Francisco Marto: a little hero!
June 11, 1908—April 4, 1919
Between May 13 and October 13, 1917, Jacinta, Francisco and Lucy were granted the great privilege of seeing the Virgin Mary in Fatima.
Not only was divine benevolence on them extraordinary, but their response to these divine graces was also something incredible.
Taught by an Angel
Of the three children, Francisco was the most contemplative and perhaps the one to distinguish himself more for his love and reparation in the Eucharist. After receiving Holy Communion from the Angel, he said, “I knew God was in me, but did not know how He was.”
In his life, he had real devotion to the angels, saints and the Virgin Mary. He was amazed by the beauty and gentleness of the Angel and the Mother of God, and they led him to encounter Jesus. Francisco wanted above all else to console God, Who was greatly offended by the sins of humanity. This is what most impressed him during the apparitions. The Angel’s words in the third apparition, “Console your God,” made a profound impression in the soul of the small shepherd boy. He desired only to think of ways to console our Lord and the Virgin Mary who he had seen so sad. He said, “We were burning in that light that is God and we were not burnt. How is God? This we cannot say. But what grief. He is so sad; if only I can console Him!”
During the apparitions of our Lady, Francisco was threatened with death by government authorities if he refused to declare the Fatima apparitions as false. However, he stood firm and did not betray the Virgin Mary, and he encouraged his cousin and sister to do the same. Although threatened with death many times, he responded, “If we are killed, it doesn’t matter; we will go to Heaven.” When Jacinta was supposedly taken to be killed, with a martyr’s spirit she said to her companions: “Don’t worry, I won’t say a thing. I’d rather die first.”
Francisco’s character was docile and compliant. He liked to spend time helping the needy. He was known by all to be a sincere, just, obedient and diligent person.
Soul of prayer
Jacinta and Francisco continued their normal life after the apparitions. Lucy started to go to school as our Lady requested her to do. Jacinta and Francisco also went with her. Before arriving at school, they would first pass by the church to greet Jesus. When class was ready to start, Francisco, aware he was not to live long on this earth, said to Lucy, “You go to school, I will stay with Jesus who is hidden. What good is it for me to learn to read if soon I will go to heaven?” After saying this Francisco would go to the church to be as close as possible to the tabernacle.
When Lucy and Jacinta returned in the afternoon, they found Francisco in the same place in profound prayer and adoration.
Francisco was witness of extraordinary events: In a nearby village, a family was going through the difficult situation of having their son in jail, accused, but in fact innocent. Afflicted by the situation, his parents sent Teresa, Lucy’s oldest sister, to ask and plea to the children to obtain from the Virgin Mary the liberation of their son. Lucy, on her way to school, told her cousins about what was happening. Francisco said, “You go to school and I will stay here with Jesus to ask Him for this grace.” In the afternoon Francisco said to Lucy, “You can tell Teresa to let them know that in a few days the young man will be in his house.” Sure enough, on the 13th of the following month, the young man came home.
Francisco wanted to offer his life to console the Lord Whom he saw so sad and offended. His desire to go to Heaven was motivated only by the desire to better console God. With firm intention to do what pleased God, he avoided all sin and at seven years old started to receive frequently the sacrament of penance.
Lucy asked Francisco, “Francisco, what do you prefer the most, to console the Lord or convert sinners?” He responded:
I prefer to console the Lord. Did you not see how sad our Lady was when she said to us that men should no longer offend the Lord, Who is so much offended? I would like to console the Lord and then convert sinners so they will no longer offend the Lord. Soon I will be in Heaven, and when I get there I will console very much Our Lord and Our Lady.”
Crucified on his bed
On December 23, 1918, Francisco and Jacinta became seriously ill with a terrible epidemic of bronco-pneumonia. However, being ill did not diminish their fervor for doing sacrifices.
Near the end of February in 1919, Francisco visibly worsened, never to leave his sick bed again. He suffered his illness and his intense pain with joy and offered them as a sacrifice to God. One day Lucy asked him if he was suffering. He responded. “Very much, but I don’t mind. I suffer to console Our Lord and soon I will go to Heaven.”
One day, Francisco confided to his cousin, “Our Lord, is He still sad? I’m so heartbroken that He is this way. I offer Him all the sacrifices I’m able to.”
On April 2, 1919 his state worsened so much that the pastor was called. He had not received his First Communion and was afraid he would not be able to receive the Lord before death. He confessed in the afternoon and fasted to receive Holy Communion. The following day he received Holy Communion with piety and great lucidity of spirit. After the priest left he asked his mother if he could receive the Lord again. After this he asked forgiveness for all the problems he might have caused.
To Lucy and Jacinta he added, “I’m going to Paradise, and from there I will ask Jesus and Mary to come get you too.” The following day on April 4, with an angelical smile and without agony or lamentations, he expired gently. After five months of continuous suffering, on a First Friday at 10:00 am, the consoler of Jesus died a holy death. He was not yet 11 years old.
Never without his rosary
Francisco’s remains were buried in the cemetery at Fatima, but later they were transferred to the Sanctuary built on the very spot where Our Lady had appeared.
When his coffin was opened, on March 3, 1952, the rosary that had been placed in his hand at death was found embedded in his fingers. The little shepherd had certainly kept his promise to say as many rosaries as Our Lady wanted!
As for his ambitions, his wish to go to Heaven was not for his own sake. “Soon Jesus will come and take me to Heaven with Him and then I shall always be able to comfort Him.”
The preparatory canonical process for Francisco’s beatification began in 1949. On May 13, 1989, Pope John Paul II approved the decree on the Heroic Virtues of the two Servants of God, Francisco and Jacinta, granting each of them the title of “Venerable.” At Fatima on May 13, 2000, the 83rd anniversary of the first apparition, the pope declared them “Blessed.”