May 9, 2000
volume 11, no. 89


    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.


installment five:

Spirituality of Blessed Francisco Marto part one

        The Spirituality of Francisco is a little more difficult to analyze than Jacinta. There is good reason for this. Jacinta's message to love and pray and sacrifice so as to save souls from hell comes through so strongly and clearly. The love is often in the form of suffering for conversions of sinners, but is love nonetheless.

        Before the apparitions Francisco, like Jacinta his sister, were normal children. He did not hear the Angel or Our Lady, he only saw her and saw God in the light that radiated from her. At first, Francisco did not see the beautiful Lady from Heaven as did Jacinta and Lucia. Lucia, of course, in due time, would share with him the message of the Mother of God.

        When Francisco told Lucia to tell the Lady he too wanted to see her, Mary answered, "Tell him to say the Rosary and he will see me." Francisco took out his Rosary and had said no more than 5 or 6 Hail Mary's when our Blessed Mother appeared to him as well. This teachings us we can obtain all things through praying the Rosary.

        With Francisco, his spirituality is especially one of contemplation. A boy of only nine when the apparitions begin, he is nonetheless led to deep contemplation of God. In 1987 the Fatima Sanctuary in the Cova da Iria chose as its theme: "To love like Jacinta; to contemplate like Francisco."

        Already in their love of nature, God's creation, we see a difference between Jacinta and Francisco. Jacinta loved the moon, the symbol of Mary in reflecting the sun's light. Francisco preferred the sun itself.

        God has a plan for each one of us. God gives a call, a mission to each one. He does not use us all in the same way. Each of the three little shepherds of Fatima had a special mission.

        The life of Francisco shows us the proper and true Catholic devotion to the angels, to the Saints, to Mary, the Queen of all. Francisco was awed at the beauty and goodness of the angel and of the Mother of God. But it was especially God to whom the Angel and Mary led him and which occupied his attention. The angel overwhelmed the children, not with himself so much, but with God, with the entire Blessed Trinity. He wanted not only for himself, but for all souls to know and love God as had been revealed to him.

        Going back to basic characteristics with which the children were endowed by nature, it is interesting to see that Lucia described Francisco quite otherwise than his father did after the boy had left this world.

        Lucia saw a boy of phlegmatic and compliant nature; yielding toward others, one who played indifferently with any of the children, never quarreling, not demanding his rights.

        But his Father, Senhor Marto, said of him: "He was more courageous than Jacinta. He didn't always have as much patience; and often, for small reason, he would run around like a young bull calf. He was anything but a coward. He would go out at night, alone in the dark, without a sign of fear. He played with lizards and snakes…Fearlessly, he hunted hares and foxes and moles."

        Francisco's brother John, still living, I got to know over the years as each year I've traveled to Fatima for more than a quarter of a century. John indicated to me one day that Francisco risked scoldings when he had a mind to carry out some practical joke. Like the time John was sleeping with this mouth open near the fireplace and Francisco dropped a chip of wood into it.

        Francisco was not born a contemplative. His father recalled that once or twice he refused to say his prayers because he was in a rebellious mood. He then got strongly corrected. His father saw him defending his interest with a strong will.

        Both Lucia and his father agree on certain basic things. According to his father Francisco had a gentle nature. He was affectionate, obedient and seldom disturbed the family peace. Lucia said, "He would play with all the children without showing preference." When Lucia was overbearing with him, he would obey and then she would be sorry for her impatience and go to him, "And he would always be as friendly as if nothing had happened."

    Grace Builds on Nature in Francisco

        We can detect here a spirit of vivaciousness and basic humility with a bit of self-will tempered and opened to the Holy Spirit will give us one who indeed has a spirit of contemplation.

        It has always been a point of interest that Francisco never heard the angel or heard our Blessed Mother speak. He only saw them. One time he said to Lucia: "You spoke to the angel; what did he say?" His question surprised Lucia. "Didn't you hear the angel speak then?" She asked. "No. I saw that he spoke to you. I heard what you said but I did not hear what he said." Both Lucia and Jacinta felt so awed and lacking in strength that they refused to speak about the angel, even to Francisco until some days later when their strength, which had been drained by the angelic experience, returned.

        When Lucia finally told Francisco all that the angel had said, he could not understand everything. He had to ask her questions so she would explain what "Almighty" meant. "And what is the meaning of the saying, "The hearts of Jesus and Mary are attentive to the voice of your supplications'?" he would ask.

        What we have here is the making of a very young contemplative saint. Now the strength of Francisco was drained too with the experience of the Angel but he said "What does it matter? The Angel is more important than anything. Let us think about him!"

        At the third angelic apparition, the angel gave Lucia the Sacred Host and to her two young cousins the chalice to drink from. After this apparition, Francisco began questioning again: "Oh, Lucia, the angel gave you Holy Communion, but what was it he gave Jacinta and me?" The boy was used to seeing people at church receive the Sacred Host but not from the chalice, and the angel had divided the contents of the chalice between Jacinta and himself.

        It was Jacinta who answered his question. "It was the same," she said. "It was Holy Communion. Didn't you see that it was the Blood that fell from the Host?" Although he was in deep meditation, and it was difficult to speak, he said, "I felt that God was in me, but I did not understand in what way."

        The three little shepherds knelt down and the three of them remained that way for a long time saying the prayer to the Holy Trinity. They were physically very weak every time after the angel appeared. They then wanted only to keep silence and meditate on God.

        It was after this Eucharistic encounter that the friendship between Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco was to become very, very close and greatly spiritual.

        What can we in the Fatima Apostolate say to this? Remember-in an Apostolate one cannot give what one does not have. We see the children responding to holiness within themselves, they who are given a mission and a message intended for the whole world. And notice, an essential part of their response is to become holy and close in Jesus Christ, not only to Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, but thereby to one another. They do not vie with one another saying, "I want this position to carry out the mission and deliver the message? Why can't it be done my way? Who do you think you are by interfering?"

        Now that Heaven itself gives the three little shepherds the Holy Eucharist, the God of love, two of them not having made yet their First Holy Communion at the parish church, their holiness begins to grow rapidly. Their friendship for each other now becomes intensely spiritual. There are no rivals among them. And yet, each one of these three, have a unique role and purpose in the plan of God.

        The spirit of Eucharistic reparation in the three children grows continuously after they are given the Holy Communion of Reparation by the angel.

        The children have about nine months in which to meditate on what the angel had said about praying a great deal before they received their first apparition of Our Lady. They would remain in Church for a time after Mass in Eucharistic reparation.

        The angel had said to the children: "The Hearts of Jesus and Mary have designs of mercy on you. Offer up prayers and sacrifices continually to the Almighty… In every way you can. Offer sacrifices to God as acts of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication for the conversion of sinners… Above all, accept and beat with submission the sufferings the Lord sends you."

        Catch that last sentence. "Above all, accept and bear with submission the sufferings the Lord sends you." I think everyone who gets more deeply into the Fatima Apostolate, especially if it involves a leadership role, a role to reach out for the conversion of others, that one must be prepared to "accept and bear with submission the sufferings the Lord sends you." This is going to require humility before one can grow in grace and do apostolic work that bears fruit.

        Consider what our Lady says the first time she appeared. "Do you wish to offer up to God all the suffering He desires to send you in reparation for the sins by which He is offended and in supplication for the conversion of sinners?"

        When Lucia answered, "We do," the Lady said, "Go then, for you will have much to suffer, but the grace of God will be your comfort."

        No one should attempt to spread the message of Fatima without first living it. If we receive a special call, like the three little shepherds did, we must be prepared to answer "Yes" to: 'Do you wish to offer up to God all the sufferings He desires to send you in reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication for the conversion of sinners?"

        Fatima is about faith, hope, love and conversion in order to lead people to love of God through love and all virtues, including humility, which are seen in the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It cannot be done without humility, without suffering, that is, without prayer and sacrifices.

        From the very first appearance of God's Mother, our Lady made known that her message would be Eucharistic Reparation. That May 13 was the feast of Our Lady of the Holy Eucharist. When the Mother of God, who is the Mediatrix of all graces, opened her hands, a most intensely brilliant light came from them. It went right into their hearts, making them see themselves in God, who was that light. Then they were moved by God, all three of them, to fall upon their knees and pray with one mind and heart: "Oh, Most Holy Trinity, I adore you, My God, my God, I love you in the Most Blessed Sacrament."

    Wednesday: The Spirituality of Francisco part two

    Father Robert J. Fox

May 9, 2000
volume 11, no. 89

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