Born March 11, 1910, in Portugal | Died February 20, 1920, in Portugal Canonized May 13, 2017 | Feast Day: February 20
Jacinta’s Radical Gift
Having seen a vision of hell, St. Jacinta offered up lunches, persecution by those who doubted the children of Fátima, and other penances to keep others from suffering.
The year Jacinta was born, Portugal’s monarchy was overthrown in a brief revolution. The successor Portuguese Republic, virulently anti-clerical, was called out in an encyclical by Pope Pius X for actions “breathing the most implacable hatred of the Catholic religion.” The 1918 influenza pandemic, which weakened the health of both Jacinta and her brother Francisco, is estimated to have cost at least 50 million lives worldwide.
Jacinta’s Radical Path to Holiness
Lucia dos Santos would later describe as her cousin Jacinta as a girl who liked to dance and had a good heart, but who was overly sensitive and liked to be in charge of their games. The two of them and Jacinta’s older brother Francisco herded their families’ sheep together, and Jacinta often could be found amid the animals. Lucia recalled that Jacinta once told her, “I want to do the same as Our Lord in that holy picture they gave me. He’s just like this, right in the middle of them all, and he’s holding one of them in his arms.”
It was some time later, on May 13, 1917, that the lady first appeared. Jacinta was seven, Lucia, ten, and Francisco just shy of his ninth birthday. The lady urged them to sacrifice so that souls might be saved, and she asked them to say the Rosary daily. She asked that they come back the thirteenth of each month.
The children initially agreed to keep the lady to themselves, but Jacinta couldn’t resist telling her family, and soon the story spread. Still, they returned the next month. Then, the month after that, the lady showed them a vision of hell. That experience changed Jacinta profoundly. While all three made sacrifices to save souls from that fate, she was the leader in that regard—giving up lunches; wearing a rope around her waist; and withstanding pressure from relatives, clergy, and lay authorities alike to recant. By all accounts, Jacinta went from being a chatty, bossy girl to one given to introspection, even after the lady’s final visit on October 13, 1917, which drew an estimated seventy thousand people. Through Lucia, the Blessed Mother urged the crowd to say the Rosary, repent of their sins, and make sacrifices.
Both Marto children and most of their family were struck by the flu epidemic in 1918, and Jacinta told Lucia the Blessed Mother had said that Francisco would go to heaven soon. When Mary asked if Jacinta was willing to convert more souls before her own death, the little girl said yes. Shortly before Francisco’s death, Jacinta went to his side and asked him to tell the Lord and Mary that she was willing to suffer further.
Jacinta’s final months were difficult. She had two ribs removed without being fully anesthetized. She was moved first to one hospital, then another. Three weeks before her tenth birthday, the girl who had spent a third of her life in the limelight was alone when she died.
In 1930 the Church recognized the apparitions as worthy of belief, clearing the way for public devotions to Our Lady of Fátima. Initially it was decided that Francisco and Jacinta could not be canonized because they were too young to understand or practice heroic virtues. But their cause was taken up again in 1979, and ultimately the Congregation for the Causes of Saints determined that in exceptionally rare cases, such gifts were possible. Jacinta and her brother were canonized on the one hundredth anniversary of the lady’s first appearance.
Praying with Jacinta
St. Jacinta, I ask for your intercession to show me the way to avoid the fires of hell and to save as many souls as I can with my sacrifices.