Sts. Jacinta and Francisco Marto, the Seers of Fatima

Jacinta and Francisco were canonized by Pope Francis on May 13, 2017. Their feast day is Feb. 20.

Fatima seers St. Francisco (l) and St. Jacinta Marto
Fatima seers St. Francisco (l) and St. Jacinta Marto (photo: Public domain / Public Domain)

In the spring of 1916, as World War I raged across Europe and on the eve of Soviet Communism, three children from Fátima, 90 miles north of Lisbon, were watching over the family sheep. The children were 7-year-old Jacinta Marto, her 8-year-old brother Francisco and their 9-year-old cousin Lúcia dos Santos.

A strong wind shook some nearby trees, and above them a white light appeared. It approached them and, as Lúcia related, “took the form of a young man, transparent and resplendent with light.” He identified himself as the Angel of Peace, and invited them to pray with him. He taught them several prayers, including, “My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love you. I ask pardon of you for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love you.”

In a second apparition, he identified himself as the Guardian Angel of Portugal, and told the children, “Make everything you do a sacrifice, and offer it as an act of reparation for the sins by which God is offended, and as a petition for the conversion of sinners.”

The angel appeared to them a third time, gave them Holy Communion, and said, “Take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, horribly outraged by ungrateful men. Make reparation for their crimes and console your God.”

On May 13, 1917, the children were again tending their sheep about a mile from the family home at the Cova da Iria. A flash of light shot through the sky and there appeared “a Lady dressed all in white, more brilliant than the sun, shedding rays of light clearer and stronger than a crystal glass filled with the most sparkling water and pierced by the burning rays of the sun.”

The Lady told the children she was from heaven. She asked them to pray the Rosary (a beautiful rosary of white pearls hung on her arm), to return to the Cova every 13th of the month until October and to accept any sufferings God sent in reparation for sin and for the conversion of sinners.

The children returned on June 13 with a crowd of about 70 curious onlookers (only the children could see the apparition, however). The beautiful Lady again appeared, and taught the children the prayer many Catholics now say as part of their Rosary: “Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of your mercy.”

On July 13, the Lady showed the children a horrifying image of hell. As Lúcia recalled, “We saw huge numbers of devils and lost souls in a vast and fiery ocean. The devils resembled black animals, hideous and unknown, each filling the air with despairing shrieks. The lost souls were in their human bodies and seemed brown in color, tumbling about constantly in the flames and screaming with terror…”

The Lady declared, “You have seen hell, where the souls of sinners go. To save them God wishes to establish in the world the devotion to my Immaculate Heart …”

She told the children that the war would soon be over, but said a worse one would soon begin, along with famine and persecution of the Church and Holy Father. To prevent this, she asked for the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart and the Communion of reparation on the First Saturdays. She promised peace if her requests were granted, and many woes otherwise, including that Russia “will spread her errors throughout the entire world, provoking wars and persecution of the Church.”

The final apparition was on Oct. 13, 1917. It brought 70,000 onlookers, who were drenched and muddied by heavy rains. The Lady told the children, “I am the Lady of the Rosary. I have come to warn the faithful to amend their live and to ask pardon for their sins … People must say the rosary. Let them continue saying it every day.”

As she was about to leave, the clouds parted and the sun appeared in the sky. But rather than its normal appearance, it was a pale silver disc, which people could gaze at without hurting their eyes. It began to whirl about, sending off shafts of multicolored light. The enthralled crowd watched the spectacle for 12 minutes, when suddenly the sun seemed to plunge down to earth. Shrieks went up from the terrified crowd. Just at the moment when it seemed all would be destroyed, it returned peacefully to its proper location in the sky. Many in the crowd who were sick and handicapped were miraculously healed; the muddy clothes of the crowd were now clean and dry. During the miracle, the children were privileged with visions of the Christ Child, the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph.

In 1919, Francisco fell ill and died. Jacinta died the following year. In 1921, Lúcia entered the convent, where she remained until her death in 2005. In 1930, after careful investigation, the Bishop of Leiria-Fátima approved the apparition. 

Pope St. John Paul II met with Sister Lúcia and repeated demonstrated his special devotion to Our Lady of Fátima. After surviving an assassination attempt early in his pontificate on May 13, 1981, the anniversary of the first appearance of Our Lady of Fátima, the Holy Father traveled to Fátima on May 13, 1982, to offer thanks to the Blessed Mother for sparing his life. 

Pope St. John Paul II traveled to Fátima to beatify Jacinta and Francisco on May 13, 2000. Pope Francis also traveled to Portugal to canonize the pair on May 13, 2017. Their feast day is Feb. 20.