In the year 1917, in a mountainous region at the center of Portugal, the Mother of God appeared six times to three young children. Elsewhere on the continent the “Great War” raged, that would cost Europe an entire generation, over 37 million lives. Besides sending her own sons to die (in France and North Africa) Portugal was in political chaos at home. There was a dizzy succession of governments following a revolution in 1910. The monarchy had been replaced by a republic, with a new liberal constitution separating Church from state. Government officials, under the influence of Freemasonry, were not sympathetic to the Faith. But for the people themselves, the Faith was the air they breathed, as in the village of Aljustrel, a collection of whitewashed houses on a dusty road in the parish of Fatima. There Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta were born and raised in homes where the catechism was their daily bread, stories from the Bible their recreation, and the word of the village priest was law. Lucia de Jesus Santos was born, the youngest of seven children, to Antonio and Maria Rosa Santos, on 22 March 1907. She was a plain child with sparkling eyes and a magnetic personality, a natural leader to whom other children looked with confident affection. Blessed with an excellent memory, Lucia was able to learn her catechism, and make her First Communion and Confession, at age six. She herself became a catechist at nine. Lucia would be the constant guide and companion to her first cousins, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, through the trials that accompanied the apparitions of the Blessed Mother.
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