Two of the three Fatima seers, Jacinta and Francisco, died young because of the need for victim souls to give necessary fecundity to Our Lady’s plan. Their lives were proof that nothing great is done without suffering.
Indeed, suffering helps those souls who are absorbed with themselves and unwilling to open up. We should see suffering as normal for man and we should practice it with courage and daring. The acceptance of sacrifice is necessary to combat the Hollywood myth of the “happy end.”
Jacinta and Francisco died as children by Our Lady’s design as she had foretold. The third seer, Lucia, lived for many more years. What was the reason why Jacinta and Francisco died so early? This was obvious for they spoke openly about it.
The reason was that Fatima asked people to offer up their sufferings. It called for victim souls to associate themselves with the entire mystery of Fatima, and through their sufferings and pains help bring about all the supernatural fecundity Our Lady wanted to give to the events at Fatima. This is exactly what happened to both children who died in extraordinarily difficult and arduous circumstances that caused them much suffering.
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Such sufferings are needed because when it comes to the salvation of souls, all great works of God are done with the participation of men. In general, this is only accomplished with people willing to fight, suffer and pray for God’s work to be brought to its fruition.
In other words, sacrifice is necessary. Otherwise, nothing great is done.
The importance of this principle stood out especially at Fatima. Our Lady directly intervened there by performing stupendous miracles especially the “miracle of the sun.” She did this to underscore the fact that Fatima is one of the most important if not the most important message she has ever given in history.
On that occasion and in those circumstances, Our Lady wanted the sacrifice of two souls who would offer themselves up for the fulfillment of the plan of Divine Providence. This clearly shows how the apostolate of suffering is truly irreplaceable and how it opens up the way for the Church to act upon souls.
A German painter once painted Our Lord as the Good Shepherd knocking on the door of a simple house. Afterwards someone told him: “You made a mistake, for the door has no outside knob to get in.” He answered: “That’s true, but it is not a mistake. This door symbolizes the human heart. Our Lord knocks on it, but there is no knob outside, only inside. There are certain souls that open up only to themselves and to no one else, and in that case no one can intervene, they are really closed.”
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Prayer and sacrifice are precisely the way to influence this type of person. They open up to the grace and find life when they suffer and carry the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ lovingly. They come to understand how normal it is to suffer. A person acquires greatness to the degree that he suffers. The great men in history are those who bear great sufferings for the love of God.
Clearly, this includes not only passive suffering like, for example, allowing another to strike us. It also means active suffering that is, taking the initiative in finding suffering. This can be done by confronting bad public opinion or overcoming human respect. In short, it means accepting suffering entirely, embracing it fearlessly and daringly, and taking the initiative to look for ways to sacrifice for an ideal. This is what it means to suffer par excellence and we should seek to do this.
The Hollywood myth of the “happy end” is a great obstacle to accepting suffering and sacrifice. Not all things turn out well in the end as in the movies.
Not everything is joy and success. Thus, we should not look at suffering as a kind of seven-headed monster that invades people’s lives uninvited. To the contrary, we should realize that everyone suffers and a life without crosses is worthless. Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort goes so far as to say that when a person does not suffer, he should ask for crosses. For a person to whom God gives no sufferings should be wary of his eternal salvation.
All this comes across very clearly in the sacrifice made by Jacinta and Francisco.
In this sense, we should frequently pray to them to ask Our Lady of Fatima to obtain for us this true sense of suffering that is indispensable for all those faithful who want to become generous and dedicated Catholics.
The preceding article is taken from an informal lecture Professor Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira gave on February 19, 1965. It has been translated and adapted for publication without his revision. –Ed.