Suffer the Little Children ...
Francisco Marto was the youngest boy and second youngest child in a family of 9 children. He was a quiet and submissive lad who would always give in to others, even if they were wrong.
His father knew of a mischievous side to his son and had to be firm. One time Francisco hid in the out-kitchen after refusing to say his prayers and it was his father who had to hunt him down and make him obey.
Francisco would go anywhere alone in the dark at night and played with lizards and snakes, showing no fear. He also liked to hunt for genets and other small, wild animals.
The only reason Francisco agreed to tend the sheep (and thus become part of the greatest story of our time) was to please his younger sister, Jacinta, who liked to accompany their cousin, Lucy. He was also the one who thought of a way for them to shorten the prayer, when they were to say the Rosary after lunch. The children simply said “Hail Mary” and “Our Father” during the recitation, without saying these prayers in full.
Francisco was the only one of the three children present who could not hear the words of the Angel in 1916, nor Our Lady during Her apparitions in 1917. But that did not diminish, to any extent, his belief in either Heaven-sent messenger.
On his third appearance, the Angel gave Jacinta and Francisco the Precious Blood from the chalice. Francisco was the one who did not know they had received Holy Communion until Jacinta explained it to her brother.
The Apparitions of Our Lady
When Our Lady first appeared at the Cova da Iria on May 13, 1917, She told Lucy, in response to her question, that Francisco would go to Heaven but he would have to say many Rosaries. (Was this a Heavenly Mother’s gentle rebuke for his hiding when he should have been saying his prayers with his family, or suggesting Lucy and Jacinta could increase their playing time by abbreviating their Rosary?)
After the Apparitions
It was after this apparition that Francisco’s life took a new direction. While tending the sheep, he would seek solitude during lunch and “Think about God, Who is so sad because of so many sins! If only I could give Him joy!”
He would also say, from time to time, “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.”
After the parish priest informed Lucy that the apparitions “may also be a deceit of the devil” she had nightmares with the devil trying to drag her down to hell. When Lucy, his cousin, told Francisco she was not going back to the Cova da Iria on the 13th of the month (July) he “never slept at all that night.” He later told Lucy, “I spent the whole time crying and praying, begging Our Lady to make you go!”
His reflections after the apparition of July 13: “We were on fire in that light which is God, and yet we were not burnt! ... But what a pity it is that He is so sad! If only I could console Him!”
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