Sunday, December 2, 2018

The Miracle Of Fatima.....In Portugal.....

Many of you have inquired as to why I have not been blogging about our new life in Portugal like I did when we first landed in Panama seven years earlier? When we first settled in Panama everything was new and exciting, from going to the grocery store to the tropical sights all around us. But now that we have been living in Europe for the past two years during our house sitting adventures, things here have become normal, and don't seem worth writing about. Perhaps it's because we have become so well traveled that the new and unusual have become routine?

But to sum it up our daily lives here include spending a few hours in the gym, five days per week followed by studying Portuguese every afternoon. Our studies begin on Monday with a self study pack from our teacher, then on Tuesday she sends us material for our lesson on Wednesday. On Thursday we attend a conversation group created by a local woman for foreigners to give us a place to practice chatting. Every morning while at the gym we chat with those around us in Portuguese too. I train with a personal trainer two times per week and have asked her to speak to me only in Portuguese for more practice, and even take a group exercise class where no English is spoken.

Portuguese is a difficult language to learn but since we chose to move here we feel it's our responsibility to learn the language of our newly adopted country.

Last weekend to break out of our normal routine, Clyde suggested we take a road trip to the village of Fatima. Just a one-hour drive from where we live, this once sleepy, unknown village is now visited by millions of people from around the world.

Check Out the Video Above

Having grown up Catholic, I had heard of Our Lady of Fatima through the years, but had absolutely no idea that the miracle happened in some unknown place called Portugal, that I would someday call home.

According to legend, it was in May of 1917 when three shepherd children, Lucinda, age 10 and her two cousins, Jacinta age 7 and Francisco, age 9, claimed to have seen the Virgin Mary.The oldest child, Lucinda was the only one that spoke to Mary, who told them that she would appear to them on the 13th day of the month for the next six months. The children told their parents and others about the apparition and while some people in the village believed them, others did not. But as word spread more believers visited the village, until the final sighting on October, 13, 1917 where over 70,000 were in attendance.

Mary told the children there should be a chapel built on the site where she appeared, along with predicting the end of World War I. Lucinda was informed by Mary that she would need to take the other two children soon to heaven, but that she herself would remain on earth to teach people about the Virgin Mary. Lucinda entered a convent and lived a religious life until the age of 96, and was later canonized into sainthood.

While we had no idea what to expect in Fatima, we were both touched and rather impressed. Just the shear magnitude of the plaza surrounding the religious complex was awesome. Our first stop was the Basilica Of Our Lady of the Rosary. As we entered this grand scale church there was a service in progress with a priest chanting in Portuguese prayer. The altar was topped with a realistic painting of Mary with the children. Tears filled my eyes as I suddenly realized how special this place was to so many believers. We sat down for a bit to take it all in before heading back outside to the hoards of people.

Nearby was an open air building packed with people looking and listening to yet another service being held in Portuguese. From what I could see in the distance was the statue of the Virgin Mary enclosed in glass. As I unfolded my brochure of the complex to see what this was, I realized that this very spot was the Chapel of the Apparitions that Mary instructed the children to have built in memory of her. The statue of Mary that the crowd was praying to was the exact spot where Mary was said to have appeared to the children.

Just then I noticed a man on his knees literally crawling down a pathway as he was holding a small child. Soon I realized that other people were also doing penance, crawling on their knees to the shrine. Each year thousands of people make this pilgrimage, most on foot from various parts of Portugal to the world-famous shrine. Wow!

On one end of the massive plaza was a tall cross known as The High Cross. In the middle of the plaza was a set of stairs that rose to a platform high into the sky. From the platform a priest or even The Pope himself could preach to nearly 100,000 people on any given day.

Clyde and I have visited the Vatican in Rome and even toured Jerusalem, Bethlehem and other parts of the Holy Land in Israel, yet this place still impressed us.

Opposite the ornate church sat an ultra, modern Basilica of the Holy Spirit. Although not as pretty as the older building, the inside of the basilica was more like a football stadium that could sit 9,000 people. Between the massive size of the basilica and the thousands of seats outside on the plaza we knew this place could host hundreds of thousands of people who came hoping for a miracle.

The air was filled with smoke and the smell of melting wax filled our nostrils. A line of people snaked through the plaza, each and every one holding armfuls of golden candles. They faced an open fire pit where golden flames shined brightly. Clyde went to purchase some candles for us to add to the fire along with our prayers. While most people were tossing 4 foot candles into the raging flames others were gently placing smaller tapers into holders that sat perched in front of the fires.

During our travels around the world we have encountered various religions, and to our amazement ALL attest to Mary as being the Mother of God, and she has a special place in the hearts of SO many.

Whether you believe in the miracle of the apparitions at Fatima or not is up to you, but we felt the energy and enjoyed our experience there. From the mouths of innocent children, this unknown village gained worldwide fame as believers from around the globe made the trek there to experience the miracle. There are so many beautiful, fascinating and extraordinary places that we have yet to visit here in Portugal.....along the gringo trail.

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