From Our Lady’s last apparition at Fatima, October 13, 1917 until Francisco’s death was just 18 months, but in that time, what a whirlwind of spiritual energy and grace!
There is so much we can learn from considering Saint Francisco’s short life, consumed as it was with love for our Eucharistic Lord and the desire to console His Sacred Heart. Francisco’s devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus has proven to be a secure way to counter tepidity in our devotions to Our Lord. Today we will review a few instances that show his beautiful soul’s love for Our Lord.
In an interesting passage in Volume I, Frère Michel describes Francisco’s excitement as he looked forward to the October apparition.
Francisco was filled with joy because Our Lady had said that on October 13 Our Lord would also come:
“Oh, how good He is! I’ve only seen Him twice, and I love Him so much!” From time to time, he asked: “Are there many days left till the 13th? I’m longing for that day to come, so that I can see Our Lord again.” Then he thought for a moment, and added: “But listen! Will He still be so sad? I am so sorry to see Him sad like that! I offer Him all the sacrifices I can think of. Sometimes, I don’t even run away from all those people, just in order to make sacrifices!”
In footnote 499 of Volume I, Frère Michel explains,
“Here Francisco is undoubtedly alluding to the apparitions of June 13 and July 13: when Our Lady directed towards them the reflections of the Divine Light which shone from Her hands, the three seers felt as though they were absorbed in God; and then, in a mysterious vision, it was also given to them to contemplate Our Lord and His immense sadness because of the sins of the world.”
It is this sadness of Our Lord at our sins that was to set our little shepherd saint on the road to such heroic sanctity that within 18 months his soul would fly to the waiting arms of the “Hidden Jesus” he loved so much.
For today, let’s take a look at the accounts of Francisco given in The Whole Truth About Fatima, Volumes I and II.
The Account of Dr. Carlos Mendes, September 7, 1917
The author of the following fascinating account is Dr. Carlos de Azevedo Mendes, (Cf. Barthas, Fatima, Unprecedented Miracle. p. 321).
“During July and August, we had heard about the apparitions at Torres Novas… At that time I was a young lawyer about to get married; I had anything but apparitions on my mind. However, on September 7, with some friends, we decided to take a ride to Fatima. … The shepherds were in the fields. We could see them and talk with them.”
On his return home, he wrote a long letter to his fiancée, relating in detail his visit to Fatima. This text, which was drawn up at once by a direct and also qualified witness, has considerable critical importance for us. First, the visitor traces a very lively portrait of each of our seers:
“Jacinta, so little, so timid, came near me. I was seated on a chest and set myself beside her. I assure you she is a little angel… Her head is enveloped in a handkerchief, with red flowers, whose corners are tied together in the back. The handkerchief is already old and worn. She wears a blouse, also somewhat worn, and her skirt, very large after the fashion of the country, is reddish in colour. There is the costume of our little angel. I would like to describe her little face, but I don’t think I’ll be able to do so sufficiently. The way she wears her handkerchief makes her features stand out even more. The eyes are black, with a charming vivacity, and the angelic expression on the face has a goodness that seduces us – everything attracts us, I don’t know why. Since she was very intimidated, we had enough trouble hearing the little bit she said in answer to my questions.
“After we had spoken for some time with her, chatting and even playing (don’t laugh!), Francisco arrived. He is already a little man, with a woolen cap upon his head, a very short vest, a waistcoat revealing his shirt underneath, and his breeches. What a fine face for a child! He has a lively glance and a mischievous form. He answers my questions with a detached air. Jacinta begins to warm up to us. Soon, Lúcia arrives in her turn. You cannot imagine Jacinta’s joy when she sees her! Everything in her was alive with laughter; she ran in front of her and did not leave her side. It was a beautiful picture…
“Lúcia does not have impressive traits, only her glance is lively. Her features are ordinary and usual for that region. At first she too was reluctant, but soon I put them at ease, and they answered without embarrassment and satisfied my curiosity… I interrogated all three separately. All three said the same thing without the least alteration. The principal thought that I deduced from everything they said is that the apparition wishes to spread devotion to the Rosary… The natural air and ingenuousness with which they speak and relate what they saw are admirable and impressive… Francisco saw the Lady, but he does not hear Her… To hear these children, to see them in their simplicity, to examine them on all points, impressed me in an extraordinary manner and led me to conclude that there is something supernatural in everything they say.
“To find myself with them struck me with a strong intensity. Today, my conviction is that there is an extraordinary reality there which our reason cannot grasp. What is it? What is certain is that I was so content beside these children that I began to forget about time. There is an attraction there that I cannot explain… Next they went to the Cova da Iria: All three knelt down. Lúcia, who is in the middle, begins to recite the Rosary. The recollection and fervour with which she recites it impresses us. The intention of the Rosary is interesting: it is for the soldiers at the war.” And at this point the doctor quotes the little prayer taught by Our Lady on July 13, which the children were therefore already reciting. [The Fatima Decade Prayer]
What our good jurist did not write back to his fiancée, and with reason, is vividly related by Sister Lúcia in her Memoirs:
“On arriving at the place, he knelt down and asked me to pray the Rosary with him to obtain a special grace from Our Lady that he greatly desired: that a certain young lady would consent to receive with him the sacrament of Matrimony. I wondered at such a request, and thought to myself: “If she has as much fear of him as I, she will never say Yes!” When the Rosary was over, the good man accompanied me most of the way home, and then bade me a friendly farewell, recommending his request to me again… Disappointed by the apparition of September 13, he came back however on October 13 and was definitely convinced by the miracle of the sun. Some time later (Lúcia continues), he appeared again, this time accompanied by the aforesaid girl, who was now his wife! He came to thank the Blessed Virgin for the grace received, and to ask Her copious blessings on their future.”
An additional insight into Francisco is given by Sister Lúcia in her memoir:
“Apart from his features and his practice of virtue, Francisco did not seem at all to be Jacinta’s brother. Unlike her, he was neither capricious nor vivacious. On the contrary, he was quiet and submissive by nature… In our games he was quite lively, but few of us liked to play with him as he nearly always lost. And if he won, and somebody tried to deny him his rights as the winner, he yielded without more ado and merely said: “You think you won? That’s all right! I don’t mind!” I must confess that I myself did not always feel too kindly disposed towards him, as his naturally calm temperament exasperated my own excessive vivacity. …
“Like his father, he was gentle, humble and patient. Always having a joyful countenance, he was invariably polite and accommodating to all, even at the cost of considerable sacrifices: If one of the other children insisted on taking away something belonging to him, he said: “Let them have it! What do I care?” I recall how one day, he came to my house and was delighted to show me a handkerchief with a picture of Our Lady of Nazare on it, which someone had brought him from the seaside. All the children gathered round him to admire it. The handkerchief was passed from hand to hand, and in a few minutes it disappeared. A little later, I found it myself in another small boy’s pocket. I wanted to take it away from him, but he insisted that it was his own, and that someone had brought him one from the beach as well. To put an end to the quarrel, Francisco went up to him and said: “Let him have it! What does a handkerchief matter to me?”
This does not mean, however, that he was listless or weak-willed. Here we must take into account the testimony of his father, which completes that of Sister Lucy.
A robust boy in good health, “he was more troublesome and more restless than his little sister. He was not as patient, and for some little thing would run around like a young bull calf.” .. He could be mischievous, and without the firm hand of Manuel Pedro (Marto) who knew how to make them obey, he too could have become capricious: “When I saw things weren’t going well I didn’t let them get too far! And when the two were quarreling and I couldn’t tell where the right lay I gave them both a box on the ear for their pains. To put sense into them I had to be a bit strict.”
But Manuel Pedro had great authority and usually the threat was sufficient:
“Once Francisco refused to say his prayers and hid in the out-kitchen. I went to him and when he saw me coming he cried out at once that he would pray! That was before Our Lady appeared. After that he never failed to say them. In fact he and Jacinta would almost force us to say the Rosary. … This and the chip of wood which he wanted to put in his brother’s mouth (while he was sleeping) were the two worst things I ever saw him do.” Mr. Marto could say later on: “even after the apparitions, I always found that my children were almost no different than the others.”
We cannot but admire the purity and extraordinary candour of their souls, and without doubt their father meant especially that they had absolutely no air of affectation. One little incident, reported this time by his mother Olimpia, reveals Francisco’s delicate soul even from before the apparitions, as well as his vivacity:
“One day as he was going out with the sheep, I told him to take them to Teresa’s [Francisco’s Godmother] ground which isn’t here but near the village. And he said at once: “No, I don’t want to do that!” I was just going to give him a slap when he turned to me and said very seriously: “Mother, are you teaching me to steal?…” I felt mad with anger and took him by the arm and pushed him outside. But he didn’t go to Oiteiro! Not till the next day, after asking permission from his godmother, who said that he and Lucy might always go there.”
“He was a clever little boy and it always surprised me how well he did the little jobs I always set him.” Although he was usually calm and peaceful, this was surely not out of indolence or apathy. Far from being a coward, he was on the contrary hardy and courageous. “He was anything but fearful. He’d go anywhere in the dark alone at night, without the slightest hesitation. He played with lizards, and when he came across any snakes he got them to entwine themselves around a stick, and even poured sheep’s milk into the holes in the rocks for them to drink. He went hunting for foxes’ holes and rabbits’ burrows, for genets, and other creatures of the wilds.”
Like his father, who when he was alone always seemed absorbed in profound reflections, Francisco was a meditative soul. He had little taste for noisy games and the shouts of his two companions: “He showed no love for dancing, as Jacinta did; he much preferred playing the flute while the others danced.” … “What Francisco enjoyed most, when we were out on the mountains together, was to perch on top of the highest rock, and sing or play his flute. If his little sister came down to run races with me, he stayed up there entertaining himself with his music and song.”
Along with the love of nature and the animals of the field, music was his dominating passion. The word is not excessive, for it caused him to commit the gravest fault of his short life: stealing a tostao (a very small coin!) from his father to buy a music-box that he coveted. We know this because of a moving account in the Memoirs. In 1919, shortly before dying at the age of eleven, he was feeling very bad one morning, and he called Lúcia. It is she who relates the story:
“I dressed as fast as I could and went over there. He asked his mother and brother and sisters to leave the room, saying that he wanted to tell me a secret, They went out, and he said to me: “I am going to confession so that I can receive Holy Communion, and then die. I want you to tell me if you have seen me commit any sin, and then go and ask Jacinta if she has seen me commit any.”
“You disobeyed your mother a few times”, I answered, “when she told you to stay at home, and you ran off to be with me or to go and hide.” “That’s true. I remember that. Now go and ask Jacinta if she remembers anything else.” I went, and Jacinta thought for a while, then answered: “Well, tell him that, before Our Lady appeared to us, he stole a coin from our father to buy a music box from Jose Marto of Casa Velha, and when the boys from Aljustrel threw stones at those from Boleiros, he threw some too!”
When I gave him this message from his sister, he answered: “I’ve already confessed those, but I’ll do so again. Maybe, it is because of these sins that I committed that Our Lord is so sad! But even if I don’t die, I’ll never commit them again. I’m heartily sorry for them now.”
In yesterday’s post, we were a bit unsure over the time of Francisco’s death, because it is variously reported as either at 10 in the morning or 10 in the evening. Frère Michel explained that the reputable sources, Canon Barthas and Father de Marchi cite the time as 10 a.m. But Frère Michel prefers 10 p.m. because Father Alonso (Sister Lucy’s Memoirs, French version, p. 152, note 10, Téqui, 1980) prefers to go by the testimony of the parish priest of Fatima, who in a text written two weeks after the event explicitly indicates Friday, April 4, at ten o’clock in the evening. Father Kondor, vice-postulator of the little seer’s cause, adopts the same solution. Finally, Joao Marto, Francisco’s elder brother, to whom we were recently (July 12, 1983) able to pose the question at Aljustrel, answered us in the same sense without hesitation.
Therefore, we believe that 10 p.m., April 4, 1919 is correct.
Frère Michel tells us of Francisco’s death:
On Friday, everything indicated that his end was near. He still had the strength to ask pardon of his godmother for the few times he had caused her some little trouble during his life, and to ask for her blessing. Later, when night had fallen completely, he called his mother and said: “Mother, look!… What a lovely light, there, by the door!” And after a few minutes: “Now I can’t see it any more…”
At about ten o’clock in the evening, his countenance lighted up in an angelic smile, and without the slightest trace of suffering, without any agony or groans, he died calmly. “He took his flight to Heaven in the arms of his Heavenly Mother”, Lúcia writes. During the parochial investigation, his mother declared, “He seemed to smile, then he stopped breathing.” As for Francisco’s father, he declared: “He died smiling..”
On the First Saturday, April 5, a modest funeral procession conducted Francisco’s body to the cemetery of Fatima. Lúcia followed, in tears, while Jacinta, herself also sick and in tears, kept to her room. The ceremony was without any pomp or affluence, just like Francisco’s humble and hidden life. His burial reflected his poverty, laid to rest in a simple grave, marked only by a wooden cross.
The “faithful Virgin” kept Her word… Francisco had been filled to the brim with graces from each one of Her visits, sanctified by the innumerable Rosaries he had recited, absorbed with the thought of consoling the Hidden Jesus, and purified, finally, by the sufferings imposed by illness. He was already prepared to go to Heaven, and the Blessed Virgin could come and take him. He was not yet eleven years old, and since the last apparition at the Cova da Iria only one and a half years had gone by! Thus in all truth we can apply to him the beautiful maxim of St. Louis de Montfort: “One advances more in a short time by submission and dependence on Mary, than by long years of following our own will and relying on ourselves.” By granting to Her witnesses the extraordinary grace of such a precocious sanctity, Our Lady of Fatima demonstrated that She is indeed the Mediatrix of all graces, the Queen and Gate of Heaven. [End]
Surely by now, all our regular readers have downloaded the three volumes of Frère Michel de la Sainte Trinité’s “The Whole Truth About Fatima” from archive.org. They are free and are of excellent quality. And when you read them, please offer a prayer and perhaps a small sacrifice for Frère Michel and for Mr. John Collorafi, who translated the work and made it available for free for love of the Immaculate Virgin of Fatima, Our Lady of the Rosary. If you have not already done so, you may download the volumes by these links:
NOTE: A reader has inquired about whether the person who posted Frere Michel’s books has permission. I do not know. The site, archive.org is not known for breaking copyright laws as far as I know. My advice to readers is that if you don’t feel right about downloading the books, do not do it.
Remember – Our Lady needs us to obey: First Saturdays of Reparation, daily rosary, at least 5 mysteries, wear her brown scapular and live your Total Consecration to her Immaculate Heart, offering daily duties in reparation and for the conversion of poor sinners.
Thank you all for reading. I pray for you always!
Saint Francisco of Fatima, pray for us, pray for the Church.
Saint Jacinta of Fatima, pray for us, pray for the Pope.
~ by evensong, for love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the most Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, King.