The Children and the Message of Fatima

First Beatification of Children Who Are Not Martyrs

VATICAN CITY, MAY 9 ( For the first time in the history of the Church, John Paul II will beatify two children who are not martyrs this Sunday. The Holy Father is travelling to Fatima to honor Jacinta and Francisco, two of the children who saw the Blessed Virgin in 1917.

The third child, Lucia, is still living, a cloistered nun. The two children were very different in character. Francisco was reflective, reserved, good, flexible, conciliatory, and always ready to give in to avoid conflicts. Jacinta, on the other hand, was vivacious and sensible but also, as Lucia herself describes, touchy and temperamental; she very easily withdrew into herself upset whenever there was a quarrel. According to Lucia, who is a cousin of Francisco and Jacinta, except for their appearance, her cousins did not seem to be brother and sister.

However, given their spiritual growth, so important in connection with the beatification, they both have something very important to say to their contemporaries. They spoke as children, and remained child-like, as they grew in maturity and depth of the Christian spirit. Fr. Paolo Molinari, Postulator of their cause for beatification, explained to Vatican Radio that their "example tells us that children have their heart open to God, they can and must grow constantly in real personal love for Jesus Christ, with sincere and active love for other people."

The Fatima children loved to play and graze the flock entrusted to them.

In keeping with a family tradition, they prayed the Rosary. With the spontaneity and simplicity of children, in order to have more time to play, they found an easy and quick way to recite the Rosary, by simply saying "Hail Mary, Hail Mary, Hail Mary." They would get through the beads in no time and go off to play.

"This reflects all the authenticity of childhood: they remained real children although, after the apparitions and resulting docility to the movements of grace from God, they intensified their way of praying and, consequently, not only prayed the Rosary correctly, but even found time to dedicate to meditation on the Lord's mysteries," explained Fr. Molinari.

This was especially true of Francisco, who was very affected by Jesus' sorrow in Gethsemani for human sins. Francisco developed a personal love for the Lord, feeling intensely the need to keep him company and console him in his sorrow, and to make sacrifices in reparation, and work for the conversion of souls.

Jacinta, with her heartfelt delicacy, felt compassion for people and offered sacrifices and prayers, intensifying her entire Christian life to enable those who were offending the Lord to change their lives, and to have the punishment due to sin reduced. Both prayed and offered their own lives especially for peace: their lives in fact included the last years of the First World War.

"The children's message seems decisive: the intensification of the spiritual life and, therefore, of real prayer, directed, however, to others: it is not about spiritual privacy, which, of course, is not real Christianity. Everything they did, including their prayer and sacrifices, was for the good of others and to change the world, to transform society, so that people would not give in to their evil instincts and egotism, but think more of living according to God's will," Fr. Molinari explained.