A relatively little-known aspect of the history of Our Lady’s apparitions in Fátima, Portugal concerns a comment made to Sr. Lúcia about a “seventh” apparition. On May 13, 1917, in her first apparition to the three shepherd children, Our Lady stated, “I have come to ask you to come here for six months in succession, on the 13th day, at this same hour. Later on, I will tell you who I am and what I want. Afterwards, I will return here yet a seventh time.”[i] Has this seventh apparition already occurred? We shall look at this matter presently.
Around the year 1997, I was reading Fr. Robert Fox’s book Rediscovering Fatima. Fr. Fox wrote that Our Lady may have appeared to Sr. Lúcia the seventh time prior to the latter’s departure to the convent in Porto.[ii] Fox only relayed the possibility of the apparition, speaking only of “some students” of Fatima who held this opinion. No details of the actual apparition were provided. This part of Fr. Fox’s book remained with me for the next several years.
In 2005, I was in conversation with my friend Rick Salbato at his apartment in Fátima. The topic of the seventh apparition came up. Rick was of the opinion that the apparition had yet to take place. Remembering Fr. Fox’s book, I brought up the fact to Rick and he was interested in this information.
Happily, in 2015, the matter of Our Lady’s seventh apparition arose again. I was writing a review of the English translation of the Carmelite Sisters of Coimbra’s 2013 biography A Pathway Under the Gaze of Mary.[iii] During my reading, I noticed that the Carmelite Sisters discussed the seventh apparition. They did not, however, simply report the possibility of the apparition. The Sisters, relying upon a written description from Sr. Lúcia, actually confirmed and detailed what took place during the seventh apparition!
The Carmelite Sisters dedicated an entire chapter (5 in the English edition) to this subject.[iv] The focus of this chapter is the departure of Sr. Lúcia from Fátima in June of 1921 to begin her formal education in Vilar with the Dorothean Sisters. Lúcia was saying goodbye to the places of her youth and was experiencing anguish.[v] In the midst of her doubts and anguish, she wanted to offer up this sacrifice but was unsure of the path forward. She went to the Cova da Iria and prayed. According to the Carmelite Sisters’ biography, here is how Sr. Lúcia described what took place next:
…once again you have come down to Earth; and then I felt your helping hand and maternal touch on my shoulder. I looked up and I saw you, it was you, Blessed Mother, holding my hand and showing me the path, and your lips unveiled the sweet timbre of your voice and light and peace was restored to my soul. ‘Here I am for the seventh time. Go, follow the path which the Bishop wants you to take, this is the will of God.’ [“Aqui estou pela sétima vez. Vai, segue o caminho por onde o Senhor Bispo te quiser levar, essa é a vontade de Deus”] I repeated then my ‘yes,’ now much more conscious than on that day of May 13, 1917.[vi]
The Carmelite Sisters have provided a wonderful insight into a relatively little-known aspect of the history of Fátima. We now know with greater certitude that Our Lady’s promise to appear in the Cova da Iria a seventh time was indeed fulfilled. It was not intended to be a public event, but, rather, a private affair between Sr. Lúcia and Our Lady. Such is the nature of private revelation—a communication between the soul and God; it is not always a matter for public consumption. Let us rejoice that we have this opportunity to praise God for His wonders and mercy!
~Updated on 5-25-17 A.D. to include some Portuguese texts. Please also check out my book “On the Third Part of the Secret of Fátima.”
[i] Fr. Louis Kondor (edit.), Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words: Sister Lucia’s Memoirs. 13ed. (Fátima, Portugal: Secretariado dos Pastorinhos, 2007), 175. Available online as a PDF file.
[ii] Fr. Robert Fox, Rediscovering Fatima. (Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., 1982), 48.
[iv] Carmel of Coimbra, A Pathway under the Gaze of Mary. 1ed. (Washington, New Jersey: World Apostolate of Fatima, USA, 2015), 115. Hereafter A Pathway under the Gaze of Mary followed by page number. The English translation of the chapter title is I’m Here for the Seventh Time (Aqui estou pela sétima vez).
[v] In my opinion, Sr. Lúcia was living Our Lord’s words to St. Peter in the Gospel about “going where you do not want to go” (John 21:18-19).
[vi] The Portuguese text can be found in: Carmelo de Santa Teresa – Coimbra, Um Caminho sob o Olhar de Maria: Biografia da Irmã Lúcia de Jesus e do Coração Imaculado, O.C.D. (Coimbra, Portugal: Edições Carmelo, 2013), 120-122. The English translation can be found in: A Pathway under the Gaze of Mary, 117-118.