4th Saturday of Easter
Memorial of Our Lady of Fatima
Acts 13:44-52; Jn 14:7-14
Today two new Saints will be added to the Church. Pope Francis is in Portugal to canonize Jacinta and Francisco Marto on this 100th anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady to the three shepherd children at Fatima.
The brother and sister, who tended to their families’ sheep with their cousin Lúcia in the fields of Fátima, Portugal, are said to have witnessed several apparitions of an angel in 1916. Lúcia later recorded the words of several prayers she said they learned from this angel. Here are the texts of two of them:
“My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love you. I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love you.” And:
“O Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore Thee profoundly. I offer Thee the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifferences by which He is offended. By the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary I beg the conversion of poor sinners.”
Lúcia wrote in her memoirs that she and her cousins saw the first apparition of Mary on May 13, 1917. At the time of the apparition, Francisco was 9 years old, and Jacinta was 7. During the first apparition, Mary is said to have asked the three children to say the Rosary and to make sacrifices, offering them for the conversion of sinners. She also asked them to return to that spot on the thirteenth of each month for the next six months.
According to Lúcia’s memoirs, Francisco had a placid disposition, was somewhat musically inclined, and liked to be by himself to think. Jacinta was affectionate, if a bit spoiled. She had a sweet singing voice and a gift for dancing. Following their experiences, their fundamental personalities remained the same. Francisco preferred to pray alone, saying that this would “console Jesus for the sins of the world”. Jacinta said she was deeply affected by a terrifying vision of Hell shown to the children at the third apparition, and deeply convinced of the need to save sinners through penance and sacrifice as the Virgin had told the children to do.
Lúcia said that Mary’s words were, “When you make some sacrifice, say ‘O Jesus, it is for your love, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.'” At the apparition of 13 July 1917, Lucia said Mary told the children that sinners could be saved from damnation by devotion to the Immaculate Heart, but also by making “sacrifices”. They heard her repeat the idea of sacrifices several times. Her vision of hell prompted them to ever more stringent self-mortifications to save souls. Among many other practices, Lúcia wrote that she and her cousins wore tight cords around their waists, flogged themselves with stinging nettles, gave their lunches to beggars, and abstained from drinking water on hot days. Francisco and Jacinta became extremely devoted to this practice. Lúcia wrote that Mary said God was pleased with their sacrifices and bodily penances.
Francisco died on April 4, 1919, and Jacinta on February 20, 1920 – both from a flu epidemic that swept through Europe. Exhumed in 1935 and again in 1951, Jacinta’s face was found incorrupt; Francisco’s had decomposed. They are both buried at the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima. I saw their graves when I was there in 1999, and also their family home, which was very simple.
Sts. Jacinta and Francisco, pray for us.