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Saints Francisco and Jacinta Marto, the children of Fatima.

Francisco and his younger sister, Jacinta, with their cousin, Lucia de Jesus dos Santos, have walked on holy grounds at Cova da Iria, saw and spoke with the Angel of Peace thrice in the fields of Casa Velha, spoke several times with the Blessed Mother on the holm tree at Cova da Iria and witnessed the miracle of the sun at Fatima.

But it is the vision of hell that Our Lady showed them on July 13, 1917, that left a great resolve for them to live a life pleasing to God. Of this experienced grace, Lucia said: 'The two things that sanctified her cousins Jacinta and Francisco were the vision of Hell and the sadness of Our Lady.'

The two de Jesus Marto children were canonized by Pope Francis on May 13, 2017, the First Centennial of the apparition of Our Lady of Fatima.

Francisco, with a streak of truancy, preferred to pray to Jesus in the Tabernacle and console the Lord and His Mother. When asked what he desires to be when he grows up, he would answer, 'I do not want to be anything. I want to die and go to heaven.'

So affected by the apparitions, he nurtured a fervent desire to console the Lord. If missing, he would be found praying behind a rock. Francisco would climb trees to gather acorns, pine cones, collect roots and blackberries for lunch, because Lucia, Jacinta and he shared the food packed for them to the poor.

Talks about the apparitions displeased Arthur Oliveira Santos, a mason and chief magistrate of the county of Qurem to which Fatima belongs.

The three children were ordered to testify that the apparitions were not true. The children refused despite threats of imprisonment and death by boiling oil. Spending August 13 in prison, they knelt and prayed. The other prisoners joined them.

Lucia told them to offer their heroic sanctity for love of Jesus or conversion of sinners. They consoled each other and prayed the offering prayer the Lady taught them: 'O my Jesus, it is for love of thee, for the conversion and reparation for sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary and for the Holy Father, I offer this sacrifice to thee.'

Born on June 11, 1908, Francisco was only 9 years old then, but had already vowed to pray as many rosaries and console Jesus, as well.

Jacinta was born on March 11, 1910. Affectionate with a sweet singing voice, she is a dancer, too. When her brother Francisco would play the flute, she would dance with gusto. Like many children in the village, she could not read and write.

Lively, hopeful and vivacious she could also be a 'little vain and slightly temperamental.'

On August 19, freed from imprisonment in Qurem, the three children found a rough cord, cut it into three as a belt which they would wear around their waist day and night for the conversion of sinners.

When Jacinta tried it, she cried, because it hurt her so much. When Lucia told her not to wear it, Jacinta replied, 'No, I want to wear it. I want to offer this sacrifice for the conversion of sinners.' Like her brother and cousin, sleep was elusive that night for Jacinta.

For the love for the Blessed Mother and salvation of souls, they suffered in silence that on September 13, Our Lady told them: 'God is pleased with your sacrifices but do not wear the cord at night because that is too difficult for you.'

Heroic death

Both Saints Francisco and Jacinta died in 1919 and 1920, respectively, of the influenza epidemic that struck Europe.

Francisco's last visit to Cova was in January 1919. His condition became worse that he could not even pray the rosary on April 1. The next day he had his confession and communion in bed. It was his first and last communion. But he managed to ask the priest: 'When will you bring me the hidden Jesus again?'

At night, he called his mother and remarked: 'Look at that lovely light by the door. Now I can't see it anymore.'

At 10 in the morning of April 4, 1919, his face lit up, he smiled and died. He was 10 years old.

Our Lady appeared to Jacinta and told her to pray generously for the conversion of sinners. The Blessed Mother revealed she would be sent to two hospitals, not get cured but suffer more and in the second hospital, she would die without her mother at her bedside.

Jacinta was deeply moved for she loved her mother very much but accepted the revelation whole heartedly.

She was moved to another hospital because she developed pleurisy, or inflammation of tissues in the chest and lungs, causing the removal of two of her ribs.

Having a heart condition, she could not be fully anesthetized that she had to endure excruciating pain and conscious during the surgery. But she never complained.

The doctor heard her say: 'Now Jesus you can save many souls because I suffer very much.'

On February 19 she requested for the hospital chaplain to hear her confession, give her communion and administer extreme unction because she will die the next day. Although the priest commented her condition is not serious, she died on the night of February 20, 1920, at the age of 9, and alone.

In 1920 the law that would not allow any church bells to be rung in Lisbon was still reinforced. All bell towers in Libon were then locked. But the bells in the church of the Angels where Jacinta's body was brought rang by themselves.

In 1935, when Jacinta's body was exhumed, it was incorrupt. She was buried in quicklime to avoid the spread of influenza. Quicklime would speed up decomposition, but her body did not decay.

In 1952, when Francisco's body was exhumed, people were surprised to see the rosary embedded in his fingers. Francisco certainly 'kept his promise to say as many rosaries as Our Lady wanted.'

The two saints were beatified on May 3, 2000, by Pope John Paul II and canonized by Pope Francis on May 13, 2017, the First Centennial of the Apparition of Our Lady of Fatima. Their feast day is February 20.
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Publication:Business Mirror (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Feb 18, 2018
Words:1155
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