They had everything to have a simple and anonymous life, but they ended up entering History, not only the history of the Catholic Church in Portugal and worldwide, but also the history of Humanity as privileged witnesses of Apparitions that took place in a small place called Cova da Iria, near Fatima, in the center of the country.
As little shepherds, they got known as “the Three Shepherds” or “the Seers of Fatima” to whom Our Lady appeared six times in 1917, hundred years now.
Lucia, 10 years old at the time, and her cousins Francisco, 9 years, and Jacinta, 7 years, sister and brother, were the chosen one to receive the Message in which the “Lady more brilliant than the Sun” asked for prayers, sacrifices and reparation for the offences against God and her Immaculate Heart.
Lucia could see, ear and talk during the Apparitions, Jacinta could see and ear. Francisco could only see, that is why his cousin and his sister told him everything that they have heard.
Born on March 28th, 1907, in Aljustrel, like her cousins, and baptized two days after, Lucia made her first Communion on May 30th, 1913, by the intercession of Fr. Cruz – according to the known documentation - who was impressed by her catechetical knowledge.
In her Memoirs, Lucia tells that in 1915 she saw for the very first time a kind of cloud, with a human form; she saw it three times with other friends. But it was only the next year, in 1916, that the three children received the manifestations of the Angel of Portugal, as he presented himself.
From the first Apparition of Our Lady, on May 13th, 1917, the life of Lucia and her cousins changed completely: not only because they welcomed the request of the Lady of Fatima, by praying the rosary, making sacrifices, some of them painful, for sinners and presenting themselves six months in a row always on the 13th in that same place, but also because they were constantly questioned about what they had seen, called liars and accused of inventing everything.
Beggining of the withdrawal of the world
After the last Apparition (October 13th, 1917) in the House of Vilar, in Porto, on the advice of the bishop of Leiria, Mgr. José Alves Correia da Silva, Lucia de Jesus starts a life apart from the world which will lead her to the become postulant in the Sisters of St. Dorothy, in Spain, when she was 15. Later, she enters cloistered life in the Convent of St. Theresa, in Coimbra, where she lives from May 17th, 1946, until her death on February 13th, 2005.
In Vilar, On January 5th, 1922, she writes her first account of the Apparitions and two and a half year after, on July 8th, 1924, she answers the official questioning of the Canonic Diocesan Commission, named by Mgr. José Alves Correia da Silva, about the events of Fatima.
Following the Commission’s work, the bishop published, on October 13th, 1930, 13 years after the Apparitions, a Pastoral Letter on the cult of Our Lady of Fatima and considered « as worthy of belief the children’s visions at Cova da Iria, Parish of Fatima […], on the 13th of the month, from May to October 1917».
Disclosure of the message of fatima
Chosen from the beginning to be the announcer of the Message of Fatima and of the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Lucia left many writings, among which there is her Memoirs, divided in six parts and written at the request of the bishop of Leiria and later of the rector of the Shrine (the two last ones), at the time Mgr. Luciano Guerra.
The six parts of the Memoirs, written between December 1935 and March 1992, include the account on the Apparition, both the Apparition of the Angel of Portugal and the Lady of the Rosary (2nd and 4th), her memories about Jacinta (1st), about Francisco (4th), her father (5th) and her mother (6th).
The 3rd Memoir, dated August 1941, includes the two first parts of the three of the preserved content of the Message of Fatima that became known as the Secret of Fatima: the vision of hell and the request of the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Consecration of Russia.
Third part of the secret kept in the vatican
The third and last part of the Secret is comprised in the 4th Memoir and refers to the «atheistic systems against the Church and Christians, and it describes the immense suffering endured by the witnesses of the faith in the last century of the second millennium. It is an interminable Way of the Cross led by the Popes of the twentieth century», as announced Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Secretary of State of the Vatican, in Fatima, on May 13th, 2000.
Despite the innumerable threats, the three Shepherds kept inviolably this secret, which was only written later by Sister Lucia in obedience to the explicit order of the bishop of the diocese of Leiria, and then sent to the Holy See where it was kept.
In a letter addressed to Pope Pius XII, on December 2nd, 1940, Lucia asks insistently to answer the request of Our Lady, repeated in the later Apparitions in Spain: to proclaim the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Consecration of the World, specially Russia, to the Heart of Mary. This consecration was finally made in communion with all the bishops of the world during the pontificate of John Paull II, on March 25th, 1984.
Lucia met in person all the Popes who crossed her life since the Apparitions, except Benedict XV and Pius XII.
The first direct contact with a Pontiff happened in 1967 when she came to Fatima to meet Paul VI at the request of the Pope himself for the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Apparitions of Fatima.
The image of the successor of Peter next to the only seer of Fatima alive was seen around the world and was for many the first time that Lucia was seen.
There was no direct contact with John Paul I as Pope during his short pontificate, but Sister Lucia received him as cardinal Albino Luciani, in the Carmel of Coimbra, after the visit of the Patriarch of Venice to Fatima. It was a long talk, but there is no trace of what was discussed.
Encounters with Popes and future Pope
Lucia had frequent talks with John Paul II, after the attempt on his life, during his visits to Fatima (in 1982, 1991 and 2000).
The last visit was special for Sister Lucia for it happened for the beatification of her cousins Francisco and Jacinta, the two other shepherds of Fatima, and was the occasion chosen by the Pope to announce the third and last part of the Secret of Fatima related, on his interpretation, to the prediction of the assassination attempt in 1981.
Sister Maria Lúcia de Jesus e do Coração Imaculado (Mary Lucie of Jesus of of the Immaculate Heart), name that she took when she pronounced her perpetual vows on May 31st, 1949, died on February 13th, 2005, and was buried in the Carmel of Saint Theresa, in Coimbra. Her mortal remains were translated to the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima on February 19th, 2006, next to her cousin Jacinta.
Three years after her death, on February 3rd, 2008, Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, then Prefect of the Congregation for the Cause of Saints, in the Convent of Coimbra, announces that Pope Benedict has answered the requests of the bishop of Coimbra, Mgr. Albino Cleto, and numerous faithful all around the world, by shortening the canonical deadline of 5 years to open the process of beatification of the seer.
The diocesan phase of the process was opened by Mgr. Albino Cleto, on April 30th, 2008, and its conclusion was announced on January 13th, 2017. The solemn closure session of the process was held on February 9th, 2017, precisely 9 years after its beginning and 12 years after the death of the seer. According to Sister Angela Coelho, vice-postulator for the Cause of Beatification of Sister Lucia, this long period is justified by the need of analyzing all the written documents about the seer, many of which are in the Vatican, and of gathering the testimonies on her sanctity reputation and her heroic virtues, which ends up in a voluminous process of 15 thousand pages to be sent to Congregation for the Causes of the Saints for the Roman phase.
Beatos Francisco e Jacinta
Just a few biographic records exist on the short life of Francisco and Jacinta Marto, «two candles which God lit to illumine humanity in its dark and anxious hours». The most important source of knowledge about them is the Memoirs of their cousin.
They were both born in Aljustrel, with less than two years apart, and died shortly after the Apparitions like Our Lady had announced: «I will take Jacinta and Francisco soon. But you [Lucia] are to stay here some time longer» (June 13th, 1917).
Francisco Marto, whose iconography represents him wearing a cap and a short jacket, a shepherd’s crook and a lunch bag, was born on June 11th, 1908 and baptized on June 20th in the Parish Church of Fatima.
At the age of 8, he started with his sister Jacinta to tend their parents’ flock near Cova da Iria, place where they would witness with their cousin Lucia the Apparitions, which he only could see, but couldn’t hear or talk.
Francisco lived intensely the contemplative prayer carried away by the intimate wish of comforting the «Hidden Jesus», for he wanted to give joy to God, saddened by the sins. That is why he spent long hours in prayer in front of the tabernacle in the Parish Church.
On October 18th, 1918, a little more than a year after the last Apparition, Francisco fell ill with the epidemic of pneumonic influenza that devastated the country. Known also as Spanish flu, this disease has reached Portugal in the middle of that year and within a short period caused the death of thousands of people.
April 2nd of the following year, he had confession and communion for the last time «with a great lucidity and piety» as the parish priest of Fatima wrote in the records of deaths in which he registered the death of Francisco on April 4th, adding: «and confirmed that he saw a Lady in Cova da Iria and Valinhos».
He was buried in the cemetery of Fatima. His mortal remains were exhumed on February 17th, 1952, and transferred to the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima on March 13th, 1952, in the right arm of the transept.
Shy but serene, Jacinta Marto had a life shorter than her brother Francisco.
She was born on March 5th, 1910, also in Aljustrel, and didn’t get to her 10. She died in Lisbon on February 20th, 1920, also of the pneumonic influenza, away from her family. Her sufferings were however overcome with the joy of the promise to go to Heaven.
During the Apparitions, Jacinta saw and heard, but she didn’t talk. According to her cousin Lucia, Jacinta was distressed about the suffering of sinners after she became aware of that suffering in the vision of hell (Apparition of July 13th, 1917) and her heart was filled of compassion for them and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
This profound devotion led her to intense prayer and to bear the sacrifices for the sinners, reminded Lucia in her writings where she also recalls that her cousin suffered from being away from her family, missing her mother, crying of hunger when she retrained herself from eating for compassion for the sinners.
Jacinta claimed to have seen Our Lady in several apparitions during her disease, at home, in the Church of Fatima, in the orphanage in Lisbon where she was before her hospitalization and after in the hospital of Estefânia.
Like her brother, she fell ill with pneumonic influenza in October 1918 and was hospitalized for the first time in the hospital of Vila Nova de Ourem from July 1st to August 31st, 1919, after the death of Francisco.
The following year, the year of her death, she was again hospitalized but this time in the hospital of St. Estefânia, in Lisbon, on February 2nd. She had surgery but passed away on February 20th, «with the greatest tranquility, without having communion», although she had asked insistently to be given communion for she was saying that she would die soon, according to the account of her doctor, Eurico Lisboa.
Her body was taken to the cemetery of Vila Nova de Ourem where she was placed inside the burial chamber of the earls of Alvaiazere, on February 24th.
On April 30th, 1951, her mortal remains were identified and on the next, May 1st, transferred to the left arm of the transept of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary.
One year after, on April 30th, 1952, the bishop of Leiria, Mgr. José Alves Correia da Silva, opens two diocesan processes on the reputation of sanctity and the heroic virtues of the two brothers.
Following a parallel path, the diocesan phase of Jacinta’s process is closed on July 2nd, 1979, with 77 sessions and 27 testimonies; Francisco’s process is closed one month after on August 1st, with 63 sessions and 25 testimonies.
Ten years after, on May 13th, 1989, John Paul II declared the heroic virtues of Francisco and Jacinta, who become venerable; this happens for the first time in the History of Catholic Church with non-martyred children. From that date on, the two processes are gathered.
The next step for the beatification process of Francisco and Jacinta happens ten years later, on June 28th, 1999, when Pope John Paul II proclaims the decree on the miracle of the cure of Emilia Santos, attributed to the intercession of the two shepherds. The beatification was on its way, and its celebration took place in Fatima the next year, on May 13th.
The beatification was prepared to take place in Rome, but following the wish of the Polish Pope, the celebration was moved to Fatima, where John Paul II beatified Francisco and Jacinta Marto, presenting them to the Church and to the world as « two candles which God lit to illumine humanity in its dark and anxious hours».
The pontifical decree concedes the venerable Francisco and Jacinta to be considered Blessed, with a liturgical feast on February 20th.
Sister Lucia attended the celebration of the beatification of her cousins and met the Pope for the last time.