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“In front of the palm of Our Lady’s right hand was a Heart encircled by thorns which pierced It. We understood that this was the Immaculate Heart of Mary, outraged by the sins of humanity, and seeking reparation.”

– Sister Lucia, the eldest of the three children of Fatima, seen here praying before the statue of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

When you consider the story of Our Lady of Fatima, you see this heavenly message lived out to the full in the three children who were graced to see the Blessed Virgin. What is perhaps most extraordinary is how young those children were – at the time of the appearances, Jacinta was 7, her brother Francisco was 9, and their cousin Lucia was 10.

From the very beginning, Jacinta and Francisco knew that they would be in the world only a short time, for the Lady had promised to take them to Heaven ‘soon’. Perhaps this knowledge that their lives would be short, helped the two younger children to detach themselves from the transitory things of the earth; what is certain is that their hearts already belonged to Heaven. In seeing the Mother of God in life, it is impossible to love anything earthly. Lucia, on the other hand, would remain on earth ‘some time longer’ – as the Lady had told her – to make known the message of Fatima. Lucia would eventually go to her eternal reward at the age of 97, in 2005, having lived her life as an enclosed Carmelite Sister, doing all in her power to spread the accurate message of Fatima as faithfully as possible.

Seeing the Lady again in private appearances after the public ones at the Cova da Iria, Jacinta told Lucia what the Lady had said –

“Our Lady came to see us. She told us She would come to take Francisco to Heaven very soon, and 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 of Mary, and for love of Jesus”.

Francisco would be the first to die, as the Lady had predicted, less than two years later, in April 1919. Ravaged by the Spanish Flu pandemic of that period, Francisco prepared himself for death by ensuring he had done all he could to fulfil the requests of the Lady, praying his Rosary over and over and spending long, intense hours alone before the Tabernacle in the parish Church.

His little sister, Jacinta, died of the same influenza less than a year later, in February 1920 – in hospital and alone, as the Lady had foretold. Dying alone was the greatest fear of the child but still she accepted this as another means of offering sacrifices on behalf of poor sinners. She had already endured an operation to remove two ribs and drain the pleural cavity, which was badly infected – this being done with only local anaesthesia because her little heart would not have withstood general anaesthesia. She accepted the operations even though she told the doctors it would make no difference as she would die regardless. She never complained once. The day before her death, Jacinta asked the hospital Chaplain to bring her Holy Communion in Viaticum, stating she would be dead ‘the next day’. The Priest told her she was not that ill. He was wrong – she died as she had predicted.

All three children had been profoundly and fundamentally changed at seeing the vision of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Lucia would later write in her Memoirs –

“In front of the palm of Our Lady’s right hand was a Heart encircled by thorns which pierced It. We understood that this was the Immaculate Heart of Mary, outraged by the sins of humanity, and seeking reparation.”

The children saw, on the one hand, this most loving and motherly Heart, descending from Heaven out of love for all mankind; and on the other hand, fearsome thorns representing the sins of that same mankind, those thorns brutally piercing the Heart. Who could not be moved and transformed at such a pitiful sight?

For Francisco, the focus became to console God, so deeply offended by the sins of humanity, and in this way to make reparation to the Divine Justice. For Jacinta, her intentions were to plead for mercy and conversion on behalf of sinners, that they mght change their ways and avoid eternal damnation, and to make reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. As for Lucia, her task was to make known the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, so that many more souls might follow in the footsteps of the three children and – like them – reach the heights of sanctity.

In the history of the Catholic Church, no other children so young as Jacinta and Francisco have been declared Saints, with the exception of Martyrs. What, then, is the Church saying to us in their canonisation? Simply, it is this – that if two such young children can so rapidly rise to the very heights of holiness, then that road is open to every single one of us; we, too, can be saints and live lives of deep sanctity.

Jacinta and Franciso have provided a model of holiness for us, and Lucia has done her task well and made sure that we know precisely how we can do so, through the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and through the prayer of the Rosary. And now, the rest is up to us.

Saint Jacinta and Saint Francisco, pray for us.
Sister Lucia, pray for us.