Blessed Jacinta of Fatima and Her Way of Holiness

by Mary Ann Kreitzer

In four years, the Church will celebrate the centennial anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima to three little Portuguese shepherd children, brother and sister Jacinta and Francisco Marto and their older cousin Lucia del Santos. When the apparitions began in 1916 with several visits from an angel, Jacinta was only six years old. And yet, when the events at Fatima ended with the miracle of the sun a year and a half later, Jacinta could rightly be described as a mystic and a little victim soul. In less than two years she blossomed into a miniature image of Christ crucified. What a change in the world we would see if we followed the example of Jacinta whose life became a trinity of concern: to console the Heart of Jesus, make reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and to pray and sacrifice for the conversion of “poor sinners.”

The supernatural events forming the children in holiness began when the Angel of Peace appeared to them in 1916. “The hearts of Jesus and Mary are attentive to the voice of your supplications,” he told them. Later he appeared while the children were playing gently chiding them, “What are you doing? Pray, pray very much!.... Make of everything you can a sacrifice, and offer it to God as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication for the conversion of sinners…. Above all, accept and bear with submission the suffering which the Lord will send you.” And send sufferings He did, perhaps as a lesson to adults of what childlike hearts conformed to God’s will can do.

The angel taught the children to pray often, “Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I offer You the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifference with which He Himself is offended. And through the infinite merits of His most Sacred Heart, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of You the conversion of poor sinners.”

After the angel’s spiritual formation the children were ready to receive Our Lady’s messages and become her little suffering souls, offering all for the conversion of sinners. Jacinta, the youngest, in some ways became the role model for her brother and cousin. It was she who told Lucia they must abandon their “shortcut rosary” (saying only the title of the prayer on each bead). “That Lady told us to say the Rosary and to make sacrifices for the conversion of sinners. So from now on, when we say the Rosary we must say the whole Hail Mary and the whole Our Father!” She then led the others to discuss what type of sacrifices they should make and they decided to give away their lunches, the first of increasingly heroic sacrifices that included wearing a rough rope around their waists under their clothing and occasionally hitting their legs with thorn-covered nettles.

During the July apparition, Mary showed the children a vision of hell which filled Jacinta with such horror she burned to save sinners from going there. Lucia said, “Jacinta’s thirst for making sacrifices seemed insatiable.” And her actions converted others as Lucia describes: “There was a woman in our neighborhood who insulted us every time we met her. We came upon her one day as she was leaving a tavern, somewhat the worse for drink. Not satisfied with mere insults, she went still further. When she had finished, Jacinta said to me: ‘We have to plead with Our Lady and offer sacrifices for the conversion of this woman. She says so many sinful things that if she doesn’t go to confession, she’ll go to hell.’ A few days later, we were running past this woman’s door when suddenly Jacinta stopped dead, and turning round, she asked: ‘Listen! Is it tomorrow that we’re going to see the Lady?... Then let’s not play anymore. We can make this sacrifice for the conversion of sinners.’ Without realizing that someone might be watching her, she raised her hands and eyes to heaven, and made her offering. The woman, meanwhile, was peeping through a shutter in the house. She told my mother, afterwards, that what Jacinta did, made such an impression on her, that she needed no other proof to make her believe in the reality of the apparitions; henceforth, she would not only not insult us anymore, but would constantly ask us to pray to Our Lady that her sins might be forgiven.”

The children’s extensive fasting included habitually giving their lunches to poor children and often they went without water or drank from dirty puddles. When special treats were offered, like grapes or figs, Jacinta often inspired the others to sacrifice the treat for the conversion of sinners.

What is especially interesting about Jacinta’s heroic acts is that she was a normal little girl. She loved to play and dance. Before the apparitions, she could be a little tyrant always demanding to choose games and pouting when she didn’t get her way. In fact, Lucia wrote that she often found Jacinta’s company “quite disagreeable.” But Jacinta had a sensitive temperament and after hearing Lucia tell stories of Our Lord’s suffering she was often “moved to tears” and said, “Our poor dear Lord! I’ll never sin again! I don’t want Our Lord to suffer any more!”

St. Louis de Montfort tells us that the “most fearful enemy that God has set up against the devil is Mary, his holy Mother….Satan, being so proud, suffers infinitely more in being vanquished and punished by a lowly and humble servant of God, for her humility humiliates him more than the power of God.” And not only Mary is an enemy of the devil, but Mary’s children. St. Louis goes on saying, “Mary’s power over the evil spirits will especially shine forth in the latter times when Satan will lie in wait for her heel, that is for her humble servants and her poor children whom she will rouse to fight against him. In the eyes of the world they will be little and poor and, like the heel, lowly in the eyes of all, downtrodden and crushed…. But in compensation for this they will be rich in God’s graces, which will be abundantly bestowed on them by Mary. They will be superior to all creatures by their great zeal and so strongly will they be supported by divine assistance that, in union with Mary, they will crush the head of Satan with their heel, that is, their humility, and bring victory to Jesus Christ.” Can anyone doubt that these words apply to the heroic little Jacinta and her companions?

The Blessed Mother appeared again to the child when her brother Francisco died in 1917 asking her if she was willing to stay a little longer and to continue to suffer for the conversion of sinners. Jacinta, always sensitive to the requests of Our Lady, said yes and never wavered even when Mary told her she would go to a hospital in Lisbon and die there all alone. Mary assured the little one that she herself would come to take her to heaven, but Jacinta was terrified to think of dying alone. Considering that the children were always together in their great heavenly adventure and that she was only, after all, nine years old, her fear is not surprising.

When the children were kidnapped and imprisoned in Ourem, Jacinta’s greatest sorrow was feeling abandoned by her parents and thinking she would never see them again. But she had the comfort of being with her closest friends. Now, as she faced the prospect of dying all alone, she suffered continuously. Lucia tells how Jacinta often hugged her and wept crying, “I will never see you again. You won’t be coming to visit me there. Oh please pray for me, because I am going to die alone.”

When Lucia urged her not to think of it, 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.” Often she kissed the crucifix and exclaimed, “O my Jesus! I love you, and I want to suffer very much for love of You.” On the day she left for the hospital in Lisbon poor Jacinta clung to Lucia sobbing, “We shall never see each other again! Pray a lot for me until I go to heaven. Then I will pray a lot for you.”

The children attained great wisdom in the school of Our Lady. During his homily at the beatification of Jacinta and Francisco, Pope John Paul II related this story: “A woman who gave hospitality to Jacinta in Lisbon, on hearing the very beautiful and wise advice that the little girl gave, asked who taught it to her. ‘It was Our Lady’, she replied. Devoting themselves with total generosity to the direction of such a good Teacher, Jacinta and Francisco soon reached the heights of perfection.”

The pope also recognized in his homily the importance of the Fatima message to our own time, especially its message of repentance and sacrifice. “In her motherly concern, the Blessed Virgin came here to Fátima to ask men and women ‘to stop offending God, Our Lord, who is already very offended’. It is a mother's sorrow that compels her to speak; the destiny of her children is at stake. For this reason she asks the little shepherds: ‘Pray, pray much and make sacrifices for sinners; many souls go to hell because they have no one to pray and make sacrifices for them’.”

The pope acknowledged little Jacinta’s union with the Mother of God. Jacinta “felt and personally experienced Our Lady's anguish, offering herself heroically as a victim for sinners. One day, when she and Francisco had already contracted the illness that forced them to bed, the Virgin Mary came to visit them at home, as the little one recounts: ‘Our Lady came to see us and said that soon she would come and take Francisco to heaven. And she asked me if I still wanted to convert more sinners. I told her yes’. And when the time came for Francisco to leave, the little girl tells him: ‘Give my greetings to Our Lord and to Our Lady and tell them that I am enduring everything they want for the conversion of sinners’. Jacinta had been so deeply moved by the vision of hell during the apparition of 13 July that no mortification or penance seemed too great to save sinners. She could well exclaim with St Paul: ‘I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church’ (Col1: 24).”

The pope numbered the two little shepherd children among an “innumerable cloud of courageous witnesses to the faith [who] have left us a precious heritage which must live on in the third millennium.” He ended then with a personal thanksgiving. “Here in Fátima, where these times of tribulation were foretold and Our Lady asked for prayer and penance to shorten them, I would like today to thank heaven for the powerful witness shown in all those lives. And once again I would like to celebrate the Lord's goodness to me when I was saved from death after being gravely wounded on 13 May 1981. I also express my gratitude to Bl. Jacinta for the sacrifices and prayers offered for the Holy Father, whom she saw suffering greatly.”

Jacinta of Fatima is an intercessor for our time and for all men and women who love our Lord and Our Lady and desire to conform their wills to the will of God. Seeking the help of this heroic little victim soul and imitating her love for Jesus and Mary and her zeal to save souls from hell is a sure route to sanctity. Blessed Jacinta, in these four short years before the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Fatima, help us to imitate your humility and learn to love God as you did. (See back page for a prayer seeking the canonization of Blessed Jacinta and Francisco Marto.)

Prayer for the Canonization of Blesseds Jacinta & Francisco

Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
I adore Thee profoundly with all the powers of my soul
and I thank Thee for the Apparitions
of the Most Holy Virgin in Fatima
which have made manifest to the world,
the treasures of her Immaculate Heart.
By the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
and through the intercession
of the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
I implore Thee if it should be for
Thy greater glory and the good of our souls,
to glorify in the sight of thy Holy Church,
Blessed Jacinta and Francisco Marto,
the Shepherds of Fatima, granting us
through their intercession the grace
which we now implore.


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