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.
Spirituality of Blessed Jacinta Marto
The youngest non-martyred child ever to be beatified
If we look at Jacinta before the apparitions, it is easy to see the great transformation that came over her, a transformation growing with each appearance of the Blessed Mother and reaching a climax during the last part of her life. Yet her holiness is not simply because she saw the Mother of God but because of her heroic response to the mission given her.
Jacinta had a great love for dancing, and would vibrate at the sound of music. She loved flowers, and always gathered a bouquet of wild flowers whenever she went to the Loca do Cabeco. These flowers--often including peonies and irises and lilies-would be given to her cousin Lucia or strewn over Lucia like the flower petals thrown before the Most Blessed Sacrament in processions. The very name "Jacinta" means "hyacinth."
Sister Lucia recalls the great joy that filled Jacinta's heart when she was chosen to drop her flower petals before Our Eucharistic Lord in a procession of the Most Blessed Sacrament. Lucia had assured her that she would see our Lord. Jacinta kept her eyes open, but could not find Hi, and so she refused to drop a single petal. Her little mind had not yet grasped that the "Hidden Jesus" in the Holy Eucharist would not appear as on the holy cards, where she saw Our Divine Lord pictured as the Good Shepherd, as Christ the King, etc.
Jacinta would sometimes pick up a little lamb as the shepherds marched along with their sheep. This she did in imitation of Our Lord, the Good Shepherd, who searched for the one lost lamb and placed it on His shoulders to carry it to safety.
P. Jose Galamba de Oliveira, (Canon) who was the Diocesan President of the Commission for the Causes of Jacinta and Francisco Marto, known for years to me and whom I often myself interviewed, inquired of Sister Lucia about the character of Jacinta after the apparitions.
Canon Galamba asked: "What did people feel when in Jacinta's company?" Lucia answered: "I can only say what I felt myself, and describe any exterior manifestations of other peoples' feelings. "What I myself usually felt was much the same as what would be felt in the presence of a very holy person who seemed to communicate with God in everything. Her behavior was always serious, modest and amiable; she seemed to manifest the presence of God in all her actions, more like a person of advanced age and virtue than a child. I never observed in her that excessive frivolity or childish enthusiasm usual in children for games and pretty things-that is, after the apparitions. Before then, she was the personification of enthusiasm and caprice! I cannot say that other children used to run after her as they did after me; perhaps this was due to the fact that she did not know songs or stories to teach and amuse them with; or else because the seriousness of her behavior was superior to her age. If children or adults said anything or did anything in her presence that was not quite right, she would reprove them telling them not to do that as it offended God, who was already so deeply offended. If the person, or child, retorted by calling her a 'pious Mary' or a plaster saint or such things, as they often did, she would look at them with a certain air of severity, then walk off without a word. perhaps this was the reason why she did not enjoy more popularity."
At the same time, Sister Lucia added that children did like to be with Jacinta especially if Lucia was with them. They embraced each other affectionately in the manner of innocent children. They enjoyed playing and singing with her, but, as the same time, a certain reverence kept them shy of Jacinta. Adults too experienced a certain presence of God when in her presence.
Love made the Shepherds SaintsIt was love that made both Jacinta and Francisco Saints. The Mother of God brought them to an intense love for God although Jacinta was only seven at the time and Francisco eleven. Sister Lucia writes in her memoirs: "We were on fire in that light which is God, and yet we were not burnt. What is God?" Their sacrificial love led them to heroic decrees of sanctity with a deep knowledge of why souls are lost and they responded to what was revealed as required for their salvation.
Jacinta, of the three Fatima children, was given a special grace to penetrate the meaning of heaven's request for devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. At Fatima, the Mother of God announced that God desired devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary to be spread in the world. Jacinta, thus, is like a key to unlocking the message of Fatima to understand and live it more deeply.
If we are to be devoted to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we must be humble. For devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, in the last analysis, means, to become holy like Mary, to love as Mary loved and loves. It means development in the virtues like Mary. Her Heart is the holiest of all God's creatures after the Soul of Jesus Christ Himself.
Why the Immaculate Heart?
Back in 1974 when I interviewed at Fatima the late Bishop John Venancio, together with the Claretian priest, Dr. Joachim Maria Alonso who was then the official historian of Fatima, I asked the question, "Why did the Immaculate Heart of Mary appear here at Fatima with her message? Why not the Sacred Heart of Jesus? Would it not seem that drawing mankind to the Sacred Heart of our Savior was even more important?"
Well, we know that at Fatima it was said that God wants the Immaculate Heart of His Mother venerated alongside the Sacred Heart of Jesus. But this former Bishop of Leiria-Fatima and Fatima'' chief Mariologist and historian, answered that in our time there was a special need to draw mankind back to love, not simply love of God, but love of fellow man. The world had grown cold, not simply to love of God, but cold to love of fellow human beings.
We know from the Gospels that Jesus taught us that love of God and love of neighbor fulfills everything required of us.
To St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Jesus with His Heart ablaze with flames of love cried out: "I ask love for love...Behold this Heart which has loved mankind so much but receives from the greater proportion only coldness and indifferences in return..."
The world had grown cold to the love of God. So in the 17th century God sent His Son with His Sacred Heart to draw us to God. By the 20th century, man had grown ever more cold to love of fellow man. Thus it saw two World Wars, lack of love even in families. God sent His Mother, the first and perfect disciple of Jesus Christ, to manifest her Immaculate Heart to teach us to love, not simply love of God, but also love of God's children for one another.
Some years ago when theologians met at Fatima to discuss the message of Our Lady of Fatima they concluded that the message was tied up very deeply with devotion to the Immaculate Heat of Mary. Dr. Joachim Maria Alonso, Fatima historian, emphasized to me that what the Mother of God meant by devotion to her Immaculate Heart is so profound that in the strict sense it cannot be considered a mere "devotion" in the popular sense. There are thousands of devotions to choose from but the way of faith and love exemplified in the Heart of God's Mother is essential for the true and devout Christian. Her Heart is Mother, Teacher, Catechist, Model of Christian life as she was the first disciple of Jesus Christ.
Jacinta is a special key to understanding this devotion of love to the Immaculate Heart of Mary as the Way to God. Lucia, who was so impressed yet years later with the spirituality of both Jacinta and Francisco, wrote: "I think myself, Jacinta was the one who received from Our Lady a greater abundance of grace, and a better knowledge of God and of virtue."
How could Jacinta understand so young?Sister Lucia, who celebrated her 93rd birthday in March 2000 has stated that the following question ha come to her from various quarters: "How is it that Jacinta, small as she was, let herself be possessed by such a spirit of mortification and penance, and understood it so well?"
Lucia answered: "I think the reason is this: Firstly, God willed to bestow on her a special grace, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary; and secondly, it was because she had looked upon hell, and had seen the ruin of souls who fall therein."
If we look at Jacinta before the apparitions, it is easy to see the great transformation that came over her, a transformation growing with each appearance of the Blessed Mother and reaching a climax during the last part of her life. Jacinta wanted Mary to show hell to all those people so that they would stop sinning and not go there.
Jacinta's beatification on May 13, 2000 AD by Pope John Paul II at Fatima was a decision of the Church made, not because she had the apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima. It was because of her heroic virtues in love for the conversion of sinners, for the Church, the Pope in particular, all of which was attested by a miracle through her intercession.
Can children practice heroic virtue?A Plenary Session was held in Rome from March 31 to April 2, 1981, on the initiative of Cardinal Pietro Palazzini, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Causes of Saints, to study the heroicity of virtues in children from the use of reason until puberty: A child who has died has a short life span to study to verify heroic virtue. Regarding this study of the Church psychologists, teachers, sociologists, doctors and theologians of different branches of theology were consulted. Children as martyrs would be more easy for the Church to declare on but children to be beatified and canonized as confessors of the faith is more difficult. The youngest to be found on the list of Saints was St. Dominic Savio, age 14 years, 11 months and 7 days. How much below that level could the Church declare one? (L'Osservatore Romano - no.IV.81).
Fortunately, for the future teaching formation of young children, the Church did decide that those as young as Jacinta could practice heroic Christian virtues.
The children were willing to die when threatened with boiling oil by the Administrator who kept them from their appointment with Our Lady in the Cova on August 13, 1917. Their heroic virtue was shown in many other ways, including the heroic self-determined penances for the conversion of sinners and to console our Lord. They denied themselves food, even drink for the conversion of sinners. The heroism the Church looked for in the causes of Jacinta and Francisco does not imply the fulfillment of the totality of every conceivable virtue, but only heroic exercise of the theological virtues connected with one's own state and a certain availability on the occasions which require the exercise of particular virtues.
It becomes clear in studying the available documents on Jacinta that the events of 1917 profoundly marked the soul of Jacinta so that g race and sanctity overflowed in torrents and constitute a veritable inundation of the supernatural. People experienced a supernatural aura when in the presence of Jacinta, even if she was sleeping.
When she was suffering greatly in the hospital, Our Blessed Mother told Jacinta that she could die now and go to Heaven or remain a little longer and suffer more in order to suffer for conversions and thus save more souls. Jacinta chose to live longer in order to suffer more for souls.
The virtues of Jacinta that come to mind as she lived a consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary were: her great love and respect for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist; her willingness to suffer for the salvation of souls; her youthful zeal for God's love and souls'; her penance, prayer, sacrifices for the conversion of sinners. I might add one more thing: her respect for priests. She promised to pray for priests in heaven. When she heard a priest criticized, she said that we should rather pray for him.
Sister Lucia writes: "Jacinta took the matter of making sacrifices for the conversion of sinners so much to heart, that she never let a single opportunity escape her." Jacinta's thirst for making sacrifices seemed insatiable.
It was Jacinta who had the vision at the well of the Holy Father with people throwing stones at him. She saw him in tears before an image of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Love for truthThe families of the three Shepherds had great love for truth. Never to tell a lie was a fundamental morality for their families. Jacinta manifested the love of purity that was so characteristic of the Marto and Santo families. In the Lisbon hospital, Our Lady revealed to Jacinta that more souls go to hell because of sins against the flesh than for any other reason. The atmosphere of the homes of the three shepherds was entirely Christian with deep piety, prayer, Sunday Mass, the reception of the Sacraments.
Father de Marchi who was pastor of the Fatima Church in the early days of Fatima and established the first seminary in Fatima spoke to me about the character of the Marto and Santo families of the three little Shepherds. In their great honesty, respect for the truth, this priest said, "It would have been impossible for these mountain people to make up events of the apparitions of Our Lady. Perhaps in Italy or America, but not in the mountains of the Serra de Aire in the center of Portugal in 1917."
Jacinta was known for her gentleness. After she had died, her father would tell how Jacinta was always gentle and sweet. Her parents said Jacinta "was the sweetest among our children." It was Jesus who said, "Learn of me for I am meek and humble of heart" (Mt. 11:29). It is a point we need to remember in drawing souls to Jesus. If we are so convinced of the Fatima message that we want it spread far and wide, because it is, as Popes have said, "a reaffirmation of the Gospels" then it must be done in gentleness, never seeming to force our view. Truth is attractive in itself and if misrepresented becomes less attractive or repulsive. This is not the case with the three little humble shepherd children, untouched by the sophistication of a modern world, but deeply grounded at a tender age, even before the use of reason, in values thoroughly Christian as was the case with their families.
By nature, not all people are attractive to us. We can easily accept that. But the other half is this. No one of us is attractive to all people. Sister Lucia, writing in later years, admitted that before the appearances of the Angel of the Holy Eucharist and Our Lady with her Immaculate Heart, Jacinta had not attracted her.
The relationship of the three shepherd children, after the apparitions, became more than natural. It was supernatural. The day would come when Jacinta's body was exhumed, and her face appeared incorrupt, as the upper portion of the casket was opened to manifest that the content was indeed the body of the youngest of the three little shepherds. The account is well known how a picture was taken of Jacinta in the coffin, in 1935, 15 years after death and sent to Lucia by the bishop. When Sister Lucia saw the picture of the body of her young cousin she wanted to tear back the wrappings to embrace the child she so deeply and spiritually loved. Her manner of response to the picture led P. Jose Galamba de Oliveira, Canon of Sacred Theology, to say to the Bishop: "Lucia has not told us all. Tell her to reveal more." It was then Lucia revealed much more about the virtues of Jacinta upon order of the Bishop.
Years ago, when I interviewed this same P. Jose Galamba de Oliveira, who was Diocesan President of the Commission for the Causes of Jacinta and Francisco Marto, and interviewed him regarding the exhumation of Jacinta, he explained the appearance of Jacinta's body as incorrupt. It was also interesting that before I began the interview, he said to me: "Before you begin, I must inform you that there are certain questions you might ask which I cannot answer. To tell certain things would mean excommunication for me." Canon Galamba explained to me that only the upper portion of the body had been revealed when the coffin was opened and the top part folded back. He said while natural explanations could be given for incorruption in some cases, in the case of Jacinta it seemed to be supernatural. This would be especially true when one remembers that bodies were not then in Portugal (or usually even now) embalmed but rather limed to hasten deterioration.
Monday: The Spirituality of Jacinta part two
May 4-7, 2000 |
volume 11, no. 87
APPRECIATING THE PRECIOUS GIFT OF OUR FAITH
Search for anything |
from the last three
years in past issues of