It is the Second day of our trip to Fatima, Portugal and Lourdes, France. Today was our day in Fatima. If you are not Catholic you may not know that Fatima is a beloved miraculous site of Catholic Church.

Image result for Fatima Portugal Map    Image result for Fatima Shrine Official Website

   WIKI:   In 1916, nine-year-old Lúcia Santos and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco said they were visited three times by an apparition of an angel. They said the angel, who identified himself as the “Angel of Peace” and taught them prayers, to make sacrifices, and to spend time in adoration of the Lord. The children reported apparitions of the Virgin Mary, who they described as “the Lady more brilliant than the Sun”. The children reported a prophecy that prayer would lead to an end to the Great War, and that on 13 October  the Lady would reveal her identity and perform a miracle. The children’s accounts were deeply controversial, drawing intense criticism from both local secular and religious authorities. On 13 May 1917, the children reported seeing a woman “brighter than the sun, shedding rays of light clearer and stronger than a crystal goblet filled with the most sparkling water.  She asked them to devote themselves to the Holy Trinity and to pray “the Rosary every day, to bring peace to the world and an end to the Great War.  That month, instead of the usual apparition in the Cova, the children reported that they saw the Virgin Mary at nearby Valinhos. She asked them again to pray the rosary daily, spoke about the miracle coming in October.  The Miracle of the Sun : According to accounts, after a period of rain, the dark clouds broke and the sun appeared as an opaque, spinning disc in the sky. It was said to be significantly duller than normal, and to cast multicolored lights across the landscape. The sun was then reported to have careened towards the earth before zig-zagging back to its normal position.  Witnesses reported that their previously wet clothes became “suddenly and completely dry, as well as the wet and muddy ground.

Also: A good friend of my Mother is from Portugal. Her Father was there on the day of the Miracle of the Sun. He agreed with the all events described above.

Although I am officially Catholic I’m not one to go to church on a regular basis. I’ve never pictured myself going on a Pilgrimage but the opportunity came up and I thought it would be an adventure. I’m here with my cousin and her husband who were originally going on the trip alone. Then when I voiced interest in the trip they made some calls and before I knew it I was going too.

Even for a skeptic like me, today seemed to fill my heart. First we went to the houses of the three children who saw the visions, We wandered through their kitchen and bedrooms. We stood by the bed Francisco passed from the Spanish Flu, just two years after the miracles. His sister, Lucia passed just one year later. Then we went on to tree where Our Lady made one of her appearances. There were several small groups there. People were jockeying for positions for their photos and the multilingual chatter was overwhelming.

I drifted to the outer circle of the small site and found a small stone wall where I could settle. I closed my eyes and my mind reached back to find the rhythm of my breath. The cacophony faded and I reached out to feel the energy of this special place. I felt the earth supporting me. I felt the sun shining on my back. My mind quieted and I pictured the tree and what I thought Our Lady might look like. My thoughts blurred. The word – Peace filled my mind. I held onto that moment as long as I could but it slipped away. I tried to bring it back but the moment had passed. I took a deep breath and looked up to find our group. The moment was gone but the quiet in my heart and mind lingered on.
It was also interesting seeing up close how people lived in a small Portuguese village in the early 1900s. The area is full of cork trees and we saw how the trees are stripped of their cork in certain areas. They have to wait nine years before they can harvest it again. I am such a dork I thought it was so interesting.
Then we went to the site of the Fatima shrine. This is the place where Our Lady appeared to the children. It is now a huge religious shrine where thousands of people come from all over the world. It was very moving to see people all these people searching for healing or some sort of relief from their problems. There is a white strip of stone down the center of the shrine Square. The square is huge so this white stripe down the center is very long. People get down on their knees to walk this strip . One woman was carrying a small baby as she shuffled on just her knees down the endless white walk. In some cases they were trying to thank God for an answered prayer. Some people do it to searching for their own miracle. It broke my heart to see these people shuffling along in pain crossing this expanse of cobblestone. Even if you don’t have strong faith, watching these people this is very emotional.
But what really touched my heart was tonight. We went to a candlelight vigil in in the Square. People light candles and hold them up through the entire service. There are priests and lay people from all over the world and they each participate in the saying of the rosary. There were so many languages and sick in the crowd. There was a woman next to me in the wheelchair with our group. She had recently been diagnosed with a very serious condition and was there to pray for God’s intervention. We talked for a while before the service started. We connected and she left me filled with her hope and faith. She touched my heart more than I can say. She was sweet and kind and positive. We talked about illness and coping. We could’ve talked a long time but the saying of the rosary started

We were in a crowd of hundreds of people. I don’t know maybe it could be even thousand. There were so many I could not gauge even a guess how big the crowd was. So there was no leaving and going to sit down. I wondered how would I ever be able to stand for so long? And if I couldn’t stand how would I possibly get out of this crowd? The service started and within minutes my legs were getting wobbly. I had my cane but it wasn’t enough. I decided to try and meditate. I closed my eyes I focused on my breathing and I listened to the Hail Mary being said over and over again in so many different languages. People all around me were praying but no one was speaking the same language. And yet they were all speaking the same language of hope.

I focused on my breathing, the music and the energy of all these people standing so close and lifting their candles and prayer. After a few minutes of meditating I started to picture all the people in my life that needed healing, people that I care about who are worried and scared right now. One by one I pictured them being surrounded by pure white light and being full of God’s love. Before I knew it I was standing up straight and my legs felt strong. I wasn’t leaning on my cane, I was just in the zone.

When I came to the end of my list of people I wanted to pray for, I open my eyes and saw that the service was just ending. We had been standing, packed together for an hour or an hour and a half …I’m not really sure. Then I noticed my legs were hurting And weak again. I was shifting my weight from side to side. My ankles were throbbing in pain. Luckily the service came to an end and the procession started. My cousin took me by the arm and we started to join in the crowd that was now moving. I guess from standing so long without moving my legs were stiff and weak. Even with my cane I was having trouble walking. I joked with my cousin Carolyn that I was walking like a drunk. She held my arm a little tighter. As we continue to walk in the crowd my legs loosened up a bit and I walked better and better.

I had wondered how this tightly packed crowd with all these lit candle were ever going to get turned around and start a procession. But quietly and gently that’s exactly what happened. Everyone walked in complete silence. The music from the church continued and the praying over the loudspeaker continued. But no one in the crowd spoke a word. I think everyone was kind of in the zone too.

The crowd started to sing Salve Regina. During the chorus, they all lifted the candles. As far as I could see was an ocean of candles and people slowly walking and singing. The energy was tangible.I walked for a long time but eventually,I knew I had had enough and I told my cousins I was going to sit on a bench near the exit of the Square. They agreed that it would be best if I rested and they said they would come back at the end of the procession. As I sat on the bench looking down over the hundreds and hundreds of candles I thought of all the people and all the faith in that crowd.

I think it would be a most impossible not to be moved by this experience. There was just so much pain, so much love and so much faith in that crowd that you could feel it in the air. It was like nothing I had ever experienced. As I sat waiting for my cousins to come back I felt close to tears. My mind felt quiet and peaceful. I felt grateful for the privilege of experiencing all of this.

The bus ride back to the hotel seemed extra quiet. I think everyone was still feeling amazing experience we had all shared. I really didn’t expect to feel like this. I thought it would be kind of cool and kind of interesting. I thought I would look at it with a skeptical and scientific mind. But nothing about this was logical. It was all emotional. And it kind of snuck up on me and surprised me how intense experience was. So it’s 1 o’clock in the morning here and I have to get up very early to leave for Spain. Instead of sleeping i’m writing this because I don’t really know what to do with these feelings in my heart right now. So I thought I would get them down in writing to somehow capture them and share them with you.