When officials released Fatima seer Lucia dos Santos' first memoir in 1976, great light was shed on the extraordinary and largely hidden lives of the two younger visionaries -- Francisco and Jacinta Marto.
Recall often we should how these two siblings, who were Lucia's cousins and best friends, died very soon after the dramatic apparitions of 1917, when they succumbed, as Our Lady told them they would, to a worldwide pandemic of what became known as "Spanish flu" (though it may have been brought to Europe from the U.S. during World War One). When people look to cataclysms, they forget this great eruption of influenza that infected five hundred million people around the world and killed between fifty and a hundred million. Was it part of the chastisements, indicated in the secrets, for that era?
That's more than twice the number killed during the First World War. And it began immediately, did this outbreak, the year after the last major apparition.
We use the adjective "major" to separate the famous apparitions at Fatima from May 13 to October 13, 1917, from ones that occurred afterwards, for many don't realize that Our Lady continued to appear individually to the visionaries -- in the case of the youngest two, ushering them into Heaven.
Jacinta, who died at age 9 -- the year after her brother, who was ten -- reportedly quoted Our Lady, in those private apparitions, as presenting startling insights. Among them forgotten messages (and Jacinta's own interpretations of the era, the onset of the Roaring Twenties):
"The sins of the world are very great.”
"If men knew what eternity is, they would do everything to change their lives.”
"Men are lost because they do not think of the death of Our Lord and do not do penance.”
"Many marriages are not good; they do not please Our Lord, and they are not of God.”
"The sins that lead more souls to hell are the sins of the flesh."
"Fashions that will greatly offend Our Lord will appear. People who serve God should not follow fashions. The Church has no fashions. Our Lord is always the same.”
Sobering it is.
If that state of morality led to World War Two, and perhaps likewise the epidemic -- which came too soon after 1917 (striking from 1918-1920) to disassociate with the appearances and warnings of Mary -- what might be in store for our current era?
Few realize the incredible and intensely deep spirituality of this very young girl -- this mere child (she would be a fourth-grader in our school system) -- who spent the last years of her life voluntarily suffering for the conversion of sinners (having been shown hell).
Noted Lucia (in the book, which was called Fatima in Lucia's Own Words):
"Jacinta took this matter of making sacrifice for the conversion of sinners so much to heart that she never let a single occasion escape her." When it was time for lunch, they gave their food to the sheep. Whenever they came across children poorer than they were, they gave all their food to them. When looking for a snack of acorns, they chose to eat the bitter ones.
Desperate for hydration on a hot day, parched for drink, the sun blazing, on stony hillside wasteland, Jacinta chose not to take water when they finally came across some as another sacrifice for "poor sinners."
"Jacinta's thirst for making sacrifices seemed insatiable" recalled Lucia -- who no doubt too will one day be canonized (as Jacinta and Francisco will this year during Fatima the centennial celebrations).
The little girl's ultimate sufferings? First the death of her dear brother, which Our Lady predicted to her, and then being told that she too would die and it would be away from Lucia and her parents -- a suffering that topped all previous offerings but, extraordinarily, was embraced by Jacinta.
Even when the influenza set in, causing her thirst and a terrible headache, as well as confining her to bed, she refused to take a drink as another offering.
"Our Lady came to see us," Jacinta told Lucia. "She told us she would come to take Francisco to Heaven very soon, and she asked me if I still wanted to convert more sinners. I said I did. She told me I would be going to a hospital where I would suffer a great deal; and that I am to suffer for the conversion of sinners, in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and for the love of Jesus.”
Jacinta referred to the Communion Host as the "Hidden Jesus." And wept upon hearing descriptions of the Crucifixion, always kissing Crucifixes.
When her brother was dying, Jacinta last words to him: "Give all my love to Our Lord and Our Lady, and tell them that I'll suffer as much as they want, for the conversion of sinners and in reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary."
And so it was.
A great saint. A largely hidden one. A very powerful self-abnegating intercessor.
Her last suffering came when as predicted she was sent alone to a hospital ninety miles south in Lisbon.
When, during their farewell conversation, Lucia told her to stop thinking of dying alone (surely, an excruciating thought for anyone, let alone a child), Jacinta replied:
"Let me think about it, for the more I think, the more I suffer, and I want to suffer for the love of Our Lord and for sinners.
"Anyway, I don't mind! Our Lady will come to me there and take me to Heaven."
(With those words did the saint head, sacrifices in hand, for eternity.)