Think you know everything there is to know about Our Lady’s 1917 apparitions to three shepherd children at Fatima in Portugal? I had the privilege of speaking to Sister Angela de Fatima Coelho, the postulator for the cause of canonization of Jacinta and Francisco during her visit to EWTN, and after that conversation I can assure you there is more to the six apparitions than you may have realized.
If you’ve studied these important apparitions at all, you know that Our Lady appeared at
Fatima to ask us, her children, for prayer, (especially the rosary and the First Saturday devotion); acts of reparation (for our own sins and those of the world); and consecration to her Immaculate Heart, (especially the consecration of Russia). Our Lady said all of this is necessary to bring peace to the world.
However, as the postulator for the cause of canonization of two of the three children (the third being the children’s cousin Lucia), Sister Angela has spent countless hours studying the lives of this brother and sister and talking to those who knew them. In our interview, Sister Angela shared stories about the two children which highlight their spirituality. In Part 1 of this interview, we consider Francisco Marto’s holy life and some lessons we might learn from it.
How faithful am I to the graces I have received from God – often through the hands of Our Lady?
Contrary to popular opinion, the fact that someone sees Our Lady does not make them holy. In fact, Sister Angela says there are examples of seers in other apparitions who did not become saints. “What made the children holy was their faithfulness, their reaction, the way they dealt with the graces they were receiving. Each one of us receives graces, but how do we deal with them? The key was their commitment to everything they saw and heard.”
Am I happy with the graces God has granted me – or do I constantly compare myself with others?
“Francisco never heard Our Lady,” Sister Angela said. “He saw, but he couldn’t listen. That never bothered him. In this world, we are called to be ‘the best.’ If not, we think, ‘I’m not worthwhile. I’m trash.’ He was so humble that he accepted his apparently less privileged role in the history of Fatima. He was loved by God, so who cares that he couldn’t listen! He never felt humiliated. He never felt he was less than his cousin (Lucia) and his sister (Jacinta). He never asked God, ‘Why her and not me?’ One of our mistakes is comparing ourselves with others. That is pride. For me, among the three, the one who understood God the most, who had the deeper knowledge of the mystery of God, was Francisco Marto.”
Sister noted another problem with that “Gotta Be #1” mentality: “What about the millions and millions of people who are not Number One? Are they condemned to be unhappy? God calls us all to be happy. The Good News is a Gospel of Joy. That’s the great message of Easter!”
When things I don’t like happen in my life, do I demand that God explain Himself to me?
The Mother of Francisco told Sister Angela that, in the beginning, Francisco couldn’t see Our Lady. When Lucia realized this, she asked Our Lady why Francisco couldn’t see her. “Our Lady did not say why,” Sister said. “But she said to Lucia, ‘Tell him to pray the rosary and he will see me.’ Francisco obeyed with simplicity. After the sixth or seventh Hail Mary, he started to see Our Lady. Many of our whys will not get an answer, but if we surrender ourselves [like Francisco], everything will be alright.”
Sister Angela notes that this story also tells us the immense importance Our Lady attaches to the rosary.
Do I do my best to console the heart of God – do I even understand what that means?
Sister Angela said that Francisco was horrified when he realized how much our sins sadden the heart of God. What most defined this little boy’s spirituality was his insistence on the fact that we must all do our best to console the heart of God. Sister said Francisco’s father frequently heard him crying in the middle of the night. He would go to his son’s bedside and ask why he was crying. The child, who first saw Our Lady at age 8 and died at age 10, would say, “I’m thinking about God who is so sad. If only I could make him happy.” Sometimes, says Sister Angela, he did not sleep the whole night. He simply prayed.
Do I believe that only people with big important jobs have the ability to change the world?
In October 1996, Sister said that then-Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Emeritus Benedict) gave an interview to a Portuguese radio station where he said (and she was paraphrasing): “It’s one of the most frequent mistakes, even among Catholics, to think that only big political or economic events have an effect on the history of the world. Here, in Fatima, we think about prayer, conversion, and penance. It seems they are nothing, but they are the true efficacious things that can change the history of the world!”
Next blog: Lessons From Fatima Seer Jacinta’s Life