Jacinta and Francisco
Two Exquisite Souls
Jacinta: A Pure and Ardent Heart
Here is how Canon Formigao introduces her:
She is called Jacinta of Jesus… Fairly large for her age, a little slender without being scrawny, with a well proportioned face, dark hair, modestly dressed, with a skirt reaching down to the ankles. Her appearance is that of a child in good health, perfectly normal, both physically and morally. Startled at the presence of strangers, she answers only in monosyllables and in a barely perceptible tone of voice.
“SHE WAS ALWAYS SO GENTLE.” Jacinta had a good heart, and God endowed her with a sweet and gentle character which made her both lovable and attractive.” She was noticeably the favourite of her father, who declared to Father de Marchi: “She was always so gentle! In this respect, she was really remarkable. From the time her mother nursed her she was always like that. She never got angry at anything. We never raised another child like that! It was a natural gift with her.
That did not prevent her, as she got bigger, from sometimes becoming capricious and moody at play, because she was lively and passionate in everything:
The slightest quarrel which arose among the children when at play was enough to send her pouting into a corner… Even the coaxing and caressing that children know so well how to give on such occasions, were still not enough to bring her back to play; she herself had to be allowed to choose the game, and her partner as well.
This however was merely the reverse side of a rich and enthusiastic temperament. Like her cousin she was very exuberant from the very beginning, and a marvellous dancer. In the prison of Vila Nova de Ourem, a tune from the waltz sufficed to make her forget her tears. Above all she had a heart of gold, capable of immense affection. She also had an astonishingly pure heart, completely docile to the baptismal grace, which already guided her thoughts and her little childish actions. Here are some striking examples.
THE THREE KISSES FOR JESUS. The three friends often played the game of “forfeits” together. The rule of the game is that the loser has to do whatever the winner tells him. As Lucy relates:
“One day we were playing forfeits at my home, and I won, so this time it was I who told her what to do. My brother was sitting at a table, writing. I told her to give him a hug and a kiss, but she protested: “That, no! Tell me to do some other thing. Why don’t you tell me to go and kiss Our Lord over there?” There was a crucifix hanging on the wall. “All right”, I answered, “get up on a chair, bring the crucifix over here, kneel down and give Him three hugs and three kisses: one for Francisco, one for me, and the other for yourself.” “To Our Lord, yes, I’ll give as many as you like”, and she ran to get the crucifix. She kissed it and hugged it with such devotion that I have never forgotten it.”
A remarkable action which in fact bears witness both to the crystalline purity of her soul, and her tender love for Jesus, stupefying in a child of that age.
“OUR POOR DEAR LORD”. The end of the story is no less touching:
Looking attentively at the figure of Our Lord, she asked: “Why is Our Lord nailed to a cross like that?” “Because He died for us.” “Tell me how it happened”, she said.” Lucy goes on ingenuously: “Since it was sufficient for me to hear stories once to be able to repeat them in all their details, I began to relate to my companions in detail the story of Our Lord… In hearing of His sufferings, the little girl was moved and began to cry. Many times later on she would come and ask me to tell the story again. She would weep and grieve, saying, “Our poor dear Lord! I’ll never sin again! I don’t want Our Lord to suffer more!”
This reflection of the child already shows us what a loving, sensible and resolute heart she had…
FRANK AS GOLD. The same story shows her to be frank and loyal, preferring to accuse herself rather than see her cousin unjustly scolded. Lucy continues:
Just then my sister passed by, and noticed that we had the crucifix in our hands. She took it from us and scolded us, saying that she did not want us to touch such holy things. Jacinta got up and approached my sister, saying: “Maria, don’t scold her! I did it. But I won’t do it again.” My sister caressed her, and told us to go and play outside, because we left nothing in its proper place.
The love of truth was so profoundly anchored in her soul that the least little lie scandalized her. Nor was she shy about reproaching whoever had fibbed, even if it was her mother:
When her mother would not tell the truth”, relates Mr. Marto, “when she would say, for example, that she was going to the garden to look for some cabbage, when in fact she was going further, Jacinta would confront her with it on her return: “So then, mother, you lied to me? You told me you were going here, when instead you went there!… It is not nice to lie!” “As for myself”, added Mr. Marto, “I never deceived them in this way.”
“I DID NOT SEE HIM.” Another story which Lucy relates, shows us how seriously, and how realistically little Jacinta considered the things of faith. For the feast of Corpus Christi Lucy’s sister Caroline would be in charge of dressing up some “little angels” who would throw flowers before the Blessed Sacrament during the procession. Lucy was always chosen and her cousin asked to be allowed to join her:
The two of us went along to make our request. My sister said she could go, and tried a dress on Jacinta. At the rehearsals, she explained how we were to strew the flowers before the Child Jesus. “Will we see Him?”, asked Jacinta. “Yes”, replied my sister, “the parish priest will be carrying Him.
Jacinta jumped for joy, and kept on asking how much longer we had to wait for the feast. The longed-for day arrived at last, and Jacinta was beside herself with excitement. The two of us took our places near the altar. Later, in the procession, we walked beside the canopy, each of us with a basket of flowers. Wherever my sister had told me to strew the flowers, I strewed mine before Jesus, but in spite of all the signs I made to Jacinta, I couldn’t get her to strew a single one. She kept her eyes fixed on the priest, and that was all. When the ceremony was over, my sister took us outside the church and asked: “Jacinta, why didn’t you strew your flowers before Jesus?” “Because I didn’t see Him.”
Jacinta then asked me: “But did you see the Child Jesus?” “Of course not. Don’t you know that the Child Jesus in the Host can’t be seen? He’s hidden! He’s the one we receive in Holy Communion!” “And you, when you go to Communion, do you talk to Him?” “Yes, I do.” “Then why don’t you see Him?” “Because He’s hidden.” “I’m going to ask my mother to let me go to Communion too.” “The parish priest won’t let you go until you’re ten years old.” “But you’re not ten yet, and you go to Communion!” “Because I knew the whole catechism, and you don’t.”
After this, Jacinta and Francisco asked me to teach them the catechism. So I became their catechist, and they learned with exceptional enthusiasm.
This charming anecdote shows that our little peasant could not be made to believe any old thing. “She has her wits about her and she calls a spade a spade”, comments Dom Jean-Nesmy. “She is told she must see Jesus, and she looks around all over and says she has not seen Him. When later on she will insist, in spite of everybody, that she saw a beautiful lady, it is because she did in fact see Her, with her own eyes!” … Our Lady chose Her witnesses well.
Francisco: A Calm and Tender Soul
… Francisco arrives. He is already a little man, with a woollen cap upon his head, a very short vest, a waistcoat revealing his shirt underneath, and his breeches. What a fine face the child has! He has a lively glance and a mischievous look. He answers my questions with an air of detachment.
A PEACE-LOVING CHILD. Let Sister Lucy herself describe the character of her cousin:
Apart from his features and his practice of virtue, Francisco did not seem at all to be Jacinta’s brother. Unlike her, he was neither capricious nor vivacious. On the contrary, he was quiet and submissive by nature…
In our games he was quite lively, but few of us liked to play with him as he nearly always lost. And if he won, and somebody tried to deny him his rights as the winner, he yielded without more ado and merely said: “You think you won? That’s all right! I don’t mind!”
I must confess that I myself did not always feel too kindly disposed towards him, as his naturally calm temperament exasperated my own excessive vivacity. Sometimes, I caught him by the arm, made him sit down on the ground or on a stone, and told him to keep still; he obeyed me as if I had real authority over him. Afterwards, I felt sorry, and went and took him by the hand, and he would come along with me as good-humouredly as though nothing had happened.
Like his father, he was gentle, humble and patient. Always having a joyful countenance, he was invariably polite and accommodating to all, even at the cost of considerable sacrifices:
If one of the other children insisted on taking away something belonging to him, he said: “Let them have it! What do I care?”
I recall how one day, he came to my house and was delighted to show me a handkerchief with a picture of Our Lady of Nazare on it, which someone had brought him from the seaside. All the children gathered round him to admire it. The handkerchief was passed from hand to hand, and in a few minutes it disappeared. A little later, I found it myself in another small boy’s pocket. I wanted to take it away from him, but he insisted that it was his own, and that someone had brought him one from the beach as well. To put an end to the quarrel, Francisco went up to him and said: “Let him have it! What does a handkerchief matter to me?”
A ROBUST AND LIVELY BOY. This does not mean, however, that he was listless or weak-willed. If Francisco was docile to Lucy, it does not mean that his virtue was without failings. Here we must take into account the testimony of his father, which completes that of Sister Lucy.
A robust boy in good health, “he was more troublesome and more restless than his little sister. He was not as patient, and for some little thing would run around like a young bull calf.” He could be mischievous, and without the firm hand of Manuel Pedro who knew how to make them obey, he too could have become capricious: “When I saw things weren’t going well I didn’t let them get too far! And when the two were quarrelling and I couldn’t tell where the right lay I gave them both a box on the ear for their pains. To put sense into them I had to be a bit strict.” But Manuel Pedro had great authority and usually the threat was sufficient:
Once Francisco refused to say his prayers and hid in the out-kitchen. I went to him and when he saw me coming he cried out at once that he would pray! That was before Our Lady appeared. After that he never failed to say them. In fact he and Jacinta would almost force us to say the Rosary.
This and the chip of wood which he wanted to put in his brother’s mouth (while he was sleeping) were the two worst things I ever saw him do.
Mr. Marto could say later on: “even after the apparitions, I always found that my children were almost no different than the others.” We cannot but admire the purity and extraordinary candour of their souls, and without doubt their father meant especially that they had absolutely no air of affectation.
One little incident, reported this time by his mother Olimpia, reveals Francisco’s delicate soul even from before the apparitions, as well as his vivacity:
One day as he was going out with the sheep, I told him to take them to Teresa’s ground which isn’t here but near the village. And he said at once: “No, I don’t want to do that!” I was just going to give him a slap when he turned to me and said very seriously: “Mother, are you teaching me to steal?…” I felt mad with anger and took him by the arm and pushed him outside. But he didn’t go to Oiteiro! Not till the next day, after asking permission from his godmother, who said that he and Lucy might always go there.
He was a clever little boy and it always surprised me how well he did the little jobs I always set him.
Although he was usually calm and peaceful, this was surely not out of indolence or apathy. Far from being a coward, he was on the contrary hardy and courageous.
He was anything but fearful. He’d go anywhere in the dark alone at night, without the slightest hesitation. He played with lizards, and when he came across any snakes he got them to entwine themselves around a stick, and even poured sheep’s milk into the holes in the rocks for them to drink. He went hunting for foxes’ holes and rabbits’ burrows, for genets, and other creatures of the wilds.
HIS PASSION: MUSIC AND SONG. Like his father, who when he was alone always seemed absorbed in profound reflections, Francisco was a meditative soul. He had little taste for noisy games and the shouts of his two companions:
He showed no love for dancing, as Jacinta did; he much preferred playing the flute while the others danced. What Francisco enjoyed most, when we were out on the mountains together, was to perch on top of the highest rock, and sing or play his flute. If his little sister came down to run races with me, he stayed up there entertaining himself with his music and song.
HIS GREATEST SIN. Along with the love of nature and the animals of the field, music was his dominating passion. The word is not excessive, for it caused him to commit the gravest fault of his short life: stealing a tostao (a very small coin!) from his father to buy a music-box that he coveted. We know this because of a moving account in the Memoirs. In 1919, shortly before dying at the age of eleven, he was feeling very bad one morning, and he called Lucy. It is she who relates the story:
I dressed as fast as I could and went over there. He asked his mother and brother and sisters to leave the room, saying that he wanted to tell me a secret, They went out, and he said to me: “I am going to confession so that I can receive Holy Communion, and then die. I want you to tell me if you have seen me commit any sin, and then go and ask Jacinta if she has seen me commit any.” “You disobeyed your mother a few times”, I answered, “when she told you to stay at home, and you ran off to be with me or to go and hide.” “That’s true. I remember that. Now go and ask Jacinta if she remembers anything else.”
I went, and Jacinta thought for a while, then answered: “Well, tell him that, before Our Lady appeared to us, he stole a coin from our father to buy a music box from Jose Marto of Casa Velha, and when the boys from Aljustrel threw stones at those from Boleiros, he threw some too!”
When I gave him this message from his sister, he answered: “I’ve already confessed those, but I’ll do so again. Maybe, it is because of these sins that I committed that Our Lord is so sad! But even if I don’t die, I’ll never commit them again. I’m heartily sorry for them now.”
A Supernatural Friendship
After having introduced all three, it remains for us to say how our three shepherds found themselves together to receive the heavenly apparitions with which they would be privileged so soon.
Without a doubt this point seemed important to Sister Lucy, because she underlines it in her Memoirs: the formation of the trio was not her own doing:
Before the happenings of 1917 (she writes), apart from the ties of relationship that united us, no other particular affection led me to prefer the companionship of Jacinta and Francisco to that of any other child. On the contrary, I sometimes found Jacinta’s company quite disagreeable, on account of her oversensitive temperament.
In another place she writes,
The affection which bound me to Francisco was just one of kinship, and that which had its origin in the graces which Heaven deigned to grant us… I myself did not always feel too kindly disposed towards him…
It was only the immense admiration and lively attraction of Jacinta to her older cousin which would soon form the inseparable trio of the three seers. Lucy explains for us: “I don’t know why, but Jacinta and her brother Francisco had a special liking for me, and almost always came in search of me when they wanted to play. They did not enjoy the company of the other children…”
A little anecdote which Lucy relates shows us what is already the supernatural character of Jacinta’s attraction to her cousin. Lucy, as we have said, was often put in charge of looking after the neighbourhood children.
One day, one of these little children accused another of improper talk. My mother reproved him very severely, pointing out that one does not say such nasty things, because they are sinful and displease the Child Jesus; and that those who commit such sins and don’t confess them, go to hell. The very next time the children came, she said: “Will your mother let you come today?” “No.” “Then I’m going with Francisco over to our yard.” “And why won’t you stay here?” “My mother doesn’t want us to stay when those other children are here. She told us to go and play in our own yard. She doesn’t want me to learn these nasty things, which are sins and which the Child Jesus doesn’t like.
With Lucy, and only with Lucy, the pure and ardent soul of Jacinta was fully at ease, as if Lucy had been given to her by a supernatural disposition. Jacinta tried to remain in her company as often as possible. This was surely a providential friendship. For if Lucy had not become, as she herself says, “the most intimate friend and confidante” of Jacinta, we would never have known the marvels of grace which God worked in this exquisite soul, this “lily of candour”, this “seraphim of love”, to use Lucy’s own expressions.
A HARD SEPARATION. In 1915, Lucy recalls, “my sister Caroline was then thirteen, and it was time for her to go out to work. My mother, therefore, put me in charge of our flock. I passed on the news to my two companions, and told them I would not be playing with them anymore, but they could not bring themselves to accept such a separation.” As their mother refused them permission to accompany their cousin, each evening they went to wait for her return from the pasture. But, Lucy adds, “while Jacinta would run to meet me as soon as she heard the tinkling of the sheep bells, Francisco waited for me, sitting on the stone steps leading to our front door… He came to wait for me, but this was not out of affection for me, it was to please his sister.”
1916: THE TRIO OF LITTLE SHEPHERDS. By continuing to insist, Jacinta and Francisco (who went along to please his sister), finally got what they desired: “my aunt, hoping perhaps to be rid of such persistent requests, even though she knew the children were too small, handed over to them the care of their own flock. Radiant with joy, they ran to give me the news…”
After a short prayer, they decided each morning on a place where they could meet.
As soon as we met at the pond, we decided where we would pasture the flock that day. We won over the sheep by sharing our lunch with them. Then off we’d go, as happy and content as if we were going to a festival.
“HAIL MARY!” Jacinta loved to hear her voice echoing down the valleys. For this reason, one of our favourite amusements was to climb to the top of the hills, sit down on the biggest rock we could find, and call out different names at the top of our voices. The name that echoed back most clearly was “Maria”. Sometimes Jacinta used to say the whole Hail Mary this way, only calling out the following word when the preceding one had stopped re-echoing. We loved to sing, too. Interspersed among the popular songs – of which, alas! we knew quite a number – were Jacinta’s favourite hymns: Hail Noble Patroness, Virgin Pure, and Angels, Sing With Me.
THE ROSARY SPEEDED UP. We were very fond of dancing, and any instrument we heard being played by the other shepherds was enough to set us off. Jacinta, tiny as she was, had a special aptitude for dancing.” Thus the hours went by quickly, as they would sing, dance, and play. To stop to recite a whole five decades of the Rosary would require hard effort… So Francisco (the continuation of the story leads us to think that it was likely him) found a convenient solution which made everybody happy:
We had been told to say the Rosary after our lunch, but as the whole day seemed too short for our play, we worked out a fine way of getting through it quickly. We simply passed the beads through our fingers, saying nothing but “Hail Mary, Hail Mary, Hail Mary…” At the end of each mystery, we paused awhile, then simply said: “Our Father”, and so, in the twinkling of an eye, as they say, we had our Rosary finished!
A LIFE SATURATED WITH THE REALITIES OF THE FAITH. Although piety and prayer did not encumber their day or extinguish the ardour of their games, their family education was so supernatural, their baptismal purity so well safeguarded by the vigilance of their parents, that they already lived as it were spontaneously in thoughts of God, whom they would consider intuitively through the beauties of nature, which evoked their wonder.
The sun, the moon, and the stars? For them they were the lamps of Our Lord, Our Lady and the angels:
In the evening, we would wait for Our Lady and the Angels to light their lamps. Francisco eagerly counted the stars with us, but nothing enchanted him so much as the beauty of sunrise or sunset. As long as he could still glimpse one last ray of the setting sun, he made no attempt to watch for the first lamp to be lit in the sky.
“No lamp is as beautiful as Our Lord’s”, he used to remark to Jacinta, who much preferred Our Lady’s lamp because, as she explained, “It doesn’t hurt our eyes.”
Enraptured, he watched the sun’s rays glinting on the window panes of the homes in the neighbouring villages, or glistening in the drops of water which spangled the trees and furze bushes of the serra, making them shine like so many stars; in his eyes these were a thousand times more beautiful than the Angels’ lamps.
A NEW ST. FRANCIS? Indeed our little shepherd was a great friend of the birds, and he could not bear to see them captured:
One day we met a little boy carrying in his hand a small bird that he had caught. Full of compassion, Francisco promised him two coins, if only he would let the bird fly away. The boy readily agreed. But first he wished to see the money in his hand. Francisco ran all the way from the Carreira pond, which lies a little distance from the Cova da Iria, to fetch the coins, and so let the little prisoner free. Then, as he watched it fly away, he clapped his hands for joy, and said: “Be careful! Don’t let yourself be caught again!”
He always kept part of the bread he had for his lunch, breaking it into crumbs and spreading them on top of the rocks, so that the birds could eat them. “Poor wee things! You are hungry”, he said, as though conversing with them. “Come, come and eat!” And they, keen-eyed as they are, did not wait for the invitation, but came flocking around him. It was his delight to see them flying back to the tree tops with their little craws full, singing and chirping in a deafening chorus, in which Francisco joined with rare skill.
As for Jacinta, she was not less sensible to the beauties of nature. “She was enchanted to look at the beautiful moonlit nights.” She would collect flowers, and in her excessive affection, she would throw them to her cousin as she went to meet her. Once she became a shepherdess, she was full of tenderness for her sheep. Here is a charming incident:
Jacinta loved to hold the little white lambs tightly in her arms, sitting with them on her lap, fondling them, kissing them, and carrying them home at night on her shoulders, so that they wouldn’t get tired. One day on her way back, she walked along in the middle of the flock. “Jacinta, what are you doing there”, I asked her, “in the middle of the flock?” “I want to do the same as Our Lord in that holy picture they gave me. He’s just like this, right in the middle of them all, and He’s holding one of them in His arms.”
“I AM A POOR SHEPHERD GIRL, I ALWAYS PRAY TO MARY.” But their great treasure was certainly the innumerable hymns whose couplets the excellent memory of Lucy retained by heart. Perfectly adapted to the sentiments of their souls, their very simple words nourished them and opened up to them all the great beauties of the faith. Sometimes alone, sometimes with his sister and his cousin, Francisco, perched on top of a rock, loved to repeat often this beautiful hymn:
I love God in Heaven
I love Him, too, on earth,
I love the flowers of the fields,
I love the sheep on the mountains.
I am a poor shepherd girl,
I always pray to Mary,
In the midst of my flock,
I am like the sun at noon.
Together with my lambkins,
I learn to skip and jump,
I am the joy of the serra
And the lily of the vale.
Here are the three simple and pure souls for whom “the Holy Hearts of Jesus and Mary” had “designs of mercy”. Having become witnesses of the apparitions of Our Lady, in a very short time grace would conduct them to heroic degrees of sacrifice and sanctity.