The history of the Three Little Shepherds of Fatima
The process of Canonization
From being completely normal children in their time, due to the simple and modest life they led, they changed the course of History – not only of Portugal, the Catholic Church and the world, but also the History of Humanity – having been witnesses to the Apparitions in Cova da Iria, in Fatima.
Lúcia, Jacinta and Francisco are more commonly known as the Três Pastorinhos (Three Little Shepherds), although they are also referred as “Fatima’s Seers”, to whom Our Lady of the Rosary appeared six times, in 1917. They were the three chosen children to receive the Message in which the “Lady brighter than the Sun” asked for prayers, sacrifices, and the mending of offenses to God.
Each of the little shepherds experienced Our Lady in a different manner. Lúcia was blessed with the right to see, hear and speak during the Apparitions, while Jacinta could only see and hear. Francisco was only allowed to see, for which reason his Sister Jacinta and his cousin Lúcia would report everything they had heard.
Born in Aljustrel, the 22nd of March, 1907. She was the youngest of seven siblings. Although her family had been through some difficulties, Lúcia’s mother taught all her children under Catholic spirituality. In her Memories, Lúcia wrote that in 1915 she experienced “visions of a sort of cloud” in a human form for the first time. It is in 1916 that the three children receive the manifestations of the Angel of Portugal.
From the 13th of May, 1917, date of the first Apparition of Our Lady of the Rosary, the life of Lúcia and her cousins was transformed. After the last Apparition, Lúcia began living a secluded life – she spent some time in the Vilar Asylum, in Porto, and at the young age of 15 she made her way to Spain, into the Postulancy of the Doroteias Sisters. Year later she ended up in the cloister of Carmelo de Santa Teresa, in Coimbra, where she was from the 17th of May, 1946, until the time of her passing.
Lúcia was chosen since the very beginning to be the voice of the Message of Fatima – Secret of Fatima: “The vision of Hell itself, and the request for devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Consecration of Russia”, having written numerous deeds where the most notorious Memories can be found. The third and last part of the Secret refers to the fight of the atheists against the Church, and describes the suffering of the witnesses of faith.
Maria Lúcia de Jesus e do Coração Imaculado (of Jesus and of the Immaculate Heart – a name she adopted after professing her vows) passed away in the 13th of February, 2005, in the Carmelite Convent in Coimbra. Her beatification process started in 2008 and it was only finalized in 2017, 12 years after the death of the Seer. This delay was a result of the need to analyze the numerous documentations about Sister Lúcia.
São Francisco de Marto and Santa Jacinta de Marto.
Francisco Marto was born the 11th of June, 1908, in Aljustrel, in Fatima’s Parish. He had a background of modest families that dedicated themselves to agriculture and cattle. His mother, Olímpia de Jesus, was Sister of Lúcia’s father.
His personality was that of a humble boy – patient, of few words, peaceful, and with a certain aversion to confusion and noise. Lúcia had described her cousin: “Francisco did not look like Jacinta’s brother in all but the features of his face, and the practice of Virtue. He wasn’t, like her, capricious and living; he was the opposite, natural, pacific and condescending.
Jacinta was born the 11th of March of 1910. According to Lúcia: “She was a child, but only in age. Apart from that, she already knew how to practice Virtue and show God and the Blessed Virgin her love, through practice and sacrifice…”;” It is wonderful how she understood the power of prayer and sacrifice so recommended to us by the Blessed Virgin… I have the highest esteem for her holiness. I think to myself that Jacinta was the one that received from Our Lady the greatest abundance of graces, and a better understanding of God and virtue. Her ways were serious and reserved, but friendly. All her actions seemed to reflect the presence of God in a way that befitted an adult, and of great virtue”.
The two siblings and little shepherds came to a passing early in life, a short time after the Apparitions. Francisco, older than Jacinta, was only allowed to see Our Lady. He was taken with the desire to give solace to the heart of Jesus, having passed straight hours in prayers.
Francisco became sick in October of 1918, victim of a pneumonic influenza. In April of the following year he confesses and receives communion one last time, passing on the 4th of April.
Jacinta also fell victim of the same pneumonic grippe, being only 10 years old. In the Apparitions, Jacinta could see and listen, but not speak. According to Sister Lúcia’s reports, Jacinta would have had various Apparitions of Our Lady while she was ill.
In the 1st May, 1951, the mortal remains of Jacinta Marto were transferred to the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary. They stand by Sister Lúcia’s remains, on the west side.
In the 13th of May, 1952, the mortal remains of Francisco were also transferred to the Basilica, being placed in the east side.
65 years later, the Pope John Paul II decrees the virtues of Francisco and Jacinta, an event that happens for the first time in the Catholic Church. In the 28th of June, 1999, the Pope decrees about the miraculous cure of an illness obtained through the intercession of the two little shepherds, opening a path to beatification. The pontifical decree conceded, in the 20th of February, 2000, that Francisco and Jacinta were to be canonized. Sister Lúcia was present in the celebration of the beatification.
Francisco and Jacinta Marto were canonized at the Sanctuary of Fatima in the 13th of May, 2017, during the Mass of the first International Pilgrimage Anniversary of the Centenario of the Apparitions, presided by Pope Francis.
They thus became the youngest non-martyr saints of the History of the Catholic Church.
The canonization was approved in the 23rd of March, 2017, when Pope Francis recognized the Miracle conceded to Francisco and Jacinta, being the last step of the process that had begun 65 years prior.
The beatification was the confirmation that Francisco and Jacinta were worthy of public cult on a universal level, and that they could be presented to the faithful as intercessors and models of holiness. The liturgical feast of Francisco and Jacinta, until then only celebrated at a diocesan level, now takes place on the 20th of February.