Mam had such devotion to Our Lady. I think the stories of the apparitions in Knock and Fatima were her two favourites. She made many pilgrimages to Knock where she found great strength and calmness in facing the many trials of life. We always had holy water from Knock in 32 and Mam always carried her Rosary beads in her bag. I know how much she would have loved to visit Fatima and when that became an impossibility, I promised myself a visit on her behalf.
2017 was the centenary of the apparitions in Fatima and six statues of Our Lady were commissioned by the Pope and sent to each of the continents. The European statue came to Ireland in March and was displayed at Mass in Naas as it began its journey around the country. Although I decided then that this was the year to travel to Fatima it was October before I made the snap decision, googled flights and hotels and booked.
In preparation, I revisited the story of the Cova da Iria where on the 13th May a “Lady brighter than the sun” appeared in the branches of a holm oak to three little shepherds and wondered would I be as touched as Mam with enthusiasm, fervour and faith. I did little research into the trip other than that!
My Ryanair flight was EARLY (5.30am). Airport assistance whisks one from entry to plane, through check-in and customs making travel SO EASY. I must compliment the staff who are most friendly and pleasant, although some feel speed is of the essence and the journey in the wheel chair can be sometimes hair-raising.
I landed in Portugal shortly after 9 and public bussed into Lisbon. Nice way to get the feel for a place. I had decided to do one of the hop-on hop-off city tours and the “Tagus Tour” seemed to offer the greatest range of sights.
We travelled the city’s main avenues (“the fresh breeze of the Tagus on your face” had been promised but a heavy mist of rain is what we got). We did get a taste of Lisbon. The commentary was a bit haphazard and so I would do some research or buy a guide book if I travelled again.
However I was fascinated by the lovely avenues, and the stories of Portuguese explorations, some of the amazing tiling of which the city is very proud and the variety of architecture along the Tagus.
I particularly liked this sculpture celebrating the age of the Portuguese Explorers to the Orient on the banks of the river: “Padreo dos Descobrimentos“. Note the 25th April bridge in the background
The fine mist however had become a deluge before the end of the trip and a second tour on the trams was scrapped in favour of a typical Portuguese lunch. The driver suggested a small café in a side street. The bacalhau (cod fish) with rice and side salad was delicious; however the compliments of a “charming” (???) young waiter dancing attendance on “the pretty Irish lady who brought the rain” did became a bit wearisome after a while.
(Eduard Gordeev’s “Rain in Lisbon”)
The weather was a decider on taxi transport to Set Rios (the seven rivers) Bus Station for the bus to Fatima. The initial plan to see the countryside was also scuppered by the rain – visibility was limited – but good chance to catch up on lost sleep!
I was really pleased with choice of hotel: Hotel Coracao de Fatima and my room overlooking the cross in the Basilica square (previously the Cova da Iria where Our Lady appeared). I couldn’t have been closer to the shrine: I could hear the prayers and hymns from the Chapel of the Apparition without leaving the room. Tonight, I took a stroll over for Rosary before dinner. I had forgotten to bring beads – but there was any amount of them available in the MANY surrounding shops (don’t think the commercialism of the centre is as evident at this time of the year; it’s also much easier to get around and visit places without the throngs of people).
The “comboio de Fatima” (little train) was going to guide my itinerary for the days ahead.
Day 1 (Wednesday):
• Monumento aos Pastorinhos (the Monument of the Shepherds)
Valinhos (a monument to Our Lady on the site of one of the apparitions)
• Via Sacre (the Hungarian Calvary, the stations of the Cross- a gift from Hungarians in exile around the world)
• Loco do Anjo/Cabeco (site of two of the apparitions of the Angel)
Day 2 (Thursday):
• Mass in the Basilica de Nuestra Senora del Rosario de Fatima (the Basilca of Our Lady of Fatima)
• Azinheira (the holm oak in which Our Lady appeared to the children in the Cova de Iria)
• Basilica da Santissima Trindade (new Basilica of the Holy Trinity
• Confession in the Chapel of Reconciliation
• Art Exhibition: “The Colours of the Sun”
Day 3 (Friday):
• Aljustrel (the village where the children lived peaceful village marked by the seasons and work in the field as well as weaving)
• House of the Santos Family (Lucia’s home- she was the youngest of six children)
• Loco do Arneiro (site of the second apparition of the Angel at the end of Lucia’s garden)
• House of Marto Family (the home of Francisco and Marta)
• Museum of Aljustrel
• Igreja Paroquial de Fatima (Parish Church in Fatima) where the three children were baptised and where Lucia received her First Communion
Particulary liked the story of this, the oldest statue in the Parish Church, OUR LADY OF JOYS, where the baby is playing with Mary’s hair. it is said this is the only statue of Jesus playing.
• Candlelit Procession
Taxi to Lisbon Airport for Aer Lingus flight at 10am.
So what did I come away with? I probably was somewhat sceptical going, following the belief of a mother rather than any personal conviction. But I was moved. In the peace and quiet especially of the countryside one would have to find an inner tranquillity. The intent of the other pilgrims as they prayed and sang and lit their candles at the various celebrations impressed me hugely. I thought back to the nights awaking from the coma, the desolation of not being able to move and the fear of what lay ahead, the comfort the hospital chaplain brought assuring me that God would help, reciting the Memorare (Mam’s favourite prayer), listening to some favourite hymns. I think Our Lady of Fatima reinforced that faith, the belief that God will send help if it’s needed.
It might not be in the form of an angel; it could be in the guise of a friend who will call at just the right time or a piece of music that raises the spirit or words in a story or poem that inspire. God is watching me; He cares. The smallest concern of mine still matters to Him.
You might think after reading this entry that I have fluent Portuguese – unfortunately not BUT I do love the “real” names of the places. My only Portuguese – “Obrigada!” THANKS!!!!