Dic. 29, 2003: Actualidad Brasileña, Rio de Janeiro. Enero 12, 2004: CubDest website.

Brazil: Lucas, One Little Boy, One Big Example

Holding an image of the child Jesus and a Miraculous Medal in his little hands, a young boy breathed his last and his soul left to celebrate its first Christmas in Heaven.

Lucas da Rocha Silva was born November 28, 1994, in Itaquera, a neighborhood in an industrial area of São Paulo. His childhood was normal until he was nearly six years old. On the early morning of November 1, 2000, he woke up with an extreme pain in the shinbone of his left leg. From that time, he began to walk a painful way of the cross that Providence, in its mysterious design, had reserved for him, and that he accepted in an exemplary way until his death on December 15, 2003.

X-rays indicated a bone fracture in the locality of the pain which the doctors began to treat. After a month, however, instead of getting better, the pain began to increase. Lucas began to pray the Hail Mary at night, "until the pain passes" in order to be able to sleep a little, but the following day the pain began again.

In March of 2001, a biopsy made at the Hospital Santa Marcelina indicated a tumor in the shinbone, and Lucas was taken to the Institute of Pediatric Oncology (IOP) of the São Paulo Hospital. Lucas received a bone implant to try and stop the tumor's growth, but it expanded into the knee and then into the femur which led to two surgeries, the last of which, in April 2003, resulted in the amputation of his left leg.

Although just a young child, Lucas accepted all of his suffering as the will of God, with a mature and admirable Christian spirit, without complaining of, or trading on, his pain or misfortune. This willing acceptance was witnessed by his father, Carlos Alberto Gil da Silva, 39, his mother Maria Aparecida da Rocha Silva, 36, his brother Klayton, 14, his best little friend Luizinho, his relatives, the doctors and their colleagues, his neighbors and all who knew him.

From the time of his first surgery, Lucas had to get up very early three times each week to go to the hospital to be examined and to have sessions of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. While waiting there, he visited with the others in a lively and cheerful manner, participating in games and encouraging other children with similar illnesses. He cheered them up when they were depressed and sad. Somehow, even with his leg amputated, he found a way to continue to play ball and to walk with his beloved bicycle. Sometimes, when the wait at the hospital was a long one, he would tell the doctor, "please, call me soon because I need to go to school." Lucas kept a sense of duty about his education until the end. At school, he worked hard and his marks were always very good.

From April of 2003, in spite of all the best medical care and treatments, the tumor continued to grow, spreading from his leg bone to his lungs, his jaw, and to his neck, multiplying his sufferings. He began to have difficulties in speaking, eating, and even in breathing.

In September of 2003, while Lucas was waiting for the interminable exams and treatments, someone gave him a medal of Our Lady of Grace - the Miraculous Medal. He treasured it with sincere piety, keeping it to the last moments of his short life which was already fading. He also treasured a little book about Our Lady of Fatima and the three little seers. He especially liked knowing that little Jacinta also died as a young child near his own age, and each night he asked his mother to read to him from the book. Afterwards, he began to pray the prayer to the Guardian Angel before going to sleep each night.

A few weeks before Christmas, Lucas was given a small image of the Child Jesus in the manger which he received with devotion and joy, serenely telling his parents that this Christmas he would go to Jesus in Heaven and join his paternal grandmother who had died a few months before. In November, the chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments were suspended because his little body could not endure them any longer.

His parents called the family and friends to the church of St. John Bosco near their home and announced that the doctors could do nothing more and that Lucas was now in the hands of God and Our Lady. Sitting near the altar, Lucas heard the announcement with a serene face, remaining in the same Christian serenity and resignation that he had kept since the beginning of his illness, still never complaining of his pain.

The night of December 13, Lucas's respiratory problems worsened and he was rushed to the hospital. In the little desk in his room he left, in perfect order, the holy cards of his favorite saints: Mary Help of Christians, St. John Bosco, Saint Paulina, Blessed Fray Galvao, St. Rita of Cascia, St. Benedict, Saint Expedito and the novena of Our Lady of Grace. He took with him his two most valuable treasures, his miraculous medal and the little statue of the Child Jesus.

On Sunday the 14th, he received the last sacrament from his parish priest. The following day, each time with more difficulty breathing, he entered his final agony. He remained conscious, tightly holding the medal and little statue. When he felt his strength leaving him, he managed with great difficulty to whisper, "Mama, help me to hold the Child Jesus." A little later, he breathed his last. Without doubt, the Child Jesus repaid the affection of this innocent little soul, carrying it with Him to spend its first Christmas in Heaven.

Often, there are anonymous souls whose heroism is known to God alone. Still, He sometimes shows us a heroic soul for our edification, and to help us, by good example, to face our own daily crosses. At the tender age of nine, Lucas was a hero because of his faith and his complete acceptance of the mysterious and luminous road of pain that Providence deigned he walk, following the steps of the Divine Teacher. Small in size, Little Lucas is a big example for all of us.

Gonzalo Guimaraens is a journalist.