Decree of Venerable - Francisco
[A Decree of Heroic Virtues is a judgment of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints that a Servant of God lived a life of profound union with God and fidelity to Church teaching. Theologically it witnesses to the full flowering of virtue in the person's life, which St. Thomas Aquinas explains occurs when the moral virtues are perfected in their operation by the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Decree is official when accepted by the Pope. When combined with the approval of a miracle at the intercession of the Servant of God the requirements for beatification have been met.]

On the 13th of May 1989, on the 72nd anniversary of the first Apparition of Our Lady to the Little Shepherds, at the beginning of the solemn concelebration presided over by Cardinal Law of Boston, the Bishop of Leiria-Fatima announced to the Assembly, and by the Media to the whole world, that the Holy Father, John Paul II, had on that very day promulgated the decree of the heroic virtues of the Servants of God, Francisco and Jacinta, granting the title of Venerable.
We present herewith the English translation of the text of the [second of the] two decrees.

regarding the Canonization of the Servant of God

Francisco Marto

 Young Boy (1908-1919)
of the Diocese of Leiria-Fatima

Concerning the existence to an heroic degree of the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity towards God and towards neighbour and also of the cardinal virtues of Prudence, Justice, Temperance and Fortitude and their associates, in the case and for the end in view.

"Let the little children come to Me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs" (Lk. 18, 16).

Among the children who responded best to the love and predilection of Jesus, we believe that the Servant of God, Francisco Marto, can be included. He made the gifts of grace which were granted him bear abundant fruit and, in a few short years, attained great perfection in the imitation of Christ and in the exercise of the Christian virtues. In spite of his tender age he left us an eminent example of obedience to the will of God, of ardent love for the Immaculate Heart of Mary and diligent attentiveness in consoling Our Lord, so offended by the sins of men, and praying and suffering for the needs of the Church and for the conversion of sinners.

The Servant of God was born in a village called Aljustrel, belonging to the parish of Fatima, in Portugal, on 11 June 1908, son of Manuel Pedro Marto and Olimpia de Jesus dos Santos, modest farmers and good Christians. On the 20th day of the same month he received the sacrament of Baptism, becoming a member of the people of the new covenant.

Of a docile and condescending character he received to good effect the sound education which his parents gave him. He began, at home, to know and to love God, to pray and to participate in the sacred parish functions, to help his neighbor in need, to be sincere, just, obedient and diligent. He regularly attended the catechism lessons taught by the parish priest and by his aunt, Maria Rosa dos Santos. He lived in peace with everyone, whether adults or those of his own age. He was not irritated when contradicted, and at games he found no difficulty in adjusting to the will of others. He was sensitive to the beauty of nature, which he contemplated with simplicity and admiration; he delighted in the solitude of the mountains and remained enraptured before the rising and the setting of the sun. He called the sun "Our Lord's lamp" and was filled with joy at the appearance of the stars which he named "the Angels' lamps". His innocence was such that he said, on reaching Heaven, he would have to put oil in the lamp of the Virgin Mary.

He could not attend primary school as there was none in Fatima at the time, and when it did open he only went there now and then. In compensation, he learned very well the science of God and the means of actively co-operating in the growth of the kingdom of Christ in souls. As soon as he was able, or rather when he had reached the age of six years, he was entrusted with the task of keeping the flock, which he took out daily to pasture. As was customary he went out early in the morning, taking a bag containing his lunch and his flute with which he amused himself, and returned at sunset. Many times he was accompanied by his little sister Jacinta, and both would join their cousin, Lucia de Jesus dos Santos, who was pasturing her flock as well. These children declared that they had seen the vision of an angel in the year 1916. This unexpected and unforeseen happening constituted for the Servant of God the beginning of a spiritual experience that became more generous, more efficacious and more intense day by day. Suddenly he began to be more pious and reserved; he frequently recited the prayer taught by the Angel; he was always ready to offer sacrifices for the salvation of those who do not believe, do not hope or do not love. After these apparitions he seemed to have received the vocation of an anchorite; he hid behind the rocks and trees in order to pray alone, while at other times he climbed to the highest and most solitary places and there gave himself so intensely to meditation and prayer that he did not hear the voices of those who called him. At the same time he felt a strong and continuous longing to approach the sacred Eucharistic table, which in fact was only permitted to him just before he died.

These were not the only gifts of God, for there were other greater ones too. From the 13th of May to the 13th of October in the year 1917, he, together with Jacinta and Lucia, was granted the privilege of seeing the Virgin Mary, a certain number of times, in a place called the Cova da Iria. From then on, ever more and more inflamed with love for God and for souls, he had only one aspiration: to pray and suffer according to Our Lady's request. If the measure of divine benevolence towards him was extraordinary, the manner in which he wished to correspond with divine grace, in joy, fervour and constancy, was also extraordinary. He did not limit himself only to being a messenger, announcing penance and prayer, but more than that, with all his strength he conformed his life to the message which he announced, more by the goodness of works than by words. Thus he fulfilled the exhortation of Peter: "Each one of you has received a special grace, so, like good stewards responsible for all these different graces of God, put yourselves at the service of others" (1 Pet. 4,10).

He used to say: "How beautiful God is, how beautiful! But He is sad because of the sins of men. I want to console Him, I want to suffer for love of Him." He maintained this resolve to the very end. During the apparitions he bore with firm spirit and admirable fortitude the malicious interpretations, the injuries, the persecutions and even some days of imprisonment. He respectfully and firmly resisted the local authority who tried everything in order to discover the "secret" revealed, to the three children by the Most Holy Virgin, instilling courage at the same time into his sister and his cousin. Every time they threatened him with death he replied: "If they kill us we'll soon be in Heaven! Nothing else matters!" The parish priest tried to make him deny what had happened in the Cova da Iria, but he, although he revered priests very much, eagerly confirmed what he had seen. The prodigious events in which he was the protagonist turned all eyes towards him, but he remained simple and humble. He continued to carry out his daily tasks, to obey his parents and to be attentive towards all. He was patient with the curious, welcoming towards pilgrims, humane with the impious and merciful towards those who placed their supplications before him. He mortified his will and his character, overcoming fatigue, depriving himself of food in order to give it to the poor, not drinking water for entire days, especially in the hot weather, fasting during Lent, wearing a rope around his waist as a penance, giving up his favourite games in order to devote more time to prayer. He lost no occasion of uniting himself to the Passion of Christ and of co-operating in this manner in the salvation of souls and in the growth of the Church.

Another striking mark of his apostolate was prayer. He already prayed before the apparitions. Afterwards, however, moved by a more living and mature spirit of faith, he became conscious of being called to dedicate himself zealously and constantly to the duty of prayer according to the intentions of the Virgin Mary. He sought silence and solitude in order to immerse himself totally in contemplation and in dialogue with God. He assisted at Mass on feastdays, and also on weekdays when it was possible. He nurtured a special devotion to the Eucharist and spent much time in Church, adoring the Sacrament of the Altar which he called the "Hidden Jesus". He recited the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary daily, and many more times besides, in order to fulfil Our Lady's desire; to that he loved to add prayers and ejaculations which he had learned at the catechism classes, and which the Angel, the Most Holy Virgin and pious priests had taught him. He prayed with the intention of consoling God, of honouring the Mother of the Lord, whom he loved so much, of being useful to the holy souls who were expiating their penalties in the fire of Purgatory, and of helping the Supreme Pontiff in the fulfillment of his important office as universal pastor; he prayed for the needs of the world ravaged by hatred and sin; he prayed for the Church and for the eternal salvation of souls. He prayed alone, with his family, and with the pilgrims, manifesting a deep interior recollection and a sure confidence in the divine goodness.

With the firm resolve of desiring and doing only that which was pleasing to God, he dedicated himself constantly in heart and soul to the immortal things of the spirit, avoiding every form of sin and, at the age of seven years, he began frequently and piously to approach the sacrament of Penance. Docile to the precepts of the Lord and to the words of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, he progressed continually on the path of sanctity and, in a short time, attained a great and solid Christian perfection. Indeed his was a living faith, his charity was tender and zealous and his hope was full of joy. He was upright in word and deed. He had total disregard for earthly goods and for his own life and health. Since it had been made known to him by the Virgin Mary that his life would be brief, he spent the days in ardent expectation of entering Heaven. And in fact the time of waiting was not long delayed. Indeed, though he was robust and enjoyed good health, in October 1918 he was attacked by a serious broncho-pulmonary epidemic, called the "Spanish influenza". Once confined to bed he never managed to get up again; on the contrary, his state of health deteriorated in the year 1919. With great interior joy, he suffered his infirmity and severe pains as an oblation to God. When Lucia asked him if he was suffering he replied: "Quite a lot, but never mind. I am suffering to console Our Lord, and afterwards, within a short time, I am going to Heaven." In spite of being so sick, he nevertheless prayed many rosaries, exhorting the others to pray with him. On April 2nd, he devoutly received the sacrament of Penance, and on the following day he was finally nourished by the Body of Christ, as Holy Viaticum. In bidding farewell to those present he promised to pray for them in Heaven. He piously entered into eternal life, which he so ardently desired, on 4 April 1919. He was buried in the cemetery, but later his relics were translated to the Sanctuary, which had been built meanwhile on the spot where Our Lady appeared.

The fame for holiness, which he already enjoyed in life, was consolidated and increased after his death. Many of the faithful who had recourse to the intercession of the Servant of God affirmed that they had been heard and had received spiritual and corporal graces. The first steps towards the Cause of Canonization were taken in 1946, but the Informative Process was only begun in the Episcopal Curia of Leiria in 1952 and concluded in 1979. A Rogatory Process was also conducted in Coimbra, with the purpose of hearing Lucia's testimony. The Positio about the Virtues having been prepared by Rev. Fr. Paul Molinari, Postulator of this Cause, the Special Congress of Consultant Theologians, presided over by Rev. Msgr. Antonio Petti, Promoter General of the Faith, took place with a favourable outcome on the 5th day of December in the year 1988. The Cardinals and Bishops, in the Ordinary Congregation, on the 18th day of April in the year 1989, having as Proponent of the Cause, His Eminence Cardinal Edward Gagnon, recognized that the boy Francisco Marto had practised to an heroic degree the theological virtues, the carnal virtues and their associates.

The written report of all these facts having been finally given to the Supreme Pontiff, John Paul II, by the undersigned Cardinal Prefect, His Holiness, willingly accepting the desires of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, ordained that the Decree concerning the heroic virtues of the Servant of God be duly recorded.

This being done, on the same day, the Cardinals, the Prefect of the Congregation and Proponent of the Cause and I, the Bishop Secretary, being convoked, together with the remainder according to custom, and all being present, the Holy Father declared solemnly: it is certain that the Servant of God, in the case and for the end in view, practised to an heroic degree the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity towards God and towards neighbour, and also the cardinal virtues of Prudence, Justice, Temperance and Fortitude and their associates.

The Holy Father ordered this Decree to be published and recorded in the acts of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Given in Rome, on the 13th day of May in the Year of Our Lord 1989.

Traianus Crisan, Archiep. tit. Drivastensis, a Secretis