The tiny country of Portugal was having its own problems, mostly financial. They had only established a republic some 6 years before, which had not quite worked. In the hundred years prior to the creation of the republic, Portugal had lost most of its colonies in South America. No one knew how to run the government wisely, and so the country fell into chaos and disorder. In a very brave, but very unwise move in 1916, they declared war on Germany, and sent troops into France to fight the Huns. The effect of this on the home front was disastrous.
We mentioned that the history of the country was filled with tales of kings making pledges and committments to Our Lord Jesus and Our Lady. The attitude of the new leaders of Portugal was just the opposite, not unlike those of other newly formed republics. They equated the Church with the Monarchy. Portugal had thrown the Monarchy out in 1910, and was now persecuting the Church, in an attempt to throw it out of the country.
We can't help but wonder why Our Heavenly Family bothers with us. We continue to make the same mistakes, commit the same outrages that began with the murder of Abel by Cain. Thank Jesus for His Mother Mary. She is so touchable. It's that one teardrop she sees falling from the eyes of a mother whose baby has been killed, whose husband has been dragged off, screaming into the night, never to be seen again. It must be these outrages against humanity, which have gone on since the dawn of creation, that propels her into action. We had great need of Our Lady's help in 1916. There were no kings left in Portugal to plead the cause of the people. So, it was up to the mothers to pray to Our Lady for peace. She heard these prayers, and answered them, as only she could.
A great plan was conceived in Heaven. It began to make itself known in a very small way to three little shepherds in the remote little farming village of Aljustrel, in the spring of 1916. It was still early in the season, the rainy time, before the weather warmed up. That morning, Lucia dos Santos, and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto, had led the sheep to the loca de Cabeco to graze. The ground and the grass were wet from the morning rain. They could feel the moisture on their feet, through their little sandals. Drizzle began to fall gently from the sky. The children ran up a hill to a cave where they could shelter themselves and their sheep until the rain stopped. They ate their lunch in the cave; and although the rain stopped, and the skies cleared, they stayed there, playing a game with pebbles.
The early afternoon was very calm, very still. The children became mesmerized by the game they were playing. Suddenly, a powerful blast of wind ripped through the trees, bending the branches as it whipped around the little cabeco, breaking the still of the day. The children snapped out of their lethargy. They jumped up like a shot, looking around frantically to find out what was causing the abrupt change in weather. All at once, their eyes zeroed in on a bright light off in the distance, approaching them. It drew closer to their little cave. As it moved closer, it became larger. They could make out the transparent figure of a person. Their hearts pounded. They were too frightened to speak. Closer and closer the vision came, until it was almost on top of them.
It was a beautiful young man. His long mane of blonde hair blew in the breeze. There was a sensitivity about him, almost contradicted by a forceful strength. His eyes were cobalt blue. When he looked at the children, they could feel his stare to the depths of their souls. While they were frightened of this majestic figure before them, they couldn't take their eyes off him. He spoke to them.
"Do not be afraid. I am the Angel of Peace."
From this title by which the angel called himself, we can be fairly certain it was the beloved of Mary, St. Michael the Archangel. Although the angel never actually called himself by the name of the Prince of the Heavenly Hosts, scripture and the Litany of St. Michael gives him the title, "Angel of Peace" among many other equally important honors. It has also been handed down in Church tradition and Marian devotion that wherever Our Lady is, St. Michael is sure to be found close by. The Angel continued: "Pray with me". He prostrated himself on the ground, and said the following prayer.
"My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love You. I ask forgiveness for those who do not believe, nor adore, nor hope, nor love You."
The children, in a state of shock, followed suit. They put their heads to the cold stone, and repeated what they heard the Angel say. He repeated the prayer three times. They did the same. Then he stood up again. He seemed to be nine feet tall. He looked at them. "Pray in this way", he told them. "The Hearts of Jesus and Mary are ready to listen to you." Then he took his leave. A gust of wind followed him as he turned into a bright light again, becoming smaller and fainter as he drew away from them. Finally, he was gone.
SILENCE The sound of silence was so strong, it completely overpowered them. They looked at each other. No one said anything. They were dumbfounded. For the rest of the day, they thought of nothing else. They didn't play anymore. They stayed off by themselves, each separated from the other. Every now and then they would look at one another. They were incredulous. It was never even considered by any of the three that they tell anyone what had happened. It was too intimate. They quite honestly didn't even know how to describe it. There were no words.
The plan was in motion. Ponder in your hearts for a moment the words of the Angel. "I ask forgiveness for those who do not believe, nor adore, nor hope, nor love You." Who was he talking about? Was it the leaders of this country who had rejected Our Lord Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, His Mother Mary, and all things the people had always held dear? Were they trading Jesus in for something better, and if so, what? The words fit the pattern of what the official attitude of the country towards the Church had become. They certainly had stopped loving Jesus. Adoring Him was out of the question, and they seemed to have lost Hope in the ability of their God to provide for His children. But whatever they had hoped to receive in return for their betrayal was not forthcoming. The government of Portugal continued to be extremely poor, up until the present time. Judas got 30 pieces of silver for his treachery. These wretches did not even get that.
The second apparition of the Angel set the tone for what was to come a year later. We were in serious times. There was a great urgency for return to prayer, penance, sacrifice and mortification. It was the summer of the same year, 1916. Portugal, and especially the Sierra, where the children lived, became unbearably hot. The flocks were brought out in the pre-dawn hours to graze while there was still a cool breeze in the air. Later, they would be kept out of the hot rays of the sun until evening, when the weather cooled off again.