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More than a century ago, amid the turmoil of World War I and the rise of Communism in Russia, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to impart a message of peace. Rather than choosing to come to influential figures like politicians or clergy, she appeared to three humble children in the Portuguese countryside: St. Francisco Marto, St. Jacinta Marto, and their cousin Lucia dos Santos. Entrusted with Mary’s warnings and messages of prayer, these ordinary children became bearers of hope and peace for a broken world.

St. Jacinta and St. Francisco are beautiful witnesses to my second-grade students at St. Benedict Classical Academy, and their picture hangs in my classroom as a reminder. When Mary first appeared to these little saints, they were much like my own students in September – they were still learning to read and write and they enjoyed simple pleasures like dancing or playing with animals outside. Yet, despite their ordinary upbringing, God chose these children of pure heart to lead extraordinary lives of holiness. The children of Fatima remind us that we are all called to sainthood, regardless of age, status, or intellect. 

While the lives of St. Jacinta and St. Francisco have served as powerful examples for my students, the story of their First Communion has become increasingly relevant as the class prepares to receive their own First Holy Communion this Saturday. Before Mary was to appear to them, God chose that they first be given Communion. This often overlooked aspect of Francisco and Jacinta’s story teaches us to see the Eucharist as necessary preparation and nourishment before going out to do God’s work. 

A year before the Virgin Mary began her visitation with the Fatima children, an angel appeared to them three times. The angel came to prepare them for Mary’s visits, teaching them how to pray, and of the importance of sacrificial suffering for the conversion of souls. The third time the angel arrived, he appeared to the children holding a chalice, above which was the Eucharist. Drops of the Precious Blood of Jesus dripped from the Host into the chalice and the Angel gave Holy Communion to Francisco and Jacinta for the first time, as they were too young to receive it at their local parish. The heavenly food of the Blessed Sacrament was necessary to strengthen and nourish Jacinta and Francisco before they were to receive Mary’s messages – they learned to love and adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and to find peace in Him alone. Once they had experienced the profound and heavenly peace in the Eucharist, they could then go on to do the difficult work of spreading that peace to the world.

In the story of Fatima, we see that God’s choice for preparing people to live out His calling and become saints, is to partake in the Eucharist. As twenty of our SBCA second grade students will receive the Eucharist this Saturday, pray that like the children of Fatima, they are given the strength and courage to lead lives in service to the Lord.

AUTHOR: Bella Schmitz, Second Grade Teacher

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