One hundred years ago, at age 9, St. Jacinta Marto died from the Spanish flu, leaving behind a legacy that brings millions of people to her home near Fatima, Portugal — and to their knees in prayer.
Faithful Catholics know the story of St. Jacinta who, along with her older brother Francisco and cousin Lúcia dos Santos, witnessed apparitions of Our Lady at the Cova da Iria, near Fatima, while WWI was still raging and the specter of WWII cast its shadow before them.
The apparitions of Our Lady reached their climax on Oct. 13, 1917, a day on which "one of the most stupendous, if not the most stupendous event of the 20th century" occurred — the day the sun danced in the sky.
Our Lady appeared six times telling the children to "Fear not! I will not harm you" and "I am from Heaven."
Each apparition reiterated themes of reparation for sins and conversion of sinners. "Pray, pray a lot and offer sacrifices for the sinners. You know that many souls go to Hell because there is none who prays for them," Our Lady said.
She also asked the children to learn to read and write and to pray the Rosary "to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war." They were directed to pray especially for sinners and for the conversion of Russia, which was soon to fall under communism.
At Our Lady's final apparition, she delivered on her promise of a miracle, with some 70,000 people witnessing the Miracle of the Sun:
The silver sun ... was seen to whirl and turn in the circle of broken clouds. A cry went up from every mouth and the people fell on their knees on the muddy ground. ... The light turned a beautiful blue as if it had come through the stained-glass windows of a cathedral and spread itself over the people who knelt with outstretched hands. The blue faded slowly and then the light seemed to pass through yellow glass. ... People wept and prayed with uncovered heads in the presence of the miracle they had awaited. The seconds seemed like hours, so vivid were they.
Before Our Lady's apparitions, an angel appeared to the children preparing them for Our Lady and presaging her themes.
The angel taught the children to pray: "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."
On the angel's last visit, while holding a bleeding eucharistic Host above a chalice, he again led them in prayer:
Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore You profoundly, and I offer You the Most Precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifferences by which He is offended. And by the infinite merits of His most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg the conversion of poor sinners.
Jacinta received First Holy Communion before she died.
Within two years of the apparitions, she died of the Spanish flu — the deadliest pandemic of the 20th century. During her illness, she told Lucia, "I love Our Lord and Our Lady and I never get tired telling them that I love them. When I do that it seems I have a fire in my heart, but it does not burn me."
Fifteen years after her death, the little saint's body was exhumed and found to be in an incorrupt state, looking as if she were sleeping.
Lucia, who went on to become a Carmelite nun, recorded her memories of Jacinta after the exhumation. She said that "little Jacinta" was a "little prophet," able to understand things that others could not. She recalled Jacinta warned the world that:
War is a punishment for sin, that many fashions would come that would offend our Lord very much, that many marriages are not of God, that priests must be very pure and concentrate on their mission to the Church and souls ... that more souls go to Hell because of sins of impurity than any other.
Despite being the youngest of the three who had experienced the apparitions, Our Lady's message had the greatest impact on her, Lucia said.
The glimpse of Hell Our Lady gave the children affected Jacinta deeply. She did not want anyone to go there. She wished everyone could have a vision of Hell so that no one would end up there.
With incredible generosity and deep understanding of redemptive suffering, she offered her final sufferings for the conversion of sinners and salvation of souls.
The legacy of the "little prophet" can be seen in one of the world's largest Catholic pilgrimage sites, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima, built in commemoration of the apparitions and the three children to whom she appeared, which attracts millions of visitors each year.
Today many are praying extra Rosaries, fasting and offering up their trials for the conversion of sinners, following the example of one of the youngest non-martyrs to be canonized in the history of the Catholic Church.