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“Suffer the Little Children ...”

Part III

After the October 13 Miracle of the Sun, Lucy, Francisco and Jacinta were celebrities. People traveled great distances to talk or pray with one of the children who had seen Our Lady. And yet, the young seers only wanted solitude.

Francisco encouraged Lucy and Jacinta to flee from noisy companions, especially those who wanted to sing and dance. Lucy accepted his suggestion and, before long, her friends “came to my home on Saturday afternoons to ask me to go with them to pray the Rosary in the Cova da Iria.”

When prayers were requested of Francisco, he always kept his promise: he would pray with all his heart, and he would always obtain the grace requested.

When asked what career he would choose when he grew up, Francisco responded “I don't want to be anything! ... I want to die and go to Heaven. ... Then I will be with Him always to see Him and console Him. What happiness!”

School was not mandatory at that time and Francisco preferred to spend his time “in the church with the Hidden Jesus.”

The Fatal Illness

“You will have much to suffer ...” Our Lady foretold. And for Francisco, his greatest suffering started on December 23, 1918. An influenza epidemic that started in Spain and ravaged most of Europe was particularly deadly in Portugal. The Marto household was not to be excluded. Francisco and Jacinta were bed-ridden and Francisco could not even move any more. For 15 days he was struck by an intense fever.

During his illness Lucy asked him “are you suffering a lot, Francisco?”

“Yes,” he answered quietly “but I suffer it all for love of Our Lord and Our Lady.” His mother thought he would get over the sickness. He never made a fuss and he even drank bitter medicine without making a face.

Jacinta recovered from her illness and spent much of her time at Francisco's bedside. One day she asked for Lucy to come over right away. Jacinta confided to her cousin, “Our Lady came to see us, and She said that She would come to take Francisco soon, to take him to Heaven.” The conditional promise (He will go there too, but he will have to say many Rosaries.) would soon be fulfilled.

By early February Francisco felt well enough to visit the Cova da Iria, the last time he would see that blessed place. In fact, just a few days later he returned to bed, never to rise again.

Even then, his concern was for others. It was his desire that his suffering would be “to console Our Lord and Our Lady, and then, afterwards, for sinners and for the Holy Father.”

People who came to visit him, neighbors and strangers, remarked “I don't know what it is about Francisco, but it feels so good to be here!” Or, “It seems to me that when we go into Francisco's room, we feel just as we do when we go into a church.”

Suddenly, Francisco's condition worsened. No longer being able to pray, he asked Father Ferreira to let him receive Holy Communion before he died. He made his confession and the parish priest promised to bring him Holy Communion the next day. Francisco told his sister “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.”

Everything indicated his end was near. On Friday night, April 4, 1919, when darkness had fallen, he noticed a lovely light by the door. At about 10 o'clock, he died calmly, bringing to an end all the suffering God willed for the conversion of sinners.

On May 13, 2000, Pope John Paul II beatified Francisco and Jacinta Marto, two young children who unhesitatingly said “Yes” to Our Lord and Our Lady.