What does a little 9-year-old girl who died a century ago have to teach us today? So much, in the case of Jacinta Marto.

She is the youngest, non-martyred canonized saint. Feb. 20, 2020, marks 100 years since she entered heaven.

Jacinta and her brother Francisco, and their cousin, Lúcia dos Santos, were the shepherd children visited by the Blessed Mother in Fátima, Portugal. At that time, Lucia was 10, Francisco 9, and Jacinta only 7. Their love for God and his Blessed Mother, and for us, was unstoppable. Yes, us. Their heroic prayers and sacrifices were not for themselves, but to save souls. They prayed unceasingly and took on great sacrifices, even wearing coarse ropes around their waists to offer up the discomfort. The children had a sense of responsibility for their power to change salvation history. Their devotions became even more ardent after being shown a vision of hell on July 13, 1917.


The Fatima Story

On May 13, 1917, while the world was immersed in the terrible World War I, a “lady more brilliant than the sun” appeared to the children in Fatima. She would return monthly from May to October. “You are going to have much to suffer,” Our Lady told them during the first apparition, “but the grace of God will be your comfort.”

For the last apparition on Oct. 13, our Blessed Mother promised that a sign would be given so that all would believe. The children were ridiculed and threatened with even death should this prove to be false. The number of people that came to witness it has been estimated from 60,000 to 100,000. It had been raining all day, but at the appointed time, the sun poked through the clouds and appeared as an opaque, spinning disc that left its normal position in the sky. Witnesses reported that all clothing and the muddy ground were suddenly and completely dry. The children reported seeing a panorama of visions, including Our Lady of Sorrows, Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Joseph holding the child Jesus blessing all the people.

Francisco and Jacinta did not live much longer. Both died from influenza — Jacinta on Feb. 20, 1920, and Francisco the previous year on April 4. They were beatified together on May 13, 2000, and on May 13, 2017, the 100th anniversary of Fatima, they were canonized by Pope Francis at the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary in Fatima. The Blessed Mother had predicted at the first apparition that she would come to take Jacinta and Francisco to heaven soon, but that Lúcia would stay in the world longer to make devotion to the Immaculate Heart known. Sister Lúcia became a Discalced Carmelite nun and died Feb. 13, 2005, at age 97.


Father Calloway on Jacinta

“Jacinta was an example, even for adults,” Father Donald Calloway explained to me in a phone interview. He has written five books on the Rosary and written about the Fatima children. “We don’t have to go in search of the latest fad,” he said. “We have a tried and true proven method that can makes us holy — praying the Rosary like Our Lady asked. Every saint has prayed it since it’s been given to us. That is the example that Jacinta gives us.”

“It’s that simplicity and childlike trust of doing what Our Lady asks that Jacinta and the other children did to a heroic degree,” Father Calloway said. “They knew the effect of it for the good of souls.”

He noted that Lucia had said it was the Rosary that was emphasized more than anything else during the apparitions. “Our Lady identified herself as the Lady of the Rosary,” Father Calloway said. “We usually call her Our Lady of Fatima, and that’s okay, but she told the children: ‘I am the Lady of the Rosary.’ We often forget that.” The Blessed Mother had said that praying the Rosary could stop the war, he explained. “The children took her up on the offer and World War I soon ended.

“When we see the children in one of those old dusty black and white photographs, kneeling on the ground, waiting for the apparition of our Lady and the crowds behind them, that rosary in their hands is a simple witness to a prayer life that many of us have forgotten,” Father Calloway said. “It only takes 15-20 minutes a day and it can change our lives and change the world.”


Worldwide Prayer Campaign

We can follow the example of the Fatima children by joining with the 2020 International World Apostolate of Fatima and their association Children of the Eucharist to collect 5 million Rosaries for Our Lady as a global spiritual bouquet.

“Our intention is to pray for mercy for all families of the world and in reparation of the offenses against the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary,” explained Professor Américo Pablo López Ortiz, International President of the World Apostolate of Fatima. The prayers and sacrifices will be presented by Fr. Carlos Cabecinhas, Rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary in Fatima, Portugal on May 13 and Oct. 13, 2020, in their Chapel of the Apparitions.

“We are living in times of great suffering, when many have lost hope,” said Father Chris Alar, Director of the Association of Marian Helpers. “Evil is all around us and many families are crumbling. In this special centennial year of Saint Jacinta’s entrance into heaven, I want to remind everyone through this global prayer effort of the great promise that the Blessed Mother gave that in the end her ‘Immaculate Heart will triumph’ over evil.”

To participate in the World Rosary 2020 campaign, go here.

There is also a new Fatima movie coming to theaters April 24 that tells the story from the perspective of St. Jacinta.

St. Jacinta, pray for us!