But what had happened to the children after the wonders of October, 1917? The story of Fatima moves along, and for Francisco and Jacinta, it is nearly done. If it is not evident now, it will be made abundantly clear that Jacinta, at the age of seven, was a kind of earthbound angel, whose virtues, even when told with deliberate restraint, will sound to many like pious exaggerations.
Let's think then for a little while of Francisco, who at the time of the great October events, was nine. He was enrolled in the village school at Fatima and he was not a model pupil. Indeed, in the declared opinion of his male instructor, Francisco was something of a dolt, and whether through personal dullness or sheer disinterest, he made few academic strides. Our own belief is that he could have presented his instructor with a rather original excuse for his failings—a preoccupation with God.
Francisco was a truant. He went to school as seldom as possible, and in this, at least, he was a great success. But unlike most truants of the author's acquaintance and recollection, he did not practice the compensations of truancy: light larceny, sloth, or forbidden adventure. Francisco spent most of his time in church. Giving his heart to his Lady and her Son, he prayed virtually without rest, and if he was, in the favor of Heaven, the least of the children, he did not resent his humble place, for it was glory enough for Francisco to have been included at all. He was a brave little boy, and he was a fair-minded, good little boy, dragging his limping nature after him with heroic acts of will.
He was now, of course, with his little sister and their cousin, a valid celebrity to many. It was a distinction he shunned with proved consistence. He held only one abiding ambition which he disclosed one day to two visiting ladies who had posed that classic question so often presented by adults to little boys: What do you want to be when you grow up?
"Do you want to be a carpenter?" he was asked.
"Surely you would like to be a doctor?"
"No, not that, either."
"Then I know what you would like to be—a priest! Then you could say Mass all the time and you could preach."
"No, madam; I don't want to be a priest."
"Well, then, what do you want to be?"
"I don't want to be anything. I want to die and go to Heaven."
Ti Marto, who was present at this interview, has reported the incident to us. To this prudent, perceptive parent, the simple, automatic response of his son to this question of personal ambition was a crowning proof of his sincerity.
There is no evidence of childish self-dramatization in Francisco's daily devotion. His interior life was not only intense, it was very much his own. We get only glimpses, from the observations and chance discoveries of Lucia.
One day, Lucia recalls, when she was tending sheep with her cousins, she realized that Francisco had been missing for a considerable time. Fearing that for some reason he might be lost, she sent Jacinta in search of him, and though his sister wandered all over the pasture, calling his name in her thin, clear voice, there was no response. Lucia herself then, truly concerned, staged a systematic search. She found Francisco behind a stone wall, prostrate on the ground. When she touched his shoulder gently, and even when she shook him, he did not seem aware of her presence. Only when she shouted, "Francisco—what are you doing?" did he respond. He seemed to be dragging himself from the stupor of heavy sleep, or from a trance.
"Are you all right?" Lucia asked him.
"Yes," he said. "I began saying the prayer of the angel; then—well, I started thinking, that's all."
"You didn't hear Jacinta calling and calling you?"
"I never heard her," he said. "I never heard anything."
Lucia has made it clear that his desire for Heaven and his love of God and the Lady were the guiding motives of Francisco's few concluding years. His repeated acts of contemplative prayer were never staged for effect. They were for himself alone, and for the objects of his love. At odd times, Lucia recalls, he would disappear. On another occasion, at lunchtime, they missed him, and Lucia found him in secret prayer, behind a tall rock that had screened him from their view.
"Francisco," she said, "come and have your lunch"
"Please, let me be," he said. "You have yours with Jacinta, then call me when it is time for the Rosary."
"But what have you been doing?"
"I've been thinking of God," he said with almost tearful sincerity. "I've been thinking of Our Lord and of all the sins that have made Him unhappy. Oh, Lucia, if only I could comfort Him."
If this dialogue appears a bit unreal for a nine year old, there is nothing we can do to change it. This is the faithful record of Francisco Marto's years of grace.
Lucia's memoirs, sketching for us with such a certain, affectionate hand, the virtues of her cousins, are understandably bare of praise for herself. The truth is that they all advanced in virtue. Their heroic self-denials were secret and were continued by Jacinta and Francisco until their separate days of death. The simple and unsophisticated people of the region who believed in them came with problems and petitions as to saints already canonized, and while there is no overwhelming documentation to support such a claim, it does appear quite likely that within their own lifetimes the sacrifices and prayers of these children did purchase miraculous results.
In Fatima the village church is not far from the primary school and it became the practice of the children on their way to school to kneel and meditate before the Blessed Sacrament, referred to most always, and without affectation, as the "Hidden Jesus." Jacinta and Francisco, with their foreknowledge of death, seemed to feel themselves exempt from the dull routine of books. Consequently they would often remain before their Hidden Jesus for many, many hours. Even here, the villagers and the visitors to town would give them no rest. They would hover close to the children, pleading with them to place their petitions before the Virgin Mother.
"They seem always to guess where we are," Jacinta said, "and they will not let us talk with Jesus."
But this pursuit of the children occurred not only in church.
We were met one day (recalls Lucia) by a poor woman who knelt down before Jacinta begging her to request from Our Lady a cure of the terrible disease with which she was afflicted. Jacinta, seeing the sick woman in such a pitiful way, tried to help her to her feet but could not. She then knelt down next to the woman and prayed three Hail Mary's with her. "Our Lady will cure you," she promised the woman, and then instructed her to get up. Day after day she kept praying for the woman until she was cured and came back to give thanks to Our Lady.
There have been many indications of the value of Jacinta's intercession while she was still alive, as witness this incident referred to in Lucia's memoirs:
One of my aunts (Victoria), who lived in Fatima, had a son who was a real prodigal. I don't know why, but he had some time before abandoned his father's house and nobody knew what had become of him. In great affliction of mind my aunt came one day to Aljustrel to ask me to pray to Our Lady for this son and, unable to find me, she put her request to Jacinta, who promised to comply. After some days, he came home and asked his parents' forgiveness, and later went to Aljustrel to recount his misfortunes. Having spent all that he had stolen—according to his own story—he had been arrested and imprisoned in Torres Novas. He eventually managed to escape, and hid himself among some unknown hills and pine woods. Thinking that he was completely lost, he was seized with a sudden terror of the wind and darkness, and as a last resort fell on his knees and prayed. He declared that after a few moments Jacinta appeared and, taking him by the hand, led him on to the road which leads from Alquidao to Reguengo, making signs to him to continue on that way. At daybreak he found himself on the road to Boleiros, and recognizing exactly where he was he went straight to his parents' house, overcome with emotion.
Now he had declared that Jacinta had come to him and that he recognized her perfectly. I asked Jacinta whether she had in fact been there with him. She answered no, and that she did not even know those hills and pine woods, where he had been lost.
"I only prayed," she said, "and asked Our Lady very much to help him, because I was so sorry for our Aunt Victoria." This was her answer. How, then, can the fact be explained? God alone can answer.
Francisco, according to Lucia, at about this same time secured through his selfless prayers, the freedom of a man arrested for a grievous crime which, presumably, he did not commit. So strong was the evidence against the alleged felon, however, that it was not a promising task.
"Listen," Francisco said to Lucia and Jacinta when informed of the unhappy gentleman's case, "you two go to school and leave me alone with Hidden Jesus."
It does seem, examining the record, that the boy had a way with the Hidden Jesus, and we should perhaps include here the success of Lucia's prayers in behalf of her mother, who became gravely ill at this time. It is her sister, Maria dos Anjos, who has supplied us with these details:
Our mother was so ill that we thought she would die. She had long attacks of breathlessness, and the doctor said she suffered from her heart. It was a great sorrow to us because we had just lost our father. It was then that I said to Lucia, who was sitting on a bench by the hearth:
"Listen, Lucia, father is dead and if mother dies we shall be orphans; if you really saw Our Lady, ask her to make mother better."
Lucia didn't reply but she got up and went to her room and put on a thick woolen skirt because it was winter and raining hard, and went off in the direction of the Cova da Iria. When she came back she was carrying a handful of earth and told my sister, Gloria, to make an infusion with it for mother. She had also made a promise to Our Lady to return there with her sisters and go on their knees from the street to the chapel for nine days running, and during the same time to feed nine poor children.
Gloria prepared the infusion and gave it to mother.
"What sort of tea is this?" she asked.
"It's made of flowers," we said, and she drank it all.
Then the attacks gradually began to get less and she no longer suffered from breathlessness, but breathed easily and well. And her heart also improved, and within a very short time she was able to get up.
She was able to work again after this and did not seem like an old woman. We began at once to go to the Cova to fulfill the promise. For nine days, after supper—because in the daytime we had to work, and also we didn't want to be seen—we went on our knees from where the main gate is now to the little chapel. Mother also came with us, but she walked behind.
As for Francisco, a rather good glimpse of him has been provided by a former schoolmate, now a priest, who is the current director of the Seminary of Leiria:
I had the good fortune to attend the same school as Francisco Marto, from February to June of 1917. Francisco distinguished himself from the others by reason of his humility and kindness, virtues which, however, caused him much suffering, thrown as he was among companions under the influence of a teacher without Christian formation. He was very backward at his lessons, and was still in the lowest form, a misfortune which drew upon him the strictures of his teacher and schoolfellows. It is obvious, however, that he was occupied with the sublime thoughts which the angel had brought to birth in his mind, and that he cared little or nothing for the ordinary instruction of the school. Francisco would humbly bow his head and, we may be sure, with his soul united to God, received the censures of his master and companions.
At the break which we had at midday he would eat his lunch and stay quietly with a few other boys until the teacher gave the sign for them to go into school again. I remember playing with him and enjoying it because Francisco was always pleasant and friendly with everyone.
In the evening he went his way and I mine, which was in the opposite direction, and for this reason I do not know how he passed the rest of the day. From February to May, the life of Francisco in the school at Fatima was more or less as I have described and such was the attitude of his teachers and fellows toward him. In the last half of May the news of the apparitions spread through the village, and the attitude of the school toward him began to alter somewhat. The teacher, a learned professor but a bad educator, took advantage of Francisco's scant interest in his lessons to dub him a fraud and a liar. He never ceased to point out his defects, I don't know whether with the intention of shaming him into greater efforts, or to induce us to take his part against the little seer.
We, mere children as we were, naturally followed the teacher's lead, and often joined him in humiliating poor Francisco. The worst of it was that our words were sometimes translated into actions, and he sometimes had to spend the recreation period pinned against the wall unable to free himself from the ill treatment meted out to him by certain stronger boys among us. This all took place during the last half of May and the whole of June. After the long vacation I entered the seminary and lost touch with the seers....
Another burden borne patiently by Francisco was the denial to him of his treasured Hidden Jesus until the day before his death. In 1917, during the peak period of the apparitions, both Jacinta and Francisco had made their first confessions, an occasion remembered very well by Ti Marto:
About that time, it must have been after the second apparition, I took the two of them to the church to make their confessions. I went with them to the sacristy and said to Father Ferreira:
"Father, here are my two children; they want to go to confession. Your Reverence can ask them any question you like." (I confess that I put a little malice into those words!) Then the priest replied:
"These things (the apparitions) do not belong to confession, my friend!"
"That's true," I said, "and if they don't belong I needn't bring them here again."
But the children made their confession, though Father Ferreira thought they should wait another year for Holy Communion.
The next year, in May, they went back to be examined in the catechism.
Jacinta answered well, but Francisco got muddled somewhere in the Creed—I can't remember where—and so in the end Jacinta was allowed to make her Communion while Francisco could not. He went home in tears, but there was nothing to be done!
From the day of his Lady's visit to the Cova da Iria on October 13, 1917, until the morning of Francisco Marto's death, a little less than eighteen months had passed. He must, by then, have recited all the Rosaries she had asked of him.
He first fell ill around the middle of October, 1918, together with Jacinta, his other brothers and sisters and his mother, all victims of the malignant influenza epidemic of that winter. Ti Marto alone of the family was spared, and he began, in his faithful way, to operate within the stricken household what he called his "hospital."
When my wife went down with it too (he has rather recently recalled), I had all I could do taking care of the lot of them, going about my own work at the same time, and running all the errands as well. It kept a man on his toes, I can tell you, but God's hand always seemed close enough to help me. I never had to beg from anyone, and somehow there was always money enough.
Francisco, along with Jacinta, seemed from the beginning to realize clearly that this illness was less a burden or punishment than a passport to Heaven. If one could sift with the author through the inundating weight of evidence, he would realize that never for a moment was the supernatural out of their thoughts. For a period of two weeks, after being stricken, these youngest members of the family appeared to rally against the disease. But a relapse set in, and for Francisco, at least, it was so severe that he could move neither hand nor foot.
But unlike other victims of illness, they found the question of death or recovery robbed of its mystery. Our Lady appeared to them and dissolved any possibility of a riddle with her simple statement that she would come for Francisco first and for Jacinta not long after that. Their dry and fevered lips cracked under the strain of their smiles: There was no dirge for them, but only joy in their Lady's words. They waited anxiously for Lucia's next visit to their beds.
"Oh, Lucia," Jacinta revealed to her, "Our Lady was here. She came to us both. She is going to take Francisco very soon, and she had a question for me."
"What was the question, Jacinta?"
"She asked would I like to convert more sinners, and I told her yes, I would—yes, yes, I would. She said then that I must go to two hospitals, but not to be cured. I am to make further sacrifice for the love of God, and to atone for the sins of people against Our Lady's Immaculate Heart. That is what she told me, Lucia."
"And you—you will not be with me when I go wherever it is that I must go. My mother will take me there, and I will have to remain alone."
Of Francisco's illness, his mother has told us this:
He took any medicine we gave him and he was never difficult. What it was he liked, or what it was that he did not like, he would not say. Just take them all—milk if I gave it, an egg if I offered that. The meanest medicines he swallowed without making a face. He was so good and cheerful that we kept feeling he was getting better, but he always smiled and told us it was no use—Our Lady was coming to take him to Heaven, he would say.
In January, for the second time, his condition improved—so much so that he was able to leave his bed and go out for brief periods. It made us all very hopeful, but did not seem to impress Francisco. He always told us the same thing—that we must not be deceived, and that Our Lady was coming for him.
During this brief space of time when Francisco was sufficiently repaired to go on short walks by himself, his one destination was the Cova da Iria. Here, for as long as his slight store of strength would permit, he would kneel in ecstatic recollection of the Lady of the apparitions, who was to him not only the solace of his present trial, but the patroness and guarantor of the paradise he had glimpsed.
Ti Marto, looking back, recalls it was clear that some knowledge or certainty illumined the mind of his son. He was much too happy to be engaged in some marathon stage-play for which he had neither the talent nor the strength. Ti Marto became convinced that the boy would die as he so confidently and repeatedly declared. This assurance he reported to Francisco's Godmother who, in the country tradition, wanted to make a pledge of the child's own weight in wheat should he be cured.
Thus his seeming rally from his illness did not last. He was soon back in bed and his condition grew rapidly more grave. The influenza ravaged him, and fever shriveled and parched him like an old apricot left baking in the sun. His cheerfulness, and the smile that hovered everlastingly on his cracked lips were an agony for his parents to watch.
Lucia, of course, was better able to understand this tonic joy of hope and love that had conquered her cousin's physical misery. Better than his parents she knew the source of Francisco's unfailing happiness. She came faithfully each day to visit with him and with Jacinta.
"Do you suffer very much, Francisco?"
He nodded his little head. "But I do it for Our Lord and Our Lady," he said. "I wish I could suffer even more, Lucia, but honestly, I can't. Is the door closed tight?"
Lucia looked around and assured him it was. He searched then feebly but effectively among the bed-clothes until he was able to draw forth the penitential cord he had been wearing for these many, many months.
"I can't manage it anymore, Lucia. Please take it from me before my mother finds out." He passed the coarse length of rope to his cousin who folded it and carefully kept it from the chance view of anyone entering the room. A little later on she was to accept a similar cord from the dying Jacinta, and secretly, before her own departure to the convent at Vilar, burn them in an open field consistent with the inviolate practice of all three children never to dramatize their penances and never to cheapen with pious display their love for God and His Mother.
"Lucia," the boy said, and she turned to him again, the cord out of sight. "I haven't much time, Lucia. Jacinta must pray very hard for sinners and for you, because you are not so lucky to be going with us. Our Lady has said that you will have to remain for many years. Pray for the Holy Father, Lucia—do you hear?"
"'I hear, Francisco," she said, and quietly, devotedly, remained sitting next to him.
In the fourth and most recent of her memoirs, in which Lucia, under obedience, treats of these secret things, she has interestingly emphasized that while Jacinta's every effort seemed directed at the solitary object of converting sinners and salvaging souls from Hell, the primary motive of Francisco was the direct consolation of God and of Our Lady, Who had seemed to him so very sad.
Lucia's visits continued through the spring. It was the beginning of April now.
We were always glad to see Lucia come into the house (Olimpia Marto recalls), because it was beyond the gift of anyone else to liven the days of my Jacinta. My little girl would pass hour after hour with her hands held over her face, as if to hide what she was thinking, and when I would ask her what was on her mind, she would answer, "Nothing." But it was different, always different when Lucia came. It was her way, it was her gift to bring happiness. Like a sweep of sunshine she was, and I knew that when she was with Jacinta there were no secrets between them. They would talk and talk for hours and yet never a word of what was said were we able to catch. As soon as anyone came near, their voices would stop, and it was to all of us a great mystery.
"What was Jacinta telling you?" Olimpia would ask when Lucia was about to go home. "What were you saying to Francisco in his room?"
But there was never a violation of their most intimate common possession, the secrets told them by their Lady. Lucia would simply smile in her amiable way and go on.
Alone, the sick children prayed almost without ceasing, adding Rosary to Rosary in an unending attempt to polish each remaining hour. And then at last, in his final days, Francisco found himself unable to pray. Concentration was too difficult.
"Mother, I can't pray; my head keeps going around and around until I do not know what I am thinking."
"Pray with your heart then, dear," Olimpia would advise. "It will be enough for the Lady to understand."
His condition grew worse. The mucus thickened in his throat, and his fever, though it seemed hardly possible, rose higher; he was without ability to take any food; he weakened and weakened as death came crowding near.
"Father," he said to Ti Marto, "I want to receive Holy Communion before I die."
"Of course you will, son, and I will go see to it right now."
With something less than crowning confidence, Ti Marto set off for the presbytery. Once before, Francisco, as a candidate for first Communion, had been denied his "Hidden Jesus" by Father Ferreira. But at just this time Father Ferreira was away, and in his place was Father Moreira, of Atouguia, who consented at once to come to the boy.
"On the way back to the house," Ti Marto tells us, "we said the Rosary. I remember it very well because I had forgotten my beads and had to count the Aves on my fingers."
Meanwhile Lucia had been hastily summoned at Francisco's request. As his prime confidante he needed her perhaps more than any living person. This is her own account now. Lucia speaks:
He had asked his mother and the rest of the family to leave the room because he wanted to tell me a secret. When they had gone he turned to me and said, "I am going to confession now, Lucia, and then I shall die. I want you to tell me if you have seen me commit any sin, and then I want you to ask Jacinta if she saw me commit any, either."
"Well," I said to him, "you were sometimes disobedient to your mother when she told you to remain at home. Sometimes you ran off to be with me; other times you ran off just to hide."
"I know," he said, "I did do that. Now go ask Jacinta if she remembers anything else."
I went in to see Jacinta who listened to me gravely and gave the matter some thought.
"You can tell him," she said, "that before Our Lady ever appeared to us he stole a tostao (about a penny) from Jose Marto, of Casa Velha, and that when the Aljustrel boys threw stones at the boys from Boleiros, he threw them too."
I went back and gave her message to Francisco and he told me, "I have confessed those already but I will confess them again. Perhaps it is because of those sins that Our Lord is so sad. I will never commit them again. I'm very sorry for them."
Joining his hands, he then said the prayer we had learned so well from our Lady: O my Jesus, forgive us our sins and deliver us from the fires of Hell; take all souls to Heaven, especially those who are most in need." He then turned to me and very solemnly asked, "Lucia, will you pray to Our Lord, too, and ask Him to forgive me my sins?"
"Certainly I will," I told him, "but if Our Lord had not forgiven them already, Francisco, Our Lady would not have told Jacinta the other day that she was coming to take you to Heaven so soon."
It was at this time that Father Moreira arrived with Ti Marto and heard Francisco recite those little sins that loomed so large in his own mind and his fervent heart. Ti Marto, standing well aside, continued to worry whether or not the priest would give the Eucharist to his son, since he feared that Francisco in his present weakness might do less than well with the catechism questions the priest would be required to ask. But it had all gone well, he learned from the priest, and to both of them Father Moreira was able to say:
"Tomorrow I will bring Our Lord."
On the radiant spring morning of April 3, 1919, the fields of the serra were rich with flowers, and the bright day glad with the singing of birds. Francisco tried vainly to raise himself in bed when he heard the tinkling of the little bell announcing the priest's arrival with the Sacred Host. Strength failed him, and he fell back weakly.
"You can receive Our Lord lying down," he was assured.
The priest then, wishing peace to this house and all who lived within its walls, placed the Body of Christ on the tongue of the little boy who loved Him so well.
Francisco died on the following morning, at ten o'clock, when strong sunlight was pouring through the open windows of his room. It is said that his shrunken face glowed with a kind of rapture, and that with sweet willingness, and in the absence of pain, he went to his Lady and to Jesus Christ Our Lord.
He was buried the following day in the little cemetery at Fatima, just across the road from the parish church. There was a nice procession. Four boys were dressed in white, and they carried the little coffin. Several men in green capes preceded the surpliced priest and gave a dressed-up touch to the occasion. Behind these, weeping, walked Lucia, and with her the members of the Marto family, all save Jacinta, herself too ill to attend.
There was at first no monument to mark his grave except a simple cross placed there by Lucia's hand.Jacinta
It is not easy to write about the final days of Jacinta. She simply does not sound like a child of eight or nine. A non-Catholic, not perceiving the force of love that drove her, nor familiar with the divine mysteries made clear to this child by angelic insight, might well dismiss her as a precocious and prattling little thing with no apparent design to her ceaseless mouthings other than to set a pall of gloom upon the everyday activities of everyday, normal people.
More truly, and much more fairly, Jacinta is a joyous person, and yet, at the same time, whether we like it or not, a duly commissioned prophetess of penance. Here was a child more of Heaven than of earth, and we will be wise to mark for our own instruction all that she has said.
For one who in the beginning had been so gay, and almost, we might say, over-cute, the rapid inroad of spiritual experience on her personality is unmistakable.
After the apparitions (Lucia has written), I never saw her drawn by any childish enthusiasm for frills and fancies. She was always serious, modest and kind, and seemed to carry the presence of God into all her actions in a manner more usual to people of advanced age and virtue. If children were not attracted to her as they were to me, it was perhaps because she did not know so many songs and stories, or perhaps because she was so serious for her age. If in her presence a child, or even a grown-up, did or said anything unseemly, she would say, "Don't do that because it offends God and He is so much offended."
Through the spring and much of the summer that followed Francisco's death, his little sister suffered greatly. After a siege of bronchial pneumonia, a punishing form of pleurisy set in. An abscess formed in the delicate membranes of her chest cavity, and there was an agony of unrelenting pain. Except for a few brief days of reprieve, she had not been able to leave her bed since October of the year before. Lucia came to be with her not only every day but for every moment and every hour she could contrive.
"I keep thinking of Francisco," Jacinta would tell her cousin again and again, "and of how much I would like to be with him."
But it is clear that Jacinta was living through a drama of which the world knew nothing. This made it no less real, but rather more terribly and intimately a problem to be met. Lucia's memoirs reveal unmistakably how the sorrowing child, as though she could pay the world's debts by herself, was bowed with thoughts of war and evil, suffering and horror, and the pit of Hell which awaited the lost.
"So many people will die and go to Hell," she said to Lucia. "So many houses will be destroyed, so many priests will be killed. Listen, Lucia, I will be all right, you see, because I am going to Heaven, but when you see that light of which Our Lady told us, Lucia—then you must come to Heaven, too."
Very sensibly Lucia reminded her that one doesn't take a train to Heaven as to Lisbon. The choice of the time or the means, she explained, is never one's own.
"Yes, I know," Jacinta agreed. "That is true, of course, but don't you be afraid. I will pray very hard for you when I am in Heaven; I will pray for the Holy Father, too, and for all the priests, and ask God that the next terrible war will not come to Portugal."
"Do you suffer much?" Lucia asked.
"Very greatly," the child conceded, "but don't cry, Lucia, please—because, really, I don't mind. Just don't tell anyone else, especially Mother, because I don't want her to worry."
Jacinta, in the months of her illness, had been reduced from exuberant, bounding health to a state of pathetic frailty. Life clung as thinly as breath, and the local doctor, examining both her condition, and the limited facilities of her home, advised that she be sent without delay to the hospital at Vila Nova de Ourem, a few miles away.
The little girl did not protest, for the reason that she knew she was going, anyhow. "You will go to two hospitals," she had been told by her Lady, "not to be cured, but to suffer more for the love of God, and for the conversion of sinners, and to make reparations for the offences against my Immaculate Heart."
Does this seem a cruel and unnecessary burden for the power of Heaven to set upon a shriveled, powerless, dying child? Jacinta did not think so. She understood very clearly this reverse—gravity of divine Love. In joyous imitation of her Savior she accepted her Lady's directive, knowing beyond the wisdom of prudent and self-protecting men that the heart can best ascend to the Father of Christ when it is weighted with a cross.
"Your mother will take you to the hospital," the Lady had told her, "and then you will have to stay there alone."
The prospect of separation from her family and from Lucia was more punishing to her than the pressure of physical pain, however great.
"If only you could come with me," she said to her cousin. "How dreadful, really, to go without you. Perhaps it will be so dark in this hospital that I will not be able to see, Lucia, and in the darkness, too, I will have to be alone."
Early in July her thin little body was raised by her father, and placed as tenderly as possible on the family donkey's back. Her mother made the journey to Vila Nova de Ourem with her. She was at the hospital for a period of two months, and though the treatments were radical and severe, they brought no visible benefit. It was a time of actual martyrdom, relieved by nothing but the two brief visits that Lucia was able to make.
And yet I found her happy as ever (Lucia has revealed), suffering willingly for the love of God and the Immaculate Heart of Mary—for the Holy Father, too, she offered her sufferings, and for all the sinners of the world. She was doing that which she wanted most to do, and it was of these things that we spoke.
By the end of August it all seemed depressingly hopeless. The hospital treatment was useless, and the expense to Jacinta's family was much beyond their very limited means. It was decided the child should come home. By now, in her side, she carried an open wound that required its being attended and dressed each day, not so much with the object of any cure, but to prolong such life as remained. After a while, in the rather primitive surroundings of home, the wound became infected, and Jacinta weakened and wasted day by day. At about this time she was visited by her warm friend, Dr. Formigao, who had come from Santarem to see her, and this is the priest's reaction to what he saw:
Jacinta is like a skeleton and her arms are shockingly thin. Since she left the local hospital where she underwent two months' useless treatment, the fever has never left her. She looks pathetic. Tuberculosis, after an attack of bronchial pneumonia and purulent pleurisy, is undermining her enfeebled constitution. Only careful treatment in a good sanatorium can save her. But her parents cannot undertake the expense which such a treatment involves. Bernadette, the peasant girl of Lourdes, heard from the mouth of the Immaculate Virgin in the cave of Massabielle, a promise of happiness not in this world, but in the next. Has Our Lady made an identical promise to the little shepherdess of Fatima, to whom she confided an inviolable secret?
Great as the child's trials must have been in this period, her eagerness for further sacrifices failed to falter. Her courage and resolution appear to have been almost fantastic.
"When I am alone," she explained to Lucia, her only confidante, "I get out of bed to say the prayer of the angel. Trouble is I can't get my head on the floor anymore: I tumble over when I try to do it and for this reason I have to say the prayer on my knees."
Lucia, moved with pity, and wishing to help her little friend, went quietly with this information to Father Ferreira, who reacted with the firm direction that Jacinta must not attempt anymore to get out of bed, but must be satisfied to continue her assaults on Heaven from a prone position.
"But won't Our Lord mind that?" Jacinta asked when she heard of the priest's directive.
"Our Lord wants us to do what our pastor says," Lucia explained and her cousin seemed satisfied.
Jacinta, after her return from the hospital at Vila Nova de Ourem, managed to attain a certain amount of mobility. On occasional winter mornings, with a reserve of strength gained through the night, she was permitted to attend the weekday Mass in the parish church at Fatima, which was closer to her home than the Cova da Iria, an area now forbidden her.
"Don't come with me to Mass today, Jacinta," Lucia would sometimes advise. "You just aren't strong enough, and it isn't a Sunday."
But the child, drawn on by that Hidden Jesus of whom she spoke so often, would persist, and go along on those spindly legs. Returning, she would be utterly exhausted, and obliged to fall into bed. Apart from these limited ventures to church, she was not allowed out-of-doors in winter. Lucia, however, remained with her almost constantly, in intimate sharing of that very private world these two possessed. They held no secrets from one another, but talked of the sacrifices they had made and their hard-won reparations to God as other children might discuss the playing of games or the dressing of dolls.
"Do you know why Jesus is so sad, Lucia? Because Our Lady has explained how much He is offended and still nobody cares; they just go on with the same old sins."
Recounting to her beloved Lucia, in their order and number, the sacrifices she had made in atonement for the sins of others, was not by any interpretation a boastful indulgence for Jacinta. First of all, no one else knew about these private chalices of sought-for-pain. Besides, both girls were actively and intelligently in the business of goodness. There was a serious and divinely ordained enterprise to be carried on, so that their counsels comprised a kind of essential inventory:
"I was thirsty, Lucia, and I didn't drink, and so I offered it to Jesus for sinners. In the night I had pains and I offered Our Lord the sacrifice of not turning over in bed, and for that reason I didn't sleep at all. What sacrifices have you been able to make?"
Lucia's memoirs, replete with the fiery self-annihilations of her cousin, fail to list with anything approaching an equal candor the gifts to God made by herself. This is understandable and as it should be, yet we would be reading the evidence badly not to conclude that Lucia was in full partnership. The seriousness with which she regarded their joint pursuit of virtue is underlined in many ways, and that she could see an occasional imperfection amid all the glow of her precocious cousin's sanctity is evident.
One day (she has written), Jacinta's mother brought in a milk pudding and told her to take it.
"I don't want it, mother," Jacinta said, then pushed it away.
My aunt tried hard to persuade her, but finally went away discouraged, so that when we were alone I said to Jacinta, "Well, this time you disobeyed your mother and you didn't offer to God the sacrifice you could have made."
When Jacinta heard this she burst into tears, and then she said, while I was wiping the tears away, "Oh, Lucia, I forgot this time."
Quickly she called back her mother and asked her pardon, explaining that she would take whatever her mother offered her. The milk pudding was brought back, and Jacinta took it without any sign of repugnance. Afterwards she said to me:
"Lucia, you don't know how hard that was to take!"
Some of the dialogue between them, reads coldly, seems almost too pious for print; yet it exists in the faithful record made by Lucia herself, and it is necessary here to complete the portrait of Jacinta.
Lucia, who was old enough, and for that reason eligible, frequently attended daily Mass and received Holy Communion, a privilege that never failed to fill her little cousin with rapturous wonder.
"Lucia, have you been to Holy Communion today? Then please come close to me won't you? You have our Hidden Jesus in your heart. Sit here. Sit close, Lucia. I don't know how it is, but I can feel Our Lord inside of me, too, even though I have not received Him. And though I cannot see Him or hear Him, I still understand what He wants."
Lucia, listening with tender understanding, took from her prayer book a picture of the Chalice and the Host. The sick child seized it and kissed it with passion.
"This is our Hidden Jesus, Lucia, and how I love Him, and how I long to receive Him as you do. Will I be able to go to Communion in Heaven, Lucia? Because, if I could, I would go every day."
Always in her thoughts and always at the surface of her speech was that Immaculate Heart of Mary of which the Lady had spoken. There were no doctrinal difficulties or confusions of meaning to impede her absolute devotion to Mary, the Queen of Heaven. Here the dying child is entirely explicit.
"I shall go to Heaven very soon, Lucia, and you must stay to explain to people how God wants to establish devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary all over the world. And when you speak of this to people, Lucia, don't be afraid to tell exactly what is true. Tell everyone that God gives us His grace through His Mother's Immaculate Heart, which He wants to hold close to His own Sacred Heart. The people must ask for peace through Mary's Immaculate Heart, because that is the way God wants it, and that is what Our Lady herself has told us!"
Love, perhaps more than fever, was consuming the fragile remains of Jacinta Marto.
Toward the end of December, 1919, Jacinta confided to Lucia that she had been privileged with another visitation.
"Our Lady told me that I am going to another hospital, this time in Lisbon, and that I shall never see you again, Lucia—you, nor my father, nor my mother. She has told me that I will have to suffer much, and die alone, but that I must not worry or be afraid, because this time she is coming to take me home to Heaven with her."
Most punishing to Jacinta was the thought of dying alone, unattended by the ones she loved. For reasons not clear—considering all the pain she had cheerfully borne—this final penance rested more heavily than all the rest. Lucia recalls finding her one day kissing a simple picture of Our Lady and beseeching aloud:
"Darling Mother in Heaven, must I die alone?"
Lisbon, though less than a hundred miles away, seemed to the child like the farthest end of earth. Perhaps to her parents and sisters and brothers it seemed equally remote, for when she announced to them that she was going to the great capital city, they declared it, at least among themselves, as the wildest of nonsense. Why Lisbon, after all? The hospital treatment at Vila Nova de Ourem had been utterly useless, and there appeared to be very little wisdom in repeating a first mistake on an even grander scale. And there was the question of the fantastic expense that would be involved, for in Lisbon, surely, in their grand establishment for the sick, the authorities would not be content with the humble fees charged at Vila Nova de Ourem.
The family was wrong. Events confounded them, and contrived the fulfillment of the Lady's prediction. One day an automobile—an item rarely seen in Aljustrel, stopped before the pale stucco home of the Marto's, and out of it stepped their priestly friend, Dr. Formigao. With the clergyman were the famed Lisbon physician, Dr. Enrico Lisboa, and Senhora Lisboa. We quote now from Dr. Lisboa's own recollections of that day:
In the middle of January, 1920, we went for a run to the Cova da Iria in order to try out the new motor car which we had recently bought. On our way through Santarem we went to pay our respects to Dr. Formigao, who we knew could tell us all about Fatima and the events of which he had been a witness. Dr. Formigao whom we had not known personally before, but who has been our intimate friend ever since, had the kindness to accompany us to Fatima on that occasion and it was through him that we came to know Jacinta and Lucia.
After a visit to the Cova with Lucia, in whose company we prayed the Rosary with unforgettable faith and devotion, we returned to Fatima, where we spoke to Jacinta and the mothers of the two seers. They told us about Francisco, who had been a victim of the widespread epidemic of pneumonia influenza which had swept with such tragic results through Europe. He had, we learned, realized his only wish since the apparitions, which was to go to Our Lady. He refused all help and advice from the people who knew him in his life, and desired only death, with the least possible delay.
Little Jacinta was very pale and thin, and walked with great difficulty. The family told me she was very ill, which they hardly regretted, because Jacinta's only ambition also was to go to Our Lady, whose will it was that she should die in the same way as Francisco.
When I censured them for their lack of effort to save their daughter, they told me that it was not worth while, because Our Lady wished to take her, and that she had been interned for two months in the local hospital without any improvement in her condition.
I replied that Our Lady's will was certainly more powerful than any human efforts, but in order to be certain that she really wished to take Jacinta, they must not neglect any of the normal aids of science to save her life.
Impressed by my words, they went to ask the advice of Dr. Formigao, who supported my opinion in every respect. It was therefore arranged on the spot, that Jacinta should be sent to Lisbon and treated by the best doctors in one of the hospitals of the capital.
Ti Marto had listened with sober respect to the learned physician's recommendation. Where the money was to come from he had no idea, but he went, anyhow, to tell Jacinta that a decision had been made.
"Jacinta," he explains having said, "we are going to arrange for you to go to a hospital in Lisbon."
"Yes, Father," she said, and it could certainly not have been any surprise.
"It has to be done, child; it must be done. Otherwise people will say that we neglected to give you the proper care. And perhaps, after you are treated at Lisbon, you will be better."
"Papa, dear," Ti Marto recalls his daughter saying, "if I should recover from this illness, you may be sure I would get another. When I go to Lisbon, Papa, it means goodbye."
She was a wretched sight that day, by her father's testimony. Her little heart was enlarged, and her digestive organs by now were ruined. She was resigned to this last of her journeys, and had only one request—that she be allowed, before leaving the serra for good, to make one last visit to the Cova da Iria.
I arranged to take her there on a friend's donkey (her mother has told us) because I knew she could not have managed to walk. On the way she asked to stop just once, and began by herself to say the Rosary. Weakly she picked a few flowers to put in the chapel at the Cova, and then was helped back on the donkey. At the Cova she just knelt down and prayed.
"Mother," she said to me, when she struggled up from her knees, "when Our Lady went away she passed over those trees, and afterwards she went into Heaven so fast I thought her feet would get caught."
Ti Marto went about making provision for his daughter's trip to Lisbon and her hospitalization there. He would accept financial assistance from no one, however slight his current resources, but there were other details with which, in his inexperience, he could not cope. A young nobleman from Vila Nova de Ourem, the Baron Alvaiazere, had become the family's good friend, and it was through the Baron that arrangements were made for Jacinta, her mother and her brother, Antonio, to be met by friends in the great capital city.
I went to see Baron Alvaiazere (Ti Marto has explained), and I told him what train they would be taking. "Antonio will tie a white handkerchief to his wrist," I said, "so that the ladies who are coming to meet the train will know who they are."
That night I gave my wife instructions for the following day.
"When you get on the train," I said, "you must ask the other people to excuse you, because your little girl is very sick and it is only because of this that she has an unpleasant smell. Be very careful that Jacinta does not lean out of a window when another train is passing, and when you are going through the Rossio tunnel (the approach to Lisbon), don't forget to have Antonio tie on the handkerchief."
Unquestionably the most punishing of Jacinta's experiences was the forced separation from Lucia, who recalls the bitter day:
"It nearly broke my heart to have her go. Jacinta stayed a long while in my arms, holding very close to me, and then she said, "We shall never see each other again! Pray for me, Lucia; pray for me very much, until I can go to Heaven, and then I will pray and pray for you. Never, never tell Our Lady's secret to anyone, not even if they say they are going to kill you, Lucia. Love Jesus very much and love Our Lady's Immaculate Heart, and do not forget your sacrifices for sinners."
Jacinta's mother has described the trip to Lisbon: We went to the station in a mule cart with my eldest son, Antonio. During the journey Jacinta stood nearly all the time by the window looking through the glass. In Santarem a lady came to the train and gave her some sweetmeats, but Jacinta wouldn't eat anything.
We knew nobody in Lisbon, and it was for this reason that Baron Alvaiazere and my husband had arranged for some ladies to meet us. They were to recognize us by the white handkerchiefs tied to our arms. But when we got out of the train, Antonio, who knew how to read, went off to see something outside the station and I lost sight of him.
"Antonio, Antonio," I shouted out....
And then a few moments later he appeared again with the three ladies, who came up to us. They took us out of the station, and we went to various institutions but nobody would take us in. When we were nearly tired out from walking we came to an orphanage run by a holy nun who opened her doors to us, and could not have given us a better welcome. I stayed there with Jacinta for over a week, and then went back to Fatima.28 Jacinta, in spite of weakness and physical pain, found contentment and joy in the orphanage on the Rua da Estrela, in Lisbon. Mother Godinho, the superior, was a woman of vast understanding and charity. The children of the house, with every good reason, called her "Madrinha," or Godmother, a term quickly adopted and employed by Jacinta herself. This house, in which the desperately ailing child and her mother, rejected by all other institutions, took final sanctuary, adjoins the Chapel of Milagres; there is a raised choir from which one can see the tabernacle and assist at Mass, celebrated in those distant days by an old and very deaf priest. The privilege was to Jacinta a boundless joy. The gift of being under the same roof sheltering Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament was as wildly beyond her hopes as, in her humility, she believed it to be in excess of her merits.
She went to the altar (her mother recalls) either in my arms, during the little while I was there, or else she was carried by the mother superior. I remember her saying to me before I left for home, "Oh, mother, I want to go to confession."
That day we went very early to the Estrela church, and when her confession had been heard she was like an angel with happiness.
"What a good priest that was," she said to me. "He asked me so many things."
I kept saying to myself how much I would give to know what the good Father had asked her to give her this happiness, but of course it is not anyone else's business what happens in confession.
Every moment permitted her was spent by Jacinta in the choir of the chapel. Sitting quietly on her little chair, for she was not allowed to kneel, she would remain with her eyes fixed on the tabernacle in prayer and meditation. If, below her in the chapel, she heard frivolous conversation, or observed in anyone an attitude of imperfect respect, she would mention this to Mother Godinho, not that she chose to be a tattler or a scold, but because she was horrified by any lack of reverence. Gravely she explained that Our Lady was always made unhappy when people did not respect the Blessed Sacrament.
The wise superior did all she could to accommodate the unusual fervor of this child, without taxing her dwindling strength. To give her all the sun and air she could, she obliged Jacinta to sit at an open window overlooking the Estrela gardens. Here at least she could see the green of the trees, and watch the antics of the birds, and the companionship of the wise and gentle nun did much to repair the bitter loss of Lucia, whom Jacinta missed more than all the members of her family.
I soon began to realize that a little angel had come into my house (says Mother Godinho). Although I had long wanted to see the privileged children of Fatima, I never imagined that I would have the good fortune to shelter one under my roof.
We had some twenty to twenty-five children in the asylum. Jacinta was friendly with them all but she preferred the company of a little girl about her own age to whom she would give little sermons. It was delightful to hear them, and hidden behind the half-open door, I assisted at many of these conversations.
"You mustn't lie, or be lazy or disobedient, and you must bear everything with patience for love of Our Lord, if you want to go to Heaven." She spoke with such authority; hardly like a child.
During the time she was in my house she must have received a visit from Our Lady more than once. I remember on one occasion she said:
"Please move, dear Mother, I am waiting for Our Lady," and her face took on a radiant expression.
It seems that it was not always Our Lady in person who appeared, but a globe of light such as had been seen in Fatima, because we once heard her say:
"This time it wasn't like it was in Fatima, but I knew it was she."
That these later appearances of Our Lady to Jacinta were not mere hallucinations, is rather strongly supported by the child's conversations with Mother Godinho. The wisdom and understanding displayed by this unlettered ten-year-old, lacking anything more than the bare rudiments of religious instruction, would have been almost impossible if the knowledge were not directly infused. The nun was so deeply impressed, that she recorded the following in her own hand. It is Jacinta, speaking of sin:
"The sins which cause most souls to go to Hell are the sins of the flesh."
"Fashions will much offend Our Lord. People who serve God should not follow the fashions. The Church has no fashions. Our Lord is always the same."
"The sins of the world are very great."
"If men knew what eternity is, they would do everything to change their lives."
"People are lost because they do not think of the death of Our Lord, and do not do penance."
"Many marriages are not of God, and do not please Our Lord."
On the war:
"Our Lady said that the world is full of war and discords."
"Wars are the punishments for sin."
"Our Lady cannot at present avert the justice of her Son from the world."
"Penance is necessary. If people amend their lives, Our Lord will even yet save the world, but if not, punishment will come.
The reference here (Mother Godinho has written) is to a great punishment of which she spoke in secret, and was revealed in her last days. But there is nothing to prevent its revelation now.
Jacinta said that Our Lord was profoundly outraged by the sins and crimes which were committed in Portugal, and for this reason a terrible social cataclysm threatened our country and particularly the city of Lisbon. A civil war, or Communist revolution would be unchained, which would be accompanied by sacking and violence, and devastation of all kinds. The capital would be converted into an image of Hell. This threatened punishment should be revealed little by little and with due discretion.29
Jacinta, on priests and rulers: "You must pray much for sinners, and for priests and religious. Priests should concern themselves only with the things of the Church."
"Priests must be very, very pure."
"Disobedience of priests and religious to their superiors displeases our Lord very much."
"Pray, Mother, for rulers."
"Heaven forgive those who persecute the Church of Christ."
"If the government would leave the Church in peace and give her liberty, it would have God's blessing."
On Christian virtues: "Mother, fly from riches and luxury."
"Love poverty and silence."
"Have charity, even for bad people."
"Do not speak evil of people, and fly from evil speakers."
"Mortification and sacrifice please Our Lord very much."
"Confession is a sacrament of mercy, and we must confess with joy and trust. There can be no salvation without confession."
"The Mother of God wants more virgin souls bound by a vow of chastity."
"I would gladly go to a convent, but I would rather go to Heaven.
"To be a religious, one must be very pure in body and mind."
"Do you know what it means to be pure?" I asked her.
"Yes, yes, I know. To be pure in body means to be chaste, and to be pure in mind means not to commit sins; not to look at what one should not see, not to steal or lie, and always to speak the truth, even if it is hard."
"Doctors do not know how to cure people properly, because they have not the love of God."
"Who taught you these things?" I asked her.
"Our Lady, but some of them I thought out myself. I love to think."
There is evidence that the dying, emaciated Jacinta in these happiest of her living days received from her Lady not only moral wisdom but actual glimpses into the future, and that she possessed for a while the gift of prophecy. Mother Godinho one day asked Senhora Olimpia, during a visit to the orphanage: "Would you like your daughters Florinda and Teresa to enter the religious life?"
"Heavens no!" that honest and uncomplicated woman exclaimed, and the discussion seemed at an end.
A little while later, however, Jacinta, who had heard none of the conversation between the women, confided to Mother Godinho with great seriousness: "Our Lady would like my sisters to be nuns, although my mother would not approve. That is why she will take them both to Heaven before very long."
If this was an "irresponsible" attempt at prophecy it proved amazingly accurate, since shortly after Jacinta's own death her sisters, Florinda, seventeen, and Teresa, one year younger, followed her to the grave.
Jacinta also assured Mother Godinho, who had long expressed a wish to visit the Cova da Iria, but was faced with almost impossible obstacles in the form of her daily duties, that her desire would be fulfilled as soon as she (Jacinta) died. It happened precisely that way. Circumstances having prevented her burial in Lisbon, it became necessary for Jacinta's body to be accompanied to Vila Nova de Ourem, and the family vault of Baron Alvaiazere. Assigned to this task unexpectedly, by her own superiors, was Mother Godinho, who was able that same day to journey the brief way to Fatima, and pray at the Cova with Lucia at her side.
It is difficult to know the full extent of Jacinta's prophecies. One of the two doctors who treated the child in Lisbon asked her to pray for him when she got to Heaven. She courteously agreed, but then, as though in afterthought, looked at him gravely. "You, too, will be going to Heaven, Doctor, and very soon," she said. The physician died shortly thereafter.
As for the other doctor attending her, she predicted not only his own imminent demise, but the death of his daughter as well.
Another time, according to Mother Godinho, Jacinta was listening to an excellent sermon by a priest of high standing and exemplary reputation. Jacinta alone was unimpressed and turned to the nun with the grave prediction: "That priest will turn out badly, Mother, even though you would not think it now."
Not long after this the unfortunate priest abandoned the cloth and lived in open scandal.
As to the operation she was to undergo, its outcome meant little or nothing to the child. Amid the hopes and prayers of others, she dictated a letter to Lucia, declaring very simply that Our Lady had appeared to her, and had revealed the day and hour of her death.
Jacinta's glad days with Mother Godhino had not been many. Less than two weeks had passed when Dr. Lisboa, in desperate hope of saving her life, succeeded in having her interned in Lisbon's Estafania Hospital. The kind nun accompanied the child to the ward and received the censure of both doctors and nurses for having accepted a tubercular patient in the orphanage. On a hygienic or medical basis, this criticism was likely justified, but it should be kept in mind that Mother Godinho alone had acted with charity toward this ailing child, who had been rejected by every one else.
Jacinta was merely one of many in the ward. There were no special attentions. There was no Hidden Jesus to fill her with consolation at each trying day's beginning, although Jacinta does seem to have managed, in her very own fashion, to have given the devil some bad hours even here. Among the visitors and nurses who came to the ward there were many whose manner of dress seemed to Jacinta both flamboyant and immodest.
"What is it all for?" she solemnly intoned. "If only they knew what eternity really was!" And of those doctors whose science openly discounted belief in God: "Poor things," she would say, "how changed they would be, if they knew what awaited them."
Within this period she revealed that Our Lady had once again appeared to her, emphasizing anew the prevalence in the world of those sins of luxury and carnality that cost the loss of so many souls. Penance, Jacinta said, was what the Queen of Heaven was asking in reparation of those sins.
Dr. Castro Freire, the child specialist, operated on Jacinta February 10, 1920. Her suffering was intense for the reason that in her condition nothing more radical than local anesthesia was possible. But the result was clinically rather good, with two ribs being extracted from her left side, leaving a wound in which a grown-up's hand could be comfortably inserted. Jacinta was an accommodating and stoic patient, and though the required daily dressings of the great wound in her side were a frightful agony, her only cries were repetitions of her beloved Lady's name.
Mother Godinho was able to lighten Jacinta's loneliness with daily visits to the hospital ward, and Dona Maria Castro, a patient of Dr. Lisboa, came regularly to the child's bedside. Ti Marto himself, in his anxiety, made one brief call at the hospital, but was so beset with the illness of his other children in Aljustrel that he was obliged to hasten back to where his help was needed more.
Jacinta, in at least those recorded times when Mother Godinho was with her, bore her sufferings with the understanding and resignation of a saint, explaining quite calmly to the woman at her side, "We must be willing to suffer if we want to go to Heaven."
Her Lady did not desert her. At the conclusion of her most terrible suffering she was able to confide in Mother Godinho, "I am much better now, thank you. Our Lady said that she would come to take me almost right away, and that there will be no more pain."
And in fact (Dr. Lisboa affirms), with this apparition, there in the middle of the ward, her pain completely disappeared and she began to be able to play and enjoy certain distractions. She liked to look at holy pictures, one among them in particular—given me later as a souvenir of Our Lady of Sameiro, which she said most closely resembled the Lady of the apparitions. I was told several times that Jacinta wished to see me, but as my professional duties were heavy and Jacinta was apparently better, I unfortunately put off my visit until too late.
It does not appear that these last apparitions were in any way wispy or vague, for Mother Godinho, choosing a place to sit at the bedside, heard Jacinta protest with anxiety, "Not there, Mother, please; that is the place where Our Lady stood." 30 Jacinta Marto, an almost certain saint of God, died on the Friday before Ash Wednesday, 1920. And Dr. Lisboa's deposition is as follows: On the evening of that 20th of February, at about 6 o'clock, Jacinta said that she felt worse and wished to receive the Sacraments. The parish priest (Dr. Pereira dos Reis) was called and he heard her confession about 8 o'clock that night. I was told that Jacinta had insisted that the Blessed Sacrament be brought to her as Viaticum, but that Dr. Reis had not concurred because she seemed fairly well. He promised to bring her Holy Communion in the morning. Jacinta again asked for Viaticum saying that she would shortly die and, indeed, she died that night, peacefully, but without having received Holy Communion.
A young nurse, named Auroa Gomes, was the only person present. There was neither drama nor excitement at the moment of death. The nurse held to her solitary vigil while the hours moved on. The other children in the ward continued their sleep without disturbance. Only in the morning was it generally known that Jacinta had died, and Dr. Lisboa fills out the record for us here:
When I was told what had occurred during the night, I spoke to Dona Amelia Castro, who came every day to my consulting room for treatment to her eyes, and she obtained from certain members of her family a white first Communion dress used by poor children, and money to buy a blue silk sash. Jacinta was thus laid out in Our Lady's colors according to her wish.
As soon as her death became known, various people sent money for the expenses of the funeral, which was fixed for the following day, Sunday, at noon, the body to be taken to one of the cemeteries of Lisbon.
When the coffin left the hospital mortuary, it occurred to me that it might be wiser to have the body deposited in some special place, in case the apparitions should later be confirmed by the ecclesiastical authorities, or the general incredulity on the subject be overcome. I, therefore, proposed to have the containing Jacinta's body deposited in the Church of the Holy Angels until its removal to some vault could be arranged.
I then went to see my good friend, Dr. Reis, the parish priest, who however demurred at the idea of the body remaining in his church owing to certain difficulties. However, with the help of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament, some of whose members happened to be in the sacristy at the time, Dr. Reis was persuaded to give his permission to let the body remain there. Soon afterwards it arrived and was placed humbly on two stools in the corner of the sacristy.
The news spread rapidly and soon a sort of pilgrimage of believers in Fatima began, the faithful bringing their rosaries and statues to touch Jacinta's dress and to pray by her side. All this profoundly disturbed Dr. Reis who was averse to his church being used for what might well be a false devotion, and he protested energetically by both word and action, thereby surprising those who knew him as a most kind and courteous priest.
It had finally been decided that the body should be taken to a vault in Vila Nova de Ourem, and matters were accordingly arranged. This involved a delay of two days. The funeral was scheduled for Tuesday. The body would be taken from the Holy Angels Church to the Rossio Station. Thence, by train, it would go to Vila Nova de Ourem.
Meanwhile the body remained in the open coffin which again caused serious anxiety to Dr. Reis who feared an intervention on the part of the sanitary authorities 31 and he continued to be worried by the stream of visitors, which he avoided only by locking the coffin in an office. At last Dr. Reis, in order to avoid the responsibility of the open coffin and the pilgrims, deposited the body in the confraternity room above the sacristy, and handed the key to the firm of undertakers, Antonio Almeida and Co., who had been engaged for the funeral. Senhor Almeida remembers to this day, and in great detail, what passed on that occasion. In order to satisfy the innumerable requests to visit the body, he remained in the church during the whole day of February 23, accompanying each group of pilgrims—whose numbers were strictly limited—to the room above, in order to avoid any unseemliness which might occur.
He was deeply impressed by the respect and devotion with which the people approached and kissed the little corpse on the face and the hands, and he remembers very clearly the live pinkness of the cheeks and the beautiful aroma which the body exhaled.32 At last, on February 24, at 11 in the morning, the body was placed in a leaden coffin which was then sealed. Present at this act were Senhor Almeida, the authorities, and several ladies, among them Senhora Maria Pena (who died recently), who declared in the presence of various people who can testify to it today, that the body exhaled a beautiful aroma of flowers as the coffin was being sealed. Owing to the purulent nature of the disease, and the length of time that the body remained unburied, this fact is remarkable.
In the afternoon, which was wet, the funeral took place on foot, in the company of a large crowd. The coffin was finally laid in the vault of Baron Alvaiazere in Vila Nova de Ourem.
I remember that on that day the General Annual Conference of St. Vincent de Paul took place, and that I excused my late arrival on account of the work of mercy which had claimed my attention, namely, the burial of one of the seers of Fatima. These words provoked an outburst of mirth on the part of the assembly, composed, as may be imagined, of some of the most prominent Catholics of the capital, among them the Cardinal Patriarch himself, who joined in the laugh at my expense. Later he became a great admirer of Fatima, and declared that his great desire was to celebrate Mass in the Cova da Iria before he died.
It is interesting to record these curious facts, showing as they do the great reluctance on the part of the great majority of clergy, and certain of the laity in Portugal to believe in the events of Fatima. There were a few believers, among them Dr. Formigao, who assisted at the apparitions and bore witness to them by means of the written and the spoken word; also holy old Father Cruz whom I have seen in Fatima ever since my first visits there, and who was the first priest I heard in a Lisbon church publicly exhorting the people to pray to Our Lady of the Rosary at Fatima, at a time when the general run of the clergy were afraid to give public utterance to any shred of belief they might have in the revelations!
After all these years it is a great consolation to me to have been instrumental in arranging that Jacinta, in her last illness, should have been under the care of the best doctors and nurses in a Lisbon hospital. Thus the odious calumny, which has been spread abroad, namely, that the Catholics brought about the deaths of the two younger children in order that they should not be able to contradict Lucia's affirmations, can be most emphatically repudiated.
In Aljustrel, where the Marto family was already burdened with illness, the news of Jacinta's death fell heavily. Ti Marto, trying to care for everyone, had been taxed with multiple trials to the limit of his strength and ingenuity.
After my Jacinta's operation (he has told the writer), I received a letter that said my little girl was all right. For this reason I was happy and encouraged, and I got someone to write a letter for me to Baron Alvaiazere, telling him how well our little one was, and thanking him along with all the good people who had tried to help in so many ways. But after about ten days a letter came back from the Baron, and it requested that I go to see him at once at Vila Nova de Ourem. Well, I went there to his house, and the Baron, a kind man, first told his servants to give me some food. He waited, and then he brought out a letter he had only recently received, and this letter told how my Jacinta, even though the operation had gone well, was dead.
It was a blow, and I did not know what to say. After a while I looked up to him and said, "Is there anything I must do that I have not done?"
"Nothing, Senhor Marto," he said to me; "there is nothing."
That is the way it happened and how it was. I had to go home and tell the family the terrible news, and then in a few days another letter came to me from the Baron, this letter explaining how I must go again to Vila Nova de Ourem to meet the train that was bringing back the body to be placed in Baron Alvarazere's family vault.
I went, of course, but when I saw the people gathered around the coffin that held my Jacinta—well, I just broke down, and I cried, believe me, as I have never cried before or since. It seemed such a sad, sad waste for her to have gone off all the way to Lisbon only to die without us, all alone."
For more than fifteen years the body of Jacinta rested in the tomb at Vila Nova de Ourem; or until, in September of 1935 the bishop of Leiria approved a plan providing for the remains of Jacinta to be placed beside those of Francisco in the churchyard at Fatima, where a special tomb had been erected. But before Jacinta's body was taken from the Alvaiazere vault, her coffin was opened and, to the prayerful wonder of all, her face was seen to be perfectly preserved. The incorrupt flesh of God's good servants, as we know, are frequently, although by no means necessarily, regarded as a sign of sanctity. A photograph was taken of Jacinta's remains and a copy of it sent to Lucia who, in 1935, was a Dorothean lay-sister. Lucia's grateful reply to the bishop was as follows:
I thank you for the photographs with all my heart. It is impossible to express how much I value them. From Jacinta's body I almost wanted to tear off that shroud and see the whole of her. I was so anxious to see the rest of the body that I forgot it was a photograph at which I was looking; such was my happiness at seeing again the most intimate friend of my childhood.
I have a great hope that Our Lord may concede her the halo of sanctity for the honor of Our Blessed Lady. She was a child only in years and already knew how to show God and Our Lady her love by means of sacrifice....
Jacinta was placed beside her brother in the quiet churchyard at Fatima, and on their tomb these simple words were inscribed:
HERE LIE THE MORTAL REMAINS
FRANCISCO AND JACINTA
TO WHOM OUR LADY APPEARED
Not until April 13, 1951, when the stately basilica rising above the Cova da Iria was finally completed, were their bodies moved—now to rest, perhaps until the end of Christian time, above that wild and rocky field where first their Lady said to them, "Do not be afraid."Lucia
We return now to Lucia, whose age, at the time of Jacinta's death, was one month less than thirteen years. Any opportunity for normal, unspectacular adolescence had already been denied her. She was, at least in Portugal, a nation-wide celebrity. Subject to the overwhelming and ceaseless attention of those who believed in her, she was also the target of skilful enemies who most emphatically did not believe, and were, moreover, determined to expose her as a fraud.
In Aljustrel the circle of affection was narrowing. Lucia's father had died, and although Senhor Santos had been neither a model parent nor an heroic defender of the faith, there is no mention of his failings in his daughter's recollections. "My dear father" it is her charitable choice to say, because she loved him. Properly and most decently forgotten are his bouts with the bottle, and forgiven, if not entirely forgotten, his frequently obscene references to the business of the apparitions.
How sad I felt when I was left alone (she has written). Within a short time I lost my dear father, and then Francisco and Jacinta. Whenever I could, I went to the Cabeco, and there, hiding behind the rocks and alone with God, I poured out my heart in tears to Him.
Lucia must be judged in the light of an almost faultless charity and modesty. She is not the heroine of her own memoirs, having deliberately assigned that role to Jacinta. She emerges from her memoirs as a true personality only where obedience to the bishop has obliged her. But there are things that we who have known the adult Lucia can affirm so easily: her wholesome gaiety and lack of pietistic sham, her practicality and unobtrusive gifts for leadership, her homely face and the joyous, searching eyes that have looked on Christ Our Lord. But truthfully, in this excellent friend of Our Lady, there is no mystical pretension.
Naturally she was saddened by the deaths of Francisco and Jacinta. Even though their deaths had been foreordained by the Lady in Light, Lucia's loneliness was bleak and hard to bear. She had no other confidants. The tremendous secrets imparted by their Lady were more difficult to carry alone. Lucia was, and of necessity remains, a strange citizen of the world, for the reason that she has seen so clearly beyond our natural boundaries, and knows from intimate and live experience what others know only through faith. How great have been the privileges of this nun who is now in the middle years of her life? Surely we can't say, because it is impossible to know. How great, we might ask with equal wonder, were those gifts enjoyed on a mountain top by Sts. Peter, James and John?
The Church, in those first years of emotional and spiritual excitement at Fatima, remained aloof, if not officially hostile, to the claims of the children and the clamor of those multiplying thousands who believed the phenomena observed above the Cova da Iria to be the unmistakable work of God. But slowly, and with mounting effect, the pressure of continuing evidence obliged the Church officials to observe events more closely.
The diocese of Leiria, of which Fatima is a part, was restored in 1918, although the first bishop to establish his episcopate there was his Excellency Dom Jose Alves Correia da Silva, consecrated May 15, 1920. He took office in August of that year.
Dom Jose, a just man, didn't quite know what to make of Fatima. It was hard to resist one's own persuasion to believe. The sincerity of the children, both living and dead, was difficult to doubt, since they had stood with almost supernatural bravery in the storm of hostile ridicule and cross-examination. Any fair assessment of their testimony and behavior carried a fair man to that one inescapable conclusion regarding them: they were at the very least, sincere. And what of the evidence of October 13, 1917, witnessed by 70,000 men, women and children of mixed emotion and religious conviction?
One thing clear to the bishop was that Lucia, the surviving witness, should be removed from Aljustrel. This would facilitate not only a more thorough investigation of those great events in which she had played the leading role, it would as well relieve the beleaguered child of the endless questioning and badgering to which she was being subjected almost daily. The bishop hoped further, that his measure would test the sincerity of the ever-increasing line of pilgrims who were making their way to the Cova da Iria, since it was suspected by many that the prestige of this child alone, rather than any fair measure of true faith, was drawing the crowds to the shrine. If the child's mother would agree, the bishop decided, it would be wise to place Lucia in some boarding school where she would not be known, and where, for this very reason, no one would speak to her of Fatima.
Lucia's mother, hearing of this proposal, was avid for acceptance. Lucia herself—though with certain understandable misgivings, was equally willing. They went together to the bishop's house in Leiria.
"This is entirely secret," said Dom Jose to Lucia, "and for that reason you must tell no one where you are going."
"Yes, my lord."
"In the college you must not tell your identity to any one."
"No, my lord."
"And you must not speak again about the apparitions of Fatima."
"No, my lord."
It was June 13, a day of pilgrimage. Returning, along the steep road from Leiria, Lucia could see the tired, glad faces of the faithful who had been that day to the Cova da Iria. She drew her kerchief more carefully around her face, and unknown to them, she wept—not in distressed or stifled resistance to the bishop's disposition of her case (for in all honesty she welcomed and approved the solution) but because her youth was over, and a curtain was falling rapidly on this scene of her remembered joys.
There were cruel details attached to her departure. Obedience to the bishop required that it be revealed to no one, not even to her closest relatives and friends. Even Maria da Capelinha, the gallant champion of the children and their Lady from the day of the first apparition, was excluded from her confidence. For this reason Lucia was obliged to say goodbye to places, instead of to people.
On her last day in Aljustrel she walked the brief distance to the Cabeco, where first the angel had appeared to, Jacinta, Francisco and herself. She climbed the slope past the olive trees and the crooked oaks in oppressive heat. The field was wild with beauty. Rock roses were fat with bloom and the throb of the crickets filled the day. Lucia did not stop for sight or sound, but hastened into the shade of the rough, tall-standing stones where an angel had fed them the living Christ from a chalice that he was able to leave suspended in the air. She fell on the ground and remained there for an hour, repeating with whispered love, and in the rhythm of a sobbing she could not control, the angel's prayer:
"My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love Thee. I ask forgiveness for those who do not believe, nor adore, nor hope, nor love Thee."
And then, with equal fervor, the angel's prayer to the Holy Trinity:
"Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, I adore Thee profoundly, and I offer Thee the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifferences by which He is offended; and by the infinite merits of His Most Sacred Heart, and through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg the conversion of poor sinners."
Here in these paragraphs, if we pause for just a moment to reflect, is the essential meaning and purpose of Fatima. It should be kept in mind that this is a simple, and, we sincerely hope, an unpretentious book that should be of equal value to people of vast or little education. These two paragraphs of prayer are for rulers and beggars, philosophers and illiterates; they are for popes and peasants, cardinals and beggars. The question to ask is simply: who is speaking? And unless this story of Fatima is an unspeakable sham and a hoax, it is God who speaks!
Why is it God?
Well, because, by basic Catholic definition, an angel is a messenger of God. It was an angel who said to a Jewish maiden in whose womb reposed the living Christ, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee" almost two thousand years ago. It is an angel now, in the span of our own time, who brings to the children of Aljustrel an equal gift, and underlines with almost commanding emphasis that Jesus longs to be not only with Mary, but with any and all of us who will have Him. There in terrifying clarity is the infinite breadth of His charity.
The message of Fatima is as plain as it is profound. Search these paragraphs of prayer again, and mark their powerful simplicity. The angel, as you will recall, is teaching the children to pray in a manner pleasing to God. The first of these prayers begins with the declaration, "I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love Thee"—simple and yet complete acts of faith, hope and love, or charity, if you will, since the two are the same. That is how one becomes a friend of God, by believing in Him and serving Him, by hoping in Him and loving Him. There is no obligation here for a man to build bridges or write books, or slay dragons or rip the skin off his toes. This, quite simply is the formula for Christian friendship: to believe, to hope, and to love. And having attained God's friendship, we are invited to share with Christ Our Lord the redemption of the world by asking the Father to pardon those who neither believe, nor hope, nor love.
The second prayer, addressed to the Trinity, alerts us to a decent humility, as it repeats the fundamental teaching of the Church that Christ alone is an offering equal to the majesty of the Power we have offended by sin. As God has given Himself to us, we give Him back to the Father in love and reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifferences by which He has been offended. And the angel asks us to pray, not through our own merits, but through the merits of the Sacred Heart, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, for the conversion of poor sinners.
What interpretation can there be, except that this is what God wants of us? We must provide at least some minimum of faith as a token of co-operation with Him. In considering the evidence of Fatima, let us not seek to be smart in any sophisticated way, for it will only defeat us. Let us seek instead, with Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco, to be obedient and good, and the wisdom of God will cling to us then, whatever our talents may be.
It was this intimate presence of God that Lucia, lying prostrate on the rough ground of the Cabeco, felt most clearly. Her joy therefore has ever since been deeper and more durable than any passing trial or momentary sadness. She rose slowly, almost reluctantly from the hallowed earth, and walked from the Cabeco to that other field close by, that is known as Valinhos, where in August of 1917, as a reward for their constancy in prison, the Virgin had appeared to Lucia and her cousins. She paused here for a while in reverent recollection of her Lady's unwavering friendship, and then, on this last of her days within the area of home, she walked on to the Cova da Iria. At this rather late hour the small white chapel was deserted. It was June now, in the year 1920. Only days before had the faithful been emboldened to place within the tiny chapel an image of Our Lady. Of course it was not dressed in the light of Heaven. It was just a statue made of stone. Its value, for Lucia, was in its reverent, if totally unsuccessful, imitation of a beauty beyond comprehension. It spoke of faith and of love—and that was, really, all that any one could ask. She continued to pray.
At two o'clock on the following morning, while the village slept, Lucia Santos left Aljustrel and the parish of Fatima, to which she would not return for many years. Her mother went with her as far as Leiria to meet the morning train bound for Oporto, on the north coast of Portugal. It would be a journey of perhaps one hundred and fifty miles, and from Oporto, it was no distance at all to the convent at Vilar, where a new life would begin.
The statue in the little chapel at the Cova da Iria was acquiring an interesting history of its own. As earlier disclosed in this narrative, it arrived in Fatima on May 13, 1920, but rather sheepishly, like some contraband, hidden under farm tools in an ox cart. The reason, of course, was the fear of its being confiscated or destroyed by the civil authorities, or by those venturesome hoodlums the authorities sometimes encouraged. To know its history a little better we will have to go back a bit with the recollections of Maria da Capelinha:
Hardly a month had passed since the completion of our little chapel, when a gentleman named Senhor Gilbert arrived from Torres Novas and asked me, with some excitement in his voice, who had built this chapel. I did my best to explain to him how it had come about by the sacrifices and savings of the people who believed in Our Lady's appearances here, but he still looked disappointed and upset.
"My trouble is," he explained to me, "that I promised very solemnly to help as much as I could with the first building raised on this spot. I would have given a great deal of money for building a chapel here, believe me. Why, just one month ago there was not a single stone disturbed, and now I find that the work is already done."
I sympathized with him, of course; I told him it was a shame, but if he wanted so badly to do something, I said—well, he could contribute toward the building of a statue. "Is that right?" he said.
The idea seemed to please him very much. He said he would speak to his own parish priest in Torres Novas, and if there were no objections, he would have a statue made. This Senhor Gilbert was a great help, believe me, because it was not long before he came back and told me his pastor had no complaints about a statue, and that he would go right ahead with the arrangements.
This was a good way back—before Jacinta had gone to the hospital in Lisbon even, but this man was very sincere. He came with a sculptor several times to question the children about how Our Lady had looked. Other times he came to talk with Dr. Formigao, who was such a smart, good man, and such a fine friend to the children's families. All in all it took a long time for the statue to be made. Meantime, some people came from the Quinta da Cardigo and offered us an image of Our Lady of the Rosary to place in the chapel. I said—well, it was very kind of them, but the least we could do was wait until we heard from Senhor Gilbert. It would not be fair, I said, to overlook Senhor Gilbert after all his efforts and good intentions.
I did not guess wrong, for Senhor Gilbert was a man in whom you could believe. Sure enough, the first part of May, we hear the statue is now in his house in Torres Novas, and that somehow or other it was going to get to the Cova da Iria by the 13th of May, the third anniversary of Our Lady's first appearance.
Well, it got here, all right, in an ox cart, but for a while it was not brought to the Cova, because of rumors we kept hearing that the Freemasons were planning to blow up our little chapel and kill us all. Meanwhile it was kept in the sacristy of the church, where Father Reis, who was taking Father Ferreira's place, blessed it himself.