Francisco was born 11 June 1908, the sixth of seven children of Manuel and Olimpia Marto. He was a handsome boy, with light hair and dark eyes. He loved games and other children, yet without the spirit of competition. He would not complain when treated unfairly, and gave up a treasured possession (a handkerchief stamped with the image of Our Lady) rather than contend for it. He was a peacemaker, but courageous, as his conduct under questioning by the Mayor would later show. He also had a mischievous turn. He was known to drop strange and inedible objects in his sleeping brother’s mouth. He had a love for nature, and animals in particular. He played with lizards and snakes, and would bring them home, to his mother’s chagrin. Once he gave a penny, all the money he had, to a friend for a captured bird, only to set the bird free. He played a reed pipe, to which Lucia and his sister Jacinta would sing and dance. In short, he was a kind, gentle boy, not yet a Saint, but one predisposed by God for the graces soon bestowed on him.
Alone among the three, Francisco never heard the Lady’s words, although he saw her and felt her presence. After the first apparition, Lucia conveyed the Lady’s message to him, that he would go to heaven if he prayed many Rosaries. In the second apparition, Lucia asked to be taken to heaven, and the Lady replied that Francisco and Jacinta would be taken soon, but Lucia would have to wait for a time. She died February 13, 2005 at the age of 97.
In the third apparition, the children were given a secret, including a vision of hell, which so changed them that they became more like adults than children. At this time the Mayor of the district, Artur de Oliveira Santos, a Freemason, devised a scheme to discredit the apparitions by terrorizing the children. He tried to bully them into admitting they lied, threatened to boil them in oil if they withheld the Lady’s “Secret” (Francisco showed extravagant courage in anticipation of going to heaven), and jailed them to keep them from their appointment with the Lady on the day of the fourth apparition (August 13). They kept their appointment two days later.
For the fifth apparition, tens of thousands attended, having been alerted by the press to the Mayor’s controversy with the children. Among the curious was a seminary professor from Santarem, Dr. Manuel Formigao, who questioned the children afterward and became convinced of their veracity.
When the public learned of a miracle promised for the next appointed day, many resolved to be there, and on October 13 perhaps 70 thousand people were present for the miracle of the sun.
After the apparitions ended, Francisco was enrolled in school but played truant as often as possible. He preferred to spend time praying to the “Hidden Jesus” in the Tabernacle. His great concern was to console His sorrowing Lord and the Heart of His Mother. When asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, Francisco answered, “I don’t want to be anything. I want to die and go to heaven.”
In August 1918, when World War I was nearing an end, Francisco and Jacinta both contracted influenza. They had short reprieves, but their decline was inevitable. In April of the following year, Francisco, knowing his time was short, asked to receive the Hidden Jesus for the first time in Holy Communion. The next morning, April 4th, at ten o’clock, he died with a glow on his shrunken face. He was buried the next day in a little cemetery in Fatima, across from the parish church, and later translated to the Sanctuary at Cova da Iria.