Designs of Mercy, Part IV, Jacinta’s Last Days

Previously Posted on February 20, 2020

Today’s post honors Saint Jacinta of Fatima on the  anniversary of her death in Lisbon, Portugal. Saint Jacinta died as Our Lady of the Rosary had promised, alone in a hospital far from home and her loved ones, but comforted by Our Lady who cradled this pure soul in her own immaculate arms and carried her to be a beautiful flower, placed by her before the throne of Jesus, her one true Love.

Herein we chronicle the final stage in little Saint Jacinta’s brief life on earth. Our last post brought Jacinta’s life up til the end of July, 1918 with Jacinta suffering greatly from the lingering influenza, pleurisy and a large draining abscess in the side of her chest. The decision had been made – Jacinta had no choice but must leave her family and Lúcia to be treated in yet another hospital. Frère Michel continues the narrative:

“Poor Holy Father! We must pray much for him!”

In the first few days of July, Mr. Marto took in his arms the emaciated body of his daughter, placed her as best he could upon his donkey, and conducted Jacinta to Vila Nova de Ourem. There the sick child was given intensive treatment, but with no result. During her two month stay at the hospital, Jacinta suffered much, and more than anything else she suffered from the cruel loneliness.

According to Sister Lúcia: ‘When her mother went to see her, she asked if she wanted anything. She told her that she wanted to see me. This was no easy matter for my aunt, but she took me with her at the first opportunity. As soon as Jacinta saw me, she joyfully threw her arms around me, and asked her mother to leave me with her while she went to do her shopping. Then I asked her if she was suffering a lot. ‘

‘Yes, I am. But I offer everything for sinners, and in reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.’ Then, filled with enthusiasm, she spoke of Our Lord and Our Lady: ‘Oh, how much I love to suffer for love of Them, just to give Them pleasure! They greatly love those who suffer for the conversion of sinners.’

When two months passed and no improvement was noted, the hospital and doctors released Jacinta home to the care of her family. The abscess in her side was draining purulent infection and required care beyond her family’s ability. Frère Michel’s account quotes two witnesses to that period to give us some insight into Jacinta’s pitiable state:

The first is Mrs. Maria da Cruz Lopes, who visited Aljustrel in September. She poignantly remarked that Jacinta’s fragile body, huddled in a white woolen robe, reminded us of birds who ruffle their wings to fly to milder climates.” The second testimony is from the good Canon Formigao, who saw her on October 13, 1919. But his account is even sadder: “Will Jacinta die? Accompanied by her mother, she arrives here. Both of them are in intense mourning over the death of Francisco… The child is like a skeleton. Her arms are frighteningly thin. Since she left the hospital of Vila Nova de Ourem, where she was treated for two months, without any results, she always has a fever. Looking at her moves one to pity. Poor child! Only last year full of life and health, and now already like a wilted flower, with one foot in the grave! After an attack of tuberculosis and broncho-pneumonia, pleurisy wastes away her weakened body. Only appropriate treatment in a good sanatorium might perhaps save her. But her parents, although they are not completely indigent, nevertheless cannot afford such expenses.”

Jacinta’s Prayers

Like Lúcia, Jacinta was in the habit of reciting often the prayers of the Angel, even during the night. Like the Angel, the girls would prostrate themselves on the (floor), in the spirit of humility and adoration.

Lúcia relates: In spite of her state of extreme weakness, Jacinta strived to remain faithful to this practice. She confided to Lúcia: “When I’m alone, I get out of bed to recite the Angel’s prayer. But now I’m not able to touch the ground any more with my head, because I fall over; so I only pray on my knees.” One day, I had the opportunity of speaking to the Vicar (Father Faustino Jacinto Ferreira, dean of Olival). . . . I told him what I thought about (Jacinta’s) condition, and afterwards related what she had said to me about being unable to touch the ground when she prayed. His Reverence sent me to tell her that she was not to get out of bed in order to pray, but that she was to pray lying down, and then only as long as she could do so without getting tired. I delivered the message at the very first opportunity. “And will Our Lord be pleased?” she asked. “He is pleased”, I replied. “Our Lord wants us to do whatever the Reverend Vicar says.” “That’s all right, then. I won’t get up any more.”

Another Trial – Visitors and Questions

What distressed her most (Lúcia assures us) were the frequent visits and questioning on the part of many people who wanted to see her, and whom she could no longer avoid by running off to hide. Jacinta had to undergo detailed and exhausting interrogations. She never showed the slightest impatience or repugnance, but simply told me later: “My head aches so much after listening to all those people! Now that I cannot run away and hide, I offer more of these sacrifices to Our Lord.”

Jacinta was frank with the crowds who sought to talk with her and cautioned them strictly, “Don’t say that; it offends the Lord Our God.” “Don’t let your children commit sin, or they could go to hell.” Of adults, “Tell them not to do that, it is a sin, they are offending Our Lord God, and then they could be damned.” But still the crowds came, especially the children who were drawn to Jacinta.

One day Jacinta confided to Lúcia: “If only I could put into everybody’s heart the fire I have in my breast, which makes me burn with such love for the Heart of Jesus and the Heart of Mary!” In her simplicity, and to the extent she could, Jacinta did strive to make these Hearts known and loved. In a charming passage, Lúcia relates how Jacinta extemporaneously taught catechism to her little companions who felt such a mysterious attraction towards her, combining with their affection for her a reserve and respect which “kept them somewhat at a distance” from her: “When I went to visit her during her illness, I often found a large group waiting at the door, hoping to be able to come in with me and see her. They seemed to be held back by a certain sense of respect.” . . . She prayed the Rosary with them, and counselled them not to commit sin, and so avoid offending the Lord Our God and going to hell . Some of them spent whole mornings and afternoons with her, and seemed very happy in her company.”

Our Lady of the Rosary calls on Jacinta

In December, 1919, Our Lady visited Jacinta to tell her that the hour had come and there were new crosses and sacrifices awaiting her. Per Lúcia: (Jacinta) gave me the news:

“She told me that I am going to Lisbon to another hospital; that I will not see you again, nor my parents either, and after suffering a great deal, I shall die alone. But She said I must not be afraid, since She Herself is coming to take me to Heaven.” She hugged me and wept: “I will never see you again! You won’t be coming to visit me there. Oh please, pray hard for me, because I am going to die alone!”

“Jacinta suffered terribly right up to the day of her departure for Lisbon. She kept clinging to me and sobbing: “I’ll never see you again! Nor my mother, nor my brothers, nor my father! I’ll never see anybody ever again! And then, I’ll die all alone!” . . . “Will I die alone without receiving the Hidden Jesus? Oh, if only Our Lady would bring Him to me when She comes to take me!” she exclaimed. “To die alone”

Frère Michel writes, “Nothing frightened her more. She reminds us of Saint Joan of Arc, who more than anything else feared dying by fire! But like Saint Joan, Jacinta was ready to suffer everything. In her memoirs Sister Lúcia gives us this beautiful insight into this heroic little saint’s soul:

To keep from getting too frightened over the approaching separation, Jacinta kept repeating: “But it doesn’t matter; Our Lady will come to find me to take me to Heaven.”

“What are you going to do in Heaven?” “I’m going to love Jesus very much, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, too. I’m going to pray a lot for you, for sinners, for the Holy Father, for my parents and my brothers and sisters, and for all the people who have asked me to pray for them … When her mother looked sad at seeing her child so ill, Jacinta used to say; “Don’t worry mother. I’m going to Heaven, and there I’ll be praying so much for you!” Like Saint Therese, Jacinta had resolved to “spend her Heaven doing good on earth.”

But then Lúcia’s narrative returns to the fact that even though Jacinta was so fragile and so ill, she was still called to traverse the dark path of the great mystic saints and martyrs of the faith and despite Jacinta’s most fervent efforts, at times she was simply overwhelmed with fright and foreboding, as she tells us:

On one occasion, I found her clasping a picture of Our Lady to her heart, and saying, “O my dearest Heavenly Mother, do I have to die all alone?”. . . I tried to comfort her, saying: “What does it matter if you die alone, so long as Our Lady is coming to fetch you?” “It’s true, it doesn’t matter, really. I don’t know why it is, but I sometimes forget Our Lady is coming to take me. I only remember that I’ll die without having you near me.”

Frère Michel notes that, “It was when her soul was deprived of all consolation, frightened at the thought of the sufferings at hand, that there sprung from her soul the purest, the most heroic, and the most meritorious affections of love. Lúcia recalls: “At times, she kissed and embraced a crucifix, exclaiming: “O my Jesus! I love You, and I want to suffer very much for love of You!” How often did she say: “O Jesus! Now you can convert many sinners, because this is really a big sacrifice!”

A Visit from Dr. Lisboa

The year drew to a close and in January, 1920, a Dr. Lisboa of some renown visited the Marto family to see Jacinta. The doctor and his wife were accompanied by Canon Formigao. The following commentary is from Dr. Lisboa:

“Little Jacinta was very pale and thin, and walked with great difficulty… When I censured them for their lack of effort to save their daughter, they told me that it was not worth while, because Our Lady wished to take her, and that she had been interned for two months in the local hospital without any improvement in her condition. I replied that Our Lady’s will was certainly more powerful than any human efforts and that in order to be certain that She really wished to take Jacinta, they must not neglect any of the normal aids of science to save her life.”

As a result, Jacinta was sent to her final hospital stay, ” to be treated by the best doctors in one of the hospitals in the capitol.” Before leaving however, Jacinta had one more task. She asked her mother to take her for a last visit to the Cova da Iria. And so, Olimpia took Jacinta on the family donkey and on the way, they stopped at the Carreira pool and gathered a few flowers for the Chapel, where they knelt and prayed a Rosary. As they were leaving, Jacinta glanced at the site and told her Mother, “When Our Lady went away She passed over those trees, and afterwards She went into Heaven so quickly that I thought She would get Her feet caught!”

On January 21, 1920, Olimpia and her oldest son, Antonio took Jacinta by train to Lisbon. They had not taken a train before and so it must have been quite the adventure. Once in Lisbon, the first disappoint arrived promptly: The woman who had agreed to shelter them reneged, Frère Michel explained, “The little girl was exhausted, pus was flowing from the wound in her side, and it gave a nauseous odour. To agree to take care of her was a rough task and a grave responsibility.” After being turned away repeatedly, they found lodging for Jacinta in an orphanage called “Our Lady of Miracles”, located at 17 Rua de Estrela. It was named after a chapel next door, consecrated under this title. The foundress and directress was Mother Maria of the Purification Godinho, a pious but unlearned woman. Mother Godinho said of her little charge,

“I saw what an angelic creature the Blessed Virgin had sent me. For a long time I had desired to see the privileged children to whom Our Lady had appeared. I was far from imagining that one day my poor abode would house Jacinta.”

It was in this place that Jacinta’s fondest desire was achieved, and she was able daily to attend Mass and receive Our Lord in Holy Communion. Jacinta’s mother, Olimpia recalled, ” I remember how one day, she said to me: “Mother, I want to go to confession.” And so we went, although dawn had not yet broken, … When we came out, the child was very consoled and kept repeating: ‘Oh, mother! What a good Father! What a good Father!… He asked me so many things!’… I would sure like to know what the priest asked her! But the things of confession are not to be spoken about …. She was carried in my arms, or in the arms of the Superior, when she went to the altar of the chapel and the Communion Table.”

‘Those stupid country people’

While Jacinta was in the orphanage, efforts were underway by the learned and powerful to exert pressure on Olimpia Marto to allow Jacinta admittance into the hospital for another operation. Jacinta’s father Ti Marto, recalls, “They wrote to see if there was not some way to stop her (Olimpia) opposing what they wanted to do. The letter said these country people are so stupid that they don’t even want a good deed done for them.” Ti Marto at last agreed to the hospitalization and on February 2, 1920, the feast of the Purification, Jacinta was transferred to the hospital of Dona Estefania at Lisbon.

Jacinta knew that all this was useless, but no one in authority appeared to understand that Our Lady had already assured her of her approaching death. And now, in this strange place she would no longer have the presence of the Hidden Jesus, and the comfort of receiving Him every day into her soul. On February 5, Olimpia left for Fatima and Jacinta surrendered her last earthly comfort. Thus the prophecy of Our Lady was fulfilled: Jacinta found herself all alone in a great hospital, to die there.

“Purulent pleurisy, and osteitis of the seventh and eighth left ribs.” Such was the diagnosis of Jacinta by Doctor Castro Freire, who welcomed her to the hospital. On February 10th, Jacinta’s operation took place at his hands. She suffered greatly, for they could not give her chloroform because of her extreme weakness, and they had to make do with a local anaesthetic, which was applied very imperfectly in those times. Nevertheless, she suffered even more from the humiliation of seeing all her clothes removed.

Two ribs were extracted from her left side, leaving a wound as wide as a hand. This caused her great suffering, and the pain was revived every time the wound had to be dressed. However, her only cry was: “Aie! Aie!… Oh! Our Lady!” She would add: “Patience! We must all suffer to get to Heaven!”

Our Lady Visits Jacinta

However, as a good mother, the Blessed Virgin took pity on Her child and came soon to lighten her trial… Three days before dying, Jacinta confided in Mother Godinho, who had come to visit, “Godmother, I’m no longer in pain!” (The night before she had confided that she was suffering great pains.) “Our Lady appeared to me again. She told me that She would come to take me soon and that I wouldn’t suffer any more.” And in fact, from that day she did not show any more signs of suffering. Dr. Lisboa wrote in his report:

“As a matter of fact, right after this apparition in the middle of the hospital room, all her sufferings disappeared, and she was able to distract herself by looking at pious images, one of which was Our Lady of Sameiro, which was later offered to me as a souvenir of Jacinta. The child said that this image reminded her the most of the Virgin such as She appeared to her.”

A few days after the operation, Dr. Lisboa, full of hope for his patient’s chances, wrote to Mr. Marto and the Baron of Alvaiazère, telling them that everything had gone well. Jacinta, however, knew the day and hour of her death. Here is Dr. Lisboa’s report: “On the evening of that 20th of February, at about six o’clock, Jacinta said that she felt worse and wished to receive the sacraments. The parish priest, Dr. Pereira dos Reis, was called and he heard her confession about eight o’clock that night.

“I was told that Jacinta had insisted that the Blessed Sacrament be brought to her as Viaticum but that Father Reis had not concurred because she seemed fairly well. He promised to bring her Holy Communion in the morning. Jacinta again asked for Viaticum, saying that she would die shortly. And indeed, around half past ten that night, she died peacefully, but without having received Holy Communion.”

A Promise Kept

Frere Michel writes, “Everything was accomplished. The prophecy of Our Lady had been fulfilled: Jacinta died alone, without parents or friends, and without anyone to attend her in her last moments. She was even deprived of the supreme comfort: the sweet Presence of Jesus in the Host, which she had so long desired for that supreme moment – and it had been refused her. What a sacrifice! Once again she could repeat:

“O Jesus, now You can convert many sinners, because I suffer a great deal!”

The two long and lonely hours which elapsed between her confession and her death – what were they like? This is a secret of her soul, a soul thirsting for the salvation of sinners, and of her heart, a heart burning with love for Jesus and Mary… But we can be certain of one thing: Our Lady surely kept Her promise; She Herself came to fetch Her child, to introduce her, finally, into the infinite beatitude of Heaven!”

After sweet Jacinta’s death, a white dress and blue sash, suitable for First Holy Communion, were provided for Jacinta and her body was taken to the Church of the Holy Angels where the same good priest, Father Reis, who had refused her Viaticum, protested against her body being in his sacristy, objecting to the sanitary concerns and the crowds. Eventually he allowed Jacinta’s coffin to be placed in a room above the sacristy with the undertaker on guard lest anything unseemly occur. This undertaker later testified,

“I feel as though I can still see this little angel. Lying in her casket, she seemed to be alive, with her lips and cheeks a beautiful rosy colour. I have seen many dead people, young and old, but I have never seen anything like her… The most obstinate unbeliever would not have been able to doubt. Think of the odour corpses often give off, which cannot be borne without repugnance! Yet the little girl was dead for three and a half days, and the odour she exhaled was like a bouquet of various flowers…”

The funeral took place on February 24, 1920. Dr. Lisboa then testified, “…the perfume exhaled by the body at the moment the coffin was closed was very pleasant, like that of sweet-smelling flowers, a very singular fact given the purulent character of the illness and the prolonged time the body had remained in the open air. . .(Jacinta’s) casket was deposited in the family vault of the Baron of Alvaiazere, at Vila Nova de Ourem.”

We close with a small poem from Sister Lucia:

A Song for Jacinta

Swift through the world, you went a-flying,
Dearest Jacinta, in deepest suffering,
Jesus loving.
Forget not my plea and prayer to you:
Be ever my friend before the throne
of the Virgin Mary!
O lily of candour, shining pearl,
Up there in Heaven, you live in glory,
O seraphim of love,
with your little brother, at the Master’s Feet,
Pray for me.

Saint Jacinta of Fatima, pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

†. 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.

Open your hearts to the Lord and serve Him only: and He will free you from the hands of your enemies. With all your heart return to Him, and take away from your midst any strange gods” (I Kings 7:3)

† Immaculate Heart of Mary, Queen of our hearts, Mother of the Church, do thou offer to the Eternal Father the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, for the conversion of poor sinners, especially our Pontiff.
† Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Thy kingdom come! Viva Cristo Rey!
† St. Joseph, protect us, protect our families, protect our priests.
† St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.

~  for love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, King.
Vouchsafe that I may praise thee, O Sacred Virgin! Give me strength against thine enemies!