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"Prayers of a dying child" by Kathryn Swegart (CatholicMom.com) Attributed to Joshua Benoliel [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons[/caption]It was October 1918 when the little girl was struck with influenza-an epidemic that swept throughout the world, killing millions of people. The child’s first warning sign was a terrible headache and extreme thirst. Pains burned in her chest and she was unable to sip even the tiniest amount of broth. Great as these sufferings were, her most severe agony was the knowledge that her brother, ten-year-old Francisco, was dying of the deadly flu. The little girl was nine-year-old Jacinta Marto – the youngest Fatima visionary, who witnessed six extraordinary appearances of the Blessed Mother in Portugal from May to October, 1917. In these appearances, Our Lady predicted that both Francisco and Jacinta would die soon. The third visionary — Lucia — eventually became a Carmelite nun charged with the mission to spread devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the need to pray the Rosary daily for world peace and the conversion of sinners. Lucia lived to be 97 years old and stayed true to Our Lady’s request. One hundred years ago this April, Francisco died at the age of ten. Jacinta lived another year, dying on February 20, 1920. On May 13, 2017, both children were canonized in an emotional ceremony attended by thousands of pilgrims. I watched the canonization on EWTN and was deeply moved by the appearance of a little boy, dressed like Francisco, who brought gifts up to the altar. That moment brought home to me that the miraculous events at Fatima were not meant to be stuck in the pages of a history book. Fatima was a supernatural occurrence with timely lessons that strike to the hearts of us all. This Lent I have been reading about the children of Fatima. Jesus told us that “A little child will lead you.” That is exactly how I feel about St. Jacinta. In the July 13th vision, Our Lady gave them a terrifying glimpse of hell. Lucia described what they saw.
The rays of light seemed to penetrate the earth, and we saw as if it were a sea of fire. Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form, like transparent burning embers … Terrified, we looked up at our Lady who said to us, so kindly and so sadly: “You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart."
Jacinta was never the same after this vision. The little girl who loved to dance, sing, and pick flowers became contemplative and serious. She wished everyone could see hell as she had. Her life was devoted to prayer and sacrifice for the conversion of sinners. At every opportunity, she made sacrifices. She gave away her lunch to poor children and resorted to eating bitter acorns. She refused sips of water on scorching hot days and wore a rope around her waist that caused terrible pain. In her dying days, she suffered greatly. The flu turned into bronchial pneumonia. A large open wound grew in her chest and she was afflicted with tuberculosis. Her greatest agony — predicted by Our Lady — was that she would die alone, without the company of family. Every sacrifice — large or small — she offered for the conversion of sinners. In my Lenten journey, I read how a vision of hell and devotion to Our Lady and her beloved Son drove Jacinta to constant sacrifice for the conversion of sinners. Over and over, the children of Fatima said the Pardon Prayer, taught to them by the Angel of Peace prior to the Marion apparitions. It is easy to memorize. At times, I substitute names of loved ones in the prayer.
 My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love you! I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope, and do not love you.
On her deathbed, Jacinta had a burning desire to make reparation for sinners and for their conversion. It is a lesson we all can learn from this little child. St. Jacinta pray for us!
Copyright 2019 Kathryn Swegart