Sunday, September 11, 2011

Blessed Jacinta Marto

I believe that the Fatima message is reflected in microcosm by the life of little Jacinta Marto. Jacinta, who was beatified by Pope John Paul II in the year 2000, was Lúcia's cousin and the sister of Francisco Marto. She was only seven years old when the Fatima events took place in Fatima, Portugal in 1917. I say that the Fatima message is reflected by her in microcosm, because, even as a playful and affectionate young girl, her life was deeply transformed by God's call to repentance and reparation as delivered by Mary, the great Mother of God who shows us her Son. Little Jacinta died at the age of nine, just a few days before her 10th birthday, a victim of the Spanish Flu Pandemic.

According to those who knew her throughout these events, including Lúcia, both Jacinta and her brother Francisco had developed a keen sense of propriety with regard to prayer. She loved to play and dance, yet Jacinta also knew when it was time to be serious. She understood, as all of the children did, the importance of serious prayer and the call to holiness, and she impressed this upon everyone around her. She willingly embraced sacrifices and mortifications for the sake of others. There is a story that is told about the time when the little Jacinta was imprisoned by the local officials along with her brother, Francisco, and their cousin, Lúcia. The three children were placed in a common cell along with other criminals. Lúcia tells the story of what happened:
[The prisoners] asked if we knew how to dance. We said we knew the "fandango" and the "vira". Jacinta's partner was a poor thief who, finding her so tiny, picked her up and went on dancing with her in his arms! We only hope that our Lady has had pity on his soul and converted him.
And what happened later:
Jacinta took off a medal that she was wearing around her neck, and asked a prisoner to hang it up for her on a nail in the wall. Kneeling before this medal, we began to pray. The prisoners prayed with us, that is, if they knew how to pray, but at least they were down on their knees... While we were saying the Rosary in prison, [Francisco] noticed that one of the prisoners was on his knees with his cap still on his head. Francisco went up to him and said, "If you wish to pray, you should take your cap off." Right away, the poor man handed it to him and he went over and put it on the bench on top of his own.
Jacinta was often moved to tears when the Passion was retold and also loved to contemplate the Crucifixion. She was keenly aware that something had changed inside of her. She is recorded to have said:
I love Our Lord so much! At times, I seem to have a fire in my heart, but it does not burn me.
And before her death, she explained:
I wish I could put into everybody the fire that I have here in my heart which makes me love the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary so much!
Jacinta knew that she would eventually die alone in the hospital. Dr. Enrico Lisboa, a Lisbon physician, submitted the following deposition following her death:
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.
I think we would do well to meditate on the brief life of little Jacinta Marto and fervently seek her prayerful intercession. She is a particularly special model for young children to look to. She understood more about the deep mysteries of the Faith before age ten than most people do before age 50. Echoing the Lord in Matthew's Gospel, all I can say is, "I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes."


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