Blessed Francisco and Jacinta Marto are the youngest non-martyrs to be beatified . . .
Feast Day: Feb. 20
Like her Son, the Blessed Mother has an “option for the poor.” God had given her three secrets for the world. She chose to deliver them not to kings, presidents or CEOs, but to three peasant children who tended sheep in the countryside near Fatima, Portugal. In 1917, on the thirteenth day of each month from May to October, Our Lady appeared to Francisco and Jacinta Marto, the youngest members of their family, and their cousin, Lúcia dos Santos (1907–2005).
The first secret terrified the children with a vision of hell. In the second, Mary predicted World War II and called for prayer and penance for peace — and the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart. The third secret, not made public until 2000, prophesied the persecution of Christians and the failed assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II.
Francisco and Jacinta were typical children. Jacinta loved to dance to the music of Francisco’s flute. They both enjoyed games, nature and animals. Francisco played practical jokes. Jacinta sometimes pouted when she didn’t get her way. But Mary’s apparitions transformed them. They became serious intercessors.
In 1918, both children contracted influenza and patiently offered their suffering for the conversion of sinners and for Mary’s intentions for the world. The outbreak turned into a pandemic, killing millions. Both children lingered for months, insisting on walking to church to make Eucharistic devotions and prostrating themselves to pray for hours, kneeling with their heads on the ground.
Francisco received his First Communion just before he died on April 4, 1919. Jacinta died 10 months later. Pope John Paul II beatified them on May 13, 2000. They are the youngest non-martyrs to be beatified in the history of the Catholic Church.
This column is produced for Legatus Magazine by Bert Ghezzi (bertghezzi.com). He writes and speaks frequently about saints. Ghezzi’s books include “Voices of the Saints,” “Mystics and Miracles,” and “Saints at Heart.”