Columnist Joseph Pronechen writing for the National Catholic Register has compiled some interesting data on the three Fatima children whose meetings with the virgin Mary will be commemorated by a Papal visit this May marking the 100th anniversary of the celebrated apparitions in Portugal.
Jacinta and Francisco both caught the devastating Spanish flu in 1918. As Jacinta was suffering, the Blessed Virgin appeared to her. Jacinta explained that “she asked me if I still wanted to convert more sinners. I said I did. She told me I would be going to a hospital where I would suffer a great deal; and that I am to suffer for the conversion of sinners, in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart, and for the love of Jesus.” Jacinta died on Feb. 20, 1920 a few weeks short of her 10th birthday. Jacinta’s body remains incorrupt. She was entombed in a private chapel in Ourem, Portugal. Her body had been sprinkled with quicklime because the law stated that anyone who died of the Spanish flu had to be treated that way. When her tomb was opened in 1935 her features were incorrupt. She was reburied next to her brother Francisco in the Fatima cemetery. Jacinta was never afraid to speak up scolding anyone who would do inappropriate things, telling them, “Don’t do that! You are offending the Lord our God, and He is already so much offended!” Jacinta was given heavenly insights into religion. She readily shared these insights: “Fashions much offend our Lord. People who serve God should not follow the fashions. The Church has no fashions. Our Lord is always the same.” “If men knew what eternity is, they would do everything to change their lives.” “Many marriages are not of God, and do not please our Lord.” “Penance is necessary. If people amend their lives, our Lord will even yet save the world, but if not, punishment will come.” “Priests should concern themselves only with the things of the Church.” “Disobedience of priests and religious to their superiors displeases our Lord very much.” “Have charity, even for bad people.” “Confession is a sacrament of mercy, and we must confess with joy and trust. There can be no salvation without confession.”
Francisco was nine when the apparitions began on May 13, and he too became a mystic in his way. Once the apparitions began, he preferred to be alone to pray, sacrifice, and contemplate. He wanted always to console our Lord who was sad because of so many sins. On the way to school he would tell Lucia to go to school but he would stay in church “close to the Hidden Jesus. It’s not worth my while learning to read, as I’ll be going to Heaven very soon.” At church he would console his “Hidden Jesus” and pray for the conversion of sinners. Francisco died in 1919 at age 11 at home, peacefully, despite suffering terribly from influenza. His wish of receiving Holy Communion was granted the day before he died. Francisco and Jacinta became two of the youngest persons to be named Blessed when on May 13, 2000, Pope John Paul II traveled to Fatima to beatify them. The Pope said the little shepherds became saints so quickly though their submission and dependence on Mary. “Devoting themselves with total generosity to such a good Teacher,” John Paul II said, “Jacinta and Francisco soon reached the heights of perfection.”
Lucia had actually gotten special permission to receive her First Holy Communion at age 6, a year earlier than normal, since she knew her catechism and explained the mystery of the Eucharist so well. But Lucia still had to learn to read and write – at Mary’s request. In 1921, Lucia joined the Sisters of St. Dorothy at her bishop’s direction. As she was about to leave Fatima and likely never again see her home, she felt regret at the departure. She went to the holm oak where the Blessed Mother appeared in 1917, knelt and prayed in terrible anguish. She later wrote, “Once again you came down to earth and I felt your helping hand and maternal touch. I looked up and I saw you, Blessed Mother. Your lips unveiled the sweet timbre of your voice. Light and peace were restored to my soul. ‘Go, follow the path which the Bishop wants, this is the will of God.’” Later, on March 25, 1948, Lucia entered the Carmelites. She was given the name Sister Maria Lucia of Jesus and of the Immaculate Heart. A physician who attended her for the last 15 years of her life remarked, “It was amazing that she was so normal, simple, and humble. She was full of joy and laughter, always joking and smiling. Her infectious joy made everyone happier.” Still, she did suffer for the conversion of sinners. Sister Lucia tirelessly talked about Fatima’s message of praying the Rosary. The Carmelite nuns living with her revealed that Sister Lucia was pained when people focused only on the Fatima secrets. She was “frustrated when people wanted to focus on the miracles and secrets.” Sr. Lucia used to say, “The miracles and secrets aren’t important. We must concentrate on Our Lady’s message. Live the Ten Commandments! That’s what’s important.” Sister Lucia died in 2005 at 97 years of age.