+ March 11, 1910: Jacinta is born
+ From May 13 to October 13, 1917: the Blessed Mother appears to the three little shepherds
+ October 1918: Jacinta’s illness begins
+ February 20, 1920: Jacinta dies
A mystery to many
“Why should I read an article about Jacinta?” you may ask. “What can I get out of it? I already know everything about Fatima: the Blessed Mother appeared in Portugal to three little shepherds in 1917, told them to pray the rosary, and Jacinta was a very lucky little girl even though she died very young... she is now another little angel among the angels! How does it concern my life? How can I relate to a little girl who lived almost 100 years ago? Will I find it interesting at all?”
As you read this article you will discover that which is still a mystery to many, namely, why, during the apparition of July 13, 1917, the Blessed Virgin showed Hell to the three children: Lucia, 10, Francisco, 9, and Jacinta, 7.
Yes, the Blessed Virgin showed Hell to a little girl of seven, with demons in the form of horrible monsters, and souls of the damned burning in a huge fire! Why would she do such a thing?
That vision transformed Jacinta’s life: from then on she agreed to suffer so that sinners could convert, and therefore avoid losing their souls forever. As you read these few pages, you will see how the love of neighbor, including sinners, can lead a child to a heroic acceptance of suffering.
And how she suffered! Small, ignorant, poor and sick, through suffering Jacinta is transformed into a giant of virtue, a universal model of wisdom, inner richness and strength.
I am convinced that Jacinta has something very special to convey to you. Read her story, look her in the eyes, and discover for yourself what her questioning look suggests.
“How I have pity for souls who go to Hell!”
The concept of eternity was one of the things that most impressed Jacinta in the vision of Hell. At times she would stop in the middle of a game and ask her cousin,
“But look. So, after many, many years, will Hell still not be over? And you never get out of there?”
“Even after many, many years?!”
“No. Hell never ends. Neither does Heaven. Whoever goes to Heaven never leaves. And those who go to Hell don’t either. Don’t you see that they are eternal, that they never end?”
“And those people burning there do not die? They do not turn into ashes? If we pray a lot for sinners, does Our Lord deliver them from there? And with sacrifices too? Poor ones! We will pray and make many sacrifices for them...How good that Lady really is! She has already promised to take us to Heaven!”
The vision of Hell had caused Jacinta such horror that all the penances and mortifications she could make seemed little to prevent a few souls from falling into it.
How could Jacinta, so small, understand and accept such a spirit of mortification and penance? Lucia explains,
“It seems to me that it was first by a special grace God wished to grant through the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary; secondly, by seeing Hell and the terrible state of the souls that fall into it.
“There are people, even pious ones, who do not want to talk about Hell to children so as not to frighten them. But God did not hesitate to show it to a seven-year-old child, knowing that she was going to be horrified, I would almost venture to say, to the point of dying of terror.”
Often, Jacinta would sit on a stone, and plunged into her thoughts, would say:
“Hell! Hell! What pity I have for the souls that go to hell! And the people burning alive there, like wood in a bonfire!”
Then, shuddering, she would kneel down, clasp her hands and recite aloud the prayer which the Blessed Virgin had taught them:
“O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of thy mercy.”
“There are so many who go there!”
Jacinta remained on her knees for a long time, repeating the same prayer. From time to time she stopped to call her companions:
“Francisco, Francisco, are you praying with me? We need to pray a lot to deliver souls from hell. So many go there! So many!”
One day Lucia went to see her cousin and found her sitting in bed, pensive.
“Jacinta, what are you thinking about?”
“About the war that is to come. So many people will die! And almost all will go to hell! Many houses will be razed and many priests killed. Look, I am going to Heaven. And as soon as you see that night light the Lady said will come before [the war], make sure to flee there too!”
“Don’t you see that one can’t flee to Heaven?”
“It’s true! You can’t. But do not be afraid! In Heaven I will pray very much for you, for the Holy Father, for Portugal* so the war does not come here, and for all priests.”
At other times, she would ask,
“Why does Our Lady not show Hell to sinners? If they only saw it they would no longer sin to avoid going there! You must tell the Lady to show hell to all those people [present at Cova da Iria at the time of the apparition]. You will see how they will convert.”
Then, somewhat dissatisfied, she would ask Lucia,
“Why didn’t you tell Our Lady to show hell to those people?”
“I forgot,” she replied.
“I did not remember it either!” Jacinta said sadly.
At other times she also asked,
“What sins do these people commit to go to hell?”
“I don’t know. Perhaps the sin of not going to Mass on Sunday, stealing, saying ugly words, cursing, swearing.”
“And they go to hell just because of a single word?!”
“Of course! It’s a sin!”
“What would it cost them to keep silent and go to Mass? What a pity I have for sinners! If only I could show them hell!”
And then she would take Lucia by the arm and insist,
“I am going to Heaven, but you who stay here if Our Lady lets you, tell everyone what hell is like so they don’t sin anymore and don’t go there.”
At other times, after a period of reflection, she would say,
“So many people falling into hell, so many people in hell!”
To reassure her, Lucia would remind her:
“Do not fear; you are going to Heaven.”
“I am,” she said peacefully, “but I wanted all those people to go there too.”
Suffering to Save Sinners
Jacinta would not miss any opportunity of making sacrifices to obtain the conversion of sinners.
When Jacinta would not eat to mortify herself, Lucia would tell her:
“Jacinta! Come on, now eat!”
“No. I offer this sacrifice for sinners who overeat.”
And when, already very affected by illness, she would go to Mass during the week, Lucia tried to prevent her:
“Jacinta, don’t come, you cannot. Today is not Sunday!”
“It does not matter. I am going for the sinners who do not even go on Sunday.”
And if she happened to hear unseemly words uttered by some people, she would hide her face with her hands and say,
“O my God! Don’t these people know that by saying these things they can go to hell? Forgive them, my Jesus, and convert them. Surely they do not know that, with this, they offend God. What a pity, my Jesus! I pray for them.”
The three little shepherds knew children of two poor families who begged for alms from door to door. Seeing them one day when leading her flock, Jacinta proposed to Lucia and Francisco:
“Shall we give our lunch to those poor people for the conversion of sinners?”
And she ran to take her lunch to them.
Of course, in the afternoon, the three little shepherds got hungry. To remedy that, Francisco climbed up a green oak tree and filled his pockets with long, sweet and nutty acorns. But Jacinta suggested that they could instead eat acorns from great oaks to make the sacrifice of chewing something very bitter.
That became one of her usual sacrifices. She also gathered olives before the brine bath that would cut down their bitterness. The acorns and olives were so bitter that one day Lucia said to her:
“Jacinta, do not eat that, it’s very bitter!”
“That’s why I eat it, to convert sinners.”
Jacinta seemed insatiable in offering sacrifices. In her generosity as a little victim, all she thought of was to suffer to save sinners. For this end, she frequently accepted the harsh conditions of life as it presented itself.
Everyday Sacrifices to Save Sinners
Jacinta's mother knew well her little girl’s repugnance for milk. One day, she brought her a cup of milk and a nice bunch of grapes.
“Here, Jacinta,” she told her, “if you can’t take the milk, just leave it and eat the grapes.”
“No, mother, I do not want the grapes, you may take them. Let me have the milk.”
And without showing the slightest repugnance, she drank it. Her mother was happy, thinking that her daughter's distaste for milk was gone. Then Jacinta told Lucia:
“I craved those grapes so much, and it was so hard to drink the milk!” But I wanted to offer this sacrifice to Our Lord.”
One morning, Lucia found her with an altered countenance and asked if she felt any worse.
“Tonight,” she replied, “I’ve had many pains and wanted to offer Our Lord the sacrifice of not going back to bed, so I did not sleep at all.”
Another time she confided to Lucia,
“When I am alone, I get out of bed to say the prayers of the angel; but now I can no longer reach the ground with my head because I fall. I pray only on my knees.”
Concerned, Lucia mentioned it to the confessor who knew how to guide her. He ordered that Jacinta should no longer get out of bed to pray but say all the prayers she wanted in bed, without tiring too much. She hastened to pass the message on to Jacinta, who asked:
“Will Our Lord be pleased?”
“He will,” I replied. “Our Lord wants us to do what the pastor tells us.”
“Then it’s fine; I will never get up again.”
“I saw the Holy Father crying, and people insulting him”
On one very hot day, the children spent the siesta hour on the well at the back of the garden of Lucia’s house. Jacinta asked her cousin,
“Haven’t you seen the Holy Father?”
“I do not know how it happened! I saw the Holy Father in a very large house, on his knees, in front of a table, with his hands on his face, crying. Outside the house were many people and some threw stones at him, others cursed and told him many ugly words. Poor little Holy Father! We have to pray a lot for Him!”
Another day, two priests who had gone to interrogate them explained who the Pope was and asked the children to pray for him. Jacinta then asked Lucia,
“Is he the same I saw crying, and of whom the Lady spoke in that secret?”
“Certainly that Lady also showed him to these priests! See? I was not mistaken. We must pray a lot for him.”
In fact, Jacinta was taken with such a love for the Holy Father that every time she offered one of her sacrifices to Jesus, she added:
“And for the Holy Father.”
At the end of each rosary she always recited three Hail Marys for the pope and sometimes would say,
“I wish I could see the Holy Father! So many people come here and the Holy Father never comes.”
Another time, the three little shepherds had gone to their favorite rock hollows on Cabeço hill, where the angel had appeared to them. Prostrating with their foreheads on the ground, they fervently recited the prayer he had taught them. After a moment, Jacinta arose and asked,
“Don’t you see many roads, paths and fields full of people crying with hunger, who have nothing to eat? And the Holy Father in a church, praying before the Immaculate Heart of Mary? And many people praying with Him?”
After several days, she asked Lucia:
“Can I say that I have seen the Holy Father and all those people?”
“No. Don’t you see that it is part of the secret and they would soon discover it?”
“All right, then I won’t say anything.”
One year after the last apparition, towards the end of October 1918, Jacinta fell ill, followed by Francisco.
The flu epidemic affecting so many people at the time was undoubtedly the cause of her very strong bronchopneumonia, which never healed but degenerated into an infected pleurisy with an external abscess, and ultimately tuberculosis.
On the eve of her illness, she said to Lucia,
“My head hurts so bad and I am so thirsty! But I do not want to drink in order to suffer for sinners.”
Despite her pain, she would not complain. Her only confidante was Lucia:
“I feel such pain in my chest! But I do not say anything to my mother; I want to suffer for Our Lord in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary, for the Holy Father, and for the conversion of sinners.”
One morning, when Lucia came to see her, she asked,
“How many sacrifices did you offer to Our Lord tonight?”
“Three: I got up three times to say the prayers of the angel.”
“I have offered Him many, many; I do not know how many, for I had many pains and did not complain.”
At the hospital of Vila Nova de Ourem: “I am not going there to be healed”
On July 1, 1919, Jacinta, who had been ill for almost a year, was taken to the hospital at Vila Nova de Ourem, the same town where she had been imprisioned by the Mayor back in August, 1917.
Her father carefully arranged her thin and feverish body on the back of a mule for the three-mile journey from their hamlet to the town.
She knew very well that she was not at the hospital to be cured, but to suffer for the conversion of sinners. The Lady had told her so.
Along the way she remembered a visit the Lady had paid to her and Francisco when she was doing a little better and would spend her day sitting on her brother's bed. Immediately afterwards she had called Lucia to tell her,
“Our Lady came to see us and says that she will soon come to take Francisco to Heaven. And she asked me if I wanted to convert more sinners. I told her I did. She told me that I would be going to a hospital and would suffer a lot there; that I should suffer for the conversion of sinners, in reparation for sins against the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and for the love of Jesus. I asked her if you were going with me. She said no. For me this is the hardest part. She said that my mother was going to take me and I would be there alone!”
The poor little girl was extremely afraid of staying alone in a place she imagined to be terrible. So she added:
“If you only went with me! The hardest thing for me is to go without you. Maybe the hospital is a very dark house where you cannot see anything, and I will be there suffering alone!”
And then she immediately returned to the only thing that really mattered:
“But it is all right; I suffer for Our Lord’s sake, to make reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, for the conversion of sinners, and for the Holy Father.”
In fact, the Saint Augustine Hospital in Vila Nova de Ourem was all white and flooded with light. But the treatment Jacinta received there for two months could do nothing to improve her health, and she suffered greatly.
What had begun as the flu in October 1918 had turned into tuberculosis, which affected one of her lungs. An abscess had formed and a wound opened on her left side through which oozed foul-smelling pus.
She received few visits, as distance and daily occupations prevented her mother from visiting her youngest child as often as she would like. When she came to see Jacinta, she asked if she wanted anything. Of course, what Jacinta wanted the most was to see Lucia and converse with her.
So, as soon as she could her mother brought Lucia with her, not a small complication as she had to make a round trip of more than twelve miles in a single day. This trip was made, not in a car or by train, but as all the poor traveled, by donkey cart.
As soon as Jacinta saw Lucia she kissed her with joy and asked her mother to leave them together while she went shopping.
“Do you suffer much?” Lucia asked her.
“Yes, I do suffer; but I offer everything for sinners and to make reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
And she began to speak enthusiastically of Our Lord and the Blessed Mother:
“I am so glad to suffer for Their love! To make Them pleased! They love very much those who suffer to convert sinners.”
The visit went by quickly and when Jacinta’s mother asked her again if she wanted something, she asked her to bring Lucia again when she came to visit.
The second time around, her cousin found her suffering with the same joy for the love of God, of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, for sinners and the Holy Father.
Lucia wrote, “It was her ideal; that was what she talked about,” adding:
“She was only a child of ten. As for the rest, she already knew how to practice virtue and show her love for God and the Blessed Virgin by practicing sacrifice.”
In Lucia’s opinion, she had an intimate and meticulous knowledge of the profound meaning of the message which the three had received:
“It seems to me that Jacinta was the one to whom the Blessed Virgin communicated a greater abundance of grace, knowledge of God and virtue.”
Back from the hospital
After two long months in the hospital of Vila Nova de Ourém, she returned home. She never complained or showed impatience during the daily care required by the open and infected wound on her side.
In September 1919, despite her lamentable state, Jacinta was still moving a little. Weakened and emaciated, she went to Mass at the church of Fatima. But the Cova da Iria was too far away for her feeble strength.
In October, a friend of the family found her in a pitiful state, remarking: “The little one is skeletal. Her arms are woefully skinny. She continually burns with fever. Her appearance inspires compassion.”
She was again the object of endless visits and questions from people who came to see her now that she could no longer hide.
“I offer also this sacrifice for sinners,” she said with resignation. “I wish I could go to Cabeço to say a chaplet in our grotto! But I am no longer able to.”
A new visit by the Blessed Mother: “I will die all alone!”
Again the Blessed Virgin came to see Jacinta, bedridden, to announce new crosses and sacrifices. She hastened to break the news to Lucia:
“She told me that I am going to Lisbon, to another hospital; that I will not see you again, or my parents; that, after suffering very much, I will die alone but should not be afraid, as she is going to take me to Heaven.”
Jacinta wept as she kissed her cousin:
“I’ll never see you again. You’re not going to visit me there. Look, pray a lot for me, as I am dying alone.”
“Do not think about it,” I told her one day.
“Let me think, because the more I think, the more I suffer; and I want to suffer for the love of Our Lord and for sinners. And then I do not care! Our Lady is going there to fetch me to Heaven.”
She was also worried she still had not been able to receive communion:
“Am I going to die without receiving the hidden Jesus? If only Our Lady would bring Him to me when she comes to get me!”
And when Lucia asked her what she would do once in heaven,
“I am going to love very much Jesus, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray a lot for you, for sinners, for the Holy Father, for my parents and siblings, and for all those who have asked me to pray for them.”
If asked whether she needed anything, she replied:
“No, thank you very much, I need nothing.”
After people left, she would say to Lucia:
“I'm very thirsty but do not want to drink; I offer it up to Jesus for sinners.”
On another occasion, Lucia found her kissing an image of the Blessed Virgin and saying,
“O my sweet heavenly Mother, will I then die alone?”
The poor child seemed frightened at the idea of dying alone. To console her, Lucia recalled,
“What do you care if you die alone, if Our Lady will come fetch you?”
“It’s true! I do not care at all. I don’t know what will happen to me ; sometimes I do not remember that she’s coming to get me, just that I will die without you standing by me."
Lisbon and the death of Jacinta
In mid-January, 1920, Canon Formigão, a priest who had been present at several of the apparitions and had been able to question the seers with tact and precision, returned with a doctor from Lisbon, a pious soul who came to pray at Cova da Iria with Lucia. He then met Jacinta and her parents.
Although they told him that she had shown no improvement after the two-month stay at the hospital in Vila Nova de Ourem, and that they knew the Blessed Virgin would soon take their little Jacinta to heaven, the doctor finally convinced them to send her to Lisbon.
Knowing that the use of all possible remedies to cure the little patient was not opposed to the will of God, her parents agreed and her father went to announce their decision.
Jacinta was saddened by the news but accepted it with resignation.
Her father explained to her that they had to send her to Lisbon so people would not say they had refused a treatment that could have cured her.
“Oh, daddy! Even if I recover, another illness will come and I will die. If I go to Lisbon, you can bid me goodbye.”
Shortly before Jacinta left for Lisbon, where she knew she was going to die away from her family, finding her immersed in her memories, Lucia told her,
“Do not be sad that I am not going with you. It is a short time; you can spend it thinking of Our Lady, Our Lord, and often saying these words that you like so much:
“My God, I love You! Immaculate Heart of Mary! Sweet Heart of Mary!”
“That’s right!” she answered in a lively way. “I will never tire of saying them until I die! And then I will sing them many times in Heaven!”
Before leaving her home forever, Jacinta asked her mother to take her to the Cova da Iria, where she wanted to pray again and see the place where the Blessed Virgin had appeared.
With the help of a neighbor who lent a mule, they made the journey which they had traveled so often in the past. The little one got off of the mule a little before arriving in order to pluck a few flowers. These she placed in the little chapel that had been built where the little green oak once stood which served as a support to the Queen of the Universe.
She prayed on her knees for a long while, and then, rising, showed her mother the trees over which the Lady would pass when she went back to Heaven.
Departure from Fatima
The day of departure for Lisbon, January 21, 1920, finally arrived. Jacinta’s farewells to her dear Lucia were poignant. She embraced her for a long time, weeping and saying,
“We’ll never see each other again! Pray a lot for me, until I go to Heaven. Then, there, I will pray a lot for you. Never tell anyone the secret, even if they kill you. Love Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary very much, and make many sacrifices for sinners.”
Then Jacinta departed with her mother to take the train to the capital.
At the orphanage of Mother Godinho
Having arrived at the Lisbon station, three ladies came to fetch them and took them to the orphanage of Our Lady of Miracles, founded and directed by Mother Godinho, where Jacinta had to wait a little before being admitted to the hospital.
Her mother stayed with her for a few days, and after a week returned to the hamlet, leaving her little Jacinta in the care of Mother Godinho, whom all the little orphans called “Godmother.”
Jacinta’s great consolation was to discover that the house where she was had a passage to the back of the church adjoining the pulpit. She was installed on a small chair from which she could see the tabernacle and the altar, and she would stay there for as long as they would allow it.
She was admitted to communion almost every day: finally, she was able to receive the hidden Jesus in her heart!
Having noticed that many visitors were talking and laughing in the orphanage chapel, Jacinta asked Mother Godinho to admonish them about the lack of respect that this represented to the Real Presence. When that didn’t work, she asked that the cardinal be warned: “Our Lady does not want us to speak in church.”
It is certain that the Most Holy Virgin came to see her several times, conversing with her and announcing the day and hour of her death. Jacinta had someone write this to Lucia, again recommending her to be very good.
Who can tell the depth of Jacinta’s conversations with the Mother of God? Knowledge of certain future events and discernment of souls are also a small indication of what these conversations were like. Following are several examples:
She confided to Godmother that the Blessed Virgin would have liked two of her sisters, aged sixteen and seventeen, to become nuns. But since her mother opposed it, Our Lady would soon take them to heaven, something that happened shortly after Jacinta’s death.
A doctor who looked after her asked her to pray for him when she was in heaven. Jacinta said yes, but told him to be prepared, for he too would soon die.
She likewise predicted to another physician his coming death and that of his daughter.
After hearing the sermon of a priest whom everybody admired, she said, “Godmother, when you least expect it, you will see how bad this priest is.” Indeed, shortly after that the priest left the priesthood and began to live openly in scandal.
She was well aware that, even if she prayed for sinners, their conversion depended on themselves and if they persisted in sin it was their own responsibility. Thus, when Godmother asked her to pray for some people in a miserable spiritual state, she replied,
“Yes, Godmother, but those are already beyond any hope!”
The last hospital – “I am going to die”
She was finally admitted to the hospital on the 2nd of February with two ribs that were turning necrotic and were about to be removed in the hope of containing the infection in the lungs.
There she was separated from the company of her good Godmother and especially from the presence of Jesus hidden in the tabernacle and frequent communion.
Placed in a large, cold and sad infirmary with many beds, she was as sorry as ever for sinners.
She blamed some nurses and visitors for their frivolous and hardly modest way of dressing:
“What’s all this for? If these people only knew what eternity is!”
She was operated on the 10th of February.
Because of her great weakness they did not use chloroform to make her sleep, but only the local anesthetic available at the time.
Her greatest suffering, however, was to have her little body undressed at the hands of doctors, so little attentive to the admirable modesty of that little Christian girl. She cried a great deal.
Every day they had to tend to the gaping wound, which rekindled excruciating pain. As they were taking care of her, she groaned softly:
“Ouch! Nossa Senhora! Ouch! Nossa Senhora! (In English it would have been, “Ouch, Mother of God! Ouch, Mother of God)
And then she would add:
“Patience! We must all suffer to go to Heaven.”
For the rest of the time she was never heard to complain. The Most Holy Virgin, who came to see her several times in this infirmary, completely removed her pain four days before taking her away.
To her “Godmother,” Mother Godinho who came to see her once a day, Jacinta said,
“Our Lady has appeared to me again; she will soon come for me and has immediately taken away my pains.”
As her Godmother went to sit at a certain place, Jacinta protested:
“Not there, Godmother. That is where Our Lady sat.”
Shortly before her death, someone asked her if she wanted to see her mother. Jacinta replied:
“My family will last a short time and we will soon meet again in heaven. Our Lady will appear another time, but not to me, for without a doubt I will die as she told me.”
The day fixed for her departure to heaven, February 20th, a Friday, finally arrived.
About six o'clock in the evening, feeling ill, she asked to receive the last sacraments. A priest came from the nearby parish and heard her confession. She insisted that she should be given communion, but the priest told her that he would bring It the next day.
Once he left, Jacinta insisted again to receive communion, saying she was going to die.
About half-past ten Jacinta died very quietly, but without communion. Only a young nurse, whom she affectionately called “my little Aurora,” stood beside her and watched over her remains for the rest of the night.
“In Heaven I will pray much…”
“I will return to Fatima, but only after my death,” Jacinta told Godmother. She was first buried in the cemetery of Vila Nova de Ourem, in the vault of Baron de Alvaiazere, protector of her family.
Francisco was buried in the cemetery of Fatima. On September 12, 1935, Jacinta’s precious remains were transferred to the Fatima cemetery and placed in a new grave prepared especially for her and her brother. The tombstone bore this simple inscription: “Here lie the mortal remains of Francisco and Jacinta, to whom Our Lady appeared.”
Subsequently (in 1951 and 1952, respectively), the precious remains were moved to the Basilica of Fatima, where they now are.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Jacinta had told Lucia what she would do once in Heaven:
"I am going to love very much Jesus, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray a lot for you, for sinners, for the Holy Father, for my parents and siblings, and for all those who have asked me to pray for them.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The story of Jacinta Marto is not for the Catholic inclined to sentimentality. It is a story of a little girl who saw with her own eyes the Mother of God, but also Hell. As a consequence of these facts and of her correspondence to graces received, Jacinta went from being a simple little shepherd girl in the fields of Portugal to a great Saint.
Saint Jacinta, Pray for us!