A visit to Fatima

Thursday, August 25 — The Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal

Prayer and sacrifice. Peace and forgiveness. These are the highlights of Our Lady’s message to the children of Fatima. They also characterize our pilgrimage: prayer alone in silence or with 2 million people; sacrifice in sleeping on the floor alongside 20 other girls, many of whom snore; peace, even when you get lost or miss the metro; and finally forgiveness, when someone steps on you as you try to see the Pope or in experiencing God’s mercy in confession. Many World Youth Day pilgrims have either ended or began their pilgrimage by going to Fatima. For us, visiting Fatima gives us a moment to reflect on the experiences of the past days, to thank God for the graces we have received, and to place ourselves in Our Lady’s hands.

Here is a short video from Fatima: Morning at Fatima

And a “bonus” video from Toledo: Outside Toledo — last night in Spain

10:00 — Beginning our day in Fatima

After traveling all day yesterday, we got to sleep in a little this morning. We woke up at 8:00, grateful to be once again sleeping in a bed. Simple things in life, such as a bed, always seem so much better when we are without them for awhile. By 9:00 we had prayed our morning prayers and had eaten a hearty (European: hearty does not imply bacon, eggs, and waffles) breakfast. As we walked to the shrine, the cool morning air woke us up and made us walk faster to get to the basilica. When we arrived, we beheld the site of which we had seen so many pictures and had heard so much about. That morning, we had mass and a tour of the shrine. In the basilica, we prayed at the tombs of Fransisco, Jacinta, and Lucia. While I waited in the long line, I wondered how so many people could be in line to see three shepherd children. Their lives show that holiness is for everyone regardless of social status or recognition. God called, they answered, and through their willingness, the faith of many has been strengthened. By then, it was already lunch time for which we returned to the hotel.

Our entire group

The Chaperones

The Pre-candidates

The Visitors

3:00 pm

After lunch, we had time to spend with Our Lady in prayer and reflection. However, there were also a few optional activities such as visiting the houses of Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta or visiting the museum. At the museum we saw many of the gifts given to Our Lady of Fatima by people who have experienced healing or whose prayers have been answered. Here are just a few of those gifts:

  • Uniforms from soldiers, students, and even one from a matador
  • Bicycle from an 82 year old cyclist from Germany
  • Soccer jersey from Romario after Brazil won the world cup in 1992
  • Diamond rosary from the 1st lady of the Philippines
  • Golden rose given by Pope Paul VI
  • Wedding train of the last queen of Portugal
  • Complete papal habit of Pope John Paul II
  • Golden rose from Pope Benedict XVI

However, out of all these gifts, the most prized one is the bullet that was used in the assassination attempt of Pope John Paul II. When he came to Fatima in thanksgiving for Our Lady’s protection, he placed the bullet inside the crown of Our Lady of Fatima.  Almost miraculously, it fits perfectly in the crown of Our Lady.

We concluded our tour with a short movie about Fatima. A little tired from the activities of the past days, I fell asleep immediately and woke up 15 minutes later refreshed and rejuvenated. While everyone else left, three of us stayed and talked to our museum tour guide (who is a nun) for a little while. After a long talk, she showed us a small chapel, with chairs and kneeling cushions that was created expressly for WYD pilgrims. There, we found a place of silence to pray and reflect, away from the crowds of picture-taking pilgrims.

9:30 — A Candlelit Evening

We returned to the hotel for a three course dinner at 7:30 and then we headed out for another late night. Every night at the Fatima shrine, there is a candlelight rosary procession. You would think that there wouldn’t be enough people to participate considering that it happens every night, but the pictures will show that on this normal Thursday summer evening, hundreds of people united to pray the rosary.

About Margaret Antonio

Margaret Antonio is valedictorian of the 2012 graduating class of Immaculate Conception Academy. She is a student at Boston College.
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