Our Newest Saints
The announcement that this year’s Centenary of the Apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima would include the Canonization of Blesseds Francisco Marto and Jacinta Marto on May 13th by Pope Francis has intrigued and uplifted the Catholic faithful.
One saw the visible interest on the faces of so many as they heard the long-awaited news: the Bishop of Rome would travel to the Cova da Iria to raise this venerable duo to the glories of the Altar on the very Feast of Our Lady of Fatima.
The exemplary charity, patience and perseverance of Francisco and Jacinta along with their older cousin Lucia continue to awaken deep within the friends of Jesus the desire to love God more and to serve Him better as Mary pleaded one hundred years ago.
These children are holy. And they remain a template for our own efforts to be good before Our Lord.
From the ample testimony given by their contemporaries, Francisco and Jacinta frequently received the Sacraments, particularly Confession and Holy Communion, with profound fervor, daily recited the Holy Rosary with sincere devotion and routinely commended the sick, the suffering and the wayward to Almighty God with remarkable trust.
Although privileged with three appearances of the Angel of Peace in 1916 and six visits from Our Lady during 1917, Francisco and Jacinta did not haughtily exempt themselves from obedience to their parents and their local pastor. They humbly submitted themselves even to misguided civil authority but without retreating an inch from their divinely-inspired convictions.
Mary’s summons to make reparation for sin found a permanent home in these children. As they fasted from their lunch and gave it instead to the sheep they were tending, tied a coarse rope around their tiny waists to mirror the sacrifice of their Savior, bore without complaint the scorching Portugal sun and endured the angry glances and snide remarks from querulous relatives and strangers alike, Francisco and Jacinta embraced mortification not as a means to attract attention but rather to invoke the abiding mercy of God upon themselves and sinners everywhere.
The children acknowledged their nothingness in the sight of their Creator while simultaneously they treasured His tender love. They were well aware of what He required of them, and they sought to perform their daily duty with exactitude and promptness.
In her gentle, forthright manner, Our Lady presented difficult and frightening realities to the children—the horror of sin, the annihilation of nations, the promotion of error, the deliberate attempt to thwart the plan of God, the awfulness of Hell. Far from refusing to accept all that she shared, Francisco and Jacinta recognized Divine Providence. They confided in this kind Mother and welcomed her care for them. Had she not promised that they and Lucia would one day go to Heaven and that, in the end, her Immaculate Heart would triumph?
The parlous state of our era induces us to look again to those who preceded us, certain that we can learn something about how to navigate our treacherous age. Unlettered, poor children from a backwater village as mentors for us and our advanced society? We should take the opportunity to learn from the virtuous Francisco and Jacinta. Their proximity to Jesus and Mary transcends time and place and provides us with a salutary influence as we confront the perennial hazards lurking around us.
These earnest youth experienced what Pope Francis, just hours before he left for Fatima, prayed that Our Lady would do for all Portuguese believers: to “whisper into the ears of each one of them, and assure them that her Immaculate Heart is a refuge and a path leading them to God.”
Conveyed by the Ever-Virgin, the Fatima message of prayer, reparation and the fulfillment of one’s daily duty was observed to an extraordinary degree in the lives of the little shepherds. What great things are accomplished when the counsel of the Mother of God, which, of course, is identical to that of her Divine Son, resonates and is enthroned in the hearts of her sons and daughters!
Saints Francisco and Jacinta are proof that lasting conversion and purity of soul are both possible and necessary. No matter where we have been or who we have been, Our Lady is here for us.
We rejoice with these children—indeed, the entire Mystical Body of Christ—who once were physically small but for a century have been veritable spiritual giants, these whose names are now enrolled in the catalog of the canonized.