Pilgrimage to Fatima

Sunday 10th September 2017

A five day pilgrimage to Fatima, Tomar and Santarem

After we all arrived safely and met up at Lisbon airport our pilgrimage as a community together began.  We are a community made of people from the parishes of Fulham, Welwyn Garden City,members of the Deaf Community plus friends of Fr Norbert Fernandes and led by Fr Norbert himself.

First stop was Tomar, a beautiful town enroute to Fatima. Fr Norbert celebrated Mass in the church of St John the Baptist.  Just as John the Baptist showed people the way to Christ, Fr Norbert explained to us that we too can show others the way to Christ.  We prayed for those we left back at home, for those who asked for our prayers and for loved ones no longer with us.

We arrived in Fatima and as we finished our meal together another group of Deaf people from Belgium staying in the same hotel joined us for a chat. Our Lady of Fatima has brought us together as we begin our pilgrimage.

Deaf group at Tomar St John the Baptist Church,Tomar St John the Baptist Church, Tomar, inside

Monday 11th September

We awoke on day two to a slightly damp morning which changed into a beautiful sunny day as we arrived back at Tomar to visit Convento de Cristo built in the late 12th century.  The Order of Christ's grand master, Henry the Navigator lived here when in 15th century Portugal was at the forefront of world exploration.  Next to the Convent are the remains of the castle of the Knights Templar, the protectors of pilgrims heading to Jerusalem. In 1315 Pope Clement V ordered for the Knights Templar to be disbanded but at the negotiation of King Dinis all that had been owned here by the Kinghts Templar was transfered to the new Order of Christ.

A new event was added to our afternoon plan,unexpected but not unwelcome as we went wine tasting and tried some of the local wines.

From there we headed to the shrine for our first glimpse of the place where the apparitions of Our Lady took place.  Fr Norbert celebrated Mass and we were joined by a group from the USA of Filipino heritage. With Mass in word and sign and the Filipino group singing a song in their own language, there was so much more that joined us together than there was that separated us. The day concluded with the group taking part in the candle procession and the rosary.

Convento de Cristo Wine tasting Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows

Tuesday 12th September

Today started as we joined at Mass with all the other English speaking pilgrims and after which we lit our candles and remembered those who had asked for our prayers while we were here in Fatima.  We then headed off to the Bascilica to visit and pray at the tombs of the three children that Our Lady appeared to, Francisco, Jacinta and Lucia.

Our morning continued with a walk through a beautiful olive grove as we prayed the Stations of the Cross and reflected on Mary's experience of the road to Calvery as she watched her son suffer and die.  At the 10th Station we paused and mindful of events in Westminster Cathedral today we prayed for Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, for the repose of his soul.

On the vigil of the anniversary of 13th of the month, the date that Our Lady appeared to the children, Fatima has begun to fill with pilgrims from all round the world.  We joined this growing number of the faithful as we once again prayed the rosary and watched the procession around the shrine.

Bascilica of Fatima   Stations of the Cross  Torchlight Rosary

Wednesday 13th September

100 years to the day that Our Lady appeared to Francisco, Jacinta and Lucia for the 5th time we headed to the Shrine.  As the international rosary began the central area filled with more and more pilgrims, people from many different countries.  As Mass begin there was a procession of flags, hundreds of priests and the statue of our lady of Fatima.  At the end of Mass people waved their handkerchiefs as the statue of Our Lady was once again held aloft in procession.

The afternoon started with a visit to the childrens houses and wewere able to meet Lucia's niece who is now in her 90's. And then it was off to Nazare.  Nazare is stunning; a beautiful coastline with majestic cliffs.  We stopped at the church of Our Lady of Nazare where we were able to see the statue of Mary and Jesus that was carved by St Joseph.  This church is a place of pilgrimage.  The Virgin Mary appeared here to save Dom Finas Roupinho who was out hunting one day and the deer he was chasing went over the cliff.  The Virgin Mary appeared and stopped Dom Finas and his horse from following.  We celebrated our pilgrimage coming to a close by enjoying each others company sharing a meal in Nazare.

International Mass  Nazare  Meal in Nazare

Thursday 14th September

Our last Mass together this morning was celebrated by Fr Norbert in the chapel in the hotel.  As the hotel is run by Dominican sisters in the chapel there was St Dominic kneeling at the foot of the cross. On this the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross Fr Norbert asked us all to reflect on this image.  We all have our own cross in life and we can all help others and be helped by others with these personal crosses.

After leaving the hotel we headed to the shrine for one final time to leave our petitions, light candles and reflect quietly on our time here in Fatima.  We were all brought her by Our Lady for different reasons and we were each able to contemplate what had brought us to Fatima.

Our final stop before the airport was The Church of the Holy Miracle at Santarem.  Here in the 13th century, the miracle of the bleeding host occured. A lady, in an attempt to solve the problems with her husband, took a concentrated host from Mass and hid it in her scarf at the bidding of a witch doctor. When people remarked to her that her face was bleeding she ran home and hid the Holy Sacrament in a wooden chest.  That night the house was lit up with rays of light from the chest.  At daybreak the parish priest was called and the Blessed Sacrament was taken to the Church of St Stephen now the Church of the Holy Miracle.

And so to the airport for us all to head home.  With new friendships made and old friendships rekindled we finished our pilgrimage as one community made up of different parts.  Every person in the group contributed to the pilgrimage in their own way; each bringing joy to others.  As St Paul writes in his letter to Corinthians "Now Christ's body is yourselves, each of you with a part to play in the whole."

Group picture

 

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