HER ILLNESS BEGAN WITH THE INFLUENZA EPIDEMIC THAT SWEPT THE WORLD IN 1918
“I will take Jacinta and Francisco soon,” our Lady had said to Lucia on June 13. The final illness of the two children began with the influenza epidemic that swept the world in 1918. [“Spanish ‘flu epidemic”]. They were both stricken. Complications set in, and neither recovered, although Jacinta lingered on longer than her brother.
“FOR THE CONVERSION OF SINNERS”
One day when Lucia came to visit her sick cousins, Jacinta had great news for her.
“Lucia,” she cried, “our Lady came to see us and said she was coming soon for Francisco. She asked me whether I wanted to convert more sinners. I said yes. Our Lady wants me to go to two hospitals, but it is not to cure me. It is to suffer more for the love of God, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the offences committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary. She told me that you would not be with me. My mother will take me there, and afterward I am to be left there alone.
Jacinta was happy to undergo any sacrifice for the conversion of sinners. Francisco, too, underwent great suffering without the least complaint. His desire was to console our Lord and our Lady. It seemed to him that they were very sorrowful.
FRANCISCO’S FIRST COMMUNION
In April, Francisco asked to be allowed to make his First Communion. His request was granted. It was also his last Communion. He died April 4, 1919. He was not yet ten years old.
DON’T BE AFRAID. I’LL PRAY A LOT FOR YOU IN HEAVEN
Jacinta missed her brother very much even though she knew he was happy in heaven. “I think of Francisco and how I’d love to see him,” she told Lucia. “But I also think of the war that is going to come. So many people will die, and so many will go to he’ll. Many cities will be burned to the ground, and many priests will be killed. Look, Lucia, I am going to heaven. But when you see that night illumined by the strange light, you also run away to heaven.”
Lucia said that would be impossible, and Jacinta agreed. “But don’t be afraid. I’ll pray a lot for you in heaven, and for the Holy Father also, and for Portugal, for the war not to come here and for all the priests.”
Her influenza grew worse and an abscess formed on her chest. Her suffering was great, but she was glad she could offer it for the conversion of sinners. She was taken to a hospital at Ourem, but the doctors there could do nothing for her. After two months she was returned to her home.
“I WONDERED WHETHER OUR LADY HAD MADE THE SAME PROMISE TO JACINTA”
A priest who visited her at her home said: “She was all bones. It was a shock to see how thin her arms were. She was running fever all the time. Pneumonia, then tuberculosis and pleurisy, ate away her strength. I remembered as I saw her, that our Lady had promised Bernadette of Lourdes that she would not be happy in this world but in the next. I wondered whether our Lady had made the same promise to Jacinta.”
We know now that the Lady had made the same promise, in slightly different words. She had said, “You will have much to suffer.” She had also promised that Jacinta would go to heaven.
Despite her illness she made several painful trips to the Cova, and she also went to Mass.
“Don’t try to come to Mass,” Lucia said one day. “It’s too much for you. Besides, it isn’t Sunday.”
“That doesn’t matter. I want to go in place of the sinners who don’t go even on Sundays.”
“TELL EVERYONE THAT OUR LORD GRANTS US ALL GRACES THROUGH THE IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY”
These words from the lips of a favoured child of Mary remind us that the desecration of the Sabbath was one of the sins against which our Lady had protested at La Salette.
“Look, Lucia,” Jacinta continued, “our Lord is so sad and our Lady told us that He must not be offended any more. He is already offended very much, and no one pays any attention to it. They keep committing the same sins.”
This also recalls Mary’s words at La Salette: “And as for you, you take no heed of it.”
Another time Jacinta said to Lucia:
“Soon I shall go to heaven. You are to stay here to reveal that the Lord wants to establish throughout the world the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. When you start to reveal this, don’t hesitate. Tell everyone that our Lord grants us all graces through the Immaculate Heart of Mary; that all must make their petitions to her; that the Sacred Heart of Jesus desires that the Immaculate Heart of Mary be venerated at the same time. Tell them that they should all ask for peace from the Immaculate Heart of Mary, as God has placed it in her hands. Oh, if I could only put in the heart of everyone in the world the fire that is burning in me and makes me love so much the Heart of Jesus and the Heart of Mary.”
FINALLY, SHE WAS GIVEN A ROOM IN AN ORPHANAGE
The Blessed Virgin appeared to Jacinta again and told her that she would die in a hospital in Lisbon. Soon after that a specialist told her parents that she should be taken to a hospital in Lisbon. They protested that there was no point in making such a trip if the Blessed Virgin had told her that she was going to die. The doctor replied that the only way they could be sure the Blessed Virgin wanted to take the girl was to go to all lengths to save her. This argument convinced them, and so they took her to Lisbon.
The hospital had no vacant room, and no one wanted to take such a sick girl into a private home. Finally, she was given a room in an orphanage. A chapel adjoined the orphanage and Jacinta was happy to be under the same roof with the Blessed Sacrament. The superior, Mother Godinho, was very kind to the girl. Our Lady appeared to Jacinta several times during her stay at the orphanage.
Jacinta made statements that were far beyond the ordinary girl of her years. Mother Godinho kept a record of them. She asked Jacinta where she learned these things and was told that our Lady taught her some of them and that others she had thought out for herself. “I like to think very much.”
“IF PEOPLE ONLY KNEW WHAT ETERNITY IS, THEY WOULD DO EVERYTHING TO CHANGE THEIR LIVES”
“Wars are only punishments for the sins of the world,” she said one time. “Our Lady cannot stay the arm of her beloved Son upon the world any more. It is necessary to do penance. If the people amend themselves, our Lord shall still come to the aid of the world. If they do not amend themselves, punishment shall come.”
Again one is struck by the similarity between Jacinta’s words and the words of Our Lady of La Salette. “If my people will not submit, I shall be forced to let go the hand of my Son.”
“If men do not amend their lives,” said Jacinta on another occasion, “Almighty God will send the world, beginning with Spain, a punishment such as never has been seen.” She spoke of “great world events” that were to take place around 1940. She cried when she thought of the catastrophe that was coming and when she thought of the way men were offending Jesus and Mary.
“My dear Mother,” she said at another time, “the sins that bring most souls to hell are the sins of the flesh. Certain fashions are going to be introduced which will offend our Lord very much. Those who serve God should not follow these fashions. The Church has no fashions… If people only knew what eternity is, they would do everything to change their lives. People lose their souls because they do not think about the death of our Lord and do not do penance.
“Many marriages are not good; they do not please our Lord and are not of God.
“IF GOVERNMENTS LEFT THE CHURCH IN PEACE… THEY WOULD BE BLESSED BY GOD”
“Pray a great deal for governments. Pity those governments which persecute the religion of our Lord. If the governments left the Church in peace and gave liberty to the Holy Religion, they would be blessed by God.
“Do not give yourself to immodest clothes. Run away from riches. Love holy poverty and silence. Be very charitable, even with those who are unkind. Never criticise others and avoid those who do. Be very patient, for patience brings us to heaven. Mortifications and sacrifices please our Lord a great deal.
“The Mother of God wants a large number of virgin souls to bind themselves to her by the vow of chastity. I would enter a convent with great joy, but my joy is greater because I am going to heaven. To be a religious one has to be pure in soul and in body.”
“Do you know what it means to be pure?” Mother Godinho asked.
“Yes, I do. To be pure in body means to preserve chastity. To be pure in soul means to avoid sin, not to look at what is sinful, not to steal, never lie and always tell the truth even when it is hard. Whoever does not fulfil promises made to our Lady will not be blessed in life.”
“PITY DOCTORS. THEY HAVE NO IDEA WHAT AWAITS THEM”
On February 2, 1920, Jacinta was admitted to the hospital. She was examined by many doctors. Most of these were concerned only with science and medicine and had no thought of God. Jacinta knew this and the thought saddened her. “Pity doctors. They have no idea what awaits them. Doctors do not know how to treat their patients with success because they have no love of God.”
In these three sentences ten-year-old Jacinta protested against the materialism of our times. She saw that men were putting their entire trust in science and ignoring God. But she was not angry with them; she pitied them.
ALL OF JACINTA’S WORDS ARE WORTH GREAT CONSIDERATION
All of Jacinta’s words are worth great consideration. We are not bound to believe private revelations, and some of Jacinta’s remarks were not even private revelations. The Blessed Virgin told her some things, and others she “thought out” for herself. We do know, however, that Jacinta was very saintly and that she had been promised by our Lady that she would go to heaven. Her words are not to be dismissed lightly. And her prediction of a great punishment being visited on the world, beginning with Spain, came only too true!
So when Jacinta tells us that “the sins that bring most souls to hell are the sins of the flesh” her words carry great weight. And there seems little reason to doubt them, when we behold the Sixth Commandment held up to ridicule in Broadway plays, in magazine fiction and in best-selling novels; when in some parts of the United States one marriage in three ends in a divorce, a flagrant disregard of God’s laws.
“Certain fashions are going to be introduced which will offend our Lord very much” seems meant for our own day. Was Jacinta thinking of us when she uttered those words back in 1920?
“Wars are only punishments for the sins of the world” is a sentence that should be broadcast to the world. Our day-to-day actions are more important to the keeping of the peace than all the maneuverings of the world’s diplomats.
THE PRIEST HEARD HER CONFESSION AND SAID HE WOULD BRING HER COMMUNION IN THE MORNING
On February 10, two of Jacinta’s ribs were removed. Because of her weakness, she could not be given a general anaesthetic, and the local one did not take away her pain. “It is for love of You, my Jesus,” she murmured. “Now You can convert many sinners, for I suffer much.”
For six days the agonising pain lasted. Then on the night of February 16, our Lady appeared to her and told her that her suffering was at an end. The pain stopped. On February 20, she asked for the Last Sacraments. The priest heard her confession and said he would bring her Communion in the morning. She asked him to bring it at once because she was going to die soon. She died before her wish was fulfilled. A young nurse, Aurora Gomes, was the only person present when Jacinta quietly breathed her last.
“THE LITTLE SAINT”
Crowds flocked to the undertaking parlour where Jacinta was laid out in her white First Communion dress with a blue sash, our Lady’s colours. The people were sure that Jacinta was already in heaven with our Lord and our Lady, and they wanted to see “the little saint.”
Although her body had been filled with poison, she was beautiful in death. Her lips were red, her cheeks rosy and a pleasant aroma came from her body. “I have seen many bodies, in my business, young and old,” the undertaker said later. “Never did a thing of this sort happen to me before or since.”
Jacinta’s body was placed at first in a vault at Ourem. In 1935 the Bishop of Leiria requested that it be taken to Fatima and buried in the church yard beside the body of Francisco. Her casket was opened at that time and the body was found to be whole and incorrupt.
In April, 1951, the remains of Francisco and Jacinta were moved to the basilica which had risen above the Cova da Iria. Jacinta’s body was examined again. It was found to be partly corrupted but still in a remarkable state of preservation.
From: “The Woman Shall Conquer” by Don Sharkey, Prow Books/Franciscan Marytown Press, Libertyville, IL, 1954