Lifelong Catechesis

Forming Catholic identity across generations
May 19, 2024


The sound of Alleluias fills the 50 days of Easter Sunday to Pentecost as we give thanks for the gift of our salvation. The Easter Triduum recalls the passion and resurrection of Christ in the sacred journey from Holy Thursday to Easter Vigil. "Dying he destroyed our death. Rising he restored our life."

Saint of the Week

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Francisco and Jacinta, Children, d. 1919 and 1920

One has a tendency to think that, short of martyrdom, saints lived relatively long lives devoted to prayer and good works. Francisco and Jacinta Marto, ages 11 and 10 at their deaths, demonstrate to us that even young children ─ maybe especially young children ─ are very close to God and can also become saints.

Born in the early 20th Century in a small village near Fatima, Portugal, this brother and sister, like other peasant children of their time, were sent out into the fields to shepherd the flocks at an age when most children would be starting school. Since there was no school in their village, Francisco and his sister’s formal education was limited to the religious training provided by their parents and their aunt, Maria dos Santos. Joined by their cousin, Lucia dos Santos, the children found time to play and pray the Rosary together while attending to their duties as shepherds.

The lives of the children began to change in 1916 when, they tell us, they were visited by an angel on three occasions. The angel told the children to pray for the forgiveness of sins and for the conversion of sinners. These visits were a prelude to later visits which were to make the children and their town famous.

Beginning on May 13, 1917, the children were visited several times by the Blessed Virgin Mary near Fatima. During these visits, Our Lady also exhorted them to pray for sinners and revealed three “secrets” to them. The first of these was that the war (World War I) would soon end, but that a greater war would occur unless the world stopped offending God. The second, related to the first, was that unless the pope and all the bishops consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in reparation for sins and the whole world prays for the conversion of Russia, that country would spread its errors throughout the world and provoke wars and persecution of the Church. The third, revealed at the beatification of Francisco and Jacinta, prophesied the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II that took place sixty-four years later to the day.

Our Lady of Fatima told the children that they would suffer much if they were to sacrifice for the sins of the world, but promised them the comfort of God’s grace. She told Francisco, particularly, that he must say many Rosaries if he were to go to Heaven. This he did, saying the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary, often several times each day. As Our Lady promised, the children were to suffer for accepting her challenge. The governor of the province, a former Catholic, cajoled and threatened the children and, at one point, even jailed them to get them to reveal the secrets. Many others were skeptical of their claims. Lucia asked Our Lady for a sign to convince the people that they were not lying. She was promised that, on her appearance on October 13, Our Lady would perform a miracle.

70,000 people gathered for Our Lady’s appearance on October 13th. At this appearance, while the children were seeing a tableau of the mysteries of the Rosary, the crowd saw the sun dancing in the sky and appear to come crashing toward the Earth. This miracle converted many of the skeptics.

As Our Lady had told them, the brother and sister would be called to Heaven before long. Contracting the flu in 1919, Francisco died in October of that year, while his sister lived until February 20, 1920. Lucia, told by Our Lady that she would remain behind to establish a devotion to her Immaculate Heart, was present on May 13, 2000, eighty-three years from Our Lady’s first appearance, when Pope John Paul II beatified Francisco and Jacinta Marto.

A memorial to Our Lady of Fatima may be celebrated on this date. Francisco and Jacinta are honored in Portugal on February 20.

Francisco and Jacinta's message today: We are all “our brother’s keepers” and our prayers and sacrifices are vital to the salvation of souls. In a world that seems to move further away from God with each passing year, we must redouble our efforts to bring about the conversion of sinners.

  • Do you say the Rosary often? Do you carry the Word of God with you in your daily life by your words and actions?