Two Little Saints for These Times

By Marc Massery

As we continue to deal with the global coronavirus pandemic, there are two saints to whom we ought to turn for help: Sts. Francisco and Jacinta Marto. These Fatima visionaries know what we’re going through better than anyone.

Less than a year after the apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima in 1917, the Spanish flu pandemic began spreading throughout the world. Roughly 50 million people died worldwide, including Francisco, on April 14, 1919, followed by the youngest Fatima visionary, Jacinta, on Feb. 20, 1920. This pandemic claimed their lives, but not before they could complete the work the Blessed Virgin Mary had given them.

Not long after Jacinta and Francisco met the Blessed Mother with their older cousin Lucia, they found out that they weren’t long for this world. On June 13, 1917, after telling the children to come back on the 13th of the next month and to pray the Rosary daily, Our Lady said that she would soon be taking Jacinta and Francisco to Heaven. Having had a taste of Heaven themselves through the apparitions, Jacinta and Francisco were not sad to hear they would soon die. In fact, they longed to go to Heaven. Armed with hope in their eternal salvation, they used their remaining time to offer sacrifices for souls.

In her memoirs, Lucia wrote about Francisco’s final illness:

I noticed as we left the house that Francisco was walking very slowly. “What’s the matter?” I asked him. “You seem unable to walk.”

“I have such a bad headache and feel as though I’m going to fall.”

“Then don’t come! Stay at home!”

“I don’t want to. I’d rather stay in the church with the hidden Jesus, while you go to school.”

In Francisco’s final days, when Lucia asked if he were suffering a lot, he replied, “Quite a lot, but never mind! I am suffering to console our Lord, and afterwards, within a short time, I am going to Heaven.” 

Francisco offered his suffering especially for the conversion of sinners and in reparation to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

On April 4, 1919, Francisco asked his family to forgive him of all his faults. Then around 10 a.m., Francisco cried out to his mother, “Mother, look at that lovely light by the door,” and he passed away.

After Francisco’s death, his younger sister, Jacinta, missed him dearly. But Our Lady had given her a choice: She could die and go to Heaven right away, or she could stay on earth a little longer to suffer for the conversion of sinners. The Saint that she was, Jacinta chose the latter.

For two months, Jacinta suffered in a hospital in Ourem, Portugal, and then went home for a short time. According to Fatima expert Fr. Andrew Apostoli, CFR, Jacinta was also suffering from bronchial pneumonia and tuberculosis.

In January 1920, Jacinta went to a hospital in Lisbon, where Our Lady visited her three times. The Blessed Mother reemphasized the importance of avoiding sin and offering sacrifices for the Lord. Four days before Jacinta’s death, Our Lady visited her one last time. “Now, I am much better,” Jacinta said. “Our Lady said that she would soon come to fetch me and that she would take away the pain.” Doctors wanted to operate to try to save Jacinta’s life. She protested because she knew she was to die. They operated anyway, to no avail. Finally, on Feb. 20, 1920, by herself, Jacinta passed away.

We’re not alone as we face the global coronavirus pandemic. In the worst way, our very own saint friends, Jacinta and Francisco, know what it’s like to suffer through such a crisis. Their example reminds us not to despair, but to offer our suffering as a sacrifice for the conversion of souls. If we ask them, these two young visionaries would be happy to help us do this.

At the 14th Annual Divine Mercy Medicine, Bioethics & Spirituality Conference, Sr. Ângela de Fátima Coelho, MD, gave a talk entitled "Sickness & Suffering in the Lives of Sts. Jacinta and Francisco."