At that time, Rev. Bishop, I reached the age in which my mother made her children take care of the flock. My sister Carolina had turned 13, and she had to start working. Therefore, my mother handed me the care of our flock. I delivered the news to my friends [Francisco and Jacinta], and I told them I would not be able to play with them anymore; but the little ones could not stand the separation. They asked their mother to let them come with me, which she denied. We had to resign ourselves to separation.
Almost every day, then, they came to wait for me on my way back, early in the evening, and then we would go out to the field to run some races, waiting for Our Lady and the Angels to light up their lamps and put them by their window to shine over us, as we said. When there was no moonlight, we would say that Our Lady’s lamp was out of oil.
It was hard for the two little ones to get used to the absence of their old companion. Therefore, they insisted continuously with their mother so that they too could guard their flock. My aunt, maybe to get rid of so many requests, and despite their being so small, let them care care of their little sheep. Radiant with joy, they came to tell me the news, and arrange the details of how we would gather our flocks every day. Each one would release one’s flock at the time ordered by one’s mother, and the first would wait for the other in Barreiro (that is what we called a small lake that was at the end of the ridge). Once we were together, we would settle what would be the pasture land for that day and we would move there, so happy and content, as though we were going to a party!
Here we see, Rev. Bishop, Jacinta in her new life as a little shepherdess. We gained the trust of the sheep by sharing our food with them. Then, when we reached the pasture, we could play at ease, because they did not stray away from us. Jacinta loved to hear the echo of her voice from the bottom of the valleys. For this reason, one of our activities was to go to the top of the hills, sit atop the largest stones and pronounce names in a loud voice. The name that echoed the best was that of Mary. Jacinta would, at times, say the whole Ave Maria like this, repeating the next word only when the previous one had echoed.
Jacinta also enjoyed very much gathering the little white lambs, sitting while putting them on her lap, hugging them, kissing them, and, at night, carrying them home so that they would not get tired. One day, when we were returning home, she went to the middle of the flock. “Jacinta,” I asked her, “why are you going there, among the sheep?” “To do like Our Lord who, in that holy card that I was given, is also like this, among many, and with one on his lap.“
This is, Rev. Bishop, somewhat how those seven years that had gone by for Jacinta when, joyful and happy, like so many other days, May 13, 1917, arose. On that day, we chose by chance – if there be chances in the designs of Providence – as pasture for our flock the land that belonged to my parents, called Cova da Iria. We chose the pasture of the day, as we used to do, near the Barreiro, as I had told Your Excellency, and we had for this reason to cross the woods, which made our way doubly long. We had, for this reason, to move slowly, so that the little sheep could graze along the way; and then we arrived there at noon.
Sister Lúcia dos Santos
Letter to the Bishop of Leiria (Transcribed by Canon José Galambo de Oliveira, May 1938)
Memórias da Irmã Lúcia