Blessed Francisco Marto
By Cassandra Borges
When asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, Francisco answered, "I don't want to be anything. I want to die and go to heaven." A faithful and young servant of God, Blessed Francisco Marto of Fatima was and continues to be a model of fortitude and prayer. He was born on June 11, 1908 and was the older brother of Blessed Jacinta Marto, a beautiful example of selfless love. These two siblings – along with their older cousin, Lucia – were the three children from Aljustrel, near Fatima, Portugal, who witnessed three apparitions of an angel in 1916. In 1917, they witnessed several apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary. During these apparitions, Francisco could not hear the Blessed Virgin Mary speak: he had to rely on Lucia and Jacinta to tell him what was said by the Lady who appeared to them. He did not even see her until the second Apparition in June.
His job in the family was to take care of the sheep with Jacinta and Lucia. Like most juvenile boys he was a fan of hunting snakes, lizards, and moles, distressing his mother when he brought them back home. Easy going, he simply preferred being by himself. He cherished flowers and adored the effects of light, captivated by a sunrises and sunset. He also loved music and his favorite pastime was playing his flute.
After Our Lady’s appeal to the three children to offer themselves to God and submit to suffering in recompense for sins, Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco began giving their lunch to the sheep and then to poor children. Emerging with love towards the Blessed Virgin Mary, Francisco grew to have such an incredible love for the rosary. During the 3rd apparition the children were shown a horrifying vision of hell. This vision instilled in them a desire to always practice austere humility.
In October, 1918, the Spanish influenza epidemic affected the whole Marto family; Francisco was quiet during his illness and never complained. He was convinced Our Lady would soon come to take him to Heaven, for he so desired it. Both him and his sister Jacinta, for months, insisted on walking to church to make Eucharistic devotions, prostrating themselves for hours, kneeling with their heads to the ground. In January, 1919, he managed to walk as far as the Cova where the Apparitions had taken place, in order to pray there. Finally, at the beginning of April, he grew so weak he could not say his beloved Rosary, and asked if he could receive Holy Communion. He received his first and last communion on April 2, 1919. While receiving he asked, “When will you bring me the Hidden Jesus again?” On April 4th, at 10 in the morning, his face lit up, he smiled, and then passed away peacefully. He was just two months short of his eleventh birthday. The Rosary that had been placed in his hand at death, has been found embedded in his fingers.
The effects of the apparitions created within Francisco an enthusiastic desire to “console” Jesus because of the sins of the world. On one occasion when he went missing and was found praying behind a rock, Lucia asked him what he was doing, and he replied, “I was thinking of God who is so sad because of all the sins: if only I could comfort him!’
Blessed Francisco made it clear that he wanted to suffer as Our Lady had requested. This little shepherd has much to teach us. He deprived himself of food and drinks for days at a time during hot weather and wore a thick rope round his waist. He prayed to comfort God and honor the Mother of the Lord. His life was a life of the Lord. Reflecting on his short life instills in me a childlike zeal. He has placed a desire in my heart to love and honor Mother Mary by praying the rosary more frequently. Because of his complete gift of self and willingness to suffer, I want to aspire towards holiness in a way I never have before. He lived a life of such heroic virtue and that inspires me, a child just like him, to aim for sainthood. Just as he was truly transformed into a man of God at such a young age, I too, want to be transformed into a woman of God. Blessed Francisco’s life reminds me of this beautiful passage from 1 Corinthians: “When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things.” Blessed Francisco Marto, pray for us.