Lockdown Lent day 4

by maggi dawn

Lockdown Lent: a saint a day to inspire hope in difficult times. Day 4: Francisco and Jacinta de Jesus Marto, and Lúcia dos Santos.

Francisco and his younger sister Jacinta lived in a tiny village near Fátima, Portugal. They went out to play with their cousin Lúcia dos Santos, who used to look after the sheep in the nearby fields, and in 1916 these three kids saw three visions of the Angel of Peace. The following year, multiple times, they saw multiple apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary, at Cova da Iria, in which she told them to return to the same spot regularly to pray. Francisco and Jacinta reported these apparitions, and this led to the Virgin Mary being given the title ‘Our Lady of Fátima’, and later on Fátima became a major Christian pilgrimage center.

Sad to say, not long after these experiences both Francisco and Jacinta dies very young (aged 10 and 9) in the flu pandemic of 1918-20 (sometimes called the ‘Spanish Flu’). Later they were both canonized as Saints. Lúcia, though, lived to the age of 97, spending her life as a Carmelite nun. After her death, the Catholic Church began the process to recognize her as a saint as well.

Their story resonates for this lockdown Lent, not only for the obvious reason that two of the three died in an earlier pandemic, but for two other reasons as well.

The first is that their spiritual legacy emerged, not from heroic deeds, but from simple childlike curiosity. They remind me of Moses who, seeing a tree that seemed to be on fire without burning up, stepped aside from his shepherd’s duties to see what was going on, and found himself in conversation with God. Or of Elisha’s servant (2 Ki 6) whose eyes were opened to see the hills around him covered with chariots of fire. Francisco, Jacinta, and Lúcia were just playing and looking after sheep, but they had enough of that fearless curiosity to see more than meets the eye.

The second is that there were three of them in this together. Usually a saint’s day is a commemoration of one single person, but remembering this event is a great reminder that our journey into God is not individualistic. Of course there is a sense in which we live and die alone. But our work on earth, and our significance to eternity, is closely tied up with others — with our loved ones, our community, and the whole human race.

Day 4 Takeaway: give your curiosity enough space to look up, look around, and ponder. And remember you’re not in this alone.