Official portrait of Francisco and Jacinta Marto, designed by Silvia Patricio. Courtesy of the Fatima Shrine. / null

ACI Prensa Staff, Feb 20, 2024 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Every Feb. 20, the Catholic Church celebrates Sts. Francisco and Jacinta Marto, two of the little shepherd seers of Fatima. Both were born in Aljustrel, a small village located a little more than a half-mile from the town of Fatima in Portugal. 

Francisco was born in 1908 and Jacinta two years later. From an early age, the siblings learned to take care of each other and to accompany their cousin Lucia dos Santos, who used to talk to them about Jesus. 

All three tended sheep in the beautiful fields of their native region. Like many children of their age, they spent much of the day interspersing work — indispensable for the livelihood of their impoverished families — with play. It was to these three that the Blessed Mother appeared to them and said: “Pray, pray much and make sacrifices for sinners, for many souls go to hell because there is no one to sacrifice and pray for them.” 

Francisco and Jacinta died very young, shortly after the apparitions, while Lucia survived for many years, becoming a Discalced Carmelite until her death on Feb. 13, 2005, at the age of 97 in the Carmelite convent of Santa Teresa in Coimbra. 

After the apparitions

From May 13 to Oct. 13, 1917, a lady appeared to the three children on several occasions. They bravely endured slander, insults, misunderstandings, and even imprisonment for telling what they saw and heard. But from time to time they were reportedly heard to say: “If they kill us, it doesn’t matter; we are going to heaven.”

After the apparitions, Jacinta and Francisco resumed their simple lives, as did Lucia. Our Lady explicitly asked Lucia to attend school. Jacinta and Francisco did the same when they were old enough to do so. 

Every day, on their way to the little school in the village, they would pass by the Church and stop to greet Jesus in the Eucharist, kneeling down. Many used to accompany them with joy, well aware of who they were: the children that God chose to bring a message to humanity.

Just three children

Francisco, knowing that he would not live long because this was announced to him, said one day to Lucia: “You go to school, I will stay here with Jesus in hiding.” From that day on, after school, the girls would always find him in the church, praying in the place closest to the tabernacle, in deep recollection. 

Of the three, little Francis was the most given to prayer because he wanted, with his prayers, to console God, so offended by the sins of men. 

On one occasion Lucia asked him: “Francis, what do you prefer more, to console the Lord or to convert sinners?” He answered: “I prefer to console the Lord… did you not see how sad Our Lady was when she told us that men should no longer offend the Lord, who is already so offended? I would like to console the Lord and then convert sinners so that they will no longer offend the Lord.” After a while he continued: “Soon I will be in heaven. And when I get there, I will console Our Lord and Our Lady very much.”

Jacinta, for her part, participated daily in holy Mass. Her desire was to receive the Eucharist as often as possible. She offered everything for the conversion of sinners and to make reparation for the offenses done to God. She loved to be with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. 

Redeeming sorrow  

Shortly after the fourth apparition, Jacinta found a rope. The children agreed to cut it in three and to tie it around their waists, over their skin, as an expression of sacrifice and mortification. This caused them great pain, as Lucia would tell many years later. The Virgin then consoled them by telling them that Jesus was very happy with their sacrifices, but that he did not want them to sleep with the ropes any longer. And so they removed them. 

Jacinta was granted the vision of the sufferings of the Supreme Pontiff. “I saw him in a very large house, kneeling, with his face in his hands, and he was weeping. Outside there were many people; some were throwing stones, others were cursing and swearing,” she said.

The children kept the pope constantly in mind and offered three Hail Marys for him after each rosary. Their closeness to the Mother of God had immensely strengthened the intercessory power of their prayers. Many people — sometimes entire families — came to them to bring their intentions to Our Lady.

On one occasion, a mother asked Jacinta to pray for a son who had left home like a prodigal son. Days later, the young man returned, asked for forgiveness, and told his family that after having spent everything he had, stolen and been in jail, something inexplicable touched his heart and he decided to turn away from everything, running one night to the forest to think. Feeling lost at that moment, with his life ruined, he knelt down crying and prayed. At that moment, he had a vision: Jacinta was in front of him; she took him by the hand and led him to a path. 

This was to be the beginning of the boy’s return home. The story would reach the ears of everyone in town, until someone dared to ask Jacinta if she had really met the boy, but she answered that she had not, and that she did not know him either. The girl admitted that she had been praying and praying to Our Lady for his return, just as that disconsolate mother had asked her to do.

Francisco: ‘I am going to Paradise’

On Dec. 23, 1918, Francisco and Jacinta fell seriously ill with bronchopneumonia. At that time an epidemic was ravaging many parts of Europe. 

Francisco deteriorated little by little in the following weeks. He asked to receive his first Communion for which he prepared himself diligently. Still ill, he fasted diligently and prepared to go to confession. The peace he radiated on the day of his first confession affected everyone around him.  

“I am going to Paradise; but from there I will pray much to Jesus and Our Lady to take you up there too soon,” Francisco told Lucia and Jacinta. The next day, on April 4, 1919, the child left for the Father’s house.

Jacinta: ‘Ask the Immaculate Heart for peace ’

Jacinta suffered greatly at the death of her brother. In the meantime, her own illness was getting worse. The day came when she had to be taken to the hospital in Vila Nova. From there she would return home with a “sore in her chest.” Amid her pains, she confided to her cousin: “I suffer much, but I offer everything for the conversion of sinners and to make amends to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”

When she did not improve, she was transferred to the hospital in Lisbon. Before leaving, she managed to tell her cousin Lucia: “It will be a short time before I go to heaven… Tell all the people that God grants us graces through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Let them ask her for them, that the Heart of Jesus wants the Immaculate Heart of Mary to be venerated at his side, that they ask for peace from the Immaculate Heart, which God entrusted to her.“

Jacinta underwent a surgical procedure in which two ribs were removed from her left side. At that point she was left with a wide sore the size of a hand. The pain she felt was excruciating, but even so, she never ceased to invoke Our Lady and to offer her pain for the salvation of sinners. 

On Feb. 20, 1920, Jacinta asked for the sacraments, went to confession, and begged to receive communion. Minutes later she died. Jacinta was just 10 years old. 

Two holy children, treasures of the Church

The bodies of Francisco and Jacinta were transferred to the Shrine of Fatima, where their remains are buried. Years afterward, exhumations took place. When the tomb of Francisco was opened, it could be seen that the rosary that was placed on his chest on the day of his burial was entangled between the fingers of his hands. Jacinta’s body, exhumed 15 years after her death, was found incorrupt.

“Contemplate like Francisco and love like Jacinta“ was the motto with which these two visionaries of Our Lady of Fatima were beatified by St. John Paul II on May 13, 2000. Pope Francis canonized them on May 13, 2017, in Fatima, as part of the celebrations for the 100th anniversary of Our Lady’s apparitions.

This article was originally published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language partner, and has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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