Pope Francis will canonize Blessed Francisco and Jacinta Marto at Mass during his visit to Fatima May 13, 2017, making them the youngest non-martyrs to ever be declared saints. The decision was made April 20 by a consistory of cardinals.
Pope St. John Paul II beatified Francisco, 11, and Jacinta, 10, on May 13, 2000, 83 years after the first apparition of the Blessed Mother at Fatima in 1917. It was during the May 13 apparition that Our Lady told the children she would take Francisco and Jacinta to heaven soon, but Lucia would remain on earth for “some time longer.”
The beatification of her two cousins was something Sister Lucia had asked for during her first meeting with Pope St. John Paul II on May 13, 1982 at Fatima. The Pope expressed his desire also to see the little shepherds soon beatified. Before the end of their meeting that day, they completed their visit in the Basilica at the tombs of Francisco and Jacinta.
According to Sister Lucia’s biography, “A Pathway Under the Gaze of Mary,” Father Luis Kondor visited her on Feb. 10, 1999 to tell her that a miracle had been approved, opening the door for the beatification of Francisco and Jacinta. The Pope was scheduled to go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 2000 and nothing more. But the unexpected happened. When the beatification was scheduled to be celebrated in Rome in April, the Pope decided to make an exception to his program and return to Fatima. Sister Lucia, then 92, was overjoyed and wrote tenderly of her cousins:
“The two little shepherds, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, were two Angels who passed through the land without a spot of dust from the roads, thanks to the designs of God and the maternal protection of Our Lady. How good it is to let ourselves be driven in the arms of the Father and Mother in Heaven!”
With this news, Sister Lucia had a new energy about her. She had collaborated with the Holy Father, providing her writings, testimonies and evidence for this, and had hoped to see her cousins raised to the altars before her own departure from life.
Francisco died on April 4, 1919, of the Spanish flu that swept through Europe at the time, one day after receiving his First Communion. Jacinta, who also concocted the flu, died alone at a hospital in Lisbon on Feb. 20, 1920, after suffering greatly from pneumonia, tuberculosis and an open abscess on her side. Before she died, the Blessed Mother appeared to her and told her that many souls had been saved because of her extended sufferings.
The cause for Francisco and Jacinta Marto changed the belief that children did not have the ability to practice Christian heroic virtue like adults, according to Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. He told Catholic News Agency, one of the most obvious moments in which virtue was apparent for him was when the three shepherd children were arrested and intimidated by their mayor, Artur Oliveira Santos, on August 13, 1917:
Instead of caving to the pressure, the children said: “you can do whatever you want, but we cannot tell a lie. Do whatever you want to us, burn us with oil, but we cannot tell a lie.”
“This was the virtue of these children,” Cardinal Martins said, noting that to accept death rather than tell a lie is “more heroic than many adults.”
“There’s a lot to say on the heroicness of children,” he said, adding that “because of this I brought their cause forward.” ( April 20, 2017, CNA It’s official: Pope Francis to canonize Fatima visionaries during May visit)
Servants of God, Francisco and Jacinta, pray for us!
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