By Michael Ogunu
The World Apostolate of Fatima International in conjunction with the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal is convoking all of the faithful to join the great celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the death of St. Jacinta Marto of Fatima on the 20th of February, 2020. On this day, the Church celebrates the liturgical feast of St. Francisco and St. Jacinta Marto, the Little Shepherds of Fatima, canonised on May 13th, 2017.
The programme begins with a Vigil of Adoration and Reparation to the Blessed Sacrament in company of the Immaculate Heart of Mary on the eve, Wednesday, 19th of February, 2020, offered for the intention of the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in our days. It includes meditation of the Holy Rosary, procession with candles where possible, veneration of the relics of the saints (Sts Francisco and Jacinta) if possible, Fatima prayers, prayers of reparation and blessing of the faithful.
On the 20th of February, 2020, we offer in our places at the most convenient time, a solemn meditated Rosary for the conversion of many sinners, procession with the icon or statues of Our Lady of Fatima (and of Sts Francisco and Jacinta, if available) for the families, the youth and children of the world, and, above all, a Holy Votive Mass of the Little Shepherds (Sts Francisco and Jacinta) for the unity and strength of the Church.
The youngest among the seven children of Manuel Pedro Marto and Olympia Jesus dos Santos, Jacinta was born on March 11, 1910, in the village of Aljustrel near Fatima in Portugal.
She was a pretty child, with a sweet singing voice and a gift for dancing the folkloric music of Portugal. At a First Communion, she was among the little “angels” spreading petals before the Blessed Sacrament. She had a marked love for Our Lord, and at the age of five she shed tears on hearing the account of His Passion, vowing that she would never sin or offend Him anymore.
In the Spring of 1916, as Jacinta with her brother, Francisco and their cousin, Lucia watched their sheep, an Angel appeared to them in an olive grove. He asked the children to pray with him. He appeared again in mid-summer at a well in Lucia’s garden, urging them to offer sacrifice to God in reparation for sinners. In a final appearance, at the end of the Summer, the Angel held a bleeding Host over a chalice, from which he communicated the children. This experience separated them from their playmates and prepared them for Our Lady’s apparitions to come.
The Angel of Peace taught the children shepherds of Fatima the prayers to initiate them as adorers of the Most Holy Trinity. The Apparitions of the Angel of Peace imposed secrecy on the children. The apparitions of the Angel were so intimate. Kneeling on the ground, the Angel bowed down until his forehead touched the earth. Led by a supernatural impulse, the three children did the same, and repeated the words which they heard the Angel say: “My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love Thee! I beg pardon of Thee for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love Thee!”
On 13th May, 1917, Our Lady appeared to the three shepherd children and asked if they were willing to offer sacrifices to God for the conversion of sinners, and to pray the Rosary daily. They said ‘yes’.
Jacinta was deeply affected by the terrible vision of hell shown to them by Our Lady in the third apparition. She therefore was deeply convinced of the need to save poor sinners through penance and sacrifice as Our Lady had told the children to do. All three children practiced penance, but Jacinta had a special call, for as the Congregation for the Causes of Saints reported about Jacinta Marto in her beatification decree, Jacinta had “an insatiable hunger for immolation”.
As observed by Prof. Americo Lopez Ortiz, the International President of the World Apostolate of Fatima, “Jacinta was a missionary who evangelised people by preaching to them the Good news of salvation, … the message of Fatima, a need to convert and do penance, to save many souls from going to hell”.
“The glory of God, the salvation of souls, the importance of the Holy Father and priests, the necessity and love for the sacraments, all this took first priority in her life. She lived the Fatima messages for the salvation of souls around the world, demonstrating a great missionary spirit”.
Jacinta had a profound devotion that took her very near to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This love always led her in a profound way to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Jacinta attended daily Mass with a great desire of receiving Jesus in Holy Communion in reparation for poor sinners. Nothing was more attractive to her than to be in the Real Presence of the Eucharistic Jesus. She said frequently, “I love to be here so much. I have so much to say to Jesus”.
With immense zeal, Jacinta separated herself from the things of the world to focus her attention on the things of heaven. She searched for silence and solitude to be in contemplation. “I love the Lord so much,” she said to Lucia.
The siblings, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, were victims of the great 1918 influenza epidemic that swept through Europe that year. In October 1918, Jacinta told Lucia that Our Lady had appeared to her and promised to take her and Francisco to heaven soon.
Jacinta was moved from one hospital to another in an attempt to save her life, which she insisted was futile. She developed purulent pleurisy and endured an operation in which two of her ribs were removed. She could not be fully anesthetized, and suffered terrible pain, which she offered to God for the conversion of many sinners.
On 19th February 1920, she asked the hospital chaplain who heard her confession to bring her Holy Communion and administer Extreme Unction because she was going to die “the next night”. He told her that her condition was not that serious and that he would return the next day. The next day Jacinta was dead; she had died, as Our Lady told her, “alone” in order to convert more sinners.
Jacinta, before her death at age nine, told Lucia, then a twelve-year-old girl: “When you are to say this, don’t hide. Tell everybody that God grants us graces through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, that people are to ask her for them; and that the Heart of Jesus wants the Immaculate Heart of Mary to be venerated at his side. Tell them also to pray to the Immaculate Heart of Mary for peace, since God entrusted it to her”.
In 1937 Pope Pius XI decided that causes of canonization for minors should not be accepted as they could not fully understand heroic virtue or practice it repeatedly, both of which are essential for canonization. For the next four decades, no sainthood processes for children were pursued. In 1979, the Bishop of Leiria-Fatima, Don Alberto Cosme do Amaral, asked all the world Bishops to write to the Pope, petitioning him to make an exception for Francisco, who had died at age 10, and Jacinta, who had died at age 9. More than 300 bishops sent letters to the Pope, writing that “the children were known, admired and attracted people to the way of sanctity. Favours were received through their intercession.” The bishops also said that the canonization of Francisco and Jacinta was a pastoral necessity for the children and teenagers of the day.”
In 1979 the Congregation for the Causes of Saints convened a General Assembly. Cardinals, bishops, theologians and other experts debated whether it was possible for children to display heroic virtue. They decided that, like the very few children who have a genius for music or mathematics, “in some supernatural way, some children could be spiritual prodigies.”
Francisco and Jacinta were declared venerable by Pope John Paul II in 1989. On 13th May 2000, the siblings were declared “blessed” in a decree from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
Pope Francis solemnly canonized Francisco and Jacinta on 13th May 2017 during the centennial of the first apparition of Our Lady in Fatima. They are the Catholic Church’s youngest saints who did not die as martyrs, with Jacinta the youngest.
Before her death, Jacinta revealed some little-known statements made by Our Lady:
· “The sin which leads most people to hell is the sin of impurity”.
· “Tell everybody … that the heart of Jesus wishes the heart of Mary to be venerated at His side. Let them ask for peace through the Immaculate of Mary, for God has given it to her”.
· “War is a punishment for sin”.
· “Certain fashions will be introduced that will offend Our Lord very much”.
· “Many marriages are not good, they do not please Our Lord and are not of God”.
· “Priests must be pure, very pure. They should not busy themselves with anything except what concerns the Church and souls. The disobedience of priests to their superiors and to the Holy Father is very displeasing to Our Lord”.
Let us put into practice the Message of Fatima explained to us by Our Lady in 1917 “while there is still time before it is too late”. Let us transform our hearts by daily recitation of the Rosary, meditating on the mysteries, penance, Eucharistic Adoration and Communion of Reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on the First Saturdays of the month and consecrating ourselves to God through the Immaculate Heart of Mary in this time of grace and mercy that we have been granted from heaven following in the footsteps of St. Francisco and St. Jacinta Marto of Fatima.
Coordinator of the World Apostolate of Fatima in Africa