“Tell everyone that God grants graces
through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
and they are to ask Her for them.”
– St Jacinta Marto
Almost two years after the appearances of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima, Jacinta Marto lay very ill in hospital. She had already succumbed to the Spanish Flu which had killed so very many people across the world, including her brother Francisco. She had then developed purulent pleurisy, which caused a large open sore in her chest and would soon lead to the removal of ribs without the benefit of anaesthesia, for fear it would kill her.
Jacinta was not at all concerned by any of this – indeed, she welcomed it with a spirit of heroic detachment, because she was ever mindful of what the Mother of God had told her at the Cova da Iria; that she would go to Heaven ‘soon’. And so Jacinta accepted everything that God was pleased to send her, whether joys or sorrows, sufferings or little acts of kindness from others. And everything, she offered up to God in reparation for poor sinners and for love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Jacinta died, aged nine years, on 20 Fenruary 1920 – alone, as she had said she would.
A little while before leaving to go to the hospital, Jacinta had told her cousin, Lucia –
“It won’t be long before I go to Heaven. You are to stay here to make known Our Lord’s desire to establish in the world the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. When the time comes to speak, you mustn’t hold back, but tell everybody that God grants graces through the Immaculate Heart of Mary; that we must ask Her for them; that the Heart of Jesus wishes to be honoured together with the Immaculate Heart beccause God has entrusted peace to Her. Oh, if only I could put into everybody’s heart the burning fire I have inside me which makes me love the Hearts of Jesus and Mary so much!”
From the time of the apparitions at Fatima, she was consumed by an intense love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a love she desperately wanted others to share in. She was acutely aware of the power of devotion to this Immaculate Heart – it had the power to save souls from Hell, and to raise souls to the heights of sanctity; she herself was a living example of this sanctity. And she knew that the devotion to the Immaculate Heart was the express will of God, Who desired that this devotion be established throughout the world.
Jacinta had said that “God grants graces through the Immaculate Heart of Mary”. And while this could ultimately raise the soul to great sanctity, still those graces begin in lots of little ways. In the case of Jacinta, her brother and her cousin, one change was the frequency of the recitation of the holy Rosary. Whereas they had always prayed it from time to time, from the days of the appearances, they began to pray it communally – just the three of them together – several times each day and always again in the evenings.
Her devotion to the Mother of God led to other changes, too – previously a wilful little girl who could be tempestuous and quite stubborn, her character developed and she was able to overcome herself in many small ways. As time went on, she became more and more detached from everything around her and sought only God and the Blessed Virgin, clinging to Them alone.
Such a path is indeed what we refer to as ‘sanctity’ – and for Jacinta, it was lived to an heroic degree. This is even more astonishing when one considers her very tender age.
God sets the Saints before us as models for the spiritual life. We may never entirely replicate what they have done, for each of us is different and we all walk our own path; but regardless of that, the Saints are our mentors, our teachers. We look to them, read or learn about their lives, we are touched by their story and we emulate what we see in them to be good and true, noble and holy.
Looking at Saint Jacinta Marto, we see that holiness – real, deep and authentic holiness – is possible for everyone. If it is possible for a child aged nine, it is possible for you and for me. How do we achieve it?
In beholding the life of little Jacinta, we see the steps on the path – frequent prayer, especially that of the holy Rosary; the living of the Sacramental life of the Church and faithfulness to that Church and to it’s Shepherd, the Holy Father; humble and docile submission to the will of God in all things, offering up everything for love of Him and in reparation for our sins and the sins of others; and a deep and abiding relationship with the Blessed Virgin and devotion to Her Immaculate Heart.
In doing all these things, perhaps we – like Jacinta – will begin to walk that same path of genuine sanctity and discover along the way that God does indeed grant graces through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.