Modern Day Saint
The Fatima Children
Jacinta and Francisco
On May 13, 2000, Pope John Paul ll beatified Jacinta and Francisco Marto, two of the three little shepherd children of Fatima to whom the Virgin Mary appeared. The third little shepherd, Lucia dos Santos - a cousin, is now a 93-year-old nun living in Fatima. The apparitions of the Blessed Virgin to illiterate peasant children in a Portuguese rural community in 1917 may be one of the most important religious events of the 20th century. Hundred of books and possibly tens of thousands of articles have been written about the event. Today, nearly four million pilgrims a year visit the site of these apparitions.
Why were such young children chosen by God to receive such important messages to bring to the rest of the world? Jacinta was only seven years old and Francisco a year older. The reason why they were chosen is the reason why they were beatified. They believed instantly with the love and trust of children. As Jesus said, we must become as little children to enter Heaven. I think you will understand as you read about their lives.
On the 13th of July in 1917, when Our Lady appeared to the three children she gave them messages to give to the world. She also showed them a vision of Hell and said, " You have seen Hell, where souls of poor sinners go." That vision of Hell almost scared them to death. It was Hell, and the thought of souls falling into Hell, that made the greatest impression on Jacinta. Our Lady also told Jacinta, ''The sins that lead most souls to Hell are the sins of the flesh." The reality of Hell prompted Jacinta to pray relentlessly and to make many sacrifices to save their souls. Jacinta would often call on Lucy and Francisco to pray with her. They often said seven to eight rosaries a day. In addition they gave up meals and offered many other sacrifices to help save souls. The Virgin Mary appeared to Jacinta at least three more times after the Fatima apparitions. In 1918 Jacinta told Lucia: "Our Lady asked me if I still wanted to convert more sinners and I said 'Yes.' Our Lady wants me to go to two hospitals but not to be cured. It is to suffer more for the love of God and the conversion of sinners."
Jacinta did go to two hospitals, suffering from recurrent fevers, pneumonia and tuberculosis. Before she died at the age of 10 she revealed some more of her spiritual and mystical insights. One of these was, "Our Lady said that there are many wars and discords in the world. Wars are punishment for the sins of the world. Our Lady cannot stay the arm of her Beloved Son upon the world anymore…" "Tell the whole world that God grants His graces through the mediation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary; that we must not hesitate to ask for them through her intercession."
There is a tendency among devotees of Fatima to think of Jacinta as superior to Francisco, as if Francisco, although Jacinta's elder brother, was spiritually a poor cousin who happened to be present when Our Lady appeared to the girls. Some people think the Church is only beatifying Francisco because of Jacinta - she suffered longer and her body was incorrupt. Francisco would have agreed with this. He would have been pleased to hear this. Writer Leo Madigan* uses the word 'contemplative' to describe Francisco - the same word you would use to describe monks, nuns, and a great many laity that have striven and mortified themselves for the bliss of being enfolded by God's love. They have given up; not only sin, but fashion, excitement, novelty, entertainment, ambition and everything of like nature for the love of God. As Madigan writes: "Francisco, an illiterate peasant in ill-fitting trousers, who had never heard the word contemplative, met these criteria, through grace, and in doing so achieved that unique position his Creator had designed for him."
The more we study Francisco the more clearly we see he was a true contemplative. As an example, during the apparition he couldn't hear what Our Lady said, yet he expressed no desire to do so because he felt for some reason she didn't want him to hear her. He didn't fret about the reason and he didn't press the girls to tell him. Another example is when Our Lady promises Lucia that she will go to Heaven. Lucia asks, "And Jacinta?" Our Lady answers, "She will go also." Lucia then asks, "And Francisco?" Our Lady answers, "He will go there too, but he must say many Rosaries."
Francisco's own assumption that he was the least important of the seers conforms with a mentality for the formation of contemplatives. Francisco's lack of self-interest as well as his secret prayer life are further marks of a true contemplative. He did not have problems with his ego, ambition, pride, impatience and the other vices like the rest of us. He was completely absorbed in his love of God.
In Francisco's desire to console Jesus, saddened by sin, his life was marked by a transformation that may be called radical, a transformation not common in children of his age. He committed himself to an intense spiritual life; through prayer so assiduous and fervent as to achieve a true mystical union with the Lord. Francisco bore without complaint the great suffering caused by the illness from which he later died. Everything seemed trivial to him in his desire to console Jesus. He died with a smile on his lips, only two years after the first apparition, at the age of eleven.
When canonized, Jacinta and Francisco will be the youngest known saints and the Patron Saints of Children. In the Holy Father's homily at the beatification rite he said, "By this rite the Church wishes to adorn the lamp with two flames that God lit to illuminate humanity in its hours of darkness and worry."
Prior to the beatification our Holy Father visited Sister Lucia and the Basilica in Fatima. The Basilica contains the tombs of Jacinta and Francisco. It has 15 side altars dedicated to the 15 mysteries of the rosary.
Note (*) Leo Madigan is a New Zealand author and journalist who resides in Fatima.
To contact Curtis, Fred, John or Jim please use our Website address www.TheDefender.org or write us at Defenders of The Faith, Inc., PO Box 1000, Berkeley Springs, West Virginia 25411.
Return to Top
Close this window to return to current Featured Saint page.