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
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
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 dont feel able to wear it any more around my
A few days after falling
ill, [Jacinta] gave me the rope she had been wearing, and said: "Keep it for
me: Im afraid my mother may see it. If I get better, I want it back
This cord had three knots,
and was somewhat stained with blood. I kept it hidden until I finally left my
mothers home. Then, not knowing what to do with it, I burned it, and
Franciscos 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
childrens 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,
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
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
1. See Fatima in Lucias 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.
5. Ibid. annex, "The translation of
Jacintas mortal remains" p. 251. [See also English edition, Book III, pp.
6. See Fatima in Lucias Own Words,
Fourth Memoir, p. 143.
This article is reprinted with permission from the June 2000 issue
of The Angelus
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