people claim still hasn’t been revealed, and also by the claims of those who say that the consecration done by Pope John Paul II in 1984 didn’t fulfil the Blessed Virgin’s requests at Fatima, despite the fact that it was followed by the almost completely peaceful dissolution of communism in Russia and its former satellites.

All this means that instead of looking at the luminous life of Sr Lucia, her love of God and the Church, and her devotion to Our Lady, as well as the more general aspects of the Fatima message, such as the importance of the rosary and the Five First Saturdays’ devotion, too many people have been side-tracked into controversial areas.

It’s all too easy, in my opinion, to focus on these aspects rather than get down to the hard business of actually doing what Our Lady asked for, that is to deepen our prayer and sacramental lives, do penance and earnestly seek to do the will of God.

But Our Lady’s promise, that in the end her Immaculate Heart will triumph and that a period of peace will be granted to the world, is still valid, and that should be our guiding principle.

There is much then to learn from this book. A Pathway under the Gaze of Mary gives us fascinating details about the early life of Sr Lucia, in the years before she was privileged to see Our Lady, and is the product of detailed research. It is clear that the strongly Catholic atmosphere she grew up in played a large part in moulding her character, and in ultimately making her such a docile instrument for living and spreading the Fatima message.

Certainly her mother took the Gospels very seriously and strove to inculcate strong Christian principles in all her children. What also becomes clear in reading the book, is just how much we have lost in terms of how adversely affected our modern societies have been by secularism and modernity.

Reading about Sr Lucia’s childhood is like reading about an almost totally lost world of innocence and devotion, in which God was given pride of place, and where the family and the Church were truly valued.

Incredible miracle

Consider that Portugal – a country where less than a century ago, Our Lady appeared and performed the incredible miracle of the sun – has been economically and socially transformed mainly due to its joining the European Union. But this has come at the price of the introduction of divorce, abortion, and now, same-sex marriage. In the book, Sr Lucia is quoted as saying that this approval of abortion means that Portugal will have much to suffer.

At her retreat in preparation for temporary profession as a Dorothean Sister, she wrote about her resolve to pray all the mysteries of the rosary daily, to make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament, to do the Stations of the Cross, and also to daily pray the prayers she and the other seers had been taught by the Angel of Portugal in 1916.

Regarding her penances, she resolved to take the discipline three days a week: to wear sackcloth three days a week for three hours, in union with the three hours Christ spent on the Cross, and, apart from a morning coffee, to refrain from drinking three days a week in union with the thirst suffered by Christ during his passion.

Sr Lucia comes across as a strong character, who was quite prepared to argue her point before priests and bishops. And she needed that strength to bear the burden of being the only living witness of Our Lady’s apparitions for more than 80 years, during which time she faced many challenges and difficulties in her life of self-sacrifice as a Carmelite.

She was cheerful, spontaneous, genuine and simple, but at the same time prudently reserved, while also being very humble. She sought anonymity, and it was this desire for seclusion that led her to become a Carmelite in 1948, having received permission for this from Pope Pius XII.


There is a very enlightening chapter entitled ‘Encounters with the Bishop Dressed in White’ which details her meetings with some recent Popes and particularly Paul VI and John Paul II, and how she was very anxious to open her heart to the latter about all her desires for the advancement of the Fatima message. Her last years were marked by much suffering, but she offered everything up to God, as she gradually grew more and more weak. Her final words were an offering of her sufferings for the Holy Father.

At over 400 pages, A Pathway under the Gaze of Mary is a large work with a bibliography and numerous footnotes, and it is beautifully illustrated with many rarely seen archive photos. Much of the book is taken up with Sr Lucia’s experiences as a religious sister, and it gives many valuable insights about the importance of the religious life.

It is recommended for anyone who wants to deepen their understanding of the life of Sr Lucia and the message of Fatima.


Donal Anthony Foley is the author of a number of books on Marian apparitions, and maintains a related web site at www.theotokos.org.uk