By Jim Dunning
(This article was originally published in "Irelands Own" magazine. The webmaster would like to gratefully thank the author, Jim Dunning, for his kind permission in reprinting it here.)
Jacinta was born on 11th March, 1910, the younger sister of Francisco and cousin to Lucia. Unlike her brother, she saw Our Lady during all six Apparitions, though she did not always hear what was being said to Lucia. A sensitive child, she cried bitterly at the age of five when she heard the Passion being read out, resolving not to make Our Lord suffer any more. She came under the spell of Lucia early on, regarding her more as an elder sister than a cousin. Her father, popularly known as Ti Marto, described Jacinta as the sweetest of his children. She called the moon ‘Our Lady’s Lamp.’
She had her faults, however, one of which was a tendency to sulk. During the first Apparition in May, 1917, Jacinta kept shyly in the background, but asked, charmingly, whether they should offer the Lady some of the bread and cheese they had brought for their lunch. Afterwards, Lucia insisted she should tell no one what they had seen. Jacinta vowed that she wouldn’t say a word, but later, when her parents returned from the market she rushed out exclaiming: ‘Oh, Mother! I saw Our Lady today!’ Over supper she related her story to the whole family. Her mother laughed but her father believed her, and Francisco supported her story, though he had neither seen nor heard anything.
Word spread quickly and Lucia’s mother, Maria Rosa, quizzed her fiercely. Since the parish priest refused to believe the children’s story, poor Lucia received a thrashing for telling lies. Jacinta got the blame for breaking her promise to stay quiet. Asked later why Our Lady never spoke to Jacinta, Lucia replied: ‘Because Jacinta’s tongue is tied. If she spoke, Our Lady would speak to her.’ Jacinta would smile shyly but never attempt to speak to the vision.
After interviewing the children the parish priest suggested they might be the victims of a trick by the Devil. Lucia was terrified, though Jacinta assured her the Devil was ugly and lived underground in Hell. When Lucia, worried by all the pressure, suggested telling everyone she had lied, Jacinta and Francisco told her indignantly that that would be a lie.
On 13th August, The Administrator, Santos, ‘kidnapped’ the children to prevent them going to Cova da Iria for the next Apparition, and threatened them with a cauldron of boiling oil. Jacinta cried bitterly, not at the thought of dying, but because she would never see her mother again. It may well be that she and Francisco connected the death threats with Our Lady’s promise to come soon to take them to heaven. A guard told them they could only save themselves by revealing the Secret. Jacinta trembled with fright but refused to speak and was marched off. Francisco was next, but when it was her turn Lucia found her two cousins alive and unharmed. Eventually, they were returned to the presbytery at Fatima.
On Sunday, 19th August, the children witnessed their fourth Apparition. Interestingly, Jacinta was late joining the other two and the Lady waited until the very moment she arrived before appearing. A neighbour commented to Ti Marto that Our Lady obviously had a special regard for his daughter.
After they had been taken ill during the Spanish Influenza epidemic in October, 1918, Jacinta told her cousin that Our Lady had come and said she would fetch Francisco very soon, that Jacinta herself would go to two hospitals and be alone. Lucia relates in her memoirs how her little cousin said she never tired of telling Our Lord and Our Lady how much she loved them. ‘I have a fire in my chest but it doesn’t burn me.’ She was obsessed by the thought of Hell and saving sinners.
Jacinta went on to develop pneumonia and then tuberculosis. A purulent abscess in her side caused her great agony. She was taken to the hospital in Vila Nova de Ourem. Although she hated being separated from Lucia she welcomed the opportunity it gave her to offer up her suffering as a sacrifice. After two months she was no better and returned home. A local priest advised her to say her prayers in bed, since she fell over whenever she got up to say them. Later she was taken to Lisbon, but as there were no beds available in the hospital she ended up in a kind of orphanage. She was happy there since she was able to receive Communion every day.
On 2nd February, Jacinta was finally admitted to the Estfania hospital where she was lonely and unhappy. On 10th February two of her ribs were removed under local anaesthetic. Although the daily dressing of the wound caused her agony she never complained. She told the lady in charge of the orphanage when she visited her that Our Lady had appeared and promised to fetch her soon and that her pain would stop. It did. On the evening of 20th February, 1920, she asked to receive the Last Rites. A priest heard her confession and promised to bring her Communion next morning, but Jacinta died peacefully that night. Alone. She was almost eleven.
Visitors who saw Jacinta in her open coffin exclaimed that she seemed to be alive, with the loveliest colour. The unpleasant odour due to her illness was replaced by ‘a fragrance as of the most delicious flowers’.
When Jacinta’s coffin was opened on 12th September, 1935, during its removal to a tomb especially built at Fatima, her face was seen to be perfectly incorrupt. Her relics and those of Francisco lie in the Basilica at Fatima, with the simple inscription: “Here lie the mortal remains of Francisco and Jacinta to whom Our Lady appeared.”
Jacinta and her brother Francisco were beatified, that is to say, declared ‘Blessed’, by Pope John Paul II on 13th May, 2000 at Fatima.
~Blessed Jacinta Marto, pray for us!
For more info on the visionary children of Fatima, see Blessed Francisco Marto and also Sister Lucia dos Santos. For more information on the events of Fatima see Fatima- Miracle of the Sun ____________________________________________
-Jim Dunning lives in the United Kingdom. His hobbies include watching rugby and writing short stories and religious articles.