Both Francisco and Jacinta were children who, with their cousin Lucia, witnessed the Angel of Peace in 1916 and the Blessed Ever Virgin Mary near Fatima, Portugal in 1917. Both were the youngest children of Manuel and Olimpia Marto and grew up in Portugal. Francisco was born on June 11, 1908 and Jacinta on March 11 1910. They both had typical lives in the small Portuguese village and both were illiterate but deeply religious.
For more on the miracle at Fatima, see our article here.
Francisco was always known as a very gentle and kind young man who had a very deep devotion to Our Lady. Once he purchased a bird from a friend (though the story retells it was paid for with a penny - the penny would have been a considerable wealth for such a young, poor child in Portugal at the time) and immediately set it loose after purchasing it so that it could be free. After experiencing the visions and miracles at Fatima, Francisco was often bullied by other children and adults who attempted to get him to recant his story. He began skipping school so that he could pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament. All day he would pray the rosary and kept a rope tied tight around his waist in penance. Saint Francisco once told his father during this time:
“Soon Jesus will come and take me to heaven with Him and then I shall always be able to comfort Him.”
Her father often referred to Jacinta as the sweetest of his nine children and the strongest willed of the nine. Jacinta was deeply moved by the visions of hell she experienced at Fatima. Believing in the need to save sinners through penance, Saint Jacinta began practicing extreme self-mortifications and self-denials of anything that could potentially induce sin such as dancing.
In October 1918, Jacina informed Lucia that the Virgin Mary had told them the brother and sister would soon still be taken into heaven. The 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic was sweeping across Europe, killing young and old. Francisco fell ill and told his family that his time would soon be coming. The night before his death he asked to receive the Hidden Jesus in Holy Communion and declined hospital treatment on April 3, 1919. He would die the following day at home, surrounded by his family.
As Jacinta began to fell ill, she became too weak to attend daily mass. Our Lady told her:
“It doesn’t matter. I want to go to make up for those sinners who will not go even on Sundays. Do you know, Lucia, our dear Lord is so sad and Our Lady told us He is already too greatly offended and we must not offend him anymore, but nobody listens and they just go on committing the same sins.”
As the illness got worse, the family moved her to Ourem hospital. During the move, Jacinta told them the move would be futile as she knew her death was approaching. She was moved first to the care of the Orphanage of Our Lady of Miracles where she developed pleurisy. When he was transferred to Queen Stephanie's Hospital in Lisbon, she had to undergo surgery to remove two ribs - the surgery had to be done without anesthesia due to her illness. She told the nurses that her suffering and pain would help many sinners. She confided in Mother Godinho many things that Our Lady had told her, including:
“More souls go to hell because of sins of impurity more than any other.”
“War is a punishment from God for sins.”
“Certain fashions are going to be introduced that will offend Our Lord very greatly and those who serve God should not follow them.”
On February 19th, 1920, the hospital chaplain heard her confession, brought her Holy Communion and administered Extreme Unction. She confided in him that she would be dying the next night. The next day, February 20th, 1920, Saint Jacinta died. Jacinta was first buried in Lisbon; when the body was exhumed to be reburied at Saint Anthony in Fatima, her face was found to be incorrupt and smelled like bouquets of flowers. She was buried next to Lucia's grave, opposite Saint Francisco's grave in the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary at the Shrine of Fatima in Portugal.
in 1937, Pope Pius XI declared that Sainthood causes for minors should not be accepted as they could not understand or practice heroic virtue. In 1979, the Bishop of Leiria-Fatima began a campaign to have Bishops across the world write to the Pope for him to make an exception for Francisco and Jacinta. Over 300 letters were written from Bishops. In 1979, The Congregation for the Causes of Saints convened a general assembly and declared that much as children could be prodigies in math or science:
"in some supernatural way, some children could be spiritual prodigies."
Saint Pope John Paul II declared them both venerable in 1989 and the Congregation declared them Blessed on May 13, 2000. Pope Francis canonized both children on May 13, 2017, the centennial of the first apparition and during his visit to Portugal. Saints Jacinta and Francisco are the Catholic Church's two youngest Saints that did not die as martyrs. Their feast day is celebrated on February 20th. Among many other patronages, the two are venerated as the Patron Saints of Bodily ills, Portuguese children, and sick children.