One hundred years ago this month, Our Lady appeared to three Portuguese children at Fatima, Lucia Santos and her two cousins, Francisco and Jacinta Marto—and through their witness, Our Lady of Fatima spoke to the world about the importance of loving he Son Jesus Christ and following his teachings as preserved by the Catholic Church. Now two of those three children have been named the Church’s newest—and youngest—of heaven’s saints.
On May 13, the 100th anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady of Fatima, Pope Francis canonized St. Francisco and St. Jacinta in Fatima, Portugal. In an April 20 story for the National Catholic Register, Elise Harris reported on the steps leading up to the siblings’ canonization. The decision to canonize Francisco and Jacinta, the youngest non-martyrs to be named saints in the history of the Church, was announced on April 20 during a consistory of cardinals.
“Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, the prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, was largely responsible for advancing the visionaries’ cause, paving the way for them to become the first canonized children who were not martyred,” Harris reports. “Previously, the Portuguese cardinal told Catholic News Agency [CNA], children were not beatified, due to the belief ‘that children didn’t yet have the ability to practice Christian heroic virtue like adults.’”
“But that all changed,” Harris writes, “when the cause for Francisco and Jacinta Marto arrived on his desk.”
The children were beatified by Pope John Paul II on May 13, 2000, exactly 17 years before their canonization, Harris reports, and upon further review of the siblings’ lives, Cardinal Martins reconsidered his earlier statement regarding children and canonization.
“The brother and sister, who tended to their family’s sheep with their cousin Lucia Santo in the fields of Fatima, Portugal, witnessed the apparitions of Mary now commonly known as Our Lady of Fatima,” Harris writes. “During the first apparition, which took place May 13, 1917, Our Lady asked the three children to pray the Rosary and make sacrifices for the conversion of sinners. The children did this and were known to pray often, giving their lunch to beggars and going without food themselves. They offered up their sacrifices and even refrained from drinking water on hot days.”
According to a March 23 CNA story, Harris reported that upon reviewing the evidence presented by Cardinal Martins’ office, Pope Francis approved the second and final miracle needed to canonize St. Francisco and St. Jacinta.
“The Pope approved the miracle in a March 23 audience with Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints,” Harris writes, “during which he advanced six other causes, approving one other miracle, two causes for martyrdom and three of heroic virtue.”
Ironically, it was because of Francisco’s and Jacinta’s death at a young age, Harris reports, that these sibling saints were canonized before their older cousin, Blessed Lucia.
“Although the diocesan phase of [Blessed Lucia’s] cause has already been finished,” Harris writes, “Cardinal Martins—who knew the visionary personally—said Lucia’s process will take much longer than that of Francisco and Jacinta not only due to her long life, but also because of the vast number of letters and other material from her writings and correspondence that needs to be examined.”