Jacinta

Two years younger than Francisco, Jacinta charmed all who knew her. She was pretty and energetic, and had a natural grace of movement. She loved to dance, and was sorry when their priest condemned dancing in public. Sometimes willful, she would pout when she did not get her way. She took a special delight in flowers, gathering them by the armful and making garlands for Lucia. At a First Communion, she was among the little “angels” spreading petals before the Blessed Sacrament. She had a marked love for Our Lord, and at the age of five she melted in tears on hearing the account of His Passion, vowing that she would never sin or offend Him anymore.

She had many friends, but above all she loved her cousin Lucia, and was jealous of her time and attention. When Lucia, at the age of ten, became unavailable for play, being sent by her parents to pasture their sheep, Jacinta moped in loneliness-until her mother gave in and allowed her, with Francisco, to take a few sheep to pasture with Lucia.

Her sheep too became her friends. She gave them names, held their little ones on her lap, and tried to carry a lamb home on her shoulders, as she had seen in pictures of the Good Shepherd.

Her days were playful and happy, delighting with her brother and cousin in the things of nature around her. They called the sun “Our Lady’s lamp,” and the stars “the Angels’ lanterns,” which they tried to count as it grew dark. They called out to hear their voices echo across the valley, and the name that returned most clearly was “Maria.”

They said the Rosary every day after lunch, but to make more time for play, they shortened it to the words “Our Father” at the beginning of each decade, followed by “Hail Mary” ten times. This frivolity would soon change.

In the spring of 1916, as the children watched their sheep, an Angel appeared to them in an olive grove. He asked the children to pray with him. He appeared again in midsummer at a well in Lucia’s garden, urging them to offer sacrifice to God in reparation for sinners. In a final appearance, at the end of the summer, the Angel held a bleeding Host over a chalice, from which he communicated the children. This experience separated them from their playmates and prepared them for the apparitions to come.

As might be expected, the three were changed by the visitations of the Queen of Heaven. Jacinta, talkative sometimes to a fault, became quiet and withdrawn. After the first apparition, Lucia had sworn her and her brother to secrecy. But Jacinta, bubbling over, had let slip all they had seen to her family, who then told the village. The news was received with skepticism by many, with mockery by some, and with anger by Lucia’s mother. Jacinta was so contrite, she promised never to reveal another secret.

Her reluctance to reveal anything more of their experiences was increased by the vision of hell given the children in the third apparition seems to have affected Jacinta the most. To rescue sinners from hell, she was in the forefront of the three in voluntary mortifications, whether it was in giving up their lunches (sometimes to their sheep), refusing to drink in the heat of the day, or wearing a knotted rope around their waists. Involuntary penances included for her, as for her brother and cousin, the constant mockery of unbelievers, badgering by skeptical clergy, and wheedling by believers to reveal the Lady’s secret.

Following the miracle of the sun, Jacinta complied with many requests for her intercessions. On one occasion she seems to have bilocated, in order to help a wayward youth find his way home. Lost in a stormy wood, he had knelt and prayed, and Jacinta appeared and took him by the hand, while she was at home praying for him.

When she came down with influenza, she was removed from her family to a hospital a few miles away. She did not complain, because the Blessed Mother had forewarned her that she would go to two hospitals, not to be cured, but to suffer for the love of God and reparation for sinners. She stayed in the first hospital for two months, undergoing painful treatments, and then was returned home. She developed tuberculosis and was sent to Lisbon, first to a Catholic orphanage. There she was able to attend Mass and see the Tabernacle, and she was happy. But her stay there was short. She was soon transferred to the second hospital prophesied by the Blessed Mother, where Jacinta was to make her final offering in dying alone. Her body came to rest in the Sanctuary built at the Cova da Iria, where the Lady had appeared to her.

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