Read this testimony of Jacinta and Francisco's older brother.
Fatima and Padre Pío are related through the great love and devotion that the saint of the stigmata had for the Virgin of Fatima. In fact, the original pilgrim image visited San Giovanni Rotondo during Pio’s lifetime, resulting in a miraculous cure for the famous Capuchin friar.
Once again, in late 2017, that same image of Our Lady of Fatima visited Padre Pio’s monastery. At the same time, another connection between this saint and Fatima started to get more attention.
St. Francisco and St. Jacinta’s brother: A devotee of Padre Pio
In a report for Padre Pio TV, Jacinta Pereiro Marto—the niece of Sts. Francisco and Jacinta—explained that her father was a great devotee of Padre Pio, and that he always carried a holy card of the saint from Pietrelcina in his wallet.
Her father was none other than John (João in Portuguese) Marto, the fifth of the seven children of Manuel and Olimpia, the older brother closest in age to Francisco and Jacinta. In fact, he was present for one of the apparitions with his younger siblings and his cousin Lucia, although he couldn’t see anything.
Present for one of the apparitions
John was 11 years old when the apparitions took place. He died in 2000 at the age of 94, just 15 days before the beatification of his brother and sister. He didn’t feel worthy to go to the ceremony, nor to greet John Paul II, who presided over that important celebration.
On many occasions, John recounted how he had been present for the fourth apparition, which took place in Valinhos—not in Fatima—because the little children had been abducted by the mayor, who hoped to get them to reveal the secret revealed to them in the previous apparition. “I was with them in Valinhos, but I didn’t see anything.”
This man would end up being the last surviving Marto sibling, and he lived in the house where Jacinta and Francisco had been born. Shortly before dying, he spoke about how his brother and sister had been “normal kids, absolutely normal kids.” Perhaps because of this normalcy, “we didn’t believe them” until what is known as the Miracle of the Sun took place on October 13, 1917, when the sun danced before the eyes of tens of thousands of people.
John wept inconsolably after the death of his brother and sister
Jacinta, João’s daughter, recounts how her father didn’t go to see the Miracle of the Sun as his grandparents and other family members did; instead, he “stayed at home, because he was afraid of dying.” There was a rumor going around among both adults and children that “if the miracle of the sun didn’t take place, the whole family would die.”
At the tender age of 11, João had a hard time understanding all that was going on around him, but after the death of Francisco and Jacinta, “my father used to say that he cried very, very much,” remembers his daughter, “because he saw that everything that they had said was taking place.”
“My grandfather always believed”
Speaking about her grandparents, she says that at first they didn’t understand any of it all either. At that time, “they thought that their children were a bit different from the rest, but they didn’t know exactly in what way.” Nonetheless, “my grandfather always believed.”
“Jacinta was the first to say that Our Lady had appeared, and when people asked my grandmother about the subject, she always answered, ‘My children aren’t liars. I’ve educated them. So, if they say they saw her, I believe they did see her.'”
Despite the fact that her grandfather never saw the Virgin, Jacinta says that “he was present for some apparitions, and although he said he didn’t see anything, he did perceive that something was happening. He said that he heard a noise, like that of a bee inside a pitcher, a container. But he did see the Miracle of the Sun. And so, if he already believed before, he kept believing.”
Everything is a gift from God
John continued to be a shepherd in his town for his entire life. He also worked as a mason’s assistant to build a shrine, where before he had played with his brother and sister, who are now saints. He never left behind his humility or his faith, knowing that everything is a gift from God.
This is how his daughter Jacinta, niece of the visionaries, describes the situation: “The whole family—my grandparents and my parents, all of us—have always accepted it as a gift from God. God chose my aunt and uncle because that’s what He wanted to do. So much so, that my grandfather used to say that the Virgin wanted to come to Fatima, and had chosen his children, but that we didn’t deserve anything. Consequently, we have always lived with great simplicity, because God made a choice, and He chooses whomever He wants.”
This article is translated and adapted from a version that appeared in Aleteia’s Spanish edition.