Here’s a trivia question: What did Saint Francisco Marto, the boy among the three shepherd children who saw the Blessed Virgin Mary a century ago in countryside Portugal, have to do to get to heaven?
Here’s another: What requests did Lucia Dos Santos, the eldest of the three visionaries aged between 6 and 10, make to Our Lady of Fatima on the second and third of six apparitions every 13th of the month from May to October 1917?
One more: What place did our Blessed Mother show the children in the July encounter?
As the answers to these and similar queries show, Fatima trivia are anything but trivial.
St. Francisco and his younger sister St. Jacintha were canonized by Pope Francis when he visited Fatima on the centenary of the first apparition this past May 13.
So what was the path to Paradise for the boy, who turned 9 the year Mary appeared — which could just as well be our own road?
She had told the children they would all go to heaven, but Francisco will have to say many Rosaries. And his response? “Oh my dear Lady, I’ll say as many Rosaries as you want!”
And he did. In the few years he and Jacintha spent on earth before they died of the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918-20, Francisco was the most prayerful of the three, often walking ahead of Jacintha and Lucia, who would then find him kneeling in prayer.
And not just to reach heaven. In his unique sanctity, St. Francisco lamented the sadness he saw in the unsmiling Blessed Virgin and in God Himself. So, in his prayers and penances he sought to console the Almighty.
Lucia wanted heaven pronto
Lucia had requests for Our Lady in the second and third apparitions. In June, when the seers went with several dozen people, the girl asked that the Blessed Virgin take all three of them to heaven.
Lucia was unhappy because her family disbelieved her apparition tale, and her mother would beat her to force her to admit she was lying. Thus, Our Lady’s warning that the children would suffer much for God, immediately started for Lucia.
Why must even children believers suffer? Because that is what God has done to create and redeem the world. He made us even if He knew we would break His law and His Heart. And His greatest act on earth was His redeeming Passion and Death.
To Lucia’s June request Mary replied: “I will take Jacintha and Francisco soon. But you are to stay here some time longer. Jesus wishes to make use of you to make me known and loved. He wants to establish in the world the Devotion to my Immaculate Heart.”
With this mission from Jesus and with her family still refusing to believe, Lucia asked in July for Our Lady to say who she is and to perform a miracle to convince doubters. She said she would in the last apparition.
With that July promise of an October miracle, the 3,000 people accompanying the children that summer became a throng of over 70,000 three months later.
There is hell to pay
Trivia No. 3: In the first of three secrets Our Lady revealed to the children on July 13, 1917, she opened her arms and, after urging them to make sacrifices for sinners, showed them hell, as Lucia recounted:
‟We saw as it were a sea of fire. Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form, like transparent embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, floating about in the conflagration, now raised in the air by the flames that issued from within themselves together with great clouds of smoke, now falling back on every side like sparks in huge fires, without weight or equilibrium, amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear.”
St. Jacintha was most distressed by the vision, fearing for the souls who suffer eternal damnation. She often exclaimed: “Mother of God, have pity on those who do not amend their lives. If men only knew what awaits them in eternity, they would do everything in their power to change their lives.“
The littlest visionary embraced immense pains for the conversion of sinners, even painful surgery with no anesthesia, and dying all alone.
Consoling God and converting sinners — those were the gems of divine love which inflamed the hearts of Saints Francisco and Jacintha Marto.
Missing a date with Mary
Two more untrivial trivia for the road: Why did the children miss the August 13 date, seeing Mary on the 19th instead? And how did that incident affect the October miracle?
On August 13, a man offered the children a ride in his car, one of the very few in their town then. But instead of taking them to the Cova, he confined them elsewhere, where he tried to force them to reveal the three secrets the Blessed Virgin confided in July.
In this unholy enterprise, he kept the children in separate rooms, then took them one by one to an interrogation area with a cauldron of boiling oil, where he threatened to immerse them if they didn’t tell the secrets.
He would make each child cry in pain within earshot of the other two, so that all three would think that he made good his threat of torture in oil. But all three refused to betray Our Lady’s confidence, and a crowd of angry devotees eventually forced the children’s captor to release them.
With this outrageous kidnapping and mental torture to uncover secrets from heaven, Mary said that the October miracle would be greatly reduced in spectacle and power. So, the Miracle of the Sun that wowed thousands, even unbelievers seeking to debunk Fatima, was actually a shadow of what God meant it to be.
And the man who caused heaven to temper its marvels? He witnessed the miracle, but died still refusing to believe in God.