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The H1N1 (Swine Flu) Saint

Blessed Jacinta MartoLast week one of our adorers asked me if I would pray for a friend of hers who was admitted to St. Francis Medical Center after being diagnosed with pneumonia and the H1N1 flu virus.  I told her to tell her friend that I would offer up a holy hour in the Adoration Chapel for a speedy recovery.  After I started praying, my first thought was (as usual) a question: “What saint is best qualified to intercede with our Lord on her behalf?”

Within a matter of seconds I thought of the one saint who is perfectly positioned to assist anyone who is diagnosed with a flu virus.  The saint is Blessed Jacinta Marto, a 9 year old girl who died on February 20, 1920, from complications associated with the “Spanish Flu.”

You may remember from your history class that from 1918 to 1920, there was a flu pandemic that swept throughout the world and was responsible for taking the lives of over 50 million people.

The flu pandemic I’m referring to was commonly known as the “Spanish Flu” and it came in two different waves.  The first wave resembled the typical flu.  The second wave occurred after the virus mutated and turned into an “angel of death” that had no mercy on the people it touched.

Some of the more notable Americans who died from the Spanish Flu were: Felix Arndt, pianist; Larry Chappell, baseball player; Harry Elionsky, champion long-distance runner; Irma Cody Garlow, daughter of Buffalo Bill Cody; Henry G. Ginaca, engineer and inventor of the Ginaca machine; Myrtle Gonzalez, film actress; Phoebe Hearst, mother of William Randolph Hearst; and Frederick Trump, grandfather of businessman Donald Trump.

Three notable American survivors of the Spanish Flu were: Walt Disney (1901 – 1966); President Woodrow Wilson (1856 – 1924); and President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882 – 1945).

On May 13, 1917, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to three young children, Lucia de Santos, Francisco Marto, and Jancinta Marto, who at that time were 10, 9 and 7 years old, respectively.  Our Lady continued to appear to the children each month thereafter until her final apparition on October 13, 1917.

During the summer that the apparitions were taking place, the 3 children were ridiculed, spat upon, and intimidated for standing by their claim that the Blessed Mother was appearing to them.  At one point, they were questioned by the local authorities who put them in jail and later threatened to kill them if they didn’t renounce their claim that our Lady had appeared to them.  They courageously refused to buckle under the pressure of the authorities.

Even though some of the children’s own relatives refused to believe that the apparitions were authentic, each month increasing numbers of people gathered with the children on the day of the month the apparitions were to take place.  At the July apparition, the children asked the Blessed Mother to perform a sign so that the people would believe she was appearing to them.  Our Lady promised the children that a great public miracle would take place in October.

On October 13, 1917, the Blessed Mother made her final appearance to the children and told them:

“I am the Lady of the Rosary.  I have come to warn the faithful to amend their lives and ask for pardon for their sins.  They must not offend our Lord any more, for He is already too grievously offended by the sins of men.  People must say the Rosary.  Let them continue saying it every day.”

That day there were over 70,000 people who gathered to witness the public miracle our Lady had promised.  Prior to the apparition, there was a torrential rain that was so relentless that the crowd had to travel by foot in mud up to their ankles to get to the site of the apparition.  Immediately prior to the apparition, Lucia told the people in the crowd to close their umbrellas and pray the Rosary.  Many in the crowd knelt down in the mud and started praying the Rosary.  (Our Lady had told the children during her previous apparitions that she wanted them to tell the people to pray the Rosary every day.)

After the Blessed Mother was finished talking to the children, she pointed toward the sun which had appeared through the clouds.  The sun started spinning for several minutes in the sky while throwing off rays of multicolored light.  Then the sun lurched out of the sky and began plunging toward the earth.  There were screams from the crowd that the end of the world was coming and many of the people cried out for mercy and forgiveness.  As the sun was about to crash into the earth, it suddenly stopped and slowly rose back into the sky and returned to its original position.  At that moment the people in the crowd realized that their rain-soaked clothing was completely dry.  The mud had also completely dried up.

After witnessing what happened, the secular newspaper reporters who were present and had previously ridiculed the claims of the children, wrote detailed accounts about the “Miracle of the Sun.”  They also reported that numerous healings had taken place.  (The reporters themselves became believers after seeing the miracle.)

In 1930, after investigating the Fatima apparitions, the Catholic Church declared them “worthy of credence.”  On May 13, 2000, the 83rd anniversary of the first Fatima apparition, Pope John Paul II, travelled to Fatima to announce the beatification of Jacinta Marto.  She was (and still is) the youngest non-martyred child ever to be beatified.

Prior to Jacinta’s death, our Lady revealed to her that she was going to die alone in a hospital bed.  Her cousin Lucia later wrote the following in her memoirs about Jacinta: “On one occasion, I found her clasping a picture of our Lady to her heart and saying, ‘O my dearest heavenly Mother, do I have to die all alone?’”

Jacinta was sick for several months prior to her death and at one point was transferred from a hospital in Ourém, Portugal, to a hospital in Lisbon, Portugal.  The hospital in Lisbon was located so far away from Jacinta’s home town that her parents and relatives were unable to secure transportation to visit her.  She died alone in her hospital bed on February 20, 1920.

It is well documented that Jacinta gracefully accepted her fate, offering up all of her sufferings for the conversion of sinners.

There is no better saint I can think of to go to for assistance with an illness.  The next time you or a loved one is sick, I would suggest that you contact two people: Blessed Jacinta Marto and a doctor (in that order). 

This little saint (who experienced great physical pain and emotional suffering) will never let you down.

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