“Tell everybody that Gods 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. If I could only put into the hearts of all, the fire that is burning within my own heart, and that makes me love the Hearts of Jesus and Mary so very much!”
– St Jacinta Marto
Over the last few centuries there have been several great Saints who can be accurately called ‘Apostles of the Immaculate Heart of Mary’ – such as the great Saint John Eudes. One in particular, however, stands out for a number of reasons – she was very young in years (though greatly advanced in wisdom); she lived in a deep spirit of reparative suffering, and her sanctity was profound in it’s depth. One hundred years ago today, that child died; her name was Jacinta Marto.
Jacinta was born on 11 March 1910. She was one of the three children who saw the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima; the other two were her brother, Francisco Marto, and their cousin, Lucia dos Santos. Each of the three had a particular role following the appearances of Our Blessed Lady. Lucia was to be the emissary or messenger – she would faithfully transmit the message given by the Lady from Heaven. Francisco would spend long hours before the Tabernacle, adoring the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and making reparation for those who leave Him abandoned there. Jacinta’s function was to make reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on behalf of sinners, by means of prayer and deep suffering.
Writing in her first Memoir, Sister Lucia described the character of her little cousin. She wrote that from the first appearance of Our Lady, Jacinta was particularly impressed by the thought of making reparation for sinners; she would reflect at length on the reality of Hell and it’s eternal nature. Even in the middle of a game, Jacinta would stop and reflect on the eternal fate of sinners – “Poor sinners, we have to pray and make many sacrifices for them!”. Lucia explained that Jacinta never let any opportunity be lost in offering sacrifices for sinners – from giving away lunch to poor children, to taking no water all day long, despite the intense heat of the Portuguese summer sun.
Another intention very dear to the heart of Jacinta was that of the Holy Father, the Pope. Her love for him was such that at the end of every sacrifice for sinners, she would add – “and for the Holy Father”.
Jacinta always prayed for the intentions given to her by others. One such person touched her deeply – a soldier who had received order to go to the war front, leaving behind a sick wife and three young children. Meeting Jacinta, he cried piteously and asked her prayers that ether his order would be changed or his wife would be healed. Jacinta told him – “Don’t cry. Our Lady is so good! She will certainly grant you the grace you are asking”. Some months later, the soldier came to see Jacinta again – he told her that the day before his departure, he had been struck down with a fever and his orders were cancelled. Also, his wife was cured as he had prayed. Jacinta never forgot her soldier and at the end of every Rosary thereafter, she always added one extra Hail Mary for his intentions.
From the beginning of the Appearances of the Blessed Virgin, Jacinta and Francisco had stated quite openly that the Lady had promised She would take them to Heaven ‘soon’. They were delighted at this, needless to say. Perhaps, then, it was of little surprise that the health of the two younger children quickly began to fail – first, Francisco, and then Jacinta. Both would soon be dead, as the Lady had predicted.
After the public appearances at the Cova da Iria had concluded, Jacinta and Francisco were privileged to be visited by the Blessed Virgin on a number of occasions. After one of these, Jacinta told Lucia –
“Our Lady came to see us. She told us She would come to take Francisco to Heaven very soon, and She asked me if I still wanted to convert more sinners. I said I did. She told me I would be going to a hospital where I would suffer a great deal; and that I am to suffer for the conversion of sinners, in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and for love of Jesus.”
In the company of her aunt, Lucia was able to visit her cousin in the hospital at Ourém. Alone in the hospital room, Lucia asked Jacinta if she was suffering a great deal. The little one replied –
“Yes, I am. But I offer everything for sinners and in reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary”.
Speaking of the Lord and His Mother, Jacinta went on –
“Oh, how much I love to suffer for love of Them, just to give Them pleasure! They greatly love those who suffer for the conversion of sinners”.
Lucia was able to visit Jacinta once more in the hospital and this is what she said to describe that visit –
“I found Jacinta as joyful as ever, glad to suffer for the love of our Good God and of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, for sinners and for the Holy Father. That was her ideal, and she could speak of nothing else.”
Jacinta was able to return home from the hospital for a while, with a large open wound in her chest which had to be dressed every day. There, the Blessed Virgin visited her again. She told Lucia what Our Lady had said –
“She told me that I am going to Lisbon, to another hospital; that I will not see you again, nor my parents either; and after suffering a great deal, I shall die alone. But She said I must not be afraid, since She Herself is coming to take me to Heaven.”
Before leaving for the hospital in Lisbon, Jacinta continued to suffer greatly – and especially at the thought of never seeing her cousin and her family again, and of dying alone. Lucia told her not to think about all this but Jacinta replied –
“Let me think about it, for the more I think, the more I suffer, and I want to suffer for love of Our Lord and for sinners. Anyway, I don’t mind. Our Lady will come to me there and take me to Heaven.”
Kissing a Crucifix, Jacinta would exclaim –
“O my Jesus! I love You and I want to suffer very much for love of You.. now, You can convert many sinners, for this is a very big sacrifice.”
As he had became more ill, Jacinta’s brother, Francisco, would spend all his time not at school – he said there was no point – but in the Chapel, close to the Tabernacle, praying in order to console Jesus, so often left there alone and abandoned. Francisco died in April 1919, of the Spanish influenza which was sweeping the world at that time. Jacinta missed her brother terribly after his death and Lucia would often find her weeping and, when asked what was she was thinking about, the child would reply –
“Of Francisco. I would give anything to see him again.”
Dying alone was the greatest fear of the child but still she accepted this as another means of offering sacrifices on behalf of poor sinners. She had endured an operation to remove two ribs and drain the pleural cavity, which was badly infected – this being done with only local anaesthesia because her little heart would not have withstood general anaesthesia. She accepted the operations even though she told the doctors it would make no difference as she would die regardless. She never complained once. The day before her death, Jacinta asked the hospital Chaplain to bring her Holy Communion in Viaticum, stating she would be dead ‘the next day’. The Priest told her she was not that ill. He was wrong.
Jacinta died of the same influenza which had taken her brother. She died on 20 February 1920, at the tender age of 9 years – she died in hospital and alone, as the Lady had foretold. The Lady had been right – She had promised to take these two to Heaven ‘soon’. At the start of the Appearances, the light of God shown to the children depicted the two little ones ascending to Heaven, while Lucia was in the light being poured out upon the earth – she would remain ‘some time longer’, as the Lady of the Rosary had said. And in those years that followed, Lucia would write much about her little cousin, Jacinta.
The body of little Jacinta was exhumed in 1935, at which time her face was incorrupt; at a second exhumation in 1951 in preparation for the transfer of her remains to the Basilica at Fatima, she had begun to decompose.
In 1937, Pope Pius XI had determined that the causes for the canonisations of children should not proceed – except in the case of martyrs – as he thought they were not able to understand or practice virtue to an heroic degree. Naturally, this impeded the causes of canonisation of both Jacinta and Francisco. However, in the late 1970s, the Bishop of Leiria-Fatima wrote to all the Bishops of the world, asking them to petition the Holy Father to make an exception to this rule in favour of Jacinta and Francisco; around three hundred Bishops did just that, noting the clear example of their lives and also the favours received through their intercession. In 1979 the Congregation for the Causes of Saints met in a general assembly, to determine if it was possible for young children to live lives of heroic virtue. They determined it was indeed possible. Ten years later, Pope John Paul II declared the two siblings ‘Venerable’. On 13 May 2000, at Mass in the Cova da Iria, Jacinta and Francisco were declared ‘Blessed’ – also on that day, the third part of the ‘secret’ of Fatima was revealed by the Holy See, at the express instruction of the Pope.
Finally, on 13 May 2017, exactly one hundred years to the day after the first appearance of the Lady of the Rosary to Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta, the little brother and sister were declared Saints of the Roman Catholic Church by the Holy Father, Pope Francis – and at the very spot where the ‘Lady from Heaven’ had appeared. Jacinta is the youngest child ever to have been canonised without having died a martyr.
Sanctity is not something we earn or achieve; rather, it a is a grace given by God to whom He wills and in the degree He wills. And in the case of Saint Jacinta Marto, it is a grace that was given most abundantly. The charism of the holiness of this little, but very great, Saint is prayer and suffering offered reparatively on behalf of sinners, for love of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary; it is a charism all of us would do well to emulate. If such a life and such grace are possible in the short life of one so very young, then it is possible for every one of us. And in this quest, may we be assisted greatly by the prayers of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and of Her little confidante, Saint Jacinta Marto.
Saint Jacinta Marto, little daughter and great apostle of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.