Pope Francis has canonised two of the youngest saints in the history of the Church. St Francisco Marto was just 10 years old when he died; and when his sister died a year later, St Jacinta was only 9 years old.
The Church has also just celebrated the one hundredth anniversary of the first apparition of Fatima. The Collect of the feast reveals the key to the Fatima message:
O God, who chose the Mother of your Son to be our Mother also, grant us that, persevering in penance and prayer for the salvation of the world, we may further more effectively each day the reign of Christ.
The message of Fatima: prayer and penance! It’s a reminder to us that we are called to be co-redeemers with Jesus Christ. This is the “scandal” of the Incarnation: not only has God descended to become one of us; now God wants to raise you and I up to His level. Jesus became sin, that we might become the goodness of God. (2 Cor 5:21)
The Lord offered his life at Calvary — the perfect sacrifice — for the salvation of the world. But now he gives us a share in his mission. A share in his redemptive sacrifice. He makes us co-redeemers — so that we can join our own sacrifices to his, for the salvation of the world.
This is what Our Lady reminded the world at Fatima. Our prayers and our penance can change history. Our prayers and penance can save the world.
At the canonisation Mass, the Holy Father invited us to “take as our examples Saint Francisco and Saint Jacinta.” Here’s just one example, from St Jacinta:
One day, when Jacinta and Lucia were chatting, her mother brought Jacinta a glass of milk to drink. “Drink it all Jacinta. It’s good for you.” (By now Jacinta was dying of the Spanish Flu.)
“I don’t want it Mama,” Jacinta answered, pushing the glass away. Her mother insisted, but eventually gave up: “I don’t know what to do with you!”
As soon as they were alone, Lucia reproached Jacinta. “How can you disobey your mother like that? Can’t you offer this sacrifice to Our Lord?”
After hearing that, Jacinta’s eyes filled with tears, which Lucia wiped away. Jacinta frankly admitted, “I remember now!” Then she called her mother, sought her forgiveness, and promised that she would drink as much as her mother wanted. Her mother brought back the cup of milk, which Jacinta drank without showing the slightest reluctance.
After her mother had left, she confided in Lucia, “If only you knew how hard it was for me to drink that!”
A smile is sometimes the best penance. To make life pleasant for others, even though it costs us. Performed for love of God, and for the salvation of the world.