Fatima, Portugal

Lucia dos Santo, Francisco and Jacinta Marto

Whenever I think of Portugal, I think of Fatima.  When I was around 10 years old, I saw a movie in black and white which told the story of the three children from Fatima who, on May 13, 1917, saw a blinding light while tending their flock of animals in the pasture.  The three children were Lucia dos Santo, age 10; her cousins, Francisco, age 9 and Francisco’s younger sister; Jacinta Marto, age 7. At first, they thought that the light was lightening and decided that they should return home.  As they headed down the hill, there was another flash of light that lit up the sky.  On top of a holm oak tree, there stood “a lady more brilliant than the sun” who was holding a white rosary. 
 This lady, told the children to pray very much and she invited them to return for the next five months, on the 13th day at the same hour.  The children returned each month, the same time on the 13th day of June, July, September and October. However, in August, on the 13th day, the authorities were questioning the children and tried to get them to change their story and say that it was their imagination.  Due to the children not being near the original spot, the vision appeared on the 19th of August near Aljustrel about 150 miles south of Fatima. 

The children refused to change their story despite the threats of the authorities.  At her last appearance on October 13, there were about 70,000 people attending to see the miracle.  At that time, the Lady appeared and said that she was the “Lady of the Rosary” and requested that a chapel be built out of respect for her.  After her visit, the 70,000 people witnessed the miracle that had been promised to the children in the July and September visits.  It was the sun, in the shape of a silver disc spinning across the sky and although, it was very bright, it could be stared at without hurting anyone’s eyes. 

Sadly, Francisco and Jacinta both died very young.  Francisco died in 1919 and Jacinta died in 1920 from an influenza epidemic that swept throughout Europe. Lucia went on to become a nun.  She lived a long life and died at the age of 97 in 2005.  

During the Virgins visits, she revealed three secrets to the children.  Two of the secrets were revealed by Lucia in 1943 when the bishop of Leiria ordered her to disclose them.  The first secret was a vision of hell.  The second secret was World War I was going to end and that there would be World War II.  Russia would be a communist country.  The third secret was not revealed until the year 2000.  It said that there would be an attempt on the Pope’s life, which there was on Pope John Paul II on May 13, 1981. 

Today, Fatima is a holy spot for many believers.  It is visited by thousands every year, especially on the 13th of the summer and autumn months.  There is a Chapel of the Apparition, which I believe was built to fulfill the request of the Virgin.  The statue of the Virgin is standing on a marble pillar which marks the exact spot that the Virgin appeared to the children. 

The Holm Oak Tree, which the Virgin was standing on at the first sighting by the children, is still standing and is right nearby the Chapel of Apparition. 

In 1928, construction for the Basilica started.  It was blessed on October 7, 1953.

Above the alter, is a painting of the children being visited by the Virgin.  They are buried in the basilica as well.  

Francisco’s grave

Resting place for Lucia and Jacinta

The sculpture of Our Lady of Fatima, in the niche above the main entrance to the Basilica, is believed to be the most accurate representation of her.  The American sculptor,  Fr. Thomas McGlynn spent many hours with Sister Lucia while she described how the Virgin looked when she appeared to the children. 

A newer and more modern church, the Church of the Most Holy Trinity is located at the opposite end of the plaza.  It was constructed between 2004-2007. In October of 2007, it was blessed and can seat 10,000 people.  For me, it was too modern and too stark but you can decide for yourself. 

As I said earlier, thousands of people visit Fatima each year.  It is a very holy place for these pilgrims.  I found it interesting observing the various ways that people paid respect, penance or asked for blessings from the Virgin and God.

There were several people crawling to the Chapel of Apparition.  There is even a smooth path of marble for them to crawl on.  I saw mothers, carrying young babies in carriers, crawling on their knees.  I saw a young man, in serious pain, rubbing his knees. I think he might have crawled down and back, although I did not see him do this.  It just appeared that way with the grimace on his face.  

Carrying six foot candles

Another very popular area was the candle lighting section.  Some people brought their own candles…some as tall as 6 feet.  There was an area where you could purchase candles and pay for them with an honor system. It went very quickly and was very civil.  I purchased one and said a prayer for several of my friends and family….kind of a general purpose candle.  The area that you lit it was like an inferno, there were so many candles.  I read that they recycle the melted wax by making new candles to be sold and burned all over again.  

The candle that is lying horizontal is my candle. I had actually placed it standing and before I could get my camera out, it had toppled over.  I can’t begin to describe how hot it was standing in the candle lighting area.  

I had no spiritual awakening while at Fatima. I enjoyed hearing the masses that were said and the music that was played while I walked around.  I am certainly very glad that I went and would recommend for others to go if ever the opportunity presented itself. 

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