St. Francisco Marto of Fatima

The last two weeks I wrote about the youngest of the seers of Fatima, St. Jacinta Marto. This week I turn to her older brother St. Francisco Marto. He was born 11 June 1908, the sixth of seven children of Manuel and Olimpia Marto.

Francisco loved games and other children, he played a reed pipe, to which Lucia and his sister Jacinta danced. Het was not at all competitive or aggressive; he was not given to complaining and would prefer to give up a treasured possession to fighting over it. He was a peacemaker, but courageous, as he would show by his conduct when being questioned and threatened by the Mayor of Ourem. When the children were being held in prison and had knelt down to lead the prisoners in praying the rosary, Francisco did not hesitate to approach one of the men, a real criminal, and tell him to remove his hat out of respect for the Virgin.

Francisco could also be a bit mischievous: he was known to drop strange and inedible objects in his sleeping brother’s mouth. He had a love for nature, and animals in particular, but he had some peculiar favorites (or maybe not for a young boy); he played with lizards and snakes, and would bring them home, much to his mother’s annoyance. Once he paid a friend a penny, which was the entire sum of his wealth, to buy a captured bird, which he promptly set free.

In short, he was a kind, gentle boy, not yet a saint, but one predisposed by God for the graces soon bestowed on him.

Francisco was the only one of the three children who never heard Our Lady’s words, although he saw her and felt her presence, including the intimate knowledge of God that she communicated through the rays of light streaming from her hands. After the first apparition, Lucia conveyed Our Lady’s message to him, letting him know that he would need to pray many rosaries in order to get into heaven.

In the third apparition, the children were given a secret, including a vision of hell, which so changed them, giving them an adult-like seriousness of character. In August the Mayor of the district, a Freemason, devised a scheme to discredit the apparitions by terrorizing the children. He tried to bully them into admitting they lied, threatened to boil them in oil if they withheld Our Lady’s “Secret” (Francisco showed great courage in anticipation of going to heaven), and jailed them to keep them from their appointment with the Lady on the day of the fourth apparition (August 13). Our Lady would appear to them later on August 19.

After the apparitions ended, Francisco preferred spending time in the presence of the “Hidden Jesus” in the Tabernacle. Indeed, he would skip school in order to pray; not an example to be followed, but Our Lady had revealed to him that his time on earth would be very short. His great concern during that short time was to console His sorrowing Lord and the Heart of His Mother. When asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, Francisco answered, “I don’t want to be anything. I want to die and go to heaven.”

Had he grown up, Lucia remarked, he would have made a good priest one day.

In August 1918, when World War I was nearing an end, Francisco and Jacinta both contracted influenza. In April of the following year, Francisco, knowing that he did not have much longer, asked to receive the Hidden Jesus for the first time in Holy Communion. He died the next morning on April 4th,  a couple months shy of his 10th birthday, and was buried the following day in a little cemetery in Fatima, across from the parish church, and later translated to the Sanctuary at Cova da Iria. (cf. https://www.ewtn.com/fatima/francisco-marto.asp) He was beatified by St. John Paul II on May 13, 2000 and canonized by Pope Francis on May 13, 2017.

St. Jacinta was consumed by the desire to make sacrifices for the conversion of sinners; St. Francisco, on the other hand, was focused on consoling Jesus hidden in the Blessed Sacrament. The contrast shows how God works differently in the souls of different individuals. It gives us encouragement to realize that we can each have a different focus in our spiritual life so long us the love of the Lord Jesus Christ is the deep impulse of our heart. St. Francisco, in his love for spending time in the presence of the “Hidden Jesus” also reminds us of the truth of the real presence of Jesus Christ, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, present in the Blessed Sacrament, and the importance of Eucharistic Adoration to console the Heart of Jesus.

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Fr. Joseph Levine graduated from Thomas Aquinas College and after a long journey was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Baker, Oregon. He currently serves as pastor of St. Peter Catholic Church in The Dalles on the Columbia River.