The centenary of the holy death of St. Francisco

Francisco’s bedroom where he died April 4, 1919.

By Barb Ernster –

This year is the centenary of the holy death of St. Francisco. Of the three Fatima seers, Francisco was the first to die on April 4, 1919. He, like Jacinta, fell sick with the Spanish influenza on December 23, 1918.  Everyone in the Marto family contracted the illness, except the father. By the end of 1921, Jacinta, Francisco and two other Marto siblings, Florinda and Theresa, would succumb to this horrible illness that ravaged the world.

Despite his suffering, Francisco remained happy and peaceful to the very end. No amount of sickness, thirst, pain or fever prevented him from grasping his rosary beads in prayer. After all, the Blessed Mother had told him that he would go to heaven, but he must say many rosaries first.

The tabernacle at St. Anthony parish in Fatima, Portugal, where Francisco often prayed to console the “Hidden Jesus”

Francisco’s role in the Fatima story is mostly hidden. He never even heard the sweet voice of Our Lady as he could only see her, but relied on Lucia and Jacinta to tell him what she said. Still, he never ceased being amazed at what Mary showed them in the light that emanated from her hands – heaven – and the unfathomable experience of God. That was sufficient for him, and he was no less faithful and generous in his prayer, especially before the “Hidden Jesus” in the tabernacle. Even when sick with the most painful headache and fever in bed, he prayed many rosaries.

Lucia writes about those first weeks when he was confined to bed: “He suffered with heroic patience during the time of sickness, without moan or a complaint. He took everything his mother brought him and I could never discover whether anything displeased him.”

He would ask Lucia to pray the Rosary with him, but would get distressed if he was too weak to say the five decades. Lucia said his mother would console him by telling him Our Lady was just as pleased by his mental prayer.  

Many people came to sit with Francisco when he was sick, commenting that there was something very special about him, like being at church. One day a woman named Mariana from Casa Velha came to Francisco’s room. Lucia reported that she was upset because her husband had kicked her son out of the house and she was asking for the grace of reconciliation between them. Francisco told her, “Relax. Soon I will go to heaven. When I get there, I will ask for that grace of our Lady.” On the afternoon of Francisco’s death, the son asked for his father’s forgiveness and this time, agreed to the conditions his father was imposing. Peace returned to their household. One of the boy’s sisters later married a brother of Jacinta and Francisco.

Friends and relatives prayed for Francisco to be cured, but he knew that it was not to be. As his conditioned worsened, he seemed to be happier because he was suffering for Jesus and Mary, and it meant that he would soon go to heaven. Our Lady actually came to him and Jacinta at one point and said she was going to take Francis to heaven, but asked Jacinta if she would stay longer on earth to convert more sinners, to which she said ‘yes.’

So absorbed was Francisco in the vision of God that he could think of nothing else. When Lucia reminded him to pray for sinners, for the Holy Father, for her and Jacinta when he is in heaven, he replied, “Yes, I shall pray. But, I think you’d better tell Jacinta these things because I’m afraid I shall not think of them when I see our Lord. I shall so want to console Him!”

Two days before he died, he sent for Lucia, asking her to help him remember his sins so he could make a good confession. He also asked her to pray that he would be able to receive the “Hidden Jesus” – Viaticum, because he had not yet made his First Communion. The priest did bring him the Sacred Host the next day and told the Canonical Process that Francisco received “with a great lucidity of mind and great piety,” and seemed to be radiant with joy.

Francisco’s final resting place at the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary in Fatima.

The next morning around 6 a.m., he told his mother, “Mamma, look at the beautiful light near the door!”  After a little while, he said he didn’t see it anymore. Then his face brightened with an angelic smile and he expired peacefully.

The little boy who lived his last years totally focused on his eternal home, where he could continue his mission on earth and console God, is now a saint whom we can all pray to. He shares a feast day with his sister, St. Jacinta, on February 20.  They are the patron saints of bodily ills, Portuguese children, captives and prisoners, people ridiculed for their piety, sick people and against sickness.

St. Francisco Marto, pray for us!

In conjunction with St. Anthony’s Parish in Fatima, Portugal, where the Fatima children were baptized, we will be praying the Global Rosary for Peace in honor of the centenary of St. Francisco’s death, Thursday, April 4 at 3PM Eastern (8PM European time) at the National Blue Army Shrine. Please join us: From Fatima for the World, Global Rosary for Peace.

More details on this global initiative can be found here:

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  1. According to Leo Madigan’s book, Princesses of the Kingdom, Jacinta was diagnosed with Consumption, not the Spanish Flu. The book provides an account of events regarding her illness and death. She was sent to a hospital and was returned home due to her parent’s inability to afford her medical care there. She later went to another hospital and died after receiving a surgery that involved a hole in her chest.

    I found the book while researching the book I wrote called “Revisiting Fatima”. I was at a second hand store looking for items for my house and was directed in thought to go to the used book section. I was directed to the bottom shelf of one of many book shelves, and hidden in between two books was Leo Madigan’s small book.

    The book has a Monstrous on it and I was due to sit at Adoration with Our Lord 15 minutes after finding the book. I sat at Adoration and in thought and prayer was led to read the story about Jacinta.

    My work and research as a Master Herbalist has included the impact of indoor air quality on health due to moisture and, ironically, cures used in the early 1900’s for Consumption, especially pine derivatives. I also have spent over 30 years consulting with large employers, including hospitals, on medical cost containment.

    God through his great wisdom and love provided the leaves of the trees to be used as our medicine and food.

    Blessings and thank you for your wonderful work.

    • Hello Susan. I have Leo Madigan’s book as well. It’s very good. Lucia’s memoirs say that Jacinta and Francisco got ill about the same time. She specifically used the word “influenza” that first confined her to bed. This developed into a purulent pleurisy, an open infected wound in her side, and serious inflammation of the lungs, which is what eventually took her life, but it did start with the Spanish influenza. Here is another article, based on some of the writings on Jacinta’s death.

  2. Please pray for my daughter Anna Maria her cancer has come back please pray for her thank you. I have named her Anna after my grandmother and Maria after the Blessed Mother. thank you so very much. I am asking you if you could please pray for my daughter Michelle Ann because she has left me and joined the Jehovah Witnesses please pray that she will returned to me and the Catholic Religion thank you so very much love Leonora Dixon

  3. Dear Francisco, Jacinta, Lucia, please implore
    Our Lord & Lady for healings desperately needed. For a 2nd chance at life, sick over 50 years, also for my daughter Elizabeth to have her first child (son) due now, high risk in safety and health, for her husband, family & mine , husband health & needs.thankyou JMJ

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