Having entered into the 100th Anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima to the three shepherd children—Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, it is more than propitious that we write on the topic of Fatima. In fact, Pope Francis has encouraged this most noble undertaking!
The message is so wide, expansive, evangelical, impressive, inspiring as well as extraordinarily simple that we will focus, in this short article on one aspect of the message of Fatima. More than an aspect, better said, we will focus on one person who was involved in the message of Fatima and it is the person of Jacinta; her full name would be Jacinta Marto.
For sake of brevity we would like to focus on what we believe to be the so called “Conversion” of Jacinta Marto; indeed, we can now call her Blessed Jacinta Marto, because she was beatified with her older brother Francisco by Saint Pope John Paul II—among the youngest saints in the Church Calendar!
By nature, Jacinta was extroverted, joyful, exhilarant, expansive, playful as well as competitive, a lover of dance and simply a lover of life! In a word, she was a typical good little girl, somewhat prayerful, a good daughter as well as a good sister. However, there was nothing really extraordinary about her person and nature until something happened that radically transformed her life forever!
In the year 1916, Jacinta, Francisco her brother, as well as Lucia her cousin, all of them shepherds, had a visitation by an angel actually three times. This angel taught them how to pray, what to say in prayer, as well as a posture in prayer—that of prostration!
May 13, the following year 1917, the three children were visited by the woman dressed in white; it was the Blessed Virgin Mary. Our Lady would actually appear to them 6 times in total, culminating in October with the great miracle of the sun witnessed by more than 60, 000 people!
One of the highlights and key notes of the preaching of Jesus, Saint John the Baptist, as well as Saint Peter in his Pentecost discourse is the call to conversion. “Be converted, the Kingdom of God is at hand” (Mk. 1:15) was actually the first words we have of Jesus in His Public ministry. There are two forms of conversion—the radical conversion of Saint Matthew who left all to follow Christ, as well as Saul of Tarsus who encountered Christ on the road to Damascus. Then there is the slow and painful process of daily conversion that we all have to work at on a daily basis.
The Conversion of Jacinta Marto
Basically Jacinta was a good girl all of her life. However, there was a specific event that occurred to her, as well as to her brother Francisco and cousin Lucia, that would leave an indelible mark on Jacinta’s soul and radically transform her total life. When and what happened to change this little girl’s life? It was the third apparition of Our Lady to them on July 13, 1917. In this most powerful apparition, Our Lady revealed to these three little shepherd children a graphic vision of Hell. Our Lady opened up her hands and it was as if the earth opened its mouth.
The children could see what appeared to be a lake or even sea of immense fire. In it they could see the damned souls—some were transparent, others bronze, still others brown and finally some were pitch black. Also the children perceived hideous animals that were transpiercing the souls; these were the devils. In addition to this, the children could hear the cries of despair of the damned souls. Many souls seemed to be floating without any equilibrium, like balloons blown by the wind with no anchoring. This graphic Dantesque vision of hell seen by the children never left their memories and would move them to acts of heroic virtue in the realm of sacrifice. One more note: the children said they would have died of fear if the Blessed Virgin were not there present with them. However, the Blessed Virgin Mary wanted them to experience this vision, as well as the world at large!
From that moment on Jacinta Marto would never be the same. Indeed, it was this graphic and unforgettable vision of hell on July 13th, 1917 that would change her heart, her actions and her life in its totality. Saint Pope John Paul II, in the beatification process of Jacinta and Francisco gave them each a specific title which really exemplified the essence of their charism, indeed the essence of their sanctity. The Pontiff called Francisco “A Little Mystic”; whereas Jacinta he called “A Little Victim Soul”. What then is this so called “victim soul”? Such a soul offers himself/herself to God to generously offer sacrifices, as well as to accept sufferings sent by God, primarily for the purpose of souls: the conversion of poor sinners and the salvation of their immortal souls. Padre Pio, Josefa Menendez, Saint Therese—all of these were victim souls. Therefore, after the vision of hell viewed by Jacinta and the two others, Jacinta was imbued and permeated with an insatiable desire to save souls, especially the poor sinners from the horrendous, but all too real place of hell.
The Catholic Church has always taught that any person who dies unrepentant in the state of mortal sin, has been condemned to the eternal chastisement of hell and for all eternity. Indeed, the only one to blame is that soul himself for having chosen of his free will to commit mortal sin, live in mortal sin, and die unrepentant in mortal sin! Blessed Jacinta Marto could not forget the pain, the suffering, the anguish, the despair of these many souls that she saw in this apparent sea of fire, tortured at the same time by the many hideous devils. This graphic vision shown to her by the Blessed Virgin Mary would move Jacinta to the practice of heroic virtue in the realm of sacrifice. Let us now look into the many sacrifices undertaken by this “Little Victim Soul”, Blessed Jacinta Marto!
The Heroic Sacrifices and Example of Bl Jacinta Marto
Jacinta Marto had no formal education; she could neither read nor write. Her First Communion was given through the hands of an angel from heaven in 1916. She had no degree in theology and only knew the basics of her catechism. However, she had two excellent teachers that would lift her up to the heights of holiness in a very quick period of not too much longer than two years. Who were these teachers? The Blessed Virgin Mary and the Holy Spirit. Let us summarily outline the sacrifices of this little shepherd girl.
- One of the favorite past times of Jacinta was to dance; she simply loved to dance. For the sake of the salvation of souls, Jacinta willingly gave up dancing for the rest of her life!
- Jacinta’s favorite food was the luscious and sweet grapes of the Portuguese hills and vineyards. Indeed, she loved to eat these grapes. Once again, like the dancing, she decided that she would give up these grapes and in place of them to eat the bitter herbs and nuts from the field—a huge sacrifice. All of this done to save souls from the fires of hell!
- She wore her normal, modest clothes. However, Jacinta, as well as Francisco and Lucia, made a hidden sacrifice that was seen by God alone and it was the ROPE. Beneath their clothes they fastened a rope around their waists. This caused them considerable discomfort during the course of the day. Our Lady told them to take it off at night so that they could at least have a good night’s repose.
- Upon their way to the fields where they would tend their sheep, the three children would often bump into poorer children who had barely anything at all to eat. The three children would willingly offer their lunches to the poor children to eat and thereby suffer hunger themselves during the course of the day. Why? For the simple reason to bar the gates of hell for many poor sinners!
- They would tend the sheep in the midst of the summer heat and offer up the heat. Hell of course is much worse and it is forever and ever and ever!
- On one occasion, in the middle of summer, the heat and humidity was so intense that the children were almost dying of thirst. Therefore, Lucia went to a nearby household and asked for water. She was given a pitcher of water to share with Francisco and Jacinta. Upon arriving with the water, the two decided that they would prefer to suffer the heat and humidity and not to drink the refreshing water. Why? Once again this sacrifice could be offered for the sake of the conversion of poor sinners, so that they would be saved from the eternal fires of hell. Consequently, Lucia poured the contents of water onto the ground. All of them went thirsty. They had a greater thirst for the eternal salvation of immortal souls; like Jesus who cried out on the cross: I THIRST!!!
- In the same context, Jacinta could hear the crickets sounding and her head was pounding and she started to complain. Francisco quickly intervened and reminded her that she could offer even her headache up as a sacrifice for the conversion and salvation of poor sinners. Jacinta quickly did as her brother suggested!
- Eventually the crowds would come and pester the children with interminable questions about what they saw and heard. Once again Jacinta would offer this suffering as a sacrifice for the salvation of souls.
- Rosary in totality. Early on the three children would obey their parents and pray the Rosary, however, in an abbreviated fashion, in which they would just say the first two words of the Our Father and the Hail Mary so that they could proceed to their play as soon as possible. After the graphic and unforgettable vision of hell and the damned sinners, not only did the children pray the whole Rosary, but they would pray many Rosaries during the course of the day. Indeed, such was the love and thirst that Blessed Jacinta had to collaborate with God in the salvation of immortal souls.
- Sickness and death. Our Lady asked the children if they would be willing to suffer and sacrifice for God. The spokesperson Lucia responded with a generous YES in the name of the other two. Of course this suffering and sacrifice would result in the early deaths of both Francisco, who died first, and then Jacinta. One of the most painful elements of the death of little Jacinta was the fact that she basically died almost alone. The hospital was distant from her parents’ home and they could not make it easily to this destination. Therefore, in the last days and the last hours of the death of this little “Victim Soul” she died alone without the presence of any of her family members. This calls to mind one of the last words of Jesus as He hung upon the cross: “My God, My God, why hast thou abandoned me.” To a limited degree Jesus shared with this heroic child a part of His bitter passion. In a certain sense we can say that Jacinta went through the dark night of the soul as she suffered in the hospital, distant from all of her loved ones. Do not forget that the nature of Jacinta was sociable, extroverted, expansive, and she simply loved to be with people, especially her loved ones!
So we conclude our short essay on the truly admirable person of Blessed Jacinta Marto. Indeed worthy of note and reflection are the following about Jacinta:
- CHILDREN—Jesus said: “Let the little children come to me for as such is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Jesus has great love for children.
- HOLINESS—Even small children can become saints if they are properly formed by their parents.
- MARY AS TEACHER AND GUIDE—Jacinta placed herself as a pupil or student at the disposition of Mary. May we place ourselves in the school of Mary!
- LOVE AND SACRIFICE—Jacinta teaches us that true and authentic love is measured by our willingness to suffer and sacrifice for the salvation of others.
- THE SOUL—Our immortal soul has great value; it was redeemed by the Blood of Jesus!
- HELL—The radical conversion of little Jacinta came about only after witnessing a graphic vision of hell displayed by the Blessed Virgin Mary.
- ETERNITY—Jacinta would ask Lucia if Hell would one day cease to exist and Lucia would say Hell would be forever and ever an ever!
- SHORTNESS OF LIFE—Both Jacinta and Francisco would be dead within about two years of the last apparition of Our Lady. We know neither the day nor the hour when God will call us; death will come like a thief in the night!
- HEROIC SACRIFICES—These little children were motivated to make heroic sacrifices. So are we called to sacrifice ourselves to save sinners from falling off the precipice into hell!
- LOVE!!! When all is said and done we will be judged on love. However, love is measured not simply by mere words, but by concrete actions. Jacinta said she loved God but proved it by an outpouring of heroic sacrifices to save poor sinners from the fiery pit of hell!
Blessed Francisco Marto, pray for us. Blessed Jacinta Marto, pray for us. Our Lady of Fatima pray for us and the conversion of poor sinners. Amen.