Last year’s 100th anniversary of the Fatima apparitions afforded many the opportunity to examine the lives of Sts. Francisco and Jacinta Martos, especially in light of their canonization.
Dominican Fr. Thomas Petri recently tweeted, “Last year, my devotion to Our Lady of Fátima began and flourished. Then after a pilgrimage to Fátima and reading Sr. Lucia’s memoirs, I found myself praying to St. Jacinta. So now I’ve got a little 9-year-old saintly girl roaming around my spiritual life.”
Like Fr. Petri, I too share similar sentiments after visiting Fatima in 2016, and continued reading about the Fatima apparitions through the centenary year and beyond.
I recently read Jean Heimann’s Fatima: The Apparition that Changed the World (St. Benedict Press). Even though I attended the Pontifical International Marian Academy’s symposium on Fatima and have studied the apparitions, Heimann’s introductory text taught me a lot about Fatima and its message, but most especially the visionaries.
I never knew much about Francisco and Jacinta, especially the spirituality of these two child saints. As I read about their spiritual practices, it made an impression on my soul, compelling me to live the Fatima message.
On one occasion, Jacinta wept when she heard the Passion of Jesus being read, and she made a resolution to never again cause Jesus suffering. Jacinta took to heart the words of Mary and, according to Heimann, “quickly developed within her heart a burning love for God and the souls of her fellow men.” She offered her life as a living sacrifice to please God and save souls. Some small sacrifices included giving away her lunch and snacks to the poor. When she suffered illness, she accepted it as an opportunity to suffer for the conversion of sinners and for the salvation of souls.
Francisco was a simple soul, who often would climb a little mountain and there play his flute and sing songs to the Lord. After the apparitions, Francisco knew two things: he was going to die soon and he needed to pray many rosaries. What a special grace Francisco received from Our Lady, to know that he would soon go home to be with God. This allowed Francisco to contemplate his death often (#MementoMori) and prepare himself spiritually for the hour of his death.
Francisco and Jacinta took Mary’s message seriously. They prayed the Rosary daily, made small sacrifices for the conversion of sinners, and offered their suffering to God as a prayer. Learning how they dedicated themselves to Mary’s message renewed within me a desire to better live the Fatima message.
I’m often presented with the opportunity to make sacrifices (small acts of self-denial) or offer moments of suffering as a prayer. Unfortunately, I’m weak, and sometimes refuse to make the sacrifice, or all I do is complain when suffering presents itself. I’m inspired by Sts. Francisco and Jacinta. They were so young, but their love for God and humankind was so evident. They challenge me to seek holiness, to live the Fatima message, and to make sacrifices for the conversion of sinners.
Fatima’s importance extends well beyond last year’s 100th anniversary celebrations. And if the experience of Fr. Petri and myself tells us anything, devotion to the apparition and the child seers continues to this very day among the faithful.
Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us.
Sts. Francisco and Jacinta, pray for us.
How I pray the Rosary with my friends (the saints)
(Want to visit Fatima? Join Fr. Edward Looney on a pilgrimage this October. Learn more here.).