TUESDAY
May 2, 2000
volume 11, no. 85

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THE FAITH OF THE FATIMA SHEPHERDS Series         INTRODUCTION

    We are delighted to work with Father Robert Fox in bringing you this special series on the Fatima shepherd children Jacinta and Francisco Marto who will be beatified on May 13th this year by His Holiness Pope John Paul II. The following articles on the spirituality of these holy Portuguese children is the focal point of his articles as we soon will celebrate the 83rd anniversary of the First Apparition at Fatima on May 13, 1917. Our Lady asked for the conversion of Russia and we are humbled in obediently publishing his words in Russian as well as bringing you his articles that appeared in the April-June issue of the full-color magazine Fr. Fox edits and publishes, Immaculate Heart Messenger. To order a subscription or to find out about other materials such as books and tapes or about the upcoming 18th Annual National Marian Congress to be held on the weekend of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary on June 9-11 at the Shrine in Alexandria, South Dakota, call the toll-free number: 800-213-5541.


THE FAITH OF THE FATIMA SHEPHERDS

installment one:
Jacinta and Francisco of Fatima-Youngest children ever to be beatified

        The two younger children of the Fatima apparitions, Jacinta and Francisco, scheduled for beatification May 13, 2000, are the youngest non-martyred children ever to be officially declared by the Church to be in Heaven. We may easily imagine that baptized children who die before adolescence go to heaven but for the process of the Church to so declare is another matter involving certain heroic Christian virtues and miracles worked through their intercession. Now, for the first time in 2000 years pre-teen children, who were not martyrs, but who had childhood weaknesses like other children, will be officially beatified by the Roman Catholic Church.

        Children now have their own special Models as heavenly intercessors. Strikingly there is a model for boys and one for girls. Francisco and Jacinta Marto, who died at 9 and 11 years of age respectively, were brother and sister.

    Children had "heroic virtues"

        I recall clearly how some in the Catholic press reported on the declaration of their "heroic virtue" in 1989 when they were declared "venerable." It was questioned that such young children could be capable of "heroic virtue." It was asked, "Is it wise to so declare such young children heroic in virtue just because they had seen the Mother of God in the innocence of childhood?" It manifested ignorance of the vigorous investigations Rome had gone through with the proper Congregation for Saints in Rome as will be shown elsewhere in this article.

        When they were declared "Venerable" on May 13, 1989, a clarification was given by Edouard Cardinal Gagnon, of the Pontifical Council for the Family, when he came to the annual national Fatima Family Congress in 1989 at the Shrine in Alexandria, SD: "When they are beatified-canonized, it will not be because they saw Our Lady. It will be because of their heroic virtue, their personal holiness." It was Cardinal Gagnon who presented the final results of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to the Pope with recommendation for this first step of recognition by the universal Church. Pope John Paul II, then declared that the children had practiced the theological, cardinal and other virtues to an heroic degree. It gave them the title "Venerable."

        The path leading to the beatification was not an easy one. The first step required for the process to be accepted was the decision of the Plenary Assembly of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints that it was possible for such small children, even though they had not suffered martyrdom, to have practiced virtue to a heroic degree and so be fitting subjects for canonization. After prolonged study and discussion, it was decided on April 2, 1981, that it is possible for children at such a young age to be capable of heroic virtue. It had to be proven that such heroism is possible for children psychologically and every other way. This decision was important for the Church in modern times of catechetical crisis in the education and formation of children in the fullness of true faith and Christian virtue. Many had claimed that Christianity was only an adult religion and thus profound and even basic education and formation of children was being delayed until later in life in many cases.

        Pope John Paul II approved of the decision that heroic virtue in children is possible and conferred on the two little Shepherds the title of "Venerable." While the miracle that opened the way for their beatification took place in 1987, not until 1999 was it finally accepted by the Vatican's Causes for the Saints as miraculous.

    Miracle needed for Beatification

        On June 28, 1999, the decree issued by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints concerning the scientifically attested miracle obtained through the intercession of the Venerable Servants of God, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, was promulgated in the presence of the Holy Father in the Sala Clementina in the Vatican.

        The case of the miracle declared scientifically or medically inexplicable was a miraculous cure of a Portuguese lady, Maria Emilia Santos, who in 1946, when she was sixteen years of age, began to suffer rheumatic pains with slight difficulty in walking. Two years later, she had more severe pains in her legs, with impaired movement. She then was unable to walk on account of the intense pains in her lower limbs. She underwent two spine operations and her condition deteriorated considerably with complete immobilization (paraplegia) of the lower limbs. Maria Emilia was forced to lie flat on a hard bed, and was able to do no more than move her head and her hands.

        The Congregation for the Causes of Saints in issuing the Decree Concerning the Miracle after describing the case of Maria Emilia as given above added: "Given the inability of science to do anything to help her after twenty-two years of immobility, the patient placed all her trust in divine help, through the intercession of the Servants of God, Francisco and Jacinta Marto. On March 25, 1987, she suddenly felt heat in her feet and managed to sit up, which she had been quite unable to do for a long time. On February 20, 1989, she was able to stand up and walk for the first time without pain; thereafter she was able to walk normally."

        Pope John Paul II, in accordance with the wishes of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, ordained that the decree concerning the miracle should be promulgated. The Pope declared: "It is clear that we are dealing with a miracle performed by God through the intercession of the Servants of God Francisco Marto, boy, and Jacinta Marto, girl, namely the rapid, complete and lasting cure of Maria Emilia Santos of a 'paraplegia' probably due to a tranverse myelitis which had lasted 22 years, there being no sign of psychic pathology.' "

        According to the International Vice-Postulator for the Cause, during the past 40 years, Father Luis Kondor, SDV, the announcement from the Vatican to beatify, the first step toward sainthood--Jacinta and Francisco, was received by Sister Lucia with "great rejoicing."

        According to Fr. Kondor, Postulator, the account of the miracle is as follows: "Maria Emilia Santos, paralyzed for 22 years , had no feeling whatsoever from her waist downwards, but suffered great pain in the upper part of her spine and could only barely move her hands and head. During retreat for the sick in Fatima, she began to have great devotion to the little Shepherds and to make continuous novenas to them. On the night of March 25, 1987, she heard a child's voice saying: 'Sit up because you can.' She sat up at once, without feeling any pain.

        "She began to use a wheelchair and continued with her novenas. Some months later, on the anniversary of the death of Jacinta February 20, Maria Emilia Santos stood up and began to walk."

        The Curia of Leiria, (Portugal) conducted a diocesan investigation in 1997 concerning the cure, which was deemed to be miraculous. It then had to pass to the Roman Congregation which issued its final decree concerning the miracle on June 28, 1999.

    Tomorrow: part two

          

May 2, 2000
volume 11, no. 85
APPRECIATING THE PRECIOUS GIFT OF OUR FAITH

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