A Lesson from one of the Church’s newest and youngest saints
On May 13, 2017, Pope Francis canonized two of the three children to whom Mary appeared at Fatima, Portugal, exactly 100 years before and these two are now Saints Francisco and Jacinta Marto who were brother and sister. The third, Lucia dos Santos, their cousin, lived to a much older age than they but her process for canonization is well underway. In the first apparition, Mary finished by asking the three children: “Are you willing to offer yourselves to God and bear all the sufferings He wills to send you, as an act of reparation for the conversion of sinners?” When they responded “yes”, Mary said, “Then you are going to have much to suffer, but the grace of God will be your comfort.”
Mary asked them to return to the same spot on the 13th day of each month until October and her message was consistently one of the need to pray and to do penance for the world: to join our own sacrifices to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, for the salvation of the world. Saint Francisco would die eighteen months later from the Spanish flu which killed tens of millions of other people around the world and Saint Jacinta would follow the year after in the same circumstances. However, it was noted that, after the apparitions, that all three children had changed dramatically and were making great strides in holiness and sanctity even though they were only seven and eight years old.
One example comes from Jacinta’s dying days. Jacinta and Lucia were chatting when her mother brought Jacinta a glass of milk to drink. “Drink it all Jacinta. It’s good for you.” “I don’t want it Mama,” Jacinta answered, pushing the glass away. Her mother insisted, but eventually gave up: “I don’t know what to do with you!” When they were alone, Lucia reproached Jacinta. “How can you disobey your mother like that? Can’t you offer this sacrifice to Our Lord?” After hearing that, Jacinta’s eyes filled with tears, which Lucia wiped away. Jacinta frankly admitted, “I remember now!” Then she called her mother, sought her forgiveness, and promised that she would drink as much as her mother wanted. Her mother brought back the cup of milk, which Jacinta drank without showing the slightest reluctance.
After her mother had left, she confided in Lucia, “If only you knew how hard it was for me to drink that!”
Sometimes we think that we have to do huge and extraordinary things to grow in holiness but often it’s the small, ordinary, daily kind of things that can lead us to great heights of holiness: daily difficulties we experience, small acts of kindness, constant struggles with our weaknesses, daily chores etc. all these can be opportunities for us to grow in holiness, and even greater. St (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta and St Therese of Lisieux both spoke of how God doesn’t necessarily need us to do great things but to do all things, even the smallest things, with great love. Sometimes the smallest, unnoticed things can cost us the greatest: sacrifices, forgiveness, kindness.
What this also shows us is that God notices even the smallest things we do that we ourselves may even consider insignificant but, in God’s eyes, can be very valuable. Hopefully, in turn, this may help us to notice the small and little things that others do for us and that we don’t let these acts go unnecessarily unnoticed. At the same time, it doesn’t mean that we have to be pedantic about acknowledging every single thing people do for us but to at least be appreciative and there are many ways that can be shown whether by words or gestures or just in our general manner.
CORRECTION: In my last article, I cited a miraculous healing attributed to the intercession of Saints Jacinta and Francisco Marto as the miracle that was documented for their canonization. It turns out that it was actually another miraculous cure which took place in 2013 when a five-year-old boy in Brazil fell out of a window and hit his head hard six metres below sustaining serious brain tissue damage. When his condition deteriorated after a few days, his parents went to a nearby convent to ask for prayers and the sisters asked for the intercession of Saints Jacinta and Francisco and, after a couple of days, the boy woke up without a trace of damage and is now a healthy boy. He and his family brought the gifts in the Offertory Procession for the Canonisation Mass.
Written by Fr Brennan Sia, CYM Chaplain.