“I am suffering to console our Lord.”
Blessed Francisco Marto, age 9; and his sister Jacinta, age 7, were tending to their families’ sheep with their cousin Lucia in the small village of Fatima, Portugal when they first witnessed one of several apparitions. The first apparition of Mary appeared on May 13, 1917. Suddenly, a bright light flashed, and the Angel of Peace appeared. She asked the children to meet her at the Cova da Iria on the 13th of the month for the next six months. Many people did not believe the children, often ridiculing them. Throughout the six months, the Blessed Mother Mary also appeared at the Cova asking them to pray the Rosary for world peace and offer sacrifices for sinners. More and more people began to visit the Cova. At Mary’s last visit 70,000 people were waiting. Francisco lived a short life. They were both victims of the great 1918 influenza epidemic and died within a decade of being born.
Francisco’s short life is one of mercy. He learned to be very generous in making sacrifices and very courageous with his suffering. His willingness to die came from his longing for heaven to be in God’s presence, which the Blessed Mother Mary promised him that he would soon enter. Francisco suffered terribly with his illness, but he welcomed the pain. He believed Christ was also enduring sadness from all the sins committed throughout the world. Francisco felt suffering in union with Christ would bring him closer to heaven.
As the cause for Francisco’s canonization began, Pope Pius XI decided that causes for minors should not be accepted because they could not fully understand heroic virtue or practice it repeatedly. In 1979, more than 300 bishops wrote letters to the Pope stating “the child was known, admired and attracted people to the way of sanctity”. The Congregation for the Causes of Saints convened and decided children could be “spiritual prodigies”. On May 13, 2000, Francisco Marta was declared “blessed”. We celebrate his feast day on February 20th. He is the patron saint of illness.
Fatima for Today (Fr. Andrew Apostoli, C.F.R)
Website: Loyola Press http://loyolapress.com/saints.htm#