Sr Ana Luisa and Ângela Oliveira
They were given a taste of heaven. Francisco and Jacinta experienced the appeal for the greatest beauty in human existence: the encounter with God. Through the hands of the Lady full of Light, they perceived “what is the breadth and length and height and depth,[ … ] of the love of Christ” (Eph 3:18) and never again wish to leave Him. As they had learnt to like what was sweet and call bitter what was bitter, now, after experiencing the light that penetrated their deepest soul, they learnt to appreciate and distinguish, with skill, that which contains the radiance of God.
Once they had a taste of Heaven, it is natural that life became bitter without that divine touch. The acorns on the mountains, which they found along the way while shepherding their flock, were a good metaphor: by eating them they tasted the bitterness which the estrangement from God must have been for “poor sinners”. It is exactly because the acorns were bitter that Jacinta did not miss the opportunity to offer them as sacrifice “for the conversion of sinners»
This simple gesture became a sign of surrender and intercession for the wounded humanity whom they so loved. The whims and sulking and of the youngest Marto, or the casual “never mind” of her brother Francisco before the apparitions, melt away when they are faced with the commitment for the salvation of all souls. It is important to pray, to pray much, because prayer is more powerful than all weapons. The feeling of anxiety because of the ongoing war at the beginning of the 20th century, as well as all the age-old worries that dwell in the human heart, the apparent meaninglessness of suffering and death, the disappointment of the world, indeed the human condition cried out for peace. The Immaculate Heart of Mary appears, in Fatima, precisely as a response to that cry. If to a child of ours who asked for bread we would give him bread and not a stone “ how much more the Father in Heaven will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”(Lk 11,13) The maternal Heart of the Virgin Mary is given to us as refuge and the way that leads to God. Jacinta embraces this gift of God with the enthusiasm found in children who are fascinated by the beautiful and the good, but also with the maturity of a sent disciple. Shortly before going to hospital, where she would later die, Jacinta would tell her cousin Lucia “ I wish I could put into everybody the fire that I have here in my heart which makes me love the Heart of Jesus and the Heart of Mary so much.” (III,130).
Enfolded in that atmosphere, Francisco and Jacinta join the line of God’s friends who listen to Him and follow wherever He goes. Francisco is a little boy fascinated by God: “we were burning in that Light that is God and we did not get burnt. How is God!!! It is impossible to say!” (IV,145). We watch him discover, with emotion, that he can console, do reparation, and partake of this God. Lucia went to school, but he stayed with his Friend, in the church, as if the time and space of his short life on earth had no other purpose than to be wholeheartedly before his God and Friend. The prayer taught by the Angel and prayed endless times, “Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore You profoundly ...” became the very rhythm of his heart. Each moment, each gesture were expressions of a life with Him, never without Him. To the end. Someone once said: “it seems we feel, when going into Francisco’s room, what we feel when going into a church.” (IV, 190) The frailty and fickleness proper to childhood don’t fit when describing these two children. Little Masters because they learnt from the Master Teacher of the Mystery of God, Francisco and Jacinta speak to us of a transfigured life. Rooted in God and the Immaculate of Mary, they look at us, steadfast in faith, with the Rosary in their hands. In the silent and discreet unfolding of the mysteries of God, concealed in each Our Father and each Hail Mary, they console God and transform the world, while their own heart is being formed until Christ is formed in them. More than being the prayer of the simple, the Rosary is the tool that simplifies life. So it was for Francisco, when in May he found out that he had to pray many Rosaries: “O My Lady, Rosaries I will pray as many as you wish” (IV, 141)
In the Saints, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, the youngest of our Church, holiness is sketched with radical novelty, as is so typical of God. Humble children surprise us with a fidelity of those who never accept alternatives to the loving plans of God. Consolers and intercessors, acknowledged with gratitude and veneration, they are, today, like the Risen One, a sign of the triumph of Life and Good and heralds of Heaven.
Ana Luísa Castro, asm e Ângela Oliveira, asm
This article was first published in the newspaper “Voz de Fátima” (The voice of Fatima) on the 13th May 2017.