Blessed Francisco Marto and Blessed Jacinto Marto
Blessed Francisco Marto, Blessed Jacinta Marto and their cousin Lucia dos Santos, were three young children from Fatima in Portugal, to whom Our Blessed Lady appeared in 1917. Before her apparition to them, she sent an Angel who called himself the Angel of Peace, to prepare the children for Her coming.
At the time men were being killed in their hundreds of thousands in that terrible war called World War I. Also, in the very Eastern end of Europe, anti-Christian revolutionary forces, under the leadership of Vladimir Lenin, were working hard to remove the very idea of God from Russian society, killing anyone who disagreed with them. At the very same time, in the third year of the world war, Our Lady appeared in the extreme Western end of the Continent of Europe, to bring a message of peace from heaven to the world. Here too politicians had done much to remove God from every area of life in Portugal, causing much suffering for the Catholic people of that country.
Amazingly, Our Lady did not seek help from kings, politicians, learned people or churchmen to deliver a formula for peace to the world. She chose, instead, three humble, country children to whom she entrusted heaven’s message. Surely, this reminds us of the great love God has for little children whose hearts are pure and open to Him!
In this story, we are going to concentrate on the lives of Francisco and Jacinta because they were the younger of the three, and because both were to die at a very young age, Francisco at age eleven and Jacinta at the age of 10 years. Before their deaths, both of these children became very holy because they had followed the advice of the angel and the requests of Our Lady on prayer, sacrifice, and the Eucharist, as well as the requests of Our Lady on these, as well as on the prayer of the Rosary. Lucia became a Carmelite nun and she lived to the age of 97. She died in the year 2005, as she was told she would live a long time to keep heaven’s message before the world and to spread devotion to Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart.
Q. What was Francisco like?
A. Francisco was a handsome and carefree young boy who loved the simple things of life. He was well liked by people because he was always friendly to everyone and was very tender towards those who were sick. When he was playing games with others it never bothered him if he lost, as it was only a game after all.
He loved nature, and liked very especially to play with animals like lizards and snakes, but, even more so with little birds. He used to save some of his lunch bread to feed them. Once when another boy captured a little bird, the gentle natured Francisco ran home to get a bit of money to have it released.
The beauty of sunrise and sunset touched him deeply, and he loved to go to the mountains where he would sit on top of the highest rock from where he would sing and play his flute. He particularly liked to play for his sister Jacinta who enjoyed dancing to his music.
Jacinta was the youngest of all and she was only seven years old when Our Lady appeared to them. She was totally different to Francisco in that she was quite strong willed and could be very stubborn. In fact, in photographs of the three she looks grumpy. Unlike Francisco, she always liked her own way when playing games so we could say she was a little bit self-centred.
However, this young girl was full of life and enthusiasm and she could be very sweet and gentle. She loved to sing and dance, and many people found her to be lovable and to have an attractive personality. She was like Francisco in that she also loved nature. She looked up to her cousin Lucia and wanted to be with her when she went to pasture the family sheep. Jacinta loved the sheep and she was simply mad about the little lambs. She gave them names and looked on them as her friends. Once, after she saw a picture of The Good Shepherd, she tried to carry one of the lambs home on her shoulders.
For Jacinta, the moon was “Our Lady’s lamp” and the stars were the “angels’ lanterns.”
Both of these children changed dramatically after the apparitions of the angel and Our Lady.
An angel appeared to them three times in all. He was known to be the guardian angel of Portugal (yes, each country has a guardian angel in the same way people do). His coming was to prepare them for the very exceptional task they were to be asked to carry out for Our Lady; which was, in fact, a message from Jesus as well as his Mother Mary for the peace of the whole world.
This message, as well as the peace it would bring would require much prayer and sacrifice and love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. The angel was to prepare them for this in their own lives first, before asking others to do it. Once they took the advice of the angel of Peace seriously, then Our Lady would come to them.
The first time they saw the angel was in the Spring of 1916. The children were looking after their sheep, when they saw a beautiful young man who was, according to Lucia in her Memoirs, about fourteen to fifteen years old. He was whiter than snow, as transparent as crystal when the sun shines through it, and he was of great beauty. They became filled with an extraordinary sense of the supernatural , so much so that they were scarcely aware of each other.
He was, of course, an angel and he asked them not to be afraid. He introduced himself as the Angel of Peace and he asked the children to pray with him. He then taught them what and how to pray. The angel knelt down and touched the ground with his forehead, and the children did the same. The prayer he taught them was one of adoration and of seeking pardon which is forgiveness for sins. This is the prayer he taught 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.”
After praying it with them three times the angel asked them to pray in this way. He let them know that the hearts of Jesus and Mary would hear their prayer and their request on behalf of poor sinners. They felt so close to God that, even when the angel disappeared, they continued to repeat the prayer and never even spoke to one another.
The angel returned a few months later in the Summer. They were playing games near Lucia’s house when he came. This time he asked them to pray, pray, pray very much “because Jesus and Mary have a very big plan for you.” He also asked them to make sacrifices because God was greatly offended by all the sin in the world, and sacrifices, even small ones, make up to God for those sins. By this, they were being asked to give up something they really loved or something they really wanted to do. This would help sinners to convert back to being good people again and would please God very much.
The third time the angel arrived when the children were praying the pardon prayer he taught them. He knew they had been very faithful to their commitment to do so. As they were praying, the children became aware of a great light shining on them. They looked up and saw the angel. He was holding a chalice, above which was the Eucharist. Drops of the Precious Blood of Jesus were dripping from the Host into the chalice. The angel then left the chalice suspended in the air and knelt down beside the children. All of them, the children and the angel, bowed down profoundly, heads to the ground, before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Then the angel taught them another longer prayer of adoration, and of reparation to Jesus for the terrible sins committed against Him in His precious Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist, while at the same time begging for the conversion of the poor sinners who offend Him so badly.
The angel then got up, took the chalice and the Sacred Host in his hand, and gave the Host as Holy Communion to Lucia who had already made her first holy communion. He then gave Holy Communion to Francisco and Jacinta from the chalice containing the Precious Blood of Jesus. This was the first time they had received Jesus in Holy Communion as they were too young yet to make it in the local Church. The angel did so because God wanted to strengthen them with heavenly food for the task He was about to entrust to them through His Blessed Mother.
After giving the children Holy Communion, the angel and the children bowed down in profound adoration and thanksgiving for what they had just received. They repeated three times the prayers he had taught them. Then, when the hearts and souls of the children were filled with a beautiful peace, the angel left them, and this time for good. He had completed his mission to them.
They were utterly changed by the entire experience of the visits of the angel. Truthfully, because of the incredible sense of the presence of God both around them and in their souls, they were never quite the same again. All they desired to do was to pray, to visit Jesus in the tabernacle and to make little sacrifices (and sometimes even very big ones), so as to make Him happy.
The angel taught the children:
1) to pray reverently
2) to beg for pardon for sinners
3) to make sacrifices, and above all
4) to adore Jesus profoundly in the Blessed Sacrament
These were extraordinary happenings in the lives of children so young. That God singled them out from among all the children in the world for such an important mission for the world of that time and for today, one hundred years later, shows the incredible love He has for the pure hearts of His little ones.
When Our Lady finally came to the children she repeated much of what the angel had already asked them to do. She did, however, emphasise how hugely important was the prayer of the holy Rosary so that peace could come. After all, the Rosary is the story of the life of Jesus on earth from when the Holy Spirit placed Him in the womb of Mary until He rose from the dead and returned home to His Father.
Our Lady appeared several times and She asked them to pray the following prayer with Her:
“O, Most Holy Trinity, I adore Thee!
My God, My God, I love Thee in the Most Blessed Sacrament!”
Many people didn’t believe that they had really seen Our Lady, but she performed the amazing Miracle of the Sun that is still spoken of today, and then the majority of people took the children and the message seriously.
Francisco and Jacinta became two very holy and saintly young children. They absolutely loved Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and visited Him often. Lucia recorded in her Memoirs that Francisco would always go in to the local church and kneel down behind the altar so as to be as close to his “hidden Jesus” as possible, and also so as not to be seen by anyone other than by Jesus alone.
To make up to Jesus, and to make Him more loved in His Blessed Sacrament, they said many, many prayers afterwards and they continued to offer lots of sacrifices as requested by the angel and Our Lady. This is how they became very holy and pleasing to the good Lord.
Francisco’s big desire was nothing this life could give him, but to be in Heaven.
One year after the miracle of the sun, a terrible flu epidemic swept through Portugal, and many people died from it. Francisco did not escape it but the courageous young boy decided to use the opportunity to save souls by offering all his discomfort to Jesus for them. Even though quite sick, he took every opportunity he could get to be with his “Hidden Jesus.” He desired so much to make his first Confession and, although he had received Holy Communion in the form of the Precious Blood of Jesus, he had never actually made his First Holy Communion in the Church as all children do, and this was his heart’s desire. This wonderful saintly young boy was allowed to receive Jesus in the Sacred Host. In his book, Fatima for Today, Fr. Andrew Apostoli explains that this Sacred Host, because it was also the last one Francisco would receive, was his Viaticum, which means the Holy Communion a person receives to have Jesus accompany him or her on their journey to heaven which Francisco made on the 4th April, 1919 at the age of eleven.
Jacinta also caught the ‘flu and she suffered greatly with it. Like the stubborn little girl she was before, she was determined not to waste any of her pain and discomfort and offered all stoically as her brother Francisco had done before her, for the conversion of sinners. During this time Our Lady came to her and asked her to pray for the Holy Father the Pope, and this she did gladly. Before she died, she too received her First Holy Communion which was also her Viaticum and she died a saintly young girl just under one year after her brother.
Because of their holiness and their extraordinary capacity as children to sacrifice all they could for Jesus, the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, beatified them at a Mass in Fatima on 13th May, in the year 2000. They are now well on the way to becoming Saints.