This is the conclusion of our series about the contemplative Saint Francisco Marto, called by Our Lady of the Rosary to console God. The total oblation of this young saint provides a stellar example of response to the Message of Our Lady of Fatima.
The way is simple – even a child can do it! . . .
THE CONSOLER OF THE SACRED HEARTS OF JESUS AND MARY
The constant thought and ideal of Francisco was always the same. He wanted to offer all his prayers and sufferings to console Our Lord and Our Lady: “When Jacinta and I went into his room one day, he said to us: ‘Don’t talk much today, as my head aches so badly.’ ‘Don’t forget to make the offering for sinners’, Jacinta reminded him. ‘Yes. But first I make it to console Our Lord and Our Lady, and then, afterwards, for sinners and for the Holy Father.’ ”
He was quite conscious of the fact that his special role was that of consoler of the Holy Hearts of Jesus and Mary. This was to be his vocation here below and in eternity. For if he desired to go to Heaven, it was to be able to console Them that much better.
Lúcia: On another occasion, I found him very happy when I arrived. “Are you better?”
“No. I feel worse. It won’t be long now till I go to Heaven. When I’m there, I’m going to console Our Lord and Our Lady very much. Jacinta is going to pray a lot for sinners, for the Holy Father and for you. You will stay here, because Our Lord wants it that way. Listen, you must do everything that She tells you.”
His greatest regret was that he could no longer spend long hours before the Tabernacle, as he once did, to console the “Hidden Jesus”. Later, when he fell ill, he often told me, when I called in to see him on my way to school: “Look! Go to the church and give my love to the Hidden Jesus. What hurts me most is that I cannot go there myself and stay awhile with the Hidden Jesus.” When I arrived at the house one day, I said goodbye to a group of school children who had come with me, and I went in to pay a visit to him and his sister. As he had heard all the noise, he asked me: “Did you come with all that crowd?” “Yes, I did.” “Don’t go with them, because you might learn to commit sins. When you come out of school, go and stay for a little while near the Hidden Jesus, and afterwards come home by yourself.”
Frere Michel: What supernatural wisdom and what love of God is this brotherly suggestion! It manifests a soul already utterly imbued with the presence of God, completely transformed by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. So as not to lose this Divine Presence, Francisco preferred to be alone: “If he was asked whether he wanted some of the children to stay with him and keep him company, he used to say that he preferred not, as he liked to be alone. He would say to me sometimes: “I just like having you here, and Jacinta too.” Indeed their presence did not deprive him of the presence of God. Together, they could pray, or speak about Heaven and the words of Our Lady.
THE RADIANCE OF SANCTITY
“When grown-ups came to see him, he remained silent, only answering when directly questioned, and then in as few words as possible. People who came to visit him, whether they were neighbours or strangers, often spent long periods sitting by his bedside, and remarked: “I don’t know what it is about Francisco, but it feels so good to be here!”
Some women from the village commented on this one day to my aunt and my mother, after having spent quite a long time in Francisco’s room: “It’s a mystery one cannot fathom! They are children just like any others, they don’t say anything to us, and yet in their presence one feels something one can’t explain, and that makes them different from all the rest.” “It seems to me that when we go into Francisco’s room, we feel just as we do when we go into a church”, said one of my aunt’s neighbours, a woman named Romana, who apparently did not believe in the apparitions.
“I am not surprised that people felt like that, being accustomed to finding in everyone else only the preoccupation with material things which goes with an empty, superficial life. Indeed, the very sight of these children was enough to draw their minds to our Heavenly Mother, with whom the children were believed to be in communication; to eternity, for they saw how eager, joyful and happy they were at the thought of going there; to God, for they said that they loved Him more than their own parents; and even to hell, for the children warned them that people would go there if they continued to commit sin.”
In her Memoirs, Sister Lúcia reports several cases where true miracles of grace were worked through the prayer of the little seer. One day, a woman from Alqueidao came to ask for the healing of a sick person and the conversion of a sinner. Since Lúcia and Jacinta had the time to hide, fleeing the company of the group of visitors, Francisco received them alone in his bedroom. He promised to pray.
Not long after his death, the same woman returned to Aljustrel. She asked where Francisco’s tomb was, for she wished to thank him for the two graces which she had asked for and obtained through his intercession. Then Lucia mentions another case. “A woman called Mariana, from Casa Velha, came one day into Francisco’s room. She was most upset because her husband had driven their son out of the house, and she was asking for the grace that her son would be reconciled with his father.
Francisco said to her in reply: “Don’t worry. I’m going to Heaven very soon, and when I get there I will ask Our Lady for that grace.” Lúcia said, “I do not recall just how many days remained before he took his flight to Heaven, but what I do remember is that, on the very afternoon of Francisco’s death, the son went to ask pardon of his father, who had previously refused it because his son would not submit to the conditions imposed. The boy accepted everything that the father demanded, and peace reigned once again in that home.
Once again, Francisco had shown himself to be a faithful intercessor.
THE DEATH OF A SAINT
Suddenly Francisco’s condition grew worse. He could no longer cough up the phlegm; his throat became blocked; the fever grew worse; only with difficulty could he take any medicine; the weakness and exhaustion grew rapidly, giving away the fact that the end was near.”
In barely six months, the terrible malady had overcome his robust health. At one time Francisco recited as many as seven or eight Rosaries a day – a fact which Olimpia confirmed – but now he was so weak that evening would come before he had the strength to say just one. This greatly afflicted Francisco. No longer being able to pray, he felt that the end was near and he asked Father Ferreira to let him receive Holy Communion before he died.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 2:
“I AM GOING TO CONFESSION SO THAT I CAN RECEIVE HOLY COMMUNION AND THEN DIE.”
As Mr. Marto went to the presbytery he recited the Rosary on the way, overcome with anguish and desolation. Would the implacable Father Ferreira finally grant to his poor Francisco the favour of being able to receive Communion? Had he not excluded Francisco from the Holy Table yet again in May 1918, on the pretext that the boy was still unsure of a point concerning the Creed?
Ti Marto remembered how Francisco had come back to the house in tears. Nevertheless, on April 2, 1919, the parish priest of Fatima was surely touched, and he agreed to come without delay, the very same day, to visit the poor dying boy.
“TELL ME IF YOU HAVE SEEN ME COMMIT ANY SIN…”
In the meantime, Francisco prepared himself, and with what seriousness! He wanted to be sure that he had confessed all his faults, without forgetting a single one. It was still early in the morning when he sent his sister Teresa to get Lucia: “Come quickly to our house! Francisco is very bad, and he says he wants to tell you something.” I dressed as fast as I could, and went over there. He asked his mother and brothers 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, 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, and answered: “Well, tell him that before Our Lady appeared to us, he stole a coin from our father to buy a music box from José 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 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.” Joining his hands, he recited the prayer: “O my Jesus, forgive us, deliver us from the fire of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who are most in need.” Then he said: “Now listen, you must also ask Our Lord to forgive me my sins.”
“I’ll ask that, don’t worry. If Our Lord had not forgiven them already, Our Lady would not have told Jacinta the other day that She was coming soon to take you to Heaven. Now, I’m going to Mass, and there I’ll pray to the Hidden Jesus for you.”
“Then, please ask Him to let the parish priest give me Holy Communion.” (He also was apprehensive; not having made his First Communion in church, he was afraid of being refused again.)
When I returned from the church, Jacinta had already got up and was sitting on his bed. As soon as Francisco saw me, he asked: “Did you ask the Hidden Jesus for the parish priest to give me Holy Communion?” “I did.” “Then, in Heaven, I’ll pray for you…”
Then I left them, and went off to my usual daily tasks of lessons and work. When I returned in the evening, I found him radiant with joy. He had made his confession, and the parish priest had promised to bring him Holy Communion the next day.
Francisco was exultant. The moment he so ardently desired had arrived. For the first time since his miraculous Communion at the Cabeço, he was going to receive his “Hidden Jesus”, at whose feet he had spent so many hours in silence. Given his sickness, of course, he could have been dispensed from the fast. But no! He wished to offer this one last sacrifice: “He made his mother promise that she would not give him anything after midnight so that he could receive Communion fasting, like everybody else.”
THURSDAY, APRIL 3: HOLY VIATICUM
Here is Father de Marchi’s account of the recollections of the Marto family:
“Finally came the dawn of April 3. It was a beautiful spring day… When Francisco heard the sound of the bell announcing the arrival of the King of Heaven, he wanted to seat himself on his bed; however, he was too weak, and he fell back on his pillow. “You can remain lying down to receive Our Lord”, his godmother Teresa told him. She had come specially to attend the first and last Communion of her godson… “Near the bed, the two little children (Lúcia and Jacinta) were kneeling with sadness, but also with holy jealousy. Jesus was coming to take their companion away, and usher him into Heaven. After receiving the Host on his parched tongue, Francisco closed his eyes, and remained motionless for a long time…
The first words he pronounced were to say to his mother: “Will Father bring me the Hidden Jesus once again?” “I don’t know”, she answered, undoubtedly sensing that this first Communion would also be his Viaticum. Francisco, however, was still overcome with joy. He said to his little sister: “I am happier than you are, because I have the Hidden Jesus within my heart. I’m going to Heaven, but I’m going to pray very much to Our Lord and Our Lady for Them to bring you both there soon.”
Lucia recalled, “That day I spent almost the whole night by his bedside with Jacinta. Since he could no longer pray, he asked us to recite the Rosary for him.”
“I WILL MISS YOU TERRIBLY IN HEAVEN!”
Francisco could still exchange a few words with Lucia and Jacinta. The thought of having to leave them seemed to put a damper on his joy. Already he cherished them so much! Lucia records this charming dialogue: “I am sure I shall miss you terribly in Heaven! If only Our Lady would bring you there soon, also!” “You won’t miss me! Just imagine! And you right there with Our Lord and Our Lady! They are so good!” “That’s true! Perhaps, I won’t remember!”
“I’M AFRAID I’LL FORGET… MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE I WANT TO CONSOLE HIM!”
In still another place, Lúcia writes: “The day before he died, he said to me: “Look! I am very ill; it won’t be long now before I go to Heaven.” “Then listen to this. When you’re there, don’t forget to pray a great deal for sinners, for the Holy Father, for me and for Jacinta.” “Yes, I’ll pray. But look, you’d better ask Jacinta to pray for these things instead, because I’m afraid I’ll forget when I see Our Lord. And then, more than anything else, I want to console Him.”
Is it childish simplicity, charming candour? Be that as it may, it still moves the Heart of God and greatly consoles it. For Jesus Himself said: “Suffer the little ones to come to Me; do not prevent them, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Truly I say to you, whoever does not humble himself as this little child, shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Then He blessed them and imposed His Hands upon them.
THE LAST FAREWELLS
During the day, Francisco’s condition worsened alarmingly. “He was thirsty but he could no longer take any milk, or even the spoonfuls of water which he was given from time to time. If his mother or his godmother asked him how he felt, he answered: “All right; I have no pain.”
Lúcia writes: “That night I said goodbye to him. “Goodbye, Francisco! If you go to Heaven tonight, don’t forget me when you get there, do you hear me?” “No, I won’t forget. Be sure of that.” “Then, seizing my right hand, he held it tightly for a long time, looking at me with tears in his eyes. “Do you want anything more?” I asked him, with tears running down my cheeks, too. “No!” he answered in a low voice, quite overcome. As the scene was becoming so moving, my aunt told me to leave the room. “Goodbye then, Francisco! Till we meet in Heaven, goodbye!…”
FRIDAY, APRIL 4, 1919:
“He died smiling”
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 wrote.. 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 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, in a simple grave, marked only by a wooden cross. On March 13, 1952, his mortal remains were transferred to the basilica of Fatima, where they repose today, waiting to be presented to the faithful after his canonization – a canonization ardently desired not only by Sister Lúcia herself, but by a multitude of souls who have received great graces through his intercession.
THE LESSON OF FRANCISCO’S BRIEF LIFE:
“A secure, easy, short and perfect way”
On June 13, 1917, Our Lady had promised, “Jacinta and Francisco, I will take them soon … 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 of Heaven. (Frère Michel de la Trinité. “The Whole Truth about Fatima – Vol II”)
Previous posts in this series: Part 1, Part 2.
Saint Francisco Marto of Fatima, pray for us, pray for our priests.
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Thank you for reading, I pray for you always!