“The Hearts of Jesus and Mary have designs of mercy on you.”
Today, we consider Francisco and Jacinta, the two youngest saints of Fatima. As we discussed in our earlier post, “The Promise”,
Francisco saw the Blessed Virgin perfectly, but did not hear Her words. He only understood the questions of Lúcia. As for Jacinta, who saw and heard everything, she never brought herself to speak to the apparition. Thus Lúcia was the only one to have the privilege of speaking with Her.” … “Young and quite small, the Queen of Heaven also came very close to (the) three children. For a pedestal She had chosen a little holm oak, about a metre high. ‘We were so close’, writes Lúcia , ‘that we found ourselves in the light surrounding Her, or rather emanating from Her, about a metre and a half away, more or less.’ (from Sister Lucia’s Fourth Memoir)
In 1916, St. Michael the Archangel, the Angel of Fatima had told the children, “The Hearts of Jesus and Mary have designs of mercy on you”, but it was not until Our Lady began to appear that they perceived the true meaning of “designs of mercy”. By the time of Our Lady’s third visit, July 13, 1917, it was becoming clearer, and by then, Francisco could say emphatically, “What I want is to go to Heaven!” This eagerness for Heaven recalls St. Bernadette of Lourdes, who said of Our Lady, “She was so beautiful that after seeing Her once one would be willing to die to see Her again!”
That Great Light Which Is God
Although Francisco was never able to hear the words of Our Lady, he was very astute in recognising many essential aspects of the apparitions:
“He was very impressed by the reflection of light… At the time, he did not seem to understand what was happening, perhaps because it was not given to him to hear the accompanying words of Our Lady. For this reason, he asked later: ‘Why did Our Lady have a heart in Her hand, spreading out all over the world that great light which is God?’
“Sometimes he said: ‘These people are so happy just because you told them that Our Lady wants the Rosary said, and that you are to learn to read! How would they feel if they only knew what She showed to us in God, in Her Immaculate Heart, in that great light.’ ” (Lúcia per Frère Michel, The Whole Truth About Fatima, Vol I)
And so we know that Francisco understood that the great light which the Blessed Virgin poured forth on them was the Light of God, that is, was God, as Francisco expressed it. This alone should give us great comfort for by this we understand that our Eternal Father has granted to the Blessed Virgin to bring us also to this Light in time of darkness.
“When Lúcia told him that Our Lady had promised that she would take him to heaven, but that he must first say many rosaries, Francisco exclaimed, “Oh, my dear Our Lady! I’ll say as many rosaries as you want!” And from then on, he made a habit of moving away from us, as though going for a walk. When we called him and asked him what he was doing, he raised his hand and showed me his rosary. If we told him to come and play, and say the Rosary with us afterwards, he replied: “I’ll pray then as well. Don’t you remember that Our Lady said I must pray many Rosaries?” (Father Cirrincione, Venerable Francisco Marto of Fatima, Kindle Edition, TAN Books)
Console your God!
Even in 1916, at the Cabeco, the Angel had called them to make reparation for the offenses against the Eucharistic Jesus and to console Him. … “Take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, horribly outraged by ungrateful men. Make reparation for their crimes and console your God.”
From the time of the first apparition of Our Lady, Frère Michel tells us, Francisco, who had a contemplative and tender heart, was continually dominated by just one sentiment: The Blessed Virgin and God Himself are infinitely sad; we must console Them.
“The life of little Francisco was marked by this stupefying revelation, this revelation of the Heart of God, this sadness which is the highest and unmistakable mark of His love for us. This is the great message Francisco bequeaths to us.”
“I loved seeing the Angel, but I loved still more seeing Our Lady. What I loved most of all was to see Our Lord in that light from Our Lady which penetrated our hearts. I love God so much! But He is so sad because of so many sins! We must never commit any sins again!”
Prayer and Sacrifice
In his very brief life, Francisco understood the necessity of prayer and sacrifice. Lúcia tells us that when Francisco prayed, he preferred to withdraw from them. “I prefer praying by myself, so that I can think and console Our Lord, who is so sad.”
Francisco young as he was, understood very well that to be effective, prayer must be accompanied by sacrifice, for both are necessary to console God for sins. To sacrifice ourselves means, before all else, to accept all the sufferings which God sends us: “From time to time, Francisco used to say: “Our Lady told us that we would have much to suffer, but I don’t mind. I’ll suffer all that She wishes! What I want is to go to Heaven!”
Lúcia recounts that it was Francisco who urged them on to greater solitude and prayer and due to his influence, after the last apparition, they marked the 13th of every month by seeking the solitude of the Cabeco for hours and hours of prayer as the Angel had taught them.
Only 18 months passed from the October 13th apparition until Francisco’s death. Lúcia recalls Francisco saying “Soon Jesus will come to look for me to take me to Heaven with Him, and then I will be with Him always to see Him and console Him. What happiness! ” And while he waited, Francisco never missed an opportunity to stay with his “Hidden Jesus” in the Tabernacle. Lucia tells us,
“Sometimes on the way to school, before we reached Fatima, Francisco would say to me: “Listen! While you go to school, I’ll stay with the Hidden Jesus. It’s not worth it for me to learn to read. Soon I will go to Heaven. When you come back, come and look for me here.”
She noted that when she stopped in on her way home from school, he would be right where she left him, praying.
The Spanish Flu
About October 1918, both Francisco, 10, and Jacinta, 8, came down with influenza followed by pneumonia. After a few weeks both children seemed to recover, but by December, they fell ill again. Francisco was especially hard hit but told Lúcia, “I am suffering to console Our Lord, and afterwards within a short time, I am going to heaven.”
In her Memoirs, Lúcia recalled, “During his illness, he suffered with heroic patience, without ever letting the slightest moan or the least complaint escape his lips. One day, shortly before his death, I asked him: “Are you suffering a lot, Francisco?” “Yes, but I suffer it all for love of Our Lord and Our Lady.”
Since Jacinta had recovered somewhat, she spent her days at Francisco’s bedside. One day, when Lúcia visited them, Jacinta told her that “Our Lady came to see us and she said that she would come to take Francisco soon, to take him to Heaven!”
Frère Michel takes care to point out Francisco’s heroic sanctity: “The wonderful promise of Our Lady demanded on his part an act of heroic love, an act which is so contrary to nature, and consists in making the sacrifice of our own life. If there were moments of luminous joy and luminous hope, there were other moments when all feelings of joy disappeared: at those times he saw nothing but the sacrifices he had to accept to fulfill God’s designs.”
Consoling the Hearts of Jesus and Mary
Francisco never lost sight of his goal, to console the Hearts of Jesus and Mary for sins. As he felt the end approaching, Francisco told Lúcia, “It won’t be long now till I go to Heaven. When I’m there, I’m going to console Our Lord and Our Lady very much. Jacinta is going to pray a lot for sinners, for the Holy Father and for you. You will stay here, because Our Lord wants it that way. Listen, you must do everything that She tells you.”
Although Francisco very much preferred to be alone in his prayers, there was no turning away the many neighbors who insisted on sitting quietly at his bedside. Lúcia tells us that invariably the visitors remarked that they felt in Francisco’s quiet presence as if they were in church. Lucia thoughtfully concluded about this,
“I am not surprised that people felt like that, being accustomed to finding in everyone else only the preoccupation with material things which goes with an empty, superficial life. Indeed, the very sight of these children was enough to draw their minds to our Heavenly Mother, with whom the children were believed to be in communication; to eternity, for they saw how eager, joyful and happy they were at the thought of going there; to God, for they said that they loved Him more than their own parents; and even to hell, for the children warned them that people would go there if they continued to commit sin.”
And so we see the effect that Francisco’s sanctity had on others, calling to mind, the eternal realities, Blessed Virgin Mary, God, Death, Heaven and Hell. This dear readers, is the result of true Catholic witness to the faith: not in “accompanying” sinners in persistent sin!
In the End, Triumph
At last, Francisco realized that the end was imminent and requested that his father, Ti Marto, go to ask Father Ferreira to come for the last rites. On the way, Ti Marto was in anguish as he prayed the Rosary, dreading the priest’s refusal. For Father Ferreira had refused Holy Communion to Francisco just this past May, on the pretext that Francisco was uncertain on a point of the Creed. Ti Marto remembered his son’s bitter tears at that time; nevertheless, this time Father Ferreira did agree and returned immediately with Ti Marto.
While this was going on, the three children prepared for Francisco’s confession by scouring their memories for any sins Francisco may not have confessed. Francisco begged his sister and Lúcia to pray that the priest give him Holy Communion this time, for the prior refusal still stung him. Lúcia reported that afterwards, Francisco was radiant with joy as Father Ferreira had not only heard his confession, but had promised to bring Jesus to him in Holy communion the next morning.
April 3 was a beautiful spring morning and when Francisco heard the sound of the little bell that alerted of the priest’s approach with the Blessed Sacrament, he attempted to raise himself but his weakness made that small task impossible. His Godmother Teresa, who had come to witness his Holy Communion, assured him it was permissible to receive his Eucharistic King lying down and Francisco rested calmly.
Near his bed, Lúcia and Jacinta knelt and watched with sadness and holy jealousy, for they knew that Jesus was coming to take their beloved Francisco to Heaven. Francisco remained motionless with his eyes closed for a long time after receiving Our Lord. Eventually he asked, “Will Father bring me the Hidden Jesus once again?” Although his mother Olimpia was doubtful, Francisco was radiantly joyful. He told them, “I am happier than you are, because I have the Hidden Jesus within my heart. I’m going to Heaven, but I’m going to pray very much to Our Lord and Our Lady for Them to bring you both there soon.”
Lúcia recalled, “That day I spent almost the whole night by his bedside with Jacinta. Since he could no longer pray, he asked us to recite the Rosary for him.”
Til We Meet in Heaven
“That night I said goodbye to him. “Goodbye, Francisco! If you go to Heaven tonight, don’t forget me when you get there, do you hear me?” “No, I won’t forget. Be sure of that.”
Then, seizing my right hand, he held it tightly for a long time, looking at me with tears in his eyes. “Do you want anything more?” I asked him, with tears running down my cheeks, too. “No!” he answered in a low voice, quite overcome. As the scene was becoming so moving, my aunt told me to leave the room. “Goodbye then, Francisco! Til we meet in Heaven, goodbye! …”
Francisco Marto passed from his vale of tears at 10 p.m. on a First Friday, the 4th of April, 1919.
We have the word of our Blessed Mother herself that Francisco Marto, who prayed many Rosaries, is with her in Heaven , where he no doubt is joined by his sister Jacinta and his cousin Lúcia, consoling the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary for all eternity, “their souls … loved by God as flowers placed by Our Lady to adorn His throne.” *
To be continued. Part II here.
* “Yes, I will take Jacinta and Francisco soon. But you are to stay here some time longer. Jesus wishes to make use of you to make me known and loved. He wants to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. I promise salvation to those who embrace it and their souls will be loved by God as flowers placed by myself to adorn His throne.”… “Don’t lose heart. I will never forsake you. My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the path that leads you to God.” June 13, 1917, Our Lady of the Rosary at Fatima.
Some of the material for the article above is taken from Frère Michel de la Sainte Trinité’s “The Whole Truth About Fatima, Volumes I (here) and II (here)” and from Father Cirrincione’s “Venerable Francisco Marto of Fatima“, Kindle Edition, TAN Books.
† Saint Jacinta Marto, pray for us!
† Saint Francisco Marto, pray for us!
† Sister Lúcia, beloved daughter of the Immaculata, pray for us, pray for the pope.
~ by evensong for love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, King.
Vouchsafe that I may praise thee, O Sacred Virgin! Give me strength against thine enemies!