Ven. Jacinta Marto, born at Fatima in Portugal on March 11, 1910, baptized on the Feast of St. Joseph, March 19th, at the Parish Church of St. Anthony at Fatima, died in a hospital at Lisbon on February 20th, 1920, aged nearly ten years.
She was perhaps the most favored of the three young shepherds, in spite of being the youngest. With her companions, she saw an Angel three times, and Our Lady six times. But besides this she had the special privilege of seeing other appearances of the Blessed Virgin, and of the Holy Father. The theme of her life was to pray and make every possible sacrifice, for the conversion of sinners and in reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
God has already given many extraordinary graces through her intercession. The preparatory canonical process for her beatification began in 1949.
It is not easy to write about the final days of Jacinta. She simply does not sound like a child of eight or nine. Jacinta was a joyous person, and yet at the same time, whether we like it or not, a duly commissioned prophetess of penance.
"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. "So many people will die and go to Hell," she said to Lucia, speaking of the coming war. "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."
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 Villa 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 Our 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 offenses against my Immaculate Heart." In joyous imitation of her Savior she accepted Our 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.
Early in July her thin little body was raised by her father, and placed as tenderly as possible on the back of the family's donkey. Her mother made the journey to Villa 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. 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.
Great as the child's trials must have been in this period, her eagerness for further sacrifice failed to falter. Her courage and resolution appeared 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 any more; I tumble over when I try to do it, and for this reason I have to say the prayer on my knees." Jacinta, after her return from the hospital at Villa 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.
"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?"
Always in her thoughts and always at the surface of her speech was that Immaculate Heart of Mary of which the Lady had spoken. "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.
One day an automobile stopped before the pale stucco home of the Marto's, and out of it stepped their priestly friend, Dr. Formigo. With the clergyman were the famed Lisbon physician, Dr. Enrico Lisboa and Sehora Lisboa. It was arranged that Jacinta should be sent to Lisbon and treated by the best doctors in one of the hospitals of the capital.
First she was sent to an orphanage on the Rua da Estrela, Lisbon. Mother Godiho, the Superior, was a woman of vast understanding and charity. This Religious 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. 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 Godiho, because she was so horrified by any lack of reverence to her God. Gravely, she explained that Our Lady was always made unhappy when people did not respect the Blessed Sacrament.
During the time that she was in the Religious house she must have received a visit from Our Lady more than once. Her conversations with Mother Godiho were filled with instructions on the spiritual life, as well as with prophecies which are still being fulfilled: "Penance is necessary. If people amend their lives, Our Lord will even yet save the world, but if not, punishment will come."
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. Dr. Castro Freire, the child specialist, operated on Jacinta on 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 into 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.
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 was called and he heard her confession about 8 o'clock that night. Jacinta was convinced that she would die and asked for Viaticum, but the priest thought she looked fairly well, and so he promised to bring her Holy Communion in the morning. She died that night, alone, as Our Lady had told her, and without having received Holy Communion. But she died in peace, in perfect conformity to the Divine Will.
She had been a living example of the Message she had been entrusted with. In return for this fidelity and courage, God granted to her body after death the wonderful signs of sanctity He has often bestowed upon great Saints. For several days after her death, Jacinta's corpse gave off a sweet fragrance like flowers -- the "odor of sanctity". And after having been in a tomb for fifteen years, her face was found to be perfectly preserved.
My God, I love Thee in Thanksgiving for the graces which Thou hast granted to me. Oh my Jesus, I love Thee! Sweet Heart of Mary, be my salvation! Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, I adore Thee profoundly with all the powers of my soul, and thank Thee for the Apparitions of the most Holy Virgin Mary in Fatima which have made manifest to the world the treasures of her Immaculate Heart.
By the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and through the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I implore Thee, if it should be for Thy greater glory and the good of our souls, to glorify in the sight of Thy Holy Church, Jacinta, the shepherdess of Fatima, granting us through her intercession, the grace which we implore. Amen
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be to the Father...
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