THE TRUE STORY
“The Lady in the Light”
by the Rev Father John De Marchi, IMC, 1952.
Re-published by Patrimonium Publishing, 2016.
THE COST OF HEAVEN: Jacinta’s Offering
It is not easy to write about the final days of Jacinta. She simply does not sound like a child of eight or nine. A non-Catholic, not perceiving the force of love that drove her, nor familiar with the divine mysteries made clear to this child by angelic insight, might well dismiss her as a precocious and prattling little thing with no apparent design to her ceaseless mouthings other than to set a pall of gloom upon the everyday activities of everyday, normal people.
More truly, and much more fairly, Jacinta is a joyous person, and yet, at the same time, whether we like it or not, a duly commissioned prophetess of penance. Here was a miniature Joan of Arc, standing at last against the stake of burning love; here was a child more of heaven than of earth, and we will be wise to mark for our own instruction all that she has said.
For one who in the beginning had been so gay, and almost, we might say, over-cute, the rapid inroad of spiritual experience on her personality is unmistakable.
Lucia has written:
After the apparitions, I never saw her drawn by any childish enthusiasm for frills and fancies. She was always serious, modest and kind, and seemed to carry the presence of God into all her actions in a manner more usual to people of advanced age and virtue. If children were not attracted to her as they were to me, it was perhaps because she did not know so many songs and stories, or perhaps because she was so serious for her age. If in her presence a child, or even a grown-up, did or said anything unseemly, she would say, “Don’t do that because it offends God and He is so much offended.”
Through the spring and much of the summer that followed Francisco’s death, his little sister suffered greatly. After a siege of bronchial pneumonia, a punishing form of pleurisy set in. An abscess formed in the delicate membranes of her chest cavity, and there was an agony of unrelenting pain. Except for a few brief days of reprieve, she had not been able to leave her bed since October of the year before. Lucia came to be with her not only every day but for every moment and every hour she could contrive.
“I keep thinking of Francisco,” Jacinta would tell her cousin again and again, “and of how much I would like to be with him.”
But it is clear that Jacinta was living through a drama of which the world knew nothing. This made it no less real, but rather more terribly and intimately a problem to be met. Lucia’s memoirs reveal unmistakably how the sorrowing child, as though she could pay the world’s debts by herself, was bowed with thoughts of war and evil, suffering and horror, and the pit of hell which awaited the lost.
“So many people will die and go to hell,” she said to Lucia. “So many houses will be destroyed, so many priests will be killed. Listen, Lucia, I will be all right, you see, because I am going to heaven, but when you see that light of which our Lady told us, Lucia – then you must come to heaven, too.”
Very sensibly Lucia reminded her that one doesn’t take a train to heaven as to Lisbon. The choice of the time or the means, she explained, is never one’s own.
“Yes, I know,” Jacinta agreed. “That is true, of course, but don’t you be afraid. I will pray very hard for you when I am in heaven; I will pray for the Holy Father, too, and for all the priests, and ask God that the next terrible war will not come to Portugal.”
“Do you suffer much?” Lucia asked.
“Very greatly,” the child conceded, “but don’t cry, Lucia, please – because, really, I don’t mind. Just don’t tell anyone else, especially Mother, because I don’t want her to worry.”
Jacinta, in the months of her illness, had been reduced from exuberant, bounding health to a state of pathetic frailty. Life clung as thinly as breath, and the local doctor, examining both her condition, and the limited facilities of her home, advised that she be sent without delay to the hospital at Vila Nova de Ourem, a few miles away.
The little girl did not protest, for the reason that she knew she was going, anyhow. “You will go to two hospitals,” she had been told by her Lady, “not to be cured, but to suffer more for the love of God, and for the conversion of sinners, and to make reparations for the offences against my Immaculate Heart.”
Does this seem a cruel and unnecessary burden for the power of heaven to set upon a shrivelled, powerless, dying child? Jacinta did not think so. She understood very clearly this reverse – gravity of divine Love. In joyous imitation of her Saviour she accepted her Lady’s directive, knowing beyond the wisdom of prudent and self-protecting men that the heart can best ascend to the Father of Christ when it is weighted with a cross.
“Your mother will take you to the hospital,” the Lady had told her, “and then you will have to stay there alone.”
The prospect of separation from her family and from Lucia was more punishing to her than the pressure of physical pain, however great.
“If only you could come with me,” she said to her cousin. “How dreadful, really, to go without you. Perhaps it will be so dark in this hospital that I will not be able to see, Lucia, and in the darkness, too, I will have to be alone.”
Early in July her thin little body was raised by her father, and placed as tenderly as possible on the family donkey’s back. Her mother made the journey to Vila Nova de Ourem with her. She was at the hospital for a period of two months, and though the treatments were radical and severe, they brought no visible benefit. It was a time of actual martyrdom, relieved by nothing but the two brief visits that Lucia was able to make.
Lucia has revealed:
And yet I found her happy as ever, suffering willingly for the love of God and the Immaculate Heart of Mary – for the Holy Father, too, she offered her sufferings, and for all the sinners of the world. She was doing that which she wanted most to do, and it was of these things that we spoke.
By the end of August it all seemed depressingly hopeless. The hospital treatment was useless, and the expense to Jacinta’s family was much beyond their very limited means. It was decided the child should come home. By now, in her side, she carried an open wound that required its being attended and dressed each day, not so much with the object of any cure, but to prolong such life as remained. After a while, in the rather primitive surroundings of home, the wound became infected, and Jacinta weakened and wasted day by day. At about this time she was visited by her warm friend, Dr Formigao, who had come from Santarem to see her, and this is the priest’s reaction to what he saw:
Jacinta is like a skeleton and her arms are shockingly thin. Since she left the local hospital where she underwent two months’ useless treatment, the fever has never left her. She looks pathetic. Tuberculosis, after an attack of bronchial pneumonia and purulent pleurisy, is undermining her enfeebled constitution. Only careful treatment in a good sanatorium can save her. But her parents cannot undertake the expense which such a treatment involves. Bernadette, the peasant girl of Lourdes, heard from the mouth of the Immaculate Virgin in the cave of Massabielle, a promise of happiness not in this world, but in the next. Has our Lady made an identical promise to the little shepherdess of Fatima, to whom she confided an inviolable secret?
Great as the child’s trials must have been in this period, her eagerness for further sacrifices failed to falter. Her courage and resolution appear to have been almost fantastic.
“When I am alone,” she explained to Lucia, her only confidante, “I get out of bed to say the prayer of the angel. Trouble is I can’t get my head on the floor any more: I tumble over when I try to do it and for this reason I have to say the prayer on my knees.”
Lucia, moved with pity, and wishing to help her little friend, went quietly with this information to Father Ferreira, who reacted with the firm direction that Jacinta must not attempt any more to get out of bed, but must be satisfied to continue her assaults on heaven from a prone position.
“But won’t our Lord mind that?” Jacinta asked when she heard of the priest’s directive.
“Our Lord wants us to do what our pastor says,” Lucia explained and her cousin seemed satisfied.
Jacinta, after her return from the hospital at Vila Nova de Ourem, managed to attain a certain amount of mobility. On occasional winter mornings, with a reserve of strength gained through the night, she was permitted to attend the weekday Mass in the parish church at Fatima, which was closer to her home than the Cova da Iria, an area now forbidden her.
“Don’t come with me to Mass today, Jacinta,” Lucia would sometimes advise. “You just aren’t strong enough, and it isn’t a Sunday.”
But the child, drawn on by that Hidden Jesus of whom she spoke so often, would persist, and go along on those spindly legs. Returning, she would be utterly exhausted, and obliged to fall into bed. Apart from these limited ventures to church, she was not allowed out-of-doors in winter. Lucia, however, remained with her almost constantly, in intimate sharing of that very private world these two possessed. They held no secrets from one another, but talked of the sacrifices they had made and their hard-won reparations to God as other children might discuss the playing of games or the dressing of dolls.
“Do you know why Jesus is so sad, Lucia? Because our Lady has explained how much He is offended and still nobody cares; they just go on with the same old sins.”
Recounting to her beloved Lucia, in their order and number, the sacrifices she had made in atonement for the sins of others, was not by any interpretation a boastful indulgence for Jacinta. First of all, no one else knew about these private chalices of sought-for-pain. Besides, both girls were actively and intelligently in the business of goodness. There was a serious and divinely ordained enterprise to be carried on, so that their counsels comprised a kind of essential inventory:
“I was thirsty, Lucia, and I didn’t drink, and so I offered it to Jesus for sinners. In the night I had pains and I offered our Lord the sacrifice of not turning over in bed, and for that reason I didn’t sleep at all. What sacrifices have you been able to make?”
Lucia’s memoirs, replete with the fiery self-annihilations of her cousin, fail to list with anything approaching an equal candour the gifts to God made by herself. This is understandable and as it should be, yet we would be reading the evidence badly not to conclude that Lucia was in full partnership. The seriousness with which she regarded their joint pursuit of virtue is underlined in many ways, and that she could see an occasional imperfection amid all the glow of her precocious cousin’s sanctity is evident.
Lucia has written:
One day, Jacinta’s mother brought in a milk pudding and told her to take it.
“I don’t want it, mother,” Jacinta said, then pushed it away.
My aunt tried hard to persuade her, but finally went away discouraged, so that when we were alone I said to Jacinta, “Well, this time you disobeyed your mother and you didn’t offer to God the sacrifice you could have made.”
When Jacinta heard this she burst into tears, and then she said, while I was wiping the tears away, “Oh, Lucia, I forgot this time.”
Quickly she called back her mother and asked her pardon, explaining that she would take whatever her mother offered her. The milk pudding was brought back, and Jacinta took it without any sign of repugnance. Afterwards she said to me:
“Lucia, you don’t know how hard that was to take!”
Some of the dialogue between them, reads coldly, seems almost too pious for print; yet it exists in the faithful record made by Lucia herself, and it is necessary here to complete the portrait of Jacinta.
Lucia, who was old enough, and for that reason eligible, frequently attended daily Mass and received Holy Communion, a privilege that never failed to fill her little cousin with rapturous wonder.
“Lucia, have you been to Holy Communion today? Then please come close to me won’t you? You have our Hidden Jesus in your heart. Sit here. Sit close, Lucia. I don’t know how it is, but I can feel our Lord inside of me, too, even though I have not received Him. And though I cannot see Him or hear Him, I still understand what He wants.”
Lucia, listening with tender understanding, took from her prayer book a picture of the Chalice and the Host. The sick child seized it and kissed it with passion.
“This is our Hidden Jesus, Lucia, and how I love Him, and how I long to receive Him as you do. Will I be able to go to Communion in heaven, Lucia? Because, if I could, I would go every day.”
Always in her thoughts and always at the surface of her speech was that Immaculate Heart of Mary of which the Lady had spoken. There were no doctrinal difficulties or confusions of meaning to impede her absolute devotion to Mary, the Queen of Heaven. Here the dying child is entirely explicit.
“I shall go to heaven very soon, Lucia, and you must stay to explain to people how God wants to establish devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary all over the world. And when you speak of this to people, Lucia, don’t be afraid to tell exactly what is true. Tell everyone that God gives us His grace through His Mother’s Immaculate Heart, which He wants to hold close to His own Sacred Heart. The people must ask for peace through Mary’s Immaculate Heart, because that is the way God wants it, and that is what our Lady herself has told us!”
Love, perhaps more than fever, was consuming the fragile remains of Jacinta Marto.
Toward the end of December, 1919, Jacinta confided to Lucia that she had been privileged with another visitation.
“Our Lady told me that I am going to another hospital, this time in Lisbon, and that I shall never see you again, Lucia – you, nor my father, nor my mother. She has told me that I will have to suffer much, and die alone, but that I must not worry or be afraid, because this time she is coming to take me home to heaven with her.”
Most punishing to Jacinta was the thought of dying alone, unattended by the ones she loved. For reasons not clear – considering all the pain she had cheerfully borne – this final penance rested more heavily than all the rest. Lucia recalls finding her one day kissing a simple picture of our Lady and beseeching aloud:
“Darling Mother in heaven, must I die alone?”
Lisbon, though less than a hundred miles away, seemed to the child like the farthest end of earth. Perhaps to her parents and sisters and brothers it seemed equally remote, for when she announced to them that she was going to the great capital city, they declared it, at least among themselves, as the wildest of nonsense. Why Lisbon, after all? The hospital treatment at Vila Nova de Ourem had been utterly useless, and there appeared to be very little wisdom in repeating a first mistake on an even grander scale. And there was the question of the fantastic expense that would be involved, for in Lisbon, surely, in their grand establishment for the sick, the authorities would not be content with the humble fees charged at Vila Nova de Ourem.
The family was wrong. Events confounded them, and contrived. fulfilment of the Lady’s prediction. One day an automobile – an item rarely seen in Aljustrel, stopped before the pale stucco home of the Marto’s, and out of it stepped their priestly friend, Dr Formigao. With the clergyman were the famed Lisbon physician, Dr Enrico Lisboa, and Senhora Lisboa.
We quote now from Dr Lisboa’s own recollections of that day:
In the middle of January, 1920, we went for a run to the Cova da Iria in order to try out the new motor car which we had recently bought. On our way through Santarem we went to pay our respects to Dr Formigao, who we knew could tell us all about Fatima and the events of which he had been a witness. Dr Formigao whom we had not known personally before, but who has been our intimate friend ever since, had the kindness to accompany us to Fatima on that occasion and it was through him that we came to know Jacinta and Lucia.
After a visit to the Cova with Lucia, in whose company we prayed the Rosary with unforgettable faith and devotion, we returned to Fatima, where we spoke to Jacinta and the mothers of the two seers. They told us about Francisco, who had been a victim of the widespread epidemic of pneumonia influenza which had swept with such tragic results through Europe. He had, we learned, realised his only wish since the apparitions, which was to go to our Lady. He refused all help and advice from the people who knew him in his life, and desired only death, with the least possible delay.
Little Jacinta was very pale and thin, and walked with great difficulty. The family told me she was very ill, which they hardly regretted, because Jacinta’s only ambition also was to go to our Lady, whose will it was that she should die in the same way as Francisco.
When I censured them for their lack of effort to save their daughter, they told me that it was not worth while, because our Lady wished to take her, and that she had been interned for two months in the local hospital without any improvement in her condition.
I replied that our Lady’s will was certainly more powerful than any human efforts, but in order to be certain that she really wished to take Jacinta, they must not neglect any of the normal aids of science to save her life.
Impressed by my words, they went to ask the advice of Dr Formigao, who supported my opinion in every respect. It was therefore arranged on the spot, that Jacinta should be sent to Lisbon and treated by the best doctors in one of the hospitals of the capital.
Ti Marto had listened with sober respect to the learned physician’s recommendation. Where the money was to come from he had no idea, but he went, anyhow, to tell Jacinta that a decision had been made.
“Jacinta,” he explains having said, “we are going to arrange for you to go to a hospital in Lisbon.”
“Yes, Father,” she said, and it could certainly not have been any surprise.
“It has to be done, child. It must be done. Otherwise people will say that we neglected to give you the proper care. And perhaps, after you are treated at Lisbon, you will be better.”
“Papa, dear,” Ti Marto recalls his daughter saying, “if I should recover from this illness, you may be sure I would get another. When I go to Lisbon, Papa, it means goodbye.”
She was a wretched sight that day, by her father’s testimony. Her little heart was enlarged, and her digestive organs by now were ruined. She was resigned to this last of her journeys, and had only one request – that she be allowed, before leaving the serra for good, to make one last visit to the Cova da Iria.
Jacinta’s mother has told us:
I arranged to take her there on a friend’s donkey because I knew she could not have managed to walk. On the way she asked to stop just once, and began by herself to say the Rosary. Weakly she picked a few flowers to put in the chapel at the Cova, and then was helped back on the donkey. At the Cova she just knelt down and prayed.
“Mother,” she said to me, when she struggled up from her knees, “when our Lady went away she passed over those trees, and afterwards she went into heaven so fast I thought her feet would get caught.”
Ti Marto went about making provision for his daughter’s trip to Lisbon and her hospitalisation there. He would accept financial assistance from no one, however slight his current resources, but there were other details with which, in his inexperience, he could not cope. A young nobleman from Vila Nova de Ourem, the Baron Alvaiazere, had become the family’s good friend, and it was through the Baron that arrangements were made for Jacinta, her mother and her brother, Antonio, to be met by friends in the great capital city.
Ti Marto has explained:
I went to see Baron Alvaiazere, and I told him what train they would be taking. “Antonio will tie a white handkerchief to his wrist,” I said, “so that the ladies who are coming to meet the train will know who they are.”
That night I gave my wife instructions for the following day.
“When you get on the train,” I said, “you must ask the other people to excuse you, because your little girl is very sick and it is only because of this that she has an unpleasant smell. Be very careful that Jacinta does not lean out of a window when another train is passing, and when you are going through the Rossio tunnel (the approach to Lisbon), don’t forget to have Antonio tie on the handkerchief.”
Unquestionably the most punishing of Jacinta’s experiences was the
forced separation from Lucia, who recalls the bitter day:
It nearly broke my heart to have her go. Jacinta stayed a long while in my arms, holding very close to me, and then she said, “We shall never see each other again! Pray for me, Lucia; pray for me very much, until I can go to heaven, and then I will pray and pray for you. Never, never tell our Lady’s secret to anyone, not even if they say they are going to kill you, Lucia. Love Jesus very much and love our Lady’s Immaculate Heart, and do not forget your sacrifices for sinners.”
Jacinta’s mother has described the trip to Lisbon:
We went to the station in a mule cart with my eldest son, Antonio. During the journey Jacinta stood nearly all the time by the window looking through the glass. In Santarem a lady came to the train and gave her some sweetmeats, but Jacinta wouldn’t eat anything.
We knew nobody in Lisbon, and it was for this reason that Baron Alvaiazere and my husband had arranged for some ladies to meet us. They were to recognise us by the white handkerchiefs tied to our arms. But when we got out of the train, Antonio, who knew how to read, went off to see something outside the station and I lost sight of him.
“Antonio, Antonio,” I shouted out….
And then a few moments later he appeared again with the three ladies, who came up to us. They took us out of the station, and we went to various institutions but nobody would take us in. When we were nearly tired out from walking we came to an orphanage run by a holy nun who opened her doors to us, and could not have given us a better welcome. I stayed there with Jacinta for over a week, and then went back to Fatima.29
[29. While mother and daughter were in the waiting room, a certain Dona Maria de Castro, who was a patient of Dr Lisboa, came to see Jacinta. This lady was a believer in the apparitions of Fatima, and held Jacinta in great esteem, and she at once asked her to pray to our Lady for her. But Jacinta gave no reply and looked at her so sadly, that Dona Maria went away disheartened. She left a fifty escudo bank note with the little girl, who at once handed it over to the superior of the house, Mother Godinho. The nun, however, did not wish to accept it. “Give it to your mother,” she advised Jacinta. “No, it’s for you, because I shall give you a lot of trouble.” Later Mother Godinho asked Jacinta why she had not replied to Dona Maria when she asked for prayers. “I did pray,” was the answer, “but I didn’t say so that day because I was afraid of a promise I might not keep. I was in such pain that I was not sure I would remember her request.”]
Jacinta, in spite of weakness and physical pain, found contentment and joy in the orphanage on the Rua da Estrela, in Lisbon. Mother Godinho, the superior, was a woman of vast understanding and charity. The children of the house, with every good reason, called her Madrinha, or godmother, a term quickly adopted and employed by Jacinta herself. This house, in which the desperately ailing child and her mother, rejected by all other institutions, took final sanctuary, adjoins the Chapel of Milagres, there is a raised choir from which one can see the tabernacle and assist at Mass, celebrated in those distant days by an old and very deaf priest. The privilege was to Jacinta a boundless joy. The gift of being under the same roof sheltering Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament was as wildly beyond her hopes as, in her humility, she believed it to be in excess of her merits.
Her mother recalls:
She went to the altar either in my arms, during the little while I was there, or else she was carried by the mother superior. I remember her saying to me before I left for home, “Oh, mother, I want to go to confession.”
That day we went very early to the Estrela church, and when her confession had been heard she was like an angel with happiness.
“What a good priest that was,” she said to me. “He asked me so many things.”
I kept saying to myself how much I would give to know what the good Father had asked her to give her this happiness, but of course it is not anyone else’s business what happens in confession.
Every moment permitted her was spent by Jacinta in the choir of the chapel. Sitting quietly on her little chair, for she was not allowed to kneel, she would remain with her eyes fixed on the tabernacle in prayer and meditation. If, below her in the chapel, she heard frivolous conversation, or observed in anyone an attitude of imperfect respect, she would mention this to Mother Godinho, not that she chose to be a tattler or a scold, but because she was horrified by any lack of reverence. Gravely she explained that our Lady was always made unhappy when people did not respect the Blessed Sacrament.
The wise superior did all she could to accommodate the unusual fervour of this child, without taxing her dwindling strength. To give her all the sun and air she could, she obliged Jacinta to sit at an open window overlooking the Estrela gardens. Here at least she could see the green of the trees, and watch the antics of the birds, and the companionship of the wise and gentle nun did much to repair the bitter loss of Lucia, whom Jacinta missed more than all the members of her family.
Says Mother Godinho:
I soon began to realise that a little angel had come into my house. Although I had long wanted to see the privileged children of Fatima, I never imagined that I would have the good fortune to shelter one under my roof.
We had some twenty to twenty-five children in the asylum. Jacinta was friendly with them all but she preferred the company of a little girl about her own age to whom she would give little sermons. It was delightful to hear them, and hidden behind the half-open door, I assisted at many of these conversations.
“You mustn’t lie, or be lazy or disobedient, and you must bear everything with patience for love of our Lord, if you want to go to heaven.”
She spoke with such authority – hardly like a child.
During the time she was in my house she must have received a visit from our Lady more than once. I remember on one occasion she said:
“Please move, dear Mother, I am waiting for our Lady,” and her face took on a radiant expression.
It seems that it was not always our Lady in person who appeared, but a globe of light such as had been seen in Fatima, because we once heard her say:
“This time it wasn’t like it was in Fatima, but I knew it was she.”
That these later appearances of our Lady to Jacinta were not mere hallucinations, is rather strongly supported by the child’s conversations with Mother Godinho. The wisdom and understanding displayed by this unlettered ten-year-old, lacking anything more than the bare rudiments of religious instruction, would have been almost impossible if the knowledge were not directly infused. The nun was so deeply impressed, that she recorded the following in her own hand.
It is Jacinta, speaking of sin:
“The sins which cause most souls to go to hell are the sins of the flesh.”
“Fashions will much offend our Lord. People who serve God should not follow the fashions. The Church has no fashions. Our Lord is always the same.”
“The sins of the world are very great.”
“If men knew what eternity is, they would do everything to change their lives.”
“People are lost because they do not think of the death of our Lord, and do not do penance.”
“Many marriages are not of God, and do not please our Lord.”
On the war:
“Our Lady said that the world is full of war and discords.”
“Wars are the punishments for sin.”
“Our Lady cannot at present avert the justice of her Son from the world.”
“Penance is necessary. If people amend their lives, our Lord will even yet save the world, but if not, punishment will come.”
Mother Godinho has written:
The reference here is to a great punishment of which she spoke in secret, and was revealed in her last days. But there is nothing to prevent its revelation now.
Jacinta said that our Lord was profoundly outraged by the sins and crimes which were committed in Portugal, and for this reason a terrible social cataclysm threatened our country and particularly the city of Lisbon. A civil war, or Communist revolution would be unchained, which would be accompanied by sacking and violence, and devastation of all kinds. The capital would be converted into an image of hell. This threatened punishment should be revealed little by little and with due discretion.30
[30. Is not this an allusion to the Communist invasion (at the time of the Spanish war) by which the nation was menaced; and which the Portuguese Episcopate implored our Lady to avert from their country? A question: Has the necessary reparation been made? We may note in the first place the intensification of religious life in Portugal, and the characteristic note of penance which marks the Fatima Pilgrimages. We may also cite the walking pilgrimage of 10,000 young men from Lisbon, and the triumphal reception of the statue of our Lady in the capital (from Dr Galamba’s Jacinta). It will be remembered that the Portuguese bishops led a great national pilgrimage to Fatima to thank our Lady for deliverance from the Communism which threatened at the time of the Spanish Civil War.]
Jacinta, on priests and rulers:
“You must pray much for sinners, and for priests and religious. Priests should concern themselves only with the things of the Church.”
“Priests must be very, very pure.”
“Disobedience of priests and religious to their superiors displeases our Lord very much.”
“Pray, Mother, for rulers.”
“Heaven forgive those who persecute the Church of Christ.”
“If the government would leave the Church in peace and give liberty on, it would have God’s blessing.”
On Christian virtues:
“Mother, fly from riches and luxury.”
“Love poverty and silence.”
“Have charity, even for bad people.”
“Do not speak evil of people, and fly from evil speakers.”
“Mortification and sacrifice please our Lord very much.”
“Confession is a sacrament of mercy, and we must confess with joy and trust. There can be no salvation without confession.”
“The Mother of God wants more virgin souls bound by a vow of chastity.”
“I would gladly go to a convent, but I would rather go to heaven.”
“To be a religious, one must be very pure in body and mind.”
“Do you know what it means to be pure?” I asked her.
“Yes, yes, I know. To be pure in body means to be chaste, and to be pure in mind means not to commit sins; not to look at what one should not see, not to steal or lie, and always to speak the truth, even if it is hard.”
“Doctors do not know how to cure people properly, because they have not the love of God.”
“Who taught you these things?” I asked her.
“Our Lady, but some of them I thought out myself. I love to think.”
There is evidence that the dying, emaciated Jacinta in these happiest of her living days received from her Lady not only moral wisdom but actual glimpses into the future, and that she possessed for a while the gift of prophecy. Mother Godinho one day asked Senhora Olimpia, during a visit to the orphanage: “Would you like your daughters Florinda and Teresa to enter the religious life?”
“Heavens no!” that honest and uncomplicated woman exclaimed, and the discussion seemed at an end.
A little while later, however, Jacinta, who had heard none of the conversation between the women, confided to Mother Godinho with great seriousness: “Our Lady would like my sisters to be nuns, although my mother would not approve. That is why she will take them both to heaven before very long.”
If this was an “irresponsible” attempt at prophecy it proved amazingly accurate, since shortly after Jacinta’s own death her sisters, Florinda, seventeen, and Teresa, one year younger, followed her to the grave.
Jacinta also assured Mother Godinho, who had long expressed a wish to visit the Cova da Iria, but was faced with almost impossible obstacles in the form of her daily duties, that her desire would be fulfilled as soon as she (Jacinta) died. It happened precisely that way. Circumstances having prevented her burial in Lisbon, it became necessary for Jacinta’s body to be accompanied to Vila Nova de Ourem, and the family vault of Baron Alvaiazere. Assigned to this task unexpectedly, by her own superiors, was Mother Godinho, who was able that same day to journey the brief way to Fatima, and pray at the Cova with Lucia at her side.
It is difficult to know the full extent of Jacinta’s prophecies. One of the two doctors who treated the child in Lisbon asked her to pray for him when she got to heaven. She courteously agreed, but then, as though in afterthought, looked at him gravely. “You, too, will be going to heaven, Doctor, and very soon,” she said. The physician died shortly thereafter.
As for the other doctor attending her, she predicted not only his own imminent demise, but the death of his daughter as well. Strangely, the records contain no complaints that she was a dangerous character to have around.
Another time, according to Mother Godinho, Jacinta was listening to an excellent sermon by a priest of high standing and exemplary reputation. Jacinta alone was unimpressed and turned to the nun with the grave prediction: “That priest will turn out badly, Mother, even though you would not think it now.”
Not long after this the unfortunate priest abandoned the cloth and lived in open scandal.
As to the operation she was to undergo, its outcome meant little or nothing to the child. Amid the hopes and prayers of others, she dictated a letter to Lucia, declaring very simply that our Lady had appeared to her, and had revealed the day and hour of her death.
Jacinta’s glad days with Mother Godhino had not been many. Less than two weeks had passed when Dr Lisboa, in desperate hope of saving her life, succeeded in having her interned in Lisbon’s Estafania Hospital. The kind nun accompanied the child to the ward and received the censure of both doctors and nurses for having accepted a tubercular patient in the orphanage. On a hygienic or medical basis, this criticism was likely justified, but it should be kept in mind that Mother Godinho alone had acted with charity toward this ailing child, who had been rejected by every one else.
Jacinta was merely one of many in the ward. There were no special attentions. There was no Hidden Jesus to fill her with consolation at each trying day’s beginning, although Jacinta does seem to have managed, in her very own fashion, to have given the devil some bad hours even here. Among the visitors and nurses who came to the ward there were many whose manner of dress seemed to Jacinta both flamboyant and immodest.
“What is it all for?” she solemnly intoned. “If only they knew what eternity really was!” And of those doctors whose science openly discounted belief in God: “Poor things,” she would say, “how changed they would be, if they knew what awaited them.”
Within this period she revealed that our Lady had once again appeared to her, emphasising anew the prevalence in the world of those sins of luxury and carnality that cost the loss of so many souls. Penance, Jacinta said, was what the Queen of Heaven was asking in reparation of those sins.
Dr Castro Freire, the child specialist, operated on Jacinta February 10, 1920. Her suffering was intense for the reason that in her condition nothing more radical than local anaesthesia was possible. But the result was clinically rather good, with two ribs being extracted from her left side, leaving a wound in which a grown-up’s hand could be comfortably inserted. Jacinta was an accommodating and stoic patient, and though the required daily dressings of the great wound in her side were a frightful agony, her only cries were repetitions of her beloved Lady’s name.
Mother Godinho was able to lighten Jacinta’s loneliness with daily visits to the hospital ward, and Dona Maria Castro, a patient of Dr Lisboa, came regularly to the child’s bedside. Ti Marto himself, in his anxiety, made one brief call at the hospital, but was so beset with the illness of his other children in Aljustrel that he was obliged to hasten back to where his help was needed more.
Jacinta, in at least those recorded times when Mother Godinho was with her, bore her sufferings with the understanding and resignation of a saint, explaining quite calmly to the woman at her side, “We must be willing to suffer if we want to go to heaven.”
Her Lady did not desert her. At the conclusion of her most terrible suffering she was able to confide in Mother Godinho, “I am much better now, thank you. Our Lady said that she would come to take me almost right away, and that there will be no more pain.”
Dr Lisboa affirms:
And in fact, with this apparition, there in the middle of the ward, her pain completely disappeared and she began to be able to play and enjoy certain distractions. She liked to look at holy pictures, one among them in particular – given me later as a souvenir of Our Lady of Sameiro, which she said most closely resembled the Lady of the apparitions. I was told several times that Jacinta wished to see me, but as my professional duties were heavy and Jacinta was apparently better, I unfortunately put off my visit until too late.
It does not appear that these last apparitions were in any way wispy or vague, for Mother Godinho, choosing a place to sit at the bedside, heard Jacinta protest with anxiety, “Not there, Mother, please; that is the place where our Lady stood.”31 Jacinta Marto, an almost certain saint of God, died on the Friday before Ash Wednesday, 1920.
And Dr Lisboa’s deposition is as follows:
On the evening of that 20th of February, at about 6 o’clock, Jacinta said that she felt worse and wished to receive the sacraments. The parish priest [Dr Pereira dos Reis] was called and he heard her confession about 8 o’clock that night. I was told that Jacinta had insisted that the Blessed Sacrament be brought to her as Viaticum but that Dr Reis had not concurred because she seemed fairly well. He promised to bring her Holy Communion in the morning. Jacinta again asked for Viaticum saying that she would shortly die and, indeed, she died that night, peacefully, but without having received Holy Communion.
[31. One nurse who looked after Jacinta, and whom we had the opportunity to interview, has told us that during this period she purposely stood in the place allegedly occupied by our Lady at Jacinta’s bedside. “She said nothing,” the nurse recalled “but there was such an expression of pain on her face that I couldn’t endure remaining there any longer.”]
A young nurse, named Aurora Gomes, was the only person present. There was neither drama nor excitement at the moment of death. The nurse held to her solitary vigil while the hours moved on. The other children in the ward continued their sleep without disturbance. Only in the morning was it generally known that Jacinta had died, and Dr Lisboa fills out the record for us here:
When I was told what had occurred during the night, I spoke to Dona Amelia Castro, who came every day to my consulting room for treatment to her eyes, and she obtained from certain members of her family a white first Communion dress used by poor children, and money to buy a blue silk sash. Jacinta was thus laid out in our Lady’s colours according to her wish.
As soon as her death became known, various people sent money for the expenses of the funeral, which was fixed for the following day, Sunday, at noon, the body to be taken to one of the cemeteries of Lisbon.
When the coffin left the hospital mortuary, it occurred to me that it might be wiser to have the body deposited in some special place, in case the apparitions should later be confirmed by the ecclesiastical authorities, or the general incredulity on the subject be overcome. I, therefore, proposed to have the containing Jacinta’s body deposited in the Church of the Holy Angels until its removal to some vault could be arranged.
I then went to see my good friend, Dr Reis, the parish priest, who however demurred at the idea of the body remaining in his church owing to certain difficulties. However, with the help of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament, some of whose members happened to be in the sacristy at the time, Dr Reis was persuaded to give his permission to let the body remain there. Soon afterwards it arrived and was placed humbly on two stools in the corner of the sacristy.
The news spread rapidly and soon a sort of pilgrimage of believers in Fatima began, the faithful bringing their rosaries and statues to touch Jacinta’s dress and to pray by her side. All this profoundly disturbed Dr Reis who was averse to his church being used for what might well be a false devotion, and he protested energetically by both word and action, thereby surprising those who knew him as a most kind and courteous priest.
It had finally been decided that the body should be taken to a vault in Vila Nova de Ourem, and matters were accordingly arranged. This involved a delay of two days. The funeral was scheduled for Tuesday. The body would be taken from the Holy Angels Church to the Rossio Station. Thence, by train, it would go to Vila Nova de Ourem.
Meanwhile the body remained in the open coffin which again caused serious anxiety to Dr Reis who feared an intervention on the part of the sanitary authorities32 and he continued to be worried by the stream of visitors, which he avoided only by locking the coffin in an office. At last Dr Reis, in order to avoid the responsibility of the open coffin and the pilgrims, deposited the body in the confraternity room above the sacristy, and handed the key to the firm of undertakers, Antonio Almeida and Co., who had been engaged for the funeral. Senhor Almeida remembers to this day, and in great detail, what passed on that occasion. In order to satisfy the innumerable requests to visit the body, he remained in the church during the whole day of February 23, accompanying each group of pilgrims – whose numbers were strictly limited – to the room above, in order to avoid any unseemliness which might occur.
[32. In Portugal not more than twenty-four hours may elapse between death and burial.]
He was deeply impressed by the respect and devotion with which the people approached and kissed the little corpse on the face and the hands, and he remembers very clearly the live pinkness of the cheeks and the beautiful aroma which the body exhaled.33 At last, on February 24, at 11 in the morning, the body was placed in a leaden coffin which was then sealed. Present at this act were Senhor Almeida, the authorities, and several ladies, among them Senhora Maria Pena (who died recently), who declared in the presence of various people who can testify to it today, that the body exhaled a beautiful aroma of flowers as the coffin was being sealed. Owing to the purulent nature of the disease, and the length of time that the body remained unburied, this fact is remarkable.
[33. Senhor Almeida later wrote: ‘I seem to see Jacinta still, looking like a little angel. In her coffin she seemed to be alive – her lips and cheeks were a beautiful pink. I have seen many corpses, large and small, but I have never seen anything like that. The beautiful perfume which the body exhaled could not be explained naturally, and the hardest sceptic could not doubt it. One remembers the smell which so often makes it repugnant to remain near a corpse and yet this child had been dead three days and a half, and the smell of her body was like a bouquet of flowers….”]
In the afternoon, which was wet, the funeral took place on foot, in the company of a large crowd. The coffin was finally laid in the vault of Baron Alvaiazere in Vila Nova de Ourem.
Baron Alvaiazere recalls:
I remember that on that day the General Annual Conference of Saint Vincent de Paul took place, and that I excused my late arrival on account of the work of mercy which had claimed my attention, namely, the burial of one of the seers of Fatima. These words provoked an outburst of mirth on the part of the assembly, composed, as may be imagined, of some of the most prominent Catholics of the capital, among them the Cardinal Patriarch himself, who joined in the laugh at my expense. Later he became a great admirer of Fatima, and declared that his great desire was to celebrate Mass in the Cova da Iria before he died.
It is interesting to record these curious facts, showing as they do the great reluctance on the part of the great majority of clergy, and certain of the laity in Portugal to believe in the events of Fatima. There were a few believers, among them Dr Formigao, who assisted at the apparitions and bore witness to them by means of the written and the spoken word; also holy old Father Cruz whom I have seen in Fatima ever since my first visits there, and who was the first priest I heard in a Lisbon church publicly exhorting the people to pray to Our Lady of the Rosary at Fatima, at a time when the general run of the clergy were afraid to give public utterance to any shred of belief they might have in the revelations!
After all these years it is a great consolation to me to have been instrumental in arranging that Jacinta, in her last illness, should have been under the care of the best doctors and nurses in a Lisbon hospital. Thus the odious calumny, which has been spread abroad, namely, that the Catholics brought about the deaths of the two younger children in order that they should not be able to contradict Lucia’s affirmations, can be most emphatically repudiated.
In Aljustrel, where the Marto family was already burdened with illness, the news of Jacinta’s death fell heavily. Ti Marto, trying to care for everyone, had been taxed with multiple trials to the limit of his strength and ingenuity.
Ti Marto told us:
After my Jacinta’s operation, I received a letter that said my little girl was all right. For this reason I was happy and encouraged, and I got someone to write a letter for me to Baron Alvaiazere, telling him how well our little one was, and thanking him along with all the good people who had tried to help in so many ways. But after about ten days a letter came back from the Baron, and it requested that I go to see him at once at Vila Nova de Ourem. Well, I went there to his house, and the Baron, a kind man, first told his servants to give me some food. He waited, and then he brought out a letter he had only recently received, and this letter told how my Jacinta, even though the operation had gone well, was dead.
It was a blow, and I did not know what to say. After a while I looked up to him and said, “Is there anything I must do that I have not done?”
“Nothing, Senhor Marto,” he said to me; “there is nothing.”
That is the way it happened and how it was. I had to go home and tell the family the terrible news, and then in a few days another letter came to me from the Baron, this letter explaining how I must go again to Vila Nova de Ourem to meet the train that was bringing back the body to be placed in Baron Alvarazere’s family vault.
I went, of course, but when I saw the people gathered around the coffin that held my Jacinta – well, I just broke down, and I cried, believe me, as I have never cried before or since. It seemed such a sad, sad waste for her to have gone off all the way to Lisbon only to die without us, all alone.
For more than fifteen years the body of Jacinta rested in the tomb at Vila Nova de Ourem; or until, in September of 1935 the bishop of Leiria approved a plan providing for the remains of Jacinta to be placed beside those of Francisco in the churchyard at Fatima, where a special tomb had been erected. But before Jacinta’s body was taken from the Alvaiazere vault, her coffin was opened and, to the prayerful wonder of all, her face was seen to be perfectly preserved. The incorrupt flesh of God’s good servants, as we know, are frequently, although by no means necessarily, regarded as a sign of sanctity. A photograph was taken of Jacinta’s remains and a copy of it sent to Lucia who, in 1935, was a Dorothean lay-sister.
Lucia’s grateful reply to the bishop was as follows:
I thank you for the photographs with all my heart. It is impossible to express how much I value them. From Jacinta’s body I almost wanted to tear off that shroud and see the whole of her. I was so anxious to see the rest of the body that I forgot it was a photograph at which I was looking; such was my happiness at seeing again the most intimate friend of my childhood.
I have a great hope that our Lord may concede her the halo of sanctity for the honour of our Blessed Lady. She was a child only in years and already knew how to show God and our Lady her love by means of sacrifice….
Jacinta was placed beside her brother in the quiet churchyard at Fatima, and on their tomb these simple words were inscribed:
HERE LIE THE MORTAL REMAINS OF
FRANCISCO AND JACINTA TO WHOM OUR LADY APPEARED
Not until April 13, 1951, when the stately basilica rising above the Cova da Iria was finally completed, were their bodies moved – now to rest, perhaps until the end of Christian time, above that wild and rocky field where first their Lady said to them, “Do not be afraid.”