20th February is the feast day of the little seer and contemplative of Fatima, St Francisco Marto (11th June, 1908 – 4th April, 1919). Alone among the three little visionaries, Francisco never heard Our Lady’s words, although he saw her and felt her presence.
Consoler of the Hidden Jesus
The words of the Angel of Fatima, “Console your God”, engraved themselves in young Francisco’s heart. They became the compelling inspiration of his short life of just under eleven years. After Our Lady’s appeal to the three children to offer themselves to God and submit to suffering in reparation for sins, they began giving their lunch to the sheep and then to poor children. They also started saying the Rosary in earnest. The effect of the Apparitions on Francisco was to create a fervent desire more than anything else, to be the Consoler of the Hidden Jesus. It was a description he always used when talking of the Host in the Tabernacle. He did this by praying Rosary after Rosary, and by spending hours close to the tabernacle of the parish church. On one occasion when he went missing and was found praying behind a rock, Lucia asked him what he was doing. ‘I was thinking of God who is so sad because of all the sins: if only I could comfort him!’
Readers familiar with the story of Fatima will recall that on 13th May 1917, after hearing the Lady say, “I come from heaven”, Lucia asked if she and her little companions would go to heaven. The Lady replied that both Lucia and Jacinta would go to heaven , but that Francisco would need to say many Rosaries first.
This enigmatic utterance concerning Francisco has, over the years, given rise to a certain amount of speculation as to its meaning. Various interpretations have been ascribed to it, but none of them are really satisfying. Some commentators even suggested that Francisco was somehow held back in his spiritual development and, therefore, needed more prayer than his sister Jacinta and his cousin Lucia.
Francisco: A Contemplative Soul
While little Jacinta was an extrovert, easily engaging with others and concerned in reaching out to all, especially to poor sinners, Francisco was a very interior soul, focused on God alone, on consoling the Hidden Jesus. In this way, the personalities and graces of Francisco and Jacinta are complementary. Jacinta is emblematic of the missionary impulse of the Church, while Francisco illustrates the call to the hidden life and total dedication to the “One Thing Necessary” (Luke 10:42). Francisco was, from the very beginning of the apparitions, singled out as a contemplative soul.
Had Our Lady said that Francisco was to become a “contemplative soul”, the meaning of her words would have completely escaped Francisco’s understanding. His was the simple vocabulary of a child, of a boy accustomed to the concrete realities of nature. Our Lady’s words that Francisco would “need to say many Rosaries” before going to heaven was, in effect, her way of saying that Francisco was to become an entirely contemplative soul before going to heaven, and this by means of many Rosaries. Understand by this that, for Francisco and for most ordinary people, many Rosaries are the most simple and efficacious way to union with God.
Holy Death of St Francisco of Fatima
In August 1918, when World War I was nearing its end, Francisco and Jacinta both contracted influenza. They had short reprieves, but their decline was inevitable. In April of the following year, Francisco, knowing his time was short, asked to receive the Hidden Jesus for the first time in Holy Communion. The priest heard Francisco’s confession on the evening of 2nd April and brought Communion to him the next morning. Unable to sit up, he received his first and last Communion lying down. Opening his eyes, he asked: ‘When will you bring me the Hidden Jesus again?’ Lucia remained with him all day. During the night he called to his mother: ‘Look at that lovely light by the door.’ And then, ‘Now I can’t see it any more.’
The next morning, 4th April, at ten o’clock, his shrunken face lit up with a radiant smile and then he died without any effort. He was just two months short of his eleventh birthday. He was buried the next day in a little cemetery in Fatima, across from the parish church, and later translated to the Sanctuary at Cova da Iria.
Saint Francisco, pray for us!