Sunday, May 12, 2013

Portugal: Fatima

The day started with a very ordinary breakfast and then a walk to a park where there were 15 stations depicting the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. I blogged about a similar site in La Riviere, Manitoba in July 2011. It took us about 90 minutes to see all of them because there were literally hundreds if not thousands of pilgrims from every walk of life visiting.

So what's the story of Fatima that has tens of thousands of people each month making the pilgrimage? In a small nutshell, there were three young children, 10-year old Lucia, and her cousins 9-year old Francisco and 7-year old Jacinta shepherding their sheep when they saw an apparition of The Lady of the Rosary (another name for The Virgin Mary). She appeared on 13-May-1917 and told them to say their rosary and pray for the sins of the world. She promised to return every month for the next 5 months on the same day each month.

At first the children were considered liars and eventually, when over 70,000 people witnessed the "Brilliance of the Sun" in October 1917, people came to believe that the children had indeed witnessed what they said they did. Since that time, the town of Fatima has been a pilgrimage site during those times of those months.

After the walk to see the 15 stations, we went to see the homes of the children which are now museums. At the back of their home is a small park with some statues representing the children seeing the Virgin Mary.


I walked back to the hostel while everyone else went off to the shopping centre to buy candles for the candlelight procession later that evening. I was starting to feel unwell because I have started getting the cold that almost everyone in the group seems to have now.

After a plain and somewhat tasteless dinner, we went off to the square where the candle light service started at 9:30pm and I have never seen anything like this. People kept arriving in seemingly small numbers from about 8:45pm and little by little, the square started filling up so that by the time the service started at 9:30pm, there were thousands of people, some wrapped in sleeping bags and blankets to stay warm because it was a chilly night. Everyone with a candle started lighting it and pretty soon, the darkness of night was lit by the thousands of candles. It was not exactly a candlelight procession - more of a candlelight vigil. Bed for me now. I would like a warm cup of tea. There is a kettle with water and tea bags just outside my door but I am too tired to make it.


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