May 16, 1954 – January 16, 1955 / Feast Day: May 16
It was on the afternoon of Sunday, the 16th of May, that Carlos Alberto Delgado, 11 years of age, was studying with other students at the house of their teacher. The 4th grade 100 exam was approaching, and the outcome would determine those who would advance to the next grade and continue attending school, and those who no longer would. The teacher often tutored her students on weekends, as she wanted very much for them all to pass the exam. She even recommended to the children that, in addition to studying, to pray for assistance with the exam, as they needed all the help they could get.
A few days earlier, Carlos Alberto claimed to have seen a strange “transparent cloud” on the roof of his house. When he told this to his classmates, they taunted him, and his teacher, being a prudent woman, did not believe him either. It was because of the continued taunting on that Sunday that he and a friend, Manuel Carreira, began studying away from the group, near some trees. Later that afternoon, Carlos Alberto left his friend to go relieve himself in the bushes. On his way back, he heard the rustling of leaves and looking up he saw some tree branches shaking lightly. With his eyes fixed upward – according to his testimony – the same bright cloud that had appeared to him a few days before appeared again, however this time a Lady manifested above the cloud.
She was beautiful in every sense. Carlos Alberto, afraid, began to run away, but the vision, which remained among the laurel foliage, spoke to him with extreme sweetness: “Don’t be scared, boy. I am the Mother of the Redeemer.”
When Carlos Alberto calmed and returned to the tree, the Lady continued speaking to him. She told him to apply himself to his studies and to pray, often, at that same place. She also told him that she would return there on the 16th for eight consecutive months. The story of the vision quickly spread, becoming the topic of conversation in many circles. When speaking of the vision, Carlos Alberto, who was known to always tell the truth, spoke firm, categorical, and full of conviction. Not very many people doubted his sincerity. However, the local authorities had to interrogate him, and they did so relentlessly until his next meeting with the Virgin. To their satisfaction, the boy answered all questions, was assertive in his words, and never contradicted the tiniest detail in the various statements he had to give. Carlos Alberto was also subject to numerous psychiatric examinations, as the civil and ecclesiastical authorities wanted to be sure of his soundness of mind, from which he received a clean bill of mental health every time.
Over the following months, the boy continued meeting with Our Lady on the same spot, on the 16th of each month, with more and more people accompanying him each time. The Mother of the Redeemer asked for Carlos Alberto to pray, to observe the ten commandments, and to do good deeds. On the eve of each appearance, people witnessed unusual lights in the night sky, and, the next morning, would reportedly see the sun rise much earlier than usual, and moving about in the sky.
As the fame of these apparitions grew, the government and the Church became concerned. The shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, only 50 kilometres away, was becoming a large draw for people as the basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima was completed in 1954, with pilgrims and tourists visiting the site in droves. To have a “new apparition” of the Blessed Virgin Mary so close by, in Asseiceira, would possibly have detracted people from going to Fatima.
Also, with these alleged apparitions, there would have had to be a lengthy, formal investigation conducted by the Church of Portugal, which would have required a lot of time and effort on their part when, at the time, they were busy with promoting the Fatima phenomenon. During this time, Portugal was headed by a dictatorship under Prime Minister Antonio Salazar, who felt it was the government’s duty approve things such as books, plays, and the overall media, before being made available to the public. Anything that was not approved, was removed. The head of the Catholic Church in Portugal at the time was Cardinal Gonçalves Cerejeira, who as it happened, was friends with the Prime Minister since boyhood. It had been said that Cardinal Cerejeira asked the Prime Minister to put a halt to the people gathering for the apparitions at Asseiceira, to try and dissolve the popularity of these events. And so, the newspapers who once reported on the apparitions were now prohibited from doing so. The media was silenced on the matter. Any documentation of the apparitions was to be surrendered to the authorities. But Salazar didn’t stop there.
By the October 16th apparition, the National Republican Guard (GNR) was deployed to set up blockades on all roads leading to Asseiceira. This, however, did not stop the pilgrims from walking through the fields to circumvent the authorities.
On the night of December 15th the unusual waves of light in the sky returned, this time accompanied by what appeared to be a sort of candlelight procession with hundreds of little lights hovering over the town, headed towards the apparition site. They rested around the little shrine Carlos Alberto had set up to welcome the Virgin for her appearances.
Early the next morning, citizens opened their doors to go about their usual bakery runs only to find that Asseiceira was completely overrun with the GNR and the army! The people were warned that they were not to go to the site of the apparitions under threat of being arrested. As the time for the apparition drew near, the sun began its now usual dance in the sky to announce the coming of the Virgin. The soldiers stood arm in arm around the site to prevent people from going, but they soon realized that they were outnumbered. 40,000 people marched to the place Our Lady was to appear. The crowds pushed through the guards, while praying peacefully, and after a while, realizing that their attempts were futile, the soldiers decided to let the people be. There were guards at the little shrine who had vandalized it, and they tried, unsuccessfully, to extinguish the little lights that settled there the night before. Fearing the massive crowd that was approaching, they laid down their guns and batons. Neither soldier nor pilgrim was harmed.
Finally, the Mother of the Redeemer arrived, this time accompanied by little angels – who some say they saw. Our Lady descended and the little sparks of light that kept vigil faded out in contrast to her brilliance. During the Virgin’s meeting with Carlos Alberto, the sun began throwing off all shades of colour, tinting the people with its rays (just as it did at Fatima in 1917). People were heard to remark to one another in surprise: “You’re all purple!” and another “Woman! You’re all yellow!” After some time spinning and changing colour, the sun returned to its natural position in the sky. Our Lady concluded her visit and returned to Heaven, leaving the people to process what had just taken place.
The final apparition took place on January 16, 1955. This time, there were no outward signs or spectacles for the people. Just a hushed silence as Our Lady spoke with the boy. The final message given to Carlos Alberto was the same as the pervious times: pray the Rosary, do good deeds, carry yourself well and observe the ten commandments. (Our Lady also had a private message for the boy, sombre in tone, which will be told further on).
After the apparitions Carlos Alberto went on to complete his schooling. After this, he got a job as a banker, and met his future wife Célia. Célia’s mother was against their courtship as she had it in her mind that seers did not marry, and her daughter was wasting her time with the young man who had seen Our Lady. Persistent in their relationship, Carlos and Célia were engaged to be married in the autumn of 1968.
Meanwhile, Cardinal Cerejeira released a pastoral note which prohibited the faithful from praying or worshipping at the apparition site under penalty of excommunication. Because of this, the parish priest refused to marry the couple unless Carlos Alberto recanted his story of the apparitions, which he would not do. And so, it was in September of 1968 that Carlos Alberto and Célia were married in a civil union. As time went by Carlos and Célia started a family, having two children: João and Cristina.
The sombre message given by Our Lady to Carlos Alberto during the final apparition involved his son and himself: He was told that in the future he would father two children, a boy, and a girl. Carlos Alberto would die as a young father, and, shortly after, his son would die as well. The girl was to stay behind with her mother. This all came to pass on November 9th, 1980 when Carlos Alberto and his son João were in a car accident. The father died on the way to hospital, while his son died six months later.
Though the parish priest refused to grant a funeral Mass for Carlos Alberto, thousands of people gathered at the apparition site where the casket was brought, to pray for the repose of his soul. On that day, a solar miracle took place, much like the ones in 1954, further confirmation for the people that Carlos Alberto had truly spoken with the Mother of the Redeemer.
Years later the prohibition and threat of excommunication was lifted from the Asseiceira apparition site, with prayer and worship now being permitted there.
Read about this and other lesser known Marian apparitions in Portugal in the book "OUR LADY OF PORTUGAL"