Tuesday, 24 July 2012

The Three Little Shepherds


I must thank Lou for the idea for today's post. If not for her post on pet peeves, I would never have remembered to mention the three children behind the Sanctuary of Fatima, Portugal.

The image above is iconic in Portugal. Ask any Portuguese person who the three children are, and what their story is, and they’ll tell you straight away, which is not surprising since 84% of Portugal's population is Catholic. The three young children - aged around 10, 9 and 7 years old when the photo was taken in 1917- have been been beatified by the church. 

Lúcia and her two cousins, Francisco and Jacinta, were witnesses to multiple apparitions of the Virgin Mary in what has now become the Sanctuary of Fatima. Their story is not exactly a happy one. The three children became very religious, following what the Virgin Mary told them to do. They went without water, gave their food to the poor, and prayed for sinners. Although many believed what the children said, others did not, including Lúcia's mother who thought she was lying and punished her for it. They were threatened with being put in cauldrons of boiling oil for their untruths, but the children were sure of what they had seen and what they had been told. 

Francisco and Jacinta died young, victims of the Great Spanish influenza outbreak, but their untimely deaths at the ages of 10 and 9 was no surprise. Jacinta had told her mother, after one of the apparitions, that God would be taking her away soon, but that her brother would go first. Lúcia, on the other hand, lived to the ripe old age of 97, spending most of her life as a devout nun. More of their story can be found here.

Many absolutely believe that the children saw what they said they saw, other people have tried to explain the childrens' experience in a logical manner, and others think it's all a load of nonsense. It all depends on your religious beliefs. However, their names and their story have survived and are a part of Portuguese culture.

Francisco (fran-SEESH-koo) remains very popular in Portugal, currently holding the #7 spot (1571 babies were given the name in 2011). It is the Portuguese and Spanish form of Francis, which derives from Franciscus, meaning 'Frenchman'. Although it's not setting the world on fire, Francisco has done fairly well in England & Wales, all things considered. It ranked #1551 with 15 babies being given the name. Other variants of Franciscus include Patxi, Frane, Ransu and Franz.

Lúcia (LOO-see-ah) ranks just outside the Portuguese top 100 with 36 babies being given the name. It is the Portuguese feminine form of the Roman prenomen Lucius, which comes from the Latin lux or 'light'. Lucia seems to be on her way up in England & Wales, having jumped from #205 in 2009 to #172 in 2010.  Variants range from common Lucy to more exotic Luzia, Luce and Luca.

Of the three names, it seems that Jacinta is the one that has held the connection to the three little shepherds the most. Many websites have Jacinta's pronunciation down as zhah-seen-tah or zhah-sin-tah. I must admit I have never come across this pronunciation before; all the Jacintas I've known have pronounced their names as Jah-SIN-tah. Regardless, it is a floral name, the Spanish and Portuguese form of Hyacinth. Although it has been mentioned more often, Jacinta has, since 1996, ranked outside the top 1000 and has never been given to more than 19 babies in one year in England & Wales. It currently places at #3156.  Jacinda is even rarer, and has only ranked once, in 2003.

Images: The three children of Fatima, Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta