Thursday, April 18, 2019

My Trip to Fatima, Portugal with Photos

Photos of Fatima
Here's the bed of one of the little children who Mary appeared to in 1917.
 They lived in humble, simple homes.  The angel appeared just a short
walk from these houses.  
This past week has found me in Fatima, Portugal, the shrine where Mary appeared to three children, Francisco, Jacinta and Lucia, in 1917.  She told them to propagate her message to pray for world peace, particularly with the rosary.

Fatima Children
Here's a wonderful painting of Jacinta from the Fatima Museum located
below the Basilica of the Holy Trinity.  She died at the age of ten, shortly after
the apparitions. 
Mary Fatima
What struck me about Fatima is its enormity.  The square between the two
churches and the central chapel is HUGE.  I've come during low season
and can only imagine what it must be like on May 13th, when the square is entirely packed.  
Fatima has three chapels: The Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary, seen in the photo, the enormous Basilica of the Holy Trinity at the other end of the square, and the Chapel of the Apparitions, between the two.  Devotees pray the rosary at least once a day in the chapel, and celebrate Mass in each of the churches daily.  

fatima history
Alongside the Chapel of the Apparitions is this space for lighting candles.
Tons of candles are always burning, and some will fall through the cracks and huge flames come up.  
While in Fatima, I had some work on my plate.  So found myself stressed about that.  And in my hostel a lot, working.  But I did make it to the square every day.  

I wonder how Fatima has become so enormous.  It's HUGE, similar to Lourdes or the Virgin of Guadalupe Shrine in Mexico City.  Other sites for Marian apparitions, such as Garabindal in Spain or Knock in Ireland, haven't grown to nearly this size.  

fatima shrine
The faithful holding candles in the Chapel of the Apparitions
during a rosary.
They've done a good job of accommodating for the masses; huge parking lots, huge churches, confessions that run all day long.  Hotels on end. 

This white walkway is really a crawl-way.  Many will crawl from the
Basilica of the Holy Trinity all the way to the Chapel of the Apparitions.  
I marvelled, too, at the faithful who come to Fatima.  A woman in my hostel flew all the way from Dubai to stay in Fatima for about 48 hours, then returned home.  That's a long flight!  And with no additional touring of Portugal along the way; simply to see Fatima.  

The lady who ran the hostel said a lot of people make the pilgrimage as thanksgiving for prayers answered; a pregnancy, healed cancers, the purchase of a home.  They'll light candles in the shape of the body part that's been healed.  And many walk to Fatima. 

Fatime Children
Here is the spot where the angel appeared to the children; I believe that Francisco
 couldn't see him.  The angel gave the children Communion and a special prayer to say
asking God for mercy and forgiveness.  
I arrived at the Way of the Cross just as group from Lisbon of over 1,000 showed up.  As the pathway was narrow, they completely took over. 

It gave me a taste of what it must be like to be in Fatima during high season and I am so HAPPY that I came now.  With all the crowds it would not have felt spiritual at all.
To my great good fortune, a local Portuguese man took me under his wing and showed me
the houses where Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco lived, as well as the spots where the angel appeared.
A local man introduced me to the niece of Lucia, who's well over ninety years old.  She was just sitting out on her porch, praying a rosary, seemingly on display.  That rather amazed me.  

At at the same time that I appreciated Fatima's enormity, I also appreciated its obscurity.  It is a tiny, pastoral Portuguese town.  And I was amazed at the openness of the locals. 

Grutas de Moeda
Inside the caves, located about 3 km from the Fatima Shrine.  These were very
cool and unusual, and neat to see in conjunction to the religious atmosphere of Fatima.
A nice diversion, you might say.  
I also visited the Grutas de Moeda.  These are very unusual underground caves that two locals discovered about fifty years ago while hunting.  

The man who owns them now, one of the founders, has really cashed in.  It felt like the quintessential tourist trap, what with taking our photos to try and have us buy them later, and offering us samples of bread and alcohol so we'd make a purchase.  

But it still was very lovely.  I talked to a nice girl at the tourist shop who gave me some good advice about other places to visit in Portugal. 

Bed and Breakfast
I had a nice breakfast every morning at the Fatima Lounge Guest House. 
On my arrival, I felt pretty underwhelmed as the hostel I stayed in was very basic, and I'd been staying in a rather nice hostel until then.  And it was raining, and the only coffeeshop I could find, too, was nothing to write home about. 

Yes, as I said earlier, Fatima isn't a remarkable place.  It's almost ascetically basic.  And maybe that's necessary for creating a spiritual environment.  

Nor was my experience terribly social.  Outside of the few people I met in the hostel (generally it was only me staying there), I met two nice Italian men in the adoration chapel.  We all stayed late into the night, after the doors were locked (they lock the doors at night and only open them at 3 am and 5 am).  The Italians hadn't known it would be locked and panicked.  They wanted to get home to go to sleep.   

message to pray for peace
I became overwhelmed with all of the shops selling rosaries and statues and what not.
I ended up buying a few things from Francisco's nephew, as a matter of fact.   
And I'd be remiss not to talk about the abundant shopping opportunities in Fatima.  So many options: hundreds of statues of the virgin in various sizes and carved from ceramic, stone, wood.  And rosaries in every color imaginable.  

I picked out a few rosaries and some "I prayed for you in Fatima" plaques to give to friends and family.  And one tiny statue of the BVM.
St. Peter
"Barca de Pedro", a beautiful painting from the Fatima Museum,
underneath the Basilica of the Holy Trinity.
Upon returning to Porto, one Portuguese woman referred to it as a "myth" and rolled her eyes.  Another said "if you're religious it's something you might enjoy".  I sensed, in short, that locals are pretty dismissive of this shrine (and of Catholicism in general).  

For me, however, Fatima was a wonderful devotional experience. I'd definitely come back.  Maybe for a week again.  A week of prayer and reflection, and not so much work this time.  Maybe I'd make it more structured, too--get a book or something.  The gods like that sort of thing.  

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