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Of the three shepherd children who witnessed the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin at Fatima, only one remains alive today, Sister Lucy dos Santos, an 89-year-old Carmelite nun living in the convent of her order in Coimbra, Portugal. As Our Lady predicted at Fatima, both Francisco and Jacinta Marto died several years following the apparitions and are now candidates for sainthood.
FRANCISCO MARTO was born on June 11, 1908 to Manuel and Olimpia de Jesus Marto and was the older brother of Jacinta and the first cousin of Lucy dos Santos. He was nine years old at the time of the apparitions. During the appearances of the Angel and of the Blessed Virgin, he saw all, but, unlike his two companions, was not permitted to hear the words which were spoken.
When, in the course of the first apparition, Lucy asked if Francisco would go to Heaven, Our Lady replied: "Yes, he will go there, but he will have to recite the Rosary many times." Knowing that he would soon be called to paradise, Francisco showed little interest in attending classes. Often, when arriving near the school, he would tell Lucy and Jacinta: "You go on. I am going to church to keep company with the hidden Jesus" (an expression which refers to the Blessed Sacrament). Many contemporary witnesses affirm having received gifts of grace, after having asked Francisco to pray for them.
"The Virgin Mary and God Himself are infinitely sad. It is up to us to console Them!"
In October 1918, Francisco fell gravely ill. To his family members who assured him that he would survive his sickness, he responded firmly: "It is useless. Our Lady wants me with Her in Heaven!" In the course of his illness, he continued to offer constant sacrifices to console Jesus offended by so many sins. "Only a little time remains to me before going to Heaven," he told Lucy one day. "There above, I am going to console Our Lord and Our Lady a great deal; Jacinta is going to pray a great deal for sinners, for the Holy Father and for you. You are going to stay here because Our Lady wishes it. Listen, do everything She tells you."
As his illness worsened and broke his formerly robust health, Francisco no longer had the strength to recite the Rosary. "Mamma, I can no longer say the rosary," he called in a loud voice one day, "it is like my head is among the clouds..." Even as his bodily strength declined, his mind remained fixed on the Eternal. Calling to his father, he begged to receive Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament (he had not yet received his first Holy Communion at this time). Preparing himself for confession, he urged Lucy and Jacinta to recount for him the sins which he had committed. Hearing of some mild pranks he had committed, Francisco began crying, saying, "I have confessed these sins, but I will confess them again. Perhaps it is because of these that Jesus is so sad. You both ask also that Jesus will pardon all my sins."
His first (and also his last) Holy Communion followed in the tiny room in which he lay dying. No longer strong enough to pray, he asked Lucy and Jacinta to recite the Rosary in a loud voice so he could follow with his heart. Two days later, nearing his end, he exclaimed: "Look mamma, look, a light so beautiful, there near the door." Towards 10 o'clock in the evening, on April 4, 1919, after asking that all his offenses be pardoned, he died calmly, without any sign of suffering, without agony, his face shining with an angelic light. Describing the death of her young cousin in her Memoirs, Sister Lucy writes: "He flew away to Heaven in the arms of our Heavenly Mother."
JACINTA MARTO was born on March 11, 1910. At the time of the apparitions she was seven years old. She was the youngest of the seers. During the apparitions she saw and heard everything, but spoke neither to the Angel nor to the Mother of God. Intelligent and very sensitive, she remained profoundly impressed when she heard the Blessed Virgin declare that Jesus was much offended by sin. After seeing the vision of hell, she decided to offer herself completely for the salvation of souls.
The night of the first appearance of Our Lady (May 13, 1917), it was Jacinta who, despite the promises she had made to Lucy, revealed the secret of the apparition to her mother: "Mamma, today I have seen the Madonna in the Cova da Iria. Oh, what a beautiful Lady!" Later, Heaven would further grace Jacinta with two powerful visions of the Holy Father: A Pope suffering for the persecutions made against the Church and also for the wars and destructions which convulsed the world. "Poor Holy Father," said Jacinta, "there is a great need to pray for him." From that time on, Christ's Vicar was always present in the prayers and sacrifices of all the seers, but especially Jacinta.
"If only I could place in the heart of everyone the fire which I have in my heart which makes me love the Heart of Mary so much!"
To free souls from the fires of hell, Jacinta freely undertook sacrifices. In the fierce heat of the summer, she gave up drinking water. As a sacrifice to God's Glory, she offered her afternoon snacks to children even poorer than she. To save souls, she took upon herself the pain of wearing a rough piece of knottted rope next to her bare skin. She endured the exhausting interrogations and insults of disbelievers all without the smallest lament. "If only I could show hell to sinners!" she said, "how happy I would be if all could go to paradise."
A year following the apparitions at the Cova da Iri, the illness which would carry her to death began. First came bronchial pneumonia, then an abscess on the lung, both of which made her suffer intensely. Yet from her hospital bed, she declared cheerfully that her sickness was just a new opportunity to suffer for the conversion of sinners.
After two months in hospital, she returned home whereupon an open and ulcerous sore was shortly discovered on her chest. Soon thereafter she was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Over the course of the next year, she suffered greviously for Our Lady. "Will Jesus be content with the offering of my sufferings?," she asked Lucy. In February of 1920, she was rushed to another hospital, this time in Lisbon. Wasting away to a virtual skeleton and dying without the presence of her beloved parents or Lucy, she consoled herself with the thought that this, too, was yet another chance to offer up her suffering for sinners. In the Lisbon hospital she was visited no less than three times by the Mother of God.
Finally, on the night of 20th February 1920 the promise of the "Lady more brilliant than the sun" was accomplished. "I have come to take you with Me to Paradise." Like Francisco, Jacinta now lies buried in the great Basilica of Our Lady in Fatima.
LUCY DOS SANTOS was born on March 22, 1907 to Antonio and Maria Rosa dos Santos. The cousin of Francisco and Jacinta, she was the youngest of seven brothers and sisters and the oldest of the three little shepherds. From infancy, she was recognized as especially precocious and was a particular favorite of young and old alike. Buoyed by an open, cheerful temperament and lively intelligence, she organized games, prayers, dances, and other initiatives among the children of the village.
Her sufferings began immediately after the first apparition of the Virgin. She became the principal target of criticism on the part of her family and their friends to the point that she was greatly reluctant to return again to the Cova da Iria for the appointment with Our Lady on the 13th of July. The parish priest of Fatima actually insinuated that she could be a "little instrument of the devil." It was only at the insistence of the other seers that she overcame her fears and journeyed to the Cova as the Blessed Virgin had requested.
Lucy's other great moment of suffering came when Our Lady told her that She would soon carry Francisco and Jacinta to Heaven and informed her that she was to remain alone on earth, to spread the devotion of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. But the Virgin comforted her, "My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way which will lead you to God."
It was Lucy who spoke with the Queen of Heaven, who presented requests of favors on the part of many people and who requested a miracle so that all would believe the apparitions. It was also Lucy who, when the prophets were placed in prison on the 13th August 1917, organized the resistance to the threats and flatteries of the authorities, which had the purpose of discovering the Secret revealed by Our Lady. And when Francisco and Jacinta fell ill, it was again Lucy who assisted them lovingly until the end.
"Lord, make a saint out of me, preserve my heart always pure for You alone!"
In 1921, on the decision of the Bishop of Leiria (the Diocese of Fatima), Lucy was sent away from her village of Aljustrel and taken immediately to the Dorothean Sisters of Villar in Oporto. It was believed that her presence at Fatima could obstruct the impartiality of the investigations then being undertaken to determine the validity of the apparitions. In addition, the 14-year-old Lucy had been the subject of almost continuous harassment and interrogation by friends and enemies alike of the apparitions.
In the year 1928, Lucy became a sister of Saint Dorothy and, later in 1946, after a brief visit to Fatima, she entered the convent of the Carmelite Sisters of Coimbra, where she resides still, under the name of Sister Maria Lucia of the Immaculate Heart.
The Mother of God, who had asked her to remain in the world to propagate devotion to Her Immaculate Heart, came several more times to visit Her servant, including on the 10th of December 1925 when, at Pontevedra, Our Lady gave the young postulant nun the promise of the Five First Saturdays and also, five years later, at Tuy, where, in the presence of the Holy Trinity, She further revealed the spirit of this great devotion of reparation.
Today, nearly 90 years of age, Sister Lucy calmly awaits the hour in which the Blessed Virgin will deign to call her to that same Heaven where her cousins Francisco and Jacinta are waiting.