“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones” (Mt. 11:25).

How fitting and appropriate to our times are these words of praise to the Father that we hear today from our Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God. This year 2017 is the centennial jubilee of the apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima in Portugal. Devotion to Our Lady has spread all over the world and most parishes in the Philippines promote the message of Fatima to families and communities through the Block Rosary Movement.

In celebrating this great moment of faith, the church chose to focus the attention of Christians to the two youngest visionaries, who died very young, some years after they saw the Blessed Mother. These blessed siblings, Francisco and Jacinto, were declared the youngest saints of the church who did not die of martyrdom. Close to the age of 11 and 10 respectively, they entered heaven, but only after intense physical and spiritual sufferings. The third visionary, later Carmelite nun Sister Lucia, lived to a ripe old age of 97 and is now on her way to becoming a saint herself.

We must remember that our two youngest saints did not become saints because they saw the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is not a requirement for sainthood to see heavenly visions, for otherwise, only a handful of saints will remain in the list. Saints Francisco and Jacinta became saints because the Lord revealed to them what he has hidden from the wise and the learned, as the Lord says in the gospel.

Not only did they receive a special message from God through Our Lady, but they also responded with love to what was entrusted to them. Years after the apparitions were over, people noticed a change in the two children. They became more prayerful. They were more loving and kind to others. They had a special concern for making sacrifices for sinners. Their love for God grew deeper and stronger.  Young in age, their faith matured, and this was much obvious in the manner they faced their death with peace, joy and anticipation.

Our world is now steeped in scientific knowledge, technical expertise and practical wisdom. Who would think that God would give us as models of faith and love two little shepherds who knew nothing of wealth, education, and comfort.

Let us ask the new saints, Francisco and Jacinta, to lead us to love Jesus and Mary with deeper commitment.