Don't mess with this face!
This addition to our Raising Saints portraits is in honor of a very special little saint: Jacinta - the above photo is of my two year old, Jacinta (who bears an uncanny resemblance to her namesake).
Next week is the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Mary to three little children in Fatima. The youngest of the three, six year old Jacinta, died only a few years later, but spent the remaining time of her life on earth offering sacrifices in reparation for sin. She, along with her brother Francesco, will be canonized by Pope Francis next week!
Blessed Jacinta had a fierce, determined spirit and a heart for sinners, especially those furthest from God's love: those closest to damnation. She had been horrified when Our Lady granted her and the other children a glimpse into Hell. It was vivid and heartbreaking, terrifying and cruel.
After this vision of Hell, Jacinta would sit on a rock or slump on the ground exclaiming, ‘Oh, hell! Hell! How sorry I am for the souls who go to hell! And the people down there, burning alive, like wood in the fire!'. She would then drop to her knees and pray the prayer Our Lady had taught them: O my Jesus! Forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those in greatest need of Thy mercy.
During a private apparition, Mary had told Jacinta: "most souls end up in hell because of sins of impurity”, and “if people knew what eternity is, they would surely do everything in their power to change their lives...”
Because of this, little Jacinta resolved to help keep as many souls as possible out of Hell. It may be the reason why the presence of her photograph has proven to be a deterrent to demons, as one exorcist has attested. They hate being reminded of the many souls she pried from their grip. I think the firm brow in her photographs (though the expression of the day) tells demons that she means business!
To me, she calls us all to step it up: in our own offerings, in showing more gratitude for the gift of receiving Christ in the Eucharist, and in making better use of our lives (and time) - after all, she was able to give so much in the short time she had on earth. For this reason, I love sharing stories about this dear (almost) saint with my little ones.
One story I love in particular, related by Sister Lucia, reveals the beauty and wisdom of Blessed Jacinta, who will be the youngest non-martyr saint:
One morning Jacinta begged Lucia to allow her to accompany her to daily Mass. “Don’t come to Mass,” Lucia tried to counsel her, especially as Jacinta had become so ill, “it is too much for you. Besides, today isn’t Sunday.”
“That doesn’t matter. I want to go in place of the sinners who don’t go even on Sundays... Look, Lucia, do you know? Our Lord is so sad and Our Lady told us that He must not be offended any more. He is already offended very much and no one pays any attention to it. They keep committing the same sins.”
But Jacinta was told she was not strong enough to attend, so Lucia would drop by and visit with her almost everyday after she had returned from Mass. Jacinta was always so excited to see her cousin: “Lucia,” she asked, “did you receive Communion today?”
“Then come very close to me for you have Our Lord in your heart. I don’t know how it happens but I feel Our Lord in me and I understand what He says even if I don’t see Him or hear Him. It is so good to be with Him.”
I love the exchange Jacinta had with her cousin after she had been given the news of her impending death directly from Mary:
“Lucia, Our Lady told me that I’m going to go to another hospital in Lisbon and that I’ll never see you again or my parents and that after suffering a great deal, I shall die alone. She said that I should not be afraid since She will come to take me with Her to Heaven.” She sought comfort from Lucia, reaching out her arms and sobbing, “I will never see you again. Pray a lot for me for I am going to die alone.”
Jacinta seemed so troubled at the thought of being alone in the end. Lucia once heard her lamenting her fate while hugging a picture of Our Lady, “My dear little Mother, so I am going to die alone?”
“Why do you worry about dying alone?” Lucia had asked her, “What do you care when Our Lady is going to come for you?”
“It’s true. I don’t care. I don’t know why, but sometimes I forget that She is going to come for me.” Lucia's own heart was filled with sorrow. “Take heart, Jacinta. You have only a little while to wait before you go to Heaven. For me...” She was brokenhearted knowing she would be left to live a long life on earth without her little cousin.
“Poor thing. Don’t cry, Lucia, I shall pray a lot in Heaven for you. You are going to stay here, but it is Our Lady who wants it.”
“Jacinta, what are you going to do in Heaven?”
“I’m going to love Jesus a lot, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and pray and pray for you, for the Holy Father, my parents, brothers, sisters and for everyone who asked me and for sinners. I love to suffer for the love of Our Lord and Our Lady. They love those who suffer for the conversion of sinners."
What an incredible little soul!
At the end of her life, Jacinta endured much suffering. She underwent surgery removing two ribs, in an effort to save her after an infection had caused vast swelling. She told the doctor plainly that she would be dying soon and that the surgery would not make a difference. She accepted it though, as she was determined to offer as much suffering as possible before her death. When it came time for the procedure, she was found to be too weak for the gas anesthetic so was offered only local anesthetic, which proved ineffective. She felt everything and was in complete agony the entire time, but offered it all for sinners.
When I think of her offerings, I'm almost embarrassed to think of all the times I've complained about minor inconveniences - so many lost opportunities to give as she gave, to love as she loved.
And yet, God is good, and I know I can offer it now and greet future burdens with a determined spirit, with joy and a renewed zeal for souls.
In the end, the prophesy of Jacinta dying alone was fulfilled, as many doctors and family members thought her health was improving, so were not with her the night she died. Her body was exhumed in both 1935 and 1951 and was found to be incorrupt (one among so many in our awesome Catholic faith). She is buried at the Basilica of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal where Pope Frances and a whole lot of Catholics (all pilgrimages sold out) will be celebrating the 100th anniversary and honoring the lives of the heroic children of Fatima.