My mother wanted nothing more than to visit Fátima (Lost in Portugal), so on our first full day in Portugal…of to Fátima we went! Fátima is where the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, appeared six times to three shepherd children (“The Three Seers”) between May 13 and October 13, 1917. There is now a gorgeous shrine to Mary in Fátima, something everyone should have an opportunity to visit, Catholic or not.
In fact, there were many people of non-Catholic faith visiting the sanctuary and admiring the Basilica, the statues, the peace and holiness of this beautiful place. We were lucky to be there on a beautiful, sunny, warm, non-crowded day. I was able to wander around in peace, taking in the sights, the history. Taking time to reflect, think, process and take pictures. Thankfully my mother was dressed in a beautiful, easy-to-find, bright orange. I frequently lost sight of her during my own sight-seeing, only to quickly & easily find her back. A little sun amongst all the white and neutral colors of most visitors.
My mom had hired an english-speaking private tour out of the hotel to show us the sights and guide us on our journey. Sadly, he was just a taxi driver, with no English, though he did once beckon out the window and proudly proclaimed: “Grapes. Wine.”
I had assumed that the site of the apparitions of Mary were all in one spot, and that I would see the famous statue of the first apparition at the Santuário de Fátima… I was wrong. My mom is a quick thinker and bought a postcard with the statue and the name of the village where it stands. However, even with that our driver could not find the Statue of the Angel of Peace appearing to the children of Fatima. Even asking for help two times. Eventually, he found the village, within eye sight of the sanctuary itself.
Sadly, he could not find the actual statue, though many people did point the way. Somehow we wound up on the path, meant for those making the pilmgrimage to Fátima. He did realize his error, beckoned us to depart he taxi and head east-ish. We got out, watched him drive away, and headed east-ish.
After 500 meters we came upon a small sculpture of one of the stations of the cross, as part of the Via Sacre, or Holy Way. We really should’ve realized we were going the wrong way as we were at XI, then X, then IX. But it was hot, we were tired and I was ready to see the Statue of the Angel of Peace. To stand were Francisco, Lucia and Jacinta had stood. We kept walking, only to find ourselves in the middle of town, in the middle of civilization, far from the statue. Far from our driver.
I had had the foresight to grab his number, sadly his number would not ring. I encourage my mother to sit, grab a drink, and I would be back with the taxi to pick her up, but she too wanted to see the Statue, to stand where Our Lady had first appeared. We turned around, and slowly began our pilgrimage back.
We passed several groups of young seminary students, priests and Catholic Japanese. Each group reciting the prayers at each station of the cross in their own language. Each time we passed a group, saying their prayers in unison, a peace came over me and my weariness temporarily lifted. My mom felt it too, and almost rejuvenated we finally arrived at the Statue of the Angel of Peace. The sheer beauty, peace, spirituality, caught my breath. Emotion waved over me. Maybe I felt her then, maybe she enveloped me in her peace, maybe I was just so tired and hot that peace was all I could feel, but I believe she was there. That she greeted me, loved me, and took my cares, worries and tiredness away. It is an ethereal place.
Refreshed, quiet, at peace, my mom and I finished the walk back to our driver with no pain, no heat, no tiredness. Just before leaving the Via Sacre we came across nuns from the Missionary of Charities established by Mother Teresa, praying at the statue of Valinhos. A beautiful reminder of our faith still being lived and observed today.