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WIKI: Santo Antonio (better known as Saint Anthony of Padua), revered as a matchmaker, protector of young brides, and patron of the lost and found, was actually born in Lisbon, on the site of this church. Work began on it in 1757. Inside, the altar features an image of the saint with Christ in his arms..

Today was an incredibly long day. We landed at 6 AM after being up pretty much all night on the plane. The travel guide met us at the airport and we were on our way. The problem with landing so early is that you can’t check into your hotel. So we went to this historic little bakery that has been making Portuguese pastries for like over 100 years. I ordered hot chocolate to go with my pastry. The chocolate is so much better in Europe than ours. It’s so… Chocolatey. Ours is some kind of fake chocolate flavoring with a ton of sugar. This is just crazy chocolate and not very sweet. Yum.

We saw a lot of interesting things like a church that was built on the site in Lisbon were St. Anthony was born. The priest from our group said mass there. And even though I found it to be a very interesting piece of history I was tired and and didn’t feel like going to mass. I found a quiet place in the back of the church and tried to be in the moment and enjoy the mass as something to be observed instead of participating in. I liked it. I wouldn’t do mass that way all the time but it’s all the energy I had this morning.

I’m sure glad I brought my cane because my thrumatoid disease is certainly acting up. I know that lack of sleep is one of my biggest triggers. I had packed my cane and my prednisone and I am using them both.  My cousins have been great with helping me with my suitcase and climbing up the irregular old stone steps getting in and out of these old churches. But it’s only the first day and I’m kind of getting tired of churches already. Maybe I’m just tired.

One Church had an unusual story to tell. The story goes that a woman was being treated very badly by her husband. She went to a friend to ask for advice. The friend told her to go to mass and pretend to get communion. Then to bring the communion wafer home and the friend would show the woman how to use it make a spell to make her husband beat her less. The story ends up with A white light shining from the communion wafer and then blood pouring forth from it. The wafer is encased and displayed in the church as part of the sacristy. What I didn’t like is that the tour guide mentioned how the wife got what she deserved for stealing the communion wafer. Not that the husband was being singled out for his wife beating. I also did not like that somehow the friend of this woman that was going to show her how to make a spell just happen to be Jewish. I think both points highlight the old thought process that makes it is hard to be Catholic.

After sitting in the back of the church for a while, I found my mind wandering to the men and women who built these churches. Who were they? Their work is still here but these skilled workmen are long gone. They left us such amazing works of art in the construction of these churches.

I know these buildings often took several generations to complete. The craftsmanship and skill that went into them is amazing. I wonder about the training and time that went into all the stone carvings and ornate ceilings and floors. I wonder what the workmen thought about as they worked. Were they offering their skills and their labor up to God and hoping that he would express himself through their hands? Or were they just trying to put food on the table for their families. Again I thought who were these men? What were their lives like? I touched the carved stone and wondered.

I’ve also been thinking how compared to the Italians, the Portuguese didn’t seem to immigrate to America in the huge numbers the way the Italians did. Did they have more stable lives and were less in need of creating a new life in some foreign land? From what I’ve seen so far the country seems to be very middle-class. Maybe they were just not as hungry and poor as the Italians were. I can remember my grandfather saying that the only thing Italy gave him was an empty stomach.

Religion is everywhere here. It’s just part of every day life I guess. And of course life seems so much slower here. I love seeing all the closed signs in the shops at lunchtime. I love seeing businessmen having glasses of wine at lunch. It just seems like such a nice way of life.

Tomorrow we go on to Fatima. I’m not really sure what to expect. I do know that I’m really looking forward to it. I want to just feel the energy of this place and the people that of come from all parts of to experience things there too. I wish my Dad was here. He would have loved all this and I can imagine us discussing the history, culture and food for hours.

I have a handful of people that I care about that are very sick right now. So as we go into the churches I am lighting these new electric candle machines and saying a prayer for them. I guess they are a lot safer than lighting a real personal candle  with a small wooden stick but there’s no smell and the flickering electric bulb just isn’t the same. As a matter of fact theses prayer candle machines remind me of some sort of holy ski ball machine. You put your 50 Cent piece in and one of the electric candles randomly light up. I was telling the other other travelers about my theory. If a candle near the top of the machine lights up-you get a healing. If a candle at the bottom lights, you’re on you’re own. Our Priest walked up and started to put his coin in the machine. I told him how I believed it worked. He smiled and dropped his coin in. Bang. A candle at the bottom lit up. Our crowd all said Aww 😦     I’m so going to Hell.


More tomorrow from Fatima.