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The Importance of the Beatification of the Little Seers of Fatima

Rev. Fr. Fabrice Delestre

   Jacinta and Francisco Marto are the first children not martyrs to be beatified by the Church. Francisco was born June 11, 1908 and died April 4, 1919, at 10 years, 9 months, and 25 days. Jacinta was born March 11, 1910, and died February 20, 1920, at 9 years, 11 months, and 9 days. Until the cause of the beatification of Jacinta and Francisco, the Sacred Congregation for the Cause of Saints would relegate to the archives all the cases concerning unmartyred children, the reason being the difficulty of establishing the heroism of their virtues. The process of their beatification led the Sacred Congregation to re-examine this question and change its policy. This change by the Sacred Congregation highlights the immense generosity of their spirit of penance and sacrifice, of their heroism in the practice of mortification; it also confirms, indirectly, the truth of the apparitions of Fatima, for to recognize the heroic virtues of the two little seers is to signify that they were the first to apply to themselves the Message of Our Lady of Fatima. The touching example of the "sacrifice of the rope," illustrates this:

[On August 19, 1917] the most Blessed Virgin recommended to us the practice of mortification, and ended by saying: "Pray, pray very much, and make sacrifices for sinners; for many souls go to hell, because there are none to sacrifice themselves and to pray for them."
Some days later, as we were walking along the road with our sheep, I found a piece of rope that had fallen off a cart. I picked it up and, just for fun, I tied it round my arm. Before long, I noticed that the rope was hurting me.
"Look, this hurts!" I said to my cousins. "We could tie it round our waists and offer this sacrifice to God."
The poor children promptly fell in with my suggestion. We then set about dividing it between the three of us, by placing it across a stone and striking it with the sharp edge of another one that served as a knife. Either because of the thickness or roughness of the rope, or because we sometimes tied it too tightly, this instrument of penance often caused us terrible suffering. Now and then, Jacinta could not keep back her tears, so great was the discomfort this caused her. Whenever I urged her to remove it, she replied: "No! I want to offer this sacrifice to our Lord in reparation, and for the conversion of sinners."1

   Jacinta and Francisco continued to wear the rope during the day for more than a year, at least until October of 1918 when they both fell ill at almost the same time and gave their ropes to Lucy.

One day, [Francisco] gave me the rope that I have already spoken about, saying: "Take it away before my mother sees it. I don’t feel able to wear it any more around my waist."2
A few days after falling ill, [Jacinta] gave me the rope she had been wearing, and said: "Keep it for me: I’m afraid my mother may see it. If I get better, I want it back again!"
This cord had three knots, and was somewhat stained with blood. I kept it hidden until I finally left my mother’s home. Then, not knowing what to do with it, I burned it, and Francisco’s as well.3
This example of the "sacrifice of the rope" illustrates the fact that the apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima were at the origin of their sanctification and their holiness, as was pointed out by Sr. Lucy:
... My cousins Francisco and Jacinta sacrificed themselves because they saw the Blessed Virgin sad in each of Her apparitions. She never smiled at us, and this sorrow, this anguish that we observed in Her, because of the offenses against God and the punishments threatening sinners, penetrated our soul, and we did all that our children’s imaginations could invent as means to pray and make sacrifices. ... The other thing that sanctified the children came from the vision of hell. ...4 [Interview with Fr. Fuentes, December 26, 1957.]

   On November 17, 1935, Sr. Lucy wrote to Mgr. Correia da Silva, Bishop of Leiria, a letter where she thanked him for having sent a photograph of the intact face of Jacinta, a photograph that was taken on the occasion of the exhumation of the mortal remains of the little seer. She wrote these gracious words about Jacinta:

I hope that the Lord, for the glory of the most Blessed Virgin, will accord her the halo of the saints. She was a child only in years. She already knew how to practice virtue and show her love of God and of the most Blessed Virgin by the practice of sacrifice.
It is to her companionship that I owe in part the preservation of my innocence. It is admirable how she understood the spirit of prayer and sacrifice asked of us by the most Blessed Virgin.5

   It is touching to note that Francisco and Jacinta were declared venerable together, and were beatified together: in fact, together they form a harmonious union, for if the characteristics of their spirituality were different, they were also complementary, and in direct dependence from the apparitions and the words of the angel and of Our Lady. Sr. Lucy summed it up this way:

While Jacinta seemed to be solely concerned with the one thought of converting sinners and saving souls from going to hell, Francisco appeared to think only of consoling Our Lady, who had seemed to him to be so sad.6

Footnotes:

1. See Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words, Second Memoir, (1976 English version edition), pp. 77, 79.

2. Ibid., p. 94.

3. Ibid., p. 96.

4. See Bro. Francis of Mary of the Angels, ibid., p. 284. [See also English edition, Book IV, pp. 27-28.]

5. Ibid. annex, "The translation of Jacinta’s mortal remains" p. 251. [See also English edition, Book III, pp. 149-50.]

6. See Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words, Fourth Memoir, p. 143.

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This article is reprinted with permission from the June 2000 issue of The Angelus