CP&S Comment. Today is the feast of the little Fatima visionary,Jacinta Marto, who died on this day in a Lisbon hospital in 1920, a month before her tenth birthday. She was an enchanting, lively and intelligent child, but most of all she was a warrior of faithfulness to Catholic teaching. Her ardent witness to penance and mortification for sinners coming from such a young child is quite outstanding. She is a powerful example for us all to follow, and especially for Catholic parents to hold up to their own children. No child is too young to become a Saint.
Jacinta Marto was born in the village of Aljustrel near Fatima in Portugal on March 11, 1910, to parents Manuel Pedro “Ti” Marto and Olympia de Jesus. She was only 6 years old when the Angel of Peace appeared, and just seven when Our Lady appeared in 1917. Jacinta is the youngest non-martyr ever to be beatified by the Church. In the course of almost four years until her death on February 20, 1920, she made giant strides in the spiritual life. God, through Mary, gave her many graces and she responded with an unwavering faith and ardent love.
Jacinta was naturally very affectionate; her father called her the sweetest of their nine children. She was also very capricious and somewhat self-willed. She loved games, but was easily offended and would go into a corner to pout. The children called this “tethering the donkey.” She could only be coaxed back if she could name the game herself. After the apparitions she retained her affectionate nature, but became more serious. Whatever she did, she did with her whole heart, so after the apparitions she accepted wholeheartedly the message of Our Lady.
Jacinta’s affection during the time of Mary’s appearances was directed into new channels, deepening her love for our Lord, His Mother, for the Church, for the Holy Father and for sinners. It was as though the light that came from Our Lady’s hands in the first and second apparitions, which reflected on all three children, gave Jacinta a deep insight into the meaning of God and eternity. The terrible vision of hell caused her great distress and she asked Lucia, “Why doesn’t Our Blessed Lady show hell to sinners? If they could see it they would never commit any more sins.” Jacinta’s affection during the time of Mary’s appearances was directed into new channels, deepening her love for our Lord, His Mother, for the Church, for the Holy Father and for sinners. It was as though the light that came from Our Lady’s hands in the first and second apparitions, which reflected on all three children, gave Jacinta a deep insight into the meaning of God and eternity. The terrible vision of hell caused her great distress and she asked Lucia, “Why doesn’t Our Blessed Lady show hell to sinners? If they could see it they would never commit any more sins.” She had a deep trust in Mary’s advice to pray very much and make sacrifices for sinners, “for many go to hell because there are none to sacrifice themselves and pray for them.”
The spirituality of Jacinta may be said to rest on a three-fold basis: 1) Devotion to the Holy Trinity, expressed in the prayer to the Trinity taught to the children by the Angel. 2) A deep devotion to Mary, especially to her Immaculate Heart, due to special graces given her by Our Lady. 3) Devotion to the Eucharist or “the hidden Jesus.”
Jacinta made her First Communion some time before her final illness. During her illness, she told Lucia, “I love Our Lord and Our Lady and I never get tired telling them that I love them. When I do that it seems I have a fire in my heart, but it does not burn me.”
As her illness progressed and she was too weak to attend daily Mass, she told Lucia, “It doesn’t matter. I want to go to make up for those sinners who will not go even on Sundays. Do you know, Lucia, our dear Lord is so sad and Our Lady told us He is already too greatly offended and we must not offend him anymore, but nobody listens and they just go on committing the same sins.”
Near the time of Francisco’s death, Our Lady appeared and asked her if she wanted to come to heaven then, too, or stay on earth longer to suffer for the conversion of sinners. Jacinta said she wanted to stay and suffer. Our Lady then told her that she would die alone in the hospital in Lisbon, but not to worry because she would come and take her to heaven.
Just before leaving for the hospital, she told Lucia, “It will not be long now before I go to heaven. You will remain here to make known that God wishes to establish in the world devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. 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 has entrusted it to her.”
Jacinta suffered tremendously while at the hospital from frequent fevers, from an abscess on her side, pneumonia, and tuberculosis. Hardest of all was that she suffered alone, without family or friends. During her stay there, she confided in Mother Godinho, who cared for her, several things of great importance that Our Lady had told her:
- “More souls go to hell because of sins of impurity more than any other.”
- “War is a punishment from God for sins.”
- “Certain fashions are going to be introduced that will offend Our Lord very greatly and those who serve God should not follow them.”
- “Many marriages are not good, they are not pleasing to our Lord and are not of God.”
- “Priests must be very pure and concentrate on their mission to the Church and souls, and be obedient to the Pope and their Superiors.”
- “My dear mother, run away from riches. Cherish silence and holy poverty. Always be charitable, even with those who are unkind. Never criticize others and avoid those who do.”
Jacinta never tired of encouraging others to love Our Lord and His Mother, as well as to pray for the Holy Father and make sacrifices for sinners. During her Beatification on May 13, 2000, Pope St. John Paul II publicly thanked her for her prayers and sacrifices.
Little Jacinta died alone in Lisbon on the night of Feb. 20, 1920. Just before Our Lady came to take her to heaven, she appeared to Jacinta and told her that her sufferings and sacrifices saved many souls. When her grave was exhumed so that her body could be moved to the parish cemetery of St. Anthony in Fatima, her face was found to be incorrupt and she exhibited a sweet smell like bouquets of flowers. Today she is laid to rest next to Lucia’s grave, with St. Francisco’s grave on the opposite side chapel in the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary at the Shrine of Fatima in Portugal. She, along with Francisco, was canonized by Pope Francis on May 13, 2017.
This article first appeared in Fatima: 100 Years of Grace – Special Commemorative Issue of Soul Magazine . It has been updated since the canonization of St. Jacinta.