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Jacinta and Francisco

by James W. Demers

God is always right. He called Abraham to sacrifice. Abraham, already in old age, complied. He called Moses to teach His law. Moses, already in old age, served. He called Jacinta of Fatima to allow her brief life to unfurl as a living lesson of sacrifice in service to His greatest law, the law of charity, charity toward sinners. Immediately upon being called, this tiny seed began to unfold before our eyes into a garden of grace, to become a contradiction to this vain age that deplores virginity, does not comprehend sacrifice and values celebrity as the ultimate achievement of the esteem-filled modern man or woman. In shunning celebrity, offering her suffering body and vibrant intellect in continual sacrifice to console God, she became a veritable icon of the power of virginity. She was seven when she was called. A mere ten when she was chosen.

Bouquet of Grace

When a mother can weep no more, the tears of her children are treasured ever more preciously. When the Mother of God stepped through a ‘door in the sky’ and descended to earth on May 13, 1917, She chose as Her pedestal of honor the leaves of a small holm-oak tree in the Cova da Iria. There in the ‘Cove of Peace’ to share Her burden She had gathered a bouquet of three of the most endearing souls ever to grace the annals of the saints, Lucy dos Santos, 10, Francisco Marto, 9, and his little sister Jacinta, then only 7.

She who was Immaculately Conceived, Perpetual Virgin, Mother of the Divine and of All Men, Glory of Every Childhood lived by man, the Very Image of the Will of God, found in the child Jacinta, a vessel perfectly primed to resonate with Her own sorrow for sinful mankind.

The three children, already schooled in prayer and sacrifice by the Precursor Angel who had instructed them at the hill of the cave, the Cabeço and at the family well, the Arneiro, could never have guessed that they were being prepared for the company of the Virgin Mother of God. Every word, every gesture, every moment of their lives after their first visit with Our Lady confirms how ready they were to respond to Her bidding. The Precursor Angel, at the Arneiro, had recommended they accept and bear with submission the sufferings Our Lord would send them. In their first encounter with Our Lady they were asked, “Are you willing to offer yourselves to God, and bear all the sufferings He will send you, in reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication for the conversion of sinners?”

For Jacinta, this intense grief for the suffering of Christ — a sincere and fathomless comprehension of the evil of sin — was as a tear from the eye of the Glorious Mother, fallen to earth and caught by the soul of this frail petal of a child, thereafter to act as a prism through which the sorrow of God filtered the great offenses of mankind. Through the prism of Jacinta we can glimpse a reflection of the very vessel of grace that was the child Mary Herself, consecrated a virgin and presented to the temple by Anne and Joachim. The entire five months of the Fatima phenomena would not end their intimacy. Our Lady would continue schooling the child Jacinta, who reflected her own virtues in so many brave, childlike ways. Our Lady would even join her in the parish church of Fatima to teach her how to pray the Rosary, long after the great events had become part of the history of the Church.

Jacinta, the Budding Saint

The youngest of seven children born to Olimpia and Ti Marto of the hamlet of Aljustrel, just 1½ miles from the parish church of Fatima, she was christened Jacinta, Portuguese for hyacinth, the flowering rods that festoon the high Alto Plano of northern Portugal. They blossom in the spring, reach full flower in summer, their clustered petals unfolding into the mauve, blue and purple that are the very hues of Christ’s Passion. Then in autumn they fall back.

It was in the spring, May 13, 1917, that Jacinta, nurtured by the incandescent rays of Our Lady appearing to the children for the first time, began to embrace and immerse herself in the Passion of Our Lord. By summer she had bloomed into a victim soul, totally intent upon suffering for the salvation of ‘poor sinners’. With the great drama of the Miracle of the Sun on October 13, 1917, now an historic fact, Jacinta had already begun to embrace the flesh and blood martyrdom that would consume her tiny frame and free her giant soul a short two years later. Fittingly, upon having glimpsed Heaven through the ‘door in the sky’ by which Our Lady appeared, Jacinta would describe it as full of beautiful flowers.

Using Human Failing

Through the spellbinding unfolding of the great Fatima phenomena, Heaven employed human failing to ensure the unparalleled events taking place in the Cova da Iria were known and talked about. Jacinta’s endearing nature was the first put to use. From the beginning the unique and separate individuality of the three children was recognized. Unlike Francisco who could see Our Lady but not hear Her, Jacinta, like Lucy, could both see and hear Her, but only Lucy spoke to Her. Their different subjective responses to what they saw, heard and were asked would continue to add color and dimension to the greatest story since the Life, Death and Resurrection of Our Lord.

Immediately after the May 13, 1917, noon-hour apparition of Our Lady, during which they committed themselves to make sacrifices to console God, Jacinta promised Lucy not to tell anyone what they saw. But she could not restrain herself from blurting out the news to her mother and father as soon as Olimpia and Ti Marto returned by donkey cart from the market. Jacinta was the first publisher of Fatima. Her direct, energetic telling of events remains an inspiration to publishers and writers to this day.

After June 13, when Jacinta and Francisco learned that Our Lady would soon come for them, to take them to Heaven, Jacinta’s every moment was permeated with a profound understanding that in the short time left, much suffering would be required of her.

After July 13, when they were entrusted with the Three Secrets, the vision of hell horrified Jacinta “… to such a point that all penances and mortifications to her seemed insufficient to save souls from hell …”1

Sister Lucy is insistent that the details of the Secret made a greater impression on Jacinta than on herself or Francisco — so much so, that within a few short months Jacinta had made a total offering of her life in sacrifice to God.2 In fact, Sister Lucy also expressed the view that, “Jacinta was the one who received from Our Lady a greater abundance of grace, and a better knowledge of God and of virtue.”3

It was Jacinta who kept uppermost in the minds of all three that they must pray much for the Holy Father, whose fate, we have now learned, was intimately encompassed in the Great Secret. Whenever she offered sacrifices to Jesus, she would add, “…and for the Holy Father. At the end of the Rosary she always added three Hail Marys for the Holy Father.”4

On August 13, when they were abducted by ‘The Tinsmith’, the Mayor of Vila Nova de Ourem, it was Jacinta, locked with her brother and cousin among hardened criminals in a cell, who brought the prisoners to their knees by having a medal hung on the wall and praying before it. Her only thought when threatened with being boiled in oil (a threat taken quite seriously since Our Lady had said She would come for them soon) was that it meant they would soon see Our Lady again.

On August 19, when Our Lady compensated for the missed rendezvous in the Cova on the 13th by surprising them on the roadside in Valinhos, the ‘little valley’, between Aljustrel and the Cabeço, we detect clearly that the appearance of Our Lady, though sensibly announced as impending to Lucy, was actually delayed until Jacinta was present, a proof of her role that can be recognized as unique in all the other instances of the apparitions as well. Yet never failing to respond to the natural impulses of childhood, she raced home from Valinhos with a branch of the tree on which Our Lady stood to prove through its fragrance of roses that, yes, The Lady had come to console them for their having been forced to miss the August 13 appointment in the Cova.

At Valinhos Our Lady gave them a mandate that dominated the remainder of Jacinta’s life. “Pray, pray much and make sacrifices for sinners, for many souls go to hell because they have no one to pray and make sacrifices for them.” In those words we have the very blueprint for the child Jacinta’s destiny.

After September 13, when the crowd in the Cova witnessed a luminous globe glide to earth, Jacinta assumed a deeply intense understanding of her role in consoling God. A photograph was taken in Reixida, in the garden of Maria do Carmo Menezes, who had taken the seers into her home to give them a respite from the crowds in Fatima. In the photograph the eyes of Jacinta are as portals onto the Passion and Death of Our Lord. Fathomless yet direct, they reflect the eternity of suffering that so overwhelmed her in the Vision of Hell of July 13. She repeatedly struggled with the reality that Hell never ends. Though her heart knew she was destined for Heaven, her eye was ever on the endless suffering of those who will not cease offending God. Lucy would report that Jacinta’s pity for sinners condemned to Hell was so intense that it would often bring her to a state of dizziness.

“Even after years and years, Hell still doesn’t end?” she would ask.

Then she would throw herself on her knees repeating again and again the prayer taught them by Our Lady, “O my Jesus, save us from the fire of Hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who are most in need.” By October 13, her total immersion in her role of sacrificial victim made her, as it were, a living cross, as shown in a remarkable photograph taken when she is being carried on the shoulder of a chauffeur who cried to the crowd: “Make way for the children who saw Our Lady.” He might just as well have cried: “Make way for the Cross,” for the child on his shoulder was already so intimately united with It.

Jacinta: Grace in Bloom

Time and again it is Jacinta who brings the discomforts of the three children into focus and reminds Lucy and Francisco that they must offer up everything to appease God, “… Who is so sad.” She takes the lead in giving her lunch to others who are without food. She embraces thirst, an unthinkable instinct for a child. She joins Lucy and Francisco in wearing a knotted rope around her waist, so rough it drew blood, for a penance so discomforting Our Lady had to tell them to ease off on it. “God is pleased with your sacrifices, but do not wear the cord at night as that is too difficult for you.” When Lucy is taken away to be interrogated by the parish priest, Father Ferreira, or the Mayor of Ourem, it is Jacinta who leads Francisco in offering up their worries and tears for sinners. When a cynical irreligious woman scorns them from her window as they pass by, it is Jacinta who throws herself in the dust of the road within view of the woman’s window, and raising her hands unself-consciously to Heaven, prays for the woman’s soul. The woman converts on the spot, exclaiming that she had never seen anything so beautiful.

A Vision for the 21st Century?

It is Jacinta who has the vision of the Pope down at the Arneiro, the family well:

“… I saw the Holy Father, in a very big house, kneeling by a table, with his head buried in his hands, and he was weeping. Outside the house, there were many people. Some of them were throwing stones, others were cursing him and using bad language. Poor Holy Father, we must pray much for him.”

Then at the Lapa do Cabeço she saw him once again and said to Lucy, “… can’t you see all those highways and roads full of people, who are crying with hunger and have nothing to eat? And the Holy Father in a church praying before the Immaculate Heart of Mary? And so many people praying with him?”

These visions occurred after the Great Secret of July 13, 1917, and before October 1918, when the Spanish influenza felled both Jacinta and Francisco.5

It is absolutely certain that Jacinta saw her visions as an extension of the words of the Secret, “… persecutions of the Church and the Holy Father … who will have much to suffer.” Time and again Jacinta repeated how much we must pray for the Holy Father, with such a concern for his welfare and survival that it has caused the mystery of his identity to haunt the eight decades intervening between her visions of him and our present day.

Was the Pope she saw in her vision the Pope of her own day, Benedict XV, whose warnings that the Versailles Treaty was merely the first step toward a second great war were rejected and vilified?

Was it Pius XI who reigned over tumultuous Europe between the wars and saw his Quas Primas teaching on the Kingship of Christ virtually ignored by all the world, including the clergy?

Was it Pius XII, whose declaration of the Dogma of the Assumption brought a torrent of abuse from liberal dissenters then gathering their assault forces for the new pontificate looming on the horizon?

Was it John XXIII, who before he died despaired of what the Second Vatican Council had initiated?

Was it Paul VI, who ended his reign in torment over the unprecedented laicization of priests, walking the corridors of the Vatican in tears each Wednesday, the day he signed the official permissions?

Was it John Paul I, who died amid clouds of mystery after only 33 days in office, who had said after a visit to Sister Lucy in the Carmel of Coimbra as Cardinal Luciani, on July 11, 1977: “Hell exists and we can fall into it.”6

Or was it John Paul II?

Is John Paul II the Pope of Jacinta’s vision? Is it he who installed in the crown of Our Lady at the Capelinha the bullet of Mehmet Ali Agca that felled him on May 13, 1981, as a tribute to Our Lady who deflected death from him?

Is the Pope of Jacinta’s vision the same who was shouted down in Latin America by Marxists emboldened by the liberation theology of that region’s dissident clergy?

Is it the Pope whose fight for the unborn and condemnation of aberrant sexuality cause him to be vilified daily by his own aberrant clergy?

Is it the Pope who over the past 20 years has seen convents and seminaries become, in the words of Our Lady of La Salette, “… the pastures of Asmodeas?”

Is it the Pope whose reign has seen seminaries and the ordained priesthood denying that Mass is a Sacrifice and outrightly rejecting the Real Presence?

If the Pope Jacinta saw in her vision is the Pope described above, then he is the same Pope who knelt before a table to beatify her and her brother Francisco on May 13 in the year 2000, in the face of critics who scoff at the notion that children so young could earn sainthood. Might it also be this Pope that Jacinta saw praying before the Immaculate Heart, about which Our Lady promised … “In the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph, the Holy Father will consecrate Russia to Me.”?

It is critical to an understanding of the greatness of the soul of Jacinta to remember that she was only 7 years of age when she heard the Pope mentioned five times in the first two parts of the Secret. Her future visions of the Pope and the contents of the third part of the Secret continually worked their weight on her soul and drew from her a response so purely sacrificial as to rank among the greatest achievements of the saints.

A Lesson from Childhood

But not even Dr. Freire could measure her greatest pain — that of being left alone. Warned by Our Lady that she would die alone in a hospital in Lisbon, unattended, far from Aljustrel and her parents, she offered up her loneliness to God: loneliness for Lucy who had been her guide and teacher; loneliness for Francisco who, though he saw Our Lady only after some praying and never heard Her voice, nevertheless was the first of the three to be taken there by his Heavenly Mother, although he was told by Our Lady that to attain Heaven he would have to say many Rosaries.

This is the same Jacinta from whom Doctor Castro Freire extracted two ribs without the aid of chloroform but using only local anaesthetic, leaving a wound into which a hand could be inserted. Jacinta’s only cry was the repetition of Our Lady’s name, as she bore her sufferings with what Dr. Freire called “the resignation of a saint, and no one ever heard her complain.”

This is the same Jacinta who, so imbued with the spirit of true sacrifice, utters no cry when her small body is wracked with pain from “purulent pleurisy, and osteitis of the seventh and eighth left ribs.” Who climbs out of her sickbed to kneel on the stone floor and pray in a manner that would add to her suffering.

This is the same Jacinta who, when Francisco was on his death bed and ready to enter Heaven, proved unmistakably that the child seers understood fully the whole Message of Fatima by advising him to “Greet in my name Our Lord and Our Lady and tell Them that I will suffer everything they wish for the conversion of sinners and in reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.” That comment alone puts an end to those critics who say the devotion to the Immaculate Heart was an accretion added on with time to the story of Fatima. It also clarified for all time that Reparatory Devotion to the Immaculate Heart can be fully comprehended and committed to by children.

On May 13, in the first encounter, Our Lady had said, “Then you will have much more to suffer, but the grace of God will be your comfort.”

“‘Our Lady came to see us,’ Jacinta said. ‘She said that She would come soon to get Francisco to take him to Heaven. She asked me if I wanted to convert still more sinners.’ I said yes to Her. She told me that I would go to the hospital and that there I would suffer a great deal; that I am to suffer for the conversion of sinners, in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and for the love of Jesus. I asked if you (Lucy) would come with me. She answered no. That is what is going to be the most difficult for me. She said that my mother would take me to the hospital and that then I would stay there alone.”

Lucy relates the story:

Then at the beginning of January 1919, Our Lady came with special instructions.

“Jacinta affirms that Our Lady appeared to her another three times. The first time was in the church at Fatima, during Mass, on Ascension Thursday, May 18, 1918. At that time Our Lady taught her how to say the Rosary. The second time was at night, at the opening of the cave (the Cabeço), while the whole family was sleeping. The third time, in the house, was above a table; the Blessed Virgin was immobile and silent.”

This is the same Jacinta to whom Our Lady would appear at the church in Fatima to teach her how to pray the Rosary in consolation for the suffering to come. On August 6, 1918, Father Ferreira, the parish priest of Fatima confirmed in his Memoir:

The reality of Jacinta living out her full martyrdom in her primary years contains for critics and advocates alike a cherished lesson. Throughout history the faith and the Church have been edified, fortified and often rectified by mature women of great sanctity, the most commonly remembered being Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila and Thèrése of Lisieux, all now Doctors of the Church. The world-weary observer who in true humility can accept that his own sin-laden soul is momentarily out of the running for such honors, will be unable to resist a generous movement of the heart toward Jacinta, one that will overthrow cynicism so that he can say with pride in the child Jacinta of Fatima that she was a Doctor of Suffering.

Francisco: Silent Sonata of the Soul

Certainly in Jacinta’s solitude she must have heard in her mind’s eye, carried on the winds of memory from the high Alto Plano of the north all the way to her hospital window in Lisbon, the plaintive sigh of the reedless peasant flute Francisco was playing on May 13, two and a half years before, on the glorious day the door opened in the sky and the Mother of God smiled down upon them. Certainly the unmistakable image of her already departed brother must often have been her companion. In his long, tubular toque, snug peasant bolero jacket, imitative of the adult Portuguese farmer — the ‘little man’, as he was called by the early scrutineers of the seers — Francisco’s every expression, immortalized by photographers of the day, exhibited the seriousness with which he embraced the duties of his youth.

At 9 he was already a shepherd, welcomed eagerly by his cousin Lucy to assist her with the sheep, and mandated by his parents, Olimpia and Ti Marto, to be responsible for his sister Jacinta, two years his junior.

In our complex, self-serving world of today we can scarcely imagine three young children dependable enough to shepherd sheep all day, save for the hot noon hours, in pastures separated two kilometers from home by hills and meadows and trees.

It draws a gasp of apprehension to the faint-hearted who hear that Francisco, the only boy in the tiny trinity before the holm-oak, could not see Our Lady until he had begun to do what he was told to do: “Say the Rosary.” But being kept from hearing Our Lady was not intended to show Francisco as less favored simply because he was the only boy in class. He was being accorded the consideration of his individuality by the same Mother who home-schooled the Child Jesus, the only Son of God. Noteworthy is the fact that he immediately drew out his Rosary and began to pray. It would have been unthinkable to him, in Lucy’s company, not to have it in his pocket. Still, he never heard the sound of Our Lady’s voice. Everything Our Lady said was relayed to him by Lucy. If Jacinta was the first publisher of Fatima, Lucy was the first teacher and Francisco the first student. Even so, we must remember that on August 13, in the prison in Vila Nova de Ourem, no one had to tell Francisco what to do when he was hauled out of the cell to be ‘boiled in oil’. He went bravely, his nine-year-old heart as stout as the heart of Edmund Campion on the way to the scaffold or that of Thomas More on the way to the block.

Francisco, of the three seers, if perhaps not at first, but ultimately, is the most easily recognizable. Jacinta’s profound sense of sacrifice and Lucy’s intense and all-encompassing maturity almost distance us from them and make us feel they have dimensions to their souls we do not have. Francisco is almost the ‘everyman’ of the group, exhibiting all the anxieties and apprehensions that are our daily companions in the modern world. He is perhaps more accessible because he is most down-to-earth in his ‘little man’ concerns. The proof of this recognition is actually and literally carved in stone. When the statues of the three seers kneeling in the cave of the Cabeço was unveiled, a cousin standing nearby exclaimed: “… but that IS Francisco! That is him!” The sculptor had slightly idealized Lucy’s broad peasant facial features and seemed almost intimidated by Jacinta’s finely drawn ascetic face, but Francisco he carved man-to-man, just as he saw him. Just as he was. How fitting that it was here in stone that this attribute of Francisco should be identified, for it was here that the three met the Precursor Angel, identified by Lucy as distinctly male, the Angel being the first time the trio had a ‘fourth’, who complemented Francisco’s boyhood.

It is not recorded that Francisco ever played his flute again. It is documented in Lucy’s Memoirs that he sought out isolation and silence. A monastic sense seems to have governed his childhood after the May 13 visitation by Our Lady. The ‘little man’ became for all intents and purposes a ‘little monk’. He sought out the solitude of the church and especially the companionship of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and was restless always to be in The Presence again. He would separate from the others and the sheep, as Lucy reported, and she would have to go search for him, finding him, once, as she tells it, secreted in some bushes where he was fervently praying. We glimpse, perhaps, in these, his solitary walks into the hills, a reflection of the hidden life of Jesus, who lived subject to Mary His Mother and Joseph, yet still sought solitude among the fig trees and the fields, from where He no doubt watched the elders winnowing the wheat from the chaff. After the great events of May to October, 1917, school was a painful burden to him. Never enthusiastic to engage in the curriculum process, he was much less so after, so much so that he could not learn his catechism with sufficient expertise to make his First Communion. The endearing pathos of the small boy crying outside against the wall of the church because he was excluded from the First Communion of his classmates goes to the very heart of every man and boy who ever gave a wrong answer in class. It was too early in the century to comfort him by saying that Einstein failed one grade four times and Churchill was only accelerated to the next class because his pout was so formidable.

No doubt, even in his great grief, he was offering it up to Jesus who was “… so sad.” It gives a shudder to the adult reader to contemplate that if Our Lord could appear “… so sad,” to an innocent nine-year-old boy, how fearsome would be His appearance to any of us. Naturally, popular sentiment prompted the pious to assume that Francisco would cherish becoming a priest. His response to a group of women whose attentions he found suffocating, upon their asking him if he would like to become a priest, invigorates the heart of anyone who as a child was pandered to by well-intentioned souls who overwhelmed with their pretensions: “No,” he said.

Then what would he do with his life? He told them simply that he wanted to die and go to Heaven. Bravo Francisco! You learned your lessons well.

Spanish Influenza when it struck Portugal found a special harvest in the young, both frail and hardy. It ravaged Francisco’s youthful frame. He prayed continually. His mother Olimpia was in awe of his response to suffering, his endurance of it, his calm and peaceful acceptance. He was brother to a child mystic, Jacinta, cousin to a girl who would enthrall the world for the remainder of the century, Lucy, but first of all he was a dutiful son to Olimpia and Ti Marto. And he knew he had a Heavenly Mother who would come to get him and bring him to Heaven. And so She did. Visible to his eye where She appeared between the bed and the doorway, he surrendered to Her holiness and beauty as he had wanted to do since first he began that oh-so-necessary Rosary on May 13, 1917. Though he was the last to see Her in the Cova, and never heard Her voice, He was the first to enter Heaven. Francisco had graduated. Francisco in the duration of his brief life unwittingly provided proof that children are always heard by God. And how God must delight in them. We can guess the purity of his intent in breathing the music of his heart into the flute in those early months of 1917. Whereas in the beginning he momentarily altered the instrument of the flute by making it resonate with his breath, later, after the visit of Our Lady, he pursued silence. He became the hollow reed through which the Holy Ghost, playing back to him, breathed the melody of grace into him and altered the instrument of Francisco’s soul forever. The mystical music that was Francisco would thereafter be heard only in the tearful sighing of child suffering, and the soft, holy murmur of a child’s prayer.

Jacinta Joins Her Brother

And now, some two years later, Jacinta lay in her own hospital bed, waiting for Our Lady to come and take her to join Francisco. So certain was Jacinta of frequent visits by Our Lady as she suffered in her hospital room in Lisbon that once she calmly asked an attendant to step aside so as not to block her view of the location where the Virgin Mother of God customarily appeared.

It appears that Jacinta died alone, unattended, even unvisited by the priest from whom she had requested the Viaticum. Though Father Reis had heard her confession on the evening of the 20th of February 1920, he did not give her the Last Sacrament, for he considered that she looked better than she had in some time. But within a few hours of his departure she died peacefully, having for several days been free of pain. Our Lady had prevented her from experiencing any more physical suffering.

But she was alone only to the human eye. The great and inspired Father Faber, in his exhaustive detailing of the Passion in Mary at the Foot of the Cross, as well as the incomparable Alban Goodier in The Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ, allude to the Sorrowful Mother retracing the route of Christ’s Passion along the Via Dolorosa and gathering up with angels the drops of His Precious Blood before the Resurrection drew them back to His Glorified and Resurrected Body. One can easily imagine the Mother of God returning to a room in a hospital in Lisbon and gathering up one of Her precious tears fallen to earth years before and caught by the soul of Jacinta of Aljustrel, to bring to Her Son further proof that in His choice of friends, God is always right.

Perennial Grace

From the moment of her death the fragrance of roses surrounded her body, while it lay in humble state for pilgrims to visit. Fittingly, the coffin of the small seer rested in the Church of the Angels. Pilgrims came forward with rosaries and pictures to touch the clothes of the little one and to pray within the fragrance of roses which never left her body.

Antonio Rebelo de Almeida, associate of the House of Funeral Directors stated, “It seems still, that I see a little angel. Asleep in her coffin, she appeared living, with her lips and cheeks a beautiful pink color. I have seen many dead people, young and old, and I have never seen anything like her. The agreeable perfume which the body exhaled cannot be explained naturally. The most incredulous man could not doubt it. … the little one had been dead for three and a half days, and the odor which she emitted was that of a bouquet of all sorts of flowers.”

Then the body was finally enclosed on Tuesday, February 24, 1920.

On September 12, 1935, 15 years after she was gathered up by Our Lady, Heaven once more set in motion a display of human nature at its most idiosyncratic to further the lesson of Fatima and to delight all who heard of it. When the aura of sanctity known to all who met Jacinta had refused to fade from the people’s memory, Bishop da Silva of Fatima ordered the transfer of Jacinta’s body from the family vault of the Baron of Alvaiazere in Vila Nova de Ourem to the cemetery of Fatima. The pious faithful were determined to open the coffin. It was decided to do so.


    On Sept. 12, 1935, 15 years after her death, Jacinta's body was found to be incorrupt, as shown in the photograph (above) taken at the time that her sealed coffin was opened.

The coffin was opened. Inside lay a long body-envelope of lead, sealed airtight to prevent the spreading of any mischief from the Spanish Influenza that had taken Jacinta’s life and ravaged Portugal 15 years earlier. They pierced the lead envelope and peeled it back to reveal her face. Of the photograph taken of the incorrupt features, Sister Lucy would say, “… she looks like she just fell to sleep.” This was the face and eyes that had looked up when Jacinta was on her knees before the holm-oak and saw Our Lady in a pillar of cloud rising from the censoria of unseen angels, like the pillar of cloud that led the Israelites through the desert of earthly deprivation to the glorification of the body promised to all who do as God commands. Such a glorification of the resurrected body we can be certain awaits Jacinta at the Resurrection of the Dead. To provide what can only be interpreted as a stunning acknowledgment of the fecundity of grace, Heaven gave a sign. As the lead envelope was fully opened, the officials went to work in their myriad and exhaustive ways, detailing the findings. We owe to their diligence one of the most enchanting revelations of Fatima: They discovered that Jacinta’s body was measurably longer than at the time of her burial. She had continued to grow even in death. Her body had been wrapped in that coffin from 1935 to 1951. They prepared a new coffin at that time and found her body had grown.

Jacinta, the tiny vessel overflowing with grace, demonstrated that prayers of praise to God last forever. Her life of sacrifice in charity to sinners was a prayer of praise to God that would never be forgotten by Heaven.

The seers immediately after the apparition of July 13 and the vision of hell

A Vital Link to Childhood

Francisco, named after that most endearing of saints, St. Francis, was Franciscan through and through. It might be said that he was not merely a child embodiment of one of the Little Flowers of St. Francis. He was one of the little flowers of St. Francis. The Church, in beatifying Francisco, has given the child in all of us a reminder that in God’s heart there is always a part of us that remains pure and virginal, so that God always has a grip, no matter how slight, on even the most hardened human heart.

Jacinta’s intimacy with Our Lady and with God is mystically familiar to us all. Through her enthusiasm for God we can revisit the realm of purity that was the landscape of our childhood, where we always knew that God was not isolated atop the rarified heights of some high Himalaya, but was as real and present as the air children breathe.

In our disordered, aberrant age, when the purity of childhood is actively warred against, the Church, in the beatification of Jacinta and Francisco, has given renewed vigor to those religious and lay persons who have chosen to cherish forever the state of virginity that was Christ’s. In the innumerable modern campaigns for “social justice”, almost anyone can find a way to claim that he is living in imitation of Christ. Was not Our Lord sympathetic to the sick, the poor, the dispossessed? Yet Jacinta’s simple purity overwhelms the pretensions of those who would distort Christ’s message to mean social justice without saintly virtue.

Jacinta’s purity in imitation of Mary and Her Divine Son also affirms the dignity of the truly virginal priesthood.

When Sister Lucy wrote in a poem about Jacinta, “In deepest suffering, Jesus loving …”she could have found no more precious words to describe the sacrificial celibate priesthood. In today’s disorientation, both within and without the Church, the priest who cherishes his virginity and lives his life in daily immolation of his human sexuality, who would face death rather than surrender his purity to any but God, is our hope for the future, for the faith, for the Church, for the salvation of souls. To these priests the very mention of the name Jacinta provokes tender emotion, an involuntary acknowledgment that in her they find an example which gloriously justifies the sacrifice which their striving for chastity demands of them. There is even a more profound lesson to be learned for the priesthood from the tiny child of Fatima. Our Lady Herself was the tabernacle of the Most High, carrying God in Her virginal womb. Yet Christ did not call even Her to the priesthood.

Jacinta, in all her humility, stands in complete contrast to the ‘we would be as priest’ women of today’s Church. In everything she did she matched pain-for-pain the suffering of her brother and of the adults who surrounded her. She never made any claim for attention or special treatment and spurned any praise from pilgrims in search of a saint. She was pure and virginal first and last, with the heart of a martyr and a soul wide open to God. That is the perfect description of the priest who daily sacrifices the good of marriage for the greater good of souls.

It is the virgin priest, living in imitation of Christ’s holy purity, who is ensuring for the Bride of Christ the eternal husbandry of the Order of Melchisidech. Jacinta, now a flower on their altars, is a gift from the Church to the virgin priest. Jacinta was, and remains, definitive proof that, as in all things, in His choice of flowers God is always right.


Footnotes:

1) Frère Michel de la Sainte Trinité, The Whole Truth About Fatima, Volume II, The Secret and The Church, p. 40.
2) Ibid, p. 118.
3) First Memoir of Sister Lucy, p. 33.
4) Ibid, p. 34.
5) Frère Michel de la Sainte Trinité, The Whole Truth About Fatima, Volume II, The Secret and The Church, p. 40.
6) Frère François de Marie des Anges, FATIMA: Intimate Joy, World Event Book Two, Fatima, Mary’s Immaculate Heart and Your Salvation, p. 12.

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