Here’s six little-known facts about this amazing Fatima mystic:
1) St. Francisco could not hear Our Lady when she appeared
St. Francisco was only 8 years old when Mary appeared at Fatima. However, even though he could see and feel Our Lady’s presence, he could not hear her. Only his sister, Jacinta, and his cousin, Lucia, heard Mary’s words. Lucia (now Servant of God Lucia Santos) relayed her messages to him.
After asking Mary to take her to heaven during the first apparition on May 13, 1917, Mary said Lucia needed to wait, but that God would soon take Francisco and Jacinta. She added that if Francisco “prayed many rosaries,” he would go to heaven when he died.
2) St. Francisco was sixth of seven children
Francisco was the son of Manuel and Olimpia Marto. In addition to his younger sister Jacinta, Francisco had five older siblings.
3) He skipped school to pray alone before the Eucharist
Francisco often played hooky from school to sneak away to Jesus in the Eucharist. He referred to the Eucharist as the “Hidden Jesus” in the tabernacle. He greatly desired to console the sorrowful heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. He, Jacinta and Lucia prayed and fasted often in reparation for sinners and to console the hearts of Jesus and Mary. They gave their lunch to the sheep and to needy children and prayed rosaries with conviction. Francisco also fasted from food and water for days during hot weather and tied a tight rope around his waist. Entering heaven was Francisco’s most fervent goal. He once said, “Soon Jesus will come and take me to heaven with Him and then I shall always be able to comfort Him.”
When asked what he wanted to be “when he grew up,” he said, “I don’t want to be anything. I want to die and go to heaven.”
Francisco once offered a friend one penny in exchange for a captured bird, only to let the bird free.
5) St. Francisco Received His First Communion the day before dying from the flu
The Marto family (with the exception of their father Manuel) contracted the Spanish Fluone year after the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima. Francisco never complained. He knew Our Lady would soon take him to Heaven. Even while sick with the flu, Francisco and Jacinta walked to church for Mass and worshipped Jesus in the Eucharist. They knelt and prayed for hours before the Eucharist with their heads on the ground, as Mary instructed. Knowing his death was near, Francisco asked to receive the “Hidden Jesus” in his first Holy Communion on April 3, 1909.
The next morning, 10-year-old Francisco died with a heavenly glow on his face.
6) After Pope Pius XI refused canonization cause, more than 300 Bishops petitioned
Pope Pius XI stated in 1937 that “causes for minors could not be accepted” because “he didn’t believe that children could fully understand heroic virtue or practice it repeatedly.” In 1979, however, 300 bishops signed a petition to St. John Paul II, saying Francisco and Jacinta “were known, admired and attracted people to the way of sanctity. Favours were received through their intercession.”
They added that “the children’s canonization was a pastoral necessity for the children and teenagers of today.” St. John Paul II beatified both Francisco and Jacinta in May 2000. Pope Francis canonized them on May 13, 2017 at the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary in Fátima, Portugal.