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Catholic Heroes . . . Blessed Jacinta Marto

February 17, 2015 saints No Comments

By CAROLE BRESLIN

In the Catholic classic Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis, we learn that wisdom is to be valued much more than knowledge. There is an entire book of the Old Testament called the Book of Wisdom. While holiness does not equal happiness, we can be sure that joy comes only from God.
Little Jacinta Marto, the youngest of the three children who saw Our Lady at Fatima, displayed uncommon holiness during her short life. Likewise, she found joy in being able to suffer, and suffer terribly, for the salvation of souls.
Jacinta was the seventh child of Manuel and Olimpia de Jesus Marto, a pious and hard-working couple. They owned some sheep that Jacinta took for grazing on property owned by distant relatives. The lives of this loving family centered on the Catholic Church.
Jacinta, a petite, beautiful, and vivacious child, won the hearts of the village with her kindness, humility, and innate joy. At a young age she demonstrated that she possessed uncommon spiritual gifts.
At the age of five when she listened to the Passion of Christ read at church, she cried openly and averred, “I must never sin and offend Him more.” She looked at the bright moon above and called it “Our Lady’s Lamp.” When she attended a First Holy Communion service, she saw an angel spreading rose petals before the Communion rail.
Lucia dos Santos, another of the visionaries of Our Lady of Fatima, was Jacinta’s first cousin. Jacinta deeply loved Lucia, who was three years older than she. As young children they played many games together. Jacinta, although serene most of the time, was possessive and competitive, determined to win the games they played.
When it came time for Lucia to lead the sheep out to the pasture, Jacinta won Olimpia’s permission to take some of their sheep with Lucia. Jacinta loved the little lambs and sheep. She frequently named them, calling them Snow, Dove, Star, and Beauty. Often she would pick up one of the smaller ones, place it over her shoulders, and carry it back as Jesus, the Good Shepherd, had done.
Soon Francisco, Jacinta’s older brother — the third Fatima visionary — accompanied them as well. They rose early in the morning to take the sheep to graze. As they led them up the hills, they would plan their day.
Every day they would say the rosary after lunch. However, sometimes they were anxious to play their games, so would rush through it, only saying the names of the prayer rather than the entire prayer. “Our Father, Hail Mary, Hail Mary, Hail Mary. . . .”
In the spring of 1916 the children walked through the rain with the sheep, seeking a place of refuge under an outcropping of rock. They found one in the middle of the olive grove and sat to eat their lunch. Afterward, they prayed their rosary and began to play a game with some pebbles.
The sun came out and then the three children heard a strange wind. As they turned to see what was happening, they saw a bright light, whiter than snow, surrounding a young man. “Do not be afraid, I am the angel of peace. Pray with me.” Only Lucia and Jacinta heard the angel speak, but Francisco could sense the presence of something sacred.
The children, following the example of the angel, knelt and bowed their heads to the ground. “I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love you. I ask pardon for those who do not believe, nor adore, nor hope, nor love you.” Then the angel left.
The three children felt a natural desire for silence regarding this vision. They not only did not tell their families and friends, but would not even talk to each other about it for several days. Finally, Lucia explained what had happened to Francisco.
Later that summer, suffering from the blistering heat, they sat near a well under the branches of an olive tree. For the second time an angel appeared to the children. He told them he was the guardian angel of Portugal and said, “…Bear and accept with patience the sufferings God will send you.”
Again Lucy and Jacinta were unable to relate the events to anyone for several days. They were given a clear understanding of the value of sacrifice, grasping how it appealed to God and had the power to convert sinners. From that day forward Jacinta practiced severe mortifications such as going without water even on the hottest days and tying a rough rope around her waist.
At the end of summer, an angel appeared one last time, holding a bleeding Host. They each received Holy Communion from the angel, an experience which would prepare and strengthen them for what was to happen the next year.
On May 13, June 13, and July 13, 1917, Our Lady of Fatima appeared to the children, showing them the torments of Hell, asking them to sacrifice for sinners, and telling them three secrets. Only Lucia and Jacinta heard Mary.
Before the August 13 apparition, the children were imprisoned by the civil authorities. Rather than being frightened, they ended up leading the hardened criminals in saying the rosary.
After the final apparition of October 13, 1917 and the miracle of the sun, many came to believe in the visions which were approved by the Church in 1930. A year after the apparitions, Jacinta caught pneumonia and developed a painful abscess on her lung. Rather than complaining, she rejoiced, telling people she was thankful to offer her pain up for the conversion of sinners and the poor souls in Purgatory.
Although she recovered enough to return home, she soon developed a painful ulcer on her chest diagnosed as tuberculosis. She returned to the hospital where she finally died, alone, on February 20, 1920. She is now buried in the Basilica of Fatima, where the Church celebrates her memorial every February 20.
By that time, Francisco had already died (April 4, 1919).
On May 13, 2000 both Jacinta and her brother Francisco were beatified.
Through the children of Fatima the Church has received many graces. The First Saturday devotions were established, reparations to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary were promoted, and praying and sacrificing for the conversion of sinners and for the poor souls in Purgatory were encouraged, as was the daily recitation of the rosary.
Dear Jacinta, at such a tender age you were a model of suffering with joy for the conversion of sinners and the relief of the poor souls. Help us by your intercession to open our hearts to sacrifice, penance, and suffering — even martyrdom — for the greater glory of God. Amen.

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(Carole Breslin home-schooled her four daughters and served as treasurer of the Michigan Catholic Home Educators for eight years. For over ten years, she was national coordinator for the Marian Catechists, founded by Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ.)

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