This year people from across the Deanery joined together to visit Fatima, 100 years after the first apparitions of Our Lady to three young shepherd children.
Our group of thirty-something pilgrims from the pastoral area have all returned safely from Portugal. New friends were made and old friendships renewed as, in the holy surroundings, we learned the Fatima story of the young shepherds and the apparitions of Our Lady exactly one hundred years ago.
Be assured that you were in our prayers and intentions at our Masses.
After arriving in Fatima – via a flight to Lisbon – on the Monday evening, it was a little too late to do any pilgrimage sights on arrival. However some of us did venture out to watch the end of the Rosary Procession, which was very moving since there were 1000’s of people there. Fatima does not get the same number of pilgrims as Lourdes, apart from around the dates of the apparitions and, of course, when Pope Francis is there! However, the Rosary Square is huge and the numbers of pilgrims who do arrive each day are dwarfed by the size of the place.
On one side stands the older basilica, where Lucia, Francesco & Jacinta, the three children who saw Our Lady, are buried. Francesco and Jacinta were recently canonized and enormous pictures of them are displayed on the outside walls of the old basilica.
Just near the old basilica is the Apparition Chapel, erected very close to the site of the place where Our Lady appeared to the children 100 years ago. In the Apparition Chapel can be seen the statue of Our Lady of Fatima; the crown which she wears is adorned with many jewels and also with the bullet with which Pope John Paul II was shot in St. Peter’s Square in 1981.
On the opposite end of the square is a new basilica, which is adorned with a massive set of rosary beads which light up at night. Next to the basilica is a beautiful 80 foot depiction of the Crucifixion. It can be seen from miles around. It is truly an amazing place, very beautiful and very peaceful.
As our first day ended we joined with the Rosary Procession at night and felt the peace of being close to Our Lady in Fatima.
Our next day, our first full day in Fatima, was spent having a tour of the area, especially the wonderful museum and slide show which told the story of Fatima. In the afternoon we attended Mass at the Apparitions Chapel, where Our Lady appeared to the three children, Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta, 100 years ago this year. Then in the evening we joined 100’s of other pilgrims from all over the world on the Rosary Procession. Even though the gathering was dwarfed by the size of the Rosary Square there were many, many people there and the procession was a great event. There were many opportunities to pray in Fatima, to enjoy the peace and tranquility of the place. It is certainly a very peaceful place and our first full day there was wonderful.
Our next day in Fatima was very full and very hot! Many of us prayed the Stations of the Cross in the morning, which was a wonderful experience. It took us quite a while and we met many other pilgrims en route, but it was very prayerful and a wonderful experience. We then went to visit the childhood homes of Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco. The homes were almost unchanged from the days they lived there, over 100 years ago. The rest of the day was spent touring Fatima – some went on the mini-train (not Fr.Paul – he was too big!) and certain others discovered a wonderful new delicacy called Pink Gin!! After tea many of us attended the nightly Rosary Procession. Again another wonderful day with Our Lady and our fellow pilgrims
Our final full day in Fatima included a bit of free time in the morning. Many of us spent the day having a tour around Fatima and enjoying time in the different chapels and spending time in prayer. In the afternoon Fr. Paul (The Elder!) had the great honour of being the Chief Celebrant at Mass in the Chapel of Apparitions. Some of it was even filmed! He needed one of those pink gins afterwards! It didn’t touch the sides! It was a truly international occasion – many people stopped and joined in praying at the Mass including many new friends from Ireland. Afterwards many of us attended the Rosary Procession for the last time and bade a very fond farewell to Fatima after yet another wonderful day with Our Lady and our fellow pilgrims.
Many books and articles have been written about the secret messages of Fatima over many years. Perhaps the main message is faith and hope. Our Lady promised the two children, Jacinta and Francisco, that they would be with her very soon in Heaven. They died within two years of the apparitions. Whilst this must have been terrible for the family at the time, Our Lady kept her promise to the children. And now, after Pope Francis’ visit to Fatima earlier this year, they are both canonized saints of the Church. Lucia lived much longer and kept the message of Fatima alive. All those who went on the Fatima Pilgrimage felt greatly blessed by the faith and hope of the children, a faith and hope that helped them persevere in their belief and knowledge of the great love of God, shown to them through Mary in those moments when they saw her in Fatima 100 years ago.