Saints Francisco and Jacinta Marto, visionaries of Fatima

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Saints Francisco and Jacinta Marto, visionaries of Fatima

The youngest non-martyred saints in the history of the Church are Saints Francisco and Jacinta Marto, two shepherd children who together with their cousin Lucia, received visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1917 in Fatima, Portugal.

The two youngest children of a large peasant family from a small village in central Portugal, Francisco and Jacinta were aged eight and seven when, between May and October 1917, the Virgin Mary appeared to them on six occasions on the thirteenth day of each month asking them to pray the rosary daily, to offer acts of sacrifices for the conversion of sinners, and requesting devotion to her Immaculate Heart.

After the apparitions, both children dedicated their lives to prayer and to following the requests of the Blessed Virgin to offer sacrifices for mankind.  Transformed by the supernatural events, Francisco became dedicated to spending hours in Eucharistic adoration and Jacinta offered prayers and mortifications for those who suffer and those without faith.

Originally not believed by many, the children refused to recant their story that they had received the visions even when imprisoned and threatened with being boiled alive with hot oil by the atheist mayor of the town.

Falling victim to the Spanish Flu that swept Europe after the First World War, both children died within three years of the last vision on October 13, 1917, where the sun was reported to dance in the sky before a gathered crowd of 70,000.  The other visionary, their cousin Lucia, became a Carmelite nun and died aged 97 on February 13, 2005. 

Today, Fatima is one of the most visited of Christian pilgrimage sites in the world, receiving an estimated eight million visitors a year.

Both children were canonised by Pope Francis on May 13, 2017 in Fatima on the one-hundredth anniversary of the first vision.

Commenting at the time of the canonisation, former prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, Portuguese Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins said that the young children were saints not because the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to them, but because they faithfully witnessed the heavenly messages they received and “practiced Christian virtue in a heroic way”.

“…Their life of prayer, their turning to God, that was truly holy,” Cardinal Martins said, in explaining how the children’s short lives encourage us to take heart of and live the powerful message of Fatima. 

Their feast day is February 20.