When beatifying Fatima visionaries Jacinta and Francisco, St. John Paul II explained what led them to holiness so quickly.
Outside of martyrdom, the process of becoming a “saint” seems daunting to many of us. This is not referring to the official canonization process, but the everyday struggle for holiness that we all experience. As the Church related in Lumen Gentium, “everyone … is called to holiness” (LG 39).
Sometimes we may even claim that we could never become a saint, and that only priests or religious can become holy.
However, this is not true, as some of the greatest saints in the Catholic Church were neither priests nor religious and were simple laypeople who attained holiness in everyday life.
St. John Paul II, when beatifying the Fatima visionaries Jacinta and Francisco, commented on what he believed was the reason for their rather speedy path to sanctity, since they were both very holy before their death at an early age.
Addressing children, he said, “Ask your parents and teachers to enroll you in the ‘school’ of Our Lady, so that she can teach you to be like the little shepherds, who tried to do whatever she asked them.”
I tell you that “one makes more progress in a short time of submission and dependence on Mary than during entire years of personal initiatives, relying on oneself alone” (St Louis de Montfort, The True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, n. 155). This was how the little shepherds became saints so quickly. A woman who gave hospitality to Jacinta in Lisbon, on hearing the very beautiful and wise advice that the little girl gave, asked who taught it to her. “It was Our Lady,” she replied. Devoting themselves with total generosity to the direction of such a good Teacher, Jacinta and Francisco soon reached the heights of perfection.
John Paul II believed that a sincere and devout love of Mary, submitting oneself to her will, was the quickest way to sanctity. When someone enrolls in the “school of Our Lady,” they learn about humbly accepting God’s will, as did Mary when the Angel Gabriel revealed her mission in life.
Putting ourselves in Mary’s hands will lead us directly to Jesus, and is how Francisco and Jacinta rose to the heights of holiness early in life.
If we want to become a saint, let us not try to do it on our own, but do so with Mary at our side.