Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tomorrow, we celebrate Blessed Jacinta Marto's birthday


Since tomorrow, March 11, we enter the 100th year since Blessed Jacinta Marto was born 1910-2010, I thought it advisable to post an article about her heroic virtues.

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Jacinta Marto is the youngest non-martyred child ever to be beatified. She was raised to the honor of the altars not simply because she saw Our Lady but also because she generously heeded her call to prayer, penance, and reparation.

She is, thus, the first fruit of the Message of Fatima. This is the lesson that all of us, both young and old, should learn from Jacinta's life.

“With our Apostolic authority, we grant that, from this day forth, the venerable servants of God Francisco Marto and Jacinta Marto be called ‘Blessed’ and that their feast day be celebrated yearly on February 20 in the places and according to the norms established by law.”

This solemn Papal proclamation occasioned an explosion of joy in the square at Fatima on the morning of May 13.

On the last bench behind the altar in the Basilica of Fatima sat a 93-year-old Carmelite nun, Sister Lucia of the Immaculate Heart.

She, in recollection, followed the solemn proceedings that raised her cousins Jacinta and Francisco to the honors of the altar, those same cousins with whom she had been privileged to see the “Lady more brilliant than the sun.”

The youngest non-martyred child ever to be beatified


Jacinta — a sensitive temperament and an upright spirit

Lucia describes Jacinta as a soul that was extraordinarily sensitive and very easily impressed. “When she was five years old or less,” relates Lucia, “she would melt into tears on hearing the story of the Passion of Our Lord. ‘Poor Jesus,’ she would say, ‘I must never sin and offend Him any more.’” She ran as if from the plague from those who spoke bad words or held questionable conversations “because this is a sin and saddens Our Lord.”5

She also shunned lying, understanding its sinfulness. Her father relates: “When her mother told her some little fib, such as that she was only going to the cabbage-patch when she was really going much farther, Jacinta would always detect the deception and not hesitate to scold her own mother: ‘So, mother is lying to me? She said she was going here and went there? Lying is ugly!’”6

Like her brother Francisco, and perhaps more than he, hers was a refined, tender, and affectionate soul.

She loved her sheep and gave each of them a name — Dove, Star, Meek, Snow, and the like. The white baby lambs were her favorite. Many times she carried them over her shoulders as she had seen Our Lord depicted carrying them on holy cards.

Jacinta had a veritable passion for flowers. Gathering them in the fields was one of  her favorite pastimes. Sometimes she made garlands with them to adorn her cousin. At other times, she would take them apart to toss their petals at Lucia as she had seen the little girls dressed as angels doing in the Corpus Christi procession.

She loved the moon, which she called “Our Lady’s lamp.” She preferred it to the sun, “because it does not hurt the eyes.” When the moon was full, she would run to break the good news: “Mother, here comes the queen of the sky!”

Had this little angel no defects? Yes, she had them, albeit small ones. Lucia tells us that Jacinta was a little spoiled, being the baby of a large family.

Because of this, when things did not go her way, she sulked a bit.

Then, the only way to get her to return to the games was to allow her to choose not only the next game but also her partner. With her amazing energy, she would sometimes go a bit overboard in dancing, which is quite a common pastime among the Portuguese peasantry. With incredible agility and grace she skipped and hopped until flushed and breathless.

On this point her biographer, Fr. Joseph Galamba de Oliveira, comments: “The faults and imperfections we note in her life are evident proof of the transformation later effected in her soul by grace and the generosity with which she responded to the workings of the Holy Spirit.”7

These souls, with much that was angelic, were thus prepared by divine grace to receive the heavenly visits.

Apparitions propel these childish souls toward sanctity

In the spring of 1916 the life of the three happy and carefree little shepherds of only nine, eight, and seven years was to suffer a dramatic change after an angel appeared and spoke to them. “The Hearts of Jesus and Mary are attentive to the voice of your supplications.”8

In another apparition in the summer of that same year, the angel advised: “Offer prayers and sacrifices constantly to the Most High…. Make of everything you can a sacrifice, and offer it to God as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication for the conversion of sinners…. Above all, accept and bear with submission the suffering the Lord will send you.”9

This is a regime of sanctity that is asked only of those who are called to be truly intimate with Our Lord. The three fulfilled it to the letter with fervor, without complaining or self-pity, with true joy and loving submission. They even went so far as to invent various ways of sacrificing themselves.

Thus, around a year later, they were ready to receive the visit of the Queen of Heaven.

When she came, it was not with pleasantries or caresses but with seriousness. In the very first encounter she repeated the angel’s invitation to prayer and suffering: “You will have much to suffer, but the grace of God will be your comfort.”10

They were asked to offer up prayer and suffering in reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, so offended by the terrible apostasy of humanity. They were to understand the full extent of this request only as time went by and with the help of a special grace.

Reparatory victim, serious and generous

After the apparitions, Jacinta took her mission to pray for sinners so seriously that she was favored with several mystical graces. She had prophetic visions and obtained cures and graces that were considered miraculous, and she is even said to have had an instance of bilocation.

Still in Fatima, in the year following the apparitions, Our Lady appeared to her three more times.

The maturity and precocity of this humble little shepherdess was impressive. Lucia witnesses:

“She had a serious, modest and kind demeanor that seemed to let the presence of God shine through in all her actions; a demeanor usually seen in much older persons who are far advanced in virtue.

“If in her presence, a child or even adult persons said or did something that was improper, she would reprimand them: ‘Do not do this because you offend Our Lord, and He is already much offended.’”

Lucia says, “Our good God gave me the grace of being her intimate confidante; I miss her greatly, and remember her with love and respect in appreciation for her sanctity.” In another place Lucia says she owes the preservation of her innocence partly to the company of Jacinta.19

Her painful illness was an occasion for her to offer many sacrifices to God. One day she asked Lucia: “Have you made any sacrifices today? I have made many. My mother went away and I wanted to see Francisco many times, but I did not go.”20

Another day she said: “It is becoming harder and harder for me to drink milk and broth, but I do not say anything. I take them all for the love of Our Lord and of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, our dear Heavenly Mother.”21

Reparatory victim of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Jacinta’s reparatory mission is intimately linked to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. When Our Lady showed Hell to the three little shepherds, she said: “You saw Hell where the souls of poor sinners go; to save them, God wishes to establish in the world the devotion to my Immaculate Heart.” Jacinta was, in her own way, a missionary of this devotion.

On saying goodbye to Lucia before leaving for Lisbon, she warmly stressed: “You remain here to tell everyone that God wants to establish the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in the world. When the time comes for you to say this, do not hide.” And she added: “Tell every one that God grants us graces through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, that people should go to her, that the Sacred Heart of Jesus wants her Immaculate Heart to be venerated next to His, that people should ask for peace from the Immaculate Heart of Mary because God has placed it in her hands. O, if only I could put into everyone’s hearts the fire that burns here inside of mine, making me love the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Heart of Mary so much!”

Thus, “Jacinta well deserves the title of model-reparatory-victim of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. For us who wish to live in depth the Message of Fatima, this is how we should see it.”22

One day she confided to Lucia that, when alone, she got down from the bed many times to say the prayer of the angel: “But now, I can no longer touch my head to the floor because I fall down, and so I kneel and pray.”23

How could so young a child as Jacinta understand so deeply and take on so seriously the spirit of mortification and penance?

Lucia answers: “First, by means of a special grace that God wished to grant her through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Secondly, after having seen Hell and the unhappiness of souls who fall there.”

Father Alonso comments: “Before Jacinta, Lucia herself felt what is usually felt before a holy person who seems to be in communion with God in everything…. The sight of Hell had horrified her so much that all the penances and mortifications seemed as nothing so long as she could save a few souls from going there.”24

Our Lady had asked Jacinta if she wanted to remain on earth for a little longer to continue suffering for the conversion of sinners. The generous child had said yes. With this, she went to two hospitals where she suffered much and finally died alone in Lisbon far from her family. But Our Lady did not abandon her. She appeared to her frequently, instructing her, counseling her, showing her the situation of the world and the imminence of chastisements.

Mother Maria of the Purification Godinho, in whom Jacinta confided, wrote down many of the heavenly communications and meditations of the little, young shepherdess which were later published in several books. In these, the spiritual maturity attained by this girl of barely ten years can be appreciated.

A profound and serious understanding of eternity

Seeing people who visited the sick immodestly dressed or nurses who wore too much make-up, she would say to Mother Godinho: “What good is all this? If they only considered that they will have to die one day and knew what eternity is!” About some atheistic doctors, she commented: “Poor men! With all their science they hardly know what awaits them.” After Mother Godinho asked her to pray for certain hardened sinners, she answered: “Yes, my Mother; but for these there is no more remedy!”

Jacinta underwent a second operation in February of 1920. Because of her weakened condition the doctors could only use chloroform and local anesthesia. Finding herself without clothing in the doctors’ hands, she cried. Two ribs were extracted, leaving a cavity large enough for a hand to be introduced. She bore it all quietly, only whispering painfully at times: “O, my Our Lady!” But, to console those who saw her suffering, she would say, “Patience! We all must suffer to go to Heaven.”

“Our Lord united Jacinta most intimately to His dolorous passion and the sufferings of the Blessed Virgin. Yet, all the consolation she derived from the visits of Our Lady did not prevent her own passion from reaching the limits of a most intense martyrdom. We could say that to be a model of a reparatory victim, Jacinta had to experience all the nights of the senses and the spirit, suffering the fearsome solitude that she so dreaded.”25

On Friday, February 20, Our Lady came to take Jacinta.

“When Mother Godinho held vigil beside the coffin, she glanced at the little lamp nearby. She was astonished to see that the lamp contained no oil but still burned brightly. Her body which at times before death did not exude a pleasant odor, because of infection and open sores, and the extreme sufferings which afflicted her, after death exuded the scent of sweet perfume. When the body was carried into the Lisbon Church, the bells rang while no one was at the ropes, and the tower door was locked.”26

Jacinta’s body was first exhumed on September 12, 1935. Her incorrupt face appeared much older than she was at the time of her death. “Perhaps one explanation is that her body reflected her spiritual maturity at the time of her death, which came when Jacinta was not quite ten years old.”27

“Unless you become as little children…”

These two children died, respectively, before their eleventh and tenth years, yet each practiced the three theological virtues and the four cardinal virtues in the degree required to be raised to the honors of the altar, that is, heroically.

The beatification of Jacinta and Francisco should serve as a lesson for our children who have in these little shepherds of Fatima apt models for their age.

Should they be models only for children? By no means. They can and should also serve as models for adults who find in their own weaknesses and shortcomings an excuse to avoid the ways to sanctity. Here we can fittingly apply our Divine Savior’s admonition: “Unless you become as little children, you shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matt 23:3). We must follow the example of Francisco and Jacinta and heed with open hearts Our Lady’s requests at Fatima, her emphatic requests for prayer, penance, and reparation.

“I praise Thee, O Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, because thou hast hidden these things from the wise and prudent and hast revealed them to little ones” (Luke 10:21).


— Quotations without references in the text are taken from Sister Lucia’s manuscript.

1. Rev. John de Marchi, I.M.C., The True Story of Fatima (St. Paul, Minn, 1952), p. 28.

2. Ibid., pp. 27-28.

3. Rev. Fernando Leite, S.J., Francisco of Fatima (Fatima, 1992), p. 10.

4. Ibid., p. 12.

5. De Marchi, p. 32.

6. Ibid., p. 31.

7. Rev. Joseph Galamba de Oliveira, Jacinta, the Flower of Fatima, (New York, 1946), p. 50.

8. Leite, p. 26.

9. Ibid., p. 28.

10. Ibid., p. 34.

11. Leite, p. 58.

12. William T. Walsh, Our Lady of Fatima (New York, 1949), p. 162.

13. Fr. Joaquim Maria Alonso, Doctrina y espiritualidad del mesaje de Fatima (Madrid, 1990), p. 127.

14. Leite, p. 58.

15. Walsh, p. 162.

16. Ibid., p. 161.

17. De Marchi, p. 238.

18. Walsh, pp. 161-162.

19. Galamba de Oliveira, p. 54.

20. Ibid., p. 166.

21. Ibid., p. 165.

22. Alonso, p. 143.

23. Galamba de Oliveira, p. 166.

24. Alonso, pp. 132-134.

25. Ibid., p. 144.

26. Fr. Robert Fox, “The Faith of the Fatima Shepherds: Spirituality of Blessed Jacinta Marto,” part 2, Daily Catholic 2000, May 8, 2000.

27. Ibid.

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